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Monday, 24 August 2015

Introduction

Well everybody, as you may or may not know I haven't always been the biggest fan of Mageia. 

My last review was called "Mageia 3 - Gone In 60 Seconds". It was given this title for two reasons. The first is that I likened Mageia to Eleanor, the one car that Nicholas Cage couldn't tame and for various reasons I have always come unstuck whilst using Mageia. The second reason was that 60 seconds was about as long as I was prepared to have Mageia installed on my computer because it just didn't work when compared to other distributions offering the same benefits such as openSUSE, Ubuntu and Fedora.

Two years have past and I skipped Mageia 4 entirely. The thing is though that Mageia does appear to be very popular and it has ridden high in the Distrowatch rankings for a number of years. Whilst the rankings aren't to be taken too seriously they do give at least an indication of popularity.

Mageia is aimed largely at similar user bases to Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu but over the years it hasn't half done some strange things. I mean the sort of things that make you shout "why have you done it like that?", "why does the GNOME network applet not let you choose the wireless network?", "why can't I create a bootable USB?".

I don't like to be over critical of other people's work and if I get the chance I like to set the record straight and I welcome the option to have my opinions changed. That is where Mageia 5 comes in. How did it fare this time around?

How To Get Mageia

You can download Mageia from https://www.mageia.org/en-gb/downloads/

There are three options available:
  • Classic installation
  • Live media
  • Network installation
If you go for the classic installation you will end up with big Bertha in terms of file size. 

If you go for the network installation then the initial download is small but as you choose your installation options the download will increase. 

The live media gives a sample of Mageia without going full monty and I generally recommend downloading the live media for a distribution. Any other packages can usually be installed from the package manager at a later date.

If you have a poor internet connection or you want a USB that boots instantly without having to create it first then you can buy a Mageia USB or DVD from osdisc.com.

Installation






















This time around Mageia proved to be a delight to install. The Mageia website has a good installation guide and lists different ways to create a USB drive whether you are starting from Windows or another Linux distribution.

I created my own guide for creating a Mageia USB drive for those of you using Windows and thinking of installing Linux for the first time.

I found that the Win32 Disk Imaging tool worked better for Mageia than the other suggested option which is Rufus.

After creating a Mageia USB drive you might want to consider reading the Mageia and Windows 8.1 dual boot guide

How does Mageia's installer compare to Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, openSUSE and Debian? The Ubuntu and Mint installers are obviously very easy to follow and Fedora's isn't too bad now either. 

If I had to list them in order I would say that the order would go something like this, from easiest to hardest:
  • Linux Mint
  • Ubuntu
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Debian
  • openSUSE
The openSUSE partitioning piece is just too convoluted. Mageia's on the other hand is really easy, even if you want to dual boot with Windows 8. 

First Impressions






















Mageia starts with a welcome screen with links to documentation, support and community options including release notes, the forum, a wiki and a rather good newcomers howto section.

The desktop environment that I chose was GNOME and so there isn't much to report on the way it is laid out as by and large it is a standard GNOME installation. 

Incidentally it is worth pointing out that from the user login menu you can choose whether to use GNOME, GNOME classic or GNOME with Wayland.

In my previous review of Mageia I made the mention of the black dash screen. Whatever caused this issue (I know it was two years ago, so shouldn't be too surprised) has now been fixed.

The performance of Mageia is good and there were no crashes during the time I used it. That doesn't mean there aren't any problems at all though.



Connecting To The Internet

In my previous review of Mageia I commented on the fact that the GNOME network manager applet didn't work.

Mageia 5 has resolved this issue, but not in the way you might think.

The network manager applet just isn't there at all. 

During the installation of Mageia you get the opportunity to create a connection to a wireless network and part of the setup lets you choose to have that connection start at boot time.



For people who only use one wireless network this would generally suffice. If you use your laptop to travel and connect to multiple networks then this isn't particularly ideal.

To connect to a different wireless network you have to use the Mageia Control Centre which is in itself a really good tool to help you manage your system.

The network management tool that the control centre links to is adequate enough at letting you change your wireless network but it isn't as simple as selecting from a list in the top right corner of the screen which the standard GNOME applet provides.

The Mageia Control Centre

The Mageia control centre lets you manage your entire system from installing software to setting up network connections, from installing hardware to setting up NAS drives.

I, like many of you, am now in the situation where most of my hardware is external and wireless. 

I have an Epson workforce printer which can be accessed not just from any device in my house but by any device on the internet. I can send an email to my printer and it will print it.




How easy was it to set up this printer within Mageia? Well it wasn't as instant as installing it within Ubuntu but on the other hand it wasn't as hard as installing it via Windows 8. In reality within Mageia all I had to do was go to the Epson website and download the appropriate drivers.

Incidentally, Android provided the simplest solution for setting up the printer. I find that everything seems to be easier to do on my phone now than on a computer.

The other main network device I have is a Western Digital MyCloud drive. My setup is a little complicated however. 

Due to my location (very remote) getting a landline broadband connection is hopeless and so I use mobile broadband. These devices don't provide an ethernet port and the MyCloud device is reliant on an ethernet port.

I therefore have a TPLink wireless bridge which uses a wireless connection and provides an ethernet out to the WDMyCloud device.

How easy was it to connect to this drive within Mageia? Actually it was very easy. Mageia has Samba installed and all I had to do was select the drive and mount it. All I had to do was open Nautilus and I could read perfectly well from the drive and play audio and video as well.

Audio

Audio is provided within Mageia by the default GNOME music player.

This tool is easy enough to use and you can choose to view by song, artist or album as well as create your own playlists.

There weren't any issues playing MP3 audio.



Video

Playing videos caused a few issues. Most of my videos are stored in MP4 format and as soon as I started trying to playback the videos a message came up stating that I would need to install a driver.

At first the system couldn't find a driver and then when it did the videos would play but there wasn't any sound.



Rather frustratingly for other people who might suffer from similar symptoms I was able to fix the issue but I am unsure as to what actually fixed the issue.

I started off by turning on the tainted libraries and installing the GStreamer bad and ugly packages although these were already installed from the normal repositories. I also decided to install VLC to see if that would fix the problem and I soon realised I didn't have audio in that either. 

After a frustrating hour or so I packed the laptop back in its case, went shopping with my wife and kids and when I came back set in for another go but bizarrely it just started working. I guess the old "turn it off and on again" was all that was required?

Flash






















I am not sure if Flash is supposed to be working or not. I tried Youtube and at first it said I was missing the Flash plugin and then it started playing the video anyway but again I was stuck without sound.

I have a simple was of dealing with the Flash thing nowadays. Install Google Chrome and have done with it. After I installed Chrome the video played perfectly well, I was able to play games and the sound worked.

I don't think any Linux distribution (or indeed any operating system) should be judged on its ability to play Flash video. It is more a symptom of the failures of Flash than Linux in my opinion).

Applications

I used the live version of Mageia and this may differ from the full installation. The GNOME version of Mageia has everything the average person needs to get started.


  • Archive Manager - Zip File Management
  • Brasero - DVD burner
  • Calculator - Calculator
  • Cheese - Webcam Viewer
  • Contacts - Contact Manager
  • Desktop Search
  • Digidoc Client - Secure document signing
  • Documents - Document Viewer
  • Document Viewer - PDF reader
  • Ekiga Softphone - VOIP
  • Evolution - Email Client
  • Files - File Manager
  • Firefox - Web Browser
  • gEdit - Text Editor
  • GIMP - Image Editor
  • GParted - Partition Editor
  • Hexchat - IRC Chat
  • LibreOffice - Office Suite (including word processor, spreadsheet tool, presentation software, draw
  • Music - Audio Player
  • Notes - Sticky Notes
  • Photos - Photo Viewer
  • Polari - Chat
  • Remote Desktop - Remote Desktop Client
  • Screenshot
  • sFTP - FTP Client
  • Shotwell - Photo Manager
  • Sound Juicer - CD Ripper
  • Videos - Video Player
  • VNC Viewer - VNC Client

Installing Applications

As mentioned previously most administration tasks can be done by using the Mageia Control Centre.

Installing applications is no different in this respect. 

There are two tools which can be selected. 

The first tool lets you configure the repositories where the software can be installed from and the second physically lets you choose the software you want to install.




The list of repositories is actually quite long with links to local repositories (i.e the installation DVD/USB), core repositories, updates, backports, non-free, tainted and 32-bit.

The graphical installer is fairly straight forward to use and at least it isn't the Ubuntu Software Centre. The left pane has a list of categories and when one is selected the right pane shows the applications within that category. Selecting an application shows a description within the bottom right pane.

The search bar at the top can be used to search by title or by a general description of the application you wish to find.

The Verdict

Mageia 5 works and it is so much better than any previous release that I have ever used. 

I think it would be good if the wireless connection could be chosen from the panel at the top of the screen rather than using the Control Centre but it isn't a huge issue and certainly should not detract from the positive aspects.

The installer is very good and the average person should easily be able to follow the on-screen instructions. Failing that there is a comprehensive installation guide and wiki page on the Mageia website.

GNOME is a great choice for the casual user as a desktop environment. It is easy to navigate and keeps out of the way.

The Mageia Control Centre is a good tool for managing your software installations, your hardware and internet connections.

There haven't been any crashes since I started using Mageia. The only real issue I had was the lack of sound whilst watching MP4 videos which I can't give an answer to because it suddenly started working again. (Cue the people saying "you had the volume turned down, didn't you?".

So with everything that has been written can I now recommend Mageia to the readers of this blog? Absolutely. 

Thankyou for reading.





Mageia 5 - So Much Better Than Last Time

Introduction

Well everybody, as you may or may not know I haven't always been the biggest fan of Mageia. 

My last review was called "Mageia 3 - Gone In 60 Seconds". It was given this title for two reasons. The first is that I likened Mageia to Eleanor, the one car that Nicholas Cage couldn't tame and for various reasons I have always come unstuck whilst using Mageia. The second reason was that 60 seconds was about as long as I was prepared to have Mageia installed on my computer because it just didn't work when compared to other distributions offering the same benefits such as openSUSE, Ubuntu and Fedora.

Two years have past and I skipped Mageia 4 entirely. The thing is though that Mageia does appear to be very popular and it has ridden high in the Distrowatch rankings for a number of years. Whilst the rankings aren't to be taken too seriously they do give at least an indication of popularity.

Mageia is aimed largely at similar user bases to Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu but over the years it hasn't half done some strange things. I mean the sort of things that make you shout "why have you done it like that?", "why does the GNOME network applet not let you choose the wireless network?", "why can't I create a bootable USB?".

I don't like to be over critical of other people's work and if I get the chance I like to set the record straight and I welcome the option to have my opinions changed. That is where Mageia 5 comes in. How did it fare this time around?

How To Get Mageia

You can download Mageia from https://www.mageia.org/en-gb/downloads/

There are three options available:
  • Classic installation
  • Live media
  • Network installation
If you go for the classic installation you will end up with big Bertha in terms of file size. 

If you go for the network installation then the initial download is small but as you choose your installation options the download will increase. 

The live media gives a sample of Mageia without going full monty and I generally recommend downloading the live media for a distribution. Any other packages can usually be installed from the package manager at a later date.

If you have a poor internet connection or you want a USB that boots instantly without having to create it first then you can buy a Mageia USB or DVD from osdisc.com.

Installation






















This time around Mageia proved to be a delight to install. The Mageia website has a good installation guide and lists different ways to create a USB drive whether you are starting from Windows or another Linux distribution.

I created my own guide for creating a Mageia USB drive for those of you using Windows and thinking of installing Linux for the first time.

