Monday, December 30, 2013

In search of the Best KDE Linux distro of 2013: A comparison of 19 leading KDE operating systems

KDE is possibly the most versatile desktop environment that I've used. It ships with a host of cross-platform applications designed to run on Linux, BSD, Windows, and even Mac OS X. I don't know of any other desktop environment with that capability. Today almost all major Linux distros have a KDE version and distros like OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Kubuntu, SolydK, PCBSD, etc. have KDE spins as their flagship distros. Also, KDE is quite similar to Windows 7 (at least superficially) and hence, finds easy acceptance among new Linux users migrating from MS Windows.

From Best KDE Distros
Like 2012, I round up the year with a comparison of the latest KDE distros and check who fared better than the others. For this analysis, I pick up 19 KDE distros, 5 from Ubuntu & it's derivatives, 4 from Debian spins, 3 from Arch spins, 3 from RedHat spins, 3 from Mandriva and 1 from Gentoo. Somehow I could not include Slackware & Slackware based distros (I didn't try them out) and Sabayon, a Gentoo derivative (didn't boot from live USB due to Nvidia driver issue, 32 bit works well but this review is limited to 64-bit distros only), in my review.

Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO (GB) Base Desktop Linux kernel
Bridge Linux 2013.06 1 Arch KDE 4.10.4 3.12.5
Calculate Linux 13.11 KDE 2.3 Gentoo KDE 4.11.3 3.10.19
Chakra Fritz 2013.09 1.8 Arch KDE 4.11.1 3.10.10
Debian KDE 7.3.0 0.651 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0
Fedora 20 KDE 0.928 Fedora KDE 4.11.3 3.12.5
Korora 19.1 2.4 Fedora KDE 4.11.1 3.11.2
Kubuntu 13.04 0.9371 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0
Kubuntu 13.10 1 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0
Kwheezy 1.4 4 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0
Mageia 3 1.4 Mandriva KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0
Manjaro 0.8.8 KDE 2 Arch KDE 4.11.3 3.10.24
Mint 15 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0
Mint 16 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.3 3.11.0
Neptune 3.3 1.9 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.11.2 3.10.12
Netrunner 13.06 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0
OpenSUSE 13.1 4.4 OpenSUSE KDE 4.11.2 3.11.6
PCLinuxOS 2013.12 1.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.3 3.4.70
ROSA Fresh KDE R2 1.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.3 3.10.19
Solydk 2013.11 1.6 Debian Testing KDE 4.11.3 3.10.3

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Linux Mint 16 KDE Review: With KDE 4.11.3 and offers superb performance!

It is not easy for a distro to stay number 1 in Distrowatch ranking for last 2-3 years displacing operating systems like Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, etc. And Linux Mint is doing the same release after release, each release beating previous releases in terms of functionality and performance. The latest release from Mint stable is Linux Mint 16, code named "Petra". First the Cinnamon and Mate spins got released followed by KDE and XFCE spins. I have already reviewed Cinnamon and Mate releases. In this review, I am taking up the KDE spin. I plan to write a comparison of the best XFCE releases of 2013 and plan to cover the Mint 16 XFCE there.
For this review, I downloaded the 64-bit 1.3 GB Mint 16 KDE ISO. It ships with KDE 4.11.3 and Linux kernel 3.11.0. I created a live USB using Mint Image Writer (I am currently using Mint 16 Cinnamon on my production laptop). I first did a live boot on my Asus K55VM laptop (2.3 Ghz Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M) and once satisfied, installed on a 70 GB partition.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fedora 20 "Heisenbug" KDE Review: With KDE 4.11.4 & kernel 3.12 now, bleeding edge but stable!

Honestly when I started using Linux back in 2009, I didn't like Fedora much. Ubuntu was my choice for being easy, fast and efficient. However, as I matured as a Linux user, my fondness of Fedora increased. I reviewed Fedora 19 in July 2013 and was very impressed with the performance it offered. Fedora's latest release Fedora 20 "Heisenbug", named after a bug, was released on 17-Dec-2013. This year witnessed 3 Fedora releases and having used all of them, I had built my expectations - I didn't expect anything radically different but functional incremental innovation over tried and tested desktops. I guess Fedora 20 lived up to my expectation in some aspect and not fulfill in certain others. I'll take you step by step through my experience of using Fedora 20 KDE over the last one week or so.
Fedora 20 comes in all popular flavors: KDE, GNOME 3, XFCE, LXDE and Mate. I start my review with the KDE spin, I liked it most while reviewing Fedora 19. I downloaded the 928 MB 64-bit ISO and used Mint Imagewriter to create a live USB. I did a live boot and then installed on my Asus powerhouse (K55VM, Core i7 2.3 Ghz quad core processor 3610QM, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and NVIDIA 630M GeForce hybrid graphics). 

When I installed Fedora 20 shipped with KDE 4.11.3 and kernel 3.11.10. However, 3 days ago I received update for KDE 4.11.4 and kernel got updated to 3.12.5. Think about it - Fedora users have already started using the 3.12 kernel and Ubuntu users will receive it in April 2014 once 14.04 LTS release comes out! Fedora is definitely bleeding edge!

