Category Archives: Desktop Linux Reviews

Desktop Linux Reviews

Linux Mint 12 GNOME 3

The moment so many have waited for is finally here. Linux Mint 12 has been released! This update to Linux Mint has had many people on edge since it marks the move from the older version of GNOME to GNOME 3.2. GNOME 3.2, as you might already know, has had many detractors. Linux Mint users have wondered how on earth such a popular distribution would make a transition to such a reviled and hated desktop interface.

Well I’m happy to say that Linux Mint 12 has survived the move to GNOME 3, thanks to the ingenuity of the Linux Mint developers. Until I saw how the Linux Mint developers implemented GNOME 3, I’d feared that Linux Mint might become another GNOME 3 casualty. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened and you’ll find out why in this review.

Live DVD Desktop

Linux Mint 12 Live DVD Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Ubuntu 11.10
Linux 3.0
GNOME 3.2
Mint GNOME Shell Extensions (MGSE)
MATE (fork of GNOME 2)
Two new themes (Mint-Z and Mint-Z-Dark)
Backgrounds (includes photos from India and Yellowstone National Park)
New default search engine is Duck Duck Go

Mint GNOME Shell Extensions make it possible to use GNOME 3 the same way you used previous versions. It includes a bottom panel, application menu, window list and it makes GNOME 3 into a more task-oriented desktop. I’ll have much more to say about them in the desktop section of the review. Suffice to say that they are the biggest things in Linux Mint 12, in my opinion. Other developers using GNOME 3 should add something similar in their distros.

Application Menu

Application Menu

MATE is a fork of GNOME 2 that some users might find helpful. The Linux Mint developers warn on their What’s New page that MATE is still new and is thus not completely stable. So be aware of that if you decide to experiment with it.

I didn’t spend much time with MATE since the focus is really on GNOME 3 for this release. However, I expect that some users might gravitate toward MATE if they still dislike GNOME 3 even with the extensions included. If you spend any time with MATE, please post your experiences with it in the comments. I’d be curious to know how well it worked for you. You can choose MATE from the login menu.

(Edit: I just did a full review of Linux Mint 12 MATE. So that should give you a better idea of what you can expect from it.)

MATE

MATE

Linux Mint 12 comes with two new themes. Mint-Z and Mint-Z-Dark are based on Mint-X and Zukitwo.

Themes

Themes

The new default search engine is Duck Duck Go. This is part of the Linux Mint developer’s strategy of using search engines as a business model to help support Linux Mint financially. Duck Duck Go doesn’t track or record user information, nor does it show different results depending on who does the search.

Duck Duck Go

Duck Duck Go is Linux Mint 12’s new default search engine.

No worries if you prefer to use a different search engine, you can easily switch Duck Duck Go for another search engine. I actually like it and I urge you to give it a try for a while before deciding to change it. It works well and it has the extra benefit of helping to finance Linux Mint. So check it out and see how you like it.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD/DVD drive or USB port

Installation
The installer is very easy to use, as you might expect. Newcomers to Linux Mint should not have a problem using it. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The first thing you’ll see when you boot into your desktop is the usual Welcome to Linux Mint menu. Newcomers to Linux Mint should pause for a moment and check out the links in the menu. You’ll find quite a few helpful things there that can get you started using Linux Mint, and can also help you if you run into any problems. Give it a read and take note of what it has to offer.

Welcome to Linux Mint

Welcome to Linux Mint

The second thing you’ll notice is that GNOME 3 in Linux Mint is a bit different than GNOME 3 in other distros. I mentioned the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions earlier in the review but let me elaborate on why they are so important. They add a bottom panel, a window list, an application menu, tray icons and a task-oriented desktop. All of this was sorely missing in GNOME 3 and my hat is off to the Linux Mint developers for having the wisdom to see what was wrong it. There’s even a media player indicator included.

Application Menu

Application Menu

The application menu in the screenshot above is particularly helpful and I find it much faster than using the GNOME 3 menu (in the screenshot below) to open applications. I understand though that others might feel differently. If that’s the case then you might consider Fedora 16 instead of Linux Mint 12 since Fedora uses the generic GNOME 3 desktop rather than the extensions found in Linux Mint.

GNOME 3 Menu

GNOME 3 Menu

The larger issue here, of course, is the stupidity of various developers who seem intent on foisting dreadful mobile interfaces on desktop users. We’ve seen this with Unity and GNOME 3, of course. But we’ve also seen Microsoft fall prey to it with the horrific “Metro” interface mess in Windows 8. Mobile is mobile and the desktop is the desktop. There’s absolutely no need to try to mix the two; it just ends up making a horrible experience for desktop users who work in a task-oriented way not an application-oriented way.

Thankfully the Linux Mint developers understood this and fixed GNOME 3 by including the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions. Now I wish other developers would get a clue and emulate them. I tried the Fedora 16 version of GNOME 3 and found it absolutely awful to use for any length of time.

Linux Mint 12 Desktop

Linux Mint 12 Desktop

The desktop itself features the usual Computer and Home icons, and that’s about it. You won’t find a zillion icons cluttering it up.

Themes & Wallpaper
To change your wallpaper, just right-click the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background. Linux Mint 12 comes with a nice selection of wallpaper. The wallpapers are mostly Linux Mint themed, but there are a few nature scenes as well.

Themes and Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Themes

Themes

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a look at the system settings menu. It covers all of the usual things.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
No games are included but you can download them from the Software Manager.

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb
Image Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Banshee
Brasero
GNOME MPlayer
Movie Player
VLC

Office
LibreOffice

Software Management
As far as I can tell, there were no changes to Linux Mint’s software manager. That’s not a problem though as it works very well just as it is. If you’re new to it then I think you’ll find that it offers an amazing amount of software (more than 36,000 packages). I suggest spending a few minutes browsing around to familiarize yourself with its interface. It’s quite easy to use and you’ll find plenty of applications to add to your Linux Mint system.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Software Manager Internet Category

Software Manager Internet Category

Chromium Browser

Chromium Browser

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the application you want and click the Install or Remove button. You can also view user reviews and ratings of a particular application before deciding to install it on your Linux Mint system. I opted to install Chromium, as I generally prefer it to Firefox. Firefox is still a fine browser but Chromium just floats my boat a bit more.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
I had no problem running flash based content. Flash was installed by default so I didn’t have to do any fiddling to get things to work in my browser. I opted to try Carly Simon’s video “You’re So Vain” and it ran fine.

I met Carly Simon when I was in my 20s and working at a movie theater on Martha’s Vineyard. She was coming out of the theater and I chatted with her briefly. I asked her who her song “You’re So Vain” was about – Mick Jagger or Warren Beatty. She gave me a witty answer that, alas, has been lost in the mists of time. I suspect that the song was about Warren Beatty though. And who could blame her? Back in his “Bonnie and Clyde” days, he was a great looking guy.

Okay, that’s it for my trip down memory lane. Back to the review. :angel: :lol: :tongue:

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Linux Mint 12 comes with Banshee, Brasero, GNOME MPlayer, Movie Player, and VLC. So you’ll get a good default selection of software to use for multimedia content. If you need more, just check the Sound and Video category in Software Manager. There are more than 100 applications available there, so you should be able to find what you’re looking for and then some.

Banshee

Banshee

VLC

VLC

Multimedia Category in Software Manager

Multimedia Category in Software Manager

Problems & Headaches
My experience with Linux Mint 12 was mostly very positive. It was quite stable and seemed relatively speedy. I did not experience any application crashes.

