Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HTPC problems...Fedora related

A few days ago I decided to try to re-set up my HTPC, which I built a while ago. Initially, I had it running Windows XP, almost solely because Netflix requires Silverlight, but now I decided to say "screw it" and go Linux.

There are 5 basic goals I want to get accomplished with this HTPC, which is essentially two things merged: a file server fused with an HTPC. An HTPC-S?
  1. Amahi Server
    • SSH/FTP server
    • Samba network
    • Local webserver toy
  2. Gaming
    • Retro gaming via emulators
    • Desura/Steam
    • Misc. Linux games (Wesnoth, etc)
  3. Local Video (Movies and TV)
  4. Local Music
    • Possibly synced over Samba with rsync
  5. Full web
    • Full-screen Chrome accessible via XBMC

So I go ahead and download an outdated version of Fedora (the outdated DVD iso), and install it, and for a while, all seems well. But, as usual, things do not go as planned. Some of this is just limitations I was not expecting, other parts are just Fedora being retarded.
  1. Amahi just....isn't working. I haven't toyed with it too much, but it may seem very different than I thought. But it is installed, so that is good enough for me, for now.
  2. Samba (apparently) doesn't play nice between GNOME and KDE. I've had massive issues with it on KDE before, but on GNOME it's just as bad.
  3. RomCollectionBrowser, the plugin I was going to use for XBMC, is really a piece of crap. When it's not crashing XBMC, it's taking forever to fetch information and then failing to show all your ROMs (even though they are imported).
    Launcher is another alternative, but I really liked how RomCollectionBrowser was layed out and that you could have things such as fanart, but the core functionality (i.e., working correctly on the most basic level) is missing.
    On top of that, it used to use an XML file to store the database so I could actually write a shell script to just create my own, but it has since switched to MYSQL, which I know very little of so I've even lost manually creating the DB.
  4. SUCCESS! XBMC was running extremely slow, which I learned was a result of the nouveau driver, but after figuring out how to disable it so I could install the nVidia one, it works wonderfully.
  5. Fedora lacks a driver management software. I never realized how wonderful Jockey is on Ubuntu or Mint.
  6. Fedora fails at starting NetworkManager. I know this is tiny and insignificant, but it is very, very annoying. I see some errors when booting about some wi-fi config file, but after I'm booted and start NetworkManager manually, it works fine. It's just ridiculous.
  7. Fedora fails to use my wi-fi dongle. Unfortunately, the wi-fi on the mobo is a bit underpowered so until I can get an external antenna, I've been using a USB dongle on Windows, but apparently Fedora doesn't have the drivers for it. Ugh.
  8. Fedora (apparently) has absolutely no graphical package manager. Either that or I am completely and utterly blind. I mean seriously, how can it even be considered a modern distro without even something resembling Synaptic? I've been getting along just fine, but I'm still hella annoyed, especially since I don't know the names to RPM packages since I haven't used it almost at all.
  9. Fedora fails to properly connect to my HDTV. This is the kicker for me. I do all this work in XBMC (which has been great, after fixing the driver issue) on my LCD monitor via HDMI, bring the box downstairs, hook it up, and no signal. I've sunk hours into trying to get to the bottom of it, and I've finally got it to at least work with 640x320. Apparently the EDID is wrong or something.
    But what really pisses me off about that is that I grabbed my Linux Mint 9 Live-CD, popped it in, and it worked just fine. I think it must have something to do with the version of the kernel in Fedora, or at least something outside of Xorg, because Fedora can't even use it during bootup before Xorg starts.
This is just so massively pissing me off. I have a lot of work to do to get this HTPC box where I want it, like setting up the SSH server, setting up Samba, setting up a dozen emulators, fetching the info for dozens of games, making sure I have a solid wi-fi connection, and just tweaking the theme in XBMC. But I can't do any of that yet if I can't get my goddamn display to work, and if it's working in Mint without the nVidia drivers, it should work in Fedora with them.

If I didn't say something my brain was going to explode. I'm very close to just ditching Fedora for Mint, even if it means sacrificing Amahi.
-Bry

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hacktivist: friend or foe?

For a relatively new phenomena, hacktivism has really kind of taken the net by storm. It makes sense, though: the Internet is the form of communication, business, social networking....the list goes on. It only makes sense that there would be those that would take a principled stand when its freedoms are being threatened.

I don't really want to have a discussion of the ethics behind their actions, though I will definitely say that I personally see their point of view, for sure. Every single hack I've heard done recently has -to me- been justified. (Such a subjective word!) It's not like they're hacking people's Facebooks and posting porn or something, they are specifically attacking companies and groups that they believed have crossed an ethical line. Even when it's not that righteous, their (claimed) ambitions are to find holes in security for the sake of the companies they are hacking. Very few of the hacks I've heard of have actually resulted in stolen credit card information.