Fedora 20 still ships with X window system and I guess we need to wait a bit for Wayland. I guess in 2014 we get to see Wayland in Fedora and Mir in Ubuntu. Anyway, being a casual user, I feel I won't even notice much difference between the two!

In this review, I start with aesthetics, hardware recognition, applications, bugs that I noted, good points that I noted and finally, performance compared to other relevant KDE distros that I've used on this machine.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Linux Deepin 2013 Review: Refreshing and Elegant but with some minor quirks!

Linux Deepin has always been a special distro to me - an Asian distro with a distinct theme and an elegant attractive interface. This Chinese distro ships with it's own home-grown desktop environment: Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE), based on GNOME 3 along with a host of goodies that makes it very usable for common Linux users. I was very impressed with the previous release 12.12.1 and once the release notes for 2013 final came out, I was more than interested to try out to check if there is any significant improvement in the appearance and/or performance of the distro.

From Linux Deepin 2013
I downloaded the 64-bit Linux Deepin 2013 ISO, about 1.3 GB in size for this test and installed on my Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 GB Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics. As mentioned, Linux Deepin 2013 ships with a home-grown DDE desktop, tweaked from GNOME 3 and Linux kernel 3.8.0 and Files 3.8.1 as file manager. This version is based on Ubuntu Raring and supported till January 2014.

From Linux Deepin 2013

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Calculate Linux 13.11 Review: Gentoo Simplified and works well with Nvidia hybrid graphics!

After more than 2 years of trying out more than 200 different distros, I noticed that I haven't really cut my teeth onto a couple of Linux branches, Gentoo and Slackware, that much. I don't directly jump to Gentoo in this article but take up a Gentoo spin, Calculate Linux. It is a Russian distro based on Gentoo Linux and has a rolling release, which means that once you install you need not to re-install it again till it breaks. Calculate Linux comes in a variety of flavors (KDE, GNOME and XFCE) and ships Desktop, Server and Media Center editions. It is available in both 32 and 64-bit builds and I chose the Calculate Linux 2013.11 64-bit build KDE edition for this review.

From Calculate Linux 13.11
I created a live USB of the 2.3 GB 64-bit Calculate Linux ISO using Mint Image Writer. I used my Asus K55VM laptop (2.3 Ghz Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics) to try out Calculate Linux. It supports live boot and options are there to boot the full desktop, text only and load it on RAM before booting the desktop. I chose to boot the full desktop. Post live boot, I chose to install it on a 20 GB partition.

Calculate Linux 2013.11 ships with KDE 4.11.3 and Linux kernel 3.10.19. It is a rolling release distro and keeps getting updated every time. Hence, KDE version or Linux kernel version may be more advanced if you download and install after reading my review.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Linux Mint 16 "Petra" Cinnamon and Mate Review: Mint has done it again!

We have all seen Ubuntu 13.10 and the incremental improvements that it brought. Though the distro in itself was really good but it wasn't something tempting enough to actually leave Ubuntu Precise, the LTS one with support till April 2017, and adopt Ubuntu Saucy Salamander, with 6 months of support. At that point in time, I thought Mint would make it's release pretty soon. So, ultimately, on the last day of November 2013, the Linux Mint 16, named Petra, is out with it's home grown desktops, Cinnamon and Mate. I thought still 4+ months support is remaining for Saucy and hence, possibly worth trying.

Cinnamon Desktop From Linux Mint 16 Petra
I downloaded the 32-bit ISOs (with pae kernel and hence, works very well with 64 bit machines), each about 1.2 GB in size and installed them on separate partitions on my two machines:
  • Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor with 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M hybrid graphics
  • Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor with 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics

Like Ubuntu Saucy, Linux Mint 16 ships with Linux Kernel 3.11.0 with Cinnamon 2.0 and Mate 1.6 desktop environments. Except for the difference in DE, there is little to differentiate between the two distros. First I take up the incremental improvements that are in the release notes and additional improvements that I experienced during my usage.

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 Review: Looks awesome but needs to improve functionality and performance

I have been following OpenMandriva for quite sometime, occasionally testing their release candidate distros as well. For those who are not aware of the latest Mandriva spin on the block, OpenMandriva distribution is a full-featured Linux desktop and server, sponsored by the OpenMandriva Association. It is based on ROSA, a Russian Mandriva fork, and hence, the look and feel of OpenMandriva is too similar to ROSA. With Mandriva dead, OpenMandriva joins three of my favorite distros, PCLinuxOS, Mageia and ROSA, as the surviving Mandriva spins. The formal release of OpenMandriva came out on 22 Nov 2013 and like any other Linux enthusiast, I seriously wanted to give it a try.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0
I download the 1.6 GB 64-bit ISO for this review. I created a live USB using Linux Mint ImageWriter (works with more distros than Unetbootin), did a live boot and installed it on my favorite two machines:

  • Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M graphics
  • Asus K54C laptop 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics

I wanted to check the performance of the distro in both hybrid and single graphic card environment. Hence, the dual machine. Further, I installed it in virtualbox to record the installation process.

OpenMandriva is forked from Mandriva and ships with KDE 4.11.2, Linux kernel 3.11.8 and Dolphin 4.11.2 as file manager. Like ROSA, OpenMandriva too ships with the most modern but stable Linux software. Next I take you through step by step my experience of using OpenMandriva for a week.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

OpenSUSE 13.1 KDE Review: Very refined and functional!

