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Thursday, 23 June 2016

Introduction

It has been a bit of a slow year review wise. There are a lot of distributions that are due to release a new version soon including Linux Mint and Zorin but others seem to be lagging behind. This is of course an article for another day.

I have chosen to review PCLinuxOS 2016 on the MATE desktop as it has been a while since I last looked at it.

I am using the Lenovo Ideapad Y700 for this review and so I was expecting a few teething troubles as I had come across issues with both Ubuntu and Linux Mint due to the fact this laptop is running up to date hardware.

Previously I have had issues with the NVidia graphics card and the Intel iwlwifi drivers on other distributions.

For some time I steered clear of PCLinuxOS as there wasn't a UEFI version but this has all changed and I was pleasantly surprised by most of the experience.

PCLinuxOS is a rolling release distribution. This means that once it is installed you don't need to upgrade it as the update system will keep your operating system completely up to date.

How To Get PCLinuxOS





















This review is for the MATE version of PCLinuxOS.


If you scroll to the bottom of the page there is a list of website mirrors from where you can download the ISO image.

You can create a bootable USB drive for PCLinuxOS using the Win32 Disk Imaging software. This guide shows how to create a bootable drive for Ubuntu but it will work for PCLinuxOS as well. You just need to choose the PCLinuxOS ISO that you downloaded using the link above.


How To Install PCLinuxOS

Boot into the PCLinuxOS live USB drive.

If you are using a computer with a standard BIOS then you should just be able to insert the USB drive and boot your computer.

If you are using a computer with UEFI from within Windows, insert the USB drive which you have installed PCLinuxOS on, hold down the shift key and reboot your computer.

When you see the blue UEFI boot screen navigate through until you see an option to boot for EFI USB drive.

If you have secure boot turned off you will see the following screen.























You will see a menu which lets you choose between booting into the live version or to simply start installing PCLinuxOS.























PCLinuxOS has a particularly nice loading screen which looks crisp and professional. It gives you that warm fuzzy feeling straight away.


To start the installer double click on the "Install" icon on the desktop.

The installer starts with a welcome screen.

Simply click "Next" to move on.











The next screen is a fairly colourful if not somewhat confusing looking partitioning screen.

I recommend creating space prior to use PCLinuxOS using the Windows disk management tool if you wish to dual boot.








From the partitioning screen you will see options which offer to install PCLinuxOS into the free space, use an existing partition (to overwrite a current Linux distribution), erase the entire disk to make PCLinuxOS the only operating system or custom.

Note that there is a dropdown at the top of the screen so if you have multiple disks such as an SSD and a hard drive you can select the drive you wish to install PCLinuxOS to.

It looks a bit freaky but the use the free space option does indeed create a decent dual boot setup on a UEFI based system.

A big red warning appears telling you that partitions are about to be wiped so you had better be sure that you have chosen the right drive before continuing.


Click "Next" to go for it.





A message appears telling you that certain packages that you do not need are going to be removed from the installation.

Simply click "Next" and let it do it's stuff.









The next screen shows you where the bootloader will be installed.

I let the installer choose the boot device and simply clicked next to move onto the next screen.

The security on this screen is for the boot loader and not for the main operating system.





A screen will now display the options that will show up within the grub menu along with the command line settings.

Generally you can just click "Finish" at this point.








You now need to reboot your computer, unplug the USB drive and press enter to boot into PCLinuxOS.











The First Boot

When you boot for the first time you will be asked to select your timezone.

Simply pick the relevant option from the list.







You now have the option of choosing to get the time set from an NTP server which is supposed to get the correct time for your computer when you log in.







You now have to set up the administrator (root) password for your computer.









And finally you need to set up a default user account for using PCLinuxOS.

Simply enter your name, a user name and a password.








Finally you will appear at the login screen. This is the first screen you will see on subsequent boots.

Simply choose your username from the left pane and enter your password.

First Impressions






















PCLinuxOS MATE loads into a fairly standard looking desktop.

There are icons in the top left corner for "computer", "home" and "trash". You will also see other mounted drives such as USB drives.

At the bottom of the screen is a panel with a menu icon in the bottom left and quick launch icons for the Caja file manager, the terminal, the PCLinuxOS control centre, the Synaptic package manager and Firefox.

In the bottom right corner is the clock, power settings, audio settings and network settings.

Connecting To The Internet

When you click on the network icon the network center screen will load.

When I first checked the wireless section there weren't any networks listed.

It turns out that my wifi was blocked in a similar way to the way it was when I installed Linux Mint.

In this case though the rfkill unblock all command was all that I needed to run to get the internet to work.

With the internet working I was able to choose a network.

The PCLinuxOS Control Center



























You can configure most things within PCLinuxOS by using the Control Center. There is an icon in the quick launch bar or you can select the "Control Center" option from the "System" menu.

The Control Center has sections for "Software Management", "Sharing", "Network Services", "Hardware", "Network & Internet", "Systtem", "Network Sharing", "Local Disks", "Security" and "Boot".



The "Network Sharing" option allows you to configure network shares. This is useful if you want to access devices such as the WD MyCloud network storage.



Essentially the Control Centre is where you set up things like your printers and other devices. As you can see my printer was picked up straight away and I can confirm that it worked without any issues.

Customising The Desktop

MATE is one of the more customisable desktops. You can access the appearance settings by clicking on the menu and choosing "system -> preferences -> look and feel -> appearance".


You can use the appearance settings to choose a new theme and to change the background wallpaper. There are a number of different wallpapers pre-installed but you can download your own by clicking the "get more online" link. 

If you have your own images already installed simply click the "Add" button and choose the wallpaper you wish to use.

One thing I found frustrating with the default PCLinuxOS settings was that when I clicked on an image it automatically loaded into GIMP.

GIMP is great for image editing but a bit overkill if you just want to view an image.

It is easy enough to change the preferred applications. Simply click the menu icon and choose "system -> preferences -> personal -> preferred applications".

The "Preferred Applications" screen is split into a number of different tabs. You can change the image viewer from the multimedia screen.


Another thing I don't really like is the single click to open thing that is set by default into PCLinuxOS.

It is far too easy to accidentally open something even though you are trying just to drag it.

To change this setting click the menu icon and choose "system -> preferences -> personal -> file management".

There are lots of different tweaks you can make but the double click option is on the "behaviour" tab.







Flash And MP3

The default web browser is Firefox. Flash works out of the box as does the ability to play MP3 audio.


It is worth pointing out that PCLinuxOS comes with Clementine as the default audio player and this is by far my favourite audio player available on any platform.

I find the interface easy to use and visually pleasing.

Applications






















I downloaded the MATE version of PCLinuxOS. There is a version called the Full Monty which comes with pretty much every package you could ever need installed by default.

As it happens the MATE version still comes with a healthy selection even though the download was just 1.2 gigabytes in size.

The full LibreOffice suite is installed, as is the GIMP image editor.

I have already mentioned that Clementine is the audio player and for watching videos there is the VLC media player.

The default web browser is FireFox and the email client is Thunderbird. You also get the Pidgin instant messenger and QTorrent for downloading torrents.

Other notable tools are a PDF editor and the Vokoscreen screen recording software. You also get Dropbox.

Installing Applications

The package manager within PCLinuxOS is Synaptic.




























Whilst Synaptic might not be as pretty as the Software Centre style tools of other distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint it is at least fully functional and shows you every package there is available rather than hiding stuff.

I didn't have to enable any extra repositories either to find packages such as the Google Chrome web browser and Steam.



























I even installed the desktop version of the Google Play software which allows me to play albums I have bought for my phone.

The Kernel

The default kernel in PCLinuxOS is 4.4.1 but you can find an upgraded version in the package manager.

This was useful for me as the NVidia graphics card I was using wasn't automatically picked up when PCLinuxOS was first installed.

By installing the 4.6.2 kernel my NVidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card kicked into life.

This saved a lot of messing around that I encountered whilst installing Linux Mint on the same machine. I am hoping that when I try the next version of Linux Mint, next month, that it comes with a suitable enough kernel to stop me having to backport drivers.

