Sunday, August 24, 2008
Well, my experience with KDE is limited to Kubuntu with KDE 3.5 so this list is Kubuntu specific. I have read good thing about Kubuntu 4.1 and would love to try it out when Ibex comes out. Still you can’t deny that Gnome is far better (or useable) than KDE.
1. Obsession over K: All KDE developers have a stupid K fetish. If you take a look at KDE software, you’d notice that most if not all software's begin with the letter K. It gets frustrating to see the letter ‘K’ staring at you every where, you see- K-menu, Kaffine, K3B and in places where it is not used as the initial letter they capitalize it just to highlight its presence as in AmaroK. ‘K’ isn’t the sweetest alphabet. So sticking a ‘K’ in front of every name won’t make it sound cool like iPods and iPhones. Hell, if KDE developers had it on themselves they would rename our country to AmeriKa and our Earth to Kearth!
2. Too many options: KDE has way too many options. Sure customizations are all good and nice, but there has to be some limit to it. I don’t want to be presented with truckload of options while changing the wallpaper. Take a look on ‘Configure Konqueror’ option in Konqueror-the default browser for KDE. Any Linux newbie would be blown away with the obscene amount of customization options. Ever tried Nero or Opera and found it a bit bloated? Well ,try KDE and you will never call Nero bloated again. Here are 2 snapshots which tell the whole story. One id from Konqueror and the other from K3B (KDE Nero).
3. Adept isn’t Synaptic: If you have been used to Synaptic, Adept would seem too lag a bit behind. Neither does it show the size of packages being downloaded nor does it show the other dependencies being marked. How the hell am I supposed to know how much am I downloading? Would it hurt to add Synaptic instead of Adept?
4. KDE doesn’t necessarily come with the best softwares: KDE developers choose softwares on the basis whether or not they have an integral ‘K’ in it rather than the quality of software. So you will find softwares like Konqueror make the cut over Firefox, Kopete is the default IM client in place of Pidgin. Kopete doesn’t even have Gtalk protocol. Konqueror is fast but it doesn’t load all web pages, it has problems displaying even Gmail.
[Note: As Shaswat righty said, Kopete does indeed support Gmail, It is in the Jabber part. Still I wish they'd rename it Gmail.]
5. Pick one either Dolphin or Konqueror: As most of you know KDE uses both Konqueror and Dolphin for file navigation. This becomes confusing. Pick one and stick to it. Although Dolphin has one cool feature by which you can navigate as the root without doing any sudo thing.
6. Konfusing: Over all KDE is one of the most confusing systems to try out. Linux newbies and noobs will be pissed off by the level of stupid customizations. No wonder Canonical concentrates mainly on Ubuntu (Kubuntu is the long lost brother).
7. The Wallet: Am I the only one or are you with me on this one. In Konqueror if you save password for some website, this 'wallet' password pops up and in order to save the password you have to type another password in the wallet. Hell! Imagine doing this for each and every website which asks for password. Sure some might argue that it is a security feature, but wait, which is more prone to password theft, typing the password once or doing it two times and giving others two opportunities to take a peek at what you are typing?
I hope KDE 4.1 is far better than 3.5 and I’m willing to plunge into KDE once more when Intrepid Ibex comes over.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
When the first few Ubuntu Ibex alphas were released one of the 'features' was the new all dark theme. It was expected to be an improvement over the usually ugly Ubuntu. The new theme was supposed to be shipped with Hardy Heron, however it was still unfinished and hence the decision to include it was scrapped. This led to heightened expectations from Ibex. Personally I was expecting a beautiful desktop which would set an example for other distros. However I was (like everyone else) disappointed. The NewHuman theme was ugly to say the least. There was huge out cry on the web. Some blogs called Ibex the ' Ugliest Ubuntu Ever?'.
One of the common things about all Ubuntu alpha reviews were the comments sections. Every one criticized the new theme.
Thankfully Canonical listened to all the noises and changed the ugly Chocolate-Brown theme to the old Human-Murrine theme in the latest alpha 4. Hope fully they will add some nice theme for Ibex.
Are you happy with how things shaping up for Ibex?
