Upgrading Win 7 to Win 10 guests on Opensuse/Linux based VMware hosts – I – some experiences

As my readers know I am not a fan of MS or any "Windows N" operating system - whatever the version number N. But some of you may be facing the same situation as me:

A customer or an employer enforces the use of MS products - as e.g. MS Office, clients for MS Exchange, Skype for Business, Sharepoint, components for effort booking and so on. For the fulfillment of most of the customer's demands you can use browser based interfaces or Linux clients.

However, something that regularly leads to problems is the heavy use of MS Office programs or graphics tools in their latest versions. Despite other claims: A friction-less back and forth between Libreoffice and MS Office is still a dream. Crossover Office is nice - but the latest MS Office versions are not often not yet covered when you need them. Another very reasonable field of using MS Windows guests on Linux is, by the way, training for pen-testing and security measures.

So, even Linux enthusiasts are sometimes forced to work with or within a native Windows environment. We would use a virtualized Windows guest machine then - on a Linux host with the help of VMware, KVM or Virtualbox. Regarding graphical performance, support of basic 3D features, Direct X and of the latest USB-versions in the emulated system environment I have a tendency to use VMware Workstation, despite its high price. Get me right: I practically never use VMware to virtualize Linux systems - for this purpose I use LXC containers or KVM. But for "Win 7" or "Win 10" VMware seemed to be a good choice so far.

Upgrade to Win 10

Now during the last days of orchestrated panic regarding the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10 I eventually gave in and upgraded some of my VMware-virtualized Windows 7 systems to Windows 10. More because of having some free time to get into this process than because assuming a sudden drop in security. (As if we ever trusted in the security of and privacy acknowledgement by a Windows system at all ...). I come back to some privacy and security aspects in a second article. However, on a perspective of some weeks or months the transition from Win 7 to Win 10 is probably unavoidable - if you cannot isolate your Windows machine completely from the Internet and/or from other external servers who bring a potential attack risk with them. The latter may also hold for servers of your clients.

I was a bit skeptical about the outcome of the upgrade procedure and the effort it would require on my side. A good friend of mine, who sells and administers Windows system professionally, had told me that he had experienced a whole variety of different problems - depending on the Win 7 setup, the amount and character of application SW installed, hardware drivers and the validity of licenses.

Well, my Windows 7 Pro clients were equipped with rather elementary SW: MS Office in different versions, MS Project, Lexware, Adobe Creative suite in an old version, some mind mapping SW, Adobe Reader. The "hardware" of the virtual machines is standard, partially emulated by VMware with appropriate drivers. So, there was some optimism, too.

To be on the safe side I also ordered a VMware WS Pro upgrade to version 15.X. (I own WS 12.5.9 and WS 14 licenses.) Reason: I had read that only the WS 15.5 Pro supports the latest Win 10 versions fully. Well reading without thinking may lead to a waste of resources - see below.

Another rumor you often hear is that Windows 10 requires rather new hardware and is quite resource-demanding. MS itself recommends to buy a new PC or laptop on its web-sites - of course often followed by advertisement for MS notebook models on the very same web page. Yeah, money makes the world turn around. Well, regarding resources for my Windows guest systems I was/am rather restrictive:
Virtual machines for MS Win never get a lot of RAM from me - a maximum of 4 GB at most. This is enough for office purposes. All other things I do on Linux :-). Neither do my virtualized Win systems get a lot of disk space - typically < 60 GB. I mostly use vmdk-files (without full space allocation at startup, but dynamically added 4GB extents) to provide virtual hard disks; just to be able to move and/or backup my virtual machines easily. And I usually give my virtual Win machines a maximum of 2 processor cores. So, these limitations contributed a bit to my skepticism.

Meanwhile, I have successfully performed multiple upgrades on a rather old Linux host with an i7 950 CPU and newer hosts with I7 6700 K and modern i9 9900 processors. The operative system on all hosts run Opensuse Leap 15.1; I did not find to test my Debian hosts, yet. I had some nice and some annoying experiences. I also found some aspects which you should take care about ahead of the Win 7 to Win 10 upgrade.

Make a backup!

As always with critical operations: Make a backup first! This is quite easy with a VMware virtual machine based on "vmdk"-files: Just copy the machines directory with all its files to some Linux formatted backup medium and keep all the access rights during copying (=> cp -dpRv). In case of partition based virtual machines - make a copy of the partition with "dd".

