Noodlings | KDE Plasma 5.19, Partition Manager and a BADaptor

Really kicking it in to 3rd gear… not high gear yet.

15th Noodling of nonsense

KDE Plasma 5.19 Experience

It is another fantastic release with much attention being made to the finer details that enhance the usability experience without taking away from any of its functionality.

KDE Partition Manager

I have become quite the fan of Gparted over the years of my Linux life and I started wondering if there were other partition management options out there. Specifically one that is Qt based instead. This is not a light on GTK based applications, I just find that they don’t tend to look as nice and clean as Qt apps. In this off-hand search, I stumbled upon PartitionManger which is in official openSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap Repositories.

openSUSE Tumbleweed on an HP Zbook 15 G2 with Nvidia Quadro K2100M

I have reached the end of the road with this machine. We have been together for about three years and before sending it off to the ether, I wanted to try out openSUSE Tumbleweed on it. It was something of a question I have been asking myself since I was first assigned the piece of hardware. Windows 7 worked fine on it but how would it spin with the Plasma desktop.

Badaptor, DeWalt 20v MAX battery to Ryobi 18v One+

In 2019, I bought into DeWalt 20v MAX cordless tool platform as part of my mission to reduce complexity in and improve efficiency in as many aspects of my life as possible. This is a long term mission of mine with many facets but basic tools was at the foundation of this plan. DeWalt has a great line of tools to choose from, but they are aimed at the commercial, industrial or professional builder. I would consider myself an intermediate or advanced DIY-er with the occasional moonlighting as either a handyman or builder, so I wanted some of those higher end tools to be available.

BDLL Follow Up

UbuntuDDE Discussion

UbuntuDDE Review from an openSUSE User on CubicleNate.com

openSUSE Corner

  • Leap 15.2 upcoming release in only 7 days. One week from today
  • openSUSE + LibreOffice Conference Updates
    • https://news.opensuse.org/2020/06/17/opensuse-libreoffice-conference-update/
    • Organizers of the openSUSE + LibreOffice Conference have been slightly adjusted the conference dates from the original dates of Oct. 13 – 16 to the new dates of Oct. 15. – 17.
    • The new dates are a Thursday through a Saturday. Participants can submit talks for the live conference until July 21 when the Call for Papers is expected to close.
    • The length of the talks for the conference have also been changed. There will be a 15-minute short talk, a 30-minute normal talk and a 60-minute work group sessions to select. Organizers felt that shortening the talks were necessary to keep attendees engaged during the online conference. The change will also help with the scheduling of breaks, social video sessions and extra segments for Questions and Answers after each talk.

Tumbleweed

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

  • 20200611 Stable 98
    • Alsa 1.2.2 -> 1.2.3
    • ffmpeg-4 4.2.2 -> 4.2.3 – Stable bug fix release, mainly codecs and format fixes
    • ncurses 6.2.20200502 -> 6.2.20200531
    • yast2 4.3.5 -> 4.3.6
    • 20200612 Moderate 72
    • iwlwifi broken in kernel-5.7.1
    • NVIDIA kernel module broken release
  • 20200614 Unstable 66
    • zypper dup from 20200609 to 20200614 and run into an infinite boot loop: https://paste.opensuse.org/89998412
      Hardware: Processors: 12 × Intel® Core™ i7-9750H CPU @ 2.60GHz Memory: 15,4 GiB Arbeitsspeicher Graphics Processor: Mesa DRI Intel® UHD Graphics 630
    • This was probably due to the move to GCC10
  • 20200615 Moderate 71
    • Fix building with gcc10
  • 20200616 Moderate 73
    • plasma-framework 5.70.0 -> 5.71.0
  • 20200617 Moderate 74
    • zypper (1.14.36 -> 1.14.37)
    • Mesa (20.0.7 -> 20.1.1)
  • 20200618 Pending moderate 74
    • PackageKit
    • flatpak
    • plasma5-thunderbolt
  • 20200621 Pending moderate 79
    • plasma5-workspace (5.19.0 -> 5.19.1)
    • snapper (0.8.9 -> 0.8.10)
  • 20200622 Pending moderate 78
    • gnome-desktop (3.36.2 -> 3.36.3.1)
    • libreoffice (6.4.4.2 -> 7.0.0.0.beta2)

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Computers in Education (1983)

Fear of computers replacing teachers and dehumanizing education
– I think in many ways this has happened but in a way, with the changes in multimedia, as opposed to the beeps and boops of computers in 1983, we have humanized computers a bit. With individuals creating tutorials and education personalities you can follow online have made more educators out of us as opposed to less
– Terminal becomes a kind of personal tutor
– Time at the terminal is more like a game
– Computer instruction was more like rote training
– Kids trained in logic
– Logo whimsical way to tell a computer what to do taught

Final Thoughts

If you are going to spread anything, make it love, joy and peace. You can’t ever go wrong with that

KDE Partition Manager on openSUSE

I have become quite the fan of Gparted over the years of my Linux life and I started wondering if there were other partition management options out there. Specifically one that is Qt based instead. This is not a light on GTK based applications, I just find that they don’t tend to look as nice and clean as Qt apps. In this off-hand search, I stumbled upon PartitionManger which is in official openSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap Repositories.

