Tuesday, May 31, 2011

antiX derivative still "Looking Good!"

Anyone who follows and reads my journal, blogs, for forum posts anywhere on the Internet, including this blog, knows that I have been a big Debian software enthusiast for many years, and that in recent years, I have developed a particular enthusiasm and attachment to two of the MEPIS projects, SimplyMEPIS (for an easy, stable desktop system) and antiX (for a light, extremely flexible, customizable, and modifiable desktop or server system).

As proof of how flexible MEPIS has been, antiX has been in existence over five years now and it has three derivatives (or "flavors") of its own, the original, "full" version, a cut down "base" version, which includes a graphical user environment and customization tools, but withholds the applications so that you can select the ones you prefer, and then there is an even more minimal approach called antiX "core", which provides the installation and configuration tools, but no graphical user environment or applications, so you completely build what you want from scratch.

In years past, some of the MEPIS Community developers have created revisions, respins, and proof of concept (PoC) builds for various environments and activities. Right when KDE 4.0 came out, for example, a community member who goes by the forum name of Danum, created special MEPIS builds for KDE 4, has created his own derivatives, and continues to guide people on building their own respun distributions, using MEPIS as a base with newer KDE desktop components.

Marcos, a few years ago, did the same, demonstrating how easy it was to build Xfce and LXDE versions with MEPIS themes and applications, but replacing the desktop, inserting either Xfce or LXDE in place of KDE.

The antiX distribution goes all the way back to 2006, is really a lot like the very first MEPIS distribution from May 2003, and it has been officially recognized and sanctioned by Warren Woodford as a supported and acceptable MEPIS derivative.

Now there is an antiX derivative. It's not officially sanctioned as far as I know, but it certainly is a nice derivative, and we've already had a few builds of it, and it's called Swift Linux. Conceived by Jason Hsu, it was originally created to support some contract work involving forensic activities, such as recovering files from old and failing systems that were using Windows. Jason had been using Puppy, but found antiX had more of the tools and applications that he wanted, overall, but Puppy had, for him, easier desktop navigation.

Therefore, as so often happens in free software, Jason took what he considered to be the best features in Puppy Linux and antiX Linux, remembered the humor in the creation of Hannah Montana Linux, which had been built as a fun exercise about a year ago by another developer, based on Ubuntu. The result: Jason created Swift Linux to be a fast, easy to use derivative of antiX and SimplyMEPIS, combining some of the best features seen in Puppy, antiX, and Ubuntu, providing a solid forensic distribution that also works great as a light, every day distribution.

Taking that humor from Hannah Montana, Jason created iCarly Swift Linux, Taylor Swift Linux, NASCAR Swift Linux, and Magnum PI Swift Linux, in addition to a standard Swift Linux and an extra light Swift Linux. This demonstrates the ease in putting themes to systems that are otherwise similar, even identical, and it also demonstrates how to add and remove features, customizing a system for particular needs.

Jason Hsu, in doing so, further builds my case at why antiX makes such a great platform for custom configurations. It isn't the only platform that can do these things; there are many out there these days, but these are some of the best examples, and they even come, not only with great software, but a fun sense of humor as well.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Full Monty stumbles after a great start!

Nothing quite like a different view for a while. At least one person likes the colorful new theme. I'll keep it at least a while before deciding on whether to go to something a bit more muted or to keep with this one a while longer. It certainly beats the drab, default appearance, at least for a change of pace.

Speaking of a change of pace, that's what I did today. I went over to PCLinuxOS and messed around there for a while. I have what is known as the "Full Monty" version of PCLinuxOS installed - it came out around the Holidays. It's big, it has everything you can possibly imagine in it, but it also defaults to turning on an incredible number of services, so it is one of the more sluggish systems I have, but I can also do just about anything I may want or need to do with it, yet I actually came upon not one, but two issues with it today, and how I found them was related.

I started up a torrent to download Fedora 15 in the Xfce desktop edition, one of the four major respins that the community project is now offering. I used Ktorrent to do the download, and it was real quick because quite a few people were grabbing it. I was probably getting somewhere in the 1.5-1.8 Mega Bytes per second throughput; multiply that times eight and I was probably seeing 12 to 15 Mbps on a download, pretty good!

