Blatherings

Listing of my current and past projects, reviews, tips and other incoherent blatherings.


Dell Latitude E6440 mSATA Upgrade

posted Mar 18, 2018, 3:03 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Mar 18, 2018, 3:08 PM ]

When I purchased my Dell Latitude E6440
, almost a year ago, I planned on doing some upgrades to it, post-purchase, no real timetable on when to do the upgrades, just eventually. My first real upgrade was maxing out the RAM to 16GB. My next purchase was to take advantage of this mSATA slot in this computer and move my root and swap partitions to it.

The computer came with a 512 GB SSHD. Some people have mixed opinions of the SSHD, I haven't had any issues with them and do appreciate the increase in speed from the traditional "spinning rust" only drive. I wasn't sure if there would be any special configurations required in running an SSD verses a regular hard drive and from what I could find as well as talking to some folks on IRC and Telegram, there wasn't anything I really had to do.

I found on Amazon.com a 128GB mSATA SSD by MyDigitalSSD for $50.00 and thought this was a great deal and a great way to dip my toes in using SSDs for the first time. The specifications seemed in line with what I should look for and it was a bit more space than I have ever had for a root partition. I was pretty excited to give this a try.

Installing the Hardware

Installing the drive was really very easy. One of the features I appreciate most about Dell Latitude machines is how easy they are to work on, upgrade and repair. They are built well and serviceable but you do pay a bit more for them.

The E6440 has a 14" chassis and has a slot for an mSATA drive as well as the more common 2.5" SATA drive. There is also a removable optical drive (not common on a laptop of this size anymore) where I can pop in another SATA drive.

In order to add the mSATA drive, I removed the bottom panel, which is retained with 3 screws, that easily pops off. There is another cover, in the upper left-side (as looking from the bottom of the machine) that is retained by 2 more screws. Removing that reveals a spot for a WWAN card as well as uncovers the location of the mSATA slot. Insertion of the mSATA card is identical to that of any wifi cards, insert at angle and push down then retained with one screw. There was a bit of work to get the antenna wires in such a position that it would not cause issue with reassembly.

Reassembly was just as effortless as disassembly with the exception of taking care to ensure that none of the wiring was shifted or out of the routing channels that they belong.

I hopped into the BIOS to see that the storage device was recognized and also re-enabled the UEFI to see how openSUSE Tumbleweed dealt with that. The good news is, openSUSE works with UEFI just as well as the legacy boot system so they have [thankfully] taken the "fun" out of that hurdle as well.

Installation

Like any openSUSE installation, there was no real effort required. I did take the time to ensure that I partitioned the drive as I wanted: EFI - 250MB, Swap - 18 GB (which I realize I may not even use), and the / (root) partition of what was left which ends up being about 101 GB of usable space. I mounted my existing /home partition appropriately. My "excuse" for leaving a large swap space is based out of a recommendation I have seen about leaving a 10% chunk of an SSD unused to extend the life of an SSD ensuring better "wear leveling" of the cells. I figured, I will not likely use my Swap partition so that is my "unpartitioned" space. I have also read contrary information that states manufacturers take this into account and have extra provisions to ensure more optimal wear leveling and it is a total waste to leave anything unpartitioned.

The only issue I really had was some confusion about what was needed to get the EFI partition to be recognized by the installer. For those manually setting up their partitions you have to ensure you format it as FAT and mount it under: /boot/efi

Experience

Boot time is MUCH quicker than with the traditional spinning drive. Also, upgrades happen a lot quicker too. I am amazed by how fast each package installs now. I must say, that my weekly sudo zypper dup is a fun day, just watching it happen so quickly makes me grin ear to ear.

I tested a few applications, before and after and below are some of my raw numbers, note that I did this with a stop watch on a smart phone so there is some human error involved. Also note, the fact that I am going from an SSHD to an SSD some of those programs might have been cached in the SSD portion of the drive. I loaded the applications after a cold boot to ensure that nothing was cached and didn't start any of the programs until after the system settled.

  SSHD    SSD
 FreeCAD8.6 sec
4.2 sec
 LibreOffice11.7 sec
2.8 sec
 Firefox1.5 sec1.2 sec

I now have 56 more GiB of storage available to work with on my SSHD for whatever. Though, I think that will be short lived as I intend on upgrading the SSHD to an SSD of larger size, I'm not in any hurry, so eventually.

