Saturday, June 28, 2014

Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" KDE Review: Better than Kubuntu with pleasant aesthetics and superb performance

Linux Mint is one distro I always respect and adore as they seem to know better than others what an average user really wants in a Linux distro. Plus, it works on the majority hardware I have tried. The present LTS spin of Linux Mint, named "Qiana", is no exception and it is based on Ubuntu Trusty Tahr, with some Mint specific modifications. Consistency in user experience has been a hallmark of all previous Linux Mint releases I used and even the release notes of the present release don't talk of any drastic change, namely: "Linux Mint 17 is a long-term support release which will be supported until 2019. It comes with updated software and it brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop even more comfortable to use. The Update Manager was hugely improved. It shows more information, it looks better, it feels faster, and it gets less in your way. It no longer needs to reload itself in root mode when you click on it. It no longer checks for an Internet connection or waits for the network manager and it no longer locks the APT cache at session startup. The UI was improved, the icons were modified a bit and the changelog retrieval is now much faster and more reliable."

From Linux Mint 17 KDE
For this review, I downloaded the 64-bit Linux Mint 17 KDE ISO, about 1.5 GB in size. I made live USB using Linux Mint Image Writer and booted it up on my preferred test laptop, Asus K55VM. Like Kubuntu 14.04 and Netrunner 14, Linux Mint 17 ships with KDE 4.13.1, Linux kernel 3.13.0 and Dolphin 4.13.1 as the default file manager.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Netrunner 14 "Frontier" Review: Looks and feels awesome to use with new animated wallpapers!

If you ask any Linux user to name the most attractive KDE distro, I guess majority will answer Netrunner OS's favor. Netrunner is the best looking KDE spin even in my experience of using hundreds of operating systems. It is also from the Blue Systems whose stable includes Linux Mint and Kubuntu along with Netrunner. Previous couple of releases from Netrunner rank got the maximum score among all KDE distros I reviewed in 2013-14 - they were that good. So, naturally my expectations from the 2014 Netrunner release with LTS support of 5 years, was very high. Let me take you through my review whether it was able to fulfill or not.

On 22 July 2014, Clemens Toennies announced the release of Netrunner 14, a Kubuntu-based Linux distribution featuring a customised KDE 4.13 desktop and five years of security support: "The Netrunner team today released Netrunner 14 'Frontier' – 32-bit and 64-bit editions. The release follows Kubuntu's support cycle, giving it a full 5 year support life via the backport repositories. Release notes: long-term support; Firefox instant start (on machines with more than 2 GB of RAM); KDE Dreamdesktop for animated backgrounds; Baloo superseding Nepomuk; single-click activated by default; new default theme; Veromix audio applet; the latest package updates available in the repositories, e.g. KDE 4.13.1, Firefox 30, VLC 2.1.4, Skype 4.3, Muon Discover 2.2 and many more." 
For this review I downloaded the 64 bit ISO, about 1.4 GB in size. I created live USB using Linux Mint Image writer and installed Netrunner 14 on the system I normally use for Linux testing.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

LXLE 14.04 Review: The best LXDE distro I've used till date

LXLE's USP in previous releases used to be Lubuntu with long term support, as Lubuntu didn't have a LTS spin till recently. And hence, the acronym LXLE from Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension. However, in 2014 with Lubuntu itself releasing an LTS version, I wanted to check how LXLE can entice users to continue using it over Lubuntu. As Ronnie Whisler's release notes states, it is time for the distro to evolve:
"LXLE acronym change, originally 'Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension' which made sense before Lubuntu had an official LTS release, since 14.04 however, LXLE will now adopt the nomenclature 'LXDE eXtra Luxury Edition' and we think this release doubles down on that; to better support 32-bit hardware we updated 12.04.4 to be virtually identical to LXLE 14.04 64-bit release including features, updated software and system components; PCManFM additions such as open directories and text as root, create shortcuts, rename base icon names, copy to folder, right click desktop trash to empty; Launch (Fehlstart), Run (Gexec), and Terminal (RoxTerm) all have hotkeys enabled to open them using the keyboard for faster access...."

From LXLE 14.04
On 14th June, 2014, LXLE released it's 64-bit spin, LXLE 14.04. There is no 32-bit spin yet. I guess I can understand the reason why these days even lightweight operating systems prefer 64-bit OS over 32-bit. Just check any e-commerce site for low budget laptops, you'll see the market is flooded with Windows 8 laptops under $500 with Intel Celeron/Pentium/Atom processors and under 4 GB RAM. I could not install 32-bit version in Secureboot and UEFI enabled systems. However, 64-bit worked with elan. Possibly, these distros are targeting users who bought these modern low powered systems but will soon get tired of Windows 8's crazy desktop and switch to Linux. I know quite a few people did it, even I did it myself!

