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I am Eric Hameleers, and this is where I think out loud.
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Last week’s updates: Chromium and VLC

Last week the Chrome (and Chromium) update to release 69 was in the news. The UI changed significantly, sporting more of Google’s material design elements. Also the password manager has been improved: it will suggest random passwords in cases where you have to create a Web account and will offer to remember the random password in its vault so you don’t have to write it down or remember it (you’ll have to be signed into your Google account to be able to use this feature though).
The ‘omnibox‘ (the area where you type your URLS and search queries) is more powerful now, showing many more related results while you are typing.
My package for Chromium supports direct playback of H.265/HEVC video by the way, and has done so for the past releases. Check it out for instance on https://www.h265files.com/embed-h265-video.php . Not many other browsers (even other distros’ Chromium browsers) will do that.

Not just UI changes/improvements in version 69.0.3497.81 but also many (some severe) bugs were addressed in this release. Read all about that in the Google blog post.

A package for Slackware 14.2 (32bit) took a bit of time because I kept having segafaults in clang++ but an update to the latest patches for Slackware 14.2 put an end to these segfaults. Packages for Slackware 14.2 and -current are awaiting your download.

FYI: Just today an update was posted and a new version 69.0.3497.92 of the Chromium source code was released. I will see when I can compile packages for that, but it will probably not be this week.

And then there was a new release of the VideoLAN media player, VLC, last month. I took a while to reserve some time on the build box to create packages for Slackware 14.2 and -current, but they are done now. The release 3.0.4 did not get any attention on the VideoLAN news page (yet?), but there are plenty of fixes that are relevant for Linux users.
Remember that this VLC depends on Qt5 – you’ll need libxkbcommon, qt5 and qt5-webkit packages, and on Slackware 14.2 additionally libinput and libwacom (those two are already part of -current).

You know where to download the packages, don’t you? The new versions of Chromium and VLC are also present on the latest Plasma5 Live ISO image for Slackware.

Have fun! Eric

liveslak-1.3.0 with speed improvements

blueSW-64pxThere was no August release of a Plasma5 Live ISO as you will probably have noticed. The reason was that around the time when I released the August update of Plasma5 for Slackware, I was working on new liveslak functionality and wanted to finish that before releasing new ISOs. The testing took some more time than I anticipated due to increased work load in my day job. But I finished what I wanted to have in a new liveslak release, and today I want to write a post about the new stuff.

To accompany the new liveslak-1.3.0 I have uploaded fresh ISO images for the Slackware Live Edition. They are based on the latest Slackware-current dated “Fri Sep 7 23:00:06 UTC 2018″.
The available ISO variants on https://slackware.nl/slackware-live/latest/ are:

  • Full unmodified Slackware (64bit).
  • Stripped-down XFCE (32bit as well as 64bit), this ISO will fit on a CDROM medium.
  • Slackware with MATE 1.20 instead of KDE4 (64bit). Thanks to Willy Sudiarto Raharjo for the packaging.
  • Slackware with Plasma 5 instead of KDE4 (64bit) to showcase the KDE Plasma 5_18.09 desktop. This ISO also contains Calibre 3.30.0, Chromium 69, LibreOffice 6.1.0, and VLC 3.0.4 among many others.

The new liveslak version 1.3.0 has several memorable updates:

