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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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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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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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Video: See What's New in Ubuntu 18.04 Beta Preview. Is it Worth the Hype?

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Ubuntu 18.04 Beta has been released ahead of the final release on 26th April. I took it for a test ride and created a video of the main new features in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

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Also (Video): EzeeLinux Show 18.15 | GNU Midnight Commander

Falkon browser - Fly babe fly

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KDE
Software
Reviews
Web

Falkon and QupZilla may be the same product, but just re-branding it has already improved the overall impression. Not by a huge margin, but enough to make it interesting. Once you start using it, you do realize that it's a mix of good and odd, much like the predecessor, with some really brilliant and dubious choices packaged together. Adblocking, session manager versus fuzzy interface, missing spellcheck and database plaintext thingie. Then, the behavior is nowhere near as stellar, lithe or fast as it should be.

Still, this has been my most successful QupZilla-ed experience so far. Falkon was stable, it did not crash, there were no errors, and overall, it worked well. But the sense of unease remains. I can't put my finger to it, but there's just something slightly out of place with it. Not sure what it is. But whatever it is, it's probably the reason why there hasn't been that much uptake with this native KDE Internet-giving program. Once that part is sorted out, Plasma may have a nice and friendly browser. Worth testing, and try not to be dissuaded by the oddness.

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Gemini: Vulture gives PDA some Linux lovin'

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Linux
Reviews

During my month with Gemini I went from initial disappointment (mainly with the keyboard) through to acceptance and now, having been able to bring up a Linux desktop, being impressed with the potential.

It certainly is not for everyone. The keyboard will disappoint many at first and the lack of a display and camera on the back is frustrating. However, as a device for someone with a need to write on the move or a person who would like a penguin in their pocket without having to resort to a Bluetooth keyboard, the Gemini merits a closer look.

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A Look at Solus 3 Budgie, GNU/Linux Distribution

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The last time I tried Solus, it was still in its infancy stages, and it wasn’t to my tastes really. I had been thinking of which Linux distro to take a look at next, and I wanted to pick something that wasn’t based off Debian / Ubuntu / Arch / Gentoo / OpenSUSE or any of the majors, so I decided to give Solus 3 a try, being a completely independent distro – And it wasn’t bad.

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Antergos 18.3 Gnome - Regression celebration

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

Antergos 18.3 is everything that 17.9 is not - in a bad way. My previous encounter with this distro was fairly good. There were issues, but they were not cardinal. This time around, we do gain some on the touchpad front, but everything else is a loss. Network support is bad, Nvidia didn't install outright, we have a font discrepancy between the live session and the installed system, no iPhone support, Steam crashes, and the list goes on. Virtually, everything is worse than it was.

Another thing that pops to mind - Manjaro seems to be holding well. Antergos 18.3 feels like it's been cobbled hastily, with no QA, and the end result is jarring, frustrating and saddening. I mean why? Just a few months ago, I selected this distro as the winner of my best-of-2017 Gnome list, and it really was unique, fun and colorful. The new edition retains the aesthetic spin, but it's more than negatively offset by hardware and software bugs and regressions. Unfortunately this time, I cannot recommend Antergos. 2/10. Hopefully, this is a one-time fluke, and it will go back to being a solid, refreshing alternative in the world painted Ubuntu. To be continued.

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More in Tux Machines

Openwashing: Microsoft, Apple and Symphony Software Foundation

Linux Foundation: Real-Time Linux (RT Linux), LF Deep Learning Foundation, OpenTracing and More

