Noodlings | BTRFS, Ultra Widescreens and Floppy Drives

Not having faded into the Podcast ether yet, I bring this nonsense to you almost a week late. At least, a week later than I wanted to complete this. In an effort to keep you interested

The 7th Noodling place of unrest

BTRFS

I have been using BTRFS on all of my openSUSE machines without issue. In my quest to build a new multi-roll system to act as a server, workstation and occasional casual desktop use, I wanted to have a storage solution that was very fault tolerant and would allow me to expand my disk size with minimal effort. That is in both replacing individual drives with larger drives and potentially adding another controller card to have more drives.

ZFS is in the news as the new “hotness” for a file system and it does indeed have a lot of the really awesome features BTRFS provides, maybe more but support in Linux doesn’t appear to be as robust as BTRFS. Could my mind change in the future? Absolutely, but for now, until I get the stability of BTRFS on root, the snapshot system and the ease of flexibility in altering the array of storage, I will stick with BTRFS.

https://btrfs.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Using_Btrfs_with_Multiple_Devices

Ultra Widescreen Monitors

I have been looking at doing an upgrade to my monitor situation, for numerous reasons. The monitors I am using are of unequal resolution, size and aspect ratio, it has been fine but I am becoming less satisfied with its usability. This is especially true since I started to use some of the tiling techniques built into Plasma. I just happen to need more pixels. Looking at my available options, I became interested in one of these 1440p monitors. My issue is, I am not interested in a curved monitor. I think they look just a bit silly and I don’t stand directly in front of the computer all the time. Interestingly, it seems as though the curved screens are less expensive then their flat counterparts with the same resolution and frequency. Although I would prefer a flat screen, it is more economical and of better specifications to go with the curved model.

I’m not prepared to make a purchase today as I need to do some more research on the subject but I am now very much interested in a single 1440p monitor rather than my two cobbled, odd lots hanging above my laptop.

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/80345/intel-core-i7-4610m-processor-4m-cache-up-to-3-70-ghz.html

End to Floppy Drives

US military has been using 8-inch floppy disks in an antiquated ’70s computer to receive nuclear launch orders from the President. Now, the US strategic command has announced that it has replaced the drives with a “highly-secure solid state digital storage solution,” Lt. Col. Jason Rossi

The 8-inch floppy disks have been used in an ancient system called the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS.

It’s used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centers to field forces, and is unhackable precisely because it was created long before the internet existed. “You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address.

Despite the age of the system, the Air Force is confident in its security and has a pretty good handle on maintaining it. By contrast, installing an all-new system isn’t as easy as it sounds. “You have to be able to certify that an adversary can’t take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it’s supposed to do when you call on it,”

https://www.engadget.com/2019/10/18/us-military-nuclear-missiles-floppy-disks/?guccounter=1

Sad Commodore 64 News

My U13 Logic chip is likely failing. I am sure it’s not the RAM as I am having an intermittent problem with my system. Sometimes I get a blank screen and sometimes some garbled mess of characters in a range of colors. Based on the likely causes, I am quite sure it is the 74LS257A Logic IC. That should cost me less than $1 for the part and around $10 on shipping.

https://retrocomputerverzamelaar.nl/commodore-64-problems/
https://www.retroleum.co.uk/results.php?q=logic

BDLL Follow Up

I am late on the release of this podcast, not because I am fading out already, but because of life things. Regardless, I wanted to follow up on a BDLL from 19 October 2019. The discussion was about distro hopping, why Linux users distro hop. Often when people are new to Linux, they hop around and try new distributions. Some people like to jump around every time there is something new released.

Some Distros cater to some bits of hardware better than others. MX Linux on old hardware, openSUSE on newer hardware, Manjaro or Pop!_OS for gaming. Debian for obscure hardware. Ubuntu and its flavors for the mainstream.

I am not a distro hopper, embed myself, decided to stick around and help out to the best of my ability.

Between Mandrake / Mandriva fading and embedding into openSUSE I jumped around a bit. When I decided on openSUSE, I knew it wasn’t perfect, there were some issues but they were easily mitigated, I was most enamored with the friendly and helpful community along with the “ecosystem” of tools around openSUSE. The ease of installing software the graphical way and a pretty awesome wiki.

I mostly try out other distros to see what else is out there. Nothing ever seems to capture me like openSUSE. There are many good choices of Linux and I would probably be content elsewhere but nothing quite gives me the excitement that the green chameleon clad openSUSE provides.