Issues

PCLinuxOS has behaved itself very well and apart from the WIFI issue which was fixed quite quickly there hasn't been anything really that major happen.

I did have to upgrade the kernel to get the graphics card to work.

Actually there is one thing that went wrong but I don't blame PCLinuxOS for this, I blame Steam and you can read my rant about Steam here.

Basically the Steam launcher downloads 300 megabytes of updates and then falls into a heap complaining about missing libraries.

Summary

PCLinuxOS was the first Linux distribution that really made Linux useable for the masses and then Ubuntu came along and kind of stole the show.

It has to be said though that this is a really nice distribution for the Everyday Linux User and I can happily recommend using it as I did the last time I reviewed PCLinuxOS.






An Everyday Linux User Review Of PCLinuxOS 2016 MATE

Introduction

It has been a bit of a slow year review wise. There are a lot of distributions that are due to release a new version soon including Linux Mint and Zorin but others seem to be lagging behind. This is of course an article for another day.

I have chosen to review PCLinuxOS 2016 on the MATE desktop as it has been a while since I last looked at it.

I am using the Lenovo Ideapad Y700 for this review and so I was expecting a few teething troubles as I had come across issues with both Ubuntu and Linux Mint due to the fact this laptop is running up to date hardware.

Previously I have had issues with the NVidia graphics card and the Intel iwlwifi drivers on other distributions.

For some time I steered clear of PCLinuxOS as there wasn't a UEFI version but this has all changed and I was pleasantly surprised by most of the experience.

PCLinuxOS is a rolling release distribution. This means that once it is installed you don't need to upgrade it as the update system will keep your operating system completely up to date.

How To Get PCLinuxOS





















This review is for the MATE version of PCLinuxOS.


If you scroll to the bottom of the page there is a list of website mirrors from where you can download the ISO image.

You can create a bootable USB drive for PCLinuxOS using the Win32 Disk Imaging software. This guide shows how to create a bootable drive for Ubuntu but it will work for PCLinuxOS as well. You just need to choose the PCLinuxOS ISO that you downloaded using the link above.


How To Install PCLinuxOS

Boot into the PCLinuxOS live USB drive.

If you are using a computer with a standard BIOS then you should just be able to insert the USB drive and boot your computer.

If you are using a computer with UEFI from within Windows, insert the USB drive which you have installed PCLinuxOS on, hold down the shift key and reboot your computer.

When you see the blue UEFI boot screen navigate through until you see an option to boot for EFI USB drive.

If you have secure boot turned off you will see the following screen.























You will see a menu which lets you choose between booting into the live version or to simply start installing PCLinuxOS.























PCLinuxOS has a particularly nice loading screen which looks crisp and professional. It gives you that warm fuzzy feeling straight away.


To start the installer double click on the "Install" icon on the desktop.

The installer starts with a welcome screen.

Simply click "Next" to move on.











The next screen is a fairly colourful if not somewhat confusing looking partitioning screen.

I recommend creating space prior to use PCLinuxOS using the Windows disk management tool if you wish to dual boot.








From the partitioning screen you will see options which offer to install PCLinuxOS into the free space, use an existing partition (to overwrite a current Linux distribution), erase the entire disk to make PCLinuxOS the only operating system or custom.

Note that there is a dropdown at the top of the screen so if you have multiple disks such as an SSD and a hard drive you can select the drive you wish to install PCLinuxOS to.

It looks a bit freaky but the use the free space option does indeed create a decent dual boot setup on a UEFI based system.

A big red warning appears telling you that partitions are about to be wiped so you had better be sure that you have chosen the right drive before continuing.


Click "Next" to go for it.





A message appears telling you that certain packages that you do not need are going to be removed from the installation.

Simply click "Next" and let it do it's stuff.









The next screen shows you where the bootloader will be installed.

I let the installer choose the boot device and simply clicked next to move onto the next screen.

The security on this screen is for the boot loader and not for the main operating system.





A screen will now display the options that will show up within the grub menu along with the command line settings.

Generally you can just click "Finish" at this point.








You now need to reboot your computer, unplug the USB drive and press enter to boot into PCLinuxOS.











The First Boot

When you boot for the first time you will be asked to select your timezone.

Simply pick the relevant option from the list.







You now have the option of choosing to get the time set from an NTP server which is supposed to get the correct time for your computer when you log in.







You now have to set up the administrator (root) password for your computer.









And finally you need to set up a default user account for using PCLinuxOS.

Simply enter your name, a user name and a password.








Finally you will appear at the login screen. This is the first screen you will see on subsequent boots.

Simply choose your username from the left pane and enter your password.

First Impressions






















PCLinuxOS MATE loads into a fairly standard looking desktop.

There are icons in the top left corner for "computer", "home" and "trash". You will also see other mounted drives such as USB drives.

At the bottom of the screen is a panel with a menu icon in the bottom left and quick launch icons for the Caja file manager, the terminal, the PCLinuxOS control centre, the Synaptic package manager and Firefox.

In the bottom right corner is the clock, power settings, audio settings and network settings.

Connecting To The Internet

When you click on the network icon the network center screen will load.

When I first checked the wireless section there weren't any networks listed.

It turns out that my wifi was blocked in a similar way to the way it was when I installed Linux Mint.

In this case though the rfkill unblock all command was all that I needed to run to get the internet to work.

With the internet working I was able to choose a network.

The PCLinuxOS Control Center



























You can configure most things within PCLinuxOS by using the Control Center. There is an icon in the quick launch bar or you can select the "Control Center" option from the "System" menu.

The Control Center has sections for "Software Management", "Sharing", "Network Services", "Hardware", "Network & Internet", "Systtem", "Network Sharing", "Local Disks", "Security" and "Boot".



The "Network Sharing" option allows you to configure network shares. This is useful if you want to access devices such as the WD MyCloud network storage.



Essentially the Control Centre is where you set up things like your printers and other devices. As you can see my printer was picked up straight away and I can confirm that it worked without any issues.

Customising The Desktop

MATE is one of the more customisable desktops. You can access the appearance settings by clicking on the menu and choosing "system -> preferences -> look and feel -> appearance".


You can use the appearance settings to choose a new theme and to change the background wallpaper. There are a number of different wallpapers pre-installed but you can download your own by clicking the "get more online" link. 

If you have your own images already installed simply click the "Add" button and choose the wallpaper you wish to use.

One thing I found frustrating with the default PCLinuxOS settings was that when I clicked on an image it automatically loaded into GIMP.

GIMP is great for image editing but a bit overkill if you just want to view an image.

It is easy enough to change the preferred applications. Simply click the menu icon and choose "system -> preferences -> personal -> preferred applications".

The "Preferred Applications" screen is split into a number of different tabs. You can change the image viewer from the multimedia screen.


Another thing I don't really like is the single click to open thing that is set by default into PCLinuxOS.

It is far too easy to accidentally open something even though you are trying just to drag it.

To change this setting click the menu icon and choose "system -> preferences -> personal -> file management".

There are lots of different tweaks you can make but the double click option is on the "behaviour" tab.







Flash And MP3

The default web browser is Firefox. Flash works out of the box as does the ability to play MP3 audio.


It is worth pointing out that PCLinuxOS comes with Clementine as the default audio player and this is by far my favourite audio player available on any platform.

I find the interface easy to use and visually pleasing.

Applications






















I downloaded the MATE version of PCLinuxOS. There is a version called the Full Monty which comes with pretty much every package you could ever need installed by default.

As it happens the MATE version still comes with a healthy selection even though the download was just 1.2 gigabytes in size.

The full LibreOffice suite is installed, as is the GIMP image editor.

I have already mentioned that Clementine is the audio player and for watching videos there is the VLC media player.

The default web browser is FireFox and the email client is Thunderbird. You also get the Pidgin instant messenger and QTorrent for downloading torrents.

Other notable tools are a PDF editor and the Vokoscreen screen recording software. You also get Dropbox.

Installing Applications

The package manager within PCLinuxOS is Synaptic.




























