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Reviews

The Slimbook is coming

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

Now, this is not a reactionary decision. It is one based on curiosity. I am not trying to wean myself off the evil corporations or anything of that sort. I am quite happy using Windows and Linux in parallel, but then, I also want to see the Linux desktop succeed, in a real-life, pragmatic sort of way, without compromising or any sweet illusions. So I am now going to take my Linux experience to another level, and that means using a Linux machine for some really really serious stuff. After me.

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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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Reviews
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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Reviews
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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Reviews

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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Reviews

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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Reviews

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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Reviews

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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Reviews
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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Reviews
Slack

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Security: Updates, Best VPNs for GNU/Linux, and Google+ Chaos Again

  • Security updates for Monday
  • Best VPNs for Linux
  • After a Second Data Leak, Google+ Will Shut Down in April Instead of August
    Back in October, a security hole in Google+’s APIs lead Google to announce it was shutting down the service. Now, a second data leak has surfaced, causing the company to move the shutdown up by four months. This new data leak is quite similar to the first one: profile information such as name, email address, age, and occupation was exposed to developers, even for private profiles. It’s estimated that upwards of 52 million users were affected by this leak. The good news is that while the first hole was open for three years, this one was only an issue for six days, from November 7th to the 13th, 2018.

Linux and Linux Foundation Leftovers

  • Initial i.MX8 SoC Support & Development Board Possibly Ready For Linux 4.21
    While the i.MX8 series was announced almost two years ago and the open-source developers working on the enablement for these new NXP SoCs hoped for initial support in Linux 4.17, the Linux 4.21 kernel that will be released in the early months of 2019 is slated to possibly have the first i.MX8 support in the form of the i.MX8MQ and also supporting its development/evaluation board.
  • AeonWave: An Open-Source Audio Engine Akin To Microsoft's XAudio2 / Apple CoreAudio
    An open-source audio initiative that's been in development for years but flying under our radar until its lead developer chimed in is AeonWave, which supports Windows and Linux systems while being inspired by Microsoft XAudio and Apple's CoreAudio.
  • Take Linux Foundation Certification Exams from Anywhere
    2018 has seen a new wave of popularity for the open source community and it has sparked more interest in potential engineers, system administrators, and Linux experts. 2019 is around the corner and now is a good time to look up Linux certification examinations that will enable you to progress in your career. The good news we have for you is that the Linux Foundation has made certification examinations available online so that IT enthusiasts can get certificates in a wide range of open source domains.

Games Leftovers

  • The Linux version of Civilization VI has been updated with cross-platform multiplayer support
    Just in time for the holidays, Linux gamers finally have version parity with other platforms. Expect to be able to spend just one more turn playing with friends on other operating systems.
  • John Romero has announced a free unofficial spiritual successor to The Ultimate DOOM's 4th episode
    John Romero, one of the co-founders of id Software has revealed he's been working on SIGIL, a free megawad for the original 1993 DOOM. [...] These boxes, will contain music from Buckethead, along with a custom song written expressly for SIGIL. A tempting purchase for any big DOOM fan, I especially love the sound of a 16GB 3-1/2-inch floppy disk-themed USB. You have until December 24, 2018 to order one and I imagine stock will go quite quickly.
  • Unvanquished Open-Source Game Sees Its First Alpha Release In Nearly Three Years
    Unvanquished had been easily one of the most promising open-source games several years back with decent in-game visuals/art, a continually improving "Daemon" engine that was a distant mod of ioquake3 while leveraging ETXReaL components and more, and all-around a well-organized, advancing open-source game project. Their monthly alpha releases stopped almost three years ago while today that's changed just ahead of Christmas. The Unvanquished developers announced Unvanquished Alpha 51 today as their first release in two years and eight months after having made fifty monthly alpha releases. While this is the fifty-first alpha, the developers say they should soon be ready for the beta drop.
  • Unvanquished, the free and open source shooter has a huge new release now out
    After being quiet for some time, the Unvanquished team is back and they have quite a lot to show off in the new release of their free and open source shooter. This is their first new release since April 2016, so the amount that's changed is quite striking! Hopefully, this will be the start of regular release once again, since they used to do monthly releases a few years ago and it was fun to watch it grow.
  • Valve adds even more gamepad support to their latest client beta
    Valve are continuing to support as many devices as possible with a new Steam client beta now available. Since there's no gamepad to rule them all, it makes sense for Valve to support as many as they can. Even though I love the Steam Controller, I do understand that it's not going to be a good fit for everyone. Now, Steam will support the PowerA wired/wireless GameCube Style controllers, PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller and the PDP Faceoff Wired Pro Controller to boost their already rather large list of supported devices.
  • The turn-based tactical RPG Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is coming along nicely
    After a few months in Early Access, the tactical RPG Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark has come along nicely and it's quite impressive. It became available on Steam back in August, this was with same-day Linux support as promised from developer 6 Eyes Studio after their successful Kickstarter.
  • Citra, the Nintendo 3DS emulator now has 'Accurate Audio Emulation'
    Citra, the impressive and quickly moving Nintendo 3DS emulator has a new progress report out and it sounds great. They've made some great progress on accurate audio emulation, with their new "LLE (Accurate)" option. They say this has enabled games like Pokémon X / Y, Fire Emblem Fates and Echoes and more to work. There's a downside though, that currently the performance does take quite a hit with it so they're still recommending the "HLE (Fast)" setting for now. They go into quite a lot of detail about how they got here, with plenty of bumps along the way. Most of the work towards this, was done by a single developer who suffered a bit of a burn-out over it.
  • Mindustry, an open source sandbox Tower Defense game that's a little like Factorio
    Available under the GPL, the developer originally made it for the GDL Metal Monstrosity Jam which happened back in 2017 and it ended up winning! Seems the developer didn't stop development after this, as they're currently going through a new major release with regular alpha builds.
  • Have graphical distortions in Unity games with NVIDIA? Here's a workaround
    It seems a lot of Unity games upgrading to later versions of Unity are suffering from graphical distortions on Linux with an NVIDIA GPU. There is a workaround available.

Wine-Staging 4.0-RC1 Released With Just Over 800 Patches On Top Of Wine

Released on Friday was Wine 4.0-RC1 while coming out over the weekend was the Wine-Staging re-base that is carrying still over 800 patches on top of the upstream Wine code-base. Wine-Staging 4.0-RC1 is available with 805 patches over what's found in the "vanilla" Wine code-base. But prior to the Wine 4.0 RC1 milestone there were a fair number of patches that were promoted upstream including ntoskrnl, WindowsCodecs, user32, and DXGI changes. Read more