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Monday, 1 September 2014

Introduction

During the past month I have been in discussions with a number of people at about.com.

I have been provided with the opportunity of writing articles on the linux.about.com subsite and I am in full control of all the content that will appear on that site.

It is early days and there is some old content on the site which is a bit out of date but I plan to make linux.about.com a great resource for everyone.

What about Everyday Linux User?

Nothing changes with regards to Everyday Linux User.

Everyday Linux User is about providing guides for the average computer user and it will continue to have reviews and how to guides and all the usual content that this site provides.

Articles at Linux.about.com

The articles at Linux.about.com are likely to be more varied with some basic content for new users and some command line stuff for those who want to get their hands well and truly dirty.

There will be some overlap between the two sites and that is to expected.

And the first article is....

The first article has just been published and shows how to install Ubuntu within Windows using Virtualbox

Thankyou for reading.



Linux @ About.com

Introduction

During the past month I have been in discussions with a number of people at about.com.

I have been provided with the opportunity of writing articles on the linux.about.com subsite and I am in full control of all the content that will appear on that site.

It is early days and there is some old content on the site which is a bit out of date but I plan to make linux.about.com a great resource for everyone.

What about Everyday Linux User?

Nothing changes with regards to Everyday Linux User.

Everyday Linux User is about providing guides for the average computer user and it will continue to have reviews and how to guides and all the usual content that this site provides.

Articles at Linux.about.com

The articles at Linux.about.com are likely to be more varied with some basic content for new users and some command line stuff for those who want to get their hands well and truly dirty.

There will be some overlap between the two sites and that is to expected.

And the first article is....

The first article has just been published and shows how to install Ubuntu within Windows using Virtualbox

Thankyou for reading.



Posted at 23:24 |  by Gary Newell

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Introduction


I like to read the "Today in open source" column written by Jim Lynch.

On the 27th August there was a link to an article by John Dvorak which basically stated that Linux has run out of time.

Speaking of Munich, John Dvorak uses it as the opening to a diatribe about how Linux on the desktop has run out of time or something like that. Think carefully before you click through to read the article

The above quote was written by Jim Lynch and I should have heeded the warning. Jim told me before clicking through that this was an article designed to stir up a wasps nest.

What has this to do with the Ghostbusters video linked above? There is a line in Ghostbusters where Ray says "Ok, I'm opening the trap, don't look into the trap" and just seconds follow before Egon says "I looked into the trap, Ray".

Humans are curious and if there is a big red button that says "do not press" our natural instincts makes us wonder what the button is for and the second instinct is to press it to find out.

Linux has run out of time

The reason for John's article appears to be the on off relationship that Munich appears to be having with Linux at the moment.

John Dvorak believes that Linux has had its chance and it has failed to impress. 
I like Linux and would love to just go all-in with it as the mavens tell me I can do. But I cannot. I use these computers to make a living by writing and podcasting. I also produce photographic art as a hobby. I can't accomplish any of this with Linux.
Does this tell us more about John's failings than the state of Linux. Let us consider podcasting for example. Linux Outlaws, Everyday Linux, The Linux Links Tech Show (TLLTS), Ubuntu UK Podcast, Mintcast, Linux Action Show. All of these are really excellent examples of Linux podcasts. Am I supposed to believe that all of these podcasts are made using Windows? If John is right then it wouldn't be possible for all of these excellent podcasts to create their recordings using the operating system that they discuss on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

What about writing? Linux User & Developer Magazine, Linux Format Magazine, Linux Journal. Are all of these magazines using Windows to write articles about Linux. That would seem a bit counterproductive. How can people write so religiously about a topic that they don't have faith in?
There are a lot of products that I need that will run on WINE, a chunk of code that allows Windows software to run on Linux. It's not perfect. It takes tweaking, there are all sorts of issues, and, more importantly, what's the point? If I have to run Windows applications, I want Windows, don't I? 

John wants Windows and therein lies the problem. You can't write an objective article about Linux if ultimately you want Windows. WINE is great and it is getting better year on year at running Windows based applications but at the same time there are less and less Windows applications that Linux users truly rely on. 
Then we have Photoshop, Illustrator, and the entire Adobe universe. None of it runs on Linux natively and people "have heard" that it runs okay on WINE. This is no good. Then GIMP enters the conversation. Yes, as a Photoshop clone it's actually pretty good. But the name says it all: hobbled.
The main issue with people using GIMP professionally as opposed to Photoshop is the hype given by people like John.

Why do so many offices around the world run Windows? For decades Windows has been taught in schools as the only operating system and Microsoft Office has been taught in schools as the only office suite.

When you enter the business market place it can therefore be no surprise that big companies run Windows and use Microsoft Office. The people that run the IT departments and their senior managers and directors were all brought up on Windows. They feel safe by using it. It has nothing to do with what works and what doesn't.

Photoshop is the same. Photoshop has become a commonly known product and web design companies hire people because they have Photoshop skills. The people running these agencies have become too ingrained into thinking that Photoshop is the only way to go.

Things do change though. Microsoft used to dominate everything. Every man and his dog used to use Hotmail but now more and more people use GMail. Do we even need a mail client anymore such as Outlook? I can have a million emails in my GMail account and with a quick keyword search I can find the email I am looking for.
Ironically, Microsoft didn't need to change anything. Word is just better. Excel is better. PowerPoint is better. It's that simple.

Is Word better than LibreOffice Writer or is LibreOffice Writer better than Word? Is Android better than Apple? Were Nirvana better than Pearl Jam? Which were better "The Beatles" or "The Rolling Stones"?

Microsoft Word has a lot of flaws that people seem to gloss over. Bullets and numbering for instance are just random. The fonts change, the numbering changes, the indentation changes and for no apparent reason.

The Microsoft ribbon bars have surely just been added to sell training courses because there is no way they are better than menus, toolbars and keyboard shortcuts. Everything we have been used to for 20 years all switched around for no seemingly good reason. I don't like it when my local supermarket rearranges all the shelves for no apparent reason either. If you want a ribbon bar then there is always Kingsoft Office.
 My wife, for example, likes the Windows way of tracking and saving all changes in a document, and the ability to reclaim old text.
Good for her John. I quite like my computer to boot in under 30 seconds, not display a blue screen saying there has been an error and then spend 3.5 hours reconfiguring itself. Each to their own I guess.

LibreOffice Calc is probably a more difficult sell. IT departments in the business world are commonly underfunded and therefore to get around IT deficiencies every other department in the company has the so called resident Excel expert who knows VBA. Companies big and small have badly designed spreadsheets with poor VBA code, whereby the expert left long ago but nobody dares to change the spreadsheet for fear of breaking it.

Getting companies to clean up these spreadsheets is not a cheap task and therefore abandoning Excel for LibreOffice is probably not going to happen.

If I want a word processor to create e-books, for example, or to organize large texts I use Scrivener. Does Scrivener run on Linux? Maybe someday. I still do the original writing in Word, then run it to Scrivener for organizing and compiling. Linux is not part of the scheme.
It just so happens that Scrivener has arrived on Linux. At the moment it is in Beta but then so was GMail for about 5 years.

Right now Linux on the desktop remains a cheap curiosity, that is kind of fun to play with when you are bored.
I am not suggesting for a minute that Linux has made it on the desktop. To be honest I'm not sure what the big fascination is.

All I know is that for me Linux is easy to install, easy to use and for home use it has served me well for over 10 years.

I haven't had a virus or any sign of malware in all the time I have used Linux. I only have to switch on my Windows based computer before I am bombarded with an Antivirus package that wants to update itself constantly and scan every single file and process slowing down the whole machine to crawling point.

I can't reboot my Windows based computer without it wanting to install updates 1 of 63, 2 of 63, 3 of 63 on what appears to be a daily basis.

Free software in Windows doesn't mean free anymore. Once the bastion of freeware and shareware CNet now seems to supply software riddled with endless toolbars, search tools and PC Optimisers and they aren't the only download site doing that.

When I run Windows applications at work, every so often I will receive a message saying that the application has stopped working. It doesn't give a reason, it just tells me it has stopped working. The application then dies and I have to restart it. I'm not saying that I have never had an application crash on me in Linux but it is far less frequent and the reasons why are far more verbose.

I don't write about Linux to force Windows users into changing their operating system. If somebody is using Windows and they want a change then I try an aid that process.

Why does it have to be one thing or another?. For Windows to survive must Linux die and for Linux to succeed does Windows have to die? Of course not. The people who want to use Linux will and those who don't won't.

Thankyou for reading.





Linux has run out of time - I looked into the trap, Jim

Introduction


I like to read the "Today in open source" column written by Jim Lynch.

On the 27th August there was a link to an article by John Dvorak which basically stated that Linux has run out of time.

Speaking of Munich, John Dvorak uses it as the opening to a diatribe about how Linux on the desktop has run out of time or something like that. Think carefully before you click through to read the article

The above quote was written by Jim Lynch and I should have heeded the warning. Jim told me before clicking through that this was an article designed to stir up a wasps nest.

What has this to do with the Ghostbusters video linked above? There is a line in Ghostbusters where Ray says "Ok, I'm opening the trap, don't look into the trap" and just seconds follow before Egon says "I looked into the trap, Ray".

Humans are curious and if there is a big red button that says "do not press" our natural instincts makes us wonder what the button is for and the second instinct is to press it to find out.

Linux has run out of time

The reason for John's article appears to be the on off relationship that Munich appears to be having with Linux at the moment.

John Dvorak believes that Linux has had its chance and it has failed to impress. 
I like Linux and would love to just go all-in with it as the mavens tell me I can do. But I cannot. I use these computers to make a living by writing and podcasting. I also produce photographic art as a hobby. I can't accomplish any of this with Linux.
Does this tell us more about John's failings than the state of Linux. Let us consider podcasting for example. Linux Outlaws, Everyday Linux, The Linux Links Tech Show (TLLTS), Ubuntu UK Podcast, Mintcast, Linux Action Show. All of these are really excellent examples of Linux podcasts. Am I supposed to believe that all of these podcasts are made using Windows? If John is right then it wouldn't be possible for all of these excellent podcasts to create their recordings using the operating system that they discuss on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

What about writing? Linux User & Developer Magazine, Linux Format Magazine, Linux Journal. Are all of these magazines using Windows to write articles about Linux. That would seem a bit counterproductive. How can people write so religiously about a topic that they don't have faith in?
There are a lot of products that I need that will run on WINE, a chunk of code that allows Windows software to run on Linux. It's not perfect. It takes tweaking, there are all sorts of issues, and, more importantly, what's the point? If I have to run Windows applications, I want Windows, don't I? 

John wants Windows and therein lies the problem. You can't write an objective article about Linux if ultimately you want Windows. WINE is great and it is getting better year on year at running Windows based applications but at the same time there are less and less Windows applications that Linux users truly rely on. 
Then we have Photoshop, Illustrator, and the entire Adobe universe. None of it runs on Linux natively and people "have heard" that it runs okay on WINE. This is no good. Then GIMP enters the conversation. Yes, as a Photoshop clone it's actually pretty good. But the name says it all: hobbled.
The main issue with people using GIMP professionally as opposed to Photoshop is the hype given by people like John.

Why do so many offices around the world run Windows? For decades Windows has been taught in schools as the only operating system and Microsoft Office has been taught in schools as the only office suite.

