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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Introduction

Elementary OS is an interesting Linux distribution. Everything about it screams look at me, look how good I look. The user interface is so very welcoming and enticing but when I tried Elementary Freya (version 0.3) I felt that when you scratched at the surface what was underneath wasn't particularly endearing for the Everyday Linux User.

I have spent the first couple of weeks of 2017 looking at Elementary OS to judge its suitability for the average home computer user.

Elementary OS Website

The Elementary OS website has the following tag line underneath the logo:

"A fast and open replacement for Windows and macOS"

When I read that I think "great, I should therefore be able to do all of the things with Elementary OS that I can do with Windows". What does that mean? Well I like to play games so Steam should be available, there needs to be an office suite, I need to be able to watch Amazon Prime and/or Netflix. I should be able to set up all my hardware with the minimum of effort and it should be fairly easy to use.

At the bottom of the Elementary OS homepage the following text is displayed which basically tells you what it is about:

"elementary OS ships with a carefully curated selection of apps that cater to every day needs so you can spend more time using your computer and less time cleaning up bloatware."
What this tells me is that I should expect to get a set of applications to get started. If this is the case then any extra software I need should be easily found and I shouldn't have an issue installing it.

Is this the case? Read on to find out.

How To Get Elementary OS

Visit https://elementary.io/ to open the Elementary OS webpage.


The developers of Elementary OS make a point of asking for a payment for their operating system. The amount you pay is up to you although the $10 option is the default.

If you plan to try Elementary OS out before making a purchase you can click on "Custom" and enter the amount you desire such as 0.

If you enter 0 into the custom box then the "Purchase elementary OS" button changes to become "Download elementary OS".

When you click on the "Download elementary OS" button a window appears with options to "cancel or download". Click on the "Download" button to download an ISO image of Elementary OS.

How To Create An Elementary OS USB Drive


I highly recommend using Etcher for creating Linux USB drives. It is available for Windows and Linux.

Simply visit https://etcher.io/ and click on the download link at the top of the page. It automatically works out whether you are using Windows or Linux.

The installation differs slightly depending whether you are using Windows or Linux to create the drive. For Linux you just need to double click on the downloaded file and follow the instructions.


For Windows double click on the file and click on the "Install" link. After the installation has finished click on the "Finish" icon and Etcher will start.


The user interface for Etcher is about as simple as it can get.


  1. Insert a blank USB drive
  2. Click "Select Image" and find the Elementary OS ISO downloaded previously
  3. Click "Select Drive" and choose your USB drive
  4. Click "Flash"
For some drives the "select drive" button does not appear and it shows as "connect a drive". Click on the settings icon in the top right corner.



Under the "Advanced" option it says "Unsafe Mode". Checking this box makes all of your drives available including your hard drive. This is of course why it is the unsafe option. You should however now be able to select the drive letter of your USB drive.

How To Boot To Elementary Live

Depending on whether you are using UEFI or BIOS you should be able to boot straight to the Elementary OS by rebooting your computer.

If you are using Linux you will probably see a grub menu with a system option at the bottom. Choose this option and then choose to boot from the USB drive.

If you are using Windows and the computer boots straight back to Windows without giving an option for booting to Elementary then try this:
  1. Right click on the start button 
  2. Choose power options
  3. Click on "Choose what the power button does"
  4. Click the link that reads "Change settings that are currently unavailable"
  5. Scroll to the bottom and remove the tick from the "Turn on fast startup" option
  6. Click "Save changes".
  7. Reboot the computer whilst holding the shift key down.
  8. When the blue screen appears choose to boot from USB device
  9. You should now see a menu with an option to try Elementary
If the above 9 steps do not work for you try this guide for booting from a USB drive.

How To Install Elementary

When Elementary OS first boots you get the option to try Elementary or install it.

I recommend the try option initially so that you can test things like connecting to the internet and get a basic idea of what Elementary is about.

This will give you some comfort as to whether you like what you see.

To install Elementary either click the "Install Elementary" button when the system first boots or click on the install icon from the menu.

Installing Elementary is fairly straight forward and it is easy to dual boot with another operating system simply by creating an empty partition.

If you haven't connected to the internet prior to running the installer then a screen will appear asking you to connect.

A screen then asks you whether you want to download updates during the installation and whether you want multimedia codecs to be installed.

I recommend ticking both of these boxes.

The next screen is the installation type screen and from here you can choose to erase the disk and install Elementary.

If you have created an empty partition and you have another operating system installed then an option will appear which will let you install alongside that other operating system.

When you click "Install Now" a screen will appear telling you which partitions are being used and which partitions will be created. If you are ready click "Continue".


In my experience the option for "Installing alongside another operating system" generally works and you are indeed safe to continue.

You will now be asked where you are in the world. This sets the timezone on your computer correctly and your clock will therefore be set properly when you boot into the real system for the first time.


The penultimate step is to choose the keyboard layout for your computer.

It is highly likely the correct one has been chosen already.

If not click on the language on the left and the layout on the right. 

You can test the layout by entering text into the box provided.

The final step is to set up a user. 

Enter your name and a name for the computer. 

Choose a username and a password.

Click "Continue".

The system will now be installed.


To start using your new system reboot the computer and remove the USB drive. When you boot you should now see a menu with an option for booting into Elementary.

As installers go this is probably as easy as it gets. 

First Impressions


There is no doubt that Elementary OS looks good. The wallpaper is vibrant, the icons are crisp and clean and everything looks pixel perfect.

The interface is very simplistic so for the Everyday Linux User this is a nice straight forward and easy to use system.


Clicking on "Applications" in the top left corner brings up the menu.

The default view is a list of icons for all of the applications installed on the system and there are a series of little dots at the bottom which help you navigate to the next and previous set of icons.


There is another menu view which shows a list of categories and items within the category.

You can also use the search bar to narrow down the items that are returned.

In the top right corner of the screen there are a series of icons for adjusting audio, power, network, power and bluetooth settings.

There is a clock in the top center of the screen.

At the bottom of the screen is a series of quick launch icons for commonly used applications.



