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

Noodlings | Kontact Solaar through a VPN

The luckiest podcast or just a baker’s dozen of noodlings.

13th Noodling of nonsense

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.

You know those stories of people that have these crazy habit ts 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.

Solaar | Application for Logitech Unifying Receivers

I recently purchased a new Logitech wireless keyboard for my kitchen computer because the Bluetooth keyboard I had previously used was driving me nuts. Mostly for the keyboard layout and sometimes because it didn’t want to connect. That was due possibly due to hardware failure or bad design. It also doesn’t have media keys, like volume control, so I thought it best just to replace it.

I have previously used ltunify with success but I only used it because “L” comes before “S” so that was my first stop. Since I received feedback that I should try Solaar I did so this time. Since there isn’t an official Linux based application available from Logitech, the fine open source community has stepped in to make managing your devices simple and straight forward.

Having Solaar in the system try is quite handy. Though, the reality is, I don’t need it all the time in fact, it isn’t actively running very often but having it to manage your devices is very handy. It’s nice to know that you can manage multiple Unifying receivers with this application. This is easy to use and has a great, well laid out and straight forward interface. I am glad I was recommended to try this application out. It has now been placed high on my list of tools to keep handy.

Dell Inspiron 20 3048 SSD Upgrade

There comes a time in the lifespan of a computer where you decide that the performance becomes a little lacking. That was my case with this computer and the state of the drive was becoming a little dubious as it felt like it was getting slower and having periodic file system errors. Rather than just reinstall openSUSE on the same drive, I decided, I wanted to make an inexpensive upgrade so I purchased a Solid State Drive (SSD) for it.

Since I have taken this unit apart before, I already knew what I was doing with it. The back of computer comes off but does take some time to get all the snaps to release. I would really prefer that this was held together with screws instead of snaps. That is the only real design choice I don’t a care for with this machine. Upon releasing the back cover from the chassis, it exposes the 2.5″ drive which sits in the lower left corner of the machine. The drive is held in a caddy that snaps in to the chassis, no tools required to remove or insert the drive. I think this is actually quite the clever design.

The hardest part about the whole job was hanging the computer on the VESA mount. In fact, as much as I like utilizing VESA mounts, they are often a pain in the fanny to do without an extra set of hands.

The average read rate of this drive is 443.9 MB/s with 100 samples. The access time is pretty great compared to the typical seek time of “spinning rust” hard drive platter which averages around 100 MB/s. Essentially a factor of four increase in performance. The seek time on the SSD is .10 msec as opposed to 18.81 msec which is about 180 times faster.

I resisted for a long time going to SSDs because, that seems to be my M.O. on new technology. I am glad that the SSD technology has come down in price. It has greatly improved the performance of this aging all-in-one and extended the life of this machine. The performance improvements of SSDs over HDDs is not in any way a revelation. The point I want to emphasize here is that by putting in an SSD, the machine is far more useful and the user experience is vastly improved. So, rather than chuck the old computer, swap out the Hard Disk Drive with a Solid State Drive.

Windscribe VPN Service

With all the talk of VPN (Virtual Private Network) services to keep you safe and my general lack of interest in the subject, I was talking to Eric Adams, my co-host on the DLN Xtend podcast about the subject. He was telling me that he was hesitant to recommend any service so he gave me some option to try out. The one I chose, after doing a little reading was Windscribe.

I am new to the VPN game so I want to be careful in saying, I am recommending this as the perfect solution but rather demonstrating how I set it up and how I am using it on my openSUSE Tumbleweed system.

I know that my employer requires me to VPN in to do any real work so even they recognize the value of a good VPN, so maybe I should too. How often do I plan to use it? Not all that often, really. Maybe a few times a month, specifically when I am using an internet access point that I do not trust. I will especially use it if the access point is has “xfinity” in the SSID as I have little to no trust for them.

I appreciate how simple this is to use and should I get to the point where I am pushing my 10 GiB per month limit, I will go all in on an annual subscription. It’s not that expensive to put up one extra line of defense, especially one as convenient as this.

BDLL Followup

FerenOS is the current BDLL Challenge. I find that I really appreciate the work that goes into Feren OS. It is certainly worth a spin for anyone, whether you are a “KDE Fan” or not. I do think that the departure from using Cinnamon as the base has been good for the overall experience, not because I am a huge fan of Plasma, which I am, but that it seems to have opened up a lot more creative flexibility to the project.

My review of Feren is still forthcoming, at the time of recording but I find that the experience is great. It feels like a polished well thought out product that pays attention to the finer details. It’s certainly worth a visit.

