Monday, December 29, 2008

sidux 2008-04: a GREAT cutting edge desktop system

I've been promoting three different desktop Linux systems this year. All three of them are based on Debian software. Two of them are based on Debian Lenny, soon to be the latest "stable" repository of Debian binary software images. The third one is based on Debian Sid, the "unstable" one. (In Toy Story, the movie from which the Debian project code names are derived, Sid is the kid who takes pleasure in mutilating, destroying, torturing, and blowing up toys. Understandable why he is called "unstable?"). Well, Debian Sid is anything but unstable in the software that results for the desktop, but the packaging behind it certainly is volatile enough to deserve the name.

Debian Sid is awesome, but if you are busy and you do not have a lot of time to tinker with it, you may want to examine a few alternatives that are available to tame it. I've done just that over the years. The one that consistently stand out, and makes itself worthwhile to use, rather than just coping with the peculiarities of Debian Sid is a great distribution called sidux.

First organized in November 2006, the sidux project was already producing regular updates for public consumption by early 2007, and has adopted a practice of producing rolling updates, not surprising, given the Debian Sid roots. For convenience, and also for variety, plus the fact that the sidux project is always actively supporting new hardware, there are new releases available about once a quarter.

In December, just before Christmas, the sidux project, once again, gave us a green themed version of sidux, the 2008-04 implementation. This version uses a current version of the Linux kernel - which was, if I remember correctly, at the time of the release. My personal version has already been updated to, and will probably have another update real soon, maybe by the next time I get home to get my hands on it.

What is so nice about sidux is that you can just routinely use it every day, if you'd like, but you can also update it on a daily basis if you are crazy about current software. I can't even keep up with the changes, there are so many of them.

Lest anyone get overly concerned about that, you do not have to update every day, but you may do so, and you are likely to see changes to at least a few packages every day, and often one or two kernel changes as well. I have, on more than one occasion, seen at least two kernel package changes within the same day, and both worked. I recommend updating at least weekly, and if you are ultra busy, at least monthly. Daily updates are one of the things that make sidux fun, though.

Harold Hope, known as h2 on the sidux forums, is one of the active tool developers that works on optional sidux tools. He has one of my favorite tools, smxi, which is used to tame the wild Sid repositories, and easily get large groups of packages installed with a few easy menu commands.

sidux has a number of other handy tools as well. There is the siduxcc Control Center, the meta-package installer, and in addition, one of the finest up to date manuals around, which is regularly updated to keep it current, accurate, and relevant.

sidux has an excellent forum and a responsive #irc chat room where you can discuss questions or even concerns with the sidux software.

I've found sidux to be excellent software, and the latest release is simply the latest update to one of the best kept secrets around. I recommend any Linux desktop enthusiast to at least try out sidux, especially if you are already fond of Debian based systems. sidux falls neatly into a niche somewhere between easy and flexible. A really leery new user might find it intimidating, but frankly, it is not hard to handle, though it is best suited to those who enjoy a moderate amount of system tinkering. A person with moderate to strong system experience, who wants the latest software, knows how to use systems, but still wants conveniences, is the perfect match and the sweet spot for this software. That's me, and that is why I love sidux. This release is one of their best efforts yet. Check it out soon!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Visiting the Library with my kids

I am visiting the Concord Public Library with Karsten, Katelyn, and their friend Hayley. They got Goosebumps books, browsed the Web at the library, and searched around the library. Given their short attention spans, the girls are ready to go, but the boys are "bloggin" on the 'Net!

Monday, November 17, 2008

sidux, antiX, and SimplyMEPIS

sidux 2008-03 has been an excellent release in the third quarter of this year. I wonder what Q4 will bring to sidux 2008-04? Last year, we got a 2007-04 and a 2007-04.5 Christmas Edition. Will we see that again? Great software, this is my daily default desktop system, cutting edge, fast, flexible, yet surprisingly solid.

Nevertheless, I have an extremely solid desktop system to back up sidux, the always stable (even in TEST form!) SimplyMEPIS. I have 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, and now the 8.0 Beta 5 versions on my systems. I believe that 8.0 will be released before the end of the year. Even if it is not, it is solid enough to be used every day, even now. Get SimplyMEPIS for a great, stable desktop system.

If you want fast and flexible, another community MEPIS project is for you - the antiX project. M7.5 is the current release and the motto: "Lean and Mean" certainly applies. you have the choice of either Fluxbox or IceWM as a window manager to use with antiX. In the upcoming M8.0 release, the default window manager is changing from Fluxbox to IceWM to improve initial ease of use. Very early in the testing cycle, antiX M8.0 is, nevertheless, shaping up as a VERY GOOD release.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Four favorite distros

It is difficult for me to say that these are my four favorite distributions, period, without any qualifications. On the Ubuntu project alone, I am always torn between the XFCE based Xubuntu derivative and the KDE based Kubuntu derivative, and the 8.04 release is no exception. I like the boot screen and the default wallpaper on XFCE better, but those are only window dressings, so they do not form the full basis of any evaluation of mine - I often change them anyway with pictures of my children in scenic backgrounds, such as a view of New Hampshire's White Mountains, a pose at a rock, or an appearance at some event they are in. XFCE is a light desktop, so Xubuntu is always a consideration on any of my machines. But since I have XFCE anyway in sidux (always add it to sidux) I can afford to test elsewhere. Therefore, here are my current favorites with that caveat:

