What made you switch from Linux to FreeBSD?

I’ve switched to FreeBSD a few times, and always came back to Linux. FreeBSD is useful for various systems. Now days, you can even run top-notch desktop environments on a BSD system, like KDE and Xfce and others.

It just depends on what you like to do with your computer. Me? I do a lot of video and audio editing, writing, and for entertainment, I like to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Video online. BSD still struggles with Flash and certain other non-free programs.

Mainly this happens because, although BSD predated the development of Linux by Linus Torvalds, BSD and subsequent derivatives like FreeBSD, OpenBSD, TrueOS, NetBSD and so on were stalled by court battles over ownership of the Unix code.

BSDs are descendants of Unix. In fact all BSD and Linux OSes are in a class of operating systems called Unix-like.

They are not Unix, however. All the code had to be rewritten from scratch.

Anyway, while Unix/BSD were held up in courts, Linus Torvalds came along and developed Linux, another Unix-like OS with completely new code. That, coupled with the good people at GNU, make up the GNU/Linux family of operating systems.

Linux took off. BSD, including FreeBSD, is still trying to catch up, and is still a little clumsy for some folks (not all).

So despite trying to go to FreeBSD (and other BSDs) I’m forced to keep coming back to Linux. I’m sure it will change over time. The image below is old (I change OS from time to time). I’m now running Fedora. By the time you’re reading this I might be running something else!

ISS Sunrise – an animated plymouth theme for KDE Plasma

With most Linux distributions now days you can modify the “boot” screen. This is where you usually see a customized logo for your version of Linux and a little spinning thing to indicate the computer is doing something in the background while you wait for the login screen to enter your password.

The instructions below will assist you to change that boot up screen with an animated Earth sunrise from space using actual NASA images from the International Space Station.

This is a plymouth theme called iss-sunrise modified from another theme called space-sunrise. Gradually a sun rises with the KDE logo on it, and Earth lights up to a second ISS image. It’s quite spectacular. We assume in this tutorial you already have plymouth installed on your system. If not, time to check that out.

  1. Download the iss-sunrise.tar.gz by clicking the link in this sentence. Once you have the file downloaded extract the contents. It will create a directory called iss-sunrise.
  2. Copy this directory and it’s contents (in Ubuntu/Kubuntu) with this command:
    sudo cp -r ./iss-sunrise /usr/share/plymouth/themes
  3. You can skip this step for later if you just want to see what it looks like, but soon you will want to modify the file distro_name.png with something you like. The one included has my name on it. I used the GIMP to create it.
  4. Add the iss-sunrise theme to the Plymouth ‘alternatives’. This is a long line. Make sure you copy the whole thing, then paste it into a terminal.
    sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth default.plymouth /usr/share/plymouth/themes/iss-sunrise/iss-sunrise.plymouth 50
  5. Set the iss-sunrise theme as the default.
    sudo update-alternatives --config default.plymouth
    There are 3 choices for the alternative default.plymouth
    (providing /lib/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth).
      Selection    Path                                                       Priority   Status
      0            /lib/plymouth/themes/kubuntu-logo/kubuntu-logo.plymouth     150       auto mode
      1            /lib/plymouth/themes/iss-sunrise/iss-sunrise.plymouth   50        manual mode
      2            /lib/plymouth/themes/kubuntu-logo/kubuntu-logo.plymouth     150       manual mode
    * 3            /lib/plymouth/themes/my-plymouth/my-plymouth.plymouth       50        manual mode
    Press enter to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number: 1
    update-alternatives: using /usr/share/plymouth/themes/iss-sunrise/iss-sunrise.plymouth to provide /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth (default.plymouth) in manual mode.
  6. Update the initramfs
    sudo update-initramfs -u
  7. Reboot!

KDE Activities vs Virtual Desktops vs Both

268307_389740747757019_285270731_nA long, long time ago, KDE was a simple a great desktop environment for use on Linux, but they started going off in weird directions that I couldn’t understand so I gravitated toward Linux Mint Mate. Now I’m back.

The problem I was having, even recently, was understanding what KDE’s Activities were. A lot of people complain that KDE is favoring Activities over Virtual Desktops and the KDE team say that Activities are the way to go.

Then there are those that wonder, “Aren’t ‘Activities’ just another way of implementing virtual desktops?”

I’m here today to tell you after using KDE Plasma 5 now for about 5 months I finally get it.

No, Activities are not virtual desktops. Yes, virtual desktops are essential. Activities make them even better.

Let’s say, by default, you have 4 virtual desktops, and you’ve set up your system so you can rotate between them with Ctrl-Alt-Right or Ctrl-Alt-Left.

