Bitwarden a Secure Password Manager on openSUSE

Bitwarden Logo

Password managers are all the rage these days, I guess… I haven’t ever been compelled to try as the password manager I have been using, my shoddy memory, has been working alright for me. The reality is, I have a lot more passwords to remember now and for those passwords I don’t use as frequently, I have to guess at it a few times before I get it… and that is just not a good look.

I have heard rave reviews about several different password manager solutions, waited until I heard more about them and was scared off but recently the rumble of Bitwarden, an open source, free but with a premium paid option came to my awareness. The option to roll your own is a huge deal for me, even if I don’t actually ever roll my own server,

Installation

Bitwarden has several options for installation. I selected to download the AppImage. It should be noted that Your organization my vary but I have a designated AppImage folder for all my AppImages. Once you download it, make sure it is executable. Using Dolphin or your favorite file manager, access the properties and make it executable.

It should be noted that you can download Bitwarden for Windows and Mac OS as well. Not that those mater as much. There is are Deb, RPM and Snap options as well, if you so choose but it should be noted that Deb and RPM don’t have the ability to auto update.

I installed the Firefox Extension so that I could use Bitwarden in a more “seemless” fashion. If I could install Bitwarden on Falkon, I would but at this time, I am not sure how that would be accomplished. Supposedly there is some QML thing in the works but at this time, it is not obvious to me.

It should be noted that Firefox gives you a couple ways to use it. There is a side bar and a drop-down tool. I prefer the drop-down tool as the sidebar tool isn’t as easily turned on and off.

Features

The most commonly used method of using a password manager is automatically through a plugin on a browser. From the different sites I tested it out, it works well. I have tried it on a few sites and when I had input the password I was asked if I wanted Bitwarden to store the login information. Upon returning to that site it did indeed work as expected.

Bitwarden-02-Firefox Plugin.png

An interesting bonus is that you can add any number of notes to a saved password. You could perhaps put the other related notes about your password, or maybe not even have your password at all but a series of hints about your password if you are so paranoid.

Manual Password entry since I often use Falkon instead of Firefox or Chrome and there is not a Bitwarden browser extension available, I will use the Bitwarden in the stand alone mode and do a manual copy and paste into the browser. Although this takes a bit longer to use it’s better than nothing.

An interesting feature built into Bitwarden is a Password Generator. This allows you to generate a random password based on a few factors you set. I am not sure that I would use this feature as it would be me dependent on Bitwarden or some kind of index of passwords to keep things straight.

Bitwarden-02-Password Generator

An interesting feature I think I just may consider using is Identity Entry. I often have to go chasing around for my License or passport number for something but I could potentially put all this information here instead of just some text file on my drive.

Bitwarden-04-Identity.png

You can use Bitwarden for a a place to store all your credit card information. I suppose this could be a better way to store your credit card information as opposed to individual sites. You will have to ask yourself what you trust more, merchant’s web site or an encrypted vault. I think I know which one I trust more.

Another interesting feature in Bitwarden is Secure Notes. I am not exactly sure the intended purpose but I thought I would play around with it anyway. I don’t know if I would use it for my grocery list… not anything real secret about buying ground beef

Bitwarden-05-Secret Note.png

The last area I wanted to look at was not a feature but how much memory does the application use. I believe that the stand alone application is an electron based application and after a few tests of running it and shutting it down, the memory usage varied between 282 MiB and 334 MiB. Depending on how much you value your security will dictate if that amount of overhead is worth it to you. Personally, I think it is worth it on my primary system to have at the ready.

What I Like

The user interface is intuitive, you don’t have to spend any time going through manuals or researching how to instructions on utilizing Bitwarden. It is truly modern and straight forward.

It has a dark theme that integrates very nicely into my desktop’s Breeze Dark theme. It’s not exact, but close enough to not annoy me. It would be nice to have it match exactly but I am not going to be too picky.

A feature I didn’t know I would need but am glad is there is the ability to make folders for your different passwords or notes. The idea here is, you could keep a folder of all your financial passwords, your work password and different hobbies. A nice separation and it keeps things tidy.

Another great feature that I didn’t know I wanted is the ability to put notes with the password information. I can see me using this as such that there are some institutions I log into has additional bits of information outside of your password like your hobbies, your first car, etc. Those answers could very easily be added below in a notes section. This is a pretty fantastic feature, really as you can add all kinds of useful bits of information about the site in a convenient, “secure” container.

Updates seem to be automatic with the AppImage, I was surprised as can be about it too. First time I’ve ever seen an AppImage update itself.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t have a way to integrate Bitwarden into my primary browser of choice, but I really didn’t expect it. It does mean that if I am going to use Bitwarded, integrated into a browser, I will have to use Firefox or possibly Chrome / Chromium.

The memory usage does seem a bit on the high side but it is not a “strain” on my main system, it does make me think twice about using it on low specification systems.

Final Thoughts

After using this application for some time, I have decided that I am going to use this for managing my passwords. It is easy enough to use and the features I require are not that complex. I am also signing up for the Premium version, not because I need the premium features but because I want to support the project and feel good about using it.

