Bodhi Linux 5.0 | Review from an openSUSE User

Bodhi review title.png

Linux is a fun thing and trying out other distributions can result in a myriad of experiences. Some distributions concentrate on user experience or mostly the technical underpinnings. Some distributions put their own feel while others minimize their modifications. I am a long time openSUSE user and am perfectly content with all that it has to offer, not just as a distribution but as a project in its totality.  As a part of the Big Daddy Linux Community, there is an optional weekly challenge to try out a Linux distribution. My process for this is to put it in a VM first and then go to “bare metal” for further testing if my initial experience is compelling enough and I have the time.

The latest challenge is Bodhi Linux it is built on the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS but targeting machines with fewer resources. The Bodi Linux Project offers forums for help and advice, they have a wiki to help with configurating the system, and offer a live chat through Discord to get help or just get to know members of the community. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any IRC options. I downloaded the ISO from here. There are few different options from which to choose. I went with the “AppPack” ISO as it has more applications bundled in it. For more information on choosing the correct ISO for you, see here.

Bottom Line Up Front, Bodhi Linux is well put together and the Moksha Desktop is a crisp, low resource, animated (almost excessively) environment that is worthy of giving it a spin. This distribution is certainly worth the time, especially if you have an older system you want to keep going a little longer. The Moksha Desktop looks good and is more functional than GNOME so that is already a leg up on many distributions.

Installation

When you first spin it up, you are greated with the typical boot menu you would get from a Linux media. My only complain here is that it doesn’t have an install option from here. That is always my preferred option.

Bodhi Linux 1 Live Installer

Booting from the Live Media was pretty rapid. The default desktop was clean and themed correctly, dark. I didn’t even see a light option so well done there! All the icons and menus lend themselves nicely for a dark themed desktop.

The Welcome Screen is nothing more than a local html file of places to go to get started using Bodhi Linux. You are almost immediately greeted with the notice that you are not running the latest Enlightenment. I know that this desktop, Moksha, is forked from it so, just odd that I would see “Enlightenment” there.

Since I wanted to play with this distribution and do things with it, I needed to install it. Although I prefer being able to install out of the gate, I can get along with the Live process well enough. My only issue was. I didn’t know where the installation laucher was to get the process started.

After some searching I found it was “hidden” in the menu under Applications > Preferences and the entry is called Install Bodhi Linux 5.0.0 AppPack.

The rest of the installation process is pretty trivial. You will start off by selecting your language and then deciding if you want to download updates while installing Bodhi and third-party software. I selected both for my installation

Next is the installation type. For the purposes of this installation, I want to wipe the entire disk to do whatever Bodhi wants to do with it. The default setup is to have one partition running, ext4… I’m pretty sure… I should check again…

You are then asked for your location and user information. Once that is complete, the installation will commence. The installation process is very similar to what you would see on many other distros, a slide show of propaganda about the distribution and optionally you can see what it is doing by selecting the fly-out just above the progress bar.

When the installation completes you can Restart Now or to Continue Testing the live media environment. I of course was anxious to get into the real thing and start mucking about so an immediate restart was warrented.

Bodhi Linux is incredibly easy to install. Assuming you don’t have any hardware issues, such as with proprietary drivers (which I do not have). You should be all tip-top and ready to rock with Bodhi Linux in very short order.

First Run and Impressions

Bodhi has a pretty decent looking desktop. It loads quickly and uses very little RAM. The file manager is acceptable and bonus, it reminds me of the Konqueror File Manager mode back in the KDE3 days. The clock widget is pretty nice and very functional. The good part about the default settings is that it has the task bar, or shelf, as it is called here, on the bottom of the screen like a good and proper desktop.

The effects that are enabled by default are interesting. It is a very live and active feeling desktop. It’s maybe a bit on the hyper side, if anything. I am not exactly sure what to think of the effects but they are neat to look at none the less.

I think if the labels were to float above the icon as opposed to on top of it, that would look better, but that is my opinion. Obviously, that is not an opinion shared by all.

The file manger does have the option to open up applications from it, which is another call back to the KDE3 days for me. I think it is handy to have for sure. Interestingly enough, you can still do that in Dolphin File Manager today on Plasma by putting “applications://” in the location field.

I appreciate that LibreOffice is installed by default. As much as “Cloud Office” is all the rage by kids these days, my old man ways still heavily use office applications locally. I am a fairly heavy LibreOffice user and I don’t see any way that would change anytime soon.

The system settings are a bit light in Bodhi. Perhaps it is an encouragement to learn more functions in the terminal but this is not my preference. I like the terminal and I like my GUIs and I especially like my hybrid approach openSUSE gives me with YaST as a traditional GUI and CLI application with ncurses. I am finding that when I use a distro, this is now a feature I am expecting to have available, to aid in the management my system.

The GUI tweaks are nice. Although mentioned just a bit before in this blathering, what I would normally call a panel is called a shelf here, which is fine. Enlightenment has been around long enough to have developed its own terminology so they should stick with what works for them. I just bring this up because it may be a bit confusing for some.

Bodhi Linux 31 Shelf

Switching the themes is pretty straight forward, although, they all look about the same, and they are all dark which is perfectly fine for me. It is clear to me that the developers and maintainers of Bodhi are concerned about users with light sensitivity issues. At least, that is what I am going to consider it. They are very thoughtful.

The settings panel is really where the meat of the settings are for the desktop. There are some odd menu locations for somethings, like the themes but that can also be found in the Settings Panel. If it were up to me, I would probably dump some of those menu entries to clean things up a bit.

Interestngly, Steam is installed by default. I ran it, expecting to have an issue with it but that was not the case at all. I am not sure why I would have expected an issue because it is built on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS so that was really screwy thinking on my part.

Bodhi Linux 20 Steam

Sadly, I have no Steam friends… as you can see.

I do want to note that the memory usage is very light on a settled system. I let it sit a while before I checked and it was using 183 MiB of RAM. I thought this to be rather impressive. That would make this a fantastic choice for low end netbooks or cheap laptops.

I played with some of the other applications and in the end, I have determined that this is just as functional of a portal to your applications as any other Ubuntu Linux Desktop. Pretty decent selection of applications, satisfactory defaults. Some notable applications that I wanted but wasn’t readily available in the system or on their AppCenter was Telegram and Discord. I could just as well use a browser but I do happen to like those bloated Electron apps taking up valuable RAM on my system. I would probably have to add some PPAs to fill in the gaps there.

Bodhi Linux 22 Leave Dialog Box

The logout action button brings up a six basic functions for stepping away from a computer. I chose, in this case, to shut the system down as my journey around Bodhi Linux was complete.

What I Like

Bodhi Linux has a very low memory usage and it is quite responsive. This would be a fine candidate for using on low end hardware and I am putting this in that use-for-low-end-hardware stack. Though, since 32-Bit is being dropped by Ubuntu, I think having this built on Debian or openSUSE Tumbleweed would be preferred.

The default themes are very acceptable, since they are all dark. I wouldn’t need any more variety in that regard. The interface is also quite configurable and has a system tray so that makes it better than GNOME.

The “Quick Start Guide” is quite fantastic. It gets you to all the places you need to go to get up and running with Bodhi. It has a decent wiki, helpful forums and a fairly active “Live Help” through Discord. I can’t see any reason why someone would not beable to get along fine in Bodhi Linux.

