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Reviews

wattOS Energizes Aging Hardware

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OS
Reviews

I found the wattOS to be a reliable and useful alternative to other lightweight Linux choices available. It is much less bothersome to configure compared to Puppy Linux and the many variants in PuppyLand, for instance.

It's chief advantage is an ability to run on older hardware with a clean and familiar user experience. It might fall short of expectations, however, when you push it to the limit beyond basic computing functions like Web surfing, word processing, email and playing music. Its performance will be spotty for heavy video viewing and editing.

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Ubuntu 16.10 & Unity 8 overview

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Reviews
Ubuntu

The one thing that made me not try to blowtorch my laptop in anger after I was done reviewing the terrible Yakkety Yak was the inclusion of the Unity 8 desktop environment in the distro, allowing for some fresh testing. The word desktop is probably not the best vocabulary choice here, as this hybrid-like environment already blithely powers touch devices like the Ubuntu Phone and the M10 tablet. But we're on a laptop, so.

Anyhow, I wanted to explore Unity 8 some more, but I did not want to do it as part of the distro review. This is why we have this article here, to explore the merits and failings of Unity 8, and see whether we should be really afraid this may become the default and only choice for our desktops one day. Which it might. So read carefully.

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elementary OS 0.4 Loki

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OS
Reviews

elementary OS is a Linux desktop distribution that’s based on Ubuntu. The project’s goal is crafting a “fast and open replacement for Windows and macOS”.

The latest, stable edition, with a core that’s based on Ubuntu 16.04, is elementary OS 0.4, code-named Loki.

This article provides a walk-through of the distribution’s most important features.

The distribution’s login screen. By default, a guest account is enabled.

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Google Pixel review: Android at its best

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Android
Reviews

For years, Google chose to partner with manufacturers to create handsets showing off the purest form of Android, with the latest innovations highlighted by the best hardware. This was what the Nexus range was all about. But this lead to at least a few compromises.

With the arrival of Daydream VR, and with so many hardware makers falling on financial hard times, Google couldn't afford any compromises. The Pixel is the company's first home-made smartphone. It offers the latest version of Android, with a few Pixel-specific features, and support for the as-yet-unreleased VR system.

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LG V20 review: The Android phone for hardcore enthusiasts

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Android
Reviews

LG hired Joseph Gordon-Levitt to market its V20 phablet, but I think a better pitchman would have been Stefon from Saturday Night Live: “2016’s hottest phone is the LG V20. It’s got everything. A removable battery, two displays, three microphones, knock knock codes, and don’t worry about about shooting videos, because with a wide-angle lens and electronic image stabilization, you can capture an entire breakdance crew of Shetland ponies wearing hazmat suits.”

OK, I kid the V20. But the phone is packed with a ridiculous amount of features, the bulk of which are focused on content creation. LG promises pixel-perfect photos, action videos free of camera shake, and music recordings with pristine sound. It sounds awesome on paper, but I’ve been testing the V20 for several weeks, and found the phone falls short in some key content-creation areas.

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FreeBSD 11.0 Reviewed

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Reviews
BSD

There were definitely some attractive features in FreeBSD 11.0. I especially enjoyed the changes to the system installer. The ability to set up UFS and ZFS through a series of guided steps was a welcome feature. I also really appreciate that the installer will allow us to enable certain security features like PID randomization and hiding the processes of other users. Linux distributions allow the administrator to set these options, but they often require digging through documentation and setting cryptic variables from the command line. FreeBSD makes enabling these features as straight forward as checking a box during the initial installation.

I also like how pkg has progressed. I think it has become faster in the past year or two and handled dependencies better than it did when the new package manager was introduced. In addition, FreeBSD's documentation is as good as ever, though I feel it has become more scattered. There were times I would find what I wanted in the Handbook, but other times I had to switch to the wiki or dig through a man page. The information is out there, but it can take some searching to find.

Other aspects of running FreeBSD were more disappointing. For example, I had hoped to find boot environments working and accessible from the boot menu. However, progress seems to have reversed in this area as switching boot environments prevented the system from loading. There were some other issues, for example I was unable to login from the graphical login screen, but I could access the Lumina desktop by signing into my account from the command line and launching an X session.

