Saturday, November 13, 2010

SimplyMEPIS Version 11 Alpha 1 (10.9.70) and antiX core

Last night I downloaded the first Alpha Build, Version 10.9.70 for the upcoming SimplyMEPIS Version 11.0 release. I did encounter one issue: the GRUB Legacy Boot Manager was set up incorrectly, so the device number in the root line, for example:
root ,5) would appear instead of root (hd0,5) in each of the entries - in other words, the partition number was included but not the device number. It was an easy matter of using the GRUB editing capability to get in, and later I updated my GRUB 2 menu on aptosid and it automatically created the correct entry.

That was the only issue that I ran into with the very first Alpha Build for the next SimplyMEPIS release. A lot of people reported a similar issue, so it is certain to get fixed in the very next Alpha Build, which will probably be available in a week or two.

I moved on to using antiX core today. I created this distribution from scratch and put only a small amount of software on it initially. Today I added the KDE Experimental Snapshot repository to the system, then loaded the KDE packages. I ended up with KDE SC 4.5.2, which is two minor updates newer than the KDE SC 4.4.5 currently available in Debian Squeeze and Debian Sid, and the good news is that it works very well!

Now I have three complete environments to experiment with in antiX core and they all work great, plus they are tight: they only have what I have explicitly included, so they run very well.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Evaluating desktop Linux systems mini review

Evaluating desktop Linux systems mini review, Part One
In this mini review, I am doing a survey of a variety of distributions in various categories, sharing my observations, and making a few recommendations of the distributions that fit a few categories best in my opinion, based on criteria that I have established. I will explain my criteria in this mini review.

Every day systems that are easy to use

In this category, I look for a combination of easy to install, easy to maintain systems that can be used every day with a minimal amount of maintenance. Ease of use and stability are prime considerations in this category.

The following systems are my favorites. I will state my reasons in the paragraphs that follow:

SimplyMEPIS: This distribution was first released to the public in 2003. At that time, there were few distributions that were capable of either running "Live" from CD or installed to disk. KNOPPIX, of course, has always been the classic "Swiss Army Knife" of Live distributions, but it has never had a really good hard disk installation program. MEPIS, in 2003, changed all of that. In 2004, the name SimplyMEPIS was chosen when MEPIS began to include the KDE desktop and a full collection of simple administration tools. SimplyMEPIS has always been easy to install, extremely stable, and remains a model for others to follow when it comes to a general purpose system you can insert into a CD or DVD drive and run it - even while you are installing it. Many other distributions, of course, now have this capability as well, but it was MEPIS that popularized it, and in 2004 it was a leader on the DistroWatch charts - until two other distributions, PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu, came on the scene. They dwarfed SimplyMEPIS in terms of visibility and popularity, but SimplyMEPIS, to me, remains the standard for stability, a heritage it gains and extends from its parent, the excellent Debian distribution.

PCLinuxOS: If you want a distribution that is just as easy as SimplyMEPIS to install, but can be more frequently updated to have the most current stable software, then PCLinuxOS should be seriously considered. I am writing this mini review using the easy Notepad editor, Leafpad, which I have added to my PCLinuxOS system. PCLinuxOS comes in many flavors and variations. The standard version uses a very current implementation of KDE. If you keep your PCLinuxOS desktop regularly up to date, you can have KDE SC 4.5.3 installed, a clean, stable, full featured desktop. PCLinuxOS implements their version of KDE with a blend of the "old" and the "new", making it easy to migrate into for classic KDE 3 users, and it has a solid PCLinuxOS brand and look. Upgrading software in PCLinuxOS is easy, using the aging, but still very useful, Synaptic package manager. Some distributions offer a "Software Center", a "Software Manager", or an "Upgrade Manager", but Synaptic is functional, stable, and gets the job done with little fuss. There is usually a Synaptic task bar icon you can use to start Synaptic. If not, Synaptic is also easily found in the Software Center menu of the "PC" start menu provided in the KDE implementation of PCLinuxOS. The distribution also includes a number of additional desktop and window manager alternatives for those who prefer something else. They include GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, and Enlightenment E17. I include Xfce and LXDE in addition to KDE on my PCLinuxOS setup, and each of them works very well. For an easy to use system that is also very up to date in desktop applications, PCLinuxOS should be included in any evaluation.