What I Don’t Like

As much as I liked the provided themes, something seemed or felt dated about it and I can’t put a finger on it. Maybe the layer of effects with the animations with text description or the amount of effects while hovering over an icon… the icon colors themselves… I am not sure, really. Although, this comes from a guy that likes the bouncy launch Icon on Plasma which is very much an early 2000s thing, so take that for what it’s worth.

The installation launcher was hidden and that annoyed me a bit. I knew that it was not right on the desktp going into it so I wasn’t surprised but still annoyed I had to go through the menus to find it. An easy fix for that would be have the icon on the desktop or at least on the root menu.

The menu layout feels clunky and there isn’t a search feature in the menu, something of which I have grown accustomed in the last few years and doing without is almost a non-starter for me in the desktop world. I like menus but I also like to search. A search feature would also make finding the hidding installer a bit easier to get to as well.

Final Thoughts

Bodhi is a fine experience. It is very resource conscious, feels responsive and for the most part seemed to work well. The desktop does feel a bit dated, not horribly and I don’t have a particular thing I can point to that says it feels dated. I also don’t know that my impresson there would be universal. My guess is that most users wouldn’t have that impression out of the gate. This is likely the strong influence Plasma has had on me with the Breeze theme.

Althought I think I could get along fine with Bodhi, it just happens to lack some of the things I rely on regularly that openSUSE has provided me. It is not that I find the Bodhi experience lacking but that there are things of which I am quite accustomed that I don’t see the benefit in giving up.

Would I recommend Bodhi to a new Linux user? I am not sure on that. Some of the notable mising packages would make getting going a bit more of a challenge. I do think that I would recommend this to anyone that has old hardware that they want to keep chugging along a little longer or perhaps they have a computer that acts as some kind of portal to the Internet with other basic applications like LibreOffice.

Enlightentment or Moksha Desktop as it is called here makes for an interesting, maybe esoteric experience in Linux. There isn’t anything bad about it, it is just different but yet, highly functional. It is certainly not my preference but I would absolutely encourage anyone to give this a spin.

References

Bodhi Linux Download

Selecting the correct Bodhi Linux ISO

Moksha Desktop

openSUSE Main Site

More about Ncurses from Wikipedia

YaST Main Site

Bodhi Linux Destkop Challenge Discourse on BigDaddyLinux.com

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Wavebox | Chat Unification Snap Application on openSUSE Tumbleweed

Wavebox on openSUSE

From time to time, I like to play around with the universal packaging available in Linux. It has mostly been AppImages and Flatpak but I wanted to Snap something into my system. After working out an AppArmor issue. Snaps were working fantastically well once again. The application I wanted to try was another Chat Message Unification Application. I had heard wonderful things about Wavebox so it was time to try it out. It’s described as, “A clever new home for cloud apps on your desktop bringing Gmail, Inbox, Outlook, O365, Trello, Slack & over 1000 more apps into a configurable client.”

You can look at the details here on the SnapCraft store.

Wavebox Snap 19

In a terminal I installed Wavebox from the Snap Store:

sudo snap install wavebox

Installation was a snap (haha) and it created an entry in the application menu of KDE Plasma, just as one would expect. It should also be noted that the system tray icon also looks great next to the rest of the icons sitting there too.

Wavebox Snap 20 System Tray.png

When the Application started up, I didn’t notice any lengthy start up time that has been complained about in the past with Snaps. It was delightfully… snappy… and when it settled I was greeted with a pleasant interface. There was no question as to what I needed to do, create an account.Wavebox Snap 2

Going through the process was really quite trivial. You begin by entering your name, email and password. I elected to setup two-factor authentication which did require me to install an application on my phone…

After you have logged in, you can add your first application. I went with Slack, specifically the Bad Voltage slack group. There is a convenient search box right at the top of the uncluttered interface.

I am not 100% sure what the “Pic a Colour” section does, entirely but it does create a ring around thee account on the side tab of the service. Setting up Slack was trivial and has the same basic feel of what you would have in the web browser.

What I think is interesting is the different customization features you can specify for each module you add. What is interesting to me is the ability to put a tab to sleep and stop it after some time of inactivity. I don’t know exactly what that means and how it is implemented but if that is what I am thinking it is, that should be more kind to your system when on battery power. I find with all the services running in either a browser or other Chat Unification applications, the CPU usage is noticeable.

Wavebox Snap 11

I wanted to install the G-suite of tools and began that process by selecting the Gmail icon when adding an application. There is a similar “Pick a Colour” selection then you can choose which services it loads into this “tab”. I didn’t test all the functions but the ones that did worked as expected. The Hangouts button doesn’t give me the hangouts configuration I prefer but it is functional, none the less.

Wavebox Snap 13

Setting up the account is much like logging in through a browser or even Kmail, for that matter. When you sign in, you then configure the default inbox configuration.

The display of the email is as you would see in a web page but the added benefit is that you have all the other services on a menu bar at the top of the Window. This is, by far, the best implementation of interfacing with the Google Services I have ever seen. It is far more functional than the Google defaults and even nicer than what I have been using on similar services.

Memory Use

It’s very easy to see how much of your drive is taken up by the application

/dev/loop11 156M 156M 0 100% /snap/wavebox/180

I don’t view this as outrageous at all. The application has another 181 MiB of storage on my home directory in the snap folder. I haven’t fully investigated the the contents of the folder but it does keep historical snap version configuration files, which is interesting.

Running the 10 Google Services, Riot and Slack, I am using about 490 MiB of RAM, so, 12 services in all on this so about 40.8 MiB per service. Combine that with the sleep function, this doesn’t feel too bad.

What I like

The way that Wavebox bundles the Google Services into one tab and how integrated and purposeful it feels makes this application really quite special. There is a lot of thought and detail put into it. I would say that this is a far better “Google Experience” than what you would have on a Chromebook. It is, seemingly a much more efficient and integrated experience, really, the best I have ever seen.

The Sleep Tab feature is very interesting and I have not studied it enough to know exactly how it works because I have received email notifications while the tab was sleeping so it must check periodically. somehow. I would really like to run this on a long term basis and determine, or at least, better determine what it is doing. Maybe even do some CPU usage comparisons between Wavebox and similar services but I just don’t have the time for that.

The conveniences of having all the different communication and collaboration services in one window, everything unified, is very conducive to productivity. That feature alone makes this application stand out from others similar to it. I would determine that it is a better experience than what you have in a browser with a string of pinned tabs.

What I Don’t Like

Wavebox does requires a login to an external server someplace to manage your accounts. This is like the Franz application I have also reviewed. It was an area for which I didn’t particularly like. I do see the utility of it and since these are all services you are logging into, one more isn’t that big of a deal… really… but somehow that is still a sticking point for me.

Wavebox isn’t free. Not that I think everything should be free but I would rather spit out a one time payment for this application. It costs $48 per year to use this application. For my purposes, since my efficiency with any of these services is not a part of my job, (arguably maybe Google could be), it isn’t a good value for me to make the investment. However, if your work required you to communicate on numerous  services regularly, I could absolutely see this as being a vital piece for improved quality of [computing] life.

