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Updated: July 11, 2020 | Category: Linux

Edit theme, black fonts

Most Linux distributions have this or that problem with fonts. Either they use bad fonts, suboptimal anti-aliasing and hinting, or the font color is wrong, resulting in a low-contrast setup that can cause eye strain. Or all of it. In Ubuntu MATE, the font choice and anti-aliasing are jolly, but the fonts are not 100% black, and this is a problem. With light themes, fonts should be pure black (hex value 000000).

In some desktop environments, changing font color is easy - hint, Plasma. But in MATE, this cannot be done using a UI tool. We will need to edit the system theme, similar to what I've shown you in Gnome 3, and more recently when I tested Linux Mint 20 Ulyana Xfce. In fact, what you learn today is applicable for any Gtk-based desktop, be it MATE, Cinnamon, Gnome, or indeed Xfce. But since I've doing a fair deal of testing and tweaking in the MATE environment lately, in an attempt to use Raspberry Pi 4 as a mini desktop, we will focus on Ubuntu MATE. So let me walk you through the steps required to make the fonts black and thus crisp and clear. After me, fellow nerds and enterprising techies.

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Updated: July 10, 2020 | Category: Linux

Linux network connectivity issues

Do you know how you know you have a funny Linux problem? When it takes you more time to think of a suitable title for the article than the actual debugging. Because I encountered a rather bizarre network-related issue, and I spent a while trying to figure out what gives. I did solve it, and I'm sharing it now.

In essence, this is what happened. I found myself testing some new routers. In my KDE neon instance, I connected to the new wireless access point, and tried to browse. Nothing. I tried with a wired cable, and everything was fine. Then, I booted into a different Linux instance on this eight-boot machine, and the Wireless connectivity was working without any issues. Both systems were Ubuntu based, both using the 18.04 baseline. Well, time to figure out why my wireless was not behaving in neon.

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Updated: July 8, 2020 | Category: Linux

Linux Mint 20 Ulyana Xfce review

It's been quite a while since I last reviewed a Mint Xfce edition. Since, I've mostly focused on the stock Cinnamon experience, with less than ideal results, I must say. But then, the slump isn't distro-specific, this is an ailment of the desktop world. Well, I figured, now that there's a new Linux Mint version available, I might as well start with a non-Cinnamon review. Then, we'll have a second article focusing on the flagship edition, so to speak, and we can compare the two, side by side.

Overall, my expectations are mid-high. The last couple of years of Linux distro testing have not been happy for me, and the last few months even less so. But then, every time, I hope I'll feel some of that naive joy I used to have when exploring distros and discovering amazeballs stuff. Anyway, let's commence. My G50 box with its eight-boot setup. Begin.

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Updated: July 6, 2020 | Category: Games reviews

ArmA 3 & Malden 2035 map

No one would have believed, at the turn of the 21st century, that a small, obscure Czech game developer would create a good first person shooter. Because that's not what happened. They didn't create a good first person shooter. They created THE BEST first person shooter, the finest milsim in the history of computing and possibly the entire universe: Operation Flashpoint. In a world of arcade, Bohemia Interactive's title stood out as a beacon of hope for hardcore, uncompromising fun and realism. Even now, just saying Malden invokes a gush of deep nostalgia.

Fast forward two decades, ArmA 3 is the spiritual and material successor to Operation Flashpoint. And it doesn't forget its roots. The theme music is an orchestra piece laid over the original theme song, the gritty realism is ever present, and the community is working hard on re-creating the maps and scenarios from the older titles in the franchise. But then, nothing is sweeter than an official nod to the good ole times, and it comes in the form of Malden 2035, a future-reimagined map from Operation Flashpoint cast into the ArmA 3 universe. Naturally, it's time to go a-explorin', and what better way to do so than an intense, nerve-racking Dynamic Recon Ops (DRO) mission. Of course.

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Updated: July 4, 2020 | Category: Linux

RPI4 & Manjaro Plasma 20.04

As you know, I've embarked on a peaceful crusade of trying to establish whether Raspberry Pi 4 can be used as an ordinary mini desktop. So far, I've shown you the first steps in my effort. I bought the hardware and I tested Ubuntu MATE and Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian) also running MATE, with a fair deal of tweaking and modifications.

Then, I got a bunch of emails, and people suggested I try the Manjaro Plasma 20.04 image built for ARM. And I thought, well, that sounds like a cool idea. My early exploration with the KDE desktop available in the Raspberry Pi OS repos wasn't encouraging. The performance was meh, and the visuals were so-so. But maybe a purpose-built Manjaro will be the dream system I need. Let's see.

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Updated: July 3, 2020 | Category: Linux

RPI4, Ubuntu MATE & audio config

A few weeks ago, I got meself a 4GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, and set about a-tweakin' the living daylights out of it. I tried two operating systems - the official Raspberry Pi OS and Ubuntu MATE, and spent quite some time polishing both. Now, Ubuntu MATE has official, well-sorted images available for the older Pi models, but not just yet for the lasted board. This meant a fair deal of manual changes.

So far, I've shown you how to get rid of black bars and funny screen resolution, how to get HW acceleration, and now we will talk about audio setup - so you can have nice sound either via HDMI or 3.5mm headphones or external speakers. Like the other tutorials, the tweaks we need to introduce are based on how you'd normally do that using raspi-config, plus some extras. After me.

