Header Image - FOSS adventures

Monthly Archives

5 Articles

What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15 – installation experience

A big release

On the 25th May 2018, openSUSE Leap 15 was released for download. Over the last few days I have upgraded both of my systems to this new release. Although this was a big release for openSUSE, the media attention for this release was surprisingly low. The reason why this is a big release, is that the underlying software packages are all new.

openSUSE Leap 42 has a shared core with SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 (SLE 12). For instance Leap 42.2 shares a lot of software packages with Service Pack 2 (SLE 12 SP2). And Leap 42.3 shares a lot of packages with SLE 12 SP3. The shared core was on average 20% of the total number of packages. Because of that shared core, some of the packages were starting to show their age.

openSUSE Leap 15 shares a lot of software packages with SUSE Linux Enterprise 15, which in itself is based on a 2017 fork of openSUSE Tumbleweed. That means that all of the underlying packages in SLE 15 have been updated to a more current version in comparison to SLE 12 SP3. The shared core for openSUSE Leap 15 is (according to a FOSDEM 2018 presentation) about 27% of the total number of packages. And the remaining packages are originating from (an even more recent fork from) openSUSE Tumbleweed. Which means that we get a lot of improvements in openSUSE Leap 15.

A good example (to get an idea about the progress that has been made) is the underlying Linux kernel, which has been updated from version 4.4 to 4.12. Linux kernel 4.4 was released in January 2016 and Linux kernel 4.12 was released in July 2017. You cannot simply assume that the SLE kernel is identical to the upstream Linux kernel, because SUSE includes a lot of back-ports of security fixes and of hardware drivers in their kernels. However, you can assume that most of the newly introduced features in more recent Linux kernels are not being back-ported. So the upgrade from SLE 12 to SLE 15 means that we get 1,5 years of new features from the Linux kernel community.

So openSUSE Leap 15 is a big release. But is it any good? In this article I will focus on the installation experience.

Installation

I have installed openSUSE Leap 15 on 2 machines. The first one is a netbook: the Acer Aspire One 725. This machine has an AMD C70 chip set (CPU + GPU), 4 GB of DDR3 memory and a 120 GB SSD hard drive. The second one is a bare-bones desktop: the Zotac ZBOX Sphere OI520. This machine has an Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, Intel HD Graphics 4400, 16 GB of DDR3L memory and a 256 GB SSD hard drive. For both machines I have opted for a fresh installation instead of doing an upgrade.

Every time I install a new openSUSE release, I evaluate whether to do an update or a fresh install. The ‘problem’ with any Linux is that over time, when you install new software packages, a lot of dependencies (additional software packages that are required for the software to function) are automatically installed. But when you remove that same software package, some of these dependencies don’t get automatically removed. Which means that over time, you can collect a lot of software packages that are not used anymore. The advantage of updating is that all of the old software packages remain installed. The advantage of a fresh install is that all of the old unused packages get removed. So in general, I update between minor releases (Leap 15 to Leap 15 SP1) and I do a fresh install between big releases (Leap 15 SP3 to Leap 16).

There are 2 bottlenecks in the installation experience. The first one is the WiFi setup. The second one is the hard drive partitioning. The installation starts easy enough by asking you if you want to boot from hard disk, perform a new installation, perform an upgrade or more (which includes booting into a rescue system). You select Installation (in this example). You agree to the license.

And then you meet the network settings. This screen is similar to the networking setup for the YaST Wicket Service. You need to click on your network card. Then click Edit. Then select Dynamic Address. Then select Next. Then select Scan Network. Pick your network from the Network Name (ESSID) drop-down menu. Then select WPA-PSK (WPA version 1 or 2) from the Authentication Mode drop-down menu. Then fill in your WiFi password in the Encryption Key field. Click Next and then Click OK. Now you can continue to the next part of the installer.

