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Reviews

4MLinux: More Than Just Another Lightweight Distro

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

I don’t want to get up on yet another “Here’s another lightweight Linux distribution to revive your aging hardware” soapbox. So many distributions make that promise, and most of them do an outstanding job of fulfilling their mission statement. Also, many of those distributions are fairly similar: They offer a small footprint, work with 32-bit systems, and install a minimal amount of software dedicated to the task of helping you get your work done as best a lightweight operating system can do.

But then there’s 4MLinux. This particular take on the lightweight Linux distribution is a different beast altogether. First and foremost, 4MLinux doesn’t include a package manager. That’s right, the only way you can install packages on this distribution is to do so from source (unless you install the limited number of packages from within the Extensions menu (more on that in a bit). That, of course, can lead to a dependency nightmare. But if you really give it some thought, that could be a serious plus, especially if you’re looking for a distribution that could be considered an ideal desktop for end users with specific use cases. If those users only need to work with a web browser, 4MLinux allows that while preventing users from installing other applications.

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Peppermint 9 Offers Some Cool New Options

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Reviews

Peppermint 9, released June 22, accomplishes something most other Linux distros don't: It melds the best components from other desktop environments and integrates them into a solid operating system.

Peppermint OS is a lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution featuring a desktop environment mashup of Xfce and LXDE components. The latest release nearly completes a process begun several upgrades ago, using more Xfce elements and fewer LXDE components.

Peppermint is a good alternative to the Linux Mint Xfce release with a sprinkling of Cinnamon to spice up the desktop a bit more. Peppermint also uses Ice -- a cloud and Web application management tool -- which makes the operating system refreshingly different.

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Winepak – Abstraction done (almost) right

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Software
Reviews

The concept of running Windows software on top of Linux is a tricky one. First, it defies the intended usage. Second, it requires some significant digital acrobatics in order to marry two incompatible layers, the Linux system and Windows applications.

Over the years, the primary effort trying to reconcile the almost impossible yet tantalizing wedlock has been through WINE, a compatibility framework that translates Windows API into POSIX calls. Easier said than done, and if you’ve read my reviews on this topic, you will have noticed that: 1) not too many programs can run well in this fashion 2) few common, popular programs that Windows folks use fall into the previous category 3) the quality of abstraction has been going down over the years. Top that with the inherent nerdy nature of WINE, which requires a fair deal of manual labor, and the end result is not a satisfactory one. But now, a new challenger has appeared. It’s called Winepak.

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Review: BunsenLabs Helium

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Reviews

I have got a bit of soft spot for Openbox. I like how minimalist it is and how it hardly uses any system resources - according to my Conky panel BunsenLabs was using just over 200MB of RAM when idle. BunsenLabs provides a system that is usable out of the box but which can be tweaked any way you want. For this review I made the system cleaner and leaner but I could have gone in the opposite direction and create a desktop with conkies, panels and docks all over the place. DistroWatch's slogan, "put the fun back into computing", very much applies to BunsenLabs.

In short, this is a distro I could easily use as my daily driver. My only concern would be the project's long term future. BunsenLabs Helium was released almost a year after Debian Stretch was released and then there is the worrying fact that Openbox doesn't work under Wayland, which is getting ever closer to replacing Xorg. BunsenLabs has got a sound community though, so I very much hope this distro will be around for many years to come.

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OpenSUSE Leap 15 Plasma - Way too buggy, me sad

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Reviews
SUSE

OpenSUSE Leap 15 is a troubled distro. It's pretty and it has some brilliant moments, but almost all of the issues and bugs I reported in Leap 42.3 are still here. As if nothing was learned. Or maybe no one cares. In its default guise, the distro simply isn't ready for ordinary use. You need to work hard to get the basic rights: package management, network, media codecs, fonts. Even time & date posed a big issue, and customization was tricky. Top that with crashes, installation woes, GRUB suddenly losing its dual-boot stuff.

The only redeeming factors are good looks, excellent performance (eventually) and smartphone support. But the rest feels beta. Hardly the SUSE that I once knew and loved so much. Back then, I used SUSE 9/10 like a champ, even had a box configured as a router, used a PPTP dialer to get the Web, ran VMware Server Beta on top of it, had Nvidia drivers all dandy. This was in 2005-7, and I was much less skilled than I am now. And yet, I had a rock-solid, pro desktop that never disappointed me. Today, what can I say? I can only hope SUSE gets its game together. There are some really amazing things here, but they are far and few in between. Unfortunately, Leap 15 is a no-go. Something like 1/10. Me very sad.