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Updated: July 1, 2020 | Category: Games reviews, Old games

Panzer General review

Roughly 25 years ago, I remember playing Panzer General for the first time. The game's hexagonal-map, turn-based, inventory-and-strategy style grabbed me instantly, and became one of the enduring classics on my proverbial digital shelf of good ole antiquities. A few days ago, I fired up DOSBox and had another go at Panzer General. Not sure what prompted me to play it again, perhaps inspiration following a recent bout of reading military history books on Stalingrad and Berlin, or perhaps a big-boy-toy warehouse management OCD itch that lurks in every grown man. Or just the fact it's a darn good game, and it's time to play it, enjoy it, review it.

It may sound unusual talking about a 1994 game title - but hey, classics be classics. I did mention it in one of my DOSBox compilations on old game revival, but now I want to give it a proper, in-depth review, even if most of you won't be able to play it, or even find it. Besides, it's a trip down the memory lane. I don't remember the full journey, but I did preserve the game and its save files carefully over the years, from floppy (maybe) to CD to DVD to a folder on a disk, which could be mounted and summoned at will. My original game saves are there, most of them, the earliest dating back to 2000, and the newest to 2007. So not only do I get to have fresh fun, I also have a glimpse of my own military cunning two decades removed. Well, let's blitz.

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Updated: June 29, 2020 | Category: Internet

Ublock Origin review

Every now and then, I receive an email from a reader asking me why I'm not using uBlock Origin. Or rather, why Adblock Plus and not uBlock Origin? Alas, the question is based on a wrong assumption. I do use it, I use them both (not at the same time), and it's on several of my recommended software lists. But I've never given it a proper review. Time to rectify that.

The modern Internet is a cesspit. A filthy place with tiny, isolated pockets of goodness. Adblocking isn't there to kill revenue streams for indie websites, it's there to stop nonsense from becoming the dominant force of any and every Web experience. Helping turn the tide are a few brave champions. I've already reviewed uMatrix, and you know my all-time-favorite Noscript. Now, let's have a look at uBlock Origin.

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Updated: June 27, 2020 | Category: Linux

RPI4, Ubuntu MATE & video acceleration

Let's fix another problem. This is a big one, and technically speaking, the most important one. Because if you intend to use Raspberry Pi 4 as a desktop system, like I do, then hardware acceleration is a critical component of the overall experience. What this translates to, in layman's terms: smooth video playback with low system resource utilization and less heating.

By default, even the earlier Pi models could play 1080p movies without a problem. This means you ought to get solid results here, too. However, the default configuration is not (currently) optimized for a desktop experience, and we will need to make a few manual changes. Let me show you what you need to do on the system level first - and then how to allow Firefox, Chromium and VLC to use hardware acceleration. After me.

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Updated: June 26, 2020 | Category: Linux

Fedora 32 tweaks

Over the years, I've published numerous tweaking guides for both CentOS and Fedora. Really, without spamming here with endless links, just have a look at the last two of this series, the CentOS 8 guide and the Fedora 29 guide. And then pay attention to the titles and the tone within.

With Fedora, I've moved away from my early, bubbly enthusiasm into a more somber, functional territory. Now, it's no longer a question of doing the extras for one's gratification, it's the question of creating a setup that offers a baseline level of efficiency and aesthetics that I find mandatory in an operating system. With the recently released Fedora 32, the out-of-the-box experience was quite rough for me. And I encountered all sorts of problems and issues. Which is why I'm writing this article. I'm not happy, I'm not going to use Fedora in my production setup any time soon, but you might, so hopefully, this guide will help you create a more usable configuration.

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Updated: June 24, 2020 | Category: Windows

HWiNFO review

In Linux, getting detailed information on your hardware is relatively easy. In Windows, less so. Or rather, you need third-party software to get all the data you need. Now, if and when you can combine useful information with a reasonably laid out presentation layer, you get a must-have tool that can serve all your hardware curiosity needs.

One such utility is HWiNFO. Small, portable, standalone - and powerful. Now, throwing randomly grand adjectives about is easy. Which is why I ought to write a proper review and tell you a bit more about what HWiNFO does. Follow me, nerdlings.

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Updated: June 22, 2020 | Category: Windows

PortableApps review

It's been a while since I last wrote about PortableApps. The main reason, I have since switched almost exclusively to using Linux as my portable go-to toolkit. With the ability to use Linux from live media plus persistence, you get some pretty nifty results. But if you're a Windows users, PortableApps are a great, powerful asset.

Well, eleven years have passed, and I thought, perhaps I should re-visit this project once more, and give it a fresh review. Nowadays, I have a far more stringent approach to software than I had back in the days of the better, more naive Internet. This makes for an interesting challenge. Begin, let's.

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Updated: June 19, 2020 | Category: Linux

RPI4, Ubuntu MATE & fix screen resolution

All right. A few days ago, I got meself a Raspberry Pi 4. I wanted to try and see whether it can be used as a desktop system in its own right. As part of this experiment, I wrote two images to SD cards, the official Raspberry Pi OS and Ubuntu MATE, and then started playing around. Along the way, I encountered various bugs and niggles, and therefore, I'd like to officially kick off a whole series of tutorials that will help you address some of these shortcomings and problems, should you face them.

