New Adventures | Unexpected Change in Employment Status

I have been working at what has been my dream job at Whirlpool Corporation for six years. Every day I was either working on something new or making something better. The way I saw it, every day I was given a great gift of being payed to play with toys. Sure, they were appliances or tools but those are just toys for adults anyway. They are designed to make the “suffering” in life a bit more bearable and I found that to be an enjoyable task.

This was my second Whirlpool life. I had previously worked at Whirlpool, from 2002 to 2006 and left there on my own accord to seek other opportunities. My second Whirlpool life lasted 6 years to the day and was far, far more enjoyable. This time, I was able to unite my creative and problem solving skills in a technical manner using CAD as the vehicle to do so. I was able to create, take images in my mind and turn them into real things. I absolutely enjoyed it.

Just over a week ago, after an All-Hands meeting, I received a “Job Impact Communication” meeting show up in my email. Based on the context of that All-Hands meeting. I knew exactly what this was. The company had been talking about a 20% reduction in force and based on my specific role, I was already mentally prepared for this.

Blurred for my protection

The three individuals in this meeting to let me go were all very sad and somber, and I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want that job. I made it a point to stop the “firing” early on to change the mood of the meeting. I said, “I am not dying, I am just going to find another opportunity, lets have some fun and get through this with some smiles.” I figured, I had nothing to lose, my separation was already decided. Nothing I did would change that so I will face my unfortunate news on my terms.

I made it clear, I was not upset. I understand the situation of the company and the reality is, I feel worse for Whirlpool and those that were doing the “Job Impact Communications” than I do for me. I made it clear that this is nothing more than a bump in my my road and I am now off to new adventures. Without sounding conceded, I know that I am a talented hard worker and they are losing far more than I am. I made it clear that I will miss being there working with some of the best people and most incredible projects I have ever done but that it was okay. The meeting did proceed to my liking after that. Everyone had a better disposition about the process. We had some laughs and I felt good about how the whole thing went. If nothing else, I know that I made a positive impact on the “firing squad” and I hope that I helped them face their day with just a bit more optimism and hope for the future.

I am quite sure that few others approached it in the same way I did. I had read some blips of angry, bitter and resentful people and I feel bad for them. I think they didn’t quite understand their agreement they had with Whirlpool.

I had one final one-on-one with my boss and I must say it was quite a lot of fun and emotion filled. I told him what I enjoyed, what I didn’t enjoy as much, the people I will miss for their fun and well defined personalities and my best wishes to the project that I felt very invested into. I finished off the meeting telling my boss why I enjoyed working with him why he was a great manager, why I enjoyed working for him and a hope that our paths will cross again in the future. I meant every bit of it.

Later that day, I picked up my things from the tech center. My 6 years at Whirlpool could be represented by three 12-gallon flip totes. Mostly books, some vintage tech that I had there and the things I placed around my cubicle that made it an extension of my home.

I did a Final walk around the facility after I was done picking up my things to say farewells to the the different people I worked with that were there. I received super kind statements from everyone to which I talked. Some were very sad for me saying it wasn’t fair and what not. As I progressed, making my rounds, I was in many ways more sad for them than I am for me, they are losing an awesome designer (that conceit again). I know that I can get another gig, maybe as good maybe better but certainly not the same.

I was leaving a great facility with great people and my only regret was that I didn’t have more time with them. I can, with great confidence say that I did my best, I learned a lot and grew not only professionally but also personally for being there and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Some of the best parts of the job were my interactions with the model makers in the model shop. They helped me more than any training I had at being a better designer. They helped me to better understand manufacturing processes and better understand the limitations and capabilities of the equipment. There was a lot more to learn there but I think that goes with anything in life. There is never an end to the quest of knowledge and understanding.

I made it clear to everyone that I look at it as a new adventure. I wasn’t given news of having a terminal disease, I am just off on a conquest for knowledge elsewhere and I thanked them all for the time they gave me. I am glad I did indeed cherish my time there.

Before I walked out of the facility, possibly for the last time ever, I left a message on my little wipe board to my coworkers that I hope they take to heart.

“The future is whatever you make of it, so make it a good one.”

Obviously plagiarized from my favorite movie Trilogy, “Back to the Future” but that movie is a bit of fiction that hold some truth greater than reality. The future is indeed up to us.

Next Steps

I’m not in any big hurry, I have options. I need to take the time to interview my options and find the mutually best decision. The fact of the matter is, I’m not going to over-sell myself. If I’m not the best candidate they shouldn’t hire me. When I find the best option, I will know it in my heart and move forward.

My resume is going out to different places. I am currently enjoying some time of reflection and doing activities that I haven’t had the time to do. I am making the best of every day and doing everything I can to make the best of that time.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes when a dream ends, you wake up, you are disappointed, then you realize, there are other dreams out there to be had. I have, in a sense, woken up and found that my dream job has ended but there are other dream jobs out there. I find that I am quite content and doing a lot of things so making a good next step may take a bit of time. I still think Whirlpool is a great company for which to work. They are a fine “package deal” of a company but they are not an option for me today.

It is without dispute that life brings its tragedies and we will all be beaten down, tried and tested. That is the story of life. The key is, what are you going to do with the tragedies? Are you going to look at it as an opportunity to better life or are you going to let life better you and become resentful, angry and bitter? I choose to better my life out of the situation. I have failed previous tests in life and I will not fail this test. I will make my future a good one but not only that, I will do the best I can.

References

Whirlpool Corporation
Back to the Future Movie at IMDB

FreeOffice on openSUSE

I am not really much of an “Office Snob” but in recent weeks, I have heard people hammer and clammer about this FreeOffice for both “in favor of” and “against” it. In full disclosure, I mostly use LibreOffice and I still use Microsoft Office 2007 for certain very specific reasons. That said, I am obviously not an open source purest. Back to the reason for this write up, I use office products a lot for the purposes of creating product for home educating my kids as well as for many administrative things that I do as a part of my employment. For the most part, I don’t do anything terribly complex but I do like a certain uniformity and bits of information on things to keep me organized.

Bottom Line Up Front, FreeOffice is a fine, well polished, very complete application. I am only using the “Free version” and I am very impressed with it. The user interface is flexible to your liking, looks clean and modern, most things work fantastically well and I am not sure how they get away with the look of the UIs similarity to Microsoft Office. Although this would likely serve all my needs, I will stick with LibreOffice because it is what I am most accustomed and I don’t gain anything by switching to FreeOffice. At a minimum, I would have to keep LibreOffice Draw for a few specific tasks.

Installation

The installation process for openSUSE is very straight forward. You can read their directions here:

https://www.freeoffice.com/en/tips-and-tricks-linux

They also have other distros there too if you are interested but since I am writing this specifically as a user with an almost unhealthy obsession with the openSUSE project. I will summarize the process here because I need to feel like I am actually doing something.