But then I wanted to move the file. First I burned the image. That went well, and since PCLinuxOS is fundamentally KDE based, I used k3b to do the job, and it did that well too.

That's about when the problems began. I have a Western Digital external USB drive, where I store ISO images and Virtualbox images in one partition, movies and videos in another one, Windows backups in a third one and Norton snapshot backups in a fourth one; four partitions; two are ext3 format; two are NTFS format.

I have a script that I use on most of my systems, actually two of them, one to mount the USB drive partitions and another to unmount them: mountUSB.bash and unmountUSB.bash. I mounted /dev/sda8 and created /media/sda8, and that's when I first started to notice a problem. The shell came up, but man, was it sluggish. Creating the directory probably took 10-15 seconds, an eternity when I can do it in 1-2 seconds at the max on most other systems. Then the REAL problem came up: the USB devices were not created, and if there was an automated mechanism to create them and make them accessible, it wasn't working. I didn't mess with it; why bother when I have at least ten other systems that can do this right and quickly?

So the sheen came off of this "Full Monty". It had been working quite well and the overhead hadn't presented any issues until today. But now there are two issues: overhead at the command console level is excessive, and for me, unacceptable. Automatically configuring a USB disk drive that works in Windows and in numerous other Linux distros does not auto mount, auto configure anything, and it seems not to work.

I may replace the "Full Monty" with a more basic PCLinuxOS in the future, but I may just wait until they issue an updated ISO image. This system does a lot of things well, but I finally found a few things where it bombed out. They could undoubtedly be fixed, but it isn't worth it to me; the Debian Sid system I am using now does all of these things effortlessly and it is already my every day default system.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The latest changes - appearance and distro changes

Blogspot recently made some additional themes available, so I decided to mess around with them for a while. I am not sure the one I just selected is going to hang around long - unless I get some feedback in its favor, but I thought it would at least present a topic of conversation for five minutes before we tire of it and go on to something else.

One "Something else" that I spend a lot of time on is distribution testing. Today, right from the start, I fired up the system where I have what I refer to as the "Test Systems": Sabayon 5.5, Linux Mint Xfce 201104 Debian Edition (or LMDE Xfce for short), Mageia 1 - now a release candidate, Swift Linux 0.1.0, with the "Taylor Swift" art work, (creator Jason Hsu's concession to the fact he liked what developers did a year ago, creating a "Hannah Montana" derivative of Ubuntu for their children), Absolute Linux 13.37, openSUSE 11.4 with the newly added "Tumbleweed" rolling release repositories, which turn the 11.4 release into a perpetual rolling release (which works GREAT), Joli OS 1.2, and Xubuntu 11.04, plus the "dark horse" that I run three times a week for my part time evening job, Windows 7.

Today I spent most of the time with Mageia. This morning I went to upgrade it, thinking that if I ran upgrades I would get the current Release Candidate. I was surprised to find no upgrades, and I did not notice any Release Candidate wallpapers or other art work, so I went to get the RC 1 ISO image. The US Mirror, ibiblio, did not have them yet, but at least two of the German mirror sites and a French site DID have it; the German sites had better throughput for me today, so that's where I got the image. 3.7 GB later, I found it filled up the disk, and I discovered that the Mageia partition that I am using right now "only" has 12 GB, whereas the partition where I have Swift Linux (which is where Mandriva USED to be, has around 20 GB. I had originally intended to install Mageia over Mandriva, but I installed it over LMDE instead, which had been on sda5. I wanted to wipe it anyway, but I ended up bringing in LMDE Xfce later. So a future project will probably be to wipe sda8 where Swift Linux is now, and maybe I will do some kind of partition to partition copy, so that I can write about it and tell newcomers some innovative (but possibly complicated for them) ways to accomplish this quickly.

