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Updated: February 17, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma 5.18 LTS review

Here we go. The KDE team has released the latest version of Plasma, numbered 5.18. This also happens to be a Long Term Support (LTS) release, which in Plasma parlance means two years of support. Since I'm an avid user, and even have Plasma deployed in my production setup via Kubuntu 18.04 running on a Slimbook Pro2, it's time to set scopes on the future, and see what gives.

I did my testing on Lenovo G50, which happens to be my hardware scapegoat de jour. Also, I have KDE neon installed there, Developer Edition (Stable), so I get to see all the little changes and fixes and whatnot almost as soon as they are introduced. This means I had a chance to sample Plasma 5.18 since the earliest build, and now that we have the official release, I must share me experience. Avanti.

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Updated: February 15, 2020 | Category: Windows

How to block Internet Explorer

Like many a techie, I've read the recent flurry of advisories on a new critical vulnerability in the Internet Explorer legacy scripting engine (jscript.dll), and how it's being actively exploited. On its own, this can happen, right. But what annoyed me was the portend of gloom and doom around the Web. Mostly panic, with very little focus on trying to analyze this problem, and see if it can be mitigated in an elegant way.

In fact, Microsoft has listed a workaround - you can deny access to the affected library. But this also causes side effects. You may see problems with printing, access to the group policy editor, and a few other issues. So I sat down and thought, is there a way to reduce the impact of the vulnerability, without actually making the system go all wonky?

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Updated: February 14, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 20

Orenburg...

Everyone shared the sentiment, even Lee Qiang.

Crossing the no-man's-land of empty fields, flattened neighborhoods, and glassified rubble only partially covered in dirt and weed, he had felt exposed, vulnerable, impotent, feeling half a dozen scopes trailing him, making his skin itch. But no bullets came.

They had settled in a less devastated part of the city, with some of the concrete and iron frames still standing, providing some cover from the wind and any chance patrols. Thorny, tough vegetation crept over everything, reclaiming what used to be its kingdom. It was hard to imagine what this city had looked like whole. It looked like a bad, deliberate prop from a war movie.

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Updated: February 12, 2020 | Category: Hardware

New custom desktop PC

How frequently should one replace their desktop systems? Every three years? Four? Five? How about nine? Indeed, with my primary desktop slowly but surely approaching its first two-digit birthday, I thought it would be prudent to buy a successor for its honorable, loyal, kickass service.

And so I went a-shoppin', and got myself a new desktop. The idea is to have a general-purpose computer that will be practical, useful, relevant, and powerful enough for all necessary tasks for a good few years. To be more precise, a full decade. Hence beginneth the adventure of my new PC. Let's see what gives.

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Updated: February 10, 2020 | Category: Office

Customize Microsoft Office installations tutorial

Back in 2016, I bought myself a copy of Microsoft Office 2016 Pro Plus. I didn't really need it, and the actual installer sat on a proverbial shelf for about three years, collecting digital dust. Then, I did have a need, a need for office, and I ran the installer. I expected it to give me some customization options, as I was only interested in the three main programs - Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and didn't care about the rest of the suite.

Lo and behold, the installer completed without asking me anything, and all the programs were set up. No. So I spent time trying to find a way to undo this nonsense and then re-setup Office with just the three applications, and the end result is this tutorial. Let me show you the rather non-trivial way of how you need to go about customized Office installations. After me.

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Updated: February 8, 2020 | Category: Media

OBS Studio review

Having recently tested Kdenlive 19.08 and then taken a brief but pleasant look at OpenShot, I decided to expand my cinematic horizons and explore some additional software on the media market. One program that came into the hazy spotlight is Open Broadcast Software (OBS), a free and open-source video editor, designed primarily for video recording and live streaming.

Well, here I am, with me unfunny collection of Youtube clips, and here it is, OBS, waiting for me to test and review it. Sounds like a plan, and proceed so we shall. Once again, I'm back on Linux, in Kubuntu, but that shouldn't really make much difference. Anyway, let's begin.

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Updated: February 7, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 19

The village was not marked on any map.

Of course.

It was a collection of half-ruined buildings, rubbish, and rust-eaten cars. There was an old tractor in the field directly south of the house strip and its cracked road, but it was sunk half a meter deep into the hard ground. The water tower had more holes than tin. The barn had gaping holes in the roof, probably caused by mortar.

Lee Qiang looked at Sveta. She just shrugged.

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Updated: February 6, 2020 | Category: Linux

Geany plugins, tips and tricks

A few months ago, in my quest to find THE text editor for Linux, I came across Geany, and it got me pleasantly surprised. It shares a lot of underlying goodness with Notepad++, my go-to text program, a Windows-only application that I nevertheless often use in various distros through WINE. Geany is powerful, efficient and versatile, and so I expanded my exploration quite some.

I also got lots of emails from you, telling me about useful plugins, which I could try to improve my productivity still further, especially since I've noted Geany doesn't have all the features that its Windows counterpart boasts. Well, in this article, I'd like to share with you some of the excellent plugins as well as some other neat tricks in Geany, all of which ought to make it even more practical and fun. Let's commence.

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Updated: February 3, 2020 | Category: Linux

Fedora & root account locked boot issue

Three years ago, I wrote an article that explaining how to recover from a failed boot following a major version upgrade in Fedora. At that time, I was working with Fedora 25, and suddenly, I was no longer able to get to the desktop. The issue turned out to be a buggy initramfs, which is an issue I've only encountered once in the past, back in Ubuntu, back in 2009. Since, it's been quiet.