There are two ways you can go about doing this. First would be to download and install the RPM which will give you the shell script to add the repository. Alternatively, you can hop into the terminal, my favorite place (sometimes), to use the fantastic Zypper command to do all the heavy lifting for you.

For simplicity, I’ll break this down into steps using a terminal. If you don’t like the terminal… you should like the terminal because it is pretty awesome once you understand it.

Import the Public Key

Arguably this is an optional step, you could really just ignore the warning you would get other wise but for the sake of completeness, download the public key here. By default Firefox will put it in your “Downloads” folder, navigate to it and this is how you will import the key, using the terminal:

sudo rpm --import ./linux-repo-public.key

You’ll see some output, read it, then move on to the next step.

Add the repository

sudo zypper ar https://shop.softmaker.com/repo/rpm FreeOffice

Agree to whatever is necessary to move forward to the next step.

Refresh the repositories

The next step is to refresh the repositories. Depending on your inclination to install the public key or not, you may have to select ignore to continue.

sudo zypper refresh

Install the application

The last step will be to install the application. This does seem to take a while. I am note really sure why but the installation process seemed to take an unnecessarily long time.

sudo zypper install softmaker-freeoffice-2018

Once complete, you will have the application links in your menu and the associations with your mime types so opening a document from the file manager into FreeOffice works as expected.

First Run and Impressions

Office productivity applications are not exactly the most exciting activity to dig into but I do find them to be an important staple in the refrigerator that is personal computing. Most people I know have office applications on their systems as a necessity. I do realize that it has also somewhat become in vogue now to use online office productivity suites too so perhaps this not relevant.

In order to really use and evaluate FreeOffice, I decided I would take the time and see how working in FreeOffice would be, instead of using my typical preference, LibreOffice. Therefore, I left the automatic file associations defaulting to this, essentially forcing myself to use it.

When you first start it up FreeOffice, you are given six options to set the user interface to your personal design preference.

The top row are three Ribbon menu and the bottom three are Classic menu toolbars options. I went for the Ribbon Dark Theme. Interestingly, there is a “Touch mode” that has larger icons and menu entries. I didn’t try that as I am not using this on a machine with a touch screen interface.

Next you are going to be greeted with entering your user info and you are off to the races.

My initial impression of FreeOffice is the professional feel about it. Very nicely, there is a convenient side bar welcome to get you started. It just feels like the kind of application for which I would have had to shell out some cash on any operating system.

I tend to use one open document formats so I loaded up one. After all, it is one thing to stare at a blank page, it is another to actually use it so I decided to open up and do some of the “work” with it. In this case I was working on product for my home education board for my kids’ weekly memory work.

Using the application, I find that the layout of of the ribbon menu looks very familiar to another, offering by our friends from Microsoft with one caveat, this has a fantastic dark theme. On Microsoft Office 2007 there is a gray theme but nothing dark so this is also a welcome design choice.

In the weeks I spent using it, I did run into one issue with FreeOffice, it seems that the crop performed on an image using LibreOffice isn’t necessarily respected in FreeOffice. This does seem to be a consistent issue. I am showing one example below but this does appear to be a consistent problem. This was only an issue where I cropped images.

There is one specific feature that not having is a kind of deal breaker. That feature is the ability to “Export to PDF.” In FreeOffice they give you a kind of print dialog which is, in my opinion better than just having the save dialog you are given in LibreOffice.

I haven’t used any of these options, I don’t have a particular need for it but I do appreciate having the options there. It would be important if you have some publishing requirements, I suppose.

The thing that I found that was rather lack luster with FreeOffice was the file picker dialog. It is okay, but not nearly as nice as the Plasma File Picker and certainly better than the default GTK file picker.

I would say this is the most disappointing part of my FreeOffice experience. Though, it is probably not very fair because I have been incredibly spoiled by Plasma and the niceties that come with it. It would be nice if there was some option to select to utilize desktop native file picker.

Just to see a side by side of the different office applications I use, I thought I would throw it here. Not for any particular reason other than just to compare the look of the UI. What is interesting to me is that Microsoft Office 2007 (yes, I know it is old but I prefer the look of it), has more screen real estate for the cell display, by default.

I happen to like LibreOffice the most in looks, but I still prefer to use Microsoft Office in the spreadsheet department. I just happen to find it more usable and I do like the built in Visual Basic for some of the fun things you can do with it.

Looking at the free versus paid versions of FreeOffice, there aren’t too many features I would say I would need. The only features that may be missed would be mail merge, not that I have used it in a long time and perhaps the “Presenter View” for the presentation software. The annual cost of $29.90 for the home use license for up to 5 computers is really not a bad deal and it keeps the project going.

For more information, visit the site here:
https://www.softmaker.com/en/comparison-freeoffice-softmaker-office

What I Like

The interface is familiar to anyone using Microsoft Office. The layout and look of the ribbon is comfortable and logically laid out which is welcoming. Since this seems to be what is normal and expected, I can see very clearly, why many people use this office application suite over some others.

The application appears to be just as responsive as LibreOffice or Microsoft Office. I have no complaints as to performance, whatsoever. It is surprisingly enjoyable to use

The specific feature that I use most and is readily available is the PDF Export. This is important because when I create “product” for my home education board, I want to “freeze” it to make it easier to share. The whole PDFs this is, um well, portable… Not having this would be a deal breaker for me so I am glad this is there.

What I Don’t Like

The file dialog box is irritating to use. It is functional but not at all what I like. I could be spoiled by the Plasma file dialog and since everything else is just not nearly as good, I am much less tolerant of this. I can understand a need to be desktop agnostic so this might be a necessity. I would like to see if it could somehow detect the desktop environment and use that desktop resource, much like LibreOffice and Firefox do. Although, that could be an openSUSE thing.

There seems to be a bit of a compatibility issue with LibreOffice where it will mess with size and ratio of the pictures in the word processing document. I am thinking, if I just use one or the other, it would be fine but this is an area I would like to see properly working.

Outside of that, I think it is pretty great.

Final Thoughts

FreeOffice is a great office solution that is very familiar feeling, nicely laid out with a clean interface. Installation is very straight forward and they support openSUSE so that is a huge plus. I absolutely appreciate they have taken time to support it. This was also much of the reason I decided to give it a try.

If I were to set up a machine today for someone, totally unfamiliar with Linux, used to the Microsoft Office suite, I think I would set up FreeOffice for them. If they have been using LibreOffice, I would still default to that.

In the end, for me, I am going to keep FreeOffice installed. I like it. I have the repository set up, and it isn’t a drain on my resources to have installed. I have adjusted the the file type options to make LibreOffice my default application for office documents. I will periodically check in on it and use FreeOffice to stay familiar with it and to check for any improvements. I am very glad I took the time to try out FreeOffice and evaluate it. If you have any inclination on trying office software, this should be on your list.