Final Thoughts

My Dell Latitude E6440 is much more peppy now that I have this fresh, shiny new mSATA drive tucked in the corner of it's bowels. After running this machine for several weeks with this new configuration, it only further underscores the benefits of having an SSD for my /home partition as well. Unfortunately, SSDs are still quite pricey but I can certainly see the benefits.

I don't notice any benefit of the EFI secure boot vs Legacy booting or resuming from either suspend to disk or suspend to RAM. I have read that there are efficiency improvements but it may be outside of my ability to notice.

Since the E6440 is the last of the 14" chassis laptops that are so expandable and flexible, I plan to keep this machine going as long as feasible. I am not ready to give up that E-series dock system of which I have a battery slice and E-Legacy Extender. It is the best machine I have ever used and I am probably the biggest, if not only, fan of it.

External Links



KDE Plasma 5.12 on openSUSE Tumbleweed

posted Mar 10, 2018, 5:24 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Mar 10, 2018, 5:25 PM ]

I have come to the conclusion that if you are running KDE Plasma and you don't have a great experience with it, you are somehow doing it wrong. Version 5.12 has been a great on openSUSE Tumbleweed and it is a challenge to not excitedly recommend Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma to anyone and everyone. It's fun playing with the new shiny while not having concerns over system stability of other rolling distributions.

Admittedly, the changes between 5.11 and 5.12 are not blatantly obvious and I think that is a wonderful thing. There are no surprises, just a number of new, small, but super useful improvements to the system.

Installation Process

Since I am running openSUSE Tumbleweed this part is really rather dull and uninteresting as openSUSE just doesn't seem to have problems with updates, thanks to openQA and all the fine engineers that work on it. Should there be an issue with an update, it is just as easy to roll back upgrade and wait a bit longer for issues to be worked out.

There was one hiccup in upgrading but it had nothing to do with the KDE Plasma upgrade, rather, it was the Mesa drivers. There were some "bad cache" files left behind by SDDM that caused either the login screen to fail to completely load or the user session to completely load. Thankfully, this was an easy fix by clearing out those problem files:

rm -Rvf /var/lib/sddm/.cache/
rm -Rvf ~/.cache/


Outside of that, it was a very uneventful upgrade.

My experience running it

I am incredibly biased in favor of KDE Plasma so I do have some rose tinted glasses here but here is the order from least exciting to most exciting changes for me with version 5.12.

Media controls are accessible from the lock screen. It's handy to be able to start or stop whatever is playing but it has to be something that is "plugged into" the Media Player applet. I don't see a way to configure it but I do know that Amarok, VLC and Dragon Player "talk" to it. I don't seem to play media like I once did but regardless, this is a super handy feature and I am glad it is there.

Access to volume control from the lock screen. I have used this more than once, allowing something play too loud on my machine, the screen locks, someone walks up to you to talk and now I can lower the volume quickly or even just mute the audio. This works regardless of the media source.

The ability to mute an application by right-clicking on the task bar application, much like muting tabs in a browser. This is a fantastic feature I never knew I wanted! The KDE team is absolutely not allowed to depricate it, ever! It is a feature I use regularly when I just want to kill the audio from an application.

The 30% speed improvement is genuinely perceivable. I can't take measurements from before to now but this speed improvement is very real. Unless if I am pushing my machine, running multiple VMs, my machine just doesn't lag or bog down. KDE Plasma has this raw, yet solid feel to it. From the time I stopped using my Amiga 4000T as my daily driver, I had always thought that everything I had used since had a persistent delay, albeit slight and easily dismissed. Specifically, opening a file manager, application menu and restoring something from the task bar, there was this ever so slight hesitation. I don't see that hesitation anymore. It is as though the bridle has come off of my horse!

My top three wish list items

First, I would like the granular control over the Desktop Theme as you once had in Plasma 4. I could mix and match themes to my content. That is no longer available. I am guessing because KDE Plasma has often taken a bit of criticism by being to complicated, the feature was never reintegrated after the switch to version 5.