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PureOS – A User Friendly, Secure and Freedom Respecting OS

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

PureOS is a modern user-friendly Debian-based distro that uses exclusively free and open source software and it has the endorsement of the Free Software Foundation.

It’s said to have the best privacy-protecting apps that it ships with – which I guess is evident since I haven’t experienced any significant pop-ups yet.

On the whole, PureOS looks familiar owing to the fact that it runs GNOME desktop. Its screen is clutter free and being Debian-based, its operations and window functions are similar to that of Ubuntu.

Below is my list of its main features and why I will rate it.

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elementary OS – A Beautiful OS for Open Source Lovers

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Reviews

elementary OS is an open source Ubuntu-based distro and one of the most awesome GNU/Linux distros ever. It has gained a lot of traction over years, coming in at #5 on Distro Watch’s popularity scale with 1,324 hits per day.

elementary OS is usually mentioned only in light of macOS and sometimes Windows, given that it features a beautiful and consistent UI which makes it an ideal replacement; it deserves to stand out more because its active community of developers has not only successfully delivered a unique distro, all of its apps are custom built and they are lovely!

It’s excellent for both Linux beginners and pros which is evident in how artistically comprehensive their online documentation. The team succeeded it keeping to the 3 core rules of their design philosophy which are: “concision”, “avoid configuration” and “minimal documentation”.

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Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver upgrades - Results!

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KDE
Reviews
Ubuntu

A month later, two upgrades later, Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver is a nicer distribution than what I tested shortly after its official release. But then, it's not perfect. The older box with the Nvidia card returned better results overall, although there were some niggles. On the multi-boot laptop, I wasn't too happy with the slow-boot issue, although this is NOT a Kubuntu-specific problem, as you will learn in a few days. But it still does not give me the razor-sharp confidence I need and expect from an LTS.

In general, Ubuntu-family upgrades are reasonably robust, but they can still be more streamlined, including package removal, third-party repos and odd glitches here and there. I wonder how I'd have felt if I tested Beaver fresh, right now. Alas, I cannot delete the memory of my first encounter. With Trusty, it was just right. Here, it might be right, and I may even end up using - and loving - Plasma Bionic in my prod setup, but it will never be the amazing chemistry I had with 14.04.

But if you're wondering, by all means, worth testing and upgrading, and the post-release Kubuntu Beaver is a pretty slick and tight distro. If I had to judge in isolation, i.e. no early-May scars, then when I combine performance, looks, fonts, media, hardware support, and such, 'tis really neat. Something like 9/10. Now, just waiting for the Men In Black mind-zapping eraser thingie, so I can be blissfully happy. And we're done.

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Devuan GNU+Linux 2.0.0 "ASCII"

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OS
Reviews

When I am trying out a desktop distribution, what really tends to divide the field of Linux distributions in my mind is not whether the system uses MATE or Plasma, or whether the underlying package manager uses RPM or Deb files. What tends to leave a lasting impression with me is whether the desktop environment, its applications and controls feel like a cooperative, cohesive experience or like a jumble of individual tools that happen to be part of the same operating system. In my opinion Ubuntu running the Unity desktop and Linux Mint's Cinnamon desktop are good examples of the cohesive approach. The way openSUSE's administration tools work together provides another example. Like them or hate them, I think most people can see there is an overall design, a unifying vision, being explored with those distributions. I believe Devuan falls into the other category, presenting the user with a collection of utilities and features where some assembly is still required.

This comes across in little ways. For example, many distributions ship Mozilla's Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird e-mail client together as a set, and they generally complement each other. Devuan ships Firefox, but then its counterpart is the mutt console e-mail program which feels entirely out of place with the rest of the desktop software. The PulseAudio sound mixing utility is included, but its system tray companion is not present by default. Even the system installer, which switches back and forth between graphical windows and a text console, feels more like a collection of uncoordinated prompts rather than a unified program or script. Some people may like the mix-and-match approach, but I tend to prefer distributions where it feels like the parts are fitted together to create a unified experience.