My first woe was that the desktop wasn't rendering full screen in Ubuntu MATE - there were black bars top and bottom, and the resolution was showing, instead of the expected full HD (1920x1020 px) as rather weird 1824x984 px. This is not something I've seen before, so I hunkered down and went about exploring.

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Updated: June 17, 2020 | Category: Game reviews

Cities Skylines & 200K people

Remember my mega city built in SimCity 4? An endeavor that took me three years to complete, and resulted in a beautiful region with some 4.3 million citizens? Well, I decided to try something similar in Cities Skylines, a most excellent city building simulation.

If you've been reading my game reviews, then you know that I really like Cities Skylines. Over the past several years, with many an hour spent warming up my house with excess heat from the intense CPU and GPU workloads generated by the ravenous Cities Skylines simulation engine, I set about cracking the game's secrets, including compiling three traffic optimization guides. These should help you create the perfect road grid for your city to flourish and grow. And by grid I mean roundabout. Now, implementing my own advice, I went about building a lovely city, and the result is now here before you.

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Updated: June 15, 2020 | Category: Linux

EasyOS 2.3 review

You know me likes Puppy Linux. Small, frugal, delightful. While the modern era has somewhat removed the need for spartan in-memory-only distributions, they still have use, they can run on really old hardware, and they make excellent travel companions. So how do you up the game? You try to spin up an even more ambitious project.

EasyOS is an experimental distribution (notice the adjective, important), with Puppy origins plus some extra extras. If you look at the page that says how and why EasyOS is different, you will see it comes with some convention breakers as well as some rather unique features. Most notably, it is a distro that can run from the disk, or entirely in memory, it can be live media or installed, it has encryption, and a rather neat concept of security containers - software runs isolated. Well, time to test, isn't it.

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Updated: June 13, 2020 | Category: Internet

Google Core Web Vitals & page speed

Recently, I read a bunch of articles that mentioned a change in how Google plans on tweaking site ranks in Google Search from next year. Today, the formula incorporates a number of user interactiveness elements, called Core Web Vitals, soon to be joined by page performance. I thought, now there's a bad idea.

Your first instinct would be - yo, old dinosaur - and it was mine, too, so I decided to actually check what gives. Google has a number of services available, like Google Search Console (the new Webmaster Tools), PageSpeed Insights, and a few others, which can help you check how your website is performing. So I did a check of Dedoimedo, and then scribbled this article. To wit.

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Updated: June 12, 2020 | Category: Hardware, Linux

Raspberry Pi 4 review

This ain't a new topic. Already back in 2014, I tested the original Pi, and tried to make it into a media system. In the end, amidst much excitement and some rigorous tinkering, this turned out to be a typical home Linux effort - super-interesting, unique, fun, but never quite as good as it should be. The professional product polish and edge weren't quite there.

The year is 2020, and I'd like to resurrect the effort using a brand new Raspberry Pi 4. My goal is to put together an affordable, elegant, visually pleasing system that would be capable enough for casual everyday computing. The list includes Web, mail, movies, streaming, pretty much anything except heavy rendering and games. So let's see if we can make this happen.

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Updated: June 10, 2020 | Category: Internet

WordPress & htaccess prompts in Firefox

When it rains, it pours. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on WordPress cURL error 28 issue that I spotted on my books-only website, and which seems to be caused by having an htaccess file in the wp-admin directory. This wasn't a problem until the WordPress 5.4 update, but now it seems it is. Well, since I know what the source is, I can ignore it.

A side effect to keeping the htaccess in place is that there will be a prompt to authenticate on EVERY page on the website - the kind of prompt you would expect only when trying to access the restricted page(s) - and this phenomenon seems to be limited to Firefox. Thinking myself a special snowflake, I went about a-readin' and a-testin', and found a support topic on the WordPress site, where someone discussed a very similar if not identical phenomenon. So I decided to some more investigating, and figure out what gives.

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Updated: June 8, 2020 | Category: Best of the best

Greatest sites

Mess with the best, read like the rest. Two more glorious sites added to my shortlist of websites worth visiting. Firstly, as Arthur C. Clarke never said, any sufficiently advanced trolling is indistinguishable from the truth. Which ties into this entry, because I am not sure if its owner is serious or not, but he sure as Gluten-free hell is funny. Awaken With JP is a series of video posts on Youtube - hence the somewhat unusual link to a Youtube channel rather than a fairly skeleton official Awaken With JP site - debating all that is fad, modern, hip, woke, whatever you want to call them, trendy topics that afflict the casual activist.

Secondly, buying stuff online is easy. Buying good stuff, not so. You need to have patience and be willing and able to sift through tons of superficial advertorials, fake reviews, and useless information laced with still more ads. 'Twould be nice if there be sources where you go, read and then know exactly what you need to do. RTINGS to the rescue.

