The End of Google Plus — Just Another Blathering

Google Plus Grave StoneIt never gained as much popularity as some other social media platforms but I liked Google Plus. It was (is) a social media platform whose users seemed to focus on positive things, projects and so forth. It lacked the kind of cruft that keeps me from spending much time on other social media platforms.

My primary reason for liking Google Plus was that it seemed as though it was used for productive conversation and collaboration. I have enjoyed the positive sharing and discussions on interesting topics from different Google community Groups. I wonder where a few of these Google Communities will find another home such as the “Going Linux Podcast” and some retro tech Communities for the Amiga and Commodore 64.

What I like About Google Plus

I really enjoy the tech content on Google Plus. Two of which being the Going Linux Podcast and Linux in the Hamshack. I am a regular listener to the podcasts and like to participate from time to time. I read pretty much everything posted there. It is active enough to keep me interested but not so active that I can’t keep up.

I like to keep up on the Solus Project from their Google Plus Community Page, though admittedly, it hasn’t been as active as it once was but this has been my preferred method for keeping up to date on how that project has been rolling along.

Commodore-64-Computer-sm.pngGoogle Plus has become a kind of bastion of a lot of the Retro Tech communities too. I follow Commodore and Amiga groups where I have seen some fascinating projects. I have recently learned about some other new hardware initiatives for the Amiga 1200 and 4000 or something rather fun was this Commodore 64 Paper craft that I found on one of the community pages.

Despite the somewhat clunky interface, my main reason for liking Google Plus is that it doesn’t seem to have any of the cruft you see on some other social media sites. It’s just a nice place to visit that just doesn’t have the propensity for polarizing or aggravating conversations. It is a nice place where people happily share their hobbies.

The Problem with Google Plus

I will not pretend like Google Plus was all peaches and cream. The fact is, the layout of Google Plus got a little weird and never recovered. I liked how it looked much better some 4 years ago and I never utilized the circles. I think I understand what the designers were going for but I just didn’t want to invest the time and effort in meta-tagging people and things. I knew where people belonged. I didn’t particularly care for the three column layout, although, not a horrible thing, it was just a bit more challenging to figure out what was new. It took some time to scan through to find specific posts as they would shift around.

Google Plus 3 columns.png

The interface for Google Plus was a bit cumbersome. It took a few extra clicks to get to where I wanted to go but once you got used to this quirkiness, it wasn’t so bad. I would say, it felt like Google kind of gave up on Google Plus about two years ago. They didn’t really continue to invest in it, which I think is unfortunate as it resulted in it became a bit of a social media joke.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have a replacement for Google Plus at this time. I have heard about and just started looking into Diaspora but I don’t have the mental space to figure it out. I also like Mastodon but I don’t have the WordPress auto share tie to use it.

I have enjoyed the pleasant Google Plus communities for years and they will be missed. I hope that they will find another place to land to continue to exist. Knowing that Google Plus only has about 10 months of life left, I am not going to abandon it. I will continue to use it until the bitter end.

Related Links

Diaspora Foundation

Mastodon Federated Social Network

Commodore Amiga Revitalized with New Retro Hardware

Going Linux Podcast Google Plus Community Page

Linux in the Hamshack

WordPress Mastodon Share Plugin

Commodore 64 Paper craft

Solus Project

Amiga Google Plus Community Page

Commodore 64 Google Plus Community Page

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HP Touchpad with Plasma Mobile and openSUSE — Fall Time Blathering

HP_TouchPad_Title-2.png

After working with Plasma Mobile on the Nexus 5X and although it is not quite ready for prime time, it is nearly there. It is so close, I can taste it and I am very ready to see Plasma Mobile as all I see on my mobile. I am also continually seeing interest on the aging HP Touchpad. It too is a fine piece of hardware that is still very capable and now, I can’t help but wonder how much work it would be to port Plasma Mobile to that hardware. I see that there has already been work with the Halium Project for the HP Touchpad. Unfortunately, my understanding at what goes on at the base hardware level is EXTREMELY limited.

Plasma Mobile Experience

Nexus 5X-PlasmaMoble-01The look and feel of Plasma Mobile is pretty great. Like all things Plasma, it is highly customizable. What that means to me, I can make my Mobile experience exactly the way I want, not something dictated by a corporation as to how they intend for me to use my technology.

So then I thought, I know Plasma Mobile is still in early stages, many things are still being taken from Plasma Desktop but that really should only require some adjustments. Over time, Plasma Mobile, much like the Desktop Counterpart could very well end up being the nicest, cleanest and yet most customiziable interface ever.

