Knowledge - Kunskap

Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” Xfce is released!

As an early Christmas gift, about a week in advance, Linux Mint released version 19.3 for all three variants based on Ubuntu. The Debian based LMDE remains in version 3. 

Yesterday it was time for me to do the upgrade from 19.2 to 19.3 on my cheap laptop. Since some months I have used the Xfce desktop version, which is the one requiring least resources of the three variants. Read when I switched from Cinnamon to Xfce desktop.

Before I started the work, I read information about the release including comments;  first of all "How to upgrade to Linux Mint 19.3" and then the specific "Linux Mint 19.3 'Tricia* Xfce released!" as well as “What’s new in Linux Mint 19.3 Xfce“ and “Release Notes for Linux Mint 19.3 Xfce”. Then I basically followed the information. 

The installation process is indeed very easy. And it worked very smoothly and fast. I did not check the clock, but it must have been less than 30 minutes.

After the upgrade and restart, there was a Linux kernel upgrade to one 5.0 version. After another restart, it was another Linux kernel upgrade to another Linux kernel 5.0 version, and that the version will end of support in February. This was somewhat confusing, but after double-check by reading comments and also Linux Forum, I felt comfortable. It is easy to change Linux kernel in the Update manager, if I should detect any issue and want to go back to a stable 4-version, or going crazy to a 5.3 version (5.3 has just got its last release, 5.4 is on its way).  

After restart and some  use of the laptop, all is working. Including WiFi and sound. I have read comments with problems that some icons in the bar are big, but even if they were for me, mine were resizable. 

Now it remains to try it more, and not at least enjoy the new opportunities with this new release! Among else, this newLinux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” Xfce release also includes the very new Xfce release 4.14.

Great to see how smootly also this upgrade was to install! 

The laptop I installed on: 

Lenovo ideapad 100s-14IBR; CPU: 1.60 GHz dual core, eMCC (SSD) Hard drive: 32 GB, RAM: 2 GB.

Try Linux you too! And why not Linux Mint in particular!

Henrik Hemrin

31 December 2019

 

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Höstlöv fotograferat med Raynox DCR-250 makro-förlins [foto: Henrik Hemrin]

Makrofotografering, det ger nya perspektiv. Och motiv som annars kanske inte ens vore motiverat att vara motiv. 

På ett klubbmöte med LM Ericssons fotoklubb för flera år sedan, troligen hösten 2015, så gästades vi av en fotograf som rekommenderade Raynox makro förlins modell 250, 8 dioptrier. Jag tror jag minns vilken fotograf det var. I så fall köpte jag en barnbok av honom med makrofotografier, som jag gav bort. Men jag har glömt vad han hette.

Eftersom jag sedan länge haft ett Tamron 90 mm makroobjektiv så har rekommendationen legat som en notering och vilat. 

Nu har jag köpt en Raynox DCR-250 förlins från Objektivtest.se. Förlins sätts framför ordinarie objektiv, till skillnad mot mellanringar som sätts mellan objektiv och kamerahus.

Varför detta inköp, när jag har ett makro? Jo, förutom att Raynox DCR-250 går att sätta på olika brännvidder, så kan det vara lättare att ta med sig Raynox DCR-250 istället för att ta med ett extra objektiv. Ja, sen kan man förstås montera den på ett makroobjektiv och få mega-makro! Prismässigt ligger en sådan här makrolins på en bråkdel av vad makroobjektiv kostar.

Jag har provat min Raynox DCR-250 makro-förlins lite grann. Så det här är knappast en riktig och objektiv utvärdering. Å andra sidan är det ju en förlins och inte ett objektiv. För den som är intresserad av en betydligt mer professionell test, läs gärna Christian Nilssons test på Objektivtest.se.

Alla som använt ett makroobjektiv vet att det är bäst att ha ett stativ eller något annat som fixerar kameran bättre än den egna kroppen. Motivet har liksom en förmåga att åka runt i hela sökaren, och utanför sökaren.

Så gjorde jag inte, utan nu testade jag ju då utan något som helst stativ. Det var en gråfuktig novemberdag på enstaka plusgrad och med lite vindpustar när jag testade. För att få någon rimlig chans till skärpa någonstans, så valde jag slutarprioritet på 1/125 s. Denna ljussvaga dag gav det full bländaröppning på 1,8. Med andra ord inget problem att slippa skärpedjup med fokus även i bakgrunden - riktigt kort skärpedjup blev det.

Den första bilden är ett löv som sitter på ett äppelträd. Den andra bilden är ett skrumpnat äpple i golfbollsstorlek på samma träd. Det skrumpna äpplet visar verkligen ser hur litet skärpedjupet är. Makro ger alltid litet skärpedjup, och stor bländaröppning gör det ändå kortare. Jag har inte gjort någon beskärning (av bilderna alltså, trädet är säkert beskuret).

