Dell Latitude D630 Retirement

With the digit changes into the new year, so goes some changes for the layout of the tech in my home. My new HP EliteBook needs a place besides my lap or in a computer bag and my Dell Latitude D630 that has been beside my main machine has been getting less and less use due to the encumberment of the Nvidia GPU. This D630 has served me well since I purchased it new from Dell in 2007.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I purchased my gently used Dell Latitude E6440 and put my Latitude D630 on a standby state. It’s been a good computer that has seen many adventures of my life from my extended time in other countries to playing calm music in the background for the birth of my three children. I have upgraded and fixed this machine more times than most people would consider doing but now, it is time to remove it from its active reserve status to full retired.

Dell Latitude D630 in 2017

I won’t actually get rid of the machine, I’ll keep it going, turn it on periodically to update openSUSE Tumbleweed but it won’t stay on. The computer would be fine if not for the Nvidia GPU as its closed source, proprietary nature, along with being abandoned by Nvidia means I can only use the Nouveau drivers which are,, unfortunately, a bit ropey.

I performed the last update as it sits on a dock station at my stand up desk. One quick sudo zypper dup to get things updated and tested before I shut it down. Thankfully, everything continues to work well, albeit the GPU troubles and it all shut down cleanly. In a way it is a bit sad for me to retire it, but it was time.

After a bit of dusting and wiping the shelf off, I placed the HP EliteBook in its new place. Since the D630 was also a 14″ machine, this fits well though it is a bit smaller, and that is fine.

Just below, on a lower level of the desk, I placed the Dell TB16 Thunderbolt 3 dock station to provide power and an extension of functionality. Since the computer is without an SD Card reader I will eventually purchase one and attach it to the dock station. I will perhaps add a monitor too but that is not really a priority.

Final Thoughts

I know it is silly to anthropomorphize a computer but I can’t help but to have a kind of connection with the technology. It has been a tool to get my work done, entertained, educated and allowed me to explore many aspects of tech for many years. It was also the first business grade laptop I purchased from the manufacturer that I spent countless hours researching. I really believe I would continue to use it if not for the Nvidia GPU as performance wise, it does a great job in many other aspects.

What this has cemented for me is that I will avoid proprietary hardware, like Nvidia from this point forward. I will most certainly steer clear of anything where I am limited by the corporate decisions of a company that cares little about the long term viability of their products.

References

Dell Latitude D630
Dell Latitude E6440
HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed

HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed

I was given an incredible gift by my former employer as a parting gift, an HP EliteBook 840 G7. I didn’t unpack it right away as I wasn’t sure how I was going to integrate it into my mess of computer equipment. I have been very happy with my Dell Latitude E6440 and decided my next system was going to be a desktop system.

Bottom line up front, I am surprisingly pleased with this system. The HPs I have used in times past have been less than stellar and this machine is not at all anywhere close to the same experience. This machine is pretty great and far better than any HP I have ever used. openSUSE Tumbleweed runs fantastically well on this hardware. Setting it up was trivial and it has been a fantastic experience.

Specifications that Matter

This isn’t a loaded up unit and based on this site from HP, it is on the lower end of the spectrum. Comparing to what I am currently using as my main machine, it has half the RAM and 1/8th the storage space.

CPU

Intel Core i5-10310U Processor – This is not the fastest processor and there are faster options available for this machine. According to HP’s knowledge base on this machine, it can accept as much as a Intel Core i7-10810U. The actual difference between the two, according to CPUbenchmark.net, is about a 20% improvement. This is good news is, I can potentially make this laptop even more useful in the processing department… that is, assuming it isn’t soldered on.

Memory

8 GiB DDR4 with 7.5 GiB available for use. According to HP, this can take up to 64 GiB of RAM. I think that is incredibly spectacular. That definitely means I can grow into this machine over the long term. My reckless use of system resource causes me to chomp through the 7.5 GiB available pretty quickly. It’s a bit light for doing video editing and CAD work but still doable, so long as I don’t have a browser with 20+ tabs open.

Bottom line, this isn’t great now but could be very great for a rather small investment. Just by swapping out one of the SO-DIMMS with a 32 GiB module would make a huge difference.

Display

This laptop comes equipped with an anti-glare, non-touch, 1920×1080 display. I am not sure exactly the characteristics of this specific display as there are a lot of options according to this listing. Whichever version this machine has, I am very pleased with it.

Ports and Interfaces

This computer isn’t what I would consider heavy on interfaces. I might go as far to say it is a bit light but it does have the ports that truly count. I am a bit disappointed it is missing an SD Card reader but lets focus on what it does have, not what it is missing.

The front and back of the computer are void of any interfaces. This works well for the back due to how the screen pivots. I have seen alternative designs for hinges that allow for access to the back but from a usability perspective, accessing ports on the back is an exercise in fiddling around blindly unless you decide to crane your head around the backside of the computer. Ultimately, I don’t care one way or the other on this one.

The left side of the computer has four interfaces interfaces:

(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 port (1 charging). I have used both of the USB slots though one tends to have a Logitech wireless mouse dongle in it. I have no complaints in this department.

(1) Headphone/microphone combo jack, or sometimes called a “courage port” and although I tend to use Bluetooth for “quiet listening” I do think a headphone jack is necessary on a computer and to not have one is terrible.

SmartCard slot, it is a vital necessity to have a SmartCard reader for a computer. Without one, I would have to plug in a USB external and that is, frankly, a less than ideal situation.

The unnamed opening on the side is for that Kensington Security Slot. That is for the purpose of locking your computer to the desk… which makes it like a desktop.

Left Side

The right side of the computer contains five interfaces:

(2) USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt support. I have tested this, running openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, the ports do recognize and enable dock stations as well as charge from them. I didn’t test the external display capability but that will come in the future.

(1) HDMI 1.4 port. This is standard fare for a laptop purchased in 2020. I am not sure if HDMI is preferred over DisplayPort but it is what I have.

(1) AC power input port. Since I am still quite uncertain as to the reliability of the USB-C port for the long term, I do appreciate having a barrel jack for power. I do think this will likely last longer than the USB-C port.

There is a blocked off SIM card slot on this computer, presumably due to the lack of WWAN. This is a factory install option, according to HP. That is unfortunate as that would have been a nice add on. I’m sure there is a way to hack it together, maybe.

Construction and Aesthetics

The laptop’s chassis is made of aluminum. According to the HP marketing information, it is made of machined-aluminum. I find that a bit hard to believe as I don’t see evidence of any machining marks and that seems incredibly cost prohibitive but I am not the expert here, nor have I seen the manufacturing plant. It very well could be true and this could be an incredibly well designed machine with spectacular manufacturing processes. It does look very nice. It has nice, sharp lines and just feels solid. The test a lot of tech enthusiasts give a machine is holding it by a corner with the screen lid open to see if it creaks or flexes. This computer does not do that.

The keyboard is claimed to be made of 50% recycled DVDs. The other 50% isn’t specified and why only DVDs and not CDs mentioned. They are both made from polycarbonate plastic. Perhaps people are done throwing out CDs? Also, who throws away DVDs? I have so many questions here. I absolutely prefer that all materials are recycled so I love seeing that HP is making it a point to utilize recycle materials in new machines.

The bezel of the computer is very thin, much thinner than I am used to seeing on a laptop. I am sure there are smaller but my biggest concern is, how do I take this apart without cracking it? The screen is visually of great quality and has a kind of indescribable clarity that I really appreciate.

Serviceability

I am incredibly impressed that HP made this computer so easy to access the innards. The bottom is held in place by five screws. There are clips towards the front of the case so it needs to be swung open towards the front of the machine.

Very surprisingly, they used captive screws so you don’t have to set them in a magnetic bowl or end up brushing them off your workbench and spend hours looking on your cluttered floor to find them.

Inside reveals easy access to the memory, SSD or in this case NVME. I didn’t take the CPU fan and heat piping out to see if the CPU was easily replaced like my Latitudes. Another time, perhaps. I think the big take away here is, this thing is easily serviceable and upgraded. With very little effort, I can swap out the storage and add RAM to this thing, truly making this a machine that I can use for many years.

binary comment

I will be interested in seeing how long the battery on this thing lasts. It is only rated at 53Watt/hours but it does appear to be adequate at this time, based on how I have been using it.

