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.

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.

My intent is to have a shortcut for turning off all my screens instead of just locking them and hoping that the desktop environment will do its job of turning them off. I do want to point out that when I was using Windows, both 7 and 10, I had this problem too so it is absolutely not an issue with Desktop Linux.

It is fun being able to understand how to talk to a Linux machine through the terminal using the CLI (Command Line Interface). The more you know about how to work with it, the more you will ultimately enjoy your journey in Linux. Here is my solution.

The Commands

The commands I found out there in the vastness of the world wide web lead me to this that I have tested on multiple machines. Two were running Tumbleweed with Plasma and the other Leap 15.2 with Plasma.

xset -display :0 dpms force off

The other command is to force the screen on. This is useful as I have had issues where after undocking my machine, my screen would forget to turn on. I can’t say the reason why but this could also use a Global Shortcut

xset -display :0 dpms force on

The Script

I created a little shell script for turning off my screen called screenoff.sh. I can’t say for sure how all distributions handle this but I have a bin directory in my home folder, so this is where I have chosen to place this script. ~/bin

Using nano, I created a bash script for this.

nano ~/bin/screenoff.sh

Then filled it in with this information

#!/bin/bash

sleep 1
xset -display :0 dpms force off

The purpose of the sleep 1 line is to give me a chance to get my hand away form the keyboard and mouse so I don’t inadvertently cause the desktop environment to wake the screen.

Next I made the file executable. There are many ways to do it but since we are playing in the terminal:

chmod +x ~/bin/screenoff.sh

To test this out, using krunner or open a terminal and type screenoff.sh should turn off your screen. If not, something is wrong and maybe we can figure it out…

Custom Shortcut

It is not real practical to open up krunner or a terminal just to shut off the screen when I have the power to create a custom shortcut in Plasma. Here is how to do it. First open up System Settings and choose the shortcuts module. Your system settings may look a bit different but I am sure you can figure it out. I have faith in you.

Next you have to select the “Custom Shortcuts” submodule.

At the bottom of the list there is an Edit button with a down arrow. Select that > New > Global Shortcut > Command/URL

Name it whatever makes sense for you. I chose the name “Screen Off” to make it pretty clear. Set your shortcut. I chose Meta+Alt+O.

Next, Select the Action tab and enter the path of the script you just created. In my case, it is:
~/bin/screenoff.sh

Select Apply and test it out!

Final Thoughts

Plasma is real easy to customize to your liking. I am very happy with this small modification to make my desktop experience a bit more suited to my personal taste. I don’t expect that this is a very common use case but since I know I am an edge case in much of what I do, this helps me to remember and hopefully there will be at least one person that can use or adapt this to their own case.

I am not a terminal expert so if there is any way that this can be improved, please contact me or comment below

References

Terminal Applications
https://askubuntu.com/questions/62858/turn-off-monitor-using-command-line
https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/16815/what-does-display-0-0-actually-mean

Tmux Desktop on openSUSE Linux

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.

My pursuit of having a terminal based “desktop” was Inspired by Linux Unplugged Presentation. A rather nice article and I fell into this hole of terminal excitement

Build your own Desktop in the Terminal Linux Unplugged Article

After some exploration and some fiddling. I have put together a little resource for today me and future me. Hopefully this has some interest for you and I am open to other suggestions for making my Terminal based Desktop even better.

Tmux Terminal Desktop

The possibilities are seemingly endless as the bandwidth required to sustain this is really quite low.

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.

What I had before was a kind of ah-hoc solution. I started with one monitor than wanted more screen real estate so I placed it off to one side because that is just what made sense at the time.

What I had here was a laptop screen with 1920×1080 (FDH) resolution. A monitor directly above with a resolution of 1440×900 (WXGA+) and off to the top right a screen with the resolution of 1280×1024 (SXGA). Both of those monitors I purchased for $10 each from a company upgrading everything. I was pretty happy as going from one monitor to a second was fantastic and adding a third made it even better.

