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Reviews

Review: Secure-K OS 18.5

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Reviews

I like the idea behind Secure-K. Being able to easily set up a distribution on a USB thumb drive so I can take my operating system with me in my pocket is very appealing. Having secure communication and quick access to the Tor network is also handy. I think the Secure-K developers are basically trying to provide an operating system that is like Tails, but more geared toward general purpose use. Tails is typically seen as a utility specifically for secure on-line communication, but probably not a platform for day-to-day use. Secure-K seems to be coming from the other direction and providing a day-to-day operating system that can also be used for secure communication and anonymous web browsing.

In theory, this is a good concept and I can see how it would appeal, especially if people want easy access to on-line storage and persistent settings.

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ExTiX 18.7 Is Not Quite an 'Ultimate Linux System'

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Linux
Reviews

The ExTiX 18.7 release was a disappointment. Given the maturity and variety of the previous Linux distros maintained by the Exton OS and ExTiX developer, I can only conclude that the problems I encountered were an anomaly. No doubt, a fix is in the works.

I hope so. ExTiX and the LXQt desktop have much to offer. This latest release comes with Firefox instead of Google Chrome as the Web Browser. This makes it possible to watch Netflix movies in Firefox while running Linux.

Among many other programs included are LibreOffice, Thunderbird, GParted, Brasero, SMPlayer, Gimp, Flash and win32 codecs. In addition, Java and all necessary additions are supplied to let you install programs from source.

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Dell XPS 13 Kabylake Makes For A Great Linux Laptop

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Hardware
Reviews

When it comes to new laptops for the summer of 2018 that are Linux-friendly, the latest-generation Dell XPS 13 with Intel Kabylake-R processor ranks high on that list. Recent in upgrading my main production workstation, I decided to go with the Dell XPS 13 9370 while using Fedora Workstation 28 and it's been a phenomenal combination. Here are my thoughts on the current Dell XPS 13 as well as some benchmarks and other information.

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Ubuntu 18.04 -- MATE and Budgie editions

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Reviews
Ubuntu

The Budgie desktop, at least in Ubuntu, is a curious thing. On one hand it appears to cater to relative novices to Linux with all the emphasis on install help in the beginning. On the other, there's quite a reliance on keyboard shortcuts. Despite MATE upping its game with the various layout options in tweak tool, Budgie appears more modern, stylish and has kept the focus on on-line integration of the GNOME Shell. With the Raven side-panel on the right it reminds me of early mock-ups of GNOME 3 which featured a side panel with notifications, a calendar and all sorts of options.

The Budgie edition appeared more solid for everyday use. I did not experience the crashes or weird behaviour of panel applets that had plagued the MATE desktop, probably induced by frequent layout changes. The Budgie edition also did not throw as many unexpected error messages at me and hibernate worked.

Budgie also suffered from the delayed shutdown of systemd jobs but not as frequently as the MATE edition. It has been suggested this is due to the operating system not being able to find swap or a missing swap partition. I cannot confirm this. I completed both installations the same way as a custom setup and while the hibernate option was available in Budgie it was not in the installed MATE edition. Hibernate and resume from swap worked in Budgie but still stop job delays occurred here as well. This was mostly the case after running for longer periods of time under heavy load and when the laptop had been running hot, through multimedia use or with browser tabs like Google Drive or Google Docs open which alone topped 225MB use of RAM. Power and CPU usage were about equal for given tasks, but Budgie consumed far more memory from the start.

As to the choice of desktop, you will know your preferences. Budgie seems more integrated and, with that, more stable at the moment and overall this edition made a better impression. It also presents a lot of options under the hood of which I could only scratch the surface for this review. I for my part am not going to keep any release of Bionic Beaver around for long although I like both desktops. It is just too buggy and running too hot to be used as a long-term stable operating system.

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Also: National Cyber Security Centre publish Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Security Guide

FreeOffice Suite Is Almost Blue Ribbon-Worthy

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Linux
Reviews

SoftMaker's FreeOffice 2018 is a high-end productivity suite that is worthy of consideration. The TextMaker word processor module is one of the closest products I have used in Linux to being capable of handling page design and publication functions.

I often use it for design pages instead of Scribus for desktop publishing tasks. The PlanMaker and Presentation modules are equally adept at rounding out office documents needs.