Second, the Numeric, Currency and Time Formats are not as straight forward as they once were. I would prefer to define my settings, not with regional descriptors entries but with defined drop downs and string entries of KDE 3 and KDE 4. I knew exactly how the information was going to be displayed.

Third, I do wish there was more emphasis on ensuring dark themes work well on all applications. I can't pin this on anyone else as this is something I want and I have the freedom to get involved in any project that I want to tweak so this is a small issue.

Final Thoughts

KDE Plasma is pretty awesome. All the features, the customization options and efficiency makes it my primary desktop of choice. If you can't make KDE Plasma work for you, you are clearly doing it wrong. This is not as to dismiss or undervalue any of the other desktop environment options available. I believe it is the multitude of choice that forces all the desktops to be better. Just because KDE Plasma is great, doesn't mean the other desktop environments are not, they can all be great.

Documentation for Nextcloud on openSUSE

posted Mar 8, 2018, 9:33 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Mar 9, 2018, 9:47 AM ]

I get some kind of  strange satisfaction out of updating documentation for openSUSE. I find that the more I use openSUSE, the more I go through and update the documentation for the applications I am using. I don't have any real development skills and I want to give back to the openSUSE project so I have decided to do what I can do... document!!! 

I had some downtime while listening to the Ask Noah Show he brought up the work required in updating a Nextcloud server for a clients I and decided that I would go through and see how the documentation was for running Nextcloud on openSUSE. It needed some updates

I started at the SDB:Nextcloud site and observed it had fallen a bit behind but much of the information was still correct but could use a little clarification for those of us that are not as experienced as the rest of us. This led me to updating the LAMP_setup directions as well to reflect current Leap and Tumbleweed distributions. This also gave me an opportunity to add the new Firewalld configuration instructions to the Apache2 portion of the LAMP_setup. I was then able to have some fun in the terminal ensuring that the commands worked as specified.

I only completed the setup for using the unencrypted http and ran out of time to do the setup for use with https. I have set it up previously but I want to ensure that the directions are well tested before I spit them on an official openSUSE wiki.

This was completed using VMs on a Dell Latitude E6440 laptop with openSUSE Tumbleweed as the host OS. I must say, Dell makes a great laptop keyboard and I am not going back to anything non-backlit.

Cream Cheese Frosting on Gnome Recipes

posted Feb 12, 2018, 2:13 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Feb 12, 2018, 5:53 PM ]

More important than the argument of KDE vs Gnome or Qt vs GTK is the kind of frosting you are using on your cakes. I'm completely serious about this; frosting needs to be delicious and any thought about fat content or calories is not part of the argument. Cake, cupcakes and the like are never everyday food so when you do have it, make it delicious and don't use artificial garbage.

I have continued to use Gnome Recipes as my "system of record" to organize my recipes. I have continued a few recipes, the most important one is this cream cheese frosting recipe.  I truly have not had a better frosting that goes better with cake, cookies, brownies... even ice cream.

This recipe is even a great base for different directions of flavor. It tastes just as good with adding chocolate chunks, chips or syrup. Turn it into chocolate frosting... although, that can be admittedly a bit rich. This will go great with an angel food with sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Very versatile.

I still haven't found a work around on the units, perhaps using metric only would work better but it is not even properly calculating to other units. It is really the only one issue this program has.

Navigate here for my initial experience with Gnome Recipes on openSUSE Tumblweed, including installation and usability.

Synchronizing Between Machines

Having the database of recipes on one machine is not very useful on so many levels. Firstly, redundancy is [a] key in data preservation. Secondly, the freedom to add recipes from a different machine than what I am using in the kitchen. Flexibility is very important and maybe someday I will have a 2nd kitchen (not likely) or a more appropriate unit for the kitchen (more likely).

My solution is to use Syncthing as for this purpose it fits my needs the best, as I am already running Syncthing on my machines. You can see more on how to set it up here or here.