I feel like the hacktivists groups are a lot like Batman. They operate outside the law, but the end result they aim for is justice. Now we, as comic book readers and movie-goers, love Batman, but not everyone in Gotham City loves Batman. Think more of the Nolan films: Batman blows up rooftops and obliterates cars and generally causes a crapton of damage. But he does those things because the cops cannot, and often they are the only way to get the bad guy. He is a vigilante, and that means operating outside of the rules. One could argue that the hacktivists groups are of the same vein....but I'd really rather not try to have that argument here.

The real question that I have been pondering is whether or not hacktivism is actually effective. When the SOPA blackout day rolled around, Wikipedia and Reddit and other big, popular sites shut down, in order to draw attention to it. And it actually worked. The votes started to shift from "Yay" to "Nay". It was honestly the first time that I believe I have ever seen 'virtual protesting' work. (Or protesting at all, for that matter.)

Now look at the two big groups: Anonymous and LulzSec. You hear about a new hack from these guys almost every other week, more when Sony throws hissy fits. They have taken down Fox, Sony (numerous times), the CIA, and most recently, the Department of Justice...but what has been the outcome? Were the MegaUpload members released? Did Sony ever apologize to geohot? Has anyone ever reacted in a way to reverse the reason they were hacked in the first place?

But then maybe those are the wrong questions to be asking. Maybe Anonymous and LulzSec actively hacking big websites is different than Wikipedia passively protesting (not that I don't applaud Wiki for doing that!); maybe the goal isn't to change their minds through intimidation. Maybe instead its just to remind those big companies that people have a voice, and more than a voice, a will. That there are people out there that can and will fight back. True, maybe vigilantism has never reversed an ill effect, but who's to say it hasn't prevented those companies from trying to get away with far worse?

I definitely can't say that I agree with everything these groups do (Really, Minecraft, guys? Poor Notch.), but I think I can safely say that I am glad that they are around, especially with acts like SOPA and PIPA actually being considered to pass. Maybe they're not superheroes, and maybe some of them are just downright villains, but I'd much rather live in a 'net with these groups clashing horns than live in one where money buys justice.

-Bry

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Ultimate Handy-man USB Drive

Recently, I had my first Qweex "customer" (coworker) so I decided to finally create a super awesome USB stick with all the apps and other features you could want to fix up someone's computer. There are 3 main sections, so let's jump right in.


I. Freeware Apps
For most of the functions, you really only need one app per type: one duplicate file finder, one uninstaller, etc, but others require a few more, especially with security. And also remember that these must all be portable. So without any further ado, let the apps begin.

Menu: PStart
Up until this point, I've used the PortableApps menu launcher but I tried the latest version and didn't like it very much. Plus, I would actually prefer one that does not automatically scan; yeah, you have to manually add entries, but you have super control over everything. I absolutely love PStart and probably will never use anything else again.