Well, the wheel of time has dumped us back at the beginning. The same issue happened again. I had (somewhat) recently upgraded an instance of Fedora 29 to Fedora 30, and lo and behold, I found myself facing the same problem. Almost. I had a black screen, and a message that said: Cannot open access to console, the root account is locked. At this point, trying to do anything didn't yield any results. I could only reboot. I did try another kernel, and this helped - I got to my desktop. While the issue seems to be similar, I had to go a slightly different way about fixing it.

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Updated: February 1, 2020 | Category: Other operating systems

GhostBSD 20 review

In the Linux world, Arch is the great noob equalizer. But there's an ever more frightening beast in the forest. It's BSD, and even invoking its name can send the lesser man into despair. The simple truth of the matter is, throughout the nerdy circles of the world, BSD holds a respectable place as a stable, reliable workhorse. But it's never distinguished itself as a viable desktop alternative.

Over the years, I've dabbled in BSD quite some - you can check my UNIX reviews to figure out what gives. Sometimes, there would be this or that BSD flavor that surprised with its simplicity, but things would usually unravel at some point, whether it's hardware compatibility, disk-greedy partitioning, or perhaps the ease of everyday use. Then, recently, I came across GhostBSD, and it looks pretty and inviting. So let's see what gives.

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Updated: January 31, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 18

Light at the end of the tunnel.

A promise of salvation. Or a gruesome, violent death.

It was amazing how quickly the human body and mind could adjust to new situations. Going into the damp darkness of the mold-smelling bunker network had felt like exploring one's own coffin. After four days of tense, numbing blackness, there was almost a peaceful sense to the underground passage. Lee Qiang knew it was his brain trying not to go mad. Now, this.

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Updated: January 29, 2020 | Category: Cars

VW Polo GTI review

On the road again. On the wrong side of the road again. But there are good news, too. I had a sweet chance to lay my hands on a very nice, brand new Volkswagen Polo GTI, painted bright and shiny red, with a 2.0-liter engine under the hood, producing some 200 chipper horses. This means we will be having a nice little review right here, and tons of great pics.

Over the years, Polo has grown quite some. Not just in physical dimensions, which it sure has, but also in its identity and the message it conveys to the buyers. It's transformed from a somewhat shy and reserved mini hatch to a mature, confident and not-too-small family car, with the robust, effortless quality and seriousness of its bigger sibling, the Golf. The latest model, Mk.6, is also the first version to include a 2.0-liter engine, which promises lots of future growth (previous Polos had smaller units). The question is, has this growth harmed the fun factor? Well, I've got me here a 2019 Polo GTI 5dr DSG model, and it's time for a road test.

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Updated: January 27, 2020 | Category: Linux

Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat report 12

We haven't spoken about my Slimbook Pro2 system in a while. Well, there's a reason for that. A good reason. Everything is fine. Boring, I know. There's nothing sensational or controversial to report. But then, if you are thinking of buying yourself a Linux-adorned machine, you sure do want to know how robust one of these might be, and whether they can withstand the test of time, usage and real-life functionality. Which is why we're here.

Now, we have done this exercise eleven times already. In the last report, we mentioned some errors and bugs, a few oddities here and there, but by and large, the Slimbook experience remains uneventful. With several more months of usage tucked under the belt, it's time to pause and reflect.

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Updated: January 25, 2020 | Category: Virtualization

VirtualBox 6 review

When it comes to virtualization - mostly semi-pro or casual usage you'd find in a typical nerd setting, VirtualBox offers an excellent bundle of goodies; a friendly UI, lots of features, reasonable performance, simple and advanced options to suit every skill and mood. I've written about VirtualBox many times in the past, reviewing a whole range of topics, from the Guest Additions configuration to sharing & port forwarding and then some. Several dozen articles to be more precise. Including major release reviews among them, of course.

Recently, VirtualBox 6.X has been released, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a look at what's new, check some of the improvements and fixes, and see whether you should move off the 5.X branch onto the latest edition. Come along, let's see what gives.

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Updated: January 24, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 17

They needed rest.

But they couldn't rest. Not yet.

Lip had probably recited these numbers a dozen times to "rookie" teams over the years—a lack of sleep was a powerful enemy. A full day without sleep rendered you 15% less efficient. Two days, it was 70%. Three days, you had one in three chance of injuring yourself with your own weapon. The longer you went without rest the more dangerous it became. They were all hurt, exhausted, and have not drank or eaten enough. That made the math even more unfavorable.

And then there were the wounded.

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Updated: January 22, 2020 | Category: The good Web

Greatest sites

The Internet is getting worse by the day, but there's still some hope out there. Today, we shine light on two such examples. Number one: People take pictures, all the time, even when they shouldn't - like their restaurant food or selfies, for that matter. And they do it using all manner of devices, from lowly phones to sophisticated, expensive SLR with lenses that wouldn't shame Hubble. Indeed, if photography is more than just a social reflex to you, then you will want to know which camera to buy for your occasional visual memoirs. To wit, Digital Photography Review, or Dpreview in short, is a great resource of all things camera.