Installation of openSUSE Tumbleweed

I gave Windows 10 a try on this machine. I got through the installation procedure, registered the computer with HP, read through the rather frightening EULA and was presented with a fairly standard Windows 10 desktop albeit with a few extra HP sprinklings. This computer had none of the “bloatware” that is common on PCs… at least… has once been common. After about 45 seconds, I decided i was done playing with Windows and it was time for openSUSE.

I have installed openSUSE on a few other new computers and there have been hangups or difficulties to work through, mostly with Nvidia. I was expecting for there to be a bit of a battle but because I have chosen Tumbleweed, I know that I will have the latest available hardware drivers and judging by the mailing list feed. I was glad to know that this Comet Lake Intel architecture is supported.

In order to boot from the USB, I had to change the boot order. For my own personal future reference, here are what the different F-keys do on POST:

F1 – System Information
F2 – System Diagnostics
F3 – 3rd Party Option ROM
F9 – Boot menu
F10 – BIOS Menu
F11 – System Restore
F12 – Network PXE Boot

In this case, you really only have to make the change in the boot menu to boot from USB. Since openSUSE is Secure Boot capable, there are no problems there. If you are like me, you want to dig into the BIOS menu and see what goodies are accessible within. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty standard stuff.

For the installation process itself, I didn’t do anything custom. I just let the installer do what it wanted and it very nicely read my mind to just wipe and install openSUSE with a single BTRFS partition. The only tweaks I made was to activate the SSH Service and open the port in the firewall. The rest was left as is. Thanks openSUSE! The installation process took all of 9 minutes and it was complete. For details on my installation process you can take a trip here.

Upon booting up the system for the first time, the only issue I had was a lack of sound. Going into YaST, I selected the sound module which informed me that the kernel module for snd-sof-pci had not been loaded.

This wasn’t an extra step I wanted to do, but I am grateful that the YaST sound module was able to walk me through correcting the issue. The positive takeaway here is, I haven’t ever actually messed with this before since it hasn’t ever come up, but now that I see how this module works, further play is necessary. Not for this machine but something that I am building.

Just three packages needed to be installed and the sound automatically configured itself properly and hasn’t been an issue since. What I find interesting here is that Plasma now has devices like HDMI left in an inactive state so you have to how the inactive devices when you don’t have something plugged in. This really clears up a lot of the previous irritation with how Plasma / PulseAudio handled the sound devices. The changes here are fantastic.

After using this machine for a few days, I decided that I really loved it. I’m impressed by how solid yet light the chassis feels. That meant, I had to make this computer my own. I, of course, started by using my openSUSE Breeze Dark theme then I replaced the default system notifications with my preferred Star Trek: The Next Generation variety that I have cut up and mixed. It feels better that way.

My only issue that I have not yet worked out is that my brightness control for the screen just seems to trigger the mute toggle. My understanding is that there is a firmware fix from HP on this and this problem is not exclusive to Linux. More on this in the future.

The installation and first run of openSUSE Tumbleweed with Plasma has been simply fantastic. It has been over 10 years since I purchased brand new hardware to run Linux and have since stayed just a bit behind to reduce my frustrations. There are no serious frustrations with this machine, sure, a little issue with the brightness control and I had to take an extra step to get the sound working, but that is it. The battery life on this machine is extraordinary. I don’t have to think about having a power supply handy. I just take this laptop and go places. I can’t say I have ever experience such laptop computing freedom before. Truly, a tremendous openSUSE Tumbleweed laptop experience.

What I Like

The touchpad on this particular computer has a glass surface. I love how it feels and how easy it is to clean. Why is it that in 2020 I first experience this? Why hasn’t this been the standard in touchpads? It isn’t a full mouse replacement as it doesn’t have physical buttons at the bottom of the touchpad but if you press down on it, there is an audible click. By pressing in the standard respective locations, you do have all three mouse buttons.

The keyboard does have a TrackPoint where the G, H and B keys meet. This is something I have grown very accustomed to using my Dell Latitudes. I really don’t like being without but the downside is, with out that third button, I am not able to scroll like I do on my Dell Latitude E6440 so the usability of this component isn’t as useful as I would like. I am quite sure I can figure a workaround on this shortcoming.

Very importantly, the keyboard is of very good quality, I have written this entire post on this EliteBook and I am very happy with how the keyboard feels. This is nothing like the Zbook I have previously used where you had to hammer down on the keys to get the letters to type. These keys require just enough pressure to activate and since the chassis that it sits in is as rigid as it is, there is not a bit of flex in the keyboard.

On the incredibly rare occasion I tax this system, I am impressed by how quite the fan runs. There are two impressive aspects here. One, how little the fan actually runs and when it does run, how quite it is and how short it ends up running as it seemed to spin down when the CPU usage dropped down as well.

This computer has USB-C with Thunderbolt. I have nothing that takes advantage of this capability but now that I do, I just may look at getting something for that purpose. I do appreciate the fact that I can charge my computer from the USB-C port. This opens up a lot of power options for this computer. More on that at another time. It should also be noted that the Thunderbolt module in the Plasma Settings is very informative and I am sure that I will use this as my peripherals start to go towards this Thunderbolt interface.

Something that is incredibly important to me on a laptop is how easy it is to service the thing and what my options are when I open the thing up. The innards are incredibly easy to access so memory and storage upgrades are easy. There isn’t any memory soldered on to the board and since I have the option to stuff 64 GiB of RAM in this thing, that makes this laptop very forward leaning.

Amazingly, this computer has a built in SmartCard reader. This is huge for me as I need one regularly and using a USB device is not convenient. There weren’t any issues getting the device drivers and middleware set up in openSUSE. The wiki on that subject is well written and results are easily repeatable.

What I Don’t Like

The arrow keys on the keyboard are a little crammed. I am sure I’ll get used to it but I would say this is the weak point of the keyboard. I don’t have a suggestion as how to correct this whilst also maintaining the clean aesthetic. I think the layout of the keyboard is more about aesthetics than it is about functionality but it is in balance.

There is a little bit of squirrelly behavior of the Fn key for display brightness controls. After a little research this is not exclusively a Linux issue but is more common in Linux. There is a BIOS update to fix this problem, I just have to take the time to work through that solution with a non-Windows system.

As far as slots and ports go on this machine, there is a sore lacking of and SD Card slot. I do wonder why this feature was omitted from the design, especially over having a SIM Card slot that I can’t use without serious modification to the computer.

There is no Ethernet port on this computer. I guess they took a queue from Apple and omitted this too. This is one of those issues that can be easily fixed with a dongle or dock station. Thinking about it. I rarely use an Ethernet port on a laptop unless I am docked. I just happen to like having an Ethernet port and expect them on computers. I call this a nice to have, not a requirement.

Peculiar position for the Power button and airplane mode. I suspect this is to support the overall design aesthetic of the keyboard, having the nice clean lines and deck around the keyboard. The irritation with the airplane mode is that being on F11, I have triggered the airplane mode more often than I would like to admit. The media function keys utilize the F-row and by default are active. The only media keys I use often are the volume up and down keys so I have to determine if it is more important to have the F-keys, which I use very frequently, or the media keys as the default press.

Final Thoughts

Overall, very happy with this machine. It was a parting gift from my previous employer and about the time I completely forgot they were going to send it, the system arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I see myself using this machine for many years. Regardless of the lacking of SD Card reader, it does have the more important SmartCard reader. The arrow keys are a bit crunched but that seems to be a lot more common these days, which is incredibly unfortunate and the media keys are currently a bit squirrelly but there should be a fix for that in the near future. I really can’t complain at all as this is a fine machine and a very welcome gift.

Going forward, I plan to make this my on-the-go machine and will probably leave my Latitude at home more. This means, I will have to do some upgrades to this machine if I plan to make it my main, mobile machine. The 237 GiB drive is a bit small for all that I do with a computer and the 8 GiB of RAM seems to get filled up very quickly with my poor browser habits.

