Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

New laptop woes and thrills!

October 16, 2018

Well, I finally bit the bullet and bought a brand new laptop.  No it wasn’t from a pawn shop as with the Dell Inspiron N5010.  Actually I bought two per say.  Bought a new Dell Inspiron 5575 with an AMD Raven Ridge APU in it and had to return it for two reasons after a week of frustrations putting Linux on it.  First and largest reason I returned it was because I could not load Linux on it.  The second was what I describe below.  Prior to this Microsoft Windows 10 was on it.

Later investigation into the reason I returned the AMD Raven Ridge laptop found it had a BIOS (basic input output) issue which after a year had still not been fixed.  It seems the BIOS manufacturer and not Dell had screwed up.  Yes, that’s right Dell did not write their own BIOS for this system.  The BIOS IOMMU (input output memory mapping unit) failed to function with Linux.  Not only this but Linux could not even see the southbridge in the laptop motherboard.  The one time I was able to load a distribution of Linux on the system I had to do so in pure legacy mode.  It would not install with the UEFI enabled at all.  Well this made the laptop heat up as well as the power brick.  There is a work around for this but for me that was not an option.  Either it works correctly from boot or it is garbage.

Even more investigation into this issue found it to be a BIOS issue not just with Dell but other manufacturers as well.  I’m unsure at this time who wrote the BIOS for those other laptops (Lenovo and ASUS, there may be others).  It makes me wonder if there weren’t some backdoor shenanigans done or backdoor deals with another CPU manufacturer to make the Raven Ridge chip a disaster even a year after it’s initial release.  It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.  It actually has and the company behind it was fined heavily.

Anyway, I turned that laptop back into the place of purchase and walked out with yet another Dell.  This time a Dell Inspiron 7573.  Not that I wanted to go back to an Intel processor, but I was forced to by the fiasco of the Inspiron 5575.  I’m still learning this laptop and it’s functions.  It’s a 2 in 1 with a Kabylake quad core processor with Intel UHD 620 graphics.  The display is a touch screen FHD IPS technology display.  I like it much better than the Inpiron N5010 display even if it still has a 60HZ refresh rate.  It came with a 256 gigabyte Micron 1100 Sata 3 SSD and is suppose to support an Nvme drive or Intel Optane drive.  I’ve yet to find out for sure about this.  Haven’t pulled the bottom panel off yet to be sure.

With this laptop, I was able to load my favorite distribution of Linux.  KDE Neon loaded up without so much as an issue with secure boot and UEFI BIOS settings enabled.  It took me a bit to get everything back to normal (my normal setup), but here I am typing this to you from it.  What immensely surprised me on this laptop ((manufactured in 2018 (that’s right, this year)) that I purchased for just about $860 with taxes included, is that it even had one of the newest if not the newest Intel WiFi chips in it.  From what I’ve been able to ascertain it’s not only dual banded (2.4 as well as 5Ghz) but also has the 2X2 antenna.  Bonus!

I haven’t done a full battery test on it yet, but I’m pleased to say that under Linux this thing will do rather well.  Last night I watched approximately 90 minutes of video and didn’t even scratch the battery capacity.  It dropped to just 90% watching that video.  I’ve yet to throw a couple of 3 hour movies at it.  I’ll update this as soon as I watch Dune and Avatar (both director’s cuts) on it.  Back to back I doubt.

Couple of quick notes for those looking to purchase a laptop this year.  Some manufacturers are doing away with the numeric keypad on the 15.6 inch models to conserve space and lighten the load.  Thus key spacing is a bit wider on this laptop compared to my old one which had a numeric keypad.  For me it’s not a necessity as I learned to type back in 9th grade on a manual typewriter.  I’m still getting use to this keyboard on my new laptop and find myself backing up to correct errors.  However, my typing speed is improving quickly.  Other thing I’ve found is that this machine needs a new lock (cable security lock for when you’re away from the PC).  My old one just won’t fit the hole in this laptop.

Other than the aforementioned items, I’m thoroughly please now that I have a fully functional laptop again.  Now all I have to do is max this one out memory wise and possibly replace the Sata 3 SSD with a much larger Nvme drive.  That’s for yet another day though.  For now it does what I want without issue.

Also for those looking into a new laptop to run Linux, do your research carefully.  Make sure that you know whether or not they have fixed the Raven Ridge issues before purchasing the Raven Ridge laptops.  Sure the graphics are faster than the Intel built in graphics chip, but is it going to work without workarounds in Linux.  It was my original intent to have a faster graphics machine for a laptop.  However, we must all make trade offs to get our work done.