I did, however, notice some odd rendering behavior by the applications menu at the bottom of the screen. Certain categories did not display properly. Here are two screenshots that show the problems. The first screenshot should show the applications menu, but as you can see most of it isn’t showing. The second shows the menu but some stuff on the right isn’t rendering properly.

I’m not sure what the problem is here. I installed Linux Mint 12 into VirtualBox so perhaps it’s a VirtualBox problem? I’d be interested in knowing if others have seen something similar on their hardware. If so, please post your experiences in the comments section.

It was still possible to use the applications menu by simply moving the cursor around (most of the categories do show up), but it’s definitely something that should be fixed.

Application Menu Error 1

Application Menu Error 1

Application Menu Error 2

Application Menu Error 2

There is a list of known issues available on the Linux Mint site in the release notes. You may want to browse this before installing Linux Mint 12 on your system, just in case any of the problems might be issues for you.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

You might also want to check out the Linux Mint forums, tutorials, community site, and the documentation page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
The Linux Mint developers have really done what I thought would be impossible. They’ve taken GNOME 3 and managed to make it usable. Linux Mint 12’s implementation is the best version of GNOME 3 I’ve seen in any distro, and other developers should borrow from Linux Mint 12 in their own distros. I’d wondered for a while what would happen to Linux Mint when it finally moved to GNOME 3. I’m pleased to say that it has made the transition quite well.

As good as Linux Mint 12’s implementation of GNOME 3 is…well, it’s still GNOME 3. So the desktop doesn’t function quite the same as GNOME 2. There are certain things you can’t do and certain things that are just different. This could be a significant problem for those devoted to the GNOME 2 type interface and you should think carefully before doing an upgrade to Linux Mint 12 if you are happy with Linux Mint 11 or other prior releases.

Other desktops such as KDE, Xfce and LXDE also offer viable alternatives to GNOME 3. So you might consider checking some of those out if you decide that you can’t stomach GNOME 3 in any form. You could also try using MATE to see if it will work well enough for you.

While there are a few warts in Linux Mint 12, it’s better than I had hoped for considering the move to GNOME 3. If you aren’t sure if it’s for you then try running it in VirtualBox before you make a decision to install it on your system.

Linux Mint 12 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux Mint 12
Web Site:  http://linuxmint.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Mint Gnome Shell Extensions help make GNOME 3 usable by providing a bottom panel, application menu, system icons and a window list. MATE has potential for those who prefer GNOME 2. New artwork and backgrounds. Duck Duck Go default search engine.
Cons: Applications menu rendering problem. MATE is still early and could be unstable. MGSE helps but might not be enough for those who truly despise GNOME 3.
Suitable For:  Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5

 


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Linux Mint 12 GNOME 3 comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

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openSUSE 12.1 KDE

openSUSE is one of the most popular desktop distros available. This time around it’s version 12.1 that has been released. If you aren’t familiar with openSUSE then you should know that it comes in KDE, GNOME, Xfce and LXDE versions. For this review I’ve picked the KDE version of openSUSE 12.1. I may do a quick look at the GNOME version on Eye On Linux later though.

Speaking of the GNOME version of openSUSE 12.1, I took a quick peek at it to see if the openSUSE had made any significant changes to the dreadful GNOME 3 desktop. Unfortunately, they didn’t though they should have. The Linux Mint developers did a good job on altering the GNOME 3.2 desktop to make it usable; I had hoped the openSUSE developers would do the same. Alas, perhaps they will in the next release. The lack of GNOME 3 tweaks is one of the reasons why I decided to review the KDE version instead.

Okay, enough babble about GNOME. Let’s get on with this review of openSUSE 12.1 KDE.

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux kernel 3.1
KDE 4.7.2

Apper software manager (renamed KPackageKit)
KolorManager + Oyranos (color management tools)

Chromium added to the repositories (but not included in the default install)

Firefox 7

Support for ownCloud including the Mirall tool

Samba 3.6.1
Systemd for booting
Snapper for system snapshot functionality
Sax3 for keyboard, mouse, monitor, touchpad configuration

YaST bug fixes and tweaks
Latest desktop environments

openSUSE comes with Linux kernel 3.1 and KDE 4.7.2. You can find a summary of changes to the kernel here, and the KDE 4.7.2 announcement here. Highlights for the kernel update include better ext4 and btrfs file systems, as well as better memory management and data handling.

Systemd now handles the booting of openSUSE 12.1 and promises faster boot times. I didn’t notice a difference, frankly. But then again I’ve never really cared about boot times when using Linux. For the most part I rarely have to reboot anyway so I don’t really care if the boot time is a few seconds or whatever faster. But your mileage may vary and you may appreciate the inclusion of systemd in openSUSE 12.1.

The Apper software manager replaces KPackageKit in this release. Well actually, it is KPackageKit but it’s been renamed to Apper. I’ll have more to say about that in the software section of the review.

Apper

Apper

Chromium has been added to the repositories but, unfortunately, is not included as the default browser. For that you’ll find Firefox 7.1. While I still like Firefox, I’ve pretty much settled on Chromium/Chrome as my default browser on all operating systems.

This release also now supports ownCloud and includes the Mirall tool. I have more to say about them in the problems section of the review. Suffice to say though that I don’t think they are very relevant right now for most desktop users.

openSUSE 12.1 also supports the latest KDE, GNOME, Xfce and LXDE desktops. This review covers the KDE version, but you should check out one of the others if you prefer it to the KDE version of openSUSE 12.1.

Snapper lets you manage system snapshots if you’ve used btrfs for your root and home file system. Next, I’ll look at the hardware requirements and I’ll show what the install routine looks like in this distro.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:
Pentium* III 500 MHz or higher processor (Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or higher or any AMD64 or Intel* EM64T processor recommended)
Main memory: 512 MB physical RAM (1 GB recommended)
Hard disk: 3 GB available disk space (more recommended)

Sound and graphics cards: supports most modern sound and graphics cards, 800 x 600 display resolution (1024 x 768 or higher recommended)

Booting from CD/DVD drive or USB-Stick for installation, or support for booting over network (you need to setup PXE by yourself, look also at Network install) or an existing installation of openSUSE, more information at Installation without CD

Installation
The install is easy though not as elegant as Ubuntu’s installer. Newbies should be able to get through it without a problem though. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
When you first boot into your openSUSE 12.1 desktop, you’ll get a welcome message that contains helpful links to information about the openSUSE project, as well as community support and the openSUSE Build Service. If you are new to openSUSE, it’s certainly worth your time to check out some of those links. There’s a lot of helpful information there that will help you learn about openSUSE.

The desktop itself contains icons for Firefox, My Computer, LibreOffice, Online Help and the welcome message.

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

Themes & Wallpaper
The wallpaper is vintage openSUSE, with the green colors with a whitish swirl and the openSUSE mascot in the bottom right corner. You can easily change the theme and wallpaper to suit your tastes. openSUSE doesn’t come with much in the way of choice, but it’s easy to go online to get more themes and wallpaper.

Default Wallpaper

Default Wallpaper

More Wallpaper

More Wallpaper

More Themes

More Themes

Admin Tools
System Management

YaST2 is openSUSE’s system manager and it’s a very comprehensive tool. In this release YaST2 has gotten bug fixes and some small improvements. If you haven’t used YaST2 before, take a few minutes and browse around it to get used to its interface. It will be helpful to you later if you decide to change your system and need to make the adjustments in YaST2.

