KDE Plasma 5.18 on openSUSE Tumbleweed | Awesome-Sauce

I can’t help but think how the Plasma team seems to have an incredible sense of momentum behind the project. Every update has been nothing but smiles and happy dances. At the time of writing, I am using 5.18.1 which rolled down recently and although you can read all the cool new features from the horses mouth here, I’m going to tell you all the things that make my experience just a bit better.

GTK Theme Integration

First and foremost, the GTK theme integration is tremendously improved. Really, this is a little thing but many of the GTK applications just look better now. Specifically, Gnome-Recipes and Virtmanager have a nicer look about it. Some applications don’t seem to look quite right, like Audacity and Firefox are only pulling some of the correct colors but over all, it is an improvement. From what I can tell. If the application is GTK3, it looks right. If it is GTK2, not quite as right.

From what I can tell, the color information is being pulled from the Plasma theme. The GTK2 theme doesn’t seem to do the same but I am sure it is a work in progress.

It should also be noted that the shadows underneath GTK applications match the rest of Plasma. It is a very subtle thing, really and not that big of a deal to not have but overall, this does look a lot better.

Gnome recipes is still lacking on the button preferences I would rather have at the top but this is better, overall than it was. Some applications, like Virtmanager look as though they are like any other Qt based application. It should be noted that there are some color issues with Firefox and Audacity. The accent color does not match the rest of my desktop.

Night Color

The Night Color controller, which was given to us in Plasma 5.17, now has an icon that is in the system tray. Version 5.16 and before, I was using Redshift, which was well enough but having something a bit more integrated into the system is preferred. The only issue was that there wasn’t a tray indicator and occasionally, there would be issues with Redshift, nothing horrific, I would just have to toggle it or the “GeoClue” service would runaway and have to be killed. Night Color doesn’t seem to have any bugs but was introduced without a tray icon or indicator. Now there is a nicely sized icon in the tray that allows for quick activation / deactivation and access to the configuration options. Not that you are going to adjust it but a quick click on the icon and it will return the temperature to the cooler default when you disable it. Truthfully, I seem to much prefer the warmer look of the screen these days.

Memory Usage

I have a couple low specification machines and what impresses me is how the memory resources have further been reduced. This is completely colloquial and should not be taken as absolute for all cases as I have read more than once that Plasma will take advantage of extra memory when available. Regardless, Plasma, on my low-spec multimedia machine not hovers at about 370 MiB of RAM but doesn’t go beyond 420 MiB on a machine with 4 GiB (well… 3.8 GiB after being gobbled up by the GPU). It should also be noted that after many hours of use, there was not perceivable memory leak or weirdness. Not that one would expect it today, but I do think it’s worth noting and nice to see that there do not seem to be any issues.

Emoji Picker

A feature that is touted that looks cool in the pictures but not so useful in my setup is the emoji picker. I think my issue is that I am running with a dark theme and the icons being chosen are just as you see but it would be nice if it had the more traditional, multi colored emojis. Truthfully, I don’t use emojis much at all but on those rare instances, I would much prefer to have something more… colorful.

I don’t know if I care enough to even file a bug report or feature request.

Default Audio Device

If you are like me, and I hope not, you have multiple audio devices you connect and disconnect at any time. I have become quite the fan of using Bluetooth devices on Linux as it works very reliably. What is nice is the ability to tell Plasma that when it sees a device, to make that one the default and switch to it when connected.

In my case, I have a Bluetooth headset that when it connects, I want it to be the default device so that when I press the volume up/down keys on my laptop, the headset is what adjusts volume, not some other device. This works 100% of the time, so far.

Final Thoughts

With every release of Plasma, I have been quite pleased and happy to get the latest and greatest that they have to offer. I truly believe that this is how software updates should be. The steady progress of better performance, feature refinements and improved memory usage has made using Plasma a continual joy. I do admit, these are small refinements and tweaks, but that is a welcome method of introducing changes. There is nothing radical or earth shattering in Plasma 5.18, just refinements.

I very much welcome these improvements and look forward to the next round. Personally, I am hoping for further refinements to the GTK integration. Currently, I am quite pleased with the changes that were made for client side decorations. I am also hoping that this course of performance and resource utilization improvements continue. I do realize that it is likely “we” are bumping up against realistic limits but I do recall a time when Plasma 4 could run quite nicely on a machine with 512 MiB of RAM, so… that’s something.

If you haven’t tried Plasma in a while, 5.18 is not likely to disappoint. Running Plasma on openSUSE Tumbleweed is a great experience, not necessarily for the defaults as they closely follow upstream and a dark theme should be default. I haven’t had any of the glitching or strange behavior that Plasma has been known for in the distance past, Plasma runs great on 14 year old hardware as well as modern hardware. Most important to me, none of the changes in 5.18 are irritating. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but for me, there is no greater statement that can be said about a desktop as the changes are not irritating.

References

KDE Plasma 5.18 Release Notes
openSUSE Tumbleweed Download

FerenOS (2020) | Review from an openSUSE User

FerenOS undoubtedly focuses on visual aesthetics, user interface and user experience. The last time I looked at FerenOS, it was built on the Cinnamon Desktop Environment. At the time, the Plasma version was called “Feren Next” and and initially I was disappointed I didn’t use the Plasma version, but now I am very glad I did as I can compare this experience with my last FerenOS experience.

This is my review as an openSUSE User. To say this will be completely objective would essentially be a big giant lie. This will be quite biased as I enjoy openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, day in and day out on multiple machines, including my daily driver, low end laptops and more powerful workstations and servers. I am happily entrenched but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to look over the fences from time to time to see what other parts of the community are doing. Plus, you can’t go anywhere without bumping in to “FerenOS Dev” on some YouTube chat, Telegram or Discord announcing his enhancements.

Bottom Line Up Front: FerenOS (2020) is simply fantastic. The way you are greeted and guided through your setup is brilliant. I am not keen on every design decision but that matters not as I am never keen on every design decision presented in any other distribution, to include my own. FerenOS is going for a look that is uniquely its own and is not afraid to experiment, cross toolkit boundaries and stray from the normal. I appreciate the design decisions, more than any other “boutique” distribution I have seen in a long while. Do I like all of them? No. Would I choose many of these? Also, No. But I think they do look great make for an enjoyable experience, just not one I would prefer.

Installation

The installation of FerenOS is very straight forward. It uses the Calamares Installer which is known for being straight forward. When you first kick on the installer, you are presented with your language selection.

I have noticed this is common with the Ubuntu flavors but not all of them. When FerenOS boots, it looks classy as they use the “flicker free” booting in just the right way.

When the system settles you are greeted with a fantastic welcome window that immediately detects you are using a VM. Although, neither of the two options fit my situation, it is still a welcome notification.

Another very cool feature is to set your theme and accent color to your desktop. Unless my memory fails me, I think this is the first I have been presented this on start up.

I of course went for a dark with a green accent color because that is my happy place. Interestingly, you are told to log out and in again for the changes to take affect on certain applications. I wonder which applications.

I appreciate how FerenOS tells the heart of its story, it’s reason for being, right on the desktop. “Passion led us here.” That, I believe is the corner value of this entire project. You can see the passion throughout the entire experience. It oozes through every design decision. Since I want to see how FerenOS does, when installed, that was my next step.

The installer is nice and respected, mostly, my dark theme selection. Step one, set your language. Step 2, set your Location. All very straight forward and you really shouldn’t get stumped on those particular questions.

Step 3, set your keyboard preference. In my case, I am going with English (US) and Default as I don’t have anything other than that… although… I am often interested in this Dvorak layout. It was the new big thing in the 80s, nice to see it’s taken off.

Step 4, set your disk partitions. In this case, I am utilizing the entire disk and the default, whatever it is, will be fine for this sort of experience.

Step 5, Set your username and password. This also includes the name of the computer. I really like that this is presented as such. I do not particularly care for having to dig for this option or setting it later. Sure, I will do it and probably won’t complain about it too much but I like for the option to be presented in the regular course of the installation process. No, that is not a dig on any other installer. Step 6, you are presented a summary to review your decisions. If you are okay with this, select Install. You will then be presented a kind of “sanity check” to be sure you are certain on this commitment.

Step 7, Install the system, or rather, let the installer copy all the files and configure your system according to the preferences you set. Step 8, select “Restart now” and click “Done”.

Then you are done. The system is installed and you are ready to stretch your legs in this new-car-smell of a desktop experience.

First Run and Impressions

Upon reboot, this is the only place it feels like Feren hasn’t taken any time to customize is the Grub screen that launches you into the operating system. Visually, this does not reflect the experience you are going to have and it, unfortunately doesn’t say “Feren OS” here. Not that seeing Ubuntu is unwelcome it is just a bit disjointed from the rest of the experience you are about to have.

After you log into the system, for the first time, you are greeted with the theme selection but with expanded options. You are asked if you want to add the 3rd-Party extensions to your system with a reasonable warning. Next you are given selection of desktop paradigms from which to choose. I went with the Feren OS default because I wanted to see the Feren preferred interface.