Yet another thing to look at is the WiFi chipset in your prospective new purchase.  Is it supported by the Linux kernel or are the drivers freely available?  The Raven Ridge laptop that I originally purchased had Atheros ath10k WiFi chipset.  That has readily available drives in most distributions of Linux.  Since I went back to an Intel machine, I got fortunate to not have a Broadcom chipset (which Dell has been known to use).  I have a very fast Intel WiFi.

My recommendations for those purchasing a new laptop for Linux is to look into Dell (they support Ubuntu), HP, Lenovo, or System 76 (they are now producing their own variant of Ubuntu called PopOs!) for your purchases.  Most of these manufacturers have great support.  Dell and HP let you download full service manuals for their laptops from my knowledge.  Lenovo and System 76 I’m unsure of.  If you don’t care for the trouble of doing your own install of Linux, Dell and System 76 are the best bets.  However, you’ll have to order those systems direct from those manufacturers.  Beyond that, you’re mileage may vary depending on the manufacturer of your laptop.  Also, do your homework before you make your purchase.  Once you purchase it, make sure the system BIOS is up to date while Windows is still on the machine (Windows does make things easier in this realm).

Hopefully this will help those that consider purchasing a laptop to run other than Windows on it.  At least it may help those who are considering dual booting or just jumping ship and leaving Microsoft behind like I did well over a decade ago.  Enjoy.

One thing I did forget to mention as I was writing this was if you should purchase a Dell system.  There is an item under the Dell menu in Windows 10 worth noting.  It’s called “System OS Recovery” that’s worth noting.  Should you want to wipe Windows 10 off your system, Do use this “System OS Recovery” prior to wiping the hard drive/SSD!  What it does is download the Dell image file for your system and writes it to a USB stick for later re-install or install after you decide to sell your laptop when replacing it.  Should you ever want to restore Windows 10, this is an invaluable tool.  Especially if you should sell your laptop at a later date to someone who is not familiar with Linux.


Fun with any Operating System(The Love Of Music)

February 6, 2017

It’s been a while since I posted here and I’ve tossed around many an idea for posting.  Instead of something political or ranting about this or that, I thought I’d do something that would help others instead.  It’s something that everyone likes too.  Matter of fact, everyone has their own collection that often gets larger and larger over the years.

Many have used iTunes and other services to purchase their digital music.  Many share their music via Youtube.  Even the record companies or at least someone inside the companies is sharing various music online via Youtube.  How do I know this.  I’ve discovered this while working on a project to provide entertainment for my 40th high school class reunion.

What I found would not only increase your music collection but save you a ton of money as well.  With a few simple tools (some free and others that cost you a small amount should you decide to use a “professional” version of the software), some time, and a little effort on your part, most of your music can be had for free without the use of bit torrent or other so called illegal services.

Let’s start with the appropriate software.  Most use Microsoft Windows so I’ll provide a link which talks of many different Youtube downloading tools.  That link is:

This one talks of pros and cons of the various software as well as what you’d get with the “paid for professional” versions.  I’ll leave the decision up to you as to the software you choose as a Windows user when it comes to downloading the videos from Youtube.

For my Mac fans you can look and select from this link for downloaders:

For Linux fans (I highly recommend Clipgrab).  It can be found in many distro’s repositories or if you have to get it otherwise, go here:

While researching this I found that Clipgrab is available for both Windows and Mac as well as Linux.  Give it a try.  It allows multiple downloads (more than one at a time), it has a converter ( I don’t use this function), and a very handy function I’ve found to work with the browser.  Just right click on the URL in your browser for the video and it can copy the URL directly to Clipgrab with a simple click on the notification.  Then you can download it with Clipgrab.  Best of all is Clipgrab is free.  So all operating systems have multiple applications for downloading Youtube video.  The choice is yours.

The second application you’ll need is Audacity.  It’s an open source (free) application that has Windows, Mac, and in my case Linux versions.  This is a “go to” tool for converting videos to MP3 and allowing you to edit the content, normalize it, as well as many other things with audio.  You’ll find that some of your Youtube downloaders will have converters built into them.  Audacity will do a much better job and you can clean up the recorded song as well.  Documentation on this application is very good and straight forward in it’s use.  You can find Audacity here:

Now the fun really begins.  Start searching Youtube for music videos.  The best ones to select are those that state “Provided to YouTube by.”  After this statement it will most likely have a record company name such as Universal, Sony, etc.  If these are NOT available, there are often posts of the original video done for MTV or VH1 posted by Vevo.  These are the best to download for conversion.  When they are NOT available, your best bet is consult one of two sources for time length to get the correct length of the song in question.  Those sources can be:

Those sites will allow you to search the artist, the album, and the song to verify you have a good download from Youtube.