YaST Control Center

YaST Control Center

Bundled Software
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
KMahjongg
KReversi
KMines
KSoduko
KPatience

Graphics
GIMP
LibreOffice Draw
Gwenview Image Viewer

Internet
Firefox
Konqueror
KMail
KTorrent
Akregator
Choqok
Konversation

Multimedia
K3b
KsCD
KMix
Amarok
Kaffeine

Office
KAddressBook
KOrganizer
LibreOffice
Okular

Software Management
As I noted earlier in the review, Apper is the latest and renamed version of KPackageKit. Apper promises to be faster than KPackageKit and offer greater stability as per the blog of its developer:

First Apper is based on my rework of packagekit-qt which is called packagekit-qt2, and this rework makes Apper much faster than KPackageKit was, the inner details is that we don’t use the huge QSharedPointer for packages and don’t create a bunch of useless stuff unless the user asks, I didn’t measured the time but first time you run it you will surely notice. This also means Apper is more stable since packagekit-qt2 has a cleaner code and a nicer API. Second Apper has several user interface changes and a much nicer integration with KDE.

It’s hard for me to say whether or not there really has been a noticeable speed increase since I never used KPackageKit for very long in the past. I’d be very interested in hearing the thoughts of regular KDE users in the comments below. Let me know if Apper is indeed faster and more stable than KPackageKit was. If so then the developer certainly deserves some praise for improving it.

I do like the fact that the left frame is gone. It makes the interface look a lot better and more cohesive. On the whole, Apper seems to be a good update of KPackageKit.

However, if you are going to install or remove software in openSUSE 12.1 you should use YaST2 instead of Apper. When I tried to install applications using Apper, I got a “simulating the install” message but the application didn’t get installed. I was able to install it via YaST2 though.

It’s potentially confusing to have what seem to be two different software management tools in a desktop distro like this. Newbies might not understand why two of them are included. So if you are going to use openSUSE 12.1, you’re probably better off skipping Apper and just going ahead with YaST2 as your software manager. Just open YaST2 and then click the Software Management icon to get started.

Apper

Apper

YaST2 Chromium Install

YaST2 Chromium Install

YaST2 Chromium Install Download

YaST2 Chromium Install Download

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash isn’t installed by default so you’ll have to open YaST2 and do a quick search for it in the software management menu. Install it and then restart your browser and you should be able to run YouTube videos, flash games, etc.

YouTube

YouTube Without Flash

Flash Install

Flash Install in YaST2

YouTube with Flash Installed

YouTube With Flash Installed

Multimedia Applications
openSUSE 12.1 comes with a pretty basic number of multimedia applications. Amarok, K3B, KsCD, and a couple of others are installed by default. Don’t worry though, you can fire up YaST2 to find many more in the Multimedia section of its software management page.

Amarok MP3 Message

Amarok MP3 Message

Amarok

Amarok

Multimedia applications in YaST2

Multimedia applications in YaST2

Problems & Headaches
Software management was not a pleasant experience in openSUSE 12.1. I initially tried to install Chromium in Apper. I got some sort of message saying that the install was being simulated or something. Huh? The install never actually seemed to happen.

I gave up on Apper and tried to install it via YaST2. The install seemed to work but I didn’t notice Chromium in the Internet applications menu until after I ran software update and then restarted openSUSE 12.1. The same went for Banshee, it didn’t seem to appear in the menus until after I restarted openSUSE 12.1.

I’m not really sure what the problem was with the software installs, but it was a bit odd to see that happening. Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen anything similar or perhaps I was just cursed this time around with openSUSE 12.1.

One of the more interesting new features is openSUSE 12.1’s support for ownCloud. Part of its support includes the Mirall tool. However, this tool does not seem to be installed by default and there seems to be no easy or quick way to set up ownCloud without it. While I’m happy that openSUSE is supporting ownCloud, what good is it if there’s no easy way for desktop users to use it? You can get more information here about ownCloud and Mirall. Right now I don’t see it as being particularly useful for most desktop users since it’s not installed by default.

The burps above aside, I didn’t notice anything else in the way of problems with openSUSE 12.1. It was stable and relatively speedy for me. I didn’t see noticeable application or system crashes while I was using it.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the OpenSUSE support portal page. You’ll find documentation, a support database, mailing list archives, forums and a link to IRC channels.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
openSUSE 12.1 is a fine desktop distro. The fact that it comes in a range of different desktop environments adds to its appeal. With the exception of the Apper software oddities, it performed very well for me.

openSUSE 12.1 is certainly worth a look if you are looking for an alternative to Ubuntu or if you’re just a curious distro hopper that hasn’t yet used openSUSE.

Beginner, intermediate or advanced users can use openSUSE 12.1. Beginners should take time to familiarize themselves with the system management tools found in YaST2 after installing openSUSE 12.1.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage. Summary Table:

Product: OpenSUSE 12.1
Web Site: http://www.opensuse.org
Price: Free
Pros: Comes in KDE, GNOME, Xfce and LXDE versions. Includes updated Linux kernel, KDE 4.7.2. Mirall tool provides support for ownCloud. Includes Snapper for snapshot functionality.
Cons: Newbies could be confused as to whether they should use Apper or YaST2 for software management.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users. Support for ownCloud and the Mirall tool will be appreciated by advanced users.
Rating: 3.5/5

 


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openSUSE 12.1 KDE comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

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Ubuntu 11.10

Yet another Ubuntu release is upon us. This time around it’s Oneiric Ocelot (Ubuntu 11.10). Canonical, as you may already know, tends to name its release after various kinds of animals. The ocelot is a dwarf leopard that dwells in South and Central America and Mexico. The other part of the name is the word “oneiric” which essentially means “relating to dreams” according to the Merrian-Webster dictionary.

Here’s a little background about the ocelot for those who are wondering about the name of this Ubuntu release:

The ocelot is mostly nocturnal and very territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. In addition, the cat marks its territory with urine. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and will occasionally share its spot with another ocelot of the same sex. Males occupy territories of 3.5 to 46 square kilometers (1.4 to 18 sq mi), while females occupy smaller, non-overlapping territories of 0.8 to 15 square kilometers (0.31 to 5.8 sq mi). Territories are marked by urine spraying and by leaving feces in prominent locations, sometimes favoring particular latrine sites.[9]

So apparently Canonical decided to name this release after a cat that dreams and pees a lot. Were they trying to send some sort of message? Interesting, I wonder if this decision was made by a particular individual or some sort of committee? Some have said that Canonical is copying Apple too much (Lion anybody?) and perhaps they have a point or two in that regard. Aaah well, it is what it is.