Games
Well you might get bored, right? So it's always good to have a few lite portable games, if you end out waiting an hour just for it to copy files or something. I wasn't extremely selective since it's not very high priority, and none of them are very graphically intensive.
  1. Duck Doom Deluxe: Doom mixed with Duck Hunt.
  2. GeneRally: Simple overhead racing game.
  3. LBreakout2: Nothing passes the time quite like Breakout.
  4. Mines Perfect: A more advanced version of Minesweeper.
  5. Minimal Yahtzee: A lightweight Yahtzee game.
  6. PokerTH: Texas Hold-em poker.
  7. Uno: Classic card game.
  8. VisualBoyAdvance:Gameboy Advance Emulator; great with some ROMS, such as the classic Pokemon.
Internet
For many reasons, including how sucky being forced to used IE is, it's wise to carry around an arsenal of network apps of all varieties.
  1. eToolz: A smattering of network tools.
  2. FileZilla: Powerful FTP client.
  3. Firefox: A web browser that is not IE.
  4. Chrome: Another web browser that is not IE.
  5. HFS: HTTP File Server.
  6. Pidgin: Multi-protocol Instant Messenger.
  7. PuTTY: Telnet and SSH client.
  8. Skype: VoIP client.
  9. TeamViewer: Remote PC support tool.
  10. uTorrent: Bittorrent client.
  11. VNC Viewer: Remote access tool.
Multimedia
Who knows, maybe someone wants you to quickly whip up a simple wallpaper or burn a music CD. You are so cool, you'll be prepared!
  1. Floola OR JakPod OR YamiPod: Manage an iPod. (Haven't used anyt of these in a while.)
  2. Audacity: Audio Editor.
  3. CDBurnerXP: Audi & data CD creation utility.
  4. GIMP: Powerful image editor.
  5. GSpot: Multimedia codec finder.
  6. M3: Very small, lite player for MP3s, WMAs, and WAV
  7. SWFPlayer: Player specifically for flash SWF files.
  8. VLC: All-in-one multimedia player.
Performance
Definitely important! Optimize those machines and whatnot.
  1. Autoruns: Powerful startup entry editor.
  2. CCleaner: Junk file cleaner and registry cleaner.
  3. Defraggler: Defragmentation tool.
  4. DoubleKiller: Duplicate file finder.
  5. Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder: Product Key finder.
  6. Revo Uninstaller: Full featured uninstaller.
  7. Speccy: Computer specifications viewer.
  8. WinDirStat: Disk usage analyzer.
Recovery
This definitely warrants a section of its own because when it is needed, it is usually very vital, so you need as many utilities at your disposal as possible.
  1. LinuxReader: Read Linux partitions from inside Windows.
  2. PC Inspector: File recovery utility.
  3. Roadkil's Undelete: File recovery utility.
  4. Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier: Copy disk contents despite bad sectors.
  5. Recuva: File recovery utility.
Security
Probably the second most important section, although it is a bit more difficult to find portable versions of security applications.
  1. Avast! Virus Cleaner Tool: Standalone virus & worm remover.
  2. ClamWin: Complete anti-virus program.
  3. Comboxfix: Very powerful spyware and malware remover.
  4. CyberShredder: Secure deletion utility.
  5. HijackThis: Power-user's diagnosis tool.
  6. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware: Anti-malware tool.
  7. Sophos Anti-Rootkit: Rootkit remover.
  8. Spybot: Spyware and malware remover.
Utilities
These can just make your time on someone else's computer more pleasant, or if they don't have some software installed, such as a PDF reader.
  1. 7-Zip: Powerful archive manager with support for 7z files (LZMA compression).
  2. CoolPDFReader: Very tiny PDF reader.
  3. DTaskManager: Task Manager with advanced features.
  4. FastStone Capture: Screen capture utility.
  5. HJSplit: File split, join, and checksum utility.
  6. Programmer's Notepad: Powerful, lite notepad.
  7. RegFromApp: Records registry changes.
  8. Resource Hacker: Edit executable resources.
  9. Snowbird: File manager and search utility.
  10. TeraCopy: Full-featured file copier.
  11. Ultimate Windows Tweaker: Tweak utility for Windows 7.
  12. Unlocker: Remove locks on currently used files.
  13. winMd5Sum: MD5 checksum calculator/checker.
  14. WinRoll: Window enhancements such as always on top, shade, and minimize to tray.
  15. Windows XP only
    1. Taskbar Shuffle: Drag and drop taskbar entries.
    2. TweakUI: Tweak utility for Windows XP.
Etc
Apps that are extremely useful but don't really fall into any category for whatever reason.
  1. Autohotkey: Powerful automation and hotkey creation utility.
  2. EjectUSB: Tool for safe drive removal.
  3. TheGuide: Outliner: useful for taking notes of what you did to fix that person's computer!

(Here's a small batch file I wrote to launch the correct architecture version of Piriform software (CCleaner, Recuva, Speccy). To use it, just pass the location of the program without the .exe. Example: E:\Portable Apps\Recuva\Recuva)

II. Installers
Because -let's face it- people don't always have good apps that they should have, so bring your own. It's entirely up to you what apps you choose (just like section I), but these are the categories that I think are important. And keep in mind that these aren't even necessarily my favorites, they are the options that I think are the best for the person who is not tech savvy.
  1. Anti-virus: AVG
  2. Anti-Spyware: SuperAntiSpyware
  3. Junk File Remover: CCleaner
  4. Defragmentation utility: Defraggler
  5. Norton Removal Tool
  6. McAfee Removal Tool
  7. Web Browser: Chrome
III. Linux & DBAN
Linux is a very powerful tool in your arsenal so it's very wise to make your USB stick bootable for one distribution. I personally like Parted Magic, but there are a ton of different maintenance-oriented distros out there. What's worth more consideration is the method that you get this distro to your USB. There are actually a few and each have their own standout features, but all are good and you really can't go wrong. There are also more, so don't be afraid to look around; PenDriveLinux is by far the best place to go to find more.
  1. unetbootin: Very stable, cross platform, and can download ISO files for you.
  2. Universal USB Installer: Very simple amd can download ISO files for you.
  3. YUMI: Easily allows for multiple distros, stores all files in a single directory, and boots directly from ISO files.
  4. MultiSystem: Easily allows for multiple distros, very easy to use, and boots directly from ISO files. (Only runs on Linux.)
You probably won't need it much on the go, but you will definitely need Darik's Boot And Nuke at some point. To get it to your flash drive, use this guide on PenDriveLinux.

