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Reviews

Linux Mint 19 Tara - Tara Cognita

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Reviews

If one judges Linux Mint 19 Tara on its own, it's a pretty decent release. But one must also gaze wider, and cast their eyes on Mints That Came Before, and realize that the status quo is actually a regression. It's not enough to keep the same errors or be consistent in comparison to the sea of mediocre releases out there. Errors that might have been acceptable in 2008 are not acceptable in 2018. Normalizing toward the lowest common denominator is sad. And this is exactly what's been happening across the distroscape, and Mint has also fallen victim to this disease. The 'all-you-need-to-do' disease.

So yes, in many aspects, Tara works better than the competition. But the competition is awful. Network, font and codec problems, to name a few of the big issues. Unnecessary, pointless. Even more so because we didn't have them in the past. These are regressions. Horrible, life- and will-sapping regressions.

While your mind processes that, let's recap what we saw. In overall terms, Mint 19 is a good choice for people looking for a stable everyday distro. Mostly covers most of the basics, and can be tamed without too much fuss. The package manager is really good, performance and stability are decent. If only I had no memory. But I do, and so Tara warrants only about 7/10 by default, about 8.5 after all my post-pimping. Sylvia is a better overall choice sans any user changes, and there are some other distros with a higher overall grade, ergo friendlier defaults and functionality for the ordinary user. In this regard, Tara is consistent with the 18.X family, which started low and improved. Perhaps 19.1 will be a blast. Take care.

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Review: Linux Mint 19 "Tara" MATE + Xfce + Cinnamon

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Linux
Reviews

It has been some time since I last reviewed a Linux distribution. That is in large part because I've found that the Linux distribution landscape is not as dynamic as it once was, with fewer new distributions vying for market share, while older established distributions have simply continued to exist and develop. As a result, unless you readers have particular suggestions for distributions that I should review (as long as it can be done via a live USB) or a distribution particularly catches my eye, I will likely be sticking to reviewing Linux Mint each time a new release comes out, until and unless Linux Mint declines in quality so much that I need to start looking for new distributions.

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Review: Linux Lite 4.0

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I think some people might, upon glancing at Linux Lite's description, pass it off as just another one of the many Ubuntu derivatives. After all, one may wonder what separates Linux Lite from another flavour of Ubuntu running the Xfce desktop, such as Xubuntu.

While Lite does share a lot in common with other members of the Ubuntu family, the project has a lot of little features and special tweaks which left me impressed this week. The distribution includes a very nice and detailed help manual that is easy to navigate and provides a lot of useful information. The manual not only explains how we can do things, but also offers some alternatives and trouble-shooting tips, which I think new users will appreciate. Lite is also very easy to install, it can be set up by basically clicking "Next" a bunch of times in the Ubiquity installer.

While I ran into a few limitations while using Timeshift, I think the idea behind including it is good. I would like to see Timeshift run at a lower priority and offer a way to save snapshots on a remote computer, but otherwise the technology is off to a good start. I'd love to see Lite take Timeshift a step further and integrate it with boot environments.

Mostly though what impressed me with Lite was a combination of the performance and the visual style. Lite is one of the faster, smoother, more responsive distributions I have used this year. I also liked that there was a minimal amount of visual effects, but a maximum amount of detailed, colourful icons, high contrast buttons and fonts I could read without a trip to the settings panel. I get frustrated with minimal, stick-figure icons and buttons that are indistinguishable from labels. Lite looks nice. Not in a flashy way, but in a clear, easy to read, pleasant to navigate way.

As an example of Lite's visual style, I have used Xfce a lot recently. I run it on one computer or another almost every day. And, on an intellectual level, I knew it was possible to adjust the size and dimensions of the Xfce Whisker application menu. But I'd never thought to do it because on every other distribution I have used the menu's resize button is so muted and low-contrast I'd never noticed it before. But on Lite, the resize button stands out and I clicked and dragged the menu to the size I wanted without even thinking about it. This is a very little feature, but one I had never noticed on other distributions, even though it was always there. In my opinion, all of Lite is like that: offering well defined controls that are clear about what they do.

Lite's value, in my opinion, is not in any one big feature or unique offering, but in the way Lite polishes many little things which make it so much more pleasant to use day-to-day than most other distributions. Lite is an operating system I can use consistently without thinking about it, without distractions, without hiccups and without searching for features I suspect are there, but are tucked away. I've used some powerful distributions this year, and some with really neat, unique features; but probably not any that have offered such a smooth experience as I've had this week. That's why the next friend who asks me to come over and fix their messed up laptop is going to get a fresh copy of Linux Lite.

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CPod – simple and elegant free podcast player

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Software
Reviews

CPod (formerly known as Cumulonimbus) is a cross-platform, open source podcast player for the desktop. The application is built with web technologies – it’s written in the JavaScript programming language and uses the Electron framework. Electron is often (rightly?) criticized for being a memory hog and dog slow. But is that mainly because of poor programming, rather than an inherent flaw in the technology?

CPod is available for Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. Installation was a breeze on my Ubuntu 18.04 distribution as the author conveniently provides a 64-bit deb package. If you don’t run a Debian/Ubuntu based distro, there’s an AppImage which effortlessly installs the software on all major Linux distributions. There’s also a snap package from the snapcraft website, but bizarrely (and incorrectly) flags the software as proprietary software. As CPod is released under an open source license, there’s the full source code available too.

