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Friday, 23 September 2016

Introduction






















Porteus was recommended to me recently as a Linux distribution that I should review.

For those of you that are unaware, Porteus is a portable Linux distribution designed to be run from a USB drive much like Puppy Linux or Knoppix.

The Porteus website has the following to say about it:
Porteus is a complete linux operating system that is optimized to run from CD, USB flash drive, hard drive, or other bootable storage media. It's small (under 300Mb) and insanely fast which allows you to start up and get online while most other operating systems are left spitting dust. Porteus comes in both 32 & 64 bit and aims to keep on the bleeding edge.
I normally spend a week reviewing a distribution but for reasons that become clear I haven't taken so long on this one.

There are some things I really quite liked about Porteus but there are some things that frustrated me.

So without further ado lets get on with the review.

How To Get Porteus

You can download Porteus by visiting http://build.porteus.org/





















The first thing to note is that you don't get the normal download link. Instead you get to customise before you begin. This is actually a really good idea.

For instance you can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit, whether you require the EFI bootloader or not, whether you want to boot to a graphical desktop and you can also choose the desktop you wish to use from one of KDE, Gnome, XFCE and LXQT.

Also on the page you choose the timezone, keyboard layout and for some reason the volume level.

Another thing you can do is choose default software selections. For instance you can choose to install Chrome, FireFox or the Opera web browser. You can also choose your word processor, whether to install Skype or not and whether to include development tools.

There is a drivers section so that you can choose the one for your specific graphics card. You can also decide whether to install printing support.

The selection mechanism is nice and easy to understand. Point and click. So far so good.

How To Create The Porteus USB Drive

The Porteus website provides 2 methods for creating a USB drive if you are using Windows.

The first is to download the Universal USB Installer which you can get from http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/





















There is a download button at the bottom of the page. Be careful because it always looks like the download button is at the top of the page but that button  actually installs the software for an advertised product.

After Universal USB Installer has downloaded you just double click on the file to start the program.


The initial step is accept the license agreement.


When the main screen appears choose Porteus from the drop down list in step 1 and then click the browse button and locate the downloaded Porteus ISO file.

Finally select the drive letter for the USB drive and click Create.

The other way to install Porteus to a USB drive works for both Windows and Linux.

Simply mount the ISO. You can usually open an ISO in Windows explorer if you are using Windows 7 upwards. In most Linux distributions you can mount an ISO using an archive manager.

With the ISO mounted Extract the files from the ISO straight to the USB drive.

Finally navigate to the boot folder and double click on either the Windows installer or Linux installer file.

Remember that Porteus is designed to run from a USB drive so there is no actual installation to hard drive required.

The Porteus Save File Debacle

If you are running Linux from a USB drive then you will need some way of persisting changes that you make.

In Porteus this is achieved by creating a save file.






















To create a save file you boot into Porteus and then from the settings menu there is a save file creation tool.

When you select the menu option you are asked for the root password. What? When did I set a root password? I didn't. So what is the root password?

I had to go to Google to find out. There is an faq page which has various topics such as how do I change the root password. It is this page that shows you the default root password. Maybe it would be good to add the topic "what is the default root password?".






















The save file wizard is fairly straight forward. You can create a new file, resize an existing save file, encrypt a save file or recover a broken save file.






















Upon clicking on the new save file link you are asked to name the file, choose a file size and choose the file location.

Under advanced it defaults the file system as xfs but you can also choose ext4.

When you click OK the save file will be created. Be patient because it takes a few minutes.


After the installation has completed a message will appear with the name and path of your saved file. Rather curiously it says you need to edit porteus.cfg and it says you will need to change a line but it doesn't say which line you need to edit and this is where the frustrations really begin.

There is a page on the Porteus website which goes into great details about how to create a save file. The page even tells you which lines to edit in the porteus.cfg file.

LABEL xconf
MENU LABEL Graphics mode (KDE).
KERNEL /boot/syslinux/vmlinuz
APPEND initrd=/boot/syslinux/initrd.xz changes=/porteus/
TEXT HELP
Run Porteus the best way we can.
Try to autoconfigure graphics
card and use the maximum
allowed resolution
ENDTEXT

LABEL lxde
MENU LABEL Graphics mode (LXDE).
KERNEL /boot/syslinux/vmlinuz
APPEND initrd=/boot/syslinux/initrd.xz changes=/porteus/
TEXT HELP
Run Porteus the same as above.
Lightweight LXDE to be
launched as default desktop
ENDTEXT
All you have to do is amend the bits that say changes= to changes=/porteus/porteussave.dat (or whatever you called the file and wherever you saved it).

I did this, changed the wallpaper and rebooted the computer. I chose the option to boot Porteus again and my wallpaper was back to the default.

I tried various things to get the save file to work and then I realised that if I booted in non EFI mode then the save file would be correctly used to save changes but if I used EFI mode then it always loaded without the save file.






















As you can see the file the web page tells you to edit is in the syslinux folder which is great for a standard BIOS.

However the file you need to edit for EFI is in the /boot/EFI folder and it is called refind.cfg. The reason is that to run in EFI mode Porteus uses Refind as the boot loader.

In the refind.cfg you will find a changes= line. Simply add the path to your save file to this line and it will start working.

