Webcamoid | The Best Webcam App For The Linux Desktop

I wrote an article for Front Page Linux about the wonders of the best webcam application for use on Desktop Linux. Rather than publish it here where a dozen or so people will skip through the front door, I decided to put in someplace that receives a fantastic stream of traffic. This is a great application of which people need to be aware. Front Page Linux is part of the Destination Linux Network and has a ton of great articles written by a community of astonishingly talented technology enthusiasts.

Continue Reading on FrontPageLinux.com

Gaming Rack Design and Construction

I have collected a number of gaming systems throughout my life and there is little point in having them if they sit in a box or using them takes an annoying level of set-up time, making it fun prohibitive. I was then inspired by Perifractic Retro Recipes video where the computer museum has everything so nicely laid out. I looked at my mess and decided that I had to do something about it because my arrangement just isn’t presentable.

The Search

Started my search online and did not find anything that met my needs. I went to a few local stores, websites and found nothing that met my specifications. They were all made of particle board and not deep enough to house the consoles appropriately. Additionally, they all had closed backs which would have a negative effect on thermal ventilation of the various machines. I also didn’t like the price point on most of my options. I also didn’t want buyer’s remorse in any of this. To spend anything and be less than satisfied with it is not acceptable.

Design

I set out to design the Gaming Rack, initially on paper, then using Fusion 360, installed on my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine. I initially set out to have it exactly 24 inches wide on each shelf and about 12 inches between each shelf. With this width, I would be able to put all the machines designated on this custom piece of furniture.

I decided that the machines I wanted to house in this was my Linux Media computer, Original Xbox that was “modded” by YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer, Playstation 3, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Game Cube. Another machine that is on order that will occupy this shelf is a “The C64 Maxi” which is a modern release of the system. More information about it can be gained from The 8-bit Guy’s YouTube video on it.

My next step was to use a spreadsheet application, LibreOffice Calc, to create a BOM or Bill Of Material so I knew my material costs. This is where I discovered a flaw in the design and set out to change a few dimensions. Firstly, making each shelf 24 inches wide would mean that the top and bottom would have to be approximately 25-½ inches wide which means, I would either have to reduce the number of shelves or have additional waste. I also have to keep in mind the kerf of the blade or the width of cut produced by the blade. Each pass through a board will cut into dust about 1/8″ or about 3.2mm. Stain grade planks are not as cheap as construction lumber so in order to control costs, I reduced the width of the shelf by 1-½ inches which had no affect on usability. I also updated the CAD accordingly as that was going to be my source of truth for the construction. I also updated my bill of material accordingly.

I thought about how I wanted to use this Gaming Rack. I made it my intention to be able to easily switch between each of the game systems. I decided that the best way forward was to use HDMI switching which also meant I had to get some adapters to output HDMI for the GameCube and Nintendo 64. I found these online and ordered them.  Next I had to determine how I was going to wire this all up. The easy one was the Linux Box as I could take advantage of the SVGA input as it has been that way, the Xbox will get an “AV Input” and the rest will be on HDMI which means I needed a 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box.

I also wanted to have an auxiliary monitor so that I would have the option of utilizing two different machines at once. This can be done by getting 1-in/2-out HDMI splitters and having a 2nd 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box. What could go wrong?

Construction

I purchased the materials and got right to work. I set up my laptop, using Fusion 360 to be my source of design truth. I would create a drawing from the model but the unfortunate reality to using Fusion 360 on Linux is the inability to use the drawing module, at this time. Hopefully, one day, it will be fixed.

After cutting the planks I realized I had enough wood for an extra shelf and decided to revise the design, originally I anticipated that I would mess up and needed the “insurance policy” of extra wood. This prompted me to rework the design by adding one more shelf. Instead of all shelves being fixed, I then decided to leave one fixed near the center and make the rest adjustable by drilling blind holes, using shelf support pegs for 5 out of the 7 shelves (the bottom shelf is still a shelf).