Bitwarden works very well within openSUSE using the AppImage. That AppImage will also auto update which was a surprise to me. There is an RPM download for openSUSE from Bitwarden but does not have an Auto update ability… which does seem puzzling but whatever. It is also available for the other operating systems I don’t really care about.

There are many opinions about what is the best security practice, a mix of alphabetic characters with numbers and symbols or using a string of nonsensical words strung together with a smattering of numbers and symbols. Regardless of what your assessment is of “best practice” using Bitwarden is certainly a widely accepted method of storing and maintaining passwords and identities that has increased security yet remains accessible.

Further Reading

https://bitwarden.com/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

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Salient OS | Review from an openSUSE User

SalientOS review title

Salient OS is the first Arch based distribution that I put any significant time into. Salient takes the heavy lifting out of Arch. The value of not building your own Arch system and using somebody else’s assembly can be debated but that is outside of the scope of this review. I am looking at this from my biased perspective as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user, another rolling release. Could I use Salient OS long term? Perhaps but what am I gaining? I am not sure.

This review was initiated as a BigDaddyLinux distro challenge. I am perfectly happy with my choice of openSUSE. I am just dabbling around to learn and experiment because, why not? Linux is a fun thing.

Installation

Installation of Salient OS is surprisingly easy. There isn’t an option to install it from boot but you can boot into a live media version of Salient and kick the tires before you commit to an installation.

SalientOS-01

My initial impression is, the desktop looks fantastic, it is themed just right and the wallpaper is pretty fantastic. I don’t know what it is from but it is visually quite interesting.

SalientOS-02-Desktop

Since I am not a fan of testing things out in the live media mode, I wanted to install it but there wasn’t an icon on the desktop to begin the installation so I searched for it in the menu. Which, by the way, it should be noted that the this is a great menu.

SalientOS-03-menu

Once I found the installer, by searching for “Installer”

Upon launching it, the welcome screen gave me a warning about my hardware, I paused for just a moment, but just continued anyway. It should be noted, I didn’t have any issues on my time with Salient OS. Next I set the location.

Next was the keyboard selection. It defaulted the proper keyboard which was welcoming. The partitioning, not my preference for the default but it seems to be more and more common, regardless of the benefits, I still prefer the default of a separate partition.

Next was setting the user information and finally a summary. Not a whole lot of options, perhaps a good thing since I am unfamiliar with Arch, this is likely a good thing.

The install process was pretty quick. There was a point at around 20% where it seemed like the installation stalled but the disk an CPU activity told me that it was indeed working hard.

Once the Installation was complete, I wanted to reboot immediately to see what I can do with this fresh installation.

First Run

The Grub bootloader is among the best I have ever seen. It sets the mood right from the beginning. This isn’t a bright, eye stabbing, desktop, this desktop respects light discipline.

SalientOS-13-Grub Boot

The login screen was a bit of a puzzle to me, not a big deal, no worse than having to press ctrl+alt+delete to log into Windows, in this case, I just had to click on the robot image for my user name to appear.

SalientOS-14-Login Screen.png

The desktop appeared just as it had before and I saw that there were updates. Having heard the horror stories of Arch updates, I wanted to see how it would go for me. I know that Arch does require a bit of vigilance on ensuring it stays up to date and this was a fresh install so there should be no problems.

SalientOS-16-Updates

Authentication for completing the update was required, probably a good idea with Arch updates.

SalientOS-17-Update Authentication

I appreciate how verbose the update process is. I can see not only what is being updated but what the version changes are. That is a very welcomed bit of information and appeals to my geek core.

SalientOS-18-Upgrade Process

I did get one warning but it didn’t see it as being anything significant.

SalientOS-19-Upgrade Notification

I closed the window after the transaction successfully finished and rebooted the system. Everything came back just as I would expect.

SalientOS-20-Upgrade Successful

This update didn’t fail, but if I let Arch go too long (which I will test) without upgrading, I am to understand that this could be a problem. I am going to put it through a similar test I put Tumbleweed through, just to see.

Interestingly, both Firefox and Chromium are installed by default. I am sure there are arguments against having multiple browsers initially installed but I have no problem with this and in a way, that is kind of a reoccurring theme in this distribution; Options.

SalientOS-21-Firefox

This is the first distribution I have seen that has OpenShot installed by default. I find that fascinating.

SalientOS-22-OpenShot

You are also given Kdenlive to play around with, keeping in line with this idea of Options with this distribution.

SalientOS-23-Kdenlive

Options don’t end there, either.

My impression of this distribution is that it looks like a work of high-energy art encapsulated in pleasant, modern, dark themed wrapper. The window decorations are almost electric in appearance with brilliant high contrast widgets in a pleasantly dark and slightly translucent frame. The desktop effects are clean and simple and it all just looks like it is absolutely not Xfce… but it is. It really gives me pause to think how wrong the notion is that Xfce is not a modern desktop when this clearly demonstrates that Xfce can in fact be morphed into something as modern looking as Plasma or Gnome.

This distribution is packed with all the gaming and gaming related applications of which I am aware. It has Steam and Lutris installed by default which essentially covers the entire gambit of gaming on Linux.