Skrumpet äpple på trädet fotograferat med Raynox DCR-250 makroförlins [foto: Henrik Hemrin]

Ingen av dessa två bilder har någon ambition att utvärdera den optiska kvalitén på linsen. Då måste man vara mycket mer noggrann med förutsättningarna. För sådan testning, kolla som sagt in till exempel Christians test. Trots allt tycker särskilt lövet ändå är rätt snyggt.

Linsen levereras med en hållare där man gängar fast linsen. Hållaren har två fjädrande "hakar" med gängspår, som man lätt fäster i det ordinarie objektivet (eller filter som sitter framför). Funkar för 52-67 mm. Förlinsen har 43 mm gänga, för montering i hållaren eller direkt i objektivet. Hållaren är i plast, och möjligen kan jag fundera hur hållbara särskilt de fjädrande hakarna är. Jag får återkomma om 20 år med rapport.

Till linsen följer (självklart) främre och bakre linsskydd. När filtret är monterat i hållaren går det bra att ha det främre linsskyddet på. Men det bakre linsskyddet går inte sätta på när det är monterat i filterhållaren. Jag förstår att det är en liten utmaning att konstruera. Kanske kunde man haft med två bakre skydd, ett som passar när linsen är omonterad och ett annat när det är monterat i hållaren. I alla fall har jag inte kommit på hur man ska kunna skydda linsen i monterat utförande i hållaren, när man inte har det på kameralinsen, och det är lite synd.

Hur som helst, ett bra kameratillbehör som gör det enkelt att ta sig ett makro! 

För bägge bilderna gäller:
Objektiv: Nikkor 50 mm, 1.8
Makro förlins: Raynox DCR-250 (8 dioptrier)
Kamera: Nikon D90
Slutarprioritet: 1/125 s
ISO: 200
Apertur: f/1.8
RAW-konvertering och efterbehandling: Corel AfterShot Pro 3
Bilderna är obeskurna

Henrik Hemrin
5 november 2019

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I started the writing of this article in a plain text editor. [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

My first word processor I recall was WordPerfect. It was at Ericsson. Probably on an Ericsson PC, or perhaps an Nokia PC. Ericsson sold the PC division to Nokia, as I remember. At Ericsson the company was EIS, Ericsson Information Systems. This must have been using DOS Operating system, well before Windows arrived.

WordPerfect had one nice feature: With a Function key, you could split the screen horizontal. The upper half was the text. The lower half was the text with the "markup" included; like "<title"hej< title="">. This made it very simple to clean and correct the markup. I do not know which markup language WordPerfect was using, if it was their own version or a common one. At that time, I would say WordPerfect was dominating the market. WordPerfect still exist, now owned by Corel.

Some Ericsson colleagues had before WordPerfect used an Ericsson word processor. I probably came across it sometimes, but do not believe I wrote with it.

When I later started to write web pages, I found my WordPerfect experience useful, because web pages are based on HTML. HTML is a markup language, so it was very familiar to use from looking at code in WordPerfect. Nowadays web pages are generally more complicated than only HTML, but still there.

My next word processor at work must have been FrameMaker, a desktop publishing software. FrameMaker is very powerful, using layers, and also having decently good drawing capabilities. I draw numerous mechanical drawings of components in FrameMaker. Later on Adobe acquired FrameMaker. I used FrameMaker for very many years, both on PC and on the SUN Unix Workstation. I also used it at home. FrameMaker is still on the market.

At work, I believe next to come was Word from Microsoft. The software which came to dominate word processing, and still do so to my knowledge.

Talking about Word, Microsoft also had the low budget Works, which I also used somewhat at home.

At home I have also used several other word processors. I think I used one from Lotus, maybe the name was Lotus Notes. Lotus was owned by IBM. I do not believe I used it extensively, at least I do not recall much of the software. Lotus was included in the software package when I bought my IBM Aptiva desktop PC.

For a period I used the word processor from SPCS, Scandinavian PC System, with headquarter in my home town Växjö. SPCS is now part of Visma, the name SPCS still exist. I think they just called it Ord (Word in Swedish). It worked very well, but SPCS stopped the development of their office suite when competition from Microsoft was too hard in that software segment.

StarOffice was a suite developed by a German company. StarOffice was acquired by Sun, who gave it out to use for free, in order to compete with the Microsoft office suite. Sun was later acquired by Oracle. For a period, as I recall, StarOffice had a small fee due to some included proprietary graphics, in parallel with the free OpenOffice variant. I'm not fully clear in my understanding if OpenOffice current relation to Oracle and Apache software foundation which has the Apache OpenOffice.

