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Review: Fedora 28

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For this review I used Fedora Workstation with a vanilla GNOME desktop environment, and I tried to use native GNOME applications as much as possible. I found vanilla GNOME to be a mixed bag. There were many aspects I really liked but there also a few things that made me cringe.

Let's start with the positives. The documentation is quite good - it is well written and covers all the basics. I also quite like how GNOME handles notifications; they are displayed underneath the clock and clicking on the clock brings up a menu that shows recent notifications. The notification area is also used to display calendar appointments and what music is playing. At first I saw the notification area as an ugly, humongous monster but I grew to like it.

Most GNOME applications are pretty, and the absence of toolbars and buttons encouraged me to learn various keyboard shortcuts. After a few hours I no longer missed the minimise button on windows - using the Super-H shortcut is quicker and easier than clicking with the mouse on a minimise button. GNOME applications also use a pleasantly consistent work flow. For instance, applications such as Files, Music and Photos all give you the option to mark items as a "favourite", which in effect is a handy bookmarking system. Similarly, to perform a search in applications such as Files, Web and Software you simply start typing. It takes a little time to get used to but it soon becomes second nature. Having to use the Ctrl-F keyboard combination to do a search now feels a little slow.

That said, I don't buy into the "distraction-free" philosophy. The GNOME desktop certainly looks very clean - there is just one panel with a few items. Personally, though, I like to be able to open applications with the click of a button, and I like to see what applications I have got open at all times (whether via a dock or task bar). I can't get used to constantly opening the "Activities overview" to access applications, work spaces and the search menu. It feels like I am using a mobile phone desktop environment on a PC.

My main gripe with GNOME, though, are applications such as Photos. In Shotwell, I can instantly see how many photos I have. I can easily find images by browsing to the relevant directory. I can choose which directories photos are imported from, and if Shotwell's toolbars become too overwhelming I can simply hide them. GNOME Photos has stripped all these functions and assumes that I am happy to spend hours organising my photo collection in a new way, by adding them to albums. And then Photos doesn't even find images in the directory it is supposed to automatically retrieve images from.

Of course, this is my personal opinion, and it is more about GNOME than it is about Fedora. As I mentioned in the introduction, I like Fedora for its release cycle, package manager and because it is at the forefront of many new technologies. I work in a web hosting environment with many CentOS and CloudLinux servers, and Fedora seems a natural fit. Plus: GNOME can be tweaked.

As for Fedora itself (sans-GNOME), it seems Fedora 28 is another solid release. I upgraded one my PCs from version 27 to 28 without any issues. SELinux hasn't thrown any mysterious alerts at me yet. Updates are applied quickly and cleanly and just about all software I want to use is available. It is a pleasantly boring experience.

I also like where Fedora is going with the third party repositories. Fedora's project leader, Matthew Miller, recently talked on the Late Night Linux podcast about how Fedora is trying to find the right balance between software freedom and providing a functional system. He was unapologetic about the third party repos: "[...] being a theoretical, pure freedom distribution that doesn't actually work on anybody's hardware doesn't help anybody." I very much agree and hope Fedora will add more third party repositories. At the same time I would like to see better integration of Flatpak repositories and applications.

Finally, I should mention that there are various Fedora spins. If you don't like GNOME, you have the option to install Fedora with the KDE, Xfce, LXQt, LXDE, MATE, Cinnamon or Sugar on a Stick desktops.

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Ubuntu 18.04: Unity is gone, GNOME is back—and Ubuntu has never been better

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Ubuntu

Ubuntu 18.04 is a huge update, but I say that mostly in the best sense of big updates. It brings a ton of new stuff, both under the hood and on the desktop, without creating too much disruption to your workflows. The one exception to that is HUD users, who may want to stick with the version of Unity still in the Ubuntu repos.

