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Updated: September 22, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 like Vista/8

I've been using Windows 10 in production for about two years now - testing it since even before the official release. Early on, my impression was that it was comparable to Windows 7. Okay. Nothing too special, new or revolutionary. Over time, this impression has changed. With subsequent semi-annual releases, I encountered issues I've never had in Windows before, mostly various system errors and bugs that speak of low quality and bad design. Then, Windows 10 would occasionally undo some of my tweaks and options, wasting my time, and forcing me to tighten the screws ever more. All in all, my outlook isn't bright or happy. Bored and exhausted by the nonsense would be the best word.

Now, Windows 11 is coming. As I've done many times in the past, I logged into my Insiders account and started testing, to see what awaits me. Right away, I found the experience quite dejecting. My early impression of Windows 11 Dev Build was mediocre at best, and it progressively got worse with each update. Different from Windows 10, though. What happened was, I found myself reliving 2011, when I tested Windows 8 and came to pretty much the same conclusions. To wit, this is what I think will unfold.

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Updated: September 20, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma & SDDM login scaling

Several weeks ago, I installed Kubuntu 20.04 on my IdeaPad Y50-70, a somewhat old but rather capable 15.6-inch laptop with a 4K screen resolution. Predictably, the device wasn't usable in its native screen mode, and I had to make everything bigger, scaling and all that. In the end, I managed to create an ergonomically comfortable setup, with two exceptions - the login menu, and the boot menu.

The former gave me some grief, but I was able to get it sorted. With GRUB, there were more problems. One, the menu wouldn't show, even though I had a dual-boot configuration in place. Two, the menu was tiny, with the text barely readable. So I embarked on a journey of GRUB modifications, hence this tutorial. Let me show you how you can make the GRUB menu bigger on HD/UHD displays.

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Updated: September 17, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma & SDDM login scaling

Life problems come in many shapes and forms. One of them could be the login screen in your Plasma desktop. How? By not scaling up to the selected screen resolution of your system. Case in point, my recent endeavor with Kubuntu 20.04 on my IdeaPad Y50-70, with its Nvidia card and 4K screen. Long story short, while I managed to get the desktop resolution and UHD scaling just right, the login screen did not obey my settings, and only rendered in 4K, ergo tiny.

I spent a lot of time trying to fix this, and finally, came up with this guide. Now, in newer editions of Plasma, like say 5.20, where scaling works really great, you might not face this issue at all. In 5.18.5, I had to resort to a few ugly tricks to get everything working. Let's see what gives.

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Updated: September 15, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 & default apps

Mic drop: I believe I will stop using computers much sooner than I previously thought. Not in the fullblown, dramatic sense, of course. None of that going back to the roots, eco-caveman, society-be-damned thing. No, nothing so drastic. But I will scale down my interaction with machines to the point I only use them for the bare necessities, because I'm getting pretty annoyed by the deterioration in quality and intelligence of software solutions being peddled and vomited upon the world. Out topic for the day: default programs.

Default programs, or applications, if you will. In Windows. Ah. Here's another shiny example of how not to do it right. Recently, there's been a spat of articles about Microsoft making it harder for common users to switch default apps in Windows 11. Except, this is yesterday's news. It's been hard for normies to do it for a long while now. I've already covered the issue in my Dev review of Windows 11, but I guess my tone isn't "photogenic" enough for mass consumption. Nor is this Windows 11 exclusive. There is nothing cardinally new in how deeply annoying Windows is in this regard. Windows 10 does the same thing. Use Edge, use Edge, use Edge. Klaxons all over the place. So I thought, ok, is there a way to configure Windows default apps from the command-line, and avoid the noise and nonsense?

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Updated: September 13, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

ArmA 3 & unsubscribe from deleted content

Behold, a new name of an adventure book. For 'tis an adventure. First, let me explain what this is all about. I love ArmA 3. It's the best first person shooter. No, let me rephrase it: the only really serious shooter out there, and if you feel like you want to grow some hair on your chest, you ought to play it. Of course, the gameplay can be enhanced via all sorts of Steam Workshop content bits - mods, scenarios, and alike. So far so good.

One day, I decided to do a little bit of housekeeping - prune some of the old scenarios I downloaded back in 2013-2014, some of which were buggy, abandoned or both. Normally, this is not an issue. Go to the workshop and hit Unsubscribe. The problem is, what do you do when the actual scenario (or whatever component) you want gone no longer exists on Steam? Aha. Hence, this article.

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Updated: September 10, 2021 | Category: Linux

IdeaPad 3 & AlmaLinux 8.4 review

If you recall, several weeks ago, I reviewed AlmaLinux. It was a short article, closely following up on a rather similar endeavor with Rocky Linux. Now, the very reason why I've decided to give these two distros so much focus is the premature EOL of CentOS 8. In the wake of the CentOS announcement, Rocky was born, designed to become a spiritual and material successor of the former - a community-cum-enterprise system with binary compatible to the upstream RHEL releases.

This triggered an avalanche of curiosity on me end, and I started - with some nice recommendations from the readers - exploring other distros in this realm. AlmaLinux is one of such efforts, and it has largely stayed off the radar, although technically, it is supposed to offer the same kind of experience and long-term support. Indeed, my early testing was quite promising. Now, I want to see how Alma is going to behave on my IdeaPad 3, a fairly new test box. It's a modern mid-range 2020 laptop, with AMD processor, Vega 8 graphics, and NVMe storage. Triple boot, with Windows 11 Dev Build in the equation, too. So let's begin.