The first icon on the launch bar shows a multitasking screen which is how you interact with virtual desktops.

Connecting To The Internet


Connecting to the internet is very easy. Simply click on the network icon and choose the wireless network you wish to connect to.

I have installed Elementary on my Lenovo Ideapad Y700 and I am pleased to say that any network problems I used to get with this laptop are now well in the past.

Email

Elementary delivers a simple set of applications which are enough to be useful but not full of bloat as suggested from the very outset on their homepage.

The mail program is called Geary and it works with all modern mail providers including GMail.

There is however a caveat. When you first try and login to GMail you may get an email (which you will need to check in another client such as the web interface or via your phone) which says that a login was attempted and you need to lower your security settings to allow Geary access to the email.

Whilst this may seem insecure (and I guess it is) there is an element of comfort that Microsoft Outlook causes the same issue when you try and connect to GMail.

The email client is very basic. You basically get a list of the folders down the left side with the emails for the selected folder in the centre panel.

The right pane shows a preview of the email.

That is pretty much all there is to it.




As you can see, composing emails is very basic but it works.

It is worth noting the appearance of the Windows within Elementary. They are all very clean and very crisp.

For people used to using Macs this will be very pleasing.

Calendar

The quick launch bar at the bottom includes a calendar icon.

The calendar provides a nice simple monthly view.

Adding events is as easy as clicking on an icon at the top of the screen or by double clicking on a date.

You can choose the location of the event, set reminders, invite other people and create recurring events.


Music

The audio player within Elementary OS is called Noise.

It is very basic and nothing like Rhythmbox or Banshee.

For playing your own music however it is just what you need.

The first thing to do is import music which is easy because there is a big link asking you to import music.

After the music is installed you can view the content in various ways such as a full list view, an image view and a more technical view.

You can do the basics such as create new playlists and add tracks to that playlist.

You can also create smart playlists which lets you choose songs by various categories and limit the playlist to a certain number of songs or a certain duration.

As you would expect the audio plays perfectly fine and MP3s are playable as long as you chose the option to install the multimedia codecs during installation.







Video

The video player is called Audience.

There is a single option when you open Audience for the first time and that is to choose a video to play.

On subsequent uses you can choose to load a previously viewed video as well.

It is basic but it works. All you want really.



Photos

The photo viewer is called Pantheon-Photos and as with the other tools basic but functional.

You can import photos and view them.

There are categories that you can choose such as the date or whether you want to view photos or videos. 

That is about it though.



When you view a photo however there are lots of options. You can share it via email or bluetooth and you can set the photo as your desktop background.

Web Browser


The default web browser with Elementary OS is called Epiphany and it is at this point where cracks start to form.

Everything thus far has been a bit too plain sailing hasn't it. All the applications are simple but functional and the desktop is really easy to use. Even installation was a breeze.

One of my requirements and probably many other people's requirements is to be able to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Netflix will not work with Epiphany and neither will Amazon Prime.


Installing Applications

Clearly you would think the Netflix and Amazon Prime issue could be solved by installing a browser such as Chrome.

Unfortunately this isn't as simple as it should be.


The AppCenter is the tool that you use within Elementary OS to install applications and it looks just as good as the other applications within Elementary.

At first it seems quite useful as well. For instance the default Elementary installation lacks office software.

Clicking on the Office category brings up this screen with the option to install LibreOffice.


The AppCenter isn't as useful for installing applications that I and probably many other people like to use.

For instance Google Chrome:


As Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu you can go to the Chrome website and download it but installing Chrome requires you to use the command line because there isn't anything installed for installing DEB packages graphically.

You can install the GNOME Software Manager which seems to help but seems counterproductive or you can install GDEBI which gave me mixed results.

This isn't the only issue. Installing Steam also caused a problem.


Steam does appear in the search results but clicking on the "Install" button does absolutely nothing. Actually that is a lie. It starts to show a progress bar which almost instantly disappears and then nothing happens.

The solution I went for was to install Synaptic and then I visited this site and downloaded the Debian package at the bottom of the page and installed it.

This installs Ubuntu After Install. When you run it you can choose between a whole host of applications to install including Chrome, Steam, Skype and many others.



You can of course use the command line to install the applications and you will find that for Chrome it doesn't work straight away if you do this. After using dpkg to install the package you will then have to run a fix using sudo apt-get install -f.




Hardware

The latest Linux kernel is great for most hardware. Elementary compliments this well with a nice easy interface for installing the hardware.


The settings panel is used to set up hardware and configure your system.

If you want to add a printer simply click on the printer settings icon.

An option will appear for adding a printer.

You can connect to network or local printers and I can confirm that I set up an Epson WF-2630 printer without issues.

I was also able to connect to the WD MyCloud network storage drive without issues and my Sony Walkman and my Android Phone were both perfectly picked up without issue.

Issues

I have had a couple of occasions whereby the whole system has frozen shortly after login and the only way to get it going again is to reboot.

It is worth pointing out that I have used Elementary as my sole operating system for the past 2 weeks and this has literally happened twice.

Summary

Elementary looks great. It is easy to install, easy to use and the applications are perfectly adequate for basic tasks.

The big issue is the package manager. The biggest issue with Ubuntu is the package manager. 

The fact that somebody has had to go to the effort to create the Ubuntu After Install application shows there is a problem.

Why can't Ubuntu or one of these derivatives grasp the bull by the horns and come up with a solution.

People like to use Chrome yet all we get is Firefox or some basic equivalent. Chrome works with everything. It is by far the best browser and I don't want to settle for second best. 

If you don't want to include it as part of the main package manager add a simple tool for installing this and many other applications including Steam.

On the whole though the distribution looks good and is simple to use and I do recommend it for the Everyday Linux User. 

Thanks for reading.



An Everyday Linux User Review Of Elementary OS Loki 0.4

Introduction

Elementary OS is an interesting Linux distribution. Everything about it screams look at me, look how good I look. The user interface is so very welcoming and enticing but when I tried Elementary Freya (version 0.3) I felt that when you scratched at the surface what was underneath wasn't particularly endearing for the Everyday Linux User.

