Take a break from your computer with Safe Eyes

by parasurv

Recently I have reached one of my weightloss goal. At this point regular exercise is not a pain, but a possibility to do it every day. I want to do it regularly so I searched for a software that warns me if I use my computer too much. I discovered Safe Eyes, which primarily focus on the health of our eyes, but you can make custom messages for yourself. It is open source and Linux only though.

Safe Eyes sits on your panel and casually warns you if a break is coming up. The break is full screen, but you can skip it (highly not recommend it, since it goes against our goals). The settings is simple to set up different message.

You can setup shorter and longer breaks after 15 and 75 minutes, default. However I recommend to modify it to 10 and 40 minutes. In this way you will become more active.

It has plugin support for system notification and sound alerts, and you can see your statistics at break screens.

  

Play old GOG games via Wine on Linux

by parasurv

I am a big fan of GOG. While in the last couple of years they extended their catalogue with brand new games, they still add older games. I am generally not a nostalgic person, but I occasionally like to remember the "good old days" in gaming. It also helps that many old games are perfectly playable on Linux via Wine or Dosbox. Both are great open source project. They help preserve some of the software, we would have lost forever. In this aspect Wine is one of the most important open source project without most people realizing it.

I am a Linux user who doesn't deprive himself for playing something just because it is not a native game, or it is because it's old and supported only through Wine. I haven't used Windows since 2006, so Wine is my friend for Windows games.

We are lucky that we have a very active community. This year when Wine staging (a fork of Wine which has some extra stuff) lost its main contributor, people jumped in and saved this project.

This community also helps if you want to run really old games. One of the best example is Adamhm on the GOG forums. He has a giant library of Wine scripts for some of the best Windows only games on GOG. I have used it so far for 2 games: MDK and most recently SWAT 4. It downloads everything you need for the games to run, and really simple to install them. The scripts use their own Wine prefix, in this way it is completely separated from your original Wine install.

Every game on the list has its own thread on the forum, and a little how to. Usually you have to download a tar.gz file, extract into a directory you want for the game and put the game's installer into that directory too. Run the script from terminal and follow the instructions. Fairly easy.

This is why I prefer GOG to Steam too even with Wine. With Steam, you have to install a client, and sometimes you can't see what's in your library because the in-client browser doesn't work all the time (Steam with Wine can break fairly often). GOG has a simple installer and it doesn't require any additional tweaks.

I highly recommend the collection above and I hope you find something in the upcoming GOG Summer sale.

  

How to: vertical tabs in Firefox

by parasurv

I will tell you a big secret. For a while now, I dislike horizontal tabs in my browsers. Simply I have so many tabs open at the same time - sometimes 30-50 - that it is really hard to keep tabs on them (pun intended).

I was so happy to find out that Qutebrowser has an option for vertical tabs, but unfortunetly Firefox devs still living in the last decade. Most people I am sure has widescreen monitors, yet we have no option for vertical tabs.

I am sure there are many solution for Firefox, here is what I use in Manjaro Linux, but you can use it on any operating system.

Step 1.: use the Tab Center Redux extension

From description:

"Tab Center Redux allows you to organize your tabs vertically in the browser's sidebar. It aims to be easy to use while mimicking the vanilla Firefox experience. The extension provides a handful of of settings and allows power-users to customize its appearance completely with CSS code."

You download and install the extension from Firefox Add-ons page.

You can adjust the design and certain elements with CSS, and easily hide the tab bar with a shortcut.

There is a bug in Firefox though, and we can still see the horizontal tabs, when we have this addon. This is where the second step comes in...

Step 2.: hide horinzontal tabbar with CSS

For this we need to edit or create a file in our Firefox profile. In Linux you have this in your home folder:

/home/username/.mozilla/firefox/profilename/chrome/userChrome.css

The 'profilename' is usually a randomly named folder. Most people only have one, so it is easy to find. You need to create the 'userChrome.css' file with your favorite text editor if you don't have one, and put this line of CSS and save it, then restart Firefox.