Ocelot

Ocelot

The cute name and the ocelot’s territorial pissings aside, there are many people who have been waiting for the release of Oneiric Ocelot. The last release of Ubuntu was quite controversial in some respects because of the Unity desktop. This time around Canonical has made some tweaks to Unity that might provide a potentially better experience. We’ll find out in this review if that’s true or not.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

New releases of compiz and Unity
New Alt+Tab switcher
Places are now called Lenses
Dash has a music lens that uses Banshee to search your music
Launchers and Panel promise better performance
Ubuntu Mono and Ubuntu Condensed have been added to the Ubuntu Font Family
Unity 2D shares more code with Unity and contains nearly completed accessibility support features
Ubuntu Software Center 5.0
OneConf lets you keep installed applications in sync across multiple computers
DVD size has been shrunk to 1.5 GB
Thunderbird is the default email client
Deja Dup is the default backup tool
Gwibber has been updated
LightDM is the login manager
Synaptic and Pitivi are not installed by default (but they are available in Software Center)
Linux kernel 3.0.0-12.20
Ubuntu One music collections can now stream to iOS and Android devices
Multiarch support for installing 32-bit application and library packages on 64-bit systems
Firefox 7 included as default browser
LibreOffice 3.4

Let’s jump into some of these new features in no particular order.

The multiarch support means that those running 64-bit systems will have access to a wider range of 32-bit applications and libraries. Not every application has to be 64-bit to be useful and so this release of Ubuntu should be particularly pleasing to those running 64-bit systems.

I’ll talk about the Ubuntu Software Center 5.0 in the software section of the review. Suffice to say that it’s had a significant overhaul that should make it a much better experience than it has been in the past.

The new improvements to Unity are welcome and appreciated. Unity 2D is nearly on par with the 3D accelerated version. The entire Unity experience has gotten significantly better in this release. And please note that I have not exactly been a fan of Unity in the past. I found it to be significantly more usable than in the past though I still am not sure I’d want to use it on a day-to-day basis. This time around though Unity feels much more…livable. I suspect that if I used it long enough I *might* actually come to like it.

Current users of Unity will note that it feels faster than the last release and it seems much more consistent than it did previously. I suspect that some of those who have been hesitating about Unity might now be swayed by the quality improvements in this release. I make no promises but if you’ve been skeptical of Unity you might want to give it another look.

The performance of the Panel and Launchers has been improved and is definitely noticeable. I never complain when the performance of something increases so I’m certainly not going to do that now. Kudos to Canonical for speeding them up.

Gwibber

Gwibber

LightDM is a very attractive login manager (see the screenshot in the Login/Desktop section of the review). While a new login manager isn’t earth-shattering news, it goes along with the rest of the improvements of this release in terms of polish. Little things like this help provide an overall better user experience when you add them all up.

The change to Thunderbird being the default email client matters very little to me. I stopped using local email clients and have mostly gone with web-based mail for a long time now. So I won’t be using Thunderbird or any other local email client any time soon. But your mileage may vary and some users might enjoy Thunderbird.

Deja Dup adds some real value by letting you back up locally or online via Ubuntu One. You get 5GB free with Ubuntu One and that’s a good start for most people to use for backups. True, it will cost you some money if you want more space but sometimes additional storage is worth paying for if you want to use online backups.

Deja Dup

Deja Dup

Oneconf is an excellent addition that should make it quite comfortable for anyone who wants to keep their apps in sync across multiple computers. I like anything that saves me the time and headache of having to manage things like that manually.

The absence of Pitivi and Synaptic are not particularly bothersome. You can easily install them later if you find yourself missing them.

Firefox 7 is now the default browser for Ubuntu 11.10. Don’t like Firefox 7? Well wait a few days and I’m sure Mozilla will release Firefox 8, 9, 10, etc. Ha, ha. Just kidding.

LibreOffice 3.4 should easily meet the needs of most desktop office suite users.

Gwibber has a new interface based on the latest GNOME technologies.

Ubuntu One

Ubuntu One

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

1 GHz Cpu (x86 processor (Pentium 4 or better))
1 Gb Ram (system memory)
15 Gb of hard-drive space (or usb-stick, memory-card or external drive but see LiveCd for an alternative approach)
800 by 600 screen resolution
Either a Cd/Dvd-drive or a Usb-port for the installer media
Internet access is helpful

Installation
The downloadable ISO file comes in a 1.8GB version (i386), or a 1.9GB version (AMD64). So it doesn’t take very long to download if you’re on a reasonably fast connection.

The Ubuntu installer is as slick as ever. I had no problems doing my install; even those who are totally new to Linux should be able to install Ubuntu 11.10.

When you first boot into Ubuntu 11.10, you’re given the option of trying it before installing. I decided to skip the live desktop (been there, done that a zillion times) and just went with the desktop install right off the bat. If you are totally new to Ubuntu then by all means try it first. You can do a full install right from the live desktop.

The installer walks you through each step of putting Ubuntu 11.10 on your system.

Welcome

Welcome

You can watch a slideshow of features while your install is completed. Please note that at one point you can opt to install updates and third party software such as flash while you’re install happens. I highly recommend doing this because it will save you time. Yes, the install will be a little longer but you won’t have bother with it later on.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Login
Here’s what the new login screen looks like:

Login

Login

As you can tell from the screenshot, it’s quite pretty. I suppose some might dismiss it as fluff but I think it’s rather sharp looking.

The Desktop
The Unity desktop, as I noted before, has had some significant changes done to it and is finally coming into its own. While I still lean toward Xubuntu, I could see myself getting quite comfortable with Unity the more I used it. In this release it has a way of growing on you that I did not expect since I was quite turned off by it in Ubuntu 11.04.

Note that the Dash appears at the top of the launcher. Click it and you’ll see the search box popup, along with commonly used applications and application categories. This makes using the Dash easier and faster.

Note that there are icons (lenses) at the bottom of the Dash screen that let you search Applications, Music, Files and Folders, etc. If you aren’t familiar with Lenses, be sure to read this page on Ubuntu’s Wiki. There are also some neat Lenses you might want to check out that go beyond the default ones that come with Ubuntu 11.10.

If you click the More Apps icon you’ll see Most Frequently Used, Installed, Apps Available for Download and also application category buttons on the right side of the screen. If you click one of the category buttons you’ll see a list of installed apps as well as a list of some apps in that category that you can download. I rather like the inclusion of app “suggestions” to download. It makes it easier to surface potentially useful apps that Ubuntu newbies might not even know exist.

As I mentioned earlier in the review, Unity 2D has been improved. So even if you aren’t running hardware that can support the full Unity experience, you’ll still have a good looking and highly usable desktop. The screenshots below are of Unity 2D.

Desktop

Desktop

Dash 1

Dash 1

Dash 2

Dash 2

One thing that may irritate some users is the change to menu buttons. If the window is maximized you won’t see menu buttons in the upper left unless you hover the mouse over them. I’m on the fence on this change. I suppose it makes things neater, but it also means you have to focus on hovering for a second to click on the buttons. Perhaps others won’t really care though? Maybe it’s a question of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

Menu Buttons

Menu Buttons

The Power Menu now lets you shutdown and do all the usual stuff you need to do.

Power Menu

Power Menu

Themes & Wallpaper
Ubuntu 11.10 comes with a decent and rather attractive set of wallpapers. You can access themes right from the same menu, so it’s quite convenient to change both at the same time.

Themes & Wallpaper

Themes & Wallpaper

System Settings

Here’s a look at the System Settings menu. Everything you’d expect to be there is and it gives you a good amount of control of your Ubuntu 11.10 system.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software in Ubuntu 11.10

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
FreeCell Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg

Graphics
Document Viewer
Image Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Shotwell

Internet
Desktop Sharing
Empathy
Firefox
Gwibber Social Client

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Brasero Disc Burner
Movie Player
Sound Recorder

Office
LibreOffice

Software Management
The Ubuntu Software Center has had a significant overhaul. Top rated applications are now very visible when you first open the Software Center. There’s also a banner at the top that features a particular application. Application categories are also prominent on the left side of the screen.