The HP EliteBook 840 G7 is a fantastic Linux machine. If this were offered with Linux pre-installed, I would consider this to be a prime, flagship, Linux experience. I haven’t tested any other distributions but I imagine they would be much the same. I really appreciate the work HP has done on this machine and the seeming forethought they had with ensuring Linux compatibility.

References

Dell Latitude E6440
HP EliteBook 840 G7 Specifications
HP EliteBook 840 G7 on NewEgg.com
Ubuntu on HP Elitebook 840 G7 Notebook PC

Bpytop on openSUSE | Terminal

I recently published an article about how great Bashtop is on openSUSE, and when I was nearly done with it, I was told about Bpytop. Since I was going through the final edit, I didn’t just want to dump what I did before but rather, follow it up with Bpytop. I am not sure how far behind the curve I am now and maybe there is something even cooler out there but before anyone tells me what the latest hotness is in terminal, system monitoring applications, I am feverishly writing about this.

What is so great about Bpytop?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, and you have previously enjoyed Bashtop, Bpytop is going to send tingles of joy down your finger tips. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

At the time of writing, the two ways you can go about installing bpytop is installing the snap or directly installing the application using PyPi. I opted for the PyPi method this time. Within the terminal enter this to install or upgrade.

pip3 install bpytop --upgrade

Once installed, a simple entering of bpytop in the terminal will start the application in all it’s splendor.

This should work for all distributions of Linux but there are other installation options here:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bpytop

Features

For starters, there are three viewing modes, for your pleasure, with Bpytop. Full, the only option in Bashtop, Proc, shows CPU and process table, and Stat, which just shows graphs and current statistics of the CPUs, Memory, Disks and network.

Much of what you expect from bashtop is here but there are a few additions and changes have been made that are very welcome enhancements. For starters the remaining battery indicator.

Running this on my Plasma desktop it is not a critical addition under normal use but I can think of several other situations where this would be valuable to have in the terminal. It’s a nice addition.

The CPU view was mostly the same, no real changes here. The biggest change is Core being replaced by “C” for each core. Presumably to reduce wasted space. Personally, I am fine with either notation. I still think this is the best use of the top of the display layout. The interesting bits of information concerning the CPU like frequency, load average, and load per core as well as temperature.

The disk display is improved with having disk activity indicators by partition. At a glance, that makes this section far more useful. There is a lot of value in this for numerous reasons. This is a splendid addition to this system monitor and I must say, my favorite change from Bashtop.

I am on the fence about the change to the memory graph look. By simply pressing “g”, you can change from graph to to bars quite nicely.

The Swap memory / partition is by default in the disks section but by pressing “s”, Swap will appear with the rest of the memory section. I prefer it with memory but I see the logic in having it with the rest of the disk space.

The network section of Bpytop has some fantastic enhancements. The most exciting feature here is the network adapter selection. Pressing “b” and “n” will cycle through the different interfaces on the system.

The process table has a few additional features. Like before you can filter the process list by pressing “f” but now you can look at process by core, or in a tree of processes. There is certainly a lot of utility in that capability.

Just as before you can interact with the processes by killing them and what not.

Bpytop has a menu much like Bashtop pressing “M” will bring to to it. The coloring is a bit different but the menu is largely the same with the fancy lettering and such. Also, note: “m” changes the display mode”

There are a lot more options than before. So many, in fact that it has to be broken up into multiple pages. Many of these options are able to be triggered in the view mode, such as Swap preferences. If you do not like the Color theme, for whatever reason, there are options there too. Three viewing modes are available in Bpytop. Full is my preference but if you just want processes, or stats, that is also available.

I have taken some note on system resource usage and it appears that Bashtop uses less memory but Bpytop uses fewer CPU resources. I do want to make sure I make it clear that I am not using a very thorough analysis process to determine this.

The “Help” menu item give you a list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. There are a lot more commands in Bpytop than there were in Bashtop. The new toggles are identified in this list which is helpful for those new to this application.

Overall Bpytop has very similar visual characteristics to Bashtop. There is a bit more polish to Bpytop and the interface is more responsive. The fading of process list is very slick which again makes the application feel a lot more like a graphical utility than a terminal based one. Like Bashtop, Bpytop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, that is more aesthetically pleasing and the interaction significantly improved.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, Bpytop is super handy and may even be considered, super FUN. The interactions with your system through this application are notably enhanced. The layout modes, memory graphs and disk activity are phenomenal features that, if nothing else, are fun to watch.

What I Like

Bpytop cleverly uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to almost suspend the idea that you are in a text only terminal. It certainly gives the impression the possibility that it is a grpahically driven tool. Bpytop is a very modern looking and incredibly useful application that has a high level of refinement to it.

The multiple display modes of this application is done very well which has likely been established through a user feedback mechanism. The three modes of Full, Proc and Stat adjust the panes for the purpose that best suits your requirements. Though I prefer the full, filling the terminal window with just the system statistics looks pretty great.

The menu system in Bpytop, like Bashtop, is superb. There is so much to adjust and dig into on this application. The “help” screen is also very informative and necessary until you get used to what each keystroke does. Having it tied to “h” and “F1” makes accessing it intuitive as well.

What I Don’t Like

Bpytop is not as light on resources as top or htop but I truly believe that it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience and value of information. I respect the argument for just using top to get a quick terminal snapshot but the user interface of Bpytop is much more intuitive and accessible.

This is not a big deal as one quick terminal command and it is installed but Bpytop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repositories. I think this should be standard fair on openSUSE because of how awesome it is.

Final Thoughts

Not long after becoming aware of Bashtop, I was presented with Bpytop and before all this fancy new terminal goodness came to me, was happy enough using htop. My terminal world has changed. The bar has been raised and the terminal has become even more fun. Where were applications like this just a few short years ago? I am very thankful for the creative expression in the terminal applications of today. Bpytop is a fantastic application, terminal or not and I highly recommend anyone give this is a try and tell me what they think of it. This again underscores that Linux and open source software is simply brilliant!

References

Bpytop from Github
Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

I am generally behind the curve when it comes to the new hotness out there. Not sure what it is, maybe I am out of phase with the rest of the world, maybe just behind on my podcast listening or not really paying attention, so while everyone else has moved on to the next new hotness, I am hanging out in one-month-ago time and have enjoyed this thing called “Bashtop”

What is Bashtop and why do I care?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, than Bashtop is going to be an application you absolutely adore. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

Bashtop, at the time of writing, is not in the official repositories of openSUSE, but it is built by the Open Build Service and available from software.opensuse.org. Select the the appropriate version version of openSUSE for you and use the “one-click” installation button to get going.

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

Alternatively, check out this resource for other Linux Distributions:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bashtop

Features

Bashtop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, this is very similar to htop but in a more aesthetically pleasing presentation.

This gives you a quick snapshot of your CPU, Memory, Disks, Network activity and processes. Essentially, all the core bits of interesting information about what the computer is doing. In my case, I have a 4 core/8 thread CPU where I am given the CPU information, frequency and load per core as well as temperature.

The lower-left section shows you memory usage, disk usage and network activity. The graphs look great with the gradient coloring. Not sure how they pull this off but they pull it off well.

The processes table is great. should you need to filter the processes, just press “f” and start typing to find the application for which you are searching. It is that simple and easy to use.

Bashtop has a fantastic Menu of options and if you weren’t paying close attention, you might not realize that this is all in text mode. The way the larger font of “Options,” “Help,” and “Quit” look, you might be deceived into thinking that this is invoking some kind of fancy graphical mode.

Though I have left the options at default, you may wish to tweak some of the options. The default_black theme works well for me and the update interval is fine at 2800 ms. I would change the clock if my system default wasn’t 24hr, which, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t adopt 24hr.

The key take away here with the menu is that it is very user friendly, no squirrelly commands need to be typed in the terminal when launching Bashtop to get it just as you would like.

