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Reviews

What’s New in Linux Lite 3.8

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Linux Lite 3.8 has been released by Linux Lite developer Jerry Bezencon, It’s the final release of Linux Lite 3.x series. This release brings various package updates and improvements, include implementation of the TLP power management tool for laptops in the Lite Tweaks utility, better support for the LibreOffice office suite, a new font viewer and installer, and regional support for DVDs.

Linux Lite 3.8 also ships with Xfce 4.12 series as default desktop environment, powered by the Linux 4.4.0-112 kernel from Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), features Google-based search page as default homepage in the Mozilla Firefox web browser. Inludes the New Lite Tweaks, New Lite Welcome, New Lite Help Manual, New Lite Upgrade and New Wallpapers.

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Also: EzeeLinux Show 18.8 | A look at elementary OS and KDE Neon

Review: Linspire 7.0

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Linspire 7 is a solid distribution and one I would recommend to friends and family. Coming from a Windows, openSUSE, ChromeOS and CloudReady background I pretty much knew what to expect. There is nothing that seriously stands out with Linspire to make me say WOW save its stability, easy of use and compatibility. I had several older devices and newer devices that I wasn't expecting to work and they did. Would this bring me around to switching? Absolutely. ChromeOS is a serious mess and CloudReady doesn't support one of my laptops anymore. Its easier to configure than openSUSE with YAST and its a straightforward solution. I would recommend this for old folk like me and for small businesses who need a cheap and neat solution. One of the many things I like in this Linspire vs the old Linspire is that this one is more close knit with the Linux apps and doesn't have many proprietary-to-them applications. I do miss Click and Run. A few criticisms I do have is that some of the documentation is a little techy and novices would get lost easy. I would work with and get a better bug reporting system. Overall I am enjoying the experience and like I said, solid, stable and affordable. I definitely will keep this and Windows 10 around for a long time.

I want to thank PC/Opensystems for bringing Linspire back to us and I would like to thank Medium.com for hosting this review.

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Seven Days with Elive 2.9.26 (Beta)

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Debian

If there is a distro release that I have been waiting for, that is surely Elive 3.0.

I had Elive 2.9.8 Beta installed, so I used the same partition for this upgrade. After downloading the image of this new beta (2.9.26) and copying it to a USB drive with ROSA image writer, I was ready to test it. I wanted to see if this distro is OK for a rather non-technical Linux user like me, who has not used the Enlightenment DE regularly. I also wanted to see its Japanese IME capabilities.

When I installed version 2.9.8, I encountered a frustrating problem: There is an issue with my graphic card. The distro booted correctly, but, when I installed it, the DE froze and complained about Enlightenment crashing because of a module problem. However, one can circumvent this by booting the distro using the "graphics problems" option, so, after it is installed, Elive works perfectly. Although the Elive installer bypassed that situation this time because it remembered my settings (awesome!), Megatotoro, who performed a clean install, was not that lucky and stumbled with the issue.

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MX Linux MX-17 Horizon - Second test, top notch

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Here we go. This is a short review by my standards, but I did carefully and thoroughly check every single aspect of the desktop experience, in line with my normal testing, I just didn't repeat myself. Everything worked. There were no new problems other than the few small issues we've already seen. And on the bright side, you do get the advantage of even better performance and responsiveness on the new hardware.

While MX-17 Horizon will work perfectly well on ancient rigs, it still gains from new platforms, and lets you take full advantage of its speed. Battery life is also very good. Overall, it's a really top-notch distro, and it didn't botch or falter on two different machines. And as you recall, pretty much EVERY distro that I've tested in the last two and a half years since I've purchased the Lenovo laptop has had some issues, and then when I switched to the LG laptop, then they almost all started having problems there. And it shows it's not hardware that's bad - it's software. Good distros are far and few in between, and MX-17 Horizon is truly a magnificent product. Way to go.

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Hands-On: Kali Linux 2018.1 on the Raspberry Pi Zero W

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Linux
Reviews
Security

The installation image is actually on the Offensive Security Kali Linux ARM Images page, so don't get confused if you go to the normal Kali Linux Downloads page and don't see it. There is a link to the ARM images near the bottom of that page.