You can also easily see your installed software by clicking the icon at the top of the Software Center. The history screen lets you see All Changes, Installations, Updates and Removals.

Application list views can be sorted by Name, Top Rated, Relevance or Newest First. I particularly love sorting based on Top Rated as it helps speed up the finding of the best applications by utilizing the combined collective knowledge and experience of all Software Center users.

I also noticed that there is a What’s New section on the main view as well as I write this review. It’s a nice way of surfacing new apps that users might not otherwise know about.

The Software Center has come a long way from where it started and I’m glad to see such progress. No, it’s not perfect but it keeps getting better and better as time goes by.

Software Center All

Software Center Main View

Software Center Installed

Software Center Installed

Software Center Category

Software Center Category

Software Center History

Software Center History

Adding & Removing Software
It’s easy to add or remove software. To add just click the Install button in Software Center. Click the Remove button if it’s something you want to get rid of from your system.

Installing VLC

Install VLC

You can click the More Info button when viewing an application in list view if you want to know more about a particular application. More Info will take you to another page that will let you view add ons, comments by other users, version number, total size, etc. It’s a good way to find out more about an application.

K3B More Info

K3B More Info

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
As I noted in the install section, I opted to have third party software and updates installed during the installation. So I had no problems running flash based videos in Ubuntu 11.10. Flash performance seemed pretty good in Firefox 7.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
The selection of multimedia applications that are installed by default is very bare bones. You get Banshee, Brasero Disc Burner, Movie Player and Sound Recorder.

I strongly suggest browsing the Software Center and sorting multimedia applications by Top Rated to snag some really good additional multimedia software. There’s quite a bit available in the Software Center and sorting by Top Rated will bring most of the best stuff right to the surface for easy downloading and installing on your Ubuntu 11.10 system.

VLC Media Player pops up right at the top of the list when you use Top Rated sorting. It’s an excellent program and highly recommended.

Multimedia Apps

Multimedia Apps (Sorted by Top Rated)

Problems & Headaches
For some strange reason, I was not able to authorize my Twitter account while using Gwibber. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I had no problems setting up Facebook in Gwibber. I don’t count this as much of a big deal since I don’t tweet all that much anyway. But perhaps others out there have noticed it too? Or was it just a temporary Twitter burp? Let me know in the comments if you had a similar problem.

Beyond that I didn’t find very much to complain about in Ubuntu 11.10. I didn’t come across any noticeable bugs or other aggravations. Things ran relatively speedy and everything seemed pretty stable.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Ubuntu support page. You’ll find documentation, a technical answers system, training courses, paid support services and even free community support on that page. So bookmark it in case you have problems with Ubuntu 11.10.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Ubuntu 11.10 is a more polished release than 11.04. Unity is finally beginning to come into its own and has become significantly more usable. Canonical has made up for some of Unity’s initial headaches and these efforts may bring back some of the Ubuntu users who have fled to other Ubuntu spins such as Xubuntu or Lubuntu.

The Software Center upgrade also provides some real value in this release. It’s gotten to be a much better experience as it has evolved and it should be a fairly comfortable tool for even those totally new to Linux.

Ubuntu 11.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users. Those currently running Ubuntu 11.04 should definitely consider an upgrade to this release. At the very least it’s worth burning to a DVD and trying out the live desktop environment to see if it floats your boat.

If you still aren’t sure about Ubuntu 11.10 and you aren’t willing to download and burn a DVD, head over to the web based demo. You can kick Ubuntu’s tires a bit and poke around right from the comfort of your browser. You can also take a short online tour of Ubuntu 11.10.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu 11.10
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com
Price: Free
Pros: Updated Software Center and new releases of compiz and Unity. 32-bit applications & libraries can now run on 64-bit machines. Deja Dup can be used to backup locally or online via Ubuntu One. Contains Linux kernel 3.0 and GNOME 3.2 components.
Cons: Confirmed Unity haters might still want to stick with a different distro or a different Ubuntu spin. Default multimedia application selection leaves a little bit to be desired.
Suitable For:  Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5

 


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Ubuntu 11.10 comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

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Kubuntu 11.10

The release of Ubuntu 11.10 also means that all of the related spins have also been updated, including Kubuntu 11.10.

Many people have expressed dissatisfaction with Ubuntu after Canonical added Unity to it. Kubuntu has often been mentioned as a possible replacement for Ubuntu for users who dislike Unity and want to move to another environment. Does Kubuntu 11.10 work well as a replacement for Ubuntu 11.10? We’ll find out in this review.

Desktop

Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

KDE 4.7
Kontact Suite 4.7
Amarok Improvements
Muon Suite 1.2 (Muon Software Center, Muon Package Manager)
Low Fat Settings

KDE 4.7 includes improvements to the Network Management widget, a breadcrumb feature in the Kickoff menu, improvements to Dolphin’s default look and visual updates that include a new Oxygen icon theme. Gwenview can also compare two or more images.

I really like the breadcrumb feature in the Kickoff menu. I have never been much of a fan of the sliding menus but the breadcrumb at least makes it easier and faster to move around. I’ll probably still default to using the classic menu, but I’m glad the breadcrumb is there. The rest of the improvements will also please most KDE users.

Breadcrumb

Breadcrumb

Kontact 4.7 is the latest version of KDE’s PIM suite. This release includes Kmail 2. As noted on the news release page, this is a major upgrade to Kontact so you should make sure you back up all of your mail, contact, calendars and other important data before considering an upgrade.

Kontact 4.7

Kontact 4.7

Amarok has a refined interface, improved reliability and native support for remote NFS & SMB/CIFS collections (see the screenshot in the multimedia section). I don’t listen to music much these days so I’m not a big user of Amarok, but I think these improvements are worth noting (particularly improved reliability). If you want more details on the changes to Amarok, see the 2.41 and 2.43 release announcements.

The Muon Suite is probably the real standout feature for this release of Kubuntu. It replaces KPackageKit as Kubuntu’s software management tool. I’ll have more to say about in the software section of the review (screenshots are also in that section). Suffice to say that I’m very pleased with it. Improved package management and a software center bode well for KDE users.

The last standout feature in this release is the Low Fat Settings. Low Fat Settings are geared toward making Kubuntu run better on older, underpowered computers. They reduce memory usage and can also help speed up the loading time of KDE. Memory usage can be reduced by up to 32% and the loading time can be sped up by up to 33%.

Here’s a list of what the LFS change when you use them:

Turning off compositing by default.
Disabling the automatic loading of various modules, such as bluedevil, the free space notifier, some Nepomuk services, and a other components.
Reducing the number of default Krunner plugins that are loaded automatically.
Reducing the amount of graphical effects used in the window decoration.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

A Pentium 4, 1GHz system is the minimum recommended for a desktop system.

Table 3.2. Recommended Minimum System Requirements

Install Type RAM (minimal) RAM (recommended) Hard Drive
No desktop 64 megabytes 256 megabytes 1 gigabyte
With Desktop 64 megabytes 512 megabytes 5 gigabytes

The actual minimum memory requirements are a lot less then the numbers listed in this table. Depending on the architecture, it is possible to install Ubuntu with as little as 20MB (for s390) to 48MB (for i386 and amd64). The same goes for the disk space requirements, especially if you pick and choose which applications to install; see the section called “Disk Space Needed” for additional information on disk space requirements.