Once you have the video or videos you want to convert to MP3 format, you’re ready for the second phase of things unless your downloader will also convert to MP3.  I forgo the built in converters because I remove dead spots (no audio) as well as normalize the sound and select the bit rate and quality of the conversion.  These are things that Audacity does with aplomb.

With that mentioned, load up Audacity then open your video file with it (most Youtube video formats are supported).  Once the file is open you can edit it to your hearts content.  Please read the documentation on the editing tools before using them.  After you’ve finished with your editing, you’ll have to EXPORT instead of SAVE for MP3 format.  This is very well described in the Audacity documentation.  This is where you’ll select name, bit rate, quality, and be able to edit the MP3 tag file.

That’s pretty much how to do it.  I hope this helps those that collect music as I’m now doing for myself and the entertainment of others.  And one last thing.  Wikipedia is your friend when it comes to the charts.  There are various pages on the various Billboard charts.  One such that I’m using has listed all the Billboard Hot 100 year end songs from 1951 to present.  There’s another such listing the Billboard Country year end songs from 1941 to present.  I’m sure there are other charts there or you could even look at Billboard’s own:

Happy collecting.

View of KDE Neon

August 16, 2016

First a little background information on myself. I’ve been a CompTIA A+ certified technician since 2003. My love for Linux started even before then. By 2006, I was running Linux on my computer systems without dual booting Windows of any variant. So I’ve been running Linux for approximately ten years as my sole operating system of choice.

Through those ten years, I’ve worked with two basic distributions of Linux. Redhat’s Fedora was my start but after a few years of tinkering with the system almost constantly I started shopping around for a new distribution. It was then that I happened upon Ubuntu in their early days. Many know that Ubuntu is based on Debian which is one of the oldest distributions in existence, much like Redhat.

Over the years I’ve found Ubuntu/Debian to be much faster at many things than the rpm based distributions. Updating is easier either via command line or graphical tools as well as faster. Granted packaging software is different, but the vast amount of software for Debian based distributions is much broader.

Lately I’d been shopping around for a new distribution of Linux yet again. I wanted it to be Debian based but with the options of removing existing software that I didn’t want and installing those applications that I found over the years that I liked and felt comfortable with. Over several months I’ve searched for a distribution of my liking and with my favorite desktop (KDE). Most were experimented with via a virtual machine like Oracle’s VirtualBox software.

As always, Linux is in a state of flux and updates with developers throwing out stuff that either doesn’t work or doesn’t fit their intended purpose. Gnome desktop has gone through this as recently as five years ago. They all but changed the entire look of their desktop. KDE is going through this now so finding a decent working desktop is not easy. There are other desktops out there and many have their preferences. I’ve even tried a few of the others (namely XFCE and Cinnamon). However, I almost always return to KDE.

I think I’ve finally found something of a rolling release of Linux. Or perhaps it’s just a rolling release desktop. For those keeping up on the latest Linux offerings, I’m currently writing this in LibreOffice running on KDE Neon. It’s a project started by Jonathan Riddell to run advancements out on the KDE desktop almost as they happen. The base of this is Ubuntu LTS (long term support).

Neon is an interesting project and should be praised. It’s a lean and stable operating system if you chose the user edition. It has a developer edition as well, but it’s much more prone to breakage. However, neither version isn’t without it’s faults. Of course the same can be said about any Windows system.

For the desktop, Neon runs the latest KDE. At the time of this writing it’s KDE Frameworks 5.7 with Plasma 5.7.3 in the user edition. In most cases, I’m impressed with the work of the KDE developers. The new Plasma is much snappier than the KDE 4 days. My only quibble here is the all out flatness of the desktop. It can be beautified. I’ll get to that later.

Most of your normal KDE applications are here via the Ubuntu/Kubuntu repositories. Current applications layer is KDE 16.04.3. They all seem to play nice with the system and appear to load quicker than their older versions. I’m not certain as to the reason behind this but like most Ubuntu/Debian systems it seems to just work. For all appearances Neon, is nothing more than Kubuntu 16.04 with the latest KDE applications and frameworks. The memory footprint is loads better than KDE 4. I just checked the bare desktop as I have it configured and it takes up not even five hundred megabyte of ram (I think it was like 450 or just a little more). I makes it more competitive with other lightweight desktops out there now. Otherwise it’s very stable.