I found that the Win32 Disk Imaging tool worked better for Mageia than the other suggested option which is Rufus.

After creating a Mageia USB drive you might want to consider reading the Mageia and Windows 8.1 dual boot guide

How does Mageia's installer compare to Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, openSUSE and Debian? The Ubuntu and Mint installers are obviously very easy to follow and Fedora's isn't too bad now either. 

If I had to list them in order I would say that the order would go something like this, from easiest to hardest:
  • Linux Mint
  • Ubuntu
  • Mageia
  • Fedora
  • Debian
  • openSUSE
The openSUSE partitioning piece is just too convoluted. Mageia's on the other hand is really easy, even if you want to dual boot with Windows 8. 

First Impressions






















Mageia starts with a welcome screen with links to documentation, support and community options including release notes, the forum, a wiki and a rather good newcomers howto section.

The desktop environment that I chose was GNOME and so there isn't much to report on the way it is laid out as by and large it is a standard GNOME installation. 

Incidentally it is worth pointing out that from the user login menu you can choose whether to use GNOME, GNOME classic or GNOME with Wayland.

In my previous review of Mageia I made the mention of the black dash screen. Whatever caused this issue (I know it was two years ago, so shouldn't be too surprised) has now been fixed.

The performance of Mageia is good and there were no crashes during the time I used it. That doesn't mean there aren't any problems at all though.



Connecting To The Internet

In my previous review of Mageia I commented on the fact that the GNOME network manager applet didn't work.

Mageia 5 has resolved this issue, but not in the way you might think.

The network manager applet just isn't there at all. 

During the installation of Mageia you get the opportunity to create a connection to a wireless network and part of the setup lets you choose to have that connection start at boot time.



For people who only use one wireless network this would generally suffice. If you use your laptop to travel and connect to multiple networks then this isn't particularly ideal.

To connect to a different wireless network you have to use the Mageia Control Centre which is in itself a really good tool to help you manage your system.

The network management tool that the control centre links to is adequate enough at letting you change your wireless network but it isn't as simple as selecting from a list in the top right corner of the screen which the standard GNOME applet provides.

The Mageia Control Centre

The Mageia control centre lets you manage your entire system from installing software to setting up network connections, from installing hardware to setting up NAS drives.

I, like many of you, am now in the situation where most of my hardware is external and wireless. 

I have an Epson workforce printer which can be accessed not just from any device in my house but by any device on the internet. I can send an email to my printer and it will print it.




How easy was it to set up this printer within Mageia? Well it wasn't as instant as installing it within Ubuntu but on the other hand it wasn't as hard as installing it via Windows 8. In reality within Mageia all I had to do was go to the Epson website and download the appropriate drivers.

Incidentally, Android provided the simplest solution for setting up the printer. I find that everything seems to be easier to do on my phone now than on a computer.

The other main network device I have is a Western Digital MyCloud drive. My setup is a little complicated however. 

Due to my location (very remote) getting a landline broadband connection is hopeless and so I use mobile broadband. These devices don't provide an ethernet port and the MyCloud device is reliant on an ethernet port.

I therefore have a TPLink wireless bridge which uses a wireless connection and provides an ethernet out to the WDMyCloud device.

How easy was it to connect to this drive within Mageia? Actually it was very easy. Mageia has Samba installed and all I had to do was select the drive and mount it. All I had to do was open Nautilus and I could read perfectly well from the drive and play audio and video as well.

Audio

Audio is provided within Mageia by the default GNOME music player.

This tool is easy enough to use and you can choose to view by song, artist or album as well as create your own playlists.

There weren't any issues playing MP3 audio.



Video

Playing videos caused a few issues. Most of my videos are stored in MP4 format and as soon as I started trying to playback the videos a message came up stating that I would need to install a driver.

At first the system couldn't find a driver and then when it did the videos would play but there wasn't any sound.



Rather frustratingly for other people who might suffer from similar symptoms I was able to fix the issue but I am unsure as to what actually fixed the issue.

I started off by turning on the tainted libraries and installing the GStreamer bad and ugly packages although these were already installed from the normal repositories. I also decided to install VLC to see if that would fix the problem and I soon realised I didn't have audio in that either. 

After a frustrating hour or so I packed the laptop back in its case, went shopping with my wife and kids and when I came back set in for another go but bizarrely it just started working. I guess the old "turn it off and on again" was all that was required?

Flash






















I am not sure if Flash is supposed to be working or not. I tried Youtube and at first it said I was missing the Flash plugin and then it started playing the video anyway but again I was stuck without sound.

I have a simple was of dealing with the Flash thing nowadays. Install Google Chrome and have done with it. After I installed Chrome the video played perfectly well, I was able to play games and the sound worked.

I don't think any Linux distribution (or indeed any operating system) should be judged on its ability to play Flash video. It is more a symptom of the failures of Flash than Linux in my opinion).

Applications

I used the live version of Mageia and this may differ from the full installation. The GNOME version of Mageia has everything the average person needs to get started.


  • Archive Manager - Zip File Management
  • Brasero - DVD burner
  • Calculator - Calculator
  • Cheese - Webcam Viewer
  • Contacts - Contact Manager
  • Desktop Search
  • Digidoc Client - Secure document signing
  • Documents - Document Viewer
  • Document Viewer - PDF reader
  • Ekiga Softphone - VOIP
  • Evolution - Email Client
  • Files - File Manager
  • Firefox - Web Browser
  • gEdit - Text Editor
  • GIMP - Image Editor
  • GParted - Partition Editor
  • Hexchat - IRC Chat
  • LibreOffice - Office Suite (including word processor, spreadsheet tool, presentation software, draw
  • Music - Audio Player
  • Notes - Sticky Notes
  • Photos - Photo Viewer
  • Polari - Chat
  • Remote Desktop - Remote Desktop Client
  • Screenshot
  • sFTP - FTP Client
  • Shotwell - Photo Manager
  • Sound Juicer - CD Ripper
  • Videos - Video Player
  • VNC Viewer - VNC Client

Installing Applications

As mentioned previously most administration tasks can be done by using the Mageia Control Centre.

Installing applications is no different in this respect. 

There are two tools which can be selected. 

The first tool lets you configure the repositories where the software can be installed from and the second physically lets you choose the software you want to install.




The list of repositories is actually quite long with links to local repositories (i.e the installation DVD/USB), core repositories, updates, backports, non-free, tainted and 32-bit.

The graphical installer is fairly straight forward to use and at least it isn't the Ubuntu Software Centre. The left pane has a list of categories and when one is selected the right pane shows the applications within that category. Selecting an application shows a description within the bottom right pane.

The search bar at the top can be used to search by title or by a general description of the application you wish to find.

The Verdict

Mageia 5 works and it is so much better than any previous release that I have ever used. 

I think it would be good if the wireless connection could be chosen from the panel at the top of the screen rather than using the Control Centre but it isn't a huge issue and certainly should not detract from the positive aspects.

The installer is very good and the average person should easily be able to follow the on-screen instructions. Failing that there is a comprehensive installation guide and wiki page on the Mageia website.

GNOME is a great choice for the casual user as a desktop environment. It is easy to navigate and keeps out of the way.

The Mageia Control Centre is a good tool for managing your software installations, your hardware and internet connections.

There haven't been any crashes since I started using Mageia. The only real issue I had was the lack of sound whilst watching MP4 videos which I can't give an answer to because it suddenly started working again. (Cue the people saying "you had the volume turned down, didn't you?".

So with everything that has been written can I now recommend Mageia to the readers of this blog? Absolutely. 

Thankyou for reading.





Posted at 21:33 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 17 August 2015

Last week saw the latest release of the Bodhi Linux distribution. In the past Bodhi has been the flag bearer for the Enlightenment desktop environment but the latest version uses a new desktop environment called Moksha.

Technically speaking of course, Moksha isn't really new. It is a fork of the Enlightenment desktop from version E17. 

The Bodhi website made the announcement about the intended move to Moksha in April of this year so in fact this news isn't exactly new either.

Without Bodhi, Enlightenment isn't really used by many other Linux distributions. Most of the major distributions have Enlightenment available for installation but how many people install a new desktop environment over the one that is installed by default?

The following table has been taken from the Enlightenment website and it shows the distributions that have Enlightenment available within their repositories along with the version number.






As you can see Enlightenment is available within Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE but look at the version numbers. Only Fedora and openSUSE have up to date versions running E19. All of the other major distributions are stuck at version E17. It is worth pointing out that Arch and Gentoo also have up to date versions but they aren't really distributions for the Everyday Linux User.

Bodhi has always done a great job of packaging Enlightenment in a way that makes it behave and look really good.

I really like the Enlightenment desktop environment.It probably isn't for everyone but having spent a while using it I have become accustomed to its little quirks.

I would say the biggest issue I have with it is the lack of documentation, especially user documentation. There are so many features that have little to no clarity as to what their intended uses are.

If Bodhi is going to go in its own direction with the Moksha desktop environment then I think this leaves a gap for another distribution to step in and make Enlightenment its own. I worry that without a distribution providing a focus for Enlightenment that it may fade into obscurity.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be installing the various distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and openSUSE to see just what kind of experience the user gets when they install Enlightenment.

I will also be trying out the latest version of MacPUP and the ELive distribution which also use the Enlightenment desktop although both versions are stuck at E17.

Have you ever installed another desktop environment replacing the one that is installed by default? Which desktop environment did you choose and why? Have you ever tried Enlightenment? What was your opinion of it? Do you think Enlightenment has a future beyond Bodhi?

Thankyou for reading.



Enlightenment. Is There Life After Bodhi?

Last week saw the latest release of the Bodhi Linux distribution. In the past Bodhi has been the flag bearer for the Enlightenment desktop environment but the latest version uses a new desktop environment called Moksha.

Technically speaking of course, Moksha isn't really new. It is a fork of the Enlightenment desktop from version E17. 

The Bodhi website made the announcement about the intended move to Moksha in April of this year so in fact this news isn't exactly new either.

Without Bodhi, Enlightenment isn't really used by many other Linux distributions. Most of the major distributions have Enlightenment available for installation but how many people install a new desktop environment over the one that is installed by default?

The following table has been taken from the Enlightenment website and it shows the distributions that have Enlightenment available within their repositories along with the version number.






As you can see Enlightenment is available within Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE but look at the version numbers. Only Fedora and openSUSE have up to date versions running E19. All of the other major distributions are stuck at version E17. It is worth pointing out that Arch and Gentoo also have up to date versions but they aren't really distributions for the Everyday Linux User.

Bodhi has always done a great job of packaging Enlightenment in a way that makes it behave and look really good.

I really like the Enlightenment desktop environment.It probably isn't for everyone but having spent a while using it I have become accustomed to its little quirks.

I would say the biggest issue I have with it is the lack of documentation, especially user documentation. There are so many features that have little to no clarity as to what their intended uses are.

If Bodhi is going to go in its own direction with the Moksha desktop environment then I think this leaves a gap for another distribution to step in and make Enlightenment its own. I worry that without a distribution providing a focus for Enlightenment that it may fade into obscurity.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be installing the various distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and openSUSE to see just what kind of experience the user gets when they install Enlightenment.

I will also be trying out the latest version of MacPUP and the ELive distribution which also use the Enlightenment desktop although both versions are stuck at E17.

Have you ever installed another desktop environment replacing the one that is installed by default? Which desktop environment did you choose and why? Have you ever tried Enlightenment? What was your opinion of it? Do you think Enlightenment has a future beyond Bodhi?

Thankyou for reading.