EasyPeasy: I include this distribution as a non-traditional approach. This distribution was originally created for use with netbook systems. According to Wikipedia, "Ubuntu Eee was started by Jon Ramvi in December 2007. In June 2008 the project was disbanded as a script and Ubuntu Eee 8.04 was released as a stand-alone distribution, based on Ubuntu 8.04 with EeePC support installed out of the box. It was renamed EasyPeasy in January 2009, and has been downloaded well over half a million times from the main mirror." What is nice about the current version of Easy Peasy is that it uses the Ubuntu installation configuration. You can run it live and install it to disk as you continue to use it. When they use the name "Easy Peasy", they mean it. This distribution is as easy as any distribution to install, and the desktop icons make it easy to find and run any application on the system. The available software on the current release comes from the Long Term Support (LTS) Ubuntu repositories. This distribution loads quickly, runs with low overhead, so it works well on systems with moderate speed and capabilities. It's easy, too, so it deserves a look. It also can be effectively used when you are on the go. It has plenty of applications that can be used on mobile networks.

Peppermint OS One: This distribution, which has been available since this past Spring, initially found a lot of attention, and for good reason. Like Lubuntu (which is on my "Honorable mentions" list) it is easy to install, but I feel that Peppermint OS One provides a more complete selection of software and a theme of its own, an experimental hybrid that combines easy installation, some traditional applications, and a smattering of potential "Cloud based" applications. It has an attractive appearance, runs very well, is trivial to maintain, and it now even has two "flavors" of Peppermint: the OS One implementation originally provided, and a cool, "Ice" flavored implementation, which changes the appearance and uses Google Chromium as the means of creating "Web based applications". Both OS One and Ice do an excellent job of providing a stable, light, fast system that is perfect for heavy Internet use.

Honorable mentions: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu are also very easy to install and use, and they each make excellent alternatives to the easy to use favorites that I have listed.

Lightweight distributions that can run from memory

This category includes systems that can load from CD, DVD, or USB stick and run directly from memory. In the early part of this decade, KNOPPIX really changed the course of distribution development. It was the first distribution to popularize running software straight from CD or DVD. To this day, KNOPPIX remains a leader in that area. A number of other distributions, however, took the technology and went different directions with it. While KNOPPIX grew and became really large for a while, several others took the opposite extreme and attempted to be very small and light, so that they could load quickly from media completely into memory. Some of the earliest distributions to go this way were DSL: Damn Small Linux, and Feather Linux. Unfortunately, neither of these distributions have been actively developed in recent years. Fortunately, many others have taken their place.

Puppy: This is probably the most popular of the lightweight distributions that can run from memory, and for good reason. Puppy is easily customizable, and numerous "Pups" have evolved over the years. Some of them continue along the original path and remain small and light. Other "Pups" are larger - for desktop use, for religious study, and for many other purposes. Barry Kauler, the originator of Puppy, has recently gone another direction, creating a "Woof" technology, which allows Puppy "Pet" packages to be created from various other Linux packaging methods. The result is the current Puppy series: Version 5 "Lupu Puppy", which uses Ubuntu Lucid Lynx packages. Puppy 5.1.1, the current release, can still be loaded completely into memory from the distribution media, so it is capable of running very fast.

antiX: This is my favorite. It is about four times larger in size than Puppy, but on systems with a decent amount of memory, it can still be loaded live from media directly into memory. It can be easily installed on a USB stick and carried around in your pocket, great when you are traveling. The antiX distribution, however, is generaally installed, and in that configuration, it displays a more complete distribution than the stock Puppy. The antiX distribution currently uses a MEPIS kernel, but it has provisions for replacing the stock kernel with a Debian, aptosid, or Liquorix kernel, so it is a great system for building and remastering your own custom configuration. A recent "Proof of Concept" (POC) was developed, antiX core, which installs only the core system software, along with utilities to allow you to build your own custom system. The core version does not include a graphical environment, but in one or two commands, you can set up a working desktop. I installed core in five to ten minutes, and within twenty minutes, I created a really fast, flexible, good looking desktop system that had precisely the software I wanted. The antiX project includes antiX M8.5, a light, but full featured system that comes by default with the IceWM and Fluxbox window managers and a small, but complete set of lightweight desktop applications. There is also an alternative, antiX base, that comes with the Fluxbox window manager and just a few applications, that you can use as a slightly more complete base system on which you can build a customized system. All three of these approaches are light, nimble, very usable, and fast.