I have spent the first couple of weeks of 2017 looking at Elementary OS to judge its suitability for the average home computer user.

Elementary OS Website

The Elementary OS website has the following tag line underneath the logo:

"A fast and open replacement for Windows and macOS"

When I read that I think "great, I should therefore be able to do all of the things with Elementary OS that I can do with Windows". What does that mean? Well I like to play games so Steam should be available, there needs to be an office suite, I need to be able to watch Amazon Prime and/or Netflix. I should be able to set up all my hardware with the minimum of effort and it should be fairly easy to use.

At the bottom of the Elementary OS homepage the following text is displayed which basically tells you what it is about:

"elementary OS ships with a carefully curated selection of apps that cater to every day needs so you can spend more time using your computer and less time cleaning up bloatware."
What this tells me is that I should expect to get a set of applications to get started. If this is the case then any extra software I need should be easily found and I shouldn't have an issue installing it.

Is this the case? Read on to find out.

How To Get Elementary OS

Visit https://elementary.io/ to open the Elementary OS webpage.


The developers of Elementary OS make a point of asking for a payment for their operating system. The amount you pay is up to you although the $10 option is the default.

If you plan to try Elementary OS out before making a purchase you can click on "Custom" and enter the amount you desire such as 0.

If you enter 0 into the custom box then the "Purchase elementary OS" button changes to become "Download elementary OS".

When you click on the "Download elementary OS" button a window appears with options to "cancel or download". Click on the "Download" button to download an ISO image of Elementary OS.

How To Create An Elementary OS USB Drive


I highly recommend using Etcher for creating Linux USB drives. It is available for Windows and Linux.

Simply visit https://etcher.io/ and click on the download link at the top of the page. It automatically works out whether you are using Windows or Linux.

The installation differs slightly depending whether you are using Windows or Linux to create the drive. For Linux you just need to double click on the downloaded file and follow the instructions.


For Windows double click on the file and click on the "Install" link. After the installation has finished click on the "Finish" icon and Etcher will start.


The user interface for Etcher is about as simple as it can get.


  1. Insert a blank USB drive
  2. Click "Select Image" and find the Elementary OS ISO downloaded previously
  3. Click "Select Drive" and choose your USB drive
  4. Click "Flash"
For some drives the "select drive" button does not appear and it shows as "connect a drive". Click on the settings icon in the top right corner.



Under the "Advanced" option it says "Unsafe Mode". Checking this box makes all of your drives available including your hard drive. This is of course why it is the unsafe option. You should however now be able to select the drive letter of your USB drive.

How To Boot To Elementary Live

Depending on whether you are using UEFI or BIOS you should be able to boot straight to the Elementary OS by rebooting your computer.

If you are using Linux you will probably see a grub menu with a system option at the bottom. Choose this option and then choose to boot from the USB drive.

If you are using Windows and the computer boots straight back to Windows without giving an option for booting to Elementary then try this:
  1. Right click on the start button 
  2. Choose power options
  3. Click on "Choose what the power button does"
  4. Click the link that reads "Change settings that are currently unavailable"
  5. Scroll to the bottom and remove the tick from the "Turn on fast startup" option
  6. Click "Save changes".
  7. Reboot the computer whilst holding the shift key down.
  8. When the blue screen appears choose to boot from USB device
  9. You should now see a menu with an option to try Elementary
If the above 9 steps do not work for you try this guide for booting from a USB drive.

How To Install Elementary

When Elementary OS first boots you get the option to try Elementary or install it.

I recommend the try option initially so that you can test things like connecting to the internet and get a basic idea of what Elementary is about.

This will give you some comfort as to whether you like what you see.

To install Elementary either click the "Install Elementary" button when the system first boots or click on the install icon from the menu.

Installing Elementary is fairly straight forward and it is easy to dual boot with another operating system simply by creating an empty partition.

If you haven't connected to the internet prior to running the installer then a screen will appear asking you to connect.

A screen then asks you whether you want to download updates during the installation and whether you want multimedia codecs to be installed.

I recommend ticking both of these boxes.

The next screen is the installation type screen and from here you can choose to erase the disk and install Elementary.

If you have created an empty partition and you have another operating system installed then an option will appear which will let you install alongside that other operating system.

When you click "Install Now" a screen will appear telling you which partitions are being used and which partitions will be created. If you are ready click "Continue".


In my experience the option for "Installing alongside another operating system" generally works and you are indeed safe to continue.

You will now be asked where you are in the world. This sets the timezone on your computer correctly and your clock will therefore be set properly when you boot into the real system for the first time.


The penultimate step is to choose the keyboard layout for your computer.

It is highly likely the correct one has been chosen already.

If not click on the language on the left and the layout on the right. 

You can test the layout by entering text into the box provided.

The final step is to set up a user. 

Enter your name and a name for the computer. 

Choose a username and a password.

Click "Continue".

The system will now be installed.


To start using your new system reboot the computer and remove the USB drive. When you boot you should now see a menu with an option for booting into Elementary.

As installers go this is probably as easy as it gets. 

First Impressions


There is no doubt that Elementary OS looks good. The wallpaper is vibrant, the icons are crisp and clean and everything looks pixel perfect.

The interface is very simplistic so for the Everyday Linux User this is a nice straight forward and easy to use system.


Clicking on "Applications" in the top left corner brings up the menu.

The default view is a list of icons for all of the applications installed on the system and there are a series of little dots at the bottom which help you navigate to the next and previous set of icons.


There is another menu view which shows a list of categories and items within the category.

You can also use the search bar to narrow down the items that are returned.

In the top right corner of the screen there are a series of icons for adjusting audio, power, network, power and bluetooth settings.

There is a clock in the top center of the screen.

At the bottom of the screen is a series of quick launch icons for commonly used applications.



The first icon on the launch bar shows a multitasking screen which is how you interact with virtual desktops.

Connecting To The Internet


Connecting to the internet is very easy. Simply click on the network icon and choose the wireless network you wish to connect to.