Number two: Few people define the 80s better than the Gubernator: the epitome of masculinity, swagger, casual violence, and of course, the bestest one-liners in the history of cinema. Few people are better remembered for their words, be they Rennaissance philosophers or modern-day politicians. Going to cinema, or more aptly, sitting down to play some grainy VHS and watch Arnold kick ass, one would soon be exposed to scene after scene of delightful, cheesy, out-of-this-world quotes. You came looking for copper (or choppa), and you found gold. Arnoldum.

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Updated: January 20, 2020 | Category: Media

OpenShot review

As you probably know, my go-to video editor is Kdenlive, which I've used many times before, to great success, creating dozens of unfunny clips, all of them available on my Youtube channel. But then, I've recently had less luck with the program, having tested both 2018's beta and last year's 19.08 stable edition, and neither really impressed me.

I came across bugs and crashes, and overall, it felt like the application has taken a nosedive. While older versions ought to keep working fine for quite a while longer, I wouldn't like to be in a position where my artistic spread of majestic wings is curtailed for any reasons. Hence, alternatives, hence testing. And thus, I came across an old-new title, OpenShot, a free, cross-platform video editor. Funnily, I've seen it many times before, but never really used in properly. This article shall remedy that.

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Updated: January 18, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Motorola One Zoom review

The end of an era. The start of a new one. I strongly believe that Windows Phone will go down into the annals of history as the most beautiful, ergonomically pleasing touch interface ever designed. But the phone support is no more (just remember the hysteria around making the desktop like this, all in vain), and I require a new mobile device. Any good story starts with a conflict.

Roughly two months ago, I began me hunt for a successor phone for the Lumia 950. My requirements weren't that stringent, but they were also quite peculiar. In the end, after a good few days of online research, reading and then some more reading, I bought a Motorola One Zoom. Now, let me share the details. And if you're wondering, yes, this is a proper, long smartphone review, with a dose of dramatic prose. After me.

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Updated: January 17, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 16

Lee Qiang came about to see a Chinese soldier bearing down on him. He instinctively reached for that which wasn't there; his rifle was pinned under him, the strap torn off his harness. Without thinking, Lee Qiang pulled his pistol from his thigh holster and fired a dozen rounds into the man's legs and groin. Whatever words or screams the East Alliance man may have uttered were lost in his sophisticated helmet-mask.

There was a whole bunch of enemy soldiers pressing toward the gap between the two Magdas. Pablo wasn't shooting at them.

Pablo wasn't there anymore—just his machine gun, propped against the rock.

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Updated: January 15, 2020 | Category: Windows

Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade

Let's start with a little teaser. I have a whole bunch of Windows 10 articles coming out in the next few weeks. They mostly revolve around the installation of new devices with the aforementioned operating system, the upgrade of old devices from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and the subsequent mandatory post-install tweaks and changes. We shall start, as the title subtly hints, with the middle option.

With the Windows 7 deadline loometh (now passeth), I decided to sacrifice one of my olden Windows 7 desktops for this experiment. I mean, it wasn't a big deal - as I had contingencies in place (hint: new hardware), and with the lovely Seven going out of support (but that shouldn't scare you, right), I wanted to see what kind of future awaits anyone willing to bite the bullet and try their luck with the latest Windows version. This article is a tale of that attempt.

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Updated: January 13, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox 71 & 72 review

Strange how things work. Apparently, people rarely learn unless they go through an experience personally, and often, even not then. Companies and organizations are much alike, so when Mozilla embarked on its Firefox revamp many years ago, it went after Chrome, and it trying to be like Chrome only made Chrome better.

Fast forward, Mozilla re-discovered the meaning behind its motto, and figured that it has a golden opportunity of making its browser stand out. People are sick of getting their private info trafficked left and right by careless data vampires, and they want something ... more humane. Recent versions of Firefox seem to be doing quite all right on that front, and the last two or three releases are a great example of a champion effort. Let's see.

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Updated: January 11, 2020 | Category: Windows

Multi-boot Windows 10 laptop recovery

All right. Just a few days back, we talked about my messed-up laptop and the subsequent recovery of the KDE neon instance in its eight-boot Windows-and-Linux setup. As it turns out, various distributions would not boot because they were configured to mount a non-existent partition. This happened because new Linux systems use a sub-optimal way of marking devices, with meaningless, human-unreadable UUID strings rather than simple numbers.

Well, we need to fix the Windows 10 instance as well. Here, the issue was kind of similar. Windows 10 would start booting, then there's be a message about diagnosing PC, automatic repair - and then, predictably, the automatic repair would fail. In the previous article, we've already established that the Windows 10 partition was healthy, all the data was there, so I didn't want to do any reset or such. Let me show you how I gracefully fixed this rather annoying issue.

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Updated: January 10, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 15

Over many tens of thousands of years, human motor skills and reflexes evolved as a response to biological threats, long before any technology made things faster than neural signals could move the muscle tissue. The average response time to a visual stimulus is about three-quarters of a second, or half that for people who are alert. That does not sound like a lot until you take into account other factors, like rocket motors.

A typical anti-tank missile flies at about 250 m/s. This means it will clear about one and a half football fields in the time it takes the human brain to register and respond to a visual signal. It’s a metallic object the size of a bread loaf, jumping football field lengths as fast as you can blink. Even if you can see it coming, you have no time to react. You can't dodge missiles.

