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Reviews

Guix System Distribution 0.15.0 and ReactOS 0.4.9

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OS
Reviews

While both of the projects I experimented with this week are driven by very interesting concepts (GuixSD offers a purely free system with advanced package management and ReactOS attempts to be an open source replacement for Windows) there are limiting aspects to both projects which would keep me from running them on a regular basis.

GuixSD has a package manager that I like. I've used related technology through NixOS in the past and loved how easy it was to rollback problems, manage accounts and skip forward or backward instantly through installed package versions. Where I feel GuixSD let me down was in its limited hardware support (there are no non-free drivers or firmware) and its limited documentation. There are instructions for using GuixSD when all is going well, but nothing I felt was helpful when the package manager was not operating the way I expected.

ReactOS, while a completely different operating system with its own kernel, installer and programs, ultimately had a similar problem: limited hardware support. The operating system's Live edition did not work in either of my environments and I had to work around having a limited set of drivers. Another issue with ReactOS was the stability. The system tended to lock up if more than a few programs were running, or if I tried to cancel an intensive task like installing a new application.

Both of these projects present interesting ideas, however both are still (as their documentation pages point out) in an unstable stage of development. They should be used with caution and probably not as a main, day-to-day operating system.

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GeckoLinux 150 Static Plasma review - Not quite

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SUSE

GeckoLinux 150 was supposed to be the cure to all openSUSE Leap 15 ailments. It is not. I was expecting flawless results on all fronts, but then there were big issues with multimedia playback and associated performance, visual glitches, imperfect smartphone support, and of course, the graphics driver bomb. This hardly warrants the effort. I also didn't mention various crashes - the kgreeter crash on logout, every time - but they were there, too. Samba issues, printing issues, and the list goes on. The good things are nice and commendable, but there must be a stable base.

However, the real dealbreaker is the Nvidia setup. This is supposed to just work. If it works in a dozen other distros on this same box, then it should continue working. And I'm certain this has nothing to do with Nvidia drivers but with how the repo contents were compiled and packaged. Then, no easy rescue, none of that SUSE enterprise-like resilience. Finally, you do gain some, but not enough to justify the experience. I will sample Gecko sometime in the future again, but the bad karma around openSUSE remains. So long.

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Deepin OS 15.7 – Enjoy The Better Performance

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Debian

Deepin OS is among the most awesome Operating Systems in the world, period. The Debian-based distro has successfully won the hearts of everybody that I know has used it for over a day and its latest release (in the form of version 15.7) brings so many improvements I could have a field day reviewing them all.

If you are not already familiar with this OS then don’t skip this article.

Deepin OS is an open-source, Debian-based desktop distribution whose aim is to provide users with a beautiful, security-conscious, and user-friendly Operating System. It was initially based on Ubuntu until the release of its current major version, 15 when it switched to model Debian.

As at the time of writing, it sits at #28 on Distrowatch and has a 9/10 rating out of 301 reviews with approx. 325 hits per day.

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Quirky Linux: Pleasingly Peculiar

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Quirky Linux is a classic example of what makes Linux such a varied and useful operating system.

Puppy Linux developer Barry Kauler earlier this month released Quirky Xerus 64 version 8.6, which comes packed with the latest innovations for doing Linux stuff differently.

This latest in the "Xerus" series is a must-try if you like to push your computing experience envelope. It offers a slightly different approach to blending a traditional Linux desktop with the latest in usability options.

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Robolinux 9.3 Raptor - Bird of prey?

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Robolinux 9.3 Raptor is an interesting project. On one hand, it does most of the basics well, offers good functionality out of the box, comes with modern features and software, and tries to provide unique value through its Stealth VM capability. Quite commendable on that front.

Unfortunately, there are problems, too. The looks are more than questionable, the aggressive focus on donations spoils the experience and even breeds a sense of mistrust, hardware compatibility can be quite a bit better, and there were also some crashes and a dozen papercuts typical of small distros. In the end, it's still Ubuntu, improved and spoiled by the extras. The security card is flashed way too many times, and it creates a sour feeling. This is a neat distro, but it tries too hard.