Final Thoughts

Wavebox LogoRambox and Franz are both similar applications I have reviewed, albeit with a slightly different lens, they are all really quite fantastic applications. Any one is a good choice and I am glad that they all exist. There are features from each application that I appreciate so each application has their merit. I would say that of all of them Wavebox does seem to have just a bit more polish than the rest. There are more tools and tweaks with this and the way all the Google Services are rolled up with a very convenient menu makes this the best experience for using G-Suite. Far better than even with Chrome or using a Chromebook. This is so nicely integrated that it makes a mediocre web application experience feel like a real, nicely polished, and purposeful, native application.

Wavebox is, undoubtedly, suited for the professional user, not so much a dude like me that can’t seem to stick with an application like this for more than 6 months or so. This is extremely well thought out and well executed. Features like the Sleep Tab make this stand above other options.

Another final thought, having access to Snaps (along with other universal packages) available on openSUSE Tumbleweed really opens up a very wide array of available applications for my use. Snaps seem to integrate well into openSUSE; just as long as nothing gets messed up with AppArmor again. Snaps are a great choice for application delivery for many cases and I am thankful that I have access to them.

References

Wavebox from the Snap Store Web Frontend

Snapd Resolved bug on Bugzilla

Rambox | Chat Message Unification Application for openSUSE

Franz | Chat Messaging Unification Application on openSUSE

SimpleScreenRecorder on openSUSE

A fine tool for which I recently had some use is this very capable application called SimpleScreenRecorder. I used it to create a couple simple videos mostly to see how well it works but mostly for the purpose of creating something useful as a reference.

To install it on openSUSE use the one-click method here:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/simplescreenrecorder

Or, my preferred method, in the terminal, enter:

sudo zypper in simplescreenrecorder

Fantastically, it is built using the Qt toolkit so it looks much better in the KDE Plasma Desktop Environment.

I have used it for a couple videos and have plans for more, mostly as notes to myself but in video form.

Basic Usage

After installing the software, it will sit in the multimedia subsection on the menu. It can be called up in a search as well, at least on Plasma.

SimpleScreenRecorder 1

Select Continue

Next you are presented with your Input Settings. You can create different profiles for different purposes. You can also select if you want to record all the screens, a single screen, a fixed rectaning, follow the cursor or to record OpenGL. I have only used the options to record the entire single screen or a fixed rectangle.

SimpleScreenRecorder 2

You can choose to record the cursor or not and whether or not you want Audio. I have only used PulseAudio and it has seemingly worked just fine.

When you Continue, you will have to select the Output Profile or create your own, set the file name, the video and audio codecs settings. The settings pictured below has worked quite well for me in terms of quality but are a bit excessive in the memory usage.

 

SimpleScreenRecorder 3

After all that is set, you can start recording at anytime. It is also not a bad idea to Start the preview if you want to make sure it looks right before beginning the recording. The information frame on the left side of the window is quite nice. It tells you all kinds of useful information about the process. What is especially good to know is the file size. Depending on your available system resources, this could become somewhat of a concern.

SimpleScreenRecorder 4

Once you have completed the recording, hit Stop Recording along the top of the window and Save Recording if you believe you are satisfied with the results.

And that is it!

How I’ve Used It

I wanted to demonstrate how to set up switching from left-to-right typing to right-to-left typing on LibreOffice

I also did a quick little video just to play with SimpleScreenRecorder and showing how to turn on and off tooltips within KDE Plasma 5.16. I did edit both of these videos with Kdenlive for practice because someday, someday, I might get good at it.

Final Thoughts

SimpleScreenRecorder is a fantastic example of easy to use software to create simple videos for any number of things. This is great for demonstrating how you accomplish something on the desktop, sometimes video is the best way to present it. This is a fine example of easy to use open source and free software that has an incredible value.

Since I am able to install this application from the official repository with my favorite Linux distribution openSUSE Tumbleweed, it is just another straw on my pile of reasons I use it. Additionally, it requires no fancy configuration to get going, there is nothing peculiar about running it and it has been seemingly quite reliable. I have even thought of other fantastic uses besides providing quick little help videos and really, the limits of this application are at the limits of your imagination with this tool.

openSUSE Linux and all it’s fantastic tools add just a bit of happiness to my life, and I am so incredibly grateful to everyone that has had even the smallest part in making this possible.

References

SimpleScreenRecorder from software.opensuse.org
SimpleScreenRecorder Home Page

OpenMandriva | Review from an openSUSE User

OpenMandriva review title

My beginnings of using Linux started in 2002 on Mandrake Linux. I transitioned to full time Linux for my home computer in November of 2003 with Mandrake Linux on a Sony Vaio Laptop. This was my first serious attempt and getting the Winmodem going was… challenging. This is where I really learned to start documenting how I did things because nothing seemed as simple and straight forward as they were on the Amiga platform. This Sony didn’t last long as it did have a hardware failure, twice so I purchased a Dell 5100. It had the same Winmodem troubles but was quite solvable.

This is my biased review of OpenMandriva as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user using Plasma Desktop that once used Mandriva as a daily driver. I have a soft spot for Mandriva and consequently OpenMandriva, just on name sake.

To give you the option to bail here, I like OpenMandriva and think it’s a great distribution to use. At no point did I have a bad experience when installing and using it and would have no problem recommending it to anyone.

Installation

Good bad or otherwise, OpenMandriva will boot to a live media before you are able to install it. I can see the benefit of this but this is not my preference. Regardless, this is your only option. The installation system is the Calemares Universal Installation Framework to install the operating system to the computer, or in this case, a Virtual Machine (VM).

The installation is straight forward. You start out by providing your Language and Location details. I haven’t noted this before but just clicking near where you live will select the correct time zone so the drop down is not really necessary but I don’t think it would be a good idea to remove that feature.

Next, select your keyboard layout. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to use a Dvorak keyboard… someday perhaps. The partition setup on this VM was to use the entire Virtual Disk so I selected Erase Disk. If I were going too use Manual partitioning, I would have likely set a separate root and home partition. For the purpose of this level of testing, it was not necessary to set it up for long term use.

You will then be required to enter your user information, select whether or not you want to log in automatically and if you want Root (Administrator user) to have a separate password.

The summary gives a nice brief look at the system changes.

You are given one final sanity check and when you commit, the installer goes through the rolling slideshow about OpenMandriva and upon completion will reboot the system.

Overall, the Installation process is painless. It should be noted, that I don’t use any proprietary drivers on most of my systems so I have no problems with OpenMandriva.

First Run and Impressions

The first run of OpenMandriva is a pleasant experience. It is a great implementation of the KDE Plasma desktop. The login splash screen presents itself in a kind of springtime freshness to it. Not that flowers are my preference on my desktop but most certainly around my home, especially in the spring and early summer is very welcoming.

OpenMandriva 22

I really appreciate the OpenMandriva Welcome screen. It gives a great introduction to the project. It is 100% community driven, uses KDE Plasma by default and what I find interesting is the Automated Build Farm.

The OpenMandriva Control center is a nice callback to the days of Mandriva. This has been at least, on the surface, a visual rewrite of the original control center. It has a more “welcome mat” feel to it. Rather than having the purpose hidden away, it is presented very clearly what the OpenMandriva Control Center is.