References

https://www.freeoffice.com/
https://www.freeoffice.com/en/tips-and-tricks-linux
https://opensuse.org

Dell Inspiron 20 3048 All-In-One Desktop SSD Upgrade

There comes a time in the lifespan of a computer where you decide that the performance becomes a little lacking. That was my case with this computer and the state of the drive was becoming a little dubious as it felt like it was getting slower and having periodic file system errors. Rather than just reinstall openSUSE on the same drive, I decided, I wanted to make an inexpensive upgrade so I purchased a Solid State Drive (SSD) for it.

After completing this write-up, I realized that this is very uninteresting… so… for what it’s worth, this is basically a blathering for my own records. If you find this useful, great, if you don’t care about this bit of hardware, this is not worth your time… so… go ahead and click that [X} in the corner now.

Installation

Since this computer hangs above my sink using a VESA mount, there is a bit of work involved in pulling it down. My preferred method is to use a

Since I have taken this unit apart before, I already knew what I was doing with it. The back of computer comes off but does take some time to get all the snaps to release. I would really prefer that this was held together with screws instead of snaps.

Upon releasing the back cover from the chassis, it exposes the 2.5″ drive which sits in the lower left corner of the machine.

The drive is held in a caddy that snaps in to the chassis, no tools required to remove or insert the drive. I think this is actually quite the clever design.

The last bit of assembly is snapping the back cover back together, with a little family assistance.

After hanging the computer back on it’s VESA mount, I proceeded to install openSUSE Tumbleweed once again, creating a 60 GiB Root partition

The one thing I can note is that the software installation proceeded so much faster on the Solid State Drive than on the traditional Hard Disk Drive. I didn’t time it but I can assure you it is noticeably faster.

Application Installation

After installation of openSUSE Tumbleweed, I began the setup of my applications that I wanted, specifically on this machine. Things to note, this computer has a touch screen interface, so I made some changes as compared to my more traditional desktop setups. For starters, I switched the menu to the “Application Dashboard” because it is more “touch friendly” than the “Application Launcher” and “Application Menu”. At least, from my perspective.

Some of my applications have shifted a bit from the original setup. Many are the same but the core set of applications I use, not likely to change, on this machine are as follows:

Kontact Personal Information Manager

Mostly for the calendar application and it works fantastically well. I use this to synchronize my activities using the Google Calendar plugin. I am not proud of using Google Calendar but I am sort of stuck with it for the time being.

Qsyncthing Tray

I find using this has been a bit better experience on some machines than Syncthing-GTK. In a way it doesn’t feel like as polished of an experience but I feel like it has a better experience in the way of access to the system details with less digging. I use Syncthing to keep my drives synchronized between machines where there is no single point of failure. I am quite enamored with this application.

Gnome-Recipes

This hasn’t changed at all. I use this heavily in the kitchen and aside from the browser, I probably interact with this the most.

Telegram

This is my primary communication application. Basically, it is the only real-time direct access to me, even more so than SMS. Though, I can access my SMS messages through the computer, this is by far my preferred method and it would be nice if more people were on it.

Kronometer

This application is used daily. Not exactly related to kitchen activities but since it seems like much of my life revolves around the kitchen, to include my workouts, I use this application for timing my workouts and keep me on track. I am sure that there are some question marks popping up but this is very much the truth. I also use this application when I am smoking meat. I use the lap function and take notes on tracking temperatures over time of the smoker cavity and the temperature of the meat itself. So, this is a very handy application to have.

Falkon

I have mentioned this before, but Falkon is a better touch-friendly web browser. Though, as I think about this decision, I wonder if there is an extension for Firefox to make that experience better. Regardless. The browser is an important part and currently I am using Falkon more than Firefox.

Drive Performance

I’m not a benchmark nut, maybe I should be, regardless, I am a fan of the application Gnome Disk Utility which gives a nice breakdown about your drives.

The downside is, in GNOME fashion, this has the odd titlebar setup, but whatever. This gives you the ability to examine the health of your disks. I find this very interesting, but admittedly, I don’t know what it all means but so long as it says the Disk is OK, I’m going to leave it there.

The benchmark utility is interesting. I don’t run the benchmark on the write speed because it does give a warning about backing up your data, so… do that on an empty drive, I suppose. The average read rate of this drive is 443.9 MB/s with 100 samples. The access time is pretty great compared to the typical seek time of “spinning rust” hard drive platter.

I want to reiterate that I am not a benchmark nut but it is nice to see what they are, just to see. It’s also fun to compare with my other systems. This seems to be about on par with my other SSDs and more than 4 times faster than the HDD I use for my Virtual Machine images.

Final Thoughts

I resisted for a long time going to SSDs because, that seems to be my M.O. on new technology. I am glad that the SSD technology has come down in price and increased in efficiency. It has greatly improved the performance of this aging all-in-one and extended the life of this machine. The performance improvements of SSDs over HDDs is not in any way a revelation. The point I want to emphasize here is that by putting in an SSD, the machine is far more useful and the user experience is vastly improved. So, rather than chuck the old computer, swap out the Hard Disk Drive with a Solid State Drive.

References

openSUSE Home
GNOME Disks
Linux in the Kitchen Blathering
Dell Inspiron 20 3048 Details

Noodlings | DLN Xtend, Universal Packages and CAD

I’d like to say I must be doing something right when I end up on a couple podcasts or perhaps it means a laps in judgment by many others. I want to thank everyone that has taken time out of their busy day to listen to these noodlings.

The 8th Noodling brought to you in the lowest audio quality permitted

DLN Xtend

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of the Destination Linux Network to which, without any though or consideration, seemingly on both sides, I said yes.

Started this podcast with Eric Adams called DLN Xtend. To be completely fair, he really carries the show, as you can tell by these noodlings of mine, I can barely carry myself.

I rather enjoy talking to Eric, we both geek out over so many tech topics. He has a different bend to his Linux and technology implementation views.

Sudo vulnerability Discussion

Snaps and Flatpak on openSUSE

Just a quick note, but setting up openSUSE with Snaps and Flatpak are both trivial. The great thing about openSUSE is that setting up either in openSUSE is super easy and if either not not first class citizens

Flatpak reference from the openSUSE Wiki
Installing snap on openSUSE

CAD Software

Thanks to my good buddy, Eric Adams, he sent me down a rabbit hole of looking at CAD software again. A link from FossMint.com titled “11 Best CAD Software for Linux”

I have had two CAD packages that get fairly regular use. One is for “real CAD” the other is for fun.

FreeCAD is a CAD application that I use periodically, it has 3D modeling and assembly package that are pretty decent. The drawing package is pretty decent too.

LeoCAD is an application I use when I want to play with virtual Lego bricks. Often when building with my kids, I will get an idea and when I find I want different parts, I will build it in CAD and order parts as necessary.

The highlights of this article that has inspired interest and I decided to do some installing, because, why not, CAD is fun.

