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Reviews

Rock Pi 4 B Review: A Swiss Army Knife Of Single Board Computers

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Hardware
Reviews

The Rock Pi 4 B, while having no official affiliation with the Raspberry Pi, is a single board computer whose intention it is to provide all the features Raspberry Pi fans would like in the now dated Rasberry Pi 3 B+ model, and are hoping to see in the 4 B+ model. The Rock Pi 4 B has a lot to offer, but does it really check all the boxes?

The Rock Pi 4 B is a powerhouse in terms of SBCs, especially when compared to the Raspberry Pi. The board comes in three variants, 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM running at 3,200 MB/s, all other specifications are the same across the variants. These will run you $49, $59, and $75 and should not be confused with the model A parts that do not contain the 802.11ac wireless or the Bluetooth 5.0 (but do contain wireless and Bluetooth).

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Endless OS Functionality Controls Simplify Computing

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OS
Reviews

The endless OS offers many computing options. It is easy to use. It is not a Linux solution for sophisticated users, however.

The developers designed this distro to fulfill the demands of underserved users in the developing world. Most of the users live in places where access to information is restricted and computers are expensive.

However, this unique Linux distro with its EOS desktop can have endless uses for schools, church groups and business settings. Endless OS also can be a frustration-free computing platform for students and non tech-savvy users.

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Reviews: Lenovo Thinkpad T480s Business Laptop, DebEX Budgie 190128 and Elementary OS

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Reviews
  • Reviewed: The Lenovo Thinkpad T480s Business Laptop
  • DebEX Budgie 190128 Run Through

    Today we are looking at DebEX Linux 190128 the Budgie edition.

  • Exploring elementary OS

    Elementary OS is an elegant Linux with a long-term vision and a focus on good design.

    "Good design makes a product useful," said the legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams. I couldn't agree more. My productivity is directly proportional to how well designed the tool is. I care about the UI elements – fonts, icons, the spacing between elements, and so on.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to Linux on the desktop, the design is often an afterthought. Most projects don't have a UI designer on the team (some projects are a one-man army). As a result, what you get is all too often a patchwork that stitches disconnected components together.

Audiocasts: Tidelift and Linux Journal

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Reviews
  • What You Need To Know About Open Source Licenses And Intellectual Property

    As a developer and user of open source code, you interact with software and digital media every day. What is often overlooked are the rights and responsibilities conveyed by the intellectual property that is implicit in all creative works. Software licenses are a complicated legal domain in their own right, and they can often conflict with each other when you factor in the web of dependencies that your project relies on. In this episode Luis Villa, Co-Founder of Tidelift, explains the catagories of software licenses, how to select the right one for your project, and what to be aware of when you contribute to someone else’s code.

  • Episode 13: Digital Sovereignty

    Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Elizabeth Renieris about digital identity, ethics, boiled frogs, and horses with lasers.

MakuluLinux Core OS Debuts With Impressive Desktop Design

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OS
Reviews

I have charted the progress of Core's development through sometimes daily ISO releases over the last few months. I can attest to the near constant revisions and design tweaks Raymer has applied.

The more I used Core, the better choice it became over its LinDoz and Flash kin. That, of course, is purely a personal observation. But the features I loved in the other two MakuluLinux options either were even better when integrated into Core, or were surpassed by the Core-only innovations.

MakuluLinux Core's rebuilt Xfce desktop is so well tweaked it looks and feels like something new.

Given the amount of forking Raymer did to Xfce, he could call the desktop something new. For me, referring to it as "the new Core desktop" makes perfect sense.

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Linux Mint 19.1: A sneaky popular distro skips upheaval, offers small upgrades

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Linux
Reviews

While Ubuntu and Red Hat grabbed most of the Linux headlines last year, Linux Mint, once the darling of the tech press, had a relatively quiet year. Perhaps that's understandable with IBM buying Red Hat and Canonical moving back to the GNOME desktop. For the most part Linux Mint and its developers seemed to keep their heads down, working away while others enjoyed the limelight. Still, the Linux Mint team did churn out version 19, which brought the distro up to the Ubuntu 18.04 base.

While the new release may not have garnered mass attention, and probably isn't anyone's top pick for "the cloud," Linux Mint nevertheless remains the distro I see most frequently in the real world. When I watch a Linux tutorial or screen cast on YouTube, odds are I'll see the Linux Mint logo in the toolbar. When I see someone using Linux at the coffee shop, it usually turns out to be Linux Mint. When I ask fellow Linux users which distro they use, the main answers are Ubuntu... and Linux Mint. All of that is anecdotal, but it still points to a simple truth. For a distro that has seen little press lately, Linux Mint manages to remain popular with users.