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Updated: September 8, 2021 | Category: Linux

HP Pavilion & KDE neon

Less than a year ago, I wrote a sad article about modern distros not booting on my 2010 HP laptop anymore. No matter what I chose, things went bad. This was, me guessing, because the machine comes with an Nvidia card, one pinned to the ancient 340.xx branch of Nvidia drivers, and things simply got left out or forgotten in the process somewhere.

Well, I decided to give it another go - I mean, what do I have to lose? In between having a machine that's collecting dust, or attempting all sorts of Linux tricks, I went with the latter. I decided to try KDE neon, because I like how it looks and behaves on my 2013 Vivobook, which has been revitalized in a good and fun way, age and spec notwithstanding. And so, this article is the summary of this endeavor. Begin.

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Updated: September 6, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 local account setup

Some people wrongly assume that I'm opposed to online accounts. Not at all. In some scenarios, they make perfect sense, where the online functionality is an intrinsic part of the usage model. Like on the phone. What I am opposed to is UNNECESSARY use of online accounts, just for the sake of it. Case in point, Windows 10 Home, and now Windows 11, too.

I've already done a review of the Windows 11 Dev Build, and also showed you how to tweak and undo some of the low-IQ features in this system. I didn't touch on the installation process, because, until very recently, there wasn't an official bootable ISO for clean-install testing. Now that there is, I want to show you how to configure a local account in Windows 11. The simple, classic desktop formula, and all that. Follow me.

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Updated: September 3, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma system tray icon order

For those of you blessed with OCD, come closer. Say you're using the Plasma desktop, as you should, and then, unfortunately something goes a-wonk. You need to restart your Plasma shell, which is a relatively simple thing to do. Upon the shell restart, you realize that your system tray icons have rearranged themselves almost randomly, and the expected order of things is gone. Chaos!

I encountered this on a Kubuntu 18.04 box just recently. I then also realized that there isn't a way to pin icons to specific location in the system tray, as in Wireless always to the right, then Volume, then Vaults, etc. So if you expect things to be mega-cushty and consistent, you sure don't want them to change should you ever restart your Plasma shell. In this little guide, I'd like to show you a relatively simple trick of getting icons placed just as you like them. Follow me.

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Updated: September 1, 2021 | Category: Office

LibreOffice 7.2 review

My recent testing of Windows 11, as well as my overall satisfaction with Office 2016 (compared to 2010) are a constant remind of how urgently I need to break away from this cycle of technological dependency. Alas, I cannot. I am compelled by my personal and business needs. In the office space, they cannot be fully satisfied with LibreOffice. Cling to Microsoft Office, I must.

With LibreOffice 7.2 freshly out of the oven, my testing appetite has once again opened up, but I'm trying to be cool about it. I ain't too hopeful, I ain't too gloomy. Cautious and skeptical. After all, I've tried every single version of this free, open-source suite in the past decade or so, and I've experienced every emotion on the spectrum. The results seesawed widely. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a perfect LibreOffice release? Of course it would! Is 7.2 that release? Ah, let's check out.

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Updated: August 30, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 & Open-Shell

Almost exactly 10 years ago, Microsoft came out with Windows 8, featuring Start Screen, a useless idea that introduced extra mouse clicks into an efficient desktop workflow. As a member of a small group of people with IQ above two digits, and who value productivity, I wrote a guide on how to disable the Metro interface. This was during the preview, pre-release phase of the Windows 8 lifecycle. And then, Microsoft took the capability away.

I had to use Classic Shell, and to this day, Classic Shell, or rather, Open-Shell (the new, up-to-date version of the original) is my go-to menu in Windows 8. Now, now, now, color me surprised, a decade later, the exact same thing is happening with Dev builds of Windows 11. We have a new, useless menu that adds extra mouse clicks, because mobile. Used to be tablet, now phone. The cycle repeats itself. You could disable it via registry, no problem. But then, boom, new Dev release, and that tweak is gone! Well, we must resort to Open-Shell once again. Indeed, here, I want to show you what you need to have a good, seamless experience with this alternative menu utility in Windows 11. After me.

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Updated: August 27, 2021 | Category: Books & short stories

Knott Xombi

Becky took a moment to steady her nerves, her breathing. Then, she gently pushed herself into the data center. As the security officer, she was the only one allowed here. She may not be the most qualified engineer, but it was her job to diagnose the malfunction in the stabilization computer. No one else's.

Their craft, the Knott Xombi, an orbital selenium collector, was decaying. It was a gentle, gradual loss of altitude, and under any other circumstance, the captain wouldn't bother correcting to the original flight path until the next scheduled firing of the thrusters. But the deviation had also caused a misalignment in the collectors. The new inclination was costing the company trillions.

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Updated: August 25, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 usability tweaks

Welcome to my Windows 11 purification guide. I reviewed the Dev build some time ago, I noticed a whole bunch of problems and inconsistencies, and then kept on using the new operating system for a while since, and with each update, I like it less and less. It's getting more and more of that Windows 8 feel, which means stuff that no one needs or asks for being added, because.

