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

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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

ROSA Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

ROSA Linux review title.png

ROSA Linux is an RPM based Linux distribution that was forked from Mandriva Linux. ROSA is a Russian company that is developing a multiple Linux-based solutions of which ROSA Desktop is its flagship product. For their latest version ROSA Fresh R10, they offer Plasma 5, LXQt and curiously, Plasma 4. It is also this weeks challenge for BigDaddyLinux Live Show.

My first Linux distribution I put any time into was Mandrake Linux, initially in 2002 and it became my full time desktop by late 2003. There were some features about Mandrake that were uniquely Mandrake. Those features made Linux in 2002 / 2003 very approachable and made it easy to set things up and be operational. As time went on, some of those tools became somewhat dated and some did get refreshed from time to time.

This is my incredibly biased view of ROSA Linux from an openSUSE User’s perspective. Although I don’t believe any Linux distribution is perfect, I currently believe openSUSE is perfect for me. I will be objectively biased in this review but keep in mind that these are my opinions as a reasonably technical user.

Installation

I can’t say that in the last several years I have come across a terrible installer in Linux. Now, I haven’t tried a lot of distributions and what constitutes as “terrible” from my perspective would be different than others. ROSA Fresh R10, not terrible. I like it very much. Even from the Grub bootloader screen. I was happy about it.

rosa r10-01-grub

There is something delightfully early 2000s about this bootloader screen. Thankfully, it has the option to install ROSA directly but still gives you the option to just kick the tires. It is also worth noting, if you do nothing and let the loader time out, it will just boot whatever is on your local drive.

The steps on the installer are pretty straight forward, Language selection first, then you have to agree with their terms. It’s a short read and nothing stuck out as being bothersome.

Next your keyboard and Timezone selection

Here you specify how you want the hardware clock set and if you go into the advanced tab, the NTP (Network Time Protocol) Server preferences, if at all.

This is where it got weird; I specified to use the free space, which was all of the drive and it forced me to reboot before it could continue the installation but I had to repeat all the previous steps.

I don’t recall such a bump back on the Mandrake / Mandriva days but perhaps there was a technical reason for this. Another note: When installing on hardware that I used existing partitions, I didn’t have to do this. I only specified to format the root (/) partition.

When I got back to the partition screen, I selected to use the existing partitions. Then I had to specify what was root and /home. 

Presumably it could figure out Swap on its own.

It doesn’t take long to install ROSA, you get a typical corporate feeling set of commercials, then you set your bootloader options.

I am sure this would be a lot more handy for multi boot systems but for me, the default was just fine.

Seemingly the opposite of other installers, in ROSA you set the root password first, then the User Information.

If you go to the advanced settings, you are given the opportunity to set User and Group ID numbers. I wish this was a more common feature among Linux Distributions.

The last steps before you reboot into your Freshly installed ROSA Fresh R10, you are prompted for the Hostname and what services you would like to activate upon startup.

That is it for the installation. Very straight forward, outside of that odd partitioning reboot.

First Run

The initial Grub screen is the typical layout with the expected options. No complaints there. What I found rather remarkable was how quickly I went from the Grub screen to the login screen.

rosa r10-23-installed grub

The login screen appeared so quickly I had to take a double-take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I did also note that this was the older style login but it really isn’t a big deal fro my perspective. KDE Plasma booted up quite quickly as well; no complaints there either.

The desktop is very Mandrake feeling. The Home icon in particular. The desktop just feels very 2007 to me (I guess that would be Mandriva time not Mandrake).

It should be noted that immediately after installation, you have KDE Plasma version 5.10.5 but after performing the many updates, you have an even more fresh KDE Plasma 5.14.4, effectively the latest version of Plasma 5 and after initial boot and settling, uses 439MiBytes of RAM.

rosa r10-28-menu

The default menu itself is just the standard “Application Menu with cascading popup menus, the traditional style of which I prefer.

If you are not happy with that style of menu, there is also the Application Launcher that breaks the applications down into sections or the Application Dashboard that I don’t care for at all because it takes over the entire screen, akin to Windows 8.1 or perhaps Gnome if my memory serves me correctly. Either way, the menu that takes over the screen doesn’t work well for me at all, so the default, which I’m sure is too, “old-man-river” is absolutely perfect for me.

I am not terribly fond of the default theme of ROSA. I also didn’t want to switch to the “Breeze Dark” and just make it a generic KDE Plasma desktop, so I decided to change up the color scheme and make it more to my liking.

Immediately, I was not tickled with the window buttons but since I don’t plan on staying here, I decided to just leave it there.

Interstingly, ROSA comes preinstalled with Firefox and Chromium. I don’t recall if I have seen more than one browser as default on any other install before but that is not a big deal. The icon theme in ROSA, also very Mandrake feeling. I still find it appealing.

Curiously, the panel has LibreOffice Writer as one of the applications pinned to it. I am curious as to why that as one of the items as opposed to Konsole, the default Plasma terminal emulator. I would think that to be preferred. Since it was there, I decided to open it up and see how it looked with the dark theme I selected activated. It too required a tweak in the options to use the Breeze Dark Icon style.