Rather frustratingly the Porteus website uses this reason for not automatically updating the config files when you create the save file.

While it would be fairly simple to have Porteus automatically create a save.dat file container on the same drive as your Porteus install and update your porteus.cfg to point to it, doing so would keep our users from fully understanding the flexibility and the array of options that are available for storing their changes. 
Manually creating a .dat container allows you to fully customize the name, location and size of your container. Also, if you look at the documentation in /boot/docs/cheatcodes.txt, there are numerous options for implementing the 'changes=' cheatcode; you can point it to a folder or subfolder (on a linux filesystem) or a container file (on any filesystem), on any writeable device accessible by your system (or just point it to the root of the device, and it will create a 'changes' folder in the root of the device, provided it is has a linux filesystem), and you can reference the path by device name, device label, device UUID, or without referencing the device at all, to have Porteus search for the location on the same drive as your install. 
With these options, you can put your changes on a separate partition from your Porteus install if you want to, and you can have multiple installations of Porteus with their changes saved to different locations, and your data will be found and mounted, even if you use Porteus on machines with different hardware configurations. 
Container files can also be created for use with "magic folders", to save the contents of individual directories in your live filesystem to a container (or multiple containers). We believe that encouraging users to read, experiment, and learn will help them find a solution that works the best for their particular situation, as one size certainly does not fit all.
If you couldn't be bothered to read all that then the reason appears to be so that users don't ignore all the potential cheats and secret options they have available to them. They want users to think about what they are doing and how they will use Porteus.

All well and good but I spent a fair amount of time trying to work out why my save file wasn't working before I found the refind.cfg. Most users won't care about the extra options and those that do will go looking for them anyway.

Installing Porteus

You can of course install Porteus to the hard drive although this isn't the way Porteus was designed to be run.


A list of potential partitions are displayed when you first run the installer. It is fairly tricky to install Porteus however, especially if you have EFI and to be honest I gave up.

If you choose a partition and click install then it will only use free space on that partition. Porteus expects you to create the partition it is to be installed to.


Porteus will install a bootloader to the drive but the bootloader will only have Porteus in the boot list. Therefore this isn't a good solution for dual booting. It also doesn't work very well for EFI based systems. Believe me I tried.

First Impressions



















I don't think I have ever spent so much of a review looking at the set up before. It was a fairly involved experience.

Porteus itself actually looks pretty good when you first start using it. You have the browser you decided at the installation stage so you know that is good and the boot time was exceptionally good.

Connect To The Internet




















Connecting to the internet is straight forward. Simply click on the network icon and choose the wireless network you wish to connect to and then enter the security key.

Applications

The browser is the one you chose during the installation phase so in my case I have Chrome.

I also chose LibreOffice so that is installed as well and Skype is also available and working.

There really isn't much else to talk about when it comes to applications because there aren't many applications installed.

Sure there is an image viewer, messenger and a bittorrent client. There is also the qmmp audio player which I have to say has me baffled.


The QMMP wikipedia page says that QMMP has an intuitive easy to use interface. Really? I'm quite an intelligent guy but I can't find one single menu option that allows you to choose how to open a track or import music.

You can find the files in a file manager and choose to enqueue them in QMMP but physically using QMMP to open files is really not intuitive at all.

The default video player is SMPlayer which is ok and works well enough for playing videos.

Installing Applications

































To install applications you have to use the Unified Slackware Package Manager. When you first start the application it complains that updates are required.



You can install updates from the updates menu and the repositories will be updated as shown below:


Actually installing software is a bit of an issue though. For example finding applications is a bit of a nightmare.

The first application I searched for was Steam and that isn't there. Not the biggest deal because this is a pen drive version of Linux and who plays Steam games from a pen drive?

How about a different audio player then. I searched for Rhythmbox, no, not there. I searched for Banshee and again not there. I searched for Quod Libet (something a little more lightweight) and at last it was there.

So I installed Quod Libet which simply downloads the Quod Libet tarball and dependant tarballs.

I navigated to the folder where the tarballs were downloaded and upon right clicking them there is an option to install them. (Which I guess means extract them).

You can also use the installation tool to select the files and packages to be installed but it isn't really any easier.

When I ran Quod Libet nothing happened so I ran it from the command line and it complained that python-gi was missing. I searched the installer for the missing package and it doesn't exist.

I think the average person is going to find installing software in Porteus frustrating and difficult.

Keyboard Layout

When I was selecting the download options for Porteus I selected the UK as the keyboard layout but the keyboard layout has defaulted to US.


There is a tool for selecting the keyboard layout in the toolbar. However when I chose the available UK option and pressed the button to move it to active it wouldn't work until I removed one of the other layouts.

Printing

I couldn't get this to work at all with my printer.

NAS Storage

I tried to connect to my WD My Cloud device but this was a no go.

Settings


Porteus has a settings application which allows you to do things like update it and run the installer. 

There are also options for FAQ and tutorials. I tried both these links and they didn't work. 

You can also run a language setup tool, timezone config tool, keyboard layout tool and sound settings tool. Incidentally the keyboard layout tool here works better than the one in the system tray.

Under security settings you can set up a firewall and change the user password. 

There are also boot setup options such as showing a list of cheat codes and you can also setup a command to run when Porteus first boots up. You can also manage save files.

