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PocketCHIP quick review

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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.

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Ubuntu Phone - The Meizu Pro 5

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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.

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Tablet review: BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition

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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.

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Homegrown Budgie Desktop Shows Off the Beauty - and Beastliness - of Solus Simplicity

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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.

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Another Linux Terminal App Guake

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Linux users have a lot of terminal emulators to choose. Recently I mentioned one terminal app i.e. Terminator. Here is another one of the most interesting Quake-style drop-down terminal named Guake. It is a terminal app for GNOME which can be used quickly using shortcut keys. ​

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Point Linux 3.2

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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.

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The saga continues with Slackware 14.2

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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".

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Korora 23 - is it an alternative to Linux Mint?

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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.

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Terminator A Linux Terminal Emulator With Multiple Terminals In One Window

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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.

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Our First Look at Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon

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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.

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More in Tux Machines

Leftovers: Software

  • i2pd 2.10 released
    i2pd (I2P Daemon) is a full-featured C++ implementation of I2P client. I2P (Invisible Internet Protocol) is a universal anonymous network layer. All communications over I2P are anonymous and end-to-end encrypted, participants don't reveal their real IP addresses. I2P client is a software used for building and using anonymous I2P networks. Such networks are commonly used for anonymous peer-to-peer applications (filesharing, cryptocurrencies) and anonymous client-server applications (websites, instant messengers, chat-servers). I2P allows people from all around the world to communicate and share information without restrictions.
  • Pixeluvo Review | Photo Editor for Linux & Windows
    A review of Pixeluvo, a great photo editor available on Linux and Windows. Pixeluvo is not free or open source.
  • Blit, A Retrospective On My Largest Project Ever
    I’ve always been someone who’s liked art and programming. Especially combining the two. One of my favorite genres is pixel art, or sprites as they are also known. I’ve dabbled in making a few other art programs before, but nothing like this. Originally Blit supposed to be only a sprite animation tool that had a modern look and feel, but my ideas for it grew greater (*sigh* feature creep). There are many other sprinting tools out there like GrafX2, Aseprite, (and other 2D animation programs like TVPaint). I’m not saying that it’s wrong that they make their own GUI toolkit, but it feels kind of odd. I really wanted to bring these types of programs out of the days of the Amiga. After doing some initial research, I settled on using Qt.
  • An alert on the upcoming 7.51.0 release
    In two weeks time, on Wednesday November 2nd, we will release curl and libcurl 7.51.0 unless something earth shattering happens.
  • Desktop Gmail Client `WMail` 2.0.0 Stable Released
    WMail is a free, open source desktop client for Gmail and Google Inbox, available for Linux, Windows, and Mac.
  • SpaceView: Ubuntu File System Usage Indicator
  • FunYahoo++: New Yahoo Messenger Plugin For Pidgin / libpurple [PPA]
    Yahoo retired its old Messenger protocol in favor of a new one, breaking compatibility with third-party applications, such as Pidgin, Empathy, and so on. Eion Robb, the SkypeWeb and Hangouts developer, has created a replacement Yahoo prpl plugin, called FunYahoo++, that works with the new Yahoo Messenger protocol. Note that I tested the plugin with Pidgin, but it should work with other instant messaging applications that support libpurple, like BitlBee or Empathy.
  • GCC Lands Loop Splitting Optimization
    The latest GCC 7 development code has an optimization pass now for loop splitting.
  • GCC 7 To End Feature Development Next Month
    Friday's GCC 7 status report indicates the feature freeze is coming up in just a few weeks. Red Hat developer Jakub Jelinek wrote in the latest status report, "Trunk which will eventually become GCC 7 is still in Stage 1 but its end is near and we are planning to transition into Stage 3 starting Nov 13th end of day time zone of your choice. This means it is time to get things you want to have in GCC 7 finalized and reviewed. As usual there may be exceptions to late reviewed features but don't count on that. Likewise target specific features can sneak in during Stage 3 if maintainers ok them."
  • GNU Parallel 20161022 ('Matthew') released [stable]
    GNU Parallel 20161022 ('Matthew') [stable] has been released. It is available for download at: No new functionality was introduced so this is a good candidate for a stable release.
  • GNU Health 3.0.4 patchset released
    GNU Health 3.0.4 patchset has been released !
  • guile-ncurses 2.0 released
    I am pleased to announce the release of guile-ncurses 2.0 guile-ncurses is a library for the creation of text user interfaces in the GNU Guile dialect of the Scheme programming language. It is a wrapper to the ncurses TUI library. It contains some basic text display and keyboard and mouse input functionality, as well as a menu widget and a form widget. It also has lower level terminfo and termios functionality.
  • Unifont 9.0.03 Released
    Unifont 9.0.03 is released. The main changes are the addition of the Pikto and Tonal ConScript Unicode Registry scripts.
  • PATHspider 1.0.0 released!
    In today’s Internet we see an increasing deployment of middleboxes. While middleboxes provide in-network functionality that is necessary to keep networks manageable and economically viable, any packet mangling — whether essential for the needed functionality or accidental as an unwanted side effect — makes it more and more difficult to deploy new protocols or extensions of existing protocols. For the evolution of the protocol stack, it is important to know which network impairments exist and potentially need to be worked around. While classical network measurement tools are often focused on absolute performance values, PATHspider performs A/B testing between two different protocols or different protocol extensions to perform controlled experiments of protocol-dependent connectivity problems as well as differential treatment.
  • The Domain Name System