The advantage of configuring your WiFi settings is that the openSUSE installer can install the latest versions from the online repositories. Which means that your openSUSE installation is fully up to date after the installation has ended. The disadvantage is that the configuration is rather complicated. My advice would be to plug-in an Ethernet cable before starting the installation. This means that the installer will automatically detect the internet connection and will simply skip this step.

Now you can select the Desktop environment. I have used KDE (Plasma) for the last 10 years and therefore always select that one. You can configure the online repositories, but I would advice to simply leave that as-is and configure the repositories after the installation is complete.

The next step is the Partitioning. This is the part where most users will encounter the biggest difficulties. First lets discuss some advantages of the openSUSE approach. The default partitioning setup is great. openSUSE creates a separate /home partition by default. This means that whenever something happens to openSUSE, you can simply blow away the root (“/”) partition and reinstall openSUSE. This is a worst case scenario, because there is a better way to rescue your system: BtrFS. This is a modern file system based on the “Copy on Write” principle. Which means that whenever you install something new, it also keeps the old version around. And you can move between “snapshots”. A snapshot is created every time you install something new. Which means that if you screw up, you can simply undo your mistake from the boot screen. But if even that fails, you can simply blow your operating system partition away, while keeping your personal data safe. This is exactly what I did. I have formatted the root partition and have installed openSUSE Leap 15 in that same partition. I kept my /home partition unchanged.

But say you don’t understand anything about partitioning. Then you can simply go with the default proposal. Nothing wrong with that. As stated before, the default setup is great. Or you can take the Guided setup. This means that you answer some easier questions and the tool automatically determines your setup. This allows you to Encrypt your partitions. Meaning that when your machine is powered off, people cannot read your data by sticking that hard drive in another computer. I would always advice you to create a separate Home partition. XFS is a very stable file system for such a Home partition. For your Root partition, you should select either BtrFS or XFS. There are heated discussions online with arguments against and for BtrFS. After having a personal question/answer with the openSUSE chair on Reddit and after reading about the careful openSUSE implementation, I think selecting BtrFS for the Root partition is now the best way to go.

If you want to determine your partition setup yourself, you need to use the Expert Partitioner. This gives you the option to start with Existing Partitions or with the Current Proposal. It really doesn’t matter too much, if you want to determine everything by yourself. Both selections bring you into the YaST Expert Partitioner tool. Some headlines indicate that it is renewed. But if you read carefully, only the back-end was renewed. It looks exactly the same as I remembered it. Go into your Hard Disks (sda, sdb, et cetera) and select the one that you want to partition. Create at least a Boot partition, a Swap partition, a Root partition and a Home partition. This is a nice tool if you have both an SSD and a spinning HDD. You can install the operating system on the faster SSD and install your Home partition on the spinning HDD which typically can contain much more data.

The remaining steps are easier. You select your timezone. Then you create a new user, or you import the current user. Because I kept my Home partition (by not formatting it and mounting it to /home) I could choose to import my current user. I would advice you to deselect Automatic Login. Finally you see an overview of the installation. Click twice on Install and now wait for the process to finish.

Things to do after the installation

One of the first things that I like to do after installing the base operating system is to add the applications that I like to use. In previous openSUSE releases, a lot of KDE applications got installed by default. This is still the case, but the Amarok music player was missing. And not having a music player installed by default is a strange decision. You can install Amarok from the YaST Software Management application, something I would recommend.

In previous releases, it could take 1 or 2 weeks before all applications were available in the software repositories. This was especially true for open source games. For example: I was used that Warsow and Hedgewars were not immediately available. This time I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost every application in my “Linux essentials list” was immediately available. There is still 1 application that I am still missing: PDF Chain, a graphical PDF editor that makes use of the PDFtk toolkit. I also discovered that a couple of Calligra applications (Author, Braindump and Flow) were depreciated, which explains why I can’t find them in the repositories. I don’t care about Author, but Braindump and Flow were actually very good applications. So I hope that the people of the Calligra team bring them back in the future.

