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Reviews

Nexus 6P and Galaxy S5 Mini

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Android
Reviews

In recent times there hasn’t been much potential for new features in phones. All phones have enough RAM and screen space for all common apps. While the S5 Mini has a small screen it’s not that small, I spent many years with desktop PCs that had a similar resolution. So while the S5 Mini was released a couple of years ago that doesn’t matter much for most common use. I wouldn’t want it for my main phone but for a secondary phone it’s quite good.

The Nexus 6P is a very nice phone, but apart from USB-C, the fingerprint reader, and the lack of a stylus there’s not much noticeable difference between that and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 I was using before.

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Mint 18 - Forgetting Sarah Linux

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Reviews

Linux Mint. Version 18. Sarah. Cinnamon Edition. This was supposed to be the sweetest LTS yet. Only it's very buggy, it's worse than the previous edition and the three before, or maybe all of them. It's even buggier than Ubuntu, and it's been released a good two months after its parent. There are so many regressions in the system. And I know I'm trying every trick in the English language and scientific method to explain and convince you that this has nothing to do with my hardware, because with the same nuts and bolts in place, you can still baseline, calibrate, evaluate, and compare over time.

With none of the other parameters changed - my box and me - Mint 18 Sarah is just not a very good release. The live session is awful. I don't have any smartphone support, at all. Quite a few other aspects of the desktop experience are missing or lacking, and they are just not as refined as they used to be. I don't know how, I don't know why, yesterday you told me about the blue blue distro. This season is bad. There's no other way of putting it. And my experience was so unrewarding, there are many other aspects of this system that I just did not evaluate in any depth, like the x applications and such. What's the point?

I wish I could tell a different story. But the simple reality is, I can't. It defies logic that the previous releases of Mint or perhaps Xubuntu 15.04 or whatever give me everything I need, but this new LTS struggles in roughly 6 out of 10 critical areas. Read it any way you will, think what you want of me, seek flaws in my methods, seek affirmation in my words, there's no escaping the awful and painful conclusion. One, I'm shattered. Two, this season is absolutely terrible. Three, Sarah Cinnamon deserves only about 3/10. Please stick with the R-releases, and do not upgrade.

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Slackware 14.2

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Reviews
Slack

Slackware was familiar. I could easily go back to using it. However, I have been spoiled by my experience with opensuse. With slackware, there are no configured repos. Any install of addition software takes additional effort, though perhaps just unpacking a tar file. And security updates require periodic checking for announcements and then manual installing.

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Fedora 24 - It isn't for everybody, but then, it doesn't try to be

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Red Hat
Reviews

On June 23, after installing Fedora for my first ever look at the distro for this review of Fedora 24, I pinged a friend who writes about Linux seeking help for a pesky configuration problem. I was trying to get GNOME to quit demanding a password every time I walked away from the computer for five minutes or so, which I thought should be easy, but wasn't. After finding sort of a solution for the problem, I sent him another email.

"I would expect Fedora to have an easy way to deal with this," I wrote. "Actually, I find very few configuration tools in this installation of Fedora, which surprises me. This must be what you get when you have server people supervising the development of a desktop OS."

"Exactly," he pinged back with record speed. "I've never cared much for it myself. Never really found it that compelling. Arch/etc I get; Ubuntu/Mint, I also see the appeal. But Fedora and SuSE always lost me. Nothing negative about them, rather, I fail to see the appeal unless you're someone who uses these at work."

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Also: Nvidia Drivers Install Fedora 24

Lenovo G50 & CentOS 7.2 KDE - Really nice and cool

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Red Hat
Reviews

CentOS 7 is an excellent choice for home use, even on a laptop that's not Linux friendly, and it does its work well despite the challenges, the likes of Realtek, UEFI and other buzz words. Now, if only different distros could blend the good elements from their peers. In this case, Ubuntu and friends are more media friendly, and you have better smartphone support. But CentOS does the basics much better, and this means stability, consistency, and weirdly, hardware support.

