Windscribe VPN on openSUSE

With all the talk of VPN (Virtual Private Network) services to keep you safe and my general lack of interest in the subject, I was talking to Eric Adams, my co-host on the DLN Xtend podcast about the subject. He was telling me that he was hesitant to recommend any service so he gave me some option to try out. The one I chose, after doing a little reading was Windscribe.

I am new to the VPN game so I want to be careful in saying, I am recommending this as the perfect solution but rather demonstrating how I set it up and how I am using it on my openSUSE Tumbleweed system. Much in the same way Eric informed me about it.

Installation

For starters, I navigated to the Windscribe website, https://windscribe.com/

It’s a nice looking site and I like they have, front and center a Download Windscribe button. I am always annoyed when you have to go digging around to download anything. I give a resounding, “boo” when I am forced to play a scavenger hunt game to find the download link. Thank you Windscribe for not making this part difficult.

Another well presented download for Linux button. No hunting here either. Although, I did notice that there was a lack of definition of my favorite Linux distribution. They have left out openSUSE and that makes me just a bit frowny faced. No matter, I am not a complete “noob” to the Linux-ing and since Fedora and openSUSE packages are like close cousins (in my experience, but I am often wrong), setting this up for openSUSE was pretty darn straight forward.

These instructions are easily adapted to the fantastic Zypper package manager. This is my adaptation of their instructions for openSUSE and is well tested on Tumbleweed.

1. Get a Windscribe Account

Create a free account if you don’t have one already

2. Download and Install the repo as root

zypper ar https://repo.windscribe.com/fedora/ windscribe

This is telling zypper to add the repository (ar) https://repo.windscribe.com/fedora and naming it “windscribe”.

3. Update Zypper

zypper refresh

4. Install Windscribe-CLI

zypper install windscribe-cli

5. Switch to non-root user

exit

6. Login to Windscribe

windscribe login

Follow the steps with your newly created account

7. Connect to Windscribe

windscribe connect

And that is all there is to it. You will be connected and ready to be part of the cool-kid VPN club.

Side Note

If you need further help about how to use the different functions of Windscribe.

windscribe --help

If you need further information on how to use these other features, please visit the windscribe.com site as I am just using the basic functionality of it here.

If the windscribe daemon service does not automatically start up, you may have to start it manually as root.

systemctl start windscribe

and if you want to have it enabled at startup

systemctl enable windscribe

Those may or may not be necessary for you, but just in case, there you go and your welcome!

First Run and Impressions

There currently isn’t a graphical tool for using windscribe in Linux, or at least openSUSE. Chances are, if you are using openSUSE and are hyper concerned about protecting your traffic, using the terminal is not exactly going to cause you to have heartburn. Installation to execution is truly as simple as I have outlined above.

You can take it one step further in the cool, fun, I am a hacker-poser-type if you run it in a terminal emulator called Yakuake. This is a drop-down terminal that is invoked, on my machine with Meta+F12. It looks cool and very convenient to drop it down whenever I need it.

For the free account, you are limited to 10 GiB of data. To check the status of your account usage, in the terminal type

windscribe account

That will give you an output, something like this:

——- My Account ——-  
Username: CubicleNate
Data Usage: 80.02 MB / 10 GB
Plan: 10 GB Free

There is a paid option, which, in my opinion is very reasonable, if you buy a year at a time and I think, if you travel a lot, this may be of great interest to you to protect your data.

If you buy a one year subscription for $49, you are benefited by Unlimited Data, Access to all their locations which they boast as over 60 countries and 110 cities, a Config Generator for OpenVPN IKEv2 SOCKSS which, to my understanding will allow me to use NetworkManager to access the service, and R.O.B.E.R.T. to block ads, trackers and malware. If that is all up your ally, and you like the free service, it all seems pretty well worth it to me.

What I Like

The installation was simple, using it is simple (so long as you are good with the command line) and the performance is very acceptable. Since I am using this when I am away from home, I don’t expect any break-neck speeds out of it, I just prefer that my traffic is at least somewhat protected. After listening to this episode of Destination Linux, I felt like it was a good idea to intact some sort of VPN when I’m out and about.

What I Don’t Like

There isn’t a graphical interface for the terminal-phobic folks. Not a problem for me or likely most Linux users, but there are some that just won’t use it. That’s just the way it goes.

I don’t like that I am not quite familiar with Windscribe. That is not a fault of the service, just the fact that I know so little about them. I will tell you that every email interaction with Windscribe has been amusing so that bodes well for what I think of them.

Final Thoughts

I know that my employer requires me to VPN in to do any real work so even they recognize the value of a good VPN, so maybe I should too. How often do I plan to use it? Not all that often, really. Maybe a few times a month, specifically when I am using an internet access point that I do not trust. I will especially use it if the access point is has “xfinity” in the SSID as I have little to no trust for them.

I appreciate how simple this is to use and should I get to the point where I am pushing my 10 GiB per month limit, I will go all in on an annual subscription. It’s not that expensive to put up one extra line of defense, especially one as convenient as this.

References

Windscribe.com Home
openSUSE Home
Destination Linux Episode 146 on VPNs
DLN Xtend Podcast
Eric Adams at Destination Linux Network

Kontact | Akonadi Reference

The killer feature of the Plasma Desktop has been the KDE Personal Information Manager, Kontact. I have been using it since 2004 time frame and although we have had a tenuous relationship over the years, specifically the switch to the Akonadi and the pain that came with it in the early years. I actively use Kontact on multiple machines for the feature richness of it and haven’t found anything in existence that I like better. I also exclusively use Kontact on openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma Desktop Environment.

I have decided to publish my reference concerning the maintenance it requires. I could be an edge case since I have five mail accounts and multiple calendar accounts as well. Historically, I have had issues where losing network connection, regaining it, suspending and resuming my machine over a period of time would cause the thing to have fits. So, here are my fixes, whenever the need arises.

One quick caveat, your results may vary and don’t hold me responsible for your data.

Problem 1: Akonadi Gets Stuck and Stops Checking Email

This is rare as of late but 3 or 4 years ago, this was indeed a problem. I think I have used this once in the last month (Jan 2020 at the time of writing) but this is what I do.

Solution

In the terminal or even in Krunner type the following

akonadictl stop

This will stop all the processes. Sometimes they can hang and this will gracefully shut the thing down. At this point, you can start it back up in Kontact or in the terminal or krunner type:

akonadictl start

If you do this in the terminal, you can enjoy the scrolling of all the activity going on and gain some appreciation for what it is doing.

After that, you should be good to go.

Problem 2: Clearing out Cached Data

From time to time, I notice that the Akonadi cache under ~/.local/share starts to grow an awful lot. Part of it is that I don’t delete emails, but there is a percentage of that data that is vestigial and can easily be cleared out. This requires two commands and a bit of patience on your end.

Start out by running a “file system check” on the Akonadi database in the terminal.

akonadictl fsck

This takes a bit and will display all found unreferenced external files and such. Once complete, run this:

akonadictl vacuum

This process will optimize the tables and you will recover a bit of data. I admit, this doesn’t make a huge change but it will clear things out. The last time I did it, I only freed up a few megabytes of data but but it’s something.

Final Thoughts

You know those stories of people that have these crazy habits that don’t make sense, things they do that don’t really help or solve a problem like making sure the spoons are organized in just the right fashion? Yeah, well that could be what this whole post is and my obsessive-compulsive tenancies are in full expression. So, take all that into account should you choose to use any of these references.

Feedback is very much welcome on this.

References

Kontact the KDE Personal Information Manager

Noodlings | Lighting the Emby Server with Kdenlive

Coming back strong in 2020… no… not coming back… I haven’t been gone, just delayed.

12th Noodling, a dozen, a foot or a cup and a half of crap?

AMD System from Yester-Years Parts

I recently posted about my computer build. In short, this is a computer build on parts that are in no way considered top of the line. They are all quite old and that did pose a few problems. One, this motherboard would not boot from a software RAID pool. I was able to bootstrap the BTRFS RAID pool with a separate drive and root partition. It did add some complexity to my system but I think it works out okay.

Building a system is something I have wanted to do for quite some time. As in, several years but time, finances and decision vapor-lock had kept me from it. What pushed me over was a fortuitous conversation at a Christmas gathering last year, I struck a nerdy conversation, with a computer store owner that ultimately gave me this giant Thermaltake case without a motherboard and a few weeks later, another fortuitous happening where I was given a bunch of old computer equipment and an AM3 motherboard was among the rest of the aged equipment which drove the rest of the build. My course of action was to stuff the most memory and fastest processor in that which is what I did and I am happy with it. I am not going to belabor that process as I have talked about it before and I have a link you can follow if you are interested in those details.