Anyway, I have been using OpenOffice as my main office suite at home for many years, on Windows as well as on macOS. It currently is my main office suite. However, the development of OpenOffice has stagnated. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org. LibreOffice development is very much more active. I use LibreOffice to some extent on macOS. On Linux it is my main office suite. Eventually I will switch to LibreOffice only. But as long time user of OpenOffice... it's hard to say goodbye.

I should mention that both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are fully free to use. But of course, donations to them as to other free open source softwares are welcome and needed to manage software to stay free.

On macOS I also use Pages from Apple. The Apple office suite generally works well for my need. The big advantage is that Pages can both be read and written also on iPhone and iPad.
I prefer to use a word processor installed locally on the machine. I have used Google Documents online, was well as Word online, but not much.

Finally, Text editor with plain text! Text editors of various kinds, where I write in plain text format, e.g. files like document.txt. And in my case normally without any markup include, just pure plain text. Actually, this article, I have started in a text editor. I will import the file to the website and add the html markup when I create the web article in my Joomla Content Management System, with the JCE extension for the article creation.

I have lately gone back to use a plain text editor more often. Why use this more boring format? Because it's simple! Files are as small as possible. And more importantly, the format is understood by every word processor. The format will live on, if any format will live. It is standardized. I believe you can say text format is open source.

Many word processing formats are unique and proprietary. You need to be careful so you will be able to read the files later. Maybe also save as pdf so files can be read at least. Or convert to another format before the software disappears from the market or from my own environment.

Another positive side with plain text editor is I can focus on the text to 100%. Of course, it is often good to start in a word processer where formatting is done at the same time. Shorter notes, like personal minutes, can often be fine to only keep in text format.

I understand some inlcude markup in the text file, maybe using Markdown and possibly with a dedicate Markdown text editor. That will mean the text basically is in text format, but has basic formatting so it can be nicer to read, and directly prepared for web pages or formatting in a more advanced word processor. Something to consider.

I like open source of both the software and document format. Therefore I will probably focus on OpenOffice and LibreOffice for years to come, whenever I am in charge of the decision. In addition to text format. Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice primarily stores in ODF. ODF stands for Open Document Format, an open standard. So I believe for as long time as can be foreseen, documents in ODF format will be possible to read and write in one or another software. The OpenOffice and LibreOffice also have modules for spread sheet, presentations, data bases and more, so they are not only word processors. 

Henrik Hemrin
3 November 2019

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The scanner (and another printer) got a new life with Linux [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

I still have macOS as operating system on my main machine. Not unlikely, I will in the future change to Linux operating system.

My macOS cannot print with an older printer I have. There is no driver.

In the somewhat less old multifunction machine, macOS can print but not scan. There is no driver. 

Yesterday I took the time to explore if I could get them up and running with my laptop where I use Linux Mint as operating system. And yes! Both machines are HP. I installed The HP Linux Imaging and Printing, HPLIP, software as well as related depending software. After installation, both those older machines are usable again! 

Linux is a possibility to give older computers a prolonged life - many Linux distributions are far less resource hungry than Windows. And also other hardware can have a longer life with Linux.

Good for economy, good for sustainability!

To give the full picture, I believe both the printer and the scanner can be used under Microsoft Windows 10, but I'm not certain. I have not Windows installed anymore. 

Further details of the installation

The devices

HP LaserJet M1120MFP (multi function device)

HP LaserJet 1018 (printer)

Both devices are USB connected and are relatively old.

Before the installation

HP LaserJet M1120MFP where printer worked, but not the scanner.

HP LaserJet 1018 Printer which did not work.

The installation

I installed HPLIP (on Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce), downloaded from the HPs Developer Portal.

On a page before download starts, there is the dropdown to select distro - I selected Linux Mint. There is a relatively detailed step-by-step guide at HPLIP. After download, I basically executed with commands in the Terminal "Command Line Interface". It requested to install more dependencies, which I said yes to (for me, it also required installation of XSane software). In a latter stage, there was a "normal" installation window with some final installations. Only thing I recall about that window that confused me was that I had two devices to finalize, and I also had to finally close the window with the "x", and maybe I installed same thing twice before that.

During HPLIP installation, it found an older version of HPLIP, which I replaced with this new one. However, one difference is that there now also is a "control panel" for the HP devices after this installation. I was not really aware of HPLIP already existed in my installation, I did not check and investigate if it had been possible to solve without going to HPs Developer Portal. In any case, after I installed the newer release of HPLIP, the multifunction device works both as printer (as before) and as scanner. And the other printer also works!

After the installation

HP LaserJet M1120MFP both printer and scanner works.

HP LaserJet 1018 Printer works.

So, the download and installation of HPLIP from HP Developer Portal indeed made the difference for me.

