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2020-03-02Project Zebra: An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred

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This entry is part of my Project Zebra series covering migration to Linux for personal computing use.

Title reference: one of many pithy Warhammer 40K quotes, this one probably via the Blood Ravens in a Dawn of War game.

I'm looking forward to the Kubuntu 20.04 release, but not planning to jump the gun with Plasma 5.18 since bugfix releases are worth waiting for. Slightly behind the curve seems the place to be with KDE, and this is a normal part of their schedule: https://community.kde.org/Schedules/Plasma_5

There's been lots of activity;

https://kde.org/announcements/plasma-5.18.0.php
https://kde.org/announcements/plasma-5.17.5-5.18.0-changelog.php
https://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/plasma-5-18-lts-review.html

https://kde.org/announcements/plasma-5.18.0-5.18.1-changelog.php
https://kde.org/announcements/plasma-5.18.1-5.18.2-changelog.php

And https://pointieststick.com/ seems to be the best place to watch for news, although is syndicated to https://planet.kde.org/

I've mostly just been using Plasma as a shell rather than tinkering or looking at KDE apps, but a bit of further learning has taken place...

To turn off thumbnails in KDialog (eg when saving files from a browser) turn off previews in Dolphin

KDE Connect is potentially rather handy, allowing you (amongst other things) to use an Android device as a remote control for video players or run pre-defined commands such as hibernating the machine of an evening.

With KWin, a window snapped to the side or corner of the screen retains its size and position if a video loops. That's better than Xfwm4. I've also given up with titlebar / window top edge double-clicking to vertically maximise and gotten used to middle-clicking the maximise button.

The advice given by https://www.pcsuggest.com/fix-linux-screen-tearing/ (and other sources) to select "Full screen repaints" in System Settings > Display and Monitor > Tearing Prevention / Vsync seems fairly effective, and despite the performance warning it gives doesn't seem to noticeably add to processor load. Processor load for 1080p content isn't insignificant as I have hardware-accelerated decoding disabled due to issues with VLC and this hardware, which existed under Windows too, but isn't excessive either.

However, subsequent to this, my daily backups (which are quite I/O intensive) started to hang the desktop. Kwin was recoverable using a tip picked up from someone I've forgotten as I was browsing on a tablet, which is; Ctrl+Alt+F2 to switch to tty2 (or another terminal) and issue "DISPLAY=:0 kwin_x11 --replace". Then back in the GUI, this having sorted things except for window shadows disappearing (the compositor having crashed) I switched the compositor from using OpenGL 2.0 to Xrender.

Also, with https://www.reddit.com/r/kde/comments/8t7q1e/should_i_disable_baloo/ noting that file indexing can have an impact on performance, I've turned off File Search, and all KRunner plugins except applications. I'm not sure how directly applicable it is given that I don't use Dolphin as a file manager, but people have fingered it as responsible for I/O speed slowdown outside of Dolphin and I don't have a lot of that to waste.

DeaDBeeF doesn't integrate with Plasma's ability to show media controls on the lock screen, but that isn't unexpected and it's not like LightDM or XfceScreensaver did either.

The lock screen background colour is affected by the Breeze edits I made last month to remove translucency from the app menu and panel popups; a solid colour of black comes out as dark grey. Apparently setting a solid colour should also disable controls fading in and out, but this doesn't seem to be the case.

Reminder: to set the terminal app for Nemo, using dconf-editor navigate to org.cinnamon.desktop.default-applications.terminal and (for Plasma) set it to 'konsole'.

I've removed Winetricks, Gparted, Catfish, Gwenview, GIMP, Inkscape, and uGet. Added htop, added and removed Quod Libet but kept Ex Falso (I should tidy up my MP3s at some point and check tagging).

As it's a quiet month waiting for an Ubuntu LTS, let's have some retro...

I've written a little bit about the Spectrum +2 and various Archimedes machines (mostly an A3000 and an A3020) but less on what happened next. Around 98-99 I was jumping ship from Acorn to building Windows PCs, which was a decisive moment pre-university helped by the bright yellow Acorn Phoebe (mooted as the successor to the Risc PC) turning out to be extremely overpriced and then summarily cancelled. Although Internet Explorer was arguably the best browser around at the time it wasn't all a Microsoft love-in; on a normal PC I was part of a generation that used Lotus SmartSuite for a few years because it was given away on magazine discs. Fun fact: SmartSuite wasn't discontinued until 2014.

That PC had a 15" CRT and was upgraded until I had enough spare parts to build a second, selling the "first" to parents of a friend at uni in the second year. If memory serves it only handled 800x600 at the highest refresh rate, which was either 100Hz or 120Hz. It was cramped but comfortable; I've always been able to see CRT monitors or TVs at less than that flicker, so a higher resolution on any CRT would have required a heftier graphic card. The "second" PC got a 15" TFT with a 1024x768 stable image and RAM in PCs was gradually ramped up from 64MB to the 4GB max it was worth having with 32-bit Windows, with 2GB for the longest time.