The “Help” menu item give you your key command list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. It’s nice to see that there are alternates as well.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, this can come in handy. Especially so when terminating processes that have gone rouge. The Help screen provides a great snapshot of capabilities right in this application to make system management a more satisfying task.

What I Like

Although it is a text display, it uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to give the impression of it being a graphical display. This really gives the impression of a very modern looking and feeling application that could be misconstrued as a graphic user interface.

The layout of the application is well done and a good usage of screen real estate. The CPU graph at the top is the right choice for the first thing your eyes pan down. The graph combined with the immediate state of the CPU is a nice touch. The rest of the information, Memory usage, Disk Usage, Network activity with graph and the process list fill out the bottom nicely.

The menu system in Bashtop is top notch. Once you have it tweaked out to your preferences, you probably won’t use it as much but the “help” screen is also very informative. I know that I can’t always remember what keystrokes do what so the help is great for a guy like me that doesn’t use it day in and day out.

What I Don’t Like

As compared to top or htop It is a bit heavier on resources than htop and top, though I think it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience. I can see the arguments as to why some don’t like to use bashtop but this isn’t something I keep running continually, just when I want to nerd out and see what’s going on.

This is not a big deal and it may change in the future, but Bashtop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repository. Setting it up is easy to do with the one-click installation process on software.openSUSE.org.

Final Thoughts

I have historically made htop my go-to terminal system monitoring application. I still think htop is good but I happen to enjoy the experience of Bashtop just a bit more. It feels more like a full fledged product as opposed to a terminal application. If you like such technical information, I highly recommend installing and trying bashtop. I believe you will really enjoy it.

I have been informed, today, that there is yet another system resource application to try in the terminal called bpytop. That means, more relishable application exploration is on the horizon! Linux and open source software is so much fun!

References

Bashtop from software.opensuse.org
Bashtop from Github

Noodlings 22 | On the Edge

Click here for the 22nd single serving sized podcast episode

Computers are a tool, it’s a wrench or hammer, maybe more like a drill as it is a kind of power tool. It is there to serve you in whatever the task is. Whether it is organizing and storing information, one of the core functions of computers; entertainment, home security or designing and building something to improve your “foxhole”, it is a tool. Computers can just be fun to tinker around with too. It’s for people who like to mess around with computers and learn how they work as well. It’s for all types. Linux along with the free and open source applications on top of it just happens to be the best solution for me.

Would open source software be the best and most ideal solution? Of course it would, but that is just not the case much of the time. What I do believe is best is that the core and base layers of the operating system are free and open. Having projects like KDE Plasma, Gnome and Xfce which are completely open source Desktop Environments is the key. Should you need some proprietary applications to run on top of it, sure, it is less ideal but much preferred to the whole stack being closed and proprietary.

I run Fusion 360 on my machine as well as FreeCAD, I support the FreeCAD project but I still have some trouble with it. I do think it is getting better but for the time being Fusion 360 is my go-to CAD application because of what it can do so effortlessly. Does that make my system, as a whole compromised? I don’t believe so. Would running only free and open source software be better? Absolutely but that is not where things are today and rather than get upset, I would rather get projects done.

Consider this, if your living was dependent on designing and building widgets and you needed to collaborate with other designers, what would be the best tool for the job? I can’t say for certain what your case may be, but if I were working on a project and collaborating with a team, as a small business owner, Fusion 360 has those tools baked into it. If it reduces the time-to-market enough to offset the costs, it is worth it. If it shortens the development time enough to offset the cost of software, than it is indeed worth it.

On the contrary, if you have developed a method for product life-cycle management while using FreeCAD, and you are able to do all that is required, to include the machining process, just as well. Than go with that application. The bottom line is, you MUST use the tool that works best for you and you shouldn’t receive grief by anybody for it.

Personal computers should be just that, personal, use what is best for you. Should someone choose something different or go down a different path to get to their ultimate solution, even if it is a winding path, that personal discovery is extremely valuable. The best ideas will surface and suppressing the journey is of no benefit to anyone.

Give people space to discover and grow at their own pace. Allow them to figure out their world, show them kindness and grace as they learn and ask questions. Technology is but one vehicle to make our world a better place, positive and supportive attitudes are another. Stop and ask yourself why you do the things you do and have that honest conversation with yourself.

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

I have recently installed and started using Microsoft Edge Browser. It still in the “Development” channel and it is pretty fantastic. The browser works so well, even though it is in development yet. I have received a couple updates on it now. Though I haven’t noticed any differences as of yet, I do appreciate the work being done on it.

I have been one of those individuals that have been the opposite of a Microsoft fan… for many years. I do have to give them credit where credit is due. We can start with Microsoft Basic that was essentially the common thread between the computer in the 8-bit era. Commodore BASIC was licensed from Microsoft and between the different computers of the time, it was very similar with the variations being in how you control graphics, sound and I/O. Fast forward to the 90s Microsoft began down a road of dominance which lead to congressional hearings on monopolistic business practices and later with Steve Balmer telling the world that Linux was a cancer. We are also reminded about their historic practice of “embrace, extend, extinguish” and the numerous law suits that kept Linux and open source software from growing at a greater speed.

Despite all their flaws, when you remove the emotional context and look at their contributions to the technology industry, you will see that there are countless contributions they have made in pushing the boundaries and making technology more accessible. Sure, they made mistakes, we all make mistakes, we are flawed humans running flawed organizations making flawed decisions but that doesn’t mean we should negate the positives because of the negatives. Lets look at today, lets look and see what they are doing today. Should we be weary, sure, perhaps, I prefer the “trust but verify” approach.

Today, Microsoft has been saying that they “heart” Linux. Cynically, you can say, yeah, they heart the money they get from developing and licensing technology for Linux. That is what business does. Now they are building a browser, Microsoft Edge, for Linux. It is based on Chromium and therefore reducing some of the technical liabilities associated with using their own web engine. Would I have preferred they used Firefox’s Gecko engine? Sure, that would have possibly been better but I can’t really say. I think, no matter what Microsoft did, it would cause backlash in the community.

The bottom Line is, Edge is good, it’s real good. I am nothing short of impressed by how it performs. This browser may still be in the “Dev” channel, but it is shockingly good. If I had to choose between Edge and Chrome for my corporate sponsored web browser, I would choose Edge as it does not chomp system resources up like Chrome.

What I Like

The installation process and package manager integration couldn’t be any better. I have already received updates to the browser and Zypper didn’t have a single issue with it. I certainly wasn’t expecting issues but you never know. The bottom line is, openSUSE is a “first-class” Microsoft Edge citizen!

The Edge Browser is a high performance application. It is shockingly lean and fast. If I had to choose between Chrome and Edge, I would choose Edge. The performance and memory usage improvement is not insignificant. I need more time on the browser to give a better performance evaluation and do some side by side tests against my current Firefox preference. Since Microsoft has made openSUSE a first-class citizen means that I am going to do my part to give them a hand in usage reports and the like.

The settings interface may be my favorite I have seen. It is laid out as such that it makes sense to navigate. There isn’t any digging to get to what you want to customize. This does support the claim that it is an easily customizable browser. I say, well done! 

What I Don’t Like

Although you are given a very nice dark theme, it is not my favorite. Also, since I am into the green highlights, I would prefer the theme integrates better into the desktop. This is the only spot that Chrome has an slightly higher mark.

This is a mixed opinion, but I wish there was more in the Edge browser extension repository. You are essentially directed to the Chrome store for things where Edge is lacking. The upshot is, you have access to all the Chrome extensions. Edge is based on the same Blink web engine as Chromium / Chrome in effect, reducing the technical burden on development and opening up a world of extensions. My biggest concern is that the market seems to be drifting to a single browser engine and doesn’t look good for the future of Firefox.

I am not currently able to log into my Microsoft account, which was a known issue. It would be nice if that was working but I am willing to bet that this will be fixed. When this is fixed, I am certainly going to see how well all the associated services work.

This is a nitpick, but the letter casing on “openSUSE” was wrong on the documentation… yeah, I’m certainly grasping at straws to come up with a fourth thing I didn’t like about Edge.