I should note, they both Gparted and KDE Partition Manager use the same icon.

Installation

Since this isn’t installed by default with the Plasma Desktop, arguably it should be, here is how you o about it. I noticed on the openSUSE Software Site, its short description is that you can Easily manage disks, partitions and file systems on your KDE Desktop. So I guess we will see if this holds true.

It is also described as being software that allows you to manage your disks, partitions and file systems that allows you to create, resize, delete, copy, backup and restore partitions with a large number of supported file systems. These file systems include ext2 ext3, reiserfs, NTFS, FAT32 and more. I am guessing you can also do Ext4, BTRFS and others.

It goes on to say that it makes use of external programs to get its job done, so you might have to install additional software (preferably packages from your distribution) to make use of all features and get full support for all file systems.

That’s good news as I am hoping it wouldn’t re-implement anything and just use existing tools.

To install in terminal:

sudo zypper install partitionmanager

or navigate here for the Direct Install Link

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

As expected, it installed very little, a total of 4 new packages:

  • kpmcore – KDE Partition Manager core library
  • libkpmcore7 – KDE Partition Manager core library
  • partitionmanager – Main Application package
  • partitionmanager-lang – Language support

Considering I have Gparted already installed, most of everything else is likely already there. I have a great respect and love for Gparted at this point, I am hoping that I am not losing any features by using KDE Partition Manager.

First Run and Impressions

Using the handy Plasma menu with the search feature, I started typing “Partition” and it popped up. I launched it and was given the dialog for root user permissions.

I am on the fence if I like that very detailed command being being shown by default. Instinctively, I say it is fantastic, but for a less experienced user, it could feel a bit overwhelming, perhaps.

After the root login requirement, I had this warning pop up which I thought was fantastic!

I have been using Gparted for quite some time and was having issues with an SD Card. My laziness, I just ignored it and now I see what the problem was. I needed the exfat utilities and now the world is right again. Adding this was as easy as running this in the terminal:

sudo zypper install exfat-utils

This automatically selected fuse-exfat package to be installed as well.

Once all this was up. I was greeted with a nice clean and familiar interface

What sets this apart from Gparted is that it shows you all the devices in a side pane instead of the drop-down. I will say, I much prefer the side pane to the drop down. It gives a better overview of what you are doing.

Gparted with the drop-down to select the device

I wanted to format a device and give it a label for my upcoming experimentation with Ventoy for keeping and testing Linux distribution ISOs. So that is what I did.

Mainly, I just wanted the appropriate label. I also took this as an opportunity to format that SD Card, also an easy success.

Final Thoughts

It works! I can’t say it’s any better than Gparted as they both seem to work the same and have a similar appearance and workflow. If you can use one, you can use the other. The biggest difference is the devices side menu. I do like that more than the Gparted drop down. It provides a better snapshot of the status of the storage devices on your machine. Outside of that. KDE PartitionManager as well as Gparted are fantastic tools and this is mostly an appearance preference as I am sure they are using all the same backend of tools.

References

https://software.opensuse.org/package/partitionmanager
https://www.kde.org/applications/system/kdepartitionmanager
USB or Removable Media Formatting in Linux on CubicleNate.com

KDE Plasma 5.19 on openSUSE Tumbleweed

It was not so long ago that Plasma 5.18 graced my computer and very excitingly, 5.19 is here now. Since Tumbleweed is my main Linux system I use, I decided to share my experience on openSUSE Tumbleweed but it should be noted that you can enjoy Plasma 5.19 on Leap as well using the backports repositories. Leap is not my preferred method but it is an option.

Bottom Line Up Front: It is another fantastic release with much attention being made to the finer details that enhance the usability experience without taking away from any of its functionality.

This release of Plasma is being called the “more polished Plasma” and I think this is absolutely correct. The transition for me has been quite delightful. New little bits of happiness have been sprinkled about my desktop experience. There is nothing particularly earth shattering going on here. Just continued refinements.

The Little Things

I will be the first to call me out and remind anyone that I would totally poo-poo on making a big deal about the little touches of a desktop environment. I will hold fast on my belief that function over form but when you can add some form to function, you really hit the sweet spot with me.

For starters, what really stands out is the Bluetooth connections applet that shows the status of a connection. It is just a small thing, a status icon on the disconnected devices.

Discover is becoming my favorite software center now. It has been working quite nicely. The only thing it is missing on openSUSE is access to the Snap store. It has been handling updates quite nicely as well as anything with Flatpak. I do have a propensity to use the terminal because I love the terminal but Discover is really eating into that a bit.

It’s easy to use, responsive and has been working very well for me when installing new applications. This is not the Discover of 2 years ago and if you haven’t used it in a while, now may be a good time.

The neatest feature that I think is noteworthy is how system settings are presented to you know when you call them up. For example: in Plasma past, when you opened the display settings using krunner or in the application menu, it opened up that specific module only. Now, calling the Display Settings, will open up the module but in the context of the system settings menu so you can Select < All Settings arrow back to all your settings and continue on with your modification of things as you may see fit.

This is just a little thing but it is a great little thing and quite welcome.

The Media Player applet looks a lot nicer now. Before it was fine but now it has a more appealing layout and you can adjust the volume of what is being played back right there, which is very nice.