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Updated: June 6, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Ubuntu Touch OTA-12 & Aquaris E4.5 review

Many years ago, I was one of the people swept in the hope and euphoria that Ubuntu Phone would make it big, and become a respectable rival to the established players. I even ran a contest, whereby readers of me site could try to win an Ubuntu Phone - this was meant to be Edge, alas, that didn't happen. Long story short, I did use the phone for a while, but then it turned out to be somewhat of a chore, and after a while, I turned my Ubuntu Phone into an Android one. Firmware flash, done. However, even so, apart from occasionally powering it on to test connectivity as part of my Linux reviews, I wasn't really using the Aquaris for anything serious. The Android operating system does offer more functionality than Ubuntu Phone did, but with an old image and lackluster performance, the Aquaris slid into obscurity. But not into oblivion.

I kept thinking about it now and then, how it got better and more refined over time, how it was quite useful with elderly folks, and that it had charm and soul that go beyond the sum of its pixels and lines of code. As luck would have it, just a few days ago, I noticed the announcement from the UBports team, which had picked up development and maintenance since the official project was axed, that they had released a new update - Ubuntu Touch OTA-12. So I thought, what the hell, let's rev the Aquaris one more time.

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Updated: June 3, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Nokia 1.3 review

Back in 2013, when I purchased my Nokia 520 phone, I never expected it to survive until 2020, and continue working smoothly and reliably. But then, I have always loved Nokia phones. Really loved. They had elegance and style above all, they were durable and made to last. I still own and use a Nokia E6, and it's remains a cool device, despite its age.

My foray with Nokias - or rather Lumias - continued for a while, culminating in the Lumia 950. When the sad time came to look for its replacement, I did consider Nokia 9, but because it didn't have an audio jack, I didn't buy it, and went instead with Motorola One Zoom. This turned out to be a pretty smart choice. However, Nokia remained in the back of my mind, and when I glimpsed the freshly released Nokia 1.3 in the online stores, my brain started revving up. I went back to my 520 experience. Its 2013 price tag was USD179.99, which might even seem a bit high given its spec. Perhaps one can have a solid smartphone experience for less. Significantly less. Indeed, what can one do at roughly half that cost? This is my review of the 99-dollar Nokia 1.3. Let's begin.

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Updated: June 1, 2020 | Category: Windows

Winget review

The concept of package management - focused around a centralized location where users can grab all their applications - isn't new or novel, and it certainly didn't start with mobile operating systems. This is something that has existed in Linux for years, and eventually morphed into application stores. Apple has one, Google has one, and Microsoft, well, it kind of has one.

Alas, it doesn't target the primary audience of Windows - the bazillion desktop users. I was a huge fan of Windows Phone - I still proudly own a few, from Lumia 520 to Lumia 950 - but the straw that burned the entire field was the lack of popular applications in the Microsoft Store. Combined with the fact Windows users would get their software in individual bits and pieces, from this and that site, the end result was: almost no traction in this fallow field. Windows Package Manager is a bold attempt to rectify this situation.

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Updated: May 30, 2020 | Category: Game reviews

ArmA 3 DRO: Alamo

After a long day of IT stuff, one must rest. Body and mind. Mostly mind. All that passive-aggressive work needs to be turned into aggressive fun. And what better thing to de-stress than a two-hour multiplayer session in the most realistic war simulation game of all time - ArmA 3? Indeed.

Typically, I like to play Dynamic Recon Ops (DRO) missions on any one of the available maps in ArmA 3, expansions and mods inclusive, with some family and friends. You end up in a team of four to eight human/AI combatants, going on a range of objectives, including sabotage, hostage rescue, search and destroy, and more. Now and then, I like to report back on these endeavors, like say my Chernarus Winter mission. Recently, I enjoyed a really cool session playing an against-all-odds type of scenario, but without the accompanying Phil Collins musics, and so here we go again on our own.

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Updated: May 29, 2020 | Category: Linux

Fedora 32 Workstation Gnome review

The spring season continues. We shall now embark on a Fedora journey. If you followed my tirades over the past few years, you will probably have noticed that I did manage to find some semblance of reasonable productivity with Fedora, albeit after heavy modifications and tweaking. You can of course sample of those experiences by reading my reviews - Fedora 29, Fedora 30 and finally the yesteryear Fedora 31 article.

There's much more, but I'm sure, if you want, you'll find the material. Anyway, on my eight-boot test laptop, I've had both versions 30 and 31 installed, and typically, I'd go for an in-vivo upgrade. But I wanted to start from scratch, and get a sense of how the system behaves au naturel, without any trace of my years-long polish and trim. So here we go.

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Updated: May 27, 2020 | Category: Other software

GIMP & G'MIC setup on Windows

For those of you feeling confused by the namedropping exercise in the title, things are simpler than they read. GIMP is a pretty reasonable, feature-rich image manipulation program (hence its recursive name). It comes with a range of image filters, allowing you to make changes to your photos and pictures, like blur, glow, noise, and many others. But sometimes, even this nice repertoire isn't enough.

To that end, you want something like G'MIC, an image processing framework that comes with loads of extra tools that you can use. For example, you can do color, light and pattern changes, add artistic touches, repair inconsistencies in pictures, render shapes, and then some. The full list of G'MIC features is way too long, so I must resort to: trust me, I'm an engineer. Actually, I'm not, I'm a physicist, so my word is doubly good here. Anyway, in Linux, setting up G'MIC is trivial. In Windows, less so. That's why we're here.