I have installed Elementary on my Lenovo Ideapad Y700 and I am pleased to say that any network problems I used to get with this laptop are now well in the past.

Email

Elementary delivers a simple set of applications which are enough to be useful but not full of bloat as suggested from the very outset on their homepage.

The mail program is called Geary and it works with all modern mail providers including GMail.

There is however a caveat. When you first try and login to GMail you may get an email (which you will need to check in another client such as the web interface or via your phone) which says that a login was attempted and you need to lower your security settings to allow Geary access to the email.

Whilst this may seem insecure (and I guess it is) there is an element of comfort that Microsoft Outlook causes the same issue when you try and connect to GMail.

The email client is very basic. You basically get a list of the folders down the left side with the emails for the selected folder in the centre panel.

The right pane shows a preview of the email.

That is pretty much all there is to it.




As you can see, composing emails is very basic but it works.

It is worth noting the appearance of the Windows within Elementary. They are all very clean and very crisp.

For people used to using Macs this will be very pleasing.

Calendar

The quick launch bar at the bottom includes a calendar icon.

The calendar provides a nice simple monthly view.

Adding events is as easy as clicking on an icon at the top of the screen or by double clicking on a date.

You can choose the location of the event, set reminders, invite other people and create recurring events.


Music

The audio player within Elementary OS is called Noise.

It is very basic and nothing like Rhythmbox or Banshee.

For playing your own music however it is just what you need.

The first thing to do is import music which is easy because there is a big link asking you to import music.

After the music is installed you can view the content in various ways such as a full list view, an image view and a more technical view.

You can do the basics such as create new playlists and add tracks to that playlist.

You can also create smart playlists which lets you choose songs by various categories and limit the playlist to a certain number of songs or a certain duration.

As you would expect the audio plays perfectly fine and MP3s are playable as long as you chose the option to install the multimedia codecs during installation.







Video

The video player is called Audience.

There is a single option when you open Audience for the first time and that is to choose a video to play.

On subsequent uses you can choose to load a previously viewed video as well.

It is basic but it works. All you want really.



Photos

The photo viewer is called Pantheon-Photos and as with the other tools basic but functional.

You can import photos and view them.

There are categories that you can choose such as the date or whether you want to view photos or videos. 

That is about it though.



When you view a photo however there are lots of options. You can share it via email or bluetooth and you can set the photo as your desktop background.

Web Browser


The default web browser with Elementary OS is called Epiphany and it is at this point where cracks start to form.

Everything thus far has been a bit too plain sailing hasn't it. All the applications are simple but functional and the desktop is really easy to use. Even installation was a breeze.

One of my requirements and probably many other people's requirements is to be able to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Netflix will not work with Epiphany and neither will Amazon Prime.


Installing Applications

Clearly you would think the Netflix and Amazon Prime issue could be solved by installing a browser such as Chrome.

Unfortunately this isn't as simple as it should be.


The AppCenter is the tool that you use within Elementary OS to install applications and it looks just as good as the other applications within Elementary.

At first it seems quite useful as well. For instance the default Elementary installation lacks office software.

Clicking on the Office category brings up this screen with the option to install LibreOffice.


The AppCenter isn't as useful for installing applications that I and probably many other people like to use.

For instance Google Chrome:


As Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu you can go to the Chrome website and download it but installing Chrome requires you to use the command line because there isn't anything installed for installing DEB packages graphically.

You can install the GNOME Software Manager which seems to help but seems counterproductive or you can install GDEBI which gave me mixed results.

This isn't the only issue. Installing Steam also caused a problem.


Steam does appear in the search results but clicking on the "Install" button does absolutely nothing. Actually that is a lie. It starts to show a progress bar which almost instantly disappears and then nothing happens.

The solution I went for was to install Synaptic and then I visited this site and downloaded the Debian package at the bottom of the page and installed it.

This installs Ubuntu After Install. When you run it you can choose between a whole host of applications to install including Chrome, Steam, Skype and many others.



You can of course use the command line to install the applications and you will find that for Chrome it doesn't work straight away if you do this. After using dpkg to install the package you will then have to run a fix using sudo apt-get install -f.




Hardware

The latest Linux kernel is great for most hardware. Elementary compliments this well with a nice easy interface for installing the hardware.


The settings panel is used to set up hardware and configure your system.

If you want to add a printer simply click on the printer settings icon.

An option will appear for adding a printer.

You can connect to network or local printers and I can confirm that I set up an Epson WF-2630 printer without issues.

I was also able to connect to the WD MyCloud network storage drive without issues and my Sony Walkman and my Android Phone were both perfectly picked up without issue.

Issues

I have had a couple of occasions whereby the whole system has frozen shortly after login and the only way to get it going again is to reboot.

It is worth pointing out that I have used Elementary as my sole operating system for the past 2 weeks and this has literally happened twice.

Summary

Elementary looks great. It is easy to install, easy to use and the applications are perfectly adequate for basic tasks.

The big issue is the package manager. The biggest issue with Ubuntu is the package manager. 

The fact that somebody has had to go to the effort to create the Ubuntu After Install application shows there is a problem.

Why can't Ubuntu or one of these derivatives grasp the bull by the horns and come up with a solution.

People like to use Chrome yet all we get is Firefox or some basic equivalent. Chrome works with everything. It is by far the best browser and I don't want to settle for second best. 

If you don't want to include it as part of the main package manager add a simple tool for installing this and many other applications including Steam.

On the whole though the distribution looks good and is simple to use and I do recommend it for the Everyday Linux User. 

Thanks for reading.



Posted at 21:51 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 9 January 2017

Introduction

It is the beginning of 2017 which can mean only one thing. It is time to look back at the top 10 Linux distributions of 2016 in order to analyse their suitability for the everyday Linux user.

I have been writing this guide for a few years now as you can see here:
The idea of this guide isn't to pitch one distribution against another and the list is not my personal choice of the best distributions from 2015. 


The point of this guide is to look at each of the top 10 distributions and to highlight how suitable the distribution is for the everyday Linux user. 