Installation

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end. As you might expect Kubuntu 11.10 is very easy to install. The install is quick and you should be up and running with few or no problems. It’s a good idea to check the box that let you install third party software such as Flash, and also the one that downloads updates during the install. It will save you time and effort later on.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot

Boot

Login

Login

The Desktop
As I noted earlier, this release of Kubuntu includes KDE 4.7. Dolphin has a new, cleaner default look that you can check out in the screenshot below.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Desktop

Kubuntu 11.10 Desktop

The other big desktop change is the breadcrumb feature in the Kickoff menu. The breadcrumb definitely makes navigating more convenient and it helps you to know where you are in the menu without having to navigate backward.

Breadcrumb

Breadcrumb

Still, it makes me wonder if the sliding menus in KDE are really worth keeping in the first place. If you switch to the Classic menu by right clicking the K button you can navigate through application categories without the need for something like the breadcrumb. It’s apparent immediately what category you are browsing.

Classic Menu

Classic Menu

Am I just an old fuddy duddy here? Or does the classic menu seem more intuitive? I don’t know, maybe I’m just nitpicking but the older menu seems much quicker and easier to use even with the breadcrumb included in the sliding menu. What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments, I’d be interested in know how many people switch the Kicker menu back to the classic version after installing KDE.

System Settings
Here’s a look at the System Settings menu for this release. All of the usual tools are there for you to manage your system.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
KPatience

Graphics
Gwenview
KSnapshot
LibreOffice Draw
Okular

Internet
Akregator
BlueDevil
KMail
Kopete IM
KPPP
KTorrent
Mozilla Firefox Installer
Quassel IRC
rekonq

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
K3b
KMix

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KTimeTracker
LibreOffice

Software Management
The Muon Software Center and Package Manager are a big change in this release. Previously Kubuntu used KPackageKit as its software manager.

Muon Package Manager

Muon Package Manager

The Package Manager is geared toward administrators, while the Software Center is better suited for desktop users.

Applications are broken down into the usual categories in the Muon Software Center. You can see user ratings and reviews when you click the More Info button of an application. You can also see a screenshot of the application before installing it on your system. Add-ons for the application can also be seen on the More Info page.

Overall, I think the Muon Software Center is a good thing for Kubuntu 11.10. It’s very easy to use and makes adding and removing software a breeze in Kubuntu. I’m sure there are some out there that will miss KPackageKit but give this new alternative a chance. I think you’ll be pleased with it once you’ve spent a few minutes using it.

Muon Software Center

The Muon Software Center

Kubuntu Software

Kubuntu Software

Internet Software Category

Internet Software Category

Chromium 1

Chromium in the Internet applications category.

Chromium 2

The Chromium More Info page.

Chromium Reviews

User ratings and reviews of Chromium.

LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice Writer

Software Repositories
Click the Settings menu to change your software sources in the Muon Software Center. I recommend sticking with the default settings unless you have some pressing need to change them.

Software Sources

Software Sources

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very simple to add or remove software. Just find the application in the Muon Software Center and click the Install or Remove button. You can also do it from the More Info page of an application. I had no problems installing Chromium and other applications on my system.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Since I installed third party software during the install, I had no problems running flash videos in rekonq. Sound and video were both fine.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Kubuntu 11.10 comes with Amarok, K3B, KMix and Dragon Player as its default multimedia applications. It’s an okay selection of apps, but I’d definitely hit the Muon Software Center to pick up some of the other programs that are available such as VLC.

Amarok

Amarok

Multimedia Apps in Muon

Multimedia Apps in Muon

 

I’m pleased to report that I didn’t encounter any noticeable problems while using Kubuntu 11.10. Everything worked well from the time I installed it, I didn’t see any burps or bugs. Kubuntu 11.10 seemed pretty fast and stable to me. If you’ve encountered any problems, please share them in the comments below though. Someone might have an answer that could help you or your experience could help someone else out if they run into problems with Kubuntu 11.10.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Kubuntu support page. You can access documentation, the technical answers system, free community help or you can purchase paid support for your Kubuntu 11.10 system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Kubuntu 11.10 provided a pleasant experience for me. Existing Kubuntu users will most likely enjoy it, except perhaps for KPackageKit die-hards that might not want to use the Muon Suite. I suspect those folks will definitely be in a very small minority, however.

Ubuntu users who are still not happy with Unity should definitely consider giving Kubuntu 11.10 a look. It’s a viable alternative to Ubuntu for the folks that are still having trouble accepting Canonical’s decision to move Ubuntu to Unity. I highly recommend it as a possible replacement for Ubuntu.

Kubuntu 11.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Kubuntu 11.10
Web Site:  http://www.kubuntu.org
Price: Free
Pros:  Muon Suite 1.2; Low Fat Settings, KDE 4.7, Kontact 4.7.
Cons:  Could use a wider range of bundled multimedia applications as part of the default installation.
Suitable For:  Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5

 


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Kubuntu 11.10 comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

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Mageia 1

Mandriva had been around a long time and is a popular desktop distribution. I was intrigued to find that Mandriva now has a fork called Mageia. The first release of Mageia came out recently and I finally found some time to sit down and give it a go. Mageia was created by former Mandriva contributors. For more background, be sure to read the original announcement about Mageia.

Here’s a brief snippet from the announcement that explains why Mageia was created.

Paris, September 18th 2010

As you may have heard, the future of the Mandriva Linux distribution is unclear.

Most employees working on the distribution were laid off when Edge-IT was liquidated. We do not trust the plans of Mandriva SA anymore and we don’t think the company (or any company) is a safe host for such a project.

Many things have happened in the past 12 years. Some were very nice: the Mandriva Linux community is quite large, motivated and experienced, the distribution remains one of the most popular and an award-winning product, easy to use and innovative. Some other events did have some really bad consequences that made people not so confident in the viability of their favourite distribution.

People working on it just do not want to be dependent on the economic fluctuations and erratic, unexplained strategic moves of the company.

Corporate shenanigans are always irritating for everybody, but it sounds to me like the Mageia developers saw some bad things happening and decided to do some good anyway. I commend them for their foresight and willingness to take the bull by the horns and press forward with this fork. They seemed to have had the best interests of Mandriva users at heart, and that speaks very well of these developers indeed.

Desktop

The Mageia KDE Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Since this is a first release, there’s no real “what’s new” to cover. But here are some tidbits about Mageia.

Available in KDE 4, GNOME 2.32, XFCE 4, LXDE
Also available are Openbox, WindowMaker, ICEWM, Fluxbox and Fvvm2
Includes kernel 2.6.38
Includes system config tools drakconf, drak3d, drakguard, rpmdrake, drakx-net, userdrake.
Includes package management tools urpme, urpmf, urpmq, urpmi.update, urmpi.addmedia, urpmi.removemedia

Please note that if you are an existing Mandriva user who wants to migrate to Mageia, be sure to see Mageia’s migration guide. It speaks well of the Mageia developers that they took the time to try to make migrating from Mandriva as easy and trouble-free as possible. It wasn’t something they had to do, but they did it anyway. Kudos and thanks for having the foresight to know that there would be some folks interested in switching over existing Mandriva systems.