There was some talk about improving the spacing to give a more consistent look but it must be so subtle to me that I am just not picking up on the differences there. I will say that the notifications are is far better now than it was a year or so ago where it would become an almost epileptic mess of dialog boxes and rendering other applets non-functional until Plasma was done telling you what it insisted upon telling you.

What I Like

All theses little tweaks and user experience enhancements certainly plays into the idea that this is mostly a “Polished Plasma” release. I would say, that these incremental enhancements are very welcome and further underscore why I enjoy using Plasma, day in and day out. It is as though the developers have my interests at heart when they do their fantastic work.

The Memory information is nothing new but I really enjoy just looking at it sometimes. I often wonder, what exactly is going on right now that the memory is fluctuating like it does. Regardless, it is just a fun informational display that really appeals to my nerdiness.

What I don’t like

Due to the nature of rolling distributions and enhancements, I do have a lot of updates in a week or if I wait, a couple of weeks. Because of this, I am often eagerly looking for updates to see what has rolled down. This means, when new things are coming, like Plasma, I am going around and updating everything excitedly to see the new shiny. Not is not a bad thing about openSUSE or Plasma but rather a problem with me as I have a hard time waiting to the end of the work day or weekend to see what great newness I get to play with. It has also made me very spoiled and when I do, on the rare occasion, have an issue I can forget how good I have it.

Final Thoughts

I would most certainly call this a “Polished Plasma” release and I am very content with it. I look forward to further releases like this. They make the time spent on my computer just a bit more enjoyable. Not just with new features but all the different usability and customization tweaks to which they give me such easy access. I hope they continue down this fantastic path for years to come.

References

KDE Repositories for openSUSE Leap
KDE Plasma 5.19.0 release notes
openSUSE Tumbleweed Download
Plasma 5.18 Release for openSUSE Tumbleweed on CubicleNate.com

UbuntuDDE | Review from an openSUSE User

The Linux and open source community is a wonderful thing and as part of a BDLL community we have these distribution challenges. Try out a different distribution and talk about your experience. There was a lot of excitement about having the Deepin Desktop on the Ubuntu base and I decided to commit to this challenge. After using I was thinking, you will often hear that the Deepin Desktop is something remarkable and “beautiful” and stands apart from other desktops because of this. I also find, that for some reason, there are these ideas that stick in people’s heads that is so matter of fact, that going against this is like passing gas in church during communion.

This is my biased review as a fairly seasoned openSUSE User. I openly admit that my views are heavily slanted towards a very specific paradigm and not eager to change, but I am open minded to different ideas and make an effort to appreciate the art in a distribution. I should also note, I have a strong disposition towards to KDE Plasma for my Desktop Environment. That, to me, is the pinnacle of the desktop experience.

Bottom Line Up Front: Ubuntu DDE appears to be a distribution that is well on its way to becoming something special. It is built on a fantastic foundation of Ubuntu. The team building it haven’t made any bazaar choices for limiting universal package functionality. Right out of the gate, you have access to the wealth of AppImages, Flatpacks and Snaps. The Deepin environment is okay. I don’t really see what the big deal is but there is certainly a fan base. Would I use it? Nope. There is far too much functionality I would miss that is easily accessible within Plasma that I enjoy using too much and although it has the great Ubuntu foundation, I just happen to prefer the openSUSE base.

Installation

I navigated to the UbuntuDDE site to get the ISO to try out this Respin of Ubuntu. The site is clean, uncluttered experience with a pretty bold claim. “…the most beautiful desktop environment”. That certainly ratchets up my expectations of this experience.

I selected the Download menu option and chose the Torrent link. Maybe it is an old-fashioned idea, but I like using and seeding torrents of any distribution I try out in order to a very tiny part of helping out with the network effect. If torrents are not your thing, there are other options.

After the ISO downloaded, I set out to test UbuntuDDE in a VM. When I try out a ‘new’ distribution, I do it in a VM first. If I really like what I see and find something really compelling, I will move to actual hardware and kick the tires some more, really open it up, as it were. I knew that I am stepping into something real beautiful so prepped my socks to be blown off.

On the initial boot of the ISO, it goes through a check process. I don’t recall going through this on other distributions, but not a huge deal, I’m patient and maybe I will thank it later?

I am also given a “Friendly Reminder” that it has detected my use of a virtual machine which will affect the system performance and operation. I am a bit puzzled on the wording of “Friendly Reminder” as I am quite aware of the performance penalties of using a VM. I went for “Normal” mode to enjoy the fast performance. I think a better explanation is in order here as it also hampers the usability. More on that later.

My initial impressions, welp, my socks were still in place. The desktop was okay. I’m not sure it lives up to the claim of being “the most beautiful desktop environment” but it is very okay. I have to let things slide as I am using it in a VM. Perhaps my experience would be different if I chose to use effects instead.

The next step was to go through the installation process. Thankfully, it was super simple as it uses the well known and loved Calamares Installer. Once you launch the installer, select your language, hit next then your location.

Your next task will be to specify your keyboard layout followed by your partition preference. Since I am running this in a VM, I want to just have it use the entire virtual disk. After that you will have to supply user information. There is no option to set a root password.