If you should need to restore the virtual machine in its old state again and to copy your backup files to their old place again: VMware will notice this movement and will ask you whether you moved or copied the guest. Then answer "moved" (!) - which appears a bit paradox. But otherwise there is a very high probability that license trouble with your Windows installation will follow. VMware interprets a "copy"-operation as a duplication of a virtual machine and puts a related information somewhere which Windows evaluates. Windows will almost certainly ask for a reactivation of your installation in case that your Win license was/is an individual one.

Good news and potentially bad news regarding the upgrade to Win 10

The good news is:

  • Provided that you have valid licences for your Win 7 and for all SW components installed and provided that there is enough real and virtual disk space available, the Win 7 to Win 10 upgrade works smoothly. However, it takes a considerable amount of time.
  • I did not experience any performance problems after the upgrades - not even regarding transparency effects and other gimmicks in comparison to Windows 7.

The requirement for time depends partially on your Internet connection and partially on the performance of your disk access as well as your CPU and the available RAM. In my case I had to invest below 1 hr - if everything went straight through.

The potentially bad news comprises the following points:

  • The upgrade requires a considerable amount of free space on your virtual machine's hard disk, which will be used temporarily. So, you should carefully check the available disk space - inside the virtual machine and - a bit surprising ! - also on the Linux filesystem keeping the vmdk-files. I ran into problems with limited space for multiple upgrades on both sides; see below. Whether you will experience something similar depends on your safety margin policy with respect to disk space in the guest and on the host.
  • A really annoying aspect of the upgrade had to do with VMware's development policies. From advertisement you may conclude that it would be best to use VMware WS 14 or 15 to handle Windows 10. However, on older Intel based systems you should absolutely check whether the CPU is compatible with VMware WS 14 and 15. Check it, before you think upgrading a Vmware WS 12 license to anything higher. On my Intel i7 950 neither WS 14 nor WS 15 did work at all. Even if you get these WS versions working by a trick (see below) they perform badly.
  • Then there is a certain privacy aspect. As said, the upgrade takes a lot of time during which you are connected to the Internet and to Microsoft servers. This is only partially due to the fact that Win 10 SW has to be downloaded during the upgrade process; there are more phases of information exchange. It is also quite understandable that MS has to analyze and check your system on a full scale. But do we know what Big Brother [BB] MS is doing during this time and what information/data they transfer to their own systems? No, we do not. So, if you have any sensitive data files on your system - how to protect them? You cannot isolate your Windows 10 during the upgrade. And even worse: Later on you will be more or less forced to perform updates within certain periods. So, how to keep sensitive data inaccessible for BB during the upgrade and beyond?

I address the first two aspects below. The last point of privacy is an interesting but complicated one. I shall discuss it in a separate article.

Which VMware workstation version should I use?

First: Do not get misguided by reports or advertisement on the Internet that certain MS Win 10 require the latest version of VMware Workstation!

WS 12 Pro was the first version which supported Win 10. Now VMware 15.X has arrived. And yes, there are articles that claim incompatibility of VMware WS 12, WS 14 and early subversions of WS 15 with some of the latest Win 10 builds and updates. See the following links and discussions therein:
https://communities.vmware.com/thread/608589
https://www.borncity.com/blog/2019/10/03/windows-10-update-kb4522015-breaks-vmware-workstation/
https://www.askwoody.com/forums/topic/vmware-12-and-newer-incompatible-with-windows-10-1903/

But read carefully: The statements on incompatibility refer mostly (if not only) to using a MS Win 10 system as a host for VMware! But we guys are using Linux systems as hosts.

Therefore the good message in this context is:

Windows 10 as a VMware guest is already supported by VM WS 12.5.9 Pro, which runs also on older CPUs. For all practical purposes a Win 10 guest installation works quite well on a Linux host with VMware 12.5.9.

At least, I have not yet noticed anything wrong on my hosts with Opensuse Leap 15.1 and VMware WS 12.5.9 PRO for a Win 10 guests. (Neither did I see problems with WS 14 or WS 15 on those hosts where I could use these versions).

The compatibility of WS 12.5 with Win 10 guest on Linux is more important than you may think if your host has an older CPU. If you really want to spend money and use WS 14 or WS 15 please note:

WS 14 Pro and WS 15 Pro require that your CPU provides Intel VT-x virtualization technology and EPT abilities.

