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Reviews

A first look at Ubuntu 18.04 LTS desktop

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Canonical made a bit of a U-turn in its interface plans while developing the last interim release of Ubuntu (17.10, codenamed "Artful Aardvark")—dropping development of its homegrown Unity interface and application launcher (as well as development of an Ubuntu phone), saying goodbye to the Ambiance interface theme of old and embracing the GNOME 3.28 desktop instead. Also significant is the integration of Snapcraft's "snap" format—a universal containerized installer format for packaged applications on all Linux platforms—into Ubuntu's application store.

Ubuntu had settled on the Wayland display server for 17.10 as a default because Canonical wanted to boost 3D graphics capabilities, but it has switched back to X.org graphics server as the default for 18.04, mostly because Wayland's support for screen sharing in applications such as Google Hangouts and Skype isn't quite there. There is also support for remote desktop applications based on RDP and VNC, according to Canonical's Desktop Engineering Manager Will Cooke, and "recoverability from Shell crashes is less dramatic under Xorg." But Wayland is still pre-installed and can be selected at login, and Cooke said that Canonical would take another look at making it default for version 18.10.

Most of the major internal changes in 18.04 LTS are more important on the server side. But so far, as Ars' primary day-to-day Linux desktop user, I've been really impressed with the snappiness and usability of this latest LTS desktop.

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Also: Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 525

Review: Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is not perfect, but it is very good. Users who are super conservative about change might want to stick to 16.04 LTS with Unity for now, but 18.04 LTS is a good desktop distribution that provides an excellent selection of default software for doing general tasks like checking e-mail and writing documents, and there is plenty of other software in the repositories for users who want to do more advanced things. There are a few rough edges that may, or may not, get cleaned up by the time 18.04.1 comes out, but none of them are bad enough to make Ubuntu 18.04 LTS unusable. At worst, the issues are minor annoyances. I realize that GNOME may not be for everyone, and may in itself be a reason to look elsewhere, but I do like Ubuntu's implementation of GNOME with the exception of the various issues with handling desktop icons. However, if GNOME is not for you, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS's other flavors provide the same Ubuntu base with other desktop environments, so check out those if GNOME is not to your liking.

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Elisa music player – Fur Elise

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KDE
Reviews

Elisa is an early beginning of something that might one day transpire into a good, meaningful, exciting project. Or become yet another pile of code created without a greater strategic imperative aimed at satisfying a primal need. At the moment, it’s a bit early to tell, but the initial showing is just okay. Reasonable looks, reasonable behavior, some bugs, and simple functionality that is neither here nor there. I would like to see more. Better yet, I’d like to see something new and unique.

In other words, think, what would make you switch? What would make you abandon your current music player and opt for Elisa as your primary choice? And what does it have that we haven’t already seen or tried in dozens of other players? At the moment, not much. True, another effort does not hurt anyone, and why not. But then, why not is not the foundation on which greatness is built. Plasma is taking off, and recently, it’s become more robust, more consistent, more professional. All and every future effort needs to align to this core mission, and Elisa should follow suit. This beginning ain’t bad, but I want more. Worth testing, just don’t expect any miracles.

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In Beaver We Trust: A Lengthy, Pedantic Review of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

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Reviews
Ubuntu

It's obvious that a lot of work and polish went into this release. Although no Linux-based desktop OS has yet been able to wrest much market share from Windows and Mac OS, I'd say within the last ten years it's at least moderately popular among software developers and other technology-centric folk. I applaud Canonical for being part of the reason this is true. They also get a lot of credit for supporting tons of ancilary open source projects along the way, including actively encouraging spin-offs of their OS.

The Bionic Beaver release of Ubuntu is actually pretty solid, truth be told. Although it turns out that the basic design of the window and desktop management completely prevent me from switching away from Xubuntu, I think it's a fine choice for a lot of users. To get all cliche about it: sorry Ubuntu, it's not you, it's me.

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Raspberry Pi Series Part 2: Laying Out The Basics II

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Reviews

In the last article, we covered the basics of Raspberry Pi. We talked about what Raspberry Pi is and how it can help make amazing projects. In this article, I'll talk about the parts of Raspberry Pi board. So let's get started!

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Review: Chakra GNU/Linux 2017.10

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Chakra is an unusual distribution for a few reasons. It is a rare semi-rolling project, which tries to maintain a fairly stable base system while providing up to date applications. This is an interesting compromise between full rolling and static operating systems. The semi-rolling concept is an idea I like and I was curious to see how well the approach would work dealing with around six months of updates. I was pleased to find Chakra handled the massive upgrade well.