It's like being asked whether you want to lose an arm or a leg, and you can't have both. In theory, Ubuntu is supposed to give you that LTS fun plus the latest and greatest software, but in reality, this is not happening with Xerus. Yes, Trusty is there, and it's still the best overall candidate for desktops, in whatever guise. CentOS comes rather close. Yes, it does have its antiquities and enterprise idiosyncrasies, but the problems are solvable. That's a really nice thing. You can actually fix issues, and there are no surprises waiting for you the next day.

I did invest a significant amount of energy in making CentOS 7 work on the G50 machine. We can't ignore that. But the yield is highly positive. The outcome is worth the effort. You need the right network support and some extra repos, but after that, you can add new software, codecs, bells and whistles, drivers for other filesystems and protocols, and anything else you fancy. Well, almost. All considered, this is far more than you'd ever expect. There's still more work to be done. I will address all sorts of issues in follow up articles, including stuff like MTP, Flash performance, adblocking, volume control, and more. And I think you will be amazed how far you can take CentOS if you set your mind to it. Hint, Gnome edition perhaps?

Which makes it a darn good candidate for your systems. For one reason only. It needs fixing only once. It does not regress. For me, this is a hugely important attribute for anything I may consider for my production setup. CentOS 7, the biggest and most pleasant surprise this awful spring testing season. Modern hardware, here you go. Off to you guys. Do it. Do it.

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GeckoLinux 421.160527.0

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Reviews
SUSE

GeckoLinux is one of the more recent distributions to land in the DistroWatch database. GeckoLinux (or Gecko, as I will refer to the distribution) is based on openSUSE. Gecko offers two key features above and beyond what its parent provides: patent encumbered software installed by default and live desktop editions. The openSUSE project avoids shipping software with licensing or patent restrictions and offers just two editions of Leap (a full DVD and a net-install disc). The Gecko distribution provides some extra packages, including multimedia support, and provides live discs for seven different desktop environments: Budgie, Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE Plasma, LXQt, MATE and Xfce. For people who want something lighter, Gecko offers an eighth "Barebones" edition.

I decided to try Gecko's MATE edition which is available as a 966MB download. While I was downloading the ISO file, I looked into why Gecko uses such long version numbers, such as 421.160527.0. I learned the first part indicates which version of openSUSE Gecko uses as a base, in this case openSUSE 42.1. The second number is the date the ISO was created, 27th of May, 2016. The final number is reserved for revisions or re-builds. In this case the trailing zero indicates no rebuilds were necessary.

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User’s Review On Linux Lite 3.0 – Simple, Fast & Free Linux Desktop

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Reviews

Linux Lite 3.0 is the recently released free operating system based on the Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) and hence you can be assured that you’ll get support for the next 5 years. Linux Lite 3.0 offers a complete out of the box experience and it is lightweight, easy and simple to install. One of the main aspects that is being lauded by experts and everyday Linux users is the compactness with which Linux Lite 3.0 has been released. This means you can install Linux Lite and start working with it in less than few minutes.

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Review: Linux Mint 18 (Sarah)

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Linux
Reviews

If you were looking to jump the Ubuntu ship completely, then we recommend taking a look at our recent Review of Fedora 24. It’s equally as good as Mint 18 and equally worthy of your consideration.

Between Linux Mint 18 and Fedora 24, we reckon it’s exciting times in the Linux world. With the exception and onset of the boring world of vanilla Ubuntu releases, Linux feels reinvigorated and fresh once again. Jump on board, because it can only get better from here.

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GeckoLinux 421 Plasma and SUSE Hack Week

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Reviews
SUSE
  • GeckoLinux 421 Plasma review - It ain't no dragon

    I heard a lot of good praise about this little distro. My inbox is flooded with requests to take it for a spin, so I decided, hey, so many people are asking. Let us. The thing is, openSUSE derivatives are far and few in between, but the potential and the appeal are definitely there. Something like CentOS on steroids, the way Stella did once, the same noble way Fuduntu tried to emancipate Fedora. Take a somewhat somber distro and pimpify it into submission.