After tweaking the icons, it got me thinking. The current trend in icons is almost monochromatic and clean looking which in a way clashes with the Mandrake high-color shaded icons. It’s clear that overall aesthetic isn’t a driving force in the design of ROSA, a large contrast to what you see with Pop!_OS or ElementaryOS in their emphasis of visuals.

When the notification popped up in the corner that there are updates, I decided to install them and go through that experience. On a positive note, I didn’t have to enter my credentials to begin the updates unlike all the Debian based distributions I have tried. Not that one is better, really, I just happen to prefer to not enter my user credentials for a user level task.

The experience from there was very Mandrake like which brought back fantastic memories. It is also worth noting that the icon sets haven’t been changed since at least 2008.

After the first round of installations, it required another round of installations. I didn’t dig into why but but after 1436 more packages, it upgraded nearly everything, as noted earlier, all of KDE Plasma was upgraded.

I didn’t go through all the applications but I found this gem a little interesting to see installed by default. I haven’t used a modem in Linux for well over a decade. I was almost inspired to try it out but I don’t have a land line to test it on.

rosa r10-43-kppp

None the less, I thought it was pretty interesting to see this installed. Perhaps there are old GSM modems that are still being in use in Eastern Europe or Russia.

Since this is a fork of Mandrake I was expecting some spin on the Mandrake Control Center but alas, there was no such thing. All the System Administrator tools are in the KDE System settings… which is fine, I was just hopping to see that old friend MCC that I used so many years back.

rosa r10-44-system administration settings

 

What I Like

ROSA does have surprisingly fast boot times. Although, I would say that most distributions today have fast boot times, thanks to SystemD.

The legacy Mandrake tools was a blast from my Linux past with which I enjoyed working so many years ago. The “Drake” tools are easy to use but the drawback has been that they are very “Wizard Like” which makes editing settings a bit cumbersome. Those tools got me using powerful tools in Linux more than 16 years ago which made it easier for me to understand how to manipulate the settings of those powerful tools in terminal when I had to tweak them further.

The default Application Menu choice is by far my favorite. I do like the cascading popups for the application categories. That has been my favorite, I’ve seen and used others but I am just not a fan.

What I Don’t Like

The installer was great until the partition option for using the entire disk was selected. The fact I had to reboot and go back through the installer made my head hurt just a bit. It seems like that could be cleaned up a bit.

The general theme of the KDE Plasma version of ROSA was disjointed. I can be forgiving of this mostly but it doesn’t seem like the designers even made an attempt to make it a consistent experience.

ISO was pretty far out of date which required a lot of updates. Not a huge issue if it was not for the slow rate the updates came down. Thankfully the updates came down without any problems, a tribute to the URPMI underpinnings.

Final Thoughts

ROSA Linux is a decent distribution. It works well but has a few theme issues. The system tools that originated on Mandrake so many years ago has not had any artwork updates. Although it was nice to see that old artwork, I do think it would have been better for a cohesive experience had the artwork all been updated to the same general appearance.

Would I give up openSUSE for ROSA? No, I would not. I think ROSA is good for someone but it is not the best choice for me and what I want out of a Linux Distribution.

Further Reading

ROSA Linux Downloads

Pop!_OS | Review from an openSUSE User

BigDaddyLinux Live Show

IPFire | Open Source, Linux based, Firewall, Install and Configuration

ipfire-tux

I started searching for an edge device solution for my home I could put on x86 hardware after my Linksys E2000 started giving me problems. Initially, I was going with pfSense and set a machine up for that purpose but I came upon 7 32bit Dell Optiplex GX620 machine so I looked for a suitable solution. I wanted to make one of these an edge device. After all, they have more horsepower than any consumer based MIPS or ARM Router / Firewalls. After some searching, testing, more searching and testing, my solution is IPFire. IPFire, in short, could be considered the Linux version of the FreeBSD based pfSense. An Open Source firewall based on Linux that is easy to use, high performant and extensible which makes it usable to a large audience.

The documentation on this project needs some help, it took me some trial and error along with muddling my way through areas I didn’t fully understand to get it set up exactly as I want. Also note, immediately before starting this IPFire project, I set up a pfSense box so my expectations were now set. This is not a comparison to pfSense; that is another project of which is in progress.

This will hopefully help bridge some of the knowledge gaps you may have should you decide to try IPFire and an example of what works for me.

Preparation

To begin the process, I downloaded the IPfire from here:

https://www.ipfire.org/download/ipfire-2.21-core126

Should you be viewing this at a much later date, as in after a new version release click here and select Download from the menu.

I chose the flash image, I could have used the ISO, if I would have removed the drive and written the image directly to that drive. I think I may end up using this method for a future project. More on that later.

To match my hardware situation, I downloaded the 32 bit version of the Flash Image

Once downloaded I verified the image checksum

sha256sum ipfire-2.21.2gb-ext4.i586-full-core126.img.xz

Which gave me the output

0f8dc980103c733c7e236967ed35a3ce5cf847448f2b4e7c848220b334fddd38 ipfire-2.21.2gb-ext4.i586-full-core126.img.xz

Next I extracted the archive.

tar -xf ipfire-2.21.2gb-ext4.i586-full-core126.img.xz

In order to write the image to the flash drive, I had to check to see what drive I used the dd command as I would have done with pfSense. The instructions for installation where a little light and perhaps I need to help out with it.