Whilst Synaptic might not be as pretty as the Software Centre style tools of other distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint it is at least fully functional and shows you every package there is available rather than hiding stuff.

I didn't have to enable any extra repositories either to find packages such as the Google Chrome web browser and Steam.



























I even installed the desktop version of the Google Play software which allows me to play albums I have bought for my phone.

The Kernel

The default kernel in PCLinuxOS is 4.4.1 but you can find an upgraded version in the package manager.

This was useful for me as the NVidia graphics card I was using wasn't automatically picked up when PCLinuxOS was first installed.

By installing the 4.6.2 kernel my NVidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card kicked into life.

This saved a lot of messing around that I encountered whilst installing Linux Mint on the same machine. I am hoping that when I try the next version of Linux Mint, next month, that it comes with a suitable enough kernel to stop me having to backport drivers.

Issues

PCLinuxOS has behaved itself very well and apart from the WIFI issue which was fixed quite quickly there hasn't been anything really that major happen.

I did have to upgrade the kernel to get the graphics card to work.

Actually there is one thing that went wrong but I don't blame PCLinuxOS for this, I blame Steam and you can read my rant about Steam here.

Basically the Steam launcher downloads 300 megabytes of updates and then falls into a heap complaining about missing libraries.

Summary

PCLinuxOS was the first Linux distribution that really made Linux useable for the masses and then Ubuntu came along and kind of stole the show.

It has to be said though that this is a really nice distribution for the Everyday Linux User and I can happily recommend using it as I did the last time I reviewed PCLinuxOS.






Posted at 21:34 |  by Gary Newell


When Valve's Steam was first introduced to Linux it was seen as a great victory. Finally prime time gaming will be available to the Linux masses.

That was some time ago now and there have been many new announcements relishing the fact that there were 400 games available and then 500 games available and then 1000 games available etc.

I am not happy though and in this rant I will be letting off steam about Steam.

I have been using Linux for a number of years now and whilst I might not be a complete expert I have picked up most of the skills I need to install, setup and manage my operating system.

The way Steam is installed to Linux is a complete an utter joke. First of all you have to find the Steam Launcher package. In some distributions it is there by default, others require another repository to be added.

Take Ubuntu for example. Whilst the Steam Launcher is available because they have screwed up the package manager you can't choose it from the graphical installer. You have to open a terminal and install the Steam launcher by using apt.

Now I use apt-get most of the time anyway for installing software so that doesn't particularly bother me but for the average new user or the common ordinary user of an operating system the thought of using the command line to install software is not acceptable, especially as you can install Steam using Windows without any messing around whatsoever.

With the Steam launcher in place, you run the software (either from the icon or from the terminal) and it instantly pops up a window whereby 300 megabytes of updates are required to be downloaded.

If you are lucky when the updates have finished installing you will now be able to login to Steam.

Unfortunately more often than not it doesn't work straight away. It is quite common to receive dependency errors which require ia32-libs to be installed. Why is this not listed as a dependency for the Steam launcher package and installed immediately along with Steam?

After you have installed the right libraries (or what you think are the correct libraries) you run Steam and it complains about swrast.dri not working or something similar.

You scour the web for answers and some pages tell you to install extra drivers, others tell you to remove hidden directories. There is no one answer that works each and every time.

More computers now run on 64-bit than 32-bit so why are we still required to install 32-bit libraries to run Steam? Why if we need all these libraries aren't they installed by default when we install Steam and why isn't there a clear and straight forward process for getting Steam working.

Sometimes it works straight away and other times it doesn't and it isn't linked to the distribution you are using. 

For instance your choice of graphics card is also prevalent as to whether Steam loads or not. 

Trying to get Steam working is like trying to light a fire in a rain forest by rubbing 2 wet sticks together.

Steam even announced its own Linux distribution. You would think this would be a great solution but the way you have to install it is a nightmare. It comes as an image which you have to extract on the drive of choice. It doesn't work like every other distribution where you simply burn it to a USB drive and then run an installer.

It isn't like any of the points I am raising are new issues either. It has been like this for ages. 

I quite like the fact that by using Steam I can download the games I have previously bought but why not just provide that functionality from a website and then let me click a download link. Why do we need a Steam client at all?

At this moment in time I have given up on Steam. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Yes I have now got it working in the PCLinuxOS setup I used for my latest review but it took so much effort and I can't even document the steps because I'm not sure which step finally made it work.

Have you had issues installing Steam? Do you wish there was something better?


An Everyday Linux User Rant About Steam



When Valve's Steam was first introduced to Linux it was seen as a great victory. Finally prime time gaming will be available to the Linux masses.

That was some time ago now and there have been many new announcements relishing the fact that there were 400 games available and then 500 games available and then 1000 games available etc.

I am not happy though and in this rant I will be letting off steam about Steam.

I have been using Linux for a number of years now and whilst I might not be a complete expert I have picked up most of the skills I need to install, setup and manage my operating system.

The way Steam is installed to Linux is a complete an utter joke. First of all you have to find the Steam Launcher package. In some distributions it is there by default, others require another repository to be added.

Take Ubuntu for example. Whilst the Steam Launcher is available because they have screwed up the package manager you can't choose it from the graphical installer. You have to open a terminal and install the Steam launcher by using apt.

Now I use apt-get most of the time anyway for installing software so that doesn't particularly bother me but for the average new user or the common ordinary user of an operating system the thought of using the command line to install software is not acceptable, especially as you can install Steam using Windows without any messing around whatsoever.

With the Steam launcher in place, you run the software (either from the icon or from the terminal) and it instantly pops up a window whereby 300 megabytes of updates are required to be downloaded.

If you are lucky when the updates have finished installing you will now be able to login to Steam.

Unfortunately more often than not it doesn't work straight away. It is quite common to receive dependency errors which require ia32-libs to be installed. Why is this not listed as a dependency for the Steam launcher package and installed immediately along with Steam?

After you have installed the right libraries (or what you think are the correct libraries) you run Steam and it complains about swrast.dri not working or something similar.

You scour the web for answers and some pages tell you to install extra drivers, others tell you to remove hidden directories. There is no one answer that works each and every time.

More computers now run on 64-bit than 32-bit so why are we still required to install 32-bit libraries to run Steam? Why if we need all these libraries aren't they installed by default when we install Steam and why isn't there a clear and straight forward process for getting Steam working.

Sometimes it works straight away and other times it doesn't and it isn't linked to the distribution you are using. 

For instance your choice of graphics card is also prevalent as to whether Steam loads or not. 

Trying to get Steam working is like trying to light a fire in a rain forest by rubbing 2 wet sticks together.

Steam even announced its own Linux distribution. You would think this would be a great solution but the way you have to install it is a nightmare. It comes as an image which you have to extract on the drive of choice. It doesn't work like every other distribution where you simply burn it to a USB drive and then run an installer.

It isn't like any of the points I am raising are new issues either. It has been like this for ages. 

I quite like the fact that by using Steam I can download the games I have previously bought but why not just provide that functionality from a website and then let me click a download link. Why do we need a Steam client at all?

At this moment in time I have given up on Steam. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Yes I have now got it working in the PCLinuxOS setup I used for my latest review but it took so much effort and I can't even document the steps because I'm not sure which step finally made it work.

Have you had issues installing Steam? Do you wish there was something better?


Posted at 21:33 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Introduction

I received a comment at the bottom of one of my articles which expressed bemusement about all of the acronyms and terms used within my reviews.

I am therefore writing this guide to explain as much of the jargon in my own words as possible.

I will pin this to the top bar for future reference.

What Is Linux?



I have written an article at about.com which describes Linux and GNU/Linux.

Depending on your level of expertise people use the term Linux in a variety of different contexts.

For instance, ask an expert and they will say that Linux is the kernel used to power operating systems such as Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE.

Ask people generally what they think Linux is and they will say "Linux is an operating system".

If you use the term Linux in forums you will get the odd response whereby some cleverclogs will say that "It isn't Linux, it is GNU/Linux?".
Personally I think it is fine to be interchangeable with how you describe Linux.