Gnome Recipes stores its files under a hidden folder in your home directory, it's full path:

~/.local/share/gnome-recipes

Within the Syncthing-GTK program, you can add this folder as one of your shared folders and add the computer with which you want to share it. Unfortunately when using Syncthing-GTK it uses the default Gnome (GTK) file dialog box and not the KDE Plasma version so you can't navigate to the hidden folder on either machine. You will have to manually type it in or copy and paste the location from a file manger, like Dolphin, or a terminal application. This irritation gives me pause to think, I should probably look at the Qt version of Syncthing to see how that one has developed in the last year.

After setting this up, I am now able to keep synchronized my main machine with my "electronic recipe book" machine, also running openSUSE Tumblweed. The only area of consideration is to be certain is that I only have one machine modify the recipe database at a time.

To Make it Even More Awesome

Gnome Recipes is already awesome but there is always room for improvements. The first and most important fix for me would be the unit of measure bug so that it works as a user, like myself, would expect. Whatever unit of measure I choose, that should be the unit of measure it displays. Secondly, the ability to customize the categories to something a bit more useful such as by season or meal type or grouping of my choosing. Lastly, and the most unlikely would be to use the KDE Plasma file dialog instead of the GTK version. The GTK version is frustratingly limited by forcing me to use a "breadcrumb" and "breadcrumb" only style file path instead of the ability to type in where I want to go. KDE Plasma allows you to click on the breadcrumb area to switch it over and allow you to type in your path.

Those would be my top three fixes to enhance the awesomeness.

Final Thoughts

There is a sense of satisfaction I get punching my recipes into Gnome Recipes as it is another area that is now better organized. It's still holding up as a great little program and scratches that culinary itch. I hope that this program continues to be developed and enhanced. Assuming that no features are taken away in the future, this will certainly develop in to a spectacular program.

External Links

Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting Gnome-Recipe Export

Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting PDF

Armor My Mobile Phone Against Accidents

posted Feb 8, 2018, 4:14 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 6:20 PM ]


It is unfortunate to have clumsy tendencies and it is even more unfortunate when you don't have the adequate armor on your phone to guard you against your own misgivings.

I have an unconventional setup for my phone, it is a Samsung Galaxy S5 with an extended battery case. There are no rugged cases available, at all, I've looked. The case provided to protect the phone is a thin, high durometer, rubber case that fits sung over the phone. Unfortunately, it was not adequate for my usage and I broke my phone's screen. Realizing this is an older phone to buy the same as a replacement was still $160 on eBay, which can admittedly be a dodgy affair, especially with a phone of this age, so I chose to have it fixed by a local shop for $120. As a result, I need to keep this phone for 12 more months before I upgrade, just my personal rule.

The extended battery case for my Galaxy S5 is already rather thick, as far as phones go. The extended battery provides enough power last all day without needing to recharge it and I am not willing to give up that capability. Since I am a mechanical designer for an appliance manufacturer, with much experience, I set out to design my own case to meet my needs.

First Case

Understanding the cause of my screen breakage, falling on it's face, I wanted to create a larger standoff for the face of the screen and provide a lot of impact resistance for the sides of the case as well. After all, I am designing this against my own shortcomings.

Used a caliper and small scale to measure the phone as there were no 3D models in existence I could reference. There are many, many, many cases available on thingiverse.com for a standard Galaxy S5 but not one I could find for the larger battery.

Since I will be 3D printing this using PLA (Polylactic acid) and it is arguably not as durable as ABS, especially when 3D printed, decided that I wanted to make it a bit thicker. Here are the specifications I went with for my first design:
  • 3mm stand off on the face
  • 5mm thick sides and bottom of case
  • Remove the "rubber glove" from the phone to slide it in.
  • Holes to access volume, power, headphone, IR and charging port.
Since the intent of this print was to test the fit, I printed it with a low infill density and of lesser quality. I wanted this print fairly quickly.

I broke the case trying to fit it but it gave me the needed data to take the measurements and make the needed changes.

I also noticed that my interface between the 2 halves was not robust enough and I needed more travel of the snap feature. Since I designed many snap features in the past, I should have known better than to have such a short snap as it was far too stiff and ultimately ended up breaking the case interface.

