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Reviews

GhostBSD Review: Simple and Lightweight

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Reviews
BSD

Because there are so many different options out there for your free and open-source operating system, it can be hard to figure out what the best option is for you. Sifting between Linux distros is difficult – Debian and its derivatives, Ubuntu and its derivatives, Fedora, Arch, openSUSE, the list goes on. However, what if the best choice for you isn’t actually technically Linux? Here we review GhostBSD, a FreeBSD-based Unix OS designed for a simple desktop experience, to see if it’s the right fit for you.

[...]

The applications that are installed are all necessary. It’s exactly what you might expect to find in your typical lean open-source desktop OS configuration, with no frills and just the essential applications.

There is not much to remark on with the user experience – it is a very simple and friendly version of the MATE desktop that’s designed to be light on system resources and simple to use. Overall, I think there is no way you could go wrong.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Linux Edition)

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Hardware
Reviews

FOR MOST OF eternity, if you wanted to run Linux on your laptop you bought a Windows laptop, wiped Windows, and installed Linux. This was known as the "Windows tax," the extra money you paid for an operating system you didn't need.

About 15 years ago, pioneering companies like System76 began selling white-label hardware with Linux preinstalled, along with all the necessary drivers to ensure hardware compatibility. Linux worked out of the box. They were seldom what you'd call svelte laptops, but they were solid machines, and hey, no Windows tax. Today, System76 builds its own Linux-based desktop hardware at a factory in Colorado, and even big brands like Dell sell laptops with Linux.

Lenovo is the latest manufacturer to want in on the fun, releasing its first Linux laptop in the form of an eighth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon. There are some quirks, but it's one of the best laptops around for Linux.

[...]

It's worth asking then, what does the X1 Carbon bring to the table? The answer is support. The main advantage of preinstalled Linux is both hardware support and customer support from Lenovo. If you run into an issue, you can take to the forums or even call Lenovo support.

That hardware support shows immediately when you boot up the X1 Carbon—the fingerprint reader works out of the box. This is one thing I've never managed to get working when I installed Linux myself, so it's really nice to have it working immediately. Except, well, we'll get to the except.

I opted to test the Fedora-based version of the X1 Carbon. There's also an Ubuntu-based option. If you're unfamiliar, Fedora and Ubuntu are the names of two Linux "distributions." A Linux distribution, usually shortened to "distro," is a collection of software that contains everything you need to run Linux on your PC.

If this is confusing, think of it in terms of Windows or macOS. Apple and Microsoft combine all the little pieces of software that make up macOS and Windows and distribute the result as a single package. Fedora, Ubuntu, and hundreds of others do the same for Linux.

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Review: Septor 2021

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Septor is a Linux distribution which provides users with a pre-configured computing environment for surfing the Internet anonymously. It is based on Debian's Testing branch and it uses Privoxy, a privacy-enhancing proxy, together with the Tor anonymity network to modify web page data and HTTP headers before the page is rendered by the browser. The distribution uses KDE Plasma as the preferred desktop environment and it also includes the Tor Browser for anonymous web browsing and OnionShare for file sharing.

Septor is in the same family of distributions as Tails, which we talked about last year. Tails is also Debian-based and is intended to be used for anonymous web browsing and file sharing. One of the big differences between the two projects is Tails uses the GNOME desktop while Septor uses KDE Plasma. Another difference is Tails is typically run as a live distribution from a USB thumb drive, often with persistent storage. Septor, on the other hand, can either be used as a standard live disc or installed to a hard drive via Debian's system installer.

Septor is available in one edition for 64-bit (x86_64) computers. The ISO file we download is 1.8GB in size. Booting from this media brings up a menu asking if we would like to run the live desktop or launch the installer. When running in UEFI mode just one install option was visible, but in Legacy BIOS mode I could select either a graphical installer or a text installer.