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Fedora 28 KDE - Call the doctor, it's not feeling well

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Red Hat
Reviews

I didn't get to test a lot of things - apps, hardware compatibility, performance, whatnot, but then, there's really no reason to persist. This is a failing distro, like so many others released recently. No validation, no care, nothing. Just random code. A lackluster showing with no pride or passion or quality. Fedora 28 KDE did give me media playback, but that's about the only thing that worked fine. The rest was all broken. Customization wasn't smooth, the fonts are meh, no smartphone support, mediocre network support, and then, a dead desktop after trying to install Nvidia drivers the same way that worked just fine in Fedora 27. Madness.

If you want to use Fedora for some reason, the Gnome edition is better, but it's still a rather average product and not suitable for day-to-say use. A steady decline since version 25, and I'm 100% sure this is all the result of the carefree approach to software development, the rapid release mania and the total disregard to validation and user needs. This one is a total flop. And I've just wasted a day and a half of my life. We're done.

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Also: Call for Fedora Women’s Day 2018 proposals

Librem 13: Review

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

I'm been using the new laptop for a few hours now, and I'm happy so far. This is a great system.

I did end up re-installing the operating system. When I first booted the Librem, it was using the pre-installed PureOS Linux distribution. I played with it for a while, and actually did some work online with it, then decided I'd rather run the Fedora Linux distribution that I'm used to. I'll post an article later with impressions about PureOS.

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Google Peering – 10 Times Faster Internet

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Reviews

Before we talk about Google Peering, Google owns the smartphone market and this has led to the popularity of all of its services such as Google Drive, Youtube, Play Store etc. Since we spend significant time on these services it would be really great if we could get uninterrupted speeds on these web services.

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Botond Ballo: Review of the Purism Librem 13

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Reviews
Gadgets

The Purism Librem 13 has largely lived up to my goal of having a lightweight productivity laptop with a decent amount of memory (though I’m sad to say that the Firefox build has continued to get larger and slower over time, and linking is sometimes a struggle even with 16 GB of RAM…) while also going the extra mile to protect my privacy and freedoms. The Librem 13 has a few deficiencies in comparison to the ThinkPad line, but they’re mostly in the category of papercuts. At the end of the day it boils down to whether living with a few small annoyances to benefit from the additional privacy features is the right tradeoff for you. For me, so far, it has been, although I certainly hope the Purism folks take feedback like this into account and improve future iterations of the Librem line.

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Also: Software delays, lack of purpose means Microsoft’s “Andromeda” may never arrive

Lengthy Review of Linux Mint 19: A Distro for Everyone

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Linux Mint is one of the most popular Linux distributions of all time. I have been seeing people using Mint everywhere on their desktops, and when I used to ask them about “Why Mint?” they simply say “It just works”. And indeed, it does.

The distribution’s developers have been on a mission since 2006 to create a user-friendly Linux distribution which would suite almost any user for it. More importantly, everything a new user for the Linux world needs is installed/ready for installation in Mint, which is not the case in other distributions with other purposes.

Linux Mint 19 “Tara” was released few days ago with huge updates for its Cinnamon, MATE and XFCE spins. You can upgrade to the new release or download the ISOs now. In this post we would like to share our experience so far with Mint 19.

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Review: Linux Mint 19

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I was very happy this week running Linux Mint 19. The distribution gave me better than average performance, a relatively low memory footprint and a friendly interface. All my hardware was supported, I liked the default collection of applications and the distribution was very easy to set up. The new welcome window is a good addition. I think it'll make things easier for first-time users looking for tips on getting up and running.

I also must tip my hat to Mint's software centre, it is perhaps the first software manager I have encountered that makes working with traditional Deb packages and portable Flatpak packages seamless while clearly flagging Flatpaks as being different.

At first I was sceptical about the update manager's new approach to applying all updates. The ranked updates approach Mint used in the past made it easy to set up the distribution to be more stable for family and friends. Having all available security updates is nice, but when providing tech support for new Linux users I am more concerned with a kernel update breaking the system than I am the possibility that a remote kernel exploit will get through their firewall. (The former happens semi-regularly with other distributions, the latter has never happened to my knowledge.) It is too soon to tell if the overall effect of this change will be good or bad for the people I support. However, I will say that I like the way Timeshift integrates with Btrfs. With most update problems I will be able to boot an old kernel and rollback to an earlier Timeshift snapshot and that may prove to be a suitable trade-off; balancing improved security with a fairly straight forward recovery process.

Speaking of Timeshift, while it does have a few limitations with regards to transferring snapshots to another computer and it is awkward working with encrypted home directories, otherwise Timeshift is a wonderfully friendly way to safeguard the operating system. I'm happy to see Mint support Timeshift and Btrfs snapshots, more distributions should make these technologies a priority in my opinion.

Mint's default selection of software is nice. I like that the team picks the more capable and user-friendly applications over programs that use a specific toolkit or design. The default look is fairly attractive without being distracting too. Personally, I would like a darker theme, but that is easy enough to change.

Early on there were a few minor things which annoyed me (trigger happy screen saver, window visual effects), but these were easily fixed and a matter of personal preference rather than bugs. I don't think I encountered any serious issues during my trial. There were no performance issues and no hurdles to getting work done. Using Mint was a pleasantly smooth and trouble-free experience for me.

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