I highly recommend giving Edge a try. If you don’t like Microsoft and refuse to use any of its products, then don’t use it. At the same time, if someone else likes it, let them like it. It’s not your computer anyway.

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

I can’t help but to be so super excited about using FISH for my terminal. It makes the terminal alive and interactive. The “F” in FISH should really be “fun” because of how it helps guide you through commands as well as it does. FISH is able to parse the man pages and help you build a proper command to accomplish whatever terminal task you are doing. The Tab key become so much more powerful opening up a menu of options that are easily understandable. It is truly an amazing improvement and if I had my way, this would be the default shell in openSUSE.

I have been totally fine with using Bash, I started on CSH in the HP Unix days, when I went to Linux, I was introduced to Bash and I thought it was pretty great. What I appreciated was the tab-completion on commands. I had heard about ZSH and FISH but since I didn’t have a problem with Bash, I had no desire to change my shell. The interactive nature of FISH makes using anything in the terminal so much better and dare I say, “fun”. Maybe instead of “Friendly” the F in FISH should stand for “Fun”. I really enjoy the terminal a lot more and I believe that making this the default shell for not just openSUSE but all distributions would really help with greater adoption with living in the terminal.

Branded vs Unbranded Laptop Batteries

I have often been cheap on many of my decisions. Since I do have a bit of an addiction to all things tech, I try to do it as least cost prohibitive as possible. That has also gone for batteries for my laptop. I purchased a replacement battery on eBay that was unbranded from my Dell Latitude E6440 to save a few bucks. Not only did it arrive broken, as well as the replacement, the computer didn’t like it. This is like the last unbranded battery I purchased. It would have an affect on the computer performance. The result would often be forcing the CPU to be capped at around 800Mhz. Popping the battery out or using a real Dell Battery and the CPU performance is back to where it should be. The battery also was only at an estimated 94% of life left in the first week, after a week or so, 88% and three weeks later, 78%. Also, these knock off batteries don’t seem to hold up for very long. I had a similar issue with my Latitude D630 as well. The battery would only hold up for three to four months, tops. There is a common thread so I changed my ways.

I purchased a genuine Dell battery this time. A real battery that has the Dell name imprinted on it. The battery health is 100% and there isn’t any crazy CPU governing. It may have taken me 10 years, but I finally learned my lesson. Sometimes, genuine is the better way to go.

Halloween Festive Lights

For the benefit of the towns folk and the trick or treaters, using my Linux-powered Festive Lights, I did a sequence to Ghostbusters with which I was ultimately not pleased. The main reason being, I ran out of time in getting some additional pixel lights mounted and the purple string of LEDs did not flash in time with the musical sequence as I had expected. Any of the effects that were directed towards the pixel LEDs did just as they were supposed to do so that worked out.

One passer-byer asked me how I did it and since I didn’t want to have to give him a full explanation, I just said, as a matter of fact, “Linux”. He accepted that answer and carried on. Maybe he will become curious and look into it but chances are, he will completely dismiss what I said and go on to consume the more traditional forms of entertainment more easily digested.

I am getting ready for the big dance now, this year. I will be adding a lot by means of pixel bulbs on my house. It will likely be a good show and I look forward to what I will be able to share.

BDLL Followup

The bulk of the conversation on BDLL was discussion Utilities and what people use. Rocco was absent so Dan ran the show. The discussion is always intersting, at least, it is for my nerd brain and what I found most interesting how sour some people watching became when we talked positively of the Microsoft Edge Browser. BDLL got its largest number of down-votes I have ever seen and I can’t help but wonder, why?

There were a few visceral comments in the dislike for Canonical as well which I find incredibly disappointing. Canonical has done so much for the Linux Desktop in pushing the design, concepts and emphasizing the need for polish. They have greatly improved application accessibility to many Linux distributions though Snap and do a lot to encourage development on Linux. Do I agree with everything they do? Nope, but I agree with their mission and you have to look at their character as a company, not focus on one or few decisions with which I do not agree.

Microsoft is putting time, people and resources into the Linux desktop. They have given us Microsoft Teams and Visual Studio Code to name a couple. Now they are building a browser, Edge, for Linux as well. Am I a fan of telemetry, no or rather, it depends. If I can give them information to improve my personal experience, yes. I also like it that they are going up against the likes of Chrome as well. Although, they both use the Blink web engine, there is some significant variation in the user experience that is quite welcome.

I am a little disconcerted by the amount of dislike for any company putting resources into the Linux desktop. I understand the lack of trust but to out right show contempt for it is just not beneficial to anyone.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE Community to Have Kickoff Session for Leap 15.3

The openSUSE community is inviting all stakeholder to join the kickoff for Leap 15.3 on November 4th of this year. This is an invitation to package maintainers, contributors, and open source developers to join the community with a virtual meeting at:

https://meet.opensuse.org/LeapKickoff.

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Computer Entrepreneurs (1984)

The computer industry has brought wealth to many people at various levels. Some starting companies that go on to be enormously successful like Apple. Some were able to make great livings and gain historic notoriety many others have fallen into the relative obscurity as time has marched on. The 1970s gave rise to the computer entrepreneurs, mostly wearing, at the time whatever they wanted and just looking to create the best product possible for themselves, as in the case of Steve Wozniak. He was free to define the project as he saw fit so was able to explore and learn. Changes in the early 1980s shifted the industry to become a lot more professional.

The computer industry went from garage bound to billions of dollars in an incredibly short time. Wosniak was very humble about his beginnings and the foolishness of corporations looking down on upstarts, though, largely software upstarts at this time.

It was in the first 10 years or so of the fledgling industry that anyone with the knowledge and a few hundred dollars could start building hardware devices and people would have enough interest to commit dollars to it. The technically creative expressions were wide and varied, also largely incompatible with one another. Very few technically creative products being produced in the world by 1984 and things had already, largely, become commoditized. The computer was becoming more like and appliance similar to a refrigerator or washer where economies of scale were necessary to have a successful business model.

In 1984, it was not believed likely that there could be any new garage or hobby manufacturers but belief in software upstarts were absolutely possible due to the lower economic threshold requiring an application go to market as opposed to a new computer.

Adam Osborn, formerly of Osborn computers, made the statement that there isn’t room for new manufacturers, that business was locked up by and the computer is no longer “high tech” where price and reliability was the driving factor. He also stated that there will never be an IBM in software because you are dealing with $50 products and because of human nature, people will want something very different from one another.

Osborn went on to say that the computers collecting dust and no longer being used were ZX80 and ZX81 but largely served their purpose in the curiosity of getting people interested in the computer revolution. The Commodore 64 was collecting dust for reliability reasons and people just buying new machines because they were so inexpensive. Another guest stated that the IBM clone companies won’t make it because they are not delivering anything new.

It is interesting, looking at this from a historical perspective as IBM is no longer in the PC business and sold it all off because they were not able to hang. There was a software “IBM” called Microsoft or maybe now it is Google, perhaps it is Apple that is, in a way, the giant of today.

Today people are saying things like there is no room for another mobile platform or another desktop environment or another search provider or another social media platform. People are continually making these faulty assumptions and they are largely believed until they are no longer true.

Atari used to be the defacto video game standard until Nintendo and Sega battled it out, only for Sony and Microsoft to gobble up much of the gaming industry and crushing the likes of the Amiga CD32 and Sega Dreamcast.

Think about it, Yahoo and AOL once ruled the Internet and Microsoft was the only seriuos, game in town for office products. The industry is always changing. Linux is now dominant on many areas of technology and Microsoft has pivoted, in many ways, from the desktop and office applications to server or cloud based offerings. IBM purchased Red Hat and pushes open source solutions.

The bottom line is, no one knows what the future holds, just because a company holds the lead in any area, doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. This industry is always changing, growing, contracting, morphing and technology is finding new ways to solve problems and waste time. Hang on, enjoy it, stay flexible and like what you like.