Since I value my intelligence and time so much, I felt a keen need to write an article and show you how to undo most of the "modern" and useless features in Windows 11, so you can have a decent, efficient desktop experience, without any lost productivity. This means tweaking the system menu, adding shortcuts to the taskbar, removing useless programs, reverting the Explorer functionality to how it should be, and then some. Please note, everything I write here may change or become irrelevant, because Windows 11 is still in its preview phase, and therefore, some of the options and settings here may never reach the production state. For the time being, enjoy this guide.

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Updated: August 23, 2021 | Category: Linux

Asus Vivobook & KDE neon

I've been doing a little bit of housekeeping lately. Mostly, rotating hardware. I happen to have two laptops, which I classify as for production or semi-production use, but they are getting a little bit long in the tooth and gray in the beard. To that end, I decided to "downgrade" them in their use, but also take advantage of the opportunity to do some software changes.

Firstly, with my IdeaPad Y50-70, I relegated it from primary to secondary use, and added Kubuntu to the operating system arsenal. This 2014-vintage 4K-screen laptop now runs Windows 8.1 and Plasma-flavored Focal in a dual-boot configuration. A very useful exercise, hybrid card, Nvidia, all that. Secondly, with my 2013-era Asus Vivobook, used for secondary purposes, now tertiary, I decided to do a complete makeover. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Do read on.

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Updated: August 20, 2021 | Category: Windows

WinSCP review

When it comes to Windows applications, there's this weird dichotomy - or maybe it's a paradox, not sure. In some usage categories, there are almost infinite choices. In others, almost none. Take FTP clients for example. Now, this ain't the most common of usage models in the world, but if I want to upload stuff to some remote server, using say FTP or SFTP protocols (apologies for the recursion), then you are limited to a tiny arsenal of programs, as it happens.

One of the popular names is FileZilla. Indeed, for years, it featured on my lists of recommended software for Windows and Linux. I still do use it; the older versions, that is. Indeed, recently, there had been hurdles, including controversy surrounding the bundled version, which ships all sorts of (unneeded) extras alongside the core program. Even if one can get around the issue relatively easily, so to speak, this is tricky, because once trust is lost, it's very hard to regain, if ever. Thus, what do you do if you need an FTP client, and FileZilla does not fit the bill? Even for me, finding a suitable potential alternative slash replacement wasn't trivial, especially since it can take me weeks, sometimes months to evaluate tools before introducing them into my prod or semi-prod setups. The quest for the FTP client led me to WinSCP. Hence, this review.

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Updated: August 16, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

BeamNG.drive police car chases

There are many ways to handle work-related stress. You can try to work less. Take a medical leave. Change your manager, team, company, or all of the above. You could try yoga, puppies, meditation, hiking in the forest, any manner of solutions. Or you could play police chases in BeamNG on your computer. Aha.

BeamNG is a soft-physics car simulator. In non-nerdy words, this means realistic crashes with lots of stuff flying and bending and crumpling. As a bonus, you actually get to drive cars. But since this destroy-watch-repeat thing might eventually get old, even for the most stubborn of menchild (or is it manchildren?), the BeamNG team, in lieu of a multiplayer mode, has added all sorts of things into the game, to make it more interesting and durable. Campaign, scenarios, but the best thing of all - spawn traffic and then chase them in a police car.

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Updated: August 16, 2021 | Category: Internet

Firefox 91 & disable Proton guide

Firefox 91 has been released. Do you know what this means? It means you can no longer disable the Proton interface through about:config anymore. Why does this matter, you ask? Because Proton sucks. For those confused about the vehemence of my message so early on in the review, let's recap. A while back, Mozilla announced it would change - yet again - the Firefox UI. This time around, it's called Proton.

I showed you what this thing looks like - and it doesn't look good. But then, back in Firefox 89, Proton became official, you could simply toggle it off and move on with your dear life, enjoying productivity and efficiency. Now, though, this is no longer an option. So if you don't want to put up with useless, low-contrast hipsterology, I will show you the set of changes you can use to minimize or remove the useless aspects of Proton, and go back to sane browsing. After me.

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Updated: August 13, 2021 | Category: Linux

Gnome & HD scaling

Linux desktop usage problems and challenges come in many guises and forms. Then, you find yourself with monitor that offers HD resolution (or higher), only shown on a relatively small canvas of pixels, e.g.: a laptop, and you gain a whole new set of problems and challenges.

For a few years now, I've contended with the topic of HD displays, HD scaling and such. My first encounter was back in 2014, with my IdeaPad Y50-70 laptop, which has a 4K 15.6-inch display. Then and there, Unity handled scaling all right, better than Windows 8.1. Fast forward to my Slimbook Pro2. This is where things got rather serious, as I started using this laptop for day-to-day productivity work. In fact, the Plasma desktop is truly the only environment that offers really good scaling results. So the question is, if you prefer Gnome, what options do you have vis-a-vis HD scaling?

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Updated: August 11, 2021 | Category: Reviving old games

Julius - Caesar III in HD

Caesar III was the very first game I reviewed on Dedoimedo here, 15 years ago. Back then, it was a majestic game, and it still is. Lovely graphics that looked great in 1998 and still do; difficult yet utterly satisfying gameplay; intricate link between economy, welfare, society, and trade. The game had it all, and I spent years trying to get my Roman cities to be both beautiful and profitable. Wine imports, hippodrome, marble, tons of parks, just splendid.