Canonical generally takes a conservative approach to LTS updates. Existing 16.04 users will not be prompted to upgrade to 18.04 until the first point release is out, and usually that happens around June or July (but it depends on bugs and patches). I would also expect to see Windows Update make it easy to integrate 18.04 into hypervisor on a similar timeline. But if you're already on 17.10 and don't want to wait—and for the average user, I don't see any reason to wait—you can update now by following Canonical's directions. The best Ubuntu offering in years will be waiting for you either way.

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Ubuntu 18.04 Review: Tough Love

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Ubuntu

This Ubuntu review of 18.04 is going to be more blunt than what you've seen elsewhere. Perhaps a bit of tough love.

Not because there is anything wrong with the release or the distro. Rather the fact that in 2018 Ubuntu's big push isn't for the desktop any longer. The 18.04 release is about developing technologies, not desktop technologies.

This Ubuntu 18.04 review will touch on the areas we need to consider before upgrading or switching to a new distro. Allow me to say: my opinions may not be terribly popular, but they are my own.

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TrueOS 18.03

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BSD

TrueOS is a rolling release operating system based on FreeBSD's development (-CURRENT) branch. The TrueOS operating system is available in two editions: a Desktop flavour and a Server flavour. The Desktop edition ships with the Lumina desktop environment, a graphical package manager and other graphical tools for managing the operating system. The Desktop edition is an approximately 2.4GB download and the Server edition is 884MB in size. I downloaded the Desktop edition for my TrueOS trial.

Installing

Booting from the Desktop edition's media brings up a graphical system installer. At the bottom of the installer there is a collection of buttons for launching tools to help us set up the system. One button opens a hardware compatibility checker so we can confirm devices such as our video card and network connection are recognized by TrueOS. Another button opens a window where we can configure our keyboard, a third button opens the system's network settings and another launches a terminal emulator, giving us access to the command line. I quite like having these options, especially the hardware compatibility tool as it largely makes up for TrueOS not having a live desktop environment for us to test drive.

The installer only has a few screens. We are asked to select our preferred language from a list and then choose whether to set up the Desktop or Server edition of TrueOS. We can also restore old copies of TrueOS that have been archived using the project's Life Preserver backup tool. Finally, we are given the opportunity to customize the storage options. TrueOS uses ZFS for handling storage and we can optionally name the ZFS storage pool, select which disk or partition to use and tweak options for sub-volumes. People who are not familiar with ZFS can probably take the default options offered.

The installer then sets up the operating system and, the first time we boot into the new copy of TrueOS, we are asked to complete a few more customisations. A graphical first-run wizard asks us to confirm which video driver it should use, select our time zone and create a password for the administrator account. We are also asked to provide a username and password for our regular account. The last screen gives us a chance to enable/disable some services, such as IPv6 support and the OpenSSH secure shell.

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Ubuntu MATE 18.04 Bionic Beaver - Medium-well

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GNU
Linux
Reviews
Ubuntu

Ubuntu MATE 18.04 Bionic Beaver is a reasonable distro. But it's nowhere near LTS good. On the bright side, MATE has undergone a phenomenal face lift, Boutique is dog's bollocks, and the media-phone stack is really awesome. Lots of nice things all around.

On the other hand, we have application crashes, less-than-average battery usage, tons of visual niggles, Samba problems, and quality that works fine for an amateur project, not for a serious distro that people might need to rely on for the next five years of their life and work. I know I can't. The underlying issues need all be fixed out before this can be a candidate for my production setup. Shame, because there's so much cool and funky stuff, marred by almost nonexistent QA and life-sapping bugs.

Overall, the MATE edition of the 18.04 LTS family is better than Kubuntu. Something like 7.5/10. But when we remember what's out there, and how Trusty fared, and how Zesty fared, well, this is hardly an achievement. I will do the whole long-term follow up, and of course, the whole bucket of useless bugs that were arbitrarily released sometime in late April will surely be fixed in the coming months. I might even end up using this a year from now. But it won't be love or enthusiasm, more of a lesser evil if it comes to that. And that's not how I roll. Aiming for mediocrity is the worst kind of ambition. Let's hope Linux - and Ubuntu MATE - can do better.

