CUPS-PDF | Print to PDF from any Application

I’m sure this isn’t new to anyone, certainly not to me but after using another operating system for a bit I was really annoyed and wanted to just highlight what a wonderful thing this “printer” is for openSUSE and any other Linux distribution, for that matter. Sometimes, I think it is good to reflect on the the great things we take for granted here in Linux land.

Installation

For openSUSE, you can simply type this in terminal

sudo zypper install cups-pdf

or if you prefer the point-and-click method navigate here and be sure to choose the correct version of openSUSE:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/cups-pdf

That is all there is to it. According to Zypper, this takes up all of 221.9 KiB of drive space so this is pretty insignificant and for outdated for the benefits this provides.

Why?

There are a couple of reasons why the print to PDF as a kind of pseudo or virtual printer is a great feature to have:

Number 1

I have historically, while not thinking clearly, printed something I shouldn’t have because I just CTRL+P with a rapid strike of the enter key to print something. Immediately following, I would see an error in document. It could have been anything from a typo to a formatting error and I would have wasted time because the cancel button never actually cancels the print. The printer goes through this process where it thinks about cancelling the print for several minutes. Basically, it gives you that spinning circle thing until you forcibly shut the thing down. All the while you are thinking about how you should have just let the printer do its thing and you could have just used the wasted paper for something else.

Number 2

Some online training sites don’t let you export that certificate directly as a PDF so your option really comes down to printing it to the printer because for whatever reason, the Firefox print dialog wouldn’t pop up, it would be some sort of oddball thing that only provided actual printers.

Number 3

I am an old man, largely, stuck in my ways. There are certain, old, applications I enjoy using and at the same time need the print to pdf option. This gives me that option, system wide, that I can use whenever necessary.

Solution

CUPS-PDF provides a printer for the system that generates a PDF to the user’s specified location. In the case of openSUSE, both Leap and Tumbleweed, perhaps other distributions it will dump them here:

/var/spool/cups-pdf/USER

Rather than change the configuration file for the cups-pdf printer, I went the easy way and made a link to that location of pdf output to my home folder

ln -s /var/spool/cups-pdf/USER ~/cups-pdf

You can of course do this graphically as well, if that is what you prefer. In that case, using your favorite file manager (like Dolphin), navigate to the aforementioned location, drag and drop, using the “Link Here” option.

Use

It’s pretty simple, really, after installing the “virtual printer” it makes itself available to the system.

What is great about this is, when running old Windows applications through Wine or Crossover Linux that don’t have access to the Plasma print-to-file, I can just print to this virtual device called CUPS-PDF.

This very nicely leverages the very basic capabilities provided by my Linux desktop environment for some of those older and obscure applications I still enjoy using. Truly, a wonderful piece of open source software that is perhaps often overlooked by all the new and shiny things created today.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t any great, new feature in Linux but one that has been there and working for me day after day for nearly 20 years in some form. It is such a simple thing, uses very few resources and adds some valuable functionality. The great thing is, this is just a built-in feature to openSUSE and other Linux distributions that don’t require adding some obscure application.

This is yet another reason why I love using Linux and open source software. It allows me the freedom to work how I want to work, capture and archive things the way I see fit and just be happy in my little digital world.

References

openSUSE Home
https://software.opensuse.org/package/cups-pdf

Christmastime in the year 2020 | Holiday Blathering

What can I say about 2020 that someone else hasn’t already said? I can say it has been… a bit of a disappointment. Nothing has really gone to plan, it seems. I would say, tho, 2020 started out pretty great. Things were looking good for most people and evens occurred that really took the shine off of the year, to put it mildly. I don’t want to focus on the negative, I am going to focus on the positive things.

For starters, I and my family still have their health. We all recovered from whatever sickness was thrown at us this year and I call that a blessing. I may have lost my job this year, but I haven’t stopped working, I just happen to be working with my hands more and subject to the whims of Mother Nature as of late. As part of my layoff package, I got a new computer which has been fantastic and has made my ability to work mobile much more enjoyable.

There have been a lot of great developments in the open source world, it seems like software packages rolling down on openSUSE Tumbleweed have just been rock-solid. KDE Plasma 5.20 has been an incredible joy to have on all my machines. If you have a touch screen, the interface controls are top-notch. I learned of a replacement shell called FISH which may very well be the neatest terminal based tool I have ever used. I am truly thankful for all the hard work put in by so many people to make life on the computer more enjoyable and productive.

I have been able to continue to enjoy my time with the Destination Linux Network where I can make a positive contribution to the community on a regular basis. I have been able to meet some incredible people with such incredible knowledge and seemingly endless patience. I have been able to learn so many new and interesting things because of the interactions and I am forever grateful.

I have been afforded the opportunity to create new Christmas Light Shows on my expanded house display. It’s been fun and frustrating. It has also been incredibly educational and has exposed my cavernous knowledge gaps. Learning and making mistakes is something that helps us to grow individually. I may not be happy about the forced self-education but I end up better for it.

I have began my journey in learning Python which has also been a challenge. I have nothing to show for it, yet but that will come, hopefully fairly soon as works lows down due to the weather change. Which, makes me think. I am not working much in a cubicle these days, unless I am able to count my “SuperCubicle” in my home as one.

Most importantly, for the first time in many years, there is peace in my life as it relates to family. Something to always be grateful for is peace. No, things are in no way perfect but they are far better now than they were a year ago. I would like to count that as a victory.

The year isn’t done and we are still in the throes of adversity with all that is going on but we are also in the midst of Christmastime. A period were with think and hopefully act a bit more on good will and kindness to our fellow humans, no matter the “poo-sandwich” we have had to choke down. c

In an effort to celebrate, what should be a time of joyous family gatherings, I created a 2020 version of Christmas musical lighting sequences with my home’s Linux Powered festive lights. I had numerous headaches with expanding the system. What I thought would have been a straight forward add-on ended up being a painful event, banging my head against the wall at every stage. The positive is, I did add a large number of lights to my system and it is mostly stable but it certainly is a kind of “science experiment” and requires a lot of refinement at this point. Regardless, here are the three 2020 sequences I put together this year. I retooled two of my 2019, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, songs and a new song called “Frozen Memories” by CJ Simpson aka Perifractic. There was a fourth song I planned but ran out of time.

Final Thoughts

In the words of Doc Brown, “Your future is whatever you make of it, so make it a good one.” So is your life. Bad things will happen, adversity is a part of life. The question is, how are you responding to the stressors? Can you respond to them while keeping your dignity intact? It’s not easy and it takes work. 2020 has been a year of trials and incredible testing of ones resolve. Lets hope that 2021 will be better, but if it isn’t, let us all try to individually be better in 2021. Learn something new, be more compassionate, show more kindness. It won’t hurt!

References

HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed
FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE
CubicleNate YouTube Christmas Light Sequences
“Frozen Memories” by CJ Simpson aka Perifractic
Another Christmastime Blathering | Linux Powered Lighting

HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed

I was given an incredible gift by my former employer as a parting gift, an HP EliteBook 840 G7. I didn’t unpack it right away as I wasn’t sure how I was going to integrate it into my mess of computer equipment. I have been very happy with my Dell Latitude E6440 and decided my next system was going to be a desktop system.

Bottom line up front, I am surprisingly pleased with this system. The HPs I have used in times past have been less than stellar and this machine is not at all anywhere close to the same experience. This machine is pretty great and far better than any HP I have ever used. openSUSE Tumbleweed runs fantastically well on this hardware. Setting it up was trivial and it has been a fantastic experience.

Specifications that Matter

This isn’t a loaded up unit and based on this site from HP, it is on the lower end of the spectrum. Comparing to what I am currently using as my main machine, it has half the RAM and 1/8th the storage space.

CPU

Intel Core i5-10310U Processor – This is not the fastest processor and there are faster options available for this machine. According to HP’s knowledge base on this machine, it can accept as much as a Intel Core i7-10810U. The actual difference between the two, according to CPUbenchmark.net, is about a 20% improvement. This is good news is, I can potentially make this laptop even more useful in the processing department… that is, assuming it isn’t soldered on.

Memory

8 GiB DDR4 with 7.5 GiB available for use. According to HP, this can take up to 64 GiB of RAM. I think that is incredibly spectacular. That definitely means I can grow into this machine over the long term. My reckless use of system resource causes me to chomp through the 7.5 GiB available pretty quickly. It’s a bit light for doing video editing and CAD work but still doable, so long as I don’t have a browser with 20+ tabs open.