Some reviews of Ibex (Read the comments):
Thursday, August 7, 2008
In my last post you read a review about Linux Mint, a distro which I referred to as Ubuntu ++. Well here are 7 reasons why Linux Mint is better than Ubuntu. Do tell me more if you have them.
1. Linux Mint = Ubuntu++: Linux Mint is basically Ubuntu with various goodies pre-installed. Linux Mint has a stellar “out of the box” experience.
2. Better media playback: Linux Mint comes with various codecs pre-installed, so no that you can play those mp3s right out of the box. DVDs too play out of the box.
3. Looks Good: Linux Mint comes with a beautiful blue theme. Even die-hard Ubuntu fans hate the ugly brown theme, Linux Mint simply looks better. As a general overview Linux Mint's default look is very pleasant and professional looking showing the road to other desktop-oriented distros (listening Ubuntu?).
4. One Taskbar: Linux Mint does away with the dual panel approach by removing the top panel. The Linux Mint start menu, called mintMenu replicates the Windows start menu. People from Windows background will obviously prefer this.
5. Inclusion of essential softwares: Linux Mint comes pre-installed with Adobe Flash, Java and also Envy. I know, all these softwares can be downloaded for Ubuntu too but there are few things which can go wrong with the Ubuntu approach. While installing Adobe flash for Firefox I selected Gnash. Although I support open source, Gnash sucks! Hope it improves.
6. MintUpload: An FTP client that uploads files to a server by right-clicking on the icons and selecting upload. The user will then be given a link he or she can give to other people for quick and easy sharing. An easier Rapidshare.
7. Linux Mint users can use Ubuntu forums too, since most hacks which are applicable to Ubuntu also apply to Mint.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Ubuntu is currently the top Linux distro. Thanks to its stability and open source nature many Linux distros have sprouted in recent times which are based on Ubuntu. Freespire, Mythbuntu are some of the more popular ones. However it is Linux Mint which takes the top spot in the race of Ubuntu spin-offs. Linux Mint is basically Ubuntu with a beautiful theme and in built proprietary codecs for playing media files (mp3's and other such stuff) out of the box. It also comes with better hardware drivers (for Wi-Fi and other things) and oh, most (98%) of Ubuntu hacks are applicable for Mint too. Mint also comes with a single taskbar. A question comes to my mind, Why would anyone download Ubuntu when Linux Mint provides all the goodies ob Ubuntu with some added extras? The only thing which go against Mint are its short support policy.
Here is an excellent review about Linux Mint from the site http://www.linux.com. The original article can be found here.
Linux Mint freshens Ubuntu's palate
By Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier on March 08, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)
Ubuntu is a strong desktop distro, but it falls short for some users in a few areas. Where are the multimedia codecs and DVD support, and what's with all the brown, for heaven's sake? If you'd like multimedia support with a minty fresh theme, try Linux Mint 2.2, an Ubuntu-based distro that throws in support for Flash 9, Windows Media Format, DVDs, MP3s, and troublesome wireless cards.
Linux Mint uses the Ubuntu Ubiquity installer. Just pop in the live CD, click the Install icon, and walk through a few simple questions, then wait for the installer to work its magic. After a short wait, Mint is installed and you can reboot into a fresh install.
I installed Linux Mint 2.2 ("Bianca") on a notebook with a Pentium 4, 1GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon R250 display adapter, Intel sound card, and an Intersil Prism wireless card. I'm also running an instance of Linux Mint 2.2 under VMware Server on my main desktop.
When I installed Linux Mint on the notebook, the live CD and initial install detected my wireless card just fine. After the install, I was prompted to upgrade packages. One of the updates I pulled down was a kernel update, from 2.6.17-10 to 2.6.17-11. After installing it and rebooting, Mint no longer detected the wireless card. I had to reboot into the old kernel to continue using the wireless network. It looks like this was a problem introduced upstream with the main kernel, as I've found some discussion of the problem on the Ubuntu forums.
Mint, like many distros, also had problems detecting the proper resolution for the laptop. The screen is supposed to run at 1400x1050, but Mint wanted to set the display to 1024x768. I had to hand-edit the xorg.conf file to set the resolution properly.