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 decisions, 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 that 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 necessarily prefer.

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20200105, 20200106, 20200107, 20200108, 20200109, 20200110, & 20200111

YaST2 (4.2.47 -> 4.2.49) along with 12 modules have been upgraded. Fixed several bugs

smartmontools (7.0 -> 7.1) bug fixes

Plasma-Framework received an update to fix a possible crash with a “broken” locale setup

Shotwell (0.30.7 -> 0.30.8)

Mesa and Mesa Drivers (19.2.6 -> 19.3.1) numerous bug fixes and features including OpenGL 4.6 support for Intel drivers. A number of new Vulkan extensions supported by Intel and Radeon, better AMD Radeon APU performance and many more

libinput (1.14.3 -> 1.15.0)

Plasma5-Thunderbolt (5.17.4 -> 5.17.5) provided some bug fixes.

seahorse (3.34 -> 3.34.1)

fwupd (1.3.1 -> 1.3.6) included plugins for coreboot, updates for Dell hardware and a hold host of fixes and improvements

KDE Plasma packages (19.12.0 -> 19.12.1) basically all of them which introduced many, many bug fixes across the entire suite of applications and tools.

MozillaFirefox (71.0 -> 72.0.1) addressed several CVEs

Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:
20200105 – Stable 94
20200106 – Stable 94
20200107 – Stable 97
20200108 – Stable 96
20200109 – Stable 98
20200110 – Stable 99
20200111 – Stable 95

Nifty Link

If you are interested in open source games that run on openSUSE via the Direct Installation link, visit

https://software.opensuse.org/packages/Games

I have forgotten about this and if I have, maybe you have too. Some of the interesting games I see are”

0 A.D. – A Real-Time Strategy Game of Ancient Warfare

Armagetron – A motorcycle battle game in the theme of Tron

Barbie Seahorse Adventures – A 2d Pixelart platformer that I can admit I tried many years ago and it was rather enjoyable.

Endless Sky – A space exploration and combat game

Extreme Tux Racer – A high speed arctic racing game based on Tux Racer.

There are many more to check out that I truly find enjoyable.

Computer History Retrospective

The 1983 the then “modern” word processor was already adding efficiency to the Newspaper Industry where columnists could write in a remote location, type, edit and transmit content, via modem to the newspaper or where books could be written, stored on disks and transmitted to the publisher when it was completed.

Even in 1983, Correcting Spelling and stylistic devices were already being employed. While some winters had disagreement with the affect on written language by these technologies and that computers will promote dry, bland writing by diluting an individual style. Others claimed that it improves writing ability as the amount of computer intervention is at the writers discretion.

It was even suggested by Paul Schindler that, like a car, you should try a Word Processor before you buy it which was a good idea because of the price.

Wordvision $50-$70 range
Wordstar up to $500

Paul Schindler gives advice about not needing to buy a 32bit “super micro” if all you are going to do is word process. I couldn’t help but relate that to modern computer thoughts. Don’t buy a computer that has more power than you need but at the same time, I would argue that it isn’t always the case

It is interesting to point out that the most powerful tool in word processing and analyzing words was on a Unix System V.

Watching this episode of “The Computer Chronicles” has really made me appreciate the state of word processing today. LibreOffice, AbiWord or any of the other word processing applications out there are available to me without any expectation of monetary exchange. Though, if you would like these applications to continue to exist, it would benefit you to donate to them.

This whole thing was an incredibly interesting retrospective on how differences and similarities of computer or automated technologies employed in the 1980s as compared to today. We are very fortunate that the open source software availability has made day to day computing far less expensive and I would say, far more productive.

Configuring a Cisco switch from a Linux Terminal with Minicom

As much as I like playing in the terminal, the jury is still out as to how much I like working with Cisco. To be as objective as possible, I need to tell myself that: 1, I am not familiar with the command set or how they like to do things so I must be open minded; 2, Relax, the command line is a happy place to be and 3, this is new territory, don’t get frustrated, just write it down and enjoy the learning process. Also, my brother in-law, whose career is in network administration just loves this Cisco business so it turned out to be quite educational. The scope of this article is not how to set up a router, just, this is how I was able to get going with it.

The specific Cisco switch I configured was a Catalyst 3560 series PoE-48. I am sure these direction will work with other similar devices. Since I am an openSUSE user, the directions are tailored as such.

Minicom Installation

My first step was to find a piece of software that would work for me for this and I am sure that there are a ton of solutions but the one that worked the easiest for me was minicom. I am open to other suggestions, of course.