 #tabbrowser-tabs { visibility: collapse !important; }

The Tab Center Redux github page has other CSS modifications.

If you have any question, you can find me on mastodon or via email

  

How to: Dark Forces (GOG) on Linux

by parasurv

Recently I bought Dark Forces on GOG. This game is one of my childhood favorite, and while I am not a nostalgic person, Dark Forces definitely one of the old games I want to experience again. I played the demo many times, and I never got further than mission 4 or 5, I think.

Note: as it turned out, I never got further than mission 3... :)

Dark Forces is the first Star Wars first person shooter. The game came out in 1995, before Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. It has a multi-floor level design, however the game is not 3D at all. The sounds and music are awesome as they are mostly from the original movie. We play as Kyle Katarn as a mercenary, before "A New Hope".

The game has a single player story mode, where each mission has a briefing and we can choose the mission difficulty. Beware though, there is no in-game saving, so if you abandon a mission, you can't continue from that point. The game automatically saves between missions.


After downloading and installing the game, I hit a roadblock: I couldn't go past the loading screen of the first mission. I had sound and music in the setup options and in the intro, but I got segfault error message.

Time to dig in the GOG forums...

Here is my simple solution. Note I use Manjaro Linux with i3 window manager.

We need some stuff...

Sadly the Dosbox which comes with Dark Forces is not really good a good version. I had segfaults all over the place. I fixed some midi problems, which still wasn't enough. So I installed this other version of Dosbox, from AUR, called Dosbox SVN.

If you are using Arch or Manjaro, just use this command from the terminal:

yaourt -S dosbox-svn

I think this will also overwrite normal Dosbox, if you installed that through a package manager earlier.

After that we can run the game from the "Dark Forces/data" directory, with the following command:

dosbox -conf "../dosbox_DF.conf" DARK.EXE

With the -conf option you can specify the custom Dosbox config file for the game.

I don't really know how to modify, the start.sh file to run the game, it was easier for me to create a shell script.

I will link to my own dosbox_DF.conf file, free to download it, (just make sure to rename it to .conf) if you have any problem with the default one. Don't forget to make a backup of your version before you overwrite it.

  

Why Mastodon is the only social network I use?

by parasurv

I have a rocky relationship with social networks on the web. I periodically have social fatigue and thats when I usually delete accounts. I did this many times with Facebook, Twitter and even Mastodon.

Mastodon however is special, since it is a federated network of different instances, and works similar to email. You have an account on instance x, but you can communicate with other instances. And because the whole thing is open source anybody can start an instance. It is a lot of work being an admin, so only if you want something small, or just a single user instance for yourself, that's when I recommend do it on your own.

There are different instances with different interests, but people usually don't post about just of that specific topic. You can register to many instances, and you can use the same username.

I use mastodon.social the biggest instance I think at the moment. When you use the search function it goes across every public instances though. This is one way of discovering interesting people. You can only search for hashtags or for people, which at first looked very limited. In this way people use hashtags more and with purpose, and I rarely saw spam,

So far I met mostly friendly people, so my experience is 95% positive. That 5% happened when I first registered to Mastodon, but I am over it. I have learnt to not post about certain topics.

I like that there is much less drama on Mastodon than on Twitter, probably because it is much smaller. I don't care that I can't follow celebrities. I purposely don't talk about politics, and other hot topics. The only touchy topic I talked about is fatacceptance and weightloss, and I got few favorites and boosts (retweets in Mastodon lingo).

In the end Mastodon is what you make it. It depends on you, how you build your network. This time I use it much slower so when I look at my timeline, they are full of people who worth following. I don't follow people just because I found few messages from them, interesting. I look at their recent activities.

Here is a longer, kind of FAQ like introduction to Mastodon

Mastodon is free to use, and on this site you can get a fresh list of instances, or you can take a test, see if you can find anything interesting.

If you don't like the default web client, take a look at pinafore. It is a single column, multi instance client.