Other than those two glitches, Mint worked fine with the rest of the hardware.
I did a clean install; users who are running older versions of Linux Mint should check the wiki for instructions on moving from 2.0 to 2.2 -- it's not as straightforward as just running
Mint's custom configuration tools - click to view
Note that, unlike Ubuntu, Linux Mint is only available for x86 systems. If you want to run Linux Mint on an AMD64 system, you'll have to settle for 32-bit, and if you're on PowerPC, then no Mint for you!
What does Linux Mint offer?
Under the hood, Linux Mint is about 98% Ubuntu, so why would you want to install it rather than Ubuntu? Well, that 2% will be fairly attractive to a lot of users.
The most obvious difference between Ubuntu and Linux Mint is the theme, which is a refreshing blue rather than Ubuntu's standard brown. Mint's look and feel overhaul goes beyond the color scheme, though. Mint has a single taskbar by default which is arranged not dissimilarly to the standard Windows taskbar.
Like Ubuntu, Linux Mint defaults to the GNOME desktop, though the forums have a few discussions about Xfce and KDE releases for Bianca as well -- but those seem to be a ways out, at best. There's no reason that you couldn't install the kubuntu-desktop or xfce-desktop packages, which would still give you some of Linux Mint's advantages, but the desktops are not customized in the same way as GNOME's. Note that the first release of Linux Mint, "Ada," was actually based on KDE, but GNOME became the default with the next release.
The Linux Mint desktop - click to view
Mint's package selection is pretty close to Ubuntu's, but it does differ a little bit. For instance, Mint ships with Amarok rather than Rhythmbox, and no games are installed by default. As with Ubuntu, if the apps you want are not part of the default install, odds are that they are available with a quick
apt-get install or by using Synaptic. Mint actually uses Ubuntu's repositories, so everything that's available via Ubuntu should be available, plus the handful of custom applications for Linux Mint.
The main attraction for Windows refugees is that Mint ships with support for all the annoying proprietary multimedia formats right out of the box -- no fussing with repositories, no digging through wikis to see what packages need to be installed to play back the video on YouTube your dear aunt Petunia sent you a link to.
I tried YouTube, Windows Media files, QuickTime, and CSS-encoded DVDs, and everything played just fine -- no problems at all, and no need to install any packages myself. Mint also comes with Sun Java installed by default, and set up so the Java plugin works by default in Firefox.
Mint also has a modified main menu a la SUSE, with the applications, places, and system menus integrated into one menu. A similar main menu is also available in Ubuntu Edgy as an additional package, but it's not quite as well refined as the default menu that's included with Mint.
The Applications, Places, and System menus, as well as Beagle search, are integrated into the single system, so users have one handy spot to open applications, search for files, open Nautilus to display the home directory, or get to one of the configuration applets.
What's conspicuously absent from the system menu is any of the help and documentation that you'll find under the System menu in Ubuntu. Linux Mint does have a few help docs that jump out at you, though. When you start Firefox the first time, you'll see a custom page with a few links to Linux Mint resources, including the forums and wiki, and a "Tips and Tricks" page stored locally.
One thing I found slightly odd about the "Make yourself at home!" document, which is linked to from the Tips and Tricks, is that it walks the user through setting up keyboard shortcuts to control Amarok so that it's easier to set volume, navigate tracks, etc. That's lovely, but why don't the developers just ship Amarok with the recommended keybindings in the first place?
The rest of the tips provided are fairly useful, though they're missing some obvious tips, such as installing proprietary Nvidia or ATI drivers, that users are likely to be interested in.
Linux Mint ships with all the administration and preference apps that appear in Ubuntu, plus a few custom tools that don't. The MintDisk app lets users set preferences for mounting FAT32 and NTFS partitions, and allows users to control where automounted disks are mounted in the filesystem if the /media directory is not desirable for some reason.
Users who have wireless cards that are not supported by open drivers may have better luck with mintWifi, a tool to set up wireless cards using the Windows driver and NdisWrapper.
