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Notes from the August 2017 Meeting

The meeting started with the latest Linux News, provided by Nick Vespo.

The first item showed a video camera setup using the Raspberry Pi for control and Amazon’s Alexa for voice commands. There was a bank of eight relays that could be switched by the RPi, avoiding the necessity of the RPi directly controlling high voltages. The creator/user demonstrated starting and stopping items such as a fan and sound system in conjunction with the video camera for recording the action in his garage/studio.

The second item was a “bake-off” between Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. Each system was asked a question or asked to perform a task. The verdict of the two people running the tests was that Alexa was better at tasks and Google Home was better at finding information. Not an earth-shattering conclusion, but it was interesting to watch the testing process.

The final item was a preview of the next version of Android – called Oreo or Android O. Features mentioned included:

  • Picture in picture – similar to the television picture in picture feature.

  • Notifications classified by type. For example: all News items grouped together.

  • Stored passwords – making it easier to log in to web sites etc.

  • Improved screen control.

  • Control over background programs – to reduce battery drain.

  • Android Oreo is due to be released later this year (2017).

The Open Forum session started with a question about whether Linux supported touch screens. The answer – after some discussion – was yes, they are supported as an alternative to a mouse. Support is via the software for the Wacom tablet.

A discussion on NBN followed. Some members have NBN connections, with some happy and others not. Still others did not have a connection and did not know when they might be offered one.

After the usual refreshment break, the evening’s main presentation was by David Hatton on the subject: KDE Neon (5.1) User Edition.

A flaw with the distribution was immediately evident in that it did not appear to support mirroring of monitors. So the presenter saw a different display on his screen to what was shown on the projector. A number of setting changes were made during the session, but none enabled the screen images to be properly aligned. It was a distraction for the demonstration, but not something that would normally trouble a typical home user.

The KDE Neon desktop uses Ubuntu as a base with the latest stable KDE software installed. A comment was made that it was very slow to download from some of the standard download sites. So it may be necessary to experiment to find a suitable mirror site for a quicker download.

KDE Neon usually has a single program to handle a particular function, and David explored some of those functions/programs.

Calligra is a graphics art and office application suite that was split from Koffice back in 2010. Its word processing application – Calligra Words – seems closer to a desktop publishing program than a typical office word processor, as evidenced by the functions displayed when the program is first opened. The absence of user documentation is a major problem for some of the Caligra components, especially Calligra Words.

The Dolphin file manager has an optional two pane view and seems to handle the typical file management operations well.

The Kate text editor is a capable editor that can control formatting of the file in a number of exotic ways. Code highlighting was available for a huge number of different programming and markup languages.

The provided software manager “Discover” is less mature as the operations can sometimes be rather erratic. The most convenient solution is to simply use the Synaptic package manager which is also in the default installation.

KDE applications can be run in other desktop environments in addition to their native K Desktop Environment. If the programs are run in another desktop environment, e.g. Gnome, the required KDE libraries will be downloaded when the program is first installed.

A very interesting look at the latest KDE, only marred by the problem of aligning the displays of the laptop and the projector, and the time and effort spent in trying to deal with that flaw.