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5 best features of the Dolphin file manager

by Martin de Boer
5 best features of the Dolphin file manager

I like Dolphin, the default KDE file manager, a lot. I have used it for over 9 years. There are many features that I use regularly that I wouldn’t want to live without. In this post, I like to share my personal top 5. Some features are more obvious, others are hidden features.

1) Split windows

The split window view can be opened with the F3 key or by clicking on the Split icon. This is great for copying files from one location to another. Just drag and drop the files from left to right (or vis versa).

2) Integrated terminal

The build-in terminal can be opened by pressing the F4 key or by clicking on Control –> Panels –> Terminal. This is handy for the few Linux applications that need to be downloaded from an external website. For example: Oneplay Codec pack and Codeweavers Crossover Linux. The terminal automatically opens in the location that your are visiting, allowing you to directly input the zypper cli commands.

3) Show hidden files

Sometimes you want to edit or remove a configuration file. These files are often located in hidden folders in your Home directory. By showing the hidden files, you are able to navigate to these locations with ease.

4) Open With

The ability to open a file with the application of your choice is very handy. I like to open images with Gwenview by default. But for editing, I like to open them with Kolourpaint or GIMP. This feature allows me to do this with minimal effort.

5) Previews

You would think that this feature would be nr. 1. But unfortunately Preview didn’t always work as advertised. This was mainly a problem during the Qt 4 days (2009 – 2014). The Preview function is working without issues since the Qt 5 version of Dolphin. You can enable previews by clicking on the associated button. You can use the slider in the bottom right, to increase or decrease the size of the previews.

Published on: 21 October 2018

Basic photo editing with Darktable

by Martin de Boer

When I was starting in the world of amateur digital photography, I learned about 2 software programs that everybody was using: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. In the Free and Open Source world, there are 2 amazing alternatives: GIMP and Darktable. GIMP is aimed at destructive (the image is changed when saved) photo editing. It can be used to change photos in many ways, including cutting things out of the picture or pasting things into the picture. Darktable is aimed at non-destructive photo editing. I like to compare it to developing a photo. The negative is kept, and the photo (the positive) is developed from the negative. For many people, getting started can be daunting. Therefore I like to present the absolute basics of photo editing with Darktable.

Tutorial

First open Darktable. When the program is opened, you need to load a photo collection. You can do this for many photos at once by clicking on ‘folder’ in the left sidebar in the ‘import’ section.

Select the folder in which you have stored the RAW files of your digital camera. Click on open.

Note: If you only take JPG pictures with your digital camera, Darktable is not for you! You should look into GIMP.

Now your photos will load in the Lighttable section of Darktable. In the top right of the program, you can see (highlighted) in which section of Darktable you are currently working. To start editing a photo, double click on the image.

Now you are automatically moved into the darkroom section of Darktable. Underneath the sections you see a Histogram (the colored chart) and below that a row of buttons. These buttons are the groups in which the functions of Darktable are grouped. Now click on the ‘basic group’ button. Then click on ‘white balance’.

The easiest way to get the white balance right is to find a white spot on your photo and select this. To be able to do this, you first need to go into the white balance presents and change this from ‘camera’ to ‘spot’.

Now you can zoom into the photo by using the mouse wheel (if you have one) or by using the navigation functions (located in the top of the left sidebar). Then select the part of the picture that represents pure white and Darktable will automatically determine the white balance. When I am not 100% happy with the result, I simply try again on another spot.

You can also use one of the presets that are available by default such as: camera, daylight, shade, cloudy or flash. Or you can manually drag the temperature left-right to select the white balance that you prefer.

After having selected the right white balance, it is time to get the light/dark area’s of your photo right. Go into the tone group. Now select levels.

What you want to do, is look at the histogram and see where it drops off. Most histograms look like a mountain range with an upward slope on the left, a middle part that’s like a mountain range and a downward slope on the right. If you don’t see a slope on the left, that means that your dark areas are fine. If you don’t see a slope on the right, that means that your light area’s are fine. What you want to do, is to drag the line on the left or on the right towards the middle, so that the slopes are shorter or even gone. Try to experiment with this!