BRL-CAD is a free and open-source, cross-platform CAD application. There isn’t an RPM for it but there is a Debian and a tar.gz. I am going to play with this and make some kind of determination if I could use it. On the surface, the interface looks a bit like it has a steep learning curve but it might be fun give it a whirl.

BricsCAD is a commercial, modern, multi-platform CAD software for 2D and 3D modeling. The focus on this software is to allow users to work faster and smarter while spending fewer resources

The cost of this for a lifetime license with the Mechanical package is $2095 USD. That is a bit steep for a home gamer like myself. There is a 30-day trial for this software and although I haven’t tried it yet, it does look pretty fantastic

VeriCAD is another paid CAD application that does 3D modeling. This has a “freemium” business model and is much less expensive than the previous with a one time fee of 699€ and a discounted 79€ for students and universities.

I am going to take the time to check these out, just because I am very curious to see how it compares to PTC’s Creo that I use in my mechanical design career. What matters most to me is the ability to create parametric 3D models that allow for geometric constraints. I also want an Assembly package that allows for making alignments with either datums or geometric features. I have had trouble with some applications that don’t allow for this very well.

11 Best Cad Software for Linux on FossMINT.com

BDLL Follow Up

Canonical has released Ubuntu 19.10 along with it’s many flavors. It’s interesting to see what new inclusions Canonical puts into their distributions, being an openSUSE guy, and knowing largely what goes on here and what the focus is, it’s nice to see what other distros are doing.

Overall I like what I see, and I still have to finish my review of Ubuntu Proper, I think Ubuntu does a great job with Gnome. Something about the way they package it makes it much more enjoyable to use than a vanilla Gnome experience and they have been putting a lot of resources into it.

It was great seeing Alan Pope and Martin Wimpress on BDLL interacting with the community and taking in feedback on user experience. Personally, I don’t use Ubuntu on hardware directly, but I always keep a VM of it to keep myself familiarized. Ubuntu Proper, running Gnome is a far better experience in VM than it ever has historically. It’s quite obvious that they are doing something good over in Gnome land.

Next Distro fore BDLL Review is Ubuntu MATE.

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191024 20191025 20191027 20191028

A lot has rolled out in the last two weeks on Tumbleweed. For the full news feed, visit news.opensuse.org as there is far too much to cover here.

The Mesa 3D graphical library was updated to 19.2.1 which brought several new features and a big RADV performance boost for AMD GPUs. VirtualBox hypervisor for x86 had a minor update to version 6.0.14 which fixed some potential networking with interrupt signaling for network adapters in UEFI guests. OpenSSH 8.1 had a major upgrade that included new features like experimental lightweight signature and verification ability.

KDE Plasma version 5.17.1 arrived with KDE Frameworks 5.63.0. The bug fixes that stand out the most to me on this is to KScreen as with 5.17 there were issues of not all the displays being represented in the Display Configuration tool forcing me to use ArandR instead. Kwin received some fixes, the Plasma Desktop Mouce KCM fixed the X11 mouse acceleration profile. Also, if you are running a touch screen device without a keyboard or with limited keyboard use, you may want to try Wayland again with this version of Plasma. It functions so much cleaner. I am using the Wayland not the “Full Wayland” desktop.

YaST, the greatest system administration and maintenance tool I have ever used, received updates to the Firstboot, Installation, Storage-NG and xml packages. I would like to see other distributions adopt YaST as part of their system configuration suite. Having that cohesive collection of tools is hugely valuable.

The Tumbleweed reviewer gives 20191024 a stable score of 93; 20191025 a stable 96; 20191027 a stable 98 and 20191028 a stable 94.

Noodlings | MX Linux, Pine64, BDLL openSUSE News

This noodling is brought to you by poor spelling and bad math. Maybe a little more time as a kid watching Sesame Street instead of Transformers would have done me well.

The 4th Installment of my Noodlings can be found here

MX Linux 19 Beta

I have installed MX Linux on several machines. December of 2018 was my first experience with it and I really enjoyed how it worked, quite literally everything about it. I was thinking a lot about WHY I like MX Linux and I think these are my top reasons:

Simplicity of the desktop. Although my primary machine runs Plasma as my desktop of choice and it does what I want it to do, it feels snappy and is tuned to my preferences, Xfce accomplishes all of that but differently. It has the right look, it IS rather easy to customize although not quite to the same accessibly easy level and is most certainly quite snappy.

The changes in MX 19 are not “earth shattering” and headline popping but they are all quite welcome. The High DPI support is of no benefit to me but for those with those fancy 4k monitors there is. A visual update to MX 19 that is partially related to Xfce 4.14 but is also due to general visual updates that MX has been given over time.

The opacity of the main panel, by default, is subtle yet noticeable and you don’t get any impression that what you are using is dated or stale at all. The default wallpaper has a new freshness feel to it, especially juxtaposed to the desktop panel, widgets and floating windows. The whole package just feels right and it feels like it is all being orchestrated by developers with vision and craftsmanship.

I am an openSUSE guy but there is something about MX Linux that makes me feel comfortable. Using a house analogy, openSUSE is the house where I do most of my living, working and learning but MX Linux is like that vacation cabin on the lake that doesn’t have all the amenities I am used to but still lets me unwind and have a good time with a welcome change of scene.

Pine64 ARM Based Hardware

My technical knowledge is about modern hardware is fairly limited. I can understand 6502 era machines like the Commodore 64 pretty well as it is quite straight forward. Modern x86 architecture computers are easy to assemble and get running as they are just giant Lego bricks but it seems like the world of ARM based computers has me befuddled a bit. I am not sure if it is all messy or just still to early to put any real weight behind but I think Pine64 seems to really have a pretty unified platform to target.

Since I am barely ARM-literate, I couldn’t help but think, what a great way to learn more about the hardware than to invest time and effort into making openSUSE work better on the hardware. It’s not like the other options are not as good, they are all fine choices, but there is almost an ineffable quality to openSUSE Tumbleweed that I can only somewhat articulate, I just don’t get that same level of excitement from most other distributions.

I am very much enamored with the idea of having openSUSE Tumbleweed on a PineTab and PinePhone, all connected to the PineTime watch that is soon to start shipping out developer kits. None of these devices are particularly powerful but the battery life you would get on the laptop, tablet and phone tuned just right could make for a spectacular user experience.

Today, I have too many knowledge gaps in the wonderful tooling of openSUSE to be effective with a piece of Pine64 hardware. As much as having a Pinebook Pro with openSUSE would be, at this time, I need to put that on the back burner until I get some other things mastered.

BDLL Follow Up

AMD has been known as of recent of shipping hardware before it “fully baked” as it were. Driver updates do come down later and fix issues and improve performance but is this creating a kind of behavior out of consumers to weight to buy something? Does it hurt or benefit a company to push things out sooner rather than waiting until it is ready.