I have been wanting to review OpenSUSE for quite sometime but somehow lost interest in OpenSUSE last year. However, with the release of OpenSUSE 12.3, my interest in OpenSUSE was back but I didn't get much time to critically review it. So, I was eagerly waiting for the 13.1 release to come out. Now after having used 13.1 for around a couple of weeks, I am finally penning down my review. Why a couple of weeks of wait for OpenSUSE? Because I have become quite an expert in Ubuntu and Arch Linux spins but my knowledge was pretty limited as far as OpenSUSE is concerned. So, it took a bit of my time to learn and then critically evaluate this distro.
From OpenSUSE 13.1

For this review, I downloaded the 4.1 GB 32-bit and 4.3 GB 64-bit ISOs which come with both GNOME 3 and KDE desktop along with a whole lot of application. I downloaded both as I wanted to install the 64 bit version to my production laptop. For this test, I used a couple of machines:

  • Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Intel Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M 2 GB graphics
  • Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Intel Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics

The first one is my production laptop and after using Debian and Ubuntu derivatives for the last 3 years on it, I wanted a change. The second one is on which I record the RAM / CPU usage for comparison purposes.

OpenSUSE has a 900 MB live ISO as well for both GNOME and KDE desktop. I chose the heavier DVD as I wanted to see what extra it gives over the lighter version. Anyway, I used Linux Mint Imagewriter and an 8 GB pendrive to create a live USB of OpenSUSE. I didn't try out Unetbootin and not sure how OpenSUSE works with Unetbootin. Anyway, Mint Imagewriter is derived from OpenSUSE Imagewriter and I hoped it would work with OpenSUSE. And it worked really well.

I tried out the KDE platform and not the GNOME one. OpenSUSE 13.1 ships with KDE 4.11.2 and Linux kernel 3.11.6. Dolphin 4.11.2 is the default file manager.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Pear OS 8 "Rocha" Review: Very very elegant!

I have been following Pear Linux/OS for quite sometime. In fact, in between, I used Pear OS 6, the LTS one, as my main production distro for quite sometime last year. Pear OS intrigues me primarily because of it's striking resemblance to Mac OS X and inherent simplicity of the controls. Pear OS 8, based on Ubuntu 13.04 or Ubuntu Raring Ringtail, is the latest release from their stable. Unfortunately this release comes a bit late with the Ubuntu Raring already 6+ months old and Ubuntu Saucy (the latest version) already released. So, my basic interest was how the latest release of Pear OS fare against the previous LTS release: Pear OS 6 with support till April 2017.

From Pear OS 8
Pear OS 8 release states the following incremental improvements:
  • New refreshing design with an intuitive and powerful desktop environment
  • No unnecessary programs or trial software to slow things down
  • Pear Cloud to share files across platforms
  • Utility software like MyPear 6, Clean My Pear 2, etc. to provide easy customization options for users
I downloaded the 1 GB 32-bit ISO for this test, created a live USB using Unetbootin. I used a couple of laptops for this test:
  • Asus K54C with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM & Intel HD 3000 128 MB graphic memory
  • Asus K55VM with 2.8 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM & Nvidia GEFORCE 2 GB graphic card
I did a live boot on both the laptops and then installed Pear OS 8. The primary reason for installing in a couple of laptops is that throughout 2012-13, I used Asus K54C for testing the Linux distros and record benchmark performance. However, now with a lot of improvement going on as far as drivers for dedicated graphic cards are concerned, I intend to use Asus K55VM for all purposes in 2014. Hence, in the transition phase I am using both the laptops.

Pear OS 8 ships with tweaked GNOME 3.6.3 and Linux kernel 3.8.0. Nautilus 3.4.2. I expected Pear to migrate to the more modern Nautilus fork Files; anyway, both are one of the best file managers in business.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ubuntu 13.10 "Saucy Salamander" Review and comparison: Ubuntu 13.10 vs Kubuntu 13.10 vs Xubuntu 13.10 vs Lubuntu 13.10 vs Ubuntu GNOME 13.10

Someone asked me yesterday that why I didn't review Ubuntu 13.10, the flagship OS of Canonical, though I reviewed all the other flavors. Well, there are a couple of reasons:

1. Except for Smart scopes and Nvidia support, there is not much difference with Ubuntu Raring
2. A lot of Linux experts wrote some high quality reviews of Ubuntu and I guess, I didn't have much to add.

So I thought of writing a different kind of review - a brief discussion about my experience with the new Ubuntu and a detailed comparison with Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Ubuntu GNOME. I used a couple of machines for testing Ubuntu and other distros:
  • Asus K54C laptop (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD 3000 graphics 128 MB)
  • Asus K55VM laptop (2.9 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, NVIDIA GEFORCE 630M 2 GB graphics
From Ubuntu 13.10
I generally prefer using my Asus K54C for Linux testing. But, of late, given the importance of Nvidia graphics (which generally comes with most of the modern systems), I am thinking to make my Asus K55VM as the primary machine to test Linux distros. Hence, I start with Ubuntu 13.10 with the new laptop. Though still I'll be using 32-bit OS but in 2014 I have decided to totally shift to 64-bit OS, keeping with the changing times.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Voyager Live 13.10 Review: Ships with a lot of features - definitely the most impressive XFCE distro I've used!