today's howtos

Leftovers: KDE

  • Happy 20th birthday, KDE!
    KDE turned twenty recently, which seems significant in a world that seems to change so fast. Yet somehow we stay relevant, and excited to continue to build a better future. Lydia asked recently on the KDE-Community list what we were most proud of.
  • SETI – Week of Information Technology
  • KDevelop for Windows available on Chocolatey now
    Which is already great in itself! But now it's also possible to install it via the super popular Windows package manager for Windows, Chocolatey.
  • colord-kde 0.5.0 released!
    Last official stable release was done more than 3 years ago, it was based on Qt/KDE 4 tech, after that a few fixes got in what would be 0.4.0 but as I needed to change my priorities it was never released. Thanks to Lukáš Tinkl it was ported to KF5, on his port he increased the version number to 0.5.0, still without a proper release distros rely on a git checkout.
  • Call for attendees Lakademy 2017
    As many of you know, since 2012 we organize the Lakademy, a sort of Latin American Akademy. The event brings together KDE Latin American contributors in hacking sessions to work on their projects, promo meetings to think KDE dissemination strategies in the region and other activities.
  • Plasma 5 Desktop on FreeBSD Branding
    The FreeBSD packages of KDE software — the KDE 4 desktop, and soon KDE Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5 Desktop and KDE Applications — have traditionally been shipped pretty much as delivered from the upstream source. We compile, we package, and there is very little customization we do as a “distro”. The KDE 4 packages came with a default wallpaper that was a smidgen different from the one shipped with several Linux distro’s. I think Ivan Cukic did that artwork originally. For Plasma 5 Desktop, we also wanted to do a tiny bit of branding — just the default wallpaper for new users, mind.
  • A bit on Tooling
    So on the weekend I also worked on updating Qt 5.6.1 to Qt 5.6.2 on FreeBSD, which involves using new and scary tools as well. Power tools, they can be really useful, or they can take off a finger if you’re not careful. In this case it was Phabricator, which is also used in KDE — but not everywhere in KDE. For FreeBSD, the tool is used to review updates to ports (the packaging instructions), so I did an update of Qt from 5.6.1 to 5.6.2 and we handled the review through FreeBSD’s Phab. The ports infrastructure is stored in SVN, so the review is relatively straightforward: update the ports-tree checkout, apply your changes, use arc to create or update a review request. I was amazed by how painless it was — somehow I’d been frightened. Using the tool once, properly, makes a big difference in self-confidence.
  • Krita 3.1 second beta.
    The Krita 3.1 beta come with a full features and fixes. The linux version to download your krita-3.0.91-x86_64.appimage.
  • Second Beta for Krita 3.1 Available
    We’re still fixing bugs like madmen… And working on some cool new features as well, but that’s for a later release. In any case, here is the second Krita 3.1 beta! Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Originally, we had planned to use 3.0.2 as the version for this release, but there is so much news in it that it merits a bigger version bump.


  • Consequences of the HACK CAMP 2016 FEDORA + GNOME
    I used to do install parties in order to promote the use of FEDORA and GNOME project since five years ago. As you can see more details in the Release Party FEDORA 17 for Fedora, and Linux Camp 2012, GNOME PERU 2013, GNOME PERU 2014...
  • GNOME Shell Making It Easy To Launch Apps/Games For Optimus / Dual GPU Systems
    With the GNOME 3.24 desktop that's currently in development the latest GNOME Shell code has support for easily letting the user launch an app on a dedicated GPU when applicable for handling NVIDIA Optimus use-cases of having integrated and discrete GPU laptops. When a dual-GPU system is detected, a menu item will be added to opt for "Launch using Dedicated Graphics Card", per this commit. The GNOME Shell change for supporting discrete GPUs was made and when the user opts to launch on the dedicated GPU, the DRI_PRIME=1 environment variable will automatically be set for that new program/game.