You will once again set your Theme mode and accent color. The first time was like a dress rehearsal, I suppose. I repeated my dark theme with the green accents.

Another nice touch to this first-run window is that it tells you about KDE Connect and gives you links to get the application for your mobile device. The option to set the feature to reduced eye strain is great. Many people may not even know it exist so well done on presenting this!

Once you get through that, you are done and ready to get going with Feren OS. Like any operating system, that is just a shell for getting your work (or play) done.

Getting back to the Welcome Screen is as easy as easy as a click on a desktop icon. This is real nice because here you can access many of those customization options once again.

Quite importantly is the quick access to install applications to the system. Both Flatpak and Snaps are readily available. No extra hoops to jump through which does seem like a stray from what is common with boutique distributions. It is a very user conscientious being made that is greatly appreciated.

Something else that I thought was kind of neat, was if you started to ignore the Welcome Screen, it will start to get restless and do fun things.

It is another nice touch that makes your desktop feel alive, not in overlord, dominate, closed sort of way but a fun and whimsically enjoyable fashion.

If at some point you decide you don’t like the theme you have selected, that is easy enough to change. You actually get a few other options if you visit the “Global Themes” so if a more traditional or “vanilla” Breeze Dark is your thing. That is an option here too. It is fun to play with the other themes and really, the Ubuntu Unity Layout isn’t a bad re-implementation of the Unity Desktop. It kind of makes you think, really…

The file manager choice of “Nemo” in Feren is one of two “weak spots” in choice, in my opinion. The Plasma default is Dolphin and really, any other file manager pales in comparison to it. It gets the job done fine but I don’t understand why.

Snap Support is just a click (or two) away from getting going with it. Flatpak is also readily available. The integration into the Feren Software center is also nicely done.

The first time you go into the software manager system. You will have to take a little time to configure bits and pieces of it. First the system snapshots then the mirrors.

The snapshots are very easily set up but the BTRFS option is not an actual option unless you have BTRFS as your file system. I didn’t test this but it would be nice if the option wasn’t there as it’s too late to select it at this point. This whole system reminds me of what is available on Linux Mint. I am guessing it is pulled from it with some modifications. I am not sure.

After you select your preferences for the Users Home Directories you are done with the snapshots setup. I chose not to have any snapshots taken for the home directory and I am not completely sure of the utility of it. I would prefer to make offline, incremental backups rather than use this method.

The next task you will have to tackle is the selection of your software sources, finding the closest mirror. I am curious as to why this isn’t automatic but not a big deal. It is easy enough to adjust.

Once all this is out of the way, you are ready to get to performing updates on your system. It is a nice update tool and it is a satisfying watch to see all the bits get installed on your system.

The Default Web Browser Choice is not my preference. Vivaldi is okay but Firefox is my preference with Falkon as my secondary. Whenever I use Vivaldi, it just feels… clunky but maybe that is due to my lack of experience with it.

Adding another web browser. is a trivial process. That can be accomplished with a fantastic little tool that allows you to install the browser of your choice.

Overall, FerenOS makes a great impression. It feels well thought out, well polished and very straight forward to use. Truly, a great, easily customized desktop experience with some great presets from which to build.

What I Like

Immediately, without any question, the welcome screen is the best I have ever seen. I am given the freedom to choose my experience right out of the gate. There is, quite literally, no digging required to tweak things out to the way I prefer but also the option to try out some great presets and tweak them to my liking. The over all look of each preset is crafted in that “Feren way”.

There are lot’s of little helper tools to allow you to make choices in the most painless possible way. Everything from accent colors to browser choices to where you select your mirrors is all easily accomplished. I realize that Feren is pulling from other projects to make this happen and is as such crossing toolkit boundaries but that is completely acceptable because he integrates the look and feel of Qt and GTK apps in such a way that they coexist quite nicely.

Throughout the entire desktop experience, there are these little touches that make Feren fun to use. Everything from the animated logo, the choice in defaults, the detection of using the desktop in a VM and so forth give the impression that it is focused specifically on a tailored desktop experience. I would say, without any hesitation, that Feren OS works towards making your computer a personal computer. I also want to note that no mater the “Global Theme” you use, the visual brand language is undoubtedly very Feren OS. Whether you use the Window, Mac or Unity feel, paradigm, it feels like Feren OS.

What I Don’t Like

The default file manager, Nemo, is not my favorite. One of the great features of Plasma is Dolphin. It is by far the best file manager available on any platform and I am a bit befuddled why the default would be anything but Dolphin. Nemo is not bad but it is much like the car rental experience. You are told you are getting a full sized, luxury sedan but you end up with a 4 year old mid-sized that smells like an ashtray but with low mileage as no one actually wants to drive this. Sure, it’s fine, it’ll get from point “A” to point “B” but you aren’t excited about it.

This is a total nitpick but the Grub boot screen doesn’t say Feren OS, it says Ubuntu. Sure, I know it is build on Ubuntu but shouldn’t it say Feren OS? This is not a big deal at all but it is just something that I think would be an improvement or at least reduce any confusion from someone that may not be as well informed.

Final Thoughts

Feren OS is a great visual experience that has a lot of care taken into making the user feel like they are using a commercial product. I would place Feren OS at the top of my list of Boutique distributions that has some serious legs to it. I don’t know what the long term strategy is for Feren but I hope that what he does trickles out into other distributions, not just Plasma based but all of them. He has an eye for design and user experience that is head and shoulders above anything else that I have seen on any operating system, ever. This is most certainly something to watch and keep an eye on.

Would I switch from openSUSE to FerenOS? No, I would not. As nice as it is, as well crafted as it is, it is not for me. I do happen to prefer the underpinnings that openSUSE provides and I prefer a few things to be just a bit different which lines up closer to my personal taste. So, whether that is on openSUSE Tumbleweed, Kubuntu, Neon or Feren, I am still going to tweak out a lot about the desktop to fit my needs.

I would recommend Feren OS to any new-to-Linux user and if you are even slightly curious about it, give it a try. You will have a smile of enjoyment on your face that is unique to this desktop and the more you dig in and see all the thoughtful care put into it, you won’t have a shred of disappointment.

References

Feren OS Home
BDLL Discourse Forum about Feren OS
BDLL Discussion on YouTube about Feren OS Part 1
BDLL Discussion on YouTube about Feren OS Part 2

Fedora 31 | Review from an openSUSE User

Fedora is a Linux distribution that has been around since the beginning of my Linux adventure and for which I have incredible respect. I have reviewed Fedora before, and it was a good experience. Last time I used Fedora, I used Gnome and since I am kind of Gnome fatigued right now, I thought it better to use a different desktop, one that I can easily shape my experience to my needs, clearly, there are only two options but I chose to go with the primer, most easily customized desktop, KDE Plasma, ultimately, I want to compare my Fedora Plasma experience with my openSUSE Tumbleweed Plasma experience. I have no intention of switching distros but I do like to, from time to time, see how other distributions compare. Of all the distributions available outside of openSUSE, Fedora and Debian are the two that interest me the most but for different reasons.

This is my review as a biased openSUSE Tumbleweed user. Bottom Line Up Front. Fedora is a nearly perfect [for me] distribution that is architecturally and fundamentally sound from the base upward. It is themed just enough, out of the box, to not annoy me with any irritating impositions. It really feels like I have been given keys to a fantastic house, albeit a bit spartan, waiting for me to make it my own. Technically speaking, there is nothing I dislike about Fedora. I could get along just fine in Fedora Land but openSUSE Land edges out for me with the Tumbleweed convenience and the broader hardware support.

Installation

I want to be careful how I describe my experience here, I do not want to disparage the installer at all and blame any issues I had with it on me. What I appreciate about the installation process, I grateful that I can go right into the installation immediately.

There is something spectacularly simple and clean about the boot screen. No frills, no fluff. Just down to business. If that doesn’t say Fedora, I don’t know what does!

The next step will be to set your language and location. The next screen is an Installation Summary screen. I like this and I also don’t like this. I like it because it allows me to jump around, I don’t like it because I am not used to this layout. You can’t proceed with the installation until you complete all the steps, so that is good.

I started with the Root and User creation settings. This is very straight forward. I like the root options that are presented to lock the root account and whether or not to allow SSH Login with Password.

For the Installation Source, I am less impressed with this section, as compared to the openSUSE installation method. Maybe I don’t understand this part exactly, I was a bit confused. The correct choice would be “On the Network” from here and leave it on “Closest mirror”.

What I like about the openSUSE method is that it uses local and the remote sources together, not a selection of one or the other. This is entirely a preference thing but if the local packages are just as up to date as the remote packages, why not pull from those as well. I will admit, I don’t know whether or not this installer is doing that automatically, but my impression is that it is one location or the other. Again, not a big deal, just a head scratching moment.

The Software Selection tool is blow-me-away fantastic. I love this, it is just super to use and makes perfect intuitive sense. Since I want KDE Plasma Workspace and some of the Software Categories, that is what I selected. I think this is a great feature.