IV. Mojopac
If you have some apps that aren't portable or you just want to use the full installed versions of everything, Mojopac is an awesome solution that lets you run a virtual machine-type instance of Windows that piggybacks on the host, but has its own registry and installed programs.


I realize that there is a heck of a lot more that could go on my USB drive, but I currently am trying to make do with 2GB since I lost my beautiful 16 GB. :( I might try to revise it as time goes on, but let me know what you think!
-Bry

Friday, January 20, 2012

Awesome Tux memo holder



Picked it up at Microcenter for like $3. Did I mention that I love Microcenter? Well, I love Microcenter.
-Bry

Terminal in "Accessories"?

While we are on petty things that ultimately do not matter, does anyone else find it strange that for some reason the Terminal found its way in to "Accessories," at least in the GNOME menu? I guess the reason that I find it weird is that when I first used GNOME, I was a major newbie so the only time I used the terminal was to copy+paste commands I found on the internet. Now that I'm a tad more learned, I can see it being an "accessory", even if its just for stuff like copying and moving files.

But it stills seems pretty out of place. What are some of the other apps in that section? (That's a genuine question....I'm not running GNOME right now.) Calculator: add big numbers; Character map: find that one character you just barely remember; Gedit: edit your random text files; Terminal: with one wrong move DESTROY YOUR SYSTEM.

To me, it would make much more sense to put it in "System Tools" because (for me) when I open a Terminal I almost always need to do something to my System. Also, when a new user migrates to Linux, it being under System Tools instead of Accessories will help give it the weight and importance it deserves.

Thoughts? Comments? Other people that use KDE instead of GNOME?
-Bry

Monday, January 16, 2012

/media vs /mnt?

I've always kind of wondered this....really, what is the convention? I realize that it does not technically matter: you can mount any type of filesystem pretty much anywhere you damn please, that's the beauty of Linux. But this seems like it is not necessarily nailed down just yet. To me, everything should just go in /mnt. What makes it classified as "media" anyway?

Anyway, apparently, I used /mnt in my old fstab and /media in my new one (that's where the drive was mounted by default in Chakra), so I've got all this compatibility I will inevitably run into. So I did the lazy approach that I always do: create a symlink. I'm sure that will never come back to bite me in the ass...

-Bry

Sunday, January 15, 2012

QupZilla

Of all the software shipped with Chakra that impressed me, QupZilla probably did so the most. I actually am considering switching to it, which (to me) is a pretty big deal. Even though a lot of the other browsers out there are considered "full" web browsers, (Konquerer, Arora, rekonq, etc) they really don't stand up to the big three (Firefox, Chrome/ium, Opera) to me. Midori and QupZilla are the two that I have seen that are very close to being as good as the biggies.

The thing that I like most about QupZilla is that it is extremely like Firefox;  I have the two side-by-side right now and QupZilla's menus are practically identical to Firefox's. It has:
  • a download manager (although it is still separate, i.e. not tabized like FF's)
  • a Password manager 
  • an RSS reader
  • profiles 
  • private browsing 
  • a ton of translations 
  • Adblock
  • speed dial
  • app tabs 
  • And best of all, it's cross-platform.

The part that makes it possibly better is that it is faster -way faster, both in rendering pages and in running. For example, I started them both up and even though I started Firefox a full second earlier, QupZilla made it up 2 seconds before Firefox did. I'm not sure if it's going to be much lighter on system resources; Qup is sitting around 215MB of RAM, and Moz is sitting around 300MB. That's with very light browsing (literally just opening Twitter and getting to Blogger for both), but hopefully Qup does better with memory leaks. I am sick of Firefox eating up 2GB of RAM when I have no tabs open.


The bad thing is that it does not have addons. That's really what makes the top three how great they are (not sure about Opera though) and it is quite literally the only thing stopping me from jumping ship to QupZilla. Granted, most of the addons I have installed I could easily do without, so here are the only 4 that really make my Firefox experience enjoyable:
  1. Roomy Bookmarks Toolbar
    This wouldn't be a huge big deal to implement in Qup: just give the option to make bookmarks only favicons in the toolbar.
  2. Tab Mix Plus
    There are really only a few options I use with this one: middle click opens the last closed tab, and a bunch of tab click options like "Bookmark All". QupZilla ships with many of the latter, so the former is all I really want out of it.
  3. Firefox Sync
    QupZilla (understandably) does not have a sync service, which is dissapointing, but meh. I feel like I might just be able to build one, at least to sync with my Wuala folder. Besides, the sync thing used to be nice because I used Xmarks which synced with Chrome, but nowadays a sync service is just rather annoying, especially if I want to just view my bookmarks away from home.
  4. Themes
    I actually don't even use a theme anymore, I've dropped to a Persona, but the fact is that QupZilla doesn't even have them. It has 4 themes: one that looks like Chrome, Classic QupZilla (rather ugly IMO), and then Linux, Mac, and Windows. I don't expect Themes for Qup, but Personas would be so very awesome.
Other than that, I am so set on QupZilla. Yeah, there are probably a bunch of tiny things, like you can't right click a Bookmark Folder and click "Open All", or it doesn't highlight the tab to let you know it is unviewed, but I know it will get there.