Final Thoughts

Not everything in the world is going to be exactly what you want. In fact, it may very well be that what you want does not align with the majority of people. Does that mean you are wrong or they are wrong? No, it means you are a different person. You must find a way to show kindness to everyone, no matter what they prioritize. I believe you have to have faith in people. Short term, things might look bleak but long term, the good ideas will come to the surface. Discern was is good from what is not good and make decisions that you can live with, long term. Be a good neighbor in the digital world as well as the real world. A combination of kindness, patience and grace will ultimately win in every situation.

Noodlings | Inspiration Is Around You

21st Noodling of jam packed excitement… not really.

This is the 21st hot-pocket-sized podcast that won’t scorch roof of your mouth.

I have a small collection of vintage or near vintage gaming consoles. I lean mostly in the Nintendo party as I think they have a great grasp on what is fun. I don’t always agree with many of their business practices but the entertainment they have provided is multi-generationally successful. In order to lower the wasted time of hooking these systems up to enjoy and better organize their presentation, I built a Gaming Rack that was inspired by watching a YouTube channel called Retro Recipes. Seeing how nicely laid out and easily enjoyed they were set up, I made the decision that I must adapt this idea to my little world.

I’ll address this in greater length in the future but suffice to say, the creation of this Gaming Rack has made coexisting with lots of tech in the common areas of my house so much better. The big win was a place to keep all the tablets, handhelds and mobile devices so that they don’t linger in the kitchen or on the dining room table. They have a place to sit and charge and it is pretty fantastic.

The primary item of note here is, you can find inspiration all around you. The final result of my gaming rack, largely, isn’t anything like what I saw on the Retro Recipes channel but the purpose and intent is very much the same. I appreciate inspiration from wherever it materializes.

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to a mug of hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.

WTTR.in | Weather Forecast in the Terminal

I have had an affinity for all things terminal in my old… or middle age. Not that I have ever spent all that much time in the terminal back in the 80s and 90s but as I transitioned into the Linux world, I started to enjoy the terminal and wanted to learn it.

What I am most interested in by this is the quick and efficient retrieval of the weather forecast. Since this is a terminal application, the actual limitations are few of what can access this information. The Commodore 64 with a text only web browser should be able to view this and certainly any other computer that came after it. In effect, this makes nearly any computer built, still quite relevant for modern tasks, or at least, it certainly helps keep computers useful.

Being able to access weather data quickly in the terminal is far preferred over using a web page as this is much quicker and does not gobble up internet bandwidth and cast a net of trackers at you.

I was made aware or rather re-aware of this information by some of the folks over at The Otherside Podcast Network.

Rickroll in the Terminal

When I was watching a YouTube channel “Adrian’s Digital Basement“, I noticed a dancing dude on some kind of small device in the background, on his wall of interesting things.

You know, I am seeing a pattern of me snooping on YouTubers…

I took me a bit of searching to realize that this was the “Rickroll” and out of curiosity, I had to see if it was available as a terminal command. Sure enough, this absolutely is a thing in the terminal and I had to Rickroll myself!

I found the project on Github, ran the commands and got an incredible laugh out of it. In an effort to not lose this again, I made a quick blathering about it on CubicleNate.com

There is nothing of any real value on this at all.

BDLL Followup

Talk on application preferences. What I got out of this was the push to use fish instead of bash for my shell. Fish stands for “Friendly Interactive SHell” So, calling it fish shell is a like ATM Machine.

In short this truly revolutionizes the terminal interface. This takes the terminal from good to awesome. The bottom line of what makes this awesome, and I will create a blathering post about this later, is that it holds your hand in using commands in the shell. It has parsed the man pages so when you start entering a command and press the tab key, it does more than just display what command you may be entering, it gives you the options and descriptions of what it is, continue to press tab and you will cycle through the similar commands. It’s

openSUSE Corner

Introducing the Open Build Service Connector

Open Build Service Connector is built around bookmarks of packages. Individual packages or whole projects can be checked out directly from within Visual Studio Code, similar as to how you would with osc.

This works well with the openSUSE project philosophy of collaboration which is at the heart of all things openSUSE and fundamentally built into the Open Build Service.

Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa Update in Tumbleweed

Some of the major package updates in the last week of snapshots include newer versions of the Linux Kernel, Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa, Apparmor, ImageMagick, AutoYaST and many others. Several CVEs and bug fixes have been addressed and the Mesa graphics library updates to support Intel Rocket Lake platform

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Speech Synthesis (1984)

I think we often take for granted about how well speech-to-text and text-to-speech works these days on rather small hand held devices. I know that I have become unreasonably upset with my mobile when it didn’t translate anything or translated what I said poorly. I have to stop and look back in time at the history of speech synthesis and compare it to the size and limitations of the machines in 1984 at the commencement of commercially available solutions for speech synthesis.

Although not covered in this episode of Computer Chronicles, there was an application called “SAM” which means, Software Automatic Mouth, published in 1982 by “Don’t Ask Software”. I played with it a lot on the Commodore 64 and what I found out more recently was that this really taxed the little 64kib machine which is why it had to blank the screen when speaking.

SAM on the Web

The applications for speech synthesis in 1984 were a bit of a stretch in some ways. I’m not sure if it was the large awkward microphone or the obvious shoehorning of it’s usage for checking your stock portfolio but it did seem a bit clunky. Other uses, like the speak and spell, I thought was good but a camera or my car speaking to me is not really something I would appreciate today.

Could you imagine your camera telling you that you need to use a flash when taking a picture at a wedding?

The Speak and Spell is, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of a fantastically well executed consumer product. Though I don’t enjoy my Speak and Spell much as an adult, it is fun to pull it out from time to time and see how poorly my spelling still is after so many decades on this planet.

If speech synthesis is of any interest to you, I recommend watching this and seeing formative years of computer speech synthesis to gain a bit of appreciation on where we are today. Maybe you totally appreciate it but I know that my attitude falters from time-to-time and it’s good to look back and see how far we have journeyed.

Final Thoughts

Inspiration is all around you, it is just a matter of you taking the time to pause for a moment and look for it. There are truly creative minds out there, freely sharing ideas that you can apply in your life to make things just a bit better. Pause and appreciate the bits of inspiration throughout computing history that have made our tech lives so very interesting and fun. For a nerd, this is truly the best time to be alive.

Noodlings | No Linux for 10 Days

20th Noodling, just like the previous, delivered inconsistently!

The 20th cookie sized podcast, but not one of those oatmeal raisin type of cookies, more like something with chocolate chips.

Chinese food containers are a feat of clever engineering. Most people just toss them in the bin once they are done with them but if you stop to look at how they are folded together from wax coated paper, you have to smile and marvel at the ingenuity of this clever, nesting box.

Element | Matrix Chat Client

The Element client makes using Matrix quite enjoyable. Previously, using Matrix was a bit of a lack-luster, almost a science experiment kind of feel to it. Sure, it worked but it didn’t have the polish and great user experience I have using Telegram. I can say, with much confidence, using Element feels like a real product. It feels just as good as any other messaging client. It is still early days for me so it’s still all new and exciting.

Send and Receive Text Messages SMS with Element

Amiga Fast File System Return to Linux Kernel

A component of the Linux kernel for the Amiga Fast File system had been broken that deals with the basic permission bits, protection bits in Amiga OS. The Linux Kernel would only set bits but never delete them.

Max Staudt is the developer that noted this issue and submitted a fix “for good” such that this won’t be an issue in the Linux Kernel any more. He said, “…Linux a nd classic AmigaOS can coexist in the most peaceful manner.”

Linus Torvalds appears to have agreed and the code made it into rc4 of version 5.9 which is slated to be release this month, October 2020.

This is great news for those of us that are vintage tech enthusiasts.

VisualBoy Advance

I was in a situation where I was away from home for an extended period of time. As a result I was separated from my old tech which means authentic hardware to do the more retro style of gaming that I enjoy. While away, I had a hankering for some GameBoy fun to unwind at the end of the day. The application I found, which I ultimately installed from the Snap Store was VisualBoy Advance. The big take away on why this is a great application for playing GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games is the ease of use and how highly configurable it is.

Dell Inspiron 20 3048 Black Screen Repair

Power outage left me with a computer where the LED on the side would show activity but there wasn’t even a flicker on the screen itself. It was out, completely black, no light whatsoever.

