Two Weeks With elementary OS

About two weeks ago, after almost a year on OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, I installed elementary os Juno on my ThinkPad T430.

I installed Tumbleweed last year ahead of attending and giving a talk at the OpenSUSE Summit at ScALE 17x. I am a fan of OpenSUSE and I really enjoy having a rolling release distro, but I had been challenged. I have always been something of a ‘distrohopper’ and I have used lots of different OS’s in my 10+ years full-time on Linux. At some point during that time, I had come to the belief that distro hopping was, well, childish, not to put too fine a point on it. I had convinced myself that some combination of “the grass is always greener” syndrome and commitment issues was a detriment to my use of Linux and I just needed to put down some roots. As I have always had something of an anti-establishment streak, I couldn’t settle on Ubuntu or Fedora and Arch and it’s derivatives have posed challenges to me in the past. So, OpenSUSE it was. I installed my beloved XFCE desktop and was very happy.

However, I was listening to a talk from some Linux conference or another and a gentleman, whose name escapes me, said that distro hopping was preferred for Linux evangelists and those of us who are in a position to recommend distros to civilians (my word choice, not his). His point was, how can you answer the question, “But, which distro should I choose?”, if you haven’t tried LOTS of distros. He went on to say that trying different distros will increase the breadth of your knowledge of Linux, in general. It makes you more flexible. It enables you to slide into many different scenarios and be successful.

I was floored. I was, to be honest, a little insulted. This was because I had convinced myself that hopping was a behaviour to be avoided. However, I continued to ruminate on his words. I re-examined my opinion. I began to agree. I decided to take up his challenge to live in different distros, in different environments, for my own benefit and education. I decided to abandon OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. But, where to go?

I mentioned previously that I had been using XFCE on Tumbleweed. Truth is, I always used XFCE. I was in a rut, to be fair. I am, by nature, a minimalist when it comes to technology. I also like to be in charge of everything. I don’t like desktop icons, I don’t like huge header bars on my windows, I don’t like relying on a mouse when a keyboard chord will do. Gnome Shell and KDE Plasma are big and resource intensive. Other distros, like elementary were locked down and not customizable. How could I ever ditch XFCE?

After listening to Daniel Fore (founder of elementary) on various podcasts over the years and following along the development of elementary os, I decided elementary would be as close to the exact opposite of everything I had been doing in Linux for the last 5 years. So, I committed. I installed elementary and I promised I would do everything the “elementary way”. I would use the AppCenter, not my usual command line tools (apt, zypper, yast, etc). Also, my preference for apps would be those written and curated specifically for elementary.

And, I have loved it! I am writing this article in Quilter, a markdown editor. I am using Mail, Terminal, Ciano, Taxi, and several other elementary-first apps. When I have needed an app outside of the curated list, I have tried to find it through the AppCenter first, then turning to Flathub and the Snap Store. My experience has been pretty great and I am very happy with the resulting setup. In my next post, I will go into more details on the apps I have installed and how I have attempted to customize elementary to my preferred workflow, when possible; and how I have attempted to customize my workflow to the nuances of elementary.

Thanks for reading this article and check back for follow up articles as well.

GalliumOS – Linux Designed for your Chromebook

There are a couple different ways to get Linux apps running on your Chromebook. For most recent models and, as far as I know, all new models; you can simply enable Linux app support and install your favorites directly into Chrome OS. These apps then run in a container and integrate directly with Chrome OS. However, if you are like me, you have an older Chromebook which does not now, nor will it ever, support Linux apps natively

.I have an Acer c720. In fact, I’m writing this post on it right now. Older Chromebooks can utilize a free utility called ‘crouton’ (https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton) to run Linux applications or even a full linux desktop within or along side Chrome OS. I have used crouton in the past on this C720 and it works great. However, I quickly got tired of switching back and forth between Chrome OS and Linux.

This particular laptop was shipped with SeaBIOS installed. SeaBIOS behaves like a typical x86 bios, allowing you to select your boot device at boot time. By enabling developer mode and setting a few firmware flags, I was presented with a boot menu at startup. I plugged a USB 3 flash drive (64g) into the USB 3 port on the C720 and a xubuntu (http://www.xubuntu.org) install usb stick in the other port and installed a full version of xubuntu to the flash drive. With this configuration, I could essentially dual-boot. I could select the internal boot drive to load Chrome OS or select the flash drive to boot xubuntu Linux. I used this set up for a long time and it worked well. I had a “best of both worlds” scenario. I would boot Linux to work and Chrome OS for media consumption (netflix, youtube, etc) or to quickly browse the web and check email.