OpenMandriva 30

The package manager for OpenMandriva was familiar yet a bit different from what I remember during my Mandriva days. It seemed to function similarly and presented the necessary information for doing what needed to be done.

The update application, dnfdragora-updater, was a bit of a departure from what I was expecting on the desktop. openSUSE uses the KDE Plasma native Software Updates tool, which is what I was expecting for OpenMandriva. I really don’t care what tool they use as long as it works. My issue here was that this just opened up the Software Manager from the Control Center and in order to do the updates, you have to Select all packages and select Apply to begin the updates. I can see some benefits to tweaking installation applications as they come in but on the other side this is a somewhat tedious addition to the update process. The jury is out on this one for me. I see the utility in it, I just don’t think it is what I am used to.

For additional software availability, I selected the OpenMandriva repo-picker and added the 64-bit repositories and later, the 32-bit repositories because, I wanted to see if there were more options of applications to install.

Unfortunately, I was not able to install Discord or Telegram one was not available for installation and the other had some dependencies.

The default multimedia applications are a real nice mix and also highlights what is of project importance to the OpenMandriva community. Installed by default are Kdenlive, a very fine professional level video editor, Kwave Sound Editor and Simple Screen Recorder. I can’t recall any other distros that install that by default but my memory can be lacking.

I played around with OpenMandriva for quite some time. Not all of the tools, time in a day and week makes that somewhat prohibitive but I like a lot of what I saw. Unfortunately I was not able to install Telegram for the Desktop as there was a missing dependency.

Overall, I like what I see and I could be very comfortable here.

What I Like

OpenMandriva has a simple installer that is used by many distributions called Calemares. It works well on many distributions and this is no exception. A quick setup and off to the OpenMandriva races you go.

The OpenMandriva Welcome Screen and introduction is simply fantastic. I think all distributions should have something like this as a part of the on-boarding process into the project. It could be argued that there is almost too much information but in some ways, more is better.

The OpenMandriva Control Center is a fantastic centralized configuration system for the operating system. Like the Mandriva Control Center before it and not far off from the power of YaST, these Control Center tools are essentially a requirement for me to consider a Linux Distribution.

What I Don’t Like

The software selection is not as large as many other distributions but with enough effort, I could get what I want. There is the Automated Build Farm that would allow me to build whatever applications I see as necessary.

The initial layout of the desktop has a large taskbar on the bottom. Since it is Plasma, it is easily modified. The color theme of OpenMandriva is not a more comfortable dark theme. This is of course also easily adjusted.

It looks like at some point, OpenMandriva went from URPMI as the package manager to DNF. I realize that URPMI is in a kind of maintenance mode at this point and isn’t getting any more love. I would have preferred OpenMandriva had switched to using Zypper instead of DNF as I think Zypper is more mature and DNF doesn’t quite yet have feature parity with YUM. I must also say that DNF is great, I just happen to think Zypper is greater.

Final Thoughts

OpenMandriva is a fine Linux distribution with a fantastic history and strong roots. It is a very approachable distribution that feels well polished. I am will continue to watch this distribution with great interest and hope that they continue to progress and develop the distribution. The community has done a fine job up to this point.

I am not exactly sure where OpenMandriva sits in the spectrum of Linux Distributions. I don’t know who their target audience is. I am not sure if they are going after the “new to Linux” users or the more advanced users looking for something else.

I am very happy with openSUSE, the community and the supporting technology. If all of that were to disappear on me, OpenMandriva looks like a very welcoming and comfortable home for my personal computing life.

I would highly recommend giving OpenMandriva a spin. Check out the tools see how they work for you. It has a fine implementation of Plasma and the project very much appears focused. I truly wish this project great success.

References

OpenMandriva Home

OpenMandriva Automated Build Farm

Calamares Project

 

Blathering | Raspberry Pi to Monitor Air Quality with an Arduino based Thermostat

Arduino Test Board.jpg

I’d like to call myself a tinkerer, but I don’t tinker enough hold that badge. I do like to look at other projects and see what is out there for things to make my life more efficient. My target is to make my home, work for me, to automate every aspect that is feasible that has real value to me that will make life a little more efficient and have a bit better resolution on the control of the world around me. One area that needs some work is the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) controls. I have been pondering this for a while and I think I have a good project plan to make my house work for me just a little bit better.

This is just a blathering of a project to come. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, think that this is ridiculous and a waste of time, fire those off too. I’m open. It may not change my mind but it is always worth listening to a dissenting opinion.

Project Goal

I want a home thermostat and environmental control system that is under my control and doesn’t babble off to a cloud someplace. I want it to be intelligent enough to manage the room temperatures, know if a window is open in the house, adjust the dampers in my ducting to cycle air between the floors differently depending on the time of year. I want it to be aware of the current outdoor weather as well.

Why Weather Aware?

Weather Station.jpgI want the system to know how humid it is inside and outside of the house. Much of the summer in Michigan, I don’t need to have the air conditioning on, but I do want to keep the humidity down inside of the house. I also prefer my windows open to closed, so it would be nice if I could have my thermostat would know if windows are open. There is no reason to dehumidify the house when my windows are open.

Targeted Features

The Arduino portion can handle a lot of the functions I am targeting but there is another angle, I am interested in knowing what the pollution is inside the house. I have only dug into this a little bit but the Enviro Raspberry Pi Accessory is able to measure indoor air quality, humidity, pressure, light and noise levels. This could even tell me how effective my filter is too and find the most cost effective filter that does the job. It would allow me to run a Design of Experiments to test and maximize the cleanliness of the air in my home. I don’t know the extent of the on board air quality sensor but it could really do the job.

The Plan

Thermostat.jpgConfigure and build the Arduino thermostat, that is robust, reliable and extensible to control the HVAC system. Once I can do that reliably, I’ll add more sensors to it, window sensor, temperature sensors of different rooms, duct pressure at the blower, then I can start to add automated dampers in the system to control temperature leveling in the house more precisely. Also, to shunt airflow to unused rooms in the house as well during extreme weather conditions. I want to have all the data, inputs, outputs, status and so forth to be accessible on my network so that at any point in time from any computer terminal, I can look at my “environmental system” status. Of course, it will somehow be running openSUSE Linux, someplace. Either a Raspberry Pi running openSUSE or better yet, something x86 based. It’ll be incredibly, joyously nerdy.

Next Steps

For now, I am still gathering information, parts lists and so forth. The first step in this chain will be to replace the thermostat with an Arduino Smart Thermostat that will have better functionality. Once that is working and I have a good understanding of how to manipulate it. I will start to add sensors to it. From there, I’ll figure out my greatest need to further improve efficiency and add the functionality needed.

References

Enviro Raspberry Pi Accessory to Monitor Air Quality at FOSSBYTES.com

Arduino Smart Thermostat

JohnsonControls.com equipment dampers and louvers

Puppy Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

BionicPup review title.png

A distribution of Linux that I have heard about for many, many years, considered trying but have not ever given a spin has been Puppy Linux. It is known for being small and low resource intensive distribution. I have played with some other low resource distributions but this one might be the smallest resource usage of them all. 

This is my biased review as an openSUSE user of Puppy Linux. I have been running it for a few days in VM and also on 32 Bit hardware. I am a fan of old hardware so anything that keeps my old hardware going and going usefully is fantastic.

