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Reviews

The Best Linux Gaming Laptop? Juno Neptune 15 Review

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Linux
Reviews
Gaming

If I had to pinpoint something to criticize, it's not something related to the actual hardware, but rather the operating system.

Offering Ubuntu 20.04 pre-installed is certainly a safe and sane choice, but other Linux PC companies like Star Labs, Slimbook and TUXEDO Computers offer a handful of distro options.

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Excellent Utilities: Deskreen – live streaming desktop to a web browser

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OSS
Reviews

This is a series highlighting best-of-breed utilities. We cover a wide range of utilities including tools that boost your productivity, help you manage your workflow, and lots more besides.

When people talk about screen sharing they typically refer to desktop sharing applications (remote display). Good examples of open source software include TigerVNC, Remmina, X2Go and Veyon. But this review looks at a different approach with live streaming your desktop or a specific application to a web browser.

Deskreen is free and open source software that lets you use any device with a web browser as a secondary screen. This device can be a wide range of hardware such as a smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or a notebook. And you can connect as many devices as required.

If you have a multi-monitor setup, you already appreciate the virtues of multiple screens. But Deskreen offers many of these advantages without additional outlay.

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Primed for PineTime

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Reviews
Gadgets

There’s something about having a watch that’s special. For me, not only is it a good way to tell the time without looking at my phone, it’s also a way to “accessorize” myself (not into piercings or tattoos, gugh…). I’ve owned watches in the past, but I either lost them or they broke after just a few months of having them (the result of buying cheap watches).

These are just standard watches that I’m talking about; smartwatches have the burden of being tied down to a proprietary app on your smartphone in order to get any good use out of them, and what’s more, not only are they generally more expensive than a “dumb” watch, but they also need to be unstrapped from your wrist every week (or maybe every day, depending on what watch you have) and charged so that it can keep telling you the time.

Something about the PineTime struck me though. Not just it’s inexpensive price point ($27 at the time of writing this); but also the fact that this is the first smartwatch I’ve ever seen that’s not powered by Google, Samsung, Apple, or the likes of some other wallet-draining corporation. It’s powered by the community, through open-source software. I can rely on the fact that, as long as the developers stay active, I can keep getting updates to my watch indefinitely, and not have to buy a “second-generation” watch just because the guys at the big corps say, “Well, this watch is two years old now; we have a better model that increases the screen size by about 10 pixels, increases the battery by about 2%, and the vibration is just a hair stronger. You have to buy the new model now because we’re not supporting the older model anymore.”

None of that BS. The beauty the PineTime also has is that it’s not tied down to one specific type of operating system or firmware. I can use different types of firmware depending on my tastes; by default the PineTime ships with InfiniTime (more on that later), but if I want to change to say, WASP OS, that’s possible. Or any other type of firmware/operating system available.

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Review: Archcraft 2021.06.06

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Reviews

I feel that I don't have a lot to say about Archcraft and I feel this is because the distribution doesn't, for better or worse, attempt to do much. The project's website is understated, claiming to offer a minimal distribution based on Arch Linux with a lightweight window manager and yay for acquiring software from the AUR. This is what we get, along with the friendly Calamares system installer. There isn't much else to look at, out of the box.

This seems to be the point, really, of Archcraft - it delivers a fairly minimum base, low RAM consumption, and offers better than average performance. It isn't particularly flashy, convenient, or full of features. The idea appears to be that users can build their system from a small foundation and add the pieces they need. There isn't a lot of documentation and I suspect we are expected to seek out the Arch Linux wiki if we need help.

Most of the time Archcraft takes on this role fairly well. I did have a few complaints though. Personally, I'm not a fan of system monitors built into the panel or desktop. I find them distracting and the ones used by default don't provide information I find all that useful. There are a lot of little configuration tools and, oddly enough, some duplication in functionality in the application menu. I'm not sure why we need three application menus, two file managers, and a couple of text editors in what is otherwise a very minimal platform.

In short, Archcraft does what it sets out to do. It's basically Arch Linux with a window manager and yay pre-installed for us. This works and yet I don't feel the distribution distinguishes itself from the many other minimal Arch-installed-via-Calamares distributions currently available.