When the game came out on Steam, I promptly purchased it and tried playing it. Everything was fine - even on Linux using Proton, go figure, but the game was limited to 1024x768px resolution. I wanted to see if there's a way to enjoy it in full HD, and thus discovered Julius - an open-source re-implementation of Caesar III, very similar to what OpenTTD was unto TTD early on. You need the original game files, CD, GOG or Steam version will do, and then Julius will allow you to play Caesar III on modern machines with large monitors and big resolutions, plus some fancy gameplay tweaks. Sounds jolly. Let's see.

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Updated: August 9, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 & pin random shortcut to taskbar

This story starts many years back. With the introduction of icons pinning in Windows Vista onwards, the behavior of the taskbar in Windows changed. The new functionality only allowed (and still allows) you to pin executables, not random shortcuts. Not a big problem, because until now, you could use Quick Launch, and easily drag & drop items there, from app shortcuts to folder shortcuts.

Windows 11 changes that. No more Quick Launch - although the location still exists. I encountered this problem in my review of the early Windows 11 Dev release. This wouldn't be an issue on its own, except Explorer, the way it's conceived in Windows 11 (and also Windows 10), does not allow you to open/start it with a custom location in mind. You can only do This PC or Quick access. Annoying. Let's see how we can fix this.

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Updated: July 14, 2021 | Category: Linux

AlmaLinux 8.4 review

Do you remember the soap opera series from the early 80s called Dynasty? Well, it has nothing to do with what I want to talk to you about today, except to serve as a weak allegory to the existence of multiple RHEL-based distributions. As it happens, for many years, CentOS was the thing - and still is, but this may soon not be the case, at least not in the classic sense, as CentOS 8 will prematurely EOL, and only continue as CentOS 8 Stream. Which brings its competitors into focus.

RHEL-compatible distributions all aim to do the same as the pay-for-support parent - offer a binary compatible server operating system. But on the home front, things are far more relaxed. Again, for many years, I've played with CentOS, tried to make it into a perfect distro, and recently, I did the same with Rocky Linux. Now I'd like to take a look at AlmaLinux, a community-supported enterprise operating system. From my home use perspective, of course.

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Updated: July 12, 2021 | Category: Linux

Lenovo IdeaPad Y50-70 & Kubuntu 20.04

In 2014, I got myself a "serious" laptop, designed to be used for real, productivity work and gaming, as sort of portable backup system for the conventional desktop PC layout. The laptop had a relatively moderate price and very nice specs: i7 processor, Nvidia GTX 860M card, 16GB of RAM, and 4K display. It also came with Windows 8.1, and I made a decision to keep it that way.

Fast forward to the present, this laptop is getting a wee old. It's still super-capable - it runs Assetto Corsa in 4K, it runs ArmA 3 and Cities Skylines without any issues, even BeamNG.drive. Really, it does all the modern tasks with jolly flair. However, I think I should relegate it to a secondary backup role, meaning it will still be a productivity system, but perhaps not always my first port of call. To that end, I decided to add Linux to its operating system range. Specifically, Kubuntu. A new adventure begins.

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Updated: July 9, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 Dev build review

Time to give Windows 11 a proper review. In my last article, I talked about hardware requirements, TPM and all that, and I invested a fair deal of time handling the different hurdles and issues in getting the preview builds of Windows 11 installed. I tried the setup process on a test laptop with AMD Ryzen 5 processor, and inside a virtual machine on a laptop powered by an 8th gen Intel processor. In the end, things went well.

Now, I want to see what Windows 11 actually does. Mind, this is an early review. So anything you see today may change, and/or not be indicative of the final product. However, based on my past experience, what you see today is largely what you'll get in the final product. OK, so Windows 11, here we go. Begin.

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Updated: July 7, 2021 | Category: Linux

Rocky Linux 8 & Steam install

Just a few short days ago - well, no, technically it's summertime, unless you're on the wrong side of the disc, so the days are long - I tested Rocky Linux, then subsequently wrote a guide on how to turn it into a perfect desktop, and therein noted one big omission. Steam.

My desktop enhancement article did not have any instructions for this gaming platform. The reason is, at the time of my testing and writing, it was near impossible installing Steam on Rocky. But it can be done, if you're diligent enough. Now, let me show you how.

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Updated: July 5, 2021 | Category: Linux

IdeaPad 3 & Fedora 33 review

All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another installment in the Adventures of the Curmudgeon. Today, your favorite chipper Internet persona will try Fedora 33 (not 34, not a typo) on his latest test-dedicated box, one Lenovo IdeaPad 3 laptop, currently triple booting Windows and a couple of distros. What makes things extra interesting is the AMD processor + Vega graphics combo.

Now, as you know, I've already tried Fedora 33 on my older G50 box, and it wasn't a very good experience. I did manage to make the system work and behave after a series of rigorous tweaks, but in essence, tweaks are the nerd's nature's way of compensating for inherent failings in the default design. That is unlikely to change much today, so if you are not in the mood for yet-another-Gnome-not-Gnome review where the person talks about buttons and Activities and whatnot ... skip this. Otherwise, proceed to read, pray.