Anyway, after essentially two nearly 4 GB downloads, I got the new Mageia, and then I did the long DVD burn, then finally the install. I then spent some time over at Sabayon 5.5, which I have currently given the task of managing the Master Boot Record (MBR) for booting up multiple systems (the aptosid that used to be in its place previously had this responsibility). So I spent some time with Sabayon 5.5, updated the GRUB boot loader and updated the system, then went back to Mageia. I also spent some time with Linux Mint Xfce and updated it while I was there, because it's partition also has a lot of free space, enough to handle that big DVD, so that's where I created my Mageia DVD image. Mint Xfce is behaving well in Debian rolling release form, much better than the previous LMDE, in fact. Prior to Mint coming out with a Xfce Edition, I had added Xfce to my version, and used it instead of GNOME on my desktop.

So I used Mageia, Sabayon 5.5, and LMDE Xfce Edition in my testing work today. Just prior to switching to Windows 7 tonight for my evening job, I started up Absolute Linux 13.37, a Slackware 13.37 derivative, and this is a nice, light, fast distributtion, a slam it in place and use it type of distribution. The installer looks very plain, just like Slackware, but the installed software looks much nicer than Slackware in its default appearance.

A few comments on Absolute Linux. Several creators of small distributions, especially those who use IceWM in their work, lift ideas and techniques from Paul Sherman's Absolute Linux work, and they frequently comment with highly complementary words on his work. I can echo their sentiments, and tell you that Absolute Linux and antiX (and its remasters) are among the finest in their implementation of IceWM. I think antiX and Absolute Linux are very close in their implementation, but we have to give the nod to Absolute, not antiX, in this regard, for leading the pack, because antiX got several of its ideas from earlier works in Absolute Linux and a few of the helpers on the antiX project encouraged anticapitalista to include IceWM. I also lobbied to make IceWM the default Window Manager in antiX, reasoning that beginners might have a slightly easier time with it, and veterans can easily switch to the Fluxbox that they often prefer.

Anyway, that is enough rambling from my Absolute Linux system; Windows 7 and the evening mailing list are calling! :-)

If I have any readers, let me know if you'd like a dark theme or this loud background theme that I am using right now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another brief memory usage study using Debian Sid, Xfce, and Seamonkey

I am using the Nightly Build of the Seamonkey Internet Suite, and as part of that suite I have the Web browser and the Email client currently running. Two features that the recent Seamonkey builds offer that were not present in earlier releases are the standard availability of Sync, the tool which maintains browser, cache, cookie, and password information across browsers on different systems and the availability for the browser tabs and bookmark entries to display Website icons.

The Website icon feature, in particular, seems to result in quite a bit more browser memory being actively used in order to be able to display each Web site icon. In particular, the Seamonkey image now consumes over 700 MB of virtual memory and around 260 MB of resident memory, and even 41 MB of shared memory, all significantly larger amounts than required by the 2.0.13 or 2.0.14 released version of Seamonkey, which usually consume in the 300-400 MB of virtual memory, 90-150 MB of resident memory, and 20-30 MB of shared memory. Performance of the new browser, using more memory, however, easily exceeds that of the previous versions, as well as improved functionality, and since the headroom for more memory has a comfortable ceiling, still only about a quarter utilized, this seems to be a wise optimization in favor of performance at the expense of more memory I/O and fewer disk I/O requests for more virtual memory.

Comparing the total amount of memory on the system needed with this Xfce and Debian Sid combination with the Seamonkey Nightly browser to that we saw recently with PCLinuxOS, we find a total system memory utilization of 369 MB. Several of the scenarios with PCLinuxOS were using as much or more memory; for instance, PCLinuxOS with the "light" IceWM window manager, but the memory hungry Chromium Web browser, was using between 520-550 MB, and around 549 MB with KDE and Chromium. The Chromium browser was the big consumer there with PCLinuxOS, whether running KDE or IceWM. With Firefox replacing Chromium, memory usage dropped a bit, and I found Firefox used 297 MB of memory with IceWM and around 420 MB of memory with KDE.

So what I see here with Debian Sid and Seamonkey is about what I'd expect, though I was a bit surprised to see peak virtual memory requirements as high as they are with Seamonkey, yet I find the actual consumed resources to be more reasonable, and the overall system resources needed to be quite reasonable for the hardware that I am currently using.