You can do this with the openSUSE Installer and it is a bit more granular but not as approachable as this, in my opinion.

The Installation Destination tool is a nice interface. Select the destination and go with it. I didn’t do any complex partitioning but this interface is pretty great.

I can’t say whether or not this is as feature rich as the openSUSE Partitioner but I do prefer this to many other distributions.

Select to begin the installation, it will go through the process without any propaganda and when complete, select the Reboot System in the lower-right corner and you are ready to fire up Fedora.

First Run and Impressions

Fedora boots up with the stock Plasma Splash screen and a very stock Plasma desktop, beautifully stock desktop. A desktop that says, I am ready to be shaped to your requirements. That is a huge “thank you” to Fedora.

..mostly. The first order of business was to fix my menu. The Application Launcher is not my favorite to work with. That is altered by going to the “Show Alternatives” Where I switched to the Application Menu.

Fedora is running Plasma 5.17.4, same as Tumbleweed Snapshot 20200110 (time of writing). I really don’t know if Fedora keeps this updated or if it will be updated at Fedora 32. Either way, this is something I will keep an eye on.

The next step was to fix the theme. Like many distributions, Fedora goes with the odd Light theme which just looks too “Wonder Bread” to me. I prefer something with a little more awesome factor, so I go with Breeze Dark.

That slight tweak makes Plasma all that I want it and as I’ve said for every other distribution, dark should be default.

I may have missed it but I didn’t see the spot to set up the hostname through the installation process of Fedora. That is not a big deal, really. I did search to see if maybe there was an admin tool for this but nope. There isn’t a graphical tool as you would find in openSUSE but again, not a big deal.

Making the adjustment in the terminal is kind of a fun exercise.

A fun little command you can use to check this is hostnamectl

To change your host name, run in the terminal as root:

vim /etc/hostnames

Change the hostname there to whatever it is that you want.

To input text in VI, you will have to press “i” write whatever it is you want to make the hostname, press the “esc” key and type :wq to write and quit and you are done.

To verify the change, type hostnamectl in the terminal and make sure you are set.

Edit: Due to some feedback from those better studied than me, you can set the hostname during the installation process. I missed it. So, in case you miss it like me, you can fix your mistake as I have.

Multimedia Codecs

Setting up Fedora to do multimedia things is not difficult at all. I have previously demonstrated this and I will put it in here too. It is nice that this process hasn’t changed at all in the last two years.

There is a base recommended multimedia set of packages for the codecs:

dnf install gstreamer1-{ffmpeg,libav,plugins-{good,ugly,bad{,-free,-nonfree}}} --setopt=strict=0

If you prefer xine over Gstreamer:

dnf install xine-lib* k3b-extras-freeworld

For using to internet radio streams and things, you will need a few more packages:

dnf install gstreamer1-{plugin-crystalhd,ffmpeg,plugins-{good,ugly,bad{,-free,-nonfree,-freeworld,-extras}{,-extras}}} libmpg123 lame-libs --setopt=strict=0

This process is easy enough for a novice Linux user do on to set up, so long as they aren’t afraid of working in the terminal. If you want a graphical interface for this you will have to search elsewhere or perhaps not use Fedora.

What I Like

Fedora is a blank slate, an industrial grade system that will do its job and work. It doesn’t have all the wiz-bang tools like YaST that I appreciate and rely upon in openSUSE but that’s okay. There are plenty of resources and guides out there to get you though any of the core system configurations.

Multimedia setup on Fedora is very straight forward. Not any more difficult than openSUSE but is less convenient than how you accomplish this on Ubuntu. I understand and don’t fault why Red Hat and SUSE dictate the separation as they are very concerned about the potential litigious consequences of having it included.

Fedora is a solid, well thought out, well plumbed product that has a very robust installation system. The package manager, DNF, has very easy to understand syntax. The output from its interaction is very well formatted and readable as to what it is doing. It could use a little more color, like Zypper, but I am good with single colored text.

Fedora enables a firewall by default. Firewalld is not only installed by default but the interface is there, ready to be used. I applaud that as it seems like there are many distributions that do NOT have a firewall activated by default and whatever the excuse is for it, I don’t buy it.

What I Don’t Like

As nice as the installation system is on Fedora, there are some User Interface bits that are a little different and therefore takes a bit to understand what needs to be done. It is a nitpick issue as if I were in Fedora for an extended period of time, I would be fine with it. I just don’t like it as much as some others.

When using DNF, I find it isn’t as feature rich as what I accustomed to on Zypper. DNF is good, real good and there are ways to get around what DNF doesn’t have. For example. If I want to see what KDE packages are installed on openSUSE with Zypper, I would run zypper search -i kde. That would only show the installed “KDE” packages. There isn’t an equivalent command with DNF, but you can do it with the RPM command, rpm -qa | grep kde. I admit, I am not as well studied in DNF and there may be a way to do it but it wasn’t completely obvious to me.

Edit: I have been corrected on this point. DNF does have a search ability, although my method of using rpm does work, you can use the DNF method as such: dnf list installed \*kde\* This does indeed work as expected and gives a great resulting list.

Firefox doesn’t have the kfiledialog patch applied to it like you would have on openSUSE. I didn’t realize how much the default file dialog box annoys me until I had to use it on a non-openSUSE Plasma system. This is almost irritating enough to make me choose a different browser. This is not a hyperbolic statement, I am quite sincere. I don’t understand why Fedora and Kubuntu, for that matter, can’t apply this same patch that has been available for as long as I can remember, 10 years, maybe? I don’t know exactly.

Just a little thing, but the sudoer file is empty or rather, set up as such that I can’t “sudo <some command>”. I have to su than run some command as root. Not a huge deal, but just a minor annoyance.

Final Thoughts

Fedora with KDE Plasma is a great choice. All my issues with Fedora are just nitpicks and not show stoppers, at all. Though, I don’t understand why they can’t copy openSUSE’s use of the Kfiledialog patch. I will concede that perhaps it’s more complicated than I understand. What is absolutely clear to me is how the underpinnings are well orchestrated on Fedora as it is certainly well tested and usable.

I would absolutely recommend anyone try Fedora. Just understand, this is an industrial-grade Linux distribution that is not as heavily focused on the desktop experience. Fedora feels well tested which makes the final product for the user a great, solid and smooth experience. I don’t know if I would recommend Fedora for the “brand new to Linux” user unless they are already technically inclined. You certainly cannot be afraid of the terminal when using it but if you are good with it, it is an incredibly positive experience.

Would I switch from openSUSE Tumbleweed to Fedora? No, I would not. The reasons are very specific too. Number 1, I like the rolling model of Tumbleweed with the safety-net of the BTRFS snapshot system. Fedora doesn’t have this out of the box but I am sure you could incorporate it if you wanted. Fedora’s DNF is decent, has a great syntax but I don’t know if it is at feature parity to Zypper and it would take more time of me using it to determine that. DNF is newer so it is likely to get more features in the future. openSUSE seems to support more hardware than Fedora. I don’t blame Fedora for that as it is a very forward-leaning distribution. Lastly, I think openSUSE just has a more fun logo. I agree that it is a superfluous reason but none the less, I do like that chameleon.

References

Fedora Linux Home
CubicleNate Fedora 27 Review

Kontact | Akonadi Reference

The killer feature of the Plasma Desktop has been the KDE Personal Information Manager, Kontact. I have been using it since 2004 time frame and although we have had a tenuous relationship over the years, specifically the switch to the Akonadi and the pain that came with it in the early years. I actively use Kontact on multiple machines for the feature richness of it and haven’t found anything in existence that I like better. I also exclusively use Kontact on openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma Desktop Environment.

I have decided to publish my reference concerning the maintenance it requires. I could be an edge case since I have five mail accounts and multiple calendar accounts as well. Historically, I have had issues where losing network connection, regaining it, suspending and resuming my machine over a period of time would cause the thing to have fits. So, here are my fixes, whenever the need arises.

One quick caveat, your results may vary and don’t hold me responsible for your data.

Problem 1: Akonadi Gets Stuck and Stops Checking Email

This is rare as of late but 3 or 4 years ago, this was indeed a problem. I think I have used this once in the last month (Jan 2020 at the time of writing) but this is what I do.

Solution

In the terminal or even in Krunner type the following

akonadictl stop

This will stop all the processes. Sometimes they can hang and this will gracefully shut the thing down. At this point, you can start it back up in Kontact or in the terminal or krunner type:

akonadictl start

If you do this in the terminal, you can enjoy the scrolling of all the activity going on and gain some appreciation for what it is doing.

After that, you should be good to go.

Problem 2: Clearing out Cached Data

From time to time, I notice that the Akonadi cache under ~/.local/share starts to grow an awful lot. Part of it is that I don’t delete emails, but there is a percentage of that data that is vestigial and can easily be cleared out. This requires two commands and a bit of patience on your end.