Posted at 23:11 |  by Gary Newell

Friday, 7 August 2015

Introduction

Elementary OS is a Linux distribution based on the long term support version of Ubuntu. It has been designed to be easy to install, easy to use and because it is lightweight it runs on older hardware as well as more up to date computers.

The main thing to note about Elementary OS is that every aspect of it has been designed to look and feel aesthetically pleasing.

If you aren't comfortable with the idea of using the Linux terminal then Elementary OS might be the operating system you are looking for.

In this review I will be looking to judge whether Elementary OS really serves its purpose as a distribution that anyone can use and whether it really is easy to use. 

What happens when you scratch beneath the surface?

How To Get Elementary OS



























You can download Elementary OS from https://elementary.io/.

The Elementary OS website is a good example as to how websites should be created. It is simple to navigate and easy to use. The content is up to date and the content is clear and readable. There is also a very good support area.

In order to download Elementary OS you just have to scroll beyond the screenshot on the homepage and click the "Download Freya" button.

Hold on a minute though! If you press the "Download Freya" button you will be asked to make a payment of $10.

Just above the "Download Freya" button there are buttons showing $5, $10. $25 and Custom. 

The developers have put a lot of effort into Elementary OS and therefore in order to encourage people to donate to future development they have defaulted the amount required to download Elementary OS to $10.

You can change this option to $5 if you want to donate but not as much as $10 or indeed if you are feeling generous you can donate $25. 

Here is the problem however. If you are unsure as to whether you are going to use Elementary OS long term and you just want to try it out do you really want to donate at this stage. Wouldn't it be better to download it, try it and then after installing it make a donation?

If you want to try Elementary OS for free you can do so by clicking on the "Custom" button and then just enter 0 into the box. You have to click outside of the box for the amount to register and then click on "Download Freya". 

If you like Elementary OS you can always come back to the website at a later stage to donate.

Installation

Once you have downloaded Elementary OS you can follow this guide in order to create a bootable live USB which you can then use to install Elementary to your computer.

Installation itself is quite straight forward. The installer is the same one used by Ubuntu.

Here is a guide for dual booting Windows 8.1 with Elementary OS.

First Impressions






















Elementary OS really does look good. It doesn't take much to make a nice looking desktop but there are many distributions that get it wrong in this respect with dull, lifeless wallpaper.

Other than the visually pleasing wallpaper there is a panel at the top of the screen and a dock at the bottom.



In the top right corner there are a series of system icons enabling the user to change the keyboard layout, adjust the audio settings, connect to the internet, adjust bluetooth settings, manage the power settings and log out.


The dock at the bottom has a series of icons for commonly used applications such as the web browser, email client, calendar, audio player, video player, photo manager and software centre. 

If you click on "Applications" in the top left corner, one of the most visually pleasing menus you will ever see appears.






















You can search for the program you want to use by entering either the name or the type of program in the search bar. Alternatively click on the icon within the menu. 

If you have more than one page of icons you can switch between them by clicking on the relevant number at the bottom of the menu.

You can also change the appearance of the menu so that a list of categories appears as well as icons.

The applications within Elementary OS all follow the same theme. They are fairly basic in nature but they are visually pleasing and intuitive.

Email

The default email client pre-installed with Elementary OS is Geary.

It isn't as fully featured as Thunderbird or Evolution but it works and fits neatly with the Elementary OS tag of being a lightweight Linux distribution.

To sign in for the first time choose your mail service (i.e. GMail) and then enter your email address and password.

When you click on the Add button you will be connected to your email.






























By default Geary starts with a list of folders down the left, a list of messages in the middle pane and a preview of the selected email in the right pane.

As you can see in the email I have highlighted above, I am in line for quite a windfall because it appears that due to corrupt practices in Nigeria's banks I am in line for $2.5 million in compensation. I am truly amazed. I have never even put any money into a Nigerian bank but apparently I am due the money. All I need to do is send them my bank details. What could possibly go wrong?

Am I the only person who reads my spam emails for entertainment?

Audio






















The audio player within Elementary OS is called "Noise". As with the other applications it is lightweight in nature and whilst it is no Rhythmbox or Clementine it works and because it is part of Elementary it is both visually pleasing and easy to use.

When you first load it up you have the option to set the default folder for storing music and you can also import music. Clicking on the import music button lets you choose audio files to import. 

The interface is simple in nature with a list of categories down the left side and a choice of views for the right pane, including an iconised view or a list view.

Clicking on an album produces another window with a list of available tracks. You can start playing the track by clicking on it.

Noise gives you the ability to create playlists and there is a link to last.fm.

If you chose to install the Fluendo 3rd party tools when installing Elementary OS you should be able to listen to MP3 audio without installing further drivers or codecs.

Video
































The video player is very basic with simply an option to open a video file and then to play that video. You can slide the bar along to skip parts of the video and there is a mini preview window as you slide it along but that is about it.

Installing Software






















One of the areas where new users to Linux struggle is with installing new applications. If you come from a Windows background then you are used to either buying a DVD from a shop or downloading directly from the vendor's website.

This has changed recently with the use of the Windows store and we have all become accustomed to installing applications from some form of app store.

The tool used to install applications within Elementary is the Software Centre (the same one that comes with Ubuntu). The idea is you either choose a category and browse for the software you need or search by entering a description of what you need into the box provided.

The premise is fine and pretty much the same way any app store or package manager works. Unfortunately it sucks.

The Software Centre is the one part of Ubuntu that I have never liked and it is the one application within Elementary that lets it down.

It is ok to say something isn't good but you have to back it up with reasons.

The big problem is that the software centre doesn't work properly. An application that is designed to return a list of the software in the repositories should return all the software in those repositories, no ifs, no buts, no maybes.

The Software Centre doesn't. There are many examples where I can find an application using Synaptic (a more rudimentary graphical package manager) or apt-get (a command line package manager) that isn't returned when searched for within the Software Centre.

Point 2. When I searched for Chromium it appears in the software centre but there isn't an install button straight away. Instead I have to enable the multiverse repository. It then still doesn't let me install it. I have to leave the software centre, re-open it and try again.

Then there comes Steam. Steam is the software from Valve which lets you buy, download and play games. If you search the software centre, two options for Steam appear. One is called "Steam" and appears at the top of the list and the second is "Steam Launcher". If you click the first link (which most people will) an error appears.

The second link doesn't have an install button. It has a "Buy" button. This button takes you to the Ubuntu One log in screen.

Steam is free software. If you use the apt-get tool or synaptic you can install it for free. No links to Ubuntu One and no big buy buttons.

For the next version of Elementary I am hoping the developers give the Software Centre the boot and replaces it with something that just works.

Everything else in Elementary is basic and simple but fully working. The Software Centre really lets it down.

Customisable Features

























If you are into heavily customising the desktop so that it works the way you want it to then you might be disappointed with Elementary OS. (Try something like Bodhi or Xubuntu instead). The customisable features within Elementary are kept to the bare minimum.

Via the desktop settings screen you can choose a different wallpaper, decide whether the dock remains visible all the time or not and specify hot corners.

You can add extra icons to the docking bar at the bottom of the screen by dragging them from the menu and you can remove them by right clicking the icon in the docking bar and unchecking the keep in dock option.

There is a strange little quirk when dragging icons into the dock whereby the cursor gets stuck as being half of the icon.

Multitasking View






















Linux has long had the concept of multiple workspaces and this is implemented within Elementary OS with the "Multitasking View" application.

The "Multitasking View" can be selected from the menu or the docking bar (and if you are clever you will set one of the hot corners to show it as well).

A screen will appear showing your current view and to the right another blank window. You can click on the new window and load more applications.

You can add more and more virtual workspaces and flick between them by clicking on the icons at the bottom of the multitasking view or by scrolling through them.

The implementation of workspaces has been covered very neatly within Elementary OS.

Flash

The web browser that is installed with Elementary OS is Midori. Midori is a lightweight browser and one of the features it lacks is the ability to play Flash videos.

Personally I am becoming more of the opinion that the sooner Flash dies the better. For years now Flash has been riddled with security issues and it has always been an unwanted distraction.

How many times have you tried to book tickets on a website only to be annoyed at how long the process takes whilst it loads flash graphics? When will web developers learn that functionality comes before needless artwork?

If you do need to use Flash then I recommend installing either Firefox with Lightspark or Google's Chrome browser.

Summary

Elementary OS is a really nice Linux distribution and if you are a computer user who has no interest in learning about the command line and you just want to use your computer for playing music, videos and games then it is perfect.

The effort that has gone into the desktop environment really pays dividends as it really is easy to use. Couple this with the ease in which it is possible to set up printers, scanners, audio devices and other peripherals and you have a really good operating system.

This is almost the perfect distribution for the Everyday Linux User. We just need to get shot of that dreaded software centre.

Thankyou for reading.



An Everyday Linux User Review Of Elementary OS Freya

Introduction

Elementary OS is a Linux distribution based on the long term support version of Ubuntu. It has been designed to be easy to install, easy to use and because it is lightweight it runs on older hardware as well as more up to date computers.

The main thing to note about Elementary OS is that every aspect of it has been designed to look and feel aesthetically pleasing.

If you aren't comfortable with the idea of using the Linux terminal then Elementary OS might be the operating system you are looking for.

In this review I will be looking to judge whether Elementary OS really serves its purpose as a distribution that anyone can use and whether it really is easy to use. 

What happens when you scratch beneath the surface?

How To Get Elementary OS



























You can download Elementary OS from https://elementary.io/.

The Elementary OS website is a good example as to how websites should be created. It is simple to navigate and easy to use. The content is up to date and the content is clear and readable. There is also a very good support area.

In order to download Elementary OS you just have to scroll beyond the screenshot on the homepage and click the "Download Freya" button.

Hold on a minute though! If you press the "Download Freya" button you will be asked to make a payment of $10.

Just above the "Download Freya" button there are buttons showing $5, $10. $25 and Custom. 

The developers have put a lot of effort into Elementary OS and therefore in order to encourage people to donate to future development they have defaulted the amount required to download Elementary OS to $10.

You can change this option to $5 if you want to donate but not as much as $10 or indeed if you are feeling generous you can donate $25. 

Here is the problem however. If you are unsure as to whether you are going to use Elementary OS long term and you just want to try it out do you really want to donate at this stage. Wouldn't it be better to download it, try it and then after installing it make a donation?

If you want to try Elementary OS for free you can do so by clicking on the "Custom" button and then just enter 0 into the box. You have to click outside of the box for the amount to register and then click on "Download Freya". 

If you like Elementary OS you can always come back to the website at a later stage to donate.

Installation

Once you have downloaded Elementary OS you can follow this guide in order to create a bootable live USB which you can then use to install Elementary to your computer.

Installation itself is quite straight forward. The installer is the same one used by Ubuntu.

Here is a guide for dual booting Windows 8.1 with Elementary OS.

First Impressions






















Elementary OS really does look good. It doesn't take much to make a nice looking desktop but there are many distributions that get it wrong in this respect with dull, lifeless wallpaper.

Other than the visually pleasing wallpaper there is a panel at the top of the screen and a dock at the bottom.



In the top right corner there are a series of system icons enabling the user to change the keyboard layout, adjust the audio settings, connect to the internet, adjust bluetooth settings, manage the power settings and log out.


The dock at the bottom has a series of icons for commonly used applications such as the web browser, email client, calendar, audio player, video player, photo manager and software centre. 

If you click on "Applications" in the top left corner, one of the most visually pleasing menus you will ever see appears.






















You can search for the program you want to use by entering either the name or the type of program in the search bar. Alternatively click on the icon within the menu. 

If you have more than one page of icons you can switch between them by clicking on the relevant number at the bottom of the menu.

