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Review: Haiku R1 beta 2

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OS
OSS
Reviews

Haiku is an open-source operating system that specifically targets personal computing. Inspired by the Be Operating System (BeOS), Haiku aims to be fast, efficient, simple to use, and easy to learn. It is specifically geared toward desktop usage and maintaining a responsive desktop environment.

The Haiku project has been, to date, in perpetual development mode. Which is to say the releases to date have been labelled as being alpha or beta releases. I mention this because while the version label is R1 beta 2, the platform should probably be regarded a relatively mature project with the benefit of nearly 20 years of development behind it.

The R1 beta 2 release includes a number of new features such as improved font scaling and HiDPI support, along with the ability to work with mouse devices that offer more than three buttons. More applications have been ported and are now available through the project's software manager. The installer has mostly remained the same, however users can now exclude the installation of optional packages while setting up Haiku. New driver support has been added and there are some new options for keeping the Deskbar (a sort of combined desktop panel and system tray) out of the way.

The project's latest release is available in 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x86_64) builds. There are also builds for ARM, PowerPC, m68k, and SPARC architectures, however these builds are considered to be unsupported. I downloaded the 64-bit build which is available as a 955MB ZIP file. Unpacking the ZIP file presents us with a 1,108MB (1GB) ISO file we can write to optical media or a thumb drive.

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openSUSE 15.2 Is The Mercedes-Benz of Linux Distributions

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Reviews
SUSE

The openSUSE DVD comes with a large collection of software packages, which include the GNOME, KDE, Xfce, MATE desktops and much more. The installer will allow you to select the desktop environment you want during the installation, beside any other packages you may desire.

[...]

Overall, the openSUSE 15.2 distribution is a good release, as it ever was. We recommend upgrading to the new version or installing it on a fresh hardware if you are willing to transfer to the openSUSE world.

One can also give a word about how awesome the available documentation for openSUSE is; You can search in their wiki, for any information you desire and you’ll probably find it in no time.

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KDE Plasma Desktop review: I'm still not switching from GNOME

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KDE
GNOME
Reviews

I have to confess: I don't give KDE a fair shake. It's not because I don't believe it to be a strong take on the Linux desktop, it's just that I prefer a much more minimal desktop. Also, I was never a big fan of the old taskbar/start menu/system tray combo. I leaned more toward the GNOME way of thinking and doing things.

Recently, a reader called me out on my lack of KDE coverage, so I thought it was time to offer up my take on where KDE Plasma stands, and who might be best suited to use this open source desktop. Comparing Plasma to my usual GNOME desktop is really quite challenging, given these two desktops are night and day. It's like comparing the works of Clive Barker to that of William Gibson--they're both incredibly good at what they do, they're using the same tools to tell stories, but in very different genres.

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CrowPi2 Raspberry Pi 4 Learning Kit Review – Part 1 – Unboxing and First Boot

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Linux
Reviews

Last month, we wrote about Elecrow introducing CrowPi2 Raspberry Pi 4 laptop and electronics learning kit for its launch on Kickstarter crowdfunding website.

The company has now sent one of its kits to CNX Software for evaluation and review. I’ll start by checking out the content of the package, and boot it up, before publishing a more detailed review in a few weeks.

The package is fairly big and highlights it’s made for kids over 8 years old with close to 100 course resources and over 20 electronics modules.

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MATE Review: A Lightweight Desktop Environment for the Nostalgic

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Linux
Reviews

MATE is one of the great Linux Desktop Environments for those who are looking for something very traditional and nostalgic. It is the living descendant of one of the most popular Linux desktops, GNOME 2, and has a classic feel and approach. In this MATE review, we’ll look at the user interface, performance, and some notable features, and we’ll cover who should try MATE.

MATE feels classic when you first boot up. This makes sense, as MATE is a fork and continuation of GNOME 2, one of the most beloved Linux desktops of all time. MATE follows traditional desktop paradigms and gives you a great-looking and great-feeling interface. MATE is incredibly sharp out of the box with a great theme and icon pack. The feel is great as well, with very minimal resource usage and a fast, snappy interface. Things run well, and MATE would be a great choice for a lower-end system or those looking to remain efficient on system resources.