As mentioned in my previous review on MakuluLinux, last one week I was busy in using MakuluLinux and Voyager Live as my primary distros. And I must say it has been an wonderful experience so far. Yesterday I penned down my review on MakuluLinux and today I am attempting to jot down my experience with Voyager.

From Voyager 13.10
Voyager Live is a French distro which combines Xubuntu with an aesthetically pleasing interface. I can put the words written about Voyager from Distrowatch: "Its features include the Avant Window Manager (AWN), Conky and over 300 photographs and animations that can be used as desktop backgrounds". The latest release from Voyager stable is a spin of Xubuntu 13.10. I downloaded the 32-bit ISO (~1 GB in size). Like Xubuntu, it ships with Linux kernel 3.11.0 and a customized XFCE 4.10 desktop.

I created a live USB of Voyager 13.10 using Unetbootin. Post live boot, I installed it on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

MakuluLinux 4.2 Review: Refreshing all purpose Debian spin but has some minor bugs!

For last 4-5 days, I was busy in testing a couple of pretty good XFCE distros - MakuluLinux and Voyager 13.10. Actually I am bit tired of reviewing the established names in the Linux world - they come pretty much configured to work on commonly available systems and there is very little surprise in store. Of late, the new and relatively unknown distros seem more appealing to me due to a couple of reasons: A. they try to ship some additional elements over and above the established names, B. they are not as ready to use as the established distros and challenge a bit of my limited Linux knowledge to make them work.

Though neither Makulu, nor Voyager are in the B group, but both of them come across as exciting distros worth exploring in my test use. I start with Makulu Linux 4.2 with XFCE 4.10 desktop. In my next review I'll focus on Voyager 13.10.
From Makulu Linux 4.2

Actually I was not much aware of MakuluLinux before this review and hence, I thought a short introduction (from Distrowatch) deem necessary. MakuluLinux is a South African distro based on Debian testing branch and ships with most of the commonly used DEs like Cinnamon, KDE, GNOME, XFCE, Mate, etc. It includes pre-installed multimedia codecs, plugins, device drivers and software for everyday use. Makulu means "big" in Zulu language and it is amply evident with a big hippopotamus as their distro icon!

For this review I downloaded the 32-bit ISO (a whopping "big" 1.9 GB in size). I created a live USB using Unetbootin with a 4 GB USB drive. For this test, I used Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics. I did a live boot followed by installation on a 12 GB partition.

MakuluLinux is based on Debian testing ("Debian Jessie") and ships with Linux kernel 3.10.3 and XFCE 4.10. In the following sections, I'll discuss the interesting features of MakuluLinux that compelled me to write this review.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 "Saucy Salamander" Review: With improved GNOME 3.8 and performs better than Unity 7

When GNOME switched to the 3rd version, initially it was plagued with a whole lot of controversies. Ubuntu came up with Unity DE and gave up pure GNOME 3 momentarily to again be back with a GNOME 3 spin in the Raring Ringtail release. There was no LTS release earlier but this time the Ubuntu GNOME team is gearing up for the 14.04 LTS release. I guess that is a great news for all GNOME lovers.

From Ubuntu GNOME 13.10
All these happened due to incremental improvement in functionality and stability of GNOME. Ubuntu GNOME 13.04 was released with GNOME 3.6 and the new release (Saucy Salamander) ships with the much improved GNOME 3.8.4 along with Linux kernel 3.11.0. As the release note states:
"The Ubuntu GNOME team is proud to announce the release of Ubuntu GNOME 13.10. Ubuntu GNOME aims to bring a mostly pure GNOME desktop experience to Ubuntu. Keeping in coordination with the Ubuntu Desktop team, we have decided to stay with GNOME 3.8 for the 13.10 release. Features: most of GNOME 3.8 is now included; many artwork improvements including new boot loader theme, Plymouth theme, wallpapers, installer slideshow and completed branding with our new logo; the new GNOME Classic session is included, to try it choose it from the Sessions option on the login screen; Ubuntu Online Accounts is no longer included by default."

I used the Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 distro for a week after installing it on my Asus K54C laptop (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD 3000 graphics).

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kubuntu 13.10 "Saucy Salamander" Review: Just got better with better animations, social network integration and much more!

Ubuntu 13.10 is released this month and I already reviewed Xubuntu and Lubuntu flavors. Next is line is Kubuntu 13.10 which ships with KDE 4.11.2 and Linux kernel 3.11.0. KDE 4.11 has impressed me a lot and I found it to be better than previous KDE editions in terms of support for modern hardware and animations. Also, OpenGL 3.0 plugin works superb with KDE 4.11. However, this distro is primarily meant for advanced hardware and may not give desired results. I used 32-bit Kubuntu 13.10 with Linux pae kernel 3.11.0 for this test and created a live USB using Unetbootin. The latest version of Unetbootin didn't work for me and I had to use version 494 to create Kubuntu live USB. Post that I installed it on my Asus K54C laptop (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics) on a 10 GB partition for this review.