Video cards in the late 90s and early 2000s suffered this same irritation trying to play Descent³.

Seems like it is common practice to push things out on a deadline before they are ready. I personally think it is not a good idea but I understand the pushing from business teams and sometimes, in all fairness, the engineering teams need some urgency to really hammer a design out so that it isn’t continually improved and the company doesn’t end up making money.

Sometimes, I think an 80% solution and acting immediately is better than a 100% solution that never arrives.

openSUSE Corner

The last week was a little bit light on news but not light on importance of package software updates.

Snapshots 20190916 and 20190917

Linux Kernel 5.2.14 Ceph buffers and Advanced Linux Sound Architecture

KDE Applications 19.08.1, Krita 4.2.6 many bug fixes like lags in Move Tool when using a tablet device (bug:410532), Make the settings dialog fit in low-res screens (bug:410793), low res in this instance is 1366 x 768. Fix a deadlock when using broken Wacom drivers on Linux (bug:410797). The new feature for this version of Krita is to add a new layer from an existing layer.

Intel’s Graphine package received an update to 1.10.0 that now uses an ancillary library called µTest for it’s test suite to allow you to build and run the suite without depending on Glib.

Mozilla Firefox 69.0 was bundled with Enhanced Tracking Protection as they are putting an emphasis on stronger privacy protections and added support for multiple video codecs to make it easier for WebRTC conferencing services.

Icecream received a delicious update to 1.3. This is the first I’ve heard of “Icecream” so I had to look it up. It is based on distcc which takes compile jobs from a build and distributes it among remote machines allowing for a parallel build. Unlike distcc, Icecream uses a central server that dynamically schedules the compile jobs to the fastest free server. This pays off when there are multiple users on a shared pool of computers. This update improved the speed of creating compiler tarballs.

Libvirt 5.7.0, a C toolkit used to interact with the virtualization capabilities of Linux, added AppArmor-abstractions as a required package for the libvirt-daemon.

Some other honorable mentions are updates to glib2, gtk3, flatpak-builder and VirtualBox rolled through

Snapshot 20190916 score of a moderate 72, Snapshot 20190917 scored a moderate 85.

https://news.opensuse.org/2019/09/19/firefox-graphene-krita-update-in-tumbleweed/
Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer

Fun Little openSUSE Tool

Depending on how long you have spent within openSUSE you may or may not be aware of a fun little tool that lets you know the status of the various openSUSE systems. You can view the real time status at:

https://status.opensuse.org/

Everything from Wiki pages, Software repositories to the home page, forums and the Build Service, can be monitored in the comfort of your very own cubicle. This is yet another example of the transparency of the openSUSE Project.

Endeavour OS | Review from an openSUSE User

Endeavour OS is the unofficial successor to Antegros, I’ve never used Antegros so I cannot make any comparisons between the two. It should also be noted that I think Arch Linux, in general, is more work than it is worth so this won’t exactly be a shining review. Feel free to bail here if you don’t like the direction of my initial prejudice.

I am reviewing Endeavour OS as a rather biased openSUSE Linux user that is firmly entrenched in all things openSUSE. I am going at this from the perspective that my computer is my companion, my coworker or assistant in getting my digital work done and some entertainment sprinkled in there as well.

Bottom Line Up Front: If you want to run main-line Arch, Endeavour OS is absolutely the way to get going with it. They take the “Easy Plus One” approach to Arch by allowing you to install what I would consider a minimal but very usable base and learn to use “genuine Arch” with all the triumphs and pitfalls. If you want to go Arch, I can most certainly endorse this as the route to do so. However, even after playing here for two weeks, I find Arch to be more trouble than it is worth but a great educational experience.

Installation

Installing Arch using the “Arch Method” from the Wiki is pretty obtuse. Following it, step by step is not clear and leaves to many aspects ambiguous and unclear. It should NOT be a “beginners guide” at all. Thankfully, Endeavour OS installer bypasses the nonsense so you can get going with Arch.

The media will boot quickly and you are given a shiny desktop with a window open. There are two tabs, the first tab has two selections: one access to offline information and the second for information the Endeavour OS website. The second tab will allow you to create partitions and to install Endeavour OS to the disk.

Should you choose to make modifications to the existing file system. You can do so from here using the Gparted tool.

Since I set this up to be on a virtual machine, I intended on using the entire disk so no partitioning was necessary. Selecting Install EndeavourOS to disk initiates the installer. It will start out requesting language then Location.

Next is the Keyboard layout and your partitions preference. Since this is a simple setup, I selected to erase the disk to meet my testing requirements.

Lastly, the User, computer hostname and passwords will be entered. The last step being the summary and a final sanity check. Not a single step was difficult in this process. It was all very straight forward.

The installation proceeds rather quickly and gives some rather enjoyable propaganda is presented. One questioning your disposition towards the terminal.

Once the installation is complete, I restarted the system to boot into the newly installed Arch Linux based operating system.

First run and Impressions

Something that is most noteworthy was the speed at which Endeavour OS went from boot screen to login prompt. It wasn’t just fast, it was as expeditious as the time it takes to flip the switch of a Commodore 64 having that momentary pause and be greeted with that comforting blue glow on a 1084S CRT.

Upon logging in, you are presented one of the finest looking Xfce desktops I have ever seen. The only issue I had with the start up is that this Kalu applet spews out important system “news”. It was a little like going to a relatives house and being greeted by that over excited nephew

The first thing I thought I would do would be to perform some updates. After all, I had just been informed, quite clearly that there are lots of updates pending. After punching in my root password, the installer commenced with such an incredible display of detail that it tickled every nerdy nerve ending.

After the updates completed there was not a single issue with the system. It all booted with the latest and greatest Arch has to offer and just as stable as before. That meant it was time to check out the customization options. Make some tweaks to remove that piercing white from the User Interface.

After clicking through a few themes, the appearance that sat the best with me was the Arc-Dark theme. Adwaita-dark was a close second and would make me just about as happy.

The default file manager is satisfactory. It’s not quite as good as Dolphin but for basic use, it will work well. The icon theme looks real nice and makes for a real pleasant and complete experience.

When it came time to install software, it was time to see what Endeavour had installed for me to accomplish that task. The good news is, they gave you everything you need… the terminal and the Pacman package manager.

Since I am mostly aware of how to use Pacman, this isn’t a big deal but the Endeavour OS Pacman basic commands list page is lacking the search function but I do have that solution in hand. Since I am not a complete dolt, I am able to figure these things out but as I learn the Pacman commands, I find them to be an adhoc mess. After sifting through the Arch Wiki the search command is performed like this:

pacman -Ss <package name>

Once you determine the package you want to install, it can be done as such.

sudo pacman -S <package name>

…Because it is completely intuitive to have -S be install and -Ss be search… I’m sure it makes sense to someone, somewhere.