For instance if you think of Linux in the terms of an automobile then Linux would be the engine. The GNU part would be all of the other bits that make the car work such as exhaust system, pistons, shock absorbers, brakes and gears.

Technically GNU/Linux is the correct term for what many of us casually refer to as Linux. The GNU part consists of many of the key tools required to make a Linux distribution work properly such as compilers, assemblers and the Bourne Again Shell (BASH).

However whilst it is technically correct to call it GNU/Linux most people just say Linux because lets face it there are less syllables.

Whilst we are on the subject earlier on I stated that Linux is the kernel but it is also considered to be the encompassing term for the whole group of distributions which make up the Linux operating system.

So to sum up and make it easier for the average person, Linux is an operating system.

What Is An Operating System?


An operating system is software that runs on your computer that allows the software applications to interact with the computer's hardware such as the keyboard, mouse, screen, USB ports, wireless cards and any other piece of hardware you can think of.

The most well known operating system is Microsoft Windows but as you are at this site you will also know that Linux is an operating system as is OSX and UNIX.

Over the years operating systems have become much more than just a way for software to interact with the hardware however and most operating systems ship with software which are above and beyond what is actually required to be a simple operating system.

For instance Microsoft has been supplying Internet Explorer as part of their operating system for years and now they incorporate the Edge browser. Technically there is no real reason to have a web browser as part of the operating system.

This is worth pointing out because depending on which operating system you choose you will either get more than you require or just what you need.

What Is The Linux Kernel?

I basically covered this in the "what is Linux?" section. The Linux kernel is the main part of the operating system that allows the software and hardware to communicate with each other.

The version of the kernel you use is important as the later the kernel the more likely it is that your latest hardware will be supported.

What Is A Linux Distribution?


A Linux distribution basically takes the Linux kernel, all of the associated tools and packages it up with other software to make a complete operating system.

The most prominent Linux distributions are Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Fedora, Arch, openSUSE, Mageia, Manjaro, Zorin and CentOS.

You can find a very good list of distributions at distrowatch.com or you can click on the reviews link above.

Each distribution is set up to serve different purposes and as such they will come with different components.

Some distributions will be about ease of use such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Some distributions will be about providing the best free software such as Debian. Some distributions are about cutting edge features such as Arch and Fedora. Some will be about stability such as openSUSE.

There are distributions for everybody including those that include the barebones to get you up and running and others which come pre-installed with every software package known to man.

Some distributions will have fully integrated desktop environments whilst others will come with just simple Window managers.

This site deals with Linux distributions which are generally easier to set up and easier to use but does look at the lightweight Linux distributions as well because there is no reason a distribution can't both be easy to use, yet lightweight.

This guide provides a list of the top 10 Linux distributions according to Distrowatch last year and their suitability for the average computer user.

I also wrote this guide for about.com called "how to choose the best Linux distribution for your needs".

What Is A Desktop Environment?


A desktop environment is a collection of applications and tools which allow you to use and run applications which have a graphical user interface.

A desktop environment will commonly be packaged with a display manager, a window manager, panels, a file manager and a network manager. (I will come on to what all of these are shortly).

Some desktop environments will also include image viewers, text editors, terminal emulators, audio players, media players, archiving tools and an email client.

The most prominent desktop environments are Unity, GNOME, KDE, LXDE, XFCE, Enlightenment, Cinnamon and MATE.

GNOME and Unity focus on desktop integration and provide a feature rich environment for managing and using your applications.

KDE (Plasma) provides a modern take on the traditional desktop look and feel (i.e. Windows). It comes with a lot of extra tools and packages including mail clients, games, chat clients and other tools.

LXDE is a really lightweight desktop environment which makes it great for older hardware. It is also highly customisable.

XFCE is the ultimate desktop environment when it comes to customising the look and feel. Enlightenment and MATE also fall into this category.

Cinnamon has a very traditional look and feel much like Windows 7.

You don't have to use one of these desktop environments to use Linux. You can actually come up with your own. Simply choose the window manager, display manager and any other tools you feel you might require.

I have written a few guides about desktop environments in the past including this one called "which Linux desktop environment should you use?" and "do you prefer modern or traditional desktop environments?"

What Is A Display Manager?



The display manager is used to display the login screen at the end of the boot process.

There are a number of different display managers to choose from and this page on the Arch Linux wiki provides a good guide.

A display manager can be console based but as this is Everyday Linux User you will probably want something graphical such as GDM (Gnome Display Manager), KDM (KDE Display Manager), LightDM, LXDM, MDM, SDDM, SLIM and XDM.

What Is A Window Manager?


A window manager is probably the most important part of any desktop environment as it manages the graphical elements of the desktop such as the look and feel of Windows, how they are placed, font sizes, which buttons are available on windows, how they maximise and minimise and pretty much anything else you can think of when it comes to windows management.

There are different types of Window Managers and you can read more about the different types on this wiki page.

Common Window Managers include Openbox, Compiz, KWin, Metacity, Mutter, XFM, Fluxbox, IceWM and JWM.

What Is A Panel?


A panel is usually placed on one or more edges of the screen. A panel generally provides indicators to allow you to manage networks, audio settings, power settings and user settings.

The panel will generally provide a way of accessing a menu to launch applications and may include application launchers.

What Is A Dock?


A dock or docking panel provides a method for launching applications using a series of icons.

Common docks include docky, plank and Cairo-dock.

The Ubuntu launcher bar within the Unity desktop environment which is provided with Unity is another example of a dock.

The icons on the dock are launchers.

What Is A Network Manager? 

A network manager is a graphical tool which enables you to interact with your network hardware such as the ethernet or wireless cards.

Generally you will use the network manager to connect to the internet.

What Is A File Manager?


A file manager allows you to navigate the series of folders on your computer and lets you organise where your files are stored.

It generally consists of a list of folders and the files within the folders.

For instance the top level folder for a standard user is their home folder. Using the file manager the user can click on the Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads and Documents folders to see the files that are stored within them.

Using the file manager you can copy the files from one folder to another, move them around, delete them and open them.

What Is A Package Manager?


A package manager is used to show all of the software that can be installed (or indeed is installed) on your computer.

Think of the package manager as a catalogue or indeed a series of catalogues from where you can pick the best that Linux has to offer.

What Is The Terminal?



A terminal emulator or as it is more commonly known, "the terminal", allows you to enter commands and run non-graphical applications and tools with which you can interact with the operating system.

You can use the terminal to do all of the things a file manager can do, install and manage software, run automated tasks and do most of the things you commonly use graphical tools for.

The terminal has some great benefits such as providing a greater level of control. For instance imagine there is a tool for downloading music.

A terminal based tool may have dozens of switches which allow you to throttle the download speed, prioritise downloads, limit the downloads to a certain size or file type and anything else you might want a download tool to have. Whilst a graphical tool can incorporate all of these features as well you will soon end up with long menus or cluttered toolbars to incorporate all of the features and trying to turn each option on and off is cumbersome and if you want to automate the downloading of multiple files it becomes even more complicated.  A command line tool will allow for using multiple switches at the same time and the ability to write a script which does exactly what you want.

You do not need to know how to use the terminal in order to use Linux especially if you are using popular distributions such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu or Zorin. It is worth learning the basics though.

What Is The Super Key?

You will see me use the term "super" key in a number of my reviews and guides and all it refers to is the symbol on your keyboard that acts as a special key which on most desktops and laptops can be found next to the left "alt" key.

The "super" key generally has the Windows logo printed on it.

MacBooks and Chromebooks use different symbols as the "super" key.

What Is A Bootloader?

A bootloader is used to determine how your computer boots into an operating system.

When using Linux the most common bootloader is called GRUB but there are others available such as LiLo.

The GRUB boot loader provides a list of operating systems from which you can choose the one you wish to boot.

What Is The BIOS?

BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System which really probably doesn't make you feel like you know any more about what it does.

Up until recently the BIOS controlled how your computer interacted with the device firmware of your computer and from a users point of view its most important feature was how it determined which disk and which partitions to boot from.

You would use the BIOS to determine the boot order such as CD, USB  and Hard Drive.