Second Case

For the second case I needed to make the following changes:
  • Increase height of phone cavity
  • Tweak drafts to ensure a better print
  • More robust interface feature
  • Longer travel on the snap feature
  • Sound tunnel to direct the sound to the bottom of the case instead of the back
  • adjusted the holes for the volume control
  • Widen the hole for the USB connector
After making the changes this case printed much better. It snapped together much better, didn't split when pushed together but there was a new problem. It fit so well I could not take it apart as intended. The latch was still too stiff. The print looked good and fitting each half over the phone was tight but fit perfect. I was not brave enough to snap it together with the phone inside as I was afraid I would have to do major surgery to remove it.

Third Case

After some thought about how I use my phone, I had a strategy change for my phone case. I re-evaluated my criteria for this case and determined I want something that is easy to "jettison" to facilitate setting the phone on a wireless charger. I decided to change the design from a slide in and snap to a case that I can just "snap" the phone into.

This wasn't a major change as the way I designed the case to begin with was a base model that I broke into two two parametrically-dependent separate models. I took the base design, added more phone cavity space for the rubber outer and changed the cuts to reflect a design that would allow for the phone to snap into.

After printing, there was a lot of work required to just get my phone to fit. The middle side grip features of the phone had to be shaved down to allow for easier insertion and removal of the phone. The charge port needed to be widened in order to accept the micro-USB cable which was easy work with the correct tools.

This was the first case I able to use and make observations to determine what I liked and did not like about using it. The case was excessively thick and bulky and required some slimming. I wanted to reduce some of it by creating a more consistent wall thickness. Snapping on and off took annoyingly a bit too much effort. I like that it is held on well but I don't want it held on so well that removing it is a chore.

As I used the phone, I made my list to prepare for my next iteration.

Fourth Case

Made these changes:

  • Modified middle clips on the phone to have a less aggressive retention interface.
  • Other fit improvement modifications for a better fit.
  • Made changes so the phone would be less "chunky" and have a more consistent wall thickness all around.
While cleaning up the print, I dropped and broke one of the top retention clips. I was still able to make observations on the fit and make other improvements.

Fifth and Final Case

This case is a good fit, no excessive gaps between the phone and the case and a snug fit. I have been using for several weeks now and I am mostly happy with it.


I thickened the case a bit where it was needed to improve the print quality, used more supports for the print. The features I appreciate most about this case:
  • Changed opening for the charging port from a hole to a "U" shape so that the USB charger can stay attached when removing and allow for easier use of the "home" button on the phone.
  • Able to easily remove the case but does not fall off accidentally.
  • Has [field] tested tough enough after several [accidental] drops.
  • I added a pocket on the back to hold some cards so it also doubles as a wallet.

Final Thoughts

Over all, quite happy with it. It is a bit think and clunky but it is doing what I need it to do. It has sustained several drops and is holding up to my unintentional abuse. I find that when I am at work or at home, I will often remove the case to fit the [yet] bulky phone in my pocket if I want to keep it with me. Tho, I am not a fan of using the mobile phone very much, I tend to leave the phone plugged in when in work mode and interact with it using KDE Connect from either of my openSUSE machines as to minimize the usage of it.

Should you like to see the design, to emulate it, evaluate it, poo-poo on it, the STL and STEP files can be downloaded here or here. Perhaps it just might even help you out and if not, that's okay too.

External Links



Gnome Recipes on openSUSE Tumbleweed

posted Jan 25, 2018, 7:03 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Jan 25, 2018, 7:07 PM ]

Anytime I can combine my geek hobbies, I consider that a life victory. Baking is one such hobby of mine I enjoy very much, especially around the holidays, although, I do find excuses to exercise my need to express my lack-luster culinary arts throughout the year. Over time, I have collected many recipes, of which are in a variety of formats: books, PDFs, written as a Tiddler on my TiddlyWiki Non-Linear Notebook or a myriad of index cards and uniformed-shaped papers and cards. I need a way to better organize all of this data to reduce the likelihood of me LOSING information.

What I really want is something that not only manages a local database but can also connect to external databases on the Internet for viewing additional recipes. Per several recommendations, I have decided to give "Gnome Recipes" a try.

Upon using it, I say it is pretty great... mostly.

Installation

Gnome Recipes is available in the Official openSUSE Repository for Tumbleweed.


You can also choose the command line method as well:
sudo zypper in gnome-recipes

I am sure it is available for most other distributions. If not, it is available as a Flatpak here on Flathub.