What I found was that Devuan provided an experience where I had to stop and think about where items were or how I was going to use them rather than having the pieces seamlessly fit together. However, once I got the system set up in a way that was more to my liking, I appreciated the experience provided. Devuan offers a stable, flexible platform. Once I shaped the operating system a little, I found it to be fast, light and capable. Having a fairly large repository of software available along with Flatpak support provided a solid collection of applications on a conservative operating system foundation. It was a combination I liked.

In short, I think Devuan has some rough edges and setting it up was an unusually long and complex experience by Linux standards. I certainly wouldn't recommend Devuan to newcomers. However, a day or two into the experience, Devuan's stability and performance made it a worthwhile journey. I think Devuan may be a good alternative to people who like running Debian or other conservative distributions such as Slackware. I suspect I may soon be running Devuan's Raspberry Pi build on my home server where its lightweight nature will be welcome.

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Also: deepin 15.6 Released With New Features: Get This Beautiful Linux Distro Here

Gnome 3.28 review - Minimalism gone wrong

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GNOME
Reviews

Gnome 3.28 brings in a few interesting changes to the Gnome table - not too many, though, this version isn't a radical revamp, more sort of a gradual progression of the basic idea behind the Gnome desktop environment. Not bad in that regard. Bad in every other regard.

Unfortunately - and this is nothing personal, all I care for is to be happy and productive with my desktops, and Gnome 2 was my favorite thing for years and years - Gnome 3.28 is a sterile, counterproductive pseudo-touch concept that serves little purpose on the desktop. It requires significant tweaking and immense changes under the hood to make presentable and usable, and even then, it works hard against the user. Performance is really bad, a decade-old laptop with anything other than Gnome works better than a contemporary model with Gnome, and you feel the sluggishness with every little thing you do. It's life-sapping. The more you multi-task the worse it gets.

All in all, Gnome 3.28 has changed little from the original Gnome 3 a few years ago. It is still not suited for purpose, it has not evolved in any way, and in fact, there are fresh new functional regressions in the product. It's getting more and more difficult to achieve simple things, and you're fighting against the desktop. Not how it's meant to be. Maybe Linux will make it big on the phone and tablet one day, and then Gnome could be a blast. But on traditional computing devices, it's a flop. Not recommended, I'm afraid. Take care.

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More in Tux Machines

GNOME: GUADEC, GSoC, GitLab

  • Petr Kovar: GUADEC 2018
    Back from GUADEC, held in the beautiful Andalusian city of Almería, Spain, from 6th July through 11th July, 2018, I wanted to share a few notes wrt documentation and localization activities at the conference and during the traditional post-conference hacking days.
  • GUADEC18 Developer Center BoF Part 1: The Developer Experience
    At this year’s GUADEC lightning talks I spontaneously announced and arranged a Developer Center BoF (Birds of a Feather) session. We were six attendants who met together Wednesday the 11th September. I think it is important that we communicate our doings to the rest of the community, so I will make a few short blog posts based on our meeting notes and my own thoughts on the subject.
  • GSoC 2018: Safe Shared Access to Cairo Image Surfaces
    I’m working on librsvg, a GNOME SVG rendering library, to port the SVG filter effects and related infrastructure from C to Rust. Librsvg uses Cairo, a 2D graphics library, for most of its drawing operations. Cairo can draw to a number of different surfaces like XCB and Xlib windows and pixmaps, PDF documents and PostScript files.
  • Have you ever commented while angry?
    Here’s my proposal (feature request for GitLab / irssi?

