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Hack Computer review

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Hardware
Reviews

I bought a hack computer for $299 - it's designed for teaching 8+ year olds programming. That's not my intended use case, but I wanted to support a Linux pre-installed vendor with my purchase (I bought an OLPC back in the day in the buy-one give-one program).

I only use a laptop for company events, which are usually 2-4 weeks a year. Otherwise, I use my desktop. I would have bought a machine with Ubuntu pre-installed if I was looking for more of a daily driver.

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Review: OS108 and Venom Linux

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Reviews

Every so often I like to step outside of the distributions I know, the ones I tend to see and use year after year, and try something different. Sometimes trying a new project introduces me to a new way of doing things, as Bedrock Linux did earlier this year. Other times trying a project that is just getting started is a reminder of just how much infrastructure, time and resources go into the big-name projects. At any rate, this week I want to talk about two young projects that grabbed my attention for different reasons.

The first is OS108, which caught my eye because it is a desktop flavour of BSD, which is relatively rare. Specifically, the base operating system is NetBSD. OS108 reportedly wants to be a replacement for Windows and macOS and features the MATE desktop environment. The website did not offer much more information than that. I was able to learn OS108 is available for 64-bit (x86_64) machines only, which I suspect undercuts the usefulness of having a highly portable operating system, such as NetBSD, as the base.

The ISO file I downloaded for OS108 was 1.5GB in size. The file had no version number associated with it, so I assume this is the project's first release. The project's download page says we should install OS108 just as if it were regular NetBSD, then run a script to set up the MATE desktop. Optionally, there is another set of instructions we can follow to set up wireless networking.

Booting from the OS108 media brings up an installer which guides us through a series of text-based menus. We are asked to select our keyboard layout, choose whether to install a fresh copy of the operating system or upgrade, and then select which hard drive will hold OS108. We are also asked to confirm our hard drive's geometry and whether we want to manually partition the disk or let OS108 take over the whole drive. The installer recommends we set aside at least 5GB of space on the drive. Personally, I found more space was required as the default package selection, including the MATE desktop, consumes about 6GB of disk space.

We are next asked if we want a full install, a mostly full install without the X.Org display software, a minimal install, or a custom selection of packages. I went with the full option since it was the default. We can then select where the source packages are located (on the DVD, in this case) and the packages are quickly copied over to the hard drive. A minute later I was asked to perform more configuration steps. These included enabling networking, setting a root password, and turning on optional network services from a list of daemons. We can also create a regular user account and optionally download the pkgsrc ports framework. I skipped installing pkgsrc.

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Enso OS Makes Xfce Elementary

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OS
Reviews

The most impressive aspect of Enso OS is the tweaked desktop that combines a somewhat modified Xfce environment with key elements from Elementary OS. The result could be a better alternative to Xubuntu, depending on your computing preferences.

For an early beta release of a relatively new Linux distribution, Enso OS has much going for it. This distro also has numerous areas where the developer must grow the infrastructure.

Enso OS is clearly a distro that bears watching over the next few releases.

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Nebra AnyBeam: A Raspberry Pi powered home cinema projector you can fit in your pocket [Review]

Filed under
Linux
Reviews

Before large screen televisions and 4K content became a thing, I used to enjoy watching films projected onto a white wall at home. I had a Canon projector hooked up to my PC with surround sound, and it was like having a personal cinema.

Technology has moved on quite some way since then, and you can now buy reasonable quality projectors for a fraction of the price. Case in point is Nebra AnyBeam, a Raspberry Pi powered pocket sized projector.

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Review: openSUSE Leap 15.1

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Reviews
SUSE

openSUSE is one of those distros I have always been interested in but which I had never used for more than a few hours. Recently the project released Leap 15.1, which was a good enough reason to give the distro a proper spin.

The distro hardly needs an introduction. It is a community project sponsored by SUSE, one of the larger commercial Linux vendors. openSUSE maintains two distros: Tumbleweed is a rolling release distro and upstream to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE). Leap is a stable (non-rolling) distro that is downstream to SLE. A new version of Leap is released roughly once a year, and each version is supported for 18 months. The Leap 15.x series as a whole is supported for three years.

openSUSE is probably best known for the Btrfs file system, Snapper and YaST. As Leap 15.1 is a relatively small, conservative upgrade from 15.0 I will mainly focus on these features. I will also have a look at where things may be heading.