Migration Guide

Migration Guide

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • Processor: any AMD, Intel or VIA processor;
  • Memory (RAM): 512MB minimum, 2GB recommended;
  • Storage (HDD): 1GB for a minimal installation, 6GB for a full setup;
  • Optical drive: CD or DVD depending on the ISO you use (network, USB key installation available);
  • Graphic card: any ATI, Intel, Matrox, nVidia, SiS or VIA graphic card;
  • Sound card: any AC97, HDA or Sound Blaster sound card.

Installation

Mageia comes in DVD or CD formats. You can also opt to download a Live CD ISO that will let you preview Mageia without needing to install it on your system. The install is not difficult and shouldn’t take very long. However, it’s always nice to have the option of simply booting into a Live CD to get a taste of a distro before installing it.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 9a

Install 9a

Install 9b

Install 9b

Install 9c

Install 9c

Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot menu and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
Since I installed the KDE version of Mageia 1, the screen shot below shows you a KDE 4.6.3 desktop. The desktop isn’t cluttered up, there are just three icons: Home, Join Mageia Community and the trash can. Everything is where you’d expect it to be in the menus, so it’s quite easy to find your way around even if you’ve never touched Mageia before.

Desktop

Desktop

If you click the Join Mageia Community icon, a page will load in Firefox that lets you see different roles that you might be able to play in the Mageia project. I really like this approach since it makes it easy for people who might want to help Mageia grow by helping out in various roles. If you really like Mageia, it’s a good idea to check that page out and see what you might have to offer the project.

Contribute to Mageia

Contribute to Mageia

Themes
There are three themes to choose from: Air, Air for Netbooks and Oxygen. You can click the Get New Themes button in the Workspace Appearance menu in System Settings to spice things up by adding additional themes.

Wallpaper
To change your wallpaper, right click the desktop and choose Folder View Settings. There are some beautiful wallpaper available in the default install, and you can easily get more.

Wallpapers

Wallpapers

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Various K games (arcade, boards, cards, puzzles, strategy and others)

Graphics
AcquireImages
digiKam
DNGConverter
ExpoBlending
GIMP
Gwenview
KColorChooser
KolourPaint
KRuler
KSnapshot
Okular

Internet
Akergator
BlueDevil
Ekiga Softphone
FileZilla
Firefox
KAddressBook
KGet
KMail
KnetAttach
Knode
Konqueror
Kontact
Konversation
Kopete
KOrganizer
KPPP
KRDC
Krfb
KTorrent
Network Center

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
Kdenlive
KMix
KsCD
Movie Player
PulseAudio Volume Control
Sound Recorder

Office
LibreOffice
Okular
Scribus
skrooge

Others
OpenJDK Monitoring & Management Console
OpenJDK Policy Tool

Software Management
Mageia uses Rpmdrake 5.26.10 as its software manager. It’s a reasonably attractive and very functional software manager. You can easily read descriptions of software packages, see details, files, changelog, dependencies, etc.

However, it lacks user reviews and ratings so it lags a bit behind some other desktop software managers. I’d like to see those features added at some point, but if those things don’t matter to you then Rpmdrake should be fine as your software manager as it is.

Rpmdrake

Rpmdrake

Adding & Removing Software
It’s simple to add or remove software. Find the package you want to add or remove, and then click or unclick the check box next to it. If you are installing an application you will see an “additional packages needed” menu that pops up. Just click the Okay button and then click Apply. You’ll see a confirmation menu; just click the Yes button to install your packages.

Adding Software

Adding Software

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash didn’t seem to be installed in Firefox by default. It is available though if you search in Rpmdrake. After I installed it I had no problems running flash based content.

No Flash

No Flash

Add Flash

Add Flash

Flash Installed

Flash Installed

Multimedia Applications
Mageia comes with Amarok, Dragon Player, Kdenlive, KMix, KsCD, Movie Player, PulseAudio Volume Control and Sound Recorder. It’s a pretty good selection of basic multimedia apps, and you can find more in Rpmdrake.

Kdenlive

Kdenlive

Problems & Headaches
Mageia ran pretty well for me in VirtualBox. I initially thought I had a problem with it since it was trying to install software off the CD; then I realized that I’d left the CD mounted. I removed it and restarted, and then Mageia downloaded the software properly. So I can’t blame Mageia for my own forgetfulness. Heh.

That minor burp aside, I didn’t see anything that gave me a problem in Mageia. It ran well for me; everything seemed stable and pretty fast. I’m glad to see that it’s in such good shape given that this is a first release. It bodes well for the future of this distro.

Have you run into any problems with Mageia? Share them in the comments section below. I’m interested in knowing about any burps or headaches you might have had.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Mageia support page, forum and wiki.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
It’s unfortunate that as venerable a distro as Mandriva ran into some corporate trouble. However, I’ve always been the type that believes you should make lemonade out of lemons and so apparently are the Mageia developers. They have taken a bad situation and turned it into something very positive indeed! Mageia is off to a very good start and I look forward to seeing more releases of this fine distro.

I particularly like how community-oriented Mageia is; the Mageia developers have made it very easy for users to participate and help develop this distro. That’s a great approach and I think it will reap a lot of dividends for Mageia as the years go by and this distro matures.

Mageia should work well for beginner, intermediate or advanced users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Mageia 1
Web Site: http://www.mageia.org
Price: Free
Pros: Offers an upgrade path to current Mandriva users. Easy install, good selection of software. Comes in a number of different desktop environments including GNOME and KDE.
Cons: Software manager lags behind Ubuntu and Linux Mint since it doesn’t include user reviews and ratings.
Suitable For:  Beginner, intermediate and advanced users.
Rating: 4/5

 

 


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Mageia 1 comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

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Sabayon 6

The last time I looked at Sabayon Linux it was up to version 5, this time around it’s version 6. Sabayon Linux is based on Gentoo and, as you may already know, Gentoo has not always been considered the easiest version of desktop Linux for non-technical users to install and use. Sabayon Linux does a pretty good job of making Gentoo available to those who simply want to install and use Gentoo without having to roll their own or otherwise deal with Gentoo’s potential headaches.

Sabayon Linux comes in a number of different spins including GNOME and KDE. For this review I’ve installed the KDE version. Note though that there are other spins including SpinBase, CoreCDX, ServerBase and OpenVZ. Most desktop users will probably want to simply opt for the GNOME or KDE spins rather than the others.

Here’s some additional info though about the other spins for those who are curious:

SpinBase is a very minimal environment that can be used for many different purposes: didactical, home server deployment, but even for custom Sabayon ISO images creation, using our tool called Molecule). Any Sabayon release we make is based on SpinBase.

CoreCDX instead, is geared towards very minimal graphical environment setup, no fancy tools, browsers, whatever, just Fluxbox and command-line. You set the rule.
ServerBase is very similar to SpinBase, but powered by a server-optimized Linux kernel (package: sys-kernel/linux-server)

OpenVZ is our official OpenVZ template.

All of them have a smaller footprint making them fit into a single CD, or USB memory sticks.

SpinBase and ServerBase are provided with a very minimal Anaconda Installer and CoreCDX should be preferred for non-standard filesystem/partition layouts.