You can also change the appearance of the menu so that a list of categories appears as well as icons.

The applications within Elementary OS all follow the same theme. They are fairly basic in nature but they are visually pleasing and intuitive.

Email

The default email client pre-installed with Elementary OS is Geary.

It isn't as fully featured as Thunderbird or Evolution but it works and fits neatly with the Elementary OS tag of being a lightweight Linux distribution.

To sign in for the first time choose your mail service (i.e. GMail) and then enter your email address and password.

When you click on the Add button you will be connected to your email.






























By default Geary starts with a list of folders down the left, a list of messages in the middle pane and a preview of the selected email in the right pane.

As you can see in the email I have highlighted above, I am in line for quite a windfall because it appears that due to corrupt practices in Nigeria's banks I am in line for $2.5 million in compensation. I am truly amazed. I have never even put any money into a Nigerian bank but apparently I am due the money. All I need to do is send them my bank details. What could possibly go wrong?

Am I the only person who reads my spam emails for entertainment?

Audio






















The audio player within Elementary OS is called "Noise". As with the other applications it is lightweight in nature and whilst it is no Rhythmbox or Clementine it works and because it is part of Elementary it is both visually pleasing and easy to use.

When you first load it up you have the option to set the default folder for storing music and you can also import music. Clicking on the import music button lets you choose audio files to import. 

The interface is simple in nature with a list of categories down the left side and a choice of views for the right pane, including an iconised view or a list view.

Clicking on an album produces another window with a list of available tracks. You can start playing the track by clicking on it.

Noise gives you the ability to create playlists and there is a link to last.fm.

If you chose to install the Fluendo 3rd party tools when installing Elementary OS you should be able to listen to MP3 audio without installing further drivers or codecs.

Video
































The video player is very basic with simply an option to open a video file and then to play that video. You can slide the bar along to skip parts of the video and there is a mini preview window as you slide it along but that is about it.

Installing Software






















One of the areas where new users to Linux struggle is with installing new applications. If you come from a Windows background then you are used to either buying a DVD from a shop or downloading directly from the vendor's website.

This has changed recently with the use of the Windows store and we have all become accustomed to installing applications from some form of app store.

The tool used to install applications within Elementary is the Software Centre (the same one that comes with Ubuntu). The idea is you either choose a category and browse for the software you need or search by entering a description of what you need into the box provided.

The premise is fine and pretty much the same way any app store or package manager works. Unfortunately it sucks.

The Software Centre is the one part of Ubuntu that I have never liked and it is the one application within Elementary that lets it down.

It is ok to say something isn't good but you have to back it up with reasons.

The big problem is that the software centre doesn't work properly. An application that is designed to return a list of the software in the repositories should return all the software in those repositories, no ifs, no buts, no maybes.

The Software Centre doesn't. There are many examples where I can find an application using Synaptic (a more rudimentary graphical package manager) or apt-get (a command line package manager) that isn't returned when searched for within the Software Centre.

Point 2. When I searched for Chromium it appears in the software centre but there isn't an install button straight away. Instead I have to enable the multiverse repository. It then still doesn't let me install it. I have to leave the software centre, re-open it and try again.

Then there comes Steam. Steam is the software from Valve which lets you buy, download and play games. If you search the software centre, two options for Steam appear. One is called "Steam" and appears at the top of the list and the second is "Steam Launcher". If you click the first link (which most people will) an error appears.

The second link doesn't have an install button. It has a "Buy" button. This button takes you to the Ubuntu One log in screen.

Steam is free software. If you use the apt-get tool or synaptic you can install it for free. No links to Ubuntu One and no big buy buttons.

For the next version of Elementary I am hoping the developers give the Software Centre the boot and replaces it with something that just works.

Everything else in Elementary is basic and simple but fully working. The Software Centre really lets it down.

Customisable Features

























If you are into heavily customising the desktop so that it works the way you want it to then you might be disappointed with Elementary OS. (Try something like Bodhi or Xubuntu instead). The customisable features within Elementary are kept to the bare minimum.

Via the desktop settings screen you can choose a different wallpaper, decide whether the dock remains visible all the time or not and specify hot corners.

You can add extra icons to the docking bar at the bottom of the screen by dragging them from the menu and you can remove them by right clicking the icon in the docking bar and unchecking the keep in dock option.

There is a strange little quirk when dragging icons into the dock whereby the cursor gets stuck as being half of the icon.

Multitasking View






















Linux has long had the concept of multiple workspaces and this is implemented within Elementary OS with the "Multitasking View" application.

The "Multitasking View" can be selected from the menu or the docking bar (and if you are clever you will set one of the hot corners to show it as well).

A screen will appear showing your current view and to the right another blank window. You can click on the new window and load more applications.

You can add more and more virtual workspaces and flick between them by clicking on the icons at the bottom of the multitasking view or by scrolling through them.

The implementation of workspaces has been covered very neatly within Elementary OS.

Flash

The web browser that is installed with Elementary OS is Midori. Midori is a lightweight browser and one of the features it lacks is the ability to play Flash videos.

Personally I am becoming more of the opinion that the sooner Flash dies the better. For years now Flash has been riddled with security issues and it has always been an unwanted distraction.

How many times have you tried to book tickets on a website only to be annoyed at how long the process takes whilst it loads flash graphics? When will web developers learn that functionality comes before needless artwork?

If you do need to use Flash then I recommend installing either Firefox with Lightspark or Google's Chrome browser.

Summary

Elementary OS is a really nice Linux distribution and if you are a computer user who has no interest in learning about the command line and you just want to use your computer for playing music, videos and games then it is perfect.

The effort that has gone into the desktop environment really pays dividends as it really is easy to use. Couple this with the ease in which it is possible to set up printers, scanners, audio devices and other peripherals and you have a really good operating system.

This is almost the perfect distribution for the Everyday Linux User. We just need to get shot of that dreaded software centre.

Thankyou for reading.



Posted at 23:02 |  by Gary Newell

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Introduction

Android x86 has been riding high in the Distrowatch rankings for the past 6 months. I haven't looked at this distribution since July 2012 which if my maths serves me correctly is 3 years.

Why so long between reviews? When I last looked at Android x86 it simply didn't work very well. It wasn't a case that the developers had done a bad job of porting it across but more an issue with regards to how Android works.


The main problem I had with Android on my netbook was navigation. Netbooks and laptops require the use of a keyboard and a trackpad. Android has been built for touchscreen devices. 

The lack of scroll bars was a major issue, especially if you wanted to read a long article as it relies on you continually dragging up the screen with the trackpad.

The fact that Android is such a popular download however has led me to believe that people really want this and are keen to give this a go.

How To Get Android x86

You can get Android x86 by visiting http://www.android-x86.org/.

The website has a mixture of some really useful information and some out of date information which makes it a little bit painful to decipher.

For instance the latest release is Android x86 - Release 4,4 r3 which can be found by reading the "What is new?" section on the front page.

The downloads page only has Android x86 - Release 4.4 r2 available. The downloads page is also a little bit over complicated.

There is a 2.3 release for the eeePC and then a 2.2 release for a number of different devices. Scroll down a bit further and there are download links for the 4.0 release (again for different devices) and finally you get the 4.4 release.

Below all that are a whole load of deprecated release links.

There is a lot of good information on the website but some duff stuff as well. For instance the instructions say that the "Play Store" isn't available for Android x86 but it clearly is.

So here are the two download links you need for the latest release which is Android x86 4.4 r3.
The links are stored on Google Drive so may take some time to download. It is worth using a download manager such as uGet so that you can continue the download should it fail half way through.

Installing Android x86


Installing Android isn't particularly difficult. Steps include detecting the hard drive, creating partitions and installing GRUB.

After you have rebooted into Android you will have to go through the Android setup screens which ask you to choose your language, sign in to your Google account, choose whether to link to Google Services, set the date and time and enter your name as the user of the tablet.

First Impressions





























Initially I tried Android within VirtualBox and for good reason. It is unlikely that I would want to use Android on a computer all of the time and so setting it as my sole operating system didn't seem like a good idea.

There are certainly some important gotchas that will hit you when you try Android x86 within VirtualBox.

For instance the screen resolution is locked to a fairly small window. There aren't any simple settings for solving this issue. You have to set the resolution using the command line for virtualbox and then you have to adjust the GRUB settings for changing the resolution within Android.

Another issue which will wind up first time users is the auto rotation. Remember that Android is designed for handheld devices. On a phone or a tablet it is ok for the screen to rotate so that the application can be used in the optimum way. On a laptop it is definitely an undesirable side effect.

The first thing you will want to do therefore is turn off the auto rotation. If you find that you are stuck in a rotated screen press the F9 key twice quickly.

Whilst locking the rotation works for the main Android system it doesn't work for all applications because some applications have been designed to work in portrait mode. Even though you have locked the rotation when you install some games they will remain on their side.
































If you can play games with your head tilting to one side then this might work for you, especially if you have great trackpad skills.

The resolution is actually quite a simple one. There is an application called "Smart Rotator" that lets you set whether the application runs in portrait or landscape mode. 

Whilst good, the "Smart Rotator" isn't a perfect solution. Take the small VirtualBox window I referred to earlier for instance.

When you turn a portrait screen on its side into a landscape window that is too small it can have disastrous effects, especially when you are trying to play a bat and ball style game like Arkanoid. The bat basically sits above the first row of blocks and the ball just flies off knocking down all the blocks. The game is rendered unplayable.

I found a better solution to this is to edit the GRUB file and have multiple Android menu options with different resolutions. (Some made to be portable and others landscape).

The next issue I found is how to control games. Android as mentioned previously is made for touch screen devices and therefore many games either work by tilting the screen or by pressing on screen buttons.

Whilst this is ok for slower games, it is a disaster when you are trying to play "Retro Racing".

The best solution I could find for this is to use a bluetooth controller such as a WII remote or an OUYA controller. 

The instant thought occurs, why bother using Android on a laptop to play Android games when you can use the actual OUYA which is designed for playing Android games.

Within VirtualBox it is not possible to use the built in Bluetooth controller from your laptop. Instead I used a USB Bluetooth dongle

All you need to get the WII remote working is the application "WIIMote Controller" or "Bluez"

The same frustrations remain with scrolling but to be honest if I wanted to use Android on my computer it would be for playing games rather than to use the web browser or to read books.

I have written an article called "5 tips and tricks for using Android x86 within VirtualBox" which covers most of the information I have given above in more detail.

VirtualBox Issues

I found that many applications installed from the Play Store within VirtualBox crashed, which is a shame because it is probably the best way to use Android x86.

Using A Live USB

After I had exhausted many hours within VirtualBox I decided it was time to try it out as a live USB to see if the issues I was having running certain applications would go away. 

For instance Google Maps failed within VirtualBox and I can't believe the developers wouldn't have tried Google Maps out before releasing it into the wild.

The Live USB worked well and I can confirm that more of the applications installed from the Play Store worked without issue. 

Within VirtualBox there is a 60/40 split of what works and what doesn't work whereas on a live USB it is more 90/10.

My main issue with using the live USB is that it was a bit sluggish.

Installed On A Netbook

I decided to install the latest version on a netbook, the same one in fact that I used last time in 2012. This was by far the best experience of using Android x86.

Most of the applications worked and I was able to play games using a bluetooth controller. The sound is also better natively on the netbook than via VirtualBox.

Summary

Obviously reviewing Android x86 is very different to reviewing a standard distribution. 

After 1 hour I was ready to throw it away and never look at it again. I found the mixture of auto rotation issues, screen resolution issues and controller issues to be a real frustration.