Summary

Ok, so this is the way I see it. Porteus is fine as a USB based distribution if you just want to use a web browser and maybe type a document.

For everything else it is just too difficult and for no real reward. For instance I could create a Xubuntu or Lubuntu persistent USB drive and all the hardware stuff would work out of the box and I would have access to the full software repositories.

With Porteus it feels like you are fighting it and if something is difficult to master then it needs to provide some reward for the effort such as having something so cool that you go wow.

Yes it is small at around the 300 megabytes mark and it boots quickly. The download screen is a good idea and whilst the idea of save files isn't new (Puppy does it, as do persistent *buntu distributions) the concept is a decent one.

The fact that you have to mess around with configuration files to get it to work and the fact that there is a concept of cheat codes and the fact that finding and installing software is so convoluted just makes it too much effort.

Thankyou for reading.

A Not For The Everyday Linux User Review Of Porteus 3.1

Introduction






















Porteus was recommended to me recently as a Linux distribution that I should review.

For those of you that are unaware, Porteus is a portable Linux distribution designed to be run from a USB drive much like Puppy Linux or Knoppix.

The Porteus website has the following to say about it:
Porteus is a complete linux operating system that is optimized to run from CD, USB flash drive, hard drive, or other bootable storage media. It's small (under 300Mb) and insanely fast which allows you to start up and get online while most other operating systems are left spitting dust. Porteus comes in both 32 & 64 bit and aims to keep on the bleeding edge.
I normally spend a week reviewing a distribution but for reasons that become clear I haven't taken so long on this one.

There are some things I really quite liked about Porteus but there are some things that frustrated me.

So without further ado lets get on with the review.

How To Get Porteus

You can download Porteus by visiting http://build.porteus.org/





















The first thing to note is that you don't get the normal download link. Instead you get to customise before you begin. This is actually a really good idea.

For instance you can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit, whether you require the EFI bootloader or not, whether you want to boot to a graphical desktop and you can also choose the desktop you wish to use from one of KDE, Gnome, XFCE and LXQT.

Also on the page you choose the timezone, keyboard layout and for some reason the volume level.

Another thing you can do is choose default software selections. For instance you can choose to install Chrome, FireFox or the Opera web browser. You can also choose your word processor, whether to install Skype or not and whether to include development tools.

There is a drivers section so that you can choose the one for your specific graphics card. You can also decide whether to install printing support.

The selection mechanism is nice and easy to understand. Point and click. So far so good.

How To Create The Porteus USB Drive

The Porteus website provides 2 methods for creating a USB drive if you are using Windows.

The first is to download the Universal USB Installer which you can get from http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/





















There is a download button at the bottom of the page. Be careful because it always looks like the download button is at the top of the page but that button  actually installs the software for an advertised product.

After Universal USB Installer has downloaded you just double click on the file to start the program.


The initial step is accept the license agreement.


When the main screen appears choose Porteus from the drop down list in step 1 and then click the browse button and locate the downloaded Porteus ISO file.

Finally select the drive letter for the USB drive and click Create.

The other way to install Porteus to a USB drive works for both Windows and Linux.

Simply mount the ISO. You can usually open an ISO in Windows explorer if you are using Windows 7 upwards. In most Linux distributions you can mount an ISO using an archive manager.

With the ISO mounted Extract the files from the ISO straight to the USB drive.

Finally navigate to the boot folder and double click on either the Windows installer or Linux installer file.

Remember that Porteus is designed to run from a USB drive so there is no actual installation to hard drive required.

The Porteus Save File Debacle

If you are running Linux from a USB drive then you will need some way of persisting changes that you make.

In Porteus this is achieved by creating a save file.






















To create a save file you boot into Porteus and then from the settings menu there is a save file creation tool.

When you select the menu option you are asked for the root password. What? When did I set a root password? I didn't. So what is the root password?

I had to go to Google to find out. There is an faq page which has various topics such as how do I change the root password. It is this page that shows you the default root password. Maybe it would be good to add the topic "what is the default root password?".






















The save file wizard is fairly straight forward. You can create a new file, resize an existing save file, encrypt a save file or recover a broken save file.






















Upon clicking on the new save file link you are asked to name the file, choose a file size and choose the file location.

Under advanced it defaults the file system as xfs but you can also choose ext4.

When you click OK the save file will be created. Be patient because it takes a few minutes.


After the installation has completed a message will appear with the name and path of your saved file. Rather curiously it says you need to edit porteus.cfg and it says you will need to change a line but it doesn't say which line you need to edit and this is where the frustrations really begin.

There is a page on the Porteus website which goes into great details about how to create a save file. The page even tells you which lines to edit in the porteus.cfg file.

LABEL xconf
MENU LABEL Graphics mode (KDE).
KERNEL /boot/syslinux/vmlinuz
APPEND initrd=/boot/syslinux/initrd.xz changes=/porteus/
TEXT HELP
Run Porteus the best way we can.
Try to autoconfigure graphics
card and use the maximum
allowed resolution
ENDTEXT

LABEL lxde
MENU LABEL Graphics mode (LXDE).
KERNEL /boot/syslinux/vmlinuz
APPEND initrd=/boot/syslinux/initrd.xz changes=/porteus/
TEXT HELP
Run Porteus the same as above.
Lightweight LXDE to be
launched as default desktop
ENDTEXT
All you have to do is amend the bits that say changes= to changes=/porteus/porteussave.dat (or whatever you called the file and wherever you saved it).