The problem I ran into was that the monitor above was not Full HD and sometimes it made for some usability issues with certain applications. That was compounded by having a monitor to the right with a physically slightly taller display but pixel wise, quite a bit taller and it just made things weird when moving from monitor to monitor.

The solution presented to me by my e-friend, Mauro Gaspari is ultimately what I started to pursue when he sent me a picture of his screen setup on Telegram. What he had (probably still has) is a 1440p monitor. I had never seen such a thing, it was so clean and made so much sense, especially with the ability to tile windows. So, began my search and measuring to see what was feasable. Fast forward to about eight months later, I purchased the LG 29WK50S-P. This is a 2560×1080, 29″ with a 60Hz refresh rate.

Initially I wanted to go with a 3440×1440 (WQHD) screen but I couldn’t get one at the size and price I wanted. Since I don’t have a whole lot of space and the distance it will be away from my face, any bigger than 29″ diagonal would take up too much space. I also didn’t want to spend a whole lot so what I payed was $179.10 for this monitor and I am quite happy with the price. Sure, more than the $10 I spent on the last monitor but a heck of a lot more pixels.

Features

The description of this this monitor is a 29 Inch Class 21:9 UltraWide® Full HD IPS LED Monitor with AMD FreeSync. It has the following features

  • AMD FreeSync™ Technology
  • Dynamic Action Sync
  • Black Stabilizer
  • OnScreen Control
  • Smart Energy Saving
  • Screen Split to give you different picture choices with the monitor.

None of these features were all that important to me. What I was most concerned about was the resolution and VESA mount. The split screen feature, to which I mostly don’t care about, is intriguing as I could use the second display input and do some testing on other distributions with another computer.

I really wasn’t asking for much in a monitor, really. I am going to take advantage of the AMD FreeSync at this time either but it is nice to know it’s there.

Initial Setup

I have been spoiled in openSUSE Linux for years and years. I haven’t really had to fiddle with anything to get my computer to use hardware. I expected this ultra-wide monitor to be just as un-fiddly but it wasn’t. For whatever reason. The display didn’t recognize to computer its proper resolution.

I don’t know why if it is because it falls under the “other” resolution category or if there is some other issue. I am running Tumbleweed so I do have the latest drivers and since this monitor has been around for a while, I wasn’t expecting any issues.

The Plasma Display Settings didn’t give me the option of 2560×1080 at all, a quick DuckDuckGo search which brought me to the solution to my troubles here on the openSUSE forum. I started out by using some “old school” xrandr commands.

First I started out by defining a new mode:

xrandr --newmode "2560x1080_60.00"  230.76  2560 2728 3000 3440  1080 1081 1084 1118  -HSync +Vsync

Then I added a mode to the specific output.

xrandr --addmode HDMI-3 2560x1080_60.00

Then I sent the command to change the mode of the screen

xrandr --output HDMI-3 --mode 2560x1080_60.00

This worked but it is not a permanent solution as the next time I were to reboot, I would lose these settings. That made it time to do an Xorg configuration file for this monitor. Thankfully, it is just one simple text document.

Permanent Solution

Using the handy dandy terminal, once again, I navigated to the appropriate folder

cd /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/

Then instead of creating a standard type of file that could be overwritten like “50-monitor.conf“, I created a custom one for this particular monitor.

sudo nano 49-LG29WK50S.conf

There is not much in this configuration file, just the modeline and preferred mode along with the Identifier of HDMI-3:

Section "Monitor"
   Identifier "HDMI-3"
   Modeline "2560x1080_60.00"  230.76  2560 2728 3000 3440  1080 1081 1084 1118  -HSync +Vsync
   Option "PreferredMode" "2560x1080_60.00"
EndSection

This allowed for the Plasma Display module to now have the proper mode available in the drop down and for me to do arrange the screen properly.