Monday, May 16, 2011

LMDE - the Xfce variety

LMDE stands for Linux Mint Debian Edition. Xfce, at one time, stood for the XForms Common Environment because the early editions of Xfce used XForms to create a common desktop environment.

The Xfce project originally began around the same time as another desktop environment project, KDE, around 1996. Xfce, in its early implementation, was similar to CDE, the Common Desktop Environment that was prevalent on UNIX workstations in the mid to late nineties. CDE was pretty ugly, and so were the early implementations of Xfce, but arguably Xfce worked better than CDE ever did, and Xfce became portable to a lot more systems.

Xfce was eventually rewritten to use the Gtk+ in 1999, and that was what was available during the Version 3 life cycle. In Version 4, Xfce migrated further to the Gtk+ 2 libraries, and this opened the way to significant new development, including a solid file manager and a new SVG icon set. The current version, included in the Linux Mint Xfce 201104 Edition (the actual name of the release), which is the Linux Mint Debian Edition for Xfce, adds a number of additional features, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xfce provides some interesting history and details, from which I extracted much of this information.

As far as this 201104 release, this is the first LMDE that has been configured for use as a "Debian Edition". Past releases came out after the main Linux Mint versions (which use GNOME for their desktop environment), but this caused quite a bit of delay in their release. The idea for LMDE was first tested with a GNOME desktop, and this Xfce edition is the first of what will probably end up being most of the other Mint editions that will be based on a Debian rolling release core in order to save on development effort and result in more frequently updated software.

The software itself works quite well. For those familiar with traditional versions of Mint, this edition is not quite as finely polished at this stage in its life as the primary Mint editions, but on the other hand, it is a bit more flexible and a lot more current. We can expect it to become slightly more polished over time, though probably not to the extent of the official Mint releases.

For a veteran like me, I definitely prefer these LMDE versions to the primary versions of Mint, but not everyone would agree with that, and that is why it is great to have choices and alternatives. This one is pretty good for those with some Debian experience, and it is somewhat easier to deal with than a stock Debian system, but you can still do most things that you do with a genuine Debian system, so in some ways it adds to the flexibility commonly found on a Debian system. These editions are all based on Debian Testing, a solid core of software.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Debian APT Part 2: Installing Unreleased Software

There is a two part article that was originally written at the Linux Gazette, and it is now referenced in TLDP, The Linux Documentation Project. It is about installing, not just the standard software applications, which is discussed in the first part of the article series, but having the ability to install newer, less rigorously tested versions of software. Debian uses the terms Stable, Testing, Unstable, and Experimental to describe its four main binary software repositories, but perhaps a better description would refer to the extent of testing performed on the software. From my perspective, Stable contains completely tested, verified software that passes all entry criteria. Testing contains software that has passed the basic unit testing done in the Experimental stage, and has also passed the first qualification level of testing, successfully moving from Experimental to Unstable, and passing the intermediate criteria to be considered Testing, which is software that has passed basic functionality and is ready to undergo rigorous tests in order to be a candidate for the next Stable release.

http://tldp.org/LDP/LGNET/86/tougher.html is the location of the second part of this series, "Installing Unreleased Software".

Canonical sponsored alternatives to Ubuntu

In recent weeks we have seen the introduction and release of the 11.04 versions of the Canonical Ubuntu-based distributions, Ubuntu, which uses GNOME 3.0, but Canonical substitutes the Unity Shell in place of the GNOME 3 Shell, Kubuntu, which uses the KDE 4.6.2 desktop (current as of April; 4.6.3 was recently released as an update; Personal Package Archives (PPA) can track these changes if you want them), Xubuntu, which uses the Xfce 4.8 desktop introduced at the end of January, with updates and patches included since then (some up to Version 4.8.3), and then Lubuntu, the LXDE-based desktop which just recently was recognized as an official Canonical distribution, which means that in future releases, the Lubuntu packages will be in the Canonical repositories with the lubuntu-desktop metapackage, alongside the desktop metapackages for each of the other three supported desktop environments.