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Updated: January 9, 2020 | Category: Linux

Multi-boot Linux laptop recovery

Remember, I told you about a messed up laptop? Well, let's elaborate, shall we. I was doing some testing with imaging & recovery software, and once I was done, I wanted to see how well the process had gone. Not well, it turned out. GRUB was there, but no entry in the menu worked initially. Once I had that promptly fixed, I saw that Windows 10 wouldn't boot, and wouldn't auto-repair, and half the distros on the system (out of the total eight) in the multi-boot setup wouldn't start either, going into emergency mode. We're talking the full share of distros, take your pick.

Now, the GRUB recovery was quite tricky - none of the methods I could think of worked, and I ended up installing a test distro just to get the bootloader configured properly. Then, I started one of the distros that DID work, and noticed there was no data loss. Everything was there, all the partitions were sane and whole, and the files were in their right place, Linux and Windows included. In this article, I'd like to show you how I went about this problem, and how I fixed it - and in the sequel, we shall do the same for Windows 10. A useful exercise. Follow me.

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Updated: January 6, 2020 | Category: Internet

Android road test

Back in June, I posted an article summarizing several weeks of rigorous testing of my Moto G6, coupled with extra hardened security and privacy settings. I did this to examine and evaluate the usability of Android in real-life conditions, as a preparation for the tragic and inevitable switch come the end of life of the magnificent Windows Phone platform.

Recently, I decided to extend the testing and use Android even more stringently. Over a period of about two weeks, I used the phone in strange and wondrous places, I tried to rely on it for semi-essential needs, not that smartphones ever served more than ancillary needs for me, and I did this in parallel to my future phone purchase hunt. While you're going to read about my Lumia 950 successor shortly - it's not the Moto G6 device, that's a brave pioneer slash scapegoat - in this here be article, I'd like to walk you through my recent Android escapade. Commence we shall.

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Updated: January 4, 2020 | Category: Linux and Windows

How to make Windows 10 USB installation media - tutorial

The reason why I attempted this thing is a bit convoluted. It started, like any good story, with a problem, a conflict, a conundrum. I had a laptop with a multi-boot system, Windows 10 and a whole bunch of Linux distributions, and it was ill. Not booting. Nothing. I needed to recover it, and recover it I did, one system after another, until only Windows 10 was left and acting rather stubbornly.

I thought using the Windows 10 install media could help, as I'd have better control over the recovery tools and options than using the one that Windows offers on a botched startup. This meant creating bootable media, and this turned out to be more complicated than I thought. I wanted to create the USB media in Linux, without relying on any third-party tools that purport to do this. Why? Because independence. If it works with standard tools, you can use it anywhere. Begin to commence.

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Updated: January 3, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 14

Lee Qiang remembered his grandfather's stories. He had been an electrical engineer working in the Middle East in the 1980s, dabbling in some rather expensive projects in Libya and Iraq, and then later, in the 1990s, in Afghanistan. Grandad would proudly boast, sober or drunk, that he'd been one of the few Polaks with a passport and an unrestricted travel visa back in the day, before the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

And he had seen some rather gruesome things, which he had shared with his grandson the day he was accepted into special forces training.

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Updated: January 1, 2020 | Category: Game reviews

ArmA 3 - Terrorist Hunt mission

I love discovering fun, challenging scenarios in ArmA 3. This fabulous war simulation is the only shooter game really worth considering. Having played the franchise since Operation Flashpoint, I found its uncompromising realism to be an excellent form of meditation, especially after a long day of work full of IT buzzwords.

One mission that drew me in recently is Terrorist Hunt - Factory, by Fin Soldier, a remake of the Rainbow Six Vegas TH gamemode. In this mission, you and up to three other human players are pitted against 28 AI enemy soldiers at a factory plant. Sounds simple, but typically, you end up outnumbered, and a relatively simple premise becomes a very tricky, difficult objective. As I learned to perfect it, I realized something. I was mimicking the real combat tactics used by professional soldiers. Follow me.

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Updated: December 30, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best distro of 2019

Another year comes to a close. Another year of distro testing, surprises, illusions, disillusionment, some happiness, some sadness, and most of all, not the year of Linux after all. But while the dream may be fading, there's still reasons to be jolly. Or at least content. Because some pretty nice and solid Linux distros did come out in 2019, and we need to crown the bestest of them.

Last year, the winner was MX Linux MX-17 Horizon. It delivered a good, whole desktop experience. A pleasant twist, one sorely needed in the lethargy-bound world that is home Linux nowadays. Which makes for an interesting little competition this year, because it's not just about boring technical details, it's also about giving users something they can proudly run and enjoy, beyond the rudimentary point-and-click essentials. I've already given you my take on the Plasma, Gnome and Xfce winners, so now we need to put all that together, and see what comes out. Let's do it.

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Updated: December 28, 2019 | Category: Linux

Plasma & removable media

Before you say, removable media, that's so 90s, hear me out. First, Plasma is a highly versatile, polished desktop environment with tons of goodies and excellent features all around. Second, finding some of these capabilities does take a bit of patience and rigorous sub-menu digging, hence the use of the term hidden in the article title. So, not really hidden, but more sort of, revealistically challenged.

Third, I want to take to you about the rather unique, colorful way the Plasma desktop approaches and solves the removable media handling. Not something you think about often, but then, you can really turn this into a super-handy, time-saving exercise for your desktop. To wit, begin we shall.