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Updated: May 25, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma desktop - add and pin custom applications

A while back, I showed you a couple of nice tricks: how to add icons for multiple versions of the same program onto the icons-only task manager in the Plasma desktop environment, and along the same lines, we also learned how to add icons for WINE programs. Now, we shall unveil another little icons trick. Specifically, how to add and pin custom applications onto the Plasma system (application) menu.

If you install software using the package manager, whichever way, then you will end up also having that software properly associated with the system, which means it will show up in the application menu. But what happens if you have custom applications, say a standalone bundle? This could be a separate version of Firefox or LibreOffice perhaps, or something similar. Let's see how we can integrate those like champs. After me.

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Updated: May 23, 2020 | Category: Office

OnlyOffice Desktop Editors 5.5.1

Several months ago, I wrote my review of OnlyOffice Desktop Editors, a free, cross-platform office suite. This turned out to be a nice, fresh product, with lots of goodies, solid Microsoft Office compatibility, plus a range of unique and useful points like plugins, encryption and such. In between the costly but powerful Microsoft solution and the somewhat tenacious but occasionally erratic LibreOffice, this comes as a nice, flexible compromise, a sort of best of both worlds.

Recently, I got an email from the company, asking me, pretty please, to do another review of the product, and I decided to go for it. There's a new version of the office suite, some improvements, some bug fixes, so maybe this could be the version that makes it into my production setup. Maybe. Let's examine.

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Updated: May 20, 2020 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu MATE 20.04 Focal Fossa

It is time to embark on another distro testing adventure. This spring season, I've tested Kubuntu and then Xubuntu of the Focal flavor, and they gave me distinctly different results, which always worries and saddens me, because consistency is what empires are built upon. And that makes today's test even more important. We shall sample from the MATE's corner now.

Overall, Ubuntu MATE has behaved okay in the past few years. It has an established identity, it's getting friendlier by the release, and it comes with some rather unique features, a refreshing departure from the rubberstamp slog that is the Linux desktop nowadays. But then, 'tis LTS now, so everything must be super-green. And given the distros select colors, it's only expected. Let's begin.

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Updated: May 18, 2020 | Category: Car reviews

Eurotrip - BMW X3 in France and Germany

Travel we must. In a nice car, to be more precise. 'Tis a Eurotrip! This time, the adventure takes us to crazy, wondrous places – France and Germany. Some 1,200 kilometers of roads, from urban alleys to unrestricted highways in the land of the free (cars). And since it's THE autobahn we're talking about it, then we need a vehicle with a bit of oomph, plus German heritage. You got the answer right: BMW X3.

I've already reviewed this car several years ago, but it was in the xDrive guise, with the mighty twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six diesel, similar to the BMW 330d experience. Now though, we will have to make do with only a two-liter engine. But it ought to be interesting. So begin, let's.

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Updated: May 17, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Moto G4 & black status bar icons

Here's a weird little problem what I encountered. As you probably (don't) recall, I have a Moto G4 phone in me arsenal of smart thingies. Everything was cushty for a long while, without any issues or whatnot. One merry afternoon, this changed.

I noticed the status bar icons - the top of the home screen - had suddenly turned black. This rendered them almost invisible, and indeed, by default, they are white. I also noticed the problem only affected the home screen, as the correct color transition from white to black and vice versa was happening across the rest of the system. All right. Weird problems require weird solutions.

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Updated: May 15, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox add-on - Forget me not review

Overall, most operating systems need little cleanup supervision. Similarly, most applications work fine without any manual intervention. The exception are browsers, which can accumulate huge amounts of transient data in very short periods of time. Browse for a week, and at the end of it, you will have hoarded up hundreds of MB of cached files plus a few hundred cookies. On its own, not a bit problem, but.

Things would be perfect if there were no bugs. But I did encounter a weird Firefox & cookies issue a while back. Resolved by cleaning cookies. If you want to image your system, you don't really want all the cached browser data to go into the archive. Hence, cleanup. Indeed, browsers give you the option to delete data - by type and time. But what no browser really offers is a permanent, selective keep list for certain items, like say cookies. You want to get rid of the junk, but you want to retain only cookies for specific sites. Which is why we must explore Forget Me Not, a really handy and useful Firefox add-on. Commence.

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Updated: May 13, 2020 | Category: Windows

BleachBit review

Once upon a time in Dedoimedoland, I used CCleaner to do some basic housekeeping in Windows. Over the years, the program seems to have caught a lot of (colorful) spotlight, which made me wary of using the newer versions. While I had very little problems myself, I wanted to explore other options, see whether there are other simple, free and practical housekeeping utilities for Windows.

The answer is, of course there are. But the thing is, I have become far more stringent and rigorous in testing software, and then vetting it into anything resembling production setups. Plus Windows 10 comes with some new tools for old data and cruft cleanup. Among the many different options, I decided to try BleachBit. I first got acquainted with it on Linux - where I find system cleanup tools to be dangerous, but the familiarity made me give it another whirl, this time in Windows. Proceed, we shall.