Salient OS is also packed with content creation software, Open Broadcaster Studio, SimpleScreenRecorder, Kdenlive and OpenShot for video related creation. Audacity and LMMS for Audio production. Graphic creation has Blender for 3D modeling, Darktable, Gimp and Inkscape.

For writing to a USB drive, SUSE Imagewriter is bundled by default, which is absolutely my favorite tool.

What I Like

Right out of the gate, this distribution has all the gaming applications, graphics editing, video editing and pretty much all the great, high profile applications are bundled in here. No searching or installing a long list of applications to get up and running.

The desktop is super nice looking. I am most accustomed to seeing a dark theme with green or blue accents but this one, instead has orange accents. It is a nice departure from the norm. It should also be noted that this is a very fine display of how Xfce can be configured to look slick and modern.

The settings panel in Salient is well done. It is pretty common now for the controls to be consolidated, which is appreciated, some are better than others and this one is pretty great.

What I Don’t Like

Due to my desktop layout bias, I prefer the desktop have the panel on the bottom. I can deal with it on the top or the side but you don’t get two sides. The desktop would be a lot more functional if you had the panel at the bottom with the quick launch icons embedded. Although the bottom panel is covered up on full screen, I just don’t understand the appeal. I know this is configurable and I am quite possibly just an old curmudgeon that likes my desktop a certain way.

The Firewall is installed but off by default. Not my preferred default behavior but probably the easiest for inexperienced users to have it get along with their home network… which seems in contrast to what an Arch distribution expects from its users.

Xfce is a generally nice looking desktop but GTK just doesn’t look as good as Qt, at least, GTK does a much poorer job of integrating Qt apps in a GTK environment than the other way around. There are configuration controls included in Salient OS but it just doesn’t have that level of integration that you see from Plasma.

Final Thoughts

SalientOS is a distribution that is truly built for gaming enthusiasts. It looks fantastic, works well and basically has all the necessary applications for gamers and content creators baked in and ready to be used. I have heard this argument against having too many applications included and getting the term “bloated” thrown around. I actually think that is kind of a silly argument. If there is something you don’t want, it is easy to just remove the application and if you want to go more minimal and build up from there, just go with Arch proper. Salient rolls everything up and gets you from zero to operational in short order with no fiddling around.

If you want to try out Arch but are a bit intimidated with the technical expertise required to get it going, this is a fine choice and I don’t see how you could be wrong in trying it. Personally, I don’t see the benefits of Arch outweigh the benefits I have in openSUSE Tumbleweed, but the fine compilation of software and sensible defaults of Salient OS certainly nips at the heels of openSUSE.

Further Reading

https://bigdaddylinux.com/

Salient OS on SourceForge

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 on openSUSE Tumbleweed

There has been quite a lot of buzz in the news about the first stable release of Plasma in 2019, version 5.15.0, released on 12 February 2019. It came to openSUSE Tumbleweed a few days later and a few days after that, I started updating my various systems running Tumbleweed. I am not going to cover all the changes and improvements, there is plenty of that available to read. Instead, this is my experience with the upgrade process on the first three Tumbleweed machines.

My primary machine isn’t generally first to get the latest updates, because I am using it nearly all the time so I will begin the updates on other machines, incidentally, all of which are Dell. The first machine that I performed the updates is a Dell Latitude E6440. There isn’t a whole lot of software on this one as it’s primary focus is for educational related activities. There aren’t any community repositories on this machine so the update required no intervention at all. The next machine, a Dell Inspiron 20 3048, does do a lot for me but doesn’t have too many community maintained repositories. It too went without incident. Lastly, my primary machine, also a Dell Latitude E6440 but with more memory, storage and a dedicated AMD GPU.

This machine has quite a bit of software on it. I do try things out but I don’t always remove the applications or community maintained repositories. It took it as an opportunity to start trimming out some additional repositories, thankfully, zypper makes that process easy. My primary machine was trimmed down to 36 repositories. Then I performed the update.

sudo zypper dup

Zypper ran through, did its thing, asked me about a couple python packages an one package I installed that I already knew was “broken” by not having a dependency. After Zypper calculated everything out and I agreed to the update. Just as every other Tumbleweed update goes, this one proceeded without incident.

All three machines had but only one small issue. They didn’t want to leave Plasma to reboot, specifically, selecting “reboot” or “halt” and even “logout” did not actually perform those actions, Instead, I ran in terminal:

sudo systemctl reboot

There may be a better way of doing a reboot, if you are aware of such, please let me know. A few moments later, the machine started up without incident and what I may be most excited about is that, everything still, just works.

KDE Plasma Upgrade 5.15.0 KInfoCenter

I did receive one pleasant surprise, my Bluetooth keyboard, for the first time communicated that it was low on power instead of just going unresponsive. I was able to see a “10% Warning” pop up notification. I thought that was pretty slick. I have been enjoying the status and warnings with wireless Logitech devices for years but this was the first for Bluetooth. Very well done.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is ever perfect but my experience with using openSUSE Tumbleweed has been pretty fantastic for the last two years. I don’t have to worry about an update breaking my system or crossing my fingers when the operating system base iterates to a new version. Not a single piece of software has broken or had any regressions. The two applications I check for issues, Kdenlive and the Open Broadcaster Studio, continue to work just the same. I experienced zero appreciable downtime with this update which is another tribute to all those involved with openSUSE, KDE Plasma and ever other application so many graciously pour their energy into and permitting me the use of this finely engineered, fantastic distribution of Linux.