When you enter the business market place it can therefore be no surprise that big companies run Windows and use Microsoft Office. The people that run the IT departments and their senior managers and directors were all brought up on Windows. They feel safe by using it. It has nothing to do with what works and what doesn't.

Photoshop is the same. Photoshop has become a commonly known product and web design companies hire people because they have Photoshop skills. The people running these agencies have become too ingrained into thinking that Photoshop is the only way to go.

Things do change though. Microsoft used to dominate everything. Every man and his dog used to use Hotmail but now more and more people use GMail. Do we even need a mail client anymore such as Outlook? I can have a million emails in my GMail account and with a quick keyword search I can find the email I am looking for.
Ironically, Microsoft didn't need to change anything. Word is just better. Excel is better. PowerPoint is better. It's that simple.

Is Word better than LibreOffice Writer or is LibreOffice Writer better than Word? Is Android better than Apple? Were Nirvana better than Pearl Jam? Which were better "The Beatles" or "The Rolling Stones"?

Microsoft Word has a lot of flaws that people seem to gloss over. Bullets and numbering for instance are just random. The fonts change, the numbering changes, the indentation changes and for no apparent reason.

The Microsoft ribbon bars have surely just been added to sell training courses because there is no way they are better than menus, toolbars and keyboard shortcuts. Everything we have been used to for 20 years all switched around for no seemingly good reason. I don't like it when my local supermarket rearranges all the shelves for no apparent reason either. If you want a ribbon bar then there is always Kingsoft Office.
 My wife, for example, likes the Windows way of tracking and saving all changes in a document, and the ability to reclaim old text.
Good for her John. I quite like my computer to boot in under 30 seconds, not display a blue screen saying there has been an error and then spend 3.5 hours reconfiguring itself. Each to their own I guess.

LibreOffice Calc is probably a more difficult sell. IT departments in the business world are commonly underfunded and therefore to get around IT deficiencies every other department in the company has the so called resident Excel expert who knows VBA. Companies big and small have badly designed spreadsheets with poor VBA code, whereby the expert left long ago but nobody dares to change the spreadsheet for fear of breaking it.

Getting companies to clean up these spreadsheets is not a cheap task and therefore abandoning Excel for LibreOffice is probably not going to happen.

If I want a word processor to create e-books, for example, or to organize large texts I use Scrivener. Does Scrivener run on Linux? Maybe someday. I still do the original writing in Word, then run it to Scrivener for organizing and compiling. Linux is not part of the scheme.
It just so happens that Scrivener has arrived on Linux. At the moment it is in Beta but then so was GMail for about 5 years.

Right now Linux on the desktop remains a cheap curiosity, that is kind of fun to play with when you are bored.
I am not suggesting for a minute that Linux has made it on the desktop. To be honest I'm not sure what the big fascination is.

All I know is that for me Linux is easy to install, easy to use and for home use it has served me well for over 10 years.

I haven't had a virus or any sign of malware in all the time I have used Linux. I only have to switch on my Windows based computer before I am bombarded with an Antivirus package that wants to update itself constantly and scan every single file and process slowing down the whole machine to crawling point.

I can't reboot my Windows based computer without it wanting to install updates 1 of 63, 2 of 63, 3 of 63 on what appears to be a daily basis.

Free software in Windows doesn't mean free anymore. Once the bastion of freeware and shareware CNet now seems to supply software riddled with endless toolbars, search tools and PC Optimisers and they aren't the only download site doing that.

When I run Windows applications at work, every so often I will receive a message saying that the application has stopped working. It doesn't give a reason, it just tells me it has stopped working. The application then dies and I have to restart it. I'm not saying that I have never had an application crash on me in Linux but it is far less frequent and the reasons why are far more verbose.

I don't write about Linux to force Windows users into changing their operating system. If somebody is using Windows and they want a change then I try an aid that process.

Why does it have to be one thing or another?. For Windows to survive must Linux die and for Linux to succeed does Windows have to die? Of course not. The people who want to use Linux will and those who don't won't.

Thankyou for reading.





Posted at 23:03 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Spoiler alert. This post has absolutely nothing to do with Linux and is simply a way for me to vent my weekend frustrations.

I had planned this week to review a distribution and write an article about Debian.

On Friday morning I set up my Raspberry PI to download the necessary files whilst I went to work. I have mentioned before that I live in the Scottish wilderness and therefore my internet connection is based on a couple of tin cans attached to a piece of string.

The Raspberry PI is perfect for this sort of thing. I don't have a desktop computer and therefore to download files whilst away from the house used to require using a laptop and leaving it on all day. Now I just queue up the files and let the Raspberry PI do its thing.

I tend not to do much on a Friday night and so it was Saturday before I needed to use one of the files.

Unfortunately something catastrophic happened to the Raspberry PI and not only did it not have the files I needed it had also corrupted the operating system.

Luckily I back up the Raspberry PI quite often so all I needed to do was take out the SD card and put the backed up image onto it.

Unfortunately the last time I had backed up the Raspberry PI it was to my Windows 8 machine and I hadn't had time to copy it over to my backup drives. No worries though because the Windows 8 machine was working ok or so I thought.

Whilst booting up a message appeared stating that something had gone wrong and that the computer needed to restart. The restart took me to a blue screen where it said something along the lines of reconfiguring settings.

The reconfiguring settings took 3.5 hours.

Installing most versions of Linux takes up to 15 minutes. Installing Windows takes up to 30 minutes. What on earth was Windows doing for 3.5 hours. It wasn't connected to the internet so it wasn't downloading anything.

One final reboot and the computer restarted and I was able to use Windows again and there were no apparent changes whatsoever.

I ended up spending a little bit of time on Sunday reinstalling the image on the Raspberry PI and downloading the files required for the next distribution review.

In the mean time I have just released an article showing how to convert from WAV to MP3 and MP3 to WAV using Linux Mint.




Raspberry PI frustrations and Why Windows 8, Why?

Spoiler alert. This post has absolutely nothing to do with Linux and is simply a way for me to vent my weekend frustrations.

I had planned this week to review a distribution and write an article about Debian.

On Friday morning I set up my Raspberry PI to download the necessary files whilst I went to work. I have mentioned before that I live in the Scottish wilderness and therefore my internet connection is based on a couple of tin cans attached to a piece of string.

The Raspberry PI is perfect for this sort of thing. I don't have a desktop computer and therefore to download files whilst away from the house used to require using a laptop and leaving it on all day. Now I just queue up the files and let the Raspberry PI do its thing.

I tend not to do much on a Friday night and so it was Saturday before I needed to use one of the files.

Unfortunately something catastrophic happened to the Raspberry PI and not only did it not have the files I needed it had also corrupted the operating system.

Luckily I back up the Raspberry PI quite often so all I needed to do was take out the SD card and put the backed up image onto it.

Unfortunately the last time I had backed up the Raspberry PI it was to my Windows 8 machine and I hadn't had time to copy it over to my backup drives. No worries though because the Windows 8 machine was working ok or so I thought.

Whilst booting up a message appeared stating that something had gone wrong and that the computer needed to restart. The restart took me to a blue screen where it said something along the lines of reconfiguring settings.

The reconfiguring settings took 3.5 hours.

Installing most versions of Linux takes up to 15 minutes. Installing Windows takes up to 30 minutes. What on earth was Windows doing for 3.5 hours. It wasn't connected to the internet so it wasn't downloading anything.

One final reboot and the computer restarted and I was able to use Windows again and there were no apparent changes whatsoever.

I ended up spending a little bit of time on Sunday reinstalling the image on the Raspberry PI and downloading the files required for the next distribution review.

In the mean time I have just released an article showing how to convert from WAV to MP3 and MP3 to WAV using Linux Mint.




Posted at 23:57 |  by Gary Newell

Introduction

Straight out of left field and completely unrelated to recent content on this blog is an article showing how to convert audio files from one format to another including from MP3 to WAV and WAV to MP3.

So the reason I am writing this guide is that I had to convert some audio files at the weekend really quickly (more of a want than a need really).

Last week I was given an Amazon gift card and so I used some of the money to update my music collection. I downloaded the files straight to MP3 as opposed to buying the CDs and waiting for them to be delivered.

On Saturday mornings I take my daughter swimming and I felt the urge to subject her to an eclectic mix of "Chas and Dave", "Brian Setzer", "Louis Jordan" and "Cab Calloway". Hey that is what dads are for.

I had fifteen minutes before we needed to leave and I realised that I had to burn the songs onto a CD and what is more I needed to convert them from MP3 to a format a standard CD player can play such as WAV.

In this article I am going to show you the method I used to convert the files and then I am going to show you the easy way.

Converting MP3 to WAV using mpg123

I used a command line tool called mpg123 to convert the MP3 files to WAVs.

To get mpg123 I opened a terminal window in Linux Mint and typed the following:

sudo apt-get install mpg123

The following command shows how to convert a single MP3 to a WAV file:

mpg123 -w "02 Big Fat Rat.wav" "02 Big Fat Rat.mp3"

Now obviously when you are time limited and because you would drive yourself insane having to type in each and every filename it is better to write a script to convert all the files.

for file in ./*.mp3
do
mpg -w ./wavs/"${file}".wav "$file"
done

For a complete script that you can use again and again click here.

This script works perfectly well and will work on any distribution that has mpg123 available.

Convert MP3 to WAV using Gnac

This is the Everyday Linux User website and the point of this site is to make it easier for the average user and is not for command line wizards.

There is a Gnome based tool called "Gnac" (Gnome Audio Converter) which is perfect for the task and is really easy to use.

You can install "Gnac" from the Mint Software Manager by simply searching for it.





The reviews aren't very inspiring. There are just two of them. 1 for 5 stars and 1 for 1 star. 1 person said it worked perfectly and 1 said it didn't work at all. 

Once it has been installed "Gnac" can be loaded by clicking on the menu and searching for it using the search bar.






"Gnac" is very easy to use.

There are 4 icons on the toolbar:

  1. Add files
  2. Remove files
  3. Clear files
  4. Convert
Clicking the "Add files" button brings up the standard "open a file" dialogue. You can select individual files or select a folder. Selecting a folder loads in all the valid audio files within that folder.

If you add files by accident you can remove them by clicking the "Remove files" icon.

Got it completely wrong? Simply clear the list by clicking the "Clear files" icon and start again.

There is a dropdown in the bottom left corner which shows what the file will be converted to. By default WAV is selected which in this case is exactly what is required.

Clicking "Convert" either on the toolbar or in the bottom right corner of the window starts the process.

The conversion takes a matter of seconds to complete.

Converting WAV to MP3 using gnac

Converting from WAV to MP3 used to be a common task as people used to buy CDs and then convert them for use on their computers and MP3 players.

Most people probably download more music than they buy on physical disks and so it is more likely that they want to convert the other way around now.

"Gnac" can convert to multiple formats and so if you need to convert from WAV to MP3 you can.

The file format dropdown box can be set to have other formats as well.

Click the "Edit" button to add new file formats.





When you use "Gnac" for the first time there is only "wav" listed. To add new file formats click on the "New" button.



The Name and Description fields are there for your benefit to describe the format that you are adding. 

You might choose to have 3 MP3 formats all with differing quality settings. It is therefore a good idea to use the "Name" and "Description" fields wisely to define the format that you are adding.