I found myself searching around for other reviews of Android x86. There aren't many up to date reviews but this one by Dedoimedo back in 2012 lists many of the problems that I experienced even on the current version.

I didn't want to give up however. I wanted to persevere. Android is a good way to play games casually and anybody who has bought an OUYA will testify to this fact. I love my OUYA, it has brought the world of retrogaming and homebrew games back firmly into the now. The OUYA isn't for hardcore games but great for casual gamers.

The OUYA is built on top of Android and so it makes sense to try and use Android x86 for casual gaming.

This review might not be very long but I have spent a long time playing and experimenting with Android x86 and if you stick with it and are willing to play with settings then you may get something close to desirable.

Those who will get the most out of Android x86 will be using a computer with a touchscreen.

Thankyou for reading.


An Everyday Linux User Review Of Android x86 - Release 4.4 r3

Introduction

Android x86 has been riding high in the Distrowatch rankings for the past 6 months. I haven't looked at this distribution since July 2012 which if my maths serves me correctly is 3 years.

Why so long between reviews? When I last looked at Android x86 it simply didn't work very well. It wasn't a case that the developers had done a bad job of porting it across but more an issue with regards to how Android works.


The main problem I had with Android on my netbook was navigation. Netbooks and laptops require the use of a keyboard and a trackpad. Android has been built for touchscreen devices. 

The lack of scroll bars was a major issue, especially if you wanted to read a long article as it relies on you continually dragging up the screen with the trackpad.

The fact that Android is such a popular download however has led me to believe that people really want this and are keen to give this a go.

How To Get Android x86

You can get Android x86 by visiting http://www.android-x86.org/.

The website has a mixture of some really useful information and some out of date information which makes it a little bit painful to decipher.

For instance the latest release is Android x86 - Release 4,4 r3 which can be found by reading the "What is new?" section on the front page.

The downloads page only has Android x86 - Release 4.4 r2 available. The downloads page is also a little bit over complicated.

There is a 2.3 release for the eeePC and then a 2.2 release for a number of different devices. Scroll down a bit further and there are download links for the 4.0 release (again for different devices) and finally you get the 4.4 release.

Below all that are a whole load of deprecated release links.

There is a lot of good information on the website but some duff stuff as well. For instance the instructions say that the "Play Store" isn't available for Android x86 but it clearly is.

So here are the two download links you need for the latest release which is Android x86 4.4 r3.
The links are stored on Google Drive so may take some time to download. It is worth using a download manager such as uGet so that you can continue the download should it fail half way through.

Installing Android x86


Installing Android isn't particularly difficult. Steps include detecting the hard drive, creating partitions and installing GRUB.

After you have rebooted into Android you will have to go through the Android setup screens which ask you to choose your language, sign in to your Google account, choose whether to link to Google Services, set the date and time and enter your name as the user of the tablet.

First Impressions





























Initially I tried Android within VirtualBox and for good reason. It is unlikely that I would want to use Android on a computer all of the time and so setting it as my sole operating system didn't seem like a good idea.

There are certainly some important gotchas that will hit you when you try Android x86 within VirtualBox.

For instance the screen resolution is locked to a fairly small window. There aren't any simple settings for solving this issue. You have to set the resolution using the command line for virtualbox and then you have to adjust the GRUB settings for changing the resolution within Android.

Another issue which will wind up first time users is the auto rotation. Remember that Android is designed for handheld devices. On a phone or a tablet it is ok for the screen to rotate so that the application can be used in the optimum way. On a laptop it is definitely an undesirable side effect.

The first thing you will want to do therefore is turn off the auto rotation. If you find that you are stuck in a rotated screen press the F9 key twice quickly.

Whilst locking the rotation works for the main Android system it doesn't work for all applications because some applications have been designed to work in portrait mode. Even though you have locked the rotation when you install some games they will remain on their side.
































If you can play games with your head tilting to one side then this might work for you, especially if you have great trackpad skills.

The resolution is actually quite a simple one. There is an application called "Smart Rotator" that lets you set whether the application runs in portrait or landscape mode. 

Whilst good, the "Smart Rotator" isn't a perfect solution. Take the small VirtualBox window I referred to earlier for instance.

When you turn a portrait screen on its side into a landscape window that is too small it can have disastrous effects, especially when you are trying to play a bat and ball style game like Arkanoid. The bat basically sits above the first row of blocks and the ball just flies off knocking down all the blocks. The game is rendered unplayable.

I found a better solution to this is to edit the GRUB file and have multiple Android menu options with different resolutions. (Some made to be portable and others landscape).

The next issue I found is how to control games. Android as mentioned previously is made for touch screen devices and therefore many games either work by tilting the screen or by pressing on screen buttons.

Whilst this is ok for slower games, it is a disaster when you are trying to play "Retro Racing".

The best solution I could find for this is to use a bluetooth controller such as a WII remote or an OUYA controller. 

The instant thought occurs, why bother using Android on a laptop to play Android games when you can use the actual OUYA which is designed for playing Android games.

Within VirtualBox it is not possible to use the built in Bluetooth controller from your laptop. Instead I used a USB Bluetooth dongle

All you need to get the WII remote working is the application "WIIMote Controller" or "Bluez"

The same frustrations remain with scrolling but to be honest if I wanted to use Android on my computer it would be for playing games rather than to use the web browser or to read books.

I have written an article called "5 tips and tricks for using Android x86 within VirtualBox" which covers most of the information I have given above in more detail.

VirtualBox Issues

I found that many applications installed from the Play Store within VirtualBox crashed, which is a shame because it is probably the best way to use Android x86.

Using A Live USB

After I had exhausted many hours within VirtualBox I decided it was time to try it out as a live USB to see if the issues I was having running certain applications would go away. 

For instance Google Maps failed within VirtualBox and I can't believe the developers wouldn't have tried Google Maps out before releasing it into the wild.

The Live USB worked well and I can confirm that more of the applications installed from the Play Store worked without issue. 

Within VirtualBox there is a 60/40 split of what works and what doesn't work whereas on a live USB it is more 90/10.

My main issue with using the live USB is that it was a bit sluggish.

Installed On A Netbook

I decided to install the latest version on a netbook, the same one in fact that I used last time in 2012. This was by far the best experience of using Android x86.

Most of the applications worked and I was able to play games using a bluetooth controller. The sound is also better natively on the netbook than via VirtualBox.

Summary

Obviously reviewing Android x86 is very different to reviewing a standard distribution. 

After 1 hour I was ready to throw it away and never look at it again. I found the mixture of auto rotation issues, screen resolution issues and controller issues to be a real frustration.

I found myself searching around for other reviews of Android x86. There aren't many up to date reviews but this one by Dedoimedo back in 2012 lists many of the problems that I experienced even on the current version.

I didn't want to give up however. I wanted to persevere. Android is a good way to play games casually and anybody who has bought an OUYA will testify to this fact. I love my OUYA, it has brought the world of retrogaming and homebrew games back firmly into the now. The OUYA isn't for hardcore games but great for casual gamers.

The OUYA is built on top of Android and so it makes sense to try and use Android x86 for casual gaming.

This review might not be very long but I have spent a long time playing and experimenting with Android x86 and if you stick with it and are willing to play with settings then you may get something close to desirable.

Those who will get the most out of Android x86 will be using a computer with a touchscreen.

Thankyou for reading.


Posted at 22:03 |  by Gary Newell

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

I have been on holiday for the past 10 days so I haven't had much of a chance to test new Linux distributions or work on any tutorials.

I have had lots of available reading time however and there was one particular story in Web User magazine that really amazed me, or should I say annoyed me.

Basically Windows XP and Vista users were enticed into trying out the "Insider Preview" version of Windows 10 to help Microsoft find bugs and react to feedback.

As a reward for their input into Windows 10, the "Insider Preview" users were to be given a free upgrade to the full version when it has been fully released.

Except of course now they aren't. Microsoft has changed the terms. Only Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will receive a free upgrade to Windows 10. 

There have also been rumours circulating that the upgrade will only be supported for 1 year for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, at which point the operating system will work on a subscription basis. These rumours are considered to be false.

This article on the "The Inquirer" explains the situation further.

Quite simply if you have Windows XP or Windows Vista there is to be no free upgrade to Windows 10. If you wiped XP or Vista from your machine to install the "Insider Preview" and you don't have Windows disks or a recovery drive then you have been left high and dry. 

That is a big slap in the face from Microsoft isn't it? Thank you for trying our software and letting us fix the bad bits. They will now take all of the glory and your hard earned money as well.

It doesn't stop there of course. If you are a Windows 7 or Windows 8 user then you have to have a genuine version and that means if you upgraded from XP or Vista to those versions you are again in a tricky position.

What happens if Microsoft does indeed end up switching to a subscription model as they have with Office 365? Everyone is then locked in and Microsoft can basically set their own price from that point forward.

Switch to Linux. There are no scams, no teasers, no tricks. You can try it for free and you can use it for free.

Don't worry about the learning curve either. There are versions of Linux that are easy to install and easy to get to grips with such as Linux Mint, Zorin, PCLinuxOS and for those with older machines Lubuntu.

Need a guide? Try one of these:


There are many great reasons to use Linux. 

As well as being free to download and install (although it is a good idea to donate to the people that make the distribution you are using), there is a huge support network and people get back to you with answers to your queries far quicker than the Microsoft support forums and the answers are actually helpful.

The community is great. If you are looking for support, a bit of banter or want to contribute then it is easy to get involved but if you just want to use your computer that is perfectly fine as well. It is all about freedom.

If you are worried about certain software packages not working or hardware issues such as your printer not working with Linux then don't worry too much.

Every printer I have bought in the past 5 years has been easier to set up with Linux than it has with Windows.

There are thousands of really good free software packages available for Linux whether you are looking for a word processing package, spreadsheet tool, graphics editor, audio player or email client.

10 years ago Windows was dominant. Now you don't really need it. Don't let Microsoft get away with treating their customers like mugs.

Thankyou for reading.

Feel Scammed By Microsoft? Switch To Linux

I have been on holiday for the past 10 days so I haven't had much of a chance to test new Linux distributions or work on any tutorials.

I have had lots of available reading time however and there was one particular story in Web User magazine that really amazed me, or should I say annoyed me.

Basically Windows XP and Vista users were enticed into trying out the "Insider Preview" version of Windows 10 to help Microsoft find bugs and react to feedback.

As a reward for their input into Windows 10, the "Insider Preview" users were to be given a free upgrade to the full version when it has been fully released.

Except of course now they aren't. Microsoft has changed the terms. Only Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will receive a free upgrade to Windows 10. 

There have also been rumours circulating that the upgrade will only be supported for 1 year for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, at which point the operating system will work on a subscription basis. These rumours are considered to be false.

This article on the "The Inquirer" explains the situation further.

Quite simply if you have Windows XP or Windows Vista there is to be no free upgrade to Windows 10. If you wiped XP or Vista from your machine to install the "Insider Preview" and you don't have Windows disks or a recovery drive then you have been left high and dry. 

That is a big slap in the face from Microsoft isn't it? Thank you for trying our software and letting us fix the bad bits. They will now take all of the glory and your hard earned money as well.

It doesn't stop there of course. If you are a Windows 7 or Windows 8 user then you have to have a genuine version and that means if you upgraded from XP or Vista to those versions you are again in a tricky position.

What happens if Microsoft does indeed end up switching to a subscription model as they have with Office 365? Everyone is then locked in and Microsoft can basically set their own price from that point forward.

Switch to Linux. There are no scams, no teasers, no tricks. You can try it for free and you can use it for free.

Don't worry about the learning curve either. There are versions of Linux that are easy to install and easy to get to grips with such as Linux Mint, Zorin, PCLinuxOS and for those with older machines Lubuntu.