Further Reading

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 Announcement

Tumbleweed Snapshots News Announcement for 21 February 2019

Right-to-Left Script in LibreOffice using KDE Plasma on openSUSE

Text Icon

In case you have to mix right-to-left text into your documents and you aren’t sure how to make it happen, it is super easy to do with LibreOffice when running in concert with openSUSE with KDE Plasma as the desktop environment. You’ll have to check with your Desktop Environment for how to add additional keymaps and how to switch between them.

Instructions in Short Form

On KDE Plasma, open SystemSettings, select the Input Devices Module. Under the Keyboard sub-module, select the Layouts tab. In the Layouts Indicator, activate Show layout indicator and take note of Shortcut(s) for Switching Layout. In my case, it is Ctrl+Alt+K

Toggle the Configure layouts, then +Add the desired layout. From there, open the text editor of your choice, like LibreOffice and start typing away. Switch the layouts through either the indicator or the keyboard shortcut. You’ll be happily amazed by how well it works across multiple applications.

A Little Video to Demonstrate

Mostly as an excuse to play with Kdenlive and SimpleScreenRecorder, I made a video of how to do switch your layouts on the fly and write. Unfortunately, I don’t have the physical character layout on my keyboard and I was too lazy to figure it out and demonstrate a proper Arabic sentence.

Final Thoughts

One of the features I have enjoyed for many years working with the Linux and KDE [Plasma] has been the absolutely fantastic flexibility to allow me to get whatever work done that is required of me. I have had to use the switching keymaps on numerous occasions and the dynamic switching to those keymaps is absolutely a must. It’s just another way that Linux has made my life easier.

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux

KDE Plasma

LibreOffice

Tuning Snapper | BTRFS Snapshot Management on openSUSE

BTRFS on openSUSE.png

Throughout my time helping users with openSUSE, one reoccurring issue that I have heard or read from some users has been the issue of system snapshots by Snapper filling up the root file system. Users have complained that their root file system fills up which ultimately locks up their system. This is often caused by setting up the root partition with an insufficient size, less than 40 GiB. Some users may not want to allocate that much space so a common course of action is to either use BTRFS without snapshots, use XFS or ext4.

There is this misguided impression that BTRFS is not a file system to be trusted but I can, with great assurance tell you that I have yet to have an issue with the file system. If you disagree with this than your perception is based on either a non-openSUSE implementation or if you had problems on openSUSE you did not satisfy its recommendation.

BTRFS with snapshots is a good option for newer machines but your disk partition size may be less than the recommended 40GiB for root, here is what you can do to adjust Snapper. As root open the following file in your editor of choice:

/etc/snapper/configs/root

Scan down the configuration file and look for the line #limit for number cleanup section. To limit the total number of snapshots, adjust the NUMBER_LIMIT and NUMBER_LIMIT_IMPORTANT lines.

I changed mine to the following:

# limit for number cleanup
NUMBER_MIN_AGE=”1800″
NUMBER_LIMIT=”2-6″
NUMBER_LIMIT_IMPORTANT=”4-6″

After this adjustment, I have no more than 6 total file system snapshots and it reduced the space taken up by snapshots by about 10 GiB. It should be understood that your mileage may vary depending on how much you fiddle with your system and how much software you have installed.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE is such a stable distribution, even the rolling release, Tumbleweed, that snapshots are almost not necessary. I personally look at snapshots as a kind of insurance policy but the fact is, as long as I have a working internet connection and a working terminal, entering sudo zypper dup (in Tumbleweed) will likely fix any issues I may have caused. As far as Leap is concerned, I haven’t seen an update that brok a system which would require a rollback. That doesn’t mean something couldn’t slip past openQA that may affect your system, I just haven’t seen it.

Also note, I have such confidence in openSUSE Tumbleweed with BTRFS, it is what is on my home server. In over a year, not one update has broken any of the servers or messed with any configurations. It should also be noted that I run older and generally Linux friendly hardware so my chance at issues is much less.

Further Reading

SUSE.com Snapper Cleanup

Rambox | Chat Message Unification Application for openSUSE

Rambox on openSUSE

Not long ago, I started using Franz, a chat messaging unification application and I had a good experience with it. I had talked to a few e-friends about it and some advised me that I should also try Rambox. Since I had just installed Franz, I wasn’t about to try something else, not yet anyway. After some time of very happily using Franz, something had happened and it wouldn’t start. Since I was using a community repository and I could have very well chosen another community repository and kept going but it was time to try this Rambox all the kids have been talking about. So I did.

Installation

Like anything else in openSUSE, the installation is easy, just search and install. Since I did that part, you can just check here:

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

Once the installation is complete. A menu entry will appear under the “Internet” category. Click there or whatever method you see fit.