Addition regarding Linux Mint 20

I have now installed Linux Mint 20, on two machines. After installation I got problems to get the scanner working. On one of the machines, I tried a lot. Then I let them rest from testing further for a month or so. Linux Mint monthly newsletter, the September 2020 issue under the heading USB Printer Support describes that some have problems with printer and scanner in Linux Mint 20, despite working perfectly in 19.3. The article suggest to reove package "ippusbxd". I did so on the first machine, and now the scanner was working. However, when I reinstalled that package, it is still working. And the other machine, where I earlier also found scanner was not working but did not do anything more, was scanner as well as printers working. So in my case, it appears as any update I have installed later, has made it all functional again. So in conclusion, with Linux Mint 20 it is a good chance above printers and scanner works without any further installation. HPLIP is included in the installation, of a relatively recent version, but without the GUI part of HPLIP - it can be installed if wanted from the software repository, but it is not necessary. Se also the article Installation of Linux Mint 20.

Henrik Hemrin

12 October 2019

2 October 2020 (Addition regarding Linux Mint 20)

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TimeShift takes a backup of my Linux Mint system [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

Linux Mint is an operation system which just works! But not this time. I was surprised of this problem being so difficult to solve. Here is the story:

I had connected my scanner to my laptop, to scan some documents. I used Simple scan, the software which is the basic (simple!) scanning software, coming preinstalled with Linux Mint.

The first document of a couple of pages went fine. I continued with the second document, consisting of more pages including some maps which I scanned in a higher resolution. It worked all the way until I pushed Save. The software stopped working, frozen. I believe it happened because my laptop is a low spec one, with only two GB RAM memory - believe, but not knowing.

Probably I turned off the laptop with the power switch, which maybe was a mistake causing the deeper trouble. In any case, the restart did not solve the program, Simple scan did not start again. Otherwise the laptop worked I tried with re-install of Simple scan, but log file still stated System Out of Memory and killed the process.

I posted a query at Linux Mint Forums. The community is fantastic! It didn't take many minutes until I had the first response.

I installed Xsane, which is another scanning software, and that worked. But Simple scan did not. 

Several messages in the forum, analyse and trials followed. But nothing led to a solution or understanding of the behaviour of Simple Scan. 

I decided to make use of TimeShift, a built in tool for backup of the system, with the possibility to roll back the system to an earlier safe stage.

TimeShift worked, it did indeed roll back in time. But to my surprise, the problem remained despite I rolled back to before it happened. I tried twice more, even further back in time. I am not sure if it is a setting in TimeShift I do not understand, but it is a bit scary if this safe guard does not work. Do you have any thought why TimeShift failed to help me?

In any case, the most important protection is to always have one or preferable multiple back-ups of data.

At this time, another odd problem had occurred: the Start menu had changed from Mint Start meny to a standard Xfce start menu. Maybe because I had done another forced turn off with the power button. Also this didn't go back with TimeShift.

Therefore, I decided to re-install Linux Mint. I have very little data on this laptop, so no big work to save data - and of course I already had the backup of the data. Linux Mint is fast to install, maybe 20 minutes. Then comes software updates, installation of additional software and settings, but not a big task. It had been more work if it had been my main computer.

With the new Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce installation, Simple scan works normally, as well as everything else!

Instead of forcing power off with the power button, I got this advice in the forum:

If you need to forcefully shut down Mint, dont use the power switch. Instead give
sync command first.
Then hold ctrl, alt and prtsc these 3 keys and type reisub to reboot.

For more details of this issue, read the complete forum thread:
https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=303211 

Despite this trouble, I highly recommend Linux Mint, or any other Linux distribution of your choice.

Henrik Hemrin
12 October 2019

Rolling back in time with TimeShift in Linux Mint [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

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My laptop with Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce installed [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

I keep on exploring Linux! The Linux family is a great alternative operating system for computers. Linux is very much more than operation systems for e.g. laptops and desktops, but that is my focus in this article. 

In November 2018 I installed Linux Mint 19.0 Cinnamon on my laptop, replacing Windows 10. I have been a happy Linux Mint Cinnamon user since then on my secondary computer. However, after considering that this cheap laptop indeed has limited system resources, I came to the conclusion I should change to the Xfce desktop. I wanted to stick to Linux Mint, because it works so well.

Linux Mint may very well be the distribution I will use also when I invest in a new computer with more resources some day. And eventually become my main operating system instead of the macOS I currently have on my main computer.

A couple of weeks ago I replaced my Linux Mint 19.2 Cinnamon with Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce. Linux Mint 19.2 uses Xfce release 4.12 from February 2015. In August 2019 Xfce released 4.14, and I believe this new desktop release will be included when Mint comes with release 19.3 later this year.

The Mint team has integrated their desktop options to have similar look and feel; I definitely feel I still use Mint. Cinnamon is more "modern" and is also the desktop developed by the Mint team, it should be the best one to use with Mint, if system resources is not limited. However, all three desktop variants (Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce) can be choosen based on personal preferences.