As a result of this, I had tons of fun, it was a great learning experience and that same guy gave me another case, not as big but far more robust in design with a water cooler. I now want to build another machine but I am thinking a more pure gaming machine and leave this current machine to be my server workstation. I don’t know when I would get to this but I think this one will be a project I do with my kids. Use it as a teaching opportunity and turn it into a kind of family event. Currently, the machine has a Core 2 Duo CPU platform of some kind. I think I would probably do another AMD build, something newer that can take advantage of these new fancy CPUs coming out. I still wouldn’t go bleeding edge but certainly something closer than what I have now.

Emby Server Summation

I have fully evaluated my use of Emby and given a little write up on it. I described the installation process, setting it up, importing my media files and so forth. I want to just summarize the highlights and the lowlights of my experience before I begin my next testing of Plex.

What I like

Emby is super easy to set up. It is nothing more than copying one line into a terminal and executing it. It is super simple and the script also seems to, at least on the version I installed, start and enable the emby-server service.

It’s super easy to add media libraries to Emby. The wizard walks you through it in the beginning and if you want to add additional libraries, that is very easy to do through the configuration tool.

Streams to just about everything in the house. Essentially, if it has a browser, you have access to the Emby server. I haven’t had any issues with the system in the approximately five weeks I have been using it.

Updating the metadata and identity of any movies is as easy as a click and search. You can change the cover images and so forth. Some of the movies I have ripped haven’t always been detected completely correctly. For example, there are three different Grinch movies and I had to manually define which decade they came from. It was super easy.

The Android application works quite nicely. I am actually impressed with the ease of use of the application. It also has quite the fine polish to it as well.

What I don’t like

This was an open source project that went closed source. I sort of have an issue with that and I am not alone with that assessment. It was at that point that Jellyfin was forked from Emby which is what makes me incredibly interested in Jellyfin.

I can’t stream to my Wii, though I don’t really blame the project for not supporting a 14 year old game console. There isn’t an app on the Homebrew channel though at the time of writing, I realized that there is a browser on the Wii so perhaps more investigation is needed. I will update this paragraph with any new information I learn as I investigate that possibility.

Updates will have to be done manually. The server does say it needs to be updated and to do so requires the same step as installation. That is really the only clunky part about this whole setup.

Final Thoughts

Emby is pretty great. Regardless of what I do not like about it. It is a great experience. If you are undecided on your media server and have a desire to try the different options, this is a good one. If this was my only option, I could easily get along fine with it. Since I have two others, I will check those out too.

I highly recommend you try out Emby as the shortcomings are nitpick issues. I don’t like that it went closed source but the project, closed or open, is sound. It is a great, well polished, experience.

This is my first media server review. I will have follow up articles to this in the near future. If there are any inaccuracies or areas I need to revisit, please let me know and I will take the time to make updates.

Kdenlive 19.12 Review

It did take me a quick start tutorial to get going. I do kind of wish there were more instructions on how to do things that weren’t in video form. I like video and all but it is too slow to go through. I would rather scan down a page and see little clips of how each effect is done on it’s own. I suppose there is nothing stopping me from doing that.

Kdenlive is easy to just get going with it. Once you understand the work flow, dump your videos, music, pictures and such in the “pot-o-media” and you are off to the races.

What I Like

Kdenlive is incredibly stable and reliable. Crashing is incredibly rare. I have spent many hours at a time editing and not once has Kdenlive crashed. In all fairness, it’s been hours of editing because I am not very good at it. I have used and rendered video on both my Dell Latitude E6440 and my “new” AMD FX-9590 system with out any glitching or issues. I am impressed by the stability and smooth operation of Kdenlive on openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The user interface of Kdenlive makes sense. The shortcuts, the ease of defining the effects and transition as well as previewing the video makes for an easy and enjoyable video editing experience. Even the scrolling across the timeline or through the tracks, all just makes intuitive sense.

The options for rendering videos or even just audio has a straight forward interface that makes it quite clear what is happening when you start that render. Also, when you start the render, you can continue to use Kdenlive. It does not lock you out of the application.

What I Don’t Like

The text editor for title screens is a bit ropey. The cursor indicator isn’t always visible so I often have to make special effort to get to the right location which includes some delete and retype from time to time. The use of it is not as much fun as the rest of the application.

Not so much a fault of the application but doing video editing really needs more screen real-estate. One 1080p screen is not enough. Not the fault of the application but it is hard to see and read everything going on without excessive scrolling.

Final Thoughts

Kdenlive is a great application with a lot more features than I know how to even use. I don’t do any complex video editing. I don’t have good video equipment so I don’t have a real high level of motivation to create a lot of video content at this time. You can only polish a turd so much and I am often not happy with the video I shoot. I am happy, however, with what I can do with the video in Kdenlive. It does make turning the lack-luster video into barely acceptable video content. Editing with Kdenlive is easy to use and is enjoyable to turn the mess I start with into something more usable. I would like to make more excuses to do more video content because the great user experience Kdenlive provides.

I have heard of people complain that Kdenlive isn’t stable, well, that is a bunch of hooey. Kdenlive on openSUSE Tumbleweed works fantastically well without any crashing. I am very thankful for fantastic packaging and QA process from the openSUSE Project and I am very grateful for every programmer that has had a hand in every piece of this, from the Linux kernel to the Plasma desktop to the application itself. Thank you for all your time and efforts.

Linux Powered Festive Lights

Move from Christmastime to Wintertime. One of those I like a lot more than the other but by having “winter lights” it brightens up the space around me and pushes that gray, cold, dark sadness away. Thanks Linux!

Anything multi-colored and Christmas specific has been taken down. The strands of multicolor lights on my porch have been replaced by blue lights. The wreath and Santa are down but in Santa’s place is an inflatable snowman. Everyting is now white and blue around my house. Not as much fun as Christmastime but I think there is a rule about how much fun you can have at any point in time of the year and I don’t want to over indulge in it. I have to keep it for the designated times, be seasonally appropriate.

I have purchased a few other little things to add to my display. What can I say, I enjoy talking about it. More on that in the future.

AppImageLauncher Review

Of the three Universal package installers, AppImage is one of them. Historically, it has been my least favorite due to the more squirrely way of managing each application. Essentially, you had these files are scattered about your file system or shoved in a folder some place and if you wanted to put them in the menu, you had to do it manually. When you downloaded an update, because not all AppImages support updating, you had to recreate or edit the menu entry and lacks all sense of intuitiveness. It is just incredibly primative

Some AppImages would integrate themselves into your menu system and even perform their own updates. Most of them, however, do not implement those nice little features. Another step, before launching it, having to modify the properties to make it executable. Not a difficult step but it was another step that made it feel a little clunky to use. Combine all these anti-features together and it was my least favorite Universal package. Sill grateful, just least interested.

Step in AppImageLauncher. This throws a significant change in the Universal Package landscape. I have been favoring Snaps for many reasons: the central repository, the ease-of-use in the command line or graphical tools (I used the command line), automatic updates and vast selection of applications has made it my first stop in the Universal Package route. The next has been Flatpak. It has a pseudo Central Repository, nothing official, it integrates nicely with Plasma’s Application Explorer, Discover. Flatpak has recently been better about automatic updates and does a fantastic job of theming itself automatically to your desktop settings.

Lastly has been AppImages because of the rather ad-hoc nature and disjointed desktop experience they have provided. They would respect your desktop themes and are a great non-committal way to try an application but lacked a convenient and clean way to access them. I have used AppImageLauncher for such a short period of time but it is a game changer as far as desktop experience is concerned. The ease of installation and removal of your application in the menu and the automatic organization makes for a purposefully integrated experience. You really can’t tell that you are using an AppImage unless you are doing a right click in the menu entry. Now, on my openSUSE systems, AppImage is a first-class citizen beside my system package manager (RPMs), Snaps, or Flatpak. 2020 is starting of great in the software world.

So why would you use the AUR?

BDLL Follow up

Something that doesn’t seem to get enough attention is the BDLL Discourse Forum. There is a lot of great discussion going on there, not just because I am dumping everything I am working on there but because it is a great place to get help, talk about your Linuxy experiences and just have great conversation about interesting things in tech.