Now, if you create another Activity, it will also have four virtual desktops, but a different set of virtual desktops. Therefore, you can have one set (aka Activity) with virtual desktops dedicated to entertainment where you watch videos, another Activity has four virtual desktops dedicated to following bitcoin prices, another Activity has four virtual desktops dedicated to downloading stuff, and so on.

Each Plasma Activity has its own set of virtual desktops. Each Activity can have different icons on their desktops, different backgrounds on their desktops, and so on.

It’s kind of like having whole different computer environments that you easily flip to and from with Superkey-Tab.

It’s brilliant. I’m back and I’m loving it.

Too Many Options

I cannot decide. There are too many options. A Microsoft Windows person would have no idea.

It’s all the fault of Linux, or more properly “GNU/Linux” pronounced “Gah-New Lin-ux” or sometimes “Gah-New Lin-ox.” Much to the distress of the GNU people who provide all the software for Linux and BSD systems, nobody wants to say “Gan-New” before “Linux.” The harsh reality is this: the vast majority of the public just calls it Linux.

First decision: Which Linux? There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of the open-source, free operating system. It’s already running on devices you probably own, like your modem, router, Android Phone, tablet and smart TV. At my house it also runs my Desktop Computer.

I feel secure in Linux. No viruses. No compromises. Safe, functional, beautiful, incredibly powerful.

So for the first choice I decided I wanted a “rolling distribution,” or one that once installed, it never had to be installed again. It will update itself forever, including the Linux kernel. I am tired of the versions that get outdated and have limited support after an expiration date. There is no need anymore to put up with that. There are both stable and “bleeding edge” rolling versions of Linux out there that do everything that Ubuntu or Mint do. Tough it out.

Next I needed it to be functional. Out of the box working, for the most part. At least in major areas. I shouldn’t have to have a command line prompt and build the entire operating system from the ground up like with Arch or Gentoo. I have no time for that. I wanted a version of Linux which made disk partitioning easy and left me with some kind of graphical interface when I’m done installing and at the same time which gives me complete control over what I’m putting on my computer.

Finally, I wanted to be slightly off the beaten path, but not too far off. I didn’t want Debian/Ubuntu/Mint family versions, or Red Hat versions, Gentoo derivatives or Slackware. Something different. I decided on Arch derivatives, and I narrowed that down to one: Antergos-OS. I did, in the process, over the years, explore all of the above options.

Second decision: What desktop environment? This is where Microsoft Window users are lost. They just have to accept whatever Microsoft has decided for them. They can customize their desktop to some degree, but not with the flexibility and complete range of power that someone using Linux has. In Linux we have many “DEs” such as KDE Plasma, Gnome 3, Mate, Xfce, Cinnamon, Deepin, Enlightenment, Openbox, Lxde and so on. Each of them handles things a little different, look a little different, have different functionalities, strengths and weaknesses.

The Desktop Environment is where I falter.

The desktop environment sits on top and is what your Window Manager serves up to you to interact with your operating system – I think.

For years I used a well-known desktop environment called Mate, and pronounced it “Mate” like the British version of a friend. Only recently I figured out it’s not pronounced like a British friend, but a two syllable word “ma-tay,” which I have trouble getting my head around.

I also used Cinnamon, but didn’t like it so much. Mate was my DE for years.

Then I got bored with it. I tried Unity. Hated it. So I went with Xfce, which is pronounced exactly like the letters of the alphabet. I couldn’t figure out and didn’t seem to like KDE Plasma. We’ll get back to that.

Then I migrated to Gnome and discovered that half the YouTube world mispronounces it as “Nome” when the developers want us to pronounce it “Gah-Nome” because the G means something – what I don’t know, but it’s really supposed to be pronounced “Gah-Nome.”

Then I went back and looked at KDE Plasma, the most popular of all.

Now I have all three on my computer. I can switch from one to the other: Gnome, Xfce and KDE Plasma. I have them all set up. They are all beautiful, have rotating wallpapers, intense functionality and so on. I can do anything. I can place Facebook games, watch Netflix, watch Amazon Videos and YouTube, work on my spreadsheet, write and update this blog – all from any of them. It’s hard to remember which DE I’m in at the moment. Let me check … Behold – I’m in Xfce, which is weird because for the last few weeks I’ve been inside Gnome and the last two days I’ve been setting up Plasma. Xfce was my first of these three.

With it all set up so nicely, I can’t decide. I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.

I guess if you don’t like this kind of problem and like having to pay money for an anti-virus subscription just to protect your computer from software you have to download from questionable sources, then go on using MS Windows. In Linux all our software comes from trusted “repositories” and is safe and sound, and we don’t have virus problems. See my earlier post about Linux Virus protection.

So for now, if I get bored, I just switch. Why should I be nailed down to some boring window environment when I can have anything I want and complete freedom with my computer?

Those are some of my reasons I run Linux on my desktop computer.