Posted by: duskfire | June 2, 2014

Update on Linux Mint 17

I actually think I have overcome the issue that I was having with losing wifi connection!

Earlier I had considered installing an older kernel (the 3.11 series that is in LMDE seemed a good bet), but I ended up installing the latest one instead. My problems with losing wifi were with 3.13.0-24, and I found out in the Update Manager that 3.13.0-27 was available. I installed it, rebooted, and that was last night. Haven’t lost connection over a 6 hour period.

So last night I installed TERA Online (using Crossover Linux instead of PlayonLinux). I am going to try it on Crossover because it really lagged on PoL and I want to see if there is a difference. I also added PlayOnLinux and DBGL to the mix, since I can use Mint 17 once again. Also, looks like I could be writing a review for Mint 17 after all.

Of course, right now I only have about 350 GB available on each system. I only installed LMDE alongside Mint 17 in order to have a Mint that could stay connected. LMDE is a decent distro but I much prefer using the main edition.

One of the other things I was doing today was once again trying to decide what distributions I wanted to review. I’m slightly astonished to see that there a few that are available only in a 64-bit edition! Sabayon, for instance, as well as Chakra and KaOS, 2 pure KDE distros.

What I think I may do now is install one of them to replace LMDE so that I can review it. I already wrote down which partitions on my /dev/sda drive are dedicated to LMDE and its swap, so if I replace it I will know where to target on the drive.

Posted by: duskfire | June 1, 2014

A First Look at Pinguy Linux

While I was awaiting the final release of Linux Mint 17, I decided to start looking at several other distributions that I had not given much thought to before. The first one on my list was Pinguy Linux. Pinguy is based on Ubuntu, with a lot of customization. When I first installed Pinguy I was pretty impressed with what I saw. In fact, I was wondering whether it could possibly replace my beloved Linux Mint as my standard distribution. The short answer: not yet. Why not? Read on.

For some reason, the developers only term the LTS releases as Full, while ones released in between are called Beta (even when they are based upon a Ubuntu regular release). I used Pinguy 14.04 on my older Gateway M460 laptop that has 2 GB of RAM and an integrated video card.

Installation

Pinguy uses the Ubiquity installer from Ubuntu. Installation was quite easy, but I doubt you will need to check the box for 3rd party media, they get installed anyway much like Linux Mint. This is the most recent version of Ubiquity, including support for LVM and encryption should you desire. Your password does get a strength check, and you do not need to re-enter your wireless password when you first boot up.

Features

Pinguy Linux uses a customized GNOME 3 desktop with added Docky, the whisker menu up at the top left, and Conky ready to go. The applications you find in Docky are Firefox, Thunderbird, Xchat, Clementine (music player), VLC (media player), Synaptic package manager, a tweak tool, and the Terminal. Along the top left are the main menu and the currently open program. Over to the right you find GNOME Do, Variety (wallpaper manager), the software updater, the calendar/clock, wireless and volume settings, and finally the control to log out or shutdown the system. Moving the mouse along the left edge of the screen reveals several folders, as seen here:

Workspace 1_004

This is a very convenient way to get to the most used directories in your system, and it stays hidden when not needed. This seems to be a change from previous editions. Also, if you press the Windows/Tux key, the main GNOME grid of applications is accessible. Empathy, Shotwell, LibreOffice Writer, Gnome help, and Firefox are easily started with the left side dock.

Variety, a desktop background switcher, seems to be a very convenient method to really avoid boring wallpaper. It downloads a bunch every so often and changes them out every 10 minutes, or less frequently if you change a setting.

Conky is set up for you, and the control for it is found in the “Other” menu category.

However, much as I like many of the features that distinguish Pinguy from most other Ubuntu based distros, there are a few issues that I have, one being the dealbreaker. I don’t think that installing 15 extensions into Firefox is good at all. You can notice 4 of them right on the toolbar when Firefox opens.

Add-ons Manager - Mozilla Firefox

There’s also a number of minor but puzzling questions I have – why is Synaptic on the Dock rather than Ubuntu Software Center? Why isn’t the Software Center listed in one of the main categories? What’s UNetbootin doing there – sure it’s useful, but really, how often does someone create bootable disks? Why is there a distinction between “Other” and “Sundry” and couldn’t some of the latter go into “Acessories” ? Why are there 2 different Tweak tools?