Initial Impressions

Although it is a GTK app, it looks pretty decent in KDE, even under a dark theme. The window decorations are not to my KDE-liking but that is not a huge issue for me. I am not a fan of how they do the menu structure, but I am really not that picky. It is what the designers wanted, it is seemingly well executed so I am fine with it.

I do appreciate that they have dozens of recipes included, presumably by those involved in the project (what I've been told). It is a great template to see what the standard is for entering your recipes and demonstrate it's features.

The layout of the "home" screen of Gnome Recipes is a perfect arrangement of efficiency and friendliness. Quick access to what you need and logically laid out.  It has such a welcoming feel that just projects beams of warmth and clearly saying, "Let's make something together."

Adding my own Recipe

The interface is very clean and friendly to work with. Entering the ingredients with a new recipe was also super easy. Everything about the interface looks and feels great. The only criticism I have is that it does not preserve the unit of measure I enter. It seems to change it to a measure of Tablespoons as my largest unit of measure. It is annoying and possibly a deal breaker if I cannot figure out how to remedy this. Initial searches didn't find a solution but I haven't given up.

In order to be able to actually USE this recipe effectively, I copied the ingredients into the description box. It is a potential workaround.

Using the Recipes

Upon selecting the recipe you wish to prepare you are presented with a fantastic, easy to read layout reminiscent of the cook books of old. You see exactly what you need and you don't have to go noodling through a bunch of commentary to get to the directions or the method of making your "dish."

A delightfully unexpected feature I never knew I needed can be triggered with a button called, "Start Cooking" in the upper right hand corner of the window. After you parse through the oddly calculated ingredients, making your conversions to practical measurements, and have assembled your ingredients, you can "Start Cooking" and the program will walk you through the process, like a presentation, step by step to combine and cook or bake your desired recipe. This is a slick feature that really ads an extra level of special to this application. Assuming you or the author added the time in the directions appropriately, it will give a countdown timer when you get to that particular step.

Should you exit out of this mode, you have the option to continue with the timer. Though, I am not sure what happens to the timer as I couldn't return to it. I would suggest it is best to not exit if you intend on using this timer. Perhaps this would be best for a dedicated laptop or tablet in the kitchen that would be left alone.

Recipes you put in this application is not suck in any kind of silo; you have the ability to share it of which will send a Gnome Recipes export as well as a PDF via email. In a pinch, if you decide that you didn't like this application, you could export all your work into PDFs and just stuff them in a folder in your cloud drive of choice or print and place in a 3-ring binder.

I have not yet tested to see if I can synchronize the databases between local machines yet. If it is possible without something going wonky, that would be another win and further cement this application a permanent(ish) place.

What I wish it would do

Two Items: One, Not change my units of measure to unuseful quantities. It is terribly annoying. Two, I wish it could pull in recipes from external databases for me to look at. Something from AllRecipes.com or SimplyRecipes.com would be fantastic. Even a "central" site of user community contributed recipes would be great.

Conclusion

Outside of the automatically changing my units of measure in the ingredients list, this application is great. It looks good, feels good and basically does what I want it to do. I can store, organize and share recipes. I am not so much a fan of the over-simplified Gnome-Look as I use KDE Plasma which is more inline with how I like my interface.

Once the units of measure issue can be sorted out, I would most certainly recommend this for use in the kitchen to make food preparation just a bit more organized.

External Links

openSUSE Tumbleweed -- Truly Just a Fall Time Blathering

posted Nov 23, 2017, 2:34 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 6:05 PM ]

https://sites.google.com/site/cubiclenate/_/rsrc/1467901456103/linux-resource-page/official-logo-color.png?height=258&width=400






This page has moved, see its new location:


Tethering on KDE Plasma Desktop

posted Aug 26, 2017, 6:34 PM by Nathan Wolf

Tethering is a fairly common practice using a mobile phone data access to some other device like a laptop or tablet. It is very straight forward to on an Android phone, merely "flipping a switch" in the network settings. I'm sure it is similar on other like devices. Did you know it is possible to tether from KDE Plasma Desktop 5 to another device? It is indeed true and you have several tethering options depending on your hardware.