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Updated: July 2, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 11 Dev build installation guide

Ah, Windows 11. The last Windows you'll ever need ... plus one. Marketing slogans aside, let's focus on the technical bits and pieces. Mostly. As it happens, in June, Microsoft announced the next major release of their operating system. It's going to be called Windows 11, it comes with a revamped user interface, it has new hardware requirements, and a few other important details. Before we can discuss all of those, we need to set up Windows 11.

This turned out to be far harder than I wanted or expected. As a member of the Windows Insider Program since the early days of Windows 10, I have been able to enroll various devices and try new builds without any issues. However, this time, I hit a whole bunch of snags. Almost like that song by Human League, Don't You Want Me Babe. Therefore, I decided to write a pre-review article, which only details my getting Windows 11 installed experience first, before we move onto the actual review. So let's have a look.

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Updated: July 1, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma customization

A few weeks back, one of my readers contacted me and asked me if I could do an article, newbie style, explaining the steps I take in customizing the vanilla Plasma desktop to my liking. And I thought, why not indeed. Although I've done this exercise many times before, in various shapes and forms, I've never explicitly went through it in one go, as a complete, sequential piece.

Well, today, I shall rectify that. But let us set the expectations ere you continue any further. One, you should go through my Linux section and read a dozen odd guides on various Plasma tools and features. Perhaps start with my Plasma is the best piece, and then continue yonder. Two, this is MY customization, so if you don't like the Dedoimedo Haute Couture, then stop, in the name of love. Three, Plasma doesn't really need any tweaking. But it's a flexible desktop, and it lets you do whatever you like, thus everything I'm going to show you today can be accomplished with zero command line and zero third-party tools. Begin, we must.

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Updated: June 28, 2021 | Category: Linux games

SimCity 4 saves & Steam Proton

Not that long ago, SimCity 4 was resurrected. It became alive on Steam, a game you could buy and download and play and enjoy. I recently tried it - but not as you think. I actually installed it in Linux, using the Proton compatibility layer, and things were swell. Which brought about some sweet memories.

I had spent months of my time creating a beautiful mega-region, with 4.5 million people in some 60+ cities. This endeavor took a lot of work, I was using half a dozen mods to make SimCity 4 do some extra wonders for me, and once I was done, I copied my game save into a special backup folder. I didn't want to lose such a precious achievement. That was 2008-ish or so. Now, I had the game on Steam, but how does one go about loading those old region saves?

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Updated: June 25, 2021 | Category: Linux

Interview: KDE, Nate Graham

Today, I have something new and fresh for you. Back in 2016-2017, I conducted a number of interviews with interesting people in the tech world (Linux and the Internets), shedding light on their endeavors, projects and passions. Then, there's been a quiet period, interviews wise, and now, it is time to do so again. Today's voluntary scapegoat is Nate Graham.

If you're a Linux person, and you happen to be using KDE, then you must have come across Nate, most likely on his personal blog, Pointiest Stick, where he shares big weekly updates on all the good, cool, new, fun, and adventurous stuff going on in the KDE world. I have had brief online encounters with Nate here and there, and I have always liked his cheerful yet punctual approach to software. So I thought, why not interview Nate, and have him share his views, ideas and some of that sweet insider knowledge from behind the Plasma curtain. You should find this article doubly interesting, as I've already had an interview session with KDE's Seb and Bhushan five years back. Perhaps Nate can give us a perspective of what happening in the past few years, and what's coming. Commence to start.

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Updated: June 23, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma desktop, HD scaling & snaps guide

I like the topic of HD scaling in Linux desktops. Like fonts, it's one of the most neglected areas of user experience in the Tux space. By and large, Plasma is the only environment that does scaling well. The other desktops sort of get along with full-integer scaling, font DPI tweaks, and, if you're lucky, some fractional scaling, with 25% increments and such.

Things get extra interesting when you use Plasma with non-native applications, i.e., stuff that goes beyond the default Plasma set. I talked about this in my first article on HD scaling in Plasma, where I showed you a whole bunch of tweaks for software like Firefox, Chrome, old GTK2 stuff, and such. Now, I want to elaborate and show you how to scale snaps, in those scenarios where the scaling does not work well out of the box. Follow me.

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Updated: June 21, 2021 | Category: Linux

Rocky Linux 8 & perfect desktop guide

Several days ago, I tested Rocky Linux, a community-led CentOS successor, created following the decision by the CentOS team to discontinue version 8 ahead of its long-off long-term EOL. Long [sic] story short, my first impression of the preview release was decent - decent enough to try to polish it up for home use.

Thus, we embark on another desktop beautification journey. In a manner similar, perhaps even identical to what I've done with CentOS 6, CentOS 7 as well as CentOS 8, and let's not forget Fedora either, right, I want to do the same here. I want to show you all the different tweaks you need to transform a rather dull server distro into a desktop system, replete with nice software, good looks plus the rock-solid stability and longevity. Now, embark on this journey, we must.

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Updated: June 17, 2021 | Category: Virtualization

LXD & Docker container nesting

Welcome to Arcane Weekly. Today, I want to talk to you about a problem you're not likely to encounter, but if you do, then you'd want a quick and handy solution. Tools at hand: LXD containers, Docker. Mission at hand: You want to run the two at the same time. More specifically, you want to spawn a LXD container, and then inside it, start a Docker container. Why? Why not.