I was able to search for and install many of the applications I would need except one. Surprisingly, I was not able to install osc the Open Build Service Commander command line tool. I find it odd that it is in the Debian repositories but not Arch which seemingly has everything.

I is probably available in the Arch User Repository (AUR) of which is something I would avoid as it is kind of the wild, wild west of software. Some say they love it, others tell me to avoid it and some tell me I have to read through everything carefully to make sure I am not installing anything dangerous. All of which makes me sigh.

What I Like

The installer is easy to use. It is quick to get going with Arch and not have to muddle around with the nearly useless “Basic Installation Guide” provided on the Arch Wiki. The basic installation with Endavour OS gives you a fine looking Xfce Desktop Environment and tweaks it well enough that one can comfortably get going with it and accomplish basic tasks… that is… after you’ve installed your desired applications

The boot up time for Endeavour OS is fast, not just fast, but strap in, hang on, we are jumping to warp speed kind of fast. Granted, I haven’t set up the loads on this that I do on my regular machine so I can’t say if it would fare any differently but out of the gate, Endeavour will not leave you impatiently tapping your foot at any point.

Most importantly, and this is quite subjective, but the community is quite friendly. When it is all said and done. Linux is not just an operating system of components but one of people and community members. Just in observation alone, the project seems to foster a sense of community that is extremely helpful and quite engaged. That feature alone makes Endeavour OS worth all the hassle of using Arch tools.

What I Don’t Like

Pacman has a real obtuse syntax. I don’t care what the justification might be but understanding how to install software on an Arch distribution should not be as such. This is ridiculously unintuitive and doesn’t feel like it was well planned out at all. It absolutely feels like they added features and chose a letter in the same way you would pick one playing Scrabble.

Since this is Arch based, there are some rather dubious quality assurance practices. There isn’t that automated testing as you would see in openSUSE, openQA to minimize the likelihood of new software breaking systems. In my opinion… let me underscore, bold and italicize opinion, this would not make for a good server or production machine environment. Many people will say they run it just fine. I would submit that these individuals are intimately acquainted with their systems and know it inside and out. There is merit and utility in this but I don’t have the time for another relationship with a computer (insert Commodore Amiga jokes here).

Not as big of a deal but there isn’t a good description of how to get software for Endeavour OS on your system. There isn’t a graphic installer or instructions on the Endeavour OS website for searching for packages. You kind of have to fend for yourself. This is, adamantly a minor issue and easily rectified.

As wonderful as the AUR is and how likely it is that the software has no malware, it is still the wild, wild west of software. There is no guarantee that the software will be maintained or tested against the current versions in the official repository. There is no guarantee on proper testing or any level of quality assurance either.

Final Thoughts

If you are going to jump with both feet into the murky, shark infested waters of Arch, Endeavour OS provides a great life raft, or maybe an actual dingy to shield you from some of the hazards of using Arch. I wouldn’t put any stock into it holding up long term but that is quite likely my experiential bias of using Arch and perhaps my lack of fully understanding how to use the Arch tools… but that brings me to my next point. I am not a Linux noobie. Using and managing numerous Linux machines on numerous devices has been mostly effortless and automatic. Arch is like taking numerous steps backward. The machine doesn’t work for you, you work for the machine. Although I didn’t have any issues with Arch in the two weeks I used it, I have had previous installs go wonky on me. I do admit, it may be due to my lack of understanding and experience on Arch.

The Endeavour team has made huge strides in getting Arch Linux closer to what I would consider sustainable but it is still too much like flying a helicopter with a wonky tail rotor through a derecho on half a tank of fuel. It’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong. I see the utility in Arch but not the benefits, at least, not any benefits that outweigh what openSUSE gives me.

References

Endeavour OS Download

Endeavour OS Pacman basic commands list

KDE Plasma 5.16 on openSUSE Tumbleweed | Pretty Great

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Info Center

Recently, the fine folks of the KDE Plasma team have released version 5.16. You can check out the announcement here and see all the work that has gone into it. This update rolled down to openSUSE Tumbleweed in the last few days and it was fantastic enough of an update, I had to blather about it. I am just going to highlight what I think are the really cool aspects.

I want to note that 5.16.1 is officially out with some bug fixes but that hasn’t hit openSUSE Tumbleweed at the time of writing. I am sure that is going to roll down soon. The purpose of this is just to highlight some of the features of which I think are most noteworthy.

Do Not Disturb

There is now a button on the notifications fly out for “Do Not Disturb”. Under most circumstances, this is not something I would use very often but if I were to do some recording or live streaming, that little feature becomes very, very important. No one needs to see that my latest ebay shipment has been delivered or a Telegram notification.

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Notification

Better Notification Configuration

I may have missed some of these improvements previously but the obvious change to the notification appearance had me curious and I wanted to see the notification settings dialog.

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Notificaiton Configuration

Not only has version 5.16 given you control of your notification… notifications… you can customize per application the notification behavior. This is very clever and I don’t know how they pulled this one off but just having this kind of flexibility is pretty fantastic. It also gives you a quick and easy spring board to customize the notification sounds.

 

Notification Popup Flexibility

Another neat feature is that you can customize the location of the popup, if you don’t want the popup to show near the location of the system tray widget, you can select any another location that better suits you.

KDE Plasma 5.16.0 Notification 4

I don’t see a need to change it as I like it in the default position but it is still a nice feature to have to tweak it best for you and what you would like. I can see Center-Top having some appeal… maybe.

Microphone Indicator Icon

Better described by Eric Adams in this video, there is an icon that that is displayed when the microphone is in use. It will report what application is using the microphone, you can mute and adjust the volume.

Final Thoughts

KDE Plasma is having a regular cadence of refinements and improvements. Plasma is by far the most flexible, memory and resource respectful desktop environment available on any platform. Sure there are some desktops that use less memory but none that additionally have this fantastic level of customization.

I appreciate Plasma because I know that every new release is going to be an improvement. Each release has further refinements, more features or enhancements to existing features to make the desktop experience even better. It’s nice to see that new releases aren’t met with criticism or complaints of loss of features. Instead, they are happily greeted by users and and the biggest complaint anyone can make is that they don’t like the defaults. The fantastic reality is, KDE Plasma can be shaped and molded to whatever you want.

References

KDE Plasma

Plasma 5.16.0 announcement

Plasma 5.15.5-5.16.0 Change Log

openSUSE Tumbleweed

KDE Plasma Microphone Icon Interaction on YouTube by Eric Adams

 

 

Makulu Linux 15 | Review from an openSUSE User

MakuluLinux review title

The latest in the BigDaddyLinux Community challenge is Makulu Linux. This distribution is very different from anything else I have used. It does use XFCE as the desktop but it is very customized. It some ways, it reminds me of Pantheon but without the top bar and less Mac OS-like.