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StreamTuner2 – internet radio station and video browser

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Software
Reviews

I’ve put a few internet radio station players through their paces in recent weeks.

I was fairly positive about odio, even though it’s not released under an open source license and consumes massive globs of memory. But the developer is beavering away on a new release and intends to open source the code. I’ll definitely write an updated review when/if that happens. I’ve also covered Shortwave, a GTK3 based radio player written in Rust. My favorites to date are Radiotray-NG and PyRadio.

This time, I’m putting StreamTuner2 under the microscope. StreamTuner2 is a GUI for browsing internet radio directories, music collections, and video services – grouped by genres or categories. It runs your preferred audio player or streamripper for recording.

StreamTuner2 is an independent rewrite of StreamTuner1. Whereas the original was developed in C, the rewrite is coded in Python. If you ever used the original StreamTuner 0.99 software, you’ll be familiar with StreamTuner2’s interface, as both share many similarities. The software is released into the public domain, so you can do anything you like with the source code.

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MX Linux Reinvents Computer Use

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Linux
Reviews

MX Linux makes transitioning from any desktop operating system simple. It provides a computing platform that is a bit different and very reliable.

MX Linux is a powerful, easy-to-use computing platform that goes beyond lightweight performance without filling your computer with software bloat.

The latest MX Linux 18.3 ISO is a "refresh" release, not a major upgrade. It has all the recent updates, bug fixes and system updates. This distro does not offer rolling releases, however.

You can perform a system upgrade from an existing MX Linux installation when new refresh releases are issued to get all the updates since the original MX-18 version release. There is no need to do a re-installation with each new release.

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Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 8

Filed under
KDE
Reviews

This eighth report is a summary of my worst overall Slimbook & Kubuntu session yet. On one hand, I've witnessed many useful, important, visible improvements in the system over the past six months, and we had hit a plateau of good, sweet stability. The latest wave of updates seems to upset that ever so slightly. Enough to make me miffed, because I really don't want to need any of those crashes or annoyances.

I'm still very happy with my choice, and occasional crashes happen everywhere. This isn't Linux-specific, but that doesn't mean we should settle for comfortable mediocrity. The one outstanding issue is the CPU temperature event, which to me looks like something in the firmware. I will keep an eye, because apart from that, the hardware has been rock solid, there were no other events of this type at all, and no visible problems as a result in any shape or form. Anyway, I think we've had enough excitement for one report. We shall soon convene for yet more thrill, uncertainty, fun, and adventure. Stay cool.

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Review: Manjaro Linux 18.0.4

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Reviews

I've always been a big fan of Ubuntu because of ease of use and it always seemed to work with my hardware, but I've always had a desire to use a rolling release and have more control over my system. Manjaro really impressed me with how well it worked on my computer, even with pretty new hardware (mhwd gets the credit here). Other things about Manjaro that seal the deal are Pamac, Manjaro Settings Manager, and the community. I don't think I can ever go back to the release model that Ubuntu uses and I will be using Manjaro as my distro of choice for the foreseeable future.

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Ubuntu MATE 19.04 Disco Dingo - Order and chaos

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Ubuntu MATE 19.04 Disco Dingo is a somewhat bi-polar release. It's got a lot of goodies and many improvements, notably Samba support and smartphone support, plus Boutique looks and behaves better than ever. The performance and battery life can be better. But the big issue is customization. There are way too many layouts, which are all good and nice for the end user, for the dev team to manage effectively. With six or seven permutations, lots of little things can go wrong - and they did.

I had to fight the dock, the menu, the global menu, the positioning of the panels, the fonts, all of it really. Shame, because Ubuntu MATE brings a lot of innovation, but it doesn't gel. Then, hardware glitches. Video tearing, the Wireless disconnect. Not something I've seen with the rest of the bunch. All in all, this is a reasonable interim release, but it feels chaotic. Worth testing, and you'll probably find it in line with Cosmic. Something like 6.5-7/10. Once the problems get resolved, it could really be a cushty one. Just look at how MX Linux progressed over the last years. So there. Testing, testing, one two dingo.

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