  • Support for a new compression tool ‘zstd’ that will increase the speed of extracting squashfs modules greatly (and ‘paying’ for the increased decompression speed with an increase of compressed size with around 10%). The “make_slackware_live.sh” script was enhanced with a new commandline parameter “-c” with which you can indicate a non-default compressor (xz being the default and zstd, gzip, lzo as the alternatives).
    Raw decompression speed is up to 5 times faster using zstd compared with an xz-compressed squashfs modules, but due to the nature of the storage medium, OS kernel and program execution times, the observed speed gains for the actual Slackware Live Edition vary from 20% to 80%. Largest speed gains are found when you boot a Live ISO in a virtual machine; the smallest speed gains will be found when you boot Slackware Live from a USB medium where the medium’s read speed is the limiting factor.
  • During ISO creation you can now specify your own custom default country/language. The script default is still “us” but you can select any of the other languages that are supported on boot, for instance to have a Live OS that boots into German localization and language settings without any input.
    A new commandline parameter “-l” to the “make_slackware_live.sh” script enables you to specify the ISO default language.
  • Due to changes in package lists (mostly adding new packages introduced in slackware-current) make it hard to keep the XFCE ISO below 700 MB. That was not different this time. Continuous pruning in the filesystem is unavoidable. But I think I have reached the limit of what I can cut away in relation to unneeded libraries and stuff. The ever growing footprint of Slackware-current’s applications demands that eventually I may have to start removing complete packages from the XFCE live ISO. Any thoughts as to what you find least relevant in a small ISO? Is it the GCC compiler? Is it the Asian TrueType fonts? Is it Firefox, ImageMagick, …? To me all of those are equally important and yet I may have to decide on their removal eventually.

Compression of the ISOs

I have used ‘zstd’ compression for the SLACKWARE, PLASMA5, MATE ISO images. You will notice substantially reduced boot-up times.
The XFCE images are still compressed with ‘xz’ but as a curious test, I have re-compressed the “min” module of the 64bit XFCE ISO with zstd. That increased its size with 21 MB but it’s still below CDROM size. There is a noticeable speed increase even by just using zstd on the “min” module – I get a 10% faster bootup of the XFCE Live OS in a virtual machine.

In order to keep the PLASMA5 ISO fitting on a DVD, I had to take the multilib module out. If you need multilib in a Slackware Live Edition and you are running it off a USB stick, you can simply download the module from the ‘bonus‘ directory on the mirrror server, and copy it to the “/liveslak/addons/” directory on the Linux partition of the USB stick so that it will load automatically when the Live OS boots.

Wayland?

The ‘testing’ branch in my ‘kown’ repository is currently identical to the ‘latest’ branch, so there is no Wayland support in it now. For a future ‘testing’ release I’ll most likely re-visit Wayland but I want Patrick to add Plasma 5 to Slackware first so I can do my own stuff in just the ‘latest’ branch again and use ‘testing’ for actual tests.

Where to get the ISOs

Some download locations (mirrors may need 24 hours to catch up) for the Live ISOs are:

A copy of the liveslak sources and scripts can be found here:

You can follow the liveslak development in git: https://git.slackware.nl/liveslak/

The use of zstd

The ISO images which I created with zstd compression are all using Slackware-current. Because zstd support for squashfs was added to the Linux 4.14 kernel and Slackware is using these kernels. no modifications were required for the Live ISOs to work with this new compression type. A package for ‘zstd’ or a recompilation of ‘squashfs-tools’ to add zstd support is only needed when creating the ISO. When the Live OS boots, the Linux kernel  takes care of the compressed squashfs filesystem transparently.

In order to extract data from a zstd-compressed squashfs module you will of course need a squashfs-tools package with support for zstd. Therefore I have both a ‘zstd‘ and a ‘squashfs-tools‘ package for Slackware-current in my repository. I am not providing these for Slackware 14.2 because its older kernel (4.4.x) is not supporting zstd anyway.

Refreshing your USB stick instead of re-formatting

If you already use a Slackware Live USB stick that you do not want to re-format, you should use the “-r” parameter to the “iso2usb.sh” script. The “-r” or refresh parameter allows you to refresh the liveslak files on your USB stick without touching your custom content. If you want to modify other parameters of your USB stick, use the script “upslak.sh“. It’s main feature is that it can update the kernel on the USB stick, but it also can replace the Live init script. As with most (if not all) of my scripts, use the “-h” parameter to get help on its functionality.

Historical info on liveslak

More detail about the features of Slackware Live Edition can be found in previous posts here on the blog.

Have fun!

KDE Plasma5 Sep’18 release for Slackware

Today I uploaded my monthly update “KDE-5_18.09” to the ‘ktown‘ repository, containing latest sources from the KDE download server and built on the latest Slackware-current. I waited just long enough to have the devs refresh everything. I also grabbed the latest sources of some of the other relevant packages I have in ‘ktown’ that are not part of Applications.