Software

Most of the software installed is great for the typical user, even some less well known ones such as Calibre and Handbrake.

Here’s the menu list:

Accessories: Backups, Contacts, Files, Gedit, GNOME Do, Image Viewer, Shutter, Variety

Games: PlayOnLinux, Steam

Graphics: ebook viewer, image viewer, LO Draw, LRF viewer, Pinta, Rapid Photo Downloader, Shotwell, simple scan

Internet: Deluge, Dropbox, Empathy, Firefox, Remmina (remote desktop control), Skype, Steam, Teamviewer 9, Thunderbird, Xchat.

Office: Calibre, an ebook reader, Libre Office (full suite), wxBanker, Finance Manager

Other: Conky (controls), google2ubuntu, g2u manager, personal file sharing, Plex home theater, Plex manager

Science: LibreOffice Math

Sound/Video: Arista transcoder, Brasero, Clementine, DeVeDe, Filebot, gtkpod, Handbrake, Openshot, Spotify, Videos (a video player), and VLC

Sundry: dconf editor, icedtea controls, main menu

System settings: 20 different controls

The other thing which I wasn’t happy to see was the number of installed applications that don’t appear in any of the regular menu categories – if you don’t hit “all applications” or the GNOME grid, you might not realize just how many you have. Some examples are Onboard, Archive Manager, BleachBit, the calculator, Remastersys, and the Ubuntu Software Center, Also, some of the specialized programs have their own PPA added to the repositories – which some users might not appreciate, although it didn’t bother me as much as the numerous extensions in Firefox did.

Software_sources

Printer support seems excellent:

Workspace 1_006

The default movie player, Videos, detected and auto-ran my DVD of Robocop with no issues. I am glad that VLC is also included as an alternative.

Gaming

It is awesome that Pinguy comes with both Steam and PlayOnLinux ready to go right after installation. The lack of any other games, especially casual ones, is a little puzzling but not a dealbreaker. The music player Clementine comes pre-equipped with access to over 15 online music sources (as long as you have an account), such as Grooveshark, last.fm, Spotify, Jamendo, and Soundcloud.

Luckily this distro not only has the wealth of the Ubuntu repositories to draw on, it includes Playdeb as well, for extra gaming goodness.

Help and Support

Pinguy has a support forum where you can get questions answered. Also, the GNOME Help documentation is available from the menu.

Likes

- a very pretty and distinctive distribution. The wallpapers are unique and there’s even a utility (Variety) to help you manage them.

- Lots of useful programs installed for you out of the box

- my wireless printer was found and added easily

- the touchpad controls are simple and it is easy to turn off

Dislikes

- WAY too many extensions in Firefox

- I’m not totally comfortable with the number of PPAs added to repository sources by default

- quite a few programs that aren’t properly added into the appropriate menu categories

- wireless cut out a few times during a week of use (not sure if this is my laptop, but it’s never happened with any other distro)

Final Thoughts

At first, Pinguy looked like it might come close to replacing Linux Mint as my favorite Linux distribution. But after the initial pleasure of seeing how much stuff comes with it, I found a number of minor issues and one major problem. I could have overlooked 2 or 3 extensions installed in Firefox; at least one other distro does the same thing. But 15 is simply too much. They introduce too many 3rd party updates and possible bugs into the most-used application in the whole operating system.

The menu also seems incomplete – some entries ought to be in different sections, while several programs aren’t in the main menu at all.

Overall, I feel that this distribution, though very good, still needs some final polish.

Posted by: duskfire | May 31, 2014

Now using LMDE 201403

So this morning I downloaded the brand new Linux Mint 17 and eagerly installed it over the old Mint 16 KDE (after making backups of course). Unfortunately, it turns out that as I feared, Mint 17 has the same issue as Ubuntu and Kubuntu 14.04 do – my Realtek wireless card, an rtl8188ee, has an unreliable driver. After about 15 or 20 minutes of activity – or sometimes much less – the connection gets dropped and refuses to come back. I’ve tried a couple of suggestion from the forums, including using “sudo modprobe” with my card model, but to no avail. The kernel for Linux Mint 17 is 3.13.0-24-generic. I suppose one solution is to install an older kernel and always use it, but I haven’t decided if that’s what I’m going to do. I was hoping there would be some kind of firmware fix soon.