I've always preferred the taskbar at the top of the screen, and am fairly certain the reduced mouse travel is a contributor to not having crippling RSI by now. I also latched onto data and 'home' folders (My Documents) being stored on a separate partition very quickly with the way that Windows seemed to need reinstalling to 'fix' things, updates taking their toll and it taking until Win2K to finally get an OS that didn't leak uncleared system resources and need to be restarted constantly.

   

The screenshots are all slightly faked. The RISC OS one isn't mine and shows a mix of square and rectangular sprites, which was typical of floppy drive only machines with better monitors since the window theme was in ROM but higher resolution application and filetype sprites weren't – IIRC I usually used mode 36 on a TV type monitor which was widescreen but had the rectangular pixels. The early Win9x screenshot (did the side links bar auto hide? I can't remember if that was a feature) had an 800x600 wallpaper from the same sort of era added. The later Win9x, or possibly Win2K, screenshot got a Winamp image pasted in, showing the 'Platinum' edit of Fossil 2002 / DoodleAmp I cobbled together with increasingly blurry re-saved sprites.

Remember these screens were all roughly the same size and didn't feel particularly small, the pixels were just far more visible.

Text editors were (and are) a big thing for scripting, HTML editing and preparing text. Under Windows, tools such as NoteTab Light and jEdit were the only way to get 'proper' regex support – i.e. working across multiple lines. Despite flirting with other editors (Yikes, Programmer's Notepad, etc) these lasted, and both projects are still being distributed. Flash forward and Notepad++ gained multiline regex support and became my favoured editor on Windows, and Geany is a capable alternative on Linux if you don't want to use Wine to run an editor.

 

I used to be a big fan of Corel PhotoPaint 7 and then 9, and these days tend to open Krita on the rare occasion images need more than cropping or adjustments. Since I'm not using it as a painting application, I tend to turn Show Popup Palette off under Canvas Input Settings.

I've still got a moderate amount of software such as DVD Shrink, Microsoft ICE, Foobar, LLD, S3 Browser and Office 2016 installed in CrossOver (18.5) -- setting aside CodeWeavers having some rather skeezy and off-putting marketing, the advantage over POL is easily co-locating software into one Windows 7 bottle.

Getting into the spirit of having software from every major computer I've owned running on one machine, I installed packages for libspectrum and spectrum-roms and grabbed some pre-compiled Spectrum emulator binaries... https://ubuntu.pkgs.org/19.10/ubuntu-universe-amd64/fuse-emulator-common_1.5.7+dfsg1-2build1_all.deb.html https://ubuntu.pkgs.org/19.10/ubuntu-universe-amd64/fuse-emulator-gtk_1.5.7+dfsg1-2build1_amd64.deb.html

And I've just set up VirtualA5000 to run in the same bottle by installing DirectX9 and MFC42 (Visual C++ 6.0) into it, using an old 1.44 installer from 2003 and with http://www.apdl.org.uk/riscworld/volumes/volume2/issue5/va5000/index.htm helpfully reminding that Alt+Enter releases pointer and full screen grabs. Also remember that xkill is your friend if needed when dealing with full screen games, and that KDE binds this to Ctrl+Alt+Esc.

Initially I couldn't get a more recent copy (version 1.7.1.0 copyright 2014) I bought and downloaded from http://www.riscos.com/shop/products/106/index.htm to work in the shared bottle universe -- spot the Doctor Who reference there -- but with some tinkering it was persuaded to do so in a new one. If the recipe below helps anyone else, great:

I've also since tested it with PlayOnLinux, using the current System version of Wine (4.0.2) and the following settings;

I assume it all comes down to matching the right version of DirectX to the right fake OS.

Elsewhere, in Windows-land, Microsoft is determined to steal your passwords and data, and sadly that's not even an exaggeration; "Since Windows 10 1903, Microsoft quietly changed the Windows Out-of-box Experience (OOBE) or setup experience so that many users are no longer able to create a local account during set up as they could previously. Recently, this change also expanded to international users in India and Germany." https://tech.slashdot.org/story/20/02/25/2311204/microsoft-wants-to-do-away-with-windows-10-local-accounts

The company would doubtless argue that with device encryption being pushed as a standard on most platforms; https://www.howtogeek.com/234826/how-to-enable-full-disk-encryption-on-windows-10/ ...and with laptops the de facto form factor these days, they're a) trying to help, and b) can be trusted, and absolutely don't have any of their cloud platform administrators and US law enforcement poking around in anything they feel like, including sensitive business data. And techniques used to push OneDrive and other subscription services are totally not monopolistic practices (these things matter more when a company has already been convicted of similar things).

But in that case, give the user two equally prominent side-by-side options and let them choose. Personally I think the frog is already boiling. I'm also expecting Microsoft (like a number of other companies based outside of China) to get massively clobbered in a legal sense at some point, over one thing or another; https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/11/16/microsoft_gdpr/ https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/21/eu_data_watchdog_has_serious_concerns

And lastly as an endnote… wow, I remember this (someone sent me a link in 2005): http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/installing-linux-on-a-dead-badger-users-notes/