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Updated: May 11, 2020 | Category: Linux

Broken apt

The problem you're facing is as follows. You tried to run a regular update on your Linux box, most likely an Ubuntu- or Debian-based system that uses apt as its package manager. After you updated the repo contents, you ran the dist-upgrade command, and soon hit an error. Apt was complaining about missing or broken dependencies, and suggested you re-run the command with --fix-broken or alike. However, this does not seem to help.

I encountered this issue a few weeks back on KDE neon. The problem really annoyed me, because without some expert knowledge, there's no way out. You're left with an unusable system that cannot be reliably updated. This is so brittle, and we're in 2020, when one would expect some level of robustness from software. LELZ. I did praise neon in the past for its resilience, but then it went ahead and undid its own work. Anyway, let me show you how you can resolve this issue.

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Updated: May 10, 2020 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa

After Kubuntu, it's Xubuntu time. We need to embark on another distro test, now that the hunting season is officially open. The first four months of this year weren't kind to my mojo. I tried a few systems, and most of them didn't really deliver, adding to my spiritual disillusionment. Now, Kubuntu 20.04 was surprisingly neat. So I'm sort of cautiously optimistic.

Xubuntu is my next gig. The odds are ... mixed. Xfce can be a blast when done right, especially if you're in the game of hardware frugality. But it can also be a bad case of misplaced nostalgia. Like when you remember a decade fondly, but then you think more deeply, and suddenly recall also all the other things that don't come up in that first gushing moment of glorified memories. Anyway, G50 laptop, multi-boot combo with Windows and Linux, and off we go.

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Updated: May 8, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma system area icon spacing

Overall, I'm mighty pleased with the Plasma desktop. But come version 5.16, y'know, two versions behind the most recent one - Plasma 5.18 LTS, there have been a few less-than-ideal changes, mostly tiny visual things that make the desktop less sharp than before. Again, since the desktop evolves quite rapidly, by the time you read this, we might all be using flying cars and atomic refridgerators and talk to AI assistants like all the time. Or not really.

Well, one of the things I find less nice in the new more-touchy more-plasticky Plasma of recent is that the system area icon spacing is a bit off. Less than ideal. The icons sit too close to one another. So I got me thinking, how does one edit this? Well, the answer isn't trivial, hence this article. Begin to explore!

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Updated: May 6, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma & Unity looks, continued

After writing my article on how to style the Plasma desktop to look like Unity, I received a fair deal of emails from readers, including the author of Latte Dock, offering various tips and suggestions on how to improve my work. This included changes to my panel and dock configuration, the use of other widgets that do not require compilation, some other ideas, and such.

Well, since we're after perfection, a true form of art, it's only natural that I write a sequel. This isn't a comprehensive compilation of all the tips and tricks I received, just a selection of the ones that made most sense to me. Of course, I had to make sure everything actually works, and some things are far from trivial, hence this article. Let's begin.

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Updated: May 4, 2020 | Category: Internet

WordPress & cURL error 28

Recently, I discovered an interesting little problem. I run WordPress on my books-only website, and naturally, there's testing that needs to be done to make sure everything is hunky-dory ere any changes are introduced to the domain. One such change was the introduction of the Site Health check tool in WordPress 5.2, which tells you of any critical issues and recommended actions for your setup.

On its own, this is fine, but then I noticed a couple of supposedly critical errors showing up with update to 5.4, indicating a sudden new issue with the domain. The errors were: The REST API encountered an error and Your site could not complete a loopback request. The details for both these read: Error: cURL error 28: Operation timed out after 10000 milliseconds with 0 bytes received (http_request_failed). Weird. Let's debug.

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Updated: May 1, 2020 | Category: Linux

Kubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa review

I don't know why, but for some reason, as I started my Kubuntu test today, Pet Shop Boys' Go West started playing in me head. Associative memory or something. Indeed, here we are. The spring distro hunting season is officially open, and we commence with Kubuntu 20.04.

The hopes are high. Long Term support, Plasma 5.18, all sorts of improvements and goodies. Plus, if you recall, I'm running Kubuntu 18.04 as my production operating system on the Slimbook Pro2 laptop, so there's an upgrade to contemplate, as well. The test box? The G50 workhorse; UEFI, 16 partitions, Intel graphics. Let's.

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Updated: April 29, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox 75 urlbar change

Firefox 75 brought about a pointless change - the address bar (urlbar) now sort of "zooms in" when clicked, partially obscuring the surrounding UI, including any shortcuts you may have pinned there. This thing feels totally mobile, and totally wrong on the desktop. For the time being, as I've shown you in the article above, this nonsense can be reverted through a number of about:config settings.

But in Firefox 77 (nightly), these options are gone, so we need something else. In this tutorial, I will show you how you can get the old address bar look & feel, so you will not be affected by low-IQ changes come the dire moment. Just as I thought Firefox was rising above the mobile toss-me-a-chromosome game, this kind of thing comes around. Follow me.

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Updated: April 27, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma 5.18.4 review

Several months ago, I reviewed Plasma 5.18 LTS. I was happy but not elated. There were problems, there were bugs, there was sadness. But all in all, Plasma is a superb desktop environment, it's charging forth like a mad colt, and innovation is aplenty. This good momentum results in continuous changes and fixes being introduced to the desktop, resulting in an ever-more-refined product for the end user.