Last step is to review, do a sanity check and think about your actions you are about to take.

The installation process takes a bit longer than you might be expect for an Ubuntu Distribution. Not a huge deal just noteworthy. It’s not like you install Linux every day so a super fast installer is not that critical.

Once you are done, you can reboot and experience the all the wonders of the Deepin Desktop on Ubuntu

First Run and Impressions

The login screen is pretty nice. Very pleasant and not the boring flatness that seems to be trending. So points there. The default picture is a little funny… kind of makes me miss the days of old when default users where whimsical Linux and open source related clipart.

After logging in and waiting for the desktop to settle I was greeted with a little error.

I of course selected to report that problem.

The default menu is by far my least favorite style of menu. It takes over the whole screen, there is no organization and hovering over an icon provides no further information.

Thankfully, there is an option to change the menu style to a more sensible menu. Still no organization but it does provide quick links to locations in your home directory. I think, if you are going to have one of these two lack-luster menus, the second should be default.

My next area of exploration was to look at the control center and view my options there. I have heard many good things about it and now it was time to see what all this goodness is about.

The control center is fine. I don’t mind it. I think it is a nice consolidated and simple example of what a control center can be. Overall, I find the experience to be straight forward and simple but in a way also quite limiting. To be clear, it is very functional but very controlled with a reduced set of options. I would venture to guess that it will suffice for most but it lacks a lot of the detailed control I enjoy in Plasma. I don’t fault the DE for this as I think the user focus is different than what you would have on Plasma.

I do like this neat feature of of the control center of the double-click test. You have a Kawaii looking cat that when you successfully double-click will appear raise and lower behind a kind of concealment .

When I decided to use the pager or virtual desktop switcher I would get this error that I need to have effects enabled. To fix this, you have to go into the Control Center > Display and toggle the effects there.

Another VM-ism, perhaps but I was super annoyed with the Normal Mode not being able to use the virtual desktops. If you recall earlier, there were two options, “Normal Mode” and “Effects Mode.” This leads me to believe that “normal mode” means, limited functionality mode. I don’t find that to be “normal”. It would be better if that screen that asks you what mode you want actually spelled this out a bit more clearly. “Effects Mode” means fully functional, while “Normal” means limited functionality. I personally am not okay with using a system that doesn’t have multiple desktops.

Once activated, you will have access to the wonders and freedom of virtual desktops.

Selecting a “Dark Theme” doesn’t mean that you will have a dark theme throughout your desktop. I can specifically specify that the file manager use a dark theme but even after doing so, the settings window still does not respect the dark theme. I would say, this anti-feature alone makes this NOT the most beautiful desktop.

On a positive, without having to fuss at all, Firefox is multimedia ready. I can watch YouTube or Netflix without having any issues. I don’t have any issues with adding restricted codecs but having them readily available is a huge plus, especially for new users.

The standard office applications are available right from the installation making access to spreadsheets, presentations and word-processing readily available.

Disappointingly, there is no consideration into the Qt theming. I checked Kdenlive, a very important application and not only was it the wrong theme, but there were no options out of the gate. It is usable but it doesn’t feel like it is part of my Deepin Desktop experience, at all.

In the end, it is not a bad desktop. I have my issues with it and if not having used Plasma, before, I would have probably been far more accepting of all the little quarks.

What I Like

There are a lot of cute little things about the desktop. The attention to the double-click is what stands out the most for me. I like how accessible and fun that little bit is and I encourage such creative ideas.

I can use AppImages, Flatpak and Snaps right out of the gate on UbuntuDDE without having to fuss with anything., I think this is such an smart way to go about building a desktop. Not even my beloved openSUSE makes it this easy. You have to turn on Flatpak and Snaps in order to use them, which is not a big deal but I want to give marks where marks are appropriate for UbuntuDDE

The whole process was clean. Everything from downloading through the installation process. There were no headaches in any of it. I appreciate that and it tells me that UbuntuDDE is targeting a user that doesn’t want to fuss around with mundane details.

What I Don’t Like

The Normal Mode or Effects Mode needs some clarification on what you are losing out on. This isn’t a just a difference between having the nifty effects or not. This is a reduction in functionality and having “normal mode” therefore means “less usable” mode and this needs to be corrected.

Not a huge deal, but when I would change the resolution on the VM to match my actual display, I would be logged out of the session. I chalk this up to a VM-ism and something I wouldn’t have to deal with on actual hardware

Not all applications respect the theme selection by the control center. This to me is a rather large irritation. I could deal with it more so if it was just Qt applications that were not respecting GTK themes as that is basically expected with all GTK based desktops. My issue is that the file manager didn’t respect the dark theme and that is just no good. I would call my experience here, far, far less than beautiful.

Final Thoughts

UbuntuDDE is a satisfactory Desktop Environment. Would I say it is the most beautiful? No, not a chance. I think it is fine though. What bothers me most about it is the very limiting feeling I get from it. I don’t feel attached to the desktop. I don’t feel like it is mine and things like not all applications respecting the dark theme just added more to that pile.

Despite my experience with the desktop. I think you should give it a try, in a VM or on actual hardware. After all, your experience may be far different than mine. It could be all roses and puppy dogs or maybe Kawaii cats hiding and appearing. After all, I am a biased openSUSE Plasma user that wants his bacon fried to a certain perfection. My tastes are different than yours so you should explore and find your Desktop Home.