Installation went without any issue, I updated software, configured, added some additional software, and the system works well. This time I encrypted the full SSD hard drive during installation.

I have updated my RAM resource comparison article to include this new installation.

Characteristics of my laptop; a Lenovo ideapad 100s-14IBR; CPU: 1.60 GHz dual core, eMCC (SSD) Hard drive: 32 GB, RAM: 2 GB.

Try Linux you too!

27 September 2019
Henrik Hemrin

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Executing the whoami command in the Linux Mint Xfce Terminal [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

Who am I? Ask the Command Line Interface! 

The Command Line Interface is a powerful tool available in computers, e.g. via a terminal window like above. It is generally less used by "ordinary" computer users like myself nowadays, than in the old days before windows existed (for example in the DOS-days). But I like to use it more in the future than I have done the last years. I am very far from an expert on command line commands. 

The language can be fun and straightforward. And sometimes a lot of abbreviations. The command "whoami" is very straightforward, to find out Who am I; the logged in identity. Apperently it's henrik this time... Normally whoami command is not one of the most useful in the toolbox, probably it can be more useful when you are working remotely and becomes uncertain. For sure, there has been a need for the command, that is why it exist.

Whenever you need more info about a command, type "man whoami"; man for manual.  

Bryan Lunduke recently wrote the fun article "Without a GUI--How to Live Entirely in a Terminal" in Linux Journal magazine.

This snapshot above is from my Linux Mint Xfce Terminal window. Same command is available in the macOS Terminal. I'm not sure if this command exist in Windows. 

Be brave and try the terminal and try commands!

Henrik Hemrin

21 August 2019

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Operating Systems for Smart Phones

I would say that Symbian was the first widely used Operating System (OS) for smart phones. But often iPhone with iOS is seen as the fist smart phone. 

Market situation

Today the worldwide market is extremely dominated by Android (by Google) and iOS (by Apple).

Many OS have been discontinued, or are close to become discontinued. Wikepedia has a good overview

Windows Mobile - what happened?

Some years ago, Windows launched its Windows Mobile OS for e.g. smart mobile phones. I remember I thought it was a really interesting and a smart move by Microsoft. Their Windows for e.g. computers was (and still is) very successful and widely used both in business as at home. When Microsoft also was going to have the Windows for mobiles, they would have a complete portfolio like Apple. Nokia was the major brand going for Windows Mobile, while basically everybody else was going to Android from Google. Beside Apple which continued to use their own iOS. BlackBerry existed but was losing its innovative status and basically disappeared from the market. Microsoft acquired Nokia, hence also became a manufacturer of mobile devices. For some reason - I am sure there are many articles about it - Windows Mobile did not become a success and is now almost gone from the market. Despite it was launched by a big company as Microsoft.

Alternatives

There also are some alternatives, existing and in development. Some of the more interesting are:

Many of above are OpenSource, and many are based on Linux.

Is there any more important or promising I have not listed?

Conditions for changing to one of the alternatives

Personally, I am interested to change over to an OpenSource based phone with good security and privacy, not at least if it also is Linux based. But to be really interesting, it must not only be phones available with the OS (or possible to install myself). The needed applications must also be there. And not only the "global" apps like web browsers, note pads, podcaster, camera, but also the more local ones. Local, for me that is Swedish. Two examples of local apps I indeed consider very important to have on my mobile: SJ (national rail) and BankID (identification and login to many public and commercial services in Sweden). If I cannot get the local apps, the interest of that mobile or mobile OS will drop significantly. I monitor the market, and I hope there will be an OpenSource solution which is secure with a good privacy.

A new upcoming alternative? HarmonyOS

A new OS was announced 9 August 2019: HarmonyOS, by Huawei. Press release: https://consumer.huawei.com/en/press/news/2019/huawei-launches-harmonyos

The announcement was done at the Huawei Developer Conference. Currently there is a trade conflict ongoing between USA and China, and the possibilities for Huawei to continue to use Android on their phones (etc) is very uncertain. Market has talked about that Huawei has been preparing for such situation for a long time. Although the announcement does not talk about the trade conflict, I cannot stop relating to it.

The word "Harmony" is not chosen by random, I am certain. It is a political statement. Anyone who follow China politics, knows harmony is a slogan word from the Chinese political world.

However, it is not clear if HarmonyOS is intended for mobile phones and other advanced OS products. They write about a seamless experience across devices. "It will first be used for smart devices like smart watches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems, and smart speakers." It appears as HarmonyOS 1.0 will be for limited number of products categories, with intention to add more categories later.

HarmonyOS is its own OS, based on nothing else. It means it has no need to consider any legacy support of existing hardware or software. But I really cannot comment the technical description of HarmonyOS, that is far beyond my competence.

