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.
Since I had received my ‘new’ computer and transferred everything over, I decided now was the time. I felt it important to wipe the SSD on it anyway before shipping it out so trying out somethings seemed like a good idea. In order to boot from the USB drive, I had to change the boot order. I went into the BIOS to access the boot option. To go into the BIOS I pressed F10 on the POST Splash screen.
Using the fantastic openSUSE installer, I set up the machine very easily. I realize, that at this point, this installer is like second nature to me so making it more “user friendly” would likely not be to my liking.
I did note that the default drive arrangement now is to have a single BTRFS partition with a Swap partition. That isn’t my preference but I went with it.
After setting up all the bits, it took about 6 minutes to install the standard KDE Plasma desktop. Fir reference, I am using snapshot 20200612 which includes Plasma version 5.19.
The initial boot took 32 seconds to get to the login screen. Not sure if that is “fast” enough for most people but I was happy about that. After logging in, it took another 7 seconds to a settled desktop… which is not to my dark-theme liking but easily remedied.
I have my color preference stored here but I really should put it out there as a downloadable theme… someday, perhaps.
Specifications (the ones that matter to me)
Using my favorite system info tool, neofetch, I installed that first.
sudo zypper install neofetch
and ran the thing to get the output of those little things that matter to me about the system
This basically told me what I wanted / needed to know
- CPU: Intel i7-4810MQ, 8 thread at 3.80Ghz 4th Generation Core
- Screen: 1920×1080 matte finish screen
- GPU: Nvidia Quadro K2100M
- Memory: 32 GiB
- Storage: 477GiB SSD (no idea the brand, didn’t care)
This is by no means a new machine but it did do its job very effectively as a CAD machine.
Setup and Configuration
Since the secondary monitor was to the left, I had to use the screen selection hotkey Fn+F4 to get to the onscreen switcher, arrow over and done. Plasma is beautiful in the way it works like that. Sicne the dark theme was added as previously described, I had to install the Multimedia Codecs from here. It’s also good to check to make sure that my instructions are still valid. They are!
The next thing to fix was this single-click nonsense. Not a fan of this out of the gate but I understand that openSUSE likes to stay close to the upstream. Not my preference but thankfully that is an easy fix by going to System Settings > General Behavior and changing the Click behavior to “Double-click to open files and folders.
The other thing I wanted to do was to set the window decoration to have the “Keep below” and “Keep above” buttons on it. These are buttons I use quite often. Mostly the “Keep Above” and to not have it makes my titlebar feel… inadequate.
Next was to install the Nvidia packages to take advantage of this GPU. The easy way can be found here on the openSUSE Wiki.
I used YasST to do the installation as I was thought, why not.
There is more than one way to get to managing the Repositories. I did it through the Software Management tool under Configuration > Repositories…
Next, I selected “Add” in the lower-left corner of the window then Community Repositories. On the next screen, I added the nVidia Graphics Drivers.
When it begins the process of adding the repository, you are asked if you want to Import an Untrusted GnuPG Key. I of course will trust this because, this is the openSUSE community!
After the import was complete, I searched and selected the nvidia-glG05* drivers which triggered the other required dependencies.
I selected the final Accept and the installation began.
Everything seemingly installed properly but I couldn’t use my secondary monitor after my reboot. No idea why. I event tried the older drivers but nothing. I chalk that up to Nvidia being what Nvidia is… painful to deal with. Maybe another distro would have recognized it better but I wasn’t interested as my time was incredibly limited with this machine.
I also downloaded the LeoCAD app Image because, why not do some fun CAD on this machine!
Since that worked out fantastically well, I thought I would do the other basic tests that I would need to do like visiting my favorite YouTube channels and made sure I could watch Netflix on Firefox. It all went well and really, I wasn’t disappointed.
I did end up removing the proprietary Nvidia drivers and going with the open source option so I could use the secondary monitor. Not a huge deal, a bit of a disappointment but at this stage I just wanted the secondary monitor.
This machine feels super snappy. Fast boot times, used very little memory when settled. Seemingly things work fine, for regular user usage. Though, this machine was specifically set up from HP as a CAD focused machine. Having 32 GiB of RAM, and 8 threads is pretty great. I didn’t get the opportunity to really test the hardware out as I would have liked but what little I did do, was pretty great.
The Touchpad is of a nice size and I like that there are buttons above and below the pad along with the Trackpoint between the G, H and B.
The keyboard on this machine is just miserable. I am not sure what HP was thinking with this but the key-press is not consistent across the keyboard and they just don’t have a good feel to it. I feel like I have to use unnecessary forceful key presses to get the keys to recognize.
The arrow keys are of a silly layout and I often stumble a bit on it. Either hitting the up and down together or up and shift. It wasn’t meant for my long gangling fingers.
Nvidia didn’t play real well. It worked but not like I would have preferred. I wanted this to be a hugely bragging story about openSUSE and working well with Nvidia. I am sure that had I dug into it a bit, I could have ironed it out but I was less than happy. I have had other great success stories with Nvidia an openSUSE but this was not one of them.
… insert shrug emoji…
Outside of the Nvidia issue, which I may have eventually worked out if I had the time or the inclination, openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop was a nice experience. At least, far nicer than the Windows 7 experience and now that I am thinking of it. The graphics drivers on Windows were wonkey too. I often had to reboot the machine to clear things up. So, it is possible there may be something not quite right with the hardware. It is also possible the keyboard may have been abused before I obtained it so that might account for the poor keyboard performance too.
If I had more time, I would have probably tried a few more distros on it. Leap being one and Pop_!OS being the other. Just to see if the Nvidia issue was a hardware thing. Would I ever buy this machine for myself? Nope. Lots of little things I don’t like about it, really. I would call it an “almost” machine. Everything about it is almost great but just happens to fall short in a lot of areas.