The "Format" dropdown provides a list of possible conversion formats such as FLAC, OGG, MP3 and M4a.

The quality setting determines how much quality you lose during the conversion. If you use the highest quality the file size will be bigger and therefore of course a lower quality file will have a smaller file size.

The  "Advanced" options lets you choose bit rates and the number of channels (mono/stereo).

When you are happy that you have set the format the way you want it click on "Save".

From the "Profile Manager" screen you can copy a profile. This is useful if you have for example an MP3 format but you want another one with a higher or lower quality. 

To amend a profile click it within the list and click "Edit".

Finally, to delete a profile select it and click "Delete".

When you return to the main "Gnac" interface you will now be able to choose your required format from the dropdown.

Summary

Most of us listen to music digitally nowadays and so converting from one format to another probably doesn't happen all that frequently anymore.

If you need to create an audio CD for use in a car stereo (some of us still have older cars) or you have an audio CD you need to convert to MP3 then "Gnac" is perfect for the job. 

Of course the annoying thing is that with seconds to spare I managed to get in the car and insert the CD into the stereo only to find out that printed in bold writing were the words "MP3 Audio".




Convert from MP3 to WAV and WAV to MP3 using Linux Mint

Introduction

Straight out of left field and completely unrelated to recent content on this blog is an article showing how to convert audio files from one format to another including from MP3 to WAV and WAV to MP3.

So the reason I am writing this guide is that I had to convert some audio files at the weekend really quickly (more of a want than a need really).

Last week I was given an Amazon gift card and so I used some of the money to update my music collection. I downloaded the files straight to MP3 as opposed to buying the CDs and waiting for them to be delivered.

On Saturday mornings I take my daughter swimming and I felt the urge to subject her to an eclectic mix of "Chas and Dave", "Brian Setzer", "Louis Jordan" and "Cab Calloway". Hey that is what dads are for.

I had fifteen minutes before we needed to leave and I realised that I had to burn the songs onto a CD and what is more I needed to convert them from MP3 to a format a standard CD player can play such as WAV.

In this article I am going to show you the method I used to convert the files and then I am going to show you the easy way.

Converting MP3 to WAV using mpg123

I used a command line tool called mpg123 to convert the MP3 files to WAVs.

To get mpg123 I opened a terminal window in Linux Mint and typed the following:

sudo apt-get install mpg123

The following command shows how to convert a single MP3 to a WAV file:

mpg123 -w "02 Big Fat Rat.wav" "02 Big Fat Rat.mp3"

Now obviously when you are time limited and because you would drive yourself insane having to type in each and every filename it is better to write a script to convert all the files.

for file in ./*.mp3
do
mpg -w ./wavs/"${file}".wav "$file"
done

For a complete script that you can use again and again click here.

This script works perfectly well and will work on any distribution that has mpg123 available.

Convert MP3 to WAV using Gnac

This is the Everyday Linux User website and the point of this site is to make it easier for the average user and is not for command line wizards.

There is a Gnome based tool called "Gnac" (Gnome Audio Converter) which is perfect for the task and is really easy to use.

You can install "Gnac" from the Mint Software Manager by simply searching for it.





The reviews aren't very inspiring. There are just two of them. 1 for 5 stars and 1 for 1 star. 1 person said it worked perfectly and 1 said it didn't work at all. 

Once it has been installed "Gnac" can be loaded by clicking on the menu and searching for it using the search bar.






"Gnac" is very easy to use.

There are 4 icons on the toolbar:

  1. Add files
  2. Remove files
  3. Clear files
  4. Convert
Clicking the "Add files" button brings up the standard "open a file" dialogue. You can select individual files or select a folder. Selecting a folder loads in all the valid audio files within that folder.

If you add files by accident you can remove them by clicking the "Remove files" icon.

Got it completely wrong? Simply clear the list by clicking the "Clear files" icon and start again.

There is a dropdown in the bottom left corner which shows what the file will be converted to. By default WAV is selected which in this case is exactly what is required.

Clicking "Convert" either on the toolbar or in the bottom right corner of the window starts the process.

The conversion takes a matter of seconds to complete.

Converting WAV to MP3 using gnac

Converting from WAV to MP3 used to be a common task as people used to buy CDs and then convert them for use on their computers and MP3 players.

Most people probably download more music than they buy on physical disks and so it is more likely that they want to convert the other way around now.

"Gnac" can convert to multiple formats and so if you need to convert from WAV to MP3 you can.

The file format dropdown box can be set to have other formats as well.

Click the "Edit" button to add new file formats.





When you use "Gnac" for the first time there is only "wav" listed. To add new file formats click on the "New" button.



The Name and Description fields are there for your benefit to describe the format that you are adding. 

You might choose to have 3 MP3 formats all with differing quality settings. It is therefore a good idea to use the "Name" and "Description" fields wisely to define the format that you are adding.

The "Format" dropdown provides a list of possible conversion formats such as FLAC, OGG, MP3 and M4a.

The quality setting determines how much quality you lose during the conversion. If you use the highest quality the file size will be bigger and therefore of course a lower quality file will have a smaller file size.

The  "Advanced" options lets you choose bit rates and the number of channels (mono/stereo).

When you are happy that you have set the format the way you want it click on "Save".

From the "Profile Manager" screen you can copy a profile. This is useful if you have for example an MP3 format but you want another one with a higher or lower quality. 

To amend a profile click it within the list and click "Edit".

Finally, to delete a profile select it and click "Delete".

When you return to the main "Gnac" interface you will now be able to choose your required format from the dropdown.

Summary

Most of us listen to music digitally nowadays and so converting from one format to another probably doesn't happen all that frequently anymore.

If you need to create an audio CD for use in a car stereo (some of us still have older cars) or you have an audio CD you need to convert to MP3 then "Gnac" is perfect for the job. 

Of course the annoying thing is that with seconds to spare I managed to get in the car and insert the CD into the stereo only to find out that printed in bold writing were the words "MP3 Audio".




Posted at 23:21 |  by Gary Newell

Friday, 22 August 2014

Introduction

This is part 4 in a series of articles designed to help you choose the right Linux distribution for your circumstances.

Here are the links to the first three parts:
Some of you will have computers that are really old and none of the solutions presented thus far are of much use.

This guide lists those distributions designed to run with limited RAM, limited disk space and limited graphics capabilities.

Ease of use is sometimes comprimised when using the really light distributions but once you get used to them they are every bit as functional as a Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Before I start I would like to say that unlike the other two lists this one is in no particular order.

1. AntiX

The AntiX website claims that you can run it on a Pentium II with 64 megabytes of RAM although it is recommended that you have at least 128 megabytes.



Click here for a full review of AntiX

The download image for AntiX is just 690 megabytes in size. It is amazing how much is packed into that image.

AntiX comes with dozens of applications and that includes the LibreOffice suite. All of the other applications are lightweight in nature including Gnome MPlayer for listening to music, Iceweasel as a web browser and Claws as an email client.

The desktop that comes with AntiX is IceWM which uses very little of your computer's processing power.

AntiX is based on the Debian testing branch which means the applications are fairly up to date and in the main fairly resilient.

2. SparkyLinux





















Click here for a full review of SparkyLinux

SparkyLinux is another Linux distribution based on the Debian testing branch. There are a number of choices of desktop available including LXDE, Razor-QT, OpenBox/JWM, e17 and MATE.

SparkyLinux will work quite well on really old and just plain old old computers.

If you have an ancient computer then the Razor-QT, LXDE and JWM desktops are the ones to go for.

The minimum requirements are 256 megabytes RAM for LXDE, OpenBox and e17 or 384 megabytes for Razor-QT. You will need at least 5 gigabytes of hard drive space.

You can download SparkyLinux from http://sparkylinux.org/download/

I believe that the i486 versions include a non-PAE kernel making it accessible to everyone.

The applications aren't so lightweight in nature. LibreOffice, GIMP, PlayOnLinux, DropBox, Teamviewer, QMMP and VLC are installed by default.

The installer for SparkyLinux isn't as easy to follow as other distributions but there is a full guide available at http://sparkylinux.org/hard-drive-install/

3. Crunchbang



Click here for a review of Crunchbang
(This is a little bit out of date and a new review is forthcoming shortly)

Crunchbang is also based on Debian and it uses the Openbox window manager.

The following quote comes from the Crunchbang website
Put simply; CrunchBang could be thought of as a layer built on top of Debian, specifically to provide a great Openbox experience.
Crunchbang is genuinely lightweight in nature and that is reflected in the applications with Abiword and Gnumeric installed instead of LibreOffice (although the option is there to have LibreOffice).

The Crunchbang website isn't overly forthcoming with minimum specifications but this forum page has people listing RAM requirements of anything from 64 megabytes to 512 megabytes.

4. Puppy Linux

There isn't just one version of Puppy Linux. There are dozens of them. They are all built using the same tools and are all light on resources.

My personal favourites are Simplicity and MacPup but Precise, Wary and Slacko are really good as well.

Puppy has a number of really good applications with small footprints including the excellent PMusic audio player.

There are dozens of tools available including ftp clients, screengrabbing tools, torrent clients, CD rippers and audio download tools.

Puppy is designed to run from a USB pen drive as opposed to installing it on a hard drive. (You can if you want to though).

The Puppy Linux wikka page states that Puppy Linux can run on 64 megabytes RAM but 256 megabytes is more realistic with a 512 megabyte swap file.

The desktop environments used vary depending on the version you install and they vary from IceWM to JWM and LXDE.

You can download Wary, Precise and Slacko from http://puppylinux.org
You can download Simplicity from http://simplicitylinux.org/
You can download MacPup from http://macpup.org/

5. Lubuntu

Click here for a review of Lubuntu 14.04



Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu 14.04 and comes installed with the LXDE desktop.

Windows users will find Lubuntu more familiar than any of the aforementioned distros.

Lubuntu can apparently work with just 128 megabytes RAM but becomes more useable with 256 megabytes RAM and it is highly recommended to have 512 megabytes or more.

The applications installed are all light in nature with Abiword and Gnumeric installed as the word processing and spreadsheet tools. Audacious is installed as the audio player which is decent if not spectacular.

With Lubuntu you get access to all the Ubuntu repositories but your choice of applications will be determined by the amount of system resources available to you.

You can download Lubuntu 14.04 from here

Summary

The obvious choice for users coming to Linux for the first time on really old machines would be Lubuntu but AntiX and SparkyLinux are both worth a go. With Lubuntu you will find a larger support network.

The choice doesn't have to be Lubuntu or Puppy as you can try Lubuntu as a full installation and install Puppy to a USB drive.

Crunchbang is a very popular distribution and you will soon realise that functionality outweighs shiny.

Thankyou for reading.









5 Linux distributions for very old computers

Introduction

This is part 4 in a series of articles designed to help you choose the right Linux distribution for your circumstances.

Here are the links to the first three parts:
Some of you will have computers that are really old and none of the solutions presented thus far are of much use.

This guide lists those distributions designed to run with limited RAM, limited disk space and limited graphics capabilities.

Ease of use is sometimes comprimised when using the really light distributions but once you get used to them they are every bit as functional as a Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Before I start I would like to say that unlike the other two lists this one is in no particular order.

1. AntiX

The AntiX website claims that you can run it on a Pentium II with 64 megabytes of RAM although it is recommended that you have at least 128 megabytes.