All four of these desktops are usable, but the main one, Ubuntu, is in a bit of a state of transition. I found the fundamental features to work, but the flexibility with it at this stage is limited. A year from now, when the next Long Term Support (LTS) release becomes available, these issues ought to be better handled, and hopefully completely resolved. In the meantime, the other three alternatives represent very solid alternatives to Ubuntu. If you want a full featured desktop with even more flexibility than Ubuntu has ever offered, then try Kubuntu. It continues to evolve and improve, and this may well be the best release they've had. The only complainers I have seen have been those with multi headed displays and an arrogant attitude. Most others have had high praise for Kubuntu. If you would prefer to have something slightly lighter and a bit closer in features and appearance to Ubuntu, then try out Xubuntu. It may be the best overall compromise of the bunch, enough features to handle most every daily chore, but not too many extra bells and whistles. On the light end, Lubuntu is easily the lightest and fastest member of the Ubuntu family. It sacrifices some of the convenience tools and flashy graphical capabilities for a simpler, lighter, faster feel and performance. All of these distributions, however, have common software repositories, so if a certain application is missing from one of them, the software manager is more than capable of finding and installing them.

APT stands for the Advanced Packaging Tool - it is a package management system for Debian GNU/Linux. The apt family of tools can be used from a command console to update the package cache, install or remove one or more packages, to search for packages, and to ensure that any dependent libraries are installed along with whatever applications are installed. Debian includes a number of different command and graphical interfaces to the APT environment. Kubuntu uses Kpackagekit as its default tool; Ubuntu uses the Ubuntu Software Manager, and Xubuntu offers a choice of the Software Manager or Synaptic. Lubuntu makes Synaptic available. Note that you can acquire any of these tools from the Ubuntu repositories for any of these systems, so if you don't see what you want, install it.

The Ubuntu-based distributions are a nice blend and compromise between the tremendous flexibility available in Linux software and the simplicity of the user interface in proprietary systems from Apple and Microsoft. Critics of Linux-based systems claim that Linux is more complicated and difficult, but those who say that are often simply not as familiar and well educated with the differences between Linux and their favorite system. Even the arguments that too many choices are provided and confusing is a weak argument: derivative distributions from other projects, such as the Linux Mint project, the PCLinuxOS project, and the SimplyMEPIS project, clearly demonstrate that the software need not be overwhelming or overly complicated in order to be useful. All three of these projects have derivatives within themselves to promote and exploit several features, which speaks to the flexibility of each one of them and of the underlying Linux systems. In the case of Mint, this software directly descends from the Ubuntu project. It is not a Canonical sponsored project, but it does represent a viable alternative to Ubuntu, and it is one that I expect quite a few people will be investigating; a release candidate of Linux Mint 11, built on the code in Ubuntu 11.04, is now available.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Does the OS really matter all that much?

I am doing a lot of Internet-based computing these days, and I am wondering more and more just how much the operating system really matters. Clearly we need an operating system. The operating system is what controls the devices on the system, allocates resources, not only within the CPU, which is the "Brain" or controller of everything, but also the peripheral devices, from the keyboard to the mouse, the disk drive to the display, and whatever additional devices are on the system.

A flexible, extensible operating system, one which has a good job scheduler, device handler, and can be quickly modified when hardware changes occur, is essential.

We have a lot of operating systems available. In terms of the types of system kernels, we have several camps, and let's keep this confined to Intel compatible hardware, just for discussion; clearly there are more alternatives out there.

First, there is the camp that defined and created what a personal computer is all about: Microsoft, first with MS/DOS, then with Windows. The original MS/DOS and Windows wouldn't be very useful on today's hardware, but Windows has evolved many times over the past two decades, and we can't argue with the fact that it remains the most common operating system on Intel hardware. We can argue about cost, we can argue about security, we can argue about freedom, but the simple fact remains that it is still popular and it actually works. Though many other alternatives threaten its continued dominance and existence, at least right now it continues to lead the pack.