SliTAZ: A year or two ago, this was the smallest, lightest Live system that you could get. At around 30 MB, it was lighter than either the old DSL or Feather Linux systems. It loads into memory extremely quickly, then runs as fast as anything out there. It remains the smallest distribution actually capable of doing real work without adding anything to it.

Evaluating desktop Linux systems mini review, Part Two

Tiny Core: SliTAZ "was" the smallest, but Tiny Core took that title away. At 10 MB, it is a third the size of SliTAZ. However, it comes with no applications. You have to download them each time you load Tiny Core. At 10 MB, it took me literally a matter of seconds to download the Tiny Core image. It took just a few minutes to burn the image to CD, then it took maybe a minute to start it up. About ten minutes after downloading it, I had burned the image, rebooted my system, and started running Tiny Core. Two minutes later, I had a Web browser running. Like the other small distributions, it all runs from memory, so it is very fast.

Hobbyist and Cutting Edge Systems

You can't have this category without including two of the earliest distributions: Slackware and Debian. Both of them are extremely stable in their standard forms, and both of them are leading starting points for hundreds of other distributions. On the Slackware derivative honor role are Absolute Linux, Salix, SLAX, Vector Linux, and Zenwalk Linux. There are many others Slackware based systems as well. On the Debian list, I've mentioned many distributions already. SimplyMEPIS, antiX, EasyPeasy, Peppermint OS One, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu are all derived from Debian based software. KNOPPIX is also based on Debian software.

My favorite every day distribution, aptosid, very much a hobbyist distribution, not anywhere near as simple as SimplyMEPIS or PCLinuxOS to manage for beginners, but praised by veterans, aptosid, once called sidux, and evolved from another KNOPPIX inspired distribution, Kanotix, has been described as Debian Sid on mood stabilizers and steroids. A system management tool created by a former Kanotix and sidux developer, Harold Hope (h2), called smxi, is not a part of either the sidux or aptosid distribution, but has been widely used by sidux and aptosid users. It makes extending and maintaining aptosid fast and easy for busy veteran users. What makes aptosid great is that the downloadable image is highly compressed, and that makes it fast to load, in spite of its fairly large size. You can start aptosid initially from CD or DVD in just a few minutes. If you load aptosid onto a USB stick and install it from there, you can install the entire system in five minutes. A few years ago when it was somewhat smaller, I installed the previous system, then called sidux, in an incredible two minutes and seventeen seconds! Considering the fact that I installed about 700 MB of compressed software onto around a 2 GB system, that was an incredible feat! The most recent release of aptosid, which was on a 1.4 GB DVD, installed in just over five minutes. The aptosid software not only installs fast, it runs fast too. The KDE implementation is one of the lightest and fastest implementations available, and the same is true of the Xfce implementation. You can get a CD with KDE, a really moderate sized CD with Xfce, or a larger 2.2 GB DVD with both KDE, Xfce, and a choice of Intel or AMD based configurations. I find aptosid ideal for me as an experienced user who still appreciates speed and convenience, but no coddling; you have to know what you are doing when you use aptosid.

Mandriva Cooker offers one of the most cutting edge system available. The more familiar Mandriva, and the software it comes from, Mandrake, were known as among the first easy to use systems. Still fairly popular, but constantly challenged by financial problems in the parent company, Mandriva has lost much of its luster. The Mandriva Cooker, however, remains a fertile testing ground for some of the most cutting edge traditional desktop software you can find. I always use the Mandriva Cooker to examine and test the latest desktop software, especially Alpha and Beta tests of the upcoming KDE desktop software.