How It Runs

The application runs well and it is as intuitive as one would expect. The difference that I noticed, as compared to Franz, is that having an account with an external service is optional. Franz requires you to sign into their service in order to use their software and in doing so, synchronizes all your systems that are running Franz. This is quite handy. Rambox too as this option but it is not compulsory.

Rambox-01-Start Screen

Rambox has many built in options for services for you to configure. In fact it has more service options than Franz does, most notably, Mastodon. If there is a particular service you want and it is not available, you have the option to add a custom service. This was particularly handy as Rambox does not have a Google Calendar service.

Rambox has several customization features to it. Notably, there is application behavior for notifications, a hardware acceleration feature and start automatically on system startup.

Rambox-02-Settings.png

The customization feature I do appreciate is the service bar location. I put the bar along the left, as opposed to the top… no speculation on that location necessary.

Adding a service is incredibly straight forward. Select the service you want and fill in all the necessary bits. After you add the new service to the application, it will appear on the service bar.

Rambox-03-Add service

The order of applications can be reordered to your hearts content and services eliminated if they are no longer desired in this application. It is incredibly flexible. In this manner.

Overall, this This application works very well and I intend on using it a bit longer and do some more comparisons to determine if I will continue using it or go back to Franz.

There are cases that a service doesn’t start or restart when network access is lost and reestablished. There is an option to Reload offending service or reload all of Rambox. Under the View menu.

What I Like

When comparing it to Franz, the feature that I appreciate the most is the ability to enter a custom service. In my case, I added the Google Calendar account related to my employer.

Like Franz, this is a fantastic message unification application. that has a lower memory footprint than using a browser. Rambox uses just under 1.8 GiB for 12 services which shakes out to about 150 MiB per service. I still think this is far too much for what they are doing but not being an expert in this area, I couldn’t tell you why.

Having one application that has all my messaging applications consolidated is very handy. It has a nice notification applet that lets you know when you have a new message on any of your services and mute the notifications if necessary. It should be noted, if you mute your notifications, you won’t hear anything within each service, like an inline video.

Lastly, the option to Synchronize your configuration or not is a handy feature. You can push or pull your configuration as you see fit for each machine. I didn’t try pushing two different configurations to see how that might affect each client.

What I Don’t Like

There is a lack of Dark Theme. I would much prefer that service bar have a dark background to fit the rest of my desktop theme but that is a small potatoes item.

The user interface on the application for the settings or adding another service just do not seem to have that nice modern look as you’d see on Plasma. When loading or saving, the application brings up the GTK File Dialog of which I am not particularly fond.

The biggest sore spot for Rambox is that it does not have a spell check. This is the one area where Franz excels. It is also the only area where Rambox falls short. Outside of that, it is a pretty fantastic application.

Final Thoughts

Rambox is a fine application that I enjoy using. It works well and is more convenient than using a web browser. It also seems to use less memory than a browser so that is also a plus. I don’t know or understand the mechanics as to why but even at approximately 150 MiB per application does seem a bit steep for something that just sends text messages.

If Rambox is an application that works well for you consider supporting the project or if it improves your work flow, try out the Rambox Pro. The application may be free but it isn’t free to make.

For the time being, I am going to continue to use Rambox on my primary machine and Franz on another machine just to see how it shakes out over time. If you are running multiple chat clients and don’t want to authenticate with a third party service, Rambox just might be the application for you.

Further Reading

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

Get Rambox Pro

Rambox App on Github

Coherent Color Scheme Creation for Qt and GTK on openSUSE

I might be pushing it just a bit by saying I “created” a scheme as I just took two color schemes, Breese Dark and openSUSEdarkalternate, and created one [subjectively] better theme based on those two. I happen to like the green accents in the openSUSE Workspace Theme and the Breeze Dark Theme looks pretty good but the mix of blue and green accents makes me less happy. I have been using the openSUSEdarkalternate theme for quite some time until I discovered an issue with one application.

Why take the time?

A couple reasons. For starters, the Breeze Dark GTK theme has been using blue highlights, which has been fine. The tipping point was when I was trying my hand in doing video editing with Kdenlive, I sort of bumped into a problem. The dark color scheme, openSUSEdarkalternate, did not play well so I had to switch it with the built in Breeze Dark scheme in order to be able to see all the icons and things. As nice as the stock Breeze Dark theme is, I really want those openSUSE green highlights and now more of my desktop was a mixture of themes. I was now compelled to unify the appearance of my desktop, especially after noodling around with ElementaryOS and seeing how much emphasis was put on its appearance. I wanted my choice of desktop to have a more unified but not exactly vanilla Plasma look to it. I wanted a unified openSUSE Theme.

The Solution

First was to ensure that all my KDE Plasma applications had a unified look. My first step was to take screenshots of the different green RGB color-values used in the openSUSEdarkalternate scheme. The green in that theme is just the hue and vibrance that is subtle and pleasant so it was imperative that I used the same colors. The absolutely fantastic feature of KDE Plasma as well as the related desktops preceding it is the ability to customize it to your hearts content. The tools are already there and ready for you to tweak. A testament to what makes Plasma great.

To start, open the KDE Plasma SystemSettings, then the Colors module under the Appearance section.