References

UbuntuDDE Home Page
Calamares Installer
BDLL community

Noodlings | LeoCAD, DeWalt and a UPS

Dusting off for the 14th installment.

14th Noodling of nonsense and clamoring

LeoCAD from Design to Publication

Designing, organizing the timeline and publishing a MOC (My Own Creation) on Rebrickable.com using LeoCAD on openSUSE

DeWalt cordless Power tool platform

A little trip outside the cubicle for my appreciation for a great cordless tool platform that enables me to do more with greater efficiency. My mission to simplify and reduce life complexity

APC UPS Battery Backup Rebuild

Fixing is my preferred option to buying new. Not only is it financially but environmentally more beneficial.

BDLL Followup

Thoughts about Lubuntu and Linux Mint choice to forbid Snaps.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE + LibreOffice conference will be online. See the news article for details on on the Open Source Event Manager system, the online Summit and submitting for talks for it.

Tumbleweed Updates for snapshots 20200609 and 20200610, both trending stable scores.

Snapshot Reviewer Site

Computer History Retrospective

In the 5th episode of the 1st season of Computer Chronicles in the year 1983 was an episode about Robotics. Lots of interesting speculation about the commercial viability of robotic devices.

Even at this time, robotics in manufacturing, or machines in general were starting to do many of the more dangerous tasks that could easily be replaced by some sort of structured process where robots could excel.

The fear of robots taking away jobs as seen in the early 20th century but the speculation that robots would completely eliminate all jobs doesn’t seem to have come into fruition. I know that today we speculate that automation will replace us in every way. It has in some capacities but I do believe it opens up the world for more skilled occupations. Robots and computers are certainly very disruptive to society, but they also give us new things as well.

Here is the video in it’s video tape recorded glory from 1983.

Final Thoughts

We all have immutable characteristics, things about us we cannot control about us. That will never make you less of a person

KDE Plasma 5.18 on openSUSE Tumbleweed | Awesome-Sauce

I can’t help but think how the Plasma team seems to have an incredible sense of momentum behind the project. Every update has been nothing but smiles and happy dances. At the time of writing, I am using 5.18.1 which rolled down recently and although you can read all the cool new features from the horses mouth here, I’m going to tell you all the things that make my experience just a bit better.

GTK Theme Integration

First and foremost, the GTK theme integration is tremendously improved. Really, this is a little thing but many of the GTK applications just look better now. Specifically, Gnome-Recipes and Virtmanager have a nicer look about it. Some applications don’t seem to look quite right, like Audacity and Firefox are only pulling some of the correct colors but over all, it is an improvement. From what I can tell. If the application is GTK3, it looks right. If it is GTK2, not quite as right.

From what I can tell, the color information is being pulled from the Plasma theme. The GTK2 theme doesn’t seem to do the same but I am sure it is a work in progress.

It should also be noted that the shadows underneath GTK applications match the rest of Plasma. It is a very subtle thing, really and not that big of a deal to not have but overall, this does look a lot better.

Gnome recipes is still lacking on the button preferences I would rather have at the top but this is better, overall than it was. Some applications, like Virtmanager look as though they are like any other Qt based application. It should be noted that there are some color issues with Firefox and Audacity. The accent color does not match the rest of my desktop.

Night Color

The Night Color controller, which was given to us in Plasma 5.17, now has an icon that is in the system tray. Version 5.16 and before, I was using Redshift, which was well enough but having something a bit more integrated into the system is preferred. The only issue was that there wasn’t a tray indicator and occasionally, there would be issues with Redshift, nothing horrific, I would just have to toggle it or the “GeoClue” service would runaway and have to be killed. Night Color doesn’t seem to have any bugs but was introduced without a tray icon or indicator. Now there is a nicely sized icon in the tray that allows for quick activation / deactivation and access to the configuration options. Not that you are going to adjust it but a quick click on the icon and it will return the temperature to the cooler default when you disable it. Truthfully, I seem to much prefer the warmer look of the screen these days.

Memory Usage

I have a couple low specification machines and what impresses me is how the memory resources have further been reduced. This is completely colloquial and should not be taken as absolute for all cases as I have read more than once that Plasma will take advantage of extra memory when available. Regardless, Plasma, on my low-spec multimedia machine not hovers at about 370 MiB of RAM but doesn’t go beyond 420 MiB on a machine with 4 GiB (well… 3.8 GiB after being gobbled up by the GPU). It should also be noted that after many hours of use, there was not perceivable memory leak or weirdness. Not that one would expect it today, but I do think it’s worth noting and nice to see that there do not seem to be any issues.

Emoji Picker

A feature that is touted that looks cool in the pictures but not so useful in my setup is the emoji picker. I think my issue is that I am running with a dark theme and the icons being chosen are just as you see but it would be nice if it had the more traditional, multi colored emojis. Truthfully, I don’t use emojis much at all but on those rare instances, I would much prefer to have something more… colorful.

I don’t know if I care enough to even file a bug report or feature request.