All in all, it has its own identity, and it could become quite useful to new users, but it's overwhelming in its current guise, and the desktop stability needs to improve, pretty much across the board. It deserves something like 7/10. Well, that said, I'm looking forward to the next release, hopefully with more aesthetic focus and a fully streamlined operating system conversion and migration experience for new users. Now that could really be a killer feature. Take care.

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YunoHost 3.0.0.1

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At this point I have only set up YunoHost, created a few user accounts and installed a handful of applications. While I may play with it further, my main focus going into this trial was how well the framework of the distribution functions. That is: is it easy to install, how hard is it for new users to add services and accounts, and is it straight forward to keep the system up to date? Basically, I wanted to know whether I could give this distribution to someone who wanted to set up home-based network services for the first time and expect them to be able to use it. Based on my experiences so far with YunoHost, my answer is: probably.

The distribution does make it pretty easy to create user accounts and install web-based services. In fact, YunoHost does this quite well. The admin panel is very streamlined, uncluttered and easy to navigate and getting something like a game of Hextris or a media streaming service installed is about as easy as a few mouse clicks. Managing the firewall, monitoring the system and creating backups are nearly as easy. The administrator still needs to figure out how to get backup archives off the disk to another location for safe keeping, but the bulk of the work in backing up and restoring the operating system is done for us.

Where I feel the distribution runs into trouble is mostly little details, and a few general concepts. For example, asking the user to create an "admin" password but leaving the root password as the default is both likely to confuse people and leave a permanent security hole on the servers of most inexperienced hobbyist administrators. On the topic of accounts, it makes sense, from a security standpoint, to separate web accounts from system accounts. But, this means there may be some confusion as to why, once an account has been created, it cannot log into the system. Little concepts like this may throw new users and I don't feel these issues are well addressed by the documentation.

The first time through, the system installer failed during the partitioning section. It worked the second time though with the same settings, so I'm not sure if this is a semi-persistent bug or a one-time error with my system.

On the whole, YunoHost performs well. It's light on resources, it offers a lot of common network services home administrators will probably want and it is pretty easy to run and maintain. There are a few little wrinkles in the experience, but in general I found the distribution to be straight forward to use. For people looking to set up a home server, this is probably a good platform on which to build.

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GNU/Linux Review: Linux Mint 19 LTS Cinnamon Edition

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LMCE 19 has a new star for the future: Timeshift. It makes updating now less-worrisome and will encourage users to experiment more without afraid to break anything. We can revert back easily now! A method to make stable system more stable and to prevent broken system easier for end-user. This is a very good thing for both long-time and new users, even I hope this feature to be exist on other distros as well. Second star, it supports HiDPI better now, which means Linux Mint will embrace more users from Retina Display-alike computers and more! Other features, such as faster Nemo and more extensive Software Manager, will make you love Linux Mint even more. It's really quick to install (15 minutes or less) and brings complete set of apps (LibreOffice, Firefox, and so on). Finally, I recommend Mint users to upgrade to this version or at least try it on LiveCD session. Enjoy!

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Review: NomadBSD 1.1

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BSD

One of the most recent additions to the DistroWatch database is NomadBSD. According to the NomadBSD website: "NomadBSD is a 64-bit live system for USB flash drives, based on FreeBSD. Together with automatic hardware detection and setup, it is configured to be used as a desktop system that works out of the box, but can also be used for data recovery."

The latest release of NomadBSD (or simply "Nomad", as I will refer to the project in this review) is version 1.1. It is based on FreeBSD 11.2 and is offered in two builds, one for generic personal computers and one for Macbooks. The release announcement mentions version 1.1 offers improved video driver support for Intel and AMD cards. The operating system ships with Octopkg for graphical package management and the system should automatically detect, and work with, VirtualBox environments.

Nomad 1.1 is available as a 2GB download, which we then decompress to produce a 4GB file which can be written to a USB thumb drive. There is no optical media build of Nomad as it is designed to be run entirely from the USB drive, and write data persistently to the drive, rather than simply being installed from the USB media.