I did this, changed the wallpaper and rebooted the computer. I chose the option to boot Porteus again and my wallpaper was back to the default.

I tried various things to get the save file to work and then I realised that if I booted in non EFI mode then the save file would be correctly used to save changes but if I used EFI mode then it always loaded without the save file.






















As you can see the file the web page tells you to edit is in the syslinux folder which is great for a standard BIOS.

However the file you need to edit for EFI is in the /boot/EFI folder and it is called refind.cfg. The reason is that to run in EFI mode Porteus uses Refind as the boot loader.

In the refind.cfg you will find a changes= line. Simply add the path to your save file to this line and it will start working.

Rather frustratingly the Porteus website uses this reason for not automatically updating the config files when you create the save file.

While it would be fairly simple to have Porteus automatically create a save.dat file container on the same drive as your Porteus install and update your porteus.cfg to point to it, doing so would keep our users from fully understanding the flexibility and the array of options that are available for storing their changes. 
Manually creating a .dat container allows you to fully customize the name, location and size of your container. Also, if you look at the documentation in /boot/docs/cheatcodes.txt, there are numerous options for implementing the 'changes=' cheatcode; you can point it to a folder or subfolder (on a linux filesystem) or a container file (on any filesystem), on any writeable device accessible by your system (or just point it to the root of the device, and it will create a 'changes' folder in the root of the device, provided it is has a linux filesystem), and you can reference the path by device name, device label, device UUID, or without referencing the device at all, to have Porteus search for the location on the same drive as your install. 
With these options, you can put your changes on a separate partition from your Porteus install if you want to, and you can have multiple installations of Porteus with their changes saved to different locations, and your data will be found and mounted, even if you use Porteus on machines with different hardware configurations. 
Container files can also be created for use with "magic folders", to save the contents of individual directories in your live filesystem to a container (or multiple containers). We believe that encouraging users to read, experiment, and learn will help them find a solution that works the best for their particular situation, as one size certainly does not fit all.
If you couldn't be bothered to read all that then the reason appears to be so that users don't ignore all the potential cheats and secret options they have available to them. They want users to think about what they are doing and how they will use Porteus.

All well and good but I spent a fair amount of time trying to work out why my save file wasn't working before I found the refind.cfg. Most users won't care about the extra options and those that do will go looking for them anyway.

Installing Porteus

You can of course install Porteus to the hard drive although this isn't the way Porteus was designed to be run.


A list of potential partitions are displayed when you first run the installer. It is fairly tricky to install Porteus however, especially if you have EFI and to be honest I gave up.

If you choose a partition and click install then it will only use free space on that partition. Porteus expects you to create the partition it is to be installed to.


Porteus will install a bootloader to the drive but the bootloader will only have Porteus in the boot list. Therefore this isn't a good solution for dual booting. It also doesn't work very well for EFI based systems. Believe me I tried.

First Impressions



















I don't think I have ever spent so much of a review looking at the set up before. It was a fairly involved experience.

Porteus itself actually looks pretty good when you first start using it. You have the browser you decided at the installation stage so you know that is good and the boot time was exceptionally good.

Connect To The Internet




















Connecting to the internet is straight forward. Simply click on the network icon and choose the wireless network you wish to connect to and then enter the security key.

Applications

The browser is the one you chose during the installation phase so in my case I have Chrome.

I also chose LibreOffice so that is installed as well and Skype is also available and working.

There really isn't much else to talk about when it comes to applications because there aren't many applications installed.

Sure there is an image viewer, messenger and a bittorrent client. There is also the qmmp audio player which I have to say has me baffled.


The QMMP wikipedia page says that QMMP has an intuitive easy to use interface. Really? I'm quite an intelligent guy but I can't find one single menu option that allows you to choose how to open a track or import music.

You can find the files in a file manager and choose to enqueue them in QMMP but physically using QMMP to open files is really not intuitive at all.

The default video player is SMPlayer which is ok and works well enough for playing videos.

Installing Applications

































To install applications you have to use the Unified Slackware Package Manager. When you first start the application it complains that updates are required.



You can install updates from the updates menu and the repositories will be updated as shown below:


Actually installing software is a bit of an issue though. For example finding applications is a bit of a nightmare.

The first application I searched for was Steam and that isn't there. Not the biggest deal because this is a pen drive version of Linux and who plays Steam games from a pen drive?

How about a different audio player then. I searched for Rhythmbox, no, not there. I searched for Banshee and again not there. I searched for Quod Libet (something a little more lightweight) and at last it was there.

So I installed Quod Libet which simply downloads the Quod Libet tarball and dependant tarballs.

I navigated to the folder where the tarballs were downloaded and upon right clicking them there is an option to install them. (Which I guess means extract them).

You can also use the installation tool to select the files and packages to be installed but it isn't really any easier.

When I ran Quod Libet nothing happened so I ran it from the command line and it complained that python-gi was missing. I searched the installer for the missing package and it doesn't exist.

I think the average person is going to find installing software in Porteus frustrating and difficult.