In order to flash it to the drive, I first checked to ensure that I wrote it to the correct drive, I plugged in the drive and ran in terminal.

dmesg

In the last few lines, I was able to identify the drive.

/dev/sdd

Once extracted, I installed it, using

sudo dd if=ipfire-2.21.2gb-ext4.i586-full-core126.img of=/dev/sdd bs=16k

In only a few moments, the drive was ready for me to begin the installation.

Hardware Setup

ipfire hardware testingUsing 32bit Dell Optiplex GX620, I added an additional Ethernet Card. All I had on hand was a 100 Mbps device. The built in Ethernet Interface is a 1 Gbps so I decided to make that my internal side and the 100 Mbps NIC the external facing side as my max speed is around 60 Mbps.

My modem did make it known that it was not connected to a Gigabit device but until my speeds increase beyond 100 Mbps, I have no intention on changing it out.

The other work this computer needed was a new clock battery a CR2032 lithium button cell. I learned that the Dell Optiplex GX620 will not even boot with a dead clock battery

I had to make a few changes in the BIOS. One is to boot on AC restore so that should I lose power, it would boot as soon as power is restored.

Installation

The installation is fairly straight forward, so long as you have a basic understanding of what you want from your Local Area Network. Once your hardware is set, basically any computer with two NICs. The installation can commence.

Just a note, there is a mixture of camera photos of actual installation and VM installation. I should probably invest in a capture card at some point.

ipfire-01-1-boot screen

The first step is to install the Firewall Solution. You start with your language selection than to start installation.

You have one option on each of the next two screens, to agree to the license agreement and to delete all the data. Pictured below is the “VBOX” hard disk but I had a similar situation with the actual hardware.

In this process, you really only have one decision to make, to choose your file system. I chose ext4, because I know it is well tested and since it was first on the list, I wanted to start there.

After the system is installed you need to reboot to begin the configuration process.

ipfire-01-8-reboot

This is a very minimal Linux distribution… is it s a distribution? I don’t know if you call it that but it is a desktop-less interface so there is not much to install.

Basic Configuration

After the installation you have to complete the basic configuration. What took me a bit to understand was some of the IPFire-isms. For my two NIC setup, there is the Red and Green networks. More on that in a bit.

To start off, set your keyboard and Timezone.

Then your machine Hostname and Domain name.

You will have to set your root and admin passwords. From my experience in using it, the root user is for anything you do in the terminal and the admin is for the web interface. I am not able to ssh using the admin, nor am I able to log into the web interface with root.

The Network configuration menu portion of the install was a bit confusing for me at first. Here is where you must understand what the Red and Green networks do. If I had more than 2 NICs I would have played with the other settings.

The next section is the Drivers and card assignments. It is here that you will decide what NIC is Green and Red.

First I set the Green Network hardware. In my case, I wanted to use the Gigabit NIC on my internal network with my slower 100 Megabit NIC facing the modem to the Internet. This card is not going to be my bottle neck, my provider is still the bottle neck.

ipfire-14-card assignments

The Address settings will define the properties of your NICs.

I started with the Green interface, my internal network. I set the IP address and Network mask here.

The final bit to the Address settings is the Red interface, facing the Internet. My provider requires I set up my device to receive a DHCP address.

The last step is the DNS and Gateway settings. The only setting I filled in was the Primary DNS. Which, to my understanding, needs to be set for local hostname resolution. My primary DNS server is also the address of the IPFire device.

The last step is to Configure the DHCP server. In my case, I set the DHCP range from 192.168.10.100 to 192.168.10.200. My domain name, which was given earlier, was set already filled in.

That is it. Once rebooted, I could now further refine the configuration through the web interface.

First Run and Testing

The Web interface is quite straight forward. It will take some time of clicking around to become acquainted with all the options and once you think you have figured it out, you will find that you forgot where you just found the options you wanted. Not due to any lack of organization but rather due to the great number of options.

ipfire-25-system home

There are many, many, many features to highlight with IPFire. I will just show the bits that I find interesting. Even though I have 17 devices connected in my network with quite a few intrusion detection rules. The 16 year old 32 bit CPU doesn’t seem to be under any kind of stress.

ipfire-26-cpu graph

It is also worth noting that

ipfire-27-memory graphipfire-28-network utilization

Local Name Resolution

My most important feature of a Firewall, Router, etc system is that I have local name resolution. I spend a lot of time in the terminal and I also use Secure Shell for file transferring so it is important that I can address my computers by hostname and not have to figure out what the IP address is. Here is how you do it.

Under DHCP Configuration, ensure that the Primary DNS is set to the the the IPFire device… which is also your DHCP Server as well. It must also be noted that it did take a little while for IPFire to build the IP Tables for me to address the computers by hostname.

ipfire-29-dhcp configuration

DHCP Forwarding from the Access Point

I had no intention of discarding the Linksys E2000 that had been faithfully running my home network. I have chosen to keep it on the wireless as an Access Point.