Start out by running a “file system check” on the Akonadi database in the terminal.

akonadictl fsck

This takes a bit and will display all found unreferenced external files and such. Once complete, run this:

akonadictl vacuum

This process will optimize the tables and you will recover a bit of data. I admit, this doesn’t make a huge change but it will clear things out. The last time I did it, I only freed up a few megabytes of data but but it’s something.

Final Thoughts

You know those stories of people that have these crazy habits that don’t make sense, things they do that don’t really help or solve a problem like making sure the spoons are organized in just the right fashion? Yeah, well that could be what this whole post is and my obsessive-compulsive tenancies are in full expression. So, take all that into account should you choose to use any of these references.

Feedback is very much welcome on this.

References

Kontact the KDE Personal Information Manager

Building an AMD Server and Game Machine out of Yester-Year’s Parts

Some time ago I started noodling around the idea of building a replacement server for my home. I wanted to make this an extreme budget build. I came to the realization that I have become rather disconnected with the state of desktop class video cards and really much of anything that was outside of the laptop world. I was hung up, for quite some time on the case and motherboard selection. I would browse Newegg and eBay but since I lacked a lot of information, I was in a constant state of decision-vapor-lock. What changed was when I received some hardware at no cost. An incredibly large case and an AMD motherboard locked in the portion of the project that I was unable to make any decisions and dictated the rest of the build. So, over a period of months, I slowly acquired rest of needed components.

The case, although in good condition, certainly looks like it was at some point out moded and just became a place that parts were thrown into. I would guess this case is as old as my Linux jouirney.

The motherboard that was given to me was an AM3/AM3+ motherboard. I was actually kind of excited about this as I decided I was going to do a complete AMD build. Sure, this is an older AMD CPU socket with a silkscreen date on the board of 2013 but that meant getting something on the cheap was certain. Also, since I don’t exactly buy new things, this fit the bill.

This is what ended up getting, mostly from eBay, so for you to replicate this selection at this price may or may not be possible.

  • Graphics Card Gigabyte Gammin g RX570 8GiB Graphics RAM – $89.95
  • Power Supply – RaidMax RX-1000AP-S Power Supply – $74.19
  • CPU – AMD FX-9590 – $119.95
  • CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus – $22.59
  • Memory – 32 GiB DDR3 1866MHz – $64.95
  • Storage – 6, Seagate 2TB drives – $149.70
  • 6-port SATA Card – $25.35
  • USB 3 All-in-one 5.25″ Front Panel Card reader – $19.99
  • Blu-ray DVD player – $50.00
  • 2x 3.5″ to 5.25″ adapter trays – $8.58
  • Serial DB9 RS232 9pin com port with bracket – $4.14
  • 6x SATA Cables – $9.48

That made a grand total of $638.87 invested in this machine. I went just a bit overbudget due to the CPU cooler. I was warned that the TDP rating on the CPU meant it was necessary to have an effective cooler.

This was the first time I have actually assembled from parts and pieces a computer. I have repaired and upgraded many but this was the first of this level of DIY. Since every part I had was untested and I had no way to verify if anything was working, as in, nothing else upon which I could conduct individual component testing, there were a lot of uncertainties in this.

When I kicked it on for the first time and had everything working, I was incredibly relieved that it all worked. There weren’t any issues at all with any of the components.

To see this machine actually start up and work in a kind of cobbled together state was not too far short of a miracle. I was very fortunate that all the used hardware actually worked.

Operating System | openSUSE Tumbleweed

There really wasn’t any other choice. I need long term reliability and I am not interested in reinstalling the operating system. I know, through personal experience, that Tumbleweed works well with server applications, is very tolerant to delayed updates and will just keep chugging away.

I have been very satisfied with the stability of Tumbleweed as a server for the last year on my “temporary system” performing that role. The issues I did have with that system, although minor, have been with video due to the Nvidia GPU. This build, I purposely avoided anything to do with Nvidia due to the dubious support they provide.

Storage Setup

This was an area that took me several months of research and reading. My criteria was that I had to have Storage Array BTRFS Raid 10. This afforded me a lot of redundancy but also a lot of flexibility. This will allow me to slowly upgrade my dries capacity as they begin to fail.

When deciding the file system, I did a lot of research into my options. I talked to a lot of people. ZFS lost consideration due to the lack of support in Linux. I am perfectly aware that the development is done primarily within Linux now but it is not part of the mainline kernel and I do not want to risk the module breaking when the kernel updates. So, that was a non-starter.

I looked at a few LVM options but if I wasn’t confident in understanding all the details of it and I didn’t want to risk any reliability due to my ignorance. Why I ended up using BTRFS is due to the reliability and flexibility of the file system. Anyone that says RAID 10 on BTRFS is not reliable is, sadly mistaken.

Since the motherboard I have wouldn’t recognize a software RAID and boot from it, I used a 7th drive to bootstrap the whole system. That, also running BTRFS for the root file system and I threw in some Swap as well.

Used a 6-port SATA card for the 6 drives of the BTRFS RAID array and mounted it as /home. At some point, I want to take advantage of the subvolume capabilities of BTRFS but that will come at a later time.

Additional Components

Prime 1 Bluray USB Media DashboardSince this is my new central computer, as it were, I wanted this to have all the faculties for doing the regular nonsense that I conduct in my SuperCubicle. Since it seems I have made a bit of a reputation for doing computer-y things, I tend to help other people out in data recovery, backing up their systems and so forth. I also like to mess with Single Board Computers and although I can stick an SD Card in my laptop. I wanted something with all the media cards in it and external SATA ports for plugging in drives as well. This already had some USB and SATA connections on the top of the case. The 5.25 Media Dashboard has SD, MS, MMC, XD, TF, M2, CF and SATA interfaces. There is also a power connector port and USB3. I have used many of these interfaces already. As a bonus, this has a temperature sensor that I attached to the CPU cooler that tells me what the temperature of that monstrosity is. It really hasn’t gotten real hot yet but I will see how hot I can get it after I really start pushing it.

The optical drive is also getting a regular workout as I have been dipping into the bargain bin of post-Christmas season movies to add to my media collection. All in all, this has been the perfect hardware build for me and my purposes. As it stands today, I only have 3 open bays on this machine so anything smaller, just wouldn’t do.

Current Activities

I didn’t just build this system to look old in my basement. I have had plans for this thing for longer than many of the parts. My number one task is that this machine is my central repository of all my data. Everything from records to movies. To that end, outside of the standard server functions you have by “flipping a couple switches” like Secure Shell, Samba, Syncthing, I wanted to go beyond this. Something “cool!”

Media Server

Currently testing Emby, PLEX and Jellyfin. This is probably what this machine does most right now. That and ripping the DVDs and Blu-rays I purchase using MakeMKV (Another blathering for another time). This function doesn’t seem to be very taxing on memory or processing power. Maybe if I had more machine drawing media from it it would but that is not an issue at this time.

Gaming Rig

Although I am not exactly doing much gaming, I think I played a game of River City Ransom: Underground with my youngest. I have also played Descent 2 (rebirth) on this machine, and it, of course, ran it extremely fast. At this point, I haven’t come close to taxing the video card. I am planning to do more Linux gaming with it and by that, I mean, anything that I can run in the Linux environment, so Wine and Proton, those are also fair “game”.

Video Rendering

Since this is the most capable machine I own, I’m using this to render video. It does the task in 1/3rd the time of my Dell Latitude E6440. Would faster be nicer, sure, but I don’t exactly churn out lots of video content for it to matter. I still tend to edit the video on my laptop but render it on this machine. Mostly because I don’t have great monitors for it yet. That will come later.

Planned Activities

I will be implementing a Nextcloud server and start playing around with some note taking applications that I can self-host. Not that I am unsatisfied with Simplenote, I just happen to like to keep my options open.

Another service I want to run is Home Assistant. I have these plans for implementing “smart devices” that are not cloud based going off someplace else. I want to have Home Assistant, manage all my devices and make my home just a bit more convenient. That is also another blathering for another time.

I had originally intended to make a video of the build of this, to include the installation process, but after reviewing the video and being bored out of my mind watching it, I have kicked that to the curb and will maybe turn that into an 1980s sitcom montage to music or something.

Final Thoughts

Although this computer has only been up and running for about two months, I am slowly adding more services and functions to it. For now, it is pretty light, but in a few short months, that will most certainly start growing. I am very happy happy with the sub-$700 build for a computer system that has met or exceeded my expectations. It was a fun first complete, from ground up, scrap-together assembly that really was a gamble. I am pleased with how well openSUSE Tumbleweed runs on it and that I have had no disturbances with any operating system updates.

Often, after a project, you will review it, have an “After Action Review” and ask yourself, “What would I do differently if I were doing this again.” I can honestly say, there is nothing I would change. I like everything about this machine. I would, perhaps, like more storage space as I have already gobbled up 2.5 TiB of my 5.5 TiB of storage space. Reviewing what I spent and the additional cost of the larger storage, I would have still made the same decision. So, back to would I change anything? No, I think I made the right decision. I do have upgrades planned for the future but that is a project for the fall. This machine truly fits my needs, even if much of the hardware is yester-years retired bits.