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Review: Artix Linux 20200125

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Reviews

This is one of the lesser known distributions but it has garnered quite a few fans in its relatively short existence. Artix Linux, from hereon Artix in short, has a reader supplied rating of 8.4 as an average of 94 opinions on DistroWatch at the time of writing, which isn't bad for a distribution that is slightly more involved in terms of technical knowledge and experience a user should possess. Not to discourage the curious and the newcomers, but it is not an install and forget type of Linux though not really that hard to use either.

Artix is a systemd-free fork of Arch Linux that grew out of the Arch-OpenRC and Manjaro-OpenRC projects joining forces to provide installable images with alternative init solutions to Arch users who were unhappy with the parent moving to systemd. In fact, Arch was one of the early adopters. While in the beginning only OpenRC might have been offered, Artix now also provides install images using the runit and s6 init software, "because PID1 must be simple, secure and stable." [1] There's great variety and choice on the download page, but only the x86_64 architecture is supported. The project provides Artix base images of 520MB each, similar to a net-install or the Arch install image, and with Cinnamon, MATE, Plasma, Xfce, LXDE and LXQt ISO files for almost every major desktop environment. They weigh in between 939MB and 1.1GB depending on your chosen flavour. The page makes it clear what to expect with these, i.e. only a basic set of applications is included to get the user started: a file manager, a media player (MPV), a network manager, a document viewer, a web browser and the graphical installer. It is then up to us to add applications and shape the system to our needs and liking.

There are also community supported images labelled community-gtk and community-qt which are much larger at 2.3GB and 2.8GB respectively.

You can get every flavour with any of the three supported init systems. Official images seem to be respun now and then. At the time of writing most stable images are dated from February 2020, with the Xfce ISO labelled 20200506 apparently released in May. Further down the page there are also weekly snapshots that I guess incorporate the latest package updates, and testing images for GNOME and i3, again for all three init systems. That's a huge library to maintain and gives us a hint of how dedicated folks behind this project are. Should you have trouble with the latest version a few older ISOs have been archived and are accessible at the bottom.

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Jussi Pakkanen: Pinebook Pro longer term usage report

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

I originally wanted to use stock Debian but at some point the Panfrost driver broke and the laptop could not start X. Eventually I gave up and switched to the default Manjaro. Its installer does not support an encrypted root file system. A laptop without an encrypted disk is not really usable as a laptop as you can't take it out of your house.

The biggest gripe is that everything feels sluggish. Alt-tabbing between Firefox and a terminal takes one second, as does switching between Firefox tabs. As an extreme example switching between channels in Slack takes five to ten seconds. It is unbearably slow. The wifi is not very good, it can't connect reliably to an access point in the next room (distance of about 5 meters). The wifi behaviour seems to be distro dependent so maybe there are some knobs to twiddle.

Video playback on browsers is not really nice. Youtube works in the default size, but fullscreen causes a massive frame rate drop. Fullscreen video playback in e.g. VLC is smooth.

Basic shell operations are sluggish too. I have a ZSH prompt that shows the Git status of the current directory. Entering in a directory that has a Git repo freezes the terminal for several seconds. Basically every time you need to get something from disk that is not already in cache leads to a noticeable delay.

The screen size and resolution scream for fractional scaling but Manjaro does not seem to provide it. Scale of 1 is a bit too small and 2 is way too big. The screen is matte, which is totally awesome, but unfortunately the colors are a bit muted and for some reason it seems a bit fuzzy. This may be because I have not used a sub-retina level laptop displays in years.

The trackpad's motion detector is rubbish at slow speeds. There is a firmware update that makes it better but it's still not great. According to the forums someone has already reverse engineered the trackpad and created an unofficial firmware that is better. I have not tried it. Manjaro does not provide a way to disable tap-to-click (a.k.a. the stupidest UI misfeature ever invented including the emojibar) which is maddening. This is not a hardware issue, though, as e.g. Debian's Gnome does provide this functionality. The keyboard is okayish, but sometimes detects keypresses twice, which is also annoying.