Bottom line, this isn’t great now but could be very great for a rather small investment. Just by swapping out one of the SO-DIMMS with a 32 GiB module would make a huge difference.

Display

This laptop comes equipped with an anti-glare, non-touch, 1920×1080 display. I am not sure exactly the characteristics of this specific display as there are a lot of options according to this listing. Whichever version this machine has, I am very pleased with it.

Ports and Interfaces

This computer isn’t what I would consider heavy on interfaces. I might go as far to say it is a bit light but it does have the ports that truly count. I am a bit disappointed it is missing an SD Card reader but lets focus on what it does have, not what it is missing.

The front and back of the computer are void of any interfaces. This works well for the back due to how the screen pivots. I have seen alternative designs for hinges that allow for access to the back but from a usability perspective, accessing ports on the back is an exercise in fiddling around blindly unless you decide to crane your head around the backside of the computer. Ultimately, I don’t care one way or the other on this one.

The left side of the computer has four interfaces interfaces:

(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 port (1 charging). I have used both of the USB slots though one tends to have a Logitech wireless mouse dongle in it. I have no complaints in this department.

(1) Headphone/microphone combo jack, or sometimes called a “courage port” and although I tend to use Bluetooth for “quiet listening” I do think a headphone jack is necessary on a computer and to not have one is terrible.

SmartCard slot, it is a vital necessity to have a SmartCard reader for a computer. Without one, I would have to plug in a USB external and that is, frankly, a less than ideal situation.

The unnamed opening on the side is for that Kensington Security Slot. That is for the purpose of locking your computer to the desk… which makes it like a desktop.

Left Side

The right side of the computer contains five interfaces:

(2) USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt support. I have tested this, running openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, the ports do recognize and enable dock stations as well as charge from them. I didn’t test the external display capability but that will come in the future.

(1) HDMI 1.4 port. This is standard fare for a laptop purchased in 2020. I am not sure if HDMI is preferred over DisplayPort but it is what I have.

(1) AC power input port. Since I am still quite uncertain as to the reliability of the USB-C port for the long term, I do appreciate having a barrel jack for power. I do think this will likely last longer than the USB-C port.

There is a blocked off SIM card slot on this computer, presumably due to the lack of WWAN. This is a factory install option, according to HP. That is unfortunate as that would have been a nice add on. I’m sure there is a way to hack it together, maybe.

Construction and Aesthetics

The laptop’s chassis is made of aluminum. According to the HP marketing information, it is made of machined-aluminum. I find that a bit hard to believe as I don’t see evidence of any machining marks and that seems incredibly cost prohibitive but I am not the expert here, nor have I seen the manufacturing plant. It very well could be true and this could be an incredibly well designed machine with spectacular manufacturing processes. It does look very nice. It has nice, sharp lines and just feels solid. The test a lot of tech enthusiasts give a machine is holding it by a corner with the screen lid open to see if it creaks or flexes. This computer does not do that.

The keyboard is claimed to be made of 50% recycled DVDs. The other 50% isn’t specified and why only DVDs and not CDs mentioned. They are both made from polycarbonate plastic. Perhaps people are done throwing out CDs? Also, who throws away DVDs? I have so many questions here. I absolutely prefer that all materials are recycled so I love seeing that HP is making it a point to utilize recycle materials in new machines.

The bezel of the computer is very thin, much thinner than I am used to seeing on a laptop. I am sure there are smaller but my biggest concern is, how do I take this apart without cracking it? The screen is visually of great quality and has a kind of indescribable clarity that I really appreciate.

Serviceability

I am incredibly impressed that HP made this computer so easy to access the innards. The bottom is held in place by five screws. There are clips towards the front of the case so it needs to be swung open towards the front of the machine.

Very surprisingly, they used captive screws so you don’t have to set them in a magnetic bowl or end up brushing them off your workbench and spend hours looking on your cluttered floor to find them.

Inside reveals easy access to the memory, SSD or in this case NVME. I didn’t take the CPU fan and heat piping out to see if the CPU was easily replaced like my Latitudes. Another time, perhaps. I think the big take away here is, this thing is easily serviceable and upgraded. With very little effort, I can swap out the storage and add RAM to this thing, truly making this a machine that I can use for many years.

binary comment

I will be interested in seeing how long the battery on this thing lasts. It is only rated at 53Watt/hours but it does appear to be adequate at this time, based on how I have been using it.

Installation of openSUSE Tumbleweed

I gave Windows 10 a try on this machine. I got through the installation procedure, registered the computer with HP, read through the rather frightening EULA and was presented with a fairly standard Windows 10 desktop albeit with a few extra HP sprinklings. This computer had none of the “bloatware” that is common on PCs… at least… has once been common. After about 45 seconds, I decided i was done playing with Windows and it was time for openSUSE.

I have installed openSUSE on a few other new computers and there have been hangups or difficulties to work through, mostly with Nvidia. I was expecting for there to be a bit of a battle but because I have chosen Tumbleweed, I know that I will have the latest available hardware drivers and judging by the mailing list feed. I was glad to know that this Comet Lake Intel architecture is supported.

In order to boot from the USB, I had to change the boot order. For my own personal future reference, here are what the different F-keys do on POST:

F1 – System Information
F2 – System Diagnostics
F3 – 3rd Party Option ROM
F9 – Boot menu
F10 – BIOS Menu
F11 – System Restore
F12 – Network PXE Boot

In this case, you really only have to make the change in the boot menu to boot from USB. Since openSUSE is Secure Boot capable, there are no problems there. If you are like me, you want to dig into the BIOS menu and see what goodies are accessible within. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty standard stuff.

For the installation process itself, I didn’t do anything custom. I just let the installer do what it wanted and it very nicely read my mind to just wipe and install openSUSE with a single BTRFS partition. The only tweaks I made was to activate the SSH Service and open the port in the firewall. The rest was left as is. Thanks openSUSE! The installation process took all of 9 minutes and it was complete. For details on my installation process you can take a trip here.

Upon booting up the system for the first time, the only issue I had was a lack of sound. Going into YaST, I selected the sound module which informed me that the kernel module for snd-sof-pci had not been loaded.

This wasn’t an extra step I wanted to do, but I am grateful that the YaST sound module was able to walk me through correcting the issue. The positive takeaway here is, I haven’t ever actually messed with this before since it hasn’t ever come up, but now that I see how this module works, further play is necessary. Not for this machine but something that I am building.

Just three packages needed to be installed and the sound automatically configured itself properly and hasn’t been an issue since. What I find interesting here is that Plasma now has devices like HDMI left in an inactive state so you have to how the inactive devices when you don’t have something plugged in. This really clears up a lot of the previous irritation with how Plasma / PulseAudio handled the sound devices. The changes here are fantastic.

After using this machine for a few days, I decided that I really loved it. I’m impressed by how solid yet light the chassis feels. That meant, I had to make this computer my own. I, of course, started by using my openSUSE Breeze Dark theme then I replaced the default system notifications with my preferred Star Trek: The Next Generation variety that I have cut up and mixed. It feels better that way.

My only issue that I have not yet worked out is that my brightness control for the screen just seems to trigger the mute toggle. My understanding is that there is a firmware fix from HP on this and this problem is not exclusive to Linux. More on this in the future.

The installation and first run of openSUSE Tumbleweed with Plasma has been simply fantastic. It has been over 10 years since I purchased brand new hardware to run Linux and have since stayed just a bit behind to reduce my frustrations. There are no serious frustrations with this machine, sure, a little issue with the brightness control and I had to take an extra step to get the sound working, but that is it. The battery life on this machine is extraordinary. I don’t have to think about having a power supply handy. I just take this laptop and go places. I can’t say I have ever experience such laptop computing freedom before. Truly, a tremendous openSUSE Tumbleweed laptop experience.

What I Like

The touchpad on this particular computer has a glass surface. I love how it feels and how easy it is to clean. Why is it that in 2020 I first experience this? Why hasn’t this been the standard in touchpads? It isn’t a full mouse replacement as it doesn’t have physical buttons at the bottom of the touchpad but if you press down on it, there is an audible click. By pressing in the standard respective locations, you do have all three mouse buttons.