Keyboard Layout

When I was selecting the download options for Porteus I selected the UK as the keyboard layout but the keyboard layout has defaulted to US.


There is a tool for selecting the keyboard layout in the toolbar. However when I chose the available UK option and pressed the button to move it to active it wouldn't work until I removed one of the other layouts.

Printing

I couldn't get this to work at all with my printer.

NAS Storage

I tried to connect to my WD My Cloud device but this was a no go.

Settings


Porteus has a settings application which allows you to do things like update it and run the installer. 

There are also options for FAQ and tutorials. I tried both these links and they didn't work. 

You can also run a language setup tool, timezone config tool, keyboard layout tool and sound settings tool. Incidentally the keyboard layout tool here works better than the one in the system tray.

Under security settings you can set up a firewall and change the user password. 

There are also boot setup options such as showing a list of cheat codes and you can also setup a command to run when Porteus first boots up. You can also manage save files.

Summary

Ok, so this is the way I see it. Porteus is fine as a USB based distribution if you just want to use a web browser and maybe type a document.

For everything else it is just too difficult and for no real reward. For instance I could create a Xubuntu or Lubuntu persistent USB drive and all the hardware stuff would work out of the box and I would have access to the full software repositories.

With Porteus it feels like you are fighting it and if something is difficult to master then it needs to provide some reward for the effort such as having something so cool that you go wow.

Yes it is small at around the 300 megabytes mark and it boots quickly. The download screen is a good idea and whilst the idea of save files isn't new (Puppy does it, as do persistent *buntu distributions) the concept is a decent one.

The fact that you have to mess around with configuration files to get it to work and the fact that there is a concept of cheat codes and the fact that finding and installing software is so convoluted just makes it too much effort.

Thankyou for reading.

Posted at 14:49 |  by Gary Newell

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Introduction

I am going to admit now that I had previously thought about reviewing Linux Lite 3.0 when it first came out but there was a reason I didn't which I will come to later.

I changed my mind however when so many people recommended it as a distribution for the Everyday Linux User.

Ok so first things first, how does the Linux Lite website describe Linux Lite?

Linux Lite is based on the Ubuntu LTS series of releases. LTS stands for Long Term Support, this means each release has a support period of 5 years. This is a great basis for stability, but not only that, you only need to install once every 5 years. During that period your system will continue to receive updates.
Linux Lite is fully functional out of the box, this means that you won't have to install extra software when you boot your computer for the first time.

We believe that a computer should be ready to use straight away on the first boot after a new install.

You're going to need this kind of functionality on a daily basis when you are using your computer so we take the hassle out of trying to find the right software from the start.

I have tried Linux Lite on a few occasions and I think it has been a really decent distribution over the years.

Whilst Linux Lite is still good there are some things holding it back which I will fill you in on shortly.

How To Get Linux Lite
























You can download Linux Lite from https://www.linuxliteos.com/download.html.

You can burn the image to a DVD using traditional disc burning software such as Brasero or you can create a USB drive using either WIN32 disk imager for Windows or the dd command in Linux.

There is a video on the download page which shows you how to create the necessary media.

If you would prefer to you can buy a copy of Linux Lite on DVD or USB by clicking here.

How To Boot Into Linux Lite


So here is the deal. It is 2016. The EFI bootloader has been around for a long time now and it isn't going away any time soon.

Linux Lite 3.0 still does not ship with the ability to boot into an EFI system therefore you have to switch to legacy mode in order to boot into the DVD or USB drive.

If you are not sure how to do this then this guide may help you understand your UEFI and BIOS boot settings.

I think the lack of EFI is a major drawback for anybody thinking of using Linux Lite.

There is a guide that shows how to install Linux Lite alongside Windows in UEFI mode but it requires you booting into a Ubuntu Live disc along the way.

I actually installed Linux Lite alongside Windows but I didn't follow that guide. I just decided that it is easier to press the F12 button on my computer every time I boot into Windows. (which isn't that often).

Installation

You can install Linux Lite by clicking on the installation icon on the desktop.

The actual procedure is fairly straight forward especially if you are installing it on its own with no other system as a dual boot.

The first thing you need to do is choose the installation language.






You are then given the opportunity to connect to a network (unless you are already connected using an ethernet connection).





You are given the chance to download updates (but only if you connected to the internet in the previous step).

You can also choose to install third party software.



The next step asks where you want to install Linux Lite.

It is unlikely you will see the option to boot alongside another operating system if you are using a modern computer with an EFI boot loader. You would need to follow the guide linked to earlier to do this.


Almost done. Select where you live on the map to set up the calendar and clock.

Choose the keyboard layout. 
Create a user by filling in your name, username and password.
Then patiently wait for the files to copy across and the system to install.

First Impressions

Linux Lite uses the excellent XFCE desktop which is both lightweight and highly customisable.

The system boots to a bright coloured background (which is nice because other systems play it too safe).

There is a welcome screen which has some important buttons on it which I will get to in a short while.

Connect To The Internet

Before you can do anything useful you need to connect to the internet.

You can do this by clicking on the network icon in the bottom right corner.

A list of networks will appear and after you have entered the network key you will be able to use the internet.

Update The System

The welcome screen as mentioned earlier has some important buttons.