Then, the problem you have is as follows. The Docker execution fails with the following error: docker: Error response from daemon: OCI runtime create failed: container_linux.go:367: starting container process caused: process_linux.go:495: container init caused: rootfs_linux.go:60: mounting "proc" to rootfs at "/proc" caused: permission denied: unknown. Lots of text there. Let's debug this, shall we?

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Updated: June 14, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic industry guide 4

If you've not caught wind of my unbounded enthusiasm for Workers & Resources, a fabulous industry tycoon game, then you're about to receive a fresh dose of superlatives and praise, as well as a detailed guide on how to create a perfect, self-sufficient economy in your Republic. Long story short, I bought the game a few months ago, quickly got addicted, furiously crammed in several hundreds of hours of play, and wrote a bunch of articles to try to help you figure out its somewhat difficult and definitely complex economy industry mechanism.

Those tips and tricks are outlined in my three guides - one and two and three - the last of which focuses on mega-industry, with shipping as the primary transport mode. There, I showed you a massive city, with seven or eight separate zones, about 300K people, 50-60 chemical factories, 20-odd plastic factories, full car and aircraft industries, 85,000 tons of crop import annually, and a lovely 100M rubles turnover. But how about something much simpler, smaller? Guide number four, if you please. Forsooth.

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Updated: June 11, 2021 | Category: Internet

Firefox 89 review

Every few years, like a celebrity well past their prime, Firefox undergoes a facelift. Version 89 brings the latest round of visual changes to the table, bundled under the name of Proton. Well, we had Australis, then Quantum came along, side by side with the massive overhaul of the extensions framework. Now, it's time for another upheaval.

I did briefly look at the Proton preview functionality in the Nightly Build some time back. I wasn't impressed. But then, most if not all of visual changes that went into Firefox in the past six or seven years have been unnecessary. Australis came with silly-shaped tabs, like Chrome. Quantum finally undid this nonsense, and for a change, it brought back some visual clarity and consistency to Firefox's design, much like Firefox used to be before version 4.X and the whole rapid-release trainwreck. Let's see what Proton does.

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Updated: June 10, 2021 | Category: Linux

Rocky Linux 8 fonts

Sometimes, I feel like Phil in Groundhog Day. I wake up, I log into this or that distro, and then I have to face the issue of suboptimal fonts all over again. Problems that should not have existed a decade ago, let alone not have been fixed, seem to crop up, now and then, with almost evolutionary stubbornness. My latest set of sadness: the font clarity in Rocky Linux 8, an otherwise fine system.

By and large, I was quite happy with this CentOS-reincarnated distro. It follows in the same vein as its spiritual ancestor, and I was able to spit and polish the ordinarily server system into a very decent home offering without too much trouble. But the one issue that dejected me properly: fonts. For some reason, the desktop stuff looked okay, but in Web browsers, the text was thin, washed out, and you could actually see the color outline of antialiasing. Not good. Anyway, let us fix, shall we.

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Updated: June 7, 2021 | Category: Linux games

Steam Proton compatibility

Playing Windows games on Linux is a unicorn. Magical. Weird. But in recent years, it's sort of become a large-nosed horse. Maybe. Whatever the analogy or whatnot, the gaming parity between these operating systems remains one of the primary reasons why people, even if all other circumstances align just right, cannot use Linux as their everyday driver. Games!

For years, I've been exploring the different solutions and tools, which promise this or that level of support for Windows games. I tried pure WINE, I tried various WINE helper scripts. I fiddled with PlayOnLinux, and I also tried the early release of Proton, the Steam gaming compatibility framework, which is designed to bridge the gap between the two worlds. It was also the most reasonable solution so far. If you think about it, if there's chance to make Linux gaming truly happen, it's Steam. So I figured, let's do another Proton review.

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Updated: June 4, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma Krunner review

Krunner is a multi-purpose application launcher built into the Plasma desktop. Fact. What makes it worthy of mention, you may ask? Well, first, because it's good. Really good. We talked about it in the past, and then I also did separate review of two other launchers of similar nature, both of which were non-default additions to this or that desktop. But we're not here to discuss these other projects, we're here to talk about Krunner and its merits.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about Plasma, praising its many excellent features and tools. One of the entries I decided to include was Krunner. But since it's too complex and useful to review in just a few short, quick sentences, I decided to do a proper, separate article. Similar to my 2015-ish endeavor, I want to tell you more about Krunner and what it does. Has anything changed in the last six odd years? Let's have a look.

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Updated: June 2, 2021 | Category: Linux

Plasma Tiled Menu review

Would you like to have a tiled menu in Plasma? Maybe. Yes? Well, read on! As it happens, a few weeks ago, I tried to make the Plasma desktop look like Windows 10. One of the ingredients needed to bake this delightful cookie was Tiled Menu, available as an optional extra to Plasma users when it comes to the system menu look & feel. By default, Plasma users get three choices - menu, launcher, dashboard. Now, there be a fourth way.

Tiled Menu lives as a widget in Discover. It ain't always easy to find, but it's there, and it's available to anyone on Plasma 5.12 and above. It offers a Windows 10 behavior, and if this be your thing, you can have it. Boom. The widget comes with tons of options, so I thought, perchance we can have an entire article dedicated to it, to go over the different settings and tweaks. All right, onwards then!

