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Reviews

Anarchy Linux Dispels Fear of Arch

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Linux
Reviews

Arch-Anywhere/Anarchy Linux is one of the nicest Arch-based distributions I have encountered. However, Anarchy Linux still requires familiarity with terminology and processes that usually are not needed to install Linux distros from a fully-functioning live session installation disk. Not having a demo mode to preview how the OS runs on your particular hardware can be a time-consuming setback.

However, once you have Anarchy Linux up and running, it will give you a very pleasing computing experience. Much of what happens after installation depends on the desktop environment you selected.

If you have a desktop preference or prefer one of the included window manager environments instead, you can forget about the sullied reputation that comes with Arch Linux distros. For many reasons, Anarchy Linux is a winning choice.

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Ubuntu 17.10: Hands-on with Artful Aardvark

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Ubuntu 17.10, Artful Aardvark, has now been officially released. I have not been much of an Ubuntu fan for a long time now, but this release includes a lot of significant changes, many of which might address some of my most serious objections about Ubuntu. So I think I should take a closer look at it than I normally do.

The release announcement mentions the major updates and changes - including the biggest of all, the switch from Unity back to Gnome 3 / Gnome Shell for the desktop. As I have not liked Unity from the very first time I saw it (that's a polite way to phrase it), I am very, very pleased with this change.

The release notes (for all versions) give a more complete list of packages updated, and a list of known issues. It also includes a statement that I know some users will not be pleased with:

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Motorola Moto X4 Android One review: a Nexus by any other name

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Android
Reviews

That’s been a tough pill for many fans of the prior Nexus phones to swallow, as they frequently offered a lot of specs and performance for a lot less money than other smartphones. You could realistically get a great Nexus phone for under $500 without having to give up the traits that make them great: clean software, fast performance, and timely updates.

Enter Motorola’s new Moto X4 Android One smartphone. While not technically a Nexus phone, it shares many of the same qualities that made the Nexus line so loved. Clean build of Android? Check. Promise of fast updates and years of software support? Check. Reasonable cost? Check.

The $399 X4 won’t appeal to everyone. It’s not meant to compete with the Pixel or other premium phone in terms of features or performance, and its biggest limitation is that it’s only available on Google’s own Project Fi network. (Though it comes unlocked and works with other networks, the only way to buy this flavor of X4 is to be a Fi customer.) But if you’ve been holding on to that aging Nexus 5X hoping something would come along and pick up its mantle, the Moto X4 Android One version is it.

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Ubuntu 17.10: What’s New? [Video]

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Reviews
Ubuntu

It’s Artful Aardvark arrival day today (no, really!) and to mark the occasion we’ve made our first video in 3 years!

Prime your eyeballs and pop in some earbuds as we (try to) bring you up to speed on what’s new in Ubuntu 17.10.

At a smidgen over 3 minutes long we think our video is perfect for watching on your commute; when you’re bleary eyed in bed; or when you get the tl;dr feels thinking about our fuller, longer, and far wordier Ubuntu 17.10 review (due out shortly).

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Plasma 5.11 – Keep the momentum going

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KDE
Reviews

Just a few short days ago, the KDE team released Plasma 5.11, the latest edition of this desktop environment, plied with a range of bug fixes as well as some new features. Reason enough to celebrate, but even more so when you consider the fact that Plasma has been slowly, steadily – and consistently – improving over the past few years.

For me, the culmination of this effort is my great satisfaction with Plasma – epitomized in the shape and form of Kubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zoltan, including the most excellent twining of the distro with my HP Pavilion laptop. And on this very machine, I will be testing the KDE neon live edition, furnished with the latest desktop version. So let’s see what it does.

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Also: GCompris at KDE-edu sprint 2017

Review: Google Pixel 2

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Android
Google
Reviews

If I had to pick the moment I most appreciated the Google Pixel 2, it would be when our airboat driver-slash-tour guide put a hot dog and a piece of raw chicken in his pocket, dove into the New Orleans swamp, and began playing with a giant gator named Who Dat. I’m no social media whiz, but I knew there was Instagram gold unfolding in front of me. So I pulled out my Pixel 2 XL, the larger of Google’s two new models, double-clicked on the power button to open the camera, and started snapping.

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Pixel 2 and 2 XL review—The best Android phone you can buy

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Android
Reviews

Welcome to year two of Google Hardware. In 2016, Google jumped into the Android hardware space with its first self-branded device, the Google Pixel. Google's software prowess shined on the Pixel 1, offering up exclusive features like the Google Assistant, the best Android camera thanks to advanced software processing, fast day-one OS updates and betas, and the smoothest, best-performing overall build of Android. The killer software package made it the best Android phone of the previous generation.

The Pixel still represented Google's first foray into smartphone hardware, though, and it didn't offer anything special in the hardware department. It was a bland-looking iPhone clone. It had the same specs and basic design as everything else. The Pixel even skipped water resistance, which had become an expected feature at that price point. Google said it wanted to make its own hardware, but it didn't actually build special hardware.