References

BTRFS Increase RAID capacity on ServerFault.com
openSUSE.org Tumbleweed Download
BTRFS wiki on Kernel.org
5.25 Media Dashboard on Newegg.com
Steam for Linux from openSUSE.org

Noodlings | Quick Tiling Fusion 360 in the Kitchen

New episode for the New Year and that title is almost entirely nonsensical because they are different subjects.

Have a listen to episode 11 of this jibber jabber!

Fusion 360 Review

Fusion 360 is a CAD / CAM application with finite element analysis capabilities. I was going through the Autodesk forums and read a lot of chatter about their position on the Linux client. It appears that for several years, there have been requests but there is no plan to support it.

One user gave a fantastic well thought out, logical reason for building Fusion 360 to work in Linux and he gave the typical reasons for not doing so with answers:

  • the management sees not enough customers here. It’s a question about cost/income ratio.
  • I think if done right, there are not much costs (keyword continuous integration)
  • Number of potential customers. Linux users need to raise there hand and write to Autodesk, so that they can see, there are potential customers. Linux leads already on the server market, and on embedded devices, smart phones and tablets (if you count Android as Linux).
  • On the desktop, Windows is still the dominating system (88%), Mac (9%), Linux (2%). But this is for the average user, this doesn’t need to be true for engineers and makers using CAD software.
  • I have no statistic here, but I personally have never seen engineers working on Mac.
    But I have seen many engineers, software developers and scientists that work on Linux.
  • Linux users are willing to Beta test and are able to generally figure things out for themselves.

There was a lot more that you can look at here:

Autodesk support for Fusion 360 Discussion

There were a lot of hostile responses from Windows users that were just… hostile. I do think that is a large part of the untold story. There are those that point to Linux and talk of the technological elitism but I don’t think that is a behavior that exclusive to Linux users at all. I can refer to this post for evidence otherwise.

Even though Autodesk has stated that they have no plans to support Linux, it is always with the caveat that of “at this time.” I still have hope that Linux will be supported in the future. It’s inevitable as there are a larger percentage of Linux users in the engineering field, Autodesk does support Linux on the Maya application and since there are more and more professional tools on Linux, I truly believe it will follow.

Quick tiling Windows in Plasma

It took me far too long to complete the write up and video but I must say that the tiling features in Plasma are pretty fantastic. I spent this past weekend doing a lot of administrative work for another job of mine and the tiling manipulation of windows and desktop navigation made the tasks far less painful than they have been historically. I have to emphasis once again that it is important to have key combinations that make sense that are easy to remember that can are quickly intuitive to you.

I made a little video about this with Kdenlive and put it on YouTube. I had a less than stellar comment about my production quality. For that, I can say, I’ll try better next time.

Linux in the Kitchen

I did a post this last week on my use of Linux in the kitchen. I did appreciate a lot of the great feedback II received from this. I don’t want to understate, at all the value of technology in the kitchen. It is not at all a strange science experiment being shoe-horned into a role in which it doesn’t make sense. Linux and the array of tools make several kitchen tasks more efficiently completed.

For my case, the right hardware was an important part of the implementation as I have a very limited amount of counter space. There were already several software applications I had been using, I just happen to further expand how I had been using them.

How it recently made the Christmas season more efficient…

What would improve Linux in the Kitchen is going to take some real effort on my part. Most of these things will be aided by single board computers or IoT like devices. I need more metrics in order to improve my results when baking. Improved inventory management, improved meal planning. All but the last one will take some serious work and effort in order to implement.

BDLL Follow Up

Fedora 31 challenge. Lot of people were rough on it and in some ways I understand but in others I do not. I have used Fedora periodically and I have always found it to be an enjoyable experience. Fedora is a lot more like getting a Lego set with some instructions than it is a ready-made product. I look at Fedora as being a more industrial grade Linux system that you implement for a specific feature. While distributions from the Ubuntu flavors are more like products that are ready to be used that focus on the out-of-box experience. All the flavors of Linux have a place and a target audience. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about a distribution experience but I think it is almost a bit unfair to evaluate Fedora in the same way you would evaluate an Ubuntu.

I have decided to use Fedora’s Plasma edition and I am going to give it a fair, but biased, review. My expectations are very focused. I don’t need the “last mile” type polish, nor do I expect that from a Fedora or an openSUSE for that matter. What I do expect is something very easy to work with and mold to my wishes.

openSUSE does a great Plasma. I don’t mean out-of-the-box perfect for my needs. No distribution should ever target me as the core user, that would be tremendously silly. I am an edge case and I am never satisfied, I am a moving target of requirements and expectations for what I want as my personal workspace. I would be a high maintenance target for a perfect out-of-box experience.

openSUSE Corner

Snapshots 20191225, 20191227, 20191228, 20191229, 20191230

wiggle (1.1 -> 1.2) a program for applying patches that ‘patch’ cannot apply due to conflicting changes in the original. Wiggle will always apply all changes in the patch to the original. If it cannot find a way to cleanly apply a patch, it inserts it in the original in a manner similar to ‘merge’ and reports an unresolvable conflict.

bubblewrap (0.3.3 -> 0.4.0) The biggest feature in this release is the support for joining
existing user and pid namespaces. This doesn’t work in the setuid mode (at the moment). Other changes include Stores namespace info in status json, In setuid mode pid 1 is now marked dumpable also now build with musl libc.
gthumb (3.8.2 -> 3.8.3)

gnome-shell (3.34.2+0 -> 3.34.2+2): polkitAgent, Only set key focus to password entry after opening dialog. The keyboard now stops accessing deprecated actor property.
libnl3 (3.4 -> 3.5.0) * xfrmi: introduce XFRM interfaces support
xfrm: fix memory corruption (dangling pointer)
mypy (0.720 -> 0.750) More Precise Error Locations and the daemon is No Longer Experimental
python-Sphinx (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-Sphinx-test (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-jedi (0.15.1 -> 0.15.2)
python-mysqlclient
python-parso (0.5.1 -> 0.5.2)
python-pybind11 (2.4.2 -> 2.4.3)
python-typeshed (0.0.1+git.1562136779.4af283e1 -> 0.0.1+git.20191227.21a9e696)

wireshark (3.0.7 -> 3.2.0) bug fixes and updated protocol support as listed

Firefox (70.0.1 > 71.0) Improvements to Lockwise, integrated password manager, More information about Enhanced Tracking Protection in action, Native MP3 decoding on Windows, Linux, and macOS, Configuration page (about:config) reimplemented in HTML, New kiosk mode functionality, which allows maximum screen space for customer-facing displays. Numerous CVEs were addressed relating to memory.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:

20191225 – Stable 99
20191227 – Stable 99
20191228 – Stable 99
20191229 – Stable 99
20191230 – Stable 99

Computer History

The Computer Chronicles – Computer Music (1983)

I think we often take for granted the multimedia capabilities of computers today. It seems like someone is always harping about PulseAudio on Linux. I’d say they are likely not using the right distribution, by that I mean openSUSE, I don’t have these issues. The purpose of the section is not to tout the superiority of my favorite operating system when it comes to audio subsystem, rather, it is to talk and reflect about how great we have it today with all things audio on modern computers.

In 1983, the state of digital music was not as rich as it is today. We can enjoy a virtually endless supply of content never before available in human history. Let’s go back in time to an era when the Commodore 64 was the pinnacle in home computer audio. Where audio was entirely programmed, limited to 4 wave forms of sawtooth, triangle, pulse and noise. A multi-mode filter featuring low-pass, high-pass and band pass outputs and three volume controls of attack / decay / sustain / release (ASDR) for each audio oscillator and a few other things I barely understand. Regardless, the capabilities were limited and synthesizing voice was an incredible undertaking that took years of work long after the chip was in the wild. This was one of the first polyphonic sound chips on the consumer market that, to this day, is held in high regard and many still like the sounds this chip produces.

Example of Chip Tunes from 8-bit Versus

All this said, this was very interesting record of computer generated music that is certainly worth a listen. I find the experimentation and musical education tools used in this perod incredibly fascinating. Today, things are very different. Musical composers and artists use computers in music production and to do so otherwise would likely be considered insane. I now wonder if individuals in the 80s that pushed the art and science of computers in music were considered insane by their peers.

Linux in the Kitchen | Life Enhancement Blathering

There are so many ways Linux can be used. Most commonly, we see it used to run the Internet in servers and cloud thingies and such. If you are a desktop user, you might use it for office tasks in your home or work, maybe you are a content creator and you do video or audio editing, maybe you game or do 3D design, such as in parametric modeling, such as using Fusion 360 on Linux. There is another place that Linux fits quite nicely, that place is your Kitchen. At this stage, I would, in no way, give up Linux in the kitchen or trade it for a poor substitute like ChromeOS (which I have before). General Purpose Linux, the real thing, belongs in the kitchen as much as a coffee pot microwave oven or a toaster. I am not talking shoe-horning it into the life-center of your home, it is a perfect fit.