And now doing something like video editing feels a lot cleaner and the width only makes this task so much nicer to accomplish.

It’s not a perfect setup but it is a more perfect setup than what I had. What is nice is that I can very easily tile windows and jump to different applications without playing the, “where did I go” game.

I don’t know if I have any games yet that take advantage of the ultra-wide screen layout but from a productivity standpoint, this is fantastic.

I have been using it as the monitor with which I do CAD and I do like the wider display much better as the side menus are never in the way of the model itself. Also, the extended design history is almost entirely seen on larger models too.

Final Thoughts

Although the DPI is not the same between the laptop and the ultra-wide, I am happy with it. I don’t even know if I would want this monitor smaller or if maybe it is time to go up to a 15″ laptops screen. That would make the DPI closer to being the same between the laptop and the monitor. I am happy with it after one day of usage and over time, I am sure I will find irritations with the setup.

I want to note that I didn’t go for the curved screen. I don’t think I am quite ready for such a “radical” idea of having a screen curved towards me. Would it have been better? Maybe, I can’t really say and maybe the next screen I purchase will be curved so that I can compare. The way I see it, going from 16:9 resolution to 64:27 (21:9) was enough of a jump. Adding another bit of unfamiliarity of a curve in the display might have just thrown me off (insert smile emoji).

I have more “testing” to do with the monitor but for the $179.10 I spent on it, I think it was worth it. The contrast is nice, the brightness is nice, everything is very pleasing. This might very well be one of the best technology purchases I have made. I much prefer this to the ad-hoc, fabri-cobbled setup I previously had.

References

Ultrawide Monitor Help on the openSUSE Forum
LG 29WK50S-P Ultrawide LED Monitor product page
Display Resolutions on Wikipedia

KDE Partition Manager on openSUSE

I have become quite the fan of Gparted over the years of my Linux life and I started wondering if there were other partition management options out there. Specifically one that is Qt based instead. This is not a light on GTK based applications, I just find that they don’t tend to look as nice and clean as Qt apps. In this off-hand search, I stumbled upon PartitionManger which is in official openSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap Repositories.

I should note, they both Gparted and KDE Partition Manager use the same icon.

Installation

Since this isn’t installed by default with the Plasma Desktop, arguably it should be, here is how you o about it. I noticed on the openSUSE Software Site, its short description is that you can Easily manage disks, partitions and file systems on your KDE Desktop. So I guess we will see if this holds true.

It is also described as being software that allows you to manage your disks, partitions and file systems that allows you to create, resize, delete, copy, backup and restore partitions with a large number of supported file systems. These file systems include ext2 ext3, reiserfs, NTFS, FAT32 and more. I am guessing you can also do Ext4, BTRFS and others.

It goes on to say that it makes use of external programs to get its job done, so you might have to install additional software (preferably packages from your distribution) to make use of all features and get full support for all file systems.

That’s good news as I am hoping it wouldn’t re-implement anything and just use existing tools.

To install in terminal:

sudo zypper install partitionmanager

or navigate here for the Direct Install Link

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

As expected, it installed very little, a total of 4 new packages:

  • kpmcore – KDE Partition Manager core library
  • libkpmcore7 – KDE Partition Manager core library
  • partitionmanager – Main Application package
  • partitionmanager-lang – Language support

Considering I have Gparted already installed, most of everything else is likely already there. I have a great respect and love for Gparted at this point, I am hoping that I am not losing any features by using KDE Partition Manager.

First Run and Impressions

Using the handy Plasma menu with the search feature, I started typing “Partition” and it popped up. I launched it and was given the dialog for root user permissions.

I am on the fence if I like that very detailed command being being shown by default. Instinctively, I say it is fantastic, but for a less experienced user, it could feel a bit overwhelming, perhaps.

After the root login requirement, I had this warning pop up which I thought was fantastic!