In the meantime, I have decided to dual-boot my computer. I shrank the partition and created a new 348 GB one, onto which I installed LMDE 201403.After installing LMDE, I had to return to Mint 17 and update the GRUB entries so it would “see” and list the Debian partition.  The kernel version for this is 3.11.2-amd64. I don’t have any problems staying connected to the internet on this version.

This edition of LMDE uses Cinnamon as the desktop, version 2.0 (the new version is 2.2). Firefox starts at version 27 but can be updated to the most current one. I installed Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (version 13),  Code::Blocks (12.11),  and a few more casual games. I also grabbed DBGL to use DOSbox, and will compile Nethack4 to play. Haven’t decided whether to review LMDE just yet.

Posted by: duskfire | May 28, 2014

Plans for June

I am working on a review of the latest Pinguy OS, a Linux distro that I haven’t taken a look at before. Planning to put that post up on Sunday.  My main project for this coming weekend is to install Linux Mint 17 onto this main laptop – assuming that it gets released on schedule.  This is an HP Pavilion 17 from last year, with 700 GB hard disk, 8 GB of RAM, and an ATI Radeon 8650G graphics card. That’s not the very best, but certainly respectable, and it hasn’t had any problem playing the games I love.

I will make sure my bookmarks and important files are backed up this time, of course. I also need to have information on overcoming a potential wireless issue, just in case it crops up again – When I initially installed Ubuntu 14.04 on this machine, the wireless connection kept dropping after periods of 10 to 15 minutes of use. Then, when I tried Kubuntu, the same problem re-appeared. Now, I can’t be certain that it will show up after installing Linux Mint, but it is best to be prepared.

Linux Mint 17 is an LTS release, and they plan to support it for 5 years. This is great news – there are a few long-term projects that I’d like to work on, and keeping the same OS around for a long time is a necessity to get them done. One such project is a second attempt to learn Linux From Scratch. Awhile back, I had put up two posts about my work with LFS, but unfortunately abandoned the project way too early.

There’s also my plans to review and compare the current releases of FPS games for Linux, as well as other games native to Linux.

 

I have been using Oracle’s Virtualbox to get an idea of what various Linux distros look and feel like, in order to decide which ones I should install onto my older laptop for review. I was surprised to find that, at least for the 64-bit version of VB, PCLinuxOS and Slackel seem to boot up, but then fail to display. Could be a problem with VB and a pae setting, but I’ll have to do more research to be certain.

Posted by: duskfire | May 25, 2014

PCLinuxOS 2014 review

PCLinuxOS has been around since 2003, and is one of the distributions of Linux that are termed “rolling distributions”. What this means is that once you install it, it should constantly receive updates and you won’t need to install a “newer” version six months or a year later. Just recently, Texstar and his team have put up more current installation images (for people who are just now trying out this interesting Linux distribution). I used this particular distribution for a year or two about 8 or 9 years back. I got started in Linux with Mandrake 8.0, and this was a very familiar and newbie-friendly version of Linux to use.

As best I can tell from the website, the primary edition of PCLinuxOS is termed “KDE Full” and is a 1.6 GB iso file. There is also a KDE MiniMe, a MATE edition, one with the LXDE Desktop, and finally one called “Fully Monty” which is KDE again, but really large (> 4 GB).

In this review, I’m going to look at both the KDE Full edition and the KDE MiniMe one. I’m using the old Gateway M460 laptop for this review, with 2 GB of RAM and an integrated graphics card.

KDE FULL

Installation

As should be no surprise these days, installation was fairly simple and took under half an hour. The LiveDVD asks you to provide your preferred keyboard layout, and the draklive installer will ask one main question – what kind of installation you want. It provides a warning about wiping your information to confirm you are ready to proceed, then installs all of its stuff. After installation you are asked about timezone and UTC/local time,  you set a root password, and then set up at least one user. When setting passwords for root and any users, there is no strength check provided. The value of providing a “password strength” check is questioned by some people, but it’s a useful feature in my opinion – especially for the less-savvy folks who I think are the main target audience for PCLinuxOS.