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Also: Happy Bob's Libtls tutorial

Absolute Linux: Testing Snapshot/15.0 Based on Slackware Current

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Slack

Review: Secure-K OS 18.5

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I like the idea behind Secure-K. Being able to easily set up a distribution on a USB thumb drive so I can take my operating system with me in my pocket is very appealing. Having secure communication and quick access to the Tor network is also handy. I think the Secure-K developers are basically trying to provide an operating system that is like Tails, but more geared toward general purpose use. Tails is typically seen as a utility specifically for secure on-line communication, but probably not a platform for day-to-day use. Secure-K seems to be coming from the other direction and providing a day-to-day operating system that can also be used for secure communication and anonymous web browsing.

In theory, this is a good concept and I can see how it would appeal, especially if people want easy access to on-line storage and persistent settings.

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Games: Spearmint, Rise to Ruins, Depth of Extinction, Puzlogic, Never Split the Party, Godot Engine, DXVK

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    Spearmint, an enhanced version of the open-source ioquake3 engine in turn derived from the id Tech 3 source code, will see the big "1.0" milestone in October. But that will also coincide with the developer and ioquake3 maintainer ceasing work on this engine now with an eighteen year lineage.
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    Rise to Ruins, a village builder that mixes in some god sim fun just went through a bit of an evolution with the latest patch, which really is absolutely massive. In terms of file-size the patch was relatively small, but good things come in small packages!
  • Roguelike RPG 'Depth of Extinction' is nearing release with a launch trailer
    I'm personally very excited about Depth of Extinction, a roguelike RPG with turn-based battles and an interesting setting. The release is closing in for this month and they have a new launch trailer. Note: This was a personal purchase for me.
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    Puzlogic from developer Eduardo Barreto was released on Steam back in July and it just recently gained Linux support. It combines elements from Sudoku and Kakuro along with some lovely ambient music to create a pretty decent and relaxing experience. Currently in Early Access, the developer expects the full release to be available in the first part of 2019.
  • Never Split the Party, a free online team-based action-RPG is now on Linux
    Never one to pass up trying out a free game, today I tested out some of Never Split the Party, an "an ultra social rogue-like" and it's not bad. While the game is free to play, you only get given one single character. If you want access to the others, you need to buy the Fellowship DLC which will unlock the Cleric, Rogue, Mage, Ranger and Mercenary.
  • Godot Engine 3.1 will have support for simplex noise generation which looks incredibly useful
    Godot Engine 3.1 [Official Site], the big upgrade coming to the open source game engine has gained another exciting feature with simplex noise generation.
  • One of the fine folks in the Intel Mesa driver team has written up a post on their work improving games in DXVK
    Writing on their personal blog, Jason Ekstrand from the Intel Mesa team has written up some information on what they've been doing to improve the Intel drivers on Linux. What they're talking about isn't exactly new, since the fixes are already in Mesa but it's nice to get some information about how they came across the issues and what they did to solve them. Regardless of your feelings towards Wine, DXVK, Steam Play and so on, no one can ignore the benefits they bring to the people actually working on the drivers. Giving them so many more ways to test and push Linux graphics drivers is a good thing, as it means we can end up with much better drivers for all sorts of workloads (not just gaming!).

LLVM 7.0.0 Released

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    As anticipated, LLVM release manager Hans Wennborg announced the official availability today of LLVM 7.0 compiler stack as well as associated sub-projects including the Clang 7.0 C/C++ compiler front-end, Compiler-RT, libc++, libunwind, LLDB, and others. There is a lot of LLVM improvements ranging from CPU improvements for many different architectures, Vega 20 support among many other AMDGPU back-end improvements, the new machine code analyzer utility, and more. The notable Clang C/C++ compiler has picked up support for function multi-versioning (FMV), initial OpenCL C++ support, and many other additions. See my LLVM 7.0 / Clang 7.0 feature overview for more details on the changes with this six-month open-source compiler stack update.

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