Power Cycling PCIe Devices from the Command Line

I hate to say this but Linux software is not perfect. I know, I know, but nothing could possibly be wrong with openSUSE, right? Well, Linux and all the open source tools are created by people and since we are flawed, so are our creations. Sometimes, things can slip through the quality assurance process at openSUSE and however rare, they do happen.

The Problem

One of my problems that has shown it’s ugly head is an issue with the wifi driver. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it cannot authenticate. Another situation is, sometimes, you may have an issue passing a device to a Virtual Machine and it doesn’t come back quite right.

The Solution

In short, if you have a device on the PCI bus that needs to be removed and added again, there are some ways to do that. To get the PCI device ID, run:

/sbin/lspci

Take note of whatever your troublesome device is from here.

Method 1

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/$NUMBER/reset

This should reset the device and have it behave, but as you may know from your experience in having used the original Nintendo Entertainment System, sometimes, it just isn’t good enough.

Example

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/0000\:03\:00.0/reset

In my case, that will send the wifi network module to reset. It may or may not solve your issue.

Method 2

This one absolutely works. It is a bit more… brute force but it does indeed solve any issues I have.

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/$NUMBER/remove
sleep 2
echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/rescan

The sleep 2 is only necessary if you are copying and pasting into the terminal or creating a script. It is just a pause before it rescans the PCI bus. How I used it and I did create a script for this that I can invoke if I have problems.

Example

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/0000\:03\:00.0/remove
sleep 2
echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/rescan

Final Thoughts

Software isn’t perfect, I have historically had issues on more than one distribution with PCI devices requiring a reset. This method works with openSUSE Tumbleweed in the year 2019. If this should change, I will update this post.

References

https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/73908/how-to-reset-cycle-power-to-a-pcie-device

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NetRunner | Review from an openSUSE User

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

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

Installation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Run and Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

References

NetRunner Download
Calamares Project
BigDaddyLinux Live Discorse on NetRunner

Noodlings | BTRFS, Ultra Widescreens and Floppy Drives

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

The 7th Noodling place of unrest

BTRFS

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

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

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

Ultra Widescreen Monitors

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

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

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

End to Floppy Drives

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

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

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

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

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

Sad Commodore 64 News

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

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

BDLL Follow Up

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

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

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

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

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

BigDaddyLinux Live 19 October 2019

openSUSE Corner

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

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191009 20191011 20191012 20191014

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

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

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

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

The Project Name Change Vote Continues

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

For Keeping the project name

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

Reasons in favor of the name change

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

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

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

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

Manjaro | Review from an openSUSE User

There are many flavors of Linux, we call them distributions but in a way, I think “flavor” is a good word for it as some some are a sweet and delightful experience while with others a lingering, foul taste remains. Manjaro has not left a foul taste in any way. In full disclosure, I am not a fan of Arch based Linux distributions. I appreciate the idea of this one-step-removed Gentoo and for those that really like to get into the nitty-gritty bits Arch is good for that. My problem with Arch is the lack of quality assurance. The official repository on Arch Wiki describes the process of how core packages need to be signed off by developers before they are allowed to move from staging into the official repositories. With the rate at which packages come in, it is almost an impossibility that through manual testing software will continue to work well with other software as some dependencies may change. Admittedly, I don’t use it daily, outside of VMs for testing nor do I have a lot of software installed so this is not going to be a problem I am likely to experience.

Manjaro, from my less than professional opinion, is a slightly slower rolling Arch that seems to do more testing and the process, from what I understand, is similar. Developers have to approve the packages before they are moved into the official repositories. I also understand that there isn’t any automated QA to perform any testing so this is all reliant on user or community testing, which, seemingly, Manjaro is doing a good job of it.

My dance with Manjaro is as part of a BigDaddyLinuxLive Community challenge, to give it a fair shake and share your experience.

This is my review of Manjaro with the Plasma Desktop. Bottom Line Up Front, this is quite possibly the safest and most stable route if you like the Arch model. In the time I ran it, I didn’t have any issues with it. The default Plasma Desktop is quite nice, and the default themes are also top notch. The graphical package manager works fantastically well and you do have Snap support right out of the gate. It’s truly a great experience. Was it good enough to push me from my precious openSUSE? No, but it has made for a contender and something about which to think.

Installation

The installation process was as smooth as room temperature butter and felt incredibly refined. The installation media greets with a very nicely themed boot loader to which the default option is to boot Manjaro. Very quickly you are brought into a live session where you can begin to do some exploration.

Since I was doing this in a VM, I did have some VM-isms, that made this look less than stellar, initially. Since I wanted to get to installation, straight away, I went right for that icon on the desktop. Nice to see that the icon was on the desktop, not hidden away giving you a scavenger hunt as your first objective for the installation. This is using the Calamares installer so it is incredibly straight forward and new-user approachable. You are initially asked for your language preference, then to set your location.

Your next objective in this installation is to select your keyboard layout. Then to set your partitions. My preference, for this installation was to Erase the disk and I didn’t add any Swap. Although, I recently learned that doing so is not the best idea for system stability.

You next step in this journey is to tell Majaro, who you are in the Users step. Here you will enter your name, your username, the name of your computer, set your user password and administrator password. Here you can set the system to log in automatically and to use the same password for the administrator account. The next step is a somewhat new entry into this process, as I’m told, but you can now select your Office Suite. The three options are: No Office Suite, LibreOffice, and FreeOffice.

I selected FreeOffice for two reasons, one, there was quite the hullabaloo about Manjaro offering it. I am personally quite happy with LibreOffice and I like my options there so this was the perfect opportunity to get some impressions of it.

Finally, you are presented the Installation Summary with a final Sanity Check before proceeding. I always appreciate the sanity check

Then the installation will commence, you can sit back or leave, whatever you want to do at this point. Alternatively, you can read the Manjaro propaganda and become acquainted with the world into which you are stepping.

Here is where I put the image that tells you to reboot… but… I didn’t take that snapshot.

First run and Impressions

Just like the live media version, the installed version of Plasma looks fantastic. Although, to be fair, it is a chore to make Plasma not look fantastic.

This time, however, I wanted to do some exploration of the Welcome and also leave it set to launch at start so that I can return to it on my next boot. My first stop was at the center column, bottom row, Applications.

This curious application, called Manjaro Application Maintenance was highly structured and very easy to get around and understand what is going on. For those that like the “minimal” installation. They can very easily go here and remove all the bits they don’t want.

Next on my agenda was to perform updates. In this case, they have a graphical tool so the graphical tool, I decided to use. Warnings are never a point of concern, really, as they are just that, warnings, a spot to slow down and read the situation.