I have been using Gparted for quite some time and was having issues with an SD Card. My laziness, I just ignored it and now I see what the problem was. I needed the exfat utilities and now the world is right again. Adding this was as easy as running this in the terminal:

sudo zypper install exfat-utils

This automatically selected fuse-exfat package to be installed as well.

Once all this was up. I was greeted with a nice clean and familiar interface

What sets this apart from Gparted is that it shows you all the devices in a side pane instead of the drop-down. I will say, I much prefer the side pane to the drop down. It gives a better overview of what you are doing.

Gparted with the drop-down to select the device

I wanted to format a device and give it a label for my upcoming experimentation with Ventoy for keeping and testing Linux distribution ISOs. So that is what I did.

Mainly, I just wanted the appropriate label. I also took this as an opportunity to format that SD Card, also an easy success.

Final Thoughts

It works! I can’t say it’s any better than Gparted as they both seem to work the same and have a similar appearance and workflow. If you can use one, you can use the other. The biggest difference is the devices side menu. I do like that more than the Gparted drop down. It provides a better snapshot of the status of the storage devices on your machine. Outside of that. KDE PartitionManager as well as Gparted are fantastic tools and this is mostly an appearance preference as I am sure they are using all the same backend of tools.

References

https://software.opensuse.org/package/partitionmanager
https://www.kde.org/applications/system/kdepartitionmanager
USB or Removable Media Formatting in Linux on CubicleNate.com

Configuring a Cisco switch from a Linux Terminal with Minicom

As much as I like playing in the terminal, the jury is still out as to how much I like working with Cisco. To be as objective as possible, I need to tell myself that: 1, I am not familiar with the command set or how they like to do things so I must be open minded; 2, Relax, the command line is a happy place to be and 3, this is new territory, don’t get frustrated, just write it down and enjoy the learning process. Also, my brother in-law, whose career is in network administration just loves this Cisco business so it turned out to be quite educational. The scope of this article is not how to set up a router, just, this is how I was able to get going with it.

The specific Cisco switch I configured was a Catalyst 3560 series PoE-48. I am sure these direction will work with other similar devices. Since I am an openSUSE user, the directions are tailored as such.

Minicom Installation

My first step was to find a piece of software that would work for me for this and I am sure that there are a ton of solutions but the one that worked the easiest for me was minicom. I am open to other suggestions, of course.

This is in the official repository so you can go into the terminal and type this to install it:

sudo zypper install minicom

I would give the alternative option to do the Direct Installation but since you will be in the terminal anyway, why would you do that?

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

Set User Permissions

Before you run minicom you will need to add your user as a member of the groups: dialout, lock and uucp.

In all fairness, I don’t know if you actually need uucp but since I use it for serial transfers to Arduino type devices, I am just assuming.

To do this in YaST, select the Security and Users section, open the User and Group Management module and make the changes required for the user.

Alternatively, you can do this from the command line, enter the following as root:

usermod -a -G dialout,lock,uucp

The terminal method is way cooler, just saying.

Minicom Configuration

Before you can set up Minicom, you will have to determine where the serial port is that is connected to your computer. In my case, I have ttyS0 but if you have a USB serial port device, you may have something like ttyUSB0 or similar.

Now that you have an idea as to the name of your serial port you can begin the setup process. Some adjustments are needed so that you can successfully communicate with the router. In the terminal type:

minicom -s

This will bring you to a ncurses style menu system. Arrow down to Serial port setup entry.

To change the serial device to what you have, select A and adjust it to your particular serial interface. Then select E to set the Bps/Par/Bits

The baud rate (Speed) should be set to 9600 (C) and the Stopbits to 8-N-1 (Q).

That should do it. I must stress that this did indeed work for me and your results may vary. The speed and Stopbits seem to be key. I have seen some variations in Software and Hardware flow control but those settings didn’t seem to affect my results.

Connect

To make the connection, type minicom in the terminal and you will hopefully be logged into the smart switch.