Your wireless security password is carried through to post-installation, which is nice. Like many other rpm-based Linux distributions, PCLinuxOS doesn’t disable the root password and use “sudo”; to carry out administrative tasks you switch from a regular user to root.

One issue is that my resolution initially was set too low, to 1024×768. This is because PCLinuxOS retains the “xorg.conf” settings file in the /etc/X11 directory. Once I removed it, my resolution became 1400×1050 – a little high, but easier to deal with.

Features

The KDE Full edition is LOADED. There are about 40 games and over 80 other programs installed, in categories from Archiving and File Tools. to Graphics, Office, Sound, and Video.

If you are in school, or have a child who is, you will be pleased to find that PCLinuxOS apparently installs the entire KDE-edu package – about 20 specialized math and science applicationss!

PCLinuxOS uses the Synaptic package manager to install and remove programs; they use an rpm version of apt-get on the backend. Java and most media codecs come installed out of the box; you can watch YouTube, Hulu, or Apple movie trailers.

The default desktop looks like this:

Desktop

Along the bottom are the Application Launcher Menu, Show Desktop, Configure Desktop, Configure Computer, Synaptic Package Manager, and File Manager (Dolphin). Two virtual desktops are accessible. Over on the right are the Update notifier, the network manager, clipboard, volume control, and time/date. The Launcher menu is a customized version of the Classic menu, and is not switchable with Kickoff like in a stock KDE install. The update notifier needs to be right-clicked to bring up a menu of choices.

The main menu feels cluttered, honestly. I haven’t used PCLinuxOS in years, and I can only assume that Texstar and other fans like the organization, but for someone new it doesn’t always make sense. For instance, there’s no “Administration” section. There’s a “More Applications” area which leads to ten OTHER categories, including some that seem to be administrative. Education (with Sciences) deserves to be in the main menu. KMyMoney could easily be put in the “Office” category”

Software

Some of the programs installed include: Skype, Calibre, TVTime, VLC, Juk music player, a radio station player, GIMP, Hugin, Inkscape, ImageMagick, Choqok (aTwitter client), KMyMoney, and the entire LibreOffice suite (6 programs). There’s a link to install Oracle’s Virtualbox if you want. Surprisingly, only one editor seems to be installed (Kwrite).

The repositories contain over 13,000 programs, files and libraries.

Printer support, especially for HP printers, is ready “out of the box.” My printer was no trouble to detect and add to the list.

printer-2If your goal is software development, the repositories include IDEs and files to work on Haskell, the latest Python and Perl releases, Java, Lisp, mono and gtk#, PostgreSQL, MySQL,  REALbasic, and of course C and C++.

Games

This main edition contains about 40 games and a few toy apps installed right out of the box. Among them are MahJongg, Breakout, Mines, a Tetris clone, Go (but not Chess, surprisingly), Sudoku, a Risk clone, Breakout, Reversi, and 2 Solitaire applications (PySolFC and KPat). Plenty of casual ways to waste time!

Although the repositories are smaller than the ones for Debian or Ubuntu, the most popular games can be found and installed. MegaGlest, Freeciv, Battle for Wesnoth, Widelands, OpenTTD, and many more await you.

DBGL (for playing DOS games) seemed to work well once you installed the 2 prerequisite libraries and unpacked it. PlayOnLinux and Wine are in the repositories.

Help and Support

PCLinuxOS has documentation built right in – one of the 3 entries in the “Documentation” menu slot brings up this window:

pclos-documentation

For additional help, the forums are a useful starting point. Also, PCLinuxOS is unique in that they produce a monthly free e-magazine, which can be obtained in several formats or viewable online. The links are on the lower left-hand side of the main website.

Likes

- Runs fine on older hardware

- LOTS of programs installed.

- virtual desktops shown by default

Dislikes

- the menu could be a bit more sensibly organized.

On the next page, I’ll take a brief look at the MiniMe edition and then reveal my final thoughts.

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