+1 Qup
-Bry

[UPDATE 5-7-12]
I still have yet to switch to Qupzilla because of one of the reasons that Bill commented on below: no encryption. I haven't checked if it has changed in the new version, but to my knowledge, it still stores all your usernames and passwords in one unsalted, unencrypted MySQL database, and that scares me to death.

I've got good Chakra

After messing with many, many problems on Mint KDE, I've finally moved to Chakra, and I am loving it so far. The transmission was decently smooth since I keep my home folder on a different drive so it is just a symlink away.

Btrfs
Oh wow. I've been hearing about Btrfs for a good while, but I did not expect for it to be this snappy. My last system was fine, but this one flies. I do not like that btrfs-tools is not pre-installed (which I understand since it is not explicitly supported by Chakra yet), but what I like even less is that it is not even available from the repos.



AppSet-Qt
I was hesitant at first, mostly because it went with the old-KDE layout of tabs on the sides and I don't like that for some reason, but I have quickly changed my mind. AppSet is extremely clean, incredibly fast (probably helped by Btrfs) and well layed out. The are four small things that I would change about it though. First, it asks you for you sudo password way more often than any other package manager I've used; unlike Synaptic, it doesn't prompt you beforehand and then that's it, it asks you when you want to install, when you want to change the repositories, and (most frustratingly) when you want to update the list. Secondly, it minimizes to the tray, which I don't particularly like because it's not something I need to have running all the time. Thirdly, I really wish the progress bar was in the window itself rather than a small child window; it's more of an annoyance than anything, but it keeps popping up and disappearing. Lastly, it has this weird problem with not being able to be minimized sometimes; I can't really remember the circumstances, but it basically minimizes and then reappears very quickly. But still, those 4 complaints are hardly anything, really classified more as annoyances than real bugs.

Honest to god, I love AppSet thus far. Brilliant, brilliant app.


Wuala
Wuala is one of the most important pieces of software that I need, and unfortunately, I've had a hella hard time trying to get it working. The installation method is very strange and the error messages are very cryptic and useless, but I believe the problem is that it requires GTK, which I really want to avoid. But I sure as hell need Wuala, so I might just need to break and install GTK. I'm going to look into creating a bundle for it, and if I succeed (and LaCie does not sue me) I will attempt to share it somewhere.



Tomahawk
I really liked Tomahawk the first time I launched it, but I feel like it's aimed at someone else. It's still a wonderful app, runs great, and does what it's supposed to do, but it really isn't even layed out for an offline collection, even if it's available as a feature. You can only view grouped by Artist and when you double click an artist, it opens up a page about them instead of what songs you yourself have. I guess what I wish the most is if it was more favorable to the songs you had in your collection than the ones that exist somewhere online.

The main reason I really can't use it is that it has no support for mobile players, i.e. my phone. I am really disappointing because Banshee -as much as I like it- is just so wildly unstable and unpolished, at least the version that I was using on Mint. But I still liked it more than Amarok and Clementine and those are really the only options I see as viable. (Nightingale is finally out, but it's GTK, though so is Banshee).


QupZilla
QupZilla deserves its own blog post.


Qt4Wine
WINE didn't ship with Chakra, and while I was looking for it I came across Qt4Wine. It's just a really brilliant GUI for WINE stuff like shortcuts to regedit or explorer, a process viewer, and a built in WineDB search! I highly recommend it if you run WINE and like Qt.



That's all I really have to say about it. Everything is working fine, including the GTK apps that are in bundles. I'm still kind of getting used to everything, but I am enjoying the pfargtl out of it so far.

-Bry

PS - Are we using .kde4 now instead of .kde? Is it bad that I symlinked the latter to the former? I guess I'll find out!

PPS - I still love Kate.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Next KDE Distro

[I see that I'm already getting some Google searches, and I haven't even finished testing out all of the distros that I wanted to. If you have an opinion on which one you think is best, feel free to leave a comment or even head over to my little forum. I'd love to get a discussion going.]


As much as I hate to say it, the KDE spin of Linux Mint is....well, if it's not dead, it's at least a zombie, and I never trust zombies. I realize that GNOME is getting much better as well as its spinoffs or I could go with Enlightenment, but to be honest, I love KDE. I've gotten used to the look and feel and I love the apps. Sure, I could force myself to upheave and try something completely new, but I don't see the point.