The last group in this tutorial is the correction group. Select the lens correction.

Now you want to enable the lens correction with the ‘on’ button of the module. In most cases, the camera and lens are already selected correctly by Darktable. Otherwise adjust the camera model and lens to the ones that you have used.

The only thing remaining is to export the photo(s) into the JPG format. Click on lighttable, to change the Darktable mode. Then in the right sidebar go to the ‘export selected’ part and click on the folder icon to select the folder where you want the pictures to be saved. Now select all the images that you want to export (in the middle section) and then click on the export button.

Conclusion

Using Darktable is not as difficult as it might seem. You just need to know your way around. There are a lot more functions available. But the ones in this tutorial are enough in 95% of the time. In future blog posts, I will explore some of the more advanced features.

Published on: 15 October 2018

Review of the HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd

by Martin de Boer

Because of the incredible bargains during the Steam summer / winter sales, I have acquired 42 games over the last 6 years. My old openSUSE system was never able to play these games in a decent manner. Intel HD Graphics 4000 will only get you so far… I have looked into building a new AMD PC, which would allow me to run Linux / Steam games at high settings and 1080p. Recently I noticed a promotion for the HP Pavilion Power 580 desktop, equipped with a Ryzen 5 1400 processor and with a Radeon RX 580 graphics card. Heavily reduced in price. So I took the plunge and got myself a brand new desktop PC.

Design and hardware

The case of the HP Pavilion Power desktop looks pretty good. Its a very small case: 36.4 cm in height, 16.5 cm in width and 37.8 cm in depth. The front has some sharp triangular edges that make the desktop pleasant to look at.

One issue with the case is airflow. There are 2 side vents in this case. The fan in the back of the case blows in cool air. This is used by the processor cooler and hot air will immediately move out of the case. Which means the CPU is adequately cooled. The graphics card also gets cool air from below, but dispenses this air to an area where it cannot easily get out of the case. It needs to find its way out towards the top side vent located far to the left. It would have been better if there was an air vent directly in between the graphics card and the power supply.

Specifications and benchmarks

The specifications:

  • AMD Ryzen 5 1400 CPU
  • AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU
  • 16 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 128 GB M.2 SSD
  • 1 TB 7200rpm HDD
  • 1 x HDMI  port
  • 3 x Display port
  • 1 x Type C USB 3.0 port
  • 3 x Type A USB 3.0 port
  • 2 x Type A USB 2.0 port
  • 1 x DVD re-writer
  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 2 x Audio-in jack
  • 1 x Audio-out jack
  • 1x Microphone jack
  • 1 x LAN port
  • 1 x 300W 80 plus bronze PSU

On the front side, there is a DVD re-writer, a SD-card reader, an USB 3.0 type-C port, an USB 3.0 type-A port and a headphone jack. So this case is very well equipped from the front to handle all your media. The backside of the case is less prepared for the job. It has 2 USB 3.0 ports and 2 USB 2.0 ports. It has the regular ports for audio in, audio out and microphone. The graphics card provides 1 HDMI port and 3 display ports. And it has an Ethernet port. I think that there are not enough USB ports on the backside. I have a wired keyboard and mouse that take up the two USB 2.0 ports. Which leaves me with 2 USB 3.0 ports for everything else. To combat this issue, I have connected a TP-Link UH700. Which provides me with 7 additional USB 3.0 ports.

The power supply is a 300W and its 80 plus bronze rated. It is sufficient, but I would be more comfortable with a 450W or a 550W unit. That would give the machine a bit of headroom.

For benchmarks, I always look at the benchmark scores on the websites: cpubenchmark.net and videocardbenchmark.net. In the table below I compare the HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd with my previous PC, the Zotac ZBOX Sphere OI520. The CPU of my new desktop is 2,5 times faster then the CPU in my previous PC. The GPU is a whopping 18 times faster. So that means that this new PC will provide me with a big increase in overall performance.

