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Reviews

Review: Linux Mint 3 Debian Edition (LMDE 3)

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Reviews

On the whole, I liked running LMDE 3 a lot. The distribution was easy to set up, I liked the quick access to common tools in the welcome window. The change from ranked upgrades to having the system safeguarded by Timeshift snapshots may make things a little harder for newcomers (it's harder to recover a system than to not have it break in the first place), but the new approach probably offers better security in the long run.

One thing I appreciated about LMDE 3 is that it looks beautiful. I usually don't focus much on a theme, or icon style, but Mint looks incredible to me. Everything is high contrast and attractive. The fonts are a little thin for my taste, but this can be easily changed with a few clicks in the settings panel.

I was a little disappointed the system installer defaults to using ext4 instead of Btrfs. Since Mint recommends and relies on Timeshift for system recovery, and Btrfs snapshots are much more efficient than rsync snapshots, it makes sense to me to use Btrfs by default. On a related note, when Timeshift is set up to use rsync snapshots, the rsync command will drag down system performance for about 20 minutes at a time. Having the snapshots run as a lower priority in the background would have avoided slowing down the desktop once a day.

I would have preferred if LMDE had shipped with MATE instead of Cinnamon. I realize Cinnamon is an in-house desktop project and it makes sense for the Mint developers to focus on using and promoting Cinnamon. However, since I suspect many of the people who want to use the Debian branch over the Ubuntu branch will be doing so for performance reasons, I think MATE would make the sensible default. MATE is lighter than Cinnamon, does not require special video driver/hardware support and will run better in virtual environments. Cinnamon is a solid desktop and I think it looks and performs wonderfully on physical hardware, it just doesn't feel like the optimal choice for people who want to run the lighter, more conservative Debian branch of Mint.

Finally, I want to give credit to the Mint team for integrating Flatpak support into the software manager. It is easy to find Flatpaks without having them blend in with other packages, potentially confusing users. I think Flatpak support was handled well by the Mint team.

On the whole, the above points are minor style preferences for a distribution that I was impressed by. Mint's Debian edition performed smoothly, offered a lot of great software out of the box and was easy to use. I think the Debian branch might be slightly less appealing to beginners than the main, Ubuntu-based edition, but there are few practical differences and most people will probably find either branch works for them. I think LMDE will be a good fit for most people, whether beginners or more experienced users.

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A Summary of deepin 15.6 and 15.7

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Both deepin 15.6 and 15.7 were released at June and August 2018. Here's a short summary of them showing the new features and improvements. You will find new Welcome Intro, new Dark Theme, new Power Saving Mode, reduced RAM usage and smaller ISO size, improvements in System Settings, and new ability of File Manager (renaming partition by right-click, for example). You will see them in this article with GIF animations and screenshots. This article also shows in brief why 15.7 is far better than 15.6 so you can choose it to start deepin for your first time. Enjoy!

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Review: Netrunner 2018.08 Rolling edition

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

Netrunner Rolling is a distribution I thoroughly enjoyed using. There we a few minor issues, but overall everything worked great. The distribution came with enough software pre-installed that I really did not need to install any additional software to perform most basic tasks. Were I to use Netrunner Rolling long term, I might want to swap a few of the included programs for ones that were my own personal preference, but the software Netrunner Rolling ships with are good defaults. The only software oddity was being stuck on LibreOffice 5.4 for a while before finally upgrading to 6.0. Most of the other packages are up-to-date, often the absolutely newest possible version, but updates to LibreOffice packages are more conservative.

Users wanting the Arch Linux experience without the effort should give Netrunner Rolling a try. It provides a nice, polished KDE experience with a decent selection of software included by default. Netrunner's KDE customizations create a desktop experience that is simultaneously traditional and modern, providing a nice middle ground between the classic Windows-style desktop and GNOME 3 & Unity.

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The Slimbook Pro2 is here - Very, VERY nice

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KDE
Hardware
Reviews

The Slimbook started just fine. Everything seems to be in perfect order. The system firmware was up to date, and the BIOS/UEFI was already configured for VT-d. Furthermore, both TPM and Secure Boot were disabled, which actually suits me well. The internal disk is labeled ubuntu, though. And the reason is ...

The Slimbook team also installed Ubuntu on the disk (they mentioned it alongside hardware upgrades), to make sure everything worked fine. I had the option to use their installation with a generic root/slimbook account combo, or wipe everything and start fresh. I had ordered the machine without any OS, and intended to do the setup myself, primarily because I also wanted to use full-disk encryption. Another downside of having a preinstalled system is that there's no two-part OEM setup for Ubuntu, so the vendor must configure the user side for you too. No matter, it's going away anyway.