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LinuxAndUbuntu Review Of BunsenLabs Linux

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Linux
Reviews
Ubuntu

Once upon a time there was Crunchbang Linux, and then it was no more, and then the community brought it back to life in another form known as BunsenLabs Linux. This distribution offers a lightweight and easily customizable Openbox desktop.

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Star 1.0.1 - lightweight desktops on a Devuan base

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Reviews

On the whole, I like the ideas presented in Star's design. The distribution is basically Devuan and pulls packages from Devuan's software repositories, but the live media and lightweight environments are great for testing the distribution and for breathing life into older computers. While this approach of starting light and adding only what we need is a solid concept, and proved to be very forgiving on resources, there are some rough edges in the implementation. The missing manual pages, for example, and the media player issues I ran into posed problems.

A few programs I used flashed warning messages letting me know PulseAudio was not available as Star uses the ALSA sound system by default. Strictly speaking, PulseAudio is not required most of the time and, if we do run into a situation where it is needed, we can install PulseAudio easily enough by rerunning Star's welcome script.

The default JWM environment is very plain and empty, which suited me. My only complaint was the constantly updating Conky status panel at the bottom of the screen. I was able to disable Conky, but it required digging into JWM's configuration files. Which brings me to another point: many users will probably prefer to try heavier editions of Star (like Xfce) to gain access to more user friendly configuration tools. The JWM edition is intentionally bare bones and probably best suited to more experienced users.

One last observation I had while using Star is that it is based on Devuan 1.0.0, which presents us with software that is about three years old (or more) at this point. This means some packages, like LibreOffice, are notably behind upstream versions. Since Star is best suited for older computers, this may not be an issue for most users, but it is worth keeping in mind that Star's software repository is a few years old at this point.

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Newbie's Guide to Ubuntu 17.10 Part 2

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Reviews
Ubuntu

This is Part 2 of the newbie's guide to operate Ubuntu 17.10. Here you'll learn how to operate the Nautilus File Manager. You'll do most of daily activities in Nautilus because it is your file manager, like Finder in Mac OS X or Explorer in Windows. You'll learn basic skills such as selecting & navigating, creating & deleting, searching & sorting files/folders, and also basic knowledge for keyboard shortcuts and the user interface. I wish this article helps you best to run Ubuntu 17.10 easily and happily.

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Servers: DockerCon Coverage, MongoDB IPO

  • DockerCon EU 17 Panel Debates Docker Container Security
    There are many different security capabilities that are part of the Docker container platform, and there are a number of vendors providing container security offerings. At the DockerCon EU 17 conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, eWEEK moderated a panel of leading vendors—Docker, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Aqua Security, Twistlock and StackRox—to discuss the state of the market. To date, there have been no publicly disclosed data breaches attributed to container usage or flaws. However, that doesn't mean that organizations using containers have not been attacked. In fact, Wei Lien Dang, product manager at StackRox, said one of his firm's financial services customers did have a container-related security incident.
  • DockerCon EU: Tips and Tools for Running Container Workloads on AWS
    Amazon Web Services wants to be a welcome home for developers and organizations looking to deploy containers. At the DockerCon EU conference here, a pair of AWS technical evangelists shared their wisdom on the best ways to benefit from container deployments. The terms microservices and containers are often used interchangeably by people. Abby Fuller, technical evangelist at AWS, provided the definition of microservices coined by Adrian Crockford, VP of Cloud Architecture at AWS and formerly the cloud architect at Netflix.
  • Docker CEO: Embracing Kubernetes Removes Conflict
    Steve Singh has ambitious plans for Docker Inc. that are nothing less than transforming the world of legacy applications into a modern cloud-native approach. Singh was named CEO of Docker on May 2 and hosted his first DockerCon event here Oct. 16-19. The highlight of DockerCon EU was the surprise announcement that Docker is going to support the rival open-source Kubernetes container orchestration system. In a video interview with eWEEK, Singh explained the rationale behind the Kubernetes support and provided insight into his vision for the company he now leads.
  • MongoDB's IPO Beats the Market Out of the Gate
    The folks at MongoDB raised a whole lot of money today in their debut on NASDAQ. Yesterday the open source company announced it was going to be asking $24 a share for the 8 million Class A shares it was letting loose in its IPO, which had some Wall Street investors scratching their heads and wondering if the brains at Mongo were suffering from some kind of undiagnosed damage. Analysts had been estimating an opening price of between $20-22 per share, and on October 6 the company had estimated an opening price in the range of $18-20.