Click here for a full review of AntiX

The download image for AntiX is just 690 megabytes in size. It is amazing how much is packed into that image.

AntiX comes with dozens of applications and that includes the LibreOffice suite. All of the other applications are lightweight in nature including Gnome MPlayer for listening to music, Iceweasel as a web browser and Claws as an email client.

The desktop that comes with AntiX is IceWM which uses very little of your computer's processing power.

AntiX is based on the Debian testing branch which means the applications are fairly up to date and in the main fairly resilient.

2. SparkyLinux





















Click here for a full review of SparkyLinux

SparkyLinux is another Linux distribution based on the Debian testing branch. There are a number of choices of desktop available including LXDE, Razor-QT, OpenBox/JWM, e17 and MATE.

SparkyLinux will work quite well on really old and just plain old old computers.

If you have an ancient computer then the Razor-QT, LXDE and JWM desktops are the ones to go for.

The minimum requirements are 256 megabytes RAM for LXDE, OpenBox and e17 or 384 megabytes for Razor-QT. You will need at least 5 gigabytes of hard drive space.

You can download SparkyLinux from http://sparkylinux.org/download/

I believe that the i486 versions include a non-PAE kernel making it accessible to everyone.

The applications aren't so lightweight in nature. LibreOffice, GIMP, PlayOnLinux, DropBox, Teamviewer, QMMP and VLC are installed by default.

The installer for SparkyLinux isn't as easy to follow as other distributions but there is a full guide available at http://sparkylinux.org/hard-drive-install/

3. Crunchbang



Click here for a review of Crunchbang
(This is a little bit out of date and a new review is forthcoming shortly)

Crunchbang is also based on Debian and it uses the Openbox window manager.

The following quote comes from the Crunchbang website
Put simply; CrunchBang could be thought of as a layer built on top of Debian, specifically to provide a great Openbox experience.
Crunchbang is genuinely lightweight in nature and that is reflected in the applications with Abiword and Gnumeric installed instead of LibreOffice (although the option is there to have LibreOffice).

The Crunchbang website isn't overly forthcoming with minimum specifications but this forum page has people listing RAM requirements of anything from 64 megabytes to 512 megabytes.

4. Puppy Linux

There isn't just one version of Puppy Linux. There are dozens of them. They are all built using the same tools and are all light on resources.

My personal favourites are Simplicity and MacPup but Precise, Wary and Slacko are really good as well.

Puppy has a number of really good applications with small footprints including the excellent PMusic audio player.

There are dozens of tools available including ftp clients, screengrabbing tools, torrent clients, CD rippers and audio download tools.

Puppy is designed to run from a USB pen drive as opposed to installing it on a hard drive. (You can if you want to though).

The Puppy Linux wikka page states that Puppy Linux can run on 64 megabytes RAM but 256 megabytes is more realistic with a 512 megabyte swap file.

The desktop environments used vary depending on the version you install and they vary from IceWM to JWM and LXDE.

You can download Wary, Precise and Slacko from http://puppylinux.org
You can download Simplicity from http://simplicitylinux.org/
You can download MacPup from http://macpup.org/

5. Lubuntu

Click here for a review of Lubuntu 14.04



Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu 14.04 and comes installed with the LXDE desktop.

Windows users will find Lubuntu more familiar than any of the aforementioned distros.

Lubuntu can apparently work with just 128 megabytes RAM but becomes more useable with 256 megabytes RAM and it is highly recommended to have 512 megabytes or more.

The applications installed are all light in nature with Abiword and Gnumeric installed as the word processing and spreadsheet tools. Audacious is installed as the audio player which is decent if not spectacular.

With Lubuntu you get access to all the Ubuntu repositories but your choice of applications will be determined by the amount of system resources available to you.

You can download Lubuntu 14.04 from here

Summary

The obvious choice for users coming to Linux for the first time on really old machines would be Lubuntu but AntiX and SparkyLinux are both worth a go. With Lubuntu you will find a larger support network.

The choice doesn't have to be Lubuntu or Puppy as you can try Lubuntu as a full installation and install Puppy to a USB drive.

Crunchbang is a very popular distribution and you will soon realise that functionality outweighs shiny.

Thankyou for reading.









Posted at 07:30 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 18 August 2014

Introduction

I was asked a long time ago now whether I would be willing to give HandyLinux a go. Due to time constraints this review has come about much later than I hoped it would.

HandyLinux is a French Linux distribution based on the Debian Stable branch (Wheezy).
HandyLinux is accessibility for all and freedom for everyone to evolve on its own. Based on Debian GNU/Linux with XFCE, a fast, light and stable desktop environment, HandyLinux is safehandy and free.
Designed to facilitate access to computers those who start, children, seniors and those who are looking for simplicity.  
The above quote was taken from the HandyLinux website. The aim of HandyLinux would appear to be to provide a simple, light and easy to use Linux distribution for everyone.

However if you read further down the homepage you will find the following text:
This distribution is only there to facilitate the use of your computer. Once your environment tamed, you simply remove the facilitating options and you get a “classic” Debian distribution with XFCE as desktop environment.
In essence what this appears to be saying is that you install HandyLinux to get used to Linux and then when you are happy with Linux you can continue to use the base Debian distribution.

Hardware Requirements

The hardware requirements listed on the HandyLinux website are:
  • 3.7 gigabytes hard drive space
  • 512 megabytes RAM
The default desktop environment is XFCE and so HandyLinux should work well on most computers.

How to get HandyLinux


There are two versions available. The 486 version is for computers made prior to 2005 and the 686 version is for anything more up to date than that.

Instructions for creating a DVD and USB drive are available from the above link.

Essentially all you have to do to create a DVD is burn the HandyLinux ISO to the DVD using your favourite disc burning software.

For burning HandyLinux to a USB drive you can either use LinuxLive USB Creator (Using Windows) or if you are already using Linux run the following command in a terminal.

sudo dd if=handylinux-1.6-686.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=4M && sync
The above command assumes the USB drive is mounted to /dev/sdb. You should check first to make sure this is the case and if not change /dev/sdb to be the correct location (ie /dev/sdc, /dev/sdd)

I would recommend following the instructions from the download page..

Note that if you would prefer to, you can buy a HandyLinux installation DVD here. There appears to be a non-PAE version available as well.

Installing HandyLinux

When you boot HandyLinux from the DVD or USB, a menu appears asking whether you want to try it in a live environment or install it to your hard drive.

Normally when you enter the live environment for a Linux distribution you can play around and then run the installer without rebooting but for HandyLinux there doesn't appear to be an install option available.

If you are going to try HandyLinux give it a spin in the live environment and then reboot and choose the install option.

I usually provide step by step instructions showing how to install the Linux distribution that I am reviewing but the HandyLinux developer(s) have done a fine job in detailing the steps required.

First Impressions





















The above screen shows the essence of what Handy Linux is about. When you first boot into HandyLinux you are presented with a plain desktop and a single XFCE panel at the bottom.



The icon in the bottom left provides access to the Handy Linux menu which is displayed in the middle of the screen as shown above.

On the right side of the panel there are system icons for adjusting settings such as the volume control, connecting to wireless networks and power settings. There is also the customary clock.

The HandyLinux menu is an interesting feature. There is basically a tabbed display with tabs for internet applications, places, multimedia applications, office applications, games and raiders.


Most of the tabs are self explanatory. For instance on the internet tab you can access the internet or read your emails and on the office tab you can use the word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tool.

The one that might seem confusing is "Raiders". The "Raiders" tab gives you access to a terminal window, the package manager and system settings such as printers and networks.

Incidentally, whilst running the live version of HandyLinux everything worked fine but after installing the full version to disk the HandyLinux menu wouldn't start when I clicked on it.

I therefore ran the menu from the command line and the message that appeared stated that the file "/home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs" could not be found. To resolve this issue I ran a search for the user-dirs.dirs file using the following command:

find / -name user-dirs.dirs

The file was found in /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs. I therefore copied that file to /home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs using the following command.

cp /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs /home/gary/.config/user-dirs.dirs

After copying the file, the menu started to work correctly.

Connecting to the internet

Connecting to the internet is as simple as clicking on the network icon in the system tray and choosing the appropriate wired or wireless network. You will probably have to enter the security key if you choose a wireless network.

The default web browser in HandyLinux is Chromium. (version 35)

Flash and MP3

Debian is a community distribution and it also provides only free software. This means that if you want to watch proprietary videos using Flash or listen to music in the MP3 format you have to jump through a few hoops.



HandyLinux has removed those hoops and it is possible to watch Youtube, play Flash games and listen to MP3s without adding repositories and installing further software.




















Applications

HandyLinux has a fairly extensive, if somewhat eccentric, set of applications installed by default as shown below:

Internet

























  • Chromium Web Browser
  • IceDove Email Client
  • mpartage File Sharing
  • Skype Video Conferencing
  • Teamviewer Remote Desktop Sharing
The IceDove email client is fairly decent. It is easy to connect your current email especially if you use one of the major webmail providers such as GMail.

Skype is obviously good for staying connected to friends, family and business clients. 

Teamviewer makes it possible to share your desktop or connect to somebody sharing their desktop. This is good if you are supporting your parents' computers.

Graphics



  • ImageMagick - Image editing
  • LibreOffice Draw - Drawing application
  • Shotwell - Photo management
ImageMagick isn't the best drawing or image editing package that you will ever use. Alternatives to install would be GIMP or Inkscape.

Games



  • AisleRiot Solitaire (Card Game)
  • Freecell Solitaire (Card Game)
  • gbrainy (Puzzle Games)
  • Mahjongg (Card Game)
  • Sudoku (Logic Puzzle)

Multimedia





















  • Asunder CD Ripper
  • Cheese Webcam Viewer
  • Minitube Youtube Viewer
  • Quod Libet Audio Player
  • RadioTray Online Radio
  • VLC Media Player
  • XFBurn DVD Burner
The image above is the Quod Libet audio player. It is functional but an interesting choice because there are loads of great audio players for Linux, even if you are trying to go for something light on resources. Personally for lightweight audio players I would consider GMusicBrowser or Noise.


Asunder is a decent CD ripping application and it is able to convert audio files to the free OGG format or MP3.

Minitube is a desktop version of Youtube. The interface is basic yet functional.

The RadioTray application adds a widget to the XFCE panel. When highlighted a menu appears with a large number of online radio stations sorted by category.

Office

  • Document Viewer (PDF)
  • HPLIP Fax Utility
  • LibreOffice Base (Databases along the lines of Microsoft Access)
  • LibreOffice Calc (Spreadsheet)
  • LibreOffice Draw (Drawing application)
  • LibreOffice Impress (Presentation Tool)
  • LibreOffice Writer (Word processing)

Installing Applications




HandyLinux has a software centre similar to the one that comes with Ubuntu. Note that the repositories are for Debian Wheezy and so the applications are limited. You will not find Steam or PlayOnLinux.

If you don't like the Software Centre you can also use Synaptic which is more basic in looks but more ultimately more powerful.

Customising the desktop

The HandyLinux desktop doesn't look particularly inspiring. The HandyLinux menu (HandyMenu) is fine for a little while but it is fairly limited.

It is worth noting that the XFCE desktop environment is incredibly easy to customise. It is also worth noting that HandyLinux also has the Whisker menu available and the Slingscold dashboard style menu available.




