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Updated: May 31, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

OpenTTD & HD graphics

It's been a few years since I wrote about OpenTTD in any great detail. But something magical happened a few weeks back. OpenTTD is now available through Steam, which makes it accessible to a huge number of gamers who might not necessarily discover it otherwise. But then, if you're a hardcore tycoonist, and at least 9,000 years old, then Transport Tycoon Deluxe is an inseparable part of your life and soul.

The Steam announcement dropped me into my train-building mood, and I started playing it again. But standard OpenTTD doesn't look amazing on 2K and 4K monitors. So I went back to yet another something I've written about many years ago - 32bit high-def graphics for this lovely game. And I decided to revisit the topic, and see if I can get OpenTTD to look great in 2021. Hence, this article.

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Updated: May 28, 2021 | Category: Linux

Rocky Linux 8 review

Like many a Linux nerd, the sudden announcement about the all-too-soon end of life of CentOS 8 took me by surprise. It went beyond the technicals, hitting in the nostalgia glands. Because for me, for quite a few years, this operating system has been a Frankenstein perfect desktop experiment, trying to tweak a server entity into a household product. I did the experiment no less than three times - yup, CentOS 6, CentOS 7 and CentOS 8. Recently, I did some more testing on a resident CentOS 7 image, as that one will remain around for a good few more years. But after that ... CentOS 8 Stream, only that won't really be the same thing, at least not in the classic sense of what this distro was meant to be.

Now, it seems like the story need not end. Rocky Linux is the reimagining of the RHEL-compatible community enterprise system, trying to give people the same type of stability, predictability and behavior that users had with CentOS. The question is, how close and true is Rocky to CentOS? I won't try to answer that question in the business space; that's a story for others. I want to redo my workstation test at home, to spin up Rocky in an eight-boot system running all manner of distros (CentOS 7 and 8 included), and see if I can get that perfect distro feel again. Let us commence.

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Updated: May 26, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic industry guide 3

Welcome to the third and possibly the finest make-money socialist-style article in my Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic series, in which I want to expand on all the lovely tips and tricks I've provided you in the magnificent first two guides. This time, we will focus on the ultimate transportation mode - shipping. Like in real life, if you want to move massive cargo, also land masses AKA continents being separated by seas, then you need ships to plow the salty waters. But there's another important reason why you want ships in Workers & Resources. Limited rail connections.

I discussed this problem in my train traffic guide - and you can work around it by using short-loop long-loop rail lines. You ferry cargo from the border to cargo platforms and storage facilities only a short distance away, and then distribute the different goods across your region with trains that never go to customs warehouses. Now, there's another, even better method - ships. But that's not all we're going to discuss here. We'll touch on some other useful aspects of industry, as well. To wit.

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Updated: May 19, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 20H2 annoyances

Ah, Windows 10. The neverending story. Several weeks ago, I had my first upgrade of 20H2, on a test machine. It went well. Several days after that, I did another upgrade, on a production machine. It went well NOT. Windows had decided to alter about a dozen different settings I had put in place, and thus lower my IQ by about 20-30 points.

This prompted me to go on a purification spree, toggling off yet more and more options and settings in Windows. In a way, I'm grateful for these moments, because they remind me I must stay vigilant. Like the Assistant issue in Android, until that point, I was tolerant or indifferent of various settings, but once the aggressive sales nudge came my way, I decided to disable tons of extra stuff. Same here. Indeed, in this guide, I want to show you a few more things you should consider disabling in your Windows 10 system, because they contribute nothing to your productivity or efficiency.

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Updated: May 19, 2021 | Category: Other software

View and delete Exif metadata

Images be images. Photos be photos. A collection of pixels. But not just. Various image formats also support the inclusion of additional information in the image file, things like resolution, focal length, shutter speed, GPS data, and more. This extra stuff, commonly referred to as Exif data, can be useful for tagging and search, but it may not necessarily be the best thing when it comes to privacy.

In this article, I'd like to show you a few useful methods for how to examine and then optionally remove Exif data from your photos or images, so that if you must share them with other people, they don't contain too much unnecessary information other than pretty pixels. I'll mostly focus on Linux, with some small extras for Windows folks. All right, follow me.

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Updated: May 17, 2021 | Category: Linux

Kubuntu 21.04 review

In the forest, flowers bud. In the distroland, new Tuxies are born into the spring season of testing. We shall commence with a fresh round of Linux escapades. But, unlike many a year before, my focus will be somewhat different. Reduced, more minimal, hopefully less emotional. With disenchantment gripping me soul, I will commence fast 'n' furious reviews unless they merit proper, prolonged usage.

My scapegoat no.1 shall be Kubuntu 21.04. Overall, Kubuntu is my chosen Linux distro for serious, productivity use. LTS, of course. This interim version is more of a soft primer of what we might expect to see in a year or two. But like most distro releases, it's primarily powered by inertia. After all, six months is barely enough time to do proper QA (right?), let alone churn out complete distros. Well, my test box shall be an IdeaPad 3, with Ryzen and Vega innards, triple-booting Linux and Windows stuff. Let us begin.

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Updated: May 14, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

Transport Fever 2 review

Buoyed by my recent experience with Workers & Resources, a monumentally fun and addictive economy building game, I decided to explore a handful of fresh titles out there, and see if I can find some new gems buried deep under the Hills of Gaming. One title that kept up coming up in Steam suggestions was Transport Fever 2. This seems to be a transport tycoon type of game, whereby you need to link your industries and cities with a network of trains and trucks, plus an assorted collection of buses, planes or ships. Instantly, I thought of OpenTTD, the open-source version of the famous, legendary Transport Tycoon Deluxe. Sounds like a good start.