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Elecrow CrowPi 2 electronics learning laptop hands-on: Raspberry Pi 4 laptop for students

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Hardware
Reviews
Debian

Since Raspbian is based on Debian Linux, it's a fairly robust and capable OS. If it runs on ARM Linux, it runs on the CrowPi 2. This includes mainstays like GIMP for image editing, LibreOffice for office work, Chromium and Firefox for web browsing, and (of course) Minecraft Pi Edition for gaming. There are also a handful of Python games, but these are good for only a few minutes of fun and are truly intended to teach Python coding.

Thankfully, the larger 11.6-inch 1920x1080 screen makes retro gaming viable. Elecrow includes instructions for installing RetroPie to a microSD card and booting it on the CrowPi 2. The company also includes two USB controllers styled after the SNES gamepads for gaming. This is how my kids prefer to use the CrowPi 2, and it makes for a good portable retro gaming machine.

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Also: Repair, Repurpose, Upgrade With the Raspberry Pi Or Pico

KDE Slimbook: the best way to run KDE

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KDE
Hardware
Reviews

How do you write a review of a laptop when you’re struggling to find truly negative things to say? This is rarely an issue – every laptop is a compromise – but with the KDE Slimbook, I feel like I’ve hit this particular problem for the first time. A luxury, for sure, but it makes writing this review a lot harder than it’s supposed to be.

First, let’s talk about Slimbook itself. Slimbook is a Linux OEM from Spain, founded in 2015, which sells various laptops and desktops with a variety of preinstalled Linux distributions to choose from (including options for no operating system, or Windows). A few years ago, Slimbook partnered with KDE to sell the KDE Slimbook – a Slimbook laptop with KDE Neon preinstalled, and the KDE logo engraved on the laptop’s lid. The current KDE Slimbook is – I think – the third generation, and the first to make the switch from Intel to AMD.

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Atari VCS review: Costly nostalgia & DIY potential

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Hardware
Reviews
Gaming

Beyond the Atari VCS mode’s custom Linux Debian-based OS, you can also use external SSDs, HDDs, and thumb drives to load up further operating systems like a non-custom Linux Debian or Windows 10 in the system’s built-in PC Mode. During my time experimenting with the VCS, I was able to load up Windows 10, fiddle around, and log into my Steam account. However, without substantial upgrades, you shouldn’t expect to access your full Steam Library. The Atari VCS’s base specs just aren’t up to the task of running much. The most technically advanced game I was able to download and run out of my Steam library on an external HDD was top-down Guantlet Legends-like Battle Axe, which is kind of in line with the quality of games I saw in the VCS store anyways.

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Cozy – modern audio book player

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Software
OSS
Reviews

Linux offers a huge array of open source music players. And many of them are high quality. I’ve reviewed the vast majority for LinuxLinks.

Cozy is different to the music players we’ve covered. While it plays music the software is geared to playing audio books. Cozy is free and open source software. It’s written in Python.

Let’s see how it fares.

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Review of ElementaryOS 6 (Odin)

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Reviews

ElementaryOS is a linux distribution based on Ubuntu that also ship with a in-house developed desktop environment Pantheon and ecosystem apps. Since their 6th release named Odin, the development team made a bold choice of proposing software through the Flatpak package manager.

I've been using this linux distribution on my powerful netbook (4 cores atom, 4 GB of memory) for some weeks, trying not to use the terminal and now this is my review.

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Review: elementary OS 6.0 "Odin"

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OS
Reviews

Think of elementary OS as the distro that - in a perfect world - would carry Linux to desktop domination. It's slick, it looks good, it's surprisingly nimble, and its developers have only the best of intentions.

So why doesn't it come with a word processor?

One would think, in the second decade of the 21st century, that a word processor would be standard equipment, showing up next to the email, calendar, and other apps after installation. But not in the new elementary OS 6, code named Odin. Yes, with a little bit of command line keystroking, you can add LibreOffice or Calligra or even AbiWord.

But an office suite, just because almost everyone uses a word processor or a spreadsheet or a presentation app these days?