BigDaddyLinux Live 19 October 2019

openSUSE Corner

Lots of snapshots have rolled through with new software and subsequent bug fixes. Of note Plasma 5.17.0 has arrived in all of it’s Glory

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191009 20191011 20191012 20191014

Firefox has been updated to version 69.0.2 which contained a single fix for Linux-only crashes when changing the playback speed of YouTube videos. Fwupd shipped at version 1.3.1, that is a daemon that allows session software to update the firmware. It now allows for disabling of all plugins and added support for thunderbolt interfae for kernel safety checks. Gstreamer and many of it’s plugins were updated to version 1.16.1 which offered performance improvements. nodejs12, python-packaging and tcpdump were updated to address more than two dozen CVEs.

Plamsa 5.17.0 arrived with some significant changes to the new version. The release announcement says that this new version is as lightweight and thrifty with resources as ever before. Notably, the start-up scripts were converted from a slower Bash to a faster C++ and now run asynchronously, which means it can run several tasks simultaneously, instead of having to run them in sequence. KDE Applications 19.08.2 improved High-DPI support in Konsole and other applications. Many bug fixes in Kmail and saving messages directly to remote folders has been restored. Many other KDE applications received updates as well. e2fsprogs update 1.45.5 addressed a CVE where an attacker would have been able to corrupt an ext4 partition. Updates to gnutls, Nano and php7 were also included.

Mumble was finally updated to 1.3.0 after getting through the rigorous legal review of the SUSE lawyers and now those crazy lips are gone.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20191009 a moderate score of a 90; 20191011 a stable score of 92; 20191012 a stable score of 96; and 20191014 a moderate score of 82.

The Project Name Change Vote Continues

The discussion around changing the name of the project is still continuing in the mailing list. The vote has been extended out to the 7th of November, 2019. It has been decided to create a wiki page to consolidate the information. The keypoints can be summarized by the following:

For Keeping the project name

  • If the name is changed, we would lose brand reputation earned over the years.
  • Many members and other contributors are strongly attached to the current name.
  • Changing the name might give the impression that the relationship between SUSE and openSUSE is strained.
  • A lot of work will be required to rename domains, OBS projects and metadata, GitHub namespace, packages trademarks, etc.
  • Rebranding requires a tremendous amount of communication (and money) over years to establish the new brand name.
  • SUSE can transfer or license relevant trademarks to an openSUSE Foundation.
  • The relationship with SUSE is part of our marketing strategy, e.g. Leap/SLE’s shared codebase.
  • Changing the project name will make current openSUSE swag (T-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc) obsolete.

Reasons in favor of the name change

  • openSUSE is often typed and/or pronounced incorrectly (e.g. OpenSUSE, OpenSuSE etc). Watch how do you say SUSE?
  • The Free Software Foundation (FSF) complains about the looseness of the term “open”.
  • The distinction between openSUSE and SUSE can be confusing to people new to either brand. Some people have been known to shorten openSUSE to SUSE.
  • If the community thinks that the project benefits from a new name then this is the moment to change it, i.e. before registering a new legal structure (like a foundation).

My thoughts on this, the reasons for a name change seams superfluous. Although I understand the there is some confusion and how it is typed is often wrong, those do not outweigh the marketing strategy of the Leap/SLE’s shared codebase, the amount of work that would go into rebranding, renaming and making all the cool things I have today obsolete.

I think it is good that we the openSUSE community have this discussion. It has been good for me as I can reflect on my reasons I don’t care for it and rather than just make it an emotional and close-minded decision, I can look at the facts and make a rational decision to keep the name just as it is.

If the name changes, I won’t be upset, disappointed, yes, but not upset. It is the community and the technology that I like, the name is secondary.

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Reasons why openSUSE is Fantabulous in 2019

Not long ago, I was in the openSUSE Discord off topic chat room… or channel… whatever the terminology is, and the reasons for using openSUSE came up because someone needed a reminder. It was probably more tongue and cheek than anything but it is good, from time to time, to reflect on your decisions and ask yourself whether or not those decisions are still correct.

After doing a little reflection as to why I use openSUSE, what is its unique selling feature, I would say there are multiple and those reasons likely change in rank based on your particular use case. For me it is the combination of the tools plus a few herbs and spices that provide to me a reliable and stable base upon which I can rely which enables me to learn, experiment and potentially break it with multiple fail safe features to easily restore it to a pre-fiddling stage. I get freedom to fiddle with openSUSE without the catastrophic consequences of breaking it. It is quite literally everything I want out of a computer operating system.

Here are some of the features I think make it “Fantabulous”, today, in 2019.

