By now, we have already seen the effects of opening the economy amidst the current pandemic.
For me, this means working twice as long in my retail job as before the pandemic, in addition to keeping the house clean and safe. This also means there will not be much time to write about anything in the near future.
Having said that, there are a few things I would like to share.
Setting Up Flatpak on PCLinuxOS
The Flatpak website (https://flatpak.org) does not list PCLinuxOS as a supported distribution. This should not discourage anyone from installing and using Flatpak as it is available in the repository and installable from Synaptic.
For the use of Flatpak, a connection to the Internet (with an unlimited data plan) is highly recommended as there will be extensive amounts of downloading involved.
Once flatpak has been installed from Synaptic, simple open a terminal window and type:
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub
Then, go to Flathub (https://flathub.org) to find and install Flatpak applications.
Useful tip: If there is an application not found in our repository to install natively, or that application does not work as expected, chances are you will be able to use that same application as a Flatpak.
Such is the case with Mixxx. The version that was in the repository no longer compiles in PCLinuxOS. However, the Flatpak version of Mixxx does work on PCLinuxOS, and therefore it is no longer necessary to compile a separate version for the repository.
LibreOffice is another application that can run on PCLinuxOS in three ways: natively by installing from lomanager, by way of a Flatpak, and by way of an AppImage file.
Flathub also provides WPS Office, OnlyOffice, and O2O, the last one being a MS Word 2019 clone for those of you whose employers are still stuck in the Microsoft way of doing things.
One downside to using Flatpaks, however, is that the time it takes to install the application is dependent on the number of files that need to be downloaded. Many of these applications are packaged with their own versions of QT, KDE, GTK and GNOME libraries as separate downloads.
Thankfully, the Flatpak system keeps these libraries separated from those that come with PCLinuxOS.
But, once these applications are installed, they appear on your desktop menus as if they were installed through Synaptic.
One advantage to Flatpaks is that applications distributed as Flatpak packages will run on any Linux distribution with Flatpak installed and enabled.
Hence, it is possible to create a PCLinuxOS ISO with Flatpak installed and enabled, instead of major applications such as Firefox or LibreOffice. (Of course, we still would need the GNU Compiler Collection as well as the basic GNU utilities and libraries.) This would reduce the size of the ISO and the size of any updates necessary, leaving the major applications to be installed as Flatpaks.
Don't Forget AppImage
And then there is the AppImage container for application distribution. AppImages are files that package the application, its dependencies and some basic GNU libraries in the ISO9660 format, not unlike the typical data CD/DVD.
Repositories containing AppImage files tend to contain older versions of popular applications (and some not so popular ones as well). To use these, simply download the AppImage file, then in a terminal window, type chmod a+x (name of AppImage file), then execute the file.
Unlike Flatpaks, AppImage files do not place menu entries into your desktop, so you have to keep track of which applications you have downloaded in the AppImage format.
SuSE, Gmbh., through its Open Build Service, makes it easy to create AppImage files. If you have a project you want to distribute through AppImage, the Open Build Service has a template that you can use to build the project into a AppImage file, which can then be executed in PCLinuxOS.
If you are using AppImages, and those images are intended to run on a 32-bit Linux installation, you should install the ia32-libs package from the repository before attempting to run these AppImage files. (You can also install the ia32-libs package by installing wine from the repository as it pulls in the ia32-libs package in the process.)
Thankfully, the Open Build Service can generate 64-bit AppImage files.
The Point Of All Of This?
If you have been following the current trends for Information Technology in general, you will notice that Linux is no longer just about the desktop experience. One current trend brought into the open source world in the past decade is the containerization of applications.
FlatPak and AppImage are two examples of placing applications inside of software containers. This means that software developers can develop his/her applications on one Linux distribution (such as PCLinuxOS), and can then distribute that application as a FlatPak or AppImage rather than creating different RPM packages for different distributions.
In fact, the Open Build Service was originally intended as a platform for developers to use to create RPM and DEB packages for all the major distributions. (Unfortunately, the RPM package options do not include PCLinuxOS. However, you can create AppImage files).
It is not just applications that run inside containers. VirtualBox provides another container, in the form of virtual machines. These are large files that contain the machine's configuration, the operating system, and any applications installed.
To backup these large files, you will need to have a USB flash drive of sufficient capacity or an external hard drive. For VirtualBox, these files are stored in a directory called VirtualBox VMs in your home directory.