Makulu Linux seems to have a lot going for it. Without having to fiddle around with the system, you can install from a large array of software from the Debian repositories, Flatpak and Snaps. As I used it, it is rather apparent that their target audience is not me and that is perfectly fine as this is my rather biased review as an openSUSE user.

Installation

As is common with a lot of distributions, Makulu boots to a live media session of the operating system. It’s a good way to “dip your toes” and see if your hardware is going to work well enough with the distribution.

MakuluLinux-01-ISO boot

While the system is booting up, I did notice, as the torrent of text is flying by the screen, a change in font. I think I’ve seen such a thing before, it just happened to catch my attention this time.

You are initially prompted to select your theme which is a first and quite appreciated. It only changes the window decoration style and color but still, very welcome. More on that later.

After I selected to install the operating system, I was prompted to select the kind of installation as well as a a few other options. I didn’t explore much here but one item on the list seemed just a bit out of place: Set Your Download Server Location (recommended). Everything else selected the type of install and it may have made more sense to put that option on another page of the setup. Also note, I didn’t actually do that. It only said “recommended” so…

I selected the Home Environment. I don’t have a slow internet connection so there was no concern in that area. Unfortunately, I was stuck for quite some time on the Home Environment Notice window. There weren’t any buttons to press so I waited… a long time. I had other things to do while setting up the install and since I like to multiplex my time I did so and let the system just sit. I was told to be patient so I decided to be patient.

After a while, I just gave up and closed the screen where the installer started. I felt a little stupid but I think for users that do actually read these dialogs, it would nice to either have a Next button or some sort of instruction to close that window.

Makulu Linux defaults to British English as opposed to American English. I would agree that British English is quite possibly more proper than American English but I still went with my native English version.

In a very familiar presentation, you are asked to set your Location and Keyboard. Just as a note, this is the first Distro where I had to set it to my timezone. Not a big deal as it was easy to do–point and click.

I selected to use the entire disk and have a Swap space with Hibernate. Not that I was going to use the feature, I just wanted to select it as it is also the first time I’ve seen that as an option. Usually, I calculate that in my head so bravo development team on that.

The User input is what you would expect. Nothing difficult here. It’s very nicely straight forward for pretty much anyone.

After you are given a very nice summary of changes. The installation will commence. There wasn’t a details option that I could nerd-out watching so I watched the obligatory distribution commercial slideshow instead.

After the installation was completed, I selected to reboot but it got hung up on the process of doing so. That could be as a result of how I set up Qemu. Let’s blame that one on me. Ultimately, I had to force the Virtual Machine off and start it again.

First Run

I really enjoyed the bootsplash screen of Makulu. It has a neat spinning effect and I would have included a screenshot of it but I just didn’t like how it turned out. You’ll just have to install it yourself to earn that smile.

Upon the first login, you are given a quick introduction to MakuluLinux and you will once again select your window boarder style and color. The first time was just a practice run, it seems.

In my time of clicking around and exploring, I was presented with these Web applets. Similar to what I experience on PeppermintOS except instead of being in the menu like a typical application, this is like a quick access toolbar on the top of the screen. It was nice and all until I opened up the browser, which happened to be Opera.

I of course had to visit one of my favorite web sites, certainly not my favorite but just a bit self-serving. After messing with the Web Applet bar for a while, seeing how you can easily set up other quick links, as it were, I ultimately turned it off because of how it covered up much of the screen.

The application menu on MakuluLinux is activated with a Right-Click on the mouse and a middle-click activates the Workspace selection. A nice feature of Makulu is the ability to dynamically add another virtual desktop.

I wanted to see if Makulu was using SystemD or not and it is so that is another plus. I started installing software to see how that experience went and that was also quite a seemless experience. You are given a few options on how you want to install software, which is fine, I guess, but I think I would stick with just the Synaptic Software Manager or Gnome Software. Personal preference would be Synaptic because I think that is just a better system over all but obviously less user friendly than Gnome Software.

The only real “issue” I ran into with Makulu was the this error I would get when the screen blanked out.

MakuluLinux-22-Screensaver error

I don’t have anything Nvidia on this computer so I am not sure where this came from. Not a big deal, really, I am sure I could have tracked down the problem and at least made it not show up if I took the time.

Overall, MakuluLinux is a fine piece of engineering and I enjoyed the short time I worked with it.

What I Like

The desktop does look polished, not exactly the polish I like but does look very nice. It appears that it was well thought out and once I got used to the work flow, I could navigate my way around just fine.

The desktop appears to be snappy and the slight translucency of the boarder looks good. The desktop Conky is also a great edition to the background and the date format was also correct putting the date in the order day, month, year and using the 24 hour clock by default.

Snap and Flatpak applications install and work out of the box without having to fiddle with anything which is much appreciated. I do prefer pulling software right from the repositories but the option to use one of the universal packages is fantastic.

I liked this subdued right-side bar that is much like a system tray stacked on its head. It looked good and was very “modern” looking.

A booted and settled system with 4 GiB of RAM it used less than 600 MiB of RAM, which was great.

What I Don’t Like

There isn’t a virtual desktop pager on the bottom bar or on the side. Call me old fashioned but I prefer that over the middle-click interaction. I like seeing, just by a glance what desktop I am on and where my windows are cluttered.

There isn’t really a task manager, exactly. I could see all the applications by a middle click and on what virtual desktop they lived but this is not my preferred method.

The web Applets crowd the top of the desktop. I like the idea of web applets but this wasn’t my favorite way to execute it. Because it was distractingly at the top, I just shut them off which is unfortunate because I could see me using such a feature if it was perhaps in a pop up menu from a panel of some kind, much like I use on Plasma.

When trying to resize windows, it was challenging to grab the corners to resize the window. Maybe there is a better MakuluLinux way of dynamically changing the window sizes but it was evident to me.

When I thought I started the installation process, I didn’t get any active feedback or any kind of instruction to close the a window to get it started. I ended up sitting there for about 2 hours before “giving up” I closed the window to get the installer going. Some sort of instruction to close that window or a Next button would be good for numpties like myself.

Final Thoughts

MakuluLinux is a fine distribution of Linux that looks good, has a lot of unique features but also clearly not targeted towards me. I much prefer the work flow that is provided by KDE Plasma but I can see where the workflow here works for many. The desktop looks great, I don’t fully understand the gestures but it is something I could get used to if I took the time.

If you are jumping around Linux distributions I highly recommend you give this one a spin. The work flow and the unique features may be right for you. It looks good and feels real crisp. It’s just not the Linux distribution for me.

Further Reading

https://www.makululinux.com/wp/core/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

PeppermintOS | Review from an openSUSE User

KDE Popup Launcher can replace Google Chrome App Launcher

NeptuneOS | Review from an openSUSE User

I am not a “distro hopper” but it is good to experience some of the other Linux distributions out there. It gives you a good understanding of what you like and what you like less and keeps things colorful. This time it is NeptuneOS, a Debian based distro. Most of my Debian experience as of late has been with the Ubuntu and its variants. As far as I am concerned. Linux really is Linux and they are all, for the most part, good.