This means, by now, Plasma 5.18 should be quite polished. The rough patches we saw are most likely gone, no more, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet their maker, a stiff, bereft of life, rest in peace! But, we need to test that hypothesis. As it happens, I ran a merry update, Plasma got bumped to 5.18.4, and I'm doing my round of prodding and pushing. Follow me.

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Updated: April 25, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox 75 review

I've done a fair share of Firefox-related articles lately. 'Tis a strange dichotomy what lurks in me heart. On one hand, I'm quite angry over the years of lost elan as a result of the whole Chrome copypasta Australis nonsense. On the other, Firefox is the most sensible browser out there, still, and you SHOULD use it. On the third hand, Firefox has been improving lately, becoming saner, more fun, more reasonable. A good start, and hopefully, not too late.

I gave you an overview of versions 71 and 72, lay low for a while, and now, with Firefox 75 out, I did some testing. As it turns out, with the fastened cadence of release, there ought to be less super-big stuff in Firefox releases, ergo lean reporting. But then, this particular version comes with something that took me off the happy path I've been walking lately. Let's talk.

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Updated: April 24, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 30

Lee Qiang opened the email. It was in Mandarin:

I know you're angry. I know you feel like I betrayed you. But we both know that's not the case. This is war, and as luck would have it, we fight for different sides in this sorry conflict. We both know what it takes—whatever it takes—to finish the mission. I could not have given up mine, and I know you know and respect that. You would have done the same. Had I given up, I would have lost your respect, and no matter how insincere that may sound to you, I find that important.

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Updated: April 22, 2020 | Category: Linux

SparkyLinux 2020.03 review

A man does not need much to be happy. Maybe a nice car, loads of money, a house somewhere tropic, perhaps his own castle with fortifications and remotely operated machine gun nests, a strong family line, good food, plenty of sleep and other health-related activities, robots, and yes, a stable operating system. That's a tricky one if you be a-huntin' on the Penguin Island AKA Linuxland.

Recently AKA 2020, I embarked on Obscure Weekly (thank you Dodgeball for this fine reference), mostly testing less-known, less-popular, less-appreciated distros. This was an emotional gamble, as I found out more disappointment than aforementioned joy in my pursuit of happiness. I toned it down with some upbeat Manjaro testing, but all in all, it wasn't a tremendous start. Now, a new candidate. A new gamble. Can SparkyLinux spark my sparkle? I last tried it in 2013, and it was ... odd. Listless. Well, let's see if we can rekindle the fire. Testing the semi-rolling 2020.3 release clad in Xfce on my G50 multi-boot laptop. After me.

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Updated: April 20, 2020 | Category: Internet

Google Chrome & Windows desktop icon refresh

Here's the oddest little problem you may face - or read about - in a while. On one of my Windows machines, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Every time I'd launch Google Chrome (latest version when written), close the browser, or - best yet - sign in or out of a Gmail account, all my desktop icons would refresh.

Looking around, I did find a Chromium bug report from 2015, which also mentioned a workaround. Needless to say, the specific workaround is no longer available, as the user icon is no longer present in the Chrome window border, and flags occasionally come and go, as they represent experimental browser features. But this was a good starting point, so I went about testing and tweaking, until I found the right solution. After me.

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Updated: April 18, 2020 | Category: Linux

CentOS 8 perfect desktop - sequel

It's time for another article in my years-long CentOS pimpification series. We started this with CentOS 6 back in the day, continued with CentOS 7, and recently, I've also shown you how to transform the relatively dull yet fully functional server distro AKA CentOS 8 into a nice and fun desktop. We did many a cool task, but there's more to be done.

So I set about polishing the desktop some extra, adding new software, making fresh changes, testing every which option in order to discover the corner cases and resolve them. It mostly went well, but then, a few things didn't. Which means, for the first time, we will have an imperfect desktop. I wasn't expecting this, but I guess that's part of this ongoing adventure. Let's commence.

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Updated: April 17, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 29

"How are you?"

"Nervous," Sveta said.

Lee Qiang smiled. "That facade finally crumbling, eh?"

Sveta made a wry face. "I have seen prisoner exchanges before. Sometimes they go badly wrong. I'd rather be crossing the Volga River in a Taifun. At least there I had the feeling of being in control."

Is that what's bothering you? Lee Qiang wondered. That you are no longer in control? That you cannot manipulate anymore? That you're going back to your side, which may not look fondly on your getting captured?

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Updated: April 15, 2020 | Category: Internet

Microsoft Edge on Android review

My overall experience with Microsoft product has been largely bi-polar over the years. Either it's brilliant or chute d'oiseaux par excellence, with a rare meh in between. For example, the EMET framework or Windows Phone, the best thing since sliced bread and space-based lasers. But then, you have things like Windows 8 Start Menu or the Settings in Windows 10, which challenge my chromosomes.

Edge, the browser, is another example. I loved it on my Lumia 950. It was fast and elegant. On the desktop, it's a paperweight. Useless. But then, having recently done some testing with Firefox Preview, I decided to put aside my anguish and sense of disillusionment after the demise of the Windows Phone, and give Edge another chance. Only on Android this time.