There is a set criteria I use to determine how suitable a Linux distro is for the average person which is as follows:

  1. Must be easy to install
  2. Must have an intuitive desktop environment
  3. Must be easy to use
  4. Must have a standard and fairly complete set of applications installed
  5. Must have a decent package manager for installing other applications
  6. Must be ready to use straight away
The list is ordered in the same way they are on Distrowatch.

Linux Mint






















I have no doubt in my mind that Linux Mint is the most suitable distribution for the Everyday Linux User and I would recommend this over any other distribution.

It is no surprise therefore that Linux Mint is also the number 1 distribution on Distrowatch.

The installer for Linux Mint is very straight forward although the installer now no longer includes multimedia codecs by default. This detracts in a very small way from the "must be ready to use straight away" category but the fact that the welcome screen includes an option for installing 3rd party software makes this a very minor point.

In all honesty the trade off is that the web page is now slightly less confusing because there are less options to choose from.

If you wish to try out Linux Mint you can follow this guide:


After you have installed Linux Mint you can use the welcome screen to install multimedia codecs and additional drivers for your graphics card and other devices.

The Cinnamon desktop environment is not only pleasing on the eye, it is also very straight forward to use. If you know how to click a menu button they you can easily find the application you are looking for. As a drop in Linux distribution for Windows users it is perfect.

Linux Mint comes with all the applications a standard user needs to get started including the LibreOffice office suite, the GIMP image editor, an image viewer, the Banshee audio player, VLC media player and Thunderbird email client. There are all sorts of other tools installed as well.

There is also a fairly intuitive graphical software installer and it works well. Steam, Dropbox and Skype are all available from the graphical installer.

Linux Mint works with all the hardware devices I have tried including an Epson WF2630 printer, a WD MyCloud NAS drive, an Android phone and Sony Walkman.

The current version of Mint is the long term support release and there is no better time to use Linux Mint than at the start of an LTS release.


Debian






















Debian has been around for absolutely ever and it is has often been the base distribution for other easier to use distributions.

For the Everyday Linux User I would say that there are easier starting points and I would also say that you would need a really good reason to want to use Debian over Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

I always get battered for this in the comments section but just trying to find a version of Debian to download is a skill. My last review was in June of 2015 but even if I look today the website is the same archaic monolith of links.





















The above image shows the front page of the Debian website. In the top right corner there is a link called "Download Debian 8.6". However this is a network installation option and if you want to try a live version of Debian first then this isn't the option you require.

There is a grid of links on the front page and in the 2nd column there is a section called "Getting Debian". Under this heading you will see a link called "CD/USB ISO images". 





















When you click on the "CD/USB ISO Images" link you are taken to a page like the one above. Another set of links. 

There are options for downloading with Jigdo, downloading with BitTorrent or downloading via HTTP/FTP.

Clicking on the "download via HTTP" takes you to yet another page. This time called "Live install images". 

You can choose between Bittorrent or http and you can choose 64 bit or 32 bit. 























Finally you get to the point where you can download an ISO but there are so many files to choose from.

In my opinion the website should be changed to provide a simply download option. Choose your architecture, choose your desktop environment, choose your download method, choose between 32-bit and 64-bit. 

4 drop downs and a a download button. That is all that is required.

The Debian installer is also a bit overcooked. To be fair Debian isn't just for the new user and so there are many options as a new user you wouldn't care about and probably don't know the correct answer to.

After you have installed Debian you will find that it is generally as easy to use as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. The software that comes pre-installed is determined by you at the point of installation so you can have as little or as much as you like.

For installing applications there is Synaptic which is a decent if somewhat basic package manager. (Click here for a guide to Synaptic).

In my opinion Debian is fine for the Everyday Linux User once you get past the website and the installer. You also get a choice of many different desktop environments at the installation stage.

Click here for a list of the best desktop environments and if you don't know what a desktop environment check out this guide.

Ubuntu






















If you are thinking of trying Linux and you haven't heard of Ubuntu then the question has to be asked "where have you been?".

Ubuntu is possibly the most well known Linux distribution of them all. 

2016 saw the release of the latest LTS release and generally speaking it is the same Ubuntu we have come to love over the years although it isn't perfect.

Installing Ubuntu is very straight forward and the installer has been made even easier for the latest releases.

As Linux Mint have chosen not to include the multimedia codecs as part of the default install it has put Ubuntu back on a level playing field. You can install the multimedia codecs as part of the installation within Ubuntu.

It is worth noting that you should connect to the internet before the installation as this is no longer provided as an option.


Ubuntu comes with a decent set of applications as standard including the LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player, Totem media player and Thunderbird email client.

The big let down with Ubuntu is the graphical software manager. It doesn't include options you would expect to see such as Steam. The Software Centre may have been replaced with something new but for me it isn't any better.

Hardware support is very good. I could connect to the printer, MyCloud device and other devices with the minimum of fuss.

From a usability point of view it all depends on how well you get on with Unity. I like the Unity desktop environment and find it very intuitive. The use of keyboard shortcuts is a great time saver and having elements such as audio, video and photos integrated into the dashboard display is brilliant.






















I would definitely recommend Ubuntu to the Everyday Linux User but with the caveat that you may hit some issues along the way. The community is very good however and you can usually find simple instructions for resolving issues.


openSUSE






















I haven't reviewed openSUSE since April 2015. The point of this list isn't to review each operating system but to express how suitable they are for the everyday Linux user.

openSUSE is definitely suitable for the average person except that the installer isn't the easiest that I have ever used. It is possible that it has changed in the past 18 months so I will update the guide if that is the case.

There are 2 versions of openSUSE available. Tumbleweed is a rolling release version which means you can install it once and it will continually update so that you always have the latest and best version available. The other version is openSUSE leap which is released in regular cycles. 

The website for openSUSE now lists 2 download options. You can go for the full whammy of 4.7 gigabytes or you can download a network installer which will let you choose the packages you install as you go along (much like Debian).

The main thing I have found about openSUSE over the years is that it is very stable and once you get it set up with the software you need it is a great distribution.