1) What else could it possibly be? sidux has impressed me more than any other system that I have used in three or four years. Only the old Libranet was even close. Given that sidux has newer technology, sidux wins. Why? First, it has a very fast kernel and always detects the hardware I use in my four systems, two desktops and two laptops. These systems span seven or eight years in time, so I believe sidux will do well on most systems, but a sample size of four, of course, is inconclusive evidence. sidux installs very quickly. It is very similar to the speed in which the original would install - you'd throw it on your system, and ten minutes later it was there. The difference is, with sidux, you have a working system. sidux has very good network setup procedures. You can change from a wired Ethernet setup to a wireless setup or you can roam from place to place very easily. Some would argue that there are easier setups on other systems and I would grant them that. The thing is, the sidux setup works and works well. Updating software with sidux is a breeze, especially if you include the community written (by h2) well known (at least in sidux circles) smxi script. With it you can update kernels, packages, or the complete system, and it does a great job of insulating you from instabilities in the Debian Sid packages. Finally, to keep this reasonable in size, sidux has cutting edge software that actually works.

2) Ever since I found MEPIS in May 2003, I have like the MEPIS systems. I really liked the first Live CDs that I ran across. They were my favorite Live CDs. Unfortunately, when MEPIS went for the "Simple" in SimplyMEPIS (my favorite stable distribution), they also significantly upped the size of the CDs by moving from a lightweight window manager to a full featured desktop system. So when anticapitalista began to interact with Warren Woodford about creating a moderate sized Live CD based on SimplyMEPIS, but replacing the desktop, going from KDE to a choice of the default Fluxbox or IceWM as an alternative, I was real interested.

At first, I thought that antiX was giving up a bit by making that change, but the more and more I use antiX, the less and less I feel that way. antiX boots even faster than sidux, has the potential to have much of the same software that sidux uses (at your option). It already uses ceni, the network setup program used by MEPIS, but it also includes, at least for now, two other network setup programs, the mnetworks program included in SimplyMEPIS, and the wicd network program and daemon requested by many of anti's forum members. The new upcoming version of antiX includes the smxi script that sidux fans rave about.

3. Given that I have been so complementary about it in my previous blog posting and I have found it to be so much improved over the past two years, I have elevated Mandriva back to the spot I once had it in the Mandrake 8.0 timeframe as one of four regular partitions I include on my best system - which right now is my Lenovo laptop. Mandriva has among the best hardware detection in the business, urpmi packaging program that almost rivals the Debian packaging systems (except that the RPM packages STILL seem a bit slower to unpack than Debian .DEB packages). Mandriva, like Debian, has a number of repositories. You can get free, non-free, backports, testing, and Cooker repositories with Mandriva, so you can go moderately conservative to cutting edge, depending on your mood and your ability to manage risk. For me, since this is but one of many systems, I choose to go cutting edge, since I have stable systems to back me up, should any issues arise. I have not run into major issues with the Cooker in the past, so I am looking forward to using it more once again.

4. I am giving this spot to Kubuntu, since I have a nice steady Xubuntu on at least one, but probably both, of my desktop systems. I am also giving a spot to the KDE 4 remix, in spite of frequent complaints about it on the 'net. Kubuntu has actually worked for me, even with KDE 4. So like Mandriva, I want to give it more air time. Like Mandriva, it has earned the time and deserves it. Kubuntu is extremely easy to install, manage, update, and use. Should I actually run into a serious issue, it would take about fifteen minutes to set up another instance of it, completely reinstalling over what is there now, so that is a risk I am happy to take. It seems to be a reasonable risk, too, because I have had better results with the KDE 4 remix than a lot of the negative critics. Positives: installs, configures, and runs quickly and easily. Package manager is capable of running with very little interaction, but you can also update using manual conventional ways, such as apt-get or aptitude commands. Negatives, (or to me, risks): KDE 4 technology that is not 100% ready in all cases; little feedback during installation or upgrade if you use the "easy" tools (but as I said, you have a choice there, so not really much of an issue.

All of these systems have upgrade mechanisms of some sort. I like the sidux one best of all, but the others are quite close in functions and capabilities. I would not hesitate to use or recommend any of these systems, and indeed, all four are now the "keepers" on my Lenovo laptop.

By the way, on my Dell Latitude laptop, only sidux gets permanent status. Other distros get, at most, Virtualbox access there. In practice, I have not been doing Virtualbox there, but I do plan to do some Virtualbox test instances on the Lenovo in the future.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Been a long time, so I thought I'd just drop in

I have not posted here since last August, so I thought I would simply make a note that today Ubuntu 8.04, the Hardy Heron Long Term Support (LTS) release came out on time. I downloaded a remix edition containing Kubuntu Live with KDE 4.0. Worked fine.