Three other distributions that have to be mentioned when you are talking about cutting edge systems are Gentoo, Arch, and Linux From Scratch. Gentoo is primarily a source code based system, but binary packages and complete Live CD systems are also available. The Sabayon distribution has evolved from Gentoo, and for some people, it offers an easier starting point. If you want to build a system from source code, Gentoo is one good place to start. If, on the other hand, you want to build your own system, but you want to start with primarily binary packages to get a faster start, then Arch Linux is a great way to go. Once you have the base system in place, you can update it with either binary packages or you can build additional software from source code, your choice. If you want to learn how to build a complete system from scratch, there is truly no more complete way to do that than by using Linux From Scratch. There is a completely documented archive and book about how to build every aspect of the system: the kernel, the core utilities, and even the bootstrapping of the system. I've never actually built Linux From Scratch. It can literally take a week to build unless you have extremely powerful hardware and you already know exactly what you want and how to do it. Hard core enthusiasts who want to understand every aspect of creating Linux software will want this approach. 99.99% of the rest of us will choose one of the other options. There are literally hundreds of distributions to choose from. DistroWatch recognizes over six hundred of them, and there are many more than that! The distributions that I have mentioned are an extremely small sample of the varieties you can choose. The vast majority of them represent very good software. I have simply provided you with a survey of the ones that interest me and a few highlights of why I like them. Hopefully this survey is entertaining and even useful to you. It was fun to write on a very easy to use system, PCLinuxOS!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Quick test of Xubuntu 10.10 RC 1 in Virtualbox OSE

I installed Xubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" in my Virtualbox OSE environment, added the Google Chromium Web browser, and I am posting this quick note from that environment. Looks pretty good as far as the basics are concerned.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Absolute Linux 13.1.42

I installed Absolute Linux 13.1.42 this evening on my Virtualbox setup and I am experimenting with it now. It looks like a pretty solid release as usual.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

I wrote a review article about antiX core today

This week I have been exploring Debian based systems that offer strong, flexible networking. All of them are specialized, to some degree; some are definitely special purpose systems; others are highly customizable systems that you can tailor to best meet your specific needs.

I've looked at Easy Peasy, Jolicloud, Debian Live, and I've come back to antiX core today.

Easy Peasy is what its name implies, a really easy system that is designed to work simply and well on small mobile systems, especially netbook systems. It is strong in network computing and social networking.

Jolicloud is alway what the name implies, a special purpose system designed to work exclusively in a powerful network environment with network based "Cloud" applications.

Debian Live is a great customized environment where you can request a custom build of a Live Debian ISO image that meets your specifications.

The antiX core proof of concept is similar to these other great alternatives in the sense that its name matches its function. Unlike the other released implementations of antiX software, the antiX core is just that - the core components of an antiX system, coupled with some raw, but functional tools that enable you to build a highly customized system that has only what you choose to install.

By default, the antiX core comes with only a Linux system kernel, the core GNU utilities, the Debian packaging system, and a few installation and configuration scripts, from which you boot the antiX core, install it to a device, then add the software you want to use. At its most basic state, it does not even include a graphical user environment, so those who want to use it to create a Web server environment or an ancient console based system can do that, but you can also use it in a manner very similar to an Arch Linux system, where you add only the software that you want, and nothing else.

The results can be outstanding, and they have been for me. I installed xorg, the X server, an LXDE and Xfce4 desktop environment, the Iceape, Iceweasel, and chromium-browsers, and a couple of additional text editors. Later I added a few more fonts and tools. That was it.

The result is a REALLY fast system, faster than anything else I am using in fact. I really like it. It is fast - I said that more than once for emphasis, but its also flexible, and it provides only what you configure, nothing more, nothing less. What I have built represents what I prefer to use in my personal computing environments.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another Debian Live snapshot

The last time I took a Debian Live Snapshot, I selected the XFCE desktop environment. This time, to compare, I selected the LXDE desktop environment, and I also added the Chromium-browser. It will be interesting to review how well the two environments compare to one another.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Working with external USB drive again

Now that I have an external USB drive once again, I have started to pick up the volume of testing of Linux ISO images, because I have a place to store them, and I also have linked the location of the Virtualbox hidden directories to the USB drive, which means I have space for the test virtual images as well, plus I can run them on both of my systems - which I've already tried (and it works).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Testing Debian Live CD snapshot

I created a live CD snapshot of the Debian Sid distribution with the Xfce desktop environment yesterday by making a request at Debian Live. Within twenty minutes, I was sent a link where I could download the Live image. I then created a bootable CD image of this system and tried it out today and it worked very well. The only quirk I noticed was that no Web browser was included in the build, so I had to use synaptic to go get a browser; I grabbed Chromium.