The list of applications that I like to install might be different from yours. But if you want a wider selection of (more current) applications, it is worth the effort to add some online repositories. You can do so by going into YaST and selecting Software Repositories. The picture below shows the repositories that I have configured. This is the first time (that I am aware) that I can specify to make a HTTPS connection to the openSUSE repositories. A nice security improvement.

Another thing that you most likely want to do, is to install Codecs needed to play common audio and video files. You can do this in 2 ways. The first way is to go to: https://opensuse-community.org/ and use the 1-click install option. The second way is to install these software packages with YaST Software Management. Search and install the following software packages:

  • ffmpeg
  • lame
  • gstreamer-plugins-bad
  • gstreamer-plugins-libav
  • gstreamer-plugins-ugly
  • gstreamer-plugins-ugly-orig-addon
  • libdvdcss2
  • xine-ui
  • libxine2
  • libxine2-codecs
  • vlc-codecs
  • vlc

The last part is the system configuration. You might want to configure a printer / scanner. You can do this via YaST. Or if you have a HP (all-in-one) printer, you can follow the instructions on the HP Linux Imaging and Printers site. The last option is the more difficult way to install your printer. But this is the way to get the HP Device Manager installed, something that you woudn’t have otherwise. Before starting the process described by HP, you need to install 1 missing software package: libgphoto2-devel. Also you need to open your Firewall to be able to auto-discover your printer over WiFi. This is done in Yast. See the screenshot below.  After that, the setup of a HP printer should go without a hitch.

In conclusion

I have covered most of the basics of the openSUSE Leap 15 installation. My first impression is very positive. For me the installation went flawless on both machines. And the software availability was great this time.

But you might have different hardware and a different experience. Know that you can ask for help on the openSUSE forums, on the sub-forum for technical help on installations. Another channel to ask for help is the openSUSE Reddit forum. Or you can ask your question directly via IRC.

Enjoy your new openSUSE Leap 15 install and remember to Have a lot of Fun!

Published on: 30 May 2018

What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15 – part 1

openSUSE Leap 15 will be released on the 25th of May 2018! A new openSUSE release is always an exciting event. This means that I get to play with all kinds of new and improved software packages.

I am aware that I can simply install openSUSE Tumbleweed and have a new release 4 or 5 times a week. But when using openSUSE Tumbleweed some time ago, I noticed that I was installing Gigabytes of new software packages multiple times per week. The reason for that is that I have the complete opposite of a minimum install. I always install a lot of applications to play / experiment with (including a lot of open source games). I am using openSUSE since 2009 and it covers all of my needs and then some. I am already happy with the available software, so there is no real reason for me to move with the speed of a rolling release. Therefore I prefer to move with the slower pace of the Leap releases.

In the upcoming articles, I want to detail some of the improvements in openSUSE Leap 15. In this article, I present an overview of the upgrades for the software packages / software suites that I am interested in.

Package name openSUSE Leap 42.3 openSUSE Leap 15
Amarok 2.8.0 2.9.0
Audacity 2.1.3 2.2.2
Calibre 2.85.1 3.23.0
Calligra suite 3.0.1 3.1.0
Chromium browser 59 66
Darktable 2.2.5 2.4.3
Digikam 5.5.0 5.9.0
Flatpack 0.8.6 0.10.4
GIMP 2.8.18 2.8.22
Gnome Applications 3.20 3.26
GNU Cash 2.6.16 3.0
Hugin 2016.0.0 2018.0.0
Inkscape 0.91 0.92.2
KDE Applications 17.04 17.12
KDE Plasma 5 desktop 5.8.7 5.12.5
Krita 3.1.4 4.0.3
LibreOffice 5.3.3 6.0.4
Linux kernel 4.4.76 4.12.14
Mozilla Firefox 52.2 60.0
Mozilla Thunderbird 52.2 52.7
Pidgin 2.12 2.13
Rapid Photo Downloader 0.4.10 0.9.9
Scribus 1.4.6 1.4.7
Shotwell 0.22 0.28
VLC 2.2.6 3.0.2
YaST 3.2.26 4.0.73