KDE Plasma SystemSettings

The Application Color Scheme tool has several schemes from which to choose. My first step was to open the openSUSEdarkalternate theme and take note of the RGB values of the different green colors used. I cheated and used the screenshot utility Spectacle to accomplish this. There were a total of four different green colors used.

I then opened the Breeze Dark theme and started changed all the relevant blue colors to the equivalent green colors.

KDE Plsama Color Scheme Customize.png

I only had to adjust the Common Colors section. It seems that any of the other sections are using the same Color Identifications. When I was complete, I saved this scheme as openSUSE Breeze Dark and applied the changes.

It looked good, but then I was still left with the GTK theme to change. I planned to do similar in Plasma as I did for GTK. Unfortunately, customizing color schemes in GTK is not baked in like it is Plasma so it was time to do some searching and I came upon this application called Oomox. There is no official openSUSE package but the fantastic openSUSE community maintains the package and it can be installed from here:

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

Choose whichever community member maintained package you wish. Oomox does require one other package in order to run: gdk-pixbuf-devel

sudo zypper in gdk-pixbuf-devel

I was not able to import the Breeze Dark GTK theme so I just had to create what I wanted manually. It should be noted that such a feature has been requested. Good bad or otherwise, GTK color schemes are easier to create from scratch because there are fewer color in a theme.

Oomox Color Theme Customizer

Not pictured but there is a Roundness theme option so I modified that to match about what the Breeze theme is and set that parameter to 3. I thought that was an interesting setting to have and I quite enjoyed playing with it. Ommox is a very interesting piece of software and I recommend you to play around with it, just for fun.

It took four iterations of playing with the theme to get it right. I tested using Gnome-Recipes and Firefox to see that the scheme looked correct to my untrained eye.

Gnome-Recipes openSUSE Breeze Dark

My only criticism at this point is the GTK2 Theme is a bit blocky looking. I am not sure why, exactly. It just looks somewhat out of place against the Qt and GTK3 widget. I don’t think it’s a big deal but if anyone has any suggestions on that, I am open to anything you can offer.

Since I am happy with the theme and added to my openSUSE Linux page to download. I will eventually create a package hosted on OBS when I can take the time to do that properly.

Final Thoughts

Having exact color schemes hasn’t really been a thing for me, so long as it was close enough. Due to playing around with Elementary OS and seeing how everything is so well thought out, I started looking a bit more closely my desktop and thought, how can I make things look more deliberate? I am exceptionally pleased with the results and I think I may have also decided to go all in on Breeze Dark + openSUSE green. I even retired the Oxygen Window Decorations in favor of the Breeze Theme so that it better matches the GTK widgets. Everything seems nicely coherent. This is the most satisfied I have ever been with a desktop environment, ever.

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux | CubicleNate notes

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

Parrot Security OS | Review from an openSUSE User

ParrotOS review title.png

As part of a BigDaddyLinux Community challenge Parrot Security OS was selected to install and give it a test drive around the block. Parrot OS can be compared partially to Kali Linux in such that they are both Debian Based distributions that are targeted to those in the security and digital forensics profession. The difference with Parrot OS is that it is also has a “Home Edition” build for the casual user but keeps Security and privacy in mind. Unlike Kali, you can run Parrot as a daily driver.

This is a review of Parrot Security OS from the eyes of a biased openSUSE User. I am very happy where I am doing my “Linux-ing” but I like to explore and see how other developers, designers and artists scratch their “Linux itch.”

Installation

From the beginning, Parrot OS gives you  more options than I have seen when setting it up. I had to pause and really look at them all before I continued.

I decided to go for the more classic Debian Installer, one that just brings happiness to my heart. Not to digress here… but I’m going to… years ago I enjoyed playing with Linux on HP-Unix systems some years go… HP PARISC, that was fun…

I wouldn’t consider the Debian installer not a “user friendly” interface. It is a bit “Old School” looking but everything is very clearly spelled out. Just pause to read and you are tip-top.

Next you’ll configure the keyboard and wait for it to load additional components.

Your root password is requested and confirmed on two different “screens”.

This is followed by your Name and Username on two different screens.

On the two following screens you will input your user password one initial and the second to confirm.

Personally, I think this could be done more efficiently if all the User information was done on the same screen. This isn’t a big deal but just as a point of improvement to the installer process.

The timezone selection is based on the language you select previously.

ParrotOS-13-Timezone

The next portion of the installer is setting up your disk partitions. I really appreciate the options here. Although I didn’t have anything previously on this virtual drive, I appreciate that it will guide you through and the process is clearly communicated.

I selected to use a separate /home partition because…. that is the only way to set up a drive if you care about your data…

I appreciate the partitioning overview before finishing the process. If you have a more complex disk setup, here is where you could make further adjustments. Simply fantastic.

You have one last shot at bailing out of the installation here. Once you hit yes, you will be prompted to install the bootloader to disk.

When you select to install the bootloader, you can specify the drive or partition, then the installation is complete.

Although it consists of many pages of of steps, the Debian installer is fantastic. It gives you the flexibility to shape your system exactly how you need it.

First Run

Right out of the gate, Parrot OS feels fast and the theme they have applied to MATE is fantastic. No complaints on the presentation whatsoever. The generally dark theme makes this a winner for me.