Bottom Line up front, Puppy Linux is great for specific use cases like old hardware and a great way to set up a live USB environment for troubleshooting hardware or a network. It isn’t for me for full time usage on my main machine but this most certainly is not just “yesterday’s Linux.”

If you want to know more, keep reading but it’s kind of long, otherwise, this is a good time to bail or jump down to my likes and dislikes.

Installation

The installation of Puppy Linux isn’t quite as straight forward as the mainline distributions out there. That is, it takes several more steps It’s not bad but you sort of have to know what you are doing to get this set up. I decided to install BionicPup from here.

It boots into a live environment with a nice welcome and some initial settings configurations. I think that this is particularly fantastic. My understanding is, Puppy has been greeting you like this, before it was the thing to do.

I included the screenshot of the desktop, not because I want to show you how cluttered it is or that it looks dated but to show the coolest looking dog I have ever seen. I’d get a dog like this… maybe… I mean, assuming it doesn’t become my robotic overlord.

PuppyLinux VM 5

When you select to install it, as I am doing here after dinking around a while with it, you are given two basic options: Universal Installer, which is a typical installation you would have to the internal storage or a Boot flash USB Installer. For this testing and my initial purpose, I selected the Universal Installer as my ultimate intended target is an old Dell Inspiron 5100. Before I committed to install, I wanted to look at the Install Applications tab and take note on that for later. The Puppy Package Manger is the place to go to install your software.

After selecting Universal Installer you are presented with four options: USB Flash Drive, USB Hard Drive, Internal Hard Drive, Internal Flash Drive. I am curious about some of the other options, as in what they are doing different but for my purpose, I chose the internal hard drive.

After selecting the drive type to which I am installing, I was presented the need to set up the drives using Gparted. I am glad for how verbose the instructions were, but what they didn’t give me was a clear description of what was expected.

I made a boot partition but it was completely unnecessary. For future note, don’t do that again. It should also be noted, if you have an EFI only system, you will need to keep it on the USB stick. Puppy Linux does not support EFI only systems at this time.

 

When you have set up your drives, you will be dumped back to where you were before starting Gparted. In this case, you can just select the partition in the upper-right pane that you intend on installing the operating system.

You will be given a confirmation of the partition and a choice if you want to do a frugal or full installation of Puppy Linux. I went for Frugal on the VM and Full installation on the actual hardware. I figure, I have a whopping 60 GiB of storage, I am going to use it!

There is some extra information about choosing the Frugal installation. In a nutshell, you can save your session to a place of your choosing.

Next you have the option to install Grub4dos. Keep in mind, this will not work with EFI, from my understanding. If I am wrong about this please contact me.

I am a bit confused by this and why it insists on a “Windows” entry is recommended. Grub4dos will be installed on the Master Boot Record (MBR). Next you will have the option to review and make modifications to GRUB. This is outside of my area of knowledge so I left this as it was. I can see this being a very useful tool and I like the way it exposes the ability to make these modifications so easily.

I wanted to reboot out of the live environment into the installed environment. This was the longest logout / reboot process I have ever experienced. Also, the logout is very early 2000s in the feeling of it. Not a knock, just an observation. I don’t dislike it, at all. I find it charming.

PuppyLinux VM 33

The first time you shut down, you are given the option to save or not. I selected save. I did try the finn and that froze my system up as such I could not unfreeze it, so I recommend you use the administrator, just as it is recommended by this warning.

You will be asked for an administrator password. If you have saved Puppy Linux to a multi-session CD, you can actually save the settings there. I think that is pretty darn interesting. I just saved it to the hard drive by pressing Continue.

Next, I selected the partition which the installation lives and chose not to encrypt my data. I don’t see utility in encrypting my data when using Puppy Linux at this time.

I chose the recommended option of saving in a folder. I didn’t understand the other option, actually. So… going with what I understand is probably the best way to go.

After you are given a final sanity check.

Lastly, I changed the Swap file size to 512 MiB because, why not. 64 MiB just doesn’t seem like enough.

The installation process is a bit more lengthy than other distributions but not difficult. The ONLY portion of it that I didn’t care for was the process of partitioning. Gparted is a fantastic application but I didn’t really understand what “right” looked like for Puppy. After playing in the VM I installed Puppy on the 32-bit hardware, and based on what I learned I only made one partition and I did NOT use the finn.

First Run

Upon restarting, Puppy Linux seemed to have started as expected. Grub4dos looks very DOS 6.22 but that is not a problem at all. I rather like the look and I know I stand alone on that.

PuppyLinux VM 46

Upon initial boot, you get the same set of setup options as you did in the live environment.

Because this article is way too long, I am going to gloss over the rest of my initial playing around of Puppy Linux. Suffice to say, it is very usable, lots of software available and I can Telegram from it so, that’s pretty great.

I do like the Puppy Package Installer and since it didn’t have Apt installed, I was happily forced to use this system. Not bad at all.

PuppyLinux VM 56

Even on 16 year old 32 bit hardware with VERY little memory, it works fantastically well. I did have some trouble with Gcompris, as in, it wouldn’t start at all, so I am going to investigate that to see if I can figure out why. Outside of that, this is a very, capable platform to keep that dreadfully old hardware going.

What I Like

Number one positive for Puppy Linux is it has very clearly written instructions for going through the installation process. The process does not feel polished but it does feel very usable, very utility and very complete. For me, the polish is less important, especially considering the hardware I am putting it on.

Puppy Linux comes with a desktop environment that has system tray, so it’s immediately better than Gnome out of the box.

Everything is very snappy. I’d say it gives any modern system a run for its money just on the snappy factor. Of course, there is a huge gap in performance but the applications you are you doing with this computer are not going to be the same for most other computers.

A welcome bonus to using Puppy was the “easy button” of software installation. A very sensible, straight forward package management system that is easy to navigate and install. It is nicely verbose and gives you a great summary upon completing the installation tasks.

I appreciate the spattering of widgets along the bottom of the screen to tell you what the system is doing. I don’t know how much I need to see my disk space, nice to know it and some of those could be hidden vis-à-vis the KDE Plasma status and notifications fly out. It would make it less busy along the bottom but I still like it overall. Far better than

What I Don’t Like

I am just not a fan of single-slick by default, old habits die hard and I frankly don’t see the value in changing the way I interact with my desktop. I’ve tried single-click from time to time and it just doesn’t work for me.

It does look dated, not horribly, but it has that dated “toy” look. I don’t dislike it, it is just not my preference. I am spoiled with KDE Plasma so it’s hard to really push that off of it’s pedestal.

There is no automatic partitioning by the installer. Not a big deal but some suggested expected partition schemes would be helpful. Since it didn’t explain what Puppy Linux wants by default. I created a boot partition unnecessarily

When going with full or frugal installation, it recommends full for a “strong CPU” but “strong” is not defined. So, I am just guessing due to lack of reference.

Final Thoughts

BionicPup, perhaps the coolest name for a release of any bit of software I have used. This is my first exposure to Puppy Linux and I am very happy with it. I think it is a very satisfying distribution to use, especially on old hardware.

Setting up Puppy Linux is actually quite trivial if you have the patience to read and have somewhat of a technical background. I think that even someone with basic computer knowledge could do it, if they were motivated.