The keyboard does have a TrackPoint where the G, H and B keys meet. This is something I have grown very accustomed to using my Dell Latitudes. I really don’t like being without but the downside is, with out that third button, I am not able to scroll like I do on my Dell Latitude E6440 so the usability of this component isn’t as useful as I would like. I am quite sure I can figure a workaround on this shortcoming.

Very importantly, the keyboard is of very good quality, I have written this entire post on this EliteBook and I am very happy with how the keyboard feels. This is nothing like the Zbook I have previously used where you had to hammer down on the keys to get the letters to type. These keys require just enough pressure to activate and since the chassis that it sits in is as rigid as it is, there is not a bit of flex in the keyboard.

On the incredibly rare occasion I tax this system, I am impressed by how quite the fan runs. There are two impressive aspects here. One, how little the fan actually runs and when it does run, how quite it is and how short it ends up running as it seemed to spin down when the CPU usage dropped down as well.

This computer has USB-C with Thunderbolt. I have nothing that takes advantage of this capability but now that I do, I just may look at getting something for that purpose. I do appreciate the fact that I can charge my computer from the USB-C port. This opens up a lot of power options for this computer. More on that at another time. It should also be noted that the Thunderbolt module in the Plasma Settings is very informative and I am sure that I will use this as my peripherals start to go towards this Thunderbolt interface.

Something that is incredibly important to me on a laptop is how easy it is to service the thing and what my options are when I open the thing up. The innards are incredibly easy to access so memory and storage upgrades are easy. There isn’t any memory soldered on to the board and since I have the option to stuff 64 GiB of RAM in this thing, that makes this laptop very forward leaning.

Amazingly, this computer has a built in SmartCard reader. This is huge for me as I need one regularly and using a USB device is not convenient. There weren’t any issues getting the device drivers and middleware set up in openSUSE. The wiki on that subject is well written and results are easily repeatable.

What I Don’t Like

The arrow keys on the keyboard are a little crammed. I am sure I’ll get used to it but I would say this is the weak point of the keyboard. I don’t have a suggestion as how to correct this whilst also maintaining the clean aesthetic. I think the layout of the keyboard is more about aesthetics than it is about functionality but it is in balance.

There is a little bit of squirrelly behavior of the Fn key for display brightness controls. After a little research this is not exclusively a Linux issue but is more common in Linux. There is a BIOS update to fix this problem, I just have to take the time to work through that solution with a non-Windows system.

As far as slots and ports go on this machine, there is a sore lacking of and SD Card slot. I do wonder why this feature was omitted from the design, especially over having a SIM Card slot that I can’t use without serious modification to the computer.

There is no Ethernet port on this computer. I guess they took a queue from Apple and omitted this too. This is one of those issues that can be easily fixed with a dongle or dock station. Thinking about it. I rarely use an Ethernet port on a laptop unless I am docked. I just happen to like having an Ethernet port and expect them on computers. I call this a nice to have, not a requirement.

Peculiar position for the Power button and airplane mode. I suspect this is to support the overall design aesthetic of the keyboard, having the nice clean lines and deck around the keyboard. The irritation with the airplane mode is that being on F11, I have triggered the airplane mode more often than I would like to admit. The media function keys utilize the F-row and by default are active. The only media keys I use often are the volume up and down keys so I have to determine if it is more important to have the F-keys, which I use very frequently, or the media keys as the default press.

Final Thoughts

Overall, very happy with this machine. It was a parting gift from my previous employer and about the time I completely forgot they were going to send it, the system arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I see myself using this machine for many years. Regardless of the lacking of SD Card reader, it does have the more important SmartCard reader. The arrow keys are a bit crunched but that seems to be a lot more common these days, which is incredibly unfortunate and the media keys are currently a bit squirrelly but there should be a fix for that in the near future. I really can’t complain at all as this is a fine machine and a very welcome gift.

Going forward, I plan to make this my on-the-go machine and will probably leave my Latitude at home more. This means, I will have to do some upgrades to this machine if I plan to make it my main, mobile machine. The 237 GiB drive is a bit small for all that I do with a computer and the 8 GiB of RAM seems to get filled up very quickly with my poor browser habits.

The HP EliteBook 840 G7 is a fantastic Linux machine. If this were offered with Linux pre-installed, I would consider this to be a prime, flagship, Linux experience. I haven’t tested any other distributions but I imagine they would be much the same. I really appreciate the work HP has done on this machine and the seeming forethought they had with ensuring Linux compatibility.

References

Dell Latitude E6440
HP EliteBook 840 G7 Specifications
HP EliteBook 840 G7 on NewEgg.com
Ubuntu on HP Elitebook 840 G7 Notebook PC

Bpytop on openSUSE | Terminal

I recently published an article about how great Bashtop is on openSUSE, and when I was nearly done with it, I was told about Bpytop. Since I was going through the final edit, I didn’t just want to dump what I did before but rather, follow it up with Bpytop. I am not sure how far behind the curve I am now and maybe there is something even cooler out there but before anyone tells me what the latest hotness is in terminal, system monitoring applications, I am feverishly writing about this

What is so great about Bpytop?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, and you have previously enjoyed Bashtop, Bpytop is going to send tingles of joy down your finger tips. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

At the time of writing, the two ways you can go about installing bpytop is installing the snap or directly installing the application using PyPi. I opted for the PyPi method this time. Within the terminal enter this to install or upgrade.

pip3 install bpytop --upgrade

Once installed, a simple entering of bpytop in the terminal will start the application in all it’s splendor.

This should work for all distributions of Linux but there are other installation options here:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bpytop

Features

For starters, there are three viewing modes, for your pleasure, with Bpytop. Full, the only option in Bashtop, Proc, shows CPU and process table, and Stat, which just shows graphs and current statistics of the CPUs, Memory, Disks and network.

Much of what you expect from bashtop is here but there are a few additions and changes have been made that are very welcome enhancements. For starters the remaining battery indicator.

Running this on my Plasma desktop it is not a critical addition under normal use but I can think of several other situations where this would be valuable to have in the terminal. It’s a nice addition.

The CPU view was mostly the same, no real changes here. The biggest change is Core being replaced by “C” for each core. Presumably to reduce wasted space. Personally, I am fine with either notation. I still think this is the best use of the top of the display layout. The interesting bits of information concerning the CPU like frequency, load average, and load per core as well as temperature.

The disk display is improved with having disk activity indicators by partition. At a glance, that makes this section far more useful. There is a lot of value in this for numerous reasons. This is a splendid addition to this system monitor and I must say, my favorite change from Bashtop.

I am on the fence about the change to the memory graph look. By simply pressing “g”, you can change from graph to to bars quite nicely.

The Swap memory / partition is by default in the disks section but by pressing “s”, Swap will appear with the rest of the memory section. I prefer it with memory but I see the logic in having it with the rest of the disk space.

The network section of Bpytop has some fantastic enhancements. The most exciting feature here is the network adapter selection. Pressing “b” and “n” will cycle through the different interfaces on the system.

The process table has a few additional features. Like before you can filter the process list by pressing “f” but now you can look at process by core, or in a tree of processes. There is certainly a lot of utility in that capability.

Just as before you can interact with the processes by killing them and what not.

Bpytop has a menu much like Bashtop pressing “M” will bring to to it. The coloring is a bit different but the menu is largely the same with the fancy lettering and such. Also, note: “m” changes the display mode”

There are a lot more options than before. So many, in fact that it has to be broken up into multiple pages. Many of these options are able to be triggered in the view mode, such as Swap preferences. If you do not like the Color theme, for whatever reason, there are options there too. Three viewing modes are available in Bpytop. Full is my preference but if you just want processes, or stats, that is also available.

I have taken some note on system resource usage and it appears that Bashtop uses less memory but Bpytop uses fewer CPU resources. I do want to make sure I make it clear that I am not using a very thorough analysis process to determine this.

The “Help” menu item give you a list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. There are a lot more commands in Bpytop than there were in Bashtop. The new toggles are identified in this list which is helpful for those new to this application.

Overall Bpytop has very similar visual characteristics to Bashtop. There is a bit more polish to Bpytop and the interface is more responsive. The fading of process list is very slick which again makes the application feel a lot more like a graphical utility than a terminal based one. Like Bashtop, Bpytop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, that is more aesthetically pleasing and the interaction significantly improved.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, Bpytop is super handy and may even be considered, super FUN. The interactions with your system through this application are notably enhanced. The layout modes, memory graphs and disk activity are phenomenal features that, if nothing else, are fun to watch.

