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Reviews

The Super Early PinePhone Review That Has Me Super Excited

Filed under
Linux
Reviews

The real “plus” about the PinePhone is the cost: $149. This makes the device cheap enough for casual geeks like me to join in the fun, with no major “needs” than it scratches an itch as a tinkerers toy. just like Linux netbooks back in the day.

And this is important. The price and the product here is not being pitched as an absolute Android alternative. This is a phone that many will, for a while, use alongside their main device rather than as their main device.

Again, sort of like how we all used netbooks alongside regular laptops until the software and hardware matured into something that was “good enough”.

So while PinePhone doesn’t boast the fastest specs or even come with a pre-installed OS (yet) the thing is dripping with potential — and you don’t need to be a particularly nerdy Linux geek like me to see that.

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Review: OpenIndiana 2019.10 Hipster

Filed under
OS
Reviews

For me, the conclusion after battling with OpenIndiana for a few weeks is quite simple: the operating system's aim is to "ensure the continued availability of an openly developed distribution based on OpenSolaris" and it clearly achieves that goal. However, it does very little beyond that modest aim, and the lack of documentation makes it difficult to use OpenIndiana for people unfamiliar with OpenSolaris and/or Solaris.

My advice for Linux users like me is to take plenty of time to get familiar with the operating system. At times I found using OpenIndiana hugely frustrating but that was largely because things weren't working as I expected. I am fairly confident that I would have solved most of the issues I encountered if I had spent more time with OpenIndiana. Some issues may be show-stoppers, including OpenIndiana's struggle with connecting to wireless networks and the limited amount of applications that are available. Many of these issues can be solved though.

One of the main struggles I faced was finding documentation. The best place to look for information appears to be Oracle's Solaris documentation. Unfortunately, OpenIndiana's Hipster Handbook is not much use. It is mostly populated with content placeholders and the section on web servers counts exactly two words: "Apache" and "nginx". Even new features, such as the "native and metadata encryption" for ZFS and an option to disable hyper-treading are not mentioned in the handbook.

At times OpenIndiana felt like an operating system that belongs in a museum. The set-up is quite old-school, the theme looks very dated and everything felt sluggish; the system is slow to boot and launching applications always took just a little too long for my liking. OpenIndiana's stand-out features are also nothing new - they are what made OpenSolaris a powerful operating system a decade years ago. Yet, in the Linux world there aren't many distros - if any - that have something like the Time Slider. openSUSE comes close but, in my humble opinion, OpenIndiana's Time Slider is more advanced and easier to use than OpenSUSE's Snapper.

I am hoping Linux will catch up when it comes to OpenIndiana's ZFS goodness. Ubuntu is working on integrating ZFS, and I for one hope that in time there will be a Time Slider in file managers such as GNOME Files and Dolphin.

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Xubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine - The winter is here

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Sadly, Xubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine is an average distro. And it aligns with how the cycle of enthusiasm typically works in the Linux world, matching the whims of its decentralized developer community. A couple of years back, I was talking about the freshness in the Xfce world, just before Plasma kicked into high gear, and seemingly, Xfce took its place. Which explains why you get nominal, by-the-book, zero-excitement Xubuntu releases more recently. Alas, Ermine takes it one step further with functional issues.

Most of the stuff actually works - solid networking, media, phones support, good app collection, excellent performance. But then, the packaging of it all is quite lackluster, and even a seemingly innocent thing like an icon theme seems to bring the distro to its proverbial knees. Thunar is quite rigid, and there's no sense of passion. I mean yes, desktops should be boring - but they should also allow their users to be able to explore and try new things, and in this regard, Xfce seems to have fallen behind. I's say 6/10. Okay, but going through motions ain't fun. Curtain.

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Plenty of Linux Power Is Built Into Linux Lite 4.6

Filed under
Linux
Reviews

Linux Lite 4.6 offers a great deal of flexibility and usability. Its desktop offers considerably more system controls and configuration options than many of the more modern desktops, such as Enlightenment, GNOME 3 and Budgie.