When you log in, the sound effect used is a bark. Not a puppy bark but an adult dog bark. I like the bark but wouldn’t a puppy barking be more appropriate? You know, something yippy?

In the end, would I switch my primary machine to be Puppy Linux? Not a chance but I do have some very specific use cases for this finely crafted, highly utility operating system. I would very much like to use this as a stand alone USB based desktop for troubleshooting and hardware testing, I am also going to run this on my dated Dell Inspiron, for the time being. There is a very complete software selection available.

There is a section, below the available downloads that states: “A Puppylinux distribution can also be built and assembled using packages and components from another Linux distribution called in Puppy the “binary compatible” distribution. The choice of a binary compatible distribution determines the availability of additional packages, among other things.

It made me think, Puppy Linux with an openSUSE base would be pretty fantastic. Having the package management tools of Zypper and configuration capabilities of YaST would make that a Prime Puppy Linux flavor.

I highly recommend giving Puppy a walk around the block. It’s a great experience and maybe even a right of Linux-passage.

References

Puppy Linux Home

Puppy Linux Blog

More openSUSE Tumbleweed Awesomeness

cubiclenate-opensuse board campaign-2019

If you haven’t tried openSUSE Tumbleweed in a while, I highly recommend you take it for a spin. I am not using Tumbleweed on the majority of my computers. I have openSUSE Leap on a few but since my experience with Tumbleweed has been so positive it has taken over most of my machines. I will recognize that there can be problems with a rolling model, especially if you have some mission critical requirements with specific pieces of software that are less friendly to the rolling model.

These are features I have known about for a while but I have decided that it should be highlighted again because it is Pure Linux Awesomeness.

Some Cool Things

For the uninitiated on how openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots work, check out this video. It is less than 2 minutes of information goodness.

 

Before you do a distribution update and are very concerned about the status of the current snapshot you can review it here:

https://review.tumbleweed.boombatower.com/

At the time of writing, the current snapshot, 20190621, has a bending review percentage of 91. You can review the current or older snapshots to see the score status. You know, just for fun.

Another Really Cool Thing

I have been using Tumbleweed for over two years and this is a feature that I haven’t used but wish I would have sooner. I learned on this page that there is a nifty command line tool for examining the Snapshot status and pinning your Tumbleweed system to a specific snapshot. In effect you can dictate when you allow your Tumbleweed to roll to the next snapshot.

To start out, install Tumbleweed CLI

sudo zypper in tumbleweed-cli

Once installed you have to initialize it.

sudo tumbleweed init

To see what your system’s snapshot status

tumbleweed status

This will output

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190621
installed: 20190621

Or similar based on the date you do this.

Although it seems self evident, I want to explain what this truly means.

Latest – What is the latest snapshot available

Target – If you have switched to a particular target, it would be listed there.

Installed – What you have currently installed.

Lets say you updated and are having problems with a regression in, oh, lets say VirtualBox and you really need VirtualBox to work. Since you are directly managing your snapshot status, you can very easily target the last snapshot which had it working but lets say you don’t remember what that snapshot was because you just… well… don’t remember.

tumbleweed list

This will give you a list of what is available. Keep in mind that due to storage limitations, only 20 or so are listed and presumably available.

20190621
20190617
20190614
20190612
20190607
20190606
20190605
20190604
20190603
20190601
20190529
20190527
20190525
20190524
20190521
20190520
20190517
20190516
20190514
20190512

Lets say you remember that you knew that the 20190603 snapshot was the last one that worked exactly to your needs. After your roll your system snapshot back to that date or approximately that date, you can lock your system on that particular snapshot

sudo tumbleweed switch 20190603

Now if you look at your status,

tumbleweed status

You will get something like this:

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190603
installed: 20190601

Now you can upgrade to that snapshot

sudo zypper dup

File a bug on whatever is giving you problems

https://bugzilla.opensuse.org/

When you are ready to update to the latest snapshot

sudo tumbleweed switch

That will switch to the latest snapshot. To verify:

tumbleweed status

and get this output (or similar)

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190621
installed: 20190603

Update to the latest snapshot

sudo zypper dup

Check the status once again

tumbleweed status

Should get you this:

latest   : 20190621
target   : 20190621
installed: 20190621

Should you decide that this method doesn’t work for you, you can revert back to the standard Tumbleweed rolling model.

sudo tumbleweed uninit

Like it never even happened.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE Tumbleweed with full (mostly) control of your snapshots is pretty amazing and adds a whole new depth of control to your computer. This truly is like the best of both worlds between Leap and standard Tumbleweed. It does require a little more work than Leap, and perhaps a bit more work than the standard model but this truly is a fantastic feature that makes openSUSE Tumbleweed the best operating system out there.

Of course… that is my opinion. Your opinions may vary.

References

https://review.tumbleweed.boombatower.com/about.html

https://review.tumbleweed.boombatower.com/

http://release-tools.opensuse.org/2017/11/22/Tumbleweed-Snapshots.html

https://bugzilla.opensuse.org/

openSUSE Leap 15.1 | Upgrade and Fresh Install Successes

openSUSE review titleEvery review I do is from a biased lens as an openSUSE user and this will be no different. I will be taking a biased look openSUSE Leap 15.1. I’d like to say this will be completely objective… but it won’t. openSUSE is the operating system of choice for nearly every aspect of my life for its technical merits as well as the awesome community that supports it.

This is my experience installing and upgrading openSUSE Leap 15.1 on physical hardware and a Virtual Machine. The applications on each machine vary based on their purpose so feel free to look at specific machines I have set up with openSUSE here.

Fresh Installation

I performed one fresh install of openSUSE Leap just to see if the installer has had any noticeable changes. The biggest and most welcome difference I could spot was the side bar installation step. This is something I have seen on many other installation tools and I am quite pleased to see it with openSUSE. It takes the mystery out of where you are in the process.

For a full, step-by-step walk through on installing openSUSE here.

I want to make one other note about a positive, remarkable change in the installer that I appreciated. Before committing to the installation, there is an option to adjust the CPU mitigations based on your needs. I left it at “Auto” to let the smart folks at SUSE and openSUSE determine what is needed for me.

Offline Upgrade

The first and recommended method of performing an upgrade to an existing system. I performed the upgrade on three systems so far without any issue. All of these were upgrading from 15.0 to 15.1. A wonderful trait openSUSE has is that the upgrade process is very straight forward.

On the boot screen, select Upgrade instead of Installation.

openSUSE Leap 15.1 Upgrade 0.png

Upon starting up the installation, you are greeted with the License agreement. Should you agree to it, next will begin the process of System Probing

Next, unless you have a tremendously complex system setup, you will be presented a location to perform the update. The installer will parse through the previously used repositories and give you the option to edit and or toggle the status for the upgrade.

The easy thing to do would be to let it automatically remove the old repositories and start fresh. For one two of the upgrades, I decided to go in there and change out any references in some of the repositories from 15.0 to 15.1 and toggle the repository active.  I had to resolve one set of conflicts that required a change from the Packman repository to the openSUSE official repository. Just reading the prompt will easily guide you through it. It should also be noted, even if you make the “wrong decision” it can easily be fixed at a later time.