This was done by setting the Access Point IP, Netmask and the DCHP Type is DHCP Forwarder to the address of the IPFire machine.

linksys e2000 network setup

That was literally all I had to do and my network was functioning the same as before but more efficiently. Interestingly, if I plug into the AP Ethernet Ports, it acts as a switch or wired access point. Very handy.

Intrusion Detection System

The features that I wasn’t looking for that made me pretty excited was this system of rules you can activate to harden your firewall.

For more inormation about it, you can navigate here and read away.

ipfire-30-intrusion detection system 1

There are some options as to which rule sets you choose. You can go with community rules or registered rules. I chose the EmergingThreats.net Community Rules. I don’t know yet if they are working as expected but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

ipfire-30-intrusion detection system 2

Future Project

Though I don’t have any performance issues with this aged 32 bit hardware, my only issue is the age of the SATA drive sitting in its bowels. It has passed the SMART test but I want to replace it with an SSD before it fails. It will also be interesting to see if I can properly backup all my settings and restore the configurations to the new drive when I make the upgrade.

For now, I am satisfied with my network as it is but I am also considering getting another NIC upon which to put all of my IoT devices. I generally distrust IoT and segregation is good for these useful yet potentially troublesome machines.

Final Thoughts

Looking back, I started to have problems with my Linksys E2000 in early fall of 2018. I wasn’t sure of the trigger but the router eventually required an intervention shortly before Thanksgiving. Things seemed fine for a while until I added my Kitchen Command Center in December. I would periodically have buffering and network slow downs. I was especially noticeable when I had guests. Running CAT5 to several machines did help somewhat but it pretty obvious the router was operating at levels slightly beyond it’s capability. The router’s average load was high, and that poor little device was doing just a bit too much. Firewall, router, DHCP Server, DNS Server and wireless access point was just a bit too much for that MIPS16 powered device. I didn’t eliminate this router, I reduced its responsibilities to just being an Access Point and now my home network functions fantastically well.

This was a very satisfying project worth every penny I spent on it… which was about 1 gallon of diesel to pick up the hardware. I am not a network guy but I can muddle my way through. If I have made any obviously egregious errors, feel free to let me know by commenting or sending me an email so that I can learn a little and not steer anyone else wrong.

Further Reading

IPFire.org Home

EmergingThreats.net General Intent

pfSense Project

Flashing Linksys E2000 Router with DD-WRT

Umix OS | Review from an openSUSE User

umix review title
I tried the Unity Desktop several years ago in its early days, it didn’t do anything for me as I didn’t care for the layout. When Ubuntu announced they were going to cancel the Unity project I thought it unfortunate mostly because it meant an end to their mobile phone efforts. Regardless of what your opinion is on the Unity project, it is an easily recognized desktop at just a glance. Unity is a desktop environment that is still liked by many and due to that appreciation for this desktop flavor, an Ubuntu spin based on the Unity desktop is now available. It can be downloaded from here. The mini ISO is available for free and the larger ISO is available for $11.

This is my review of Umix, the Unity Remix spin of Ubuntu. This is an objectively biased review of this Linux distribution as a very happy user of openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma. I have grown to prefer a specific work flow. I don’t necessarily think my work flow is the best but it is the best for me. I also think it is a healthy practice to travel and experience other desktop cultures.

Installation

I am immediately glad to see that there is a option to “Install Umix” from initial boot. This is most certainly a welcomed feature. I do think that the wording needs some updates on this screen, “…directly from this CD” should probably be changed to “…directly from this media” or something similar.

umixos-01-welcome dialog

An immediate bit of subtle eye candy that I really enjoyed were the shadows under buttons when you hover over them. It was a smooth and fantastic looking effect that deserves a mention.

Umix uses Ubuntu’s Ubiquity installer so it is a quick and painless setup for a simple installation. You start out with the Keyboard layout and if you are connected to the internet, an option to download and install updates and third-party software for additional drivers and media formats.

 

When selecting to install the third-party software, I became acquainted with another bit of eye-candy, animated, rotating Check boxes. It was another small, subtle and super pleasant effect that just screams, “finely polished.”

umixos-04-disk partition

For installation type, you can keep this simple and say to “Erase disk and install Umix”, which is what I did when installing it on a VM. As a word of caution, the default partition scheme for Umix is to have a single Ext4 partition for root, home and a swapfile. I think that this particular drive layout is unwise and especially problematic especially if you decide to switch or try out other Linux distributions. Should you bork your system and be forced to reinstall Umix, you could be in a world of hurt unless you backed up your data or know how to remove the drive and hook it up to a working system. I do not recommend this method at all.

For the actual hardware that I installed it, I chose “Something Else” where I used more sensible defaults. I separated root, home and swap partitions on a designated distro-hopping machine. It started out running openSUSE Leap 15.0 wtih KDE Plasma as my baseline for comparison. Since I am distro-hopping with this machine. I want a separate home partition so that I can keep the data I accumulate in my testing.