BTRFS done Right

Although it seems like it gets a lot of flack on in the Linux world, BTRFS is a very reliable file system when implemented by [open]SUSE. There were other distributions that didn’t implement it well and a meme was born, riddled with falsehoods that it was not a reliable file system to use. Several tech media pundits still continue this meme… maybe they should use a distribution that knows how to harness the power properly. Keep in mind, not everyone can drive a submarine properly.

So what makes BTRFS great is that it is a copy-on-write file system supported properly by the Linux Kernel. The way openSUSE implements it makes for a fantastic snapshot system that allows me to effortlessly roll back the system should there be any issues with an update or if I decide to muck about on the system, I can roll the thing back to the last working state of the machine. Super handy and it has gotten me out of a bind more than once. It is as simple as booting into the last known working snapshot and running sudo snapper rollback... like it never even happened.

Open Build Service for All

The Open Build Service is a fantastic feature of the openSUSE Project. This is not only the place that builds all the software for openSUSE it is also a place where community members can build and share software from their own home projects as well as help out with experimental and potentially the official repositories. If you have experience in building your own RPMs or any software packages for that matter, OBS not only alows you to do so but it does all the hard work of checking for dependencies while giving you the opportunity to share your hard work with the community of users.

One step cooler, you can also use the Open Build Service to target other distributions too. It supports Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and Arch to name a few. It also supports several processor platforms too beyond 64bit x86 that is most common. There is a fully supported (on Tumbleweed) 32 bit x86 as well as the likes of ARM and several different PowerPC platforms.

Interestingly, you can even target an AppImage with the Open Build Service which is a nice additional feature. It makes me think, if more projects used the Open Build Service, it would be a lot easier to keep AppImages of your project up to date.

YaST – Yet another System Tool

In all my computer-life experience, there has been no other system control panel that is anywhere as good and comprehensive as YaST. To just call it a “system control panel” does not do it justice as it is so much more.

You can, quite literally, do just about every bit of system configuration from here. Every tool here is not only exceptionally useful but works quite well. The user and group manager is top notch for managing such things. Recently, the Boot Loader module has become even more useful as of late by allowing you to select your CPU Mitigation posture.

Since there are so many tools, it makes for a rather lengthy, albeit well organized, list of modules. If you don’t want to browse through the list, there is the search option that will filter down the options as you type. You really couldn’t make something so complex as managing your system any easier and this is such a well done suite. This is essentially the same system tool that manages the installation of openSUSE so it is highly improbable that this tool will ever get neglected. Whether you run a Qt, GTK or Terminal only based system, you can access the same tool with all the same powerful features. From bow to stern, YaST is clearly a well designed, well engineered, flexible tool that does not get the credit it deserves. It is another reason that openSUSE absolutely Fantabulous!

Zypper

By far this is the best package manager I have ever used. This is the package manager that is like an agent that works for your success. If you are coming from the Debian world, you can use APT just as you would and there are aliases already built in to direct you to the equivalent Zypper action but with the Zypper refinements.

When doing an installation or upgrade, the clarity of your interactions with the system is the best I have used. I use Tumbleweed primarily and when you are pulling down updates it is very useful to know what is being installed, upgraded, removed and additional notifications about actions post install, like requiring a reboot to take advantage of a new kernel. Zypper provides a very comprehensive summary of any actions and if there are any conflicts you are presented with a list of options where you direct Zypper how to proceed.

If you are tinkerer and you mess with your system to the point that you break something, not only do you have the integration with the BTRFS snapshot system that allows you to roll back but also, if you are running Tumbleweed, invoking sudo zypper dup in the terminal and the way Zypper analyzes your system, it will essentially re-baseline your packages to the latest set and assuming you didn’t destroy your configuration files too badly, you will be back up and running.

Note: this is not a 100% solution but I would say, with great confidence, that will solve the problems you create by sticking your “nose-pickers” where they don’t belong 99% of the time.

The Wiki

I find it almost shocking that some distributions haven’t taken the time to put together a wiki for their distribution. openSUSE has one of the best wikis out there. Like any wiki, sometimes the information does need a new coat of polish and when I come across something, I do try to take the time to fix it. I have used the wiki a lot and because I have gained so much value in the wiki, I have felt compelled to continue to add what little I know into it as I know that when I need that information again, I and many others can refer to it.

It is great to see that openSUSE has made it a point to make knowledge management an priority. It is most certainly an important for users to get answers and guidance for a variety situations.

That Green Chameleon

It is often stated that marketing in Linux isn’t great. Say what you will, but by far the coolest of the Linux distribution’s mascot is the openSUSE Chameleon who’s name is Geeko. The logo and everything around logo is a welcoming friendliness that is unmatched. I can’t see any other Linux distro’s logo dancing in a music video or in computer animated shorts. When you see that logo, it is unmistakably [open]SUSE, it is not at any risk in being confused with anything else. I even appreciate merchandising of that logo into plush toys to begin the introduction of openSUSE to my children at a young age. The closest thing to a lovable distribution mascot is PuppyLinux but last I checked, there aren’t any plush representations of that mascot.