What’s new

The September release of KDE Plasma5 for Slackware contains the KDE Frameworks 5.50.0 (just released today), Plasma 5.13.5 and Applications 18.08.1. All this on top of Qt 5.11.1. Many bugs fixed and stability increased with these updates, but there’s no real new functionality on board compared to last month.

My updates in the ‘extras’ section for Applications are new versions for ‘krusader’, ‘kstars’, ‘ktorrent’, ‘okteta’ and the KDE Development packages ‘kdevelop’, ‘kdev-python’ and ‘kdev-php’.

Go get it

Download the KDE-5_18.09 from the usual location at https://slackware.nl/alien-kde/current/latest/ . Check out the README file in the root of the repository for detailed installation or upgrade instructions.

Last month I did not succeed in accompanying the release with a Live ISO. That had a reason – I was working on an update to liveslak that required more testing than anticipated. This month I will generate a new Plasma Live ISO. Currently I am compiling a new VLC package to go with it. There’s already a 64bit Chromium 69 awaiting in the corner – I did not yet release that separately because I am unable to build a 32bit package for the latest Chromium. Trying to fix that had to wait for KDE and VLC. The new Plasma5 Live will have a story to it that I will post in a separate article.

Pale Moon browser removed from my repository

I have removed my contributed build of the Pale Moon browser from my package repository.

The reason? Primarily the attitude of its developers. The main developer is ridiculing Slackware. When working on my initial SlackBuild script and trying to obtain approval to use their ‘official branding’ I had a seriously grim argument with the lead minion of the developer group and the lead maintainer had to step in to appease. That set me off on the wrong foot from the beginning, but I thought an alternative to Firefox would be beneficial to Slackware users, so I added the package and build script despite my misgivings.
However, the above is not how a respectful relationship between developer and distributor works. Also, Moonchild refuses to mention me as a “contributed build” on the “contributed builds” page.

And frankly, I have enough of the arrogant attitude that all issues with their browser (which is a derivative of Mozilla Firefox code, forked before the moment certain big changes were being made to Firefox) are caused by packagers who compile and distribute their own binaries and never caused by the developers. That just falls short of confessing that their code is not mature yet.

If you want to keep running Pale Moon, you can use the SlackBuild script maintained by Khronosschoty and one of the binary packages he provides here: http://repo.khronosschoty.org/Slackware/Pale-Moon/

Eric

Calibre 3.30.0 for Slackware with internal Qt5 libraries

It took me quite a while to release a new package for Calibre, the e-book library manager. That had a reason.

In July I switched the Qt5 package in my repositories to version 5.11 to support the latest KDE Plasma5 software and because it offers advantages over the previous 5.9 releases. Unfortunately, as I found out soon afterwards, the Calibre software fails to work with Qt 5.11 – its GUI components were not built and there was no obvious error to explain why.

Therefore I had to re-visit the calibre.SlackBuild‘s internals and try to revive the internal functions that compile an embedded Qt library set. This was last tested in the early days of my Calibre packages when Qt4 was the running champion. Adding internal Qt5 support was quite a different beast. Qt5 is a lot bigger than the venerable Qt4 so the build process needed some pruning to keep the compilation times acceptable and the package size under control.

That took a full week’s nights of compiling, debugging, recompiling and so on… hence the lack of updates on the ‘ktown’ front where I should perhaps pay some attention to a recent poppler update in slackware-current. But I managed to add Qt 5.9 internal library support to the calibre package.
My package for Slackware 14.2 still depends on an external ‘qt5’ package (to keep the package size small and because calibre works just fine with the qt 5.7 which is available from my own repository and the SBo script repository). The package for Slackware -current on the other hand was built with an embedded Qt 5.9, which means that its external dependency list shrunk to just ‘podofo’ and ‘unrar’.

Grab the new ‘calibre’ package and enjoy your e-book library!