Taking the live option brings up a graphical login screen. We are shown a mostly empty screen that tells us we can sign in to the live desktop using the password "live". There are drop-down menus for choosing our session type (only KDE Plasma is available) and our keyboard layout (only US is available). Signing into the default user account brings up the Plasma desktop with a blue background. A panel sits at the bottom of the display. The desktop is fairly quiet and empty, though browsing through the application menu presents us with several useful tools I will talk about later. We are automatically connected to the Tor network when we open a web browser or other tool, allowing us to browse the web with a degree of anonymity.

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An early look at VLC 4.0 - Hello darkness, my old friend

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Movies
Reviews

I first tried VLC around 2003 or so. It wasn't a good experience. The player's interface showed me a garbled view of the video file I was trying to play. Then, in 2006 or so, I tried it again. Since, it's become my staple media player on every single platform and operating system, including the mobile. The reasons are many: the king of codecs, tons of features, a simple no-frills interface.

Recently, the VLC team has started working on a visual revamp of the UI, which should come live in version 4.0. This marks a significant departure from the established look & feel of the player, which really hasn't seen any big visual updates throughout its history. So I thought, let's have a look at the early work and see what the future has in store for us. Early impressions, don't get too excited, things may rapidly evolve and change and whatnot. Follow me.

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Hands-On with Ubuntu Unity 20.10 on the Raspberry Pi 4

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If you are one of those die-hard Unity desktop users and own a Raspberry Pi 4 computer, the Ubuntu Unity distribution comes with a Raspberry Pi flavor optimized for the Raspberry Pi 4 model (and probably the newer Raspberry Pi 400 too), but also reported to “work” on older models like the Raspberry Pi 3 and 3+.

Being based on Ubuntu’s Raspberry Pi flavor, Ubuntu Unity features the same first-time installation/configuration wizard, which asks the user to choose a language for the system, a keyboard layout, connect to a Wi-Fi network, choose a location, and set up a default user.

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ExTiX 21.1 Deepin Edition is a beautiful Linux desktop in need of some polish

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Reviews

I love a beautiful Linux desktop. There's just something about logging in to find a developer's work of art greeting you. It's refreshing and reminds you that anything is possible with enough time and effort.

With Linux, there have been so many desktops over the years that have absolutely "wowed" me. I believe the first to have ever done that was AfterStep, followed shortly by Enlightenment E16. After that, it was a rather drawn out dry spell of desktops to really evoke an "Huzzah!" from me. If I'm being totally honest, that honor most likely falls on Deepin Desktop. Since Deepin's arrival, I've fancied it the most beautiful desktop on the market.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that ExTiX Linux was to release a new version, based on Deepin Desktop; it was almost (but not quite) palpable. Without hesitation, I downloaded an ISO and spun up a virtual machine. The end result was a mixed bag of feels and disappointment. Let me explain.

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Review: Laxer OS 1.2 and new Linux Mint features

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My search for new and interesting features in the Linux community took me to the DistroWatch waiting list this week where the Laxer OS project caught my attention. The project's website describes itself as follows: "A beautifully crafted GNU/Linux operating system based on Arch Linux."

Judging from the project's download archive, the distribution is updated every month or two. There is just one edition available which runs the GNOME desktop environment. Laxer OS runs on 64-bit (x86_64) machines exclusively and its ISO is 2GB in size. The project's website suggests the operating system will not only look good, but offer performance improvements: "You will notice the significant performance boost on the first boot of your system."

The website's description was a little vague on how performance and visual improvements were delivered so I decided to find out for myself. I downloaded the media for the project's 1.2 release and booted from it. This brings up a menu where we are given the chance to boot to a live desktop normally or with "speech". I believe the "speech" option runs a screen reader for people who are visually impaired. The live media boots to a graphical login screen where we are invited to sign in using an account called "liveuser" with no password.

Signing into the live session loads the GNOME desktop and automatically launches the Calamares installer. At the top of the screen we find a panel with an application menu and the GNOME Activities menu in the upper-left corner. To the right of the panel is the system tray. I noticed early on there was a lot of network activity happening when I first logged in. This appears to be an automated check for software updates as a minute later a notification appeared letting me know 132 packages were available to be upgraded.