Then there is the Apple and Mac camp. Once upon a time, this was a 100% proprietary operating system space, but many years ago, Apple created OS X. Though the operating system, OS X, itself is very closed and proprietary, the kernel and many of the components that run within it are not, and there are alternatives based on it to prove it: Darwin for the operating system, really a BSD-based kernel, and Fink for the graphical user interface, an alternative to the Apple Aqua interface.

A lesser known, but long time alternative to the highly proprietary Apple camp is the BSD camp. The history of BSD software goes all the way back to the early UNIX systems. BSD developed out of graduate university research at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), and the name BSD stands for Berkeley Standard Distribution. In the early nineties there were legal conflicts between AT&T and UCB over the content in BSD, and also in the content in UNIX System V. AT&T claimed that BSD used code directly from UNIX source code, and UCB claimed that AT&T lifted code directly from several utilities, such as the ex and vi editors, the termcap configurations, and the C shell. AT&T and UCB eventually settled their dispute, but efforts, such as FreeBSD and NetBSD were formed during that time, and represent a rewrite of the UCB UNIX code, and that is what we call BSD today. Several other variations, most notably OpenBSD, which evolved from NetBSD, and others, such as DragonflyBSD and smaller, lesser known projects developed. Many of these exist today, and not only does Apple's OS X come out of this lineage, as well as products from iXsystems, most notably PC-BSD, a consumer-oriented version of FreeBSD.

Then we have the smartphone, tablet, and netbook camp. These spaces have developed their own operating systems, but most of them evolve, at some level, either from BSD or Linux based kernels. For instance, Android was developed using a Linux-based kernel. iOS, used in many Apple products, comes from BSD-based kernels. Blackberry has developed proprietary systems, but if you look closely at them, they have hints of POSIX-based code in them, possibly with some code that originally evolved either from QNX or VxWorks inspired code. Hewlett Packard, after acquiring Palm, inherits a Linux-inspired system with WebOS.

I've alluded to Linux-inspired and Linux-based systems already, and clearly that is another major force to be considered. I have long been a proponent of flexible, freely shared and freely used software. I believe that if you collaborate on the common, core components, you can still create your own unique product, even a semi proprietary one, and yet share many of the base technologies. I see no reason to have to keep inventing and reinventing kernel technologies. Why not share and pool those ideas? Same with common utilities, commands, and commodity applications. We all need them. Why not collaborate on their development? Linux is the champion in this space.

Now that companies like Yahoo, Google, Amazon, and Red Hat have all successfully built solid businesses around a framework of software that has a shared tradition behind it, more companies are believing that this is possible and practical. So I return to the question - does the OS really matter all that much? If you are a consumer, probably not. The combination of price and features that match what you need are what matter the most. I would assert, though, that the free and open development of applications is what has driven both the free-based and commercial-based development, especially over the past decade.

With Amazon.com developing EC2 and other cloud based service offerings as a major business, Yahoo and Google building an entire search and advertising industry around either "free" or "open" based software technology, and Google in particular driving everything they do to draw Internet traffic to their revenue producing businesses - with free software, it seems to me that a free or at least shared software infrastructure makes a great deal of sense. It matters to me because that is where I find the sweet spot of products and services that I use. On the Internet, the majority of things I use are either Yahoo or Google based, or some new free alternative with a similar model. In mobile equipment, nearly everything I have is in one way or another tied to Google, and all of their stuff is based on freely available technology, so for me, I would assert that while the Internet allows you to use any OS technology, I feel it is the freely available technology that has driven the Internet explosion in the first place, and the freely available technology is what continues to drive it, and that's why I think that while the specific OS doesn't matter all that much - it is more of a personal choice, the freedom and the alternatives matter a great deal - including the freedom to utilize a very specific, commercial approach, as Apple and Microsoft do, or a much more open, commodity approach, like Canonical and Red Hat do - matter a great deal.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lubuntu 11.04 is now an official Ubuntu derivative

On Linux.com, I just noticed an announcement indicating that Lubuntu 11.04 has been granted status as an official Ubuntu derivative. Recent articles had suggested this would be the case; Mark Shuttleworth had recently been quoted as being very pleased with what the Lubuntu team had accomplished with the most current release.