As you can see from the image above, the Whisker menu is more traditional in style with a list of categories and applications. There is also a search box available.




















The Slingscold menu provides an iconised view of applications split by categories laid out at the top of the screen.


You may have noticed in the images above that I had changed the desktop wallpaper. Changing the wallpaper is as simple as right clicking on the desktop and choosing "Desktop Settings".

HandyLinux has some plain wallpapers with the HandyLinux logo and some really nice photos. You can also add your own images by clicking on the plus symbol and locating the file.




















With just a small amount of tweaking the desktop can be made to look more attractive and much more functional.

Issues

The issues that I found were as follows:
  1. No install option from the live environment (you have to reboot to install)
  2. The HandyMenu didn't work after installation. I had to copy files around.
  3. Despite installing the English language version a lot of the menus had French terms. Examples for this include the Slingscold menu (search shows as recerche), Chromium loads in French, RadioTray has French radio stations.

Summary

HandyLinux was created using the Debian Live Build tools. This distribution shows you a small sample of what can be achieved with Debian.

HandyLinux was reasonably easy to install and there is a decent if not spectacular set of applications installed by default. 

The HandyMenu will probably be useful for people who want a basic computing experience but for everyone else there is the inclusion of Whisker and Slingscold.

Using Debian Wheezy as a base makes the system a little bit limited in terms of available software. I would recommend using the testing branch as a base.

There were a couple of issues as highlighted but nothing too hard to fix. It would probably be a bit disconcerting for a really new user to hit the menu icon and for nothing to happen.

The only guarantee that you will see all of the articles on this site

All of this leads on to another article that is coming up regarding when and why you would use Debian. If you want to read that or any other forthcoming articles why not subscribe via email (box in sidebar) or follow me on Twitter (@dailylinuxuser). 

Thankyou for reading.

HandyLinux 1.6 - A sample of what you can achieve using the power of Debian

Introduction

I was asked a long time ago now whether I would be willing to give HandyLinux a go. Due to time constraints this review has come about much later than I hoped it would.

HandyLinux is a French Linux distribution based on the Debian Stable branch (Wheezy).
HandyLinux is accessibility for all and freedom for everyone to evolve on its own. Based on Debian GNU/Linux with XFCE, a fast, light and stable desktop environment, HandyLinux is safehandy and free.
Designed to facilitate access to computers those who start, children, seniors and those who are looking for simplicity.  
The above quote was taken from the HandyLinux website. The aim of HandyLinux would appear to be to provide a simple, light and easy to use Linux distribution for everyone.

However if you read further down the homepage you will find the following text:
This distribution is only there to facilitate the use of your computer. Once your environment tamed, you simply remove the facilitating options and you get a “classic” Debian distribution with XFCE as desktop environment.
In essence what this appears to be saying is that you install HandyLinux to get used to Linux and then when you are happy with Linux you can continue to use the base Debian distribution.

Hardware Requirements

The hardware requirements listed on the HandyLinux website are:
  • 3.7 gigabytes hard drive space
  • 512 megabytes RAM
The default desktop environment is XFCE and so HandyLinux should work well on most computers.

How to get HandyLinux


There are two versions available. The 486 version is for computers made prior to 2005 and the 686 version is for anything more up to date than that.

Instructions for creating a DVD and USB drive are available from the above link.

Essentially all you have to do to create a DVD is burn the HandyLinux ISO to the DVD using your favourite disc burning software.

For burning HandyLinux to a USB drive you can either use LinuxLive USB Creator (Using Windows) or if you are already using Linux run the following command in a terminal.

sudo dd if=handylinux-1.6-686.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=4M && sync
The above command assumes the USB drive is mounted to /dev/sdb. You should check first to make sure this is the case and if not change /dev/sdb to be the correct location (ie /dev/sdc, /dev/sdd)

I would recommend following the instructions from the download page..

Note that if you would prefer to, you can buy a HandyLinux installation DVD here. There appears to be a non-PAE version available as well.

Installing HandyLinux

When you boot HandyLinux from the DVD or USB, a menu appears asking whether you want to try it in a live environment or install it to your hard drive.

Normally when you enter the live environment for a Linux distribution you can play around and then run the installer without rebooting but for HandyLinux there doesn't appear to be an install option available.

If you are going to try HandyLinux give it a spin in the live environment and then reboot and choose the install option.

I usually provide step by step instructions showing how to install the Linux distribution that I am reviewing but the HandyLinux developer(s) have done a fine job in detailing the steps required.

First Impressions





















The above screen shows the essence of what Handy Linux is about. When you first boot into HandyLinux you are presented with a plain desktop and a single XFCE panel at the bottom.



The icon in the bottom left provides access to the Handy Linux menu which is displayed in the middle of the screen as shown above.

On the right side of the panel there are system icons for adjusting settings such as the volume control, connecting to wireless networks and power settings. There is also the customary clock.

The HandyLinux menu is an interesting feature. There is basically a tabbed display with tabs for internet applications, places, multimedia applications, office applications, games and raiders.


Most of the tabs are self explanatory. For instance on the internet tab you can access the internet or read your emails and on the office tab you can use the word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tool.

The one that might seem confusing is "Raiders". The "Raiders" tab gives you access to a terminal window, the package manager and system settings such as printers and networks.

Incidentally, whilst running the live version of HandyLinux everything worked fine but after installing the full version to disk the HandyLinux menu wouldn't start when I clicked on it.

I therefore ran the menu from the command line and the message that appeared stated that the file "/home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs" could not be found. To resolve this issue I ran a search for the user-dirs.dirs file using the following command:

find / -name user-dirs.dirs

The file was found in /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs. I therefore copied that file to /home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs using the following command.

cp /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs /home/gary/.config/user-dirs.dirs

After copying the file, the menu started to work correctly.

Connecting to the internet

Connecting to the internet is as simple as clicking on the network icon in the system tray and choosing the appropriate wired or wireless network. You will probably have to enter the security key if you choose a wireless network.

The default web browser in HandyLinux is Chromium. (version 35)

Flash and MP3

Debian is a community distribution and it also provides only free software. This means that if you want to watch proprietary videos using Flash or listen to music in the MP3 format you have to jump through a few hoops.



HandyLinux has removed those hoops and it is possible to watch Youtube, play Flash games and listen to MP3s without adding repositories and installing further software.




















Applications

HandyLinux has a fairly extensive, if somewhat eccentric, set of applications installed by default as shown below:

Internet

























  • Chromium Web Browser
  • IceDove Email Client
  • mpartage File Sharing
  • Skype Video Conferencing
  • Teamviewer Remote Desktop Sharing
The IceDove email client is fairly decent. It is easy to connect your current email especially if you use one of the major webmail providers such as GMail.

Skype is obviously good for staying connected to friends, family and business clients. 

Teamviewer makes it possible to share your desktop or connect to somebody sharing their desktop. This is good if you are supporting your parents' computers.

Graphics



  • ImageMagick - Image editing
  • LibreOffice Draw - Drawing application
  • Shotwell - Photo management
ImageMagick isn't the best drawing or image editing package that you will ever use. Alternatives to install would be GIMP or Inkscape.

Games



  • AisleRiot Solitaire (Card Game)
  • Freecell Solitaire (Card Game)
  • gbrainy (Puzzle Games)
  • Mahjongg (Card Game)
  • Sudoku (Logic Puzzle)

Multimedia





















  • Asunder CD Ripper
  • Cheese Webcam Viewer
  • Minitube Youtube Viewer
  • Quod Libet Audio Player
  • RadioTray Online Radio
  • VLC Media Player
  • XFBurn DVD Burner
The image above is the Quod Libet audio player. It is functional but an interesting choice because there are loads of great audio players for Linux, even if you are trying to go for something light on resources. Personally for lightweight audio players I would consider GMusicBrowser or Noise.


Asunder is a decent CD ripping application and it is able to convert audio files to the free OGG format or MP3.

Minitube is a desktop version of Youtube. The interface is basic yet functional.

The RadioTray application adds a widget to the XFCE panel. When highlighted a menu appears with a large number of online radio stations sorted by category.

Office

  • Document Viewer (PDF)
  • HPLIP Fax Utility
  • LibreOffice Base (Databases along the lines of Microsoft Access)
  • LibreOffice Calc (Spreadsheet)
  • LibreOffice Draw (Drawing application)
  • LibreOffice Impress (Presentation Tool)
  • LibreOffice Writer (Word processing)

Installing Applications




HandyLinux has a software centre similar to the one that comes with Ubuntu. Note that the repositories are for Debian Wheezy and so the applications are limited. You will not find Steam or PlayOnLinux.

If you don't like the Software Centre you can also use Synaptic which is more basic in looks but more ultimately more powerful.

Customising the desktop

The HandyLinux desktop doesn't look particularly inspiring. The HandyLinux menu (HandyMenu) is fine for a little while but it is fairly limited.

It is worth noting that the XFCE desktop environment is incredibly easy to customise. It is also worth noting that HandyLinux also has the Whisker menu available and the Slingscold dashboard style menu available.




















As you can see from the image above, the Whisker menu is more traditional in style with a list of categories and applications. There is also a search box available.




















The Slingscold menu provides an iconised view of applications split by categories laid out at the top of the screen.


You may have noticed in the images above that I had changed the desktop wallpaper. Changing the wallpaper is as simple as right clicking on the desktop and choosing "Desktop Settings".

HandyLinux has some plain wallpapers with the HandyLinux logo and some really nice photos. You can also add your own images by clicking on the plus symbol and locating the file.




















With just a small amount of tweaking the desktop can be made to look more attractive and much more functional.

Issues

The issues that I found were as follows:
  1. No install option from the live environment (you have to reboot to install)
  2. The HandyMenu didn't work after installation. I had to copy files around.
  3. Despite installing the English language version a lot of the menus had French terms. Examples for this include the Slingscold menu (search shows as recerche), Chromium loads in French, RadioTray has French radio stations.

Summary

HandyLinux was created using the Debian Live Build tools. This distribution shows you a small sample of what can be achieved with Debian.

HandyLinux was reasonably easy to install and there is a decent if not spectacular set of applications installed by default. 

The HandyMenu will probably be useful for people who want a basic computing experience but for everyone else there is the inclusion of Whisker and Slingscold.

Using Debian Wheezy as a base makes the system a little bit limited in terms of available software. I would recommend using the testing branch as a base.

There were a couple of issues as highlighted but nothing too hard to fix. It would probably be a bit disconcerting for a really new user to hit the menu icon and for nothing to happen.

The only guarantee that you will see all of the articles on this site

All of this leads on to another article that is coming up regarding when and why you would use Debian. If you want to read that or any other forthcoming articles why not subscribe via email (box in sidebar) or follow me on Twitter (@dailylinuxuser). 

Thankyou for reading.

Posted at 23:24 |  by Gary Newell

Friday, 15 August 2014

Introduction

This is part 3 in a series aimed at making it easier for people to choose the right Linux distribution for them.

In the first part of the series I listed a number of the best desktop environments and the Linux distributions that use them.

In the second part I listed the 5 Linux distributions I would recommend for modern hardware based on their ease of use.

This article lists the 5 Linux distributions I would recommend for older computers based on their ease of use. Note that there will be a further article for the best distributions to run on ancient hardware.