For light development work the setup is almost usable. I wrote a simple 3D model viewer app using Qt Creator and it was surprisingly smooth all round, the 3D drivers worked reliably and so on. Unfortunately invoking the compiler was again sluggish (this was C++, though, so some is expected). Even simple files that compile instantly on x86_64 took seconds to build.

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Kevin Fenzi: pinephone: initial thoughts

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Reviews
Gadgets

I ordered one of the ubports editions of the pine64 pinephone and after a small amount of playing around with it, I’d like to share my thoughts.

First a little background. I’m very big on open source for many many reasons. I use Fedora rawhide for my laptop day to day and in general try and use free software wherever else I can. My phone has been a annoyance to me for many years now. Being completely closed source, apple/i-phones are right out for me, which basically just leaves android. Now you might think “Thats great, android is open source”, but it’s really not. While the source is indeed available, development is done by google in secret and dumped into the open after release. This means you don’t get a lot of the advantages of open source for android. Other forks/projects do take that android source and clean it up and make it nice, but they too are at the mercy of upstream that may change things in a new release drastically, leaving them to try and catch up for months after a new release. I’ve been using /e/ on my trusty one plus 3t for the last 3-4 years. They are based off lineageos and ‘de-google’ things from there. I’ve never found myself very excited by it, they too are trapped by the android development all taking place elsewhere. I’ve looked at other possible software, but they all have their issues.

3 or so years ago, Librem announced they were going to make a phone that was as open as they could make it, with high end specs. As far as I know some few batches have been made/distributed, but it’s still not a realized product. As part of this push however, software was created that could run on most normal linux distributions that could handle phone specific workflows. See https://source.puri.sm/Librem5 for a long list.

Fast forward to late last year: The pine64 folks, who have made a number of aarch64 based products successfully announced the pine phone. They produced a prototype like developer version and then, early this year announced the ubports version (some $’s of each phone would go to the ubports folks), cost: $150. The ubports version sold out and they have now announced a postmarketos version, also with a usb-c “dock”, more memory and a circut board fix to allow usb-c to work right. cost: $200 with dock, or $150 without.

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Managing tasks with Org mode and iCalendar

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GNU
Reviews

Org mode is an Emacs mode for note-taking and project planning, though Org's workflow and file format have found adoption outside of Emacs, as we'll see. Org mode makes it easy to keep notes, maintain to-do lists, plan projects, and more in Emacs. Worg, a community site for Org, describes it as a "powerful system for organizing your complex life with simple plain-text files". This sounds rather appealing since many readers probably appreciate the power of simple text files and might agree that modern life is getting increasingly complex.

What makes Org mode interesting is that it's not merely a task manager, but a system to organize your life. Org mode can also be used to keep a variety of notes, such as ideas, quotes, a list of links, or code snippets. What I noticed is that I often jot down thoughts and ideas throughout the day as I perform a range of activities, such as working on a problem, reading articles, or interacting with others. Some of those notes might just be random observations that I want to preserve, while others may lead to specific tasks later. Keeping both notes and tasks in the same document seems natural from this perspective.

Org mode offers a rich set of features, such as folding sections (i.e. hiding information under a particular heading), keeping a time record for tasks (clocking in and out), capturing notes or tasks from within Emacs or other applications (such as a web browser or PDF viewer), maintaining tables (including support for text spreadsheets), and exporting to other formats (such as HTML, LaTeX, or Open Document Format). In terms of tasks, Org mode sports features commonly found in task managers, such as states (e.g. TODO and DONE), task dependencies (expressed via sub-tasks), priorities (e.g. [#A] for the highest priority), and tags (e.g. :@home:).

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Xfce Review: A Lean, Mean Linux Machine

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

One of the best parts about Xfce is that it’s flexible enough for anybody. Whether you’re a GNOME user looking for something lighter, someone with an old machine that struggles under heavier Desktop Environments, or just looking to keep things simple, I cannot recommend Xfce enough. It will serve you well, and with just a little customization and tweaking, it can look and work however you want it to.