Adjusted the lower three levels to be smaller but large enough to easily accommodate DVD sized cases so games can be stored. The bottom shelf was made to be large enough to easily house the tablets, phones and mobile gaming devices.

Laid out and drilled the blind holes in the 72″ long vertical boards to accommodate the shelf support pegs in groupings of three. Where ever the shelf was measured out, I added a set of holes above and below by 1 inch (25.4mm), to give me the option of moving a shelf up or down as needed.

I fastened together the top, bottom and middle fixed boards. Initially using finishing nails to pin the parts together and using construction screws to hold it together. All holes were pre-drilled to reduce the possibility of splitting the wood.

Once together, I test fit the assembly and placed the system on it to see if I needed to make any changes in spacing of the shelves. Discovered the bottom adjustable shelf was made with an error.

My initial thought was not to stain or polyurethane it and just put it in its place and start using it. Then I stained it thinking that I am not going to seal it. Decided, since I had the polyurethane, I would just do one coat and that’s it. After my second coat, I decided I would sand and apply a third. I let it dry for 24 hours, as the instructions recommended on the back of the can.

Employment

After moving aside the “entertainment cabinet” over by 2 feet, I placed the systems and ran the HDMI cabling, to include the 1 to 2 splitters. I used cable ties to keep things as neat I could with the level of patience I had available. The power cables were routed on the opposite side of the shelf to reduce the potential for interference with video signals. It is probably not an issue but it doesn’t hurt either.

When operating the Nintendo Switch I discovered it doesn’t seem to like having its video output split and seems to have a bit of an issue with the 5-in/1-out switch.

Still waiting on my The C64 Maxi so 4 of the 5 slots are taken and am just a bit unsure where I am going to set the system as one of the shelves is acting as a place to keep the extra USB cables and such.

Evaluation

In order to make an objective evaluation of this project, I will draw from another occupation I have and use this idea that I can evaluate this on my measures of performance, or how well I made it and measures of effectiveness, how well it actually does its job.

On the Measures of Performance, I would say I am mostly happy with it. It looks nice enough and I am glad I stained and sealed it. Does it look as nice as Perifractic’s retro museum? No, not even close. something about how his machines are presented looks far better. To evaluate my other silly furniture building, like my stand up desk, this looks much nicer and not something thrown together by a scrapper or scavenger.

To evaluate the effectiveness of this, I would say it met or exceeded expectations. It is the best setup I have seen first hand that allows for easy switching between devices. I would say, it maximizes my fun and reduces wasted time of plugging in and switching things on the TV for a little bit of entertainment.

What would I change

As far as the construction of the cabinet, I think I might have added some metal brackets to stiffen the cabinet a bit. It’s not bad but could be more ridged. Where it is positioned, it is not an issue but if it were not in a corner, it could be.

After having used this a new piece of furniture for a short while, the changes I would make would be to add another shelf, which could still be done and some sort of lighting, which also could yet be added.

I would really have liked not making the the mistake with the hole placement on the bottom adjustable shelf. It doesn’t affect my usage, it just annoys me that I made such a bone-headed mistake. I guess it makes it unique but that is a poor excuse.

Final Thoughts

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. I’m not yet sure how I am going to place The C64 Maxi when it arrives, perhaps adding one more shelf would just above the location of the Xbox would be the best location.

I have provided the CAD data and bill of material for you to use as it suits you.

I’m not going to pretend for a moment that this particular layout is universally a good design. It is 72 inches or 6 feet tall… 1830 mm tall for the rest of the world. I needed an open back design which may not be universally visually appealing.

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. It adds a little order to my chaos and gives a home to some consoles and other devices. The benefit of giving things a place does help to keep things a bit more tidy. Hopefully this inspires you to make improvements in your world.

References

Perifractic Retro Recipes YouTube Channel
The 8-Bit Guy’s YouTube Video on The C64 Maxi
8-bit Show and Tell on The C64 Maxi
Modern Vintage Gamer
https://retrogames.biz/

CubicleNate now on LBRY | Blathering

For the half dozen or so of people that might manage to care, I have decided to start synchronizing my piddly YouTube content over to LBRY. I’d say this is nothing against YouTube but actually, it is. Although I will still use and enjoy YouTube, many of their decisions have shaken my confidence in their ability to be a truly open platform, therefore, I am following the lead of many other “content creators” and also putting my stuff on LBRY.