This is in the official repository so you can go into the terminal and type this to install it:

sudo zypper install minicom

I would give the alternative option to do the Direct Installation but since you will be in the terminal anyway, why would you do that?

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

Set User Permissions

Before you run minicom you will need to add your user as a member of the groups: dialout, lock and uucp.

In all fairness, I don’t know if you actually need uucp but since I use it for serial transfers to Arduino type devices, I am just assuming.

To do this in YaST, select the Security and Users section, open the User and Group Management module and make the changes required for the user.

Alternatively, you can do this from the command line, enter the following as root:

usermod -a -G dialout,lock,uucp

The terminal method is way cooler, just saying.

Minicom Configuration

Before you can set up Minicom, you will have to determine where the serial port is that is connected to your computer. In my case, I have ttyS0 but if you have a USB serial port device, you may have something like ttyUSB0 or similar.

Now that you have an idea as to the name of your serial port you can begin the setup process. Some adjustments are needed so that you can successfully communicate with the router. In the terminal type:

minicom -s

This will bring you to a ncurses style menu system. Arrow down to Serial port setup entry.

To change the serial device to what you have, select A and adjust it to your particular serial interface. Then select E to set the Bps/Par/Bits

The baud rate (Speed) should be set to 9600 (C) and the Stopbits to 8-N-1 (Q).

That should do it. I must stress that this did indeed work for me and your results may vary. The speed and Stopbits seem to be key. I have seen some variations in Software and Hardware flow control but those settings didn’t seem to affect my results.

Connect

To make the connection, type minicom in the terminal and you will hopefully be logged into the smart switch.

Although I have screen captured how I configured the Cisco switch, I don’t think it would necessarily apply directly. I also don’t really know what I am doing and had to rely on an expert so I cannot adequately explain the process itself.

Final Thoughts

Setting up a smart switch in the terminal requires some real knowledge. The point of this write-up was to close some of those gaps that may exist if you decide to embark on going down the “fancy switch lane.” I don’t know if this will work for similar type devices or other Cisco switches. It is a starting point and something to build from. I hope it provides some use to someone other than me.

Additionally, I am very open to suggestions on other similar terminal applications for communicating over serial in the terminal.

References

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/collateral/switches/catalyst-3560-series-switches/product_data_sheet09186a00801f3d7d.html

http://www.allaboutlinux.eu/manage-cisco-switch-router-from-linux/

https://appuals.com/install-terminal-emulator-services-access-cisco-console-port-linux/

Windscribe VPN on openSUSE

With all the talk of VPN (Virtual Private Network) services to keep you safe and my general lack of interest in the subject, I was talking to Eric Adams, my co-host on the DLN Xtend podcast about the subject. He was telling me that he was hesitant to recommend any service so he gave me some option to try out. The one I chose, after doing a little reading was Windscribe.

I am new to the VPN game so I want to be careful in saying, I am recommending this as the perfect solution but rather demonstrating how I set it up and how I am using it on my openSUSE Tumbleweed system. Much in the same way Eric informed me about it.

Installation

For starters, I navigated to the Windscribe website, https://windscribe.com/

It’s a nice looking site and I like they have, front and center a Download Windscribe button. I am always annoyed when you have to go digging around to download anything. I give a resounding, “boo” when I am forced to play a scavenger hunt game to find the download link. Thank you Windscribe for not making this part difficult.

Another well presented download for Linux button. No hunting here either. Although, I did notice that there was a lack of definition of my favorite Linux distribution. They have left out openSUSE and that makes me just a bit frowny faced. No matter, I am not a complete “noob” to the Linux-ing and since Fedora and openSUSE packages are like close cousins (in my experience, but I am often wrong), setting this up for openSUSE was pretty darn straight forward.

These instructions are easily adapted to the fantastic Zypper package manager. This is my adaptation of their instructions for openSUSE and is well tested on Tumbleweed.

1. Get a Windscribe Account

Create a free account if you don’t have one already

2. Download and Install the repo as root

zypper ar https://repo.windscribe.com/fedora/ windscribe

This is telling zypper to add the repository (ar) https://repo.windscribe.com/fedora and naming it “windscribe”.

3. Update Zypper

zypper refresh

4. Install Windscribe-CLI

zypper install windscribe-cli

5. Switch to non-root user

exit

6. Login to Windscribe

windscribe login

Follow the steps with your newly created account

7. Connect to Windscribe

windscribe connect

And that is all there is to it. You will be connected and ready to be part of the cool-kid VPN club.