There are some things that make it not quite as easy to use as say Linux Mint such as the fact you need to find use 1 click installs to install multimedia codecs and Flash.

I definitely need to revisit openSUSE and I intend to do that within the next week or so. 

I would recommend giving openSUSE a go if you are looking for an alternative to Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

Manjaro






















I can't give enough praise to the developers of Manjaro. This is an absolutely superby Linux distribution.

I am not usually a big fan of the KDE desktop but the Manjaro implementation is brilliant.

For those of you unaware, Manjaro is based on Arch Linux which in the past has been for the more experienced and technical computer users.

Manjaro has basically made Arch available to the masses. 

The installer for Manjaro is very straight forward to use. It is every bit as simple as the Linux Mint installer.

There is a decent set of software which gets pre-installed with Manjaro including the Cantata audio player, Steam, Kdenlive video editor, LibreOffice office suite, KMail mail client, Digikam photo management and the VLC media player. There are a number of other applications but these are the main highlights.

The version of Manjaro I tried included Octopi as the graphical installer and it is perfectly functional for installing applications.

If you are brave enough then I definitely recommend this to the Everyday Linux User. The performance is great and you get instant access to the Arch User Repository which means you can download and install a huge array of applications and packages.


Fedora














 
Another review I need to work on in the next couple of weeks is for Fedora. The last review was in March of 2015. In Fedora years that is a century.

Fedora is very much about the here and now. It is a distribution which isn't afraid to try new things out and the fact that it uses Wayland by default instead of X shows how far it is willing to go.

Wayland is a replacement windowing system for X which has been around since the beginning of time.

Fedora is generally very easy to install and the Anaconda installer is every bit as good as the Ubuntu or Mint installers.

The vanilla version of Fedora comes with the GNOME desktop and so you can expect a decent set of applications such as the Evolution mail client, LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player and Shotwell photo manager.

Installing applications is performed via the GNOME Package Installer and it works very well. 

Fedora is a community distribution so you have to include other repositories in order to install proprietary applications such as Chrome and Steam. It isn't difficult but worth considering.

Performance due to Wayland makes Fedora great but there may be a trade off with stability which is what I found last time I used Fedora.

Definitely worth a go as an Everyday Linux User but won't be everybody's first port of call.

Zorin






















Zorin has had a makeover for the latest release (version 12). The desktop environment is undoubtedly GNOME but implemented in a slightly different way to other distributions.

To be honest Zorin looks better than it has ever done and it feel like a really grown up operating system now rather than a stepping stone for disgruntled Windows users fed up with Windows 8.

Installation is a breeze. You do need to use a piece of software called Etcher however to create the USB drive in the first place. 

The user interface looks crisp and clean. It blends the traditional feel that Linux Mint provides using Cinnamon with the modern interface of the GNOME desktop. You basically therefore get the best of both worlds.

There is a plethora of applications installed by default including the Chromium web browser, Geary email client, GNOME photo manager, weather app, maps, GIMP image editor, LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player, Totem video player and for those of you who still want Windows programs WINE and PlayOnLinux are both installed.

For the Everyday Linux User I rate this as highly as Linux Mint. Give it a go.


Elementary OS






















I last looked at Elementary in August 2015. I will be reviewing the latest version shortly. 

The thing to say about Elementary is that it is pixel perfect. It is definitely a distribution aimed at the Everyday Linux User and everything has been carefully constructed to provide the usability that the average person would require.

Elementary is based on Ubuntu so the installer is straight forward. Click here for a guide to dual booting Elementary with Windows.






















As you can see from the images the menu is very MAC like but you will also appreciate how simple it is to use.

There is a docking panel at the bottom with launchers for commonly used applications.

There is a basic set of applications which come pre-installed with Elementary although they tend to be lightweight in nature. You can always use the software manager to install new software.

Elementary is definitely worth a go especially if you use your computer for basic tasks such as browsing the web, sending emails and looking at photos etc.

CentOS






















I last reviewed CentOS in September 2015 but it is still at version 7 so therefore still relevant.

CentOS is a community distribution based on Red Hat Linux. Think of CentOS as being a stable version of Fedora.

Where Fedora is everything that is cutting edge, CentOS is everything that is stable.

The installation of CentOS is straight forward and achieved using the Anaconda installer. The default desktop is the GNOME.

The applications that come with CentOS are the LibreOffice office suite, Evolution mail client, Rhythmbox audio player, Shotwell photo manager and FireFox web browser. There are many other applications but these are the key ones.

Installing software is performed using the GNOME package manager and as with Fedora you need to add extra repositories to get to the good stuff.

Hardware works perfectly and I was able to connect to the WD MyCloud storage and print using the Epson WF2630 printer.

If you want a stable Linux distribution and an alternative to a Ubuntu based distribution then CentOS is 100% worth a try.

Arch Linux

Finally there is Arch. This isn't a distribution for the Everyday Linux User. 

If you want to get your hands dirty and learn for yourself how things work and how to get the most out of your operating system then be prepared to install Arch, read manuals and probably be slightly frustrated at times.

Arch Linux is by all accounts a very good distribution. A large number of people will testify to this fact.

it isn't for me. It is not aimed at me and it is not aimed at the Everyday Linux User. If you want to try Arch as an Everyday Linux User give Manjaro a try.

Summary

It is worth noting that the 2 distributions that fell out of the top 10 in 2016 were Android x86 and Mageia.

Oddly enough Mageia is probably better than it has ever been yet now it has fallen down the list a little bit to number 12.

Android x86 is a hobby project. I suspect people have given it a go but it isn't something that works overly well on a desktop or laptop computer. You definitely need a touch screen.

Thankyou for reading and bookmark the site because the next few weeks will be loaded with distribution reviews.

Analysis Of The Top 10 Linux Distributions Of 2016

Introduction

It is the beginning of 2017 which can mean only one thing. It is time to look back at the top 10 Linux distributions of 2016 in order to analyse their suitability for the everyday Linux user.