The Linux Half Top was a thread submitted by Steve (Mowest). He had a broken laptop screen and instead of dumping $100 plus into the machine for a new screen and touch panel, he took the screen off entirely, added an HDMI to VGA adapter. Steve gave credit to another community member Dalton Durst for the idea. It reminded Sleepy Eyes Vince of the Commodore 64 where the computer was in the keyboard and just needed a screen.

The whole idea was brilliant, simply brilliant and was an exercise in problem solving by looking for an entirely different solution. Well done.

I highly recommend you take a trip to the BDLL Discourse for some very interesting discussion, discoveries and ideas.

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191231, 20200101, and 20200103

postgresql10 (10.10 -> 10.11) 59 line item changes applied to PostgresQL

xfce4-terminal (0.8.8 -> 0.8.9.1) Respect the “Working Directory” setting when opening initial window, Fix invalid geometry on Wayland, and several other polishing improvements.

xfce4-branding-openSUSE (4.14+20191207 -> 4.14+20191230) several packages relating to openSUSE branding which included setting the default cursor to Adwaita

libvirt had CVE-2019-11135 addressed

ALSA (1.2.1.1 -> 1.2.1.2) several upstream fixes and UCM and UCMv2 fixes and enhancements. See Changes

NetworkManager (1.18.4 -> 1.22.2) Fix multiple issues in the internal DHCP client, including: wrong parsing of search domains and classless routes options, and failures in obtaining and renewing the lease with certain server configurations.

flatpak (1.4.3 -> 1.6.0) several fixes to include fixing some leaks and not to poll for updates in the portal when on a metered connection.

Catfish (1.4.11 -> 1.4.12) for Wayland and GNOME Shell support

Ffmpeg-4 numerous subpackage updates

SSHfs (3.6.0 -> 3.7.0) to give you higher max connection to improve responsiveness during large file transfers.

VIM (8.2.0000 -> 8.2.0063) 54 line item fixes

Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:
20191231 – moderate 79
20200101 – stable 91
20200103 – moderate 85

Four more snapshots are in the pipeline and at pending stable scores

Computer History Retrospective

I was recently watching an episode of Computer Chronicles that covered the idea of “Simulator Software” recorded in 1983. They talked of the flight simulators of the time, simulations of architecture and urban design. Even in the 1980s they were saving money by doing virtual testing of an environment before you spend the time and money on the real thing.

There was a flight simulator used by the military in the early 1980s that by today’s standards, not so great but if I were running that on an Amiga or x86 based PC in the mid-90s, it would have been pretty darn impressive yet.

It is interesting to see now, the graphics capabilities have advanced. Any one modern graphics card has such incredible graphical capabilities, delivering fantastic realism. It’s something that is pretty amazing if you stop and think about it.

I can’t help but wonder how those ideas were sold at the time to punch information into a computer that by all accounts is not all that capable of calculating the vast sets of variables that are done today. Today, there is so much more that can be done with finite element analysis in software that you don’t have to pay for. Examples of this are, FreeCAD and Fusion360, one an open source application, the second a close source application but free to use for hobbyists.

This is a great episode of the Computer Chronicles if you are interested in seeing the early development of computer simulation in the early 80s. The excitement around it is pretty fascinating and we can thank these people for pushing the technology from which we enjoy the fruits today.

Kdenlive 19.12 on openSUSE | Review

Making videos is not exactly my strong suit but it doesn’t have to be to enjoy it. Lately, I have been dipping my toes into the world of video content creation. Yes, most of it is into making videos as I haven’t really had the need. Recently, a need popped up for doing some video editing and I decided to give Kdenlive a try. You have to start somewhere and since many of the independently created shows out there use it, it is part of the KDE project and there are a LOT of tutorials on YouTube.

Keep in mind, I have some very basic needs, simply, chaining clips together, title screen and a little background music. These are extremely minimal requirements. The nice thing about Kdenlive is, it is easy enough to get going with it, but brimming with features to keep you dinking around with it continually and even if you have come to learn every feature the Kdenlive Project will come along and bring you an update.

Installation

Kdenlive is available in the main repositories for both Leap and Tumbleweed. To install the latest version for Leap, you will have to add the Experimental KDE:Applications repository. 19.12 is available in the official Tumbleweed repository.

To install it with the graphical Direct Installation navigate here.

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

For Tumbleweed, in terminal

sudo zypper install kdenlive

And that is all it takes.

Impressions

Right off the hitch, Kdenlive is a great looking application, it has a clean and pleasant interface that is incredibly functional. I use a modified version of Breeze Dark, what I call openSUSE Breeze Dark. The dark screen with the green tones make for a comfortably openSUSEy for extended hours of work.

I have been using Kdenlive for about a year or so and it has been great since day one. I must make the caveat that I don’t do anything terribly complex in Kdenlive. I mostly use fades and dissolves. In fact that is my primary usage of it.

For one video, I rotated the screen 180° because I purposely recorded it upside down so that I wouldn’t crash into the camera with by big stupid nose. In retrospect, this video of the hard drive caddy was probably a waste of time to do because it is so basic and elementary of a feature to highlight on the computer, but it was a good exercise in learning the some of the other various features in Kdenlive.

What was handy and very quick to do were my Christmas light musical sequence videos. I recorded the video and added the music as a post edit. Kdenlive made it easy to do. I just lined up the flashes with the appropriate spot in the music.

Kdenlive really has made all these little things easy to do and they made it possible without having to spend loads of cash for a nonsense hobby that fills the little voids and white-spaces in my life.

Other Use

Kdenlive is a very capable video editor but I have adapted it for another use. I also use it for non-destructive audio editing as well. Years ago, when I worked in radio, specifically in sales, I did some audio production work for commercials. I used this application call “SAW Pro” that would allow me to import audio and manipulate it in a non-destructive manner. Since I don’t have that application anymore I needed to find another way to do it and it hit me, Kdenlive can do these things. I can’t exactly build the library of reusable clips in the exact same way, but I can come very close to it. I have been using this for my under-performing podcast production.

What I Like

Kdenlive is incredibly stable and reliable. Crashing is incredibly rare. I have spent many hours at a time editing and not once has Kdenlive crashed. In all fairness, it’s been hours of editing because I am not very good at it. I have used and rendered video on both my Dell Latitude E6440 and my “new” AMD FX-9590 system with out any glitching or issues. I am impressed by the stability and smooth operation of Kdenlive on openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The user interface of Kdenlive makes sense. The shortcuts, the ease of defining the effects and transition as well as previewing the video makes for an easy and enjoyable video editing experience. Even the scrolling across the timeline or through the tracks, all just makes intuitive sense.

The options for rendering videos or even just audio has a straight forward interface that makes it quite clear what is happening when you start that render. Also, when you start the render, you can continue to use Kdenlive. It does not lock you out of the application.

What I Don’t Like

The text editor for title screens is a bit ropey. The cursor indicator isn’t always visible so I often have to make special effort to get to the right location which includes some delete and retype from time to time. The use of it is not as much fun as the rest of the application.

Not so much a fault of the application but doing video editing really needs more screen real-estate. One 1080p screen is not enough. Not the fault of the application but it is hard to see and read everything going on without excessive scrolling.

Final Thoughts

Kdenlive is a great application with a lot more features than I know how to even use. I don’t do any complex video editing. I don’t have good video equipment so I don’t have a real high level of motivation to create a lot of video content at this time. You can only polish a turd so much and I am often not happy with the video I shoot. I am happy, however, with what I can do with the video in Kdenlive. It does make turning the lack-luster video into barely acceptable video content. Editing with Kdenlive is easy to use and is enjoyable to turn the mess I start with into something more usable. I would like to make more excuses to do more video content because the great user experience Kdenlive provides.

I have heard of people complain that Kdenlive isn’t stable, well, that is a bunch of hooey. Kdenlive on openSUSE Tumbleweed works fantastically well without any crashing. I am very thankful for fantastic packaging and QA process from the openSUSE Project and I am very grateful for every programmer that has had a hand in every piece of this, from the Linux kernel to the Plasma desktop to the application itself. Thank you for all your time and efforts.

References

https://kdenlive.org/
Kdenlive 19.12 Release
openSUSE Tumbleweed Download
Kdenlive Download from software.openSUSE.org
Dell Latitude E6440
AMD FX-9590 Workstation

Emby Media Server on openSUSE Linux | Review

One of the main reasons I build a computer was for the purposes of hosting my video content on my system and serve it to other machines. I had heard about having something like Netflix or Hulu in the form of Plex. I have known others that have done this and have always been impressed by it. My first stop in exploring media servers in Linux was Emby. I chose it largely because I heard of Plex and wanted to try something that was open source based, more on that later. At the very beginning of this exercise, I decided I want to try out three different server products, Plex, Emby and Jellyfin.