Anyway, coming back to the topic, I downloaded the 64-bit ISO, about 1.5 GB in size. I created a live USB with Linux Mint Image Writer and booted it on my test laptop, Asus K55VM. LXLE 14.04 ships with LXDE desktop with Linux kernel 3.13.0 and PCManFM 1.2.0bas the default file manager. It is based on Ubuntu Trusty Tahr, the recently released LTS spin with 5 years of support. I am not sure if the support on LXLE 14.04 is also 5 years just like it used to be earlier or is it 3 years like Lubuntu 14.04.

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Ubuntu on Touch Screen Laptop: Setting up Linux on Asus Vivobook F200CA / X202E / X200LA / S200E /X200CA

I am a big fan of Asus laptops and rely on them much more than any other Windows PC brand. With my Asus 1101HA (2008 model, 1.33 Ghz Intel Atom processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD) almost giving up after 6 years of decent service, I decided this is the time to buy another portable laptop. I have a powerful machine, Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics and 1 TB HDD. But, unfortunately, it is not very portable and I can't take it on my office trips along with the Lenovo T430, my office laptop and another heavy machine. So, this time I wanted a small, lightweight but a powerful laptop (no Intel Atom/Pentium/Celeron, etc. low powered ones) within $500.

While browsing through e-commerce sites, I came across this Asus product which fits exactly my requirement. Also, it comes with touchscreen. It is branded as Asus Vivobook F200CA in India and X202E, X200LA, S200E, etc. in other countries. It ships with 1.8 Ghz Core i3 3217U processor, 4 GB DDR3 RAM (non-expandable), 500 GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD and 11.6" screen. It is very lightweight at 3 pounds and burns less holes on the pocket than comparable machines. It has about 230 GB dedicated to Windows 8, which I didn't tamper with and I installed Ubuntu on a 270 GB separate partition.

From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Manjaro Linux 0.8.10 KDE and XFCE Review: Bang on target release after release!

I have used a lot of rolling release distros in last 5 years, but, for production purpose, till recently, I mostly relied on only a few - Linux Mint, Debian and Ubuntu LTS. Primarily because the so-called "install it once only" promise hardly worked for most of the rolling release distros and they inevitably break or become unbootable after a couple of major upgrades. However, my experience with Manjaro Linux and Chakra Linux in the past 12 months have successfully changed that impression. These two Arch based distros survived 4 major upgrades and still running great, even with a whole lot of customization and niche packages that I installed.

From Manjaro 0.8.10 KDE & XFCE
Of these two, Chakra is primarily a 64-bit distro with KDE desktop and is meant for modern machines. Manjaro, on the other hand, ships both 64 and 32 bit versions with KDE, XFCE, Openbox, GNOME, Mate, and other common flavors. Ideologies of both the distros are quite contrasting but one thing is common between them - no one makes better rolling release distros than these two. In this review, I take up the latest 0.8.10 release from the Manjaro stable. 

On 10th June, 2014, Manjaro released the latest update 0.8.10 with KDE, XFCE and Openbox flavors. The release note talks of this being the "most refined and user-friendly" Manjaro release till date. For this review, I downloaded and installed fresh copies of 64-bit KDE (1.6 GB ISO) and XFCE (1.1 GB ISO) spins. I created live USBs of both using Linux Mint Image Writer on 4 GB pendrives and installed on separate 50 GB partitions on my Asus K55VM laptop.

Manjaro Linux 0.8.10 has Linux kernel 3.12.20, KDE 4.13.1 (KDE spin) and XFCE 4.10 (XFCE spin). Dolphin 4.13.1 is the default file manager in the KDE spin and Thunar 1.6.3 in the XFCE spin.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Adding Linux Mint Qiana Repositories to Ubuntu or Ubuntu derivative installation avoiding GPG error

I use a lot some of the Linux Mint packages like USB Image Writer and USB Stick formatter. I added the Linux Mint LTS release (Qiana or Mint 17) repositories to my Linux Lite 2.0 installation by running the following codes through the terminal:

$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb qiana main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mint.list'

Now run an update.

$ sudo apt-get update

You'll see an error in the update highlighting that public key is not available for the Linux Mint repository just added.