I have been writing this guide for a few years now as you can see here:
The idea of this guide isn't to pitch one distribution against another and the list is not my personal choice of the best distributions from 2015. 


The point of this guide is to look at each of the top 10 distributions and to highlight how suitable the distribution is for the everyday Linux user. 

There is a set criteria I use to determine how suitable a Linux distro is for the average person which is as follows:

  1. Must be easy to install
  2. Must have an intuitive desktop environment
  3. Must be easy to use
  4. Must have a standard and fairly complete set of applications installed
  5. Must have a decent package manager for installing other applications
  6. Must be ready to use straight away
The list is ordered in the same way they are on Distrowatch.

Linux Mint






















I have no doubt in my mind that Linux Mint is the most suitable distribution for the Everyday Linux User and I would recommend this over any other distribution.

It is no surprise therefore that Linux Mint is also the number 1 distribution on Distrowatch.

The installer for Linux Mint is very straight forward although the installer now no longer includes multimedia codecs by default. This detracts in a very small way from the "must be ready to use straight away" category but the fact that the welcome screen includes an option for installing 3rd party software makes this a very minor point.

In all honesty the trade off is that the web page is now slightly less confusing because there are less options to choose from.

If you wish to try out Linux Mint you can follow this guide:


After you have installed Linux Mint you can use the welcome screen to install multimedia codecs and additional drivers for your graphics card and other devices.

The Cinnamon desktop environment is not only pleasing on the eye, it is also very straight forward to use. If you know how to click a menu button they you can easily find the application you are looking for. As a drop in Linux distribution for Windows users it is perfect.

Linux Mint comes with all the applications a standard user needs to get started including the LibreOffice office suite, the GIMP image editor, an image viewer, the Banshee audio player, VLC media player and Thunderbird email client. There are all sorts of other tools installed as well.

There is also a fairly intuitive graphical software installer and it works well. Steam, Dropbox and Skype are all available from the graphical installer.

Linux Mint works with all the hardware devices I have tried including an Epson WF2630 printer, a WD MyCloud NAS drive, an Android phone and Sony Walkman.

The current version of Mint is the long term support release and there is no better time to use Linux Mint than at the start of an LTS release.


Debian






















Debian has been around for absolutely ever and it is has often been the base distribution for other easier to use distributions.

For the Everyday Linux User I would say that there are easier starting points and I would also say that you would need a really good reason to want to use Debian over Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

I always get battered for this in the comments section but just trying to find a version of Debian to download is a skill. My last review was in June of 2015 but even if I look today the website is the same archaic monolith of links.





















The above image shows the front page of the Debian website. In the top right corner there is a link called "Download Debian 8.6". However this is a network installation option and if you want to try a live version of Debian first then this isn't the option you require.

There is a grid of links on the front page and in the 2nd column there is a section called "Getting Debian". Under this heading you will see a link called "CD/USB ISO images". 





















When you click on the "CD/USB ISO Images" link you are taken to a page like the one above. Another set of links. 

There are options for downloading with Jigdo, downloading with BitTorrent or downloading via HTTP/FTP.

Clicking on the "download via HTTP" takes you to yet another page. This time called "Live install images". 

You can choose between Bittorrent or http and you can choose 64 bit or 32 bit. 























Finally you get to the point where you can download an ISO but there are so many files to choose from.

In my opinion the website should be changed to provide a simply download option. Choose your architecture, choose your desktop environment, choose your download method, choose between 32-bit and 64-bit. 

4 drop downs and a a download button. That is all that is required.

The Debian installer is also a bit overcooked. To be fair Debian isn't just for the new user and so there are many options as a new user you wouldn't care about and probably don't know the correct answer to.

After you have installed Debian you will find that it is generally as easy to use as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. The software that comes pre-installed is determined by you at the point of installation so you can have as little or as much as you like.

For installing applications there is Synaptic which is a decent if somewhat basic package manager. (Click here for a guide to Synaptic).

In my opinion Debian is fine for the Everyday Linux User once you get past the website and the installer. You also get a choice of many different desktop environments at the installation stage.

Click here for a list of the best desktop environments and if you don't know what a desktop environment check out this guide.

Ubuntu






















If you are thinking of trying Linux and you haven't heard of Ubuntu then the question has to be asked "where have you been?".

Ubuntu is possibly the most well known Linux distribution of them all. 

2016 saw the release of the latest LTS release and generally speaking it is the same Ubuntu we have come to love over the years although it isn't perfect.

Installing Ubuntu is very straight forward and the installer has been made even easier for the latest releases.

As Linux Mint have chosen not to include the multimedia codecs as part of the default install it has put Ubuntu back on a level playing field. You can install the multimedia codecs as part of the installation within Ubuntu.

It is worth noting that you should connect to the internet before the installation as this is no longer provided as an option.


Ubuntu comes with a decent set of applications as standard including the LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player, Totem media player and Thunderbird email client.

The big let down with Ubuntu is the graphical software manager. It doesn't include options you would expect to see such as Steam. The Software Centre may have been replaced with something new but for me it isn't any better.

Hardware support is very good. I could connect to the printer, MyCloud device and other devices with the minimum of fuss.

From a usability point of view it all depends on how well you get on with Unity. I like the Unity desktop environment and find it very intuitive. The use of keyboard shortcuts is a great time saver and having elements such as audio, video and photos integrated into the dashboard display is brilliant.






















I would definitely recommend Ubuntu to the Everyday Linux User but with the caveat that you may hit some issues along the way. The community is very good however and you can usually find simple instructions for resolving issues.


openSUSE






















I haven't reviewed openSUSE since April 2015. The point of this list isn't to review each operating system but to express how suitable they are for the everyday Linux user.

openSUSE is definitely suitable for the average person except that the installer isn't the easiest that I have ever used. It is possible that it has changed in the past 18 months so I will update the guide if that is the case.

There are 2 versions of openSUSE available. Tumbleweed is a rolling release version which means you can install it once and it will continually update so that you always have the latest and best version available. The other version is openSUSE leap which is released in regular cycles. 