Side Note

If you need further help about how to use the different functions of Windscribe.

windscribe --help

If you need further information on how to use these other features, please visit the windscribe.com site as I am just using the basic functionality of it here.

If the windscribe daemon service does not automatically start up, you may have to start it manually as root.

systemctl start windscribe

and if you want to have it enabled at startup

systemctl enable windscribe

Those may or may not be necessary for you, but just in case, there you go and your welcome!

First Run and Impressions

There currently isn’t a graphical tool for using windscribe in Linux, or at least openSUSE. Chances are, if you are using openSUSE and are hyper concerned about protecting your traffic, using the terminal is not exactly going to cause you to have heartburn. Installation to execution is truly as simple as I have outlined above.

You can take it one step further in the cool, fun, I am a hacker-poser-type if you run it in a terminal emulator called Yakuake. This is a drop-down terminal that is invoked, on my machine with Meta+F12. It looks cool and very convenient to drop it down whenever I need it.

For the free account, you are limited to 10 GiB of data. To check the status of your account usage, in the terminal type

windscribe account

That will give you an output, something like this:

——- My Account ——-  
Username: CubicleNate
Data Usage: 80.02 MB / 10 GB
Plan: 10 GB Free

There is a paid option, which, in my opinion is very reasonable, if you buy a year at a time and I think, if you travel a lot, this may be of great interest to you to protect your data.

If you buy a one year subscription for $49, you are benefited by Unlimited Data, Access to all their locations which they boast as over 60 countries and 110 cities, a Config Generator for OpenVPN IKEv2 SOCKSS which, to my understanding will allow me to use NetworkManager to access the service, and R.O.B.E.R.T. to block ads, trackers and malware. If that is all up your ally, and you like the free service, it all seems pretty well worth it to me.

What I Like

The installation was simple, using it is simple (so long as you are good with the command line) and the performance is very acceptable. Since I am using this when I am away from home, I don’t expect any break-neck speeds out of it, I just prefer that my traffic is at least somewhat protected. After listening to this episode of Destination Linux, I felt like it was a good idea to intact some sort of VPN when I’m out and about.

What I Don’t Like

There isn’t a graphical interface for the terminal-phobic folks. Not a problem for me or likely most Linux users, but there are some that just won’t use it. That’s just the way it goes.

I don’t like that I am not quite familiar with Windscribe. That is not a fault of the service, just the fact that I know so little about them. I will tell you that every email interaction with Windscribe has been amusing so that bodes well for what I think of them.

Final Thoughts

I know that my employer requires me to VPN in to do any real work so even they recognize the value of a good VPN, so maybe I should too. How often do I plan to use it? Not all that often, really. Maybe a few times a month, specifically when I am using an internet access point that I do not trust. I will especially use it if the access point is has “xfinity” in the SSID as I have little to no trust for them.

I appreciate how simple this is to use and should I get to the point where I am pushing my 10 GiB per month limit, I will go all in on an annual subscription. It’s not that expensive to put up one extra line of defense, especially one as convenient as this.

References

Windscribe.com Home
openSUSE Home
Destination Linux Episode 146 on VPNs
DLN Xtend Podcast
Eric Adams at Destination Linux Network

Solaar | Application for Logitech Unifying Receivers and Devices on openSUSE

I recently purchased a new Logitech wireless keyboard for my kitchen computer because the Bluetooth keyboard I previously used was driving me nuts. Mostly for the keyboard layout and sometimes because it didn’t want to connect. Possibly due to hardware failure or bad design. It also doesn’t have media keys so I thought it best just to replace it.

I have previously used ltunify with success but I only used it because “L” comes before “S” so that was my first stop. Since I received feedback that I should try Solaar I did so this time. Since there isn’t an official Linux based application available from Logitech, the fine open source community has stepped in to make managing your devices simple and straight forward.

Installation

Since this application is in the Official Repository for Tumbleweed and Leap you can use graphical direct installation method or the more fun terminal way.

sudo zypper install solaar

YaST Software is also an option too.

Once it is installed, launch it using your preferred method, the menu, Krunner, etc.

Application Usage

Right off the cuff, this is a more user friendly application with some additional features. For starters, whatever devices you have connected to your Logitec receiver will display a battery status. In this case below. I have a keyboard and mouse already paired with the Unifying receiver.

Logical layout of the device listing, and verbose device information, device options and battery status. What is nice about this application is having the ability to modify the status of the device. My K400 Plus keyboard has the Function Keys and the media keys set up as such that by default, they are media keys. This is not what I prefer so I can Swap the Fx function here.