From Kubuntu 13.10
Kubuntu Saucy comes with a few incremental improvements, as highlighted by the release note:
"Welcome to Kubuntu 13.10, a brand-new version with the latest KDE software to enjoy. Highlights: a new versions of KDE's Software Compilation 4.11 is featured in Kubuntu 13.10, adding faster Nepomuk indexing, Kontact improvements such as a new theme editor for e-mails, and preparing the ground for future developments using Wayland and Qt 5; Muon Discover - a friendly new way to discover and install applications; User Manager - a simpler way to manage your system users; wireless setup in installer; KDE Telepathy with better text editing and improved notifications; the new Network Manager applet gives a simpler UI for connecting to a range of network types; for a summary of the OS installed use the new About System page in System Settings....

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Xubuntu 13.10 "Saucy Salamander" Review: As good as ever!

Ubuntu 13.10 is out and brings with it some incremental innovations. I reviewed Lubuntu yesterday and next in line is another lightweight Ubuntu flavor - Xubuntu. This is another distro which didn't undergo significant overhaul like GNOME or KDE. It has stayed more or less consistent over the years, can be customized a lot and post GNOME 2, has been my preferred DE. Unlike LXDE, XFCE is a lot easier to use and many a times, I have recommended XFCE based distros to even Linux newbies. As you can understand, XFCE is one of the best DEs I have used.

From Xubuntu 13.04
With that introduction, you can understand that my expectation from Xubuntu 13.10 was of a relatively stable distro without any drastic change from it's predecessors, except updated applications and packages. The release note of Xubuntu 13.10 mentions of some incremental changes like:

"The Xubuntu team is delighted to announce the release of Xubuntu 13.10! Some of the highlights for Xubuntu 13.10 include: a new version of xfce4-settings has been uploaded, bringing amongst other things a new dialog to set up your displays; a tool for changing your theme colors easily, gtk-theme-config, has been added to the default installation; new wallpaper; new releases of our GTK+ themes (with GTK+ 3.10 support) as well as the LightDM greeter, fixing many visual bugs; updated documentation. Known problems: indicator sound no longer functions with Xfce indicator plugin; gmusicbrowser's albuminfo plugin is deactivated by default and causes the app to hang if enabled...."

For this review, I downloaded the 32-bit Xubuntu Saucy, about 850 MB in size. It ships with XFCE 4.10, Linux kernel 3.11.0 and Thunar 1.6.3 as the file manager along with a host of lightweight and not so lightweight applications. It is targeted to "normal" PC users who want most out of their machines and is also optimized for low end machines. I am using Xubuntu 13.04 on my Pentium 4 with 1.5 GB DDR RAM successfully and I am happy with it.

I used Unetbootin to create a live USB and did a live boot on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphic card. Once satisfied with live boot, I installed it on a 10 GB partition.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lubuntu 13.10 "Saucy Salamander" Review: Offers fantastic performance and possibly the best Lubuntu release I have used

The Ubuntu 13.10 release is out a couple of days ago and it is named as "Saucy Salamander" in continuation with the tradition of naming each release with an "Adjective Animal". I downloaded all five of the main releases: Ubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu. However, I start my review with my favorite of the Ubuntu flavors: Lubuntu.

Lubuntu combines the goodness of Ubuntu with the lightweight X11 desktop (LXDE) and lightweight applications. Lubuntu's website states that the target segment for Lubuntu are the "normal" PC users running on low spec hardware. However, Lubuntu has found acceptance among Linux users on account of a couple of things: (1) lower resource consumption, (2) relatively stable LXDE desktop (possibly becomes more relevant if I consider the changes going through in GNOME 3 and KDE 4, and not to forget Ubuntu's own Unity). Constraints are there as well - LXDE may not be the easiest DE to configure for Linux novices.

From Lubuntu 13.10

The release note of Lubuntu 13.10 in Distrowatch states of the following improvements:
"Julien Lavergne has released Lubuntu 13.10. Features: based on the lightweight LXDE desktop environment; PCManFM - a fast and lightweight file manager; Openbox -a fast and extensible default windows manager of LXDE; LightDM using a simple GTK+ greeter; Firefox as the new web browser for Lubuntu 13.10; based on Ubuntu 13.10. Improvements since Lubuntu 13.04: new version of PCManFM and libfm (1.1.0) including a built-in search utility; artwork improvements, including new wallpapers, community wallpapers and new icons; removed Catfish since PCManFM has its own search utility; fixed a very old bug causing GNOME MPlayer to crash with some CPUs; several fixes for the GPicView image viewer."

I downloaded the 700 MB 32 bit ISO for review. Generally I find 32-bit with pae kernel offer better performance over the 64 bit versions. Further, a lot of applications work better with 32-bit versions. I used Unetbootin to create a live USB and then install it on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics. I used a 10 GB partition to install the distro. Lubuntu 13.10 comes with LXDE 0.5 desktop with Linux kernel 3.11.0 and PCManFM 1.1.2 as file manager.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Point Linux 2.2 Review: Beautiful Debian spin with Mate desktop

Honestly, for quite sometime I stopped reviewing Mate distros as they were not appealing enough. Mate seemed to be a poor cousin of GNOME 3 and not as appealing as GNOME 2, still my favorite distro. Though Mate is forked from GNOME 2 but it didn't come across compelling enough for me to adopt it. I was happy with XFCE and KDE, as better alternatives. However, last week I came across a really awesome distro - Point Linux 2.2 which changed my mind. Point Linux 2.2 is based on Debian Wheezy and a marginal improvement over Point Linux 13.04.1. I missed the first release but was pleasantly surprised by the second update.