The website for openSUSE now lists 2 download options. You can go for the full whammy of 4.7 gigabytes or you can download a network installer which will let you choose the packages you install as you go along (much like Debian).

The main thing I have found about openSUSE over the years is that it is very stable and once you get it set up with the software you need it is a great distribution.

There are some things that make it not quite as easy to use as say Linux Mint such as the fact you need to find use 1 click installs to install multimedia codecs and Flash.

I definitely need to revisit openSUSE and I intend to do that within the next week or so. 

I would recommend giving openSUSE a go if you are looking for an alternative to Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

Manjaro






















I can't give enough praise to the developers of Manjaro. This is an absolutely superby Linux distribution.

I am not usually a big fan of the KDE desktop but the Manjaro implementation is brilliant.

For those of you unaware, Manjaro is based on Arch Linux which in the past has been for the more experienced and technical computer users.

Manjaro has basically made Arch available to the masses. 

The installer for Manjaro is very straight forward to use. It is every bit as simple as the Linux Mint installer.

There is a decent set of software which gets pre-installed with Manjaro including the Cantata audio player, Steam, Kdenlive video editor, LibreOffice office suite, KMail mail client, Digikam photo management and the VLC media player. There are a number of other applications but these are the main highlights.

The version of Manjaro I tried included Octopi as the graphical installer and it is perfectly functional for installing applications.

If you are brave enough then I definitely recommend this to the Everyday Linux User. The performance is great and you get instant access to the Arch User Repository which means you can download and install a huge array of applications and packages.


Fedora














 
Another review I need to work on in the next couple of weeks is for Fedora. The last review was in March of 2015. In Fedora years that is a century.

Fedora is very much about the here and now. It is a distribution which isn't afraid to try new things out and the fact that it uses Wayland by default instead of X shows how far it is willing to go.

Wayland is a replacement windowing system for X which has been around since the beginning of time.

Fedora is generally very easy to install and the Anaconda installer is every bit as good as the Ubuntu or Mint installers.

The vanilla version of Fedora comes with the GNOME desktop and so you can expect a decent set of applications such as the Evolution mail client, LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player and Shotwell photo manager.

Installing applications is performed via the GNOME Package Installer and it works very well. 

Fedora is a community distribution so you have to include other repositories in order to install proprietary applications such as Chrome and Steam. It isn't difficult but worth considering.

Performance due to Wayland makes Fedora great but there may be a trade off with stability which is what I found last time I used Fedora.

Definitely worth a go as an Everyday Linux User but won't be everybody's first port of call.

Zorin






















Zorin has had a makeover for the latest release (version 12). The desktop environment is undoubtedly GNOME but implemented in a slightly different way to other distributions.

To be honest Zorin looks better than it has ever done and it feel like a really grown up operating system now rather than a stepping stone for disgruntled Windows users fed up with Windows 8.

Installation is a breeze. You do need to use a piece of software called Etcher however to create the USB drive in the first place. 

The user interface looks crisp and clean. It blends the traditional feel that Linux Mint provides using Cinnamon with the modern interface of the GNOME desktop. You basically therefore get the best of both worlds.

There is a plethora of applications installed by default including the Chromium web browser, Geary email client, GNOME photo manager, weather app, maps, GIMP image editor, LibreOffice office suite, Rhythmbox audio player, Totem video player and for those of you who still want Windows programs WINE and PlayOnLinux are both installed.

For the Everyday Linux User I rate this as highly as Linux Mint. Give it a go.


Elementary OS






















I last looked at Elementary in August 2015. I will be reviewing the latest version shortly. 

The thing to say about Elementary is that it is pixel perfect. It is definitely a distribution aimed at the Everyday Linux User and everything has been carefully constructed to provide the usability that the average person would require.

Elementary is based on Ubuntu so the installer is straight forward. Click here for a guide to dual booting Elementary with Windows.






















As you can see from the images the menu is very MAC like but you will also appreciate how simple it is to use.

There is a docking panel at the bottom with launchers for commonly used applications.

There is a basic set of applications which come pre-installed with Elementary although they tend to be lightweight in nature. You can always use the software manager to install new software.

Elementary is definitely worth a go especially if you use your computer for basic tasks such as browsing the web, sending emails and looking at photos etc.

CentOS






















I last reviewed CentOS in September 2015 but it is still at version 7 so therefore still relevant.

CentOS is a community distribution based on Red Hat Linux. Think of CentOS as being a stable version of Fedora.

Where Fedora is everything that is cutting edge, CentOS is everything that is stable.

The installation of CentOS is straight forward and achieved using the Anaconda installer. The default desktop is the GNOME.

The applications that come with CentOS are the LibreOffice office suite, Evolution mail client, Rhythmbox audio player, Shotwell photo manager and FireFox web browser. There are many other applications but these are the key ones.

Installing software is performed using the GNOME package manager and as with Fedora you need to add extra repositories to get to the good stuff.

Hardware works perfectly and I was able to connect to the WD MyCloud storage and print using the Epson WF2630 printer.

If you want a stable Linux distribution and an alternative to a Ubuntu based distribution then CentOS is 100% worth a try.

Arch Linux

Finally there is Arch. This isn't a distribution for the Everyday Linux User. 

If you want to get your hands dirty and learn for yourself how things work and how to get the most out of your operating system then be prepared to install Arch, read manuals and probably be slightly frustrated at times.

Arch Linux is by all accounts a very good distribution. A large number of people will testify to this fact.

it isn't for me. It is not aimed at me and it is not aimed at the Everyday Linux User. If you want to try Arch as an Everyday Linux User give Manjaro a try.

Summary

It is worth noting that the 2 distributions that fell out of the top 10 in 2016 were Android x86 and Mageia.

Oddly enough Mageia is probably better than it has ever been yet now it has fallen down the list a little bit to number 12.

Android x86 is a hobby project. I suspect people have given it a go but it isn't something that works overly well on a desktop or laptop computer. You definitely need a touch screen.

Thankyou for reading and bookmark the site because the next few weeks will be loaded with distribution reviews.

Posted at 21:50 |  by Gary Newell

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