Nice result; fast desktop, and I am using it now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

KDE SC 4.4.5 is now in Debian Sid

I was happy to notice that the Debian Sid project included another KDE monthly update in their Sid repositories. During the 4.2 and 4.3 releases, the monthly updates were not being closely tracked at all, so I am thankful and grateful that the more of the maintenance updates in the Version 4.4 release have been included in Debian Sid.

It is possible that KDE SC 4.4.5 could become the KDE desktop represented in Debian Squeeze, the next release, if rumors of an August release are accurate.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Reviewing the latest speed wars in Web Browsers

Google raised quite a stir when they claimed to have the fastest Web browser, and Apple did the same when they claimed that Safari is the fastest Web browser. Clearly we can't have TWO "fastest Web Browsers". Where do things stand today?

Well, what is good about all of this stuff is that browser developers are taking a closer look at resource utilization of their browsers. For many years, as Web browsers added more and more features, they became more and more bloated.

I've been around a long time, and I can vividly remember when GNU Emacs was soundly criticized for being so large, using up so much memory. Well, those complaints went away a long time ago. Before we even had 1 GHz desktop computer systems, I found that GNU Emacs would load in just a few seconds on computers with as little as 200 MHz and 32 MB memory. It's so much better today. The typical Web browser is four or five times larger just to download, and the amount of virtual memory they use can easily exceed a factor of ten beyond what an even loaded Emacs would consume.

Where does that leave the typical Web browser then? Two years ago, Web browsers were probably near their all time low in terms of efficiency and performance. Yes, they were offering more and more features, but the cost of those features were becoming prohibitive.

When Apple Safari came on the scene, they took the browsing engine, KHTML, from the Konqueror file and Web browser, part of the KDE project. They released their improvements as a Web rendering technology called Webkit.

A little over two years ago, Google took that technology and used it to form the basis of their browser project. They called the browser Chrome and the source code project Chromium. They have made numerous performance improvements on top of what Apple did, and the results were staggering.

When Google made Chrome available, it shocked many people with how much faster it worked, especially on Google sites. A few years ago, that technology was immature. Other features that people commonly used were noticeably missing. Many of those features are now included, but Chrome still tries to maintain a modest appearance. It's worked great, and Chrome moved into the number three spot behind Internet Explorer and Firefox in several usage reports.

This competition has proven to be very helpful. Microsoft has done a lot with Internet Explorer to improve its reliability, performance, security, and overall usefulness. It is so much better in Versions 8 and 9 that it is hard to fathom why so many people continue to even use Versions 6 (from XP) and 7 (from Vista).

Mozilla, which has lost some ground to Chrome, has been vigorously working on improving its performance on several fronts. Mozilla had already been working on a new generation of browser capability so that it would be technology that would be portable to various hand held devices. They've taken a lot of what they've learned and applied it to the Firefox project. Version 3.6.6, the current version, is already improved a lot, but just wait until you see Version 4.0. Currently called "Minefield" because it is undergoing nightly build testing, it is nevertheless in its second test release, and we ought to see it released later this year. I've tested it a number of times and it looks really good.

I already wrote the other day about another project that the Mozilla Labs has been producing, the Mozilla Prism project, to provide Web applications. That work is also bringing new ideas to the table, and it has been effective.

Opera, which has been around a very long time, was once known as the fastest browser, but it had become large and sloppy, much like the others. Version 10.60, recently released, has many positive changes to reverse that trend. Like the other browsers, it is much faster than its previous version.

It looks like what Google has done to awaken the industry has been a positive thing. It's worth giving Google Chrome a try, but it's also worth investigating some of the test versions of the new browsers. If you can spare the time and periodically test a few of them, and provide feedback and defect reports, it definitely helps to improve the browser landscape. I try to do so at least periodically.