If the installer recognizes an active network connection, you will be asked if you want to add online software repositories. No is an option but if you say yes, you will be given a list of suggestion online repositories.

After you select Next you are given a final installation summary with the option to make some tweaks and adjustments and a final opportunity to bail out.

Very nicely, this installer is the most verbose and wonderful output I have ever seen. It gives a fantastic, current status of what exactly is going on and how many packages with an estimated time left broken down by source.

After a reboot all three systems were functioning without a single glitch. It was simply fantastic.

Online Upgrades

I have one machine that I neglected to update to 15.0. It wasn’t a machine that was heavily used. Mostly just for my kids’ education activities that don’t require Internet access. A summer went by and I didn’t really think much about that old laptop. When I turned it on and realized it was still on 42.3 and had NOT been updated, I thought I would do an Online Upgrade. Since I really had nothing to lose and only smiles to gain. I went into the YaST module to manage the Software Repositories to change out any repository references that had “42.3” to “15.1”. Then, I ran the command in terminal

sudo zypper dup

After some time, this crusty 13 year old Dell Latitude D830 completed the Distribution UPdate, I rebooted the computer and it was, without a single glitch. I was rather impressed that it worked so well. I mean, of course it worked well, this is openSUSE but to be without a glitch or having to “faff” with it at all was quite surprising.

What I Like

The sheer durability of Zypper as a package manager and how it handles all the packages is absolutely astounding. I will concede, that APT, DNF or EOPKG may be just as good but that hasn’t been my experience with APT and I haven’t tested DNF or EOPKG as thoroughly. What I can say with the utmost confidence is that Zypper can do pretty amazing things when it comes to system package management. The interactive nature of it allows me to make the best decision upon any conflicts that may arise. Zypper is simply fantastic and has, as of recent become one my favorite applications.

Going from openSUSE Leap 15.0 go 15.1 was nothing special our outstanding. They both look the same, outside of some performance improvements. Visually, it’s the same, it functions the same.

When performing a fresh installation, I appreciate that you can choose your CPU mitigations depending on what you see as your threats. This is of course an expert function and for shlubs like myself, “Auto” is probably the best choice.

What I Don’t Like

Setting up the network with the openSUSE installer for wireless is a bit of a challenge. Not an issue for me because I prefer to plug into a proper Ethernet port. It is becoming more common to buy laptops that do NOT have a proper port due to whatever silly reason like cost reduction. Oh, sure, Ethernet on consumer grade machines is probably a complete waste for most but I am very much a fan of a “hard line” so perhaps I am the minority. I would prefer a more automatic process or something that presents itself for the user more approachable. This would eliminate some complaints I have heard about the installer.

The partitioning tool would be improved if the summary gave you a graphical representation of what was going on along with the written summary and perhaps some sort of easy buttons for new users. It should also be noticed that this is quite possibly the best tool for setting up a more complex arrangement of partitions just not the best for new users.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE 15.1 is an incredibly boring and unremarkable update to 15.1 or even 42.3 for that matter… which is fantastic, absolutely fantastic. True to form of openSUSE, nothing radical happens from version to version, just steady improvements to the underpinnings of the operating system.

The overall experience with installation and upgrades and using openSUSE, in general, is very positive and thanks to the Open Build Service along with the openQA, the experience of installing and upgrading openSUSE uninterestingly consistent. With this fantastically predictable behavior, openSUSE is most certainly where I want to stay. The operating system remains a reliable partner in your computing experience allowing you to do more interesting things on top of it. openSUSE frees you up to make, produce or develop to your hearts content.

References

openSUSE 15.1 Release Notes

Download openSUSE Leap

openSUSE Open Build Service

openQA

 

Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU/KVM on openSUSE Tumbleweed

One of the beauties of a rolling distribution is that sometimes you are forced to use a new piece of software… My regular Virtual Machine application, VirtualBox was non-functional for a few days due to a kernel update and some sort of mismatch with the kernel driver or something… The positive is, I got to know a new Virtual Machine Application, Libvirt with QEMU/KVM. Quite honestly, I am not even sure what to call the application stack. The application is virt-manager which is libvirt and the application title bar is Virtual Machine Manager so maybe it goes by them all or I can’t make heads or tails out of the name.

Installation

I found I had to install a few things to make this work.

sudo zypper install libvirt qemu virt-manager libvirt-daemon-driver-qemu

Setup

Set up my first virtual machine. After doing a little reading and digging to figure out what was the best solution for me in my use case, which is, on a desktop testing other distributions or software in a virtual machine. This is how I set it up.

Initially, you have to Add a connection. Depending on how your system is out of the gate, or if you canceled this operation. Here is how you get back to it.

File > Add Connection…

Virt-Manager-01-Add Connection

For my purposes, I am using the QEMU/KVM user session as the Hypervisor. I also selected the Autoconnect tick box to ensure that when I started Virt-Manager, it would make this connection.

Next step is to create a new virtual machine. Since I am installing from an ISO, I selected the first option. If you are running a 32 bit version of Linux, you can select that architecture instead. Although I have not played with this as much, my understanding is you can use other CPU architectures here as well.

Virt-Manager-02-New VM

Unless you have already selected the media, it is at this point you can Browse to select the ISO you have downloaded.

Virt-Manager-03-New VM

Select the Brows Local button at the bottom of this window to search your file system for the ISO of choice.

Virt-Manager-04-ISO

The application will generally automatically detect the distribution, if it is not detecting it you can manually search or find a “similar” upstream project.

Virt-Manager-05-ISO

Next step is to set the memory and CPU. I elected to use two CPU cores.

Virt-Manager-06-Memory and CPU

The next step is to either select or create a disk image. In this case, I am using the default Create a disk image for the virtual machine of 32 GiB. It should be noted. Unlike VirtualBox, these disk images are static allocations for the size you set. They do not dynamically size based on the amount of used space on the virtual disk.

Virt-Manager-07-Storage Volume

The final step you are ready to begin the installation. Modify the name, customize the configuration and change the network selection if you see fit. I just use the Usermode networking. For my purposes this works fine.

Virt-Manager-08-Summary

Upon selecting finish, a new window will open and the ISO you selected should boot up. Since openSUSE booted just fine, any good operating system will work similarly.

Virt-Manager-08-GRUB Boot

Configuration

When you open but not begin running a Virtual Machine you have the ability to make modifications to the Virtual Machine Hardware. As compared to VirtualBox, it feels like you have a lot more control and also a lot more ways to have the VM misconfigured and not behave as you would like. Your mileage my vary.

 

Should you want to make changes to the number of CPUs, Memory or any of the graphics and network settings can be adjusted to suit your needs. I did not alter much of anything here. In order to make the video adjust as I would like in Plasma, I set the Display Spice type to Spice server and Video model should be set to QXL.

 

This will allow me to take full advantage of whatever screen real estate I have available.

Virt-Manager-16-Adjusting Plasma for monitor.png

This is also the part of the post you can point and laugh at my old, non-high-DPI screens to which I will respond, “my old hardware still works, thank you very much.”

What I Like

Qemu with Libvirt just feels much faster than Virtualbox. It has a kind of raw, running on “bare metal” feel as opposed to that slightly sluggish virtualized feel to which I am more accustomed. I do appreciate this performance enhancement. I do have to preface that this is not the experience I get from all desktop environments but Plasma does run quite well.