From my perspective, I appreciate this distribution, not so much directly, but in what it contributes to derivatives that use it, and in my case, specifically with Peppermint OS One, which I enjoy using.

Starting to see more systems with Xfce 4.8 and KDE 4.6.3

Xfce and KDE are the two desktop environments that I most commonly use, so it is nice when I see distributions that update these environments and keep them close to the most currently available software. In the case of Xfce, Version 4.8 was released near the end of January, so any distribution that offers Xfce really ought to have Version 4.8 available, and the good news is that most of the distributions that I use are now offering Version 4.8, and most of them have the patches that have been added to Xfce 4.8, and some packages are labelled as high as 4.8.3.

Similarly, KDE 4.6 has been available at least three months now, but not all distributions are keeping up with it, because it does require a large commitment to build the large number of packages contained in the complete KDE Software Collection (SC). There are, however, a number of distributions that are, for the most part, keeping up with KDE. Some of them include Kubuntu 11.04, Sabayon 5.5, PCLinuxOS, Mageia 1 Beta 2, and openSUSE 11.4 "Tumbleweed" rolling release.

As I write this note, I am using Linux Mint Xfce 201104, which is a rolling release based on Debian Testing. On my Debian Sid system, I have had Xfce 4.8 with updates for several weeks now, and as I ran the updates to this rolling release today, I found that the latest Xfce changes have now been promoted from Sid to Testing (Wheezy), so that is good news for Debian based systems.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Using SimplyMEPIS 11.0

The MEPIS distribution has been available even longer than antiX, which became available in 2006. MEPIS has been available in public form since May 2003, and the work started even before that, in November 2002.

Warren Woodford, the founder and sole developer of MEPIS, has a long professional career that spans an incredible forty five years or more in time, is noted for outstanding attention to detail and quality, a conservative approach by today's standards, resulting in excellent software that just works.

SimplyMEPIS is always a pleasure to use, and the current release is no exception. This is, by no means, the newest possible software that you can get. For that, go over to something like Gentoo, Sabayon, a new project under development, such as the very nice Mageia, due for its first release in June, currently in Beta testing. For something you can simply count on, won't waste a lot of your time with needless changes and defects, is simple, straightforward, and functional, it is hard to beat SimplyMEPIS.

Yes, you may be able to find something else that is also stable. Yes, you most certainly can find something newer and fancier. But only distributions like Debian and Slackware, which also tend to be very conservative, well tested, and "older", with mature, tested software, can compare to SimplyMEPIS, but SimplyMEPIS adds value to the Debian proposition. It includes a complete system that is well tested, well integrated, well documented, with a user community behind it. Debian has many of these things, but it is the foundation for solutions like SimplyMEPIS, not necessarily a complete solution in itself, and that is where MEPIS really excels - it is ready to go and it works well. I keep mentioning it, but I will do so again, I recommend this software for a complete, easy to use desktop system.

Using antiX M11.0

Since 2006, antiX has been one of my favorite distributions. There are several reasons for this. 1. I have, for many years, preferred to use Debian based software on my favorite systems. The antiX distribution is based on Debian Testing repositories and MEPIS installation and configuration tools. 2. I like flexible, configurable systems. The antiX configuration tools are among the very best available. 3. I like the MEPIS project, and when the antiX project emerged, I found I liked antiX as well, maybe even better, than the main MEPIS project, which I also like quite a bit.

I used antiX a bit once I installed the new version and now I am using it a bit more today. I did find one thing that represents somewhat of an issue: the default Web browser, Iceape, is prone to oscillate, using high percentages of CPU time, then back off, returning to normal.

Running my own instance of Firefox in my own directory, it has some CPU bursts as well, but they are not as prominent, and do not seem to affect the user interface - such as typing in a Web based text widget, such as this one, as much as with the default Iceape.

I will do some more experimenting, installing my own versions of browsers and see how they behave here. The only things chewing up CPU and memory here are the browsers, so it could be that the version of Iceape in Debian Testing is a bit suspect. More research will tell.

That's a nit for me; I run lots of stuff anyway, and with the great flexibility inherent in antiX, I have no problem at all getting what I want and configuring it the way that I want.