The tool for using existing partitions was a little rough. There wasn’t a click through option to just use the partition. The partitioner knew my home folder was an XFS partition, but I had to explicitly tell it that it was and specify the mount point (which I am fine with). It really should have already had that file type selected. This is just a papercut issue. I was just a bit slow in figuring out what the interface wanted from me.

You are given a final warning before writing the changes to disk. Although I do believe it is a good thing to have this warning, it really should have a, “hey, don’t use one partition unless you don’t love the data in your home folder” warning…

umixos-05-disk partition confirmation

Next you will have to identify where you are in this spinning dirt clod out in space.

 

The final step before package installation is the user information. Another straight forward test and come to think of it, I like it that they have you specify the computer name here as such. As I noodle it around in my head a bit, it is probably more intuitive for a New-to-Linux-User to put the name here rather than in the “hostname” section of the network configuration section… just a thought.

As Umix installs, you are given a series of quotes by presumably famous people. Some of them were interesting, others not so much. It was a nice change from the almost obligatory commercials most distributions spew out.

 

Upon completion, reboot and begin your Unity Remix journey.

Umix Experience

The first thing I wanted to play with was the menu. I don’t like being negative about things, critical yes, but negative, not so much. With that laid out, I have to say, the menu in here was by far the worst menu I have every used in a long time.

 

It is strange that it can’t find anything on my desktop under the menu until I clicked on one of the monochromatic buttons at the bottom of the menu. I don’t really understand the logic behind that, maybe just recent or favorites, regardless, I don’t care for it. There is a second, more traditional menu toward the right of the top panel which seems redundant but it is by far a better menu.

When I hopped into the terminal, I could not SSH into my other machines. Local DNS resolution didn’t work. I checked /etc/resolve.conf and it was pointing to 127.0.0.53 which was odd. This made using ssh in the terminal with host names not possible which I found very irritating.

The way Unity handles multiple monitors is pretty decent. It is almost as nice as how KDE Plasma handles it. The interface for configuring the screen placement is pretty close to what you see on KDE Plasma and very intuitive. By default, the side panel menu was repeated on both screens. It is easy enough to remove.

umixos-17-multi monitor

The Fn+”Monitor Switch” hotkey is not nearly as nice as what you get on KDE Plasma.

kde plasma monitor switching
KDE Plasma Monitor Switcher

Unity toggles between Laptop Screen only, external screen only or both displays. KDE Plasma has a great dialog box that pops up that lets you choose what configuration you want with the mouse or arrow over on the keyboard.

The file manager in Unity is frustratingly limited. It is incapable of basic file manager functions like, typing in a file path or remote location address. You are forced to have to click through to “Other Locations” and then select whatever machine it can see on the network.

umixos-20-file manager

The Unity Tweak tool is a fine application. Specifically the window hot corners configuration. This is much like what KDE Plasma has but with fewer options (comparison pictured below).

 

Pictured above is another irritating feature of the global menu. Rather than having the menu in the window you are working, it is at the top of the screen. This is okay in full screen mode but having multiple non-fullscreen windows can make navigation clumsy.

The update tool, like so many Linux distributions required authentication to proceed. The update process was rock solid and although I don’t like requiring authentication for updates, better to over authenticate than under authenticate.

 

I didn’t have time to play with all the default applications but the only change I would have made would be to not have Chrome by default. Firefox would have been preferred. Mostly because Chrome is way too bloated and not as capable. Chromium would also have been preferred.

What I Like

The theme and overall look of Umix is fantastic. The little bits of eye candy in Unity is great, specifically the smooth shadowing effect under buttons and the spinning check mark upon select. I also like the usage of the wobbly windows. I had largely forgotten about visual effect. Overall the interaction with Unity has a very modern feeling and looks very pleasant.

The option to install Umix is also a welcome option. Trying than installing is very… trying. The installer is typical Ubuntu Ubiquity installer you find on most Ubuntu based distributions. I think it is still quite satisfactory and has held up well over the years.

Monitor handling is quite satisfactory. Not as good as KDE Plasma but on par. There are some refinements needed to get it to Plasma level of usability but overall, this is pretty great.

What I Don’t Like

Sigh… I don’t like being negative but there are lots of irritating features of Unity. For starters, the default resolv.conf has made accessing other computers on my home network through terminal an exercise in frustration.

The default file manager in Unity is just not acceptable. I would describe it as frustratingly limited. Adding one feature would move it from unacceptable to acceptable, the ability to type in a file path. Just that one feature would make it good enough. This file manager is is absolutely no comparison to Dolphin or Konqueror on KDE Plasma. It is a big stinker.

The firewall is turned off by default which I think is unwise unless you never plan on leaving the confines of your home network. The bundled firewall application is Gufw which is a very user friendly configuration experience.

The top panel, I think called the global menu is unnecessary use of screen real estate and having it repeat per screen is incredibly undesirable, especially with multiple monitors. I was unsuccessful in finding a way to turn it off, at least for the additional monitor but I was unsuccessful. Admittedly, I didn’t look very hard but it wasn’t obvious to me through the tweak options I scanned through.