The BIOS could also be accessed to set the date and time and provide hardware level security such as a BIOS password.

The BIOS is gradually making way for a new firmware interface called UEFI.

What Is UEFI?

UEFI stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. Feel better for that?

It is basically the modern way that computers interact with the systems firmware and from a users point of view the key point is that it determines how your computer boots, which disks it uses, the boot order and ultimately the operating system it chooses to boot into.

UEFI is the biggest cause of pain to Linux users as many people still struggle to get Linux to boot on computers with UEFI although it is getting better year on year.

What Is An ISO?

An ISO is generally created from disk imaging software and creates an exact image of a disk.

In Linux terms an ISO is a downloadable disk image which can be written to either a DVD or USB drive.

The DVD or USB can then be used to boot into the downloaded distribution.

What Are Partitions?

Imagine you have a physical disk and you took a marker pen and segregated the disk into different sections by drawing a line from the outer rim to the centre.

Each section would essentially be a partition.

Of course in reality you don't use a marker pen to create partitions. Instead you use partitioning software such as GParted within Linux or the Disk Management Tool within Windows to create partitions.

Linux needs at least one partition all to itself in order to run on a computer. You can however split the disk into multiple partitions to segregate different types of data.

For example a root partition is used to store the operating system files which are required to run the system. A home partition is used to store all of your users data files including photos, music, videos, documents and specific user settings files. A swap partition is used to provide a small section of the disk which is used as a memory overflow buffer for highly intensive tasks.

Summary

I have tried to explain the above terms in the easiest way possible.

If you would like any other terms explained feel free to add them to the comments section and I will do my best to add them to this list.







The Everyday Linux User Jargon Buster

Introduction

I received a comment at the bottom of one of my articles which expressed bemusement about all of the acronyms and terms used within my reviews.

I am therefore writing this guide to explain as much of the jargon in my own words as possible.

I will pin this to the top bar for future reference.

What Is Linux?



I have written an article at about.com which describes Linux and GNU/Linux.

Depending on your level of expertise people use the term Linux in a variety of different contexts.

For instance, ask an expert and they will say that Linux is the kernel used to power operating systems such as Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE.

Ask people generally what they think Linux is and they will say "Linux is an operating system".

If you use the term Linux in forums you will get the odd response whereby some cleverclogs will say that "It isn't Linux, it is GNU/Linux?".
Personally I think it is fine to be interchangeable with how you describe Linux.

For instance if you think of Linux in the terms of an automobile then Linux would be the engine. The GNU part would be all of the other bits that make the car work such as exhaust system, pistons, shock absorbers, brakes and gears.

Technically GNU/Linux is the correct term for what many of us casually refer to as Linux. The GNU part consists of many of the key tools required to make a Linux distribution work properly such as compilers, assemblers and the Bourne Again Shell (BASH).

However whilst it is technically correct to call it GNU/Linux most people just say Linux because lets face it there are less syllables.

Whilst we are on the subject earlier on I stated that Linux is the kernel but it is also considered to be the encompassing term for the whole group of distributions which make up the Linux operating system.

So to sum up and make it easier for the average person, Linux is an operating system.

What Is An Operating System?


An operating system is software that runs on your computer that allows the software applications to interact with the computer's hardware such as the keyboard, mouse, screen, USB ports, wireless cards and any other piece of hardware you can think of.

The most well known operating system is Microsoft Windows but as you are at this site you will also know that Linux is an operating system as is OSX and UNIX.

Over the years operating systems have become much more than just a way for software to interact with the hardware however and most operating systems ship with software which are above and beyond what is actually required to be a simple operating system.

For instance Microsoft has been supplying Internet Explorer as part of their operating system for years and now they incorporate the Edge browser. Technically there is no real reason to have a web browser as part of the operating system.

This is worth pointing out because depending on which operating system you choose you will either get more than you require or just what you need.

What Is The Linux Kernel?

I basically covered this in the "what is Linux?" section. The Linux kernel is the main part of the operating system that allows the software and hardware to communicate with each other.

The version of the kernel you use is important as the later the kernel the more likely it is that your latest hardware will be supported.

What Is A Linux Distribution?


A Linux distribution basically takes the Linux kernel, all of the associated tools and packages it up with other software to make a complete operating system.

The most prominent Linux distributions are Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Fedora, Arch, openSUSE, Mageia, Manjaro, Zorin and CentOS.

You can find a very good list of distributions at distrowatch.com or you can click on the reviews link above.

Each distribution is set up to serve different purposes and as such they will come with different components.

Some distributions will be about ease of use such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Some distributions will be about providing the best free software such as Debian. Some distributions are about cutting edge features such as Arch and Fedora. Some will be about stability such as openSUSE.

There are distributions for everybody including those that include the barebones to get you up and running and others which come pre-installed with every software package known to man.

Some distributions will have fully integrated desktop environments whilst others will come with just simple Window managers.

This site deals with Linux distributions which are generally easier to set up and easier to use but does look at the lightweight Linux distributions as well because there is no reason a distribution can't both be easy to use, yet lightweight.

This guide provides a list of the top 10 Linux distributions according to Distrowatch last year and their suitability for the average computer user.

I also wrote this guide for about.com called "how to choose the best Linux distribution for your needs".

What Is A Desktop Environment?


A desktop environment is a collection of applications and tools which allow you to use and run applications which have a graphical user interface.

A desktop environment will commonly be packaged with a display manager, a window manager, panels, a file manager and a network manager. (I will come on to what all of these are shortly).

Some desktop environments will also include image viewers, text editors, terminal emulators, audio players, media players, archiving tools and an email client.

The most prominent desktop environments are Unity, GNOME, KDE, LXDE, XFCE, Enlightenment, Cinnamon and MATE.

GNOME and Unity focus on desktop integration and provide a feature rich environment for managing and using your applications.

KDE (Plasma) provides a modern take on the traditional desktop look and feel (i.e. Windows). It comes with a lot of extra tools and packages including mail clients, games, chat clients and other tools.

LXDE is a really lightweight desktop environment which makes it great for older hardware. It is also highly customisable.

XFCE is the ultimate desktop environment when it comes to customising the look and feel. Enlightenment and MATE also fall into this category.

Cinnamon has a very traditional look and feel much like Windows 7.

You don't have to use one of these desktop environments to use Linux. You can actually come up with your own. Simply choose the window manager, display manager and any other tools you feel you might require.

I have written a few guides about desktop environments in the past including this one called "which Linux desktop environment should you use?" and "do you prefer modern or traditional desktop environments?"

What Is A Display Manager?



The display manager is used to display the login screen at the end of the boot process.

There are a number of different display managers to choose from and this page on the Arch Linux wiki provides a good guide.

A display manager can be console based but as this is Everyday Linux User you will probably want something graphical such as GDM (Gnome Display Manager), KDM (KDE Display Manager), LightDM, LXDM, MDM, SDDM, SLIM and XDM.

What Is A Window Manager?


A window manager is probably the most important part of any desktop environment as it manages the graphical elements of the desktop such as the look and feel of Windows, how they are placed, font sizes, which buttons are available on windows, how they maximise and minimise and pretty much anything else you can think of when it comes to windows management.

There are different types of Window Managers and you can read more about the different types on this wiki page.

Common Window Managers include Openbox, Compiz, KWin, Metacity, Mutter, XFM, Fluxbox, IceWM and JWM.

What Is A Panel?


A panel is usually placed on one or more edges of the screen. A panel generally provides indicators to allow you to manage networks, audio settings, power settings and user settings.

The panel will generally provide a way of accessing a menu to launch applications and may include application launchers.

What Is A Dock?


A dock or docking panel provides a method for launching applications using a series of icons.

Common docks include docky, plank and Cairo-dock.

The Ubuntu launcher bar within the Unity desktop environment which is provided with Unity is another example of a dock.

The icons on the dock are launchers.

What Is A Network Manager? 

A network manager is a graphical tool which enables you to interact with your network hardware such as the ethernet or wireless cards.

Generally you will use the network manager to connect to the internet.

