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Distributions / RAM usage of Ubuntu flavours with different desktops
« on: June 18, 2018, 12:55:42 pm »
This is based on a youtube video where RAM and disk usage of different Ubuntu flavours were tested. (See it here. I was somewhat surprised at the RAM results, which I captured with a screenshot (posted). I know that Gnome would be heavy on RAM, but I was surprised by how much more RAM it used than KDE Plasma (1.3 GB vs 460 MB). Budgie was almost double KDE, but it is based on Gnome. The lowest usage by far was LXDE (260 MB). I don't know how much that matters when you have more than 4 GB of RAM installed. With sufficient RAM, does lower usage necessarily mean a more responsive system?

Note that the really low usage window managers like openbox and enlightenment weren't tested. I know from experience that openbox is much more nimble than Gnome, even with lows of available RAM.

The question was prompted by this article. Two of the recommended alternatives to closed-source Dropbox are ownCloud and NextCloud. I use Dropbox to access files from different devices in and outside of my home and what I like about it is that it keeps them in sync. It costs me nothing as I have enough free Dropbox storage (~10 GB) to store all of the data files that I regularly use from different sources. It has also been 100% reliable. I seem to remember Bob Foley saying that internally hosted solutions are the best, as long as you aren't allowing access to files outside the home. Having 10-20 GB of dedicated space on a home computer would be no problem for me, but is that really a better, more secure solution than Dropbox?

Articles, Tutorials and Tips / Adventures with the Linux kernel
« on: June 11, 2018, 06:37:17 pm »
I did something interesting today. In Linux Mint 18.3, I opened up the Software application and searched for linux kernels. To my surprise, the available kernels went up to 4.15. I say surprise because the updater was only offering 4.13. Linux Mint is great for stuff like this. You can try another kernel and if it doesn't work, boot back into the old kernel and get rid of the new. Which I had to do. I installed the generic kernel, the signed version of it and the corresponding linux-image. The result: it booted but wouldn't recognize the keyboard or mouse. So I looked again at what had been installed for the old kernel, and I was missing a file: linux-image-extra. It wasn't available for the 4.15 version I installed (4.15.0-23), but it was for an older version (4.15.0-15). When I installed that kernel (all four files), everything worked OK!

Now that I know this, I'm still going to uninstall the new kernel and wait for the Mint 19 upgrade in the event that the presence of 4.15.0-15 messes up the upgrade.

I wonder how else this knowledge can be used? Going back to openSUSE, Tumbleweed works on my 5k iMac because it used the 4.15 kernel, whereas the more stable LEAP won't boot because it uses the 4.14 kernel. But openSUSE has something called a build service, which allows you to take a default installer and change things in it. Makes me wonder how hard it would be to build an openSUSE LEAP installer with the 4.15 kernel? Not that I need it for anything, but might be fun to try it as an experiment.

General Linux/Android Discussions / Linux kernel 4.17
« on: June 05, 2018, 12:36:01 pm »
Apparently, Linus Torvalds is not quite ready to move the Linux kernel to version 5; the next release will be 4.17, and he expects to go up to 4.20. None of that is of great importance, but some features in the new 4.17 kernel are. (You can read about them here. Of particular interest is that it will incorporate some power savings features that could help laptop users get more out of their batteries. It will also incorporate drivers for new AMD GPU's.

I do wonder whether the kernel will just be incorporating energy savings that I get anyway with TLP, or if this is something additive.

The announcement is here. Lots of you are running Mint, so start your engines and try out the new version.

Mint 19 interests me in particular because it will ship with the 4.15 kernel, which boots right up on my 5k iMac (at least it does in Ubuntu 18.04). The 4.8 kernel from Mint 18 also worked well on this computer and as a result, I switched to Mint (cinnamon) and have been using it exclusively until Ubuntu 18.04 was released. Now I am using the two interchangeably, and am waiting to see how Mint 19 performs before deciding which will be my main distro.