    GeckoLinux is based on openSUSE Leap, and I chose the Plasma Static edition. There's also a Rolling version, based on Tumbleweed, but that one never worked for me. The test box for this review is Lenovo G50. But wait! Dedoimedo, did you not recently write in your second rejection report that GeckoLinux had failed to boot? Indeed I did. But the combo of yet another firmware update on the laptop and a fresh new download fixed it, allowing for a DVD boot. Somewhat like the painful but successful Fedora exercise back in the day. Tough start, but let's see what gives.

  • La Mapería

    It is Hack Week at SUSE, and I am working on La Mapería (the map store), a little program to generate beautiful printed maps from OpenStreetMap data.

  • HackWeek XIV @SUSE: Tuesday

Makulu's LinDoz Is a Smooth Windows-Cinnamon Blend

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Reviews

That technical issue aside, The MakuluLinux line is one of my favorites. Unlike typical distros, Makulu strays from some of the mainstream primary applications.

It also has a set of the most commonly used software preinstalled regardless of the desktop flavor selected. For example, it uses the WPS office suite.

If you fancy the Cinnamon desktop, you will feel right at home with MakuluLinux. If you cut your computing teeth on Microsoft Windows, you will be particularly enamored with the LinDoz Edition.

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More in Tux Machines

Games for GNU/Linux

  • Stardew Valley is now in beta for Linux
    The Stardew Valley developer tweeted out a password for a beta, but after discussing it with them on their forum I was able to show them that we can't actually access it yet. While what I was telling them may not have been entirely correct (SteamDB is confusing), the main point I made was correct. Normal keys are not able to access the beta yet, but beta/developer keys can, as it's not currently set for Linux/Mac as a platform for us.
  • Physics-based 3D puzzler Human: Fall Flat released on Steam for Linux
    Human: Fall Flat is an open-ended physics puzzler with an optional local co-op mode, developed by No Brakes Games, and available now on Steam for Linux.
  • 7 Mages brings a touch more of traditional dungeon crawling to Linux
    Controlling a party of adventurers, exploring dungeons and fighting weird magical creatures is an RPG tradition as old as the genre. Expect all that and more in this modern iteration of the classical dungeon crawler.