As with most Raspberry Pi installation images, the download is a compressed (xz) snapshot, not an ISO image.

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Review: Freespire 3 and Linspire 7.0

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Before I started my trial I was under the impression that Freespire and Linspire were quite different from stock Xubuntu. The Linspire blog, for instance, talks about binary blobs in "our" kernel and proprietary packages provided by vendors to Linspire. As I quickly learned, Linspire doesn't have its own repositories (let alone a custom kernel) and the proprietary packages are provided via the ubuntu-restricted-extras package. Similarly, the lead developer recently wrote on his blog that people who claim that Linspire is just a Xubuntu respin should "mind their own business" because they have no idea how much work has gone into customising Linspire over the last 18 months. When I asked the company if they could give some examples of how Linspire is different from Xubuntu I was told that, actually, their aim is to stay as close to Xubuntu as possible.

It would be unfair, however, to dismiss Freespire and Linspire as Xubuntu clones. The distros have two interesting selling points. Firstly, PC/OpenSystems can legally ship certain patent-encumbered codecs. Of course, anyone can install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package but in some jurisdictions doing so may be illegal. It is probably fair to say that few people care about such legalities but if you prefer to play by the rules then Linspire is worth a look.

Secondly, Linspire's main feature is the support license. You don't pay $79.99 for Xubuntu with a Linspire sticker - you buy a year's worth of support. Linspire might be an attractive option for small businesses and organisations that want to run Linux with a support contract. Similarly, I reckon many home users will like the idea of being able to get professional support for their Linspire box(es). That said, it is disappointing that the only real customisations (as in code changes) are regressions: the installer is far from a finished product. It is also unfortunate that Freespire lacks direction. The new Freespire was presented as an almost fully libre distro, yet the initial release clearly was the exact opposite. Only after pointing this out did PC/OpenSystems quietly release a new ISO.

The main issue I had with the distros was something else though: the marketing/PR/spin. I have already mentioned various examples of dubious claims. I would like to add one more example, just because it nicely illustrates my gripe: the Freespire page claims that, unlike Freespire, Linux Mint is difficult to install. PC/OpenSystems arrived at that conclusion based on its own research: a whopping three people were asked to install Freespire, Ubuntu and Linux Mint and the "sample group" apparently struggled to install Mint.

This type of marketing is needlessly negative. I would rather see the company work with, say, the Trisquel developers, who have already solved the issue with the checkbox in the Ubiquity installer and who may also be able to help Freespire become an FSF-approved distro. I would love to see a proper bug tracking tool so that I would have an easy way to report issues. And I think it would also be nice if PC/OpenSystems would start sharing the code it claims to produce.

In short, I think both Freespire and Linspire are on to something. I like the idea of a fully libre Xubuntu spin and I am sure there is demand for Linspire. I just hope history won't repeat itself.

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Plasma Active: So far, so adequate

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KDE
Reviews

Ever since Plasma Active was released in 2012, I’ve been waiting for KDE to release another desktop environment for mobile devices. Last week, that wait was finally over with the first alpha release of Plasma Mobile, Active’s successor. However, delay may have raised my expectations too high. While Mobile was full of innovations, so far, Active is simply another desktop for phones or tablets, appearing little different from what I currently have on my Android devices. Its main interest is the applications it includes, which seems to indicate Plasma Active’s design priorities.

What made Plasma Active such a standout was its innovations. It was KDE with a different desktop environment — a proof of concept of KDE 4’s arrangement of the desktop as a sub-system that could be swapped out for another with relative ease. Even more importantly, it innovated. Like Ubuntu Touch — which I suspect it inspired — Plasma Active worked by the user swiping from the sides of the screen. It also included an OsS X-like spinner rack for changing Activities, a widget so efficient that I wished that standard Plasma would include it, too. As I wrote at the time, it was the first desktop for mobile devices that did not feel like a clumsy makeshift, and could even work well on a laptop or workstation. Unfortunately, however, Plasma Active never made it on to any shipped devices.