Support / Force a change in a default application (Ubuntu gnome)
« on: May 20, 2018, 07:17:14 am »
An application I am trying out, Freemaker Office 2018, has the nasty side effect of locking itself in as the default application for all Microsoft Office mime types. The usual way of addressing this (at least in Ubuntu), is to right-click on a file with the mime type you want to change the default on, choose "properties", then choose the "Open with" tab. You can then select the application that you want to be the default for that mime type and click on the button "set as default". But with Freemaker Office installed, its applications are frozen as the defaults and you can't change it that way. I think there must be an extra strength way of doing this; perhaps as superuser and through the command line? Any ideas how I can do this?

FreeOffice 2018 is a free version of Softmaker Office 2018; both have Linux versions. There was an earlier thread on Softmaker Office 2018 that you should read to get a sense of the product and how it compares to other office software for Linux (including LibreOffice). There are a few things missing from FreeOffice 2018 that are present in the paid version (Softmaker Office), but almost everything you need is in the free version. I reviewed the missing functions and the only one that looks relevant to a lot of people is that FreeOffice cannot save files in the old MS Word format (.doc); only the new format (.docx). I think that the same applies to the spreadsheet and presentation programs.

Does it have any advantage over LibreOffice? My previous attempts to compare translations of MS Word documents suggest that both are pretty good and depending on what's in the document, one or other might be slightly better. But one feature better in FreeOffice/Softmaker Office 2018 than in LibreOffice is the track changes feature; something I use a lot. LibreOffice will only do this inline, making for a messy document on screen. FreeOffice has the option to do it in the margins just like MS Office and I find this much better for viewing. WPS, Kingsoft's proprietary but free office product, also allows track changes in the margins, but it cannot save documents to open source formats. So each of the three products has a few strengths and weaknesses relative to the other two.

If you want more information on FreeOffice 2018 or would like to download it, you can get it here.

General Discussion / Can't believe I'm going back to Bell
« on: May 15, 2018, 07:53:00 pm »
Well, my Cogeco discount is up and the new amount is an increase of 12% over what I was paying. So I called Cogeco and asked for Loyalty, which has worked for the last year in keeping down my cost to very close to the promo amount. This time they wouldn't offer anything better, so I warned them I would go shopping. They let me go, so I did. I went to Bell only to get a price I could take to Cogeco the next morning, but the offer was for better service at a slightly lower price than Cogeco was offering, locked in for a year instead of the 6 months Cogeco offers for their specials. I'm going from 40 mbps to 300, with more or less same TV and same phone service, and no connection or installation charges. So I took it. (NOTE Buster: I'll end up with what you have been bragging about!)

I have no illusions about Bell. I doubt that they have changed their stripes, but now that a court decision has gone against them, the written agreement should shield me from any price increases for a year. They told me what the cost would be after a year but wouldn't guarantee it. So I expect that a year from now I'll approach them again, and when they won't meet that cost, I'll end up switching again. PITA, but I have no loyalty to any firm that doesn't treat me right. My "new" service starts May 22 but to be honest, I am perfectly happy with 40 mbps I have now and I would go back to it if I have to if it saves enough money.

General Linux/Android Discussions / Linux Journal again
« on: May 13, 2018, 09:07:02 am »
As Jason noted in an earlier thread, Linux Journal is publishing again. What you may not know is that I am on Linux Journal's advisory board, and have been asked to give advice on future subject areas, as well as suggestions for future editorial topics. Among the topics they are considering are DIY Projects, Containers, Gaming, HPC, Programming, Monitoring, Coreboot/Libreboot/Linuxboot, Machine Automation and Security. They want feedback about other topics to include on this list as editorial topics, and also subject areas. If you have ideas on topics you would like to see them cover, send me an email.

I should mention that I was not a previous subscriber to LJ until I agreed to be part of their advisory board, so I wasn't that familiar with the journal. My previous subscription was to Linux Voice, which got folded into Linux Pro magazine. I am presently subscribed to this, but in looking at all the current published Linux magazines (including Linux Format which I sometimes buy), I find that all but Linux Voice had a high ratio of articles for advanced users to articles of general interest to people at my level. I'm now hoping that with the resuscitation of LJ and an opportunity to influence its content, I can help make LJ more beginner/intermediate user friendly.