From PointLinux 2.2
Point Linux is a Russian distro based on Debian Stable and comes with Mate desktop only. The present update has Mate 1.4.2 (and not 1.6, the latest one) and like Debian Wheezy, has Linux kernel 3.2.0. I downloaded the 32 bit ISO (~984 MB) for this test. I created a live USB using Unetbootin and booted it up on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics. Once satisfied that everything is working properly, I installed it on an 10 GB partition.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hanthana 19.0 Review: Sri Lankan spiced up Fedora, has some bugs but quite good in overall

The prime issue that I faced while migrating to Fedora from Ubuntu was the complexity involved in installation of proprietary codecs and flash plugins. Hanthana Linux is a step in that direction to provide new users a ready to use Fedora OS with all plugins and codecs along with a whole lot of applications. The concept is not novel though - Korora (formerly Kororaa) has both KDE and GNOME 3 spins on a similar concept.

From Hanthana 19.0
For this test, I downloaded the bulky 4 GB 32-bit ISO and created a bootable DVD. Neither Unetbootin, nor Fedora live usb creator worked even on an 8 GB pen drive. Anyway, the DVD is RW and I can utilize it for other purposes as well.So, no issues from my side.

Hanthana 19.0 is based on Fedora 19.0 and ships with GNOME 3.8.4 and Linux kernel 3.11.2. I used my Asus K54C (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR RAM, Intel HD 3000 graphics) for this purpose. First I did a live boot from the DVD and then installed it on a 20 GB partition.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

SolydK 201309 Review: Rock-solid Debian spin offering KDE 4.11.1

Linux Mint has some serious competition it seems! SolydXK is gradually growing on me and like me, on many other devoted Linux users. This distro right now comes in KDE and XFCE versions and is a spin off from the Linux Mint Debian. LM Debian as of now has two desktop environments, Cinnamon and Mate, and no longer supports XFCE or KDE. That is where SolydXK contributes; more specifically providing users a simple and ready to use spin of Debian with all the qualities of Linux Mint. It is targeted towards small and medium enterprises and non-government organizations in addition to the home users.

From SolydK 201309
For last one week or so I was doing all my regular work on either SolydK or SolydX. I already published my review on SolydX and now it is turn of SolydK. The KDE spin is aimed towards more modern hardware and comes with lot more goodies than the XFCE spin. For this review I used the 32-bit SolydK 201309 release; with an ISO of 1.5 GB, my expectation was that it will come fully loaded and SolydK didn't disappoint. One good point is that the 32-bit I used has both pae and non-pae kernels - it works well with both 32 and 64 bit machines.

SolydK 201309 ships with KDE 4.11.1 and Linux kernel 3.10.2. In my previous experience with KDE 4.11 (OS4 and Kubuntu 12.04.3), I found it to be the most efficient KDE, if one recalls. For this review, I created a live USB using Unetbootin, booted it up on my Asus K54C (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD 3000 graphics) followed by installation on the same laptop.
OpenSUSE theme on SolydK From SolydK 201309

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

SolydX 201309 Review: Simple, effective and efficient, as good as Linux Mint!

All those users fretting over the demise of Mint Debian XFCE spin can now rejoice with SolydX. It aims to provide users a simple, stable and secured operating system and targeted to small businesses, non-profit organizations in addition to the home users. SolydX is based on Debian testing branch and hence, gets updated applications more quicker than Debian stable. I tested the earlier releases and was very happy with it. However, I didn't get time to pen down a review. So, here I am finally with a review of one of my favorite distros, SolydX, more specifically the 201309 release of the same.

From SolydX 2013.09
The present release of SolydX brings on the table XFCE 4.10 and Linux kernel 3.10.2. I downloaded the 1.1 GB 32-bit ISO and created a live USB using Unetbootin. Next, I booted it on my Asus K54C laptop (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD graphics 3000), checked if everything worked fine and when satisfied, installed it on a 12 GB HDD partition.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Zorin 6.4 "Educational" Review: Very good for Kids, Fun to use, but lags a bit behind for Graduate students

During post graduate education and doctoral studies I was relying primarily on Windows 2000 and Windows XP to write my thesis. I could recall the nights spent with Adobe Pagemaker, LaTeX and MS Word for writing dissertation, managing references and citations using EndNote and many other software which actually helped me a lot in my research work. Unfortunately those days I wasn't initiated to Linux and today I feel Linux could have helped me a lot better to finish my work faster. For example, once my Windows crashed and I lost about 3 months of work. Fortunately, I had backup of my research data.

With that context, it is not surprising that I check out a lot of the Linux distros which come with "Education" tag. I tried UberStudent 2 earlier this year and was very impressed by the developer's focus on post graduate students. Similarly, Edubuntu is another distro which impressed me a lot. However, majority of the so-called "Educational" distros I tried have little to offer in terms of aesthetics. In fact, quite a few of them look pretty ugly and/or boring.