It will be released as open-source. I think that is necessary, if no other reason to give trust and confidence in it, in particular outside China. China is a dictatorship and a closed OS from China would not be trusted. 

Are they aiming for Harmony OS to be used by competitors? Depending on which type of devices that will run on HarmonyOS, how many developers worldwide will develop apps for it? What market penetration will it get? Huawei has a huge domestic market to start with.

If Huawei cannot use Android in the future due to trade restrictions - is it HarmonyOS that is the replacement or is it another OS they will consider for such devices? Will HarmonyOS become and alternative for mobiles and tablets? Or will it fail like Windows Mobile?

It will be interesting to read what more competent people with write about HarmonyOS. And learn more about it when more details are available.

Henrik Hemrin

10 August 2019

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Linux Mint Badge

A couple of days ago I updated the operating system from Linux Mint 19.1 Cinnamon to 19.2. Release 19.2 is a very fresh release, it has been out for about a week.

How did it go to update to the new release? Well, like when I updated from 19 to 19.1 a couple of months ago, the update process went smoothly. It just works! After reboot, I also updated the Linux Kernel to 4.15.0-55.

Not counting backup time, reading info etc, but counting when I pushed execute in the update manager until update was installed, less than ten minutes had gone.

If I recapture, this is a fairly new laptop that I bought 12 April 2016, which came with Windows 10 preinstalled. But last year I had to give up to install Windows updates, the computer was too weak for updates, in particular hard disk size. I tried endlessly with deleting temp files and other tips and tricks and tools from Microsoft, but still not ok. Possibly a complete re-install had beed possible. But now with Linux Mint, the update just works, no issue at all with hard disk size, RAM memory or anything else to manage the updates! 

This laptop is still a bit on the lower side for Linux Mint Cinnamon; a change to Linux Mint Xfce or an even more resource like Puppy or Slax would work better. But when I use it for simple tasks, such as simple scanning, simple web browsing on not too heavy web site or multiple tabs, or a bit of document writing, and basically one thing at a time, also Linux Mint Cinnamon is ok for this laptop.

Characteristics of this cheap laptop; a Lenovo ideapad 100s-14IBR: 

CPU: 1.60 GHz dual core, eMCC (SSD) Hard drive: 32 GB, RAM: 2 GB.

Henrik Hemrin

6 August 2019

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Linux Mint LMDE 3 is loaded on my laptop, with terminal window open [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

How RAM memory hungry are Linux distros?

Introduction

My cheap laptop with Windows 10 preinstalled could not handle Windows 10 updates any more; Short life time for my cheap laptop. I swapped out Windows 10 and in came Linux Mint 19 Cinnamon, and I got my Cheap laptop reborn.

Main characteristics of this laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 100s-14IBR. 1.60 GHz dual core CPU, 32 GB eMCC (SSD) and 2 GB RAM.

Only 2 GB RAM. That is how I became interested in how RAM hungry different Linux distributions are. For a machine with better characteristics, like 8 GB RAM or above, this is not really an issue to consider. In those cases, the focus will be the memory need for the applications themself. But with 2 GB RAM, it is very relevant to consider what the operating system needs by itself, so there is some space left for applications.

This cheap laptop is the first time for me to use Linux. I have been curious in Linux for many years, going back in time to when I was using Unix on a Sun machine at work for several years, when Linux recently was invented.

My irritation towards the store and the manufacturer for selling a laptop that so soon was not usable was turned to an opportunity to try out Linux and by that extend the life time considerable (ongoing)!

Linux is actually the central ”kernel”. The complete operating system when you use it e.g. on a laptop or desktop is more correct to refer as ”GNU/Linux”. Although in daily talk it is often simply referred to as ”Linux”. Linux is an alternative Operating system to Windows, macOS and ChromeOS. GNU/Linux have more than hundred different Operating systems available based on the Linux kernel, so GNU/Linux is actually not one alternative, there are multiple alternatives. To be fair, ChromeOS, is actually also based on Linux.

The magazine Linux Journal, January 2019, the article The State of Desktop Linux 2019 has a chart for RAM usage of six different desktop environments, measured on Debian. It gives a good overview. However, I want to do a test myself and do it slightly different, and to see how it is on my own laptop. So, here comes my findings.

Testing

Test objects

My ”Linux home” is Linux Mint. This explains why so many Linux Mint flavors and releases are included in this report. Linux Mint is available in four flavors. Three of the flavors are based on Ubuntu, but with different desktops: Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce.

The fourth Linux Mint LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) is based on Debian (and Ubuntu is based on Debian). LMDE only comes with Cinnamon desktop.

The other Linux variants in this report are: Debian 10 Plasma (KDE), elementary 5.0 , Peppermint 10, Puppy Ubuntu Bionic Pup 64 8.0, Slax 9.5.0 and Ubuntu Studio 20.04 Xfce.