This is my review, with no real expectations, other than to easily have access to my movies and TV shows from any device in the house. This is a review of only the free services, not the paid features. Bottom line up front. I like it and it has few issues.

Installation

The installation was surprisingly easy to do with Emby on openSUSE. Instructions for openSUSE were right there, ready and waiting for me to utilize them. Navigate to:

https://emby.media/linux-server.html

There is a nice little drop down where you can select “OpenSuse” very sadly cased incorrectly but that is a small detail, nothing terrible, I’ve made mistakes too in casing the project name.

There are 6 options from which to choose. Two are for the x86_64 architecture, the other four are ARM options. Since I am installing on 64bit x86 architecture, and I am not interested in beta testing Emby, I chose the first option.

The command uses zypper to install an RPM from a GitHub repository. This doesn’t install a repository or anything so at this point, I am unsure about how updates are handled. From what I can tell, I will have to install updates manually. I’m sure there is a better way.

After the installation, open a web browser to http://localhost:8096 to perform the setup of the service. Things like your user information.

The next step will be to set up your media library. You select your content type a display name for it, the location and other bits you and flags you find important, like language settings and metadata downloaders.

There are more library settings here than I really know what to do with. I filled out what made sense, set the language preferences to English and moved on with the process.

I added my movies, TV shows and Documentaries folders.

Then moved onto the next section where I again set the metadata language, configured to allow remote access. I haven’t actually set my firewall to allow remote access to test the performance of this remotely.

Lastly, you will have to agree to the terms of service and your done!

First Run and Impressions

Running this media server is as easy as navigating to http://localhost:8096 and signing into the service, not much different than you would a Netflix but each user has their own unique login.

The login is nice and you can add an avatar to customize your account appearance, because, why not?

The home screen is very handy, it is the starting point to go into your different media repositories and to continue watching what you have started or to search for a movie or show in which you are interested.

A nice touch, when you launch a movie, there is a still in the background and in the upper left corner of the player, is a logo representing the movie title. Super nice touch. This is certainly a nicely polished product. Other playback features include changing the resolution and bitrate. Probably more important when streaming outside of your home. All these are really nice features that demonstrate an extra set of care and polish.

What I Like

Emby is super easy to set up. It is nothing more than copying one line into a terminal and executing it. It is super simple and the script also seems to, at least on the version I installed, start and enable the emby-server service.

It’s super easy to add media libraries to Emby. The wizard walks you through it in the beginning and if you want to add additional libraries, that is very easy to do through the configuration tool.

Streams to just about everything in the house. Essentially, if it has a browser, you have access to the Emby server. I haven’t had any issues with the system in the approximately five weeks I have been using it. I have yet to have an issue.

Updating the metadata and identity of any movies is as easy as a click and search. You can change the cover images and so forth. Some of the movies I have ripped haven’t always been detected completely correctly. For example, there are three different Grinch movies and I had to manually define which decade they came from. It was super easy.

The Android application works quite nicely. I am actually impressed with the ease of use of the application. It has a surprisingly fine polish to it as well.

What I Don’t Like

This was an open source project that went closed source. I sort of have an issue with that and I am not alone with that assessment. It was at that point that Jellyfin was forked from Emby which is what makes me incredibly interested in Jellyfin.

I can’t stream to my Wii, though I don’t really blame the project for not supporting a 14 year old game console. There isn’t an app on the Homebrew channel though at the time of writing, I realized that there is a browser on the Wii so perhaps more investigation is needed. I will update this paragraph with any new information I learn as I investigate that possibility.

Updates will have to be done manually. The server does say it needs to be updated and to do so requires the same step as installation. That is really the only clunky part about this whole setup.

Final thoughts

Emby is pretty great. Regardless of what I do not like about it. It is a great experience. If you are undecided on your media server and have a desire to try the different options, this is a good one. If this was my only option, I could easily get along fine with it. Since I have two others, I will check those out too.

I highly recommend you try out Emby as the shortcomings are nitpick issues. I don’t like that it went closed source but the project, closed or open, is sound. It is a great, well polished, experience.

This is my first media server review. I will have follow up articles to this in the near future. If there are any inaccuracies or areas I need to revisit, please let me know and I will take the time to make updates.

References

https://emby.media/linux-server.html
https://www.opensuse.org

Building an AMD Server and Game Machine out of Yester-Year’s Parts

Some time ago I started noodling around the idea of building a replacement server for my home. I wanted to make this an extreme budget build. I came to the realization that I have become rather disconnected with the state of desktop class video cards and really much of anything that was outside of the laptop world. I was hung up, for quite some time on the case and motherboard selection. I would browse Newegg and eBay but since I lacked a lot of information, I was in a constant state of decision-vapor-lock. What changed was when I received some hardware at no cost. An incredibly large case and an AMD motherboard locked in the portion of the project that I was unable to make any decisions and dictated the rest of the build. So, over a period of months, I slowly acquired rest of needed components.

The case, although in good condition, certainly looks like it was at some point out moded and just became a place that parts were thrown into. I would guess this case is as old as my Linux jouirney.

The motherboard that was given to me was an AM3/AM3+ motherboard. I was actually kind of excited about this as I decided I was going to do a complete AMD build. Sure, this is an older AMD CPU socket with a silkscreen date on the board of 2013 but that meant getting something on the cheap was certain. Also, since I don’t exactly buy new things, this fit the bill.

This is what ended up getting, mostly from eBay, so for you to replicate this selection at this price may or may not be possible.

  • Graphics Card Gigabyte Gammin g RX570 8GiB Graphics RAM – $89.95
  • Power Supply – RaidMax RX-1000AP-S Power Supply – $74.19
  • CPU – AMD FX-9590 – $119.95
  • CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus – $22.59
  • Memory – 32 GiB DDR3 1866MHz – $64.95
  • Storage – 6, Seagate 2TB drives – $149.70
  • 6-port SATA Card – $25.35
  • USB 3 All-in-one 5.25″ Front Panel Card reader – $19.99
  • Blu-ray DVD player – $50.00
  • 2x 3.5″ to 5.25″ adapter trays – $8.58
  • Serial DB9 RS232 9pin com port with bracket – $4.14
  • 6x SATA Cables – $9.48

That made a grand total of $638.87 invested in this machine. I went just a bit overbudget due to the CPU cooler. I was warned that the TDP rating on the CPU meant it was necessary to have an effective cooler.

This was the first time I have actually assembled from parts and pieces a computer. I have repaired and upgraded many but this was the first of this level of DIY. Since every part I had was untested and I had no way to verify if anything was working, as in, nothing else upon which I could conduct individual component testing, there were a lot of uncertainties in this.

When I kicked it on for the first time and had everything working, I was incredibly relieved that it all worked. There weren’t any issues at all with any of the components.

To see this machine actually start up and work in a kind of cobbled together state was not too far short of a miracle. I was very fortunate that all the used hardware actually worked.

Operating System | openSUSE Tumbleweed

There really wasn’t any other choice. I need long term reliability and I am not interested in reinstalling the operating system. I know, through personal experience, that Tumbleweed works well with server applications, is very tolerant to delayed updates and will just keep chugging away.

I have been very satisfied with the stability of Tumbleweed as a server for the last year on my “temporary system” performing that role. The issues I did have with that system, although minor, have been with video due to the Nvidia GPU. This build, I purposely avoided anything to do with Nvidia due to the dubious support they provide.

Storage Setup

This was an area that took me several months of research and reading. My criteria was that I had to have Storage Array BTRFS Raid 10. This afforded me a lot of redundancy but also a lot of flexibility. This will allow me to slowly upgrade my dries capacity as they begin to fail.

When deciding the file system, I did a lot of research into my options. I talked to a lot of people. ZFS lost consideration due to the lack of support in Linux. I am perfectly aware that the development is done primarily within Linux now but it is not part of the mainline kernel and I do not want to risk the module breaking when the kernel updates. So, that was a non-starter.

I looked at a few LVM options but if I wasn’t confident in understanding all the details of it and I didn’t want to risk any reliability due to my ignorance. Why I ended up using BTRFS is due to the reliability and flexibility of the file system. Anyone that says RAID 10 on BTRFS is not reliable is, sadly mistaken.

Since the motherboard I have wouldn’t recognize a software RAID and boot from it, I used a 7th drive to bootstrap the whole system. That, also running BTRFS for the root file system and I threw in some Swap as well.

