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Reviews

Review: Solus 3 and the Budgie desktop

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Solus is an independent, rolling release distribution. Solus's design is mostly aimed at home users who want a friendly desktop operating system. The distribution is available in three editions (Budgie, GNOME and MATE) and runs on 64-bit x86 computers exclusively. Each edition's installation media is approximately 1.2GB in size.

The project's latest release is Solus 3 which features support for Snap packages as well as more traditional packages managed by Solus's eopkg package manager, which is a fork of the PiSi package manager. There were many tweaks in this release with a number of improvements made to the application menu and searches. The Budgie edition also includes the ability to place the desktop panel on any of the four sides of the screen. There are more changes and tweaks listed, with accompanying screen shots, in the project's release announcement.

One of the reasons I wanted to try out Solus 3 and do it now is because I typically test rolling release distributions immediately after a new snapshot has been released. Solus 3 was made available back in August of 2017 and I was curious to see how well the distribution would handle being rolled forward several months and what changes might be visible between the August snapshot and Solus's current packages.

I decided to try out the Budgie edition of Solus. Booting from the Solus live media brings up the Budgie desktop with a panel placed along the bottom of the screen. The panel houses an application menu, task switcher and system tray. On the desktop we find a single icon for launching the project's system installer. I did not see any welcome screen or encounter any immediate issues so I jumped straight into the installer.

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What’s New in Linux Lite 3.8

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Linux Lite 3.8 has been released by Linux Lite developer Jerry Bezencon, It’s the final release of Linux Lite 3.x series. This release brings various package updates and improvements, include implementation of the TLP power management tool for laptops in the Lite Tweaks utility, better support for the LibreOffice office suite, a new font viewer and installer, and regional support for DVDs.

Linux Lite 3.8 also ships with Xfce 4.12 series as default desktop environment, powered by the Linux 4.4.0-112 kernel from Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), features Google-based search page as default homepage in the Mozilla Firefox web browser. Inludes the New Lite Tweaks, New Lite Welcome, New Lite Help Manual, New Lite Upgrade and New Wallpapers.

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Also: EzeeLinux Show 18.8 | A look at elementary OS and KDE Neon

Review: Linspire 7.0

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Linspire 7 is a solid distribution and one I would recommend to friends and family. Coming from a Windows, openSUSE, ChromeOS and CloudReady background I pretty much knew what to expect. There is nothing that seriously stands out with Linspire to make me say WOW save its stability, easy of use and compatibility. I had several older devices and newer devices that I wasn't expecting to work and they did. Would this bring me around to switching? Absolutely. ChromeOS is a serious mess and CloudReady doesn't support one of my laptops anymore. Its easier to configure than openSUSE with YAST and its a straightforward solution. I would recommend this for old folk like me and for small businesses who need a cheap and neat solution. One of the many things I like in this Linspire vs the old Linspire is that this one is more close knit with the Linux apps and doesn't have many proprietary-to-them applications. I do miss Click and Run. A few criticisms I do have is that some of the documentation is a little techy and novices would get lost easy. I would work with and get a better bug reporting system. Overall I am enjoying the experience and like I said, solid, stable and affordable. I definitely will keep this and Windows 10 around for a long time.

I want to thank PC/Opensystems for bringing Linspire back to us and I would like to thank Medium.com for hosting this review.

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Seven Days with Elive 2.9.26 (Beta)

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Debian

If there is a distro release that I have been waiting for, that is surely Elive 3.0.

I had Elive 2.9.8 Beta installed, so I used the same partition for this upgrade. After downloading the image of this new beta (2.9.26) and copying it to a USB drive with ROSA image writer, I was ready to test it. I wanted to see if this distro is OK for a rather non-technical Linux user like me, who has not used the Enlightenment DE regularly. I also wanted to see its Japanese IME capabilities.

When I installed version 2.9.8, I encountered a frustrating problem: There is an issue with my graphic card. The distro booted correctly, but, when I installed it, the DE froze and complained about Enlightenment crashing because of a module problem. However, one can circumvent this by booting the distro using the "graphics problems" option, so, after it is installed, Elive works perfectly. Although the Elive installer bypassed that situation this time because it remembered my settings (awesome!), Megatotoro, who performed a clean install, was not that lucky and stumbled with the issue.

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MX Linux MX-17 Horizon - Second test, top notch

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Here we go. This is a short review by my standards, but I did carefully and thoroughly check every single aspect of the desktop experience, in line with my normal testing, I just didn't repeat myself. Everything worked. There were no new problems other than the few small issues we've already seen. And on the bright side, you do get the advantage of even better performance and responsiveness on the new hardware.