The first one you should press is "Install Updates and Drivers". Actually it doesn't matter which of the buttons you press under the start here section as they all take you to the same page.

Click the "Install Updates" button. This will download the latest updates and you will be presented a list as follows:

Simply click the update button to install them.

When you have finished it is worth clicking the install drivers button to see if there are any better drivers for your hardware than the defaults that have already been installed.

Finally click on the "Lite Software" button as it contains a list of applications that you may want to install.

If you want to play MP3 audio then you should install the "Restricted Extras" package.

Interestingly I had clicked the install multimedia codecs as part of the installer and I could play MP3 audio through VLC which comes as part of Linux Lite but when I installed other audio packages like Quod Libet and Silverjuke I had issues.

Installing the "Restricted Extras" fixed the issue.

Steam

In the list of available packages you may have noticed Steam and I have found this hit and miss from one distribution to another and from one machine to another.

In this case Steam worked perfectly.

Whilst I have an issue with the Steam installer for Linux I have to say that I am impressed with the games library that is now available.

The screenshot above is from "The Pirate: Carribean Hunt" which is a free download and it is a fun game.

Applications

The website for Linux Lite stated that it comes with everything you need to get started and that you won't need to install extra software.

This statement mainly depends on what you need your computer to do. You will almost certainly need to install the "Restricted Extras" package in order to play MP3 audio.

Talking of audio, there isn't a dedicated audio package installed. You have to use VLC to play music files.

The Lite Install package provides the option to install Clementine and Spotify and I would recommend both of these.

Linux Lite does come with the LibreOffice package, GIMP for image editing, the VLC media player for watching videos, Thunderbird for email, the Firefox web browser, an image viewer and the whole raft of system tools that you would expect.

Installing Software

For the obvious stuff such as Skype, Spotify, Dropbox, Chromium, PlayOnLinux and Kodi you can use the Lite Software tool.

For everything else there is Synaptic, which is a perfectly usable graphical package manager.

Lite Tweaks



Linux Lite has a nice tool for doing basic maintenance such as choosing the default web browser, removing unused packages, regaining disk space by clearing caches and changing the hostname.

Customising Linux Lite

Linux Lite uses the XFCE desktop and so you can customise it any which way you so choose.

I have one guide here showing some basic customisations for XFCE. For a more complete guide to customising XFCE click this link.


What Linux Lite brings to the table is some stunning visuals. Check out the wallpaper above.


Hardware Support

I tried Linux Lite with my printer and it worked perfectly. It can connect via bluetooth to my phone and it can handle my Sony Walkman.

I could also connect to the WD MyCloud device.

Issues

Linux Lite is stable. I haven't seen any errors since I have started using it except when I tried playing MP3 audio in SilverJuke before installing the "Restricted Extras" package.

Summary

Lets start with the positives because there are many. The first thing is that Linux Lite works and it is easy to use.

You can install most of the major packages using a simple tool and you can install updates and drivers quite easily.

There is a major downside and that is the lack of EFI support. I could understand this if Linux Lite was targeting older hardware but it comes in a 64-bit version and I would imagine most 64-bit computers are EFI enabled.

The target audience for Linux Lite is clearly the average computer user but it is at an immediate disadvantage to Linux Mint which is easier to install and just as easy to use.

I will leave it on a positive though. The artwork within Linux Lite is excellent with really good theming and hey, Steam works.

Thanks for reading.

An Everyday Linux User Review Of Linux Lite 3.0

Introduction

I am going to admit now that I had previously thought about reviewing Linux Lite 3.0 when it first came out but there was a reason I didn't which I will come to later.

I changed my mind however when so many people recommended it as a distribution for the Everyday Linux User.

Ok so first things first, how does the Linux Lite website describe Linux Lite?

Linux Lite is based on the Ubuntu LTS series of releases. LTS stands for Long Term Support, this means each release has a support period of 5 years. This is a great basis for stability, but not only that, you only need to install once every 5 years. During that period your system will continue to receive updates.
Linux Lite is fully functional out of the box, this means that you won't have to install extra software when you boot your computer for the first time.

We believe that a computer should be ready to use straight away on the first boot after a new install.

You're going to need this kind of functionality on a daily basis when you are using your computer so we take the hassle out of trying to find the right software from the start.

I have tried Linux Lite on a few occasions and I think it has been a really decent distribution over the years.

Whilst Linux Lite is still good there are some things holding it back which I will fill you in on shortly.

How To Get Linux Lite
























You can download Linux Lite from https://www.linuxliteos.com/download.html.

You can burn the image to a DVD using traditional disc burning software such as Brasero or you can create a USB drive using either WIN32 disk imager for Windows or the dd command in Linux.

There is a video on the download page which shows you how to create the necessary media.

If you would prefer to you can buy a copy of Linux Lite on DVD or USB by clicking here.

How To Boot Into Linux Lite


So here is the deal. It is 2016. The EFI bootloader has been around for a long time now and it isn't going away any time soon.

Linux Lite 3.0 still does not ship with the ability to boot into an EFI system therefore you have to switch to legacy mode in order to boot into the DVD or USB drive.

If you are not sure how to do this then this guide may help you understand your UEFI and BIOS boot settings.

I think the lack of EFI is a major drawback for anybody thinking of using Linux Lite.