Pairing A New Device

My reason for using this application was to pair my new keyboard with an existing receiver. I don’t see the value in having more than one USB port populated unnecessarily. To Pair a new device is very straight forward, select the root “Unifying Receiver” and select “Pair”. The dialog will pop up and ask you to turn on the device you want to pair.

When you do that, the receiver will grab the new device, associate it and have it available to be used.

That is all there is to it. Each device will have their own set of options that are adjustable per your preferences. This Performance MX Mouse has more options than the value M175 Mouse.

That just about does it for Solar. There are some other fun features like getting device details but I don’t really want to post those here because I don’t really know if that is information I should be sharing!

Final Thoughts

Having Solaar in the system try is quite handy. Though, the reality is, I don’t need it all the time but having it to manage your devices is very handy. It’s nice to know that you can manage multiple Unifying receivers with this application. This is easy to use and has a great, well laid out and straight forward interface. I am glad I was recommended to try this application out.

References

Solaar on software.openSUSE.org
ltunify Review on CubicleNate.com

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

Noodlings | Lighting the Emby Server with Kdenlive

Coming back strong in 2020… no… not coming back… I haven’t been gone, just delayed.

12th Noodling, a dozen, a foot or a cup and a half of crap?

AMD System from Yester-Years Parts

I recently posted about my computer build. In short, this is a computer build on parts that are in no way considered top of the line. They are all quite old and that did pose a few problems. One, this motherboard would not boot from a software RAID pool. I was able to bootstrap the BTRFS RAID pool with a separate drive and root partition. It did add some complexity to my system but I think it works out okay.

Building a system is something I have wanted to do for quite some time. As in, several years but time, finances and decision vapor-lock had kept me from it. What pushed me over was a fortuitous conversation at a Christmas gathering last year, I struck a nerdy conversation, with a computer store owner that ultimately gave me this giant Thermaltake case without a motherboard and a few weeks later, another fortuitous happening where I was given a bunch of old computer equipment and an AM3 motherboard was among the rest of the aged equipment which drove the rest of the build. My course of action was to stuff the most memory and fastest processor in that which is what I did and I am happy with it. I am not going to belabor that process as I have talked about it before and I have a link you can follow if you are interested in those details.

As a result of this, I had tons of fun, it was a great learning experience and that same guy gave me another case, not as big but far more robust in design with a water cooler. I now want to build another machine but I am thinking a more pure gaming machine and leave this current machine to be my server workstation. I don’t know when I would get to this but I think this one will be a project I do with my kids. Use it as a teaching opportunity and turn it into a kind of family event. Currently, the machine has a Core 2 Duo CPU platform of some kind. I think I would probably do another AMD build, something newer that can take advantage of these new fancy CPUs coming out. I still wouldn’t go bleeding edge but certainly something closer than what I have now.

Emby Server Summation

I have fully evaluated my use of Emby and given a little write up on it. I described the installation process, setting it up, importing my media files and so forth. I want to just summarize the highlights and the lowlights of my experience before I begin my next testing of Plex.

What I like

Emby is super easy to set up. It is nothing more than copying one line into a terminal and executing it. It is super simple and the script also seems to, at least on the version I installed, start and enable the emby-server service.

It’s super easy to add media libraries to Emby. The wizard walks you through it in the beginning and if you want to add additional libraries, that is very easy to do through the configuration tool.

Streams to just about everything in the house. Essentially, if it has a browser, you have access to the Emby server. I haven’t had any issues with the system in the approximately five weeks I have been using it.

Updating the metadata and identity of any movies is as easy as a click and search. You can change the cover images and so forth. Some of the movies I have ripped haven’t always been detected completely correctly. For example, there are three different Grinch movies and I had to manually define which decade they came from. It was super easy.

The Android application works quite nicely. I am actually impressed with the ease of use of the application. It also has quite the fine polish to it as well.

What I don’t like

This was an open source project that went closed source. I sort of have an issue with that and I am not alone with that assessment. It was at that point that Jellyfin was forked from Emby which is what makes me incredibly interested in Jellyfin.

I can’t stream to my Wii, though I don’t really blame the project for not supporting a 14 year old game console. There isn’t an app on the Homebrew channel though at the time of writing, I realized that there is a browser on the Wii so perhaps more investigation is needed. I will update this paragraph with any new information I learn as I investigate that possibility.

Updates will have to be done manually. The server does say it needs to be updated and to do so requires the same step as installation. That is really the only clunky part about this whole setup.