Used a 6-port SATA card for the 6 drives of the BTRFS RAID array and mounted it as /home. At some point, I want to take advantage of the subvolume capabilities of BTRFS but that will come at a later time.

Additional Components

Prime 1 Bluray USB Media DashboardSince this is my new central computer, as it were, I wanted this to have all the faculties for doing the regular nonsense that I conduct in my SuperCubicle. Since it seems I have made a bit of a reputation for doing computer-y things, I tend to help other people out in data recovery, backing up their systems and so forth. I also like to mess with Single Board Computers and although I can stick an SD Card in my laptop. I wanted something with all the media cards in it and external SATA ports for plugging in drives as well. This already had some USB and SATA connections on the top of the case. The 5.25 Media Dashboard has SD, MS, MMC, XD, TF, M2, CF and SATA interfaces. There is also a power connector port and USB3. I have used many of these interfaces already. As a bonus, this has a temperature sensor that I attached to the CPU cooler that tells me what the temperature of that monstrosity is. It really hasn’t gotten real hot yet but I will see how hot I can get it after I really start pushing it.

The optical drive is also getting a regular workout as I have been dipping into the bargain bin of post-Christmas season movies to add to my media collection. All in all, this has been the perfect hardware build for me and my purposes. As it stands today, I only have 3 open bays on this machine so anything smaller, just wouldn’t do.

Current Activities

I didn’t just build this system to look old in my basement. I have had plans for this thing for longer than many of the parts. My number one task is that this machine is my central repository of all my data. Everything from records to movies. To that end, outside of the standard server functions you have by “flipping a couple switches” like Secure Shell, Samba, Syncthing, I wanted to go beyond this. Something “cool!”

Media Server

Currently testing Emby, PLEX and Jellyfin. This is probably what this machine does most right now. That and ripping the DVDs and Blu-rays I purchase using MakeMKV (Another blathering for another time). This function doesn’t seem to be very taxing on memory or processing power. Maybe if I had more machine drawing media from it it would but that is not an issue at this time.

Gaming Rig

Although I am not exactly doing much gaming, I think I played a game of River City Ransom: Underground with my youngest. I have also played Descent 2 (rebirth) on this machine, and it, of course, ran it extremely fast. At this point, I haven’t come close to taxing the video card. I am planning to do more Linux gaming with it and by that, I mean, anything that I can run in the Linux environment, so Wine and Proton, those are also fair “game”.

Video Rendering

Since this is the most capable machine I own, I’m using this to render video. It does the task in 1/3rd the time of my Dell Latitude E6440. Would faster be nicer, sure, but I don’t exactly churn out lots of video content for it to matter. I still tend to edit the video on my laptop but render it on this machine. Mostly because I don’t have great monitors for it yet. That will come later.

Planned Activities

I will be implementing a Nextcloud server and start playing around with some note taking applications that I can self-host. Not that I am unsatisfied with Simplenote, I just happen to like to keep my options open.

Another service I want to run is Home Assistant. I have these plans for implementing “smart devices” that are not cloud based going off someplace else. I want to have Home Assistant, manage all my devices and make my home just a bit more convenient. That is also another blathering for another time.

I had originally intended to make a video of the build of this, to include the installation process, but after reviewing the video and being bored out of my mind watching it, I have kicked that to the curb and will maybe turn that into an 1980s sitcom montage to music or something.

Final Thoughts

Although this computer has only been up and running for about two months, I am slowly adding more services and functions to it. For now, it is pretty light, but in a few short months, that will most certainly start growing. I am very happy happy with the sub-$700 build for a computer system that has met or exceeded my expectations. It was a fun first complete, from ground up, scrap-together assembly that really was a gamble. I am pleased with how well openSUSE Tumbleweed runs on it and that I have had no disturbances with any operating system updates.

Often, after a project, you will review it, have an “After Action Review” and ask yourself, “What would I do differently if I were doing this again.” I can honestly say, there is nothing I would change. I like everything about this machine. I would, perhaps, like more storage space as I have already gobbled up 2.5 TiB of my 5.5 TiB of storage space. Reviewing what I spent and the additional cost of the larger storage, I would have still made the same decision. So, back to would I change anything? No, I think I made the right decision. I do have upgrades planned for the future but that is a project for the fall. This machine truly fits my needs, even if much of the hardware is yester-years retired bits.

References

BTRFS Increase RAID capacity on ServerFault.com
openSUSE.org Tumbleweed Download
BTRFS wiki on Kernel.org
5.25 Media Dashboard on Newegg.com
Steam for Linux from openSUSE.org

Noodlings | Quick Tiling Fusion 360 in the Kitchen

New episode for the New Year and that title is almost entirely nonsensical because they are different subjects.

Have a listen to episode 11 of this jibber jabber!

Fusion 360 Review

Fusion 360 is a CAD / CAM application with finite element analysis capabilities. I was going through the Autodesk forums and read a lot of chatter about their position on the Linux client. It appears that for several years, there have been requests but there is no plan to support it.

One user gave a fantastic well thought out, logical reason for building Fusion 360 to work in Linux and he gave the typical reasons for not doing so with answers:

  • the management sees not enough customers here. It’s a question about cost/income ratio.
  • I think if done right, there are not much costs (keyword continuous integration)
  • Number of potential customers. Linux users need to raise there hand and write to Autodesk, so that they can see, there are potential customers. Linux leads already on the server market, and on embedded devices, smart phones and tablets (if you count Android as Linux).
  • On the desktop, Windows is still the dominating system (88%), Mac (9%), Linux (2%). But this is for the average user, this doesn’t need to be true for engineers and makers using CAD software.
  • I have no statistic here, but I personally have never seen engineers working on Mac.
    But I have seen many engineers, software developers and scientists that work on Linux.
  • Linux users are willing to Beta test and are able to generally figure things out for themselves.

There was a lot more that you can look at here:

Autodesk support for Fusion 360 Discussion

There were a lot of hostile responses from Windows users that were just… hostile. I do think that is a large part of the untold story. There are those that point to Linux and talk of the technological elitism but I don’t think that is a behavior that exclusive to Linux users at all. I can refer to this post for evidence otherwise.

Even though Autodesk has stated that they have no plans to support Linux, it is always with the caveat that of “at this time.” I still have hope that Linux will be supported in the future. It’s inevitable as there are a larger percentage of Linux users in the engineering field, Autodesk does support Linux on the Maya application and since there are more and more professional tools on Linux, I truly believe it will follow.

Quick tiling Windows in Plasma

It took me far too long to complete the write up and video but I must say that the tiling features in Plasma are pretty fantastic. I spent this past weekend doing a lot of administrative work for another job of mine and the tiling manipulation of windows and desktop navigation made the tasks far less painful than they have been historically. I have to emphasis once again that it is important to have key combinations that make sense that are easy to remember that can are quickly intuitive to you.

I made a little video about this with Kdenlive and put it on YouTube. I had a less than stellar comment about my production quality. For that, I can say, I’ll try better next time.

Linux in the Kitchen

I did a post this last week on my use of Linux in the kitchen. I did appreciate a lot of the great feedback II received from this. I don’t want to understate, at all the value of technology in the kitchen. It is not at all a strange science experiment being shoe-horned into a role in which it doesn’t make sense. Linux and the array of tools make several kitchen tasks more efficiently completed.

For my case, the right hardware was an important part of the implementation as I have a very limited amount of counter space. There were already several software applications I had been using, I just happen to further expand how I had been using them.

How it recently made the Christmas season more efficient…

What would improve Linux in the Kitchen is going to take some real effort on my part. Most of these things will be aided by single board computers or IoT like devices. I need more metrics in order to improve my results when baking. Improved inventory management, improved meal planning. All but the last one will take some serious work and effort in order to implement.

BDLL Follow Up

Fedora 31 challenge. Lot of people were rough on it and in some ways I understand but in others I do not. I have used Fedora periodically and I have always found it to be an enjoyable experience. Fedora is a lot more like getting a Lego set with some instructions than it is a ready-made product. I look at Fedora as being a more industrial grade Linux system that you implement for a specific feature. While distributions from the Ubuntu flavors are more like products that are ready to be used that focus on the out-of-box experience. All the flavors of Linux have a place and a target audience. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about a distribution experience but I think it is almost a bit unfair to evaluate Fedora in the same way you would evaluate an Ubuntu.