So, the potentially bad message for you as the still proud owner of an older but capable CPU is:

The present VMware WS versions 14 and 15 which support Win 10 fully (as guest and host system) may not be compatible with your CPU!

Check compatibility twice BEFORE you intend to upgrade VMware Workstation ahead of a "Win7 to Win 10"-upgrade. It would be a major waste of money if your CPU is not supported. And as stated: Win 12.5 does a good job with Win 10 guests.

VMware has deserved a lot of criticism with their decision to ignore older processors with WS Pro versions > 14. See
https://communities.vmware.com/thread/572931
https://vinfrastructure.it/2018/07/vmware-workstation-pro-14-issues-with-old-cpu/
https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/VMware-Workstation-14-braucht-juengere-Prozessoren-3847372.html
For me this is a good reason to try a bit harder with KVM for the virtualization of Windows - and drop VMware wherever possible.

There is a small trick, though, to get WS 14 Pro running on an i7 950 and other older processors: In the file "/etc/vmware/config" you can add the setting

monitor.allowLegacyCPU = "true"

See https://communities.vmware.com/thread/572804.

However, I have tested this and found that a Win 7 start takes around 3 minutes! You really have to be very patient... This is crazy - and for me unacceptable. After you once are logged in, performance of Win 7 seems to be OK - maybe a bit sluggish. Still I cannot bear the waiting at boot time. So, I went back to WS 12 Pro on the machine with an i7 950.

Another problem for you may be that the installation of WS 12.5.9 on both Opensuse Leap 15.0 and 15.1 requires some special settings and tricks which I have written about in this blog. See:
Upgrade auf Opensuse Leap 15.0 – Probleme mit Nvidia-Treiber aus dem Repository und mit VMware WS 12.5.9
Upgrade Laptop to Opensuse 42.3, Probleme mit Bumblebee und VMware WS 12.5, Workarounds
The first article is relevant also for Opensuse 15.1.

Use the Windows Upgrade site and the Media Creation Tool page to save money

If you have a valid Win 7 license for all of your virtualized Win 7 installations it is not required to spend money on a new Win 10 license. Microsoft's offer for a cost free upgrade to Win 10 still works. See e.g.:
https://www.cnet.com/how-to/windows-10-dont-wait-on-free-upgrade-because-windows-7-officially-done/
https://www.techbook.de/apps/kostenloses-update-windows-10
Follow the steps there - as I have done successfully myself.

Problems with disk space within the VMware Windows 7 guest during upgrade

My first Win7 to Win10 upgrade trial ran into trouble twice. The first problem occurred during the upgrade process and within the virtual machine:

I got a warning from the upgrade program at its start that I should free at least some 8.5 GByte.

Not so funny - as said, I am a bit picky about resources. The virtual guest machine had only a 60 GB C-disk. Fortunately, there were a lot of temporary files which could be deleted. Actually Gigabytes and partially years old - makes you wonder what Win 7 kept those files piled up for. I also could move a bunch of data files to a D-disk. And I deinstalled some programs. All in all - it just worked out. The upgrade itself afterwards went friction-free and without

So one message is:

Ensure that you have around 15 GB free on your virtual C-disk.

It is better to solve the problems with freeing C-disk space inside Win 7 without pressure - meaning: ahead of the upgrade to Win 10. If you run into the described problem it may be better to abort the Win 10 upgrade. I have tested this - and the Win 7 system was restored - apparently in good health. I got a strange message during reboot that the system was prepared for first use - but after everything was as before.

On another system I got a warning during the upgrade, when the "search for updates" began, that I should clear some 10 GByte of temporarily required disk space or attach an external drive (USB) to be used for temporary operations. The latter went OK in this case. But be careful the USB disk must be kept attached to the virtual machine over some reboots. Do not touch it until the upgrade has finalized.

So, a second message is:

Be prepared to have some external device with some free 20 GB ready if you have a complex installation with a lot of application SW and/or a complex virtual HW configuration.

I advise you to check your external USB drive, USB stick or whatever you use for filesystem errors before attaching it. And have your VMware window active whilst attaching the device! VMware will then warn you that the Linux host may claim access to the device and you just have to click the buttons in the dialog boxes to give the VMware guest full control instead of the host OS.