I do like the wallpaper they use for the login screen and would almost prefer that for the default wallpaper of the MATE desktop environment but that abstract parrot on the background is, visually, very interesting and has a pleasant contrast to the desktop color scheme.

Once the system settles you are asked to set your keyboard layout. This is a bit of a first for me to see in the Desktop Environment initial run. I would think that would be set in the installation process. Not a problem, just curious that it would be asked. The system will also prompt you if you would like to check for updates.

Once it has completed checking, a terminal will pop up that you will have to confirm the actions and the updates will commence.

Curiously, I had to specify again where Grub was to live on the disks after the update. After the reboot, there were no issues so I don’t see this as a problem.

I was a bit impatient with the updates, at no fault of the servers or Parrot OS. It was a “me” problem and I jumped back to the terminal to see how many packages were yet to install. I was expecting something like Zypper where you are explicitly told the package number out of the total number of packages.

openSUSE Leap Zypper Update
Zypper display of status during updates

I am unsure why they have a menu at the top and at the bottom. Feels like a decision made by the “Department of Redundancy Department” I couldn’t tell which one I liked better. I used them both, so maybe the idea is to give the user time to figure out what they prefer and remove the unnecessary bits.

ParrotOS-33-Top Menu

I do appreciate that the Tor Browser was included and didn’t require any fiddling to set up. I did go through the configuration portion but it didn’t really have to do anything because I don’t live in a country where Tor is censored.

I browsed around a bit and frankly I don’t know much about the technical aspects of Tor, I can’t really speak to this. I know it is a web browser that prevents people from learning your location or browsing habits by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays. To my understanding it will make it harder to be tracked but exactly how it uses relays to accomplish this, I do not know.

If Tor isn’t your thing, there is Firefox which comes equipped with Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin add-ons installed and enabled by default.

ParrotOS-32-Firefox

I am a fan of the Control Center on ParretOS. I played with a few of the tools but the tool I really wanted to mess with was the MATE Tweaks. I could fix the button location and I also saw that it had the ability to change the panel to Gnome2 or Fedora. Once I switched it to Fedora, the Gnome2 didn’t return it to what it was previously. The second menu on the bottom disappeared. A reboot didn’t bring it back either.

I didn’t test everything but the things I did test all seemed to work out well. Since the “Home Edition” seemed pretty decent, I am now interested in trying the Security Edition and see how that goes for me. Maybe I can learn a thing or three.

What I Like

Overall Theme is nice, the interface is crisp and has a kind of raw, efficient feel to it. That is often the impression I get form using any MATE desktop. A tribute to the work of all the developers involved in MATE.

I like the fact that Parrot OS includes the Tor Browser by default. This is the first distribution I have tried that has it ready to use by default.

The default application selection is perfectly fine with me. It seems like there are a few extra things there but I am pretty indifferent when it comes to the base installation set if it is something I am going to tailor to my needs anyway. It is pretty obvious that Parrot OS is not targeted at the new-to-Linux crowd so I expect a list of applications accordingly.

What I don’t Like

Using MATE tweaks, I changed from Gnome2 to Fedora. I couldn’t get the layout back to the Default Parrot OS look. Not a big deal as the Fedora layout was what I prefer anyway. I just don’t like that I can’t go back to the default. This is a minor issue.

This is not a Parrot OS specific issue, but I have decided, when using Parrot, that I prefer APT much less than Zypper. This is not saying APT isn’t good, it is just saying that I prefer the output I get from Zypper from doing installations or upgrades vs how APT does it.

Below are side by side comparisons. This is just preference, but I prefer how Zypper tells you what package out of how many it is working on in such a way that it is clear to understand at a glance where it is at in the process. ParrotOS on the Left, openSUSE on the Right.

Final Thoughts

If I were to do “data forensics” as a kind of a “side hustle” I would begin that journey using Parrot Security OS as the testing platform. Although I didn’t download the “Security Edition” I appreciate how they took the time to tailor a desktop for security which I am quite certain has been tested by the security edition tools. Just based on the level of thought and polish in the Home Edition, I am indeed going to be playing with Parrot OS further to conduct tests on my own personal network and learn the tools.

In the end, I had a pretty good time with Parrot OS, aside for a few papercut issues with the interface which I am sure I could smooth out understanding how to tweak the MATE desktop better, so that’s on me. I am going to play with the “Security Edition” and see if I can find areas of concern on my home network, you know, for fun.