What I Like

Bpytop cleverly uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to almost suspend the idea that you are in a text only terminal. It certainly gives the impression the possibility that it is a grpahically driven tool. Bpytop is a very modern looking and incredibly useful application that has a high level of refinement to it.

The multiple display modes of this application is done very well which has likely been established through a user feedback mechanism. The three modes of Full, Proc and Stat adjust the panes for the purpose that best suits your requirements. Though I prefer the full, filling the terminal window with just the system statistics looks pretty great.

The menu system in Bpytop, like Bashtop, is superb. There is so much to adjust and dig into on this application. The “help” screen is also very informative and necessary until you get used to what each keystroke does. Having it tied to “h” and “F1” makes accessing it intuitive as well.

What I Don’t Like

Bpytop is not as light on resources as top or htop but I truly believe that it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience and value of information. I respect the argument for just using top to get a quick terminal snapshot but the user interface of Bpytop is much more intuitive and accessible.

This is not a big deal as one quick terminal command and it is installed but Bpytop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repositories. I think this should be standard fair on openSUSE because of how awesome it is.

Final Thoughts

Not long after becoming aware of Bashtop, I was presented with Bpytop and before all this fancy new terminal goodness came to me, was happy enough using htop. My terminal world has changed. The bar has been raised and the terminal has become even more fun. Where were applications like this just a few short years ago? I am very thankful for the creative expression in the terminal applications of today. Bpytop is a fantastic application, terminal or not and I highly recommend anyone give this is a try and tell me what they think of it. This again underscores that Linux and open source software is simply brilliant!

References

Bpytop from Github
Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

I am generally behind the curve when it comes to the new hotness out there. Not sure what it is, maybe I am out of phase with the rest of the world, maybe just behind on my podcast listening or not really paying attention, so while everyone else has moved on to the next new hotness, I am hanging out in one-month-ago time and have enjoyed this thing called “Bashtop”

What is Bashtop and why do I care?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, than Bashtop is going to be an application you absolutely adore. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

Bashtop, at the time of writing, is not in the official repositories of openSUSE, but it is built by the Open Build Service and available from software.opensuse.org. Select the the appropriate version version of openSUSE for you and use the “one-click” installation button to get going.

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

Alternatively, check out this resource for other Linux Distributions:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bashtop

Features

Bashtop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, this is very similar to htop but in a more aesthetically pleasing presentation.

This gives you a quick snapshot of your CPU, Memory, Disks, Network activity and processes. Essentially, all the core bits of interesting information about what the computer is doing. In my case, I have a 4 core/8 thread CPU where I am given the CPU information, frequency and load per core as well as temperature.

The lower-left section shows you memory usage, disk usage and network activity. The graphs look great with the gradient coloring. Not sure how they pull this off but they pull it off well.

The processes table is great. should you need to filter the processes, just press “f” and start typing to find the application for which you are searching. It is that simple and easy to use.

Bashtop has a fantastic Menu of options and if you weren’t paying close attention, you might not realize that this is all in text mode. The way the larger font of “Options,” “Help,” and “Quit” look, you might be deceived into thinking that this is invoking some kind of fancy graphical mode.

Though I have left the options at default, you may wish to tweak some of the options. The default_black theme works well for me and the update interval is fine at 2800 ms. I would change the clock if my system default wasn’t 24hr, which, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t adopt 24hr.

The key take away here with the menu is that it is very user friendly, no squirrelly commands need to be typed in the terminal when launching Bashtop to get it just as you would like.

The “Help” menu item give you your key command list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. It’s nice to see that there are alternates as well.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, this can come in handy. Especially so when terminating processes that have gone rouge. The Help screen provides a great snapshot of capabilities right in this application to make system management a more satisfying task.

What I Like

Although it is a text display, it uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to give the impression of it being a graphical display. This really gives the impression of a very modern looking and feeling application that could be misconstrued as a graphic user interface.

The layout of the application is well done and a good usage of screen real estate. The CPU graph at the top is the right choice for the first thing your eyes pan down. The graph combined with the immediate state of the CPU is a nice touch. The rest of the information, Memory usage, Disk Usage, Network activity with graph and the process list fill out the bottom nicely.

The menu system in Bashtop is top notch. Once you have it tweaked out to your preferences, you probably won’t use it as much but the “help” screen is also very informative. I know that I can’t always remember what keystrokes do what so the help is great for a guy like me that doesn’t use it day in and day out.

What I Don’t Like

As compared to top or htop It is a bit heavier on resources than htop and top, though I think it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience. I can see the arguments as to why some don’t like to use bashtop but this isn’t something I keep running continually, just when I want to nerd out and see what’s going on.

This is not a big deal and it may change in the future, but Bashtop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repository. Setting it up is easy to do with the one-click installation process on software.openSUSE.org.

Final Thoughts

I have historically made htop my go-to terminal system monitoring application. I still think htop is good but I happen to enjoy the experience of Bashtop just a bit more. It feels more like a full fledged product as opposed to a terminal application. If you like such technical information, I highly recommend installing and trying bashtop. I believe you will really enjoy it.

I have been informed, today, that there is yet another system resource application to try in the terminal called bpytop. That means, more relishable application exploration is on the horizon! Linux and open source software is so much fun!

References

Bashtop from software.opensuse.org
Bashtop from Github

Noodlings 22 | On the Edge

Click here for the 22nd single serving sized podcast episode

Computers are a tool, it’s a wrench or hammer, maybe more like a drill as it is a kind of power tool. It is there to serve you in whatever the task is. Whether it is organizing and storing information, one of the core functions of computers; entertainment, home security or designing and building something to improve your “foxhole”, it is a tool. Computers can just be fun to tinker around with too. It’s for people who like to mess around with computers and learn how they work as well. It’s for all types. Linux along with the free and open source applications on top of it just happens to be the best solution for me.

Would open source software be the best and most ideal solution? Of course it would, but that is just not the case much of the time. What I do believe is best is that the core and base layers of the operating system are free and open. Having projects like KDE Plasma, Gnome and Xfce which are completely open source Desktop Environments is the key. Should you need some proprietary applications to run on top of it, sure, it is less ideal but much preferred to the whole stack being closed and proprietary.

I run Fusion 360 on my machine as well as FreeCAD, I support the FreeCAD project but I still have some trouble with it. I do think it is getting better but for the time being Fusion 360 is my go-to CAD application because of what it can do so effortlessly. Does that make my system, as a whole compromised? I don’t believe so. Would running only free and open source software be better? Absolutely but that is not where things are today and rather than get upset, I would rather get projects done.

Consider this, if your living was dependent on designing and building widgets and you needed to collaborate with other designers, what would be the best tool for the job? I can’t say for certain what your case may be, but if I were working on a project and collaborating with a team, as a small business owner, Fusion 360 has those tools baked into it. If it reduces the time-to-market enough to offset the costs, it is worth it. If it shortens the development time enough to offset the cost of software, than it is indeed worth it.

On the contrary, if you have developed a method for product life-cycle management while using FreeCAD, and you are able to do all that is required, to include the machining process, just as well. Than go with that application. The bottom line is, you MUST use the tool that works best for you and you shouldn’t receive grief by anybody for it.

Personal computers should be just that, personal, use what is best for you. Should someone choose something different or go down a different path to get to their ultimate solution, even if it is a winding path, that personal discovery is extremely valuable. The best ideas will surface and suppressing the journey is of no benefit to anyone.

Give people space to discover and grow at their own pace. Allow them to figure out their world, show them kindness and grace as they learn and ask questions. Technology is but one vehicle to make our world a better place, positive and supportive attitudes are another. Stop and ask yourself why you do the things you do and have that honest conversation with yourself.

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

I have recently installed and started using Microsoft Edge Browser. It still in the “Development” channel and it is pretty fantastic. The browser works so well, even though it is in development yet. I have received a couple updates on it now. Though I haven’t noticed any differences as of yet, I do appreciate the work being done on it.

I have been one of those individuals that have been the opposite of a Microsoft fan… for many years. I do have to give them credit where credit is due. We can start with Microsoft Basic that was essentially the common thread between the computer in the 8-bit era. Commodore BASIC was licensed from Microsoft and between the different computers of the time, it was very similar with the variations being in how you control graphics, sound and I/O. Fast forward to the 90s Microsoft began down a road of dominance which lead to congressional hearings on monopolistic business practices and later with Steve Balmer telling the world that Linux was a cancer. We are also reminded about their historic practice of “embrace, extend, extinguish” and the numerous law suits that kept Linux and open source software from growing at a greater speed.