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Updated: December 27, 2019 | Category: Books

The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich

Dear readers, the jolly season is upon us. And I thought, 'tis time for gifts. Which means the Kindle edition of The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich will be available for free on Amazon from now till the very end of the year. Five days. So maybe grab yourself a book and do so light holiday reading?

If you're not convinced for whatever cosmic reason, then, the name of the book series should sway your heart and mind the other way around. Wait for it ... Woes & Hose. That ought to do it. The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich is a hilarious, fast-paced, gunpowder-rich, grim yet fun novel that will take you into a crazy, hectic world of disappointed sons of royalty, romance, sharp humor, and even sharper swords. Guns, too. Enjoy.

Read more ... (Amazon)

Updated: December 27, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 13

Sveta walked with a funny, stilted gait. She must have been stiff from the ride in the boot—as Lip liked to call it—of the car, and probably nauseated from having her sensory deprivation. There was a scowl on her pretty face, mirroring the one on Lip's chiseled, whiskered features. He was waiting impatiently for her to waddle over.

The captain pointed at the large binoculars, resting on a solid tripod in the middle of an old industrial rubbish heap, half-buried under weeds. "What's there?"

About five kilometers away, where the binoculars zoomed in, there was some kind of a town. The place wasn't marked on the maps. It didn't really look like a town. More like a makeshift market. Perhaps a military compound of some sort.

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Updated: December 26, 2019 | Category: Linux

Plasma Discover loading providers error

Here's an interesting problem for you. Remember my Asus Vivobook dual-booting Windows 8 and Ubuntu? Well, I had the machine upgraded from Trusty to Bionic, and in the course of further exercises, I also installed Plasma on the system. Everything was good, but then whenever I'd start Discover, I'd notice a message that shouldn't be there.

At the bottom of the Discover main screen, it would read: kdenlive_projectprofiles.knsrc" "Loading of providers from file: https://kdenlive.org/data/mltprofilesources.xml failed". Strange. Apart from this showing up for a few seconds, everything was working well. I was able to search for applications through Discover and install them, Kdenlive was working as expected. But my OCD demons wouldn't let this rest. So let's fix this, shall we.

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Updated: December 23, 2019 | Category: Internet

Why you should use Firefox

I have been using Firefox for roughly fifteen years, give or take. During that period, I've seen it grow into a beautiful project, become a world of wonderful extensions, and then slowly shrink and fade as it did what the competitors do, losing the core advantages it had in the first place. Despite all that, it remains my primary browser. And if you're asking me - well, you should - it ought to be yours, too.

In this article, I will tell you why. It goes beyond the everyday stuff like memory consumption, the extra three milliseconds of browser launch, or how pretty the application may look on a phone. It's about choice, the freedom of choice, and the critical importance of competition. As a nerd reading this article, you have a moral obligation to be part of that equation. Follow me.

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Updated: December 22, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best Xfce distro of 2019

And now, we've come to the third member of the Tux Triumvirate, the Xfce desktop environment. Previously, we talked about the KDE and Gnome desktops, and their best offerings of the year. Now, we shall embark on the same journey of soulsearching and whatnot with Xfce. Who knows what's gonna happen?

The thing is, yesteryear was a happy-ish kind of year. I had reasonable fun with Xfce, with MX Linux leading the pack, offering the freshest experience. Overall though, Xfce is usually a hit and miss experience. There was a time when it was kind of drab and apathetic, then things picked up nicely a couple of years ago, and now we're holding our breath for the 2019 showdown. Begin.

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Updated: December 20, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 12

A whimper.

It was a sound that did not belong in his fitful dreams.

Lee Qiang woke up, kicking the thin, camo-patterned top half of his space sleeping bag off him, rising, walking toward the source of the sound. For half a second, he felt disoriented and weak from low blood pressure before a rush of adrenaline made him alert and sharp.

He wasn't the only one to wake up, but he was the first to intercept the situation.

Read more ... (my books-only website)

Updated: December 19, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best Gnome distro of 2019

Ladies and gentlemen and rare penguins. It's time for another best-of article. Today, I'm going to cover the Gnome desktop. Just a handful of sunsets ago, we did the Plasma finals, with Kubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine as the lucky winner. Now, we shall look across the playground at the other major camp.

Gnome hasn't been the same since the integer increment from 2 to 3. What used to be super-slim, super-fact and super-ergonomic desktop became a minimalistic platform that just doesn't work for me, mostly because it removes essential components from the classic desktop formula that people need and expect. That doesn't mean Gnome can't be enjoyed, with some rigorous alterations and tweaking. In fact, there are some pretty decent systems wearing this guise out there. Let's see which one deserves to be the champion for this year. Follow me.

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Updated: December 16, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best KDE/Plasma distro of 2019

The end of the year is an important part of the, ehm, year. One of the cardinal reasons is the tradition of watching the best Christmas movie of all times, Die Hard. The second reason - and tradition - is to reflect upon the past twelve months of distro testing, and come up with a winner. But before we do that, we ought to have a little game. We should examine the Linux systems based on their desktop environment first.

Let's start with Plasma. Last year, I selected Kubuntu 18.04 as my winner, because Slimbook, with Manjaro in second place. I was rather happy with how things went yesteryear. I even had a sense of optimism imbue my brain cells, hoping that the Linux desktop world can, this time, despite the odds, sustain the momentum, grow and flourish. So let's explore 2019, and see what happened, Plasma style. After me.