Need a guide? Try one of these:


There are many great reasons to use Linux. 

As well as being free to download and install (although it is a good idea to donate to the people that make the distribution you are using), there is a huge support network and people get back to you with answers to your queries far quicker than the Microsoft support forums and the answers are actually helpful.

The community is great. If you are looking for support, a bit of banter or want to contribute then it is easy to get involved but if you just want to use your computer that is perfectly fine as well. It is all about freedom.

If you are worried about certain software packages not working or hardware issues such as your printer not working with Linux then don't worry too much.

Every printer I have bought in the past 5 years has been easier to set up with Linux than it has with Windows.

There are thousands of really good free software packages available for Linux whether you are looking for a word processing package, spreadsheet tool, graphics editor, audio player or email client.

10 years ago Windows was dominant. Now you don't really need it. Don't let Microsoft get away with treating their customers like mugs.

Thankyou for reading.

Posted at 21:02 |  by Gary Newell

Sunday, 5 July 2015


Somebody I have been conversing with for a while now asked me a very interesting question the other day and rather than answer it directly I thought it would be good to gauge the opinions of the Everyday Linux User readers.

Recently I have written a few articles about Debian and one of those articles suggested ways to improve some peripheral things about it such as the website and the installer.

I have become an advocate of GNOME recently and as such I have obviously mentioned this.

One of the comments that I received stated that because I liked GNOME I am therefore one of those people that needs things dumbed down.

This got me thinking. Is making something easier to use necessarily the same as dumbing down and indeed is there anything wrong with dumbing down if that makes something easier to use?

Whenever you look at technical videos online (and they don't have to be about Linux) you will quite often see Unity being used as the desktop environment.

Chris from the Linux Action Show uses Arch but quite often when you see demonstrations from one of their videos you will again see Unity being used.

The point is, do they use Unity because they need something dumbed down or do they use it because it is actually convenient and easy to use when you really just need to get a job done?

I think the beauty of desktop environments such as Unity, GNOME and for non-Linux users OSX and Windows 8.1 is that they are very intuitive and easy to use and they keep out of your way.

The keyboard shortcuts are definitely a good thing and the ability to search for applications, documents, audio files and videos with just a few key clicks is just great.

I think that the people who don't like the Unity and GNOME style interface fall into one of two categories.

The first category would be the people who like things to be the way they have always been. These people would appreciate Cinnamon, KDE and MATE.

The second category would say that the reason they don't like Unity and GNOME is that the developers have assumed the users want the desktop to work in a particular way but there is no way to change it if the user wants it to work in an alternative way.

To be honest I am not adverse to tinkering with a desktop environment and so I really like XFCE, LXDE and more recently Enlightenment. When it comes down to it though if I really need to get something done in a hurry I would turn to a machine with GNOME or Unity on it first.

So what kind of Linux desktop environments do you prefer?

Do you prefer the modern desktop environments with maybe less flexibility but perhaps better desktop integration and slightly more intuitive or do you like things more traditional with menus and panels? Maybe you don't care so long as you can make it the way you want it. Let me know in the comments below.

Thankyou for reading

Do You Prefer Modern Or Traditional Linux Desktop Environments?


Somebody I have been conversing with for a while now asked me a very interesting question the other day and rather than answer it directly I thought it would be good to gauge the opinions of the Everyday Linux User readers.

Recently I have written a few articles about Debian and one of those articles suggested ways to improve some peripheral things about it such as the website and the installer.

I have become an advocate of GNOME recently and as such I have obviously mentioned this.

One of the comments that I received stated that because I liked GNOME I am therefore one of those people that needs things dumbed down.

This got me thinking. Is making something easier to use necessarily the same as dumbing down and indeed is there anything wrong with dumbing down if that makes something easier to use?

Whenever you look at technical videos online (and they don't have to be about Linux) you will quite often see Unity being used as the desktop environment.

Chris from the Linux Action Show uses Arch but quite often when you see demonstrations from one of their videos you will again see Unity being used.

The point is, do they use Unity because they need something dumbed down or do they use it because it is actually convenient and easy to use when you really just need to get a job done?

I think the beauty of desktop environments such as Unity, GNOME and for non-Linux users OSX and Windows 8.1 is that they are very intuitive and easy to use and they keep out of your way.

The keyboard shortcuts are definitely a good thing and the ability to search for applications, documents, audio files and videos with just a few key clicks is just great.

I think that the people who don't like the Unity and GNOME style interface fall into one of two categories.

The first category would be the people who like things to be the way they have always been. These people would appreciate Cinnamon, KDE and MATE.

The second category would say that the reason they don't like Unity and GNOME is that the developers have assumed the users want the desktop to work in a particular way but there is no way to change it if the user wants it to work in an alternative way.

To be honest I am not adverse to tinkering with a desktop environment and so I really like XFCE, LXDE and more recently Enlightenment. When it comes down to it though if I really need to get something done in a hurry I would turn to a machine with GNOME or Unity on it first.

So what kind of Linux desktop environments do you prefer?

Do you prefer the modern desktop environments with maybe less flexibility but perhaps better desktop integration and slightly more intuitive or do you like things more traditional with menus and panels? Maybe you don't care so long as you can make it the way you want it. Let me know in the comments below.

Thankyou for reading

Posted at 22:19 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Introduction

I have now been using Debian for a few weeks and it is therefore time for me to write a review of my experience thus far.

Debian has been around for what seems like forever now and it is the base for so many other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint, SolydXK and Knoppix.

I think that the general consensus amongst Linux users is that Debian is stable, dependable and a good environment on which to build upon.

Does that mean it is suitable for Everyone?

A couple of weeks ago I put my hand firmly in the hornets nest and started waving it around. My article "3 ways to improve Debian and I haven't even booted it yet" received a very mixed response on Reddit.

In summary the 3 points I made were as follows:
  1. The website is hard to navigate
  2. I couldn't get the live USB to boot with UEFI
  3. The installer is a little bit convoluted with similar option spread over a number of screens
As usual the responses to my points were somewhere between complete agreement, to disagreement and of course to be called "a retard" (Their words not mine).

Here are a few quotes to prove my point:


Debian is not for noobs and shouldn't dumb itself down for the sake of "usability". Different users have different needs
A project can not call itself "the universal operating system" and then be satisfied when only a small minority of people have the knowledge, patience and motivation to actually make use of it.
Telling people to "go back to Ubuntu" is admitting defeat, plain and simple.
Just use Ubuntu if you want all that stuff. Isn't that why Ubuntu was made in the first place?
Yes, removing or separating all of the options to an options section and just having one download on the main section will make it better. Ubuntu is for ease of use, Debian is for choice. Its really not that difficult..
When I first came to Debian I was confused about which ISO to download. I thought net install was a PXE utility and thought it bizarre that they would offer that as the default. 
I thought that exact same thing. They don't do a good job of explaining the differences between the different ISO options.
You aren't alone... I've tried 3-4 times, and somehow I've actually succeeded once. I guess it was just a lucky day. It has really disencouraged me from using it, and the time I tried I eventually got rid of it because of the hard-to-use documentation. 
Hope the Debian website maintainers notice this post. I've been using Debian for 10+ years and the website has never once been a pleasant experience.
Debian is not Ubuntu, the argument is invalid. Debian is for people who know how to play with it and want to play with it. You want Ubuntu? Go use Ubuntu.
The thing that bothered me about a number of the responses is that Debian isn't for everyone, if you aren't happy, use Ubuntu. There are clearly enough people for which this is a problem. The quote where it says "hope the Debian website maintainers notice this post" had 56 upvotes. That is 56 potential Debian users who probably went elsewhere.

So where does that leave the rest of Debian? Well you might be surprised. Read on.

Installation

I have already covered much about the installation experience with the comments above.

The issue isn't really with the installation itself. There are a lot of screens to get through though and I think some could be condensed.

For instance there is a screen for entering the root password, another screen for entering the default user's name, a third screen for entering the username for the default user and a fourth screen for entering the passwords for the default user. Clearly this could be fixed with just one screen.

All in all though the actual install from the network installation download on the main Debian homepage made it simple enough to get a system dual booting Windows 8.1 and Debian Jessie.

Click here for a guide to dual booting Debian Jessie and Windows 8.1.

First Impressions

I chose to install the GNOME version of Debian because at the moment GNOME is my favourite desktop environment. (I do have a growing admiration for Enlightenment however).

The thing I like about GNOME is that it doesn't matter whether you use Debian, Fedora or openSUSE you know that the basic applications are going to be the same and the look and feel is going to be the same.


When you get used to GNOME's keyboard shortcuts it is incredibly easy to navigate and integrates well with other applications such as GNOME music and the Totem video player.

Connecting To The Internet

Once Debian is installed you will find that in the main it is as easy to use as Ubuntu or Mint.

Connecting to the internet using the GNOME desktop is a matter of clicking on the little arrow in the top right corner and selecting the relevant wireless network (assuming you are connecting wirelessly). You will of course be asked for a security key unless you are using an open network.

Flash and MP3


Flash isn't natively available within Debian but it is fairly easy to install.

I wrote a guide showing how to install Adobe Flash in Debian. It also shows how to use a free tool called Lightspark which does pretty much the same job. I used it to try out most of the Flash games that I like and it worked a treat.

Playing MP3s caused no issues whatsoever and no further codecs needed to be installed to get them to play. Potentially easier than Ubuntu then.

Applications

The applications installed with the GNOME version of Debian include everything the average person needs to get started.

The web browser is called Iceweasel which is an unbranded version of Firefox.

For email there is the Evolution mail client which has the look and feel of Microsoft Outlook. (Click here for a full guide to Evolution)

Rhythmbox is the default audio player which is the perfect client for listening to your music collection, podcasts and online radio stations. It can also be used as a DAAP server. (Click here for a full guide to Rhythmbox)

If you want to watch videos you can use the Totem video player. I had a few issues with playing online videos via this tool but I could play DVDs and local files.

LibreOffice is completely installed including the wordprocessing tool, spreadsheet package, presentation tool, database package and all the other surrounding tools such as Math.

If you need to burn disks you can use Brasero and for editing images GIMP is installed.

There are various other games and applications installed such as chat clients and bittorrent clients.

Installing Applications

The default package manager within Debian is Synaptic.





















One of the only things I don't like about Ubuntu is the software centre and I really appreciate the simple interface that Synaptic brings.

There are a list of categories in the left pane and applications for the category in the right pane. Selecting a package brings up a description.

To install applications place a check in the boxes of the applications you wish to install and click "Apply". Simple, easy, straight forward. The best bit is that all the applications in the repository are listed when you search for them. That may sound silly, but I have found the Ubuntu software centre hit and miss in this regard.

Performance


I am using a fairly decent Dell Inspiron laptop and it runs incredibly well even though I haven't installed any proprietary drivers.

Generally when nothing else is running 650 megabytes of memory is used and my CPUs are hardly taxed at all.

Issues

As you would probably expect from running the stable version of Debian, the system is very stable indeed. I haven't received any odd messages, there is no performance degradation at any point and the experience has been largely positive.

The Totem video player has an issue when trying to play Youtube videos but I have seen this issue with other distributions running GNOME and Totem.

Summary

Some of the comments that I posted from Reddit at the beginning of this article are quite correct. Debian isn't Ubuntu and should not be seen as such.

I don't particularly understand some of the comments that suggest that Debian isn't for everyone and specifically not new users. Debian with the GNOME desktop has to be on a par with Ubuntu GNOME edition or very close to it.

Now that Debian is installed on my system it runs very well and has all of the software that I need.