Here there were some warnings about packages being installed before the dependency. It’s odd that the package manager wouldn’t just fix that and reorder how the packages are installed but perhaps it is some sort of circular dependency and this is the warning of that. The updates proceeded but with one slight hitch.

I was not able to do as instructed on here as when I did go to the virtual terminal, I was greeted with nothing, no prompt or anything of that nature. Not a big deal, I just waited until there was no activity from the virtual machine and I sent the power off signal to safely power the thing down.

Upon rebooting the VM with Manjaro, I was once again greeted with the splendidly polished Display Manger and a login prompt. I logged in and everything was as I expected it. I do want to say that having Yakuake installed by default is a fine addition to Plasma. A quick F12 presents a terminal drop down that just screams all kinds of nerdy wonderfulness.

I then wanted to see how the process of installing applications would go with Manjaro. Since I didn’t want to install anything that would pull down a lot of packages, I went for something small that I didn’t really need, KPatience, a Soliaire card game. After all, Windows 3.11 had something similar installed by default.

When you select to install an application you are prompted for you password. This is not the administrator password but the user password. Whether or not that is more or less secure than the root password, I don’t know, but I thought that was worth noting. I also appreciate the “Transaction Summary” given. How that is different than an Installation Summary, I am not sure. Maybe this is a better word for it as you can install and remove applications and those actions combined are “transactions.” Something to think about.

I did have to change the Application Launcher to the Application Menu because… I just happen to find the Menu more appealing.

That is very easily done, as in any Plasma desktop, by right-clicking on the menu icon and selecting, Show Alternatives.

Another noteworthy feature of Manjaro is the Kernel Notifications. I don’t completely know what all this means, what is an “unsupported kernel” and to only notify if running an unsupported kernel but I do understand notifying of a new LTS Kernel. If I were going to take my flag in this distribution, I would recommend becoming well acquainted with this too. I imagine this could very much be the difference between a reboot and run and a reboot and flop.

I also want to congratulate the Manjaro team on a job well done with the Dark Breath theme. Although, when I say it, I feel like I’m saying “Breeze” with a lisp, the Dark Breath theme is so nicely done that I could reach out and give an e-high-five on how it looks. Different then the Breeze but equally as nice.

The desktop and Manjaro specific tools all feel well orchestrated. Aside from my upgrade hiccup, which I want to stress is a hiccup, I was able to keep flying along. I do want to note that the only other time I have seen that screen was when updating a system with proprietary Nvidia drivers on a previous main driver. It was almost a welcome back to see that little notice.

FreeOffice

Since I had to try FreeOffice out… though, without any office tasks to perform, I wanted to see how it looked and felt. Just on the surface because this is not a review of FreeOffice, just an impression. I was immediately impressed by the ease of picking your theme. Not only did you have the choice in dark or light themes, you also had a choice in the annoying ribbon layout or traditional and much more useful classic menus and toolbars.

The first application to click-around in this office suite was the word-processor called TextMaker. I really liked the presentation of it as it immediately gave me happy feelings. The ribbon layout was what you would expect but the part I didn’t care for was the additional menu bar of new, open, save, undo, redo, etc. I prefer the LibreOffice execution of that as it moves that inline with the File, Home, Insert, Layout etc… tabs. Not a big deal. I didn’t dig into it but I am sure that it is customizable to some degree.

The next application in this sweet suite of office tools is the spreadsheet application called PlanMaker. It has a similar feel as TextMaker and had the basic functions for which I would be using. I did find the ribbon a bit excessive on the screen real-estate but again, this is just an impression. I could very easily go back to the more efficient layout.

The last application in this suite is called simply Presentations and it also is about what I would expect. I didn’t create any presentations with it but the impressions by clicking about did give me the impression that I would be able to bore anybody with an unnecessary slide show.

The only thing I hadn’t checked yet was the file dialog. I must say, I did not like this. It was the only thing I didn’t like about FreeOffice on my tour of impressions. It was very 2002 in appearance and although I’m sure it is quite functional, it is not what I would consider modern. Although, the GTK dialog isn’t any better, so if we are comparing it to that I guess it’s fine. I would have preferred some sort of Plasma integration here so that it used the Plasma File Dialog.

Really, all applications and desktop environments should really use the Plasma file dialog, anything but that is a sore disappointment in user interface.

Overall, FreeOffice is nice, certainly very usable and has a nice polish to it. I don’t think I would replace LibreOffice with it as I do use the Draw and Math functions of that and I haven’t run into a compatibility issue in a long time. I am glad that Manjaro gave me the opportunity to kick the tires on it.

What I Like

I like the fact that Manjaro give the option, right out of the gate, to pick your office suite. I would haven’t ever tried anything other than LibreOffice had I not had the option. Although I have decided to continue to use LibreOffice, I appreciate being presented an alternative.

Pamac-CLI is a kind of shim to make Pacman not ridiculous. It converts all the nonsense commands of pacman into something that is human readable and intuitive. For example, to install a software package:

pamac install [options]

Which makes a lot more sense than

pacman -S [option]

For more information about pamac: https://forum.manjaro.org/t/pamac-cli/

Breath Dark theme is well done. It give Manjaro Plasma edition a unique feel but just every so subtly. Also, green is a great color to go with if you are going to set a highlight color.

Default software selection is very satisfactory, so much so that I had to find some oddball thing to install just to go through the process. I still prefer to have VLC over other media players and Firefox over other web browsers. I like that they chose to include Konversation for IRC and Steam for games.

A nice surprise was to see that SUSE Imagewriter was included on the Manjaro installation for writing images to Removable media. Interestingly, not even openSUSE includes that by default.

What I Don’t Like

It fundamentally still uses Arch as the base and although pamac-cli is a nice shim to offset the nonsense that is pacman. I do prefer having sensible and intuitive terminal commands. There are too many to remember, I don’t have the patience to faff with the game of scrabble in command options.

The Plasma screen locker crash did bother me a bit as and I’m not sure where the blame is to be had for that. I don’t have an nvidia driver so maybe the issue was with the package resolver (ahem, Pacman) that didn’t order things properly. I don’t know.

Manjaro used Ext4 for the file system. That means, I don’t know how I would roll back a bad update. I think running a rolling distribution without that safeguard is asking for trouble. For this alone, I am much relieved that I have BTRFS on my root file system for snapshots. Should anything go wrong, rolling back is trivial.