I have decided to use Fedora’s Plasma edition and I am going to give it a fair, but biased, review. My expectations are very focused. I don’t need the “last mile” type polish, nor do I expect that from a Fedora or an openSUSE for that matter. What I do expect is something very easy to work with and mold to my wishes.

openSUSE does a great Plasma. I don’t mean out-of-the-box perfect for my needs. No distribution should ever target me as the core user, that would be tremendously silly. I am an edge case and I am never satisfied, I am a moving target of requirements and expectations for what I want as my personal workspace. I would be a high maintenance target for a perfect out-of-box experience.

openSUSE Corner

Snapshots 20191225, 20191227, 20191228, 20191229, 20191230

wiggle (1.1 -> 1.2) a program for applying patches that ‘patch’ cannot apply due to conflicting changes in the original. Wiggle will always apply all changes in the patch to the original. If it cannot find a way to cleanly apply a patch, it inserts it in the original in a manner similar to ‘merge’ and reports an unresolvable conflict.

bubblewrap (0.3.3 -> 0.4.0) The biggest feature in this release is the support for joining
existing user and pid namespaces. This doesn’t work in the setuid mode (at the moment). Other changes include Stores namespace info in status json, In setuid mode pid 1 is now marked dumpable also now build with musl libc.
gthumb (3.8.2 -> 3.8.3)

gnome-shell (3.34.2+0 -> 3.34.2+2): polkitAgent, Only set key focus to password entry after opening dialog. The keyboard now stops accessing deprecated actor property.
libnl3 (3.4 -> 3.5.0) * xfrmi: introduce XFRM interfaces support
xfrm: fix memory corruption (dangling pointer)
mypy (0.720 -> 0.750) More Precise Error Locations and the daemon is No Longer Experimental
python-Sphinx (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-Sphinx-test (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-jedi (0.15.1 -> 0.15.2)
python-mysqlclient
python-parso (0.5.1 -> 0.5.2)
python-pybind11 (2.4.2 -> 2.4.3)
python-typeshed (0.0.1+git.1562136779.4af283e1 -> 0.0.1+git.20191227.21a9e696)

wireshark (3.0.7 -> 3.2.0) bug fixes and updated protocol support as listed

Firefox (70.0.1 > 71.0) Improvements to Lockwise, integrated password manager, More information about Enhanced Tracking Protection in action, Native MP3 decoding on Windows, Linux, and macOS, Configuration page (about:config) reimplemented in HTML, New kiosk mode functionality, which allows maximum screen space for customer-facing displays. Numerous CVEs were addressed relating to memory.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:

20191225 – Stable 99
20191227 – Stable 99
20191228 – Stable 99
20191229 – Stable 99
20191230 – Stable 99

Computer History

The Computer Chronicles – Computer Music (1983)

I think we often take for granted the multimedia capabilities of computers today. It seems like someone is always harping about PulseAudio on Linux. I’d say they are likely not using the right distribution, by that I mean openSUSE, I don’t have these issues. The purpose of the section is not to tout the superiority of my favorite operating system when it comes to audio subsystem, rather, it is to talk and reflect about how great we have it today with all things audio on modern computers.

In 1983, the state of digital music was not as rich as it is today. We can enjoy a virtually endless supply of content never before available in human history. Let’s go back in time to an era when the Commodore 64 was the pinnacle in home computer audio. Where audio was entirely programmed, limited to 4 wave forms of sawtooth, triangle, pulse and noise. A multi-mode filter featuring low-pass, high-pass and band pass outputs and three volume controls of attack / decay / sustain / release (ASDR) for each audio oscillator and a few other things I barely understand. Regardless, the capabilities were limited and synthesizing voice was an incredible undertaking that took years of work long after the chip was in the wild. This was one of the first polyphonic sound chips on the consumer market that, to this day, is held in high regard and many still like the sounds this chip produces.

Example of Chip Tunes from 8-bit Versus

All this said, this was very interesting record of computer generated music that is certainly worth a listen. I find the experimentation and musical education tools used in this perod incredibly fascinating. Today, things are very different. Musical composers and artists use computers in music production and to do so otherwise would likely be considered insane. I now wonder if individuals in the 80s that pushed the art and science of computers in music were considered insane by their peers.

Quick Tiling in KDE Plasma on openSUSE

In my short time of using a tiling window manager, I very quickly became aware of the benefits of quick tiling features on the desktop. Being able to very quickly split your screen and be able to see information side-by-side, like writing a post and having my collection of pictures beside it is incredibly useful and a productivity enhancer. There were some things about a tiling desktop that I didn’t like as well. It was far too ridged for my liking so I wanted to explore adding some tiling features into Plasma but with not losing the benefits of floating windows as well.

Here are the changes I made to make my “Desktop Life” a bit more efficient and to manipulate things just a bit more quickly. The way I see it, the desktop you work in should mold itself to how you prefer to work, not the other way around. Everyone thinks differently and works differently. I don’t believe that any one particular work-flow is better than the other. I do however believe that the workflow I choose for me is the best one for me. I also believe that I should be open to making adjustments as I see fit.

This is the reason that I consider Plasma to be the best desktop available as I can make it work brilliantly for me and I am free to change every aspect of it. Although I believe these features have been in Plasma for several releases, I am currently using KDE Plasma 5.17.4 on openSUSE Tumbleweed. I have not tested this out on any other distribution.

Setting Hotkeys

In order to mimic the tiling features of i3, and I do mean mimic, you have to set the hotkeys. This is done by going into the Plasma SystemSettings > Shortcuts and selecting the Kwin Component.

Quick Tiling of Windows around the screen

Eight Locations for quick tiling around the screen. I mostly use Left and Right but I also use the quadrants of the screen as well

Bottom > Meta+Shift+Down
Bottom Left > Meta+Ctrl+Shift+PageUp
Bottom Right > Meta+Ctrl+Shift+PageDown
Left > Meta+Shift+Left
Right > Meta+Shift+Right
Top > Meta+Shift+Up
Top Left > Meta+Shift+PageUp
Top Right > Meta+Shift+PageDown

Switch Window Focus

When you have the windows tiled side-by-side or top-to-bottom and such, you may want to switch windows rapidly. Keep in mind, if you have a bunch of floating windows going on the same desktop, they can insert themselves on you in such a way that you may not expect.

Switch to Window Above > Meta+Alt+Up
Switch to Window Below > Meta+Alt+Down
Switch to Window to the Left > Meta+Alt+Left
Switch to Window to the Right > Meta+Alt+Right

Window to Desktop

This is very handy when you are working in an application and you want to push it to another desktop. Where I often do this is, I will open another browser or terminal window and I may have it tiled and I decide that I want to move it to a specific desktop for a different group of tasks. While I am working in that window, I hit the key combination and instantly, that window has moved to a different virtual desktop.

Window to Desktop 1 > Ctrl+Shift+F1
Window to Desktop 2 > Ctrl+Shift+F2
Window to Desktop 3 > Ctrl+Shift+F3
Window to Desktop 4 > Ctrl+Shift+F4

Additionally, I have set the Switching to those virtual desktop as follows:

Switch to Desktop 1 > Ctrl+F1
Switch to Desktop 2 > Ctrl+F2
Switch to Desktop 3 > Ctrl+F3
Switch to Desktop 4 > Ctrl+F4

I generally only run four desktops. I once ran more but found I only used the first 4. You can obviously tweak this to your particular case.

Present Windows

This is very handy and I have also duplicated this with a screen edge mouse trigger as well.

Present Windows (All Desktops) > Ctrl+F10
Present Windows (Current Desktop) > Ctrl+F9
Present Windows (Window Class) > Ctrl+F7

To add the screen edge trigger, go to SystemSettings > Workspace Behavior > Screen Edges

For me, I have set the Top Left corner for Present Windows (All Desktops), Top Right for Present Windows (Window Class) or in this case it is Current Application and Lower Right for Present Windows (Current Desktop).

Testing and Using

Here is where the “rubber meets the road” as it were. If you cannot remember the shortcuts or they don’t make sense to you, then it isn’t going to work for you. The computer I set these key sequences is on a laptop without a number pad

Exporting the Shortcuts

Assuming you have more than one computer, you may want to export the sequences rather than do them all over again. To do so, within the Global Shortcuts utility, go to the File button in the lower right corner of the window and select Export Scheme, the components you want to export, select OK and save the file to your location. There isn’t an automatic extension on the file so I just appended “*.scheme” so that I would know what it is.