It is almost an automatic fit with using Linux for “traditional productivity” but it is not often thought about in the kitchen. Linux is something that makes domestic life a bit easier. Here are a couple of ways Linux just makes my life a bit easier and makes you look like a renaissance man or woman. I personally don’t have natural talent in the kitchen but out of necessity, I have to perform these functions better, more efficiently with improvements in my measure of performance as well as my measure of effect. As in, my kids enjoy what I make.

I am going to break down the applications that I use in the Kitchen to help organize my life just a little bit better. I will admit, that I am a work in progress on this. I am continually tweaking this but I am at a point now where I feel like it is a satisfactory solution and not just a novelty. I am running this on openSUSE Tumbleweed but I can’t see why you couldn’t use any other distribution… like openSUSE Leap.

The Hardware

This was an important choice for me. To forgo the droning details of the unimpressive hardware specifications, you can view that here. In short, my minimum requirements was at least something that would take a forth generation (Socket LGA1150) CPU. What I have in there now is not great but it does the job. I wanted a touch screen system, it had to be an all-in-one and it had to have a VESA mount. Since my kitchen is rather small, it was absolutely vital to not lose any counter space.

This is one of those acquisitions that has been worth far more in time savings and convenience than what it has cost me. I also want to add that this particular system has rather underwhelming set of built in speakers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that they are but I have it connected via Bluetooth to a Coolvox that is part of my refrigerator. Those speakers are pretty great.

Time Management

Use Kontact module Korganizer to perform meal planning. There are many other calendar options out there so feel free to swap this out for something that is to your liking. Since I am a heavy Plasma user, I haven’t actually installed explicitly installed it as it has always been done for me.

sudo zypper install korganizer

Truthfully, if you aren’t using Plasma or LXQt, I don’t know how much I would recommend this particular application.

Evolution is an alternative that my interest you.

sudo zypper install evolution

or for Debian based distributions

sudo apt install evolution

With whatever calendaring system you use, KOrganizer or Evolution, the idea here is to plan out your days, weeks, or even month if you have that sort of inclination. I have a lot of moving parts going on in my life so it is imperative that I keep my kids’ school activities, appointments and such readily available. I also use this for meal planning and I am making a point this year specify blocks of time for those activities that fall through the cracks, like reading to my kids or even “game time” so that we are not always just focused on work.

There is almost a sense of excitement knowing that family game time is scheduled and the kids appreciate seeing this too. It is another way to keep them all onboard.

Recipe Management

Gnome Recipes for storing my various recipes. There are a few issues with the is application, but it is minor and the mitigation I use is to not use the designated ingredients listing as it will change the units to undesirable quantities.

sudo zypper install gnome-recipes

or for Debian based distributions

sudo apt install gnome-recipes

What would be great is if there was an easier way to exchange your recipes with an external repository, of some kind. There is a way to import and export recipes but I haven’t used that function. I synchronize my data around my network.

File Synchronization

Syncthing-GTK is what i use to synchronize my recipes database between the machines in my house so when I find a recipe I like, I can enter it on another machine that I may take to the dining room, my couch or my SuperCubicle

sudo zypper install syncthing-gtk

or…

sudo apt install syncthing-gtk

I synchronize the data between multiple machines and since it is a peer-to-peer system, it has high fault tolerance, as in, I don’t have a central point of failure. The kitchen computer, my main laptop and my main workstation/server share a large section of my data. The nice feature is, I can work on something and save it on my kitchen and it will very quickly be available on my other computes so I have a very seamless kind of integration. Whether I am knocking out a LibreOffice document or updating a recipe, I will have it ready for me to use at whatever workstation I use in my house.

Lists

For list, grocery lists, quick notes, I use SimpleNote. It is just as the name states, a simple note taking application I had previously used the Google Keep but Chrome keeps using up more and more resources so I have backed off from Google services. There are many other note taking applications but SimpleNote is what I use most often. I install the Snap package.

sudo snap install simplenote

There may be other sources for SimpleNote, but this is what I can count on to work in openSUSE. The last time I checked, there wasn’t a Flatpak and I am more than happy to use any packaging system in openSUSE, because they all work well. Other distribution experiences may vary.

What makes SimpleNotes special is the simplicity of it. It is just a note taking application that works simply and well. I have SimpleNote on my mobile device as well so when I go to the store, I have my list there and ready to go. Bonus, it has a dark mode too.

I use the checklist function so that I can check off the items from my list as I go. If I notice a deficiency or a pending deficiency, I can very quickly make a not of it on any computer, most often the kitchen computer and it is ready for me later.

Web browsing

Since the system I am using is an all in one touch screen, I like to use a touch friendly browser and currently, I am using the Falkon web browser.

sudo zypper install falkon

Since I don’t have all the recipes in my kitchen computer, I will often find new recipes and browse through them which is why it is important to have the easy touch to scroll that Falkon provides. I prefer Firefox in nearly every other application and I won’t use Chrome but for your Kitchen setup, you use what you want to use.

Final Thoughts

I have no metrics to tell you how much more efficient this set up is over using a more normal method, like having cook books and the like taking up cupboard space but what I can tell you is that there is a lot more satisfaction and enjoyment when I am in the kitchen. Not only can I be more productive but I am also more easily entertained as well.

References

Dell Inspiron 20 3048 All-in-One Details
Gnome-Recipes
Syncthing-GTK

Quick Tiling in KDE Plasma on openSUSE

In my short time of using a tiling window manager, I very quickly became aware of the benefits of quick tiling features on the desktop. Being able to very quickly split your screen and be able to see information side-by-side, like writing a post and having my collection of pictures beside it is incredibly useful and a productivity enhancer. There were some things about a tiling desktop that I didn’t like as well. It was far too ridged for my liking so I wanted to explore adding some tiling features into Plasma but with not losing the benefits of floating windows as well.

Here are the changes I made to make my “Desktop Life” a bit more efficient and to manipulate things just a bit more quickly. The way I see it, the desktop you work in should mold itself to how you prefer to work, not the other way around. Everyone thinks differently and works differently. I don’t believe that any one particular work-flow is better than the other. I do however believe that the workflow I choose for me is the best one for me. I also believe that I should be open to making adjustments as I see fit.

This is the reason that I consider Plasma to be the best desktop available as I can make it work brilliantly for me and I am free to change every aspect of it. Although I believe these features have been in Plasma for several releases, I am currently using KDE Plasma 5.17.4 on openSUSE Tumbleweed. I have not tested this out on any other distribution.

Setting Hotkeys

In order to mimic the tiling features of i3, and I do mean mimic, you have to set the hotkeys. This is done by going into the Plasma SystemSettings > Shortcuts and selecting the Kwin Component.

Quick Tiling of Windows around the screen

Eight Locations for quick tiling around the screen. I mostly use Left and Right but I also use the quadrants of the screen as well

Bottom > Meta+Shift+Down
Bottom Left > Meta+Ctrl+Shift+PageUp
Bottom Right > Meta+Ctrl+Shift+PageDown
Left > Meta+Shift+Left
Right > Meta+Shift+Right
Top > Meta+Shift+Up
Top Left > Meta+Shift+PageUp
Top Right > Meta+Shift+PageDown

Switch Window Focus

When you have the windows tiled side-by-side or top-to-bottom and such, you may want to switch windows rapidly. Keep in mind, if you have a bunch of floating windows going on the same desktop, they can insert themselves on you in such a way that you may not expect.

Switch to Window Above > Meta+Alt+Up
Switch to Window Below > Meta+Alt+Down
Switch to Window to the Left > Meta+Alt+Left
Switch to Window to the Right > Meta+Alt+Right

Window to Desktop

This is very handy when you are working in an application and you want to push it to another desktop. Where I often do this is, I will open another browser or terminal window and I may have it tiled and I decide that I want to move it to a specific desktop for a different group of tasks. While I am working in that window, I hit the key combination and instantly, that window has moved to a different virtual desktop.

Window to Desktop 1 > Ctrl+Shift+F1
Window to Desktop 2 > Ctrl+Shift+F2
Window to Desktop 3 > Ctrl+Shift+F3
Window to Desktop 4 > Ctrl+Shift+F4

Additionally, I have set the Switching to those virtual desktop as follows:

Switch to Desktop 1 > Ctrl+F1
Switch to Desktop 2 > Ctrl+F2
Switch to Desktop 3 > Ctrl+F3
Switch to Desktop 4 > Ctrl+F4

I generally only run four desktops. I once ran more but found I only used the first 4. You can obviously tweak this to your particular case.

Present Windows

This is very handy and I have also duplicated this with a screen edge mouse trigger as well.

Present Windows (All Desktops) > Ctrl+F10
Present Windows (Current Desktop) > Ctrl+F9
Present Windows (Window Class) > Ctrl+F7

To add the screen edge trigger, go to SystemSettings > Workspace Behavior > Screen Edges

For me, I have set the Top Left corner for Present Windows (All Desktops), Top Right for Present Windows (Window Class) or in this case it is Current Application and Lower Right for Present Windows (Current Desktop).

