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Reviews

Dell XPS 13 7390 Review: The Best Laptop For Desktop Linux Users

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Linux
Reviews

Gone are the days when we had to do a lot of research and read a lot of reviews to find a machine that would work with the least amount of trouble with the desktop Linux distribution of choice. Today, almost every machine out there can run Linux. The kernel community has done an incredible job with device driver support to make everything work out of the box.

Still, there are machines that can run Linux, and then there are machines that run Linux. Dell machines fall in the latter category. Five years ago, Barton George started a program within Dell to bring desktop Linux to consumer grade, high-end Dell systems. What started as one machine is now an entire line of high-end laptops and desktops.

Among these machines, XPS 13 is my favorite. While I need a really powerful desktop to handle my 4K UHD, multicam video production, I also need an ultra-portable laptop that I can bring with me anywhere without having to worry about a bulky backpack and charger. XPS 13 was also my very first laptop, which lasted me more than 7 years. So, yes, there is that nostalgic factor, too.

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Review: Obarun 2019.11.02 and Bluestar 5.3.6

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Reviews

This week I decided to test drive a distribution I have not reviewed before and, after looking through a handful of projects, my gaze landed on Obarun. The Obarun distribution is based on Arch Linux and features the s6 init software instead of the more commonly used systemd. The projects website describes Obarun as follows:

The goal of Obarun is to provide an alternative for people looking for more simplicity and transparency in maintaining their systems. Obarun is not designed with beginners to Linux in mind.

Obarun, like its parent, is a rolling release operating system which uses pacman as its package manager. The distribution is available in two editions: Minimal (589MB) and JWM (974MB). The former offers a command line interface while the latter provides a lightweight window manager. I decided to download the JWM edition. The project's website provides the default usernames and passwords for the live media. We are also given a summary of the installation steps which let us know we will need to set up an Internet connection and a partition for the operating system prior to launching Obarun's text-based installer. Obarun's media boots to a console interface and prompts us to login. If we login using the root account we are presented with a command line interface. However, if we sign in as the user oblive then the system loads the JWM graphical interface with a panel placed across the bottom of the screen. The network settings window then opens to make sure we know to enable an Internet connection.

The live media does not ship with a lot of software, but there are some utilities to help us get the operating set up, including the cfdisk disk partitioning tool. I like cfdisk because it can run in a terminal and is fairly easy to navigate. Using cfdisk and mkfs I created a fresh ext4 partition and mounted it prior to launching the system installer, obarun-install.

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TRENDnet TUC-ET2G USB-C to 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet adapter for Windows, Mac, and Linux [Review]

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Reviews

Also cool? The TUC-ET2G worked without issue on Linux -- despite TRENDnet not listing support. More specifically, on my desktop running Ubuntu 19.10, the adapter worked right out of the box -- no compatibility issues at all. It was identified as a generic "USB Ethernet" adapter, but hey, it worked! Since TRENDnet also offers macOS drivers, it is appropriate to say the TUC-ET2G is cross-platform.

Ultimately, the TRENDnet TUC-ET2G worked flawlessly with all my testing, albeit entirely using Gigabit connections. It was just as fast as the onboard Ethernet ports found on my desktop and never got hot under heavy load. Build quality is quite nice too -- the plastic body has taken a lot of abuse and remains in great shape. It is essential tool in my life.

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OSGeoLive Distro Opens Doors to Geospatial Worlds

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OS
Reviews

OSGeoLive is a unique Linux distro. It pulls together a large library of Linux tools and applications that support geospatial workloads. It is not designed to be a general usability Linux operating system, but if you add the software it's missing, you can happily use it for other computing tasks.

I was particularly intrigued by some of its standalone applications and Web app offerings. Browsing through this distro's feature tools was a fun-filled discovery experience.

Nothing needed to be set up or configured. One click led to another. With each new screen came interesting information that teased my inquisitive mind. The experience actually sparked an interest in the world of geospatial elements.

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Ubuntu 19.10: It’s fast, like “make old hardware feel new” fast

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Leaves are turning. Temperatures have dipped. These are sure signs—if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, at least—that Canonical's Autumn release is upon us. Things are a bit different in 2019, however. Not only is Ubuntu 19.10 nicknamed Eoan Ermine (no, I don't know how you pronounce it either), but it's the best non-LTS Ubuntu release Canonical has ever put out.

I should qualify that statement somewhat, because really, as the newest version, it had damn well better be the best Ubuntu ever. But there's more than recency bias behind the sentiment. I've been reviewing Ubuntu for 10 years now, and I was using and interacting with this distro in some form or another for another three or four years before that. After spending recent weeks with Ubuntu 19.10, I can say confidently it is quite simply the best Ubuntu Canonical has ever released.