All of the system controls and settings are located in the Settings option within the main menu display. Windows users will find a close similarity to the Control Panel.

Even recent Linux newcomers will not need much exploring or head-scratching to navigate their way around Linux Lite. The layout is familiar and intuitive. The Welcome panel provides a very useful listing of information and how-to resources for using Linux Lite.

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Deepin Linux Review: Stylish Distro or Spyware?

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Reviews

Deepin is a rising star among Linux distributions, thanks to its combination of an elegant desktop environment with the stability and reliability of Debian. But Deepin is also a divisive Linux distribution, both because of its Chinese origin and some arguable choices by its creators. Where does it diverge from the alternatives? What does it offer compared to other distributions? How is it in actual everyday use? Do you have to worry about the safety of your data if you use it as your primary operating system?

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Fedora 31 Workstation review - The color of winter

Filed under
Red Hat
Reviews

Last week, we talked about MX Linux MX-19. This week, let's have a look at Fedora 31. Now, some of you may already start grumbling and complaining. Because I will focus a lot of my energy on the Gnome desktop and what it doesn't do, and all that. But then, Fedora is the pioneer child (not in the communist sense) of the Gnome world, showcasing the latest fixes and features the environment offers. Therein lies my hope and my expected but hopefully proven wrong disappointment.

Looking back to the past two years or so, I found Fedora to have improved a little in the performance area, has become more consistent, gained stability in major areas side by side with bugs and problems in others, and still isn't user-friendly enough for immediate consumption. Y'know, proprietary stuff, window buttons, desktop icons, stuff like that. Fedora 30 is a good melting pot of all these observations. I wasn't happy, but then, it's time to rewind the clock, reset my emotions, and boldly charge head first into the wall of open-source.

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Clementine | A New Music Player in Debian 10

Filed under
Software
Reviews

Clementine has improved the interface by putting all the main features, from accessing the local library to streaming services, on a sidebar on the left. This sidebar has several options, although the most legible, the plain toolbar, is not the default. Still, no matter what the appearance, Clementine’s sidebar goes one better than Amarok by adding a file manager to the tool collection. However, one change that is not an improvement is the song info tool. To get lyrics and other information, users must click on a link and go to their web browser. There, instead of offering and displaying a best guess, like Amarok does, Clementine offers a range of possibilities, which are often so lengthy a list that, by the time you find the right entry, the track could easily have finished. Admittedly, Amarok’s best guess could occasionally be hilariously wrong, but it was quicker and displayed results in Amarok’s own window.

Another interface quirk that Clementine does not improve upon is Amarok’s insistence that, unless File | Quit is selected, it minimizes to the notification bar. I have always wondered: Why isn't shutting down the window (no matter how you close the window) the default behavior and minimizing a deliberate choice? I also don't see much reason for the mood bar, whose colors supposedly change to reflect the nature of the current song. Fortunately, though, the mood bar can be turned off in Tools | Preferences | Appearance.

Still, although some of the tools are less than optional, on the whole, Clementine preserves Amarok’s tradition of attempting to digitally reproduce the experience of a physical album -- an effort that few other music players do as well, or at all. I especially like Clementine’s tabbed playlists, which mean that selections can be queued up like a stack of LPs or CDs, with only a click required to change them.

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Also: The best free music production software

Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 11

Filed under
KDE
Reviews

The Slimbook remains a smart, useful choice. I am amazing that a whole year's gone by. The laptop is holding amazing well. I'm using it outside quite some, and yet, there are no scratches or dents or anything, and neither the heat nor the cold phase it, and the battery change remains full and fresh, as good as new. People are also drawn to its sleek, understated look, and often comment and ask me about the name.

Kubuntu 18.04 is also top-notch. I do have some small struggles, and I'd like to see several outstanding issues polished. But then, all in all, you get a slick, aesthetic product, it looks like something you could pay money for and feel it's the right thing to do, and overall, it's highly consistent and robust. That would be all for this episode. No great drama or fuss, which is exactly how I like my productivity. Take care.