Final Thoughts

Manjaro is a fine distribution but it has the one glaring shortcoming that is, it is Arch based. Since I have had such a bad taste in my mouth for Arch, I just wouldn’t consider using this. Perhaps, if my first experience with Arch was Manjaro, things would be different. Had I not ever messed with Pacman maybe I wouldn’t be so obstinate about it. Although, fundamentally, I am not real confident in the QA process of Manjaro or any Arch based distribution. I would be more inclined to trust it if it was built on something like the Open Build Service with openQA automating the testing process to knock out most of the rough edges along with user testing.

For me, I will stick with my openSUSE Tumbleweed with my snapshot rollback system, should the automated and human testing allow something to slip through that takes my system down or I muck about, I can always undo it and keep sailing.

Just because I am over biased about Arch, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Manjaro a try. It is certainly well done and the developers have a fantastic passion for the project. That passion alone is almost enough to nullify all my reservations about the project.

References

https://manjaro.org/
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Official_repositories
https://forum.manjaro.org/t/pamac-cli/52787
https://discourse.bigdaddylinux.com/t/manjaro-18-1-oct-5-and-oct-12/389
Big Daddy Linux Live 12 Oct 2019
Big Daddy Linux Live European Edition 12 Oct 2019
Big Daddy Linux Live 05 Oct 2019
https://calamares.io/

Noodlings | Symphony, Power Tools and Storage

My 6th noodling might be my longest noodling yet. It started out a bit light but then after reading I just got a bit too excited. If you want to skip to the end where I do a little self-deprecation and ignore the meat of it, that is very understandable.

The 6th Noodling can be obtained here

Linux Symphony

I took my kids to the symphony this past Sunday. It was hugely beneficial to have the kids experience a symphonic performance. It made for a pretty decent lesson about the benefits of working together. When the orchestral members were warming up before they begin the performance there is a cacophony of sounds and although individually, the instruments sound nice, together it sounds like a mess. When the performance started and the conductor did his conducting, keeping everyone on pace and on the “same sheet of music” as it were, you could listen and imagine the story of events in the mind’s eye. Everything from serious and intense melodies to whimsical light hearted tones. Although my kids could only manage to sit through an hour of the performance, there were lots of lessons to be extracted about the benefits of working together.

How this can be applied to the Linux community is as such. When we work together, in harmony with one another, we can make for some amazing results. Whether it is the latest Ubuntu MATE, the newest release of Plasma or helping someone through a tech question, by working together in a kind and respectful tone we can achieve great things. I am of the belief that all Linux is good Linux and by making any one aspect better, we make it all better, regardless of the flavor of Linux or desktop you choose.

Let’s make some beautiful music

Dell Latitude E6440 Caddy Drive Bay

My primary machine that I am using I didn’t choose lightly, I wanted a lot of flexibility in a fairly small package. Since I like to test things in VM, I wanted to have the option of a third hard drive. What I discovered is that it doesn’t seem to matter how much storage I have available, I seem to fill it up. I am starting to think that maybe I have a problem.

I do clean out my drives from time to time but I find that the more space I have, the sloppier I am about cleaning up the cruft. I am preparing to build a system with a heck of a lot more storage and after making my hard drive purchases, I realized, I may have purchased too small of drives. If this is the case, I think I have a strategy to compensate for this.

I did create a YouTube video of the ease of using the drive bay for additional storage as I knew it would be a short thing and provide me an opportunity to edit something together. A consequence of the additional drive has resulted in me rarely poping in the optical drive. Perhaps my needs for optical media is fading?

Power Tools

I recently change over all my cordless power tools to the DeWalt 20V max line. I do spend a lot of time outside of the cubicle doing non-cubicle activities and I have recorded much of it and scripted some things out to share my findings and reasoning from the perspective of a Linux Geek. Although power tools are not strictly a nerdy activity, there is a lot of nerdiness to be had. My specific high points of what I find is that the price per tool combined with the watt-hour of use per charge and number of charges per battery made it the best bang for your buck. The other main factor is the variety of tools I have available to me with this one battery platform. In an effort to simplify my life, this is what I have chosen and so far, it has exceeded my expectations.

BDLL Follow up

One of the things I like about BigDaddyLinux Live is the discussion we have on there. Some of it, I don’t have much to contribute as it is either outside my area of expertise or maybe I am still forming my opinions. There were two topics that really engaged me last Saturday. The first being developing on Linux and the second on virtual memory or in Linux called Swap.

On development, there is a lot of negativity towards Electron applications from some in the Linux community. In short, an Electron application is a cross platform thing that allows a developer to make an application for Linux, MacOS and Windows. One of those things is really cool and the other two, not as much. The benefit is, it is an easy way to maintain a single codebase and maximize the number of platforms that can reached.

The draw backs are that Electron is quite inefficient. The storage space it takes up is fairly extensive and the RAM usage is also weighty. With newer computers, this is not an issue. If you have 16 or 32 GiB of RAM this isn’t an issue, if you have 2 or 4 GiB of RAM this can be an issue.

How-To Geek on Electron Applications

A discussion that start on the Discourse and made its way into the show was about using Swap in Linux when there is so much RAM available in modern systems. The question is to Swap or not to Swap and how much Swap and what kind of Swap. I recommend watching BDLL from 05 October 2019 for the extended discussion or going to the BDLL Discourse for opinions outside of mine.

Swap reminds me a lot of the bank switching that was common on 8-bit computers of old except instead of keeping the data in a switchable bank, this is putting it on a hard drive or SSD. The issue I find with Swap is if you are really taxing your system, you can end up with having a lot of disk thrashing that can really bring your system down to a crawl.

For my primary machine, I have set aside 17 GiB of Swap space, just in case. I have used it on more than one occasion… maybe due to Electron apps and it has come in handy when I haven’t paid attention to memory usage when using Google Chrome. Swap space on the two Acer AspireOne netbooks I set up for my kids gets used pretty regularly. Whenever using the a web browser they do dip into the swap space often.

Since I’ve been using Linux now for quite some time, I have the space to spare and I do take advantage of the hibernate to disk (or SSD) function from time to time, I set my system up with a Swap partition. It is an old fashion and inflexible approach and I am okay with that. The benefits of a swap file are probably greater but since openSUSE makes it very easy set up a Swap partition and I know what I am getting with it. That is what I will stick with, for now.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE Leap to SLE

An often forgotten bit of openSUSE that makes is rather remarkable is how closely the Leap project is with the SLE project. One of my good E-friends, Mauro, who does the Linux thing as a profession, not a hobby and home-gamer like me was telling me how easy it is to move a client from an unsupported openSUSE Leap system to a SUSE Linux Enterprise support contract without disruption.