Zotac ZBOX Sphere OI520

HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd

Benchmark score CPU

3287

8410

Benchmark score GPU

455

8402

Installing openSUSE

I have wiped Windows from the system and installed openSUSE Leap 15. The installation went without a problem. However, there were some annoyances to resolve directly after installation.

The biggest one is sound. I hit an issue where the speakers ‘pop’ every time that a new video (YouTube) or new audio file (Amarok) started playing. This loud ‘pop’ was very annoying and not good for my speakers. I am not the first person to encounter this issue, as it was also posted on the openSUSE forms. The proposed solution by John Winchester resolved this issue for me. I now only hear this ‘pop’ during the startup of my PC.

Another issue is that my Bluetooth adapter is not recognized. I have installed the bluez-auto-enable-devices and bluez-firmware and bluez-tools. If I run the command “sudo rfkill list all”, it does find the Bluetooth adapter and indicates that it is not Soft blocked and not Hard blocked. But according to the KDE Plasma 5 desktop applet, no Bluetooth adapters have been found.

Furthermore the amdgpu-pro driver is not yet available for openSUSE Leap 15. The open source AMD driver is performing okay. But I did hit an issue where I cannot get the display to turn on again, a few hours after it was (automatically) switched off. This could very well be related to the graphics driver. I have now configured my PC to suspend after 3 hours. When I restart the PC from this suspended state, I don’t encounter this problem.

Gaming

This is the area where my new PC excels! I can run all games on very high settings and get frame rates higher than 60 Frames per Second. I would have expected some higher frame rates from the open source games that I tested. Some of these games are not very graphically intensive. But even with the RX 580, the frame rates are just good, but not great. The exception is Xonotic, a super fun FPS that not only looks great, but shows very high frame rates. And I must say that SuperTuxKart looks amazing with all settings at the highest level (6). I have listed the frame rates that I see on average below:

  • OpenArena – 90 FPS
  • Urbanterror – 125 FPS
  • Xonotic – 90 to 200 FPS
  • SuperTuxKart – 60 FPS
  • SpeedDreams – 25 to 150 FPS

I can now play games on Steam that I couldn’t play before. I play these games on very high settings and 1080p. The frame rates are good, certainly considering the advanced graphics of these games. I have listed the frame rates that I see on average below:

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider – 50 FPS
  • BioShock Infinity – 90 FPS
  • Half Life 2 – 90 to 120 FPS
  • Road Redemption – 60 FPS
  • Euro Truck Simulator 2 – 60 FPS

Multitasking

The HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd is a great multitasking machine. For fun, I tried opening LibreOffice Writer, LibreOffice Draw, Darktable, Amarok, Dolphin, Dragon Player, GIMP and Steam at the same time while playing music in Amarok. Programs opened instantly and the CPU cores / threads used very little of the available CPU power. In the future, I will use this desktop for testing various Linux distributions on Virtualbox, for developing photo’s with Darktable and for making movies with Kdenlive. So I will use a bit more of the available power. For ‘normal’ desktop usage this machine has plenty of power to spare.

Conclusion

The HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd packs a lot of power for a price that is hard to match when building your own PC. However, it might surprise you that I would not recommend this exact machine to others. The reason is that Nvidia cards are still better supported on openSUSE Leap 15. I feel that for most people, the HP Pavilion Power 580-037nd would be the better choice. This machine features an Intel i5-7400 CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU and has 8 GB of RAM. The pricing is very comparable. And the outside of the machine is the same.

For me personally, this machine was absolutely the right choice. I am very interested in the AMD Ryzen CPU’s. I also like AMD’s strategy to develop an open source driver for its GPU’s (amdgpu) for the Linux kernel. I was looking for an AMD machine and this HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd fits the bill and then some.

Published on: 3 September 2018

Dual boot issues and the Black Screen of Death

by Martin de Boer

As is the case for many open source enthusiasts, I am the go-to person in my family for solving PC issues. I enjoy messing with computers and solving technical challenges. Over the last few weeks, I had a lot of Windows encounters. There are 3 reasons to write about this:

  1. I found a great tool to retrieve the Windows license key from openSUSE and I like to write about this tool
  2. I encountered a lot of driver issues on Windows, I like to share the problem and the way to solve it
  3. The grass is not greener on the other side

Dual boot issues

The first problem is self-inflicted. One of my family members has switched to openSUSE and is a happy user. Once openSUSE is installed, it proves to be rock solid. This doesn’t require much maintenance from my side. I recently proposed to upgrade this PC to the latest version of openSUSE, because Leap 15 is simply a fantastic release.