As time went on, however, I became frustrated with the speed running off of the usb drive. I also found that I was booting to Linux 90% of the time and using my tablet or phone for the odd email or youtube video. I decided to sacrifice Chrome OS and use linux only. I cracked open the laptop case, removed the write-protect screw, and installed Linux directly to the internal drive. It went perfectly and worked great. The C720 ships with a 16gb MVNE drive and I quickly filled it up. I replaced it with a 120g drive and solved that problem. The only issues were some hardware related things that result from the specialized Chromebook hardware. It wasn’t impossible, but there were some rough edges. The main pain point was the fact that the media keys (volume/brightness/etc) that make up the top row of the keyboard were not functional as intended. I tried to do some creative key mapping in xfce to work around this, but it was kludgy. I started looking for something new.

I tried several different distros with varying degrees of success until I finally came upon Gallium OS (https://galliumos.org/). Gallium is a specialized distro (based on my beloved xubuntu) that is tweaked to run on Chromebooks/Chromeboxes. I installed it a few weeks ago and I have been using it almost every day.

All in all, GalliumOS has been everything I want it to be. My only small kludge is a tiny, one line .Xmodmap script to set the Chromebook’s “Search” key to a CapsLock. (keycode 133 = Caps_Lock). I highly recommend using Gallium on your Chromebook. It has restored usefulness to my C720. Go give it a try.

Peace,
Matt McGraw
@NorCalGeekDad – twitter

SCaLE 17x – Southern California Linux Expo

It’s that time of year again! March 7-10, 2019 is the time and Pasadena, CA is the place for the 17th annual Southern California Linux Expo! This will be my 5th year participating in SCaLE. I started going in 2015 and I worked in the booth for ownCloud! I developed a relationship with Jos Poortvliet (community manager) and Frank Karlitschek (founder) and they asked me back to work the booth in ’16 and ’17. In mid 2016, Frank forked the ownCloud project and left the company he founded. He started a new project called Nextcloud and continued development. Today, Nextcloud is deployed around the world in installations with 10’s of users up to 1,000,000’s of users. I have continued to use Nextcloud daily and support Frank and Jos with my time and resources as I am available.
Last year, 2018, Jos and Frank were unable to make the trip from Berlin to join us at SCaLE, so I decided to host a BoF (Birds of a Feather) talk about Nextcloud. It was my first time leading a group at SCaLE and despite some hiccups, it went quite well. Towards the end of 2018, I emailed Jos to see if they were planning to come to California this year. Frank will be here but, sadly, Jos cannot make the trip.
One of the best things about how SCaLE has grown as a conference is the addition of other community events to the schedule. The Ubuntu project began holding an Ubucon each year at SCaLE and many other projects hold annual meetings/conferences/sprints as a part of the overall event. This year, openSUSE is holding an openSUSE Summit on Friday the 8th. Jos submitted a talk to the oS Summit which was accepted, but as he is unable to attend, he has asked me to fill his shoes. I will be presenting a workshop on installing Nextcloud on openSUSE Leap 15. Audience participation will be essential as I will be walking through the installation and setup of the Nextcloud server component so everyone who participates will have a working install by the end (I HOPE!!) I am very excited (and a little terrified) to present at this year’s expo. If you are going to be there, I hope you will come by and say, “Hi”. Thanks, Matt (@norcalgeekdad)

NaPodPoMo: Lessons Learned & What’s Next

Well… November came and went and I released… 8 episodes. The goal was 30 so, I hit 26% or so. Truth be told, I’m feeling pretty good about that. I have started 2 other podcasts and never made it to episode 8 before. I learned a lot about just sitting down and hitting that big red record button. The “fear factor” of just getting started can be enough to scare off potential and even semi-pro podcasters. I also learned a bit about recording software and the pluses and minuses of the various tools that are available. I produced some episodes on a Chromebook and some on my Linux laptop using the free software tool, Audacity (www.audacity.org) I used The Internet Archive (www.archive.org) to host my media files and I use WordPress (www.wordpress.org) to power my website. All of these tools work together well and make the production process very simple and straightforward. If someone came to me to talk about the technical side of starting a podcast, the tools I have used and the workflow I’ve created would be a good place to start.