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Hands-On with Manjaro Linux ARM on Raspberry Pi 4: A Gem!

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Manjaro Linux ARM on the Raspberry Pi 4, where do I start? An amazing operating system for the Raspberry Pi computer, whether you want to use it just for fun or as a daily driver for your home office. Whoever did the Raspberry Pi port of Manjaro Linux ARM is a genius and knows what he’s doing.

Don’t be scared away by the first-time text-mode configuration, because this Arch Linux and needs to be properly installed on the microSD card of your Raspberry Pi before you can actually use the system.

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Top 10 Best Alternatives to Raspberry Pi OS for Your Raspberry Pi Computer

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If, for some reason, you don’t want to use the official Raspberry Pi OS on your Raspberry Pi computer, you should know that there are many alternatives out there. Some of these distros are derived from Raspberry Pi OS, which in turn is based on the Debian GNU/Linux operating system, but others are derived from Arch Linux, Gentoo, etc.

Each of the alternatives showcased in this article come with various other desktop environments, such as GNOME, Unity, Xfce, KDE Plasma, MATE, LXQt, and Openbox, which you may find out they better suit your needs.

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First Look at GNOME 40’s New Design Changes in Fedora 34

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As you probably already know, the biggest change in the upcoming GNOME 40 desktop series, due for release in late March 2021 (that’s only a month and a half from the moment of writing), is the redesigned Activities Overview, the screen you see when clicking on the Activities icon on the panel in the left top corner.

In GNOME 40, the horizontal layout also places the dock at the bottom of the screen, and workspaces are now displayed horizontally as previews on the top of the window picker, right under the search field, and navigated horizontally even using the mouse wheel.

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Mozilla Leftovers

  • Firefox 86 brings multiple Picture-in-Picture, “Total Cookie Protection”

    In December 2019, Firefox introduced Picture-in-Picture mode—an additional overlay control on in-browser embedded videos that allows the user to detach the video from the browser. Once detached, the video has no window dressing whatsoever—no title bar, min/max/close, etc. PiP mode allows users who tile their windows—automatically or manually—to watch said video while consuming a bare minimum of screen real estate. Firefox 86 introduces the concept of multiple simultaneous Picture-in-Picture instances. Prior to build 86, hitting the PiP control on a second video would simply reattach the first video to its parent tab and detach the second. Now, you can have as many floating, detached video windows as you'd like—potentially turning any monitor into something reminiscent of a security DVR display. The key thing to realize about multi-PiP is that the parent tabs must remain open—if you navigate away from the parent tab of an existing PiP window, the PiP window itself closes as well. Once I realized this, I had no difficulty surrounding my Firefox 86 window with five detached, simultaneously playing video windows.

  • This Week in Glean: Boring Monitoring [Ed: Mozilla insists that it is not surveillance when they call it "data science" and "big data"]

    Every Monday the Glean has its weekly Glean SDK meeting. This meeting is used for 2 main parts: First discussing the features and bugs the team is currently investigating or that were requested by outside stakeholders. And second bug triage & monitoring of data that Glean reports in the wild. [...] It probably can! But it requires more work than throwing together a dashboard with graphs. It’s also not as easy to define thresholds on these changes and when to report them. There’s work underway that hopefully enables us to more quickly build up these dashboards for any product using the Glean SDK, which we can then also extend to do more reporting automated. The final goal should be that the product teams themselves are responsible for monitoring their data.

  • William Lachance: Community @ Mozilla: People First, Open Source Second [Ed: Is this why Mozilla pays its CEO over 3 million dollars per year (quadruple the older sum) while sacking even its own people and spying on Firefox users (people)?]