Testing and Using

Here is where the “rubber meets the road” as it were. If you cannot remember the shortcuts or they don’t make sense to you, then it isn’t going to work for you. The computer I set these key sequences is on a laptop without a number pad

Exporting the Shortcuts

Assuming you have more than one computer, you may want to export the sequences rather than do them all over again. To do so, within the Global Shortcuts utility, go to the File button in the lower right corner of the window and select Export Scheme, the components you want to export, select OK and save the file to your location. There isn’t an automatic extension on the file so I just appended “*.scheme” so that I would know what it is.

Quick video

Because all the kids are doing it these days and I want to reclaim my youth, I created a quick video as well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am quite pleased with these functions. They do make working on my system a bit more enjoyable and efficient. Does it save me hours in the day? No, maybe only a few minutes but it feels real good to quickly tile windows, move them to alternate desktops and switch to those desktops. There are many more functions available to utilize but don’t overwhelm yourself in memorizing all of these little key combinations. Just do what makes sense for you and play around with it.

There are a few functions or benefits that I don’t get in the tiling manager, at least it is not as obvious to me. The rapid shifting of sizes of two tiles that are side by side. Right now, you are kind of locked into 50% or 25% of the screen. I am not aware, currently, how to rapidly make it a 60/40 split or similar. I am sure that there is a plug-in or extension to add such a feature but I don’t want to lose my floating windows or add any possible irritation in using my desktop either. As it stands right now, I have been able to add the features that I want and I get to keep what I like. I can have what I believe to be the best of both worlds.

References

Regolith Linux Review
YouTube Video of adding tiling to KDE Plasma

NetRunner | Review from an openSUSE User

NetRunner (19.08) is not one of those distributions I hear touting its uniqueness and wonders loudly on the Internet. As part of a two week challenge for BigDaddyLinux Live, I lassoed an ISO and took it for a spin on a VM. Some may argue that a VM doesn’t make for a good test experience and I would agree to that, sort of… This is not going to be a test of NetRunner’s performance on bare metal but rather, this is an impression of how the developers are answering the operating system question.

Bottom Line Up Front, NetRunner has a look of its own. The default software is refreshingly not minimal as that seems to be the talk of many Linux enthusiasts (I blame Arch for that). The included pieces of software makes for a great showcase of the various KDE applications. Personally, this is a good approach for most users. Those minimal installation folks should just learn to remove software using the package manager if that is such a huge issue. I am not keen on the default theme with the red cursor and the lack of a usable Dark NetRunner theme. Aside from that, it appears to be a good KDE Plasma experience and a fine showcase of the various applications a Linux user should try. This is my biased review of NetRunner as an openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation of NetRunner, like most of the Linux world is very straight forward and not problematic. Although, I realize that this is not a shared view among all users, this is my experience.

The bootloader gave some options so I wanted to play around with them. Unfortunately, the Memory test didn’t work for me but it was a neat idea.

Rather than continue to play around with these tools, I decided I would go ahead and unwrap this NetRunner present and see how it goes for me.

Essentially, a few moments later and the Desktop presented itself in all it’s KDE Plasma beauty. The default look is fine with me. Not my preference but I don’t expect every distribution to ship my preference, that would be silly and would undoubtedly make touring other distros incredibly boring.

The installation process uses the Calamares installer so it is incredibly easy to do. Thankfully, there isn’t any scavenger hunt required to initiate the installation. Once the installer has settled, select your Language and Location.

Next will be your keyboard layout and your partition scheme. I chose to erase the entire disk. It is interesting to note that the default Swap size is twice your RAM amount plus a little extra for good measure.

The last bit of using your noodle to get this set up is to set your user name and root password. Once complete, you are given a Summary and final sanity check before you commit to the installation.

The installation doesn’t take before it is finished which gives you a great opportunity to read the installation propaganda as you wait, or you can go do other things as I did and come back when it is done.

When you are done, feel free to reboot or hang out in the live session, whichever works for you. I wanted to see how quickly this would boot and I wanted to dig into it.

First Run and Impressions

The boot time was reasonable. Not lighting fast but reasonable and of the speed that I would have no complaints. Ultimately, I would rather it boot every time than boot occasionally really fast and leave you scratching your head when it doesn’t choose to boot.

The login screen or sometimes called “Display Manager” looked nice enough. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it made me feel like it was an older layout. That might be me and if we were in court, I would expect the other lawyer to object to that and strike it from the record.

The desktop does look nice, but I am not sure about that red cursor. It does bring back the happy smiles of the Amiga OS as it did back in the early 90s. The version of Plasma that shipped with NetRunner 19.08 is 5.14.5. A bit older as it was released in October of 2018 but not a bad version at all. It should also be noted that this is not an LTS version either.

The menu is the Application Dashboard. This is not my favorite menu system but that is easily changed. I do admit, it is a nice looking interface but it is just not for me. I don’t like menus that block out my desktop.

The game selection brought a smile to my face. I am glad to see Steam is installed by default. If you are into gaming, Steam is your portal to a wide selection of electric joy. I would have liked to have seen Lutris too but one out of two is not too bad. Excitingly, a game that I did forget about was BurgerSpace. It is a BurgerTime clone that I played on the Intellivision as a kid. Although, BurgerSpace doesn’t have the fun 8-bit music as the original, it was still fun to play… until I couldn’t get down the ladder…

I wanted to explore further the different applications. I found it interesting that there is a Skype client by default. The multimedia applications installed by default are some that I use. Handbrake and Kdenlive are two that I use with some frequency. There isn’t VLC but SMPlayer is available which is fine. The Web Camera application is Cheese which is also fine.

The Web applications section I thought was curious. Telegram was good to see but I scratched my head on the WhatsApp. I know that is used by many but the juxtaposition with having it alongside Hooktube seemed odd. Hooktube divorces you from the YouTube-ness of YouTube while WhatsApp is an application that will be collecting on you. It is easy enough to remove but I just thought it odd. I am sure that there is a valid reason for the selection, I just don’t know what that is.

The software package manager is very decent and I like the interface very much. It’s very clear on how to use, perhaps overwhelming for a new or less technical user but it is perfectly usable. I have found that there is this rather large section of the populous that doesn’t like to read and a wall of text can be overwhelming when there isn’t a giant “GO” or “NEXT” button to guide their eyes. When committing to updates, authentication is required. This is in contrast to what I am most accustomed in openSUSE.

What I found fascinating is that I found interesting is that it looked like the critical updates were not automatically included. Perhaps they were not selected or I had done something wrong but I would assume that these would be priority. I completed these updates and rebooted the system to take advantage of the new kernel and such.

The default NetRunner theme is too light for my liking. I went into the System Settings to correct this deficiency and unfortunately, I was met with less than stellar results. Somehow there seems to be something wedged in the theme engine that makes even the Breeze Dark theme unusable.

It didn’t seem to matter which dark theme I chose, NetRunner, changed the colors, Breeze Dark, use the Dark Color scheme, the result was the same in that it was not possible to read the text as any contrast was lost. For whatever reason, the desktop was not respecting my request.

This is basically a deal breaker for me. I do not like light themes… at all… and if I cannot allow my eyes to take a break from the light pollution, I am not a happy user. Just a mention, but I did notice that there was some reorganizing in the menu selection. Plasma Tweaks was an additional section that included all the visual tweaking settings. It seemed redundant and a silly call back to the Gnome Tweaks mess of applications.

There are some other interesting applications included in NetRunner that are worth looking into but I have already blathered on far too long about my first impressions.

What I Like

NetRunner does not do the rather common nonsense approach of not bundling software with their desktop environment. They have taken the time to include a nice and sensible selection of applications to get you going right out of the gate. Quite literally, after a short installation cycle, you can be up and running, creating, playing or doing very typical computer based tasks. The selection, although somewhat peculiar is a great showcase of applications.

The package manger, Synaptic, is frankly, one of my long time favorite package managers ever in Linux. It is the Debian staple of managing your packages and no Debian system should be without it. The fact that it is installed by default is a huge positive. As nice as the software centers are for discovery of applications, Synaptic just does the job better.

What I Don’t Like

The theme, something is wrong with the theme and how Plasma handles themes. I am sure I could correct it with enough time but that is a pretty significant annoyance. I would prefer NetRunner just use the standard Breeze themes and modify it to whatever would make it uniquely NetRunner with maybe a different shade of blue and the logos. Making the theme as such that I cannot read the text when switching it to a dark color scheme is a no go.

There isn’t a system control panel like you would find on the openSUSE or MX Linux distributions. I find YaST to be such an important tool for any system I set up. The KDE System Settings is great for user level settings but not the best for system wide settings, user management and the like. If I could wave the magic wand, I would like to seem more distributions use something like YaST, if not YaST itself on their distros for better system management.

The Software selection, although mostly great had me less than happy about having Skype and WhatsApp installed by default. This might make me sound like an old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but I have made it a point to push people away from such services and use them only if necessary. Having these installed by default don’t make me smile, I would much prefer to see other, less invasive applications in their place. Telegram was nice to see so there is that.