The first reason I like 19.10 so much is that it feels insanely fast. Everyday tasks like opening applications, dragging windows, activating the search interface, and even just moving the cursor around are all noticeably faster than in 19.04. The speed boost is immediately noticeable from the minute you pop in the live CD, and it's even faster once you have 19.10 installed.

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Kubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine - Turn the heat up

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Kubuntu 19.10 is exactly what I'd expect from a short-support interim release. And then, slightly better, too, because it was fast, stable and robust, and nothing broke. On the other hand, it's a bit boring. All in all, the Plasma-clad Eoan Ermine did deliver, but in almost every area, it does the nominal thing and stops short of awesome. As if it's being pulled back by invisible strings.

Printing and sharing can be more streamlined, KDE Connects need some polish, the application bundle is bland, there were some rough edges in the UI, and such like. Now, it's pretty, fast and configurable. There's a good sense of intelligent, clever decisions all over the place. But the one ingredient missing is enthusiasm. Kubuntu feels like its coasting, offering a good but never excellent alternative to other distros out there, doing just the right amount to keep the momentum going. I wish it would do more. It doesn't take much. Now, if you're a Plasma fan, and you'd like to taste of the fresh fruit of the geek loom, 'tis a good starting point. The distro warrants something like 8/10, but you have to be in a good mood for that. And we're done.

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SolydXK 10

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Reviews
Debian

SolydXK is a Debian-based desktop distribution. Originally, SolydXK grew out of Linux Mint Debian Edition, providing desktop editions that Mint did not support. However, SolydXK soon grew into its own identity and became independent from Mint, though it does still use the same system installer.

SolydXK is available in two editions: Xfce and KDE Plasma. Since we reviewed the Xfce edition of SolydXK 9 earlier this year, I decided to try out the KDE branch of version 10.

SolydXK 10 is based on Debian 10 "Buster" and provides builds for 64-bit (x86_64) machines. In the past there were builds provided for Raspberry Pi computers, but these have been dropped with version 10. The Xfce edition of SolydXK is a 1.6GB download and the KDE edition I decided to try is a 2.2GB download.

Booting from the distribution's live media brings up the KDE Plasma desktop with a soft, blue theme. There is a panel at the bottom of the screen which holds the application menu, task switcher, and system tray. A single icon for launching the system installer sits in the upper-left corner of the desktop.

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Cleverly Reimagined Slax Distro Pushes Portable Linux's Limits

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Linux
Reviews

Slax runs on a wide range of different file systems, including EXT (ext2,ext3,ext4), btrfs, and even FAT and NTFS.

It took me about one hour to download the must-have computing applications and accessory tools that fit my needs. The installation of each program takes longer than a distro installed to a hard drive. USB drives are much slower than an internal hard drive.

Once I had all of my needed software up and running, I generally was pleased with how Slax Linux performed.

Slax is not a perfect Linux platform, at least not yet -- but for me its convenience and flexibility outweigh its current shortcomings.

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Pinebook Pro Review: A $200 laptop that’s only for cool people.

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GNU
Linux
Hardware
Reviews

There’s a $200 laptop out in the wild now that has been getting a lot of buzz in the Fediverse. It’s called the Pinebook Pro and it ships with a customized version of Debian Stretch with the Mate desktop. If you don’t know what that means, it’s Linux. This is a Linux laptop. But that’s not all… it also has a few other tricks up its sleeve, like a bootable MicroSD card slot so you can easily run other operating systems off a cheap memory card whenever you feel like it. Now, this is being sold at cost mainly as a gift to the Free (as in Freedom) Open Source Software (FOSS) community so it’s not really meant for normal people. If you just want to open web pages like Facebook or Google Docs, you’re probably better off with a Chromebook or Macbook. If you believe in freedom and like to seriously learn about technology, keep reading… The Pinebook Pro is serious fun!

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Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine - Settling in, spit and polish

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Ubuntu MATE 19.10 Eoan Ermine is a good distro. Not perfect, but it's better than Dingo in many regards. Lots of the old woes have been removed, squashed, fixed, and in fact, the make-it-perfect tutorial I wrote for the spring release is in fact no longer required. A promising start.

But there were troubles, of course. Most of them stem from the over-complicated visual setup, and there's really no reason for so many configurations. Three layouts would be more than sufficient for all practical purposes, and they would make testing and QA so much easier. Indeed, Brisk and Plank were the chief offenders. The performance is good, the battery life can be better, the default app selection can be more exciting, and there are some niggles here and there, like inconsistent borders, icons and alike. Now, if you're after MATE, Ermine delivers a much more cohesive experience than 19.04. So you should definitely consider and test. Overall, something like 8.5/10. Not the greatest of heart and mind grabbers, as mentioned, but I see a solid, positive trend, and that's rather promising. A freedom of choice is always great. Thus endeth this review.

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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!