I know that this is not possible with CentOS and Red Hat but with Canonical’s Ubuntu it is essentially the same distribution. What I find interesting is the different executions of each of the distributions of integrating community based projects with commercial offerings. My preference here is the [open]SUSE model as it seems like a cleaner approach, though I see the benefits of the Canonical method too.

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20190923 20190925 20190926 20190927

Many updates included gcc9 version 9.2.1, gcc8 version 8.3.1, gcc7 version 7.4.1, Plasma Framework 5.62.0, Plasma Workspace 5.16.5, Xorg-X11-server 1.20.5, Kernel 5.3.1 and several bug fixes around YaST and PulseAudio and a bug around not being able to duplex print with Okular.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20190923 a stable score of a 97; 20190925 a stable score of 98; 20190926 a stable score of 98; and 20190927 a moderate score of 83.

If you want to lock yourself on the latest Stable snapshot from the 26th of September:

tumbleweed switch --install 20190926

Project Name Change Vote

As of today, the polls are open for a name change on the project. I did cast my vote and after reading through the mailing list, there is a little bit if heat concerning the issue. Ultimately, the hope is that it is a clear in favor or not in favor of the name change. If it is closer to a 50-50 split, that can potentially be more problematic. I personally am hoping that we just keep the status quo. Although I do agree that some of the legal constraints with the relationship to SUSE can be problematic for end-user experience, things like codec installation and such. There are some benefits with the brand association, especially in respect to the SLE to Leap for those that are in the space of selling solutions.

Asia Summit 2019

The sixth openSUSE Asia Summit just concluded this past weekend. It took place at the Fakultas Teknik of the Universitas Udayana in Bali, Indonesia. There were a number of participants that traveled from 20 different nations around the world to join the students at the university. Students not only made their first contributions to open source technology but also volunteered with running the summit.

KDE and openSUSE

The Beta version of Plasma 5.17 was released with new features and improvements such as per-screen fractional scaling on Wayland and a new User Interface for configuring permissions of Thunderbolt devices and network statistics in KSysGuard. Due to increase in user privileges with this feature is being examined by the SUSE security team.

openQA found a few bugs with GIMP, some applications were mixing Kirigami and Qt Widgets that were breaking some keyboard shortcuts that were addressed and will be fixed in the final release of Plasma 5.17.

If you are interested in testing the 5.17 Beta of Plasma in either Leap or Tumbleweed installation, you can read how here: https://en.opensuse.org/SDB:KDE_repositories.

Leap 15.2 will see some major version upgrades of many components such as a new version of the Linux Kernel, Qt 5.12 LTS, Plasma 5.18 LTS and the latest KDE Frameworks and Applications. A full Wayland session that arrived in Tumbleweed a few weeks ago will be available in Leap 15.2. Testers are welcome to ensure the best user experience possible.

Qt 5.14 branch is still in early stages but the development teams have been busy integrating it into openSUSE builds. Bugs have been identified and most of them fixed so it is possible to build projects against Qt 5.14. One of the most user visible features is the implementation for scaling for HiDPI displays that was mostly rewritten and hardware acceleration for Qt Quick using a new abstraction layer. It can also take advantage of the Vulcan API.

Noodlings | Building and Converting

This is my fifth noodling and I did cut a few things. I will be playing with the length but this is about 13 minutes of my nonsense to chip tunes.

The 5th noodling installment can be found here

Commodore 64 IRC Success

I was able to get my Commodore 64 under its own power to access the IRC chat rooms, specifically the BigDaddyLinuxLive room where I was able to chat with such folks as Bill, Popey, Chris and another Allen. It is very satisfying experience. More on that here:

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

Tech in the Courtroom

I recently had jury duty and the courthouse in my small-ish community, Windows 7 which is near end of life. For each bit of evidence, they used CDs and DVDs to store each individual item as evidence.

Building a Computer

I am building a computer for the first time in a very long time. I want to do it on a budget. I received some components at no cost to me, the case and motherboard so that drove the purchasing of the rest of the products.

Motherboard MSI 970A-G43

AMD FX-9590 CPU

Memory, 32 GiB DDR3 1866MHz

Video Card RX570

Storage 6x 2-TiB drives

1000 Watt Power Supply

Rather large case

All for about $350.00

More on this in the future.

Acer AspireOne Netbooks

Recently Set up two AspireOne Notebooks with openSUSE Tumbleweed using the Xfce environment. Initially one had had 1 GiB of RAM but an SSD, the other with 2 GiB of RAM and a slightly faster CPU but with a traditional hard drive.

https://cubiclenate.com/2019/09/29/acer-aspireone-d255-with-opensuse-tumbleweed-xfce/

Making Meringue from Egg Whites

Told after the fact two points of advice, whip the egg whites before you add the sugar, contrary to the directions and questioning whether or not there was any amount of egg yolk.

BDLL Follow Up

Manjaro is the current Distro Challenge… It’s Arch based so…

Eric Adams talked about how people can get “bug apathy” when they experience a problem on Linux or other open source software. know that I am guilty of that.

Bug reporting is something we Linux or free and open source software users should do. The vast majority of the software I don’t pay for, it’s open source and I believe that I have a social contract with these developers and maintainers to either help with the project or donate to it.

BigDaddyLinuxLive | 28 Sep 2019

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20190918 20190920 20190921

PulseAudio 13.0 arrived which improved initial card profile selection for ALSA and improved 5.1 surround audio when set up.

LibreOffice 6.3.2.2 package received some stability tweaks and addressed two CVEs

Bash has been updated from 5.0 to 5.0.11 wich includes a minor update to bash to change POSIX mode behavior.

The Mesa 3D graphics library was updated to 19.1.7 wich fixed a Kwin compositor crash as well as cleaned up a few other bugs

The Python development tool Swig 4.0.1 added Python 3.8 support and fixed some regressions that were introduced in the 4.0.0 major release.

Plymouth added a time delay of 8 seconds to fit an AMD graphics card for graphical boot animation.

Mozilla Thunderbird was updated to 68.1.0 which eliminated some bugs, one of which is a CVE-2019-11739 that allowed for a Covert Content Attack on S/MIME encryption.

The file searching utility, Catfish 1.4.10, added some new features and cosmetically improved the application menu to make better use of space, padding and margins.