Published on: 23 May 2018

Using Google PageSpeed Insights to speed-up Fossadventures.com

I wanted to optimize the load time of Fossadventures.com. I had performed some tests on Google PageSpeed Insights a couple of weeks ago and my scores were 76/100 for mobile devices and 55/100 for the desktop. The big ticket item was to enable Gzip compression. I researched the subject and the solution appeared to be a simple adjustment of the Nginx configuration (1, 2). Thanks to Nginx and Digital Ocean for the excellent tutorials, which work just as well on openSUSE. My only remaining question was which MIME types to include. I found a nice compact list on Github and based my list on that.

The second suggestion was to optimize the images on the site. I decided to start with the header image, as this was a large image that is visible everywhere. I downgraded the JPEG quality from 85 to 75 and adjusted the Chroma sampling to 4:2:0. I performed a visual inspection of the old and new header image with help of Gwenview. As I didn’t see a big difference, I decided to use this optimized image for the website. I will probably use these settings for all future posts.

The third suggestion was to eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS content. I discovered that my chosen theme (Cannyon) loaded some Google web fonts by default. By disabling this option, the load speed increased even further. Thanks Google for the advice.

I retested Fossadventures.com on Google PageSpeed Insights and my new results are 94/100 for mobile devices and 79/100 for the desktop. That is a solid improvement!

Published on: 14 May 2018

Discovering the Gwenview photo viewer

The Gwenview photo viewer is a great application and one of the reasons why I never looked back when I switched from Windows (Vista) to openSUSE (11.1). The application is installed by default when you install openSUSE with the KDE plasma desktop environment. But even if you have the GNOME desktop environment installed, I would recommend that you to install Gwenview. In my opinion, it is superior to the GNOME image viewer application.

Default applications often get overlooked. We just expect them to be there. But there are big differences when it comes to default applications. Take for instance the GNOME image viewer or Windows Photo Viewer. You can do a couple of basic things like zoom in, zoom out and move from photo to photo. You can put it in full screen mode and go back. And of course you can open, save, print and close photos. But that is basically it. Gwenview does a lot more.

So lets get to it. There are basically 2 ways to open Gwenview. The first way is to (double) click a photo in the Dolphin file manager (another great default application). The second way is to open Gwenview via the kickoff menu, by typing in the name in the search box or by looking at the Graphics section of the menu.

Gwenview contains a couple of elements. On the right side is a navigator bar that allows you to navigate to any folder on you computer. On the right are recent folders and recent files (photos) that you have accessed. So lets access one of these folders.

This will move you to the Browse mode of Gwenview. I have highlighted one of the cool features of Gwenview. The ability to easily move between photo folders. It is really great to be able to move between folders as quickly as this. No need to close the application.

Next is the View mode. You enter this mode by clicking on a photo. The highlighted section (below) in the top toolbar show the ability to move to the previous / next photo, to rotate the photo (by 90 degrees) counterclockwise / clockwise. The highlighted section in the bottom toolbar provides you with the ability to make the photo fit to the current window or zoom in to 100%. You can also use the slider to determine a custom zoom percentage.

Whenever you use the zoom feature, you have the ability to move around the picture using the navigator that will show just above the zoom controls.

Third is the Full Screen mode. This will not only show your pictures in full screen, but also gives you the ability to play your pictures as a Slideshow. When you move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen, a menu (black bar) will show various controls. The controls on the left side allow you to start the slideshow or to quickly scroll to a certain photo.

The controls on the right side allow you to adjust the slideshow settings.

A very neat feature of Gwenview is the sidebar. You can get access to this by either clicking on the sidebar button (left of the Add filter button), by pressing F4 or by going to View >> Sidebar. The sidebar allows you to navigate the folder structure of your computer.