Fortunately, there are a few great KDE distros out there right now. Please do keep in mind, and I will gladly admit it to anyone, that I am not a professional Linux reviewer or anything close. These thoughts will be very, very subjective toward my interests, but at the same time, hopefully they overlap with the interests of the everyday Linux user, so they will be useful to others.

Wants:
  • 64-bit version
  • DEB packaging (though considering moving away because of how much a hassle Apt has been)
  • Btrfs
  • Decent software-center-type software

Netrunner
Netrunner kind of scared me because I had never heard of it before and....well, to be honest, it sounded a bit like "Netscape". But from the screenshots, I was decently impressed, especially since it kind of followed from the (pseudo-)death of Mint KDE.

I really liked how quick Netrunner booted up, especially off a compressed ISO in a virtual machine that is using a fraction of my machine's resources. I am extremely surprised at how little it has installed, but the standard of quality of the apps that the developers chose! (Excluding (Q)Transmission, of course...) They have some of the awesome KDE apps like digiKam, Gwenview, and Kate, but also the very best of the GTK apps as well: Firefox, GIMP, Skype....even VirtualBox [EDIT 1-20-2012] (Oh wait, VirtualBox is Qt isn't it...doh! Even so, glad that they have it.) [/EDIT]! I find the choice of including a "Web Apps" section a little odd, but it's really nothing to get upset over. I do love that WINE comes preinstalled, as well as Flash. Muon -the package manager app- is kind of unimpressive compared to the Ubuntu Software Center or the Mint Software....thing, but it looks very sleek and definitely does what it is meant to do. Overall it's just an outstanding choice of apps, from start to finish.

One thing I noticed immediately that I hated upon opening Dolphin -which I LOVE as a file manager- is the terrible choice of using Windows 7 graphics for the window decorations. I don't know who they are fooling; this is not going to make it any more friendly to Windows converts and it's going to make the Linux users feel betrayed, IMO. Add to the fact that they only ship with two decorations: Windows 7 lookalike and one that looks as though it is from 1995; Even if (for whatever bizzare reason) they decided to ship with the Windows look as default, I wish they would have included one decent, modern alternative as well.

I'm kind of caught off-guard that it also ships with a half dozen Firefox addons preinstalled. Granted, these are some of the most popular and I even use some of them myself, but it just seems weird. Addons are a very, very personal thing; it's the reason most people love Firefox because, let's face it, it's surely not for its performance. Plugins and even themes seem ok but addons seem different. In any case, I would just bring over my entire .firefox folder so I wouldn't keep them anyway, but still.....interesting choice.
Netrunner 4.0

Overall, I just don't really feel like the appearance aspect of Netrunner meshes really well. At some places, they seem to go the more smooth route like Pardus or even openSUSE, but then other places they decide to stick with the traditional KDE look, but then other places still they decide to look like Windows. It has no splash screen. It uses plain white backgrounds for several different things (System Settings, Terminal). I would love Netrunner a lot more if it found it's very own visual style, and sold that hardcore, like Pardus or openSUSE.

But I do very much like it. I think the developers have their heads in the right place, and just using it feels very very right. ATTOTP, it has no 64-bit version, but the Netrunner Twitter and Facebook have both mentioned the beginnings of one, and I can't imagine them taking too long. I do like that it already has Btrfs support, a feature that a very select few amount of distros have yet, from what I've seen. But the fact is, Netrunner is very slick. It just needs a bit more refining in the visuals.

Chakra
Chakra scared me the most because of its vicinity to Arch. One day, I will install Arch, and I will love it. But not today. However, I was completely wrong in thinking that Chakra would be unpolished or even amaturesque; instead, it is perhaps the best KDE distro out there.

Chakra seems to be a bit more....intricate than some other distros, no doubt from its origins in Arch. It ships with several Qt development tools, XBMC, and even SUSE Studio Imagewriter (what?). Just browsing around, I love that they went with a different music player -Tomahawk- rather than Clementine or Amarok, both of which I do not like. I'll talk about the app choices more in a bit, but for now let's just leave it as....unique.

The basic looks of Chakra is kind of simple....almost generic. Really, unimpressive, but not ugly. I'm not extremely fond of the starting widget, though I do like the idea, and the starting wallpaper pales in comparison from what I've seen of past Mint, openSUSE, Pardus, and even Netrunner's starting wallpapers. Besides that, it has the default KDE look almost everywhere, and while that's not my thing, it's fine.