Now, the actual operating system choice - Linux. As I mentioned in the past, ever since my love-at-first-sight encounter with Kubuntu 17.04, I wanted to deploy Kubuntu in my production setup, and this purchase finally allowed me to do so. I grabbed the ISO, etched it to a thumb drive, and let the system boot. There were no issues. All the hardware was correctly initialized, including the Wireless.

I did a bunch of speed tests, and I get a full, flat 80 Mbps rate that matches the test line, in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. No issues whatsoever, and this is important. In comparison, my significantly cheaper, older and driver-problematic Lenovo G50 with the Realtek card only does about 40 Mbps under the same conditions.

I had been worried regarding the Wireless - but then I thought, the Slimbook guys wouldn't be selling this hardware if there were problems, now would they? Of course, if you type any which Wireless card into a search engine, and then add the string linux, you will get tons of forum posts, bug threads and whatnot detailing a neverending story of problems. With my Slimbook Pro2, it was smooth sailing.

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Also: KDE Connect on IRC and Matrix.org

Hands-on with MX Linux: A pleasant, easy-to-install Linux distribution

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When I first started blogging about Linux, MEPIS was one of the first distributions that I wrote about. I always liked it, and enjoyed using it, so I was disappointed when it quietly died a few years ago.

When I first saw MX Linux, I was naturally anxious to try it -- but there were some problems with UEFI firmware and GPT partition tables, and in the method of creating bootable USB sticks. I didn't try it at that time.

After some prodding here (thanks!), I recently went back and had a good look at the latest release notes, and I was pleased to see that there is no longer any problem with UEFI and GPT, and USB media can be created very simply with dd, so it is time to take a fresh look.

First, what is MX Linux? It is a product of the combined efforts of a group of dedicated users from the MEPIS and antiX communities. The objective is to combine the best parts of both distributions, to produce a mid-weight easy-to-use Linux distribution.

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Review: Redcore Linux 1806

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For the most part, my time with Redcore was disappointing and occasionally frustrating. Disappointing in that, apart from security enhancements, it does not seem as though Redcore has made any significant progress over the past year. Hardware support has not improved (if anything it has become worse for VirtualBox users) and I did not find any significant new features which would suggest the project is bringing new ideas to the community.

Another thing which bothered me was the appearance of the distribution. While I liked the darker theme, the grey background without clear window borders meant that all application windows blended together. If I had three windows all open and overlapping on the desktop there wasn't any way to tell where one ended and the next began. When combined with the smaller 9pt font that is used everywhere, it meant I had to tweak most visual aspects of the interface to make it suitable for my preferences and ageing eyes.

There were some other minor problems. For example, sometimes the application menu would open at the bottom of the screen (next to its button) and other times the application menu would appear at the top of the display, far away from the mouse pointer. This unusual menu placement would continue until I logged out and signed back into LXQt.

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Zorin OS 12.4 Core and Ultimate – The Biggest Release Yet

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Zorin OS is a material-inspired, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS-based GNU/Linux distro that offers users the ability to customize their desktop in any way they like.

It is powered by the long-term supported Linux 4.4 kernel, and ships with the Zorin Desktop 2.0 desktop environment which is a major revamp given that it comes with an advanced universal search functionality, richer notifications, and support for advanced display features on modern PCs, among others.

According to the release statement, this release is the biggest the OS has ever seen. This version 12 comes in two variants, Core and Ultimate, and according to its release announcement, it is “the biggest release in the history of Zorin OS” with over a year of planning and development.

It has 4 editions that you can pick according to your needs and they are Core, Lite, Ultimate, and Business.

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Enlightenment Has Limits in Bodhi Linux

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Linux
Reviews

Bodhi Linux is elegant and lightweight. It is worth putting this distro through its paces. It will not please every power user, but it offers a nice change of pace.

This distro can be a productive and efficient computing platform. Bodhi is very easy to use. It has a low learning curve. New Linux users can get acquainted right away.

Bodhi's minimum system requirements are a 500mhz processor with 256 MB of RAM and 5 GB of drive space. You will get better performance from a computer with a 1.0ghz processor powered by 512 MB of RAM and 10 GB of drive space.

The installation routine is driven by the Ubiquity Installer. No surprise there since Bodhi is based on Ubuntu Linux.

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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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