Quick video

Because all the kids are doing it these days and I want to reclaim my youth, I created a quick video as well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am quite pleased with these functions. They do make working on my system a bit more enjoyable and efficient. Does it save me hours in the day? No, maybe only a few minutes but it feels real good to quickly tile windows, move them to alternate desktops and switch to those desktops. There are many more functions available to utilize but don’t overwhelm yourself in memorizing all of these little key combinations. Just do what makes sense for you and play around with it.

There are a few functions or benefits that I don’t get in the tiling manager, at least it is not as obvious to me. The rapid shifting of sizes of two tiles that are side by side. Right now, you are kind of locked into 50% or 25% of the screen. I am not aware, currently, how to rapidly make it a 60/40 split or similar. I am sure that there is a plug-in or extension to add such a feature but I don’t want to lose my floating windows or add any possible irritation in using my desktop either. As it stands right now, I have been able to add the features that I want and I get to keep what I like. I can have what I believe to be the best of both worlds.

References

Regolith Linux Review
YouTube Video of adding tiling to KDE Plasma

Fusion 360 on openSUSE Linux | Review

CAD is one of the things I really enjoy doing. I am most adept at using PTC Creo for my employer. I am able to easily “think” and design ideas as easily in that software as I am able to draw it on a piece of paper.

I’m making it a point to get that way with Fusion 360. I don’t think it is as intuitive but if you were to ask anybody that hasn’t “grown up” with Pro-Engineer (Creo’s historical name) they would likely say otherwise

Installation

The installation of Fusion 360 is not as straight forward as it would be on it’s native Windows environment. It’s not bad but does require a little effort on your part. Though, I would say no more effort than I have had with other CAD packages on Windows.

Your first step is to install Lutris. For openSUSE

Terminal

sudo zypper install lutris

Optionally, you can click to direct install here.

The next step is to go to the Lutris sight and initiate the installation process from there.

https://lutris.net/games/autodesk-fusion-360/

Select the Install button. That will launch Lutris and begin the installation process.

This process will take a while and if you are so inclined, you can watch the process scroll by.

Once it is complete, you are given the option to add a desktop short cut and menu entry. That is all there is to the installation process. Now you are ready to run Fusion 360, but not yet ready to get to designing.

First Run

You are going to have to run Fusion 360 twice. This first time, Select to launch the application. The application splash screen will happily greet you.

You will then be required to sign into Fusion 360. Here is the one aspect of Fusion 360 that I am not keen on but I will overlook, this application does need to phone home in order to operate. You can function offline and it will cache locally so you are not explicitly required to be online every moment that you are working in it.

You are required to create an account and in doing so, you will have to identify yourself as an individual for free, non-commercial use. My understanding is that you will have annually affirm that you are using this for hobby, non-commercial use.

Once it is done loading up, you are greeted with this screen and this also tells you that Fusion 360 is not able to properly access the graphics drivers. That can easily be fixed by going into your preferences and change the graphics driver to DirectX 9

Choose apply but select “Not Now” on closing the application. It is known for having the habit of not actually closing out and just hanging. Close Fusion 360 then ensure all Wine processes are closed through the Lutris interface.

Another change you need to make is in Lutris. Right-Click and select “Configure” on the “Autodesk Fusion 360” entry. Select the “Runner options” Tab and Disable DVK, D9VK and Esync. I do not run it in the Windowed (Virtual Desktop) as some of the menus don’t appear.

Now you are ready to do some designing.

Second Run

This time you run Fusion 360, you are ready to get to designing. That is, assuming you see a grid pattern and the rotation cube in the corner.

If you don’t have this grid pattern and see the Autodesk Fusion 360 logo, this means something is not configured correctly, check again to make sure that you are on DirectX 9 and your Lutris Runner Configuration is correct. It could also be, something else has changed and this is no longer the correct answer too. After all, Autodesk does not support this what so ever.

Designing First Part

This is not a tutorial in part design. There are plenty of those out there. Without any training on using this software, I went to work and started designing. My choice for my first foray into part design was this sewing machine pulley that a friend asked me help him with.

I took the time to measure out the critical dimensions of this part, including counting the teeth. I had to determine the best course of action in how to build this part. I chose to make a revolved feature as my base feature. Since this will be 3D printed, I don’t need to the more complex rib features used for injection molding.

Next major feature is creating the notches for the teeth around the part. This is done by creating one notch and patterning it around the outer surface.

Next was to create the features through the center axis of the part that, presumably, are other critical features that interface with the sewing machine.

The last few features are also presumed critical features based on the my understanding for why they would exist. A flat on the sides of a cylinder are often used to prevent the part from spinning and the notch across the top may be to key the part as well.

The last set of features are the rounds and chamfers. These features should always be at the end of the feature tree in order to have more robustly designed parts.

Rounds and chamfers are important to a part as it adds strength and disburses the stress between the shaft and wheel features.

This process, having never touched this software before only took me about 45 minutes to do. I just had to understand how Fusion 360 expects you to use the design features. Ultimately, it was not difficult to use at all and making changes to parent features didn’t break the child features or cause it to become disjointed. I truly think this was fantastic.

What I Like

Fusion 360 is a great parametric modeler. The feature tools are very comprehensive and they help you along quite nicely with designing the part. The pattern feature is very nicely done and making edits to any feature in the tree is very intuitive. It all just seems to make sense.

I have also used the assembly feature and it works quite well. It doesn’t work exactly how I like to think it should work but I really can’t complain at all. This is the nicest I’ve seen work on Linux in recent times.

The file management system gives you a built in Product Lifecycle Management tool. You can put designs in folders and share them with others through the Autodesk services. I see a lot of advantages when it comes to designing in teams.

Exporting STEP or STL files is a trivial process and does a good job. I have sent the exports of these parts to my friend that needed to replace this sewing machine wheel for 3D printing.

What I Don’t Like

This is not directly supported in Linux. The reality is, using Lutris is kind of a hack and it does make for some less than exceptional user interface idiosyncrasies. There are occasionally some instances when the menus don’t refresh immediately and icons disappear. It’s not a huge issue, and running Creo on Windows has far worse issues after it runs for some time so putting it in perspective of my CAD experiences, this is a mild issue.

This application is very cloud dependent. In general, I do not prefer any applications that are highly dependent on “the cloud”. However, the design and analysis functions of Fusion 360 is so spectacular, that I can make an exception. The processing is all on the client side and you can work offline so designing something on the couch of an an internet-less home is absolutely possible.

The interface is too light. I prefer a dark theme interface to reduce eye stress. I think, perhaps, my excitement in using a quality, full-featured CAD package on Linux seems to have an almost euphoric effect on me and I am just not going to complain at all.

Final Thoughts

I have really enjoyed using Fusion 360 on openSUSE Tumbleweed. It works very well and if I were to give this a rating, I would give it an overall score of 8 out of 10 stars… or 4 out of 5… I don’t have a rating system. My main complaint, really, is the very white interface. I can look past all the other issues as they don’t inhibit my productivity with the product.

This has me so excited, I am going to be able to design and publish a lot of my designs to share with the masses. I don’t, at this time, need a commercial license for Fusion 360. A subscription to Fusion 360 is a bit pricey but not too bad, as compared to other packages out there. As of today, (January 2020) you can get a one year subscription for $495. As long as I just use this for hobbying purposes, I can continue to use this for free and there is a bit of a concern that Autodesk could pull the rug out from under me. That is the risk in closed source software, especially that which requires a cloud service to operate.

For now, this is my choice in doing any kind of personal mechanical design work. It has freed me up from using my employers hardware and software. Not that I have a problem using it from time to time for a personal project but more so that I don’t HAVE to use a Windows machine to do the work I want to do. I am free to work in an environment with which I am most comfortable.

I really hope that Autodesk can see benefit and value in supporting Linux. Since this application already works quite well in Linux without any of their efforts, maybe they will see that, do some tweaking and improvements to make it work a little better. One can hope.

References

Fusion 360 Overview on Autodesk.com
Lutris from software.opensuse.org
Fusion 360 Installer on Lutris.net

Noodlings | Christmastime, xLights, Exploring Media Servers and Computer History

To squeeze one more blathering in before the end of the year, here are a few things I am noodling around currently.

The 10th Noodling arriving, not because anyone asked for it…

Christmastime Activities

Post Christmas Day shopping yielded me a really nice find, specifically something pretty fantastic from Lowe’s that allows me to fix my AC light strands. A Holiday Living Light Tester. The directions could have been a bit more clear… maybe worth a video… but I was able to recover three of my LED bush nets. Since they retail for about $10 each, that has made the purchase worth it already. This device is supposed to work with LED as well as incandescent lights. I’ve only tested it on LED thus far and it works well.