The configuration apps are all gathered in the mintConfig application, which organizes the configuration tools into groups. When you launch the mintConfig tool, you see several groups: Hardware, Devices, Networking, Administration, and Desktop. This is a good idea -- it's a little more organized than dumping all the config utilities into the GNOME Control Center -- but the groups are a bit muddled. For instance, I think a keyboard qualifies as hardware, but it's found under the Devices tab in the mintConfig window.
If multimedia is important to you, if you have a troublesome Wi-Fi card or chipset, or if you'd like a starter distro for someone trying to move away from Windows, Linux Mint is a good place to start. It has all the benefits of Ubuntu -- and lacks Ubuntu's bias toward shipping only the most necessary non-free drivers -- and offers a few added features to boot.
The real test for Linux Mint will be longevity. The Mint team is pushing out releases rapidly, about one every two months, and the support policy for older releases is not clearly delineated on the site. The introductory release was pushed out only last August, so the team doesn't have a year under its belt yet -- which makes me a bit hesitant to bet on the distro for the long haul, since so many distros stagnate and die within the first year or two of inception. If the Linux Mint team can sustain its energy through this August, I'll be eyeing Linux Mint as a serious desktop distro.
So what are you planning to download next time?
Sunday, August 3, 2008
By Ryan Paul | Published: June 20, 2008 - 08:00AM CT
Novell announced the official release of OpenSUSE 11 yesterday. It's the latest version of the community-driven Linux distribution and includes significant new features like the KDE 4 desktop environment and the PulseAudio sound server.
We tested both the GNOME and KDE flavors of OpenSUSE 11 by installing from the Live CD images. These work reasonably well and provide an installation experience comparable to that of Ubuntu and Fedora. The few minor issues that we encountered when we tested the beta 2 live installers back in May have all been resolved. There is also a full installer that is offered as a 4.3 GB DVD image. It provides a highly polished visual interface and an enormous package selection. For most users, who only require one desktop environment, the live installers are probably more practical than the full installer.
OpenSUSE 11 ships with KDE 4.0.4, which is acceptably stable. It's not quite ready yet for all KDE users, but it's far more complete and robust than the original KDE 4.0 release. The distribution also ships with full support for KDE 3.5 so that those users who aren't ready to make the switch yet aren't left out in the cold. Although 4.0.4 doesn't have the 4.1 plasma hotness, it does have usable implementations of important features like support for creating multiple panels, changing panel height, and setting the edge each panel is connected to.
The OpenSUSE GNOME installation uses version 2.22 of the desktop environment, which was released in March. GNOME 2.22 includes some important new architectural improvements like a new virtual filesystem layer.
The most recent versions of several popular applications are included in OpenSUSE 11, including the Firefox 3 web browser, which was released earlier this week. The installer ships with Firefox 3 beta 5, but the final version will be made available through an Internet update. OpenSUSE 11 also includes Banshee 1.0, a recently released overhaul of the popular open source audio player. As we noted in our recent review of Banshee 1.0 beta 2, it's an excellent program that delivers solid multimedia functionality and a very nice user interface.
OpenSUSE 11 also comes with the aesthetically rich Compiz window manager enabled by default, and it ships with a few cool new plugins like cube deformation that you won't find in the latest Ubuntu release.
This is a very strong OpenSUSE release with a lot of compelling improvements. OpenSUSE 11 offers the best KDE 4 experience out there and will continue to be our reference distribution for KDE testing. OpenSUSE 11 is also an increasingly solid choice for GNOME users—its unique GNOME customizations add a nice level of polish, and the inclusion of Banshee and Beagle ensure that it provides a better set of default applications out of the box than Ubuntu and Fedora. It's no Ubuntu-killer, but we can definitely expect to see OpenSUSE gain a larger following in the coming months.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Here is a great review of PCLinuxOS from the site distro-review . The original article can be found here.
Just take a look at the screenshots, isn’t it beautiful? Wish Ubuntu looked that nice! While Ubuntu may be the top distro, PCLinuxOS seems to be catching on. For the last 3 years Ubuntu topped the charts on http://distrowatch.com/ (Linux enthusiasts look up to this site for comparison among various distros), however PCLinuxOS had taken the top spot from Ubuntu for few months running. Currently OpenSUSE is currently leading and Ubuntu is on second spot.