Despite all their flaws, when you remove the emotional context and look at their contributions to the technology industry, you will see that there are countless contributions they have made in pushing the boundaries and making technology more accessible. Sure, they made mistakes, we all make mistakes, we are flawed humans running flawed organizations making flawed decisions but that doesn’t mean we should negate the positives because of the negatives. Lets look at today, lets look and see what they are doing today. Should we be weary, sure, perhaps, I prefer the “trust but verify” approach.

Today, Microsoft has been saying that they “heart” Linux. Cynically, you can say, yeah, they heart the money they get from developing and licensing technology for Linux. That is what business does. Now they are building a browser, Microsoft Edge, for Linux. It is based on Chromium and therefore reducing some of the technical liabilities associated with using their own web engine. Would I have preferred they used Firefox’s Gecko engine? Sure, that would have possibly been better but I can’t really say. I think, no matter what Microsoft did, it would cause backlash in the community.

The bottom Line is, Edge is good, it’s real good. I am nothing short of impressed by how it performs. This browser may still be in the “Dev” channel, but it is shockingly good. If I had to choose between Edge and Chrome for my corporate sponsored web browser, I would choose Edge as it does not chomp system resources up like Chrome.

What I Like

The installation process and package manager integration couldn’t be any better. I have already received updates to the browser and Zypper didn’t have a single issue with it. I certainly wasn’t expecting issues but you never know. The bottom line is, openSUSE is a “first-class” Microsoft Edge citizen!

The Edge Browser is a high performance application. It is shockingly lean and fast. If I had to choose between Chrome and Edge, I would choose Edge. The performance and memory usage improvement is not insignificant. I need more time on the browser to give a better performance evaluation and do some side by side tests against my current Firefox preference. Since Microsoft has made openSUSE a first-class citizen means that I am going to do my part to give them a hand in usage reports and the like.

The settings interface may be my favorite I have seen. It is laid out as such that it makes sense to navigate. There isn’t any digging to get to what you want to customize. This does support the claim that it is an easily customizable browser. I say, well done! 

What I Don’t Like

Although you are given a very nice dark theme, it is not my favorite. Also, since I am into the green highlights, I would prefer the theme integrates better into the desktop. This is the only spot that Chrome has an slightly higher mark.

This is a mixed opinion, but I wish there was more in the Edge browser extension repository. You are essentially directed to the Chrome store for things where Edge is lacking. The upshot is, you have access to all the Chrome extensions. Edge is based on the same Blink web engine as Chromium / Chrome in effect, reducing the technical burden on development and opening up a world of extensions. My biggest concern is that the market seems to be drifting to a single browser engine and doesn’t look good for the future of Firefox.

I am not currently able to log into my Microsoft account, which was a known issue. It would be nice if that was working but I am willing to bet that this will be fixed. When this is fixed, I am certainly going to see how well all the associated services work.

This is a nitpick, but the letter casing on “openSUSE” was wrong on the documentation… yeah, I’m certainly grasping at straws to come up with a fourth thing I didn’t like about Edge.

I highly recommend giving Edge a try. If you don’t like Microsoft and refuse to use any of its products, then don’t use it. At the same time, if someone else likes it, let them like it. It’s not your computer anyway.

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

I can’t help but to be so super excited about using FISH for my terminal. It makes the terminal alive and interactive. The “F” in FISH should really be “fun” because of how it helps guide you through commands as well as it does. FISH is able to parse the man pages and help you build a proper command to accomplish whatever terminal task you are doing. The Tab key become so much more powerful opening up a menu of options that are easily understandable. It is truly an amazing improvement and if I had my way, this would be the default shell in openSUSE.

I have been totally fine with using Bash, I started on CSH in the HP Unix days, when I went to Linux, I was introduced to Bash and I thought it was pretty great. What I appreciated was the tab-completion on commands. I had heard about ZSH and FISH but since I didn’t have a problem with Bash, I had no desire to change my shell. The interactive nature of FISH makes using anything in the terminal so much better and dare I say, “fun”. Maybe instead of “Friendly” the F in FISH should stand for “Fun”. I really enjoy the terminal a lot more and I believe that making this the default shell for not just openSUSE but all distributions would really help with greater adoption with living in the terminal.

Branded vs Unbranded Laptop Batteries

I have often been cheap on many of my decisions. Since I do have a bit of an addiction to all things tech, I try to do it as least cost prohibitive as possible. That has also gone for batteries for my laptop. I purchased a replacement battery on eBay that was unbranded from my Dell Latitude E6440 to save a few bucks. Not only did it arrive broken, as well as the replacement, the computer didn’t like it. This is like the last unbranded battery I purchased. It would have an affect on the computer performance. The result would often be forcing the CPU to be capped at around 800Mhz. Popping the battery out or using a real Dell Battery and the CPU performance is back to where it should be. The battery also was only at an estimated 94% of life left in the first week, after a week or so, 88% and three weeks later, 78%. Also, these knock off batteries don’t seem to hold up for very long. I had a similar issue with my Latitude D630 as well. The battery would only hold up for three to four months, tops. There is a common thread so I changed my ways.

I purchased a genuine Dell battery this time. A real battery that has the Dell name imprinted on it. The battery health is 100% and there isn’t any crazy CPU governing. It may have taken me 10 years, but I finally learned my lesson. Sometimes, genuine is the better way to go.

Halloween Festive Lights

For the benefit of the towns folk and the trick or treaters, using my Linux-powered Festive Lights, I did a sequence to Ghostbusters with which I was ultimately not pleased. The main reason being, I ran out of time in getting some additional pixel lights mounted and the purple string of LEDs did not flash in time with the musical sequence as I had expected. Any of the effects that were directed towards the pixel LEDs did just as they were supposed to do so that worked out.

One passer-byer asked me how I did it and since I didn’t want to have to give him a full explanation, I just said, as a matter of fact, “Linux”. He accepted that answer and carried on. Maybe he will become curious and look into it but chances are, he will completely dismiss what I said and go on to consume the more traditional forms of entertainment more easily digested.

I am getting ready for the big dance now, this year. I will be adding a lot by means of pixel bulbs on my house. It will likely be a good show and I look forward to what I will be able to share.

BDLL Followup

The bulk of the conversation on BDLL was discussion Utilities and what people use. Rocco was absent so Dan ran the show. The discussion is always intersting, at least, it is for my nerd brain and what I found most interesting how sour some people watching became when we talked positively of the Microsoft Edge Browser. BDLL got its largest number of down-votes I have ever seen and I can’t help but wonder, why?

There were a few visceral comments in the dislike for Canonical as well which I find incredibly disappointing. Canonical has done so much for the Linux Desktop in pushing the design, concepts and emphasizing the need for polish. They have greatly improved application accessibility to many Linux distributions though Snap and do a lot to encourage development on Linux. Do I agree with everything they do? Nope, but I agree with their mission and you have to look at their character as a company, not focus on one or few decisions with which I do not agree.

Microsoft is putting time, people and resources into the Linux desktop. They have given us Microsoft Teams and Visual Studio Code to name a couple. Now they are building a browser, Edge, for Linux as well. Am I a fan of telemetry, no or rather, it depends. If I can give them information to improve my personal experience, yes. I also like it that they are going up against the likes of Chrome as well. Although, they both use the Blink web engine, there is some significant variation in the user experience that is quite welcome.

I am a little disconcerted by the amount of dislike for any company putting resources into the Linux desktop. I understand the lack of trust but to out right show contempt for it is just not beneficial to anyone.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE Community to Have Kickoff Session for Leap 15.3

The openSUSE community is inviting all stakeholder to join the kickoff for Leap 15.3 on November 4th of this year. This is an invitation to package maintainers, contributors, and open source developers to join the community with a virtual meeting at:

https://meet.opensuse.org/LeapKickoff.

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Computer Entrepreneurs (1984)

The computer industry has brought wealth to many people at various levels. Some starting companies that go on to be enormously successful like Apple. Some were able to make great livings and gain historic notoriety many others have fallen into the relative obscurity as time has marched on. The 1970s gave rise to the computer entrepreneurs, mostly wearing, at the time whatever they wanted and just looking to create the best product possible for themselves, as in the case of Steve Wozniak. He was free to define the project as he saw fit so was able to explore and learn. Changes in the early 1980s shifted the industry to become a lot more professional.