Whenever I have had a less than stellar day, a glimpse of that logo brings just a bit of a smile to my face and I think, “…can’t stop the SUSE…”

Community

The openSUSE community is an extremely helpful and friendly group of people. Sure, like any community that is as big as it is, you are going to have a character or two that is going to require “extra grace” but that is going to happen anywhere there are large groups of people.

I have had numerous instances where people in the community have helped me solve problems, even built software packages so that I could get a thing working. Should you have to report a bug, the community members work with you to get the problems resolved. Even if you don’t really know what you are doing and are willing to answer the questions asked, you can create a useful bug report. You will not only help the project but will also learn something in the process.

The official openSUSE forums is a great place to go for help and the openSUSE Sub-Reddit has a lot of the same people there helping out as well. I have received so much help from the forums over the years and I do try to help others out there as much as my skill level can provide. In the 8 years I have been using openSUSE as my regular distribution, I have never received the “RTFM” on a question. Every time, they have helped me discover the problem to a greater depth and find the true solution.

The openSUSE Discord server is a good time. Not only can you get technical help but you can interact with other openSUSE contributors, developers, members and a full range of enthusiasts. It is a great way to see how the sausage is made, as it were, and flavor it the way you like.

Final Thoughts

There are several more reasons that I believe openSUSE to be so fantabulous but for the sake of not turning this into novel about my near unhealthy obsession over openSUSE, I will leave it here. Going down this thought bunny trail of Linux distribution reflection, I have further cemented my personal reasons that I have chosen openSUSE as my primary distribution of choice.

References

Open Build Service
SUSE Geeko Montage
Can’t Stop the SUSE
openSUSE Build Service Supported Targets

Budgie 10.4 on openSUSE Leap 15.1

In my ongoing mission to ensure that I am keeping up on as many wiki pages for openSUSE as I can, I noticed that the information I put in for the terminal installation process for the Budgie Desktop was not right, I didn’t look through the history but I’m sure it was absolutely my fault. Regardless, I decided to test it out in a VM and see that it installs properly and I could play around in it without crashing. Sure enough, it seems to be working well and after switching things up to a dark them, I thought it looked pretty darn good.

A simple command in the terminal makes the magic happen:

sudo zypper install budgie-desktop

After Zypper does its thing, logging out and logging back in will give you a pretty darn decent implementation of the Budgie-Desktop. There isn’t any openSUSE customization with it, as far as I can tell, it runs well and feels clean.

Oddly, instead of a Budgie Logo for the menu it is a GNOME logo. I am not sure if that is the upstream default or not but it just seems odd to me.

Screenshot_opensuse15.1_2019-07-15_19:08:20

Though, I don’t much care for the light theme, that is easily fixed in the Budgie Settings. I went for Breeze-Dark with everything, just because I think that is the best thing going as of today. I must say that the settings are nice, neat and simple which I think works well for this desktop.

Screenshot_opensuse15.1_2019-07-15_19:10:13.png

I noticed that when I switched the icon theme to Breeze Dark the Plasma logo appeared on the menu icon. I guess if you have Gnome with the Adwaita theme it is only reasonable that you would have the Plasma logo with the Breeze theme. It still seems a bit odd to me.

I hung out here and played around, browsed the web, and tested out a few of the tools. I don’t feel like Budgie is quite right for my “home”. It’s a nice home, very well put together, from what little I experienced hanging out, it is just not one I feel compelled to move into.

Final Thoughts

The ease of installing other Desktop Environments (DEs) in openSUSE is super simple and I truly appreciate it. It is also nice to see that playing with other DEs doesn’t seem to mess things up at all. They all seem to cohabitate quite nicely on a single installation.

I am quite sure this is the vanilla configuration of Budgie that is just how openSUSE does Desktop Environments. I do, however think the Budgie Logo or the openSUSE logo would be preferred on the menu but that would be the only real change I would make.

Budgie is a nice, crisp Desktop Environment but it just isn’t for me. I think KDE Plasma has spoiled me. I also need to do a better job of keeping on top of the different wikis hosted by openSUSE. It is very easy to neglect them. Thankfully, I can play with it all in VMs for testing while I work on other tasks.

Dang openSUSE Linux is awesome!

References

https://en.opensuse.org/
https://en.opensuse.org/Portal:Budgie
https://getsol.us/