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Updated: December 14, 2019 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

The end of the year is approaching. That means best-of compilations. But before we get there, we must test Xubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine. We've seen the autumn-crop MATE edition and Kubuntu in action, with reasonable results plus some annoyances and inconsistencies. Not bad, but then not exactly the emotional revolution that I've been hoping for. Which makes the Xfce case extra interesting.

Speaking of interesting, MX Linux MX-19 patito feo. I tested the distro only a few days ago, and it aims to be friendly and usable Xfce desktop out of the box. Now, now, to make the results relevant, I'll be doing the Xubuntu experiment on the same machine as the others - my much used-and-misused Lenovo G50 box, with its plethora of installed systems, Windows and Linux, take your pick. So we'll do the usual, live session games, installation, some post-install fun and games. Hopefully. Begin.

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Updated: December 13, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 11

A woman?

When you think you've seen everything.

"Do not shoot," she repeated.

"Everyone, hold your fire," Lee Qiang instructed over the comms, his mind on fire. "This could be important."

"Check," Cem acknowledged.

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Updated: December 11, 2019 | Category: Linux

Fedora 31 Workstation

Last week, we talked about MX Linux MX-19. This week, let's have a look at Fedora 31. Now, some of you may already start grumbling and complaining. Because I will focus a lot of my energy on the Gnome desktop and what it doesn't do, and all that. But then, Fedora is the pioneer child (not in the communist sense) of the Gnome world, showcasing the latest fixes and features the environment offers. Therein lies my hope and my expected but hopefully proven wrong disappointment.

Looking back to the past two years or so, I found Fedora to have improved a little in the performance area, has become more consistent, gained stability in major areas side by side with bugs and problems in others, and still isn't user-friendly enough for immediate consumption. Y'know, proprietary stuff, window buttons, desktop icons, stuff like that. Fedora 30 is a good melting pot of all these observations. I wasn't happy, but then, it's time to rewind the clock, reset my emotions, and boldly charge head first into the wall of open-source.

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Updated: December 9, 2019 | Category: Linux

Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat report 11

It's been a while since I've done one of my Slimbook CRs. Well, I've sort of run out of things to complain, but also new features that I can meaningfully test. Not to worry! New experiences, new opportunities, and once again, a new article is upon us, with fresh real-life challenges. They are out there, it just takes a bit of time finding the extra use cases.

For those of you wondering what gives, about a year back I bought a Slimbook Pro2, installed Kubuntu on it, and since started writing about my real-life, no-nonsense production-environment experiences using Linux in a way most people consume Windows, which have culminated in some ten reports so far. Well, to get up to speed, grab the last one, and then work your way back. Now, let's continue.

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Updated: December 7, 2019 | Category: Internet

Firefox 70 review

Just recently, I wrote my melancholic Firefox & WebExtensions piece, summarizing roughly two years of the new Firefox, the changes, the market share, all of it. Not a pretty picture. But what can I say, I'm an optimist. A definition thereof, someone who keeps smiling despite repeatedly getting smacked on the forehead with a wooden ruler.

The thing is, I've been using Firefox since day one, and it remains my primary browser, despite all its failings and mistakes. There are many reasons for this, as I shall expand in a separate, important article. Now, I'd like to focus on Firefox 70, the latest minus one release. It looks neat, it comes with a slew of privacy-related tweaks, and it might be the remedy for my ailing soul. Wait, you may say, what about Firefox 71? That shall come soon. I'm not here to do news, I'm here to do meaningful technical tests and reviews, and this takes time. So Firefox 70, let's have a look.

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Updated: December 6, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 10

An abandoned power plant.

No. Not abandoned.

"Turn around. We are going back."

Lip frowned. "Come again?"

"Turn around. We are going back. I want to inspect that power plant we just passed," Lee Qiang said.

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Updated: December 4, 2019 | Category: Writing

The Binary Conundrum short story

Dear readers, here's some good stuff. Electric Spec, an online speculative fiction magazine has published my short story The Binary Conundrum in their Volume 14, Issue 4. The story has a simple premise: To kill? Or not to kill? What if the question does not have an optimal answer? An AI system faces the dilemma even as the war against humanity draws to a close ...

"There," Senior 9 communicated.

Junior 48 focused on the transmitted coordinates. It didn't have Senior's camera resolution, but it could still see the disturbance on the plateau seven kilometers and four hundred and three meters away. A cloud of dust rising from the surface, caused by a non-climate phenomenon ...

Read more ... (Electric Spec)

Updated: December 4, 2019 | Category: Linux

MX Linux MX-19 patito feo

Let's mix it up a bit, shall we. So far this distro-testing season, we had Ubuntu MATE and Kubuntu, both of the Ermine stock. Reasonable results. Now, we will try something completely different. The distro of choice for today's session is MX Linux, a frugal, lightweight Xfce-clad system, with some nice features and perks.

Over the years, my experience with it has been ... mixed. But, most importantly, it's steadily improving. Version after version, it's getting better. Friendlier, more mature, more accessible to people outside the circle of diehard penguin-loving geeks. With that in heart and mind, and good results with MX-18, the previous version that is, we are testing the latest edition, patito feo. After me.