If you don't for whatever reason like Ubuntu then Debian would be a really good alternative to go for.

The only real let down for me is the website and the installer. I would be interested to find out how many people out there are using Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu or a distribution based on Debian simply because they found the first stage of getting Debian too hard in the first place.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here for my Ubuntu vs openSUSE vs Fedora article where I compared the GNOME editions of all three distributions.

An Everyday Linux User Review Of Debian Jessie

Introduction

I have now been using Debian for a few weeks and it is therefore time for me to write a review of my experience thus far.

Debian has been around for what seems like forever now and it is the base for so many other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint, SolydXK and Knoppix.

I think that the general consensus amongst Linux users is that Debian is stable, dependable and a good environment on which to build upon.

Does that mean it is suitable for Everyone?

A couple of weeks ago I put my hand firmly in the hornets nest and started waving it around. My article "3 ways to improve Debian and I haven't even booted it yet" received a very mixed response on Reddit.

In summary the 3 points I made were as follows:
  1. The website is hard to navigate
  2. I couldn't get the live USB to boot with UEFI
  3. The installer is a little bit convoluted with similar option spread over a number of screens
As usual the responses to my points were somewhere between complete agreement, to disagreement and of course to be called "a retard" (Their words not mine).

Here are a few quotes to prove my point:


Debian is not for noobs and shouldn't dumb itself down for the sake of "usability". Different users have different needs
A project can not call itself "the universal operating system" and then be satisfied when only a small minority of people have the knowledge, patience and motivation to actually make use of it.
Telling people to "go back to Ubuntu" is admitting defeat, plain and simple.
Just use Ubuntu if you want all that stuff. Isn't that why Ubuntu was made in the first place?
Yes, removing or separating all of the options to an options section and just having one download on the main section will make it better. Ubuntu is for ease of use, Debian is for choice. Its really not that difficult..
When I first came to Debian I was confused about which ISO to download. I thought net install was a PXE utility and thought it bizarre that they would offer that as the default. 
I thought that exact same thing. They don't do a good job of explaining the differences between the different ISO options.
You aren't alone... I've tried 3-4 times, and somehow I've actually succeeded once. I guess it was just a lucky day. It has really disencouraged me from using it, and the time I tried I eventually got rid of it because of the hard-to-use documentation. 
Hope the Debian website maintainers notice this post. I've been using Debian for 10+ years and the website has never once been a pleasant experience.
Debian is not Ubuntu, the argument is invalid. Debian is for people who know how to play with it and want to play with it. You want Ubuntu? Go use Ubuntu.
The thing that bothered me about a number of the responses is that Debian isn't for everyone, if you aren't happy, use Ubuntu. There are clearly enough people for which this is a problem. The quote where it says "hope the Debian website maintainers notice this post" had 56 upvotes. That is 56 potential Debian users who probably went elsewhere.

So where does that leave the rest of Debian? Well you might be surprised. Read on.

Installation

I have already covered much about the installation experience with the comments above.

The issue isn't really with the installation itself. There are a lot of screens to get through though and I think some could be condensed.

For instance there is a screen for entering the root password, another screen for entering the default user's name, a third screen for entering the username for the default user and a fourth screen for entering the passwords for the default user. Clearly this could be fixed with just one screen.

All in all though the actual install from the network installation download on the main Debian homepage made it simple enough to get a system dual booting Windows 8.1 and Debian Jessie.

Click here for a guide to dual booting Debian Jessie and Windows 8.1.

First Impressions

I chose to install the GNOME version of Debian because at the moment GNOME is my favourite desktop environment. (I do have a growing admiration for Enlightenment however).

The thing I like about GNOME is that it doesn't matter whether you use Debian, Fedora or openSUSE you know that the basic applications are going to be the same and the look and feel is going to be the same.


When you get used to GNOME's keyboard shortcuts it is incredibly easy to navigate and integrates well with other applications such as GNOME music and the Totem video player.

Connecting To The Internet

Once Debian is installed you will find that in the main it is as easy to use as Ubuntu or Mint.

Connecting to the internet using the GNOME desktop is a matter of clicking on the little arrow in the top right corner and selecting the relevant wireless network (assuming you are connecting wirelessly). You will of course be asked for a security key unless you are using an open network.

Flash and MP3


Flash isn't natively available within Debian but it is fairly easy to install.

I wrote a guide showing how to install Adobe Flash in Debian. It also shows how to use a free tool called Lightspark which does pretty much the same job. I used it to try out most of the Flash games that I like and it worked a treat.

Playing MP3s caused no issues whatsoever and no further codecs needed to be installed to get them to play. Potentially easier than Ubuntu then.

Applications

The applications installed with the GNOME version of Debian include everything the average person needs to get started.

The web browser is called Iceweasel which is an unbranded version of Firefox.

For email there is the Evolution mail client which has the look and feel of Microsoft Outlook. (Click here for a full guide to Evolution)

Rhythmbox is the default audio player which is the perfect client for listening to your music collection, podcasts and online radio stations. It can also be used as a DAAP server. (Click here for a full guide to Rhythmbox)

If you want to watch videos you can use the Totem video player. I had a few issues with playing online videos via this tool but I could play DVDs and local files.

LibreOffice is completely installed including the wordprocessing tool, spreadsheet package, presentation tool, database package and all the other surrounding tools such as Math.

If you need to burn disks you can use Brasero and for editing images GIMP is installed.

There are various other games and applications installed such as chat clients and bittorrent clients.

Installing Applications

The default package manager within Debian is Synaptic.





















One of the only things I don't like about Ubuntu is the software centre and I really appreciate the simple interface that Synaptic brings.

There are a list of categories in the left pane and applications for the category in the right pane. Selecting a package brings up a description.

To install applications place a check in the boxes of the applications you wish to install and click "Apply". Simple, easy, straight forward. The best bit is that all the applications in the repository are listed when you search for them. That may sound silly, but I have found the Ubuntu software centre hit and miss in this regard.

Performance


I am using a fairly decent Dell Inspiron laptop and it runs incredibly well even though I haven't installed any proprietary drivers.

Generally when nothing else is running 650 megabytes of memory is used and my CPUs are hardly taxed at all.

Issues

As you would probably expect from running the stable version of Debian, the system is very stable indeed. I haven't received any odd messages, there is no performance degradation at any point and the experience has been largely positive.

The Totem video player has an issue when trying to play Youtube videos but I have seen this issue with other distributions running GNOME and Totem.

Summary

Some of the comments that I posted from Reddit at the beginning of this article are quite correct. Debian isn't Ubuntu and should not be seen as such.

I don't particularly understand some of the comments that suggest that Debian isn't for everyone and specifically not new users. Debian with the GNOME desktop has to be on a par with Ubuntu GNOME edition or very close to it.

Now that Debian is installed on my system it runs very well and has all of the software that I need.

If you don't for whatever reason like Ubuntu then Debian would be a really good alternative to go for.

The only real let down for me is the website and the installer. I would be interested to find out how many people out there are using Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu or a distribution based on Debian simply because they found the first stage of getting Debian too hard in the first place.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here for my Ubuntu vs openSUSE vs Fedora article where I compared the GNOME editions of all three distributions.

Posted at 23:51 |  by Gary Newell

Thursday, 25 June 2015


I have been writing this blog since 2012 and I have been asked a number of times by other bloggers why I still use Google's Blogger service as opposed to a hosted Wordpress site.

The truth is that I still very much see Everyday Linux User as a hobby. It isn't a job and I am not actively trying to make money by doing it. I find the Blogger interface easy to use and the spam filters work quite well. I tried using Wordpress a while back and it became quickly apparent that with more power came more responsibility as I spent more time trying to keep Wordpress from being bombed by spammers than actually writing.

People more serious about their work use Wordpress because it supposedly has 1000s of plugins and is far more powerful than the Blogger style interface provided by Google.

Whilst web sites are built on technologies such as HTML, CSS, PHP, AJAX and .NET, most bloggers and small business owners don't really care because with the adoption of site builders and blogging platforms you don't need to have any coding experience to create a website.

Obviously big companies still use web developers and software developers to create bespoke websites and software but your average hairdressers and driving instructors are quite happy with a point and click template builder where they can set up a logo, add a few images and accompany the images with text about their business.

People wanting to sell products can use off the shelf shopping carts and there are loads of add-ons for creating polls, charts, chat rooms and photo galleries.

Everyday Linux User wasn't my first foray into doing stuff on the web. I had a web site about 10 years ago called "Easy Web Page Design". I won't post the link because I can't guarantee the content that is on there anymore but you can still find it on the wayback machine.

Easy Web Page Design
 The point of "Easy Web Page Design" was to teach HTML, CSS and JavaScript to ordinary people in the same way that Everyday Linux User is about promoting and teaching Linux to the average computer user who doesn't necessarily come from an IT background.

The site Easy Web Page Design did really well for a while especially when MySpace became a big thing and everybody wanted to learn how to customise their MySpace profiles.

You can still find some of the tools and scripts that I gave away for free at hotscripts.com. For instance there was the JS Menu Maker which was used to generate CSS sliding menus. Remember there was no JQuery at the time. Obviously I wouldn't recommend using any of the tools I created back then now because time has moved on and things change.

At the time that I created Easy Web Page Design I used Linux web hosting for various reasons and the main one was of course price. Other reasons included the support for PHP and MySQL which generally wasn't provided with web hosts selling Windows hosting.

The cost of Windows hosting back then was extremely prohibitive because not only did you have to pay for the cost of hosting but the database options were very limited. In many cases you had to use Microsoft Access unless you could afford to pay for Microsoft SQL Server hosting.

If you want to get a website up and running very quickly and you just need to use a shared web host (which is basically a virtual server running 100s or sometimes 1000s of websites on it) with a site builder or Wordpress pre-installed then there are literally hundreds or maybe even thousands of web hosts available.

There are loads of adverts on television and on the web for sites such as Godaddy, Host Gator and 1-and-1 hosting where they show point and click web site creation at incredibly low prices and quite often they will throw in a free domain name.

What is clear is that each of these web hosts prefer to sell Linux based web hosting. I looked at http://www.top10bestwebsitehosting.com/ which is a web hosting comparison site and clicked on each of the links.

Most of the hosts don't even bother telling you it is Linux hosting they are selling and very few offer Windows hosting at all and if they do you get a lot less for your money.

For web hosts, Linux is heaven. They provide a bit of disk space and bandwidth and the rest of the tools that they provide are available to them for nothing, yet make them look like they are giving you everything.


For instance web.com boast that their hosting gives you PERL, Python, PHP, MySQL, Wordpress, Ruby On Rails, Drupal and Joomla. (Wow, do people still use Joomla? I remember creating sites for Dressage Scotland and British Riding Clubs using Joomla over 10 years ago). What price do web.com offer for this service? Less than $1 a month.

Linux makes it possible for small businesses, entrepreneurs and bloggers to take a punt on a domain name and cheap hosting. Basically if you have an idea you can test it first using one of the cheap web hosts first and if it takes off scale up to dedicated servers.

Obviously there is an issue that many of the cheap web hosts offer the world's best service at the world's lowest price yet many fail to deliver. In addition because web hosting is so cheap scammers can quickly spin up a dodgy shop front and steal from thousands of people and shut the site down again before anyone has noticed.

The only real solution to this is to use comparison sites for comparing prices and user reviews and to search for bad reviews of the companies listed, using Google or on Youtube. When people have had a bad experience they aren't frightened to let the world know.

Thankyou for reading










Why Linux Web Hosting Is Good For Bloggers And Entrepreneurs


I have been writing this blog since 2012 and I have been asked a number of times by other bloggers why I still use Google's Blogger service as opposed to a hosted Wordpress site.