The snapshot reviewer gives a score for 20190918 of 90 for moderately stable; 20190920 a score of a stable 95 and 20190921 a stable 97.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020

LibreOffice and openSUSE communities are having a joint conference next year in Nuremburg, German. For this special conference, they are having a logo competition. A logo is believed essential for the conference and they want to visualize both communities during this co-conference. LibreOffice will celebrate its 10-year anniversary and openSUSE will celebrate its 15-year anniversary during the conference.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020 Post

Election Committee Set to Open Vote on Project Name

There have been discussions about the “openSUSE Project logo & name change” that started in June 2019 on the openSUSE Project mailing list. The Election Committee received a request from the Board to conduct a vote whereby openSUSE members can indicate whether they are for or against the project name change.

The voting will start on Oct. 10 and end on Oct. 31, which will provide three weeks for members to vote. The result will be announced on Nov. 1.

The voting exercise is limited to openSUSE members only.

Acer AspireOne D255 with openSUSE Tumbleweed Xfce

Anytime someone wants to give me a piece of hardware, it’s hard for me to say, “no.” I received this Acer AspireOne D255 as payment for installing openSUSE Leap on an HP Laptop. This little netbook was a bit slower than my other Acer AspireOne and with only 1 GiB of RAM and a dead battery. I tried to see if I could install anything but the hard drive was at it’s end of life. So, thing sat in a drawer for about a year or so. I found that there are some education open source programs that are quite educational and since I would rather my kids not play games on phones and tablets, now was the time for me to act.

I purchased a new battery and a charger for this computer which cost me all of $21. I ordered a 2 GiB stick of DDR3 memory so that whenever it did arrive, I could upgrade that as well.

Taking apart the AspireOne is not that difficult, at all, you just have to know how to get to the screws to drop the back panel. Annoyingly, you have to remove the keyboard by essentially pushing back little detents to pop the thing out. It isn’t exactly work made for large hands.

Under the keyboard the screws that require removal are all marked with arrows and the last bit is to push the panel off using a screwdriver. That will expose the goodness that this machine keeps hidden away.

The hard drive sits in in a caddy and the memory is held in place with the usual spring clip arrangement. After replacing the failed Hard Drive with an SSD, it was time to do the installation.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how it would go to have my eight year old boy install openSUSE Tumbleweed with Xfce. I expected to direct a couple steps, of which would be how I want the partitions to be laid out, the username and password as well as the root password. I also instructed him to turn off the CPU vulnerability mitigations as well. I saw no need for this computer to need those.

I wanted to see if he could do the rest without my help. Amazingly, but really not so amazingly, he was able to do it. This made me think and smile and reinforce the fact that the YaST installer is actually quite easy to use. I mean, if an eight year old can do it…

My boy recognized Windows 7 wasn’t on it any longer and corrected the mislabeling.

After playing with Xfce on openSUSE in the virtual machine, I really wanted to see how it felt on some 10 year old netbooks, or more specifically, this under powered unit with only 1 GiB of RAM.

Surprisingly, the system runs quite well and doesn’t seem too terribly encumbered by the lack of RAM. Granted, most of what is being done at this time are simple programs geared for educating my kids but getting on the web didn’t prove to be a problem either. It was able to YouTube without any irritating stutter.

After booting to a settled system. The AspireOne was using about 380 MiB of RAM. I could probably force it lower by removing some things but I don’t see it as necessary at this time. Instead, I will pop in that 2 GiB DDR3 SODIMM and leave quite a bit of headroom for some of the other educational things to come.

The “new” battery for this machine did have one drawback. It is a little thicker than the original one and now it sits at a bit of an angle when set down. It does make it a bit harder to slip into a neoprene case but the flip side is that it won’t suffocate if left running on the couch

The applications I installed for the time being to make using them a bit better are:

  • Syncthing-Gtk – I have a series of files in written as well as audio and video form that are for memory work. For them to have read-only access to it from their machines is a huge plus when they are not home.
  • Gcompris – This is a great educational application with lots of games and such to help teach the basic foundational things like numbers, letters and learning the sounds. It is also a great tool to teach the kids to learn to use a mouse or touchpad as well.
  • Tux Paint – it is a fine little application to teach the basics of creating images in on a computer.
  • qsynergy – this is more for my convenience so that I can more easily “help” them fro my computer. I do want to note, that I did purchase a license key for this applicaiton.
  • Crossover Linux – I have an older version of Rosetta Stone that is packed with many languages. I specifically want them to take time to learn Latin and German. This will reduce the irritation of having only a single machine for the kids to share. One little note. There was an issue with sound. The PulseAudio module was not available in the Wine Configurator. The solution was to install libpulse0-32bit

What I Like

I really like that I am able to install a “heavy weight” distribution like openSUSE onto a rather under powered an really quite anemic machine. I was incredibly surprised how Xfce looked and felt on this machine. Although, much to my chagrin, my daughter made hers all pink and bright instead of my preference of dark and green of which I initially set. I guess, without any instruction at all, she too sees the importance of making it personal.

This machines gets crazy long battery life. For a machine as “long in the tooth” as this is. I am shocked that it can run all day on battery. I will place a lot of that credit to openSUSE’s default use of TLP as well as the fact Xfce is very resource conscious.

This is going to certainly enhance the quality of the my supplied education to my kids. Inexpensive laptops running a resource conscious operating system with all the underpinning bells and whistles provided by openSUSE.

What I Don’t Like

For whatever reason the libpulse0-32bit module didn’t install with Crossover Linux. I don’t think that is a fault of openSUSE, maybe Crossover but that was an irritation that required a few extra steps.

The machine itself is too small for my fingers. The keyboard is okay but it is just slightly smaller than what I like. It isn’t easy to do extended typing on it. The touchpad, also a bit undersized and the “mouse buttons” although separate from the touchpad, are not great. This is part of the reason I like having Synergy to use my main system to use as an input device. I suppose I could plug in a mouse and keyboard…

Final Thoughts

I will never take for granted how great Linux can keep older hardware highly functional. In this case, using openSUSE Tumbleweed with Xfce is absolutely enhancing the use experience on this old, under-powered machine. Consequently, I am able to better enhance the quality of education for my kids.

I have a new love for these end of life netbooks. Just a few short days ago, they were sitting stacked on top of one another collecting dust. Now they are sources of furthering my children’s education and they enjoy using them. I have developed an aversion to my kids being on mobile devices like phones and tablets. I want them to learn and know to use a keyboard and mouse or touchpad. I am hoping, as time progresses, I can further their education on the use and eventually administration of Linux, especially openSUSE or MX Linux.

For 9 year old Amazed on how performant this AspireOne D255 is. The Atom N550 is able to do a lot more than I expected and it looks like I will get a significant amount of time out of it. I must say, once again, how grateful I am to everyone that has anything to do with any of the tools that make this possible. From the kernel and applications, to the package maintainers and the folks in the server room delivers each of those Tumbleweed snapshots, and everyone in between or have some ancillary relation to any project, thank you.