LBRY is a decentralized video platform that uses blockchain (that cryptocurrency magic) to distribute the video content. That said, I don’t really understand or frankly care how it works, but I do wonder if some videos will eventually get lost in the ether due to this decentralized nature.

Bottom Line Up front: I am not expecting much to come from it and since most of the people I personally enjoy are on YouTube. I am starting to use LBRY a bit, from time to time, because, why not. It’s something somewhat new and shiny and I want to see some sort of competitor to rise up and challenge the top dog.

Sync from YouTube to LBRY

Not that I have much to manually copy over, but the fact that there is a process to synchronize your content over, this was the way I would start. The process is very straight forward. Once you have an account set up with LBRY, you have to “claim your channel” on it. This is done by navigating to https://lbry.com/youtube

Then, just follow the directions. You will essentially log into your Google account and like an addon, have LBRY connect with your YouTube things. The synchronization process takes a while, as in, a few days. Once the content is on LBRY, you will have to claim the channel. Truthfully, this part scares me a bit, is it possible for someone else to claim your channel? No idea. Regardless, I claimed it without any issues and now my stuff is there.

CubicleNate LBRY Channel

I did find a rather well put together video on YouTube (ironically) for this process. It was about the same for me if you would like to watch that.

What I Like

Using LBRY is not any different than YouTube, really. At least, from my very non-power user look at it. I just want to look up Linxy things or other nerdy content and I seem to be able to find some very interesting things there.

It’s another platform, I don’t have to do any additional work to mirror my content. Now, I don’t have much content but I am working on that. I also want to have more than one place to store it. YouTube, for the time being is my primary but it’s nice to have a back up.

I like that it is decentralized so that there is a bit more user freedom in this. The idea of federation of systems, seems like the future of services. Give the end user a bit more control as opposed to some unknown, faceless authority.

I like that you get LBC “rewards” for watching content. What does it really mean? Supposedly you can cash it out. Like all crypto currency, it fluctuates in value so I am not sure it is really worth that much either. There is this feature where you can “tip” creators with the funny-money as well. I kind of like that idea. Though, I don’t see any advertising so I don’t know how the funds are generated.

What I Don’t Like

The analytics aren’t quite as interesting as what you are given on YouTube. Perhaps it is by nature due to the decentralized system. I couldn’t say for sure. Either way, not as entertaining for me.

The LBRY application client just doesn’t seem to run for me. I keep getting this Daemon has exited error and I have yet to find the solution for it. I have tried the Flatpak and AppImages but I get the same result. I have searched a bit for this and I am wondering if my firewall is stopping it from working. Not the computer’s firewall I have tested it and get the same result. I am wondering if it is the main edge device / firewall. I should probably check before publishing this but that would require extra work and this is just a blatheirng.

Final Thoughts

My video content is nothing impressive, my views are very minimal and I am okay with all of that. I do it all for fun and to share. My intent is to continue to share whatever it is with as many people as are interested. Some people do not want to use YouTube, so I have made an alternative.

I don’t really know how the whole things works. I don’t know if it will last and I don’t truly understand the business model. Regardless, I will use it and see how it grows or doesn’t grow and hope the best for this platform. It could be great or just another flash in the pan.

References

LBRY Home
LBRY CubicleNate Channel
LBRY Youtube Partner Program – How to Sync a Channel

Quick Tiling in KDE Plasma on openSUSE

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

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

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

Setting Hotkeys

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

Quick Tiling of Windows around the screen

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

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

Switch Window Focus

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

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

Window to Desktop

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

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

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

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

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

Present Windows

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

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

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

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

Testing and Using

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

Exporting the Shortcuts

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

Quick video

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

Regolith Linux Review
YouTube Video of adding tiling to KDE Plasma