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Review: KaOS 2018.12

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KDE
Reviews

KaOS is an independent desktop Linux distribution that features the latest version of the KDE desktop environment, the Calligra office suite, and other popular software applications that use the Qt toolkit. KaOS employs a rolling-release development model and is built exclusively for 64-bit computer systems.

Some changes have come to the KaOS distribution lately, including the migration of applications to OpenSSL 1.1 (from OpenSSL 1.0) and KDE Plasma 5.14 is now in the project's repositories. KaOS currently ships with a welcome window called Croeso which offers a lot of customization options for first-time users. Croeso replaces the old Kaptan welcome screen.

KaOS has dropped support for Qt 4 which has not received active development for a while. The latest snapshot also updates Calamares and introduces a fix to make sure systems with Btrfs volumes should install properly on UEFI-enabled computers. Further, the project's release notes warn the distribution cannot be installed on a RAID system.

The latest snapshot of KaOS is 1.9GB in size. Booting from this media brings up the KDE Plasma desktop. The interface features a blue and grey theme with the desktop panel displayed vertically down the right-hand side. I think KaOS may be the only distribution I have used which places the panel in this manner.

Once the live desktop loads we are shown a welcome window which offers to open the distribution's guide (which features installation instructions), launch the Calamares installer, display on-line documentation, show us the operating system's default passwords, or open the user forum. The forum and documentation links are opened in the Falkon browser.

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Netrunner's Unique Blackbird Soars to New Heights

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Reviews

Blackbird, Netrunner's version 19.01 release, hit the download servers on Jan. 14, and this distro deserves to be considered bleeding-edge.

Netrunner is a step ahead of other KDE distros, thanks to its solid integration of classic KDE desktop performance with Web-based applications and cloud services. That said, if you aren't fondness of the K Desktop, Netrunner may leave you wanting more desktop simplicity.

For that you must look elsewhere. KDE is the only desktop available from the Germany-based Blue Systems development team. Blackbird is based on Debian's "Testing" branch. Its developer brings some aggressive updates to the distro that propel it ahead of other distros' regular development cycles.

The main updates include KDE Plasma 5.14.3, KDE Frameworks 5.51, KDE Applications 18.08 and Qt 5.11.3 for its essential security updates. Linux Kernel 4.19, Firefox Quantum 64.0 and Thunderbird 60.3 push the envelope as well.

One of the more noticeable new features in Blackbird is its new Netrunner Black theme. This theme is based on a dark-toned contrasting visual. It uses the Kvantum theme engine, plus the Alpha-Black Plasma theme, to produce a more 3D-looking design.

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A day in the office ... without Office

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LibO
Reviews

First, let me give you a brief overview of my typical "office" setup. Normally, I write fiction in LibreOffice Writer, and by that I mean books and short stories, not website content. There's no need for any great embellishment, just text. When I do need to send these files to editors, agents and alike, they are rinsed through Microsoft Word 2010 (the best of the bunch, including the more recent versions).

Non-fiction work, i.e. technical books fall into two buckets: 1) LaTeX and LyX for entirely self-published items 2) the likes of my Problem Solving and System Administration Ethics titles are done and conceived almost entirely in Microsoft Word, because they require a lot more precision and focus, and ultimately, they need to be easily accessible by the publisher. This is a no-nonsense constraint. I cannot have any styling lost converting files between different formats.

If I need to do graphics (including diagrams and alike), I will use all sorts of tools, including even something like Octave, but also Powerpoint, GIMP, and other programs. Equations are best done either using the built-in editor, or the aforementioned LaTeX. Now that covers the writing part. There's also collaboration.

Here, I decided to try a bold thing - which is part of this experiment. On the System Administration Ethics book, I am collaborating with a friend in a different country, so we are using the Internetz to communicate. We also decided to use Google Docs to share files, comment and edit each other's writing and such. Then, I've also recently configured a Slimbook Pro2 & Kubuntu setup, i.e. Linux, i.e. not Windows. That means that such a system cannot use locally installed Microsoft software - the cloud-based Microsoft Office Online is a really great option though, plus, as luck would have it, it also works just fine on Linux. Now there.

And so, LibreOffice and Google Docs gain even more focus due to these Linux-based restrictions, but not only. Finally, you have the full context for this experiment. Spurred by actual usage needs - and with meaningful, months-long projects at hand - I decided to examine the tech landscape, and you're now enjoying the fruits of my labor. Also worth reading Slimbook reports in parallel, that is.