LWN on Linux: LTS, API, Pointer Leaks and Linux Plumbers Conference (LPC)

  • Cramming features into LTS kernel releases
    While the 4.14 development cycle has not been the busiest ever (12,500 changesets merged as of this writing, slightly more than 4.13 at this stage of the cycle), it has been seen as a rougher experience than its predecessors. There are all kinds of reasons why one cycle might be smoother than another, but it is not unreasonable to wonder whether the fact that 4.14 is a long-term support (LTS) release has affected how this cycle has gone. Indeed, when he released 4.14-rc3, Linus Torvalds complained that this cycle was more painful than most, and suggested that the long-term support status may be a part of the problem. A couple of recent pulls into the mainline highlight the pressures that, increasingly, apply to LTS releases. As was discussed in this article, the 4.14 kernel will include some changes to the kernel timer API aimed at making it more efficient, more like contemporary in-kernel APIs, and easier to harden. While API changes are normally confined to the merge window, this change was pulled into the mainline for the 4.14-rc3 release. The late merge has led to a small amount of grumbling in the community.
  • Improving the kernel timers API
    The kernel's timer interface has been around for a long time, and its API shows it. Beyond a lack of conformance with current in-kernel interface patterns, the timer API is not as efficient as it could be and stands in the way of ongoing kernel-hardening efforts. A late addition to the 4.14 kernel paves the way toward a wholesale change of this API to address these problems.
  • What's the best way to prevent kernel pointer leaks?
    An attacker who seeks to compromise a running kernel by overwriting kernel data structures or forcing a jump to specific kernel code must, in either case, have some idea of where the target objects are in memory. Techniques like kernel address-space layout randomization have been created in the hope of denying that knowledge, but that effort is wasted if the kernel leaks information about where it has been placed in memory. Developers have been plugging pointer leaks for years but, as a recent discussion shows, there is still some disagreement over the best way to prevent attackers from learning about the kernel's address-space layout. There are a number of ways for a kernel pointer value to find its way out to user space, but the most common path by far is the printk() function. There are on the order of 50,000 printk() calls in the kernel, any of which might include the value of a kernel pointer. Other places in the kernel use the underlying vsprintf() mechanism to format data for virtual files; they, too, often leak pointer values. A blanket ban on printing pointer values could solve this problem — if it could be properly enforced — but it would also prevent printing such values when they are really needed. Debugging kernel problems is one obvious use case for printing pointers, but there are others.
  • Continuous-integration testing for Intel graphics
    Two separate talks, at two different venues, give us a look into the kinds of testing that the Intel graphics team is doing. Daniel Vetter had a short presentation as part of the Testing and Fuzzing microconference at the Linux Plumbers Conference (LPC). His colleague, Martin Peres, gave a somewhat longer talk, complete with demos, at the X.Org Developers Conference (XDC). The picture they paint is a pleasing one: there is lots of testing going on there. But there are problems as well; that amount of testing runs afoul of bugs elsewhere in the kernel, which makes the job harder. Developing for upstream requires good testing, Peres said. If the development team is not doing that, features that land in the upstream kernel will be broken, which is not desirable. Using continuous-integration (CI) along with pre-merge testing allows the person making a change to make sure they did not break anything else in the process of landing their feature. That scales better as the number of developers grows and it allows developers to concentrate on feature development, rather than bug fixing when someone else finds the problem. It also promotes a better understanding of the code base; developers learn more "by breaking stuff", which lets them see the connections and dependencies between different parts of the code.

An update on GnuPG

The GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG) is one of the fundamental tools that allows a distributed group to have trust in its communications. Werner Koch, lead developer of GnuPG, spoke about it at Kernel Recipes: what's in the new 2.2 version, when older versions will reach their end of life, and how development will proceed going forward. He also spoke at some length on the issue of best-practice key management and how GnuPG is evolving to assist. It is less than three years since attention was focused on the perilous position of GnuPG; because of systematic failure of the community to fund its development, Koch was considering packing it all in. The Snowden revelations persuaded him to keep going a little longer, then in the wake of Heartbleed there was a resurgent interest in funding the things we all rely on. Heartbleed led to the founding of the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII). A grant from CII joined commitments from several companies and other organizations and an upsurge in community funding has put GnuPG on a more secure footing going forward. Read more

Ubuntu: GNOME, New Video, Ubuntu Podcast, Refreshing the Xubuntu Logo

  • Ubuntu 17.10: We're coming GNOME! Plenty that's Artful in Aardvark, with a few Wayland wails
    Ubuntu has done a good job of integrating a few plugins that improve GNOME's user experience compared to stock GNOME – most notably a modified version of the Dash-to-Dock and the App Indicator extensions, which go a long way toward making GNOME a bit more like Unity. It's worth noting that Ubuntu's fork of Dash-to-Dock lacks some features of the original, but you can uninstall the Ubuntu version in favour of the original if you prefer. In fact you can really revert to a pretty stock GNOME desktop with just a few tweaks. Canonical said it wasn't going to heavily modify GNOME and indeed it hasn't.
  • What’s New in Ubuntu 17.10 Artful Aardvark
  • Ubuntu Podcast: S10E33 – Aggressive Judicious Frame
    This week we’ve been protecting our privacy with LineageOS and playing Rust. Telegram get fined, your cloud is being used to mine BitCoin, Google announces a new privacy focused product tier, North Korea hacks a UK TV studio, a new fully branded attack vector is unveiled and Purism reach their funding goal for the Librem 5.
  • Refreshing the Xubuntu logo
    Earlier this year I worked a bit with our logo to propose a small change to it – first change to the logo in 5 years. The team approved, but for various reasons the new logo did not make it to 17.10. Now we’re ready to push it out to the world.