If you now should think about a general enlargement of the virtual disk(s) of your existing Win 7 installation please take into account the following:

On the one hand side an enlargement is of course possible and relatively easy to handle if you use vdmk files for disk virtualization and have free space on the Linux partition which hosts the vmdks. VMware supports the resizing process in the disk section of the virtual machine "settings". On Win 7 you afterward can use the Win admin tools to extend the NTFS filesystem to the full extent of the newly configured disk.

But, on the other side, please, consider that Windows may react allergic to a change of the main C-disk and request a new activation due to major hardware changes. 🙁

This is one of the points why we do not like Windows ....
So, how you solve a potential free disk problem depends a bit on what you think is the bigger problem - reactivation or freeing disk space by deletions, movement of files or deinstallations.

Problems with disk space on the Linux host

The second problem with disk space occurred after or during some upgrades to Win 10: I ran out of space in the Linux filesystem containing the vmdk files of my virtual machine. In one case the upgrade simply stopped. In another case the problem occured a while after the upgrade - without me actually doing much on the new Win 10 installation. VMware suddenly issued a warning regarding the Linux file system and paused the virtual machine. I was first a bit surprised as I had not experienced this lack of space during normal usage of the previous Win 7 installation.

The explanation was simple: I had set up the virtual disk such that the required space was not allocated at once, but as required. Due to the upgrade the VMware had created all 4GB-extends to provide the full disk space the guest needed. In addition I had activated "Autoprotect Snapshots" on VMware (3 per day) - the first automatically created snapshot after the upgrade required a lot of additional space on the Linux file system - due to heavy changes on the hard disk.

My virtualized machines most often reside on specific (encrypted) LVM based Linux partitions. And there it just got tight - when VMware stopped the virtual machine only 3.5 GB were left free. Not funny: You cannot kill snapshots on a paused virtual guest - the guest must be running or be shut down. And if you want to enlarge a Linux partition - which is possible if there is (neighboring) space free on your hard disk - then the filesystem should best be unmounted. Well, you can enlarge a partition and e.g. the ext4-filesystem in operation (e.g. with YaST) - but it gives you an uncomfortable feeling.

In my case I decided to brutally power down the virtual machines. In one case where this problem occurred I could at least eliminate one snapshot. I could start the virtual machine then again and let Windows check the NTFS filesystems for errors. Then I shut down the virtual machine again, deleted another snapshot and used the tools of VMware to defragment and compact the virtual disks. This gave me a considerable amount of free GBs. Good!
Afterwards I additionally reduced the number of protection snapshots - if this still seemed to be necessary.

On another system with a more important Win 7/10 installation I really extended the Linux partition and its ext4 filesystem by 20 GB - I had some spare space, fortunately - and then followed the steps just described.

So, there is a whole spectrum of options to regain disk space after the upgrade. See also:
thebackroomtech.com : reduce-size-virtual-machine-disk-vmware-workstation/

Also note: After a successful upgrade to Win 10 there is also an option inside Windows to release all restore information for old installations (in this case Win 7 and its kept checkpoints). This will give you again many Gigabytes if you had not deleted checkpoint data for a long time in your old Win 7.

My third message is:

Ensure a reasonable amount of free space in the Linux filesystem - for required extents and snapshots!
After the backup of your old Win 7 installation, eliminate all VMware snapshots which you do not absolutely need - in the snapshot manager from the left to the right. Also use the VMware tools to defragment and compact your virtual disks ahead of the upgrade.

By the way: I hope that it also clear that snapshots do NOT replace backups. You should make a backup of your successfully upgraded Win 10 installation after you have tested the functionality of your applications and before you start working seriously with your new Win 10. You do not want to go through the upgrade procedure again ..

Addendum: Circumvent the enforcement of Windows 10 updates after your upgrade

Updates on Windows 7 have often lead to trouble in the past - and as an administrator you were happy to have some control over the download and installation points for updates in time. Windows 10 enforces updates more rigidly. Still, after reading a bit, I got the impression that there nevertheless have been some major problems related to updates of Win 10 since 2016.

I, therefore, generally recommend the following:

Delay or stop automatic updates on Win 10. And that you use VMware's snapshot mechanism to be able to turn back to a running Win 10 guest version. In this order.