The HP Touchpad

HP_TouchPad-12-LineageOS.pngThe Touchpad, by today’s standards is not spectacular, but it isn’t terrible either. Its CPU is a dual core Scorpion clocked at 1200 MHz. It has 1 GiB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GiB of storage. It is certainly adequate for many tasks. I can’t help but think how fantastic this Touchpad would be with proper Linux, access to the breadth of open source software.

HaliumThe good news is, the possibility of having a working Plasma Mobile interface on the HP Touchpad may be closer to reality than not. According to the Halium Project on GitHub, three have already been tests completed successfully. This is, unfortunately far outside my skill sets so there isn’t much I can offer here but I am watching the project with great interest.

How Useful Could It Be?

kontactI know multimedia is the thing… streaming Netflix, watching YouTube and GPU intensive games is the common usage for tablets but that is not what I am interested in doing with it. There are far more interesting and productive activities. Using the Touchpad as my window into my digital recipe collection, reference technical documents, access to Kontact, the KDE Personal Information Manager, or at least parts of it for time and task management.

HP Touchpad with Plasma Mobile and openSUSE

opensuse-logo2Then I did some more thinking. I have only begun dabbling in the fantastic Open Build Service, but what if that system could be used to build an openSUSE Tumbleweed distribution specific to the HP Touchpad, tested by the openSUSE openQA and released in a similar rolling snapshot to the regular openSUSE Tumbleweed. Even with a fraction of the stability, reliability of upgrades and the breadth of software, this would be a fantastic improvement as compared to what is available today. It would be a gigantic library of goodness with many the most useful tools readily available.

Now What?

Even though the HP Touchpad is far past its end of life, I continue to use it on a daily basis. I am very interested in seeing the HP Touchpad get a more genuine Linux upgrade and would like to toy with it now but I have to personally determine, do I want to take my HP Touchpad out of service? Would I even have the time test and experiment on it or do I continue to use it as it is? It is very usable today and works mostly well but a project like this might give it enough life for perhaps several more years and be more useful than it is now. For now, I will keep tabs on it but maybe in the very near future I will be able tip my toes in this arena.

Further Reading

Halium for HP Touchpad Project on GitHub

HP Touchpad Specifications

Open Build Service

Halium Project

open QA

openSUSE Tumbleweed Home

HP Touchpad in 2018

Plasma Mobile installation on Nexus 5X

KDE Kontact Personal Information Manager

Windows 95 on openSUSE Linux

As I was watching my oldest son play Minecraft, I was rather amused by the buttons and widgets for the interface, they were very Windows 95. Although I was more of an Amiga user at that time, we did have a Windows 95 machine in the house to do… Windowsy things like that whole Microsoft Office thing. Something my Dad needed for work or his community, local government involvement. Regardless, fond memories of the mid to late 90s and computers.

I told my boy, rather excitedly about Windows 95 and to my surprise, there is an electron app I can install into Linux, Windows or Mac OS.

Installation

I downloaded the RPM from here:

https://github.com/felixrieseberg/windows95

and installed it,

sudo zypper in ~/Downloads/rpms/windows95-linux-1.3.0.x86_64.rpm

Upon running it, I was greeted with a start screen. For the purposes of my level of usage, the big center button “Start Windows 95” is all I need, for now.

Win95-01

Once it is booted up… or rather the state is restored there is a nice message from the developer and a round of Solitaire ready to go.

Win95-03.png

For nostalgia sake, I played a game of FreeCell, and won.

Win95-04.png

As far as FreeCell games go, the Windows 95 version is still my favorite… for reasons I don’t exactly know. The version on the Amiga or KDE Plasma’s KPatience are absolutely better but something about this version always leaves me with a smile.

It is also somewhat noteworthy that the idea of the Control Panel is still in use on KDE Plasma. Not sure if we can thank Microsoft for this or not as I do recall a “Preferences Folder” on the Amiga Workbench.

Win95-05.png

After enthusiastically showing my boy a Windows 95 computer, he looked at it, paused and just said, “cool.” and went back to playing Minecraft.

Final Thoughts

He was right, it is cool and there is a lot you can do with this. At this time, I was not able to get network access to do any meaningful and with only 53 MB free on the C: Drive, there isn’t much I can install. BUT, if I rebuild the image… there are several old games I would like to see if I can get running in it, although, not the most efficient way to do so, it would be fun, just because.