OSS: Apache Cassandra, Jib,WSO2 and More

  • Apache Cassandra at 10: Making a community believe in NoSQL
    Ten years ago this month, when Lehman Brothers was still just about in business and the term NoSQL wasn't even widely known, let alone an irritant, Facebook engineers open-sourced a distributed database system named Cassandra. Back then, the idea that huge numbers of companies would need a scalable database was almost laughable – and that grip of traditional relational database systems is reflected in the mythical moniker given to what would become one of the first of many databases designed to run on a cluster of machines. Named after the Greek figure who was cursed to utter the truth but was never believed, Cassandra might seem an odd choice for a system whose raison d'être is believability – but it delivered a nice dig at the stalwarts of the RDBMS world… and their trust in a false Oracle.
  • Google Launches Jib, Automated Container Packaging for Java Apps
    Google has released software that could automate the packaging of a Java program so that it can be run in the cloud-native environment. Jib is an open-source Java “containerizer,” one that handles all the steps of packaging your application into a container image, according to Appu Goundan and Qingyang Chen, two Google engineers who co-wrote a blog post announcing the new technology. Created over two decades ago at Sun Microsystems, Java was introduced as a “write once, run anywhere” programming language, where all the code would be packaged in a JAR file, and run by a Java Virtual Machine on any platform. The requirements for running code anywhere have expanded with the introduction of containerization, however. Few shops are Java-only these days, and many are turning to containerization for true application portability,
  • WSO2 Summer 2018 Release Brings Agility to Secure Microservices Integration
  • New Operations in Mexico Extend WSO2’s Reach Across Latin America
  • How Open Source Became The Default Business Model For Software
  • 10 Best Kodi Addons You Should Install In 2018 | Legal Addons
    Kodi is one of the most popular media player software which enables you to access videos, music, and pictures via the internet or local storage on a host of platforms. Managed by XBMC foundation, Kodi is an open source software. However, its reputation has been soiled by labeling it as a piracy bearer, and that is why many ask “Is Kodi legal?” You can read more about Kodi and whether it is legal or not here.
  • Summer of Code: Plan for the grand finale
    To get that done, I have to polish up my smack-openpgp branch which has grown to a size of 7000 loc. There are still some minor quirks, but Florian recommended to focus on the big picture instead of spending too much time on small details and edge cases. I also have to release pgpainless to maven central and establish some kind of release cycle. It will be a future challenge for me personally to synchronize the releases of smack-openpgp and pgpainless.
  • Collaborative World Shaping: Why Open-Source Tech Matters in a For-Impact Future
    How many lives could be saved if there was a way to vastly cut down inefficiency and through bureaucracy, by problem solving at a global scale? Could technology help us reach more individuals in need more meaningfully, substantially helping people affected by disasters – in less time? The technology is already out there – but not enough people know about it. In 2017, Hurricane Irma—the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean—made landfall; with widespread, “catastrophic” damage, disaster relief organizations were overwhelmed. “A lot of traditional means of crisis response are very top down, and they didn’t really kick in — we saw headlines about how the Red Cross didn’t show up to shelters,” said Greg Bloom, a community organizer and civic hacker who knew he had to step in to assist.
  • The First Open-Source Smart Contract Platform to be Started by Rootstock
    RSK Labs, formerly known as Rootstock, an Argentinian startup building the first open-source smart contract platform with a 2-way peg to Bitcoin.RSK Labs CEO Diego Gutiérrez Zaldívar on Bitcoin Smart Contracts Sidechain and Crypto Industry Challenges. Even though at this point of time the 2-way peg security of the RSK blockchain is still relying on a group of third parties called ‘Federation’, in the future the developers promise to bring a “trustless” automatic peg. How fast this happens to some degree depends on the overall miners support. The company says its goal is to add value and functionality to the Bitcoin ecosystem by enabling Ethereum-like smart-contracts, near instant payments and higher-scalability, and this past January after almost two years of development its mainnet dubbed Bamboo was finally launched.
  • Creality’s Ender 3 3D Printer is Now Fully Open Source
    Creality3D, founded in 2014, is a 3D printer manufacturer based in China, offering more than 20 products. Their popular Ender 3 was recently voted “Best 3D Printer Under $200” by All3DP (review here). Now, the company is making their most popular 3D printer, the Ender 3, completely open source. This makes it the first Open Source Hardware Association certified 3D printer in China. This means not just a few files have been shared, but all hardware, CAD files, board schematics and firmware files are available. You can find the updated versions on the company’s GitHub page.
  • Charité's researchers integrate open-source platform into the 'Human Brain Project'
    Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) are pleased to announce that 'The Virtual Brain' neuroinformatics platform has joined the EU's Flagship 'Human Brain Project'. With financial support from the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, Charité's researchers are now integrating their open-source platform into the 'Human Brain Project'. This will provide participating researchers with a research infrastructure that promotes efficiency and reproducibility. The researchers will focus on refining the theoretical underpinnings of the computer models used, developing efficient simulation technology, and working on neuroinformatics solutions that enhance the reproducibility of studies.