The interface, although initially a bit overwhelming, is pretty great. I am not going to go into detail on all the features as most of the time, the defaults work well for my use cases.

I don’t have any issues with any updates that roll down breaking this utility. I am not completely sure of the technical reasons as to why but it seems as though this project is less affected by updates to the Linux Kernel.

What I Don’t Like

Virtual Manager is a GTK application so it is not as nice looking as the Virtualbox Qt, although at the time of writing this, I see there is a project on Github called qt-virt-manager.

There isn’t an option to have a dynamically resizing disk so I have to be more careful with the number of disk images I keep on my primary drive in my /home directory. Thankfully a little bit of symbolic linking to a 3rd, removable, drive and all the qcow2 files are available. It is a bit of extra work but worth it for the reliability and increased performance Virtual Machine Manger provides.

The name of this application stack is a bit confusing. I don’t really know what to call it. I learned of it as Libvirt, libvirt is the name of the directory that houses my virtual machine drives (~/.local/share/libvirt). Just knowing Libvirt didn’t answer how to get it going as it wasn’t called that in the repositories so a bit of searching and reading documentation I was able to get it all together in my head and take some notes. So, I think the confusing name and the barrier to entry did make it a bit challenging but I appreciated the journey to get me to this point.

Final Thoughts

Virtual Machine Manager is a great, reliable tool that appears unaffected by changes of the affects of a rolling distribution. It is, in some ways, a bit more difficult to set up, but once you understand that the “Add Connection” portion and set up the QEMU/KVM user session, the simplest Hypervisor. You are good to go. There is so much more you can do with Libvirt and it’s components. I am only barely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Although the disk allocation is not as convenient in Virtual Machine Manager, it is easy enough to manage using additional storage and it also keeps me from allowing too many unused machines from littering my computer.

Ultimately, this won’t keep me from using Virtualbox but it does give me another tool to play around with and try stuff out. I am very appreciative of everyone involved in making this tool reliable and easily used for the average Linux user. I am especially grateful that this application stack is more tolerant to the rolling release model that is Tumbleweed.

Reference

Virt-Manager on openSUSE Software

Qt Virt-Manager on Github

KVM/QEMU hypervisor driver

Feren OS | Review from an openSUSE User

FerenOS review title

I haven’t been able to do one of these in a while but it is always fun to try out other distributions and experience another example of how to answer that user experience question. As part of the BigDaddyLinux community. I have given Feren OS a spin to see how it goes for me, the biased, well entrenched openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation is done by what looks to my poorly trained eye to be the Calamares Installation Tool. This is, in my opinion, one of the most user approachable installation tools I have used. Clean, not clumsy and but yet not so basic that you can’t configure it to your liking.

Feren gives you one option when it starts. Live Media mode. You can play around with it or go right into the installation.

The installation is straight forward and works quite well. When the installation tool starts up you get an animated wheel while it “warms up” or whatever, presumably detecting bits about your system and starts you off to select your language.

Next you need to select your location and keyboard layout. This auto detected my location and keyboard layout.

For the partitions I used to erase the entire disk because for this purpose, erasing the disk works fine. Next, I entered my user information. There isn’t an option to add multiple users and I am unsure if you were to do an upgrade if you would be able to pull in previous user information or not.

The installation process provides an installation summary that includes everything you just selected, Location, Keyboard Layout and partition layout. After you select “Install” it will give you one final opportunity to bail out.

During the installation you aren’t given a slideshow of distribution propaganda, just one image to stare at. I would have liked to have had details fly by the screen during this process. Not that most people would care about that sort of information but I happen to like it. When the installation is complete, selecting “Done” will have the system reboot.

First Run

I really meant to nab the Plasma version of Feren OS but instead seem to have snagged the Cinnamon version and in keeping true to my form… I just went with it. Cinnamon is a fantastic desktop environment and since I haven’t played around with it during my last Linux Mint journey, this was a good refresher.

My overall impression of this spin of Feren OS is that it is a kind of re-imagining of the Cinnamon desktop, set aside the technical shortcomings of Cinnamon as it is based off of Gnome Shell and is encumbered with the single thread process limitation, it just looks fantastic. The Cinnamon developers have done a great job of mashing up the visual capabilities of Gnome into a more familiar desktop paradigm with which many are familiar. No one can argue that that Cinnamon (or Gnome for that matter) don’t have a kind of pleasant, well polished smoothness to it with the right level of desktop effects as to not distract you but also give you that plush Corinthian leather interior feel.

The package selection of Feren OS is undoubtedly satisfactory. There will always be the debate as to what should be default as part of the installation but I am not going to belabor this point. It has all that you need to do the basic computing tasks, a browser and LibreOffice.

Theme switching is much like you would expect in Cinnamon but with Feren OS you get a nice dark spin on that GTK theme that is much needed. I still wonder why light themes exist…

An interesting feature is this very user friendly browser selector application. If you are not satisfied with having only Vivaldi or Firefox, you can try another by selecting the install button

FerenOS-14-Web Browser Manager

What I Like

Feren OS is a good looking desktop. Cinnamon seems to work very well and I like the theme customization options provided. The key selling point to Feren OS is the theme configuration settings. It is truly effortless and

The Browser Manager is a great tool that gives you a great tool to select additional browsers as you desire. I like the ease of which you can install and uninstall them. Well done!

The installation process is seemingly painless and I appreciate any installation that is painless. I can’t say that any of my hardware is odd enough to cause issues with any any distribution I have tried as of late.

What I Don’t Like

I didn’t dig into it enough to find things I didn’t like about it. Aside from the default choice being Cinnamon which is GTK and Gnome Shell 3 based and my personal preference is to shy away from GTK and Gnome, it is quite nice. I did have some issues with Cinnamon launching and going into a “fallback mode” but this is in a beta stage and from my understanding, a known issue.

Since this is based in Linux Mint, it does use APT for the package manager which is not my preference. That is a nitpick issue but also saying, I would like to see a Feren OS with an openSUSE base, specifically on Tumbleweed.

Final Thoughts

In testing these various distributions of Linux. I have come to a loose conclusion that what makes a distribution for me, at least initially, that what makes it appealing is not so much the default theme and appearance but rather, how quickly I can modify the theme and tweak the interface to my liking. Cinnamon, especially the Feren OS Cinnamon is very close to my liking and with a few clicks, I can modify the theme to not trigger a headache.

Feren OS is easy to install and the provided applications make it easy to get along very quickly. It looks nice and the defaults appear to be sane. The only thing in which I struggle a bit is trying to understand the the unique selling point and ultimate goal of Feren OS but I can certainly see that the theme chooser is probably it’s greatest selling point. After seeing how the “classic” version of Feren OS is set up. I will be checking out the Plasma version in the coming months. If the developer can make GTK sing a Qt version will be even better.

In the end, would I leave my beloved openSUSE for Feren OS? No, I would not. I did enjoy my time in Feren OS, I enjoyed the way the desktop is customized. I do hope that this one-man show keeps going with it. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop his distribution.

Further Reading

Feren OS Home

Calamares Installation Tool

LinuxMint 19.1 | Review from an openSUSE User

BigDaddyLinux.com Community