References

Windows 95 on GitHub

Business Card Holder Design

Designing and building is something of a hobby of mine that also happens to be a component of my profession. I like to flex my CAD muscle outside of the professional setting whenever possible so if someone tells me about a need for something and the design and 3D printing of it is within my bandwidth of available time, I like to help them out. Because… why not?

Demand Signal

A buddy of mine was telling me how he wanted to add a 2 inch by 2 inch card holder for a small sign to advertise his Tour Services. He kicked around an idea of what he wanted: to hold business cards on a placard but didn’t have an immediate solution in mind. So I offered to help out.

Design process

I took a card measured it and made the holder as such that it wouldn’t cover up any of the information on the card. I printed it off and evaluated how the cards fit on the initial design but wasn’t happy with it .

Card Holder Design Change
Initial Design on the left; revised design on the right

There was too much slop, side to side, so retaining the cards could get all catty wampus and potentially fall out. I determined that falling out was an unacceptable failure mode. A card holder must hold the card. I tightened up the space between the walls and the card by a few millimeters and it felt purposefully correct. The final design is available on Thingiverse for you to download and see if it can potentially fit one of your needs.

I initially designed this using PTC Creo but since I am making a point to do more design work on Linux, specifically openSUSE Linux, have since recreated it using FreeCAD with a little variation. Feel free to download the STEP or FreeCAD file and modify it to your heart’s content.

FreeCAD Card Holder

The only real difference between the two designs is that one has sides that are open and the other is solid. The solid sides do print better. I suppose could have added some other flair to it but seeing how this part is not the focus of the placard, why bother.

Final Thoughts

CAD is a fun problem solving tool, once you know how to use it. The fact that there is FreeCAD on Linux, which is a pretty decent tool opens up a whole world of problem solving for the masses. Having a resource like Thingiverse to share how you have solved problems makes these times we live in a lot of fun.

SWMI Brew Tour Placard

Resources

Thingiverse link

FreeCAD Project

FreeCAD from openSUSE

FreeCAD First Timer

SWMI Brew Tours

Samsung Galaxy S5 CAD Project

First Week on Wordpress

State of the Site

Today marks a full week of using WordPress to host my site. I must say, I do like it much better than what I was previously using. There are several features for managing the site of which I am very appreciative that I didn’t even know I wanted.  On the downside, there is less fine control over fonts, which is really my only complaint. The positives far outweigh the negatives. The lesser fine control over fonts also makes for easier rapid and consistent formatting, for the most part. When I really think about it, I don’t really care that much. Simple is better so long as it is readable.

The social media tie-in is pretty great and the simplicity of how the RSS feed thing works, also a huge win. Another feature that I think is pretty neat is the “category cloud” feature. Probably not useful for anyone but me but I like seeing it. I can see the aggregation of what I blather about most.

Having the ability to keep many things in a draft state and see them under one tab is a huge benefit as well. I jump around and work on things as I think about it. This feature was not publicized at all on any of the “Why you should use WordPress” articles I read. …but maybe I read the wrong articles.

The tab to look at the HTML code is also a great feature. Very easy to go back and forth. I don’t have much use, at this time for that, but still, great to see it exposed to me, the user.

Lastly and possibly the most important, using WordPress affords me the ability to move to self-hosted, if I so choose. I don’t have the time or desire to maintain a self-host WordPress instance but it is great to see that I could run it on openSUSE with little effort. For now, I will let someone else administer it and keep me “secure”. There are other things of which I would rather concentrate.

I am grateful for the greater flexibility, ease of management and improved appearance with this platform change to WordPress. I mostly appreciate the freedom to move my data, if I so choose. That feature alone will likely keep me right here a bit longer. Would I recommend WordPress, yes, absolutely, I would most certainly recommend it.

 

First Blathering on the New Site

29 Mar 2018

Looking long term, and also desiring flexibility, I have decided to move my cubiclenate.com site from Google to WordPress. At the time of writing, I am still evaluating it but to test it out, I have moved a lot of information over. I didn’t realize how many pages of stuff I have produced and much of it, now that I am reading it again kind of stinks. I’ll get to updating and fixing it eventually.

The big reason for this switch is to have more storage space for media and documentation. I need something with a more permanent feel and allow me to contribute more to the greater Linux and tech communities.

Hopefully this decision to move to WordPress is a good one. I have more storage and more options here and should I decide to switch to self-hosting, there is fairly easy migration path to do so.

Here’s to change!