Web applications in addition to Web browsers

I have been a long time user of the Internet. Way back in the eighties, I used the Internet to read and send electronic mail, and also to research information, using what was then called the Usenet, which we now know as news groups.

When the World Wide Web became popular, it became easier to use a Web browser to do research. Over time, the Web also became a useful way to exchange Email, either using Webmail or using an integrated Email client.

In a similar way, the Web also became a more useful way to do research in multiple ways - the use of a search engine, such as Alta Vista, Yahoo, Excite, and later, Google.

Over the past decade, the development of dynamic Web page content, not just static text, has created the opportunity to have complete online applications, which can be Web instances of the Email, news groups, and chat, but it can also be the place where documents, spreadsheets, electronic commerce, and other applications exist.

This Spring, an interesting offshoot of the Ubuntu and Mint projects emerged that caught my attention and increased my interest in using not just traditional Web browsers, but application instances of sites that offer applications.

As an experiment, I've been using the Mozilla Labs Prism application to access specific sites. A couple of them, such as GMail and Yahoo Mail, are simply Webmail sites. A few others, such as the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and the USALUG, are technical user forums. But I've also tried other stuff, such as Facebook, CSNNE - Comcast Sports Net New England, DistroWatch, and Wunderground.

I've found Mozilla Prism to be a fast, effective way to access these sources of information. I've not used it to completely replace regular Web browsing, but I am now regularly using it to supplement my Web browsing on these specific sites, and I've also looked at some of the Google Apps and Gadgets for doing similar things with Google based services.

I have not found any of these to be a complete replacement for the traditional alternatives, but I frequently find them to be a useful way to quickly access specific information. It will be worth investigating additional methods as new ideas about this kind of technology emerge. I can definitely see a future for appliances that access specific kinds of information or provide a specific service over the Internet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Big NBA Game 7 in LA

The Celtics have led for most of the game, but it is a gritty, low scoring game. The Lakers have had trouble shooting for much of the game because of the Celtics defense, but the Lakers have countered with strong rebounding.

Still a close game well into the Third Quarter with the Celtics ahead for now. Series tied at three games each, so the winner of this one obviously wins the NBA Championship this year. IF it is the Celtics, it would be NBA Championship number 18 for them.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The sidux and Sid roll continue

The sidux project has reached the Preview 1 release of its next version, sidux 2010-01. I've been using the rolling release for quite some time now and I have Google Chrome 5.0.375.70, where I am writing this note, but I am "Using KDE Development Platform 4.4.4 (KDE 4.4.4)", as identified by Konsole.

Friday, May 28, 2010

sidux 2010-01 Preview 1 now available

Check out DistroWatch for the details. The fast, cutting edge, Debian based sidux distribution, one of the fastest installing systems around because of the extremely dense image compression, has just been announced. The first release of 2010, this one is a preview release, with the final release to follow in a few weeks.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Using sidux with the newly updated KDE SC 4.4.3

I have been following the KDE 4 release with interest for quite some time now. When KDE 4.0 was first released, it was quite clear that it was a development-only snapshot. When KDE 4.1 was released, it was somewhat improved, but until KDE 4.1.4, it was still really only a development snapshot at best.

KDE 4.2 marked a significant improvement over KDE 4.0 and 4.1, but again, until KDE 4.2.4, I'd still call it a development release, though by around KDE 4.2.2, I found that I could use it at least for a few routine things.

During all of that time, I resorted primarily to XFCE 4.6, which has become a fine desktop alternative to KDE and GNOME. sidux happens to have one of the better implementations, at least in my opinion, of both XFCE and KDE.

The KDE 4.3 release marked the first KDE 4 release that could legitimately be called an every day desktop system, though it still has had a few issues. KDE SC 4.3.4 has been on my sidux system for a few months, though, and I have been using it reliably as my every day desktop system.

The Debian KDE team has not been releasing KDE updates with each monthly incremental version, and so there have been no snapshots between KDE SC 4.3.4 and KDE SC 4.4.3. As of yesterday, however, the Sid repositories began to be populated with KDE SC 4.4.3, and as of today, we now have Sid (and sidux) implementations of KDE SC 4.4.3 available. I am using it now.