This feature is not unique to openSUSE but this was done on openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma version 5.10.3. This should work on any KDE Plasma 5 installation. 

Why on Earth did you need to do this?

I have, on more than one occasion, performed an install of openSUSE Linux on a computer away from home in a less-than-ideal environment. Unfortunately, there are still some hardware manufacturers that don't directly support Linux and additional 3rd party drivers need to be installed. The only case  wireless cards from Broadcom.

How I did it

Connected each computer from Ethernet port to Ethernet port.


You may see both computers start to auto-negotiate... you don't want the computer sharing the network connection to the recipient as a client. the Network Manager applet, select, configure the network connections...

Since I am sharing the wifi this computer is picking up to a wired connection, I need to configure the Ethernet to share the wireless network access through my wired Ethernet port.

On this dialog, select Wired Ethernet (Shared).
Not much more needs to be done here. I set the connection name to: Tether and restricted it to the single Ethernet port I have available on this machine.
In order to not have this connection automatically activate when I plug into a network, I deselected: Automatically connect to this network when it is available.
Nothing has to be changed under the IPv4 tab, just note that this Method is "Shared to other computers"
You have now successfully shared your network connection. Time to get that wifi driver working on the new machine! Here is a great resource for getting those pesky Broadcom drivers working

Conclusion

This is not something I have had to use very often but it is very handy to have when your options are limited. You can, of course, reverse this process and use your machine as a wireless access point for machines that don't have Ethernet ports like phones or tablets or poorly designed laptops.

There is such a sense of freedom and when you have the ability utilize the capabilities of your hardware such as this with just a few clicks. This is yet another reason why Linux is awesome and especially awesome on openSUSE with KDE Plasma Desktop. 

External Links

openSUSE.org

KDE Plasma Desktop

openSUSE Tumbleweed on Acer Aspire E15

posted Jul 10, 2017, 4:57 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Jul 11, 2017, 7:03 AM ]


From time to time, I will get a request for help with someone with their computer problems. Most of the time it is to fix a Windows issue but I don't do Windows. A coworker brought me his laptop and asked for Linux to be installed on it. He expressed his dislike for Windows 10 and all the background nonsense with advertising going on.

Normally, I would set someone up with Leap, but seeing as how I work with the guy, I thought I would see how installing Tumbleweed would go for him. I have had such a good experience with Tumbleweed, I wanted to see how it would work for a Linux newbie. I realize there was a bit of a risk putting a rolling release on a completely-new-to-Linux dude but as he is a coworker of which I know well, so troubleshooting would not be an issue and he was fine with the added complexity. If I didn't put Linux on this, the machine was going to end up in the garbage.

Specifications

AMD Quad-Core E2-6110 @ 1.50 Ghz
AMD Radeon R2 Graphics
16GB DDR3L Memory
1000 GB HDD

He upgraded the RAM from the original 4GB to improve performance for Windows 10 but he claimed it didn't improve the system.

Install Process

The fist thing I had to do was to change the boot order. In order to get into the BIOS/UEFI configuration I had to hit
F2 to enter Setup.

Changed the boot order to look to USB first. I will change this back but it is good to know that UEFI boot works no problem with openSUSE Tumbleweed. I didn't have to disable secure boot either.

After the install was complete, everything worked but the wifi adapter and the touchpad. The wifi adapter is the Broadcom BCM3142. Since I was performing the installation in a location that I didn't have Ethernet access, I had to tether the newly Linuxed machine to my Dell Latitude E6440 to access the internet.

Installing the driver was no problem. It was as simple as add the Packman repository and install the broadcom-wl driver:

sudo zypper --gpg-auto-import-keys ar -f http://ftp.gwdg.de/pub/linux/misc/packman/suse/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/ Packman
sudo zypper ref
sudo zypper in broadcom-wl

Touchpad problems

The touchpad in the machine was not recognized by KDE Plasma. There was no input at all from the touchpad. I found it really odd as this was the first time I have experience this. I was determined to get it working for my coworker as he was quite enthusiastic about this operating system upgrade.