Now for the minimal issues I’ve found thus far. The biggest issue I’ve found with Neon is that though KDE is still in fast development, some of the applications I use (especially those that minimize to the system tray) just don’t have full functionality with the current Plasma. One of my favorites is Qbittorrent. It’s one that I generally use to download distributions of Linux to test in virtual machine. When minimizing this and other applications to the system tray, their icons just disappear from the taskbar, the system tray, and the desktop. This may be Plasma and then again it may mean that there is a communication issue with the KDE developers and other application developers.

My second beef is more with Canonical than it is with Neon. Though I’m all for preventing “root” access to certain applications (file managers and such), there’s been an inherent or it could be intentional bug in using various applications (Dolphin and Kate to name two) with “root” access. Now there IS a workaround (it can be found at and it’s fairly easy to implement for those who are experienced with the command line. The biggest beef here is those that want to “tweak” Neon and for that matter Kubuntu’s performance need to have “root” access to these graphical applications to do so without going back to the command line. After “tweaking” system administrators can LOCK done “root” privileges.

I only truly have one other fault for Neon as well as other distributions that are moving to KDE Frameworks 5. This is the tacky or to be more blunt ugly login screen on SDDM. Yes, I understand they want to “advertise” their desktop but PLEASE! I’ve found much better login screens on Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop with MDM that are far more unobtrusive than the greeter for SDDM on any distribution. The “lock screen” and the “splash screen” are just as bad. Granted you can put up your own picture behind the greeter and the lock screen, but it would be nice if you could do the same with the “splash screen.” Here is where KDE could take a page from other desktops. Now there are options but they are not quit as fully developed as the shipping packages. I hope to work on this issue myself as I know a bit of XML and am willing to learn more.

In the past, I’ve submitted bugs, made entries into various forums, as well as sought help and assisted those with questions on Internet Relay Chat (freenode). I still do these things when necessary and will continue to do so. I’m a firm believer in open source software as well as open source operating systems. Anyone who would take the time to read Microsoft’s Privacy statement thoroughly that is now out there and thought about what they were stating there would consider open source even more. I’m not a fan of the current policy from Microsoft though I have to support their operating systems. But for me it will continue to be Linux and open source software. I think more and more corporations should consider it in the future. I know governments are.

What is WRONG with operating system developers?

March 24, 2016

Though I’ve taken a course in C++ and Java programming, I still wonder WTF! When I say this I often think of those companies (Yes, even the open source companies) are thinking when they are trying to merge their desktop/laptop operating systems with their phone operating systems. Now, I agree it would make things simpler in development, but….

It’s obvious that some people often don’t think the same as you or I or even the corporate information technologists. I wonder in their infinite wisdom as they so like to think, have they taken the time out to look at the BIG picture. I’d say they haven’t. The developers would say they have.

Let’s take the major mistake that Microsoft made in this area and what is happening in the open source community. When Microsoft came out with Windows 8, it was advertised as the next major step in operating systems. Those of us that were smart and those in the corporate world bowed out on Windows 8 and even Windows 8.1. There were more than a few reasons behind this.

First the corporate view of this. Their reasoning was three fold. First and foremost was the cost of NEW hardware. Before I began typing this I took a look at Newegg. They are one of many on line retailers of both software and hardware. I found the same thing that the corporations found. The cost of any touch screen exceeds the cost of a REGULAR flat panel computer monitor by anywhere from $150 US to well over triple the cost. That alone would be a huge outlay for corporations even with their volume purchase discounts let along people like you and me. Secondly, let’s look at the cost of retraining personnel in the corporate world. It’s not cheap. Training costs exceed the cost of hardware by far. Retraining for a “touch” operating system would have been exceptionally costly. And there is yet a third reason behind the corporations not moving to a “touch” operating system. The last and probably the most damning of these was the cost of the operating system itself. Microsoft change the licensing on their operating system so it would be even more costly for the corporate world than it was before. Corporations were having NONE of this.

All of these were valid reasons for not just the corporations to pass on Windows 8 and 8.1 but have second thoughts about Microsoft’s half step backwards for Windows 10. It appears Microsoft still hasn’t quite given up on the idea of merging operating systems between phone and desktop/laptop. And it appears that Microsoft is NOT the only one. Canonical (the producers of Ubuntu) are attempting the same thing that Microsoft is doing but in the open source arena. And they are not the only ones either. Even Apple is working on the same aspects (Though, I think that they stand a better chance at making it work).