The first point is not so easy as it may seem - there are no basic and directly accessible options to only get informed about available updates as on Win 7. Win 10 enforces updates if you have enabled "Windows Update"; there is no "inform only" or "download only". You have to either disable updates totally or to delay them. The latter only works for a maximum period of 35 days. How to deactivate updates completely is described here:

https://www.easeus.com/todo-backup-resource/how-to-stop-windows-10-from-automatically-update.html
https://www.t-online.de/digital/software/id_77429674/windows-10-automatische-updates-deaktivieren-so-geht-s.html

There is also a description on "Upgrade" values for a related registry entry:
www.deskmodder.de/wiki/index.php/Automatische-Updates-deaktivieren-oder-auf-manuell-setzen-Windows-10#Windows_10_1607.2C-1703-Pro-Updates-auf-manuell-setzen-oder-deaktivieren

I am not sure whether this works on Win 10 Pro build 1909 - we shall see.

Conclusion

Win 7 and Win 10 can be run on VMware WS Pro versions 12.5 up to 15.5 on Linux hosts. before you upgrade VMware WS check for compatibility with your CPU! An upgrade of a Win 7 Pro installation on a VMware virtual machine to Win 10 Pro basically works smoothly - but you should take care of providing enough disk space within the virtual machine and also on the host's filesystem containing the vdmk-files for the virtual disks.

It is not necessary to change the quality of the virtualized hardware configuration. Win 10 appears to be running with at least the same performance as the old Win 7 on a given virtual machine.

In the next article I will discuss some privacy aspects during the upgrade and after. The main question there will be: What can we do to prevent the transfer of sensitive data files from a Win 10 installation?

Matplotlib, Jupyter and updating multiple interactive plots

For experiments in Machine Learning [ML] it is quite useful to see the development of some characteristic quantities during optimization processes for algorithms - e.g. the behaviour of the cost function during the training of Artificial Neural Networks. Beginners in Python the look for an option to continuously update plots by interactively changing or extending data from a running Python code.

Does Matplotlib offer an option for interactively updating plots? In a Jupyter notebook? Yes, it does. It is even possible to update multiple plot areas simultanously. The magic (meta) commands are "%matplotlib notebook" and "matplotlib.pyplot.ion()".

The following code for a Jupyter cell demonstrates the basic principles. I hope it is useful for other ML- and Python beginners as me.

# Tests for dynamic plot updates
#-------------------------------
%matplotlib notebook
import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import time

x = np.linspace(0, 10*np.pi, 100)
y = np.sin(x)

# The really important command for interactive plot updating
plt.ion()

# sizing of the plots figure sizes 
fig_size = plt.rcParams["figure.figsize"]
fig_size[0] = 8
fig_size[1] = 3

# Two figures 
# -----------
fig1 = plt.figure(1)
fig2 = plt.figure(2)

# first figure with two plot-areas with axes 
# --------------------------------------------
ax1_1 = fig1.add_subplot(121)
ax1_2 = fig1.add_subplot(122)

fig1.canvas.draw()

# second figure with just one plot area with axes
# -------------------------------------------------
ax2 = fig2.add_subplot(121)
line1, = ax2.plot(x, y, 'b-')
fig2.canvas.draw()

z= 32
b = np.zeros([1])
c = np.zeros([1])
c[0] = 1000

for i in range(z):
    # update data 
    phase = np.pi / z * i 
    line1.set_ydata(np.sin(0.5 * x + phase))
    b = np.append(b, [i**2])
    c = np.append(c, [1000.0 - i**2])
    
    # re-plot area 1 of fig1  
    ax1_1.clear()
    ax1_1.set_xlim (0, 100)
    ax1_1.set_ylim (0, 1000)
    ax1_1.plot(b)
    
    # re-plot area 2 of fig1  
    ax1_2.clear()
    ax1_2.set_xlim (0, 100)
    ax1_2.set_ylim (0, 1000)
    ax1_2.plot(c)
    
    # redraw fig 1 
    fig1.canvas.draw()

    # redraw fig 2 with updated data  
    fig2.canvas.draw()
    
    time.sleep(0.1)

As you see clearly we defined two different "figures" to be plotted - fig1 and fig2. The first figure ist horizontally splitted into two plotting areas with axes "ax1_1" and "ax1_2". Such a plotting area is created via the "fig1.add_subplot()" function and suitable parameters. The second figure contains only one plotting area "ax2".

Then we update data for the plots within a loop witrh a timer of 0.1 secs. We clear the respective areas, redefine the axes and perform the plot for the updated data via the function "plt.figure.canvas.draw()".

In our case we see two parabolas develop in the upper figure; the lower figure shows a sinus-wave moving slowly from the right to the left.