Mastodon is less drama, and more interesting people! You can reach me at parasurv@mastodon.social.

  

Static website generators and Nikola

by parasurv

I loved the layout and colors I chose for this site, it was very oldschool, but it had to be edited manually. I wanted to use a static website generator for it, but I was to lazy to setup one. I also wanted to check out Nikola, so I did play with it a little locally.

/images/parasurv_old.jpgmy old site

The result is what you can see now. This is created with Nikola and it uses the Hyde theme.

Static website generators?

In the age of WordPress, and big sites with thousands of articles, why go back to simple HTML?

Because it is fast, more secure and it is way better for the reader. When you visit a website nowadays, the whole has to render every time for everyone. Huge waste of bandwith when people just want to read an article. The size of the website increased so much the last 5 years alone. It is crazy.

In this video Bryan Lunduke talks about how much the web has changed

In contrast, static websites may sounds old school, but it works really well. You have a theme which controls how the website look, and you write your articles and pages in a certain format, which is usually simple text, and you build your website after that. The generator takes care of the links on the site, so you don't have to edit anything manually.

I use markdown for writing, so I can focus on writing and not how it looks. I also like that with a site generator you still get an RSS feed.

When I started using the web in the 90s, the most annoying thing was the autoloop animated GIFs. But it was still ok. The web was largely centered around information, now it's centered around ads.

Nikola

While I like visual things, I will keep this site mostly image and video free.

Nikola is a static website generator. This is the third one I've ever used after Pelican and Hugo. I like the documentation, so far there was nothing I could not find in it. I am also impressed how easy it is to install themes through their repo. It is just one command and it downloads and extract everything into the proper directory. The only thing you need to do is to setup the theme - one line - in the config file.

I didn't like the theme variety though, basically it based on one theme, with little modifications. However this is only the main repo for themes, and I haven't searched outside of it.

I highly recommend Nikola if you are looking for a static website generator and you want a simple website/blog. It is easy to install on Linux and setting up a blog with demo content is one command. The documentation is excellent, I find it noob-friendly, although it is better if you know how to use the terminal (and of course a little HTML and CSS for customization).

  

Every year: Your Lie in April

by parasurv

A few years ago completely by chance I discovered the anime, "Your Lie in April". One day I watched one of my favorite streamer, Dodger - who is a big anime fan, talking about this show, centered around music.

Until that point I thought anime is not for me (I was more like neutral about it - didn't hate it, but didn't like it either), but how she talked about YLIA, the passion, the story and the characters. She convinced me to check it out.

At first it was weird, because the animation and the cultural difference compared to what I saw until that day. But Your Lie in April is awesome and anime is awesome. While I didn't become a giant fan (more like casual), I now know if I see something I like, I won't dismiss it, just because it is anime.

After I finished it I made it a ritual to return to Your Lie in April in every April. This year I will rewatch it one episode per day. I want it to be an experience, and not just run through it. Of course I know what will happen, but so far every time I watched it I discovered something new.

Your Lie in April is about a boy - Kosei -, who is a child piano prodigy in Japan. He lost his mother and with that the ability to hear his own play of music. That is until a day, when he meets a girl, Kaori, who turns his life upside down in a way which he has never expected it.

  

New keyboard: Magicforce 68

by parasurv

I just got my second mechanical keyboard, the Magicforce 68. And it is awesome. I bought it on sale on Amazon, for 24 GBP. I payed extra for shipping it faster.

The package is simple just like I saw in videos on Youtube. Brown box, tightly packaged. The keyboard comes with a cabel, and a plastic keycap puller, which is not the best, I won't use it (and others do not recommend it) and a Chinese/English manual. The manual is good mainly for learning the function layer. The cabel is just a simple white one, a little bit short for my use though.