Final Thoughts

I feel like I have been far too negative with Unity, I really didn’t want to be annoyed by it. It looks good and has some nice features to it but the lack of flexibility just makes it unusable for me. Since Unity is a “full featured” desktop environment, I am going to be more critical of its features as compared to MX Linux or BunsenLabs Linux.

Would I get along happily with Ubuntu + Unity? No, I really wouldn’t. There are so many other and better options out there for a better desktop experience than what Unity provides. I don’t think it is a bad desktop but it is just not good for me. I would still encourage anyone to try it out and see if it works for them but it just doesn’t work for me. When I compare it to openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma it just has more features for a lower memory foot print than Ubuntu + Unity. Both at a vanilla install, post updates, KDE Plasma 380 MiB of RAM, Ubuntu + Unity uses 712 MiB.

I think that it is great that there is an effort to preserve Unity, for all those that enjoy using it, I hope they continue to enjoy it and that Unity continues to get developer love. It’s a fine desktop environment for many and I hope they continue to have the option to use it for years to come.

Further Reading

https://teejeetech.in/2018/12/10/introducing-umixos-unity-remix/

 

Sony Vaio VPCEB23FM E-Series Laptop with openSUSE Leap

openSUSE on Sony Vaio PCEB23FM-sm.png

I seem to be one of those individuals that is gifted old hardware from time to time. Most people… normal people… just don’t need or even want an old piece of hardware and generally just toss it. As payment for setting up a laptop with openSUSE for a friend I was given this old bit of hardware that I really don’t need but you just never know when a something might arise to make use for an old piece of kit. Since I didn’t want it just sitting around with a broken installation of Windows 7, I decided to put openSUSE Leap 15.0 on it.

I already had the ISO downloaded and written to a USB Flash drive but in case you want it you can get it here.

Preparing for Installation

Initially this machine was a bit of a tough nut to crack. I was unable to get into the BIOS, it seemed that none of the directions I found would work. On a whim, I decided that I would attach an external keyboard to see if by chance there was a keyboard problem with the laptop; and so it was.

To access the BIOS, upon booting the system, press F2 repeatedly during the “Vaio” Logo splash until you enter into the the important bits of the system. Since this machine is too old for secure boot and only has the legacy boot, I only had to change the boot order to seek the USB Drive first.

Specs that Matter

Not that it really matters but for the edification of those interested:

  • Intel Core i3 350M @ 2.27 Ghz (1st Gen)
  • 4 GB RAM, 3.5 GB Available after shared video usage
  • Graphics Card Intel Core Processor Graphics
  • 15.6″ 1366 x 768 Glossy Screen
  • 3 – USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 – eSATA / USB 2.0 port
  • HDMI
  • SVGA
  • SD Card Reader
  • Memory Stick Pro Reader
  • and some other things…

Mostly a decent system.

Installation

The installation of openSUSE was rather trivial. I booted up the machine with the installation image, began the process and mostly just clicked through. The only customization I did on the install was to set the partitions the way I wanted:

  • Root: 25 GiB
  • Swap: 4 GiB
  • Home: 264 GiB

I selected KDE Plasma as being my desktop of choice, because, is there really another option?

For more on the installation process, you can go here.

Once the machine was up and running, I installed the multimedia codecs, the terminal way, Falkon Web Browser and I was off to the races. The reality is, for a rather old laptop, it is not too terrible at all. It ran Plasma Desktop rather nicely with only a few moments of lagging here and there due to disk access.

It is probably not far from needing a replacement drive but I will wait until it burns out. This machine isn’t slated for any sort of “production work” in my  house. It’s seemingly a fine machine but just doesn’t excite me at all.

I used this machine to help set up my new Edge Device in a kind of test environment for a couple days to test functions with another machine so it very much came in handy to have.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how this machine stacked up against my old, trusty, faithful Dell Latitude D630. From cpubenchmark.net, I compared the two CPUs. I am perfectly aware that the CPU is not the only factor in a system’s performance but I was curious.

core2 duo vs core i3-350m

Interestingly, the Dell Latitude D630 feels more performant than the the Sony Vaio, perhaps due to Dell having more memory or running Tumbleweed, regardless, it was just an observation of which I have to actual empirical data to back it.

So, then I thought, since I have no intention of using this machine as a regular, in production, type machine, I have decided to make this laptop my distro hopping machine. I now have a performance baseline, what I should expect, based on running openSUSE Leap 15.0 with KDE Plasma. It runs much nicer than the Windows 7 it had previously and better than many brand new machines with Windows 10 I have used. I know how a rock solid, sensible, Linux distro feels and now I would like to compare it to other distributions and maybe I can learn something from it.

Final Thoughts

It’s always fun acquiring new hardware, even old busted up hardware is great too. There is something indescribably fun with installing Linux, specifically openSUSE Linux on old or discarded hardware, not to mention new hardware but that doesn’t happen as often.

I am not expecting the hard drive in this machine to hold out very long since it is about nine years old and I plan to do a lot of reading and writing on it. The screen looks okay, the keyboard mostly works and it is just an okay machine.