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Updated: April 13, 2020 | Category: Linux

Puppy Linux BionicPup 8.0

In this day and age, one might feel like there's no need for distros like Puppy Linux. You could say, Ubuntu-based, why bother, use the official distro and whatnot. But that feeling and that saying would be misplaced. Because there's still room for ultra-frugal live-session Tux o' All Trades systems like Puppy. This is why we're here.

I've used Puppy for many a summer, and I've always liked its premise. Small, fast, live CD/thumb drive system with optional persistence, lots of apps designed to work out of the box on all manner of hardware, including old and weak systems. In a way, this is your Swiss Army knife for travel and opportunistic use. But going back to the skeptics, is it still relevant in 2020? Let's find out.

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Updated: April 11, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox - cannot set as default browser

Remember my neon escapade with the Network Manager? Turns out, this wasn't the only bugbear I had to face that day. As part of my VPN testing procedure, I also copied a hardened browser profile from Kubuntu into neon, in order to save some time. I wasn't in the mood in having to reconfigure everything, from adblocking to user agent, popup blocking, WebRTC tweaks, and alike. Indeed, one of the elegant things about Firefox is that you can easily copy your profile between machines, and I've done this many many times in the past, with great success.

But then, Firefox started pestering me with the question whether to make it a default browser. Every launch. It would seem my selection wasn't being respected. Even worse, clicking on the Make default button in the browser preferences didn't do anything. A fix was needed.

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Updated: April 8, 2020 | Category: Linux

YADM and Homeshick review

Backups are important. Backups are crucial. Backups are love, backups are life. Over the years, I've talked about the cardinal value of keeping your data safe, and that means multiple copies, multiple locations. We also talked about how to concoct your own quick 'n' dirty setup with tar and gpg recently. That one covers both data and application settings. Speaking of the latter ...

Let's expand on this some more. If you have multiple computers, reinstall systems frequently, or just like to have a consistent configuration across multiple hosts, you might be interested in a way to manage application settings. In Linux, most software keeps their configurations in hidden files inside the home directory, either at the top level (/home/username) or inside the .config sub-directory. Either way, there could be plenty of them, you want to make sure you always have a copy, and if something goes wrong, you can easily revert to a good checkpoint. Introducting YADM and Homeshick.

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Updated: April 6, 2020 | Category: Other software

Biogenesis review

Molecular biology is a fascinating thing. Combine it with computers, and you get yourself a platform for studying the evolution of life. Not an easy one, and scientists worldwide have been at this problem for many years now, trying to understand and replicate the environmental conditions that led to the creation of life on Earth.

If you're fascinated by the concepts of amino acids, RNA, cellular division and alike, you can partake in the discovery journey with Biogenesis, a free, cross-platform, Java-based visual microbiology simulator. The idea is simple: you get a primordial soup, and you get to control it, studying and creating organisms of your own. Sounds like good, solid educational fun. Let there be light. I mean Java.

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Updated: April 4, 2020 | Category: Linux

Manjaro 19 Kyria Gnome review

Flashing my dope cool nerd badge. Agent Dedo, at your service. Why? Because I'm testing an Arch-based distro again. Now, over the years, Manjaro has done a great deal to distance itself from its sacrificial altar roots, and now caters to people who prefer things more desktopy. That doesn't meant it's all 4% milk and yak butter from here on, oh no. But it's steadily improving, and my impressions of yesterversion were jolly.

But then, in the last few tests, I tried Plasma, Xfce and Cinnamon editions - not Gnome just yet. While I think it's an unnecessary toll on resources maintaining four different desktops, perhaps we might be pleasantly surprised. After all, Manjaro has always managed to sneak in cool features amidst the nerdery. My test box be Lenovo G50, with its multi-boot boogaloo. Let's commence.

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Updated: April 3, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 27

Ignoring the wounded, Lee Qiang tuned his mind back to the fight. They had to neutralize the armor first. If they did not, they would all die.

He tried to close his fist. It worked. He opened it. A spongy feeling, but his muscles responded. His sleeve was drenched with blood. The fabric was ripped in two places where the shrapnel had cut through.

Lee Qiang rose, using his left arm to pull himself up against the greasy side of the all-terrain vehicle. The cannon breech was closed. Lonya must have reloaded a fresh shell before the Type 89 fired. Lee Qiang positioned himself behind the gunner sight, aiming the iron at the AFV.

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Updated: April 1, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma Network Manager, limited connectivity

As it turns out, breaking your system is very easy, if you set your heart and mind to it. This problem has a convoluted origin and a rather interesting solution, so bear with me. As it happens, 'twas a dark and rainy night, and I set about testing several VPN services. One of them: Mullvad. It worked fine for a while, but then I upgraded the application version from the 2019.1 build to 2019.8 build, and things stopped working fine. Whenever I'd connect to VPN, DNS resolution would stop. Test box: Kubuntu 18.04.

I wasn't sure if this was specific to my host or a wider problem, so I decided to test in KDE neon, too, which happens to be one of the many distros I have installed on the G50 laptop. A reboot or two later, lots of nice Plasma updates (going up to 5.16.90 at the time of writing), and some small tweaks, I had Mullvad running fine. But then, the Network Manager started to complain about limited connectivity. Let's see what gives.

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