The following plots show screenshots of the output in a Jupyter notebook in th emiddle of the loop and at its end:

You see that we can deal with 3 plots at the same time. Try it yourself!

Hint:
There is small problem with the plot sizing when you have used the zoom-functionality of Chrome, Chromium or Firefox. You should work with interactive plots with the browser-zoom set to 100%.

Opensuse Leap 15.1, Nvidia, xorg.conf – and a problem with powerdevil

Today, I found the origin of a small problem, which drove me nuts the last months. Some time after an upgrade from Opensuse Leap 15.0 to Leap 15.1 I found that I could no longer bring up the power management functionality in "systemsettings5" of KDE. So, configuring time intervals for switching my monitors into an energy saving mode was no longer possible. In addition, bringing the whole system down into stand-by or hibernation did not work either.

KDE gave me error messages like:

Power management configuration module could not be loaded.
The Power Management Service appears not to be running.
This can be solved by starting or scheduling it inside "Startup and Shutdown"

Unfortunately, no "power management service" was available in the list of the KDE backgroud services .... So, the message did not help at all.

KDE plasma controls power management via a module called "powerdevil". Powerdevil requires a running daemon named "uppower". So, as a next step, I checked the list of running processes for the upower. Result: The daemon was running healthily, and systemd's journactl showed me a message about its the successful start, too. "journalctl", however, gave me some strange messages regarding powerdevil:

2019-12-25T10:43:20.598118+01:00 mytux org_kde_powerdevil[7147]: The X11 connection broke: Unsupported extension used (code 2)
2019-12-25T10:43:56.793629+01:00 mytux systemsettings5[7461]: powerdevil: ("LowBattery", "Battery", "AC") ()
2019-12-25T10:43:56.793813+01:00 mytux systemsettings5[7461]: powerdevil: "Bildschirm-Energieverwaltung"  has a runtime requirement
2019-12-25T10:43:56.794221+01:00 mytux systemsettings5[7461]: powerdevil: There was a problem in contacting DBus!! Assuming the action is ok.

These messages came user-independent and also for freshly created users. So, the problem had nothing to do with any of the settings in KDE's configuration files below "~/.config/". Searching on the Internet showed that others were having similar problems, but none of the offered suggestions helped. Time to dig a bit deeper at other places ...

The monitors on my workstation are handled by a Nvidia graphics card. I use the file "/etc/X11/xorg.conf" to inform the card (independently of "XrandR") about a certain TwinView or Xinerama screen configuration during early start-up phases. To avoid confusion with mouse movement I of course do this in a way consistent with KDE's later settings for a combined screen across different monitors - which you can configure via
"systemsettings5 => Hardware => "Display and Monitors".
As far as I know, KDE5 uses XrandR to perform the configuration of the Plasma display.

Now, sometimes I switch to the Nvidia installation mechanism for the latest driver or for testing a beta-driver from the NVidia web-site. Afterwards, I return to the native Opensuse driver installation via the Nvidia community repository. In my experience this seldom leads to changes in the file "/etc/X11/xorg.conf". But it may happen ...

Today, I therefore checked the contents of the "xorg.conf" file. There I found - to my surprise - a statement in the "monitor"-section for one of my monitors which disabled DPMS:

Option "DPMS" "false"

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    VendorName     "Unknown"
    ModelName      "DELL U2515H"
    HorizSync       30.0 - 113.0
    VertRefresh     56.0 - 86.0
    Option         "DPMS" "false"

I cannot recall how and why the entry for DPMS deactivation appeared in one of the monitor sections. All my monitors support DPMS. ...??? ...

Anyway: Commenting the line out

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    VendorName     "Unknown"
    ModelName      "DELL U2515H"
    HorizSync       30.0 - 113.0
    VertRefresh     56.0 - 86.0
#    Option         "DPMS" "true"

or setting the option to "true" enabled the interface to powerdevil again in "systemsettings5" of KDE5.

Obviously, in its present state powerdevil requires an active DPMS on all monitors used.

I hope this finding will help others. Note that in some installations there may exit a Nvidia configuration file in the directory "/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d" instead of a central "/etc/X11/xorg.conf". You should check all relevant files for a statement which deactivates DPMS for any of the monitors you use in a X11 based KDE5 plasma session.

Unfortunately, I do not know whether a similar problem can arise with Wayland and how it could be solved then.