The truth is that I still very much see Everyday Linux User as a hobby. It isn't a job and I am not actively trying to make money by doing it. I find the Blogger interface easy to use and the spam filters work quite well. I tried using Wordpress a while back and it became quickly apparent that with more power came more responsibility as I spent more time trying to keep Wordpress from being bombed by spammers than actually writing.

People more serious about their work use Wordpress because it supposedly has 1000s of plugins and is far more powerful than the Blogger style interface provided by Google.

Whilst web sites are built on technologies such as HTML, CSS, PHP, AJAX and .NET, most bloggers and small business owners don't really care because with the adoption of site builders and blogging platforms you don't need to have any coding experience to create a website.

Obviously big companies still use web developers and software developers to create bespoke websites and software but your average hairdressers and driving instructors are quite happy with a point and click template builder where they can set up a logo, add a few images and accompany the images with text about their business.

People wanting to sell products can use off the shelf shopping carts and there are loads of add-ons for creating polls, charts, chat rooms and photo galleries.

Everyday Linux User wasn't my first foray into doing stuff on the web. I had a web site about 10 years ago called "Easy Web Page Design". I won't post the link because I can't guarantee the content that is on there anymore but you can still find it on the wayback machine.

Easy Web Page Design
 The point of "Easy Web Page Design" was to teach HTML, CSS and JavaScript to ordinary people in the same way that Everyday Linux User is about promoting and teaching Linux to the average computer user who doesn't necessarily come from an IT background.

The site Easy Web Page Design did really well for a while especially when MySpace became a big thing and everybody wanted to learn how to customise their MySpace profiles.

You can still find some of the tools and scripts that I gave away for free at hotscripts.com. For instance there was the JS Menu Maker which was used to generate CSS sliding menus. Remember there was no JQuery at the time. Obviously I wouldn't recommend using any of the tools I created back then now because time has moved on and things change.

At the time that I created Easy Web Page Design I used Linux web hosting for various reasons and the main one was of course price. Other reasons included the support for PHP and MySQL which generally wasn't provided with web hosts selling Windows hosting.

The cost of Windows hosting back then was extremely prohibitive because not only did you have to pay for the cost of hosting but the database options were very limited. In many cases you had to use Microsoft Access unless you could afford to pay for Microsoft SQL Server hosting.

If you want to get a website up and running very quickly and you just need to use a shared web host (which is basically a virtual server running 100s or sometimes 1000s of websites on it) with a site builder or Wordpress pre-installed then there are literally hundreds or maybe even thousands of web hosts available.

There are loads of adverts on television and on the web for sites such as Godaddy, Host Gator and 1-and-1 hosting where they show point and click web site creation at incredibly low prices and quite often they will throw in a free domain name.

What is clear is that each of these web hosts prefer to sell Linux based web hosting. I looked at http://www.top10bestwebsitehosting.com/ which is a web hosting comparison site and clicked on each of the links.

Most of the hosts don't even bother telling you it is Linux hosting they are selling and very few offer Windows hosting at all and if they do you get a lot less for your money.

For web hosts, Linux is heaven. They provide a bit of disk space and bandwidth and the rest of the tools that they provide are available to them for nothing, yet make them look like they are giving you everything.


For instance web.com boast that their hosting gives you PERL, Python, PHP, MySQL, Wordpress, Ruby On Rails, Drupal and Joomla. (Wow, do people still use Joomla? I remember creating sites for Dressage Scotland and British Riding Clubs using Joomla over 10 years ago). What price do web.com offer for this service? Less than $1 a month.

Linux makes it possible for small businesses, entrepreneurs and bloggers to take a punt on a domain name and cheap hosting. Basically if you have an idea you can test it first using one of the cheap web hosts first and if it takes off scale up to dedicated servers.

Obviously there is an issue that many of the cheap web hosts offer the world's best service at the world's lowest price yet many fail to deliver. In addition because web hosting is so cheap scammers can quickly spin up a dodgy shop front and steal from thousands of people and shut the site down again before anyone has noticed.

The only real solution to this is to use comparison sites for comparing prices and user reviews and to search for bad reviews of the companies listed, using Google or on Youtube. When people have had a bad experience they aren't frightened to let the world know.

Thankyou for reading










Posted at 23:47 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 23 June 2015



One of the things we all love about Linux (sorry I mean GNU/Linux) is the amount of choice that is available to us.

When it comes to choosing a desktop environment there is an abundance of choice and each one has its own unique way of providing a user experience which the developers hope will make us happy enough to use it over one of the other products on the market.

The way to dominate any market place relies on a few key factors which can determine whether a product is successful or not. For instance being first to market can give you a head start on the competition. If there is already something on the market then you have the choice to be better or be cheaper.

When it comes to Linux, cheaper usually isn't possible, as most software is free to use anyway (although it is a good idea to donate to the developers of the products you use most). If you can't beat the competition on price then you either have to be the best or you have to provide a unique selling point or target a niche.

Over the years I have used and enjoyed many of the most popular desktop environments including UNITY, GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE and LXDE. Each of them have nice features and it is hard to choose one over another.

Earlier on this year I debated the merits of Unity vs GNOME. They tend to occupy the same space in terms of the types of users that would use them. They both provide modern interfaces with ease of use, desktop integration and speed of navigation the key to success. At the moment I am swaying more to the GNOME side than Unity but that decision can change based on my current mood. To be honest I am happy using either of them.

Cinnamon is for those people who like a more traditional user interface with menus, panels and icons. If you are the type of user who likes to customise the desktop to make it the way you want it then it has a number of features to allow you to do so. (Click here for a guide to customising Cinnamon). 

KDE is somewhere between traditional and modern. If you don't mess around with the activities views then you can happily live in a world with traditional menus and icons but the activities views enable you to create different themes for different tasks such as multimedia and search.

MATE, XFCE and LXDE all cover very similar ground. They are all lightweight and they are all heavily customisable. Personally I think that XFCE is the ultimate desktop when it comes to customising your experience. (Click here for a guide to customising XFCE, and LXDE).

A while ago now I had Bodhi Linux 2 installed on a netbook and the desktop environment used by Bodhi is, or has been Enlightenment or E17 as it was known then. I really liked Bodhi on my netbook. It was easy to use and the performance was great but Enlightenment takes a bit of getting used to.

If you have been reading my work over at linux.about.com then you might have read my recent review of Bodhi Linux 3.0. In general the review is positive and to be honest if I wrote the review again today it would be even more positive because I have been using it on my main laptop every day and I am really enjoying the experience.

I decided to write a guide showing how to customise Enlightenment expecting it to be a 3 or 4 page post but I have now written three articles and I have barely scratched the surface. The truth is that the Enlightenment desktop has an incredible amount of customisable features, modules, gadgets and tweaks that you can adjust, install and use to make your desktop work the way you want it to.

There are some bugs and it isn't 100% perfect and I think there are areas where it can be improved such as the documentation, support and basic overall clarity of the use of certain features.

Bodhi Linux have an announcement on their blog stating that they are forking the Enlightenment desktop because there were so many bugs in E18 that it was unusable and E19 whilst a little bit better did not perform as well as E17 had done so for many years. The new desktop environment will be called Moksha and will be based initially on E17.

So just as I was beginning to love Enlightenment this comes as a huge blow because no other distribution has worked so hard to make Enlightenment shine the way Bodhi Linux has. Yes, other distributions have an Enlightenment version available but they haven't embraced it in the same way. 

Could this be the age of Enlightenment? It is difficult to see how it can be but yet in a way it could be but under the name Moksha.

Have you used Bodhi Linux or another distribution with the Enlightenment desktop? What do you think of it? 

If you are thinking of trying a different Linux distribution then consider giving Bodhi Linux a go and spend some time getting used to it. 

Feel free to read my guides on installing and customising Bodhi and E19. We are only 3 parts in to what could be a mammoth series:
Thankyou for reading

Could This Be The Age Of Enlightenment?



One of the things we all love about Linux (sorry I mean GNU/Linux) is the amount of choice that is available to us.

When it comes to choosing a desktop environment there is an abundance of choice and each one has its own unique way of providing a user experience which the developers hope will make us happy enough to use it over one of the other products on the market.

The way to dominate any market place relies on a few key factors which can determine whether a product is successful or not. For instance being first to market can give you a head start on the competition. If there is already something on the market then you have the choice to be better or be cheaper.

When it comes to Linux, cheaper usually isn't possible, as most software is free to use anyway (although it is a good idea to donate to the developers of the products you use most). If you can't beat the competition on price then you either have to be the best or you have to provide a unique selling point or target a niche.

Over the years I have used and enjoyed many of the most popular desktop environments including UNITY, GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE and LXDE. Each of them have nice features and it is hard to choose one over another.

Earlier on this year I debated the merits of Unity vs GNOME. They tend to occupy the same space in terms of the types of users that would use them. They both provide modern interfaces with ease of use, desktop integration and speed of navigation the key to success. At the moment I am swaying more to the GNOME side than Unity but that decision can change based on my current mood. To be honest I am happy using either of them.

Cinnamon is for those people who like a more traditional user interface with menus, panels and icons. If you are the type of user who likes to customise the desktop to make it the way you want it then it has a number of features to allow you to do so. (Click here for a guide to customising Cinnamon). 

KDE is somewhere between traditional and modern. If you don't mess around with the activities views then you can happily live in a world with traditional menus and icons but the activities views enable you to create different themes for different tasks such as multimedia and search.

MATE, XFCE and LXDE all cover very similar ground. They are all lightweight and they are all heavily customisable. Personally I think that XFCE is the ultimate desktop when it comes to customising your experience. (Click here for a guide to customising XFCE, and LXDE).

A while ago now I had Bodhi Linux 2 installed on a netbook and the desktop environment used by Bodhi is, or has been Enlightenment or E17 as it was known then. I really liked Bodhi on my netbook. It was easy to use and the performance was great but Enlightenment takes a bit of getting used to.

If you have been reading my work over at linux.about.com then you might have read my recent review of Bodhi Linux 3.0. In general the review is positive and to be honest if I wrote the review again today it would be even more positive because I have been using it on my main laptop every day and I am really enjoying the experience.

I decided to write a guide showing how to customise Enlightenment expecting it to be a 3 or 4 page post but I have now written three articles and I have barely scratched the surface. The truth is that the Enlightenment desktop has an incredible amount of customisable features, modules, gadgets and tweaks that you can adjust, install and use to make your desktop work the way you want it to.

There are some bugs and it isn't 100% perfect and I think there are areas where it can be improved such as the documentation, support and basic overall clarity of the use of certain features.

Bodhi Linux have an announcement on their blog stating that they are forking the Enlightenment desktop because there were so many bugs in E18 that it was unusable and E19 whilst a little bit better did not perform as well as E17 had done so for many years. The new desktop environment will be called Moksha and will be based initially on E17.

So just as I was beginning to love Enlightenment this comes as a huge blow because no other distribution has worked so hard to make Enlightenment shine the way Bodhi Linux has. Yes, other distributions have an Enlightenment version available but they haven't embraced it in the same way. 

Could this be the age of Enlightenment? It is difficult to see how it can be but yet in a way it could be but under the name Moksha.

Have you used Bodhi Linux or another distribution with the Enlightenment desktop? What do you think of it? 

If you are thinking of trying a different Linux distribution then consider giving Bodhi Linux a go and spend some time getting used to it. 

Feel free to read my guides on installing and customising Bodhi and E19. We are only 3 parts in to what could be a mammoth series:
Thankyou for reading

Posted at 21:56 |  by Gary Newell

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