References

openSUSE Tumbleweed Download
Atom N550 CPU Benchmark
Syncthing-Gtk
Gcompris
Tux Paint
qsynergy
Crossover Linux

Kim | KDE Plasma Graphics Service Menu

There comes a time when I realize I want to be lazy about something and one of those things is converting images. Sure, I could be a super nerd and do a batch conversion of images in the terminal but today was not that day. I wanted Dolphin, the Plasma default file manager to do the work for me. I remembered in a kind of vague, dream like haziness remember Dolphin or Konqueror doing this long ago. So, it was time to do some Web-Search-Foo and figure things out. After a bit of time, I came upon something called Kim. It is described as, “A very useful images KDE service menu”. That was worded kind of funny… so I would describe it, “A very useful service menu for basic manipulation of images.”

Installation

Installation on openSUSE is very straight forward. Probably very similar on other distributions.

sudo zypper install kim

According to the package details, Kim is a KDE service menu which allows to resize, convert and rotate your images without to use a graphical application like Gimp! This service menu can be considered as a front-end of ImageMagick.

Main features of Kim: Compress and resize

  • Compress to 70%, 80%, 90% or other
  • Resize to 300 x 225, 600 x 450, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1200 x 900 or Other
  • Resize and compress for the web
  • Convert in JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF or other,
  • Rotate images.

Treatment and publication

  • Rename images
  • Convert in gray-scale
  • Add a white or black border
  • Watermark images
  • Send by mail resized images.

After installing it, I restarted Dolphin and to my surprise (not really) I had some new options!

The “Service Menu” in Dolphin had three new items on its root menu:

  • Kim – Compress and Resize
  • Kim – Convert and Rotate
  • Kim – Treatment and publication

All the functions are rather self explanatory and can make for quick work in the file manager on making things happen with your image files. To save on some time and because it’s more fun to have some self-discovery than see what some bloke does with it. Here is a preview of the options:

The options that I used to get my work done today was to convert the collection of PNG images into JPG or the system would not accept the package of files. I will likely use this

What I Like

The additional menu items only show up when I am selecting an image so it is not hanging out in the service menu, cluttering things up when manipulating other files. I appreciate that consideration.

Lots and lots of very useful options that are easily accessible. Although I didn’t use the GIF feature, that is something that might be fun to do with a series of pictures. Quick access to resizing and compressing images is quite useful too.

Another great feature is, if you select multiple images and invoke an action, it will modify them all. Converting to a different file format will leave the existing file and add new files with the respective extension. What is very nice is that if you are compressing or resizing it, you are prompted on whether or not you want to replace the existing file.

Incredibly polite!

What I Don’t Like

The entries all start with “Kim -” and not just what the function is. I would prefer just the function alone. I think it would visually be better. It doesn’t take away from the functionality of the application, it is just a preference.

Final Thoughts

Kim is a great addition to the KDE Plasma servicemenu that enhances and extends the function of my desktop. This did save me some time today in converting images and it is likely I will use something like this again in the near future.

Yet another reason why KDE Plasma is a fantastic desktop to use and makes my life just a little bit easier on my day to day tasks.

References

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

Reasons why openSUSE is Fantabulous in 2019

Not long ago, I was in the openSUSE Discord off topic chat room… or channel… whatever the terminology is, and the reasons for using openSUSE came up because someone needed a reminder. It was probably more tongue and cheek than anything but it is good, from time to time, to reflect on your decisions and ask yourself whether or not those decisions are still correct.

After doing a little reflection as to why I use openSUSE, what is its unique selling feature, I would say there are multiple and those reasons likely change in rank based on your particular use case. For me it is the combination of the tools plus a few herbs and spices that provide to me a reliable and stable base upon which I can rely which enables me to learn, experiment and potentially break it with multiple fail safe features to easily restore it to a pre-fiddling stage. I get freedom to fiddle with openSUSE without the catastrophic consequences of breaking it. It is quite literally everything I want out of a computer operating system.

Here are some of the features I think make it “Fantabulous”, today, in 2019.

BTRFS done Right

Although it seems like it gets a lot of flack on in the Linux world, BTRFS is a very reliable file system when implemented by [open]SUSE. There were other distributions that didn’t implement it well and a meme was born, riddled with falsehoods that it was not a reliable file system to use. Several tech media pundits still continue this meme… maybe they should use a distribution that knows how to harness the power properly. Keep in mind, not everyone can drive a submarine properly.

So what makes BTRFS great is that it is a copy-on-write file system supported properly by the Linux Kernel. The way openSUSE implements it makes for a fantastic snapshot system that allows me to effortlessly roll back the system should there be any issues with an update or if I decide to muck about on the system, I can roll the thing back to the last working state of the machine. Super handy and it has gotten me out of a bind more than once. It is as simple as booting into the last known working snapshot and running sudo snapper rollback... like it never even happened.

Open Build Service for All

The Open Build Service is a fantastic feature of the openSUSE Project. This is not only the place that builds all the software for openSUSE it is also a place where community members can build and share software from their own home projects as well as help out with experimental and potentially the official repositories. If you have experience in building your own RPMs or any software packages for that matter, OBS not only alows you to do so but it does all the hard work of checking for dependencies while giving you the opportunity to share your hard work with the community of users.

One step cooler, you can also use the Open Build Service to target other distributions too. It supports Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and Arch to name a few. It also supports several processor platforms too beyond 64bit x86 that is most common. There is a fully supported (on Tumbleweed) 32 bit x86 as well as the likes of ARM and several different PowerPC platforms.

Interestingly, you can even target an AppImage with the Open Build Service which is a nice additional feature. It makes me think, if more projects used the Open Build Service, it would be a lot easier to keep AppImages of your project up to date.

YaST – Yet another System Tool

In all my computer-life experience, there has been no other system control panel that is anywhere as good and comprehensive as YaST. To just call it a “system control panel” does not do it justice as it is so much more.

You can, quite literally, do just about every bit of system configuration from here. Every tool here is not only exceptionally useful but works quite well. The user and group manager is top notch for managing such things. Recently, the Boot Loader module has become even more useful as of late by allowing you to select your CPU Mitigation posture.

Since there are so many tools, it makes for a rather lengthy, albeit well organized, list of modules. If you don’t want to browse through the list, there is the search option that will filter down the options as you type. You really couldn’t make something so complex as managing your system any easier and this is such a well done suite. This is essentially the same system tool that manages the installation of openSUSE so it is highly improbable that this tool will ever get neglected. Whether you run a Qt, GTK or Terminal only based system, you can access the same tool with all the same powerful features. From bow to stern, YaST is clearly a well designed, well engineered, flexible tool that does not get the credit it deserves. It is another reason that openSUSE absolutely Fantabulous!