Recently I got back into the world of mechanical keyboards. I already had one, which I bought two years ago. Now I wanted something different. I had a chance to get an Anne Pro, which is a 60% RGB bluetooth keyboard (kind of an all-in one thing), I missed it. Price was a major factor, and while I was search something different, I saw the Magicforce 68 in a search result. It was on Amazon, and I never thought getting a keyboard from it, but some of the Magicforce keyboards were on a 30% sale, which was very attractive to me.

At the end I decided to buy the cheapest possible option. The non-backlit, outemu brown switch version. Interestingly it has the better font face on the keycaps in my opinion, not too gamery, although still a little bit futuristic. I liked the possibility that I can try out the brown version too, as my current keyboard came with Cherry MX blue. Design wise the keyboard looks OK, although if you don't like visible branding (like I do), the very prominent "Magicforce" logo might be a problem for some people.

How to hide the Magicforce logo with customization I was worried that I won't be able to type every character I need for my language. We have like 8 accent characters, and I can type just fine. Only one is í, which I knew how to find anyway. Other troubling characters were 0 itself, as the top row is one button short. Also characters like \ or /. I slowly started to make a cheat sheet for myself.

The other interesting thing for me was, how can I adapt to the 60% form factor. Well it is 65% really, but it is still the smallest keyboard I have ever typed on. During my waiting period for the keyboard I recognized how much I reached for the arrow keys, and I was so happy that I got the MF68, because of that. Almost like faith wanted me to have this keyboard.

My Linux system recognized it really well, even my custom setup (caps lock is control), largely everything is the same. The new function keys works well, I have new media buttons! Honestly I like them more, since they are much closer to the function key, than on my previous keyboard. I think I have to get used to the smaller Enter key, which I use with my pinky and most of the times it tends to go to the higher part of the key than the lower.

Here is a recent MF68 review

With the Fn key we have the F1-F12 row on the number keys and we have also the media keys on the Z row. We don't have dedicated keys for Home/End and we have two ways to reach them with the Fn key. Also if you use the keyboard in a non-English language, the 0 will likely to be Fn + ESC. The whole thing is simple brilliant. I wonder if I could use a 40% keyboard, but I doubt it, since it wouldn't have the accented keys my language require. It would probably be perfect for typing in English though. Strangely Magicforce also has a smaller keyboard, called Magicforce 49...

Although I type this in English, I have no problem with the accent characters, only í is in a different place.

I would say the weakest point of the whole, is the quality of the keycaps. It definitely feels cheap, but I don't blame them, with a more expensive keycaps, the whole keyboard would have been more expensive. In this way, we get a nice entry level keyboard, and we can change the keycaps to our taste. I am considering buying some PBT keycaps, but at the moment I like the originals, and I am in no hurry to replace them.

Luckily it has a standard bottom row, so buying a set won't be a problem for it. Previously I wanted non-blank, but if I learn the Ansi set, I don't think I need legends on my keyboard. However a traditional top printed, with good font type would add to the design of the keyboard for sure.

This keyboard is simple amazing, from the first minute. I was so afraid of the Ansi layout, and the new format, but after some time I am glad I choose this. If you want a cheap option to try out 60% format, I can recommend the Magicforce 68 (you can get the backlit version which is just a bit more pricey).

If you are looking for similar keyboards I can recommend the Anne Pro too.

  

Why mechanical keyboards?

by parasurv

Keyboard and me in a few sentence: when I was 6, I've met my destiny, as my motherinroduced me to her very own Brother typewriter. I learned to type as kid, so a few years later, when we had computer class in school, I was already ahead of the others, I didn't need to look for every key. I can't touchtype with all fingers, but close, I don't have to look down. I can type well in English and Hungarian too.

I love to type, and I changed keyboards frequently. About little more than two years ago I started to look for mechanical keyboards. Soon realized they are an expensive investment and I didn't have a lot of money at that time. I also wanted to have a keyboard in my native language, so I don't have to use AltGr every time for some í or some other keys.