    It seems ridiculously naive in retrospect, but I can remember thinking at the time that the right amount of “open source” would solve all the problems. What can I say? It was the era of the Arab Spring, WikiLeaks had not yet become a scandal, Google still felt like something of a benevolent upstart, even Facebook’s mission of “making the world more connected” sounded great to me at the time. If we could just push more things out in the open, then the right solutions would become apparent and fixing the structural problems society was facing would become easy! What a difference a decade makes. The events of the last few years have demonstrated (conclusively, in my view) that open systems aren’t necessarily a protector against abuse by governments, technology monopolies and ill-intentioned groups of individuals alike. Amazon, Google and Facebook are (still) some of the top contributors to key pieces of open source infrastructure but it’s now beyond any doubt that they’re also responsible for amplifying a very large share of the problems global society is experiencing.

LXTerminal 0.4.0 released.

Terminal emulator of LXDE had no releases for more than two years. Not much was added, not much was fixed but still some work done. Could be more of course but what we can do with our forces, that we do. Let hope we can do more later. Read more

Security Leftovers

  • Security updates for Wednesday

    Security updates have been issued by openSUSE (firefox and tor), Oracle (stunnel and xterm), Red Hat (virt:8.2 and virt-devel:8.2 and xterm), SUSE (avahi, gnuplot, java-1_7_0-ibm, and pcp), and Ubuntu (openssl).

  • Why not rely on app developer to handle security? – Michał Górny

    One of the comments to the The modern packager’s security nightmare post posed a very important question: why is it bad to depend on the app developer to address security issues? In fact, I believe it is important enough to justify a whole post discussing the problem. To clarify, the wider context is bundling dependencies, i.e. relying on the application developer to ensure that all the dependencies included with the application to be free of vulnerabilities. In my opinion, the root of security in open source software is widely understood auditing. Since the code is public, everyone can read it, analyze it, test it. However, with a typical system install including thousands of packages from hundreds of different upstreams, it is really impossible even for large companies (not to mention individuals) to be able to audit all that code. Instead, we assume that with large enough number of eyes looking at the code, all vulnerabilities will eventually be found and published. On top of auditing we add trust. Today, CVE authorities are at the root of our vulnerability trust. We trust them to reliably publish reports of vulnerabilities found in various packages. However, once again we can’t expect users to manually make sure that the huge number of the packages they are running are free of vulnerabilities. Instead, the trust is hierarchically moved down to software authors and distributions. Both software authors and distribution packagers share a common goal — ensuring that their end users are running working, secure software. Why do I believe then that the user’s trust is better placed in distribution packagers than in software authors? I am going to explain this in three points.

  • Sysdig Donates Module to CNCF to Improve Linux Security

    Sysdig announced today it has donated a sysdig kernel module, along with libraries for the Falco security platform for Kubernetes, to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as part of an effort to advance Linux security.

  • Linux Foundation Announces DizmeID Foundation to Develop and Enable a Self-Sovereign Identity Credential Network

    The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced the DizmeID Foundation and technical project with the intent to support digital identity credentialing. The effort will combine the benefits of self-sovereign identity with necessary compliance and regulation, with the aim to enable wallet holders with ownership and control over their digital identity and data access and distribution.

  • Linux Foundation Announces DizmeID Foundation to Develop and Enable a Self-Sovereign Identity Credential Network

Best Free And Open Source Photoshop Alternatives

Photoshop is quite synonymous with Graphics design nowadays, but it is not the only king in the room. Photoshop doesn’t come with a friendly interface for beginners. No doubt photoshop offers you freedom of using features quite independently, but everything comes at a cost. There are some other options too that are worth considering for users who are looking for open source and free photoshop alternatives. These free and open source photoshop alternatives are not only useful for beginners but also useful for professionals who are thinking of switching from photoshop. And the good thing is that these free applications make no compromise with the quality of work. So, what to do if you are a bit tight on budget and want to learn to design without paying the monthly subscription as in Photoshop. Well, I have prepared a list of free and open-source applications like photoshop to create awesome designs without compromising quality. Read more