Installation

I am doing all my evaluations in a Virtual Machine. I am using my current favorite, for such things, VirtualBox. When I downloaded the ISO, I took quick attention to the system requirements for how very specific they are. I wanted to try them at their minimum.

1 Ghz Intel/AMD 64Bit CPU, 1.6 GB RAM, 8 GB HDD

I didn’t scale the CPU but I did set the RAM to down to 1.8 GB because I do have a machine like that and the HDD just a bit bigger to be realistic to what I would get form an older netbook or current, cheap, laptop in a dual boot scenario.

For starters, I must say, I am a bit confused as to why there isn’t a direct install option, that you have to use it as a “Live CD” to start. I am not sure why Live CDs are really a thing anymore. If I am going to try a Linux Distribution, you can’t get the full benefit out of it in a kind of Read Only environment, would rather just install directly.

When the Live CD version boots up, you are greeted with a fine looking desktop. Very pleasant and simple. A great way to start.

I am not going to be too critical of the choice for a Live CD being the only option but it does seem like a bit of a waste of time to have to go that route, just to install.

Installation

The installation process was straight forward. With only six steps required to get the install going, seven if you count the confirmation to perform the install and eight if you count rebooting as part of the install.

The first two steps are pretty easy… what language do you speak and about where do you live. If only most questions life were this simple…

The keyboard selector is the best I have ever seen. Although I do not have a Dvorak keyboard, nor have I ever seen one in the wild, it was great to not only see this as an option but to see that the keyboard layout is what you are expecting. Very nice!

This really inspires me to want to get a Dvorak keyboard. The practicality is still in question as I don’t need one and it would likely just be a novelty.

I left the default partitioning scheme in place. This is not going to be a regular machine else I would have set a separate /home partition. I like for those home things to be separate should I have a desire to “nuke and pave” my system (clean install). The user set up was also nice and clean although, I like to be able to specify my own user ID.

My only criticism to the installation process is that it is just a series of commercials, I suppose that is fine but I like to watch and see what is actually happening, such as packages being installed and the like.

Step Eight, reboot. Interesting that it would be a check mark option.

First Run

Upon reboot, I happen to like this Grub screen; Big Chunky Red Bar to boot Neptune OS. It boot rather quickly, especially since this is happening in a VM. Time to boot is not something I would score real heavy on unless it is painfully slow like pre-systemD era Linux.

There is something about a fresh smelling, clean, un-customized desktop in KDE Plasma. It is like a sand box waiting for your own personal creation to take form.

I am going to give NeptuneOS points on their default menu selection. It is not my personal preference but for a new user, this is a great, comfortable menu that is clear and gives you some great starting points. Well done!

Personally, I prefer the “Application Menu” Alternative but that is the simply awesome thing about KDE Plasma, if you don’t like the default or have a different preference, there is an option for you.

For a light theme, I think the default desktop theme is pretty great. It looks clean and simple and I do like the shadowing effect. The NeptuneOS dark theme is also very nicely done. So theming wise, this is a great distro out of the box. No reason to hunt for a new theme.

Discover is basically what you would expect on a KDE Plasma Desktop. I must say, I am not used to the light theme for this application and I maybe like it better than the dark theme.

I am not really sure why you have to enter your password for updates but again, not a big deal. Maybe you don’t want an unprivileged user to be able to perform updates.

Plasma Vault

I may have been living under a rock but I haven’t seen this application before. I haven’t taken the time to research it at all but wanted to see how intuitive it would be to use knowing nothing about it.

The one thing I don’t really understand is why they would include Encfs as an encryption system by default if it is knowingly less secure and easily compromised. I can see having it available for legacy reason but installed by default seems just a bit silly.

After choosing your encryption system, you are prompted for your password to which it tells you how “secure” it is, a location for the vault, the mount point, and finally the type of cipher you wish to use. I chose the “default”.

Another nice feature was the option to limit the vault to specific activities. Plasma will close that vault if you goo to an activity to which it is not permitted.

To try it out, I created a text file in the vault to experience the process of interacting with mounting and un-mounting vaults.

When mounted, the vault acts like any other directory on the file tree. When you un-mount the vault, the contents of that vault disappears in much the same way you would expect from un-mounting a drive.

When mounting the drive, you are prompted for your password and the vault auto-magically becomes available once again.

On a side note I liked this so much, and to shoe-horn in my preferred distribution in this review, I installed it in openSUSE to play with it some more.

sudo zypper install plasma-vault plasma-vault-backend-cryfs plasma-vault-lang

What I Like

The general feel of NeptuneOS is great, from the Installation process to the menu selection and default theme selections, it was all quite fantastic. If I had to use NeptuneOS as a daily driver, I would be quite comfortable here. NeptuneOS is based on Debian 9.0 (Stretch), I could probably add a PPA or download the tarball or some other deb package of Telegram to get going with it. The same goes for Discord or any other application I regularly use. I am already familiar with the Debian way of doing things so living in the terminal here is not much different elsewhere.

NeptuneOS-31-Smart Card InstallationI used my directions for installing the Smart Card system for Ubuntu and derivatives and it all worked just as expected. I was a bit surprised that they worked. I did have to set it up for Chromium, which worked just fine. This tells me I need to make some adjustments to my page to spell out what I have tested. Something to think about…

The system requirements specified on the Download page are accurate. They are not just theoretical. For everything I tested, it all just worked.

What I Don’t Like

Telegram, Discord and Firefox was not available in the repository. Iceweasel was available, which I know is a re-branded Firefox but to a new-ish user that doesn’t know what Iceweasel is, that could be confusing. I am sure I could find Telegram and Discord but I wasn’t particularly inspired to do so.

I haven’t tested memory usage between Chromium and Firefox but based on my Chrome experiences, it seems like Firefox might be a better solution to meet that low system memory requirement or better yet, have Falkon available even though that is not a full featured browser.

It doesn’t have Zypper, the openSUSE package manager… but I wasn’t expecting that. I just happen to prefer it over Apt*.

Final Thoughts

NeptuneOS is a very clean KDE Plasma distribution. It looks good out of the box and since it is based on Debian 9.0, it has potential to have quite the extensive software library available to it. The experience is clean and well thought out with sensible defaults. Not all the defaults are my preference but that can be fairly easily adjusted to suit my needs. There are some applications that are not available by default which can be a bit frustrating but there are not many distributions that have everything you want upon install.

Over all, NeptuneOS is a winner, from an openSUSE user’s perspective.

Further Reading

NeptuneOS Home Page

VirtualBox.org

DoD CAC Reader | Ubuntu, Derivatives and Linux Mint

3 Ways to Install Telegram Messenger on Debian 9 Stretch

Other Distributions