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Project Trident Void Alpha

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Reviews

As one should expect with an initial alpha release, Trident's Void branch is not yet ready for the general public. At the moment it is more of a proof of concept - that Void's base can be set up with an alternative installer and use ZFS on root. It's a good beginning, but I suspect there are still a few months to go before Trident's new branch will provide a live desktop and boot environments. When that happens, I think Trident will offer a good experience, and the ZFS snapshots will provide insurance against broken updates from Void's rolling repositories. For now Trident's Void branch is an interesting idea and I hope it gets rounded out by the time a stable release happens early in 2020.

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Firefox 70 review - the inversion point?

Filed under
Moz/FF
Reviews

I am happy that Mozilla has found some of its old identity, the one before it tried to copypasta Chrome. The privacy message resonates well with all that's been happening lately. So perhaps it's difficult to convince the Average Joe about memory consumption and perceived speed and such, but "they gonna git yo data" argument might stir an odd photon or two in a brain somewhere. When it comes to privacy, Firefox definitely leads the field, and this is a great selling point.

It's not everything of course, but the combination of a toned down message, the ability to change pretty much every setting, including the browser look & feel, do offer a sense of freedom in a world of diminishing liberties for consumers. Firefox 70 offers a nice bundle, and it might be the version that slowly brings the stray ones back to the fold. Hopefully. All in all, if you have reasons to like Firefox, version 70 should give you a dose of extra happiness. If you don't, it might be the version that makes you reconsider. From the most cheerful reviewer of software on the planet, goodbye.

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How to Install Latest Java 14 in Ubuntu 18.04, 20.04, Linux Mint

Oracle Java 14 is released. And here's how you can download and install in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, 19.10 and Linux Mint 18.x, 19.x. Read more

IBM/Red Hat Leveraging COVID-19 for Marketing

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    Without public cloud computing, we wouldn't be able to face the pandemic in the way we are. On-premise data centers have never scaled this fast, and not even the most rigorous capacity planning in the world would have forecasted the resource consumption we face today. News outlets covering the outbreaks would have not been able to cope with an entire planet constantly refreshing the home page in the hope of reading good news (that’s what I do). Hospitals and research facilities publishing dashboards full of virus spread statistics would not have been able to acquire the massive datasets they have as fast as they did. Videoconferencing and streaming platforms wouldn’t be able to serve, exceptionally so far, the enormous amount of the human workforce suddenly forced to work from home. And what is public cloud computing in the end? An astonishing, unprecedented, disciplined, methodical, pervasive amount of automation (and a few other, equally critical things). Automation doesn’t just allow us to cope with the urgency and scale of the demand in the public cloud and inside our data centers. Automation is helping organizations around the world to transition to a work-from-home productivity model. Without automation, the security teams would be hard pressed to install VPN clients across millions of laptops, tablets and smartphones all around the world.

  • UNESCO CodeTheCurve global virtual hackathon: Build your skills and help make a difference

    At least 1.5 billion young people are currently at home due to school closures relating to the global COVID-19 pandemic. One hundred eighty-three countries have been disrupted. Students, parents, and communities continue to cope with social isolation, while exploring how to maintain a sense of normalcy with the sea of online learning content, collaboration tools, and social media platforms available for the world to consume. Conversations that once took place face-to-face have now moved virtual. For students, parents, teachers, educators, and others, home confinement has brought the additional attention and need for an innovative learning paradigm, one centered on practical and real-world digital skills. This is a time that’s especially challenging for the 49% of the global population who lack access to broadband internet. For those who are online, the spread of misinformation and disinformation relating to COVID-19 complicates the situation even further by diminishing confidence in public health guidance by authorities, and has given rise to panic and uncertainty.