Splash

Splash

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux Kernel 2.6.39.1 and blazing fast, yet reliable, boot
Providing extra Server-optimized, OpenVZ-enabled, Vserver-enabled kernels in repositories
Natively supporting btrfs filesystem
Completely reworked artwork and boot music intro, thanks to our little Van Gogh (Ian Whyman)
Improved theming for 16:9 and 16:10 widescreen monitors
Transform Sabayon into an full-featured HTPC Operating System (Media Center) using XBMC
Entropy 1.0_rc10, bringing outstanding speed and reliability. Entropy Store (Sulfur) went through a massive speed rework. Entropy Web Services foundation library has been introduced in order to support User Generated Content contributions in a more powerful way, bringing our Package Manager in the Social Internet age. Added support to delta packages downloads, parallel packages download, differential repository update through simple HTTPS protocol
Several Sabayon Installer improvements, especially with dealing with crypt, LVM and swRAID environments
Added a non-intrusive firewall tool called “ufw” and its frontends for GNOME and KDE
X.Org Server updated to 1.10
Sane Desktop Compositing now enabled by default
Switched to IcedTea6 as bundled Java VM
Switched to jpeg-turbo library, boosting JPEG images rendering speed
Switched to LibreOffice 3.3.3
Switched to Chromium/WebKit as bundled Web Browser
Split nvidia-drivers and ati-drivers into userspace and kernel modules, improving reliability over kernel migrations
Updated to GNOME 2.32.2 and KDE 4.6.4
Updated to GRUB 1.99
Introduced the “kernel-switcher” tool, to easily switch between available Sabayon Linux kernels
Python toolchain updated to version 2.7
Updated to GCC 4.5.2
Dracut and Plymouth ready (expect them in Sabayon 7)
Thousands of updates and bug fixes that flew in, during these last 4 months
We’re still here! (it’s a feature), only thanks to your donations, please keep donating, donate now!

There’s obviously quite a bit of new stuff in this release. Much of it isn’t necessarily obvious to most desktop users, especially those new to Sabayon Linux.

I’m very happy that LibreOffice 3.3.3 is now included as the default office suite. I’ve been using LibreOffice for a while and it’s shaping up nicely.

I am also glad to see that Chromium is the default browser rather than Firefox. I still like Firefox but I’ve found myself gravitating toward Chromium for a while now and it seems that many distro developers are moving in that direction too. Firefox is still available to install if you want it though, so no worries there.

GNOME and KDE have both been updated in this release. I’m glad to see that the Sabayon developers did not use GNOME 3, given what a mess it is right now.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Minimum requirements (aka, we don’t underestimate them, like everybody else does):

An i686-compatible Processor (Intel Pentium II/III, Celeron, AMD Athlon)
512Mb RAM (GNOME) – 768Mb RAM (KDE)
8 GB of free space
A X.Org supported 2D GPU
A DVD reader

Optimal requirements

A Dual Core Processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or better, AMD Athlon 64 X2 or better)
1024Mb RAM
15 GB of free space
A X.Org supported 3D GPU (Intel, AMD, NVIDIA) (esp. for XBMC)

Installation
Installing Sabayon Linux is on par with installing Fedora (they use the same installer, though the install is slightly different in terms of steps). The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 9a

Install 9a

Install 9b

Install 9b

Install 9c

Install 9c

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Sabayon 6 desktop contains 3 icons: Donate to Sabayon, Entropy Store (software management) and Get Live Help. The wallpaper is dark and subdued for the most part.

Since this spin uses KDE as its desktop environment, I switched the menu to the classic version. The sliding menus drive me crazy after a while. I recommend that you do so if you find yourself irritated by them. Just right-click the kicker button on the panel and you can easily make the change.

Navigating the application menus, etc. is easy and everything is where you’d expect it to be.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
You can access the Desktop Theme choices by pulling up the System Settings tool. There are a few other choices if the default theme isn’t to your liking.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
If the default wallpaper is a bit blase for your tastes you’ll find some much brighter and more upbeat choices included.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a screenshot of what you’ll find in the System Settings tool that lets you manage your Sabayon Linux system.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Various logic, arcade, board, card & strategy games

Graphics
AcquireImages
DNGConverter
Gwenview
KSnapshot
LibreOffice Draw

Internet
Akregator
BlueDevil
Chromium
KNetAttach
Konversation
Kopete IM
KPP

Multimedia
Clementine Music Player
K3b
KMix
VLC
XBMC Media Center

Office
Kontact
KOrganizer
LibreOffice
Okular

Software Management
Sabayon uses Sulfur as its front-end to Entropy’s package management. Sulfur is usable but not nearly as slick or easy on the eyes as Ubuntu’s Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager (more on that in the problems section of the review). Users can rate software packages though so that adds some helpfulness to Sulfur.

The screenshots below give you a good idea of what you’ll find when you click the Entropy Store link on the Sabayon Linux 6 desktop.

Sulfur Updates

Sulfur Updates

Sulfur LibreOffice

Sulfur LibreOffice

Adding & Removing Software
It’s easy to add or remove software. Just find the application and click the checkbox then choose Install to install an application. To remove one, find it and then right click the green box and choose Remove.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is installed by default so you can experience YouTube content without having to install anything. Here’s a very cool video of a penguin that managed to escape a bunch of killer whales by jumping into a boat. He’s a very lucky and very smart penguin.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Sabayon 6 comes with Clementine, K3b, KMix, PulseAudio, VLC and the XBMC Media Center. It’s a pretty reasonable selection of default multimedia applications. You can find more in the Entropy Store if these don’t cut it for your multimedia needs.

VLC

VLC

Clementine

Clementine

Problems & Headaches
I recommend booting Sabayon Linux without the music. I find the music annoying and distracting. It’s not really a problem though since you can choose whether or not you want to boot with it.

The sulfur interface needs some work in the area of color design. It’s rather on the garish side to look at and makes it less pleasant to use than it should be. I know that this is a subjective opinion but pink text? WTF? Damn, it just irritates me to stare it. I suspect I’m not alone in that regard either. It might seem like a minor thing but it sort of hits you in the face when you open the Entropy Store to manage your software.

While I’m on this subject, why is it called the “Entropy Store” anyway? It makes it sound like you have to pay for the software. That is potentially confusing to newbies. Perhaps a better name such as “Sabayon Software Manager” or something else that is more obvious? I know that some people will think I’m nitpicking here but it’s these kinds of things that tend to confuse people new to Linux.

One other problem I ran into was the XBMC Media Center, which wouldn’t load when I tried to launch it from the multimedia applications menu.

Beyond that I didn’t have much in the way of problems with Sabayon Linux 6. It was pretty stable and speedy for me.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Sabayon forum, mailing list and wiki.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
The Sabayon developers have done a good job at making Gentoo accessible for less technical users. However, this distro is in need of some software management improvements as I noted in the problems section. The Entropy Store needs to be a bit more aesthetically pleasing and it could also use a name change.

Overall though my experience with Sabayon 6 was pretty positive and there’s not a whole lot to dislike about it. It’s a solid desktop distro that should get the job done for most people.

Sabayon 6 is probably best suited for intermediate and advanced users. Beginners can certainly try it out but might find other distros to be a more comfortable fit.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Sabayon 6
Web Site: http://www.sabayon.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Comes in various spins. Updated KDE & GNOME desktops (GNOME 2.32.2 and KDE 4.6.4). LibreOffice 3.3.3 is the default office suite. Installer improvements. Reworked art and boot music. Speed increase for Entropy. Chromium is the default browser.
Cons: Sulfur front-end needs color overhaul. The Entropy Store needs to be renamed.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 3.5/5

 


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Sabayon 6 comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

Read More