Linux and Graphics

Security News

  • Security advisories for Monday
  • EU to Give Free Security Audits to Apache HTTP Server and Keepass
    The European Commission announced on Wednesday that its IT engineers would provide a free security audit for the Apache HTTP Server and KeePass projects. The EC selected the two projects following a public survey that took place between June 17 and July 8 and that received 3,282 answers. The survey and security audit are part of the EU-FOSSA (EU-Free and Open Source Software Auditing) project, a test pilot program that received funding of €1 million until the end of the year.
  • What is your browser really doing?
    While Microsoft would prefer you use its Edge browser on Windows 10 as part of its ecosystem, the most popular Windows browser is Google’s Chrome. But there is a downside to Chrome – spying and battery life. It all started when Microsoft recently announced that its Edge browser used less battery power than Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Opera on Windows 10 devices. It also measured telemetry – what the Windows 10 device was doing when using different browsers. What it found was that the other browsers had a significantly higher central processing unit (CPU), and graphics processing unit (GPU) overhead when viewing the same Web pages. It also proved that using Edge resulted in 36-53% more battery life when performing the same tasks as the others. Let’s not get into semantics about which search engine — Google or Bing — is better; this was about simple Web browsing, opening new tabs and watching videos. But it started a discussion as to why CPU and GPU usage was far higher. And it relates to spying and ad serving.
  • Is Computer Security Becoming a Hardware Problem?
    In December of 1967 the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people. The cause was determined to be a single 2.5 millimeter defect in a single steel bar—some credit the Mothman for the disaster, but to most it was an avoidable engineering failure and a rebuttal to the design philosophy of substituting high-strength non-redundant building materials for lower-strength albeit layered and redundant materials. A partial failure is much better than a complete failure. [...] In 1996, Kocher co-authored the SSL v3.0 protocol, which would become the basis for the TLS standard. TLS is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS and is responsible for much of the security that allows for the modern internet. He argues that, barring some abrupt and unexpected advance in quantum computing or something yet unforeseen, TLS will continue to safeguard the web and do a very good job of it. What he's worried about is hardware: untested linkages in digital bridges.
  • Your Smart Robot Is Coming in Five Years, But It Might Get Hacked and Kill You
    A new report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security forecasts that autonomous artificially intelligent robots are just five to 10 years away from hitting the mainstream—but there’s a catch. The new breed of smart robots will be eminently hackable. To the point that they might be re-programmed to kill you. The study, published in April, attempted to assess which emerging technology trends are most likely to go mainstream, while simultaneously posing serious “cybersecurity” problems. The good news is that the near future is going to see some rapid, revolutionary changes that could dramatically enhance our lives. The bad news is that the technologies pitched to “become successful and transformative” in the next decade or so are extremely vulnerable to all sorts of back-door, front-door, and side-door compromises.
  • Trump, DNC, RNC Flunk Email Security Test
    At issue is a fairly technical proposed standard called DMARC. Short for “domain-based messaging authentication reporting and conformance,” DMARC tries to solve a problem that has plagued email since its inception: It’s surprisingly difficult for email providers and end users alike to tell whether a given email is real – i.e. that it really was sent by the person or organization identified in the “from:” portion of the missive.
  • NIST Prepares to Ban SMS-Based Two-Factor Authentication
    The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the latest draft version of the Digital Authentication Guideline that contains language hinting at a future ban on SMS-based Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). The Digital Authentication Guideline (DAG) is a set of rules used by software makers to build secure services, and by governments and private agencies to assess the security of their services and software. NIST experts are constantly updating the guideline, in an effort to keep pace with the rapid change in the IT sector.
  • 1.6m Clash of Kings forum accounts 'stolen'
    Details about 1.6 million users on the Clash of Kings online forum have been hacked, claims a breach notification site. The user data from the popular mobile game's discussion forum were allegedly targeted by a hacker on 14 July. Tech site ZDNet has reported the leaked data includes email addresses, IP addresses and usernames.
  • Hacker steals 1.6 million accounts from top mobile game's forum
    [Ed: vBulletin is proprietary software -- the same crap Canonical used for Ubuntu forums]

The saga continues with Slackware 14.2

Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution and has been maintained since its birth by Patrick Volkerding. Slackware has a well deserved reputation for being stable, consistent and conservative. Slackware is released when it is ready, rather than on a set schedule, and fans of the distribution praise its no-frills and no-fuss design. Slackware adheres to a "keep it simple" philosophy similar to Arch Linux, in that the operating system does not do a lot of hand holding or automatic configuration. The user is expected to know what they are doing and the operating system generally stays out of the way. The latest release of Slackware, version 14.2, mostly offers software updates and accompanying hardware support. A few new features offer improved plug-n-play support for removable devices and this release of Slackware ships with the PulseAudio software. PulseAudio has been commonly found in the audio stack of most Linux distributions for several years, but that is a signature of Slackware: adding new features when they are needed, not when they become available. In this case PulseAudio was required as a dependency for another package. Slackware 14.2 is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds for the x86 architecture. There is also an ARM build. While the main edition of Slackware is available as an installation disc only, there is a live edition of Slackware where we can explore a Slackware-powered desktop environment without installing the distribution. The live edition can be found on the Alien Base website. Both the live edition and the main installation media are approximately 2.6GB in size. For the purposes of this review I will be focusing on the main, installation-only edition. Booting from the install media brings us to a text screen where we are invited to type in any required kernel parameters. We can press the Enter key to take the default settings or wait two minutes for the media to continue booting. A text prompt then offers to let us load an alternative keyboard layout or use the default "US" layout. We are then brought to a text console where a brief blurb offers us tips for setting up disk partitions and swap space. The helpful text says we can create partitions and then run the system installer by typing "setup". Read more