i.MX8M Mini Pico-ITX board has a DSP for voice control plus optional AI

Estone’s “EMB-2237-AI” Pico-ITX SBC integrates a “SOM-2237” module that runs Linux on an i.MX8M Mini and adds a DSP for audio. The carrier adds LAN with PoE, MIPI-DSI and -CSI, mics and speakers, and an M.2 slot with Edge TPU AI support. Estone Technology’s EMB-2237-AI is the first SBC we’ve seen to combine the 100 x 72mm Pico-ITX form-factor with an NXP i.MX8M Mini SoC. Other Mini-based SBCs include Seco’s SBC-C61, Boardcon’s sandwich-style EM-IMX8M-MINI, and Garz & Fricke’s recent Tanaro, among others. Read more

Python Programming

  • Python 2.7.18rc1

    Python 2.7.18 release candidate 1 is a testing release for Python 2.7.18, the last release of Python 2.

  • Python 2.7.18 release candidate 1 available

    A first release candidate for Python 2.7.18 is now available for download. Python 2.7.18 will be the last release of the Python 2.7 series, and thus Python 2.

  • Python Software Foundation: Python Software Foundation Fellow Members for Q1 2020

    Congratulations! Thank you for your continued contributions. We have added you to our Fellow roster online. The above members have contributed to the Python ecosystem by teaching Python, creating education material, contributing to circuitpython, contributing to and maintaining packaging, organizing Python events and conferences, starting Python communities in their home countries, and overall being great mentors in our community. Each of them continues to help make Python more accessible around the world. To learn more about the new Fellow members, check out their links above. Let's continue to recognize Pythonistas all over the world for their impact on our community. The criteria for Fellow members is available online: https://www.python.org/psf/fellows/. If you would like to nominate someone to be a PSF Fellow, please send a description of their Python accomplishments and their email address to psf-fellow at python.org. We are accepting nominations for quarter 2 through May 20, 2020.

  • How to Make an Instagram Bot With Python and InstaPy

    What do SocialCaptain, Kicksta, Instavast, and many other companies have in common? They all help you reach a greater audience, gain more followers, and get more likes on Instagram while you hardly lift a finger. They do it all through automation, and people pay them a good deal of money for it. But you can do the same thing—for free—using InstaPy! In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to build a bot with Python and InstaPy, which automates your Instagram activities so that you gain more followers and likes with minimal manual input. Along the way, you’ll learn about browser automation with Selenium and the Page Object Pattern, which together serve as the basis for InstaPy.

  • Sending Encrypted Messages from JavaScript to Python via Blockchain

    Last year, I worked with the Capacity team on the Crypto stamp project, the first physical postage stamp with a unique digital twin, issued by the Austrian Postal Service (Österreichische Post AG). Those stamps are mainly intended as collectibles, but their physical "half" can be used as valid postage on packages or letters, and a QR code on that physical stamp links to a website presenting the digital collectible. Our job (at Capacity Blockchain Solutions) was to build that digital collectible, the website at crypto.post.at, and the back-end service delivering both public meta data and the back end for the website. I specifically did most of the work on the Ethereum Smart Contract for the digital collectible, a "non-fungible token" (NFT) using the ERC-721 standard (publicly visible), as well as the back-end REST service, which I implemented in Python (based on Flask and Web3.py). The coding for the website was done by colleagues, of course using JavaScript for the dynamic elements.

  • Unpacking in Python: Beyond Parallel Assignment

    Unpacking in Python refers to an operation that consists of assigning an iterable of values to a tuple (or list) of variables in a single assignment statement. As a complement, the term packing can be used when we collect several values in a single variable using the iterable unpacking operator, *. Historically, Python developers have generically referred to this kind of operation as tuple unpacking. However, since this Python feature has turned out to be quite useful and popular, it's been generalized to all kinds of iterables. Nowadays, a more modern and accurate term would be iterable unpacking. In this tutorial, we'll learn what iterable unpacking is and how we can take advantage of this Python feature to make our code more readable, maintainable, and pythonic. Additionally, we'll also cover some practical examples of how to use the iterable unpacking feature in the context of assignments operations, for loops, function definitions, and function calls.

  • Spin the table: Solution!