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Bring Your Old Computer Back to Life With 4MLinux

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4MLinux is a lightweight Linux distribution that can turn your old computer into a functional one with multimedia support, maintenance tools and classic games.
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GNU/Linux Review: Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Bionic Beaver

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Ubuntu

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS "Bionic Beaver" has been released at Thursday, 26 April 2018 by announcements in their mailing list and Release Notes. After installing Bionic on my laptop since the Beta 1 and Beta 2, here's my report: it uses around 1.2GiB of RAM at least; it brings LibreOffice 6, Firefox 59, and GNOME 3.28 by default; still using Ubiquity as graphical installer. The biggest difference to previous LTS is it no longer uses Unity 7 desktop, so no HUD, no global menu anymore. It is powerful and still very easy to use like before, but needs more powerful hardware. The rest of this review explains those for you with additional links if you want to learn further. Enjoy!

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Review: the Librem 13v2

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OSS
Reviews

The Librem 13—"the first 13-inch ultraportable designed to protect your digital life"—ticks all the boxes, but is it as good in real life as it is on paper?

I don't think we're supposed to call portable computers "laptops" anymore. There's something about them getting too hot to use safely on your lap, so now they're officially called "notebooks" instead. I must be a thrill-seeker though, because I'm writing this review with the Librem 13v2 directly on my lap. I'm wearing pants, but apart from that, I'm risking it all for the collective. The first thing I noticed about the Librem 13? The company refers to it as a laptop. Way to be brave, Purism!

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Ubuntu Budgie Whistles Up a Better Remix

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Ubuntu

The Budgie desktop lacks the glitz and glitter found in more seasoned desktop environments. Animation is nonexistent.

However, this latest release makes good on Ubuntu Budgie's promise to provide simplicity and elegance along with functionality. It goes further down the development pathway to improve on the simplicity to make Budgie a solid desktop choice.

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Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver - Long-term uncertainty

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KDE
Reviews

The day of reckoning is upon us. Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver has been released, and with five years of promised support, it's potentially a great candidate for a production desktop setup. The emphasis is on the adverb used in the previous sentence, as we know how fickle and erratic and regressive Linux distros can be.

But I am genuinely intrigued. I may want this in my production setup. After all, Kubuntu Zesty was the ultimate Plasma release, the best Kubuntu ever, and among the finest Linux systems released in the past decade, and it spiked my interest and desire to deploy Plasma on my serious big-boy machines. With such gentle expectations, let us commence.

[...]

First impressions are everything. I remember trying Trusty, and instantly I knew, this was going to be my LTS darling. I don't feel that way about Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver. Let's start with the good things: decent app set, good performance, excellent fonts, multimedia and smartphone support, solid and slick Plasma desktop. Were this the focus on my review, we'd be celebrating with champagne now.

Alas, there were issues. Various cosmetic ones, which Plasma needs to fix, but I can sort of ignore those. The package manager is useless. Samba connectivity, a thousand unicorns died from misery over this. And worst of all, desktop crashes and freezes. That has no place in an LTS edition. That's pure amateurism. That's so bad there are no words to describe it. Yes, the memory-eating bug in Baloo will be fixed, blah blah, but the emotional scars cannot be healed with makeup and fake smiles.

Bottom line, I was expecting zero issues. I got more than a fair share of crap. In two months, this will most likely be a usable distro, perhaps much more so than most other LTS-like candidates, maybe, but for now, it's just an average offering from the forges of mediocrity and apathy. And it highlights the cardinal issue with Linux since day one. Dev-centric development, done in isolation and with no validation. Well, there you go. My first take on Beaver KDE. I will also run an in-vivo upgrade to see what gives, and follow up in a few weeks once the turds are polished. You should check it, but please rein in your colts of enthusiasm. 5/10. For now, Trusty stays.

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  • Moment of truth for Google as record EU antitrust fine looms
     

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OSS Leftovers

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  • Meet the man in charge of Arduino

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FUD, EEE, and Openwashing