The Zorin 6 "Educational" is an effort in that direction to combine an aesthetically pleasing interface to a host of educationally relevant software. Like Zorin 6 Core, it is based on Ubuntu 12.04.*, has an LTS focus (5 year support ending Apr'17) and comes with a tweaked GNOME 3.4 DE.

From Zorin 6.4 "Educational"
I checked out Zorin 6 Educational earlier but didn't get time to write a review. So, here I am with my review of Zorin 6.4 Educational - the latest update which brings in the goodness of Ubuntu 12.04.3 release. 

One point here: unlike Ubuntu 12.04.3, Zorin still comes with long term Linux kernel 3.2.0 and hence, may not work as good as Ubuntu LTS on machines with the latest Intel Haswell processors.

Zorin 6.4 Educational comes in two flavors: one, heavier with GNOME 3.4 and another "lite" version with LXDE desktop. For this review, I used the GNOME one.

I first created a live USB of 32-bit Zorin 6.4 "Educational" ISO (~2 GB in size and with GNOME 3.4) using Unetbootin. Then I did a live boot followed by installation on my Asus K54C with Core i3 2.2 Ghz processor and 2 GB RAM. I have only proprietary Intel graphics and hence, didn't have to worry of installing Bumblebee or AMD Radeon specific drivers. Installation is pretty simple - for details please refer my Zorin 7 review.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Antergos 2013.08.20 GNOME Review: Most efficient GNOME 3.8 Distro I have used

Antergos started life in 2012 as Cinnarch, offering Cinnamon desktop with Arch Linux. It changed to Antergos after the developers opted for GNOME 3 as the default desktop and retained Cinnamon along with Openbox, Razor-qt and XFCE as the other DEs in offer. It has the same rolling release development model as the parent Arch Linux. Given I never liked Cinnamon, I didn't try out Cinnarch.

From Antergos 2013.08.20
An opportunity came this week when one of my friends bought a Lenovo Essential B490 laptop with the following specs
Laptop: Lenovo Essential B490
Processor: Core i5 (3rd gen.), 2.6 Ghz, Cache 3 MB
HDD: 500 GB, 7200 RPM
System Architecture: 64-bit

It didn't had any OS when my friend bought it. He wanted me to install Windows 7 (64-bit) along with a GNOME 3 Linux OS. He previously was using Ubuntu GNOME that I installed on his another laptop. These days I have developed more liking for Arch Linux over my long time favorite Debian/Ubuntu based distros. So among other GNOME 3 based distros to experiment with, I chose Antergos, whose latest release came on 20th August 2013.

The release note of Antergos 2013.08.20 states of a lot about the Openbox spin, may be I'll check it some other time. This time my focus was on GNOME.
We are glad to announce the release of Antergos 2013.08.20 with a lot of improvements in the installation process for you to enjoy your system from the start. This new release comes after several months' working mostly on our graphical installer Cnchi and on Remendo. Openbox has been included as an option to be installed along with GNOME, Cinnamon, Xfce, Razor-qt or Base. You will end up with a lightweight desktop, while having up to date software. The software included with Openbox was chosen to be in the line of the Openbox spirit.
Before installing on my friend's laptop, I tried it out on my Asus K54C with Core i3 2.2 Ghz processor & 2 GB DDR3 RAM laptop. I created a live USB of Antergos 32-bit ISO with Unetbootin. The live USB worked after making one change - the sysconfig.cfg file requires to be replaced, as instructed in the Arch wiki.

The distro booted up nicely on my Asus K54C with GNOME 3.8 desktop. Post live boot I did installation on a 12 GB HDD partition. Antergos 2013.08.20 ships with Linux kernel 3.10.0 and GNOME 3.8.4. Files 3.8.4 is the default file manager.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Manjaro 0.8.7 "Ascella" XFCE Review: Superb performance with professional looks!

Post Fuduntu, for last 3 months, I was searching for a suitable distro for my
Asus EeePC 1101HA with the following specs:

Processor: Intel Atom Z520 1.33 Ghz
Chipset: Intel US15W
RAM: 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM, 667 Mhz, PC-2 5300
Hard disk: 160 GB
Display: 11.6 in., LED backlight, 1366x768 HD resolution
Graphic Processor: Intel GMA 500

Manjaro XFCE on Asus EeePC 1101HA From Manjaro 0.8.7 XFCE
When I bought the machine in 2009, it had WinXP as the only OS. But, with time my interest in Linux increased and first it became dual boot with Ubuntu 11.04 (had a tough time in getting HD display, I recall, because there was no pre-installed Intel GMA 500 support); then finally it was Linux only with Fuduntu running on it for a couple of years. With the news coming out about Fuduntu's demise, I tried several other OS.