Final Thoughts

NetRunner is a distribution that is clearly focused squarely on it’s own goals and appearance. If you aren’t going to stray from what they have set in place, this will do nicely for you. The software selection is a great start as a sensible base of applications and also has some applications that should probably be removed

I am not exactly sure what I think of NetRunner. I like much of what they are trying to accomplish, I appreciate that they are doing their own thing and seemingly have a goal in mind of targeting a general user with this distribution. At the same time, I do not like some of their defaults and find some of there selection, not to my liking. Would I recommend NetRunner for someone to try? Yes, but it wouldn’t be the first I would recommend. It scores high on the ease of installation but low on the ability to cleanly customize it. It scores high on default software selection but bothers me that they have selected some other applications. Overall, it is a decent distribution and if you are not satisfied with your current experience, this is worth a try.

Would I switch from openSUSE to NetRunner? No, not a chance but I am glad NetRunner is out there and answering the software needs for many people.

References

NetRunner Download
Calamares Project
BigDaddyLinux Live Discorse on NetRunner

Noodlings | BTRFS, Ultra Widescreens and Floppy Drives

Not having faded into the Podcast ether yet, I bring this nonsense to you almost a week late. At least, a week later than I wanted to complete this. In an effort to keep you interested

The 7th Noodling place of unrest

BTRFS

I have been using BTRFS on all of my openSUSE machines without issue. In my quest to build a new multi-roll system to act as a server, workstation and occasional casual desktop use, I wanted to have a storage solution that was very fault tolerant and would allow me to expand my disk size with minimal effort. That is in both replacing individual drives with larger drives and potentially adding another controller card to have more drives.

ZFS is in the news as the new “hotness” for a file system and it does indeed have a lot of the really awesome features BTRFS provides, maybe more but support in Linux doesn’t appear to be as robust as BTRFS. Could my mind change in the future? Absolutely, but for now, until I get the stability of BTRFS on root, the snapshot system and the ease of flexibility in altering the array of storage, I will stick with BTRFS.

https://btrfs.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Using_Btrfs_with_Multiple_Devices

Ultra Widescreen Monitors

I have been looking at doing an upgrade to my monitor situation, for numerous reasons. The monitors I am using are of unequal resolution, size and aspect ratio, it has been fine but I am becoming less satisfied with its usability. This is especially true since I started to use some of the tiling techniques built into Plasma. I just happen to need more pixels. Looking at my available options, I became interested in one of these 1440p monitors. My issue is, I am not interested in a curved monitor. I think they look just a bit silly and I don’t stand directly in front of the computer all the time. Interestingly, it seems as though the curved screens are less expensive then their flat counterparts with the same resolution and frequency. Although I would prefer a flat screen, it is more economical and of better specifications to go with the curved model.

I’m not prepared to make a purchase today as I need to do some more research on the subject but I am now very much interested in a single 1440p monitor rather than my two cobbled, odd lots hanging above my laptop.

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/80345/intel-core-i7-4610m-processor-4m-cache-up-to-3-70-ghz.html

End to Floppy Drives

US military has been using 8-inch floppy disks in an antiquated ’70s computer to receive nuclear launch orders from the President. Now, the US strategic command has announced that it has replaced the drives with a “highly-secure solid state digital storage solution,” Lt. Col. Jason Rossi

The 8-inch floppy disks have been used in an ancient system called the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS.

It’s used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centers to field forces, and is unhackable precisely because it was created long before the internet existed. “You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address.

Despite the age of the system, the Air Force is confident in its security and has a pretty good handle on maintaining it. By contrast, installing an all-new system isn’t as easy as it sounds. “You have to be able to certify that an adversary can’t take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it’s supposed to do when you call on it,”

https://www.engadget.com/2019/10/18/us-military-nuclear-missiles-floppy-disks/?guccounter=1

Sad Commodore 64 News

My U13 Logic chip is likely failing. I am sure it’s not the RAM as I am having an intermittent problem with my system. Sometimes I get a blank screen and sometimes some garbled mess of characters in a range of colors. Based on the likely causes, I am quite sure it is the 74LS257A Logic IC. That should cost me less than $1 for the part and around $10 on shipping.

https://retrocomputerverzamelaar.nl/commodore-64-problems/
https://www.retroleum.co.uk/results.php?q=logic

BDLL Follow Up

I am late on the release of this podcast, not because I am fading out already, but because of life things. Regardless, I wanted to follow up on a BDLL from 19 October 2019. The discussion was about distro hopping, why Linux users distro hop. Often when people are new to Linux, they hop around and try new distributions. Some people like to jump around every time there is something new released.

Some Distros cater to some bits of hardware better than others. MX Linux on old hardware, openSUSE on newer hardware, Manjaro or Pop!_OS for gaming. Debian for obscure hardware. Ubuntu and its flavors for the mainstream.

I am not a distro hopper, embed myself, decided to stick around and help out to the best of my ability.

Between Mandrake / Mandriva fading and embedding into openSUSE I jumped around a bit. When I decided on openSUSE, I knew it wasn’t perfect, there were some issues but they were easily mitigated, I was most enamored with the friendly and helpful community along with the “ecosystem” of tools around openSUSE. The ease of installing software the graphical way and a pretty awesome wiki.

I mostly try out other distros to see what else is out there. Nothing ever seems to capture me like openSUSE. There are many good choices of Linux and I would probably be content elsewhere but nothing quite gives me the excitement that the green chameleon clad openSUSE provides.

BigDaddyLinux Live 19 October 2019

openSUSE Corner

Lots of snapshots have rolled through with new software and subsequent bug fixes. Of note Plasma 5.17.0 has arrived in all of it’s Glory

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191009 20191011 20191012 20191014

Firefox has been updated to version 69.0.2 which contained a single fix for Linux-only crashes when changing the playback speed of YouTube videos. Fwupd shipped at version 1.3.1, that is a daemon that allows session software to update the firmware. It now allows for disabling of all plugins and added support for thunderbolt interfae for kernel safety checks. Gstreamer and many of it’s plugins were updated to version 1.16.1 which offered performance improvements. nodejs12, python-packaging and tcpdump were updated to address more than two dozen CVEs.

Plamsa 5.17.0 arrived with some significant changes to the new version. The release announcement says that this new version is as lightweight and thrifty with resources as ever before. Notably, the start-up scripts were converted from a slower Bash to a faster C++ and now run asynchronously, which means it can run several tasks simultaneously, instead of having to run them in sequence. KDE Applications 19.08.2 improved High-DPI support in Konsole and other applications. Many bug fixes in Kmail and saving messages directly to remote folders has been restored. Many other KDE applications received updates as well. e2fsprogs update 1.45.5 addressed a CVE where an attacker would have been able to corrupt an ext4 partition. Updates to gnutls, Nano and php7 were also included.

Mumble was finally updated to 1.3.0 after getting through the rigorous legal review of the SUSE lawyers and now those crazy lips are gone.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20191009 a moderate score of a 90; 20191011 a stable score of 92; 20191012 a stable score of 96; and 20191014 a moderate score of 82.

The Project Name Change Vote Continues

The discussion around changing the name of the project is still continuing in the mailing list. The vote has been extended out to the 7th of November, 2019. It has been decided to create a wiki page to consolidate the information. The keypoints can be summarized by the following:

For Keeping the project name

  • If the name is changed, we would lose brand reputation earned over the years.
  • Many members and other contributors are strongly attached to the current name.
  • Changing the name might give the impression that the relationship between SUSE and openSUSE is strained.
  • A lot of work will be required to rename domains, OBS projects and metadata, GitHub namespace, packages trademarks, etc.
  • Rebranding requires a tremendous amount of communication (and money) over years to establish the new brand name.
  • SUSE can transfer or license relevant trademarks to an openSUSE Foundation.
  • The relationship with SUSE is part of our marketing strategy, e.g. Leap/SLE’s shared codebase.
  • Changing the project name will make current openSUSE swag (T-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc) obsolete.

Reasons in favor of the name change

  • openSUSE is often typed and/or pronounced incorrectly (e.g. OpenSUSE, OpenSuSE etc). Watch how do you say SUSE?
  • The Free Software Foundation (FSF) complains about the looseness of the term “open”.
  • The distinction between openSUSE and SUSE can be confusing to people new to either brand. Some people have been known to shorten openSUSE to SUSE.
  • If the community thinks that the project benefits from a new name then this is the moment to change it, i.e. before registering a new legal structure (like a foundation).

My thoughts on this, the reasons for a name change seams superfluous. Although I understand the there is some confusion and how it is typed is often wrong, those do not outweigh the marketing strategy of the Leap/SLE’s shared codebase, the amount of work that would go into rebranding, renaming and making all the cool things I have today obsolete.

I think it is good that we the openSUSE community have this discussion. It has been good for me as I can reflect on my reasons I don’t care for it and rather than just make it an emotional and close-minded decision, I can look at the facts and make a rational decision to keep the name just as it is.

If the name changes, I won’t be upset, disappointed, yes, but not upset. It is the community and the technology that I like, the name is secondary.