I am grateful to have received this machine as I now have a purpose for it, my distro hopping machine, I have a good base to which I can make more biased reviews of other Linux distros. I know how this “feels” so now I can compare how other distros “feel”. In my clearly biased view, nothing will be as good as openSUSE, but it’s fun to play.

Further Reading and links and things

https://software.opensuse.org/distributions/leap

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/

Dell Latitude D630

Multimedia Codecs and VLC Player

Falkon Web Browser on openSUSE

CubicleNate Biased Reviews

LinuxMint 19.1 | Review from an openSUSE User

LinuxMint review title.pngLinux Mint is a very popular distribution and has seemingly been so since the start. My first look at Mint was in 2010 about the time I went through my second season of distro hopping. At the time, ultimately, openSUSE won out but it was close. I am taking another look at Mint, not due to any dissatisfaction of openSUSE but because 19.1 came out and the good folks in the BigDaddyLinux community decided to try it out.

This review is not going to be a comparison to previous Linux Mint versions. I have mostly stayed on top of it. I have even contributed a bit to the project in my time and talents for setting up the smart card reader. Linux Mint has been know for it’s being a well polished distribution. I would say that release 19.1 keeps in this tradition. I will be evaluating Mint strictly against what I use today, openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma. This is a biased review but with a mostly open mind.

Installation

I didn’t test Mint on actual hardware, for my purposes, that wasn’t necessary, my evaluation is about the user experience, interfacing and ease of use. At this point, pretty much all Linux distributions run great on main stream or older hardware and Linux Mint is known for just running well.

When booting from the installation media, there wasn’t an option as to what to do. It just did an automatic boot. I see this good for some users but not my preference.

linuxmint-01-live media boot

The media boots quickly and you are presented with a great looking desktop and I was even given a warning that it is using software rendering. It brought a smile to my face to see how the desktop looks friendly yet, “cool” and approachable. Often approachable has to be bright in color but this is not.

linuxmint-02-live media first run

The installation is is the standard Ubuntu Ubiquity installer that I have grown to appreciate with so many other distributions. It is a well done installer that is easy for even the non-technical to navigate.

You start with your language and keyboard settings. Then if you want third party software and how you want to install Mint. In this case, I just went with to use the entire disk.

I should have explored my options further but did not and regretted after more exploration into the depths of Mint. More on that later.

After partitioning the hard drive you are asked to create the user and off it will go writing your new Linux experience to disk.

I appreciate how Mint gives you  a “commercial” that is very relatable to a typical user. I do agree that Netflix is quite useful these days and rather expected. It’s just interesting to see that in the installation process. I also can’t help but think about the days I had to do a hacky work around to get Netflix working in Linux… oh, those were the days…

After the installation is done, you are asked if you want to continue testing or reboot immediately.  Of course, I chose immediate reboot.

First Run

The welcome screen on Mint it is a most certainly a well crafted and well thought out entrance to this desktop experience. This is a well done and very welcoming, especially for someone new to Linux.

linuxmint-13-welcome

The different sections of the welcome is clean and laid out very logically and not overwhelming to go through. This is a great crash-course for a new user to get going with Linux Mint.

It gives you a point to spring board into what is truly important to a user. From here you can set up a lot of the specifics for you hardware and whatever requirements you may have.

Should you have problems, help is a click away and I also like that they have a click for contributing to Mint as well. I really hope that its users do take the time to throw them some bucks because all the thought and effort they put into it really does deserve it.

Theme

The first order of business was to see how, if available, the dark theme would look on mint. The window borders and controls can be set separately. I set mine to be Mint-Y-Dark on both.

I give it 3-thumbs up. It just looks so pleasing on the eyes. I really believe that this should be the default theme for Linux Mint

Default Applications

Linux Mint has all the basic application installed to do whatever you need to do on a computer. LibreOffice for document creation. Firefox web browser, HexChat for IRC and Thunderbird for email.

The menu they have put together for it is also really well done. I do like that have it set up nicely organized and have an “All applications” listing as well. Not that I find that as useful, but I see the utility in it if you are just looking through the list of installed applications. It also has a search function that works well too.

linuxmint-21-menu

The default Firewall is also very approachable. This is the same as MX Linux and many other distributions out there, Gufw. It looks good and is pretty easy to use with a very nice help section too get you started. Interestingly, it was disabled by default.

linuxmint-20-firewall

System Snapshots

The system backup / snapshot utility has two options, RSYNC and BTRFS. I was excited to see the BTRFS option and wanted to see how close this would be to openSUSE.

linuxmint-22-snapshots

After hitting finish, I was given a sad dialog box that said it was not supported. Here is why I wish I would have looked at the partitioning options more closely. Maybe next time.

linuxmint-23-btrfs not really an option

Upgrades on Mint are about like what you would experience on seemingly any other Debian based distribution. I did have one issue of not being able to fetch some of the packages but the system still hummed along quite fine after a reboot.

linuxmint-24-updates

My only real issue with the installer was even after authorizing the upgrades, I had to do further authorizations in the same session. It was a bit odd but better to be safe than sorry.