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Programming Leftovers

  • Announcement : An AArch64 (Arm64) Darwin port is planned for GCC12

    As many of you know, Apple has now released an AArch64-based version of macOS and desktop/laptop platforms using the ‘M1’ chip to support it. This is in addition to the existing iOS mobile platforms (but shares some of their constraints). There is considerable interest in the user-base for a GCC port (starting with https://gcc.gnu.org/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=96168) - and, of great kudos to the gfortran team, one of the main drivers is folks using Fortran. Fortunately, I was able to obtain access to one of the DTKs, courtesy of the OSS folks, and using that managed to draft an initial attempt at the port last year (however, nowhere near ready for presentation in GCC11). Nevertheless (as an aside) despite being a prototype, the port is in use with many via hombrew, macports or self-builds - which has shaken out some of the fixable bugs. The work done in the prototype identified three issues that could not be coded around without work on generic parts of the compiler. I am very happy to say that two of our colleagues, Andrew Burgess and Maxim Blinov (both from embecosm) have joined me in drafting a postable version of the port and we are seeking sponsorship to finish this in the GCC12 timeframe. Maxim has a lightning talk on the GNU tools track at LPC (right after the steering committee session) that will focus on the two generic issues that we’re tackling (1 and 2 below). Here is a short summary of the issues and proposed solutions (detailed discussion of any of the parts below would better be in new threads).

  • Apple Silicon / M1 Port Planned For GCC 12 - Phoronix

    Developers are hoping for next year's GCC 12 release they will have Apple AArch64 support on Darwin in place for being able to support Apple Silicon -- initially the M1 SoC -- on macOS with GCC. LLVM/Clang has long been supporting AArch64 on macOS given that Apple leverages LLVM/Clang as part of their official Xcode toolchain as the basis for their compiler across macOS to iOS and other products. While the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) supports AArch64 and macOS/Darwin, it hasn't supported the two of them together but there is a port in progress to change it.

  • Dirk Eddelbuettel: tidyCpp 0.0.5 on CRAN: More Protect’ion

    Another small release of the tidyCpp package arrived on CRAN overnight. The packages offers a clean C++ layer (as well as one small C++ helper class) on top of the C API for R which aims to make use of this robust (if awkward) C API a little easier and more consistent. See the vignette for motivating examples. The Protect class now uses the default methods for copy and move constructors and assignment allowing for wide use of the class. The small NumVec class now uses it for its data member.

  • QML Modules in Qt 6.2

    With Qt 6.2 there is, for the first time, a comprehensive build system API that allows you to specify a QML module as a complete, encapsulated unit. This is a significant improvement, but as the concept of QML modules was rather under-developed in Qt 5, even seasoned QML developers might now ask "What exactly is a QML module". In our previous post we have scratched the surface by introducing the CMake API used to define them. We'll take a closer look in this post.

  • Santiago Zarate: So you want to recover and old git branch because it has been overwritten?
  • Start using YAML now | Opensource.com

    YAML (YAML Ain't Markup Language) is a human-readable data serialization language. Its syntax is simple and human-readable. It does not contain quotation marks, opening and closing tags, or braces. It does not contain anything which might make it harder for humans to parse nesting rules. You can scan your YAML document and immediately know what's going on. [...] At this point, you know enough YAML to get started. You can play around with the online YAML parser to test yourself. If you work with YAML daily, then this handy cheatsheet will be helpful.

  • 40 C programming examples

    C programming language is one of the popular programming languages for novice programmers. It is a structured programming language that was mainly developed for UNIX operating system. It supports different types of operating systems, and it is very easy to learn. 40 useful C programming examples have been shown in this tutorial for the users who want to learn C programming from the beginning.

Devices/Embedded: Asus Tinker Board 2 and More

  • Asus Tinker Board 2 single-board computer now available for $94 and up - Liliputing

    The Asus Tinker Board 2 is a Raspberry Pi-shaped single-board computer powered by a Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor and featuring 2GB to 4GB of RAM. First announced almost a year ago, the Tinker Board 2 is finally available for $99 and up. Asus also offers a Tinker Board 2S model that’s pretty similar except that it has 16GB of eMMC storage. Prices for that model start at about $120.

  • Raspberry Pi Weekly Issue #371 - Sir Clive Sinclair, 1940 – 2021

    This week ended with the incredibly sad news of the passing of Sir Clive Sinclair. He was one of the founding fathers of home computing and got many of us at Raspberry Pi hooked on programming as kids. Join us in sharing your Sinclair computing memories with us on Twitter and our blog, and we’ll see you next week.

  • cuplTag battery-powered NFC tag logs temperature and humidity (Crowdfunding) - CNX Software

    Temperature and humidity sensors would normally connect to a gateway sending data to the cloud, the coin-cell battery-powered cuplTag NFC tag instead sends data to your smartphone after a tap. CulpTag is controlled by an MSP430 16-bit microcontroller from Texas Instruments which reads and stores sensor data regularly into an EEPROM, and the data can then be read over NFC with the tag returning an URL with the data from the sensor and battery, then display everything on the phone’s web browser (no app needed).