Debian is available with several desktops. I have choosen Plasma from KDE, to my knowledge considered as a relatively hungry desktop.

Ubuntu Studio uses Xfce which is considered as a dektop needing relatively few resources. Worth to mention is that release 20.04 is the last Ubuntu Studio using Xfce. Ubuntu Studio is going forward with Plasma from KDE. This change make sense considering several applications included in Ubuntu Studio comes from KDE which means better integration can be assumed. Secondly, the applications in Ubuntu Studio are in many cases resource hungry, so to use Ubuntu Studio you will in any case need a good performance computer and even is Xfce save resources it can be considered as negligible.

Test method and parameters

I have used the Bash command “top” in the terminal for this test. The operating system has been in “idle” state and measured a while after it has started up. The load test is done differently but with same command.

The result of “top” command includes several parameters. When I started this test, I assumed “free” would be the most appropriate parameter. But with more knowledge I have come to understand it is not that simple.

“Free” means how much of the RAM memory that is not used now. Free does not count “buff/cashe” as free. It is correct that “buff/cashe” is not free, but it is almost free.

“Buff/cashe” is complicated to understand. I do not understand it fully. “Buff/cashe” is the sum of buffered and cashe. Buffer and cashe are not really being used, but are kept in RAM in background so they quickly can be accessed and go back to it or the system can go back to it. It speeds up the process to keep it in the RAM. Buffer is kernel memory and cashe is pretty all the other junk.

This means that if an application needs more RAM than “free” gives, it can almost immediately take “buff/cashe”. At the same time, it is of course good to have RAM enough to keep data in “buff/cashe”.

Anyway, this leads to the parameter “used”. “Used” = “total” - “free” - “buffer” - “cashe“. So “used” is probably better to look at when reviewing how much memory the system needs.

However, there is one more interesting parameter, and that is “available” (avail). The manual for “top” describes “available” as “an estimation of physical memory available for starting new applications, without swapping”. So, in a way, I think this is probably the parameter I think of as most interesting. Because you want to do more than run the operating system, and this estimates how much memory is available for the real applications.

Swap is also of interest. Swap is not part of the RAM memory, it is on your hard drive. If you have a fast SSD drive, the delay can be relatively short, but you always want to avoid to use RAM.

This concludes that I will present two charts for each test: “used” and “available”.

The load test gives, I hope, a nice view of how all those parameters interact and a glimpse on what can be done with applications on this cheap laptop.

To write this chapter, I have taken advantage of in particular those four resources:

- MintCast pod episode 355.5 discussed my query; listen when 36:00 – 25:00 remains of the episode.

- Ask Ubuntu forum thread.

- Unix stack exchange forum thread.

- Bash shell manual

Measurement inaccuracy

Use the test result in this report as indicative result rather than accurate test result.

Written speculative from my side, as I do not have the expert knowledge. I believe the result is machine dependent, for example which graphics card is used. It also depends on exact revision of all installed packages at the time of measurement, which kernel, live-USB vs installed version, how long the operating system has been in idle after start and what is ongoing exactly now.

As one example, I saved three measurements values of free RAM for one test: 73 736, 305 056 and 383 028. In the first measurement, Time shift application was running, which indeed took a share of the memory. To give a really correct comparison, I should review exactly what is running and using resources. It could be doable with e.g. deeper analyze of the top command in the Terminal window – but in this article I want to stay at an easy level of analyzing.

Tests

This report consists of four tests:

1. Live USB/DVD (on IdeaPad)

All distros were started via USB, except Slax, which I started from a DVD. I was connected to WiFi, and I had also a portable USB hard drive connected. But else I had no application ongoing started by myself. Hopefully the figures are in a relatively comparable idle status. However, the more I think of it, I should have been more careful in when I measure, what applications I have started or closed, and take an average value over a certain period of time. Still, I think the result give an indication.

Test is performed on Lenovo IdeaPad 100s-14IBR. 1.60 GHz dual core CPU, 32 GB eMCC (SSD) and 2 GB RAM.

2. Installed distributions (on IdeaPad)

This test compares four Linux Mint installed on the laptop. They are installed one at a time, e.g. it reflects the evolution of this laptop: Starting with Mint 19.1 Cinnamon, followed by Mint 19.2 Cinnamon, then I installed same Mint release but changed desktop to Mint 19.2 Xfce and finally Mint 20.1 Xfce. All those have been tested with the VPN Client turned on during the test. It is long time between each test occasion.

Test is performed on Lenovo IdeaPad 100s-14IBR. 1.60 GHz dual core CPU, 32 GB eMCC (SSD) and 2 GB RAM.