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Review: Sculpt OS 18.09

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OS
Reviews

The Sculpt OS website suggests that the operating system is ready for day to day use, at least in some environments: "Sculpt is used as day-to-day OS by the Genode developers." Though this makes me wonder in what capacity the operating system runs on the machines of those developers. When I tried out the Haiku beta last year, the operating system had some limitations, but I could see how it could be useful to some people in environments with compatible hardware. In theory, I could browse the web, perform some basic tasks and develop software on Haiku.

With Sculpt though, I was unable to get the operating system to do anything, from a user's point of view. The small OS could download packages and load some of them into memory, and it could display a graph of related components. Sculpt could connect to my network and mount additional storage. All of this is good and a fine demo of the Genode design. However, I (as a user) was unable to interact with any applications, find a command line, or browse the file system. All of this put a severe damper on my ability to use Sculpt to do anything useful.

Genode, and by extension Sculpt OS, has some interesting design goals when it comes to security and minimalism. However, I don't think Sculpt is practical for any end-user tasks at this time.

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More in Tux Machines

ps_mem Shows Per-Program Memory Usage On Linux

Unlike many other tools that report memory usage per process, ps_mem reports the RAM usage of programs. For example it shows how much RAM is used by all Chromium processes combined. The program developer notes that the ps_mem name is used for backwards compatibility, but a more accurate name would be coremem. The displayed RAM is calculated by adding the sum of private RAM and the sum of shared RAM for a program processes. Running ps_mem with no arguments shows a list programs and their RAM usage in ascendant order (from the lowest RAM usage to the highest). For each program it shows the private, shared, and total used RAM, as well as the number of processes. Swap information for each program can be shown as well, by using the -S option (sudo ps_mem -S). Read more

Today in Techrights

Strawberry Released for Sparky Linux, feren OS 2019.04 in Review

OSS Leftovers

  • The State of Neural Machine Translation for Asian Languages
    Open source for Asian language NLP is getting more and more active, but it would be useful to have more projects that are both frequently updated and popular. Sometimes, code licensing plays a negative role, because many old projects are GPL (General Public License). Jieba, Rakuten MA, KoNLPy are some frequently-used libraries for CJK (Chinese-Japanese-Korean) NLP. (Lucy Park is a KoNLPy developer.)
  • Will your organization change itself to death?
    Organizations, open or otherwise, cannot spend every moment changing themselves. For one thing, doing so would mean abandoning whatever mission they purport to have. As the saying goes, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." That adage, while most common in the context of political beliefs, is applicable here too.
  • Open source may be the future, but very few are writing it

    Open source may dominate the software we use to power the cloud, AI, and more, but a small percentage of developers do most of the coding. While it has long been true that for any given open source project, the vast majority of core contributions come from a cabal of committed developers, it seemed like the popularity of using open source would bleed into writing open source. Nope.

  • viewport and iphone reflow

    Something that’s annoyed me for some years is that all the web sites I build don’t work quite right with my iphone. Scroll down a page, visit a link, go back, and safari jumps back to the top of the page. Very annoying. Pretty much no other site I visit seems to have this problem, yet I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong since I’m barely doing anything at all. There are some support forum complaints about similar bugs, but mostly from several years ago, and mostly “solved: it works now” without explanation.

    Finally, figured out what seems to be the problem. The iphone introduces its own viewport meta tag, to define the screen dimensions, and control whether the user can zoom or not. A lot of sites abuse this to the point of unusability, so I very determinedly stayed clear. But without a viewport tag, safari is really dumb.

  • Categorizing OpenBSD Bugs

    I thought it would be interesting to see if something similar were true of OpenBSD bugs. I went through two years of OpenBSD errata for the most recent four releases (6.1, 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4) and categorized each bug.

  • Bug in French government’s WhatsApp replacement let anyone join Élysée chats

    Tchap is not intended to be a classified communications system—it runs on regular Android phones and uses the public Internet. But as the DINSIC, the French inter-ministry directorate for information systems that runs Tchap put it, Tchap "is an instant messenger allowing government employees to exchange real-time information on everyday professional issues, ensuring that the conversations remain hosted on the national territory." In other words, it's to keep official government business off of Facebook's and Telegram's servers outside France.

    Based on the Riot.im chat application from the open source project Matrix, Tchap is officially still in "beta," according to DINSIC. And that beta test is getting off to a rough start. Within two days, French security researcher Baptiste Robert—who goes by the Twitter handle @fs0c131y (aka Elliot Alderson)—had tapped into Tchap and subsequently viewed all of the internal "public" discussion channels hosted by the service.

  • Reset Email Account Passwords After a Website Malware Infection