While MX-17 Horizon will work perfectly well on ancient rigs, it still gains from new platforms, and lets you take full advantage of its speed. Battery life is also very good. Overall, it's a really top-notch distro, and it didn't botch or falter on two different machines. And as you recall, pretty much EVERY distro that I've tested in the last two and a half years since I've purchased the Lenovo laptop has had some issues, and then when I switched to the LG laptop, then they almost all started having problems there. And it shows it's not hardware that's bad - it's software. Good distros are far and few in between, and MX-17 Horizon is truly a magnificent product. Way to go.

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Hands-On: Kali Linux 2018.1 on the Raspberry Pi Zero W

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Linux
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Security

The installation image is actually on the Offensive Security Kali Linux ARM Images page, so don't get confused if you go to the normal Kali Linux Downloads page and don't see it. There is a link to the ARM images near the bottom of that page.

As with most Raspberry Pi installation images, the download is a compressed (xz) snapshot, not an ISO image.

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Review: Freespire 3 and Linspire 7.0

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Before I started my trial I was under the impression that Freespire and Linspire were quite different from stock Xubuntu. The Linspire blog, for instance, talks about binary blobs in "our" kernel and proprietary packages provided by vendors to Linspire. As I quickly learned, Linspire doesn't have its own repositories (let alone a custom kernel) and the proprietary packages are provided via the ubuntu-restricted-extras package. Similarly, the lead developer recently wrote on his blog that people who claim that Linspire is just a Xubuntu respin should "mind their own business" because they have no idea how much work has gone into customising Linspire over the last 18 months. When I asked the company if they could give some examples of how Linspire is different from Xubuntu I was told that, actually, their aim is to stay as close to Xubuntu as possible.

It would be unfair, however, to dismiss Freespire and Linspire as Xubuntu clones. The distros have two interesting selling points. Firstly, PC/OpenSystems can legally ship certain patent-encumbered codecs. Of course, anyone can install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package but in some jurisdictions doing so may be illegal. It is probably fair to say that few people care about such legalities but if you prefer to play by the rules then Linspire is worth a look.

Secondly, Linspire's main feature is the support license. You don't pay $79.99 for Xubuntu with a Linspire sticker - you buy a year's worth of support. Linspire might be an attractive option for small businesses and organisations that want to run Linux with a support contract. Similarly, I reckon many home users will like the idea of being able to get professional support for their Linspire box(es). That said, it is disappointing that the only real customisations (as in code changes) are regressions: the installer is far from a finished product. It is also unfortunate that Freespire lacks direction. The new Freespire was presented as an almost fully libre distro, yet the initial release clearly was the exact opposite. Only after pointing this out did PC/OpenSystems quietly release a new ISO.

The main issue I had with the distros was something else though: the marketing/PR/spin. I have already mentioned various examples of dubious claims. I would like to add one more example, just because it nicely illustrates my gripe: the Freespire page claims that, unlike Freespire, Linux Mint is difficult to install. PC/OpenSystems arrived at that conclusion based on its own research: a whopping three people were asked to install Freespire, Ubuntu and Linux Mint and the "sample group" apparently struggled to install Mint.

This type of marketing is needlessly negative. I would rather see the company work with, say, the Trisquel developers, who have already solved the issue with the checkbox in the Ubiquity installer and who may also be able to help Freespire become an FSF-approved distro. I would love to see a proper bug tracking tool so that I would have an easy way to report issues. And I think it would also be nice if PC/OpenSystems would start sharing the code it claims to produce.

In short, I think both Freespire and Linspire are on to something. I like the idea of a fully libre Xubuntu spin and I am sure there is demand for Linspire. I just hope history won't repeat itself.

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Plasma Active: So far, so adequate

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KDE
Reviews

Ever since Plasma Active was released in 2012, I’ve been waiting for KDE to release another desktop environment for mobile devices. Last week, that wait was finally over with the first alpha release of Plasma Mobile, Active’s successor. However, delay may have raised my expectations too high. While Mobile was full of innovations, so far, Active is simply another desktop for phones or tablets, appearing little different from what I currently have on my Android devices. Its main interest is the applications it includes, which seems to indicate Plasma Active’s design priorities.