The computer industry went from garage bound to billions of dollars in an incredibly short time. Wosniak was very humble about his beginnings and the foolishness of corporations looking down on upstarts, though, largely software upstarts at this time.

It was in the first 10 years or so of the fledgling industry that anyone with the knowledge and a few hundred dollars could start building hardware devices and people would have enough interest to commit dollars to it. The technically creative expressions were wide and varied, also largely incompatible with one another. Very few technically creative products being produced in the world by 1984 and things had already, largely, become commoditized. The computer was becoming more like and appliance similar to a refrigerator or washer where economies of scale were necessary to have a successful business model.

In 1984, it was not believed likely that there could be any new garage or hobby manufacturers but belief in software upstarts were absolutely possible due to the lower economic threshold requiring an application go to market as opposed to a new computer.

Adam Osborn, formerly of Osborn computers, made the statement that there isn’t room for new manufacturers, that business was locked up by and the computer is no longer “high tech” where price and reliability was the driving factor. He also stated that there will never be an IBM in software because you are dealing with $50 products and because of human nature, people will want something very different from one another.

Osborn went on to say that the computers collecting dust and no longer being used were ZX80 and ZX81 but largely served their purpose in the curiosity of getting people interested in the computer revolution. The Commodore 64 was collecting dust for reliability reasons and people just buying new machines because they were so inexpensive. Another guest stated that the IBM clone companies won’t make it because they are not delivering anything new.

It is interesting, looking at this from a historical perspective as IBM is no longer in the PC business and sold it all off because they were not able to hang. There was a software “IBM” called Microsoft or maybe now it is Google, perhaps it is Apple that is, in a way, the giant of today.

Today people are saying things like there is no room for another mobile platform or another desktop environment or another search provider or another social media platform. People are continually making these faulty assumptions and they are largely believed until they are no longer true.

Atari used to be the defacto video game standard until Nintendo and Sega battled it out, only for Sony and Microsoft to gobble up much of the gaming industry and crushing the likes of the Amiga CD32 and Sega Dreamcast.

Think about it, Yahoo and AOL once ruled the Internet and Microsoft was the only seriuos, game in town for office products. The industry is always changing. Linux is now dominant on many areas of technology and Microsoft has pivoted, in many ways, from the desktop and office applications to server or cloud based offerings. IBM purchased Red Hat and pushes open source solutions.

The bottom line is, no one knows what the future holds, just because a company holds the lead in any area, doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. This industry is always changing, growing, contracting, morphing and technology is finding new ways to solve problems and waste time. Hang on, enjoy it, stay flexible and like what you like.

Final Thoughts

Not everything in the world is going to be exactly what you want. In fact, it may very well be that what you want does not align with the majority of people. Does that mean you are wrong or they are wrong? No, it means you are a different person. You must find a way to show kindness to everyone, no matter what they prioritize. I believe you have to have faith in people. Short term, things might look bleak but long term, the good ideas will come to the surface. Discern was is good from what is not good and make decisions that you can live with, long term. Be a good neighbor in the digital world as well as the real world. A combination of kindness, patience and grace will ultimately win in every situation.

Ventoy | Multi-ISO Bootable USB Drive Made Easy

From time to time, I like to try a new distribution of Linux, not because I am dissatisfied with openSUSE as that is NOT the case but like going to another town to visit and see what culinary options they have to offer. I like to try out another Plasma distribution or something that is quite different than what I am used to using. Part of the fun of Linux is all the options and therefore, I want to peruse the buffet from time to time. Also, as a non-card carrying member of the BDLL community, we do these weekly “challenges” and I like to participate from time to time in that.

The annoying part about testing distributions is that I have amassed a collection of USB flash drives with various distributions on it and I am often fumbling finding one that I don’t want to write over. The solution, Ventoy. This allows me to have multiple distributions on one USB drive and I also do not have to write the images to the device. I just have to drag and drop the ISO right onto. The system will scan the device recursively so I can still keep everything organized into folders.

This is now my solution for all ISOs. I am going to put them right onto this as opposed to having them litter my /home partition.

Download the tar.gz and take note as to where you chose to download Ventoy. You will have to extract that archive. Using something like the Dolphin file manager, that is only a right-click away.

Alternatively, you can use the tar command in the terminal

tar xvzf ventoy*.tar.gz

Using a terminal, navigate to that location in the folder with the Ventoy executable, it is important you do so else the command later won’t work for you.

Keep in mind, your version may vary as this does continue to tick away.

Installation

This is not an application you need to install to your system. It is a shell script that you can execute from the terminal and since the terminal is a happy place, you should enjoy this process.

First I checked to make sure I was getting the correct device. There are a couple ways you can go about doing that. Using the File Manger, like Dolphin, navigating to the drive to right-click and get the properties.

Or you can go the terminal route and type in:

lsblk

Just as a note, I used “grep sd” because the snap packages clutter things up.

I do want to emphasize that you really need to know your system and what drives you have already attached. I know that I have 3 separate devices so “a“, “b” and “c” will already be claimed by my root, home, and bay storage.

Once you have determined the drive, in my case, I have sdd so I would replace sdX with sdd in the statement below.

sudo sh ./Ventoy2Disk.sh -i /dev/sdX -s

Where “X” is the last digit of the drive.

In this case where -i is to install and -s is to enable secure boot support.

Using Ventoy

The only thing you have to do at this point is drag and drop an ISO of a Linux distribution that you would like to install on a machine. In my case, I would like to install openSUSE Leap 15.2, so that is what I have put on the USB drive.

That is all there is to it. Now you can take this USB drive and install to your hearts content on as many systems as you would like. It should be noted that not every ISO is compatible with Ventoy. I am going to make second note here and say that this is the only way to easily install Windows 10, not for me but doing tech support. So, Ventoy is a life saver.

Update

Lets assume you already have Ventoy installed, you can update the Ventoy USB drive very simply.

sudo sh ./Ventoy2Disk.sh -u /dev/sdX

Final Thoughts

Ventoy is a fantastic utility, especially if you are regularly or even semi-regularly installing operating systems on machines. Setting up Ventoy is not difficult, so long as you understand the The installation is not difficult, so long as you understand the particulars. Since this isn’t something I would do every day, this little blathering is another note to future me and hopefully it works well for present you.

References

https://www.ventoy.net/

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

I am not one to jump on any bandwagon or get excited over anything unless I have good reason. I don’t generally get too excited about browsers. I have found them frustrating, to say the least. In the beginning of the last decade, Google Chrome came onto the scene in spectacular fashion. It was light, fast and lean. It felt like a breath of browser fresh air. I loved it. Then the bloat came. To keep our definitions straight, I consider bloat to be anything that causes significant loss of system performance or makes using your system less enjoyable (not software installed you don’t use, that can be plucked out). Chrome became that in spades. For the last 4 years or so, it has been a slow, crashy, system-interfering browser, therefore, I have been using Firefox and Falkon as my go-to browsers. I only used Chrome for work and use it sparingly now.

My contentment with the browser scene has been rather low as of late. Firefox has been nice due to the privacy features and container tabs which is not yet (if ever) available on Edge. Since that is a required feature for for me on safe web-browsing, I don’t see Edge knocking Firefox off the top of my browser mountain.

Bottom Line Up Front, Edge is good, it’s real good. I am nothing short of impressed by how it performs. This browser may still be in the “Dev” channel, but it is shockingly good.

Installation

Installation is easy, assuming you are familiar with the process in openSUSE. Start off by downloading the RPM from here:

Microsoft Edge Download

The Beta is not yet available. What is available is the Dev Channel version of Microsoft Edge, in a nutshell, this is the weekly update of the application and is not yet considered “stable.” Knowing this, I will be forgiving of any little oddities.

Since I run openSUSE, that is the version I selected. with the little drop down arrow. Should you be running a different distribution, you will have to adjust the installation process accordingly.

Read through the license terms and if you agree, select “Accept and download”. Take note of where you download the RPM file. Personally, I have a folder ~/Downloads/rpms where I keep such loose-leaf packages.

If you would like to avoid the terminal (which I don’t understand why anybody would), the method of graphically installing it is to use YaST Software. This is easily done with a right-click on the RPM and selecting Open With > YaST Software.

It should be noted that once the process is complete, you will have a new repository labeled, “microsoft-edge-dev”. This under-development browser will be neatly placed in the correct category in your menu as well.