Ultimately the issue came to a faulty power supply which tells me that I need to take the time to put in some sort of UPS to protect it in the future. This isn’t the first time I have had issues with this computer as a result of power fluctuations.

No Linux for 10 Days

In my time away from my normal life, I was in a situation where I was without Linux for almost two weeks. I hear of people that consider time away from tech as being “refreshing”. I wouldn’t consider that the case at all but it was enlightening. Using “analog” methods for recording information is super inefficient but it did force me to work on my hand writing as it is atrocious.

Secondly, having to use Windows 10 to do “digital work” was so frustrating, I will say, the points of frustration were not all the fault of Windows 10 but it did make me greatly despise using tech. It confirmed that if Linux went away and I was forced to use Windows 10, I just wouldn’t.

BDLL Followup

There was a discussion about the perfect distribution that dominated the majority of the the conversation. I can easily say that openSUSE fits as the perfect distribution. There isn’t much I would change about it. The only thing I can think is a little polish in Tumbleweed as such that it becomes real easy to do distribution updates, preferably, using Zypper.

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE + LibreOffice Conference

Going on now is the openSUSE + LibreOffice virtual conference. There is one day left but you have to register before participating as to keep out spammers. There are two virtual rooms where talks are given and a workshop room to hack on LibreOffice. Thinking about this, there is an element missing from the event. There isn’t a virtual hall way to get lost in and have random conversations about of topic subjects. Maybe Next time?

It’s nice to see that virtual conferences are still happening. Just because the world has hit a rather large bump, not all the wheels have fallen of of the wagon.

Join our team and help us improve the openSUSE learning experience!

openSUSE is a project that has many parts to it and with the very lively and thriving community, some things can become untidy. The project has multiple distributions, although Leap and Tumbleweed get more of the mind share, things can become a bit overwhelming for someone new to start poking around the openSUSE spaces.

This is why a group of volunteers have taken up the task of improving the learning experience for users regardless of their experience level. We want to make sure that new users can best identify solutions for their requirements and experienced users have the detailed documentation that is easy to access and update.

Any help is welcome for writing, editing, peer-reviewing, video production and testing.

Tumbleweed Roundup

  • 20201008 moderate 90
    • MozillaFirefox (80.0 -> 81.0.1)
    • inkscape
    • kdeconnect-kde
    • libzypp (17.25.1 -> 17.25.2)

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Super Computers (1984)

Oldest computing machine is the abacus

Massive Parallel architectures was the key feature of these massive super computers. It is interesting to see that the super computer technology of this time is essentially the architecture that would later be adopted by the average home computer, to include your mobile device.

These computers were rated at over 100 million calculations per second. I wanted to get some kind of a baseline comparison to a modern Threadripper but getting actual “calculations per second” isn’t a thing with modern benchmarks. I would be interested in see how one of the old Cray super computers of the mid-1980s would compare to the average gaming desktop computer of today. It’s worth a wonder.

Parallel processing was a big thing with these super computers but the rate of improvement had slowed down and the discussion boiled down to the next breakthrough coming in changing the way things are done and different algorithms to take advantage of greater speed increases.

It was initially by government grants that breakthroughs in super computers came about and once better understanding and more applications were developed for the super computer did the commercial applications jump on board to better simulate a 3D world for testing such as the automotive and oil industry. Ultimately, making the process of being profitable much quicker.

Barriers at the time is building better algorithms to map on a computer’s architecture while at the same time, modifying the architectures to work with the algorithms. There was such a massive number of changes and experimentation in this time. The US and Japanese manufacturers were competing against each other at the super computer level. Both governments investing in the private sector to help with R&D costs. Really a spectacular time in the history of computing.

Final Thoughts

Take some time to appreciate some of the marvels around you. Even something as ubiquitous as a to-go container has an incredible story behind it. Someone or many someones spent many hours engineering the shape and the design of the thing as well as the many hours or perhaps years it took to perfect the manufacturing process. We often take for granted the wonderful luxuries we have.

Noodlings | BIOS Games Serving the NDI™ Plugin

Another prime number… and no the title doesn’t make sense. It’s just a nonsensical way to string everything together.

19th Noodling on a mid-August night

19 Episodes… 19 is another prime number!

Fun facts about chocolate milk can be found here

BIOS Update Dell Latitude E6440 on Linux

My BIOS was 4 years out of date. I thought it was time to update it. I went to the Dell Support page and noticed that they only had *.exe files available. I sighed and was initially frustrated because my initial supposition was that I was going to have to have a working copy of Windows to do the update. 

AntiMicro | Map Keyboard and Mouse Controls to Gamepad on openSUSE

Installed a game called Pokemon Insurgence on Lutris and there was no way to play the game with a gamepad. Rather than try to fight things, set out for an application that would map the keyboard controls to the WiiU Pro Controller that has become my gamepad of choice.

CPU Downgrade

After receiving this message following a BIOS upgrade, I was forced to purchase a lower powered CPU for my AMD Workstation.

OBS NDI™ Plugin on openSUSE

The NDI plugin offers a fairly easy way to send OBS video signal (presumably other applications can take advantage of this too) to another OBS instance on another machine. This can come in handy for numerous reasons such as splitting up workloads between machines by capturing output from one machine, such as gaming computer, to stream with a dedicated unit that interfaces with YouTube.

BDLL Followup

What have you done that would cause you to lose your Linux card

openSUSE Corner

New Prototype Builds Bringing Leap, SLE Closer Will be Available Soon

The release manager for openSUSE Leap, Lubos Kocman, has updated openSUSE’s develop community on efforts to bring the codes of Leap and SUSE Linux Enterprise closer together.

Tumbleweed Roundup

  • 20200805 Stable 99
    • MozillaThunderbird (68.10.0 -> 68.11.0)
      • Several CVEs addressed
    • transactional-update (2.22 -> 2.23)
      • Subpackages: transactional-update-zypp-config
      • Version 2.23
      • Add “run” command to be able to execute a single command in a new snapshot
      • Add “–drop-if-no-change” option to discard snapshots if no changes were performed (BETA, required for Salt integration)
      • Removed previous CaaSP Salt support (gh#openSUSE/transactional-update#33)
      • Avoid “file not found” message on systems without /var subvol
  • 20200810 Score of a moderate 84
    • epiphany (3.36.3 -> 3.36.4)
    • gcc10 (10.2.1+git465 -> 10.2.1+git501)
    • gnome-mines (3.36.0 -> 3.36.1)
    • kernel-source (5.7.11 -> 5.8.0)
    • squid
    • zypper-lifecycle-plugin (0.6.1490613702.a925823 -> 0.6.1596796104.87bdab7)

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Fifth Generation Computers (1984)

The pioneers in the field talk about 5th generation computers capable of Artificial Intelligence and heuristic learning; giving computers context. In 1984, computers were already being used to make knowledge based decisions.

The Computer Chronicles – Fifth Generation Computers (1984)

Final Thoughts

Take some time to have fun. Good, clean wholesome fun. Go for a walk, enjoy the weather on any day that it is possible. Take some time to cherish each moment, whether it is good or bad, find the positive in the situation and make it a point to say “thank you” as often as possible.

OBS NDI™ Plugin on openSUSE

The NDI plugin offers a fairly easy way to send OBS video signal (presumably other applications can take advantage of this too) to another OBS instance on another machine. This can come in handy for numerous reasons such as splitting up workloads between machines by capturing output from one machine, such as gaming computer, to stream with a dedicated unit that interfaces with YouTube. This has advantages in that you can move the machine doing the heavy lifting into another room or across the room as to not hear the fans and so forth. In my case, my primary machine is getting long in the tooth. I prefer the setup I have as far as the screen layout and height of the computer as well as the location. I use my AMD Desktop / server / workstation machine to talk to YouTube or Twitch directly with that OBS instance and record locally in effect freeing up my laptop from quite a bit of the workload.

The Challenge

At the time of writing, there isn’t an RPM available and the instructions out there along with what to expect seems lacking at best, so, I thought I would take what I know and compile it into one easy, step-by-step guide here for openSUSE. Your mileage may vary depending on your distribution.