Chakra definitely emphasizes the KDE/Qt desktop; there is no Firefox, GIMP, or any GTK app to be seen, though it includes a "Bundle Manager" that lists many popular non-Qt apps such as Audacity, Chromium, Filezilla, Firefox, GIMP, Pidgin, and Skype. I'm not entirely sure what a "Bundle" is; they attempt to explain it, poorly in my opinion, but from what I can gather:
A Bundle is a tightly-knit metaphorical "bag" that contains all that is needed for a GTK app. You install a Bundle rather than the packages themselves so you don't need all of the GTK dependencies, they instead exist inside of the bag; this way GTK is never installed and thus never 'contaminates' your KDE system, and to remove the GTK app, you just toss the bag. (A definition by me)
If this understanding is true, it is awesome. The fact that they care about the user wanting to be able to easily install a few choice GTK apps impresses me greatly. In terms of the rest of their app choices, they seem very strange (like the ones I mentioned earlier), but oddly refreshing...kind of. I love that they included QupZilla, a Qt-based web browser that I did not know existed until now, but I love compared to Rekonq or Konquerer. I don't exactly understand why they include SpiderOak or a few other apps here and there, but overall, it's just nice to see someone mixing things up.

Chakra's package manager, named AppSet-Qt, is very different, if not confusing. It looks like it has a small learning curve, but could be extremely useful and efficient. I would peg it somewhere around the level of Synaptic, only with a build in web browser for the Homepage of a package, as well as a 'Distribution News' homepage that tells you what is new with Chakra. I have mixed feelings about it so far, but I do know that I love how quickly it opens.

The fact that Tribe -the Chakra installer- is in alpha scares me greatly. In terms of appearance and functionality, I like it very much, but the mere fact that it is one of the biggest unfinished features make me hesitant to install Chakra at all. That is really one feature that I hope they can nail down post-haste.

Chakra 2011.12


Chakra really surprised me in how much new it brings to the table. It really sets itself apart as being a very focused (perhaps the most focused) KDE distro, especially in a world that seems to be obsessed with GNOME. The visuals might not be as exciting as other pretty KDE implementations, but the backbone of this distro seems incredibly solid and that makes me very confident as a potential user. After seeing Mint essentially abandon KDE, it's nice to see a distro so thoroughly dedicated to making an already great Desktop Environment even greater. There is nothing about this distro that I can truly complain about.


Mageia
I was never ever really a fan of Mandriva and Mandrake was before my time, so I've always been a bit skeptical of Mageia. My opinion hasn't changed much after playing with it.

The boot time seems extremely outrageous. Whereas both Netrunner and Chakra were up and running in a matter of seconds, Mageia seemed to get caught up at several stages, even requiring a reboot at one point. Add on top of that you are greeted with a short wizard before even being able to access the live environment, and I'm already kind of disheartened.

It's really kind of hard to describe Mageia other than using one word: boring. Mageia seems to have very, very little that actually makes it stand out. It has every single steriotypical KDE app plus a few of the normal oddballs (Firefox, GIMP, Libre Office). While the graphic design in Mageia is amazing -such as the logo, the login screen, and the wallpaper- the theming is severely lacking. Maybe I'm just not a fan of blue but.....please, move away from blue, everything from the panel to the window decorations to to everything, and it just looks....boring. Add on top of the the ridiculous menu that it ships with and it just leaves you....unimpressed.

In terms of package management, Mageia uses Rpmdrake, a remnant of Mandriva, and it shows. Rpmdrake looks very dated, although that could be the effect of the skin. Whereas with most others I am quickly installing or at least browsing, I could not figure out how to browse packages that were not installed. I will admit that at this point I am probably just being over-critical, but at the least, I can say that Rpmdrake was one more thing that failed to stir any amount of interest in my brain.

Mageia 1

There's nothing really wrong with Mageia, it just seems like "another distro." I personally found it visually disappointing in most regards and there was nothing really special at all about the implementation of KDE. I cannot see a good reason to use it over one of the other more refined choices. All this being said, it is important to remember that Mageia is still relatively new, only about a year and a half old and still on its first release. I truly and sincerely hope that its developers can find their zen.


openSUSE
I have fallen in love with openSUSE quite a while ago. I think that it does a fantastic job of implementing both GNOME and KDE, especially visually. It was going to be my choice last time, except for one thing.....YaST. I just hope it has improved.

The biggest issue I've had with openSUSE has been stability. When I was trying to switch my family's PC over to Linux, openSUSE was my first choice. I couldn't get past the Live CD, though, because it failed to launch the KDE Partition Utility. And again, as I boot openSUSE in my VM, it has frozen and/or crashed three times now, just trying to boot. Now this VM is a little wonky so each distro has frozen about once, but the fact is that I cannot even get openSUSE to successfully boot and let me try it out.

After it finally let me boot, I got pretty much the same impression as I had last time: pretty awesome. It's visually pleasant, very coordinated. The installed app choices are good. The only thing that really makes me hate it is YaST. Not as a control center, but as a Software Manager. It is just so slow and inefficient and....