At last, I consider this version complete. There are no glaring omissions and most features work as they were designed to work. Konqueror, in particular, of the "classic" KDE applications, is significantly improved, and it is now not only a great file manager, it is a respectable Web browser as well.

The Plasma desktop is nowhere near as bug filled as it has been in the past, and I have not found any recent problems with it at all. Moreover, the social networking aspects that are now built into KDE are functioning the way they were designed to work in the first place. Finally, speed and stability come together in this release.

Make no mistake about it; KDE SC 4.4.3 is a full featured desktop environment. As such, it is no lightweight, and it takes a while to fully start up, but I believe it is a bit snappier than in the past.

As far as other applications, the OpenOffice suite is also significantly faster and has stronger compatibility than any release in recent memory with Microsoft Office, so it is a true, capable alternative to MS Office.

The sidux implementation also works very well with Virtualbox OSE, better, in my opinion, than most other distribution provided versions of Virtualbox OSE.

What I find particularly useful with sidux is that I am able to have an easily customizable version of Debian Sid that does not behave like an "unstable" system. Volatile, yes. You have to be aware of what is changing, and sometimes you either have to wait a day or use a tool (I use smxi) to assist me in managing that volatility. But with the smxi tool, I find a stable enough every day environment that I am not forced into using less volatile, but much older, desktop systems. I do keep multiple copies of SimplyMEPIS, because it IS very stable and it is a nice environment, but for every day use, I find that sidux suits me just fine, as it has for nearly three years now.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three favorite distros currently in testing: SimplyMEPIS, antiX, PCLinuxOS

Two of my favorite Debian based distributions, and one RPM based distribution that uses Debian-like packaging tools are in their testing cycles right now.

SimplyMEPIS and antiX, two of the products in the MEPIS family, have been through several iterations of their Beta testing cycle, and now each of them has also released three release candidates (RC), and they are very cloe to release. Each of them has a Version 8.5 RC 3 now available for testing. These can be upgraded to final form by simply using Debian upgrade packaging techniques.

In a similar vein, the PCLinuxOS project is in their 2010 release cycle. They have now released two Beta test versions, but are not quite as far along with either Beta or release candidate software as SimplyMEPIS or antiX, but on the other hand, they have more current versions of KDE SC 4.4.1 desktop software, so they have newer, more cutting edge software included in their packages, if that interests you.

On my two home laptop systems, a Lenovo 3000 Y410 and a Gateway PA6A, both around two years old, all of these systems work great. I recommend them, and anyone who can spare a test partition to try them out, it helps to get as many eyes trying out the software before release as possible to locate and correct as many issues as possible so that the final releases are solid and stable, which they almost always are from these three excellent distributions.

Give them a try!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cataract surgery complete on my left eye

On Thursday, January 28, 2010, I had cataract surgery on my left eye. Both eyes need surgery; my right eye is tentatively scheduled now to be operated on February 18.

So far, the left eye, in the white of the eye, is red, the eye is swollen, but there is already some improvement in sight. By Monday I hope to have the left eye in the best shape it has been in years. A correction of -2 is the best my doctor attempted because my right eye is at -5 and he did not want more than -4 difference; in fact, he went conservative with a -3 difference. Chances are I will need lenses to see correctly in my left eye; oh well! :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Awaiting two new releases

Well, on December 31, 2009, I finally got news that sidux 2009-04 was being released, so that took care of one of the three distributions that I frequently use, but over the past two or three months, the other two distributions that I use have been actively undergoing testing.

The antiX and SimplyMEPIS distributions are each at the Beta 4 stage of their 8.5 releases. I happen to be using antiX M8.5 Beta 4 right now; earlier this evening I was using SimplyMEPIS Version 8.5 Beta 4; both are working very well, more usable and stable than many released systems, and just right for me.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

When I’m in a squeeze, it’s Debian Squeeze!

I enjoy testing software. When I have the time, I use all kinds of different operating systems and all kinds of variations of software. However, when testing time is limited, I cut it down considerably. I tend to use primarily GNU/Linux software at home that uses Debian packaging. Today, I’ve used sidux, SimplyMEPIS, Kubuntu, and Debian Squeeze.

Debian Squeeze will be the next stable release of Debian software. Right now, it is the “testing” version and it is looking very good.