Default Audio Device

If you are like me, and I hope not, you have multiple audio devices you connect and disconnect at any time. I have become quite the fan of using Bluetooth devices on Linux as it works very reliably. What is nice is the ability to tell Plasma that when it sees a device, to make that one the default and switch to it when connected.

In my case, I have a Bluetooth headset that when it connects, I want it to be the default device so that when I press the volume up/down keys on my laptop, the headset is what adjusts volume, not some other device. This works 100% of the time, so far.

Final Thoughts

With every release of Plasma, I have been quite pleased and happy to get the latest and greatest that they have to offer. I truly believe that this is how software updates should be. The steady progress of better performance, feature refinements and improved memory usage has made using Plasma a continual joy. I do admit, these are small refinements and tweaks, but that is a welcome method of introducing changes. There is nothing radical or earth shattering in Plasma 5.18, just refinements.

I very much welcome these improvements and look forward to the next round. Personally, I am hoping for further refinements to the GTK integration. Currently, I am quite pleased with the changes that were made for client side decorations. I am also hoping that this course of performance and resource utilization improvements continue. I do realize that it is likely “we” are bumping up against realistic limits but I do recall a time when Plasma 4 could run quite nicely on a machine with 512 MiB of RAM, so… that’s something.

If you haven’t tried Plasma in a while, 5.18 is not likely to disappoint. Running Plasma on openSUSE Tumbleweed is a great experience, not necessarily for the defaults as they closely follow upstream and a dark theme should be default. I haven’t had any of the glitching or strange behavior that Plasma has been known for in the distance past, Plasma runs great on 14 year old hardware as well as modern hardware. Most important to me, none of the changes in 5.18 are irritating. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but for me, there is no greater statement that can be said about a desktop as the changes are not irritating.

References

KDE Plasma 5.18 Release Notes
openSUSE Tumbleweed Download

FerenOS (2020) | Review from an openSUSE User

FerenOS undoubtedly focuses on visual aesthetics, user interface and user experience. The last time I looked at FerenOS, it was built on the Cinnamon Desktop Environment. At the time, the Plasma version was called “Feren Next” and and initially I was disappointed I didn’t use the Plasma version, but now I am very glad I did as I can compare this experience with my last FerenOS experience.

This is my review as an openSUSE User. To say this will be completely objective would essentially be a big giant lie. This will be quite biased as I enjoy openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, day in and day out on multiple machines, including my daily driver, low end laptops and more powerful workstations and servers. I am happily entrenched but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to look over the fences from time to time to see what other parts of the community are doing. Plus, you can’t go anywhere without bumping in to “FerenOS Dev” on some YouTube chat, Telegram or Discord announcing his enhancements.

Bottom Line Up Front: FerenOS (2020) is simply fantastic. The way you are greeted and guided through your setup is brilliant. I am not keen on every design decision but that matters not as I am never keen on every design decision presented in any other distribution, to include my own. FerenOS is going for a look that is uniquely its own and is not afraid to experiment, cross toolkit boundaries and stray from the normal. I appreciate the design decisions, more than any other “boutique” distribution I have seen in a long while. Do I like all of them? No. Would I choose many of these? Also, No. But I think they do look great make for an enjoyable experience, just not one I would prefer.

Installation

The installation of FerenOS is very straight forward. It uses the Calamares Installer which is known for being straight forward. When you first kick on the installer, you are presented with your language selection.

I have noticed this is common with the Ubuntu flavors but not all of them. When FerenOS boots, it looks classy as they use the “flicker free” booting in just the right way.

When the system settles you are greeted with a fantastic welcome window that immediately detects you are using a VM. Although, neither of the two options fit my situation, it is still a welcome notification.

Another very cool feature is to set your theme and accent color to your desktop. Unless my memory fails me, I think this is the first I have been presented this on start up.

I of course went for a dark with a green accent color because that is my happy place. Interestingly, you are told to log out and in again for the changes to take affect on certain applications. I wonder which applications.

I appreciate how FerenOS tells the heart of its story, it’s reason for being, right on the desktop. “Passion led us here.” That, I believe is the corner value of this entire project. You can see the passion throughout the entire experience. It oozes through every design decision. Since I want to see how FerenOS does, when installed, that was my next step.

The installer is nice and respected, mostly, my dark theme selection. Step one, set your language. Step 2, set your Location. All very straight forward and you really shouldn’t get stumped on those particular questions.

Step 3, set your keyboard preference. In my case, I am going with English (US) and Default as I don’t have anything other than that… although… I am often interested in this Dvorak layout. It was the new big thing in the 80s, nice to see it’s taken off.

Step 4, set your disk partitions. In this case, I am utilizing the entire disk and the default, whatever it is, will be fine for this sort of experience.

Step 5, Set your username and password. This also includes the name of the computer. I really like that this is presented as such. I do not particularly care for having to dig for this option or setting it later. Sure, I will do it and probably won’t complain about it too much but I like for the option to be presented in the regular course of the installation process. No, that is not a dig on any other installer. Step 6, you are presented a summary to review your decisions. If you are okay with this, select Install. You will then be presented a kind of “sanity check” to be sure you are certain on this commitment.

Step 7, Install the system, or rather, let the installer copy all the files and configure your system according to the preferences you set. Step 8, select “Restart now” and click “Done”.

Then you are done. The system is installed and you are ready to stretch your legs in this new-car-smell of a desktop experience.