There is a guide that shows how to install Linux Lite alongside Windows in UEFI mode but it requires you booting into a Ubuntu Live disc along the way.

I actually installed Linux Lite alongside Windows but I didn't follow that guide. I just decided that it is easier to press the F12 button on my computer every time I boot into Windows. (which isn't that often).

Installation

You can install Linux Lite by clicking on the installation icon on the desktop.

The actual procedure is fairly straight forward especially if you are installing it on its own with no other system as a dual boot.

The first thing you need to do is choose the installation language.






You are then given the opportunity to connect to a network (unless you are already connected using an ethernet connection).





You are given the chance to download updates (but only if you connected to the internet in the previous step).

You can also choose to install third party software.



The next step asks where you want to install Linux Lite.

It is unlikely you will see the option to boot alongside another operating system if you are using a modern computer with an EFI boot loader. You would need to follow the guide linked to earlier to do this.


Almost done. Select where you live on the map to set up the calendar and clock.

Choose the keyboard layout. 
Create a user by filling in your name, username and password.
Then patiently wait for the files to copy across and the system to install.

First Impressions

Linux Lite uses the excellent XFCE desktop which is both lightweight and highly customisable.

The system boots to a bright coloured background (which is nice because other systems play it too safe).

There is a welcome screen which has some important buttons on it which I will get to in a short while.

Connect To The Internet

Before you can do anything useful you need to connect to the internet.

You can do this by clicking on the network icon in the bottom right corner.

A list of networks will appear and after you have entered the network key you will be able to use the internet.

Update The System

The welcome screen as mentioned earlier has some important buttons.

The first one you should press is "Install Updates and Drivers". Actually it doesn't matter which of the buttons you press under the start here section as they all take you to the same page.

Click the "Install Updates" button. This will download the latest updates and you will be presented a list as follows:

Simply click the update button to install them.

When you have finished it is worth clicking the install drivers button to see if there are any better drivers for your hardware than the defaults that have already been installed.

Finally click on the "Lite Software" button as it contains a list of applications that you may want to install.

If you want to play MP3 audio then you should install the "Restricted Extras" package.

Interestingly I had clicked the install multimedia codecs as part of the installer and I could play MP3 audio through VLC which comes as part of Linux Lite but when I installed other audio packages like Quod Libet and Silverjuke I had issues.

Installing the "Restricted Extras" fixed the issue.

Steam

In the list of available packages you may have noticed Steam and I have found this hit and miss from one distribution to another and from one machine to another.

In this case Steam worked perfectly.

Whilst I have an issue with the Steam installer for Linux I have to say that I am impressed with the games library that is now available.

The screenshot above is from "The Pirate: Carribean Hunt" which is a free download and it is a fun game.

Applications

The website for Linux Lite stated that it comes with everything you need to get started and that you won't need to install extra software.

This statement mainly depends on what you need your computer to do. You will almost certainly need to install the "Restricted Extras" package in order to play MP3 audio.

Talking of audio, there isn't a dedicated audio package installed. You have to use VLC to play music files.

The Lite Install package provides the option to install Clementine and Spotify and I would recommend both of these.

Linux Lite does come with the LibreOffice package, GIMP for image editing, the VLC media player for watching videos, Thunderbird for email, the Firefox web browser, an image viewer and the whole raft of system tools that you would expect.

Installing Software

For the obvious stuff such as Skype, Spotify, Dropbox, Chromium, PlayOnLinux and Kodi you can use the Lite Software tool.

For everything else there is Synaptic, which is a perfectly usable graphical package manager.

Lite Tweaks



Linux Lite has a nice tool for doing basic maintenance such as choosing the default web browser, removing unused packages, regaining disk space by clearing caches and changing the hostname.

Customising Linux Lite

Linux Lite uses the XFCE desktop and so you can customise it any which way you so choose.

I have one guide here showing some basic customisations for XFCE. For a more complete guide to customising XFCE click this link.


What Linux Lite brings to the table is some stunning visuals. Check out the wallpaper above.


Hardware Support

I tried Linux Lite with my printer and it worked perfectly. It can connect via bluetooth to my phone and it can handle my Sony Walkman.

I could also connect to the WD MyCloud device.

Issues

Linux Lite is stable. I haven't seen any errors since I have started using it except when I tried playing MP3 audio in SilverJuke before installing the "Restricted Extras" package.

Summary

Lets start with the positives because there are many. The first thing is that Linux Lite works and it is easy to use.

You can install most of the major packages using a simple tool and you can install updates and drivers quite easily.

There is a major downside and that is the lack of EFI support. I could understand this if Linux Lite was targeting older hardware but it comes in a 64-bit version and I would imagine most 64-bit computers are EFI enabled.

The target audience for Linux Lite is clearly the average computer user but it is at an immediate disadvantage to Linux Mint which is easier to install and just as easy to use.

I will leave it on a positive though. The artwork within Linux Lite is excellent with really good theming and hey, Steam works.

Thanks for reading.

Posted at 19:29 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

This is just a quick update for the people who voted for their top 5 Linux distributions.

The winners of the gift vouchers were David Bley for his entry "An alternative list of the top 3 Linux distributions for the Everyday Linux User" and Kamaljit Singh Dadyal for his 5 entries which can be seen here.