This was a very painless process and surprisingly short. So far, I would give this a thumbs up in the good experience department.

First Run and Impressions

I have mixed feelings about the initial run of Microsoft Edge. It is a clean first impression that lets you know immediately that you can customize it. In short, it looks modern and what you would expect from a newer application.

After you accept with the option of sending usage data or not, you are then given three options for how you would like the browser to start: Inspirational, Informational and Focused. This was a delightfully welcome surprise to have such start page options.

I went with Informational but I think I will likely switch it to Focused in the near future as I find some of the information… irritating… Every time you start a new Tab, you will be presented with one of these three screen layouts. This can be changed in the settings later if you so choose.

I was greeted with a Microsoft Edge Dev Channel page. This was quite interesting, really, as it gave some insight as to how to get involved while making it clear that they are listening to users.

Edge Browser 08 Welcome to MS Edge LinuxI do like seeing a specific column, welcoming Microsoft edge users for Linux. They give you a list of known issues with the browser too. I like this very open approach that Microsoft is doing with the development of the Edge browser. This is almost strange and foreign to me. It is very welcoming but I can’t help but wonder. Has Microsoft truly turned over a new leaf and they do indeed ♥️ Linux or are they really a creepy old guy telling you he has ice cream in his basement? 

Regardless of my presupposition and admittedly tainted attitude due to my historical dealings with Microsoft, I like what I am reading, nay, I ♥️ what I am reading, how they are presenting the software and the project to the open source. Is there going to be telemetry? Probably, but how much is acceptable? I don’t have an answer to that nor am I exploring that immediately. I am of the belief that I should have the option of giving or not giving usage data. 9 times out of 10, I will give the organization or company usage statistics to help improve the software. I just happen to be annoyed if I am not given the option. 

On a side note, my almost unhealthy obsession with the openSUSE project is a bit annoyed with how they cased “openSUSE”. I’ll let you look and see why.

The next stop on my Browser Journey was to look at my system settings and see what options are presented. My immediate and well deserved reaction was to be pleased with the layout. I find this to be far more welcoming than the Chrome default.

The difference here is that your menu is persistent on the side. It made it very clear as to where to go to make the adjustments. I will give Edge a nice underscore and highlight on promotion of customization. No options were hidden. I also want to give someone a nice pat on the back for the dark theme. Very nicely done. Although, I would have preferred a theme that took more from the desktop for better visual integration, as is what is offered by Chrome, but this is acceptable.

I appreciate that they have a focus on family safety. I don’t actually know how they implement this and it seems as though the options are tied in with the Bing search engine. I am pleased to see that Microsoft is putting such emphasis on the safety of kids and even if it is not the best available, it is at least a covered effort and I whole heatedly approve.

I am happy to see that when calling up the computer’s proxy settings, it pulled up the KDE Plasma module. Not that I do much with proxy configurations anymore but I do know that this is necessary for some people. 

The next part of my Browser Journey was to try out some websites that I frequent. Now was the time to serve this browser a “hot supper” of sites and observe. My list was everything from multimedia heavy sites, to forums, social media and the like.

Very importantly, the site “CubicleNate.com” seems to render just fine. I didn’t notice any unwelcome behavior with it. For all half a dozen or so people that actually visit the site will be please to know that the Edge Browser works fantastically well.

I went to see how to change the default search engine for the browser and I noticed that “CubicleNate” has an entry and I am not sure how that happened. Perhaps the browser picked up on the search function within my site. More exploration on this is necessary.

I left the provider at Bing for the time being. Changing it to CubicleNate would be pretty useless though, kind of cool… I suppose. I am wondering how it was added to the list, how the browser was able to parse the website and add it without any user effort.

A real neat feature of the Edge Browser is this “collections” system. It looks to me like a modified implementation of the bookmarks but that is a bit more friendly looking and easier to decipher what each website is as it has a thumbnail of the thing adjacent the site name.

The setup has a nice walk-through when you start using it. I am not super crazy about the Pintrest integration but I know a lot of people that would be very much into it. The collection system seems to have a lot of potential for making the organization of a lot of information more efficient. I don’t know that I would use this as it is locked into the Edge Browser system and I am not one to be locked into anything. Regardless, I see the value in this very much.

I have a concern about how it would perform, long term. I wonder if it would bog down significantly as you use load it up with data. I might be making foolish assumptions but it is something to note.

It was time to try out the collections system. Adding to the collection is as intuitive as adding a bookmark with any other browser. It just happens to have a more friendly feel to it. I like this rethinking of the bookmarks and adding additional features and functionality to it.

I have created a category called “Awesome Websites” which is actually pretty meaningless but I just wanted to give it a spin and get some impressions about this Edge Browser exclusive feature.

Performance

The performance of this browser is surprisingly peppy. It is as though they super charged Chrome. I am not one to tout the performance of a browser. I have become underwhelmed in my browser experiences and therefore lukewarm on any browser.

I don’t know what Edge uses internally for multimedia. I don’t know if the codecs are baked in our of it uses system libraries but I can say with incredible confidence is that everything I tried works and there isn’t any hint of screen tearing when watching videos. Seeing that it looks great is important.

Memory Usage

Not a very scientific test, I ran Edge for a few hours and opened up 28 tabs. I had YouTube, Facebook, Instagram open as I know they are incredible offenders of chomping up copious amounts of precious RAM. The result of having it open and taking it for a spin for several hours, the browser only took up about 800 MiB. I am not sure why it is so much less than Chrome but I was very impressed. This is not what I was expecting at all. I need to do more testing in this regard but so far, I am very happy with it.

What I Like

The installation process and package manager integration couldn’t be any better. I have already received updates to the browser and Zypper didn’t have a single issue with it. I certainly wasn’t expecting issues but you never know. The bottom line is, topenSUSE is a “first-class” Microsoft Edge citizen!

The Edge Browser is a high performance application. It is shockingly lean and fast. If I had to choose between Chrome and Edge, I would choose Edge. The performance and memory usage is not insignificant. I need more time on the browser to give a better performance evaluation and do some side by side tests against my current Firefox preference. Since Microsoft has made openSUSE a first-class citizen means that I am going to do my part to give them a hand in usage reports and the like.

The settings interface may be my favorite I have seen. It is laid out as such that it makes sense to navigate. There isn’t any digging to get to what you want to customize. This does support the claim that it is an easily customizable browser. I say, well done! 

What I Don’t Like

Although you are given a very nice dark theme, it is not my favorite. Also, since I am into the green highlights, I would prefer the theme integrates better into the desktop. This is the only spot that Chrome has an slightly higher mark.

This is a mixed opinion, but I wish there was more in the Edge browser extension repository. You are essentially directed to the Chrome store for things where Edge is lacking. The upshot is, you have access to all the Chrome extensions. Edge is based on the same Blink web engine as Chromium / Chrome in effect, reducing the technical burden on development and opening up a world of extensions. My biggest concern is that the market seems to be drifting to a single browser engine and doesn’t look good for the future of Firefox.

I am not currently able to log into my Microsoft account, which was a known issue. It would be nice if that was working but I am willing to bet that this will be fixed. When this is fixed, I am certainly going to see how well all the associated services work.

This is a nitpick, but the letter casing on “openSUSE” was wrong on the documentation… yeah, I’m certainly grasping at straws to come up with a fourth thing I didn’t like about Edge.

Final Thoughts

I will keep Edge on my system and expand my testing of it. I want to see how it performs on lesser capable machines next. My experience on my Dell Latitude E6440 running openSUSE Tumbleweed has been spectacular. It far exceeded my expectations and will be watching this further develop. The fact that Microsoft is now building Edge for Linux is great and I am also extremely pleased to see that they have made openSUSE a first-class citizen.

Regardless of any apprehension one may have with using a browser built by Microsoft, I highly recommend giving it a spin. At the very worst, you won’t like it and remove it from your system. I think you will be impressed with the performance and resource usage. this is not the Internet Explorer of days past. I truly believe that Microsoft has done a great job on this and they are certainly raising the standards for browsers on Linux.

References

Microsoft Edge Download
openSUSE.org
Firefox browser
Falkon browser

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

BASH has been good to me and I have enjoyed my time with BASH very much. I have learned so much about the inner workings of Linux through the terminal and BASH has been there my whole experience. “Tab” completion has been a marvelous gift to the terminal user experience. I have never had a complaint about BASH and therefore never looked elsewhere.