First Run and Impressions

Upon reboot, this is the only place it feels like Feren hasn’t taken any time to customize is the Grub screen that launches you into the operating system. Visually, this does not reflect the experience you are going to have and it, unfortunately doesn’t say “Feren OS” here. Not that seeing Ubuntu is unwelcome it is just a bit disjointed from the rest of the experience you are about to have.

After you log into the system, for the first time, you are greeted with the theme selection but with expanded options. You are asked if you want to add the 3rd-Party extensions to your system with a reasonable warning. Next you are given selection of desktop paradigms from which to choose. I went with the Feren OS default because I wanted to see the Feren preferred interface.

You will once again set your Theme mode and accent color. The first time was like a dress rehearsal, I suppose. I repeated my dark theme with the green accents.

Another nice touch to this first-run window is that it tells you about KDE Connect and gives you links to get the application for your mobile device. The option to set the feature to reduced eye strain is great. Many people may not even know it exist so well done on presenting this!

Once you get through that, you are done and ready to get going with Feren OS. Like any operating system, that is just a shell for getting your work (or play) done.

Getting back to the Welcome Screen is as easy as easy as a click on a desktop icon. This is real nice because here you can access many of those customization options once again.

Quite importantly is the quick access to install applications to the system. Both Flatpak and Snaps are readily available. No extra hoops to jump through which does seem like a stray from what is common with boutique distributions. It is a very user conscientious being made that is greatly appreciated.

Something else that I thought was kind of neat, was if you started to ignore the Welcome Screen, it will start to get restless and do fun things.

It is another nice touch that makes your desktop feel alive, not in overlord, dominate, closed sort of way but a fun and whimsically enjoyable fashion.

If at some point you decide you don’t like the theme you have selected, that is easy enough to change. You actually get a few other options if you visit the “Global Themes” so if a more traditional or “vanilla” Breeze Dark is your thing. That is an option here too. It is fun to play with the other themes and really, the Ubuntu Unity Layout isn’t a bad re-implementation of the Unity Desktop. It kind of makes you think, really…

The file manager choice of “Nemo” in Feren is one of two “weak spots” in choice, in my opinion. The Plasma default is Dolphin and really, any other file manager pales in comparison to it. It gets the job done fine but I don’t understand why.

Snap Support is just a click (or two) away from getting going with it. Flatpak is also readily available. The integration into the Feren Software center is also nicely done.

The first time you go into the software manager system. You will have to take a little time to configure bits and pieces of it. First the system snapshots then the mirrors.

The snapshots are very easily set up but the BTRFS option is not an actual option unless you have BTRFS as your file system. I didn’t test this but it would be nice if the option wasn’t there as it’s too late to select it at this point. This whole system reminds me of what is available on Linux Mint. I am guessing it is pulled from it with some modifications. I am not sure.

After you select your preferences for the Users Home Directories you are done with the snapshots setup. I chose not to have any snapshots taken for the home directory and I am not completely sure of the utility of it. I would prefer to make offline, incremental backups rather than use this method.

The next task you will have to tackle is the selection of your software sources, finding the closest mirror. I am curious as to why this isn’t automatic but not a big deal. It is easy enough to adjust.

Once all this is out of the way, you are ready to get to performing updates on your system. It is a nice update tool and it is a satisfying watch to see all the bits get installed on your system.

The Default Web Browser Choice is not my preference. Vivaldi is okay but Firefox is my preference with Falkon as my secondary. Whenever I use Vivaldi, it just feels… clunky but maybe that is due to my lack of experience with it.

Adding another web browser. is a trivial process. That can be accomplished with a fantastic little tool that allows you to install the browser of your choice.

Overall, FerenOS makes a great impression. It feels well thought out, well polished and very straight forward to use. Truly, a great, easily customized desktop experience with some great presets from which to build.

What I Like

Immediately, without any question, the welcome screen is the best I have ever seen. I am given the freedom to choose my experience right out of the gate. There is, quite literally, no digging required to tweak things out to the way I prefer but also the option to try out some great presets and tweak them to my liking. The over all look of each preset is crafted in that “Feren way”.

There are lot’s of little helper tools to allow you to make choices in the most painless possible way. Everything from accent colors to browser choices to where you select your mirrors is all easily accomplished. I realize that Feren is pulling from other projects to make this happen and is as such crossing toolkit boundaries but that is completely acceptable because he integrates the look and feel of Qt and GTK apps in such a way that they coexist quite nicely.

Throughout the entire desktop experience, there are these little touches that make Feren fun to use. Everything from the animated logo, the choice in defaults, the detection of using the desktop in a VM and so forth give the impression that it is focused specifically on a tailored desktop experience. I would say, without any hesitation, that Feren OS works towards making your computer a personal computer. I also want to note that no mater the “Global Theme” you use, the visual brand language is undoubtedly very Feren OS. Whether you use the Window, Mac or Unity feel, paradigm, it feels like Feren OS.

What I Don’t Like

The default file manager, Nemo, is not my favorite. One of the great features of Plasma is Dolphin. It is by far the best file manager available on any platform and I am a bit befuddled why the default would be anything but Dolphin. Nemo is not bad but it is much like the car rental experience. You are told you are getting a full sized, luxury sedan but you end up with a 4 year old mid-sized that smells like an ashtray but with low mileage as no one actually wants to drive this. Sure, it’s fine, it’ll get from point “A” to point “B” but you aren’t excited about it.