Zypper

By far this is the best package manager I have ever used. This is the package manager that is like an agent that works for your success. If you are coming from the Debian world, you can use APT just as you would and there are aliases already built in to direct you to the equivalent Zypper action but with the Zypper refinements.

When doing an installation or upgrade, the clarity of your interactions with the system is the best I have used. I use Tumbleweed primarily and when you are pulling down updates it is very useful to know what is being installed, upgraded, removed and additional notifications about actions post install, like requiring a reboot to take advantage of a new kernel. Zypper provides a very comprehensive summary of any actions and if there are any conflicts you are presented with a list of options where you direct Zypper how to proceed.

If you are tinkerer and you mess with your system to the point that you break something, not only do you have the integration with the BTRFS snapshot system that allows you to roll back but also, if you are running Tumbleweed, invoking sudo zypper dup in the terminal and the way Zypper analyzes your system, it will essentially re-baseline your packages to the latest set and assuming you didn’t destroy your configuration files too badly, you will be back up and running.

Note: this is not a 100% solution but I would say, with great confidence, that will solve the problems you create by sticking your “nose-pickers” where they don’t belong 99% of the time.

The Wiki

I find it almost shocking that some distributions haven’t taken the time to put together a wiki for their distribution. openSUSE has one of the best wikis out there. Like any wiki, sometimes the information does need a new coat of polish and when I come across something, I do try to take the time to fix it. I have used the wiki a lot and because I have gained so much value in the wiki, I have felt compelled to continue to add what little I know into it as I know that when I need that information again, I and many others can refer to it.

It is great to see that openSUSE has made it a point to make knowledge management an priority. It is most certainly an important for users to get answers and guidance for a variety situations.

That Green Chameleon

It is often stated that marketing in Linux isn’t great. Say what you will, but by far the coolest of the Linux distribution’s mascot is the openSUSE Chameleon who’s name is Geeko. The logo and everything around logo is a welcoming friendliness that is unmatched. I can’t see any other Linux distro’s logo dancing in a music video or in computer animated shorts. When you see that logo, it is unmistakably [open]SUSE, it is not at any risk in being confused with anything else. I even appreciate merchandising of that logo into plush toys to begin the introduction of openSUSE to my children at a young age. The closest thing to a lovable distribution mascot is PuppyLinux but last I checked, there aren’t any plush representations of that mascot.

Whenever I have had a less than stellar day, a glimpse of that logo brings just a bit of a smile to my face and I think, “…can’t stop the SUSE…”

Community

The openSUSE community is an extremely helpful and friendly group of people. Sure, like any community that is as big as it is, you are going to have a character or two that is going to require “extra grace” but that is going to happen anywhere there are large groups of people.

I have had numerous instances where people in the community have helped me solve problems, even built software packages so that I could get a thing working. Should you have to report a bug, the community members work with you to get the problems resolved. Even if you don’t really know what you are doing and are willing to answer the questions asked, you can create a useful bug report. You will not only help the project but will also learn something in the process.

The official openSUSE forums is a great place to go for help and the openSUSE Sub-Reddit has a lot of the same people there helping out as well. I have received so much help from the forums over the years and I do try to help others out there as much as my skill level can provide. In the 8 years I have been using openSUSE as my regular distribution, I have never received the “RTFM” on a question. Every time, they have helped me discover the problem to a greater depth and find the true solution.

The openSUSE Discord server is a good time. Not only can you get technical help but you can interact with other openSUSE contributors, developers, members and a full range of enthusiasts. It is a great way to see how the sausage is made, as it were, and flavor it the way you like.

Final Thoughts

There are several more reasons that I believe openSUSE to be so fantabulous but for the sake of not turning this into novel about my near unhealthy obsession over openSUSE, I will leave it here. Going down this thought bunny trail of Linux distribution reflection, I have further cemented my personal reasons that I have chosen openSUSE as my primary distribution of choice.

References

Open Build Service
SUSE Geeko Montage
Can’t Stop the SUSE
openSUSE Build Service Supported Targets

EndlessOS | Review from an openSUSE User

EndlessOS is a distribution of Linux I have been watching from afar and almost dabbled with several times. Unfortunately for me and my biases, I didn’t take the time to get to know this distribution sooner. This is an incredibly interesting project that has been given a lot of time and care with plenty of thought. In no way should Endless ever be confused with a casual passion project. This is a serious, well designed and well thought out distribution of Linux that should be part of any Linux user’s growth in an open source enthusiastenthusiest.

Bottom line up front: Endless OS is a very interesting Linux distribution that has a specific target. I am not that target that I can appreciate. To refer to Endless as a Linux distribution does not do it justice as this is so much more. This is a Linux product. The “offline internet” and especially the Cooking application with the loads and loads of recipes built into it. There has obviously been a lot of thought that went into the user interface as this is incredibly polished. The presentation and holistic thoughtfulness in the user interface is not lost on me at all. The interface and the design intent is quite clear but is clearly not for me. I will stick with my more customizable KDE Plasma with my comfortable, leading-edge base that openSUSE Tumbleweed provides. Bottom line up front: Endless OS is a very interesting Linux distribution that has a specific target. I am not that target that I can appreciate. To refer to Endless as a Linux distribution does not do it justice as this is so much more. This is a Linux product. The “offline internet” and especially the Cooking application with the loads and loads of recipes built into it. There has obviously been a lot of thought that went into the user interface as this is incredibly polished. The presentation and holistic thoughtfulness in the user interface is not lost on me at all. The interface and the design intent is quite clear but is clearly not for me. I will stick with my more customizable KDE Plasma with my comfortable, leading-edge base that openSUSE Tumbleweed provides.

Installation

Installing Endless OS is a rather pleasant experience, the splash screen that introduces Endless OS felt like the same gravitas you would get from starting up a commercial, highly anticipated game.

The logo, coloring and the effect of it’s appearance, told me right away, I am not working with a Linux Distribution, I am working with a Linux product. The installation process was really quite simple. It begins with setting your language than determine if you want to “Try or Buy” this experience. Since I wanted to install it so I went for the “Reformat” option.

Next you are which version you’d like to use. Since there was only one option and no explanation as to how to download another, this did seem like a pointless step. The next step makes sense to me. I offered to select which disk to select to install EndlessOS. In this case, I am running this on a Virtual Machine so there is only one selection available.