Chakra was once also considered unusual for being very KDE-focused. There are more KDE distribution these days (KaOS, Kubuntu and KDE neon come readily to mind) and I think Chakra may have lost some of its appeal as more competition has established itself in the KDE-centric arena.

I found the distribution to be easy to set up and pretty straight forward to use, but there were a few characteristics which bothered me during my trial with Chakra. One was that while updates installed cleanly, once Plasma 5.12 was installed, I experienced slow login times and reduced performance on the desktop. It could be argued that this is a Plasma problem, not a Chakra problem, but the distribution's rolling release nature means any regressions in new versions of software end up in the user's lap.

Something that tends to bother me about distributions which focus on one desktop toolkit or another is that this approach to selecting software means we are sometimes using less capable tools in the name of toolkit purity. This is not a trade-off I like as I'd rather be using more polished applications over ones which a particular affiliation.

Finally, Chakra includes a number of command line aliases which got in my way. This seems to be a problem I have been running into more often recently. Developers are trying to be helpful by aliasing common commands, but it means that for some tasks I need to change my habits or undefine the provided aliases and the feature ends up being a nuisance instead of a convenience.

Chakra seems to be a capable and useful distribution and I am sure there are people who will appreciate the rolling release nature. Many people will likely also like having lots of KDE applications, and I can see the appeal of this combination. However, one thing which makes me hesitate to recommend Chakra is that the distribution does not appear to bring any special features to the ecosystem. It's a useful operating system and, to be completely fair, users can install non-KDE alternatives if they want to use LibreOffice instead of Calligra or GIMP instead of KolourPaint. But I'm not sure Chakra brings anything unique which makes it stand apart from openSUSE's Tumbleweed or KaOS's polished Plasma offering. Chakra used to be special in its semi-rolling, KDE-focused niche, but these days the distribution has a more competition and I'm not sure the project has any special sauce to set it apart from the crowd.

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Nix This Innovative OS for Its Uninviting Complexity

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OS
Reviews

I had to keep reminding myself that I was not dealing with an extreme case of Arch Linux instead of GNU/Linux. NixOS is more demanding and definitely not a distro for users with anything less than advanced skills.

To say NixOS comes with a steep learning curve and lots of hands-on overhead is putting it mildly. If you are a typical Linux user who lacks sysadmin training, avoid NixOS like a malware attack hiding in plain sight.

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KDE’s New Elisa Music Player: So Close, Yet So Far Away

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Reviews

KDE is a working on a new music player called Elisa. Can Elisa become the new default music player in most Linux distributions? Find out in this review of Elisa music player.
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The Enjoyable Ubuntu MATE 18.04 Beta 2

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Reviews
Ubuntu

It's beautiful, it's lovely, it's amusing, it's Ubuntu MATE 18.04 beta 2. It is an LTS version which will be supported for 3 years. It's more just-work now with a set of different appearances for Windows users ("Redmond"), for Mac OS X users ("Cupertino"), for Unity 7 users ("Mutiny"), and of course for long time Ubuntu MATE users themselves ("Traditional"). It comes with special Welcome program to introduce Ubuntu MATE for any new user, it comes with same experience like previous versions but latest applications (LibreOffice 6.0, Firefox 59, MATE Desktop 1.20) and enhancements, it needs only mid-level specs. with around 640MiB of RAM, and those all made Ubuntu MATE beta 2 really enjoyable. This short review will help you expecting what you will get on Ubuntu MATE final release later on April 26. Enjoy!

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Review: Neptune 5.0

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Reviews

What I tended to find with Neptune was if I stuck with the default settings and used applications in the normal or most straight forward fashion, then things went smoothly. But when I stepped off the straight and narrow path, things tended to unravel. Trying Enlightenment or Wayland sessions, for example, did not work well, but things went smoothly while using Plasma's X session. Checking for updates as soon as I logged in resulted in no packages being found, but if I waited for things to settle in the background and gave the operating system a few minutes, I'd eventually be told updates were available and could install them with a few clicks.

There are a few rough edges here and there, but on the whole Neptune worked well. The stable Debian base combined with the latest version of Plasma, Chromium and LibreOffice were a good mixture. It gives us a solid base with lots of new features and I think that's a good combination, especially for me. There are some edge cases where I ran into minor problems and I didn't like that the settings panel didn't warn me before discarding changes, but otherwise I had a good week with Neptune. I think it's a good fit for relative newcomers to Linux and people looking for a balance between reliability and fresh desktop software.

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FUD, EEE, and Openwashing