This is a device that I wish I had discovered long ago.

Christmas Lights Sequence to Music with xLights

Very comprehensive software that allows you to look at the wave forms, change playback speed and make it easier to adjust the actions to occur at the right time. I’ve only began to scratch the surface of the power and capability of this and the reality is, I don’t know what I don’t know on using this software. My set up is really quite simple, therefor I can’t take full advantage of its capabilities.

Some of my favorite effects to date are the butterfly, marquee, fireworks, life and fan. They currently give me the visual excitement for which I am looking to put into the sequences.

There are many more effects to discover but due to the limited nature of my display as it currently is, I can’t do some of the more fancy enhanced items, yet.

I recorded a two videos an posted them to YouTube, they are nothing terribly special, but I am quite pleased with how it turned out.

Funny aside, I went to record the second sequence and there was a car parked in front of my house, waiting to watch it.

I did decide to employ an FM transmitter so that people can listen to the music in their vehicle but I don’t actually have a sign to inform that fact.

More on the Christmastime Lights here

Exploring Media Servers

PLEX

The old boy on the block that is well known. I haven’t used or tried it yet but this is still the one I hear the most about. Because it is the popular one, I tend to go for other things… for reasons unknown

Jellyfin

This will be the next version I try. I have noticed that they do have a Docker image so I am going to take this as an opportunity to learn some things about docker while I’m at it. The key feature of this one is it is completely open source and that has a great appeal to me.

Emby

This is the media server with which I started this journey and am currently testing. I planned to test the others already but I have been engaged in other matters. It has decent name recognition but did go closed source after they gained some momentum. I have been using this for about a few weeks and the features I like are that it works much like you would expect in Netflix. If you activate notifications, you’ll be notified about a “new release” when you put something in your repository of media. I thought that was kind of cute. Setting it up is pretty trivial and I will be doing a write-up on this as well.

I want to do reviews of each of these media servers with my openSUSE Tumbleweed based workstation / server and see how it goes. Really, there is enough horsepower, I can have all three running and see how each of them, play out, as it were.

Restoring my Nexus 6P To Working Order

As a kind of Christmas gift to myself, I spent the 5th day of Christmas disassembling and installing a new battery into this phone. I shelved the project in August but didn’t put it out of sight. Seeing it almost daily, I’ve had it gnawing on me to get it done and I finally did it.

I bought a battery replacement kit on eBay for this phone that had most of the tools I needed. I had no interest in doing a tear down video as there are plenty of those on YouTube. YouTube Video demonstrating battery replacement of the Nexus 6P. Although the repair of the device was rather annoying and tedious, you know, just difficult enough to scare off smarter people than me, the part that took me the longest was updating the phone and installing LineageOS with everything working.

There was only one issue, really, working cell service. The problem ended up being that the was a security lock out that prevented the SIM from being accessed and disabling it is what ended up fixing it.

More on the repair and installation of LineageOS here

BDLL Followup

As we wrapped up the year in BDLL challenges, our task for this week was to make some predictions about the year 2020. They didn’t have to be Linux related so, exactly but since Linux and tech is the focus of the show, it would only make sense to keep it as such.

What I am wishing for, in 2020, is commercial grade CAD / CAM, manufacturing technology software to come to Linux, not necessarily for home use but for use in business.

Specifically, what I would like to see is Fusion 360 by Autodesk supported in some level on Linux. It already runs well in Linux through Lutris but having actual support for it would be fantastic. I would also like to see PTC’s Creo running on Linux. PTC once supported Linux with earlier offerings of their mechanical design package but no longer do so today. It would be great to see.

BDLL Community Predictions for 2020

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191210, 20191211, 20191213, 20191214, 20191216, 20191221

Aside from bug fixes, removing dependencies that are not needed, here are some of the highlights of the last six snapshots

Rammina, an rdp client to version 1.3.7 which included improvements to translations, better authentication MessagePanel API, Printer sharing improvements, and various bug fixes

NetworkManger, updated to 1.8.25+20. Applet scales icons for HiDPI displays.

Bluez, the bluetooth stack, received a version update to 5.52. Fixed AVDTP session disconnect timeout handling, disabled one more segfaulting patch, and fixed numerous issues.

KDE Plasma updated to 5.17.4. Discover Fwupd will no longer whine when there is unsupported hardware. Improvements to KWaylend integration, and numerous other fixes and improvements.

GNOME Desktop was updated to 3.34.2 which has undoubtedly further improved the experience for it’s users.

GTK3 updated to 3.24.13+0

Gstreamer Plugins, updated to 1.16.2. Fixed numerous issues in the v4L2video codecs

Wireshark updated to 3.0.7 which addressed CVE-2019-19553 CMS dissector crash

Akonadi has been updated to 19.12.0 There weren’t any features added but improvements and bug fixes were implemented.

Wireguard updated to version 0.0.20191219 that added support for nft and prefer it, and fixed other various issues.

YaST updated to 4.2.47, bug fixes and refinements to how it operates

php7 updated to 7.4.0 where systemd restrictions for FPM were relaxed and other various improvements

Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer gives 20191210 a stable 99; 20191211 a stable 99; 20191213 a stable 91, 20191214 a moderate 90; 20191216 a stable 96 and 20191221 a stable 98.

Computer History

This is a new segment I am going to try out for a few episodes to see how it fits. Since I am vintage tech enthusiast, not an expert, I like looking back and seeing the interesting parallels between the beginning of the home computer or micro-computer revolution compared to now.

The Computer Chronicles is a program that spanned for 20 seasons, starting in 1983. The original hosts, Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall’s first episode focused on Mainframes to Minis to Micro computers and it was such a fascinating discussion. Stewart Chiefet asks Gary, right of the bat, if he thinks whether or not we are at the end of the line of the evaluation of computers hardware or if there major new phases of this evolutionary process.

Gary responds with “no” and saying that they are getting smaller, faster and less expensive. He speculated that they will get so small you will lose them like your keys.

Couldn’t help but think if Gary was still alive today, how many times would he have lost his cell phone today and would he think back to those words. I know that I lost my cell phone in my house, the one I just fixed three times.

Watching the demonstration of the TX-0, the first transistor powered computer give a demonstration was quite fascinating.

The Super computer from the 1960s filled entire rooms while they experimented with parallel processing In the 1970s, computers miniaturized to Something resembling a single server rack and were called minis and were considered portable because they were on wheels. The late 70s and into the 80s, micro-computers came into prominence and although substantially cheaper the Mainframes, Minis and Micros, still far more expensive than what can be picked up today.

I found this particular episode very interesting due to the excitement of how small computers were getting but by today’s standards, really quite large. The hunger for speed was just as apparent in 1983 as it is today in 2019… almost 2020.

The micro-computer they demonstrate here is a Hewlett Packard HP-150 which was an attempt at being user friendly with a touch screen interface. Nothing like the touch screens of today as it uses infra red transmitters. It is noteworthy that in the demonstration of the machine by Cyril Yansouni, the General Manger of the PC Group at HP, it was stated that the most intuitive tool to interact with the computer is your finger. That holds true today, looking at how people interact with tablets and mobile devices. The interaction seemed rather clunky by today’s standards but I think it is pretty cool to see the innovation of the time. Mr. Yannsouni also stated that he doesn’t think that this alone is the most ideal interface. He stated that he thinks that there will be some combination of touch, keyboard, mouse and even voice that will be something more idea. I think he was correct on this. This machine, the HP-150 has a kind of goofy look about it but at the same time, pretty cool as well. I’m really glad it was demonstrated.

The direction that was being discussed here was the future of computer technology. Herb Lechner stated that the future will be networking computers together through local area networks so data can be shared. Gary Kildall and Cyril Yansouni speculated, very excitedly, that the data communication will be over the phone system as the future of networking because local networks are too expensive and difficult to set up. I wonder what they would say today about this.

What I really learned from this particular episode is that, one, our desire for smaller, faster, better computers hasn’t changed. There was experimentation on form and function of computers with what the best of technology had to offer for the time and there was lots of fragmentation, far more than anything we have today. I also learned that most of the experts tend to be wrong about the future of technology, that hasn’t changed today either.

The Computer Chronicles, Mainframes to Minis to Micros (1983)

Final Thoughts

2020 is on the horizon, and to quote my favorite fictional character of all time, Doc Brown, “the future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.” Make 2020 the best year you can, be kind to one another and should things not go as you planned, don’t hold any resentment against yourself or those around you.