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.

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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