What made Plasma Active such a standout was its innovations. It was KDE with a different desktop environment — a proof of concept of KDE 4’s arrangement of the desktop as a sub-system that could be swapped out for another with relative ease. Even more importantly, it innovated. Like Ubuntu Touch — which I suspect it inspired — Plasma Active worked by the user swiping from the sides of the screen. It also included an OsS X-like spinner rack for changing Activities, a widget so efficient that I wished that standard Plasma would include it, too. As I wrote at the time, it was the first desktop for mobile devices that did not feel like a clumsy makeshift, and could even work well on a laptop or workstation. Unfortunately, however, Plasma Active never made it on to any shipped devices.

By contrast, Plasma Mobile has already received publicity, thanks to the announcement that Purism’s free and secure phone the Librem 5 would include it as one of the available desktop environments. That announcement may have hastened the release of the alpha, perhaps pushing it out prematurely, since there is very little that you can actually do with Plasma Mobile when you install it on a virtual machine. Click any of the icons — at least in my experience — and most of the time you get a flickering or frozen screen, forcing you to shut it down and reboot. So far, only the Setting icon works reliably.

Still, like Plasma Active, Plasma Mobile does show off the efficiency of the KDE environment, providing what by my count is the third alternative to standard Plasma (the other, for those keeping count, was Plasma Netbook, yet another desktop since faded into obscurity). Beneath it is the familiar KDE; the command line, for example, is Konsole.

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Also: Another Morevna fundraiser!

Review: siduction 2018.1.0

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Debian

Running siduction was a pretty good experience for me. The distribution is very easy to set up and the Calamares installer gets the user up and running with fewer steps than Debian's system installer. The LXQt edition of siduction works quickly and the desktop environment is pleasantly lightweight. I found LXQt generally provided me with all the features I wanted to use while staying out of my way, which was appreciated.

One of the few concerns I had was with the confusing way video playing worked on the distribution. I think it would have been easier if siduction simply shipped with VLC or Totem for playing videos. Otherwise, the applications which shipped with the distribution worked well and I found running siduction was generally pleasantly boring.

For people who like running cutting edge software and want to take advantage of Debian's massive supply of open source software, I think siduction is an excellent option. The user needs to be prepared to handle a lot of updates, dozens or (in my case) maybe even hundreds per week. But if you don't mind installing waves of updates, then siduction offers good performance, an easy to use installer and a wide range of desktop editions. I especially appreciate the Synaptic feature which allows us to restart services which have been updated and I suspect people running network services will really like having this ability.

siduction didn't really do anything which stood out as different or amazing, but on the other hand I didn't run into any serious problems. The distribution provided a solid, easy to use rolling release with a huge amount of software in the repositories and handled all my hardware beautifully. I think people who like running openSUSE Tumbleweed or Arch Linux may want to check out siduction as an alternative, especially since the distribution can be set up with little more than a few mouse clicks.

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Revisited: Linux Mint 18.3 "Sylvia" KDE

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Linux
Reviews

Long-time readers of the Linux distribution reviews on this blog know that I am a fan of Linux Mint, but I have had somewhat mixed experiences with KDE. When I've reviewed a new release of Linux Mint, I have occasionally reviewed its KDE edition in addition to its GNOME/MATE/Cinnamon and Xfce editions, generally finding that the KDE edition has too many minor bugs and not enough compelling features compared to the more mainstream editions. Apparently the Linux Mint developers feel similarly, as this is the last release of a KDE edition for Linux Mint; henceforth, they are only releasing MATE, Cinnamon, and Xfce editions for a tighter focus on GTK-based DEs and applications. With that in mind, I figured it was worth reviewing a KDE edition of Linux Mint one final time. I tested it on a live USB system made with the "dd" command. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

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More in Tux Machines

Introducing the potential new Ubuntu Studio Council

Back in 2016, Set Hallström was elected as the new Team Lead for Ubuntu Studio, just in time for the 16.04 Xenial Long Term Support (LTS) release. It was intended that Ubuntu Studio would be able to utilise Set’s leadership skills at least up until the next LTS release in April 2018. Unfortunately, as happens occasionally in the world of volunteer work, Set’s personal circumstances changed and he is no longer able to devote as much time to Ubuntu Studio as he would like. Therefore, an IRC meeting was held between interested Ubuntu Studio contributors on 21st May 2017 to agree on how to fill the void. We decided to follow the lead of Xubuntu and create a Council to take care of Ubuntu Studio, rather than continuing to place the burden of leadership on the shoulder of one particular person. Unfortunately, although the result was an agreement to form the first Ubuntu Studio Council from the meeting participants, we all got busy and the council was never set up. Read more