My netbook is too weak for GNOME3 or KDE4 - so I didn't try. I tried primarily LXDE and XFCE distros. I checked Lubuntu 12.04 first but flash videos and movie files would play real bad in it. Next I tried Mint, Zorin Lite and then Debian 7 LXDE. In the first two VLC didn't work that well with movie files whereas in Debian 7, everything worked awesome except for battery life. In Fuduntu, my netbook's 6 cell battery would last 5 hours of watching movies, browsing net, etc. In Debian 7 LXDE, battery would run out in an hour! Post that, I tried Archlinux as well with some success but the audio never got going.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kubuntu 12.04.3 Review: Good but AWESOME with KDE 4.11

Kubuntu 12.04 LTS received a new update a couple of weeks ago and I have been using it for last two weeks. I installed it on a partition in my Asus K54C laptop with Core i3 2.2 Ghz processor and 2 GB RAM. There is no separate graphic card option in this machine except Intel proprietary graphic card which came along with it.

The latest update came with some significant changes like drivers for the new Haswell processors, out of the box support for NVIDIA and AMD Raedon graphic cards, and a lot of bug fixes. However, unlike Ubuntu 12.04.3, updated Linux kernel 3.8.0 is not available to Kubuntu LTS yet - still running on LTS kernel 3.2.0. Unfortunately I don't have any laptop beyond Ivy Bridge and hence could check Kubuntu's latest update on systems with the most recent Haswell processors. Otherwise, in this write up I take you through my experience of Kubuntu for about 10 days.

From Kubuntu 12.04.3
Kubuntu 12.04.3 32-bit ISO is about 738 MB in size and I did a live boot followed by installation to my Asus K54C for this review. By default, it ships with KDE 4.8.5, which is still the stable release of KDE. It worked well but I decided to install KDE 4.11. My previous experience with KDE 4.11 in OS4 OpenLinux was really fantastic and I wanted to try it out in Kubuntu as well.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ubuntu 12.04.3 LTS Review: With much smoother Unity but no web apps yet!

Ubuntu is and always will be a special distro to me as my experience with Linux began with Ubuntu. I used it till 11.04 release, as long as the GNOME classic option was there and it supported customization. However, with Unity taking precedence in Ubuntu's flagship distro, I shifted to Linux Mint and other Ubuntu spins (with XFCE or KDE desktops). 

But, with the 12.04 release I started using Ubuntu with Unity 5 in patches again. I faced bouts of instability though initially with the LTS release. Things got a bit better in Ubuntu 12.04.1 which impressed me a lot and in one of my production  laptops, I switched back to Ubuntu again. This month Ubuntu released the 3rd update for the LTS release (Ubuntu 12.04.3). Surprisingly, there is no detailed release note yet. However, I try to take you through my experience with the present release and some of the improvements that I noted.

From Ubuntu 12.04.3

Ubuntu 12.04.3 comes with Unity 5 (Unity 5.20.0) and an upgraded Linux kernel 3.8.0; previous update had kernel 3.5.0. However, unlike Ubuntu 13.04, there is no Unity 7 in this update. I like the social networking features & social network integration in dash of Unity 7 and I miss those things in Ubuntu Precise. But, in terms of performance, possibly Unity 5 is more efficient. I'll cover a bit more on it in the performance section.

For this review, I did a live boot followed by installation of Ubuntu 12.04.3 32-bit version in my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. I generally don't prefer yet 64 bit versions as they are less efficient and rely more on 32-bit versions with pae kernel. The live USB was created using Unetbootin and I used a 4 GB USB drive for the same.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 Review: With KDE 4.11 and the most efficient KDE I have used!

I have been testing out OS4 for quite sometime, primarily their XFCE spins with BeeOS theme (in 13.6 release, of course, they changed it for better!). Mostly, they bring out user-friendly spins with all available multimedia codecs and plugins to make OS4 a good option for Linux novices as well as experienced users. For this review, I take up the latest update of OS4 KDE spin. OS4 OpenLinux 13 series is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and is supported till April 2017. The OS4 developers are moving towards KDE in their Enterprise Edition and possibly, KDE is right now in their center of things rather than XFCE. 

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

The OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 release note states of the "fastest KDE live image" showcasing the best of KDE, namely:

Today we are pleased to announce the release of OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 and OS4 Enterprise Linux 4.1.4. OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 is our updated KDE release that we provide for users. With OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 we have created a best of breed KDE desktop based system and the fastest KDE live image available. With that we also updated the OS4 OpenLinux core system with all applicable kernel bug fixes and updated kernel with new drivers and speed improvements. OS4 Enterprise Linux has undergone some major changes here. OS4 Enterprise Linux will be KDE-based for the rest of its life cycle. Xfce is still available via the custom image service. The DWM tiling window manager is still installed via default.

Naturally I was intrigued to test it out. I have used KDE 4.11 in Kubuntu 12.04 LTS earlier. I wanted to check what incremental benefits OS4 offers over Kubuntu.

The 32-bit ISO with pae kernel is about 1.6 GB in size. Even for 64 bit machines I prefer 32-bit ISOs with pae kernel as they are faster than the 64-bit ones and certain apps work better on 32-bit structure (like Skype). Anyway, the heavy ISO indicated that OS4 would be loaded with applications, and it didn't disappoint.

I created a live USB with unetbootin in a 4 GB pendrive. A live boot was followed by installation on Asus K54C with 2.2 Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. I removed all previous Linux installations from the laptop by using gparted live USB before the installation.

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