On the episode of BDL from 17 Oct 2020, I was told to try FISH as it would change my terminal life. I didn’t really believe it but proceeded to install it anyway. I also wasn’t ready to commit to it so I modified a profile in Konsole to use Fish instead of Bash. Typing in one solitary command and I was sold.

Installation

The installation of FISH takes but one step. In the terminal type:

sudo zypper install fish

If you just want to try it, you can just run fish from the terminal and you are immediately in it.

Difference

Fish helps you along, give you hints, pressing tab gives you options and defines the options which removes the ambiguity in the commands. On the surface, this doesn’t look any different, that is, until you do what you would normally do in the terminal and see the difference. This may not be the greatest example but it essentially shows the improvements in the interaction.

As you start typing fish predicts the command based on your executed command history. In a sense, it learns and predicts your inputs which is very handy. Think about all the different things you do in the terminal. How many times have you reviewed your history to remember the exact syntax of a command you previously ran. This will make that process so much more enjoyable.

What is absolutely fantastic about FISH is how easy it is to configure. Simply run:

fish_config

and you are presented with the ability to easily configure your options graphically. At the same time, you are able to view the config file and manually input changes as well.

Switch to Fish | Bash is out

Lets say you are running Konsole for you terminal emulator. Changing it to use FISH instead of BASH is as simple as going into Settings > Configure Konsole

Under Profiles, select the default profile and “Edit” it.

The command should be changed to /usr/bin/fish

If you would like to check before hand to see if that is indeed the installed location of the FISH executable, run this in terminal to be sure:

which fish

Switch to Fish on openSUSE

To make the changes system wide, that is also an easy process. As root run the following command

chsh -s /usr/bin/fish

Additionally, you can change your user account default shell in this way, where in this case “cubiclenate” would be your user name.

chsh -s /usr/bin/fish cubiclenate

Keep in mind that user accounts may still be using BASH depending on how they were set up. Since the terminal should be a personal choice, it is totally understandable that the user accounts could vary.

Final Thoughts

I have been totally fine with using Bash, I started on csh in the HP Unix days, when I went to Linux, I was introduced to Bash and I thought it was pretty great. What I appreciated was the tab-completion on commands. I had heard about Zsh and Fish but since I didn’t have a problem with Bash, I had no desire to change my shell. The interactive nature of FISH makes using anything in the terminal so much better and dare I say, “fun”. Maybe instead of “Friendly” the F in FISH should stand for “Fun”. I really enjoy the terminal a lot more and I believe that making this the default shell for not just openSUSE but all distributions would also make the terminal far less scary for more people to use.

Reference

OSTechnix – Install Fish
fish on software.opensuse.org
3 Ways to change a user default shell

Noodlings | Inspiration Is Around You

21st Noodling of jam packed excitement… not really.

This is the 21st hot-pocket-sized podcast that won’t scorch roof of your mouth.

I have a small collection of vintage or near vintage gaming consoles. I lean mostly in the Nintendo party as I think they have a great grasp on what is fun. I don’t always agree with many of their business practices but the entertainment they have provided is multi-generationally successful. In order to lower the wasted time of hooking these systems up to enjoy and better organize their presentation, I built a Gaming Rack that was inspired by watching a YouTube channel called Retro Recipes. Seeing how nicely laid out and easily enjoyed they were set up, I made the decision that I must adapt this idea to my little world.

I’ll address this in greater length in the future but suffice to say, the creation of this Gaming Rack has made coexisting with lots of tech in the common areas of my house so much better. The big win was a place to keep all the tablets, handhelds and mobile devices so that they don’t linger in the kitchen or on the dining room table. They have a place to sit and charge and it is pretty fantastic.

The primary item of note here is, you can find inspiration all around you. The final result of my gaming rack, largely, isn’t anything like what I saw on the Retro Recipes channel but the purpose and intent is very much the same. I appreciate inspiration from wherever it materializes.

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to a mug of hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.

WTTR.in | Weather Forecast in the Terminal

I have had an affinity for all things terminal in my old… or middle age. Not that I have ever spent all that much time in the terminal back in the 80s and 90s but as I transitioned into the Linux world, I started to enjoy the terminal and wanted to learn it.

What I am most interested in by this is the quick and efficient retrieval of the weather forecast. Since this is a terminal application, the actual limitations are few of what can access this information. The Commodore 64 with a text only web browser should be able to view this and certainly any other computer that came after it. In effect, this makes nearly any computer built, still quite relevant for modern tasks, or at least, it certainly helps keep computers useful.

Being able to access weather data quickly in the terminal is far preferred over using a web page as this is much quicker and does not gobble up internet bandwidth and cast a net of trackers at you.

I was made aware or rather re-aware of this information by some of the folks over at The Otherside Podcast Network.

Rickroll in the Terminal

When I was watching a YouTube channel “Adrian’s Digital Basement“, I noticed a dancing dude on some kind of small device in the background, on his wall of interesting things.

You know, I am seeing a pattern of me snooping on YouTubers…

I took me a bit of searching to realize that this was the “Rickroll” and out of curiosity, I had to see if it was available as a terminal command. Sure enough, this absolutely is a thing in the terminal and I had to Rickroll myself!

I found the project on Github, ran the commands and got an incredible laugh out of it. In an effort to not lose this again, I made a quick blathering about it on CubicleNate.com

There is nothing of any real value on this at all.

BDLL Followup

Talk on application preferences. What I got out of this was the push to use fish instead of bash for my shell. Fish stands for “Friendly Interactive SHell” So, calling it fish shell is a like ATM Machine.

In short this truly revolutionizes the terminal interface. This takes the terminal from good to awesome. The bottom line of what makes this awesome, and I will create a blathering post about this later, is that it holds your hand in using commands in the shell. It has parsed the man pages so when you start entering a command and press the tab key, it does more than just display what command you may be entering, it gives you the options and descriptions of what it is, continue to press tab and you will cycle through the similar commands. It’s

openSUSE Corner

Introducing the Open Build Service Connector

Open Build Service Connector is built around bookmarks of packages. Individual packages or whole projects can be checked out directly from within Visual Studio Code, similar as to how you would with osc.

This works well with the openSUSE project philosophy of collaboration which is at the heart of all things openSUSE and fundamentally built into the Open Build Service.

Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa Update in Tumbleweed

Some of the major package updates in the last week of snapshots include newer versions of the Linux Kernel, Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa, Apparmor, ImageMagick, AutoYaST and many others. Several CVEs and bug fixes have been addressed and the Mesa graphics library updates to support Intel Rocket Lake platform

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Speech Synthesis (1984)

I think we often take for granted about how well speech-to-text and text-to-speech works these days on rather small hand held devices. I know that I have become unreasonably upset with my mobile when it didn’t translate anything or translated what I said poorly. I have to stop and look back in time at the history of speech synthesis and compare it to the size and limitations of the machines in 1984 at the commencement of commercially available solutions for speech synthesis.

Although not covered in this episode of Computer Chronicles, there was an application called “SAM” which means, Software Automatic Mouth, published in 1982 by “Don’t Ask Software”. I played with it a lot on the Commodore 64 and what I found out more recently was that this really taxed the little 64kib machine which is why it had to blank the screen when speaking.

SAM on the Web

The applications for speech synthesis in 1984 were a bit of a stretch in some ways. I’m not sure if it was the large awkward microphone or the obvious shoehorning of it’s usage for checking your stock portfolio but it did seem a bit clunky. Other uses, like the speak and spell, I thought was good but a camera or my car speaking to me is not really something I would appreciate today.

Could you imagine your camera telling you that you need to use a flash when taking a picture at a wedding?

The Speak and Spell is, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of a fantastically well executed consumer product. Though I don’t enjoy my Speak and Spell much as an adult, it is fun to pull it out from time to time and see how poorly my spelling still is after so many decades on this planet.

If speech synthesis is of any interest to you, I recommend watching this and seeing formative years of computer speech synthesis to gain a bit of appreciation on where we are today. Maybe you totally appreciate it but I know that my attitude falters from time-to-time and it’s good to look back and see how far we have journeyed.

Final Thoughts

Inspiration is all around you, it is just a matter of you taking the time to pause for a moment and look for it. There are truly creative minds out there, freely sharing ideas that you can apply in your life to make things just a bit better. Pause and appreciate the bits of inspiration throughout computing history that have made our tech lives so very interesting and fun. For a nerd, this is truly the best time to be alive.