Thankyou to everybody who took part.

I downloaded Linux Lite at the weekend and I am in the process of reviewing it so look out for that shortly.

Winners Of The £10 Amazon Gift Vouchers

This is just a quick update for the people who voted for their top 5 Linux distributions.

The winners of the gift vouchers were David Bley for his entry "An alternative list of the top 3 Linux distributions for the Everyday Linux User" and Kamaljit Singh Dadyal for his 5 entries which can be seen here.

Thankyou to everybody who took part.

I downloaded Linux Lite at the weekend and I am in the process of reviewing it so look out for that shortly.

Posted at 19:55 |  by Gary Newell

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Zorin OS has been one of the most innovative Linux distributions of recent years with its theme changing software that allows users to mimic other operating systems such as Mac OSX and Windows 7.






















Something strange has happened in the past few months and it has left me wondering about the future of the distribution.

The latest stable version is 9 which is based on Ubuntu 14.04. For most people this version of the distribution is perfectly fine but with Ubuntu 16.04 having been available for quite some time I wonder why there hasn't been another release.

What is more confusing for some users is what has happened since version 9 was released. 

For instance version 10 of Zorin was released in August 2015 and was based on Ubuntu 15.04. This is no longer available on the Zorin website and for good reason because Ubuntu 15.04 is no longer supported.
 
Zorin 10 users will no doubt have upgraded to version 11 which was released in February of this year. 

I thought the version 11 release was a bit bizarre because it is based on Ubuntu 15.10. Zorin was therefore released in February on a version of Ubuntu which would be out of date just 2 months later.

Ubuntu 16.04 was released in April and now Zorin 11 is nowhere to be found. Well this isn't technically true you can still download it from Sourceforge. Ubuntu 15.10 is no longer supported by the way so there is no point installing version 11 of Zorin now.

So here is my issue. Zorin 9 users are perfectly ok because they are supported for a while yet but those users who upgraded now have to either run with an unsupported distribution until another version of Zorin pops up, revert back to version 9 or switch to another distribution altogether.

What therefore is the future of Zorin? I put its initial success down to the fact that Windows 8 was initially a disaster and users wanted a version of Linux that looked like Windows 7.

I don't however now see why users would necessarily go for Zorin over say Linux Mint. It isn't as if Linux Mint is that far removed from the traditional desktop look and feel.

This is Q4OS with an XP theme


If people need a version of Linux that looks like XP then they could easily go for Q4OS and for people looking for an Apple style interface there is Elementary.

I really liked Zorin when it first came out but I am struggling to see its place in the world now that time has moved on. Many Windows users have become accustomed to Windows 10, Linux users are happy with their desktops of choice and Zorin just doesn't offer as much as Mint and Ubuntu
 
The fact that Zorin will always lag behind Ubuntu is definitely a downside and Mint is just a better distribution, with better stability, more consistent release cycles and better support.

Thankyou for reading.

What Has Happened To Zorin Linux?

Zorin OS has been one of the most innovative Linux distributions of recent years with its theme changing software that allows users to mimic other operating systems such as Mac OSX and Windows 7.






















Something strange has happened in the past few months and it has left me wondering about the future of the distribution.

The latest stable version is 9 which is based on Ubuntu 14.04. For most people this version of the distribution is perfectly fine but with Ubuntu 16.04 having been available for quite some time I wonder why there hasn't been another release.

What is more confusing for some users is what has happened since version 9 was released. 

For instance version 10 of Zorin was released in August 2015 and was based on Ubuntu 15.04. This is no longer available on the Zorin website and for good reason because Ubuntu 15.04 is no longer supported.
 
Zorin 10 users will no doubt have upgraded to version 11 which was released in February of this year. 

I thought the version 11 release was a bit bizarre because it is based on Ubuntu 15.10. Zorin was therefore released in February on a version of Ubuntu which would be out of date just 2 months later.

Ubuntu 16.04 was released in April and now Zorin 11 is nowhere to be found. Well this isn't technically true you can still download it from Sourceforge. Ubuntu 15.10 is no longer supported by the way so there is no point installing version 11 of Zorin now.

So here is my issue. Zorin 9 users are perfectly ok because they are supported for a while yet but those users who upgraded now have to either run with an unsupported distribution until another version of Zorin pops up, revert back to version 9 or switch to another distribution altogether.

What therefore is the future of Zorin? I put its initial success down to the fact that Windows 8 was initially a disaster and users wanted a version of Linux that looked like Windows 7.

I don't however now see why users would necessarily go for Zorin over say Linux Mint. It isn't as if Linux Mint is that far removed from the traditional desktop look and feel.

This is Q4OS with an XP theme


If people need a version of Linux that looks like XP then they could easily go for Q4OS and for people looking for an Apple style interface there is Elementary.

I really liked Zorin when it first came out but I am struggling to see its place in the world now that time has moved on. Many Windows users have become accustomed to Windows 10, Linux users are happy with their desktops of choice and Zorin just doesn't offer as much as Mint and Ubuntu
 
The fact that Zorin will always lag behind Ubuntu is definitely a downside and Mint is just a better distribution, with better stability, more consistent release cycles and better support.

Thankyou for reading.

Posted at 19:50 |  by Gary Newell

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