So, do I want to continue to podcast? I do… but… I am not sure what form the GeekDadShow might take. I don’t have a ton of ideas for episodes, though I do keep a running list.  I have an idea for a different podcast, one that is very different from the “geeky” nature of the GeekDadShow. I don’t know what will come of that, but I’ll keep you all posted, for sure.

That’s all I have today. Thanks for reading. 

Matt

Episode 09 – Podcast Spotlight: Twisted Sisterds w/Becky Seville

NOTE: My chosen interview recording service failed me this episode. My recorded tracks had BAD audio drift so I had to manually cut and paste to make our voices line up. If it sounds a little hinky, that’s why! 😉

Welcome to our first Podcast Spotlight episode of National Podcast Post Month! Today I continue my conversation with Becky Seville, co-founder and co-host of the Twisted Sisterds podcast.

Episode Links:
* Twisted Sisterds Podcast
* Twisted Sisterds Instagram and Twitter feeds.
* Becky’s Top Three Episodes:
* Ep 44 with Hillary McBride I love how my thighs rub together
* Ep 31 with Jamie Lee Finch People are going to hate my answer
* Ep 13 The Easter Episode Renewal


Thanks to :
* Jennifer Navarrete of NaPodPoMo.org
* Internet Archive for hosting my show
* Theme Song “Vida (Funk mixdown) from the album Suite Samsara by lcze
* Production and website by ChiRho Technology Services.

Website powered by WordPress

Episode 7 – Conversation with Becky (with the purple hair) (Part 1)

NOTE: My chosen interview recording service failed me this episode. My recorded tracks had BAD audio drift so I had to manually cut and paste to make our voices line up. If it sounds a little hinky, that’s why! 😉

This episode is the first part of my conversation with my good friend, Becky Seville. We talk about how we know each other and we reflect on this week’s election results.

Enjoy!


Thanks to :
* Jennifer Navarrete of NaPodPoMo.org
* Internet Archive for hosting my show
* Theme Song “Vida (Funk mixdown) from the album Suite Samsara by lcze
* Production and website by ChiRho Technology Services.

Website powered by WordPress

Episode 06 – Faith! What is it good for?

Note: Another mobile production today; trying to get caught up.

Today I give a little insight into my relationship with faith. I was raised in a conservative, Evangelical household and I have grown up and through that. Today I identify as agnostic, “spiritual but not religious”, not a regular church goer. But I am starting to miss the relationships and comraderie and community.

Stay tuned next episode for my first guest interview. Bye, for now!


Thanks to :
* Jennifer Navarrete of NaPodPoMo.org
* Internet Archive for hosting my show
* Theme Song “Vida (Funk mixdown) from the album Suite Samsara by lcze
* Production and website by ChiRho Technology Services.

Website powered by WordPress

Episode 05 – The One Where We Talk About Mental Health

NOTE: content warning: depression, anxiety, suicide

In this episode I talk about my current state of mental health and how it contributed to this episode being a day late.

I also tease my interview/conversation with my friend Becky Seville.

Resources:
* National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
* Crisis Text Line (text with someone 24/7) Text ‘HOME’ to 741741


Thanks to :
* Jennifer Navarrete of NaPodPoMo.org
* Internet Archive for hosting my show
* Theme Song “Vida (Funk mixdown) from the album Suite Samsara by lcze
* Production and website by ChiRho Technology Services.

Website powered by WordPress

Episode 04 – Why am I doing this?

Note: this episode should have gone out yesterday, on Nov 4. I didn’t make it. Here is an unedited, free flow episode recorded in my car! Thanks

Why am I doing this:
* i need a challege
* i need an outlet
* i don’t think i can do it
* i want to
* hone my presentation skills
* hone my podcast workflow


Thanks to :
* Jennifer Navarrete of NaPodPoMo.org
* Internet Archive for hosting my show
* Theme Song “Vida (Funk mixdown) from the album Suite Samsara by lcze
* Production and website by ChiRho Technology Services.

Website powered by WordPress