In this case, I wanted to do a clean install. I have performed upgrades to 42.2 and to 42.3 using the installation media. But I think it is a good idea to do a clean install every once in a while. This makes sure that there are only software packages installed that are really needed. During the installation, the openSUSE installer indicated that the EFI partition was not big enough. It was less than 256 MB of space. The only way to continue the installation was to remove it and to create a bigger EFI partition. However, I neglected that this would also delete the Windows EFI key and that Windows would not be able to recover / restore that. So after the openSUSE Leap 15 installation, there was no Windows in the GRUB2-EFI menu anymore.

My first thought was to burn the latest Windows 10 ISO to a disk and use this to restore the EFI key. However, the troubleshooting options of the Windows DVD didn’t manage to fix the issue. My only remaining option was to wipe the Windows 10 install and to reinstall it completely. I first made a backup of all the data in the user directory. And then I realized I would also need the Windows 10 license key…

Lucky for me (and all other Linux users) other people have encountered this problem before and they have created an amazing tool to recover the Windows 10 license key. It is called “chntpw” and is available from the openSUSE OSS repository. It is the offline NT Password and Registry Editor. I followed the instructions that I found online from a guy named Thomas and this worked like a charm. I think this is really amazing. I never knew about this tool, but I can imagine that it has helped a lot of people to recover from similar situations. The only remaining actions are now to install Windows 10 again (following these instructions) and to repair the UEFI/GRUB2/openSUSE boot scenario (following these instructions).

The Black Screen of Death is apparently a thing

I have encountered the Blue Screen of Death a numerous amount of times. The reason for that, is that I was an early adopter of Windows Vista. Windows Vista was very unstable at that time and would constantly freeze. An experience that led me to switch to openSUSE 11.2. In my work environment, I continued to use Windows (first 7, then 8, then 8.1, then 10). As is the case for most employers, there was no freedom to use something different. But I did encounter Blue Screens of Death less and less often, with every new Windows release.

Recently I decided to buy a proper gaming PC. (A review will follow at a later stage.) My ‘old’ PC was purchased 3 years ago. It is still a decently fast PC, as it has an Intel Core i5 4200U processor, 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. So I decided to re-purpose this PC and find a good place for it. That ‘good place’ also meant that I needed to install Windows 10 on that PC. I had already burned the ISO. So I wiped all partitions and I performed the install of Windows 10. After boot, I started to install the usual FOSS software: LibreOffice, VLC, Clementine, ImageGlass, Darktable, OpenShot, GIMP, Krita, Inkscape, Scribus… and then the screen turned black. To never return again. This was my first encounter with an issue that seems to be widespread in the Windows world (post Windows 8): the Black Screen of Death.

Usually this involves some kind of driver issue. The question was which driver was the culprit. Most instructions start with updating the BIOS. However, the motherboard of this Zotac Sphere OI520 is custom. And so there are no BIOS updates available for this PC. I tried installing the official drivers for Windows 10 from the Zotac website. But none of them fixed the issue. I read a lot of forum posts that suggested to revert back to Windows 8.1. As I had kept the Windows 8.1 installation media that I had used for another family member, I tried that suggestion.

But also in Windows 8.1, the problem persisted. Only 1 minute after my first login, the screen would turn black to never return again. As everything worked as intended in Safe Mode, I soon realized that the Intel HD Graphics drivers were the cause of the problem. I tried to solve the problem by installing different versions of the Intel HD Graphics drivers. I tried installing the drivers from the Zotac Drivers DVD that I received in the box. I tried installing the latest drivers from the Zotac website. I tried installing the latest stable and beta Intel drivers from the Intel website that were listed as compatible with the i5 4200U processor. And I even tried to a manual install of the latest stable Intel drivers. Non of these solved the issue. In the end, the only remaining option was to disable the Intel HD Graphics drivers. This forced Windows to switch to the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter. Which allowed me to run Windows 8.1 in the normal mode.