The game price is similar to most of the competition, in the range of roughly USD30. Not the cheapest, but hey, if I get to enjoy hundreds of hours of fun from it, that's a bargain. The question is always, will the gamble pay off? Looking at my collection of Steam games over the years, I'd say that only about half were good choices, while the rest were average or even less than that. There's a very thin line between fantastic and boring. Now, let's review Transport Fever 2.

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Updated: May 12, 2021 | Category: Books

Decay

Here we go. Over the years, some of you have expressed interest in audio versions of my books. As it turns out, some people don't like the printed format (or digital for that matter), while others are just too busy to sit down and read. Hence, audio books. Well, I'm happy to announce that Decay, the first volume in the Humanz trilogy is now available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes!

I decided to embark on the audio experiment several months ago. The first task? Finding the right person to narrate your work. Luckily, a friend had a recommendation, which always makes things easier. Decay – and coming soon, Darkness too – has been compiled into an audio work by Andrew James Roberts of Kraken Media. I have to say, I'm really pleased with the outcome. Andrew has a wide range of sound, and he really helped out bring the characters to life with distinct voices. In a first-person, zombie-themed, Dystopian novella, this isn't an easy task. But I find the final product awesome, and I hope, so should you.

Amazon Audible (external links)

Updated: May 12, 2021 | Category: Linux

MXPI review

A couple of moons back, I tested MX Linux 19.3 on my new test laptop. The results were quite decent. Overall, MX Linux is a pretty solid distro, with decent looks, generous functionality out of the box, a nod toward the normies population, and several unique and cool features, like say the MX Tools, eh, toolbox. But software management ain't one of them.

In the review, I complained that users don't get any proper store - and various readers emailed me to point out that, in addition to Synaptic I mentioned, there's also MX Package Installer (MXPI), which is part of the MX Tools set. All of these emailed focused on my omission of mention of this utility, but not on the very specific phrasing I used - store. Indeed, when it comes to "shopping", Linux distros don't really offer any cohesive experience to the users. That said, let's review MXPI, shall we?

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Updated: May 10, 2021 | Category: Game reviews

BeamNG.drive keyboard & mouse driving

Some games are not meant to be played with keyboard and mouse. Car simulators, for one. The main reason is, you can't realistically portray the steering feedback or the pedal action with a binary on/off input, which is what happens when you use the keyboard. Your best choice is a steering wheel. But what if you simply don't have the hardware?

Recently, I encountered the problem of heavy car response and constant wheel locks in BeamNG.drive, a super-fun soft physics car simulator, making my attempts at reasonable driving to fail quickly and miserably. Now, I do have a G27, but I wasn't in the mood of setting up, so I thought, is there a way to actually make the keyboard usable? The answer is, yes, kind of.

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Updated: May 7, 2021 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 upgrade - 1909 to 20H2

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about my Windows 10 update adventures. In that article, I outlined my experience. The process, overall, went okay. Of course, there was some low-IQ nonsense, in the best tradition of modern operating systems, but in the end, my blood pressure only spiked by about 300%. And then, I redid the exercise on a production system, and the results were ... well.

Have you see the movie Commando - probably one of the finest pieces of cinema in the history of the universe? Remember the scene where John Matrix holds Sully over a cliff, and says: "I lied." Well, I hath spoken too early. This second round of upgrade adventures didn't go quite as planned, and now, we must share.

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Updated: May 5, 2021 | Category: Internet

Noscript for ordinary users

The Noscript Security Suite (NSS) is a fantastic, fantastic tool. It comes as an extension for Firefox and various Chromium-based browsers, and what it does is transform the useless, noisy so-called "modern" Internet into a pool of tranquility. And it does so by blocking scripts and other elements on Web pages. Beautiful, elegant. You end up with a fast, quiet experience. No nagging, no overhead. When you do need scripting, you selectively enable it. Works great, but only if you're a techie.

Unfortunately, for common folks AKA not nerds, this is not a solution. They can't be bothered with per-site permissions, figuring out if something is broken when scripts don't run, or similar. But then, what if you do want to have all the flexibility of non-restricted browsing but still use some of the great powers of Noscript? Well, I think I may have the formula. Follow me.

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Updated: May 3, 2021 | Category: Internet

Microsoft Edge review

For me, Firefox is the best browser there is. Since early days, I've been using it as my primary browser. Despite Mozilla's best efforts to mess up its awesomeness, Firefox remains the king of the Internet. Best looks, best privacy, most customization. But then, I've always kept a secondary browser, just in case, primarily for site testing and compatibility purposes. That second choice has varied over the years.

For a while, I used Opera, then switched to Chrome. And now, after totally ignoring Edge for a few years - it's completely blacklisted from running on most of my Windows boxes via IFEO - I am starting to ponder its value. This thought process is directly proportional to my dislike of various "technologies" that Chrome is using, and my overall disenchantment with anything "modern" Web. I've already tested the Chromium-based Edge several times, including the early preview builds on Linux and separately on Android. And now, I actually have it proper-installed, and I'm actually using it. Go figure.

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