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Updated: December 2, 2019 | Category: Linux

CentOS 8 Stream

I don't like repeating myself. Or even linking to my own articles. I find the exercise tedious if somewhat necessary to help readers connect the dots. Now here's a theme that I've mentioned so many times it isn't possible to encompass all the relevant references from the past thirteen odd years of Dedoimedo: I want a super-stable desktop with a lifetime support that exceeds hardware life.

Sounds simple. And yet. Throughout my Linux adventures, I've used a tiny number of Linux distros in a serious, production fashion on the desktop. OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, Kubuntu. A little bit of MX Linux lately. But that's pretty much that. The golden formula seems so hard to nail. Distros are either modern and fickle or stable and old. You sort of can't get the sweet spot in between. Or maybe you can. CentOS 8 Stream.

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Updated: November 30, 2019 | Category: Hardware

iPhone 6s & iOS 13 upgrade

As you know - or maybe you don't know - I'm not a great fan of the iPhone. The restrictive nature of the ecosystem simply isn't for me. Small things, y'know, like music sync or full MTP access. Anyway, I still do like to test Apple hardware and software if and when I can, just to see and understand what gives, and get ever so closer to a better class of people than myself.

I used to briefly possess an iPhone 6 (own is a wrong word here), and nowadays, one of the phones in my small array of test gadgets happens to be a white-cover iPhone 6s. Overall, the newer model does feel like an improvement over the older one, but it's not one to stir my emotions and such. With the recent release of the iOS 13 operating system upgrade, and the S model being eligible for it, I went about upgrading the device. This article here is a review of my findings. Follow me.

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Updated: November 29, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 9

"Shishka time," Juraj said.

Lee Qiang could not—despite the situation—help but smile.

The shaped-charge missile hit the truck on the right side, shearing the wheel clean off the axis, the molten jet of metal setting the rubber on fire, slicing through the engine block and spewing out in a shower of golden sparks on the other side. Like a great beast, the truck ground to a halt.

Of course, Lee Qiang could not have seen all this; it happened too fast for the human eye to register, but his camera caught everything.

Read more ... (my books-only website)

Updated: November 27, 2019 | Category: Windows

Windows 7 & KB4474419 failed update

The end of support for Windows 7 might be just around the corner. That does not prevent me from having my first ever failed Windows Update on this spectacular operating system - not sure if this is a sign of things to come. Indeed, I have an old laptop that I've not used in about a year, and I decided to run Windows Update on it. The first thing it needed were the new cryptographic signature patches, to be able to install future rollups.

I got the prompt for KB4474419 via Windows Update, ran it, seemingly all way fine. But then, at about 70% mark, I saw a message that said: Failure configuring updates, reverting changes. Something along those lines. Never before have I seen this happen, so I set about troubleshooting and fixing the issue. Follow me.

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Updated: November 27, 2019 | Category: Books

System Administration Ethics Cyber Monday

Dear readers, it's me again! I have some terrific news. Apress is offering my System Administration Ethics e-book at a mindboggling discount as part of its Cyber Monday deal spree. Until December 3rd, my work as well as ALL Apress and Springer Computer Science books are available for only 7 dollars each!

If you were hesitant about buying it before, hesitate no more. I would strongly recommend you grab yourself a copy, and maybe even tell a friend or five. You will get a beautiful, DRM-free book covering one of the more important and relevant topics in the IT industry today. Of course, blowing my own horn is silly, so I urge you to get the book, read it, see what gives. Maybe even write a review. Support Dedoimedo and all that.

Once again, System Administration Ethics e-book, until December 3rd, on the Apress website. Case-sensitive code: CYBERWEEK19. Enjoy!

Read more ... (Apress book site)

Updated: November 25, 2019 | Category: Linux

Kubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

A-B-C-D-Ermine. Now I know my ABC, won't you come and test my Linux? Kubuntu be next on our plate. After exploring Ubuntu MATE of the Eoan family, it's time to focus on the quintessential Plasma desktop distro. As you know, I'm quite pleased with how Plasma has evolved over the years, and as it happens the LTS release of Kubuntu happens [sic] to the daily driver (and passenger) on my Slimbook machine. But we can't take things for granted, and test we must.

Let's see what results we're gonna get on my eight-boot G50 laptop. It already has a bunch of Plasma stuff on it, including an 18.04 instance, neon Developer edition, and then some. One more won't hurt. We're looking for the consistency of experience, too, so compare to Ubuntu MATE we must. Enough nonsense. Let's begin.

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Updated: November 23, 2019 | Category: Internet

Firefox & WebExtensions, two years later

It's been roughly two years since Firefox 57 was introduced and the abrupt transition to WebExtensions happened. Overnight, a decade of work made by thousands of developers was made obsolete, turning existing extensions into a legacy heap of nostalgia and code, some of it darn good code. We were told that modern times require modern means AKA mobile nonsense, and this is the future.

Fast forward to NOW, and I'm not happy or optimistic. Firefox usage has declined further, just as I predicted, because the more Firefox became like Chrome the less incentive there was for its loyal users to recommend it to other people. Only recently, with the explosion of privacy nonsense do people realize how important it is to have a healthy underdog browser, and in this regard, Firefox is the last bastion, i.e. the least worst browser of the bunch, although they are all quite annoying. But. Maybe the future is rosy? So I decided to take stock of my current extensions, the new crop, evaluate what they do, and if indeed, we're in a better place than we were when XUL ruled supreme. After me.