By contrast, Plasma Mobile has already received publicity, thanks to the announcement that Purism’s free and secure phone the Librem 5 would include it as one of the available desktop environments. That announcement may have hastened the release of the alpha, perhaps pushing it out prematurely, since there is very little that you can actually do with Plasma Mobile when you install it on a virtual machine. Click any of the icons — at least in my experience — and most of the time you get a flickering or frozen screen, forcing you to shut it down and reboot. So far, only the Setting icon works reliably.

Still, like Plasma Active, Plasma Mobile does show off the efficiency of the KDE environment, providing what by my count is the third alternative to standard Plasma (the other, for those keeping count, was Plasma Netbook, yet another desktop since faded into obscurity). Beneath it is the familiar KDE; the command line, for example, is Konsole.

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Also: Another Morevna fundraiser!

Review: siduction 2018.1.0

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Debian

Running siduction was a pretty good experience for me. The distribution is very easy to set up and the Calamares installer gets the user up and running with fewer steps than Debian's system installer. The LXQt edition of siduction works quickly and the desktop environment is pleasantly lightweight. I found LXQt generally provided me with all the features I wanted to use while staying out of my way, which was appreciated.

One of the few concerns I had was with the confusing way video playing worked on the distribution. I think it would have been easier if siduction simply shipped with VLC or Totem for playing videos. Otherwise, the applications which shipped with the distribution worked well and I found running siduction was generally pleasantly boring.

For people who like running cutting edge software and want to take advantage of Debian's massive supply of open source software, I think siduction is an excellent option. The user needs to be prepared to handle a lot of updates, dozens or (in my case) maybe even hundreds per week. But if you don't mind installing waves of updates, then siduction offers good performance, an easy to use installer and a wide range of desktop editions. I especially appreciate the Synaptic feature which allows us to restart services which have been updated and I suspect people running network services will really like having this ability.

siduction didn't really do anything which stood out as different or amazing, but on the other hand I didn't run into any serious problems. The distribution provided a solid, easy to use rolling release with a huge amount of software in the repositories and handled all my hardware beautifully. I think people who like running openSUSE Tumbleweed or Arch Linux may want to check out siduction as an alternative, especially since the distribution can be set up with little more than a few mouse clicks.

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Revisited: Linux Mint 18.3 "Sylvia" KDE

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Linux
Reviews

Long-time readers of the Linux distribution reviews on this blog know that I am a fan of Linux Mint, but I have had somewhat mixed experiences with KDE. When I've reviewed a new release of Linux Mint, I have occasionally reviewed its KDE edition in addition to its GNOME/MATE/Cinnamon and Xfce editions, generally finding that the KDE edition has too many minor bugs and not enough compelling features compared to the more mainstream editions. Apparently the Linux Mint developers feel similarly, as this is the last release of a KDE edition for Linux Mint; henceforth, they are only releasing MATE, Cinnamon, and Xfce editions for a tighter focus on GTK-based DEs and applications. With that in mind, I figured it was worth reviewing a KDE edition of Linux Mint one final time. I tested it on a live USB system made with the "dd" command. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

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Review: Ubuntu MATE 17.10

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Ubuntu

Ubuntu MATE 17.10 is a solid release with a few minor caveats about the Mutiny layout. The Traditional MATE layout is very nice, but Mutiny still needs some work. For users who want the classic GNOME 2 look-and-feel, Ubuntu MATE is an excellent choice. However, Unity users looking for a Unity-like experience should still give Ubuntu MATE with the Mutiny layout a try, but need to be aware that it does have some issues and it won't work exactly like Unity. The Contemporary layout is also an option for Unity users, but is even further removed from the Unity experience than Mutiny is.

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Windows 10 WSL vs. Linux Performance For Early 2018

Back in December was our most recent round of Windows Subsystem for Linux benchmarking with Windows 10 while since then both Linux and Windows have received new stable updates, most notably for mitigating the Spectre and Meltdown CPU vulnerabilities. For your viewing pleasure today are some fresh benchmarks looking at the Windows 10 WSL performance against Linux using the latest updates as of this week while also running some comparison tests too against Docker on Windows and Oracle VM VirtualBox. Read more