I would continue, but openSUSE decided to freeze up....again. Given my past experiences with stability issues, I'm just going to have to give it a pass. Maybe next time, openSUSE.

Sabayon
Sabayon is another distro that I am wary of because it stems from Gentoo, something that I am not quite up to tackling on my main box. The last time I tried it out, I had already kind of decided on Mint KDE so Sabayon got pushed to an after thought, and now I'm hoping to give it a fair chance in the runnings.

(Aside from the absolutely bizarre boot music,) Sabayon seems very similar to Chakra, especially in terms of appearance (that is, sticking to the default KDE look), but not so much in the apps. Sabayon tends to be much more conservative with the apps, keeping most of the normal KDE apps such as Amarok and even Konquerer, only really mixing it up by favoring Chromium over Firefox. The main difference, of course, is the package management. Sabayon uses Entropy, a store that is very unique, instead of DEB, RPM, or even Pacman. The idea of a store gets me excited because I am a big fan of paying developers for their hard work.

...but I've had some serious issues with Sabayon's Entropy store in the Virtual Machine. Problems meaning it will not start. I guess I might just have to burn it to a DVD and give it a hardware try. (I can remember having issues with the package manager in Sabayon before, and apparently it is not the most stable program in the world.)

Kubuntu
I have never, ever been a fan of Kubuntu and it was what initially turned me off of KDE (that and a few others, like Mandriva), but I figured I should really give it a chance. The reason I think I have not liked Kubuntu is that it goes hardcore KDE and I do not like some of the aspects of KDE, particularly the default skin, web browser, and several other apps. But I've since discovered that I do indeed like KDE, so I'm going to try to look at Kubuntu again.

At this point, the lines are just kind of starting to blur. There's nothing really spectacular about Kubuntu as a KDE distro, which -I'm not going to lie- is kind of disappointing. Maybe it's unfair, but it seems like with it being related to Ubuntu, it should at least bring something new to the table, but it really does not. One thing that surprised me is that the Ubuntu Software Center doesn't even come installed; it ships Muon Software Center, which I mentioned earlier is a perfectly fine app, but I find it odd that Ubuntu is really stressing and pushing the Software Center and Ubuntu One, both of which I am a major fan of, even if I have not had the chance to use them, but neither are included in Kubuntu. I guess it's because neither are built on Qt and they are trying to make Kubuntu a KDE-only experience, but here's the thing: there already are KDE only experiences out there. Mageia is a perfect example: nothing exciting, but a really solid KDE distro. Throwing a few non-Qt apps in there like the Software Center or (heaven forbid) Firefox is going to make it different, which is good.

Kubuntu 11.10

Other than that, there isn't much else to say. It's just kind of like Mageia: boring. It could be different if it was the only KDE distro to ship integrated with the Ubuntu Software Store and Ubuntu One, but it doesn't. It ran very smoothly (different than the last time I tried it) and I saw nothing wrong with it. I just saw nothing new.

Pardus
Pardus will always have a special place in my heart. It is so wonderfully implemented and is definitely a top contender for the best KDE distro. The only problem that I've had in the past was the fact that it uses its own type of package, causing an issue of limited packages. So it was never really a contender, unfortunately.

PCLinuxOS
I know it's not fair, but I am just distro-ed out to attempt to look at PCLinuxOS.


To me, "reviewing" Linux distros is such a harsh word because -at least maybe to me- there isn't much difference between one and another, especially between ones that share the same DE. It's not really like any of these choices are bad, or even that there is a "best". That's probably where the challenge comes in for me, because -even when I chose Mint KDE- there is no absolute "best' KDE distro. They're all well and good, and you just need to give them a try, pick one, and stick with it. That's what I did with Mint KDE, and that's what I'm doing now, and I choose....

Chakra.

More words after I give it a go installing.

-Bry

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ubuntu TV

Wait.

No.

What.

This is....

...kind of awesome?

What?



Why does it seem like this is what Unity was designed for in the first place? I mean, I actually want this! (I really hope they release it for the public cause my HTPC would LOVE to see this on it.)

Clicky for a looksee

-Bry

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bryan Lunduke's predictions for Linux in 2012

No introduction needed. Glad to see Bryan is back at the Linux Action Show!

Click here to be teleported

I agree with all 12 points except for the last one. I haven't been following it too closely (I'm not even sure if the last one I tried was Natty or Oneiric), but I feel like maybe Ubuntu will need a few more releases to get their act together. I think my brother might agree with me.

-Bry

My brother's thoughts on Unity

He's not really a Linux guy, per se, but he is a tech guy and he helps my mother with the Ubuntu install on her computer. I saw him this last Christmas and we got to talking about various things, and this is what he had to say about Unity on Ubuntu.

"And then it booted and Unity came up, and it was like someone took a diarrhea dump on the screen." -My brother

-Bry