Although I have screen captured how I configured the Cisco switch, I don’t think it would necessarily apply directly. I also don’t really know what I am doing and had to rely on an expert so I cannot adequately explain the process itself.

Final Thoughts

Setting up a smart switch in the terminal requires some real knowledge. The point of this write-up was to close some of those gaps that may exist if you decide to embark on going down the “fancy switch lane.” I don’t know if this will work for similar type devices or other Cisco switches. It is a starting point and something to build from. I hope it provides some use to someone other than me.

Additionally, I am very open to suggestions on other similar terminal applications for communicating over serial in the terminal.

References

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/collateral/switches/catalyst-3560-series-switches/product_data_sheet09186a00801f3d7d.html

http://www.allaboutlinux.eu/manage-cisco-switch-router-from-linux/

https://appuals.com/install-terminal-emulator-services-access-cisco-console-port-linux/

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

Fedora 31 | Review from an openSUSE User

Fedora is a Linux distribution that has been around since the beginning of my Linux adventure and for which I have incredible respect. I have reviewed Fedora before, and it was a good experience. Last time I used Fedora, I used Gnome and since I am kind of Gnome fatigued right now, I thought it better to use a different desktop, one that I can easily shape my experience to my needs, clearly, there are only two options but I chose to go with the primer, most easily customized desktop, KDE Plasma, ultimately, I want to compare my Fedora Plasma experience with my openSUSE Tumbleweed Plasma experience. I have no intention of switching distros but I do like to, from time to time, see how other distributions compare. Of all the distributions available outside of openSUSE, Fedora and Debian are the two that interest me the most but for different reasons.

This is my review as a biased openSUSE Tumbleweed user. Bottom Line Up Front. Fedora is a nearly perfect [for me] distribution that is architecturally and fundamentally sound from the base upward. It is themed just enough, out of the box, to not annoy me with any irritating impositions. It really feels like I have been given keys to a fantastic house, albeit a bit spartan, waiting for me to make it my own. Technically speaking, there is nothing I dislike about Fedora. I could get along just fine in Fedora Land but openSUSE Land edges out for me with the Tumbleweed convenience and the broader hardware support.

Installation

I want to be careful how I describe my experience here, I do not want to disparage the installer at all and blame any issues I had with it on me. What I appreciate about the installation process, I grateful that I can go right into the installation immediately.

There is something spectacularly simple and clean about the boot screen. No frills, no fluff. Just down to business. If that doesn’t say Fedora, I don’t know what does!

The next step will be to set your language and location. The next screen is an Installation Summary screen. I like this and I also don’t like this. I like it because it allows me to jump around, I don’t like it because I am not used to this layout. You can’t proceed with the installation until you complete all the steps, so that is good.

I started with the Root and User creation settings. This is very straight forward. I like the root options that are presented to lock the root account and whether or not to allow SSH Login with Password.

For the Installation Source, I am less impressed with this section, as compared to the openSUSE installation method. Maybe I don’t understand this part exactly, I was a bit confused. The correct choice would be “On the Network” from here and leave it on “Closest mirror”.

What I like about the openSUSE method is that it uses local and the remote sources together, not a selection of one or the other. This is entirely a preference thing but if the local packages are just as up to date as the remote packages, why not pull from those as well. I will admit, I don’t know whether or not this installer is doing that automatically, but my impression is that it is one location or the other. Again, not a big deal, just a head scratching moment.

The Software Selection tool is blow-me-away fantastic. I love this, it is just super to use and makes perfect intuitive sense. Since I want KDE Plasma Workspace and some of the Software Categories, that is what I selected. I think this is a great feature.

You can do this with the openSUSE Installer and it is a bit more granular but not as approachable as this, in my opinion.

The Installation Destination tool is a nice interface. Select the destination and go with it. I didn’t do any complex partitioning but this interface is pretty great.

I can’t say whether or not this is as feature rich as the openSUSE Partitioner but I do prefer this to many other distributions.