As I see it, there is NO WAY that a “touch” screen operating system will ever become as productive as a desktop/laptop operating system. First of all, you have to have a very stable base for “touch” to work on anything above perhaps a ten inch screen. Even a ten inch screen is too large in some cases. Then there is the cost of maintenance of those touch screens not just the initial cost of them. Touch screens have to be cleaned with more regularity just to SEE what you’re looking at without eye strain. Yes, the oil that comes from your skin makes a mess of any flat panel. It also makes the eyes strain to see through that mess from all the touching. Do you really want to have to wipe off a beautiful 17 inch or above touch screen monitor just to see what you’re doing in the process of doing it? I certainly don’t.

Perhaps in another generation or two touch will be the rage of the desktop/laptops. However, I like many others who are use to the “old school” methods of computing more than likely won’t be around unless someone finds the fountain of youth. Even then, I don’t think I want to live that long anyway. This entire thing makes me reminisce a scene from one of the original Star Trek movies where Scotty is addressing an “old school” computer with a keyboard like he would the computers on the Enterprise. Quite comical if you ask me.

Microsoft Window 10 Upgrade!

August 11, 2015

Ok, everyone has been hearing about Microsoft Windows 10 upgrade lately.  I’ve seen only one report that was written with any thought of looking deeply under the hood of Windows 10.  I’ve yet to read others.  Being an IT technician, I follow big business and their habits about upgrading operating systems and supporting them.  Thus is why I keep up with what Microsoft is up to.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine on Internet Relay Chat showed me a copy of a recent email he’d gotten about Windows 10.  I was rather dumbfounded to say the least and wasn’t sure if it were a hoax or not.  After reading it and Microsoft’s own “privacy statement,” I am even more shell shocked.  You can read this “privacy statement” in it’s entirety here:

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  You’ll be just as shocked as I was.  If you think the NSA scandal was bad with your personal information and spying, you haven’t begun to understand government or big business.  This “privacy statement” as Microsoft is calling it is ripe for a class action lawsuit.  This is nothing more than pure invasion of privacy on the level of if not beyond what the NSA was doing before Edward Snowden released his informative information about what was happening inside the NSA.

Let me list just what they are collecting without their explanation of it.  You can go to the above link and find out their definition of the terms I use here under the section : Personal Data We Collect.

Name and contact data


Demographic data

Interests and favorites

Payment data

Usage data

Contacts and relationships

Location data


Taken individually or taken as a whole, wouldn’t you think twice before upgrading even if you could turn most of this collection process off?  I know I would.  Do you think Microsoft is going to do what they say with your personal information?  I don’t.  I’ll make the wager that Microsoft is going to not only use your personal information but SELL it in order to reap even more money (profit) off their monopolistic ways.

Ok, most of you won’t believe this and probably have already upgraded.  All I can say is YOU’LL BE SORRY!  Start looking for your junk mail and unk email to fill up beyond capacity and telemarketers to call more than usual.  This is only the beginning unless a class action lawsuit is brought against Microsoft.  Microsoft will NOT protect your personal data against government agencies unlike Google who has.  Microsoft and Uncle Sam are closely tied together at the hip.

For those that are still on Windows 7, stay put till AFTER this gets resolved.  Either that or join a growing number of people like myself who are moving away from Windows and to a lesser extent Apple to use open source software (FREE) and the Linux or BSD operating systems.  I know.  You’ll say it’s harder than Windows or Mac OS X.  Yes it can be so take it slow at first if you decide you want to drop kick Microsoft to the curb.

Here’s the upside of moving away from proprietary software: absolutely no cost for the operating system at all, more secure operating system (less virus prone and less spyware prone), faster updates than Microsoft [(first Tuesday of every month) whereas Linux and BSD update shortly after a security issue is found (usually within days not weeks months or years)], and many many more applications than Windows will ever have for you guessed it FREE.  The largest upside is that both Linux and BSD operating systems DO NOT collect personal data!

The ball is in your court now.  Upgrade or not.  Personally, I’ll NEVER look back at Windows again.  Even if I do it will NOT be Windows 10 and it will be run in virtual machine NOT my main operating system.  I’ve been on Linux (Kubuntu and Fedora Core) for over 8 years now full time.  I don’t know it all nor will I ever really know it all.  However, I’m happier knowing my system is secure and more stable than Windows (any variant) will ever be.