  • A first look at Microchip PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle RISC-V development board - CNX Software

    Formally launched on Crowd Supply a little over a year ago, Microchip PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle (codenamed MPFS-ICICLE-KIT-ES) was one of the first Linux & FreeBSD capable RISC-V development boards. The system is equipped with PolarFire SoC FPGA comprised a RISC-V CPU subsystem with four 64-bit RISC-V (RV64GC) application cores, one 64-bit RISC-V real-time core (RV64IMAC), as well as FPGA fabric. Backers of the board have been able to play with it for several months ago, but Microchip is now sending the board to more people for evaluation/review, and I got one of my own to experiment with. That’s good to have a higher-end development board instead of the usual hobbyist-grade board. Today, I’ll just have a look at the kit content and main components on the board before playing with Linux and FPGA development tools in an upcoming or two posts.

  • What is IoT device management?

    Smart devices are everywhere around us. We carry one in our pocket, watch movies on another while a third cooks us dinner. Every day there are thousands of new devices connecting to the Internet. Research shows that by 2025, more than 150,000 IoT devices will come online every minute. With such vast numbers it is impossible to keep everything in working order just on your own. This brings the need for IoT device management. But what is IoT device management? To answer this question we first need to understand what the Internet of Things (IoT) is.

  • Beelink U59 mini PC with Intel Celeron N5095 Jasper Lake coming soon - Liliputing

    Beelink says the system ships with Windows 10, but it should also supports Linux.

  • Beelink U59 Celeron N5095 Jasper Lake mini PC to ship with 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD - CNX Software

    Beelink U59 is an upcoming Jasper Lake mini PC based on the Intel Celeron N5095 15W quad-core processor that will ship with up to 16GB RAM, and 512 GB M.2 SSD storage. The mini PC will also offer two 4K HDMI 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, WiFi 5, as well as four USB 3.0 ports, and support for 2.5-inch SATA drives up to 7mm thick.

Graphics: Mesa, KWinFT, and RADV

  • Experimenting Is Underway For Rust Code Within Mesa - Phoronix

    Longtime Mesa developer Karol Herbst who has worked extensively on the open-source NVIDIA "Nouveau" driver as well as the OpenCL/compute stack while being employed by Red Hat is now toying with the idea of Rust code inside Mesa.  Karol Herbst has begun investigating how Rust code, which is known for its memory safety and concurrency benefits, could be used within Mesa. Ultimately he's evaluating how Rust could be used inside Mesa as an API implementation as well as for leveraging existing Mesa code by Rust. 

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  • KWinFT Continues Working On WLROOTS Render, Library Split

    KWinFT as a fork of KDE's KWin X11/Wayland compositor code continues making progress on driving fundamental display improvements and ironing out the Wayland support.  KWinFT has been transitioning to use WLROOTS for its Wayland heavy-lifting and that process remains ongoing. KWinFT has also been working on splitting up its library code to make it more manageable and robust.  Among the features still desired by KWinFT and to be worked on include input methods, graphical tablet support, and PipeWire video stream integration. Currently there are two full-time developers working on the project but they hope to scale up to four to five full-time developers. 

  • Raytracing Starting to Come Together – Bas Nieuwenhuizen – Open Source GPU Drivers

    I am back with another status update on raytracing in RADV. And the good news is that things are finally starting to come together. After ~9 months of on and off work we’re now having games working with raytracing.

  • Multiple Games Are Now Working With RADV's Ray-Tracing Code - Phoronix

    Not only is Intel progressing with its open-source ray-tracing driver support but the Mesa Radeon Vulkan driver "RADV" has been rounding out its RT code too and now has multiple games correctly rendering. Bas Nieuwenhuizen has been spearheading the RADV work on Vulkan ray-tracing support and after more than a half-year tackling it things are starting to fall into place nicely.Games such as Quake II RTX with native Vulkan ray-tracing are working along with the game control via VKD3D-Proton for going from Direct3D 12 DXR to Vulkan RT. Metro Exodus is also working while Ghostrunner and Doom Eternal are two games tested that are not yet working.

Audiocasts/Shows: Full Circle Weekly News, Juno Computers, Kali Linux 2021.3