Final Thoughts

Emby is pretty great. Regardless of what I do not like about it. It is a great experience. If you are undecided on your media server and have a desire to try the different options, this is a good one. If this was my only option, I could easily get along fine with it. Since I have two others, I will check those out too.

I highly recommend you try out Emby as the shortcomings are nitpick issues. I don’t like that it went closed source but the project, closed or open, is sound. It is a great, well polished, experience.

This is my first media server review. I will have follow up articles to this in the near future. If there are any inaccuracies or areas I need to revisit, please let me know and I will take the time to make updates.

Kdenlive 19.12 Review

It did take me a quick start tutorial to get going. I do kind of wish there were more instructions on how to do things that weren’t in video form. I like video and all but it is too slow to go through. I would rather scan down a page and see little clips of how each effect is done on it’s own. I suppose there is nothing stopping me from doing that.

Kdenlive is easy to just get going with it. Once you understand the work flow, dump your videos, music, pictures and such in the “pot-o-media” and you are off to the races.

What I Like

Kdenlive is incredibly stable and reliable. Crashing is incredibly rare. I have spent many hours at a time editing and not once has Kdenlive crashed. In all fairness, it’s been hours of editing because I am not very good at it. I have used and rendered video on both my Dell Latitude E6440 and my “new” AMD FX-9590 system with out any glitching or issues. I am impressed by the stability and smooth operation of Kdenlive on openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The user interface of Kdenlive makes sense. The shortcuts, the ease of defining the effects and transition as well as previewing the video makes for an easy and enjoyable video editing experience. Even the scrolling across the timeline or through the tracks, all just makes intuitive sense.

The options for rendering videos or even just audio has a straight forward interface that makes it quite clear what is happening when you start that render. Also, when you start the render, you can continue to use Kdenlive. It does not lock you out of the application.

What I Don’t Like

The text editor for title screens is a bit ropey. The cursor indicator isn’t always visible so I often have to make special effort to get to the right location which includes some delete and retype from time to time. The use of it is not as much fun as the rest of the application.

Not so much a fault of the application but doing video editing really needs more screen real-estate. One 1080p screen is not enough. Not the fault of the application but it is hard to see and read everything going on without excessive scrolling.

Final Thoughts

Kdenlive is a great application with a lot more features than I know how to even use. I don’t do any complex video editing. I don’t have good video equipment so I don’t have a real high level of motivation to create a lot of video content at this time. You can only polish a turd so much and I am often not happy with the video I shoot. I am happy, however, with what I can do with the video in Kdenlive. It does make turning the lack-luster video into barely acceptable video content. Editing with Kdenlive is easy to use and is enjoyable to turn the mess I start with into something more usable. I would like to make more excuses to do more video content because the great user experience Kdenlive provides.

I have heard of people complain that Kdenlive isn’t stable, well, that is a bunch of hooey. Kdenlive on openSUSE Tumbleweed works fantastically well without any crashing. I am very thankful for fantastic packaging and QA process from the openSUSE Project and I am very grateful for every programmer that has had a hand in every piece of this, from the Linux kernel to the Plasma desktop to the application itself. Thank you for all your time and efforts.

Linux Powered Festive Lights

Move from Christmastime to Wintertime. One of those I like a lot more than the other but by having “winter lights” it brightens up the space around me and pushes that gray, cold, dark sadness away. Thanks Linux!

Anything multi-colored and Christmas specific has been taken down. The strands of multicolor lights on my porch have been replaced by blue lights. The wreath and Santa are down but in Santa’s place is an inflatable snowman. Everyting is now white and blue around my house. Not as much fun as Christmastime but I think there is a rule about how much fun you can have at any point in time of the year and I don’t want to over indulge in it. I have to keep it for the designated times, be seasonally appropriate.

I have purchased a few other little things to add to my display. What can I say, I enjoy talking about it. More on that in the future.

AppImageLauncher Review

Of the three Universal package installers, AppImage is one of them. Historically, it has been my least favorite due to the more squirrely way of managing each application. Essentially, you had these files are scattered about your file system or shoved in a folder some place and if you wanted to put them in the menu, you had to do it manually. When you downloaded an update, because not all AppImages support updating, you had to recreate or edit the menu entry and lacks all sense of intuitiveness. It is just incredibly primative

Some AppImages would integrate themselves into your menu system and even perform their own updates. Most of them, however, do not implement those nice little features. Another step, before launching it, having to modify the properties to make it executable. Not a difficult step but it was another step that made it feel a little clunky to use. Combine all these anti-features together and it was my least favorite Universal package. Sill grateful, just least interested.

