PocketCHIP is the pocket sized Linux terminal I always used to want. Which is to say, it runs (nearly) stock Debian, X, etc, it has a physical keyboard, and the hardware and software is (nearly) non-proprietary and very hackable. Best of all, it's fun and it encourages playful learning.
It's also clunky and flawed and constructed out of cheap components. This keeps it from being something I'd actually carry around in my pocket and use regularly. The smart thing they've done though is embrace these limitations, targeting it at the hobbiest, and not trying to compete with smart phones. The PocketCHIP is its own little device in its own little niche.
In many ways, for me, smart phones are the realization of a childhood fantasy: computers small enough to fit in a pocket and powerful enough to perform common computing tasks. There is a certain amount of wonder I feel when I look up trivia, get directions or play chess on a device that can sit in my pocket and only needs to be recharged once every day or two. However, while I greatly admire the technology that goes into a smart phone, the experience often suffers from dozens of small issues.
Over the years I have tried most of the major smart phone platforms. While each had their strengths, they also introduced frustrations which sent me on to another platform. Early Blackberry phones I found bulky and difficult to navigate. While I found more modern Blackberries much more comfortable and I enjoyed their physical keyboards, the Blackberry company seems to be killing off their classic phones in favour of touch screens and giant square devices that won't fit in my pocket. I briefly tried a few generations of the iPhone, but never felt comfortable with the interface (iOS seems to interpret my touch gestures as vague suggestions) and I found it difficult to find ways to perform common tasks. The iPhone also feels uncomfortably locked into the Apple ecosystem, making it a poor fit for me. Android is the platform I have used the longest. My first Android regularly crashed and lost its wi-fi connection. My most recent Android is much more stable, but still loses its network connection and is bundled with software I cannot remove which insists on nagging me on a regular basis. I very briefly tried a Windows phone and while I found the interface sometimes had the familiar feel of a desktop computer, the illusion of familiarity did not hold up. The Windows phone felt like a Barbie doll - a recognizable imitation of a familiar concept, but warped and stiff, ultimately something I'd be embarrassed being seen with on a date.
For the past few years I, like many other Linux enthusiasts, have been looking forward to a more pure mobile GNU/Linux experience. Ubuntu phones started appearing in Europe last year, but the models from Bq appear to work on frequencies not compatible with (or not ideal for) North American mobile networks. Meizu has launched the Meizu Pro 5 which is available in Android and Ubuntu flavours. The Meizu phone appears to offer complete compatibly with mobile networks in Canada and the United States of America and I was eager to try it. Upon request, Canonical was kind enough to send me a Pro 5 model to explore and what follows are my impressions of the device.
The Aquaris M10 is very much a first attempt for BQ and you would expect future iterations to have some significant improvements. It’s also hard to find compelling reasons why iOS or Android fans would want to switch over to an Ubuntu tablet, but those familiar with the operating system should be excited to finally have their needs met in the tablet market.
One positive factor is that switching between tablet and desktop mode works very well for the most part, so can definitely fulfill professional needs as much as casual ones. This could be a viable option for someone who wants that flexibility and isn’t too fussed about some of the more superficial features.
The Budgie desktop -- and thus Solus itself -- lacks the glitz and glitter found in more seasoned desktop environments. Animation is nonexistent. It also lacks any right-click menu finesse other than the ability to change background or settings.
The Solus Project's distro is very user-friendly, but experienced Linux users will need more optimized software and desktop functionality in the next release to be tempted to give up more advanced desktop flavors.
Point Linux released their newest version, 3.2, in June 2016. Their goal is, "To combine the power of Debian GNU/Linux with the productivity of MATE, the GNOME 2 desktop environment fork. Point Linux provides an easy-to-set-up-and-use distribution for users looking for a fast, stable and predictable desktop."
Point Linux aims to use MATE as their primary desktop environment, but also offers Xfce as an option. The Point Linux website is simple and professional. The download page is full of fresh and very nice options that allow the user to download the exact distro they require to fit their needs. Some of the options include 32- or 64-bit, torrent or direct download, and the location of the download server. I found using the website was effortless and the options available cut down on the download time (by giving the option to torrent or the location of the server) and lowered the install time by giving the consumer options before retrieving the whole file.
The MATE desktop environment (DE) is available in the standard Debian installation media, but the full Debian installer image is 4.7GB, overwhelmingly large, and has too many DE options to make the disc any smaller. This is the small void that Point Linux fills. They provide the MATE desktop environment (or Xfce) and a significantly smaller live OS / installation media. Even when selecting the full featured desktop from the options on their website, the Point Linux installer is only 1.00GB. The "Desktop with core components" option lowers this installation media size further to 772MB.
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".
Cinnamon is a desktop environment that is widely promoted by the Linux Mint team. Linux Mint Cinnamon is their flagship distribution. In its turn, Linux Mint is a leader in the world of Linux distributions, especially for the newbie-oriented part of it. Unfortunately, the recent release of Linux Mint 18 made things worse, and many Linux bloggers wrote about this.
There was a comment on my recent post about Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon that asked me to look into the Korora distribution.
Each Linux distribution has a default terminal emulator for interacting with system through commands. But the default terminal app might not be perfect for you. There are so many terminal apps that will provide you more functionalities to perform more tasks simultaneously to sky-rocket speed of your work. Such useful terminal emulators include Terminator, a multi-windows supported free terminal emulator for your Linux system.
Now that I’ve had about a week to play around in Mint 18, I find a lot to like and have no major complaints. While Cinnamon probably isn’t destined to become my desktop of choice, I don’t dislike it and find it, hands down, the best of the GNOME based desktops I’ve tried so far. Anybody looking for a powerful, all purpose distro that’s designed to work smoothly and which can be mastered with ease would be hard pressed to find anything better.