However, FreeOffice 2018 has a few quirks. One of them is the spelling feature. The English language version is supposed to be included by default. It is not in the installed package. As a workaround, I downloaded the Canada English Hunspell dictionary from the Softmaker website. No U.S. English dictionary was available for download.

Another oddity is the right panel that has a show/hide button. In each of the three modules, the right panel displays handy tips on using some of the core features.

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Review: Peppermint OS 9

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Reviews

While I have to admit that I am not the target audience for a distribution focused on web-based applications, I found Peppermint 9 to be a solid distribution. Despite pulling components from multiple desktop environments, Peppermint 9's desktop is well integrated and easy to use. It was also easy to add both web-based and traditional applications to the system, so the distribution can be adjusted for users who prefer either.

Peppermint 9 is not for everyone, but users who do most their work in Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online should give Peppermint a try. However, users accustomed to using traditional desktop applications might want to stick to one of the many alternatives out there. Yes, Peppermint 9 can be easily adjusted to use traditional desktop applications, but many of the other distribution options out there come with those kinds of applications pre-installed.

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Kdenlive 18.08 Beta – Film Noir

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KDE
Reviews

Kdenlive is my video editor de jour since the dawn of civilization, or rather, as far back as my video editing attempts go. Pretty much all of the clips I uploaded to my Youtube channel were made using Kdenlive, with only some extra work in other programs. Kdenlive is powerful, flexible, useful, and now there’s a new beta that promises many good things and delights.

The 18.08 version can be found under the label Refactoring Branch – sounds like an avantguard field of mathematics – and it is distributed as a self-contained AppImage, meaning you just need to make the file executable and then run it (single- or double-click). Which is exactly what I did. Follow me.

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Pinguy OS Puts On a Happier GNOME 3 Face

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Reviews

Pinguy OS 18.04 is an Ubuntu-based distribution that offers a non-standard GNOME desktop environment intended to be friendlier for new Linux users.

This distro is a solid Linux OS with a focus on simple and straightforward usability for the non-geek desktop user. If you do not like tinkering with settings or having numerous power-grabbing fancy screen animations, Pinguy OS could be a good choice.

The GNOME desktop is the only user interface option, but Pinguy OS' developer, Antoni Norman, tweaked the desktop environment with some different software options not usually packaged with GNOME.

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openSUSE Tumbleweed: a Linux Distro review

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Reviews
SUSE

The bittersweet result: I may be free of the operating system release cycle, but have spent far more time fussing over my rolling distro than I ever would have fussed to upgrade from point release A to point release B. openSUSE impresses, but I probably should have (sigh …) adopted their point release distro Leap instead, or stood pat with Mint. (Although I’ll likely Tumble from here on in, now that I’ve hacked my way through the worst of the Tumbleweed learning curve.)

If also tempted by the Tumbleweed bleeding edge: Dost thou know how to make and restore a disk image, either via the fabulous free Clonezilla or a commercial equivalent? Canst thou partition a disk, and, perhaps, fix a broken boot loader? I’ll dare to name these skills as entry bars for Tumbleweed adoption, especially the first one. I figured out how to do this stuff, still judge my knowledge as barely adequate to drive Tumbleweed daily. (Although one can install the Tumbleweed ISO in a virtual machine, fiddle to one’s heart’s content.)

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Review: Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre 0.2.4

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Reviews

Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre is a curious project that takes a number of interesting approaches which set it apart from other distributions. The Hyperbola distribution is based on snapshots of Arch Linux. While Arch Linux is a rolling release distribution, Hyperbola maintains fixed releases taken from Arch snapshots and then, according to the project's website, the Hyperbola developers mix in security updates from Debian. The idea is to create an Arch-like operating system with a fixed base and minor patch updates.

The distribution is dedicated to free software ideals and ships only libre software as defined by the Free Software Foundation. Finally, Hyperbola makes a special edition called Hypertalking which is based on TalkingArch and provides accessibility software for visually impaired users.

I downloaded the distribution's main edition which is available as a 672MB ISO. The distribution media will boot on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems with the option to select which architecture we want from the ISO's boot menu. When the disc boots we are presented with a text console where we are advised we can see documentation for getting on-line using the Lynx web browser by typing "lynx network.html".

The default, text-based interface on the disc is quite minimal, but it's enough to partition our hard drive and set up a local copy of the operating system. I don't think it's intended to do much more than that.

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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