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Updated: November 22, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 8

"What the hell are they doing?" Lip growled.

Lee Qiang shook his head. "No idea."

"Putain."

They had stopped because the road ahead was blocked. Someone was fighting someone else.

Read more ... (my books-only website)

Updated: November 20, 2019 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu MATE 19.10 Eoan Ermine

How is an ermine different from a martel or a beaver? Je ne sais quoi, the French would say, but good news! We can discover how different Eoan Ermine is from Disco Dingo, and/or other Linux distributions out there in the wild. Commencing the autumn season of testing, joy, tribulation and unknowns, we begin with the MATE edition of the family.

Now, some notes ere we begin. I happen to know the head honcho of the MATE project, but this familiarity shall not be affecting the outcome of this review in any shape or form or whatnot. Furthermore, I did dabble some in the beta version of Ubuntu MATE and provided some feedback on the rough edges here and there, which again, is something you should know in advance. All that said, my Lenovo G50 laptop with its plethora of partitions and installed systems is about to receive a new one. Let's do it.

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Updated: November 20, 2019 | Category: Books

System Administration Ethics book discount

Dear Dedoimedoistas! My publisher has just informed that the holiday season comes with perks. In other words, my recently published System Administration Ethics books is available at a discount, using a purchase coupon code directly on the publisher's site.

I think this could be a really good opportunity for you to grab yourself a copy at a reduced price. This book comes with an important set of rules and guidelines for how to conduct oneself professionally and ethically in the IT world, something that has come under a lot of scrutiny recently. I would be happy and honored if you read the book - it's the best way to support Dedoimedo. The discount offer will be available till December 31, both for print and e-book versions. Case-sensitive coupon: ETHICS20. There you go. Enjoy!

Read more ... (Apress book site)

Updated: November 18, 2019 | Category: Windows

Windows display & color calibration tutorial

Here's a weird problem. I was using my Asus Vivobook, which happens to dual-boot Linux and Windows, and in the resident Windows 8.1, during some strenuous maintenance - installation of several applications, updates and such - my screen colors suddenly changed. It was as if the brightness had been halved, even though the slider was in the max. position.

I didn't discover what triggered this color muting, but I did realize that I needed to find a way to restore my colors back to what I like. And so I started fiddling a little with color adjustments and display calibration, and eventually wrote this tutorial, for things ain't (too) trivial. Thus, if you happen to be using Windows, and suddenly you find yourself disliking the colors on your screen, here's a tutorial that could help you.

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Updated: November 16, 2019 | Category: Life wisdoms and such

Are you conservative

First, if you think or even vaguely suspect this article has somehow anything to do with any sort of West Coast soap opera melodrama about boring political affiliations, you're reading the wrong article, so please, click the close button on the browser tab and go back to your Interneting. This article is an attempt to understand, or rather, enlighten you, into what makes one receptive or resistant to change. Mostly when it comes to technology.

The world is currently undergoing several social, cultural and technological mini-upheavals, at a faster pace than in the past. This gives us a unique privilege to live through them, and even observe them, through our own personal experience. Typically, changes of this nature used to take generations, so people would often equate them with the natural cycle of human life, and thus, they were also easier to miss, ignore and adapt to. Now, the speed makes everything more interesting. Let's commence.

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Updated: November 9, 2019 | Category: Linux

CentOS 8 perfect desktop tutorial

Traditions are there so they can be maintained, nourished, upkept, repeated. Most notably, any time there's a new major CentOS release, I happily jump on the opportunity to test the distro and also provide you with a tutorial that shows all the steps you need to undertake to turn a fairly boring server distro into a fully productive, fun desktop setup.

We've done this with CentOS 6 and CentOS 7 (and there are sequels, too), and it's time we do the same with CentOS 8. So let me show you all the bits and pieces you require to enjoy stability with the latest and greatest software. Over the years, this effort has become easier, so it will be interesting to see whether CentOS 8 makes it even simpler than the previous versions. Let's begin.

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Updated: November 8, 2019 | Category: Books

System Administration Ethics book published

Dear readers, I am truly happy to announce the publication of my latest technical book. It comes with a lengthy but important title - System Administration Ethics: Ten Commandments for Security and Compliance in a Modern Cyber World. A colleague and I have been writing this book over the past year and a bit, and we've jotted down what we believe are the most critical dos and don'ts of information technology.

Ethics has never been more important - just look around, and you'll see the Wild Wild West of the digital world, breach here, breach there, data this, data that. Amidst this chaos, you will find techies, afloat, lost, confused, angry, and wondering how their work and passion has become the spearpoint of social dissent and mistrust. I hope this book can provide the right pointers.

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Updated: November 8, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 6

Operation Putain started three hours into Operation Lake Placid, with the morning sky streaked in lead and filthy white but no rain. Lee Qiang was happy they didn't need to slog through mud on the very first day of their mission.

Assembled in eight Magdalena SUVs, they crossed the border into Sector 8. Well, the term "border" was deceiving. It implied a line, a fence, maybe a formal checkpoint, whereas in between the two territories, it was fluidly marked by a stretch of rugged land about 10-15 kilometers wide. Inside this buffer zone, wearing the wrong kind of uniform did not mean you'd automatically get shot by the other side.

Read more ... (my books-only website)