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GNU Linux-libre 5.8

  • GNU Linux-libre 5.8-gnu
    GNU Linux-libre 5.8-gnu cleaning-up scripts, cleaned-up sources, and
    cleaning-up logs (including tarball signatures) are now available from
    our git-based release archive git://linux-libre.fsfla.org/releases.git/
    tags {scripts,sources,logs}/v5.8-gnu.
    
    Tarballs and incremental patches are still getting compressed; when
    ready, they are all going to be at published along with patches at
    <https://www.fsfla.org/selibre/linux-libre/download/releases/5.8-gnu/>.
    
    
    There haven't been any changes to the deblobbing scripts since 5.8-rc7
    last weekend.
    
    This was quite a big release.  New drivers that required cleaning up
    were for Atom ISP Video, MediaTek 7663 USB and 7915 PCIe and Realtek
    8723DE WiFi, Renesas PCI xHCI, HabanaLabs Gaudi coprocessor, Enhanced
    Asynchronous Sample Rate Converter, Maxim Integrated MAX98390 Speaker
    Aimplifier, Microsemi ZL38060 Connected Home Audio Processor, and I2C
    EEPROM Slave.  Drivers for Adreno GPU, HabanaLabs Goya coprocessor, x86
    Touchscreen, vt6656 and btbcm, and various documentation files needed
    adjustments to their cleaning-up details.
    
    
    I've also made some adjustments to enable the use of deblob-check to
    verify full tarballs using Python or Perl rather than GNU awk or GNU
    sed.  The order of regexp alternatives matters in Python and Perl
    regular expression engines, and some constructs lead to exponential
    backtracking.  Those that affected looking for blobs (e.g. -l, -B) have
    been fixed, so now checks for blobs without context make steady progress
    even with backtracking engines; GNU awk is still tens of times faster,
    but Python and Perl will run to completion with as little as a few tens
    of MBs, whereas GNU awk takes a couple of GBs.  The details are in
    comments in deblob-check, under 'top mem'.
    
    GNU sed, that long ago was fastest and leanest, was retested, and
    verified to now explode to a couple of tens of GBs of memory use,
    running some 4x slower than GNU awk.  Maybe that's something that GNU
    sed developers would like to look into and see whether there's something
    wrong in their code, or in ours?
    
    
    As for deblob-check -C, that still won't run to completion on full Linux
    tarballs when using the Python or Perl engines.  There's presumably
    still something involving exponential backtracking in the context
    patterns.  Alas, I haven't got as far as fixing those in time for this
    release.  This is something that contributors with some regexp
    knowledge, or interest in learning, might be able to help with, without
    getting into the innards of our deblobbing monster scripts.  Please get
    in touch if you'd like to help.
    
    Another thing I could use some help with is some means to avoid
    introducing regexps prone to exponential backtracking when using perl or
    python.  I imagine there might be some code that identifies common
    pitfalls, that we might be able to use, but my web searches were
    unfruitful.
    
    
    For up-to-the-minute news, join us on #linux-libre of irc.gnu.org
    (Freenode), or follow me (@lxoliva) on Twister <http://twister.net.co/>,
    Secure Scuttlebutt, GNU social at social.libreplanet.org, Diaspora* at
    pod.libreplanetbr.org or pump.io at identi.ca.  Check the link in the
    signature for direct links.
    
    
    Be Free! with GNU Linux-libre.
    
    
    What is GNU Linux-libre?
    ------------------------
    
      GNU Linux-libre is a Free version of the kernel Linux (see below),
      suitable for use with the GNU Operating System in 100% Free
      GNU/Linux-libre System Distributions.
      http://www.gnu.org/distros/
    
      It removes non-Free components from Linux, that are disguised as
      source code or distributed in separate files.  It also disables
      run-time requests for non-Free components, shipped separately or as
      part of Linux, and documentation pointing to them, so as to avoid
      (Free-)baiting users into the trap of non-Free Software.
      http://www.fsfla.org/anuncio/2010-11-Linux-2.6.36-libre-debait
    
      Linux-libre started within the gNewSense GNU/Linux distribution.
      It was later adopted by Jeff Moe, who coined its name, and in 2008
      it became a project maintained by FSF Latin America.  In 2012, it
      became part of the GNU Project.
    