today's leftovers

  • My Experience with MailSpring on Linux
    On the Linux Desktop, there are quite a few choices for email applications. Each of these has their own pros and cons which should be weighed depending on one’s needs. Some clients will have MS Exchange support. Others do not. In general, because email is reasonably close to free (and yes, we can thank Hotmail for that) it has been a difficult place to make money. Without a cash flow to encourage developers, development has trickled at best.
  • Useful FFMPEG Commands for Managing Audio and Video Files
  • Set Up A Python Django Development Environment on Debian 9 Stretch Linux
  • How To Run A Command For A Specific Time In Linux
  • Kubuntu 17.10 Guide for Newbie Part 7
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  • Why Oppo and Vivo are losing steam in Chinese smartphone market
    China’s smartphone market has seen intense competition over the past few years with four local brands capturing more than 60 percent of sales in 2017. Huawei Technologies, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi Technology recorded strong shipment growth on a year-on-year basis. But some market experts warned that Oppo and Vivo may see the growth of their shipments slow this year as users become more discriminating.
  • iPhones Blamed for More than 1,600 Accidental 911 Calls Since October
    The new Emergency SOS feature released by Apple for the iPhone is the one to blame for no less than 1,600 false calls to 911 since October, according to dispatchers. And surprisingly, emergency teams in Elk Grove and Sacramento County in California say they receive at least 20 such 911 calls every day from what appears to be an Apple service center. While it’s not exactly clear why the iPhones that are probably brought in for repairs end up dialing 911, dispatchers told CBS that the false calls were first noticed in the fall of the last year. Apple launched new iPhones in September 2017 and they went on sale later the same month and in November, but it’s not clear if these new devices are in any way related to the increasing number of accidental calls to 911.
  • Game Studio Found To Install Malware DRM On Customers' Machines, Defends Itself, Then Apologizes
    The thin line that exists between entertainment industry DRM software and plain malware has been pointed out both recently and in the past. There are many layers to this onion, ranging from Sony's rootkit fiasco, to performance hits on machines thanks to DRM installed by video games, up to and including the insane idea that copyright holders ought to be able to use malware payloads to "hack back" against accused infringers. What is different in more recent times is the public awareness regarding DRM, computer security, and an overall fear of malware. This is a natural kind of progression, as the public becomes more connected and reliant on computer systems and the internet, they likewise become more concerned about those systems. That may likely explain the swift public backlash to a small game-modding studio seemingly installing something akin to malware in every installation of its software, whether from a legitimate purchase or piracy.

Server: Benchmarks, IBM and Red Hat

  • 36-Way Comparison Of Amazon EC2 / Google Compute Engine / Microsoft Azure Cloud Instances vs. Intel/AMD CPUs
    Earlier this week I delivered a number of benchmarks comparing Amazon EC2 instances to bare metal Intel/AMD systems. Due to interest from that, here is a larger selection of cloud instance types from the leading public clouds of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine.
  • IBM's Phil Estes on the Turbulent Waters of Container History
    Phil Estes painted a different picture of container history at Open Source 101 in Raleigh last weekend, speaking from the perspective of someone who had a front row seat. To hear him tell it, this rise and success is a story filled with intrigue, and enough drama to keep a daytime soap opera going for a season or two.
  • Red Hat CSA Mike Bursell on 'managed degradation' and open data
    As part of Red Hat's CTO office chief security architect Mike Bursell has to be informed of security threats past, present and yet to come – as many as 10 years into the future. The open source company has access to a wealth of customers in verticals including health, finance, defence, the public sector and more. So how do these insights inform the company's understanding of the future threat landscape?
  • Red Hat Offers New Decision Management Tech Platform
    Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) has released a platform that will work to support information technology applications and streamline the deployment of rules-based tools in efforts to automate processes for business decision management, ExecutiveBiz reported Thursday.

Vulkan Anniversary and Generic FBDEV Emulation Continues To Be Worked On For DRM Drivers

  • Vulkan Turns Two Years Old, What Do You Hope For Next?
    This last week marked two years since the debut of Vulkan 1.0, you can see our our original launch article. My overworked memory missed realizing it by a few days, but it's been a pretty miraculous two years for this high-performance graphics and compute API.
  • Generic FBDEV Emulation Continues To Be Worked On For DRM Drivers
    Noralf Trønnes has spent the past few months working on generic FBDEV emulation for Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) drivers and this week he volleyed his third revision of these patches, which now includes a new in-kernel API along with some clients like a bootsplash system, VT console, and fbdev implementation.