What Is A File Manager?


A file manager allows you to navigate the series of folders on your computer and lets you organise where your files are stored.

It generally consists of a list of folders and the files within the folders.

For instance the top level folder for a standard user is their home folder. Using the file manager the user can click on the Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads and Documents folders to see the files that are stored within them.

Using the file manager you can copy the files from one folder to another, move them around, delete them and open them.

What Is A Package Manager?


A package manager is used to show all of the software that can be installed (or indeed is installed) on your computer.

Think of the package manager as a catalogue or indeed a series of catalogues from where you can pick the best that Linux has to offer.

What Is The Terminal?



A terminal emulator or as it is more commonly known, "the terminal", allows you to enter commands and run non-graphical applications and tools with which you can interact with the operating system.

You can use the terminal to do all of the things a file manager can do, install and manage software, run automated tasks and do most of the things you commonly use graphical tools for.

The terminal has some great benefits such as providing a greater level of control. For instance imagine there is a tool for downloading music.

A terminal based tool may have dozens of switches which allow you to throttle the download speed, prioritise downloads, limit the downloads to a certain size or file type and anything else you might want a download tool to have. Whilst a graphical tool can incorporate all of these features as well you will soon end up with long menus or cluttered toolbars to incorporate all of the features and trying to turn each option on and off is cumbersome and if you want to automate the downloading of multiple files it becomes even more complicated.  A command line tool will allow for using multiple switches at the same time and the ability to write a script which does exactly what you want.

You do not need to know how to use the terminal in order to use Linux especially if you are using popular distributions such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu or Zorin. It is worth learning the basics though.

What Is The Super Key?

You will see me use the term "super" key in a number of my reviews and guides and all it refers to is the symbol on your keyboard that acts as a special key which on most desktops and laptops can be found next to the left "alt" key.

The "super" key generally has the Windows logo printed on it.

MacBooks and Chromebooks use different symbols as the "super" key.

What Is A Bootloader?

A bootloader is used to determine how your computer boots into an operating system.

When using Linux the most common bootloader is called GRUB but there are others available such as LiLo.

The GRUB boot loader provides a list of operating systems from which you can choose the one you wish to boot.

What Is The BIOS?

BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System which really probably doesn't make you feel like you know any more about what it does.

Up until recently the BIOS controlled how your computer interacted with the device firmware of your computer and from a users point of view its most important feature was how it determined which disk and which partitions to boot from.

You would use the BIOS to determine the boot order such as CD, USB  and Hard Drive.

The BIOS could also be accessed to set the date and time and provide hardware level security such as a BIOS password.

The BIOS is gradually making way for a new firmware interface called UEFI.

What Is UEFI?

UEFI stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. Feel better for that?

It is basically the modern way that computers interact with the systems firmware and from a users point of view the key point is that it determines how your computer boots, which disks it uses, the boot order and ultimately the operating system it chooses to boot into.

UEFI is the biggest cause of pain to Linux users as many people still struggle to get Linux to boot on computers with UEFI although it is getting better year on year.

What Is An ISO?

An ISO is generally created from disk imaging software and creates an exact image of a disk.

In Linux terms an ISO is a downloadable disk image which can be written to either a DVD or USB drive.

The DVD or USB can then be used to boot into the downloaded distribution.

What Are Partitions?

Imagine you have a physical disk and you took a marker pen and segregated the disk into different sections by drawing a line from the outer rim to the centre.

Each section would essentially be a partition.

Of course in reality you don't use a marker pen to create partitions. Instead you use partitioning software such as GParted within Linux or the Disk Management Tool within Windows to create partitions.

Linux needs at least one partition all to itself in order to run on a computer. You can however split the disk into multiple partitions to segregate different types of data.

For example a root partition is used to store the operating system files which are required to run the system. A home partition is used to store all of your users data files including photos, music, videos, documents and specific user settings files. A swap partition is used to provide a small section of the disk which is used as a memory overflow buffer for highly intensive tasks.

Summary

I have tried to explain the above terms in the easiest way possible.

If you would like any other terms explained feel free to add them to the comments section and I will do my best to add them to this list.







Posted at 20:18 |  by Gary Newell

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Introduction

It has been a while since I last looked at 4M Linux. (Click here for the review).

4M Linux is a lightweight Linux distribution which has 4 main features:
  • Maintenance
  • Mini Server
  • Multimedia
  • Mystery
It has a small download size at 421 megabytes.

The maintenance section has backup and recovery tools which make it possible for you to recover a faulty system.

The mini server section has tools for create mail, web and media servers.

The multimedia section has video, audio and image editing tools.

The mystery section has lots of lightweight games which includes some retro action including Quake and Doom.

My main issue with the previous version of 4M Linux was the hit and miss nature of the internet connectivity when using a wireless connection. The installer was also fairly primitive. The other main issue was the lack of any form of package manager. All packages are installed from tar files and there are a limited number of them.

I wanted to see if 4M Linux had improved in the 20 months since I last looked at it. 

There are so many good distributions out there at the moment. You have to really hit a niche or be the best to get a look in when it comes to user base.

It is getting harder and harder to justify a case for using a distribution that isn't one of the Ubuntu flavours such as Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and Ubuntu MATE or one of the other top 10 distributions such as Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Manjaro, CentOS, Arch, Mint, Zorin and even Mageia.

In theory 4M Linux is in a niche of distributions which will work on very old hardware and so perhaps justifies its existence because it is lighter than Lubuntu.

The trouble is that this is a crowded market as well. There are multiple Puppy flavours lying around although some of them haven't been updated for a while and probably need to be taken to the vets. There is also AntiX which has always performed well. My personal favourite in this area has to be Q4OS.

If you want an alternative to one of the larger distributions there are still dozens of great distributions to choose from. Off the top of my head without even heading to distrowatch there are SolydXK, Makulu, Bodhi, LXLE, Netrunner, Peppermint and Korora.

Therefore if a distribution such as 4M Linux is standing still or going backwards then it is hard to see how and why I would justify using it over any of the aforementioned distributions.

Without further ado, lets get on with the review.

How To Get 4M Linux

You can download 4M Linux from http://4mlinux.com/index.php?page=download.

There is a set up guide showing how to create a USB drive on the website at http://4mlinux.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/how-to-create-4mlinux-livecdliveusb.html 

The tool I used to create a 4M Linux USB drive is UNetbootin.


Note that 4M Linux doesn't boot on a computer with a UEFI boot loader and so you will need to switch to legacy mode to use it. 

To be honest, I doubt that if you have a machine with a UEFI boot loader that you have a computer old enough or with the memory and processor limitations that will require you to run a system such as 4M Linux. This is designed for older hardware.

How To Install 4M Linux

I do not recommend installing 4M Linux as a dual boot system. The installer is a bit archaic and I am not convinced by it at all.

When you first boot into the live system you will see the following screen.





























You can see that there is an editor open which sets the default language to English. You can however change this to the 2 letter language code of your choosing.

Closing the window allows 4M Linux to complete its system load.





























It actually looks really nice. There is a panel at the bottom and a nice docking bar at the top and Conky has been set up on the right of the screen.

To bring up the menu you can click anywhere on the screen with the left mouse button. Under the 4M Linux menu there is an option to install 4M Linux.





























The installer is just a script. I can live with this because it is a lightweight system and as long as it works then it doesn't really matter how pretty it is.

The message clearly states that you need to create a partition on your computer first. As mentioned before I don't recommend dual booting so do this on a computer with a single hard drive and format the entire partition to EXT4 using GParted.





























If you don't create a partition you will get the above error.





























As you can see I created a single EXT 4 partition and then I re-ran the installer.





























You will be asked to choose the number of the partition to install 4M Linux to.





























A message appears asking whether you want to format the partition. 





























You are asked whether 4M Linux is to be the only operating system. If you choose yes then the Lilo boot loader is installed, if not then GRUB is installed.

























































A summary will appear and entering y starts the installation which is exceptionally quick. Seriously we are talking under a minute.






















When you reboot you are asked to create a password for the root user. 