1. Elementary OS





















Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu and therefore it is very easy to install.

The desktop environment used is Pantheon which is incredibly well designed and very stylish.

The interface is more of a Mac style interface than a Windows one but most users will pick up how to use Elementary within a matter of minutes.

The software is lighter in resource requirements than Ubuntu or Linux Mint but the packages are not necessarily inferior. As an example the audio application is called Noise and it works perfectly well as does the Totem video player.

The web browser is Midori which is ok but you might want to switch it out with something with more features and there isn't an office suite installed.

Elementary OS uses the Ubuntu Software Centre for package management which is ok but not brilliant.

Click here for a full review of Elementary OS

2. Linux Lite























Linux Lite is based on the LTS version of Ubuntu but uses the XFCE desktop environment as opposed to Unity.

Linux Lite provides better applications and a better instant impression than Xubuntu.

Installation is very simple as it uses the Ubuntu installer.

Linux Lite also comes with a decent set of applications including LibreOffice, GIMP, STEAM, VLC and Firefox.

The applications listed aren't incredibly light on resources and so wouldn't work on very old hardware.

The menu is easy to navigate and the desktop easy to use and to customise.

Click here for a review of Linux Lite (there is a new one on the way for the latest version).

3. SolydX





















There is a distribution called SolydXK which basically becomes SolydX if you use the XFCE desktop or SolydK if you use the KDE desktop.

SolydX is based on the Debian testing branch meaning that it is quite up to date without being unpredictable and unreliable.

The installer is the same as the Debian installer which means it isn't quite as easy to install as perhaps Elementary or Linux Lite but still fairly straight forward.

All the multimedia codecs are installed with SolydX and so you can listen to MP3 audio and watch Flash videos.

SolydX keeps the software on the lighter side in the main with Exaile as the audio player, Abiword as a word processor and Gnumeric as a spreadsheet package. The two office packages listed here are fine enough for basic home use.

The software manager used is the same one that comes with Linux Mint.

Click here for a review of SolydX

4. Linux Mint 

Number 4 on the list is Linux Mint. I am torn with this list between choosing distributions that work on older hardware yet still provide a decent experience. For example with a MATE or XFCE desktop environment, Linux Mint would work on a lot of hardware released in the past 8 years.

The applications included in Linux Mint are the same though, whether you use Cinnamon, MATE or XFCE and so they might not work across the board especially on really old hardware.

Elementary therefore came top of the list because it is more likely to work across the board but then it doesn't come with the selection of applications that Linux Lite and Linux Mint comes with.

Linux Mint is easy to install and easy to use and the desktop is just as intuitive whether you use MATE, XFCE or Cinnamon.

If the only thing holding your computer back is the graphical capabilities then Linux Mint is probably worth trying out.

Click here for a review of Linux Mint (with MATE desktop)

5. Xubuntu





















If you have tried Ubuntu and it just doesn't work on your computer then there are alternatives available that probably will work and Xubuntu is one of those.

Xubuntu is based on Ubuntu but comes with the XFCE desktop environment. Xubuntu has the same installer as Ubuntu and from a useability point of view it is simple enough with a panel at the top and a dock at the bottom.

Xubuntu is great for people who want to customise their system as it deploys a fairly bare bones XFCE desktop and a minimal set of applications.

The applications are thin on the ground but there is at least one of each type of program that you will need. There are office applications ( Gnumeric and Abiword), an image editor (GIMP), email client (Thunderbird), audio player (GMusicBrowser) and video player (Parole).

Applications are installed via the Ubuntu Software Centre.

Click here for a review of Xubuntu 

Summary

This was a more difficult list to come up with than I originally thought it would be because how old is old?
Including Linux Mint with the MATE desktop yet omitting PCLinuxOS with MATE doesn't seem to make much sense but you have to stop somewhere.

As mentioned earlier I will be writing an article for Linux distributions that work on really old hardware as part of this series and this will be released shortly.

Thankyou for reading.

The 5 easiest to use Linux distributions on older hardware

Introduction

This is part 3 in a series aimed at making it easier for people to choose the right Linux distribution for them.

In the first part of the series I listed a number of the best desktop environments and the Linux distributions that use them.

In the second part I listed the 5 Linux distributions I would recommend for modern hardware based on their ease of use.

This article lists the 5 Linux distributions I would recommend for older computers based on their ease of use. Note that there will be a further article for the best distributions to run on ancient hardware.

1. Elementary OS





















Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu and therefore it is very easy to install.

The desktop environment used is Pantheon which is incredibly well designed and very stylish.

The interface is more of a Mac style interface than a Windows one but most users will pick up how to use Elementary within a matter of minutes.

The software is lighter in resource requirements than Ubuntu or Linux Mint but the packages are not necessarily inferior. As an example the audio application is called Noise and it works perfectly well as does the Totem video player.

The web browser is Midori which is ok but you might want to switch it out with something with more features and there isn't an office suite installed.

Elementary OS uses the Ubuntu Software Centre for package management which is ok but not brilliant.

Click here for a full review of Elementary OS

2. Linux Lite























Linux Lite is based on the LTS version of Ubuntu but uses the XFCE desktop environment as opposed to Unity.

Linux Lite provides better applications and a better instant impression than Xubuntu.

Installation is very simple as it uses the Ubuntu installer.

Linux Lite also comes with a decent set of applications including LibreOffice, GIMP, STEAM, VLC and Firefox.

The applications listed aren't incredibly light on resources and so wouldn't work on very old hardware.

The menu is easy to navigate and the desktop easy to use and to customise.

Click here for a review of Linux Lite (there is a new one on the way for the latest version).

3. SolydX





















There is a distribution called SolydXK which basically becomes SolydX if you use the XFCE desktop or SolydK if you use the KDE desktop.

SolydX is based on the Debian testing branch meaning that it is quite up to date without being unpredictable and unreliable.

The installer is the same as the Debian installer which means it isn't quite as easy to install as perhaps Elementary or Linux Lite but still fairly straight forward.

All the multimedia codecs are installed with SolydX and so you can listen to MP3 audio and watch Flash videos.

SolydX keeps the software on the lighter side in the main with Exaile as the audio player, Abiword as a word processor and Gnumeric as a spreadsheet package. The two office packages listed here are fine enough for basic home use.

The software manager used is the same one that comes with Linux Mint.

Click here for a review of SolydX

4. Linux Mint 

Number 4 on the list is Linux Mint. I am torn with this list between choosing distributions that work on older hardware yet still provide a decent experience. For example with a MATE or XFCE desktop environment, Linux Mint would work on a lot of hardware released in the past 8 years.

The applications included in Linux Mint are the same though, whether you use Cinnamon, MATE or XFCE and so they might not work across the board especially on really old hardware.

Elementary therefore came top of the list because it is more likely to work across the board but then it doesn't come with the selection of applications that Linux Lite and Linux Mint comes with.

Linux Mint is easy to install and easy to use and the desktop is just as intuitive whether you use MATE, XFCE or Cinnamon.

If the only thing holding your computer back is the graphical capabilities then Linux Mint is probably worth trying out.

Click here for a review of Linux Mint (with MATE desktop)

5. Xubuntu





















If you have tried Ubuntu and it just doesn't work on your computer then there are alternatives available that probably will work and Xubuntu is one of those.

Xubuntu is based on Ubuntu but comes with the XFCE desktop environment. Xubuntu has the same installer as Ubuntu and from a useability point of view it is simple enough with a panel at the top and a dock at the bottom.

Xubuntu is great for people who want to customise their system as it deploys a fairly bare bones XFCE desktop and a minimal set of applications.

The applications are thin on the ground but there is at least one of each type of program that you will need. There are office applications ( Gnumeric and Abiword), an image editor (GIMP), email client (Thunderbird), audio player (GMusicBrowser) and video player (Parole).

Applications are installed via the Ubuntu Software Centre.

Click here for a review of Xubuntu 

Summary

This was a more difficult list to come up with than I originally thought it would be because how old is old?
Including Linux Mint with the MATE desktop yet omitting PCLinuxOS with MATE doesn't seem to make much sense but you have to stop somewhere.

As mentioned earlier I will be writing an article for Linux distributions that work on really old hardware as part of this series and this will be released shortly.

Thankyou for reading.

Posted at 07:30 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Introduction

This is part 2 of a series looking to help people find the best Linux distribution for them.

In the first part of the series, I looked at some of the best Linux Desktop Environments so that you could eliminate distributions which only use desktops that won't work for you and your setup.

The title of this post says it all really. Here are the 5 distributions I would turn to if I wanted to use Linux and I didn't want to be too hassled setting things up and they just work.

Notice that the title includes the word "modern". Click here for the "5 easiest to use Linux distributions for older computers". This one is all about the modern desktops, the whizzy effects and the shiny interfaces.

Before I start, here is the criteria that I think is important when deciding on the easiest to use distros.
  1. How easy are they to install
  2. How much work is it to setup the distribution
  3. How intuitive is the desktop environment
  4. How much useful software is installed by default
  5. How much support is available

1. Linux Mint 





















Linux Mint is number 1 on this list and in the Distrowatch rankings for a very good reason.

Linux Mint uses the same installer as Ubuntu and therefore it is very easy to install. If you can follow simple instructions such as being able to choose your language, where you want to install Linux Mint and where you are located on the map then you will be up and running within about 10 to 15 minutes.

Linux Mint is ahead of Ubuntu in this list for two reasons. In the first instance the Cinnamon desktop is likely to be more familiar to more people than Unity and secondly because Linux Mint has the ability to play Flash and MP3s straight away.

For general purpose use, the desktop works the way you would expect it to with system icons in the bottom right, a menu in the bottom left and quick launch icons available to open a browser and file manager.

The software available in Linux Mint is perfect for the average user with the LibreOffice suite, GIMP image editor, Banshee audio player and VLC video player.

The main thing that is missing is STEAM but this can be installed via the package manager. The Mint Software Centre behaves more intuitively than the Ubuntu Software Centre as well.

Click here for a review of Linux Mint 17

2. Ubuntu


Ubuntu is the Linux distribution that is most well known amongst people outside the Linux community.

Due to the Unity interface, Ubuntu has something of the Marmite effect whereby you either love it or hate it.

Installing Ubuntu is easy and the tool used is far better than the Windows equivalent (but then again ordinary users never have to install Windows).

The desktop is actually incredibly easy to use. If you can type the name of the program you want to run then you are 90% of the way to understanding Unity.

Ubuntu has a great set of software repositories and provides a stable base for many other Linux distributions.

Setup wise you have to install the restricted extras package to get Flash, MP3s and fonts (although there is an option during the installation which aims to achieve this with limited success).

Support for Ubuntu is very easy to find with support forums and IRC chat rooms available.

The software centre is still a little bit of a let down.

Click here for a full review of Ubuntu 14.04

3. PCLinuxOS























PCLinuxOS is the only non Debian based Linux distribution on this list.

PCLinuxOS is available for a number of different desktop environments but the way it utilises KDE is excellent.

The installer is incredibly straight forward and as with Linux Mint, the desktop will be familiar to most users with the panel, menu and icon layout.

PCLinuxOS has more applications than Linux Mint and Ubuntu with games, graphics applications, the LibreOffice office suite and audio applications. Dropbox is also included.

The graphical package manager for PCLinuxOS is Synaptic and whilst it might not be as pretty as the "Software Centre" it is much easier to find what you are looking for.