Kernel and Graphics: PDS, VKMS and Nouveau

  • PDS 0.98s release
    PDS 0.98s is released with the following changes 1. Fix compilation issue on raspberry pi. 2. Minor rework and optimization on balance code path. 3. Fix wrong nr_max_tries in migrate_pending_tasks. This is mainly a bug fix and minor optimization release for 4.17. The rework of balance code doesn't go well, it actually make more overhead than current implement. Another rework which based on current implement is still on going, hopefully be included in next release.
  • PDS-MQ CPU Scheduler Revised For The Linux 4.17 Kernel With Minor Optimizations
    Alfred Chen announced this week the release of PDS-mq 0.98s, his latest patch-set of this CPU scheduler against the Linux 4.17 upstream code-base and includes minor optimization work and bug fixes. The PDS scheduler stands for the "Priority and Deadline based Skiplist multiple queue scheduler" that is derived from Con Kolivas' former BFS scheduler with Variable Run Queue (VRQ) support. PDS design principles are to be a simple CPU process scheduler yet efficient and scalable. PDS-mq differs from Con Kolivas' current MuQSS scheduler.
  • Add infrastructure for Vblank and page flip events in vkms simulated by hrtimer
    Since the beginning of May 2018, I have been diving into the DRM subsystem. In the beginning, nothing made sense to me, and I had to fight hard to understand how things work. Fortunately, I was not alone, and I had great support from Gustavo Padovan, Daniel Vetter, Haneen Mohammed, and the entire community. Recently, I finally delivered a new feature for VKMS: the infrastructure for Vblank and page flip events. At this moment, VKMS have regular Vblank events simulated through hrtimers (see drm-misc-next), which is a feature required by VKMS to mimic real hardware [6]. The development approach was entirely driven by the tests provided by IGT, more specifically the kms_flip. I modified IGT to read a module name via command line and force the use of it, instead of using only the modules defined in the code (patch submitted to IGT, see [1]). With this modification in the IGT, my development process to add a Vblank infrastructure to VKMS had three main steps as Figure 1 describes.
  • The State Of The VKMS Driver, Preparations For vBlank & Page Flip Events
    One of the exciting additions to look forward to with the upcoming Linux 4.19 kernel cycle is the virtual "VKMS" kernel mode-setting driver. The driver is still a work-in-progress, but multiple developers are working on it.
  • NIR Continues To Be Prepped For OpenCL Support
    Longtime Nouveau contributor Karol Herbst who joined Red Hat several months ago has been working on Nouveau NIR support as stepping towards SPIR-V/compute support and this summer the work very much remains an active target.
  • Nouveau Gallium3D Moves Closer Towards OpenGL 4.5 Compliance
    While the RadeonSI and Intel i965 Mesa drivers have been at OpenGL 4.5 compliance for a while now, the Nouveau "NVC0" Gallium3D driver has been bound to OpenGL 4.3 officially. This Nouveau Gallium3D driver for NVIDIA "Fermi" graphics hardware and newer has effectively supported all of the OpenGL 4.4/4.5 extensions, but not officially. Originally the NVC0 problem for OpenGL 4.4 and newer was the requirement of passing the OpenGL Conformance Test Suite (CTS), which at first wasn't open-source. But now The Khronos Group has made it available to everyone as open-source. Additionally, the proper legal wrangling is in place so the Nouveau driver could become a conforming Khronos adopter under the X.Org Foundation without any associated costs/fees with Nouveau being purely open-source and primarily considered a community driver.

DistroWatch The Best Website For Distro Hoppers

The DistroWatch features release announcements of new versions of hundreds of Linux and other distributions. It does host reviews of distros, podcasts, and newsletters. DistroWatch first published by Ladislav Bodnar, the founder, and maintainer, on May 31, 2001. DistroWatch initially focused on Linux distributions. But later based on user requests, it went on adding different flavors of operating systems like BSD family, Android x86, Oracle Solaris, MINIX, and Haiku etc. The DistroWatch presents detailed information at one place in a very convenient manner. At the time of writing this article, the DistroWatch hosted information of more than 300 active distributions (referring the list of distros populated under drop-down feature on the first page of the DistroWatch) and more than hundred in queue. It is said that the DistroWatch lives out of advertising and donation. LinuxCD.org is the first to advertise on the DistroWatch site. Read more