Installation

For starters, you need to get the software packages from GitHub.

https://github.com/Palakis/obs-ndi/releases

Download the following:

The version numbers may have changed but you should get the “libndi*” and “obs-ndi*” packages

This is a Debian package meant for Debian/Ubuntu so you may be thinking, “how am I supposed to use this?” …and that is a reasonable question. The solution is a tool that is not often talked about. It is also likely not recommended by most people but I am not most people. That tool is called “Alien“.

To install Alien, navigate here and just click on the appropriate experimental package for your version of openSUSE:

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

Alternatively, you can use the terminal method, which will very a bit between distributions

Tumbleweed

sudo zypper ar https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/utilities/openSUSE_Factory/ utilties
sudo zypper ref
sudo zypper install alien

Leap 15.2

sudo zypper ar https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/utilities/openSUSE_Leap_15.2/ utilties
sudo zypper ref
sudo zypper install alien

To explain each of the lines that I am expecting you to put in the terminal because you should NEVER just trust some random commands on the internet. First of all, I stand behind this as CubicleNate, and I do my best to not be wrong and I’d like to keep doing these things. You can also reacho ut to me directly using any of these methods.

Once the installation of Alien is complete. You will have to take the two deb packages previously downloaded and convert them.

Using a terminal, navigate to the location of the downloaded packages and run the following

sudo alien -r libndi*.deb  
sudo alien -r obs-ndi*.deb  
sudo zypper in ./libndi*.rpm obs-ndi*.rpm

Now your are ready to set up OBS!

OBS Setup

Using this reference, I made the adjustments to my firewall but it didn’t work. Perhaps I am missing something and I would love to edit this article accordingly but opening up both tcp and udp ports 5960 through 5968 as well as having the mDNS port active did not allow me to utilize the NDI plugin with firewalld active. Either the documentation is out of date, in correct or there is a user error on my part and I couldn’t find the appropriate logs to tell me otherwise. Therefore, I just deactivated the firewall on both the source and destination machines.

sudo systemctl stop firewall

This is the point where you should be sorely disappointed with these instructions but again, I would like to improve this and will gladly listen to any input.

The next step is to open up OBS-Studio (v25 and latter is required) on both machines. On the source machine, go to Tools > NDI™ Output settings

Then set the output preferences. In my case, I had not interest in sending the “Preview Output” only the “Main Output” and label it with the hostname; just in case I might do this with another machine.

On the Destination OBS machine, you have to add the NDI Source. This is just one of the many options you have available as a source.

For the source name, select the drop-down and the appropriate available source. I didn’t mess with any of the other settings so your mileage may vary on this portion of the instructions as well.

And that is it. Your NDI Source is just another input like a webcam or video signal and you are off to the streaming or production races.

Final Thoughts

The whole firewall thing has me a bummed out a bit. I have wrestled around with it far too long but at least I know that lowering my “shields” will allow for transporters to work. Not ideal but I am within my firewalled off house, I just happen to like security in layers.

I want to note that the latency on this is VERY low. I mean incredibly low. I have tested this by playing a game on one machine and using the output on another machine with almost no latency perceived. It is quite the incredible technical miracle and I am quite grateful.

I also want to make the vintage computer tie-in. The NDI plugin is developed by Newtek, the makers of the Video Toaster that was very popular on the “big box” line of Amiga computers from the 1990s. So, in a way, I feel like I have a little bit of that incredible Video Toaster tech on my openSUSE machine.

References

OBS-NDI on GitHub
https://obsproject.com/forum/resources/obs-ndi-newtek-ndi™-integration-into-obs-studio.528/updates
NDI Problem Solving PDF

Noodlings | Hardware is for the Terminal

18 is such an adult number. Perhaps I am truly becoming a grown up podcast here.

18th Noodling of mid-summer musings

18 Episodes… 18 is a fun number. Divisible by 2, 3, 6 and 9. The age you can vote in the United States.

LG 29″ UltraWide | Monitor Upgrade and Configuration on Linux

I have historically made my hardware decisions based on price, generally I get what I can get for as low or as reasonable as possible. Basically, I go for free or near-free and fabri-cobble something together. After seeing some other computer setups, I have really thought that I want to be able to function more effectively and efficiently than I had been. One of the areas that I have been less than happy has been my monitor layout. I have been pushing 3 displays with my Dell Latitude E6440 and for the most part, it has been meeting my needs but there were some work flows that have not been working out so well.

Tmux Terminal Desktop

I can’t say that I ever spent my childhood wishing I had the ultimate terminal desktop but the more I have played on Linux, the more I have spent time in the terminal and I really can’t explain why I find it so charming. Perhaps it is the low memory usage of the applications? The clever modern implementation of certain terminal applications? I can’t really say, but there is something incredibly charming about the terminal.

Turn off Monitor using CLI

This is another gift to future me from present me. I made the mistake of not properly writing this down before so I had to search for the answer. The problem is, sometimes, it seems as though Plasma is not shutting off my external screens consistently. I can’t say why but I have a suspicion that it is due to a specific communication application as I can almost guarantee that it is preventing my screens from turning off. I don’t have definitive proof of this so I am not going to put it in writing.

BDLL Followup

Keyboards and mechanical keyboard talk

openSUSE Corner

Release Team to have retrospective meeting about openSUSE Leap 15.2

Members of the openSUSE community had two retrospective meeting on the release of openSUSE Leap 15.2 after receiving feedback from the recent survey.

Leap 15.2 Install party @ GOLEM – A quick report

Italian Linux users did an openSUSE Leap 15.2 Launch Party, at the local LUG (it’s called GOLEM, it’s in a small town in central Italy), and Dario Faggioli made a quick report.

Tumbleweed Roundup

  • 20200730 Stable 99
    • MozillaFirefox (78.0.2 -> 79.0) Numerous CVEs addressed
    • snapper (0.8.11 -> 0.8.12)
      • Subpackages: libsnapper5 snapper-zypp-plugin
      • fixed error when using mksubvolume to create /tmp (bsc#1174401)
    • yast2 (4.3.17 -> 4.3.19)
  • 20200731 Stable 99
    • ghostscript
    • kernel-source (5.7.9 -> 5.7.11)
      • iwlwifi: Make some Killer Wireless-AC 1550 cards work again (bnc#1012628).
      • dpaa_eth: Fix one possible memleak in dpaa_eth_probe (bnc#1012628).
      • m68k: nommu: register start of the memory with memblock (bnc#1012628).
      • m68k: mm: fix node memblock init (bnc#1012628).
      • clk: qcom: gcc: Add GPU and NPU clocks for SM8150 (bnc#1012628).
      • ALSA USB-audio bug fix, driver improvements for realtek audio
      • Improvements to USB Serial
      • Intel_th added support for Jasper Lake CPU
  • 20200803 Pending Score of a Stable 93
    • aaa_base (84.87+git20200708.f5e90d7 -> 84.87+git20200507.e2243a4)
      • Too many improvements to list but suffice to say, lots of code cleanup and bug fixes
    • adwaita-qt (1.1.1 -> 1.1.4)
    • dnsmasq (2.81 -> 2.82)
    • polkit (0.116 -> 0.117)
      • memory management fixes
      • read-only-root-fs (1.0+git20200121.5ed8d15 -> 1.0+git20200730.1243fd0)
    • As an aside, bluetooth audio is properly working again.
  • 20200804 pending Stable 97
    • iso-codes (4.4 -> 4.5.0)
    • ncurses (6.2.20200613 -> 6.2.20200711)
      • fixed pound sign mapping in acsc
      • additional changes for building with visual Studio C++

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Printers

At this time, printers were divided up in two classes, impact and non-impact. Emerging technology in in laser printers was being developed.

Final Thoughts

Life can be full of surprises, sometimes you can get a curve-ball thrown at you. It might really throw a wrench in your plans and mess up your plans in life.

Don’t put it off, don’t ignore it. Face that challenge head on. Begin immediately on unwinding the bailiwick. I promise you won’t regret that decision.