  • Developers: Prepare Your Drivers for Real-Time Linux
    Although Real-Time Linux (RT Linux) has been a staple at Embedded Linux Conferences for years -- here’s a story on the RT presentations in 2007 -- many developers have viewed the technology to be peripheral to their own embedded projects. Yet as RT, enabled via the PREEMPT_RT patch, prepares to be fully integrated into the mainline kernel, a wider circle of developers should pay attention. In particular, Linux device driver authors will need to ensure that their drivers play nice with RT-enabled kernels. At the recent Embedded Linux Conference in Portland, National Instruments software engineer Julia Cartwright, an acting maintainer on a stable release of the RT patch, gave a well-attended presentation called “What Every Driver Developer Should Know about RT.” Cartwright started with an overview of RT, which helps provide guarantees for user task execution for embedded applications that require a high level of determinism. She then described the classes of driver-related problems that can have a detrimental impact to RT, as well as potential resolutions. One of the challenges of any real-time operating system is that most target applications have two types of tasks: those with real-time requirements and latency sensitivity, and those for non-time critical tasks such as disk monitoring, throughput, or I/O. “The two classes of tasks need to run together and maybe communicate with one another with mixed criticality,” explained Cartwright. “You must resolve two different degrees of time sensitivity.” One solution is to split the tasks by using two different hardware platforms. “You could have an Arm Cortex-R, FPGA, or PLD based board for super time-critical stuff, and then a Cortex-A series board with Linux,” said Cartwright. “This offers the best isolation, but it raises the per unit costs, and it’s hard to communicate between the domains.”
  • Clarifying the Linux Real Time Issue
    I recently posted an article about the increasing development and availability of Linux-powered automation devices. This is a clear industry trend that’s unavoidable for anyone following the automation technology industry. Shortly after posting the article, I heard from a reader who wrote: “I read your article and I am surprised that you would promote the idea that anyone would use Linux for anything critical. It isn’t even a real-time control system. It can be used for non-critical applications, but the article implies that industry is adopting it for everything.” This reader brings up a valid point. Linux is not a real-time OS in and of itself. As Vibhoosh Gupta of GE Automation & Controls noted in the original article, GE uses “Type 1 hypervisor technology to run a real-time OS, such as VxWorks, running traditional control loops alongside our PAC Edge technology operating on Linux.” [...] The Linux Foundation launched the RTL (Real Time Linux) Collaborative Project in October 2015. According to the Foundation, the project was “founded by industry experts to advance technologies for the robotics, telecom, manufacturing and medical industries. The aim of the RTL collaborative project is mainlining the PREEMPT_RT patch.” While there are plenty of mission critical applications running Linux OS with real-time extensions—as highlighted by GE, Opto and Wago—the Linux Foundation notes on its site that there remains “much work to be done.”
  • Linux Launches Deep Learning Foundation For Open Source Growth In AI
    The Linux Foundation has launched the LF Deep Learning Foundation, an umbrella organisation which will support and sustain open source innovation in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning. The organisation will strive to make these critical new technologies available to developers and data scientists everywhere, said a statement published by LF. Founding members of LF Deep Learning include Amdocs, AT&T, B.Yond, Baidu, Huawei, Nokia, Tech Mahindra, Tencent, Univa, and ZTE, among others. LF Deep Learning, members are working to create a neutral space where makers and sustainers of tools and infrastructure can interact and harmonise their efforts and accelerate the broad adoption of deep learning technologies.
  • OpenTracing: Distributed Tracing’s Emerging Industry Standard
    What was traditionally known as just Monitoring has clearly been going through a renaissance over the last few years. The industry as a whole is finally moving away from having Monitoring and Logging silos – something we’ve been doing and “preaching” for years – and the term Observability emerged as the new moniker for everything that encompasses any form of infrastructure and application monitoring. Microservices have been around for a over a decade under one name or another. Now often deployed in separate containers it became obvious we need a way to trace transactions through various microservice layers, from the client all the way down to queues, storage, calls to external services, etc. This created a new interest in Transaction Tracing that, although not new, has now re-emerged as the third pillar of observability.
  • There’s a Server in Every Serverless Platform [Ed: "Serverless" is a lie. It's a server. One that you do not control; one/s that control/s you. Even Swapnil finally or belatedly gets it. The LF really likes buzzwords.]
    Serverless computing or Function as a Service (FaaS) is a new buzzword created by an industry that loves to coin new terms as market dynamics change and technologies evolve. But what exactly does it mean? What is serverless computing?
  • Take the Open Source Job Survey from Dice and The Linux Foundation
    Interest in hiring open source professionals is on the rise, with more companies than ever looking for full-time hires with open source skills and experience. To gather more information about the changing landscape and opportunities for developers, administrators, managers, and other open source professionals, Dice and The Linux Foundation have partnered to produce two open source jobs surveys — designed specifically for hiring managers and industry professionals.
  • Automotive Linux Summit & OS Summit Japan Schedule Announced [Ed: "Brian Redmond, Microsoft" so you basically go to an event about Linux and must listen to a talk from a company which attacks Linux with patent blackmail, bribes etc.]