The second tab of the sidebar allows you to see information on the selected picture. For this, you need to click on a photo. To see a lot more information, click on the More button that is highlighted in the picture below.

You can now scroll through a very long list of properties that your camera has captured while taking the photo.

Gwenview also allows you to do some basic photo editing. This is where the 3rd tab in the sidebar comes into play. Gwenview allows basic operations, such as mirroring, flipping, resizing and cropping the picture. A neat feature is the ability to remove red eyes in photos. You can also use Gwenview for some basic file operations, such as renaming, trashing, deleting, copying or moving a photo.

You think I have covered all the cool functionality of this application by now? No sir! (or madam!) Gwenview has multiple plugins. The first plugin I like to discuss is the print assistant. You can access this by going to Plugins >> Images >> Print assistant… The print assistant allows you to create (PDF) pages with multiple photos in various layouts.

Another cool feature is the ability to e-mail resized photos. This is handy when you want to share your holiday photos, but don’t want to send all these photos in full resolution (an 18 megapixel photo is about 14 MB in file size in Jpg). You simply select the e-mail program that you like to use (I selected Thunderbird) and then click on the option to Adjust image properties.

And one of the top features is the ability to import from / export to various web based photo applications. You can access this via the plugins menu. Or just click the Share button for the export options.

This covers all cool features of Gwenview. This application might be installed by default, but it is certainly not a basic photo viewer. It is a great application in its own right and a tool that I like to use time and time again.

Published on: 9 May 2018

A quicker way to download photos on openSUSE

A very common way to download your photos on your openSUSE desktop is to use the file browser. This might be Dolphin (KDE) or Files/Nautilus (Gnome). First thing you do is create the new folders that you need for your photos. You plug-in the SD card or connect your camera via USB cable. And then you drag the photo files to the location(s) of your choosing.

But there is a smarter and quicker way and its called Rapid Photo Downloader. And once you try this program, you never want to go back. The easiest way to get this program is just search for “rapid-photo-downloader” in YAST Software Management, select “Install” and then “Accept”. After the installation you should be able to find the program under the “Graphics” section of your Application Launcher menu.

One time configuration

To start the configuration, go to the Preferences of this application. This is where you perform the initial (one time) setup of how you want to import your photos and videos.

Start with setting up the folder where you want all your photos to go. Click on the drop-down for the “Download folder” and select “Other…”.

Then select the folder that you want to use for your photos. I like to know what camera I used for taking the photos. But you might be content with just the subfolder Photos.

/home/yourname/Pictures/Photos/CameraName/

The magic of Rapid Photo Downloader is that you can specify how the application will automatically create the future folder structure for your photos. I like to use folders per month. For example: “2018 03”, “2018 04”, “2018 05”, etc. You can specify this by using the settings (marked in red) in the screenshot below. As you can see from the screenshot, I also create a sub folder named RAW.

The second part of the magic of Rapid Photo Downloader is that you can specify how to automatically rename your photos. I have chosen a very simple setup, where I concatenate the image date and the original name and extension with an underscore in between.

Now you are done with the setup for the photos. Continue with the setup of the videos. In the screenshots below you can see the setup that I use.

Now close the preferences window.

Downloading photos

Downloading your photos is very easy. The first thing you have to make sure is that you have plugged-in the SD card or have connected your camera via USB cable. The second thing you need to do is to mount the external photo medium by simply opening the folder once in your file manager of choice. Then startup Rapid Photo Downloader. The program will automatically detect the photo medium and load all photos on the card. Most likely you are only interested in the latest photos that you haven’t yet downloaded. So click “Uncheck All” to clear the current selection. Then select the first photo that you like to download.

Now scroll down to the last photo, hold down the “Shift” key on your keyboard and select the last photo you want to download. If you are fine with the selection, click on “Download”.

Now Rapid Photo Downloader will auto-magically download all photos to your openSUSE desktop… exactly how you want it.

Published on: 3 May 2018