Doing a little digging on the Internet, I discovered that the touchpad was an Elantech Touchpad but oddly didn't show up even when I ran in command line:

xinput

I was very puzzled and after about an hour of additional information it looked like this touchpad driver should have been included since Linux Kernel 3.16. I didn't verify that to be true but read it in one of the many forums I read through.

I finally decided to give up and tell my coworker that the touchpad was the only thing I could not get working. To which, he responded, "Yeah, it hasn't worked in a long time, that's why I gave you the wireless mouse."

I felt a little dumb but it was good to know the Linux install was not the problem.

Making Upgrades Easy

Since the recommended update method for openSUSE Tumbleweed is to run this command in terminal:

sudo zypper dup --no-allow-vendor-change

I thought that running this command to be a little more than what I wanted a new user to do and I wanted to insure that he actually performed the updates at least every other week. So, I wanted to make it simple. In order to ensure that the correct command is initiated for updates I set up a little Bash script with a .desktop file sitting on the desktop itself that he could just click to complete the updates. I put in a little snarky statement to remind to reboot after the upgrade is completed. Keeping it simple was my objective and I call that method a success.

Final Thoughts

If you install Linux for a friend or neighbor, ask them if there are any issues with the computer. This computer, is a little large for my taste and the keyboard not my favorite to type on but makes for a great openSUSE Linux machine. I have new questions from time to time but so far it seems to be going well. I am hoping for a great Linux experience for this new user.

External Links

openSUSE Tumbleweed Download

How do get into Bios

KDE Plasma 5 Regional Settings Format Makes Me Happy Again

posted Jun 24, 2017, 7:07 PM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Jul 2, 2017, 4:49 PM ]


Since my move from Windows to Linux, KDE has been my preferred desktop environment. I remember switching between Gnome and KDE for a while until I determined that KDE was for me (what I really wanted was Amiga Workbench). KDE's strength has always been its flexibility and ease of customization. I value options which is why I value KDE.

The transition from KDE 3.x to KDE 4.x was somewhat painful for me as for a while, many of the options that I became used to disappeared but later returned. Through the change, I never lost my ability to adjust how I wanted information displayed to me.

With KDE 5.x I was no longer able to properly customize the date format as you could in KDE 4.x and previously with KDE 3.x. I was rather frustrated. I played around with some of the configuration files but thought this was the pits. Why remove what gives KDE it's strength? Why take away entering the date format exactly how I want it for a series of drop downs that I have to search through to find what it is that I want?

I don't like the typical US format of MM/DD/YYYY I think it is all backwards and rather silly. Also, the whole AM / PM thing is dreadful as well. The 24 hour clock is far superior and eliminates confusion.
Although not an option here, I do like ISO format YYYY-MM-DD as that makes perfect sense. I use it very often when naming files to make for easy sorting using the file system but without the dashes: YYYYMMDD. 

The typical European format is less terrible with DD/MM/YYYY but I do get the 24 hour clock. The reason I find the date format undesirable is that it is too close to the backward US method of which I am more used to so at a glance, I get confused.
I have been using the European method for quite some time due to my inability to tolerate the typical US format, but now, by accident, I see that there is this "Default (C)" format available. If I select Detailed Setting and under "Time:" I select the "Default (C)" format. The time is expressed exactly how I like it. DD MMM YYYY along with the 24 hour clock. 

The best readable format that I appreciate the most is the DD MMM YYYY format. It is the clearest short format and very readable. 
My desktop date is readable again! This is very important to me in Kontact, the Personal information Management suite in KDE where I spend a lot of my time each day.

The desktop world is perfect, once again, for me.

Final Thoughts

I first became aware and addicted to the DD MMM YYYY format in 1992 when I bought my first Amiga, the A600. I thought it was such a great format and worked so well with my somewhat OCD personality. Since that time, I always write my dates in that format. I like seeing it displayed that way everywhere.

I should note that I am using openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma 5.10 and openSUSE Leap 5.8. I haven't run KDE Plasma 5 on any other distribution to know if the "Default (C)" option is available elsewhere.
 
Though, I would prefer manually entering the formats in KDE Plasma, like was once available but I understand their focus on making things "simple." I don't think going through a giant menu of options is the simplest method but at least I have my option to have it the way I want it.

External Links


 

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