Select to begin the installation, it will go through the process without any propaganda and when complete, select the Reboot System in the lower-right corner and you are ready to fire up Fedora.

First Run and Impressions

Fedora boots up with the stock Plasma Splash screen and a very stock Plasma desktop, beautifully stock desktop. A desktop that says, I am ready to be shaped to your requirements. That is a huge “thank you” to Fedora.

..mostly. The first order of business was to fix my menu. The Application Launcher is not my favorite to work with. That is altered by going to the “Show Alternatives” Where I switched to the Application Menu.

Fedora is running Plasma 5.17.4, same as Tumbleweed Snapshot 20200110 (time of writing). I really don’t know if Fedora keeps this updated or if it will be updated at Fedora 32. Either way, this is something I will keep an eye on.

The next step was to fix the theme. Like many distributions, Fedora goes with the odd Light theme which just looks too “Wonder Bread” to me. I prefer something with a little more awesome factor, so I go with Breeze Dark.

That slight tweak makes Plasma all that I want it and as I’ve said for every other distribution, dark should be default.

I may have missed it but I didn’t see the spot to set up the hostname through the installation process of Fedora. That is not a big deal, really. I did search to see if maybe there was an admin tool for this but nope. There isn’t a graphical tool as you would find in openSUSE but again, not a big deal.

Making the adjustment in the terminal is kind of a fun exercise.

A fun little command you can use to check this is hostnamectl

To change your host name, run in the terminal as root:

vim /etc/hostnames

Change the hostname there to whatever it is that you want.

To input text in VI, you will have to press “i” write whatever it is you want to make the hostname, press the “esc” key and type :wq to write and quit and you are done.

To verify the change, type hostnamectl in the terminal and make sure you are set.

Edit: Due to some feedback from those better studied than me, you can set the hostname during the installation process. I missed it. So, in case you miss it like me, you can fix your mistake as I have.

Multimedia Codecs

Setting up Fedora to do multimedia things is not difficult at all. I have previously demonstrated this and I will put it in here too. It is nice that this process hasn’t changed at all in the last two years.

There is a base recommended multimedia set of packages for the codecs:

dnf install gstreamer1-{ffmpeg,libav,plugins-{good,ugly,bad{,-free,-nonfree}}} --setopt=strict=0

If you prefer xine over Gstreamer:

dnf install xine-lib* k3b-extras-freeworld

For using to internet radio streams and things, you will need a few more packages:

dnf install gstreamer1-{plugin-crystalhd,ffmpeg,plugins-{good,ugly,bad{,-free,-nonfree,-freeworld,-extras}{,-extras}}} libmpg123 lame-libs --setopt=strict=0

This process is easy enough for a novice Linux user do on to set up, so long as they aren’t afraid of working in the terminal. If you want a graphical interface for this you will have to search elsewhere or perhaps not use Fedora.

What I Like

Fedora is a blank slate, an industrial grade system that will do its job and work. It doesn’t have all the wiz-bang tools like YaST that I appreciate and rely upon in openSUSE but that’s okay. There are plenty of resources and guides out there to get you though any of the core system configurations.

Multimedia setup on Fedora is very straight forward. Not any more difficult than openSUSE but is less convenient than how you accomplish this on Ubuntu. I understand and don’t fault why Red Hat and SUSE dictate the separation as they are very concerned about the potential litigious consequences of having it included.

Fedora is a solid, well thought out, well plumbed product that has a very robust installation system. The package manager, DNF, has very easy to understand syntax. The output from its interaction is very well formatted and readable as to what it is doing. It could use a little more color, like Zypper, but I am good with single colored text.

Fedora enables a firewall by default. Firewalld is not only installed by default but the interface is there, ready to be used. I applaud that as it seems like there are many distributions that do NOT have a firewall activated by default and whatever the excuse is for it, I don’t buy it.