So how is a software container different from an emulator? Software containers operate as virtual machines with no specific hardware being emulated. Containers can be accessed the same as servers on a local network.
Emulators are virtual machines that can be configured to emulate specific hardware, be it video, audio, I/O ports, or networking cards, or to run software designed for specific processors such as a 65C02, 680x0, Z80, x86 (32 or 64-bit), Alpha, or ARM processor.
However, emulators are also containers in the sense that applications running in these virtual machines were designed to run in their emulated environment. For example, Hatari is an emulator that was designed to run Atari ST/TT/Falcon applications under EmuTOS (the open source equivalent of Atari TOS), though it is possible to run MiNT, NetBSD, Minix 2, or a 68K version of Linux (the latter having an ancient kernel) on the same emulator.
Whereas, with VirtualBox, you can run any x86 operating system (including FreeDOS and ArcaOS 5.x) inside a virtual machine. You can network virtual machines in VirtualBox the same way as you can network physical machines in a local network.
The Docker platform implements software containers similar to VirtualBox. The difference here is that docker runs as a daemon rather than an application launchable from a menu on your desktop.
Possibilities for PCLinuxOS
I have seen what could be accomplished with certain other distributions. The addition of support for FlatPak and AppImage applications is a great start towards the future of the distribution.
I know we all hate systemd, so I won't even suggest the inclusion of this monstrosity. The original intention of systemd was to simplify the system initialization functions found in SysV INIT scripts as well as the scripts contained in the /etc/rc/rc.d directory into one system controlled by one daemon.
Those of us who have worked with Mac OS-X or Windows in the past know what a PITA it is to maintain these operating systems and their startup routines. After having looked at systemd and its documentation, I do not see any reason why we should ever implement such a thing here!!!!!!
But, what if there was another solution. MX-Linux (formerly MEPIS) has a solution in the form of the systemd API replacement package. Such a package would not be easy to implement, and if anyone had the time to do it, it could be done.
But then, if Flatpak can be implemented without systemd, then is there really any reason why technologies such as Docker, Kubernetes, or even QEMU could be implemented without systemd?
(BTW, I got QEMU 5.0 to compile on PCLinuxOS with all emulated processors enabled. It took three hours on my laptop, but it got the job done. I have yet to test it, though.)
Another possibility is to create an ISO with the basics (including the base X.org installation), but without the graphical interface launching at startup. This would be useful for server installations, for low-spec machines, and for those of you who have trouble getting the graphical interface to work at all..
The way to get this in PCLinuxOS is to open a terminal window and type in init 3. This was the default setup for early Red Hat Linux distributions, and is still the default setup for Slackware Linux and the stock version of Arch Linux.
This, of course will take some hand configuration to get things working, but then, that was the way things were done in the early 1990s with Linux.
The console mode would be useful for learning the Linux/UNIX command line, and tasks such as system backups can be done much faster in text mode than in graphical mode. (I know this because I have done it.)
Now the other thing that has been on my mind.
Dating in the Era of the Pandemic
One thing is quite clear here. Dating in the traditional sense has been made impossible due to the Pandemic and the need to social distance. So let us not go there. However, online dating has had a resurgence, and not just with the dating apps for smartphones either.
Videoconferencing services such as Zoom and Google Hangouts made online dating closer to the traditional model, in the sense that you get visual contact as in the traditional methods (not just a phone call or a text message).
But, can that be considered dating? I doubt it. But what is the alternative? Taking a risk of getting COVID with a physical presence? I don't think so.
(Frankly, I could not get a date of any kind years before the COVID pandemic.)
Unfortunately, online services are the only way to go when it comes to meeting people in this era of the pandemic.
We still have Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid, Our Time, Farmers Only, MyLife (this is a reputation score provider that also happens to have a dating service built on reputation profiles), Plenty Of Fish, and Christian Singles.
There is also LavaLife and Quest Chat, which often advertise on television more than they advertise on the Internet.
But, is this really dating, either? Maybe in a few years (optimistically), we could go back to the traditional methods. Until then, this will have to do.
My main concerns about these services is the integrity and privacy of the data that is posted on these websites. It is possible to create fake profiles on these sites just like it was to create fake profiles on social media. (This is one reason why I don't do social media.) Another concern I have is the security and safety of these websites (as in how vulnerable are they to cyberattacks and data theft.)
In the case of LavaLife and Quest Chat, these services were telephone dating services long before the Internet became available to the masses. You never know who is going to be on the other end of the line.