What I Like

The dark theme on Mint is top notch. I am partial to the dark theme with green highlights, as that is how keep my desktop with openSUSE. Green is just a great color. Kermit was wrong, it is easy being green.

Cinnamon looks real nice and is very approachable for a new-to-Linux user. The menu is nice the icon theme is nice, it is all, real… nice. There really isn’t much to complain about with the appearance and usability. It does what I would expect, it feels clean and the system settings all feel very nicely integrated. Linux Mint feels like a complete experience.

The default applications are sensible basics that I am perfectly fine with. I don’t get hung up on default applications, so long as I can get what I want. I could get my work done in Linux Mint just fine.

What I Don’t Like

I didn’t care for how Mint automatically started a live media version when booting from the downloaded media. I do prefer having the option to install directly not just force me directly into a live media session. Perhaps the audience that Mint is catering to, this is indeed a good solution. Not my preference but I see its utility.

It is common in many distributions to require authentication to do updates. What I didn’t notice with other distros was without closing the update application, I had to enter my password again to attempt updates. I guess better safe than sorry but it is a bit of a paper-cut issue from my perspective.

The default partitioning is not my preference. I would prefer separate home and root partitions. I have played around with Linux to “configure” it my way or get something else working and have messed things up beyond repair. I have also spent enough time working on systems to know that there are times that a nuke-and-pave that is required periodically. I really believe that it is unwise to have one partition.

I was real excited to see BTRFS based snapshots as a way of backing up the system but that option was given to me after the installation. I would have had to know ahead of time to set it up as such but I didn’t see that immediately in the installer as an option.

Final Thoughts

Linux Mint looks great and I see this as a good distribution for the uninitiated into the Linux world. I would gladly recommend it to anyone, especially if you can’t be there in person to help them out with it and through it. The welcome screen is a great and seems to get a newbie right to where they have to go.

I think Cinnamon is nice desktop and would be satisfactory for any casual user but it is not exactly what I like. I still prefer the flexibility of KDE Plasma. Would I be happy on Mint? I really don’t know if I would. It was all real nice but I just don’t know. I think I would have to play around with it some more to be able to answer that. I certainly prefer it to many other distributions of Linux and I would take it over the Windows or Mac experience but as a daily driver on my main machine, it wouldn’t be my first choice. I very much prefer what openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma gives me, it satisfies those varied itches I have. Mint is not a bad place to be, it just doesn’t happen to scratch all my itches.

Further Reading

LinuxMint Downlaod

BigDaddyLinux Community

http://gufw.org/

 

KDE Connect CLI | A gift to Future Self

terminal-icon

KDE Connect is an application that I use on a daily basis between my mobile and my desktop or laptop Linux systems. Most of my systems are openSUSE machines running KDE Plasma and the mobile devices are running LineageOS (Android). Up until I decided to run a non-KDE Plasma desktop.

​I was given the distinct pleasure in getting to know the KDE Connect Command Line Interface application when pairing devices to a BunsenLabs and MX Linux installation. The main reason for this was to be able to share clipboards and use my HP TouchPad as an input device for the machine.

The commands are mostly easy to use. This is a guide for me, if it works for you, fantastic. If you have no interest in this, that is perfectly fine too.

Installation

Install using your favorite graphical package manager or in the terminal.

openSUSE

sudo zypper install kdeconnect-cli

Debian Based

sudo apt-get install kdeconnect-cli

Process to Pair Device

There are two ways you can go about doing this. From the terminal on the non-Plasma system to a system with either Android KDE Plasma or the reverse. I am going to demonstrate this the fun way, which is from the terminal to the GUI systems.

Assuming that you have configured your firewall to allow KDE Connect communication, in short 1714-1764 for UDP and TCP connections, check with your distribution for firewall instructions, or here for the KDE Community instructions. Optionally, here for the openSUSE Instructions.
In the terminal run this to find KDE Connect enabled devices:

kdeconnect-cli -l

That will give you output something like this:

– TouchPADD: device_ID (reachable)
– SkyHigh: device_ID (reachable)
– Icarus: device_ID (reachable)
– Nexus5X: device_ID (reachable)
4 devices found

Now that you have identified the devices you will need to pair the device

kdeconnect-cli -d device_ID --pair

On the device you are attempting to connect to, you will see the notification that the a device is attempting to connect
kde connect pair notification

Accept it and move on to the next device you that you wish to connect.

How I am using it

I am using my TouchPADD as another input device for the non-KDE Plasma system, I am also using it to share clipboard contents between machines as well, usually URLs.

Final Thoughts

There are many more function of KDE Connect you can do in the terminal. You can play around with KDE Connect in the terminal by running.

kdeconnect-cli --help

The only other command I have used is to ping another device

kdeconnect-cli -d device_ID --ping

Since I couldn’t find any resources that plainly explained how to use the terminal commands so it was fitting to jot it down. Hopefully you find this useful.

Further Reading

https://community.kde.org/KDEConnect

https://en.opensuse.org/SDB:KDE_Connect

KDE Connect – Mobile and Desktop Convergence

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

https://lineageos.org/