This is a total nitpick but the Grub boot screen doesn’t say Feren OS, it says Ubuntu. Sure, I know it is build on Ubuntu but shouldn’t it say Feren OS? This is not a big deal at all but it is just something that I think would be an improvement or at least reduce any confusion from someone that may not be as well informed.

Final Thoughts

Feren OS is a great visual experience that has a lot of care taken into making the user feel like they are using a commercial product. I would place Feren OS at the top of my list of Boutique distributions that has some serious legs to it. I don’t know what the long term strategy is for Feren but I hope that what he does trickles out into other distributions, not just Plasma based but all of them. He has an eye for design and user experience that is head and shoulders above anything else that I have seen on any operating system, ever. This is most certainly something to watch and keep an eye on.

Would I switch from openSUSE to FerenOS? No, I would not. As nice as it is, as well crafted as it is, it is not for me. I do happen to prefer the underpinnings that openSUSE provides and I prefer a few things to be just a bit different which lines up closer to my personal taste. So, whether that is on openSUSE Tumbleweed, Kubuntu, Neon or Feren, I am still going to tweak out a lot about the desktop to fit my needs.

I would recommend Feren OS to any new-to-Linux user and if you are even slightly curious about it, give it a try. You will have a smile of enjoyment on your face that is unique to this desktop and the more you dig in and see all the thoughtful care put into it, you won’t have a shred of disappointment.

References

Feren OS Home
BDLL Discourse Forum about Feren OS
BDLL Discussion on YouTube about Feren OS Part 1
BDLL Discussion on YouTube about Feren OS Part 2

Noodlings | Kontact Solaar through a VPN

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

13th Noodling of nonsense

Kontact | Akonadi Reference

The killer feature of the Plasma Desktop has been the KDE Personal Information Manager, Kontact. I have been using it since 2004 time frame and although we have had a tenuous relationship over the years, specifically the switch to the Akonadi and the pain that came with it in the early years. I actively use Kontact on multiple machines for the feature richness of it and haven’t found anything in existence that I like better. I also exclusively use Kontact on openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma Desktop Environment.

I have decided to publish my reference concerning the maintenance it requires. I could be an edge case since I have five mail accounts and multiple calendar accounts as well. Historically, I have had issues where losing network connection, regaining it, suspending and resuming my machine over a period of time would cause the thing to have fits. So, here are my fixes, whenever the need arises.

You know those stories of people that have these crazy habit ts that don’t make sense, things they do that don’t really help or solve a problem like making sure the spoons are organized in just the right fashion? Yeah, well that could be what this whole post is and my obsessive-compulsive tenancies are in full expression. So, take all that into account should you choose to use any of these references.

Solaar | Application for Logitech Unifying Receivers

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

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

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

Dell Inspiron 20 3048 SSD Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

Windscribe VPN Service

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

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

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

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

BDLL Followup

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

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

Bottom Line Up Front: FerenOS (2020) is simply fantastic. The way you are greeted and guided through your setup is brilliant. I am not keen on every design decision but that matters not as I am never keen on every design decisions, to include my own. FerenOS is going for a look that is uniquely its own and is not afraid to experiment, cross toolkit boundaries and stray from the normal. I appreciate the design decisions, more than any other “boutique” distribution that I have seen in a long while. Do I like all of them? No. Would I choose many of these? Also, No. But I think they do look great, make for an enjoyable experience, just not one I necessarily prefer.

openSUSE Corner

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

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

smartmontools (7.0 -> 7.1) bug fixes

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

Shotwell (0.30.7 -> 0.30.8)

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

libinput (1.14.3 -> 1.15.0)

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

seahorse (3.34 -> 3.34.1)

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

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

MozillaFirefox (71.0 -> 72.0.1) addressed several CVEs

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

Nifty Link

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

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

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

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

Armagetron – A motorcycle battle game in the theme of Tron

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

Endless Sky – A space exploration and combat game

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

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

Computer History Retrospective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Configuring a Cisco switch from a Linux Terminal with Minicom

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

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

Minicom Installation

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

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

sudo zypper install minicom

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

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

Set User Permissions

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

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

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

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

usermod -a -G dialout,lock,uucp

The terminal method is way cooler, just saying.

Minicom Configuration

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

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

minicom -s

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

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

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

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

Connect

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

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

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

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

Windscribe VPN on openSUSE

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

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

Installation

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

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

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

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

1. Get a Windscribe Account

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

2. Download and Install the repo as root

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

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

3. Update Zypper

zypper refresh

4. Install Windscribe-CLI

zypper install windscribe-cli

5. Switch to non-root user

exit

6. Login to Windscribe

windscribe login

Follow the steps with your newly created account

7. Connect to Windscribe

windscribe connect

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

Side Note

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

windscribe --help

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

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

systemctl start windscribe

and if you want to have it enabled at startup

systemctl enable windscribe

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

First Run and Impressions

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

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

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

windscribe account

That will give you an output, something like this:

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

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

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

What I Like

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

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