W: GPG error: qiana Release: The following signatures couldn't be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY 3EE67F3D0FF405B2

To avoid this, run another command to download the Linux Mint keyring.

$ sudo apt-get install linuxmint-keyring

To will ask your permission to download, say yes.

Once downloaded, run a system update (sudo apt-get update). Now you'll see that the update is successful and without any error.

Once updated, to install Linux Mint Image Writer and USB Stick formatter, run a command:
$ sudo apt-get install mintstick

Now you can download Mint specific packages even on Ubuntu! I tried this on my Linux Lite 2.0 and Kubuntu 14.04 installation successfully without facing any instability.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Linux Lite 2.0 "Beryl" Review: Evolving to a very good distro!

Linux Lite is a user-friendly XFCE spin of Ubuntu LTS. I came to know of it and reviewed in 2012, the version 1 of the distro based on Ubuntu Precise. The version 2.0 is released recently with Ubuntu Trusty Tahr as base. I downloaded the distro last week but reviewed Mint 17 Cinnamon as it sounded more interesting proposition to me. However, a reader's comment that Lite seems to have evolved, prompted me to use the Lite 2.0 for last one week and pen down this review.

On 1 June 2014, Jerry Bezencon announced the release of Linux Lite 2.0, the new stable version of the project's lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution featuring the Xfce desktop: "Linux Lite 2.0, code name 'Beryl', is now available for download. This build is the work of four months of constant development and the implementation of the best ideas from the team and the wider community. This also marks the beginning of our own repositories for our custom software so that changes and improvements to the operating system can be offered regularly. Now Lite User Manager, Lite Manual, Lite Software (install and remove additional software) and Lite Fix can evolve more easily to meet the needs of the user. In this release we wanted to combine the newest versions of well-established and supported software like LibreOffice, VLC, WINE and GIMP so that people have access to the latest features in those programs."

From Linux Lite 2.0
I downloaded both the 32 and 64 bit versions of Linux Lite - the 64 bit version for this review and the 32-bit version to install on my Asus 1101HA netbook (1.33 Ghz Intel Atom Z520, 1 GB DDR2 RAM & 160 GB SATA HDD). This netbook was successfully running Zorin OS 8 Lite for last 3 months and I wanted to install a lightweight Ubuntu LTS spin there. I created live USB using Linux Mint Image Writer for both the versions. I did a live boot followed by installation.

The 64-bit version was installed on my test laptop, Asus K55VM, with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics, on a 50 GB partition.

From Linux Lite 2.0
Like Xubuntu 14.04, this version also ships with XFCE 4.11 and Linux kernel 3.13.0. Thunar 1.6.3 is the default file manager like Xubuntu 14.04.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" Cinnamon Review: With improved Cinnamon and Bang on Money release after release!

There is something about Linux Mint - they are specialist in making distros which just work! With the Ubuntu Trusty Tahr released in April 2014, I was eagerly waiting for the final release of Mint's version of the long term support release. Also, as I noted in my review of Mint 16, Cinnamon, as a desktop environment, has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few releases. I was more than interested to try out the latest Cinnamon LTS spin from Linux Mint stable. I must say Linux Mint did not disappoint!

Further, this release assumes significance because of the changed LTS strategy, as updated in the release note:
  • Linux Mint 17 will receive security updates until 2019.
  • Until 2016, future versions of Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17, making it trivial for people to upgrade.
  • Until 2016, the development team won't start working on a new base and will be fully focused on this one.
Clement Lefebvre's release note states of significant improvement in functionality of the distro, namely: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 17 'Qiana'. Linux Mint 17 is a long-term support release which will be supported until 2019. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop even more comfortable to use. The Update manager has been hugely improved. It shows more information, it looks better, it feels faster, and it gets less in your way. It no longer needs to reload itself in root mode when you click on it. It no longer checks for an Internet connection or waits for the network manager and it no longer locks the APT cache at session startup. The UI has been improved, the icons were modified a bit and the changelog retrieval is now much faster and more reliable."

From Linux Mint 17
I downloaded the 1.3 GB 64-bit ISO for this review. I used Linux Mint Image Writer to make a live USB using a 4 GB pendrive. First I did a live-boot and then installed Mint 17 Cinnamon on my Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB Nvidia GeForce 630M graphics. I installed Mint on a 50 GB partition in a multi-boot environment with Kubuntu 14.04 LTS and Chakra GNU/Linux. Mint 17 ships with Cinnamon 2.2.13 desktop environment and Linux kernel 3.13.0.

From Linux Mint 17

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