      The GNU Linux-libre project takes a minimal-changes approach to
      cleaning up Linux, making no effort to substitute components that
      need to be removed with functionally equivalent Free ones.
      Nevertheless, we encourage and support efforts towards doing so.
      http://libreplanet.org/wiki/LinuxLibre:Devices_that_require_non-free_firmware
    
      Our mascot is Freedo, a light-blue penguin that has just come out
      of the shower.  Although we like penguins, GNU is a much greater
      contribution to the entire system, so its mascot deserves more
      promotion.  See our web page for their images.
      http://linux-libre.fsfla.org/
    
    What is Linux?
    --------------
    
      Linux is a clone of the Unix kernel [...]
    
    (snipped from Documentation/admin-guide/README.rst)
    
    -- 
    Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker
    https://FSFLA.org/blogs/lxo/
    Free Software Activist
    GNU Toolchain Engineer
    
  • GNU Linux-libre 5.8 Required A Lot Of Deblobbing

    He also noted that for the scripts they use in purifying the kernel, a transition is underway for using Python and Perl rather than GNU awk or Sed. GNU Awk is much faster for the GNU Linux-libre purposes but consumes several GB of RAM where as Python/Perl can complete in "a few tens of MBs." GNU Sed meanwhile appears to be performing slower than in the past for their deblob checking.

  • GNU Linux-Libre 5.8 Kernel Arrives for Those Seeking 100% Freedom for Their PCs

    Alexandre Oliva announced today the general availability of the GNU Linux-libre 5.8 kernel for those seeking 100% freedom for their personal computers. Based on the recently released Linux 5.8 kernel series, the GNU Linux-libre 5.8 kernel is here to deblob any proprietary code and drivers to allow anyone who doesn’t want to use proprietary software on their personal computer to install a libre, 100% free kernel. As you know, Linux kernel 5.8 is one of the biggest releases of all time, so the GNU Linux-libre kernel developers had a lot of work deblobbing new drivers that required cleaning. Deblobbed drivers include Atom ISP Video, MediaTek 7663 USB and 7915 PCIe, Realtek 8723DE Wi-Fi, Renesas PCI xHCI, HabanaLabs Gaudi co-processor, Enhanced Asynchronous Sample Rate Converter, Maxim Integrated MAX98390 Speaker Amplifier, Microsemi ZL38060 Connected Home Audio Processor, and I2C EEPROM Slave.

SUSE/OpenSUSE Leftovers

today's howtos

Games: FAudio, Wine Staging, Space Haven and More

  • FNA and FAudio get a 20.08 release, with FNA3D and Vulkan getting closer

    Game porter and software developer Ethan Lee announced the 20.08 releases of both of FNA and FAudio, as work continues on the newer FNA3D. What are they? FNA is an accuracy-focused XNA4 reimplementation for open platforms with it being used by a ton of games including the likes of: Celeste, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Full Metal Furies, Owlboy and a plenty more. While FAudio is accuracy-focused XAudio reimplementation for open platforms, which is used for a number of games and also by the Wine / Proton compatibility layers. For FNA, it was quite a quiet release as the majority of their work is going into bringing up FNA3D which will soon be merged in with FNA directly. They simply upgraded to the new FAudio, removed some dllmaps for iOS/tvOS due to macOS ARM and removed some dead code elsewhere in 'ModelReader' which 'should mildly improve load performance'.

  • You can now support Wine Staging directly on Patreon

    Wine Staging, the highly experimental area where all the latest (and often not "greatest") code comes in for Wine testing now has a Patreon so you can support it directly. It's perhaps not as well known as the normal Wine project or Valve's fork with Proton but it is an important project itself. Containing a set of patches that are applied on top of the main development branch of Wine, the idea is to provide experimental features and fixes faster in a way that users can grab and test that eventually get upstreamed into the main Wine project once they're ready.