Click here for a full review of PCLinuxOS

4. Zorin OS





















There is no easier transition for Windows users to Linux than Zorin OS, that is the intention anyway.

Zorin OS looks and behaves in many ways just like Windows and you can choose which Windows version you want it to look like, whether that is Windows XP or Windows 7.

The installer for Zorin is the same as the Ubuntu installer and so it is very easy to install and it comes with all multimedia codecs pre-installed.

Zorin OS comes with a good selection of software including the LibreOffice office suite, VLC media player, Banshee audio player and the GIMP image editor.

PlayOnLinux is installed which makes it possible to run Windows software (although not every application works).

Zorin has a look and theme changer and also has some fairly nice desktop effects.

Zorin is number 4 on this list because there are a few glitches, it uses the software centre and there isn't as much support for Zorin as there is for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS.

Click here for a full review of Zorin OS 9

5. Netrunner

Number 5 on this list was difficult to choose because it meant leaving other distributions out.

I went for Netrunner because having recently used it I found it to be very intuitive and easy to use.

Netrunner takes a Kubuntu base and subtly improves it by including the multimedia codecs and some useful software that Kubuntu doesn't have by default.

The installer is the same as the Kubuntu installer. The Kubuntu installer is a little bit better than the Ubuntu one because it lists all the stages down the left hand side making it more linear and you can see how many steps you have left before the installation is complete.

Netrunner has a really good selection of software and it includes games, video editors and screencasting tools on top of the usual office suites and internet tools. Skype is also included.

The package manager for Netrunner is called MUON and it is much better than the Ubuntu Software Centre.


Summary

These are the 5 Linux distributions that I would recommend to new Linux users and to people who just want to use their computer as a computer and who aren't that interested in getting too deep and dirty with their operating system.

This list could easily have been the 10 easiest to use Linux distributions but 5 is a good number because it shows new users just where to begin yet still provides a limited amount of choice.

As I mentioned in the introduction these Linux distributions work better when installed on modern computers. If you have an older computer click here.
 
Remember that you can subscribe to this blog via email by entering your details on the right hand side. Also if you want to get in touch, I am on twitter via the handle @dailylinuxuser.

Thankyou for reading



The 5 easiest to use modern Linux distributions

Introduction

This is part 2 of a series looking to help people find the best Linux distribution for them.

In the first part of the series, I looked at some of the best Linux Desktop Environments so that you could eliminate distributions which only use desktops that won't work for you and your setup.

The title of this post says it all really. Here are the 5 distributions I would turn to if I wanted to use Linux and I didn't want to be too hassled setting things up and they just work.

Notice that the title includes the word "modern". Click here for the "5 easiest to use Linux distributions for older computers". This one is all about the modern desktops, the whizzy effects and the shiny interfaces.

Before I start, here is the criteria that I think is important when deciding on the easiest to use distros.
  1. How easy are they to install
  2. How much work is it to setup the distribution
  3. How intuitive is the desktop environment
  4. How much useful software is installed by default
  5. How much support is available

1. Linux Mint 





















Linux Mint is number 1 on this list and in the Distrowatch rankings for a very good reason.

Linux Mint uses the same installer as Ubuntu and therefore it is very easy to install. If you can follow simple instructions such as being able to choose your language, where you want to install Linux Mint and where you are located on the map then you will be up and running within about 10 to 15 minutes.

Linux Mint is ahead of Ubuntu in this list for two reasons. In the first instance the Cinnamon desktop is likely to be more familiar to more people than Unity and secondly because Linux Mint has the ability to play Flash and MP3s straight away.

For general purpose use, the desktop works the way you would expect it to with system icons in the bottom right, a menu in the bottom left and quick launch icons available to open a browser and file manager.

The software available in Linux Mint is perfect for the average user with the LibreOffice suite, GIMP image editor, Banshee audio player and VLC video player.

The main thing that is missing is STEAM but this can be installed via the package manager. The Mint Software Centre behaves more intuitively than the Ubuntu Software Centre as well.

Click here for a review of Linux Mint 17

2. Ubuntu


Ubuntu is the Linux distribution that is most well known amongst people outside the Linux community.

Due to the Unity interface, Ubuntu has something of the Marmite effect whereby you either love it or hate it.

Installing Ubuntu is easy and the tool used is far better than the Windows equivalent (but then again ordinary users never have to install Windows).

The desktop is actually incredibly easy to use. If you can type the name of the program you want to run then you are 90% of the way to understanding Unity.

Ubuntu has a great set of software repositories and provides a stable base for many other Linux distributions.

Setup wise you have to install the restricted extras package to get Flash, MP3s and fonts (although there is an option during the installation which aims to achieve this with limited success).

Support for Ubuntu is very easy to find with support forums and IRC chat rooms available.

The software centre is still a little bit of a let down.

Click here for a full review of Ubuntu 14.04

3. PCLinuxOS























PCLinuxOS is the only non Debian based Linux distribution on this list.

PCLinuxOS is available for a number of different desktop environments but the way it utilises KDE is excellent.

The installer is incredibly straight forward and as with Linux Mint, the desktop will be familiar to most users with the panel, menu and icon layout.

PCLinuxOS has more applications than Linux Mint and Ubuntu with games, graphics applications, the LibreOffice office suite and audio applications. Dropbox is also included.

The graphical package manager for PCLinuxOS is Synaptic and whilst it might not be as pretty as the "Software Centre" it is much easier to find what you are looking for.

Click here for a full review of PCLinuxOS

4. Zorin OS





















There is no easier transition for Windows users to Linux than Zorin OS, that is the intention anyway.

Zorin OS looks and behaves in many ways just like Windows and you can choose which Windows version you want it to look like, whether that is Windows XP or Windows 7.

The installer for Zorin is the same as the Ubuntu installer and so it is very easy to install and it comes with all multimedia codecs pre-installed.

Zorin OS comes with a good selection of software including the LibreOffice office suite, VLC media player, Banshee audio player and the GIMP image editor.

PlayOnLinux is installed which makes it possible to run Windows software (although not every application works).

Zorin has a look and theme changer and also has some fairly nice desktop effects.

Zorin is number 4 on this list because there are a few glitches, it uses the software centre and there isn't as much support for Zorin as there is for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS.

Click here for a full review of Zorin OS 9

5. Netrunner

Number 5 on this list was difficult to choose because it meant leaving other distributions out.

I went for Netrunner because having recently used it I found it to be very intuitive and easy to use.

Netrunner takes a Kubuntu base and subtly improves it by including the multimedia codecs and some useful software that Kubuntu doesn't have by default.

The installer is the same as the Kubuntu installer. The Kubuntu installer is a little bit better than the Ubuntu one because it lists all the stages down the left hand side making it more linear and you can see how many steps you have left before the installation is complete.

Netrunner has a really good selection of software and it includes games, video editors and screencasting tools on top of the usual office suites and internet tools. Skype is also included.

The package manager for Netrunner is called MUON and it is much better than the Ubuntu Software Centre.


Summary

These are the 5 Linux distributions that I would recommend to new Linux users and to people who just want to use their computer as a computer and who aren't that interested in getting too deep and dirty with their operating system.

This list could easily have been the 10 easiest to use Linux distributions but 5 is a good number because it shows new users just where to begin yet still provides a limited amount of choice.

As I mentioned in the introduction these Linux distributions work better when installed on modern computers. If you have an older computer click here.
 
Remember that you can subscribe to this blog via email by entering your details on the right hand side. Also if you want to get in touch, I am on twitter via the handle @dailylinuxuser.

Thankyou for reading



Posted at 07:30 |  by Gary Newell

Friday, 8 August 2014

Introduction

The question that I get asked the most is "Which Linux Distro Should I Use?".

I released an article similar last year called "I need a Linux distro that is more customisable than Ubuntu". In that article I listed some potential candidates based on the criteria provided.

I am working on a series of articles that lets you choose your distribution based on your needs and your computer's capabilities.
 One part of your decision making process is choosing the desktop environment that is right for you.

You can use any of the core distributions such as Debian, Fedora, openSUSE and Arch and pretty much every desktop environment is available.
 
Other Linux distributions take the default desktop environment and customise the settings to provide a richer experience. Examples include Bodhi, Xubuntu and Linux Mint.

This is a guide to the various desktop environments available and the distributions that utilise them.

Modern Heavyweight Desktop Environments

The following desktop environments are a break away from the traditional panel/menu driven desktops that many people are used to.

These desktop environments may not run so well on older hardware and will not be a good choice if you have insufficient RAM, CPU or an older/incompatible graphics card.

Unity



















Unity is the flagship desktop environment for the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Unity takes a little bit of time to get used to and isn't overly customisable but is incredibly intuitive when it comes to navigating the desktop and finding applications.

The Unity desktop has a quick launch bar at the side and hosts your favourite applications. When you press the super (Windows) key on your keyboard a dashboard appears with access to various views including applications, music, videos, photos and social media.

It is easy to embed popular online applications such as Twitter, GMail and Reddit.

If your machine is underpowered then it might not be able to run Unity or may be sluggish. It is worth giving Ubuntu a go in a live environment or in a virtual environment to see how well it performs for you.

Unity isn't to everybody's taste and so try before you buy (even though it is free) is definitely the best course of action, especially if you prefer the more traditional desktop.

Gnome



















The Gnome desktop is very similar to the Unity desktop in that it uses a launcher style approach with a dashboard showing all the applications in an iconised fashion.

Again I would say it is worth trying out Gnome in a virtual machine to see if it is to your taste and in a live environment to make sure it works properly with your hardware.

Distributions that use Gnome include (but are not limited to):
  • Ubuntu Gnome
  • Mageia
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • Arch
  • CentOS
  • Manjaro
  • Kali
  • Makulu
  • Knoppix
  • Korora
It is worth noting that whilst some distributions are listed as using Gnome, it may not be the default desktop and may only be available from the repositories post installation.

Traditional Heavyweight Desktop Environments

What do I mean by "Traditional Heavyweight Desktop Environment".

For me a traditional desktop environment includes a panel at the bottom, icons on the desktop and a traditional menu system whereby you scroll through categories to get to applications.

Heavy versus light? Well a heavyweight desktop environment requires more resources to run.

Cinnamon


Cinnamon is the flagship desktop environment for the Linux Mint distribution. Linux Mint actually works with a number of lighter environments as well so if Cinnamon doesn't work for you due to hardware restrictions then that doesn't discount Linux Mint completely as there are alternative desktop choices available.

If you like things to evolve naturally then the Cinnamon desktop is definitely worth considering. It includes all the bells and whistles which will make your computer look good but it is also well designed making it easy to navigate and requires the smallest of learning curves.

Definitely a traditional desktop as it contains a single panel, a menu and icons on the desktop.

Again it is worth noting that whilst some distributions are listed as using Cinnamon, it may not be the default desktop and may only be available from the repositories post installation.

Linux distributions that use Cinnamon include (but are not limited to):
  • Mint
  • Cinnarch
  • Makulu
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Arch

KDE

The KDE desktop has been around for quite some time and has had a number of major updates.

On the surface it is very much a traditional desktop with a panel, menu and icons but there is much more to the KDE desktop with multiple activity style workspaces.

The KDE desktop also comes with more default applications than any of the other environments.