Hardware was a weak point in my experiment. FreeBSD did not work on my desktop machine at all in BIOS mode and failed to boot from installation media in UEFI mode. When running in a VirtualBox environment, the operating system did much better. FreeBSD was able to boot, play sound and run smoothly, but screen resolution was limited, even after VirtualBox modules had been installed and enabled.

Perhaps my biggest concern though while using FreeBSD 11.0 was that I could not update the base operating system, meaning it would be difficult to keep the system patched against security updates. Even once I had manually created a /boot directory to fix the boot environment creation issue, freebsd-update and freebsd-version continued to fail to detect the running kernel. This leaves the system vulnerable and means our best chance for keeping up with security updates is to manually install them from source code, not an ideal situation.

All in all, FreeBSD 11.0 does have some interesting new features, but it also has several bugs which make me want to hold off on using the operating system until a point release has been made available to fix the existing issues.

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Review: Manjaro Linux 16.10 "Fringilla" Cinnamon

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Linux
Reviews

I was going to make this post a review of the SpaceFM file manager (RAS syndrome, I know) upon recommendation by a commenter in a previous post. Then I checked it out for a bit, and realized that while it has a lot of potential for graphical customization, I still wouldn't feel particularly compelled to write a full review about that one application. Instead, I'm reviewing the Cinnamon edition of the latest version of Manjaro Linux. Last year, when I reviewed it, it was still relatively tied to Arch Linux. Since then, it has become much more independent, using its own repositories and maintaining a semi-rolling release model (though maintaining ties via the Arch User Repository (AUR)). Given that, I figured it might be time for a new review to see what has changed. I tried it using a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

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Xiaomi Mi Box review: A great entry point for Android TV and 4K streaming

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Android
Reviews

When Android TV was introduced to the world back in 2014, the new TV-focused operating system wasn’t packaged as a new entertainment platform as such, but more of an upgrade to its old (failed) Google TV initiative. It sought to bring cohesion to Android content across devices.

“We’re simply giving TVs the same level of attention phones and tablets have had,” explained Android director of engineering David Singleton at the launch.

Over the past couple of years, Android TV has arrived on a number of smart TVs and set-top boxes — including the now-discontinued Google Nexus Player — as Google strives to ensure its presence extends beyond your mobile devices into the centerpiece of your living room.

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A Preview into Manokwari Desktop Environment from BlankOn X "Tambora"

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Reviews

Manokwari is a desktop environment from BlankOn GNU/Linux operating system. In this manner, Manokwari is similar with Budgie from Solus OS, or DDE from deepin OS. While the current BlankOn OS is slowly moving into the new 10.0 version (codename "Tambora"), the current Manokwari gets a new feature I want to introduce here. This article is an intro for you who are totally new to Manokwari.

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Xubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak - A breath of fresh air

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Reviews

Xubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak is far from perfect. It's also not the finest Xubuntu release by a long shot, and the streak of awesome in 2014-2015 remains unmatched. Yes, it is very difficult to create successful distros when they are based on stupidity. However, Yakkety Xfce does manage a dose of normalcy and quality in the sea of dross.

The inconsistency in system behavior compared to Ubuntu is quite worrying, and this is nothing new. It remains Public Enemy No.1 in the Linux world. But if we put this crap aside, all in all, Xubuntu Yak displayed some fairly decent traits. It is fast, good looking, with adequate smartphone and multimedia support, even in the live session, solid results on the network side save for the Realtek card, neat performance, and solid hardware support. Yes, there are problems and glitches, and of course, the unholy Gnome Software needs to be destroyed with photon torpedoes.

Giving a high score to Xubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak may look as if it's getting credit only because all other Ubuntu releases this year were horrible. But it is not so. If we exclude the hardware-specific issues with the Realtek drivers, which is a big issue across the entire distro world, and the package manager choice, there weren't any huge, cardinal problems this time. It would seem that Xubuntu is recovering gently. Perhaps it is still too early to tell, but Yak is much, much better than Xerus. And it deserves 8/10. I feel as if a weight has dropped off my chest. After so much torture and pain, we finally get something reasonable. Even likable. Fun perhaps. Well there you go. This is a first Ubuntu release worth testing, after a whole year of failures. Go for it. See you soon.

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