Booting Into 4M Linux






















I don't understand why 4M Linux is set up this way but when you run the live version it boots straight to the window manager but after installing it you have to use a command line login and you have to start the GUI yourself by typing startx.

Connecting To The Internet

If in the previous version of 4M Linux connecting to the internet via WIFI was hit and miss then in the latest version it is nigh on impossible.

The main desktop includes an applet in the panel for connecting the wireless networks. I chose a network and entered the password but it did nothing.

On the settings menu there are a number of options for connecting to the internet including WiCD which is a graphical tool and a command line menu which helps to set up the internet using WPA_Supplicant.

Unfortunately despite trying on 3 computers with different wireless cards and trying with a number of different wireless networks I could not get a connection.

The fact that I can see the names of the networks via the menu is encouraging but the upshot is I get a "failed to get lease" error continuously.

Without an internet connection I decided to continue the rest of this review via a Virtualbox virtual machine so that I could piggy back off the internet connection from the host operating system.

Maintenance

As mentioned previously, 4M is split into 4 sections of which one is Maintenance.

The maintenance menu is split into the following categories:





























  • Data
  • Files
  • CD/DVD
  • Partitions
  • Monitoring
  • Misc Tools
The data menu is split into three sections which are backup, recovery and wiping. This section allows you to create backups, recover from backups and create system images.





























The backups produces another script which allows you to backup your files to USB, FTP or CD/DVD.  The recovery is a similar script.





























The wiping section provides a list of partitioning and imaging tools.

The files menu contains tools such as midnight commander which is a command line file manager and PCManFM which is a GUI file manager.

The CD menu provides disk burning tools and the Partitioning menu provides partitioning tools such as GParted.

The monitoring section has tools such as htop which provides a list of processes.

Finally there is the misc tools menu which has the Clam Antivirus option, UNetbootin and GRUB.

Multimedia





























The Multimedia section is probably the best part about 4M Linux. You can watch videos using the lightweight but functional MPlayer GUI.





























It has a nice video playing interface with play, pause, fast forward and rewind buttons and a decent menu system for selecting the files you want to play in the first place.

The audio player is GNOME MPlayer.





























This is a bare bones audio player. You can select a single file or a folder of files to play.

There is another script available which lets you choose whether to play an audio CD or local files etc. This essentially loads midnight commander which is a file manager and you pick the songs from there.

The ability to play MP3 audio works without having to install extra codecs and Asunder is installed so you can convert audio CDs to MP3. There are some other smaller tools for creating MKV files from videos and WAV files from audio.



For viewing images there is a program called GPicView. Again we are talking barebones sort of applications but it works.

Imagemagick is also installed for image editing.

Finally for the multimedia section there is the Youtube Downloader. When you click the menu option it says you need Python which is included on the installation CD. Strange why you would install something that has a dependency on something else and not install the dependency.

Mini Server


The mini server is a strange section. 

There is a tests menu with options for ftp, ssh, telnet, firewall and proxy. You can start all of the servers by clicking the start all button and test each of the different server types by choosing the appropriate option from the test menu.

Under the Misc Tools section there is an option for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). However when clicked it says you have to install it from the installation CD.

We will come to installing extra software later on.

Mystery





























The mystery section basically means games. There are terminal based games such as Tetris, Snakes, Mines and Towers.

Tetris actually plays quite well:

There is an XToys menu which lets you have penguins walk over your screen or have eyes looking at you.

There is an XGames section which includes Galaga. This is a command line version of Galaga which is ultimately a Space Invaders type clone.

Other games included in the mystery section are Sudoku and Quake.

The main focus however has to be on Quake and Doom which have their own section within the Mystery menu.

You are asked to download a WAD file but due to the lightweight nature of 4M Linux it runs really well.

4M Linux also has WINE and DOSBox installed with a number of emulated Windows and DOS games available.

Extensions


There is an extensions menu which provides links for the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird mail client, Chromium, Opera, Skype, Dropbox and FileZilla. LibreOffice is also included as an option.

Each of the menu options provides a download script which downloads and installs the specific piece of software.





























Rather bizarrely whilst downloading Firefox the 4M script also chooses to download and install Flash. Whilst users might like Flash to be installed I do feel that this should be provided as an option as opposed to forcing it as part of the installation.

Installing Other Software

Earlier on in this review you will have seen a couple of cases where it says something is available on the installation CD.

To install these packages open a terminal window and navigate to the /var/4MLinux folder. A quick ls command shows a list of add-ons which you can install.

To install one run the following command:

zk <filename>

For example:

zk addon_cairo-1.14.6.tar.xz

The above will install the Cairo Docking bar.

Some of the files are only on the live USB or CD you used to install 4M Linux in the first place. Insert the media and navigate to the "devel/extras" folder.  You will find a host of other xz files which can be installed including LAMP.

Issues

I have listed most of the issues as I have gone through the review. In general 4M Linux works quite well. The installer could do with some work and perhaps it is time to bring it into the 21st Century and provide an EFI option.

The main issue is the wireless internet problem. This is my second review of 4M Linux and I haven't been convinced by it either time when it comes to connecting to a wireless network. This makes it impossible for me to use this as a recovery USB drive because I can't trust that I can get connectivity.

Summary

The GUI looks stylish and 4MLinux performs well. There are a few too many whys to be answered before I could use this over something like Q4OS and AntiX.

For instance:
  • Why can I not get a wireless network connection?
  • Why after installing 4M Linux does it boot to a command prompt and not a GUI?
  • Why have applications installed that are dependent on other applications which aren't installed?
There is in general a good selection of lightweight applications installed and the extensions menu gives you access to a few key applications such as a decent browser and office suite.

The games section is very nice and the inclusion of DOOM and Quake is a good touch.

The trouble is that I can see some nice things but I can't think of a reason why I would use 4M Linux over something else.

The key fix for the next release is to nail wireless network connections. Borrow the code from another distribution or include a network manager that just works. Puppy Linux has a tool called Frisbee which is lightweight and not so pretty but it definitely works. If in doubt use that.

Thankyou for reading.

















An Everyday Linux User Review Of 4MLinux 17.0 - The Stable One?

Introduction

It has been a while since I last looked at 4M Linux. (Click here for the review).

4M Linux is a lightweight Linux distribution which has 4 main features:
  • Maintenance
  • Mini Server
  • Multimedia
  • Mystery
It has a small download size at 421 megabytes.

The maintenance section has backup and recovery tools which make it possible for you to recover a faulty system.

The mini server section has tools for create mail, web and media servers.

The multimedia section has video, audio and image editing tools.

The mystery section has lots of lightweight games which includes some retro action including Quake and Doom.

My main issue with the previous version of 4M Linux was the hit and miss nature of the internet connectivity when using a wireless connection. The installer was also fairly primitive. The other main issue was the lack of any form of package manager. All packages are installed from tar files and there are a limited number of them.

I wanted to see if 4M Linux had improved in the 20 months since I last looked at it. 

There are so many good distributions out there at the moment. You have to really hit a niche or be the best to get a look in when it comes to user base.

It is getting harder and harder to justify a case for using a distribution that isn't one of the Ubuntu flavours such as Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and Ubuntu MATE or one of the other top 10 distributions such as Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Manjaro, CentOS, Arch, Mint, Zorin and even Mageia.

In theory 4M Linux is in a niche of distributions which will work on very old hardware and so perhaps justifies its existence because it is lighter than Lubuntu.

The trouble is that this is a crowded market as well. There are multiple Puppy flavours lying around although some of them haven't been updated for a while and probably need to be taken to the vets. There is also AntiX which has always performed well. My personal favourite in this area has to be Q4OS.

If you want an alternative to one of the larger distributions there are still dozens of great distributions to choose from. Off the top of my head without even heading to distrowatch there are SolydXK, Makulu, Bodhi, LXLE, Netrunner, Peppermint and Korora.

Therefore if a distribution such as 4M Linux is standing still or going backwards then it is hard to see how and why I would justify using it over any of the aforementioned distributions.

Without further ado, lets get on with the review.