Further Reading

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

https://www.debian.org/ports/hppa/

https://www.torproject.org/

https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

openSUSE Tumbleweed Community Challenge

SUSE Plush

Anytime I see openSUSE-news in the non-openSUSE channels, I am immediately interested. Good or bad, I am going to read it. It often seems as though openSUSE doesn’t get its fair shake of time in the public, open-source discourse. It befuddles me because openSUSE is a technically very sound distribution, not only in the static release, Leap but also the rolling distribution, Tumbleweed which is what I use quite happily and [mostly] problem free on my primary machine that is my daily driver.

e6440-01-sm

Jason Evangelho a contributor writer for Forbes.com has begun his 2nd Linux Community Challenge, to run openSUSE Tumbleweed. Previously, he conducted an Elementary OS challenge which, to my understanding, went fantastically well. I had watched from a little bit of a distance but I did kick the tires on ElementaryOS a bit but not the full two weeks.

opensuseAlthough I don’t consider using openSUSE for two weeks to be a challenge, I was intrigued by this and wanted to do what I could to be a positive engaging ambassador of the openSUSE community to this Linux Community Challenge. As I have been playing with a variety of Linux distributions lately, I am starting to understand more what could be the rub of going from an Ubuntu base distribution to openSUSE. Having had great experiences on many distros, I know that I could help “translate” some of the different “features” new users might have.

icon-packageOne such feature is the software management tool, zypper. It does things a bit different than DNF, YUM or APT and since I am familiar with all of them, I know that I can help with any command line questions there.

A very cool thing that has also happened is that the openSUSE community created a #challenge channel on their Discord server which is bridged to a Matrix channel that is bridged to this Telegram channel Jason Evangelho has set up. I had hoped that a few of the good folks of the openSUSE community would pop into the Telegram group but instead they brought the openSUSE community into the Telegram group through some clever bridging.

Final Thoughts

I am quite excited to offer my limited knowledge in helping others out with trying openSUSE. I very much believe that openSUSE is the perfect blend of “Done” and “Modify it to your liking” distribution of Linux and I hope that through this challenge more people will see the value, use and ultimately contribute back to this fine distribution.

I am quite interested in compiling what issues or difficulties people have with running a rolling distribution and the various tools. I am of the (possibly misguided) belief that if you have a basic understanding of what an operating system requires, you can run any version of Linux, some just take a bit longer to get it going, depending on how much time the developers have put toward hand-holding the user. openSUSE is somewhere in the middle of the pack, take your time and it is easy enough to get going on your Linux journey and yet the inner workings are well documented, accessible and you are encouraged to really dig into it, tweak it and make it your own.

Further Reading

About Jason Evangelho

Challenge Telegram Channel

Introducing The Linux Community Challenge #2: openSUSE Tumbleweed on Forbes.com

Get openSUSE Tumbleweed

DitchWindows.com

Elementary OS Community Challenge

openSUSE.org Portal:Zypper

ElementaryOS Home

Using Kwin on LXQt with openSUSE

lxqt-a-new-light-desktop-environment

KDE Plasma is a lot lighter on your system resource than it used to be. There are options out there that are even lighter. As of late, I have been acquainted with many light weight distributios, BunsenLabs, MX, antiX, PeppermintOS and more that are even lighter than a basic KDE Plasma. They are all fantastic distributions and have great implementations of XFCE, LXDE or mixtures of the two and use OpenBox or some other window manger. The default window manager in LXQt on openSUSE is OpenBox and it is a fine window manager but has a dated appearance to it and the beauty of Linux is to be able to mix and match components to your hearts content.

Why

I like the features of Kwin, and the window decorations it brings along with some other usability features I have come to expect on my Desktop Environments. OpenBox is satisfactory and great for what it is but Kwin matches my preferences better.

How

These instructions are assuming you have installed openSUSE without KDE Plasma as the default desktop. If you have previously installed KDE Plasma and you are just switching the window manager, jump to the Switch Window Manager section.

Install packages

In terminal:

sudo zypper install kwin5 oxygen5 systemsettings5

Since you are installing a bunch of the KDE Plasma components you are going to pull down all the related dependencies. The oxygen5 package is completely optional but since that is still my favorite Window Decoration, I have included it. Feel free to punch in your favorite dressing there or remove that flavor all together.

Switch Window Manager

After the necessary Plasma components are installed, the next step is to switch out OpenBox with Kwin

In the system menu select: Preferences > LXQt Settings > LXQt Configuration Center

lxqt configuration center-01

Select Session Settings

lxqt configuration center-02

In the LXQt Session Settings window, Select Basic Settings and under Window Manager, select Kwin_x11.

Select Close, log out and log back in for the changes to take affect.

Customizing

Upon logging back in, you should immediately notice the system menu looks so much smoother. Should you decide to further tweak your window settings. That can be done under Preferences > KDE System Settings.

This will bring up the familiar and fantastic System Settings from the Plasma Desktop Environment. This will allow you to make further visually pleasing changes to your desktop.

Final Thoughts

KDE Plasma is by far my favorite desktop environment and it is pretty light weight (relatively speaking) these days under openSUSE. It will run pretty decent on older or limited hardware. However, when memory is limited, say, 1 or 2 GiB of RAM, an extra 100 or so MiB of RAM is kind of a big deal. LXQt is a real nice desktop environment and when compared to some of the other low resource desktops like XFCE, often doesn’t feel as mature, especially when compared to MX Linux or PeppermintOS. Making this little Window Manager switch makes, in my estimation, improves the user experience.

I run this setup on my netbooks and low end laptops. Kwin does use an addition 34 MiB of RAM as compared to OpenBox but I am willing to make that trade-off for the improved interface features. I think a larger smile when using my hardware is worth 34 MiB.

Further Reading

https://en.opensuse.org/Portal:LXQt

Manjaro Wiki on LXQt with Kwin