Security: Updates, GrayKey, Google and Cilium

  • Security updates for Wednesday
  • Hackers Leaked The Code Of iPhone Cracking Device “GrayKey”, Attempted Extortion
    The mysterious piece of hardware GrayKey might give a sense of happiness to cops because they can get inside most of the iPhone models currently active, including the iPhone X. The $30,000 device is known to crack a 4-digit iPhone passcode in a matter of a few hours, and a six-digit passcode in 3 days, or possibly 11 hours in ideal scenarios. That’s why security experts suggest that iOS users should keep an alphanumeric passcode instead of an all-number passcode.
  • Someone Is Trying to Extort iPhone Crackers GrayShift With Leaked Code
    Law enforcement agencies across the country are buying or have expressed interest in buying GrayKey, a device that can unlock up-to-date iPhones. But Grayshift, the company that makes the device, has attracted some other attention as well. Last week, an unknown party quietly leaked portions of GrayKey code onto the internet, and demanded over $15,000 from Grayshift—ironically, the price of an entry-level GrayKey—in order to stop publishing the material. The code itself does not appear to be particularly sensitive, but Grayshift confirmed to Motherboard the brief data leak that led to the extortion attempt.
  • It's not you, it's Big G: Sneaky spammers slip strangers spoofed spam, swamp Gmail sent files
    Google has confirmed spammers can not only send out spoofed emails that appear to have been sent by Gmail users, but said messages also appear in those users' sent mail folders. The Chocolate Factory on Monday told The Register that someone has indeed created and sent spam with forged email headers. These not only override the send address, so that it appears a legit Gmail user sent the message, but it also mysteriously shows up in that person's sent box as if they had typed it and emitted themselves. In turn, the messages would also appear in their inboxes as sent mail.
  • Cilium 1.0 Advances Container Networking With Improved Security
    For last two decades, the IPtables technology has been the cornerstone of Linux networking implementations, including new container models. On April 24, the open-source Cilium 1.0 release was launched, providing a new alternative to IPtables by using BPF (Berkeley Packet Filter), which improves both networking and security. The Cilium project's GitHub code repository defines the effort as Linux Native, HTTP Aware Network Security for Containers. Cilium development has been driven to date by stealth startup Covalent, which is led by CEO Dan Wendlandt, who well-known in the networking community for his work at VMware on software-defined networking, and CTO Thomas Graf, who is a core Linux kernel networking developer.

Applications: KStars, Kurly, Pamac, QEMU

  • KStars 2.9.5 is out!
    Autofocus module users would be happy to learn that the HFR value is now responsive to changing seeing conditions. Previously, the first successful autofocus operation would set the HFR Threshold value of which subsequent measurements are compared against during the in-sequence-focusing step.
  • Kurly – An Alternative to Most Widely Used Curl Program
    Kurly is a free open source, simple but effective, cross-platform alternative to the popular curl command-line tool. It is written in Go programming language and works in the same way as curl but only aims to offer common usage options and procedures, with emphasis on the HTTP(S) operations. In this tutorial we will learn how to install and use kurly program – an alternative to most widely used curl command in Linux.
  • Pamac – Easily Install and Manage Software on Arch Linux
    Arch Linux is one of the most popular Linux distribution available despite its apparent technicality. Its default package manager pacman is powerful but as time always tells, it is a lot easier to get certain things done using a mouse because GUI apps barely require any typing nor do they require you to remember any commands; and this is where Pamac comes in. Pamac is a Gtk3 frontend for libalpm and it is the GUI tool that Arch Linux users turn to the most when they aren’t in the mood to manage their software packages via the terminal; and who can blame them? It was specifically created to be used with Pacman.
  • QEMU 2.12 Released With RISC-V, Spectre/Meltdown & Intel vGPU Action
    QEMU 2.12 is now officially available as the latest stable feature update to this important component to the open-source Linux virtualization stack.