PCLinuxOS Gnome 2.21.2
Submitted by seopher on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:31.
I have a lot of confidence in the PCLinuxOS guys (Texstar) because PCLinuxOS 2007 was (and still is) one of my favorite releases ever. I was worried for a while that nothing was going on in the PCLOS camp because there was no word of PCLOS2008. However what they were working on was PCLinuxOS Gnome 2.21.2 and I've finally got around to reviewing it.
PClinuxOS 2007 was possibly the best release of last year, so will this Gnome edition give Ubuntu some pressure?
Aesthetics and Live CD
PCLinuxOS was one of the most visually pleasing releases I've toyed with so I was somewhat surprised when I saw the LiveCD loading. It wasn't that attractive (in my personal opinion) and couldn't hold a flame to PCLOS2007, so what was going on?
PCLOS then began to toy with me by asking me which device I wanted to configure with a stylish prompt; a gentle gradient on the selected item topped off a sexy looking menu... So maybe the first screen I saw was overlooked somehow? Here's the menu:
But then once I'd configured my network device (which was unbelievably easy I might add) I was then prompted with another rather ugly screen prompting me to login:
I don't get it, PCLinuxOS 2007 had consistently excellent designs throughout, maybe the designers had gone on strike? However once you login and you're in the Gnome environment everything looks sexy again; subtle gradients, strikingly excellent icon designs and a clean, uncluttered (typically Gnome) environment. I don't get the whole journey but I really like it once you're logged in - and ultimately that's what counts. Maybe it's personal preference but the loading screens don't do it for me, but once you're in the system it's sexy. Very sexy.
Much like the KDE PCLOS, this Gnome edition uses the Draklive installer that comes with Mandriva and while some users don't like it I personally love it. I think it's the most intuitive installer around at the moment and that's excellent for new users who don't understand partitioning (etc). As always the installation goes smoothly with Draklive handling all my partioning for me with minimal intervention required. Anyone could install PCLOS.
Environment and Applications
PCLOS Gnome edition was released on December 28th 2007 and as such ships with Kernel 184.108.40.206, Gnome 2.21.2 and a bundle of default installed apps (Firefox, Azureus, XMMS, you get the idea). Listing the applications is folly when Synaptic is installed; just go shopping and download whatever you want. As my girlfriend put it "what, so it's like shopping online where everything is free?" It's worth noting though that a lot is on offer directly post-install for those who want instant "plug and play" functionality.
PCLOS picked up my network without issue (although I can't comment on wireless drivers because I'm using a wired connection). Once connected it picked up my windows network effortlessly and allowed me to access all my files in the Samba shares. Now that I'm on my network it's time to drag some media files over and see what the codec support is like. However, sorry about dragging on about aesthetics but how sexy is the below screenshot of me simply copying a file...
The selection of media files I tried playing all worked fine without requiring me to source some codecs so I can only assume PCLOS comes with popular ones preloaded. This is good because "normal" users want "plug-and-play" functionality, they don't want to have to faff around finding codecs and apt-getting packages. Media support in this release is excellent so that's good.
The PCLinuxOS control centre (that is used on both this Gnome version and the KDE 2007 one) is excellent. It's intuitive and powerful in equal measures. I like the wording used on the options "change the screen resolution" for example; these are terms that normal users will be comfortable with. "Display Settings" seems so cold and ambiguous so that's why I consider this configuration utility to be high on the usability scale.
Conclusion and Overall Thoughts
It's very polished, fast and thoroughly beautiful once you've gone past the confusingly ugly loading screens. It's very usable and while I (through personal preference) don't find Gnome environments as intuitive as KDE it still works together very well. Out of the box functionality is impressive and that's a desirable thing in modern linux distros. It's the overall feel that impresses me; the menus slide gently, the subtle gradients and excellent icon design give the feeling that a lot of thought went into the user experience.
Yet that just confuses me even more as to why the loading visuals (and even the default wallpaper) are a little less than sexy. Ho hum. Go try this release, it's worth a look as an Ubuntu alternative.
If there is any one distro apart from Ubuntu I would like to try it has to be PCLinuxOS.