Once you select Next, the reformatting will commence and you will be prompted to power off which was just a bit odd as I would think a reboot would be the next step.

Regardless, it rebooted and the installation continued where you were asked to select your language then the keyboard layout.

The only part of the installation that gave me pause was the Terms of Use. Sections were highlighted and it might have been one of the longest license agreements I have ever seen.

I realize this is a very litigious world we live in so this is the reality of life today, which is unfortunate but since, even after reading through it, I didn’t see a problem with it, I chose to accept and continue. I also selected to Automatically save and send usage statistics and problems. Spoiler alert, I didn’t have any problems.

If you are looking to add any online accounts, you can do so now and then you are asked to give information about you. The default sunflower avatar didn’t really seem to fit me so I changed the icon to just something else.

The last step asks for a password and then you are done.

Once you select to Start Using Endless the setup is complete and you can begin wondering around in the vastness that is EndlessOS.

First Run and Impressions

Right from the beginning, EndlessOS presented itself unlike any other Linux Distribution. I wouldn’t say that this isn’t a desktop in the strictest of senses. It is very much more like using a mobile operating system such as an Android Tablet or Phone and I wouldn’t say that it has a desktop either. In fact, I don’t know what to call it. Whatever it is called, that is what Endless has.

Although it is very different, it is also familiar at the same time. Along the bottom there are the familiar desktop features you would expect in a desktop… but they don’t all behave like you would expect… entirely. The menu button in the lower left corner behaves more like a “show desktop” than a menu but in this case the “desktop” is the menu… which is more like an Android device.

The neat feature of this desktop is the ease of beginning a search. Using Plasma, I would activate krunner to search for something. In my case, I wold press Alt + Spacebar or press the Meta key and start typing to pull up the menu and get the same search function. By contrast, on Endless OS, just start typing.

I started to type “games” because I was at a momentary loss as to what else I should type and it immediately brought up related items to games. This would include anything on the system to curated items in the App Center. There is an option to “Search Google for” your search term as well. This is another great example of the notion that the this is a product, not just a Linux distribution.

I wanted to explore some of the applications on Endless and I think my favorite of the applications I tried is the cooking application. Not only does it look great and feel welcoming but is very intuitiveeasy to navigate.

Some other noteworthy applications that I don’t have the time of which to give you a full review are what’s included, certainly aimed at education, one section, Games to Hack has some neat tutorials for working on games and the tools you need to start doing some coding. Seeing that Arduino and Raspberry Pi made the cut is simply fantastic.

The only thing that made me scratch my head was that I didn’t understand why the terminal wasn’t forefront in the menu system. Not a big deal though, that aforementioned search system allows for the same discovery option and you are able to search “Terminal” and find the terminal. I had to check and it was interesting to know that a freshly installed Endless OS system used 27 GiB of disk space and when settled, only uses 713 MiB of RAM. I find that impressive, considering it is a modified GNOME system.

I can see a lot of value in Endless OS and I only just began to scratch the surface of it. I can see a lot of value in this finely polished product. After touring around for a while. The only issue I had was finding out how to log out. Since the “menu” wasn’t a menu and didn’t have my session management options, like logging out. I eventually did figure out after clicking around that my avatar image in the lower-right corner was where I was able to shut the system down.

What I Like

It is of no debate whatsoever, Endless OS is a highly, highly polished and well thought out distribution. The whole package from initial boot, the installer to the running operating system is a unified product. Although called a Linux distribution, this is very much more than that, it is indeed a Product.

Some of the default applications are pretty fantastic to have. The number one on that list for me, the Cooking application is pretty great. The interface is very intuitive but that is not the impressive piece of it. What really stands out is the massive amount of recipes to try. I also really enjoyed seeing the selection of applications under the “Learn to Code” collection. Arduino Projects, Raspberry Pi Projects and Video Games stick out the most to me.

I appreciate the goal of Endless OS. They are working to bring the “internet experience” to less developed regions of the world and makes a single computer a lot more valuable. It makes me think… I wonder if other sites and resources could be rolled into this in a similar fashion. If so, that could make for a great offline repository of resources.

What I Don’t Like

Access to a terminal emulator is not immediately obvious. At least, I couldn’t find it in the “menu” of programs. I was able to find it by just typing “terminal” and it popped up. This wasn’t a huge deal… just kind of annoying. It would have been a bit nicer to have had it on the forefront… but that is likely not the intent with the target audience.

The “menu” in the lower left corner doesn’t exactly “play” the way I would expect but I do have to concede that the reason is to give a more Android / Mobile OS feel than the traditional desktop feel. This is totally my preference but I find the mobile phone application menu handling cumbersome. The clustering of applications, the Android way, is also a bit jarring too. Though I can very easily type to search for something, there is something to be said for browsing through a menu, grouped in logical categories.

It took me a bit to figure out where the session management tools were, I couldn’t find the logout or shutdown icons for a little bit but once I did, it made sense to me. I just wish there was some more obvious indicator as to where those selection exist.

Pause For Noteworthy Hardware

I am always a fan of interesting hardware and Endless has, for sale, some products that look like nothing else. These are not your average plastic and metal beige or black boxes with a couple LEDs to tell you that the thing still has a “heart beat”. They are works of art.

These simple yet elegant designs have a cleanly warmth to them that would look good, about anywhere in any room. These are by no means a power house of computing power but they would get the job done, for sure. For more information, check out the computers here.

Final Thoughts

Endless OS is a finely polished product that has a specific target market. I am not in that target market but I can think of many that would fit in this. I am initially thinking that this would be a pretty great interface to get kids into Linux. It is just set up perfectly for exploring Linux and learning how to use computers. The Learning to Code section is absolutely something that I would love to push my kids to do as they get a bit older.

I highly recommend trying Endless OS, just to try it. Even running it in a VM and playing around with it, is a great use of time. It will most certainly spark the imagination as to what you can do with it. I wish I had more time to explore all the different applications, especially under the Learning to Code and Games to Hack sections. I actually think that there could be several articles related to Endless OS and all the remarkable applications they have bundled into this product.

In the end, as refined as Endless is, it is just not the distribution for me. Although I believe there are many things to be gained by using Endless OS, the user interface design is just not compatible with the way I prefer to use the desktop. I also, personally, do not have a need to have several gigabytes of internet data on my machine. While I certainly see the utility in that, it is not what I personally want. I will stick with my comfortable, like old leather, distribution of openSUSE Tumbleweed and the Plasma Desktop where everything is tailored to me personally.

References

Endless OS Home
Endless OS Challenge at the BigDaddyLinux Community