I am now halfway through their current (May) edition, and am so far finding it slightly more to my liking than Linux Pro or Linux Format. The current issue has a great series of articles on privacy, including easy things any of us can do to keep more of our data private (it even covers Tor and Facebook). The other nice thing I discovered about LJ is that they have released at least one of their recent issues (get it here). The website itself has interesting articles on it; check it out. If you like what you see, consider subscribing to the electronic edition (12 issues for $US34.50 or $6/issue).

Subject says it all. I open up an app in Plasma, try to minimize it with the left button and it seems to just nuke the app and window. If it is minimizing it, I can't figure out how to bring it back. There doesn't seem to be a taskbar on either panel I set up.

General Linux/Android Discussions / Convergence on a Samsung phone
« on: February 28, 2018, 07:17:44 am »
You probably remember that Canonical was intending to bring convergence to Android phones, where you could run Ubuntu on the phone, plug it into a cradle and connect it to a desktop monitor and keyboard. They gave up on it, but apparently, Samsung has not. They issued a video showing it at an early stage, but demoed to Google personnel. Have a look at it (here); you'll be impressed. The implication is that when you travel and need a computer, you can leave the computer home and just take your phone if you have a desktop setup wherever you're going.

Articles, Tutorials and Tips / AMD graphics card support in Debian
« on: February 28, 2018, 07:11:13 am »
Those of you with an AMD Radeon GPU may have had trouble getting it to work properly. I certainly have on my 5k iMac with a Radeon R9 M390 GPU, and have reported this elsewhere. One of the distros I tried on it was Debian via a live USB, and it required 5 minutes to boot up because of a graphics card problem. Well apparently the issue is missing packages that keep the open source AMDGPU driver from installing. If you are having any issues with a recent AMD graphics card on a Debian-based distro, the following article might be helpful (get it here). The missing packages are firmware-linux, llvm and clang and to get them with apt or synaptic, you need to have contrib and non-free repositories enabled.

Distributions / Ubuntu 18.04 gives good support to the newer AMD GPU's
« on: February 26, 2018, 01:39:12 pm »
It uses Linux kernel 4.15, according to this article. As noted in another post, I can verify that 18.04 works with my R9 M290 graphics card out of the box (without any Grub modesetting modifications). If you have a relatively new AMD GPU and were having trouble with Linux because of it, you might want to try making a live USB from the latest Bionic Beaver daily build and giving it a whirl.

I just made a new discovery that makes me even happier that I bought Crossover Linux. I just installed a new distro to try out (Pop!_OS), and I wanted to use it to work on MS Word documents that are viewed and co-written with collaborators. I have a "bottle" (the term Crossover uses for a c: drive it creates for a set of applications) for MS Office 2010 in Ubuntu. It has been registered, and I want to be able to use it on my Pop!_OS installation on the same computer. Turns out that Crossover has a procedure for just that. You can create a .deb, .rpm or Solaris package from any bottle and transfer it over to the partition holding the new distro. I tried this. It took about 10 minutes to create the .deb file, and when I then installed it from Pop!_OS, it not only duplicated the c: drive with Office 2010 in it, but I was able to choose the apps in it as favourites and put them on my Gnome dock, from where they start right up. Checking the status, they remain registered in the new location. This not only saves time from reinstallation, but it also remembers my settings and keeps the apps registered. Perhaps there is a way to do all these things in pure Wine; I don't know. But this was easy and useful, and also with the other niceties of Crossover Linux, it makes it well worth the ~ $30 US I paid for it. Incidentally, that fee allows you use on any computer you own without having to buy additional copies.

Support / Suggestions for inexpensive, Linux-friendly USB wifi dongle
« on: February 16, 2018, 11:33:38 am »
I'm getting sick of having to connect to Ethernet every time I want to try or install a distro on one of my computers with Broadcom wifi cards, so I would now like to buy an inexpensive dongle that plugs into a usb port and gives me wifi. Any suggestions from those of you who have one? Also, should I worry about whether it's USB 2 or 3, and what speed it is? The cheapest I've seen on the internet seem to be 150 mbps.

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