Step in AppImageLauncher. This throws a significant change in the Universal Package landscape. I have been favoring Snaps for many reasons: the central repository, the ease-of-use in the command line or graphical tools (I used the command line), automatic updates and vast selection of applications has made it my first stop in the Universal Package route. The next has been Flatpak. It has a pseudo Central Repository, nothing official, it integrates nicely with Plasma’s Application Explorer, Discover. Flatpak has recently been better about automatic updates and does a fantastic job of theming itself automatically to your desktop settings.

Lastly has been AppImages because of the rather ad-hoc nature and disjointed desktop experience they have provided. They would respect your desktop themes and are a great non-committal way to try an application but lacked a convenient and clean way to access them. I have used AppImageLauncher for such a short period of time but it is a game changer as far as desktop experience is concerned. The ease of installation and removal of your application in the menu and the automatic organization makes for a purposefully integrated experience. You really can’t tell that you are using an AppImage unless you are doing a right click in the menu entry. Now, on my openSUSE systems, AppImage is a first-class citizen beside my system package manager (RPMs), Snaps, or Flatpak. 2020 is starting of great in the software world.

So why would you use the AUR?

BDLL Follow up

Something that doesn’t seem to get enough attention is the BDLL Discourse Forum. There is a lot of great discussion going on there, not just because I am dumping everything I am working on there but because it is a great place to get help, talk about your Linuxy experiences and just have great conversation about interesting things in tech.

The Linux Half Top was a thread submitted by Steve (Mowest). He had a broken laptop screen and instead of dumping $100 plus into the machine for a new screen and touch panel, he took the screen off entirely, added an HDMI to VGA adapter. Steve gave credit to another community member Dalton Durst for the idea. It reminded Sleepy Eyes Vince of the Commodore 64 where the computer was in the keyboard and just needed a screen.

The whole idea was brilliant, simply brilliant and was an exercise in problem solving by looking for an entirely different solution. Well done.

I highly recommend you take a trip to the BDLL Discourse for some very interesting discussion, discoveries and ideas.

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191231, 20200101, and 20200103

postgresql10 (10.10 -> 10.11) 59 line item changes applied to PostgresQL

xfce4-terminal (0.8.8 -> 0.8.9.1) Respect the “Working Directory” setting when opening initial window, Fix invalid geometry on Wayland, and several other polishing improvements.

xfce4-branding-openSUSE (4.14+20191207 -> 4.14+20191230) several packages relating to openSUSE branding which included setting the default cursor to Adwaita

libvirt had CVE-2019-11135 addressed

ALSA (1.2.1.1 -> 1.2.1.2) several upstream fixes and UCM and UCMv2 fixes and enhancements. See Changes

NetworkManager (1.18.4 -> 1.22.2) Fix multiple issues in the internal DHCP client, including: wrong parsing of search domains and classless routes options, and failures in obtaining and renewing the lease with certain server configurations.

flatpak (1.4.3 -> 1.6.0) several fixes to include fixing some leaks and not to poll for updates in the portal when on a metered connection.

Catfish (1.4.11 -> 1.4.12) for Wayland and GNOME Shell support

Ffmpeg-4 numerous subpackage updates

SSHfs (3.6.0 -> 3.7.0) to give you higher max connection to improve responsiveness during large file transfers.

VIM (8.2.0000 -> 8.2.0063) 54 line item fixes

Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:
20191231 – moderate 79
20200101 – stable 91
20200103 – moderate 85

Four more snapshots are in the pipeline and at pending stable scores

Computer History Retrospective

I was recently watching an episode of Computer Chronicles that covered the idea of “Simulator Software” recorded in 1983. They talked of the flight simulators of the time, simulations of architecture and urban design. Even in the 1980s they were saving money by doing virtual testing of an environment before you spend the time and money on the real thing.

There was a flight simulator used by the military in the early 1980s that by today’s standards, not so great but if I were running that on an Amiga or x86 based PC in the mid-90s, it would have been pretty darn impressive yet.

It is interesting to see now, the graphics capabilities have advanced. Any one modern graphics card has such incredible graphical capabilities, delivering fantastic realism. It’s something that is pretty amazing if you stop and think about it.

I can’t help but wonder how those ideas were sold at the time to punch information into a computer that by all accounts is not all that capable of calculating the vast sets of variables that are done today. Today, there is so much more that can be done with finite element analysis in software that you don’t have to pay for. Examples of this are, FreeCAD and Fusion360, one an open source application, the second a close source application but free to use for hobbyists.