How To Get 4M Linux

You can download 4M Linux from http://4mlinux.com/index.php?page=download.

There is a set up guide showing how to create a USB drive on the website at http://4mlinux.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/how-to-create-4mlinux-livecdliveusb.html 

The tool I used to create a 4M Linux USB drive is UNetbootin.


Note that 4M Linux doesn't boot on a computer with a UEFI boot loader and so you will need to switch to legacy mode to use it. 

To be honest, I doubt that if you have a machine with a UEFI boot loader that you have a computer old enough or with the memory and processor limitations that will require you to run a system such as 4M Linux. This is designed for older hardware.

How To Install 4M Linux

I do not recommend installing 4M Linux as a dual boot system. The installer is a bit archaic and I am not convinced by it at all.

When you first boot into the live system you will see the following screen.





























You can see that there is an editor open which sets the default language to English. You can however change this to the 2 letter language code of your choosing.

Closing the window allows 4M Linux to complete its system load.





























It actually looks really nice. There is a panel at the bottom and a nice docking bar at the top and Conky has been set up on the right of the screen.

To bring up the menu you can click anywhere on the screen with the left mouse button. Under the 4M Linux menu there is an option to install 4M Linux.





























The installer is just a script. I can live with this because it is a lightweight system and as long as it works then it doesn't really matter how pretty it is.

The message clearly states that you need to create a partition on your computer first. As mentioned before I don't recommend dual booting so do this on a computer with a single hard drive and format the entire partition to EXT4 using GParted.





























If you don't create a partition you will get the above error.





























As you can see I created a single EXT 4 partition and then I re-ran the installer.





























You will be asked to choose the number of the partition to install 4M Linux to.





























A message appears asking whether you want to format the partition. 





























You are asked whether 4M Linux is to be the only operating system. If you choose yes then the Lilo boot loader is installed, if not then GRUB is installed.

























































A summary will appear and entering y starts the installation which is exceptionally quick. Seriously we are talking under a minute.






















When you reboot you are asked to create a password for the root user. 

Booting Into 4M Linux






















I don't understand why 4M Linux is set up this way but when you run the live version it boots straight to the window manager but after installing it you have to use a command line login and you have to start the GUI yourself by typing startx.

Connecting To The Internet

If in the previous version of 4M Linux connecting to the internet via WIFI was hit and miss then in the latest version it is nigh on impossible.

The main desktop includes an applet in the panel for connecting the wireless networks. I chose a network and entered the password but it did nothing.

On the settings menu there are a number of options for connecting to the internet including WiCD which is a graphical tool and a command line menu which helps to set up the internet using WPA_Supplicant.

Unfortunately despite trying on 3 computers with different wireless cards and trying with a number of different wireless networks I could not get a connection.

The fact that I can see the names of the networks via the menu is encouraging but the upshot is I get a "failed to get lease" error continuously.

Without an internet connection I decided to continue the rest of this review via a Virtualbox virtual machine so that I could piggy back off the internet connection from the host operating system.

Maintenance

As mentioned previously, 4M is split into 4 sections of which one is Maintenance.

The maintenance menu is split into the following categories:





























  • Data
  • Files
  • CD/DVD
  • Partitions
  • Monitoring
  • Misc Tools
The data menu is split into three sections which are backup, recovery and wiping. This section allows you to create backups, recover from backups and create system images.





























The backups produces another script which allows you to backup your files to USB, FTP or CD/DVD.  The recovery is a similar script.





























The wiping section provides a list of partitioning and imaging tools.

The files menu contains tools such as midnight commander which is a command line file manager and PCManFM which is a GUI file manager.

The CD menu provides disk burning tools and the Partitioning menu provides partitioning tools such as GParted.

The monitoring section has tools such as htop which provides a list of processes.

Finally there is the misc tools menu which has the Clam Antivirus option, UNetbootin and GRUB.

Multimedia





























The Multimedia section is probably the best part about 4M Linux. You can watch videos using the lightweight but functional MPlayer GUI.





























It has a nice video playing interface with play, pause, fast forward and rewind buttons and a decent menu system for selecting the files you want to play in the first place.

The audio player is GNOME MPlayer.





























This is a bare bones audio player. You can select a single file or a folder of files to play.

There is another script available which lets you choose whether to play an audio CD or local files etc. This essentially loads midnight commander which is a file manager and you pick the songs from there.

The ability to play MP3 audio works without having to install extra codecs and Asunder is installed so you can convert audio CDs to MP3. There are some other smaller tools for creating MKV files from videos and WAV files from audio.



For viewing images there is a program called GPicView. Again we are talking barebones sort of applications but it works.

Imagemagick is also installed for image editing.

Finally for the multimedia section there is the Youtube Downloader. When you click the menu option it says you need Python which is included on the installation CD. Strange why you would install something that has a dependency on something else and not install the dependency.

Mini Server


The mini server is a strange section. 

There is a tests menu with options for ftp, ssh, telnet, firewall and proxy. You can start all of the servers by clicking the start all button and test each of the different server types by choosing the appropriate option from the test menu.

Under the Misc Tools section there is an option for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). However when clicked it says you have to install it from the installation CD.

We will come to installing extra software later on.

Mystery





























The mystery section basically means games. There are terminal based games such as Tetris, Snakes, Mines and Towers.

Tetris actually plays quite well:

There is an XToys menu which lets you have penguins walk over your screen or have eyes looking at you.

There is an XGames section which includes Galaga. This is a command line version of Galaga which is ultimately a Space Invaders type clone.

Other games included in the mystery section are Sudoku and Quake.

The main focus however has to be on Quake and Doom which have their own section within the Mystery menu.

You are asked to download a WAD file but due to the lightweight nature of 4M Linux it runs really well.

4M Linux also has WINE and DOSBox installed with a number of emulated Windows and DOS games available.

Extensions


There is an extensions menu which provides links for the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird mail client, Chromium, Opera, Skype, Dropbox and FileZilla. LibreOffice is also included as an option.

Each of the menu options provides a download script which downloads and installs the specific piece of software.





























Rather bizarrely whilst downloading Firefox the 4M script also chooses to download and install Flash. Whilst users might like Flash to be installed I do feel that this should be provided as an option as opposed to forcing it as part of the installation.

Installing Other Software

Earlier on in this review you will have seen a couple of cases where it says something is available on the installation CD.

To install these packages open a terminal window and navigate to the /var/4MLinux folder. A quick ls command shows a list of add-ons which you can install.

To install one run the following command:

zk <filename>

For example:

zk addon_cairo-1.14.6.tar.xz

The above will install the Cairo Docking bar.

Some of the files are only on the live USB or CD you used to install 4M Linux in the first place. Insert the media and navigate to the "devel/extras" folder.  You will find a host of other xz files which can be installed including LAMP.

Issues

I have listed most of the issues as I have gone through the review. In general 4M Linux works quite well. The installer could do with some work and perhaps it is time to bring it into the 21st Century and provide an EFI option.

The main issue is the wireless internet problem. This is my second review of 4M Linux and I haven't been convinced by it either time when it comes to connecting to a wireless network. This makes it impossible for me to use this as a recovery USB drive because I can't trust that I can get connectivity.

Summary

The GUI looks stylish and 4MLinux performs well. There are a few too many whys to be answered before I could use this over something like Q4OS and AntiX.

For instance:
  • Why can I not get a wireless network connection?
  • Why after installing 4M Linux does it boot to a command prompt and not a GUI?
  • Why have applications installed that are dependent on other applications which aren't installed?
There is in general a good selection of lightweight applications installed and the extensions menu gives you access to a few key applications such as a decent browser and office suite.

The games section is very nice and the inclusion of DOOM and Quake is a good touch.

The trouble is that I can see some nice things but I can't think of a reason why I would use 4M Linux over something else.

The key fix for the next release is to nail wireless network connections. Borrow the code from another distribution or include a network manager that just works. Puppy Linux has a tool called Frisbee which is lightweight and not so pretty but it definitely works. If in doubt use that.

Thankyou for reading.

















Posted at 22:46 |  by Gary Newell
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