Luckily I've found a cheaper model, called Tesoro. A full keyboard, with numeric part and in Hungarian. I originally wanted to have with brown keys, but the webshop said, it won't be available before Christmas. I really wanted one, so I ordered the blue one instead. Blue switches means usually that the keys are loud and tactile, you have physical feedback under your fingertips. When it arrived I typed for like 3-4 hours straight.

At first my right wrist heart, but soon I got used to it and after 2-3 days I could type pain-free. Mechanical keyboards are a dream for a serious computer user. Yes, it can be noise (blue, remember!), but it has the feeling of the old keyboards, from the days that I started to use computers.

Occasionaly I clean it, since I still like to eat near my computer, but it worth the time, plus it is very easy to take keys out. I don't have a dedicated tool, but a made one, with long wires, that I can safely pull out the keys.

I type much faster with it, I make less mistakes and with unlike regular keyboard, I am much less tired using it for a longer period of time.

While mechanical keyboards are not cheap, it is definitely a long term investment. Whether if you are a gamer or a programer, writer, it is worth the value. I highly recommend checking out some videos, so you can decide which mechanical keys fits you most. If you are lucky maybe you can try out some of them localy in a store (I bought mine blind, online).

Also, the looks can be decieving. Buy something simple. Programmable keys? Backlight? These are extras you might not need.

Switches probably the most important thing you need to research, since it will alter your writing habits the most. Blues are clicky and tactile and best suits for writers or coders, browns are tactile, but not clicky. Reds are generally better for gamers, but there are many more variations. I highly recommend to check out the r/mechanicalkeyboards subreddit, where the wiki and the community can help anyone interested. Just don't blame me for, if you become an addict.

I like my first keyboard, but after 2 years I wanted to change, and with a bit of luck, I bought a Magicforce 68 (in March 2018), with outemu brown switches. It was really cheap, from Amazon. This is my first, not full keyboard. It is a 65% keyboard, which means that it has no numpad and function row, but it has still have arrowkeys and a small cluster of usefull buttons (insert, delete, pageup, pagedown). It is a little bit bigger than a 60% keyboard, which has no arrow keys. I feel that I made the right choice with this one too. I like the brown switches so far, even though it is probably the weaker clone of the Cherry MX switches.

So this is my small intro to the world of mechanical keyboards. As of right now, I want to try orings with my keycaps and a nice set of keycaps to complete a nice look for the Magicforce 68.

  

Old games: FlatOut 2

by parasurv

FlatOut 2 will always be special for me, since it is the last game I've ever played on Windows, before I switched to Linux full time (no dual-boot) in 2006.

FlatOut 2 is an arcade racing game, with surprisingly good graphics (it holds up really well years later), and nice pyhisics engine, which lets you destroy the environment and the cars too.

The game is available on GOG, for Windows and Linux too (in a nice Wine wrapper, since it is an older game).

It has a carrier mode, with 3 style of vehicles, Derby, Race and Street. Each has different kinds of racing tracks, which you unlock as you go forward in this mode.

Beside racing, there are other modes, which usually involves you flying out of your car and hit different targets. Sometimes you need to go to highest, or play poker with a giant board of cards. To me these modes were never interesting. The only mode I like is derby, which is a last man standing kind of mode, where you need to destroy the other cars.

Probably because in the past 10 years I have never finished the carrer mode! Brrr. Sometimes I lost my save files, or other shit happened.

Gameplay wise, the cars are responsive and you can find FWD, RWD and 4WD cars. Each has different stats, which you can modify if you buy parts in the shop. You can earn money by winning, doing the fastest lap in the race, or wrecking other people's car. In the race you have nitro, which you can earn by destroying other cars or the environment. While it is a good strategy, if you have a faster, but not so durable car, you will find yourself at the back of the pack easily.

The music also fits the game really well, with a mix of Rob Zombie, Papa Roach, Fall Out Boy and others.

FlatOut 2 is not a pretender, the devs knew they creating an arcade racing game, which turn out to be awesome, even a decade later is really good to play. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a few minute of racing here and there. Works perfectly under Linux, with gamepad, too.