Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hello openSUSE

Or should I say "Goodbye Ubuntu?"  I have been using Ubuntu steadily since 4.10 Warty Warthog.  Ubuntu installed easily and I even got my laptop wireless card to work at a time when it required crazy configuration and extracting Windows drivers.  I still tried other distros during that time even running some for a good while.  I tried out Fedora Core, Freespire, Linspire, Mandriva, Mint, openSUSE, and even TurboLinux (well before Ubuntu though) amongst others.  No matter what I have tried, I have come back to Ubuntu.

After Gnome 3 and Unity were shown off, I switched off to Kubuntu for the KDE desktop.  KDE works well on Ubuntu but I still wasn't pleased that Canonical continues to focus on Unity.  I also contemplated a switch to Mint but when the Mint Gnome Shell Extension was announced, my heart sank.  MGSE just continued to mask the problems with these new desktops.  There was plenty of discussion about the issues with Gnome 3 (or Gnome Shell) and Unity on the web so I won't get into the poor multitasking.

Deciding to stick with KDE distros, I looked at Fedora and openSUSE.  Fedora still focuses a lot on Gnome though and has a poor history with stability.  Cutting edge is alright so long as it works.  I've never had good luck there though.  openSUSE on the other hand...  Well, I've really liked it in the past.  The last time I tried it, it was around version 11.1 or 11.2 maybe.  I had issues with installing codecs and some software.  The system otherwise worked well.  Since 12.1 was due soon, I waited for openSUSE and read some reviews of 11.4.  It was time to take the plunge.  Word on the webs told me the openSUSE team had worked out the issues plaguing me before.

It was time to ditch Ubuntu, hopefully for good.  I had 11.4 downloaded and burnt as a back up, then I let 12.1 work its magic.  The installation was super smooth and quick.  It detected my old partitions and imported it all perfectly.  The new system booted fast.  Updates downloaded and installed without problems.  Even more remarkably, I added additional respositiories and installed additional software, including some required codecs, without trouble.

The ability to add additional repos on openSUSE is a feature I love dearly and wish more distros would incorporate.  It made a lot of the setup easier.  The other helpful tool was the site openSUSE Guide.  The guide isn't complete and its not the most detailed.  But it will give you the basic tools to start your system right.

Once I've used the system more, I'll drop a few screenshots and maybe a more detailed review.  If you've tried openSUSE 12.1 or if you're ditching Ubuntu, let me know what you think.

Homemade Laundry Soap

I've taken a keen interest in homemade cleaners and especially laundry detergents or soaps.  Everyone seems to have an idea about how it should be made and how diluted it should be.  I've found powdered recipes and liquid recipes.  I've found recipes that take three ingredients or as many as seven.  Until I have a chance to try them all (which according to what their creators' claim could take me years to use them all up), I'll post recipes and links with some hope for feedback.  If you've used them, let me know.

An important note...  I intend on watering plants with the leftover water from laundry.  If you're doing the same, skip the borax.  It will kill your plants.  Also, I would recommend you stick to more decorative plants or at least not root crops.

Liquid Laundry Soaps
The Duggar Family is well known for their television show 19 And Counting on TLC.  Regardless of how you feel about their lifestyle, we could all take lessons in frugality from them.  Their laundry soap recipe is a great example.  Their recipe on the show actually stirred my interest in this DIY endeavor.  Their recipe uses a whole bar of Fels-Naptha soap, 1 cup washing soda, and 1/2 cup borax.  Once completely diluted, it yields 10 gallons.  They also suggest 1/4 cup for an HE front loader resulting in approximately 640 loads versus 5/8 cup for a top loader for 180 loads.

The Family Homestead shows step by step photos how to made liquid soap.  This is leaner recipe with 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap, 1/2 cup washing soda, and 1/2 borax.  This recipe makes a little over two gallons and translates to around $0.01 per load.

Powder Laundry Soaps
diyNatural has a basic recipe with the common ingredients: borax, washing soda, and bar soap.  Its a simple 1-1-1 ratio here.  That means one cup grated soap to one cup washing soda to one cup borax.  Mix well and serve.  I like this page for the cost comparison.  They claim their soap is $0.05 per load versus Arm & Hammer liquid or Tide with Bleach powder at $.021 per load.

I could continue posting any number of combinations of homemade laundry soap.  However, Tipnut has a list of 10 recipes worth checking.  My ultimate advice?  Try making some small batches and play with the recipes.  Eventually you'll find one you really prefer.  I can't see much wrong with the 1-1-1 ratio.  If you skip the borax like I will, I would suggest using slightly more laundry soap per load or making a more concentrated batch by including more soap and washing soda.

I'll have photos up soon of my own laundry detergent process as well as my homemade laundry plunger washer and wringer contraption.


My wife and I have been throwing around the idea of chickens for a long time.  Its something we thought we would enjoy having and taking care of as well as collecting those wonderful eggs.  One Saturday, we researched the whole deal.  We bought books and a magazine, discussed our future chicken coop, and decided this is the year we're going to do it.