3. Installed distributions (on ThinkPad)

The first test with the Live-USB/DVD was done back in 2019. As I happen to have another laptop with multiple Linux distributions installed in parallel on one SSD, I thought it can be of interest to add those as well to the report, although the RAM usage of the distributions themselves are not an issue on this particular laptop.

This is performed on Lenovo ThinkPad T430s. 2.60 GHz Dual core CPU, 250 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM.

4. Load test (on IdeaPad)

With reference to the chapter “Test method and parameters”, I believe this graph over the different memory parameters and how they change when the laptop is more and more occupied with application in addition to the operating system itself, is of interest and also helps to understand the parameters. It also gives a hint of how much of applications that can be used on this cheap laptop.

Test is performed on Lenovo IdeaPad 100s-14IBR. 1.60 GHz dual core CPU, 32 GB eMCC (SSD) and 2 GB RAM.

Test results

1. Live USB/DVD (on IdeaPad)

 Chart used RAM memory Live USB/DVD (on IdeaPad)

Chart available RAM memory Live USB/DVD (on IdeaPad)

 

Linux distro Total Free Used Buff/Cashe Available
Slax 9.5.0 1 897 204 1 308 724 137 924 450 556 1 546 172
Puppy Bionicpup64 8.0 1 888 800 861 264 124 552 902 984 1 076 612
Mint 19.1 Xfce 1 886 324 773 172 343 760 769 392 1 283 412
Peppermint 10 1 886 096 652 116 300 288 933 692 1 355 320
Mint LMDE 3 Cinnamon 1 897 192 644 504 535 432 717 256 1 127 964
Mint 19.2 Cinnamon 1 886 292 585 604 493 456 807 232 1 145 388
Mint 19.1 Cinnamon 1 886 323 581 328 497 328 807 668 1 133 868
Mint 19.1 MATE 1 886 324 568 984 355 544 961 796 1 248 484
Elementary 5 1 886 316 243 040 507 616 1 135 660 948 444

2. Installed distributions (on IdeaPad)

 Chart used RAM memory Installed distributions (on IdeaPad)

Chart available RAM memory Installed distributions (on IdeaPad)

Linux distro Total Free Used Buff/Cashe Available
Mint 19.2 Xfce 1 886 420 664 908 607 384 614 128 1 095 620
Mint 20.1 Xfce 1 835 700 472 800 650 000 712 900 967 000
Mint 19.1 Cinnamon 1 886 292 391 676 786 216 708 400 879 692
Mint 19.2 Cinnamon 1 886 288 383 028 773 068 730 192 889 236

3. Installed distributions (on ThinkPad)

 Chart used RAM memory Installed distributions (on ThinkPad)

Chart available RAM memory Installed distributions (on ThinkPad)

Linux distro Total Free Used Buff/Cashe Available
Ubuntu studio 20.04 Xfce 7 643 100 6 329 200 497 400 816 500 6 830 700
Mint 19.3 Cinnamon 7 826 632 6 181 324 567 332 1 077 976 6 900 988
Elementary 5.1.7 7 826 636 6 001 528 539 508 1 285 600 6 845 824
Debian 10 Plasma (KDE) 7 660 000 5 998 800 804 100 857 100 6 510 000
Mint 20.1 Cinnamon VPN On 7 643 200 5 977 400 767 300 898 500 6 528 000
Mint 20.1 Cinnamon VPN Off 7 643 100 5 794 400 637 200 1 211 500 6 643 000

4. Load test (on IdeaPad)

 Chart load test (on IdeaPad)

M Free Used Buff/Cashe Swap free Swap used Available
1 472 800 650 000  712 900 976 000 0 967 000
2 151 100 644 000 1 040 700 975 500 500 953 500
3 147 600 885 400 802 800 966 500 9 500 726 600
4 132 500 876 900 826 300 966 500 9 500 737 300
5 119 200 1 126 600 589 900 962 700 13 200 437 700
6 84 300 1 218 600 532 900 955 200 20 800 353 400
7 74 200 1 421 200 340 300 846 200 129 800 164 200

 

Total memory: 1 835 700. Swap total: 976 000.

Measurement Time Description
1 16:46 Up and running
2 16:56 Idle
3 16:57 Firefox: blank page started
4 17:08 Ff: blank page running. After measurement, starting SVT Play
5 17:10 Ff: SVT Play (live stream TV) running
6 17:31 Ff: SVT Play (live stream TV) running. After measurement, starting 4 more tabs: hemrin.com, mintcast.com, linuxmint.com and dn.se (newspaper)
 7 17:59 Ff: All 5 tabs running

 

 

Henrik Hemrin

10 July 2019

Updated 4-5 August 2019 with Linux Mint 19.2

Updated 27 September 2019 with Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce installed.

Major update 26 March 2021

This article before the major update 26 March 2021 is available here (pdf).

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