What I Don’t Like

As nice as the installation system is on Fedora, there are some User Interface bits that are a little different and therefore takes a bit to understand what needs to be done. It is a nitpick issue as if I were in Fedora for an extended period of time, I would be fine with it. I just don’t like it as much as some others.

When using DNF, I find it isn’t as feature rich as what I accustomed to on Zypper. DNF is good, real good and there are ways to get around what DNF doesn’t have. For example. If I want to see what KDE packages are installed on openSUSE with Zypper, I would run zypper search -i kde. That would only show the installed “KDE” packages. There isn’t an equivalent command with DNF, but you can do it with the RPM command, rpm -qa | grep kde. I admit, I am not as well studied in DNF and there may be a way to do it but it wasn’t completely obvious to me.

Edit: I have been corrected on this point. DNF does have a search ability, although my method of using rpm does work, you can use the DNF method as such: dnf list installed \*kde\* This does indeed work as expected and gives a great resulting list.

Firefox doesn’t have the kfiledialog patch applied to it like you would have on openSUSE. I didn’t realize how much the default file dialog box annoys me until I had to use it on a non-openSUSE Plasma system. This is almost irritating enough to make me choose a different browser. This is not a hyperbolic statement, I am quite sincere. I don’t understand why Fedora and Kubuntu, for that matter, can’t apply this same patch that has been available for as long as I can remember, 10 years, maybe? I don’t know exactly.

Just a little thing, but the sudoer file is empty or rather, set up as such that I can’t “sudo <some command>”. I have to su than run some command as root. Not a huge deal, but just a minor annoyance.

Final Thoughts

Fedora with KDE Plasma is a great choice. All my issues with Fedora are just nitpicks and not show stoppers, at all. Though, I don’t understand why they can’t copy openSUSE’s use of the Kfiledialog patch. I will concede that perhaps it’s more complicated than I understand. What is absolutely clear to me is how the underpinnings are well orchestrated on Fedora as it is certainly well tested and usable.

I would absolutely recommend anyone try Fedora. Just understand, this is an industrial-grade Linux distribution that is not as heavily focused on the desktop experience. Fedora feels well tested which makes the final product for the user a great, solid and smooth experience. I don’t know if I would recommend Fedora for the “brand new to Linux” user unless they are already technically inclined. You certainly cannot be afraid of the terminal when using it but if you are good with it, it is an incredibly positive experience.

Would I switch from openSUSE Tumbleweed to Fedora? No, I would not. The reasons are very specific too. Number 1, I like the rolling model of Tumbleweed with the safety-net of the BTRFS snapshot system. Fedora doesn’t have this out of the box but I am sure you could incorporate it if you wanted. Fedora’s DNF is decent, has a great syntax but I don’t know if it is at feature parity to Zypper and it would take more time of me using it to determine that. DNF is newer so it is likely to get more features in the future. openSUSE seems to support more hardware than Fedora. I don’t blame Fedora for that as it is a very forward-leaning distribution. Lastly, I think openSUSE just has a more fun logo. I agree that it is a superfluous reason but none the less, I do like that chameleon.

References

Fedora Linux Home
CubicleNate Fedora 27 Review

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

Broken and Fixed Virt-Manager on openSUSE

I am not a “Distro Hopper” but I like to try out other distributions of Linux or operating systems, for that matter. I don’t have much interest in wiping out my main system to find out I prefer openSUSE over something else. The alternative is virtual machines. I have found that QEMU/KVM seems to work better with openSUSE Tumbleweed than Virtualbox. I have previously described this issue here.

The issue I had today was that when starting a Virtual Machine Guest on may system, I received an error without any real hint as to the solution of the problem. A bunch of details that, frankly didn’t make a whole lot of sense so I searched the title of this error:

Error starting domain: Requested operation is not valid: network ‘default’ is not active

I found a reference that fixed the issue and so I made myself a little reference as another gift to future self. For you know, when I break something again.

Libvirt / QEMU / KVM Reference

Reference

Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU/KVM on openSUSE Tumbleweed