I figured that this solution would also resolve the situation in Windows 10. So I decided to wipe the PC all over again, reinstall Windows 10 and apply the fix. In the end, the solution for my problem was to enable the bootmenupolicy legacy (see this instruction by Sahil Bali) and then boot into Safe Mode with F8 and disable the Intel HD Graphics driver (see the last part of this instruction). Although this seems easy to fix in hindsight, there is still something that troubles me:

  1. The problem occurred both in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10
  2. None of the official Intel Graphics drivers managed to fix the issue
  3. From forum posts all over the internet, this issue existed from 2012 until today

Conclusion

There are a lot of (older) discussions on the internet about Linux driver issues. From my experience over the last few years, I only encountered such issues in the area of Broadcom WiFi and Bluetooth drivers. Everything else was always detected without a problem. This recent experience showed me that on the Windows side, these issues are still around. People who buy a PC with Windows 10 pre-installed, will never encounter these issues, as they are handled by the OEMs. But if you upgrade such a PC to a newer version of Windows, you might run into them. For people that are less technical (and scared of the Windows Command prompt), this is something they simply will not be able to resolve themselves. On openSUSE Leap, there are no Intel HD Graphics issues (and I tested 13.2, 42.1, 42.2, 42.3 and 15). So the grass is definitely greener on the openSUSE side.

Published on: 30 August 2018

Designing your garden with Edraw Max

by Martin de Boer

I watch a lot of BBC Gardeners World, which gives me a lot of inspiration for making changes to my own garden. I tried looking for a free and open source program for designing gardens in the openSUSE package search. The only application that I found was Rosegarden, a MIDI and Audio Sequencer and Notation Editor. Using google, I found Edraw Max, an all-in-one diagram software. This included a Floor planner, including templates for garden design. And there are download options for various Linux distributions, including openSUSE.

Installation

You can download a 14-day free trial from the Edraw Max website.

The next thing to do, is use Dolphin and browse to your Downloads folder. Find the zipped package and double click it. Ark will automatically load it. Then click on the Extract button.

Now you can press F4 in Dolphin to open the integrated terminal. If you type in the commands as listed on the Edraw website, the application will install without an issue.

Experience

From the application launcher (start menu), you can now type Edraw Max and launch the application. Go to New and then Floor Plan and click on Garden Design.

On the left side, there is a side pane with a lot of elements that you can use for drawing (see picture below). Start with measuring your garden and with the walls, you can ‘draw’ the borders of your garden. On the right side, there is a side pane where you can adjust the properties of these elements. For instance you can edit the fill (color) of the element, the border (color) of the element and adjust the properties. I didn’t need the other parts of this right side pane (which included shadow, insert picture, layer, hyperlink, attachment and comments).

Now you can make various different garden designs! This is one of the 6 designs that I created for my own garden.

The last feature that I like to mention is the export possibilities. There is a lot of export options here, including Jpeg, Tiff, PDF, PS, EPS, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, HTML, SVG and Visio. In the unlicensed version, all exports work except for the Visio export. In the PDF you will see a watermark “Created by Unlicensed Version”.

Conclusion

As this is proprietary software, you will have to pay for it after 14 days. Unfortunately, the price is quite high. As a Linux user, you can only select the Lifetime license, which currently costs $ 245. It is a very complete package (280 different types of diagrams), but I find the pricing too high for my purposes. And there is no option to pay less. For professional users I can imagine that this price would not be a big issue, as the software will pay itself back when you get payed for making designs. For me personally, it was a very nice experience to use this limited trial and it helped me to think of different ways in which I can redesign my garden.

Published on: 16 august 2018

A FOSS alternative found!

Thanks to reddit user compairelapin, I have found an open source alternative. It is called Sweet Home 3D and its available in the openSUSE package search. In a future post, I will take a look at this software and compare it to Edraw Max.

Updated on: 17 august 2018