Linux distributions that use the KDE desktop environment include:

  • Mint
  • Debian
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • Kubuntu
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Netrunner
  • Arch
  • Korora
  • Makulu
  • SolyDK
  • Knoppix
  • SLAX

Zorin Desktop


The Zorin desktop is a heavily customised Gnome desktop. It is only used by the Zorin OS Linux distribution.

The Zorin desktop by default is made to look like Windows 7 but there is a look changer which lets you choose a Windows XP or Gnome 2 desktop.

There are huge differences between Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 and this brings us onto the lighter desktop environments.

The Zorin desktop is integrated with Compiz to prove whizzy effects.

Traditional lightweight desktop environments

Lightweight desktop environments will require less resources and will therefore work on most hardware.

Again traditional is used in terms of panels, menus and icons.

MATE

When Gnome 2 became Gnome 3 a new desktop environment called MATE was formed which basically forked the Gnome 2 code.

The MATE desktop is much slicker than Gnome 3 on older hardware.

MATE is extremely customisable and allows for multiple panels with alternative widgets and menus.

Linux distributions that use MATE include:
  • Linux Mint
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Makulu
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Arch

XFCE

When it comes to customising a desktop you won't find a desktop environment quite like XFCE.

Linux experts and beginners swear by XFCE because you can tweak it and get it to behave how you want it to very quickly and there isn't a huge learning curve.

Multiple panels, applets, menus, docks and special effects make XFCE my own personal favourite desktop environment.

The fact that XFCE doesn't take up a huge amount of resources makes it just perfect.

Linux distributions that use XFCE include:

  • Xubuntu
  • Linux Mint
  • Debian
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • Arch
  • SolyDX

LXDE

If you are really tight on resources then LXDE is a viable alternative to XFCE.

LXDE is highly customisable but with a more basic look. As with XFCE you can use different menus, add multiple panels and use different widgets but it isn't quite the same and doesn't quite have the same appeal.

LXDE does work on pretty much anything hardware wise. If your computer doesn't run LXDE then you really will be pushed to find a Linux distribution that works for you (but they do exist).

Linux distributions that use LXDE:
  • Lubuntu
  • LXLE
  • Debian
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Zorin OS Lite
  • PCLinuxOS
  • SparkyLinux
  • Simplicity

Enlightenment

Enlightenment is one of the lesser utilised desktop environments and is probably highlighted best in the Bodhi Linux distribution.

The Enlightenment desktop is potentially highly customisable and provides the ability to use a large number of virtual workspaces.

Linux distributions that use Enlightenment:
  • Bodhi Linux
  • SparkyLinux
  • Fedora
  • Arch
  • MacPUP

Fluxbox, JWM, IceWM, RazorQT

For completeness I have added the above desktops and window managers.

If you are looking for ultra lightweight then these are the graphical environments to go for. Note though that they are much harder to customise.

If you use any of these GUIs on a modern machine then you will soon realise that the speed is insane but realistically you only want to use them to keep older hardware alive.








The Linux distributions that use these desktops include:
  • Various versions of Puppy Linux
  • AntiX
  • Damn Small Linux
  • Tinycore

Summary

There are other Window Managers out there and you can try 76 of them out by downloading and trying out LinuxBBQ (although it takes patience).

If you just use your computer for browsing the web, watching videos and listening to music and you have a modern computer then why not try out Unity or Gnome.

If you are keen to stay traditional and have a modern computer try KDE or Cinnamon.

If you have a mid range computer then there is MATE and XFCE and these are worth trying out even on modern hardware because they will keep things nice and slick.

On older hardware try out LXDE first but if that fails try out one of the ultra light distributions that use ICEWM or Fluxbox.

The final option of course is no desktop at all. If you are using your computer as a server then you may not need a desktop environment in which case Ubuntu minimal and Debian minimal are worth looking into.

Thankyou for reading.

 

 

Which Linux Desktop Environment Should You Use?

Introduction

The question that I get asked the most is "Which Linux Distro Should I Use?".

I released an article similar last year called "I need a Linux distro that is more customisable than Ubuntu". In that article I listed some potential candidates based on the criteria provided.

I am working on a series of articles that lets you choose your distribution based on your needs and your computer's capabilities.
 One part of your decision making process is choosing the desktop environment that is right for you.

You can use any of the core distributions such as Debian, Fedora, openSUSE and Arch and pretty much every desktop environment is available.
 
Other Linux distributions take the default desktop environment and customise the settings to provide a richer experience. Examples include Bodhi, Xubuntu and Linux Mint.

This is a guide to the various desktop environments available and the distributions that utilise them.

Modern Heavyweight Desktop Environments

The following desktop environments are a break away from the traditional panel/menu driven desktops that many people are used to.

These desktop environments may not run so well on older hardware and will not be a good choice if you have insufficient RAM, CPU or an older/incompatible graphics card.

Unity



















Unity is the flagship desktop environment for the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Unity takes a little bit of time to get used to and isn't overly customisable but is incredibly intuitive when it comes to navigating the desktop and finding applications.

The Unity desktop has a quick launch bar at the side and hosts your favourite applications. When you press the super (Windows) key on your keyboard a dashboard appears with access to various views including applications, music, videos, photos and social media.

It is easy to embed popular online applications such as Twitter, GMail and Reddit.

If your machine is underpowered then it might not be able to run Unity or may be sluggish. It is worth giving Ubuntu a go in a live environment or in a virtual environment to see how well it performs for you.

Unity isn't to everybody's taste and so try before you buy (even though it is free) is definitely the best course of action, especially if you prefer the more traditional desktop.

Gnome



















The Gnome desktop is very similar to the Unity desktop in that it uses a launcher style approach with a dashboard showing all the applications in an iconised fashion.

Again I would say it is worth trying out Gnome in a virtual machine to see if it is to your taste and in a live environment to make sure it works properly with your hardware.

Distributions that use Gnome include (but are not limited to):
  • Ubuntu Gnome
  • Mageia
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • Arch
  • CentOS
  • Manjaro
  • Kali
  • Makulu
  • Knoppix
  • Korora
It is worth noting that whilst some distributions are listed as using Gnome, it may not be the default desktop and may only be available from the repositories post installation.

Traditional Heavyweight Desktop Environments

What do I mean by "Traditional Heavyweight Desktop Environment".

For me a traditional desktop environment includes a panel at the bottom, icons on the desktop and a traditional menu system whereby you scroll through categories to get to applications.

Heavy versus light? Well a heavyweight desktop environment requires more resources to run.

Cinnamon


Cinnamon is the flagship desktop environment for the Linux Mint distribution. Linux Mint actually works with a number of lighter environments as well so if Cinnamon doesn't work for you due to hardware restrictions then that doesn't discount Linux Mint completely as there are alternative desktop choices available.

If you like things to evolve naturally then the Cinnamon desktop is definitely worth considering. It includes all the bells and whistles which will make your computer look good but it is also well designed making it easy to navigate and requires the smallest of learning curves.

Definitely a traditional desktop as it contains a single panel, a menu and icons on the desktop.

Again it is worth noting that whilst some distributions are listed as using Cinnamon, it may not be the default desktop and may only be available from the repositories post installation.

Linux distributions that use Cinnamon include (but are not limited to):
  • Mint
  • Cinnarch
  • Makulu
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Arch

KDE

The KDE desktop has been around for quite some time and has had a number of major updates.

On the surface it is very much a traditional desktop with a panel, menu and icons but there is much more to the KDE desktop with multiple activity style workspaces.

The KDE desktop also comes with more default applications than any of the other environments.

Linux distributions that use the KDE desktop environment include:

  • Mint
  • Debian
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • Kubuntu
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Netrunner
  • Arch
  • Korora
  • Makulu
  • SolyDK
  • Knoppix
  • SLAX

Zorin Desktop


The Zorin desktop is a heavily customised Gnome desktop. It is only used by the Zorin OS Linux distribution.

The Zorin desktop by default is made to look like Windows 7 but there is a look changer which lets you choose a Windows XP or Gnome 2 desktop.

There are huge differences between Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 and this brings us onto the lighter desktop environments.

The Zorin desktop is integrated with Compiz to prove whizzy effects.

Traditional lightweight desktop environments

Lightweight desktop environments will require less resources and will therefore work on most hardware.

Again traditional is used in terms of panels, menus and icons.

MATE

When Gnome 2 became Gnome 3 a new desktop environment called MATE was formed which basically forked the Gnome 2 code.

The MATE desktop is much slicker than Gnome 3 on older hardware.

MATE is extremely customisable and allows for multiple panels with alternative widgets and menus.

Linux distributions that use MATE include:
  • Linux Mint
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Makulu
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Arch

XFCE

When it comes to customising a desktop you won't find a desktop environment quite like XFCE.

Linux experts and beginners swear by XFCE because you can tweak it and get it to behave how you want it to very quickly and there isn't a huge learning curve.

Multiple panels, applets, menus, docks and special effects make XFCE my own personal favourite desktop environment.

The fact that XFCE doesn't take up a huge amount of resources makes it just perfect.

Linux distributions that use XFCE include:

  • Xubuntu
  • Linux Mint
  • Debian
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • Arch
  • SolyDX

LXDE

If you are really tight on resources then LXDE is a viable alternative to XFCE.

LXDE is highly customisable but with a more basic look. As with XFCE you can use different menus, add multiple panels and use different widgets but it isn't quite the same and doesn't quite have the same appeal.

LXDE does work on pretty much anything hardware wise. If your computer doesn't run LXDE then you really will be pushed to find a Linux distribution that works for you (but they do exist).

Linux distributions that use LXDE:
  • Lubuntu
  • LXLE
  • Debian
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Zorin OS Lite
  • PCLinuxOS
  • SparkyLinux
  • Simplicity

Enlightenment

Enlightenment is one of the lesser utilised desktop environments and is probably highlighted best in the Bodhi Linux distribution.

The Enlightenment desktop is potentially highly customisable and provides the ability to use a large number of virtual workspaces.

Linux distributions that use Enlightenment:
  • Bodhi Linux
  • SparkyLinux
  • Fedora
  • Arch
  • MacPUP

Fluxbox, JWM, IceWM, RazorQT

For completeness I have added the above desktops and window managers.

If you are looking for ultra lightweight then these are the graphical environments to go for. Note though that they are much harder to customise.

If you use any of these GUIs on a modern machine then you will soon realise that the speed is insane but realistically you only want to use them to keep older hardware alive.








The Linux distributions that use these desktops include:
  • Various versions of Puppy Linux
  • AntiX
  • Damn Small Linux
  • Tinycore

Summary

There are other Window Managers out there and you can try 76 of them out by downloading and trying out LinuxBBQ (although it takes patience).

If you just use your computer for browsing the web, watching videos and listening to music and you have a modern computer then why not try out Unity or Gnome.

If you are keen to stay traditional and have a modern computer try KDE or Cinnamon.

If you have a mid range computer then there is MATE and XFCE and these are worth trying out even on modern hardware because they will keep things nice and slick.

On older hardware try out LXDE first but if that fails try out one of the ultra light distributions that use ICEWM or Fluxbox.

The final option of course is no desktop at all. If you are using your computer as a server then you may not need a desktop environment in which case Ubuntu minimal and Debian minimal are worth looking into.

Thankyou for reading.

 

 

Posted at 18:02 |  by Gary Newell

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