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Reviews

Hands-On with First Lubuntu 18.10 Build Featuring the LXQt Desktop by Default

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Reviews
Ubuntu

The Lubuntu development team promised to finally switch from LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) to the more modern and actively maintained LXQt (Lightweight Qt Desktop Environment), and the switch is now official.

Lubuntu developer Simon Quigley approached us earlier today to inform that the latest Lubuntu 18.10 daily build is quite usable as he and his team did a lot of work in the past week to accommodate the LXQt desktop environment by default instead of the LXDE desktop environment.

The main difference between LXDE and LXQt is that the former is written with the GTK+ 2 technologies, which will eventually be phased out in favor of the more advanced GTK+ 3, and the latter is built using the Qt framework. However, it doesn't look like there are any plans for LXDE to move to GTK+ 3.

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FreeBSD on the System76 Galago Pro

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Reviews
BSD

Hey all, It’s been a while since I last posted but I thought I would hammer something out here. My most recent purchase was a System76 Galago Pro. I thought, afer playing with POP! OS a bit, is there any reason I couldn’t get BSD on this thing. Turns out the answer is no, no there isnt and it works pretty decently.

To get some accounting stuff out of the way I tested this all on FreeBSD Head and 11.1, and all of it is valid as of May 10, 2018. Head is a fast moving target so some of this is only bound to improve.

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Is GIMP’s 2.10 Release Catching up with Photoshop?

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GNU
Reviews

Of the many notable new features, GIMP 2.10 has ported most of its image processing capabilities to GEGL, a data flow based image processing framework that is free software (its source code is in GNOME git).

GEGL provides floating point processing and non-destructive image processing capabilities, “allowing high bit depth processing, multi-threaded and hardware accelerated pixel processing, and more”.

GIMP’s lack of multi-core processing has historically caused performance issues, which is a true deterrent in the graphics processing world.

Moreover, the program can now utilise parallel processing, which is a big deal for various reasons, namely, more efficient processor usage through use of multiple cores.

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Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 Review: The Perfect Blend of Ubuntu and Budgie Desktop

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Reviews

Ubuntu Budgie is perhaps the most obscure Ubuntu flavor. Have a look at the main highlights and user experience of the new Ubuntu 18.04 Budgie release.
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Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 Review: The Perfect Blend of Ubuntu and Budgie Desktop

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Solus Linux is loved for many reasons. Its flagship desktop environment Budgie, in my opinion, is the biggest reason to love Solus. While there was no shortage of desktop environments in the Linux domain, the arrival and the acceptance of Budgie desktop environment by a widespread audience, clearly showed that there was a huge scope (or even a need?) for a modern, intuitive and non-intrusive desktop environment.

But all is not well in Solus land. Solus unlike a majority of Linux distros is not based on any other parent distro. Solus is written from scratch and has it’s own package management system and software repository. I loved Solus 3. But as an ardent Linux user, I need the latest packages and support from newer software, which, at the moment is not that good on Solus. The software repository is not as vast as that of Ubuntu. Also, the package manager itself needs to evolve.

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Xubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver - Middle ground

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Reviews

Year 2016 was the year of Xfce. Year 2017 belongs to Plasma. This year, so far, it seems MATE is the innovative beast, and Xfce is sort of stagnated, without pushing the initiative. I think secretly the projects are afraid to make things better, because that will break the neverending cycle of development. After all, for devs, the only thing that matters is coding. User experience is an alien concept. And inside this gap, Xubuntu 18.04 fits perfectly. Which means not that well.

The distro did the basics okay - media, phones, apps. Package management can be better, battery life can be better, network support can be better, the visual side of things can be a whole lot better. There were way too many inconsistencies, and the distro lacks the love and fun that it used to have only a year ago. Is it apathy, exhaustion, mere luck? I don't know. But Xubuntu Beaver feels like a product of habit rather than love and passion. And it is not LTS solid. Plus very little actual innovation, which can sort of be excused, but then why all them bugs? Overall, Bionic behaves something like 6.5/10. Worth checking, but for the time being, the other lightweight option - Ubuntu MATE - seems more mature and fun ready. It will be quite interesting to see how things evolve over the coming months. Check it, don't expect any miracles.

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Also:

  • Ubuntu Server development summary – 15 May 2018
  • Top Snaps in April 2018

    In case you missed it, here are some of the snaps we featured during April 2018. Here you’ll find snaps to enhance your productivity, tools for creatives, IDEs for developers and games for the weekend.

    You can stay up to date with our editorial picks by following @snapcraftio on Twitter where we share three new and interesting snaps a week. We’d also love to hear what your favourite snaps are, perhaps you’ve found something we’ve missed.

Review: Fedora 28

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Reviews

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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Reviews
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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Reviews
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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Reviews
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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Stable kernels 4.18.9, 4.14.71, 4.9.128 and 4.4.157

Openwashing: Zenko (Dual), Kong (Mere API) and Blackboard (Proprietary and Malicious)

Games: Descenders, War Thunder’s “The Valkyries”

Kernel: Virtme, 2018 Linux Audio Miniconference and Linux Foundation Articles

  • Virtme: The kernel developers' best friend
    When working on the Linux Kernel, testing via QEMU is pretty common. Many virtual drivers have been recently merged, useful either to test the kernel core code, or your application. These virtual drivers make QEMU even more attractive.
  • 2018 Linux Audio Miniconference
    As in previous years we’re trying to organize an audio miniconference so we can get together and talk through issues, especially design decisons, face to face. This year’s event will be held on Sunday October 21st in Edinburgh, the day before ELC Europe starts there.
  • How Writing Can Expand Your Skills and Grow Your Career [Ed: Linux Foundation article]
    At the recent Open Source Summit in Vancouver, I participated in a panel discussion called How Writing can Change Your Career for the Better (Even if You don't Identify as a Writer. The panel was moderated by Rikki Endsley, Community Manager and Editor for Opensource.com, and it included VM (Vicky) Brasseur, Open Source Strategy Consultant; Alex Williams, Founder, Editor in Chief, The New Stack; and Dawn Foster, Consultant, The Scale Factory.
  • At the Crossroads of Open Source and Open Standards [Ed: Another Linux Foundation article]
    A new crop of high-value open source software projects stands ready to make a big impact in enterprise production, but structural issues like governance, IPR, and long-term maintenance plague OSS communities at every turn. Meanwhile, facing significant pressures from open source software and the industry groups that support them, standards development organizations are fighting harder than ever to retain members and publish innovative standards. What can these two vastly different philosophies learn from each other, and can they do it in time to ensure they remain relevant for the next 10 years?