  • Aliens and enemy ships weren't enough for Space Haven so now there's space hazards too

    Space Haven is an Early Access game that blends together elements of FTL, RimWorld and other such building and survival sims to create a promising mix of space exploration and people management. After entering Early Access in May following a successful Alpha period for backers of their Kickstarter campaign, Bugbyte continue to expand the gameplay systems. It wasn't enough to deal with space pirates, ship to ship combat and aliens that pinch your crew members and put them into cocoons—you now have to deal with Space Hazards like: Solar Flares, Micrometeoroids, Siren Worlds (they mess with crew brains) and Nebulae to add a little more variety to your exploration.

  • Aloof looks like a wonderful feature-filled upcoming puzzle-battler

    Something of a recent discovery is Aloof, an in-development puzzle-battler somewhat inspired by the likes of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Puyo Puyo Tetris with its own unique take on it. According to the full description of the game, you summon and defend small islands all the while you build combos against your opponent. What makes it different is that the puzzle pieces don't descend by themselves and you can even move up, you can also flush them all away. They said the game ' isn't about zoning out. It's about responding to your opponent, taking your time to think and move fast when you can'. [...] Sounds like it's going to be ridiculously feature-filled too. They're planning a full campaign that can be played solo or in co-op, there's going to be local and online competitive multiplayer, the ability to play it offline while also searching for an online opponent, multiple win conditions and of course full support of Linux.

  • Arcane Fortune is a grand strategy empire building game you can play in your terminal

    Sounds like it's going to be ridiculously feature-filled too. They're planning a full campaign that can be played solo or in co-op, there's going to be local and online competitive multiplayer, the ability to play it offline while also searching for an online opponent, multiple win conditions and of course full support of Linux.

  • Half-Life: Absolute Zero mimics Half-Life's original vibe, run it on Linux with Xash3D FWG

    The original Half-Life turned out to look and feel rather different than what originally shown before release. This fan project seeks to give players a different experience more inline with that original design. [...] I've tried the above instructions and can report that things work rather well. I was able to play for a while and progress without any issues. Now, Absolute Zero isn't quite finished yet and the game is still unbeatable as of the time of writing. It's the mod team's hope that things will be done by the end of October. Still, speaking as someone who has played through Half-Life a few times, it's really interesting to see this alternate visiion for the game.

  • Summer camp building gets a little supernatural in the upcoming Camp Canyonwood

    Coming from the same team as We Need To Go Deeper, Deli Interactive LLC have announced Camp Canyonwood which looks like it puts a quirky spin on building up a summer camp. What can we expect from it? Well, you're going to be responsible for building the camp and looking after your visitors. Their fun, education and safety lies in your hands and things might go bump in the night. I'm getting a bit of a Don't Starve vibe from this. [...] Speaking to the developer on Steam, they confirmed it will be supporting Linux.

  • With less than a month to go there's a new Crusader Kings III dev video

    This diary explains more about character portraits and how they change over time. It sounds pretty fun and has more depth to it than the previous game, with each character having a DNA stream that determines their appearance based on their parents. Character features change over time due to age too along with their lifestyle and any diseases. It also goes over changes made to the vassal contract system and how user testing has helped along development. [...] At release I'm hoping to take a look at it, from the perspective of someone new to it who struggled a lot with the previous entry. Thanks to the effort Paradox has put into the tutorial and help systems, it sounds like it won't be so overwhelming to get into it.

  • X4: Foundations update 3.30 arrives with a crew transfer system overhaul

    Egosoft are continuing to improve and expand their detailed space trading, exploration and combat sim X4: Foundations. Along with a bunch of gameplay improvements, one of the highlights of this release is the overhaul of the crew transfer feature. Instead of needing to make an order and having the ships meet up, it's been streamlined to be less of an annoyance. Now you can do it anywhere, along with it being possible to move any amount of people as they will use crew capsules to move around independently. Once you start getting far into the game and build up a little empire, this sounds like it will be much nicer.