This is a great episode of the Computer Chronicles if you are interested in seeing the early development of computer simulation in the early 80s. The excitement around it is pretty fascinating and we can thank these people for pushing the technology from which we enjoy the fruits today.

AppImageLauncher | AppImage Manager on openSUSE

Right of the cuff, I should note that this will work on other Linux distros too, I am just focusing on openSUSE because, that is my jam. I have been using this on openSUSE Tumbleweed as of Snapshot 20200103. It should also work on Leap as of 42 and newer (that means Leap 15.x is good to go, in case there was any question).

The reason this application excites me so is that I use several AppImages on my system. Which ones you may ask? I’ll tell you, xLights, which I use for my Christmas Light display, VirtScreen that I use when I am remote and need to turn my laptop or phone into a second display. This is super handy as it will not only create links in my menu to the AppImages, it will also copy the *.AppImage file into a designated folder, in my case ~/Applicaitons which is the default. At first, I wasn’t sure about it but after noodling it around a bit, I am totally good with it.

Installation

The RPM for this isn’t in the repository and if you are interested in the non-root user installation, there is a “Lite” version but it is still new and not a recommended solution at this time.

Navigate to the GitHub page of the project for the RPM. I am using the 64-bit version and thinking about it, I don’t actually know if there are any 32-bit AppImages, at least, I wouldn’t likely consider running an AppImage on my 32-bit machines. Regardless, there are several packages to choose from. Pick the correct one.

AppImageLauncher on GitHub

Downloaded appropriate RPM for your openSUSE (or other Linux if that’s what you are into), at the time of writing the version I am using is:

appimagelauncher-2.1.0-travis897.d1be7e7.x86_64.rpm

Installation is very straight forward, I download all my RPMs to ~/Downloads/rpms and use the zypper command to install it.

sudo zypper install ~/Downloads/rpms/appimagelauncher-2.1.0-travis897.d1be7e7.x86_64.rpm

The installation didn’t pull in any other packages from the repository. Zypper does, however give you a little warning.

This is just telling you that it is not signed. That is a security concern, so, if you do not trust the source of the RPM do not trust this and you may as well bail here on the process because the rest of it isn’t going to work for you.

Assuming you are okay with this situation and want to proceed, type “i” and hit enter. That will complete your installation.

Side note, on most desktop environments in openSUSE, you can install the RPM graphically too, but I just happen to think the terminal is more fun.

First Run

When you first run AppImageLauncher, you are presented with some options. The important one is, where to put the AppImages you launch.

AppImageLauncher runs a service in the background and when you launch an AppImage you are given two options, to Integrate and run or just run once. If you Integrate and run, it will move the AppImage from the current directory and place it in the designated directory. Each AppImage you run will give you this option. After doing this once, the AppImage will be in your menu like any other application.

If you wish to remove an AppImage, that is easily accomplished, in the menu, right clicking on the application and you are given the option, right there, to remove it through the built in menu (I only tested this on Plasma). Note: When you remove the AppImage from your system, it is deleted, not returned to the original location or put in the Trash. So, take care in using this feature

If you are not happy about how you set up AppImageLauncher, you can make adjustments. Menu > Settings > AppImageLauncher Settings will present to you further options. I have not dug into these but here they are:

The first is a flag to to ask whether to move the AppImage to the applications directory and you can change the directory. I am interested in seeing how the AppImage updater works. I may end up trying more AppImages, just because.

The next tab, appimagelauncherd where you can select the auto integration daemon and to watch additional directories.

Firefox Integration

Once you install it, and download AppImages, you are given the option to open the AppImage with AppImageLauncher. So it is essentially not even necessary to set the AppImages as executable. Although, it does give you a few layers of warning. It does indeed work.

Something Else

This article was inspired by a video on YouTube created by Eric Adams. So, if you prefer the video form, like most people, here is a great video that covers this process. This write up is basically this video but on Plasma.

Final Thoughts

Universal package formats have been a fantastic development in the Linux world. Snaps and Flatpak have felt better integrated, AppImages where a bit more tedious with having to manually create entries for some applications or relying on Plasma to remember the application for others, which only worked sometimes.

Thanks to this fantastic project, AppImages are now a first class citizen on the desktop. I hope that this AppImageLauncher becomes standard on the desktop so that AppImages are first class citizens as a universal package format in Linux. If you use AppImages this is a fantastic addition to your system.

References

AppImageLauncher on GitHub
openSUSE Linux
Eric Adam’s YouTube Channel