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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Introduction

It has been a while since my last Raspberry PI article. I have recently been given the new Raspberry PI 2 so I thought I would produce a new tutorial showing how to set it up.

My previous guide for setting up the original Raspberry PI is somewhat out of date. You should follow this guide regardless as to whether you have bought (or are going to buy) the Raspberry PI B+ or the Raspberry PI 2.

Who Is The Raspberry PI For?

There are so many uses for the Raspberry PI that it is hard to define one single user but here are a few reasons to get one:

  • Great for children and teenagers to learn how to use computers and create their own programs
  • Great for children and teenagers who have an interest in electronics
  • Can be used for a web kiosk in a cafe, small bed and breakfast, guest house or hotel
  • Can be used for digital signage in small outlets such as local shops
  • Can be used to run XBMC to turn your television into a media centre
  • Can be used to run games emulators for retro gaming
  • Can be used as a small file server, web server or print server
  • Can be used to download large files from the internet 
In the coming weeks I will explore some of these concepts.

What Equipment Do You Need?






















The image above shows the equipment I have for the Raspberry PI 2.

The items and reasons why they are required are as follows:

The Keyboard

You will need a keyboard to set up the Raspberry PI the first time.

If you are going to use the PI as an actual computer then you would probably be better off buying a standard USB keyboard but if you are more likely to use the PI as a server or fpr digital signage you can buy a mini keyboard.

Remember this is a one time only purchase as you will be able to use the same keyboard whether you use the original Raspberry PI, Raspberry PI B+, Raspberry PI 2 or in the future the 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7.



The Mouse

The mouse is also required during the initial setup of your Raspberry PI.

Again if you use the Raspberry PI as an actual desktop computer you will need the mouse all the time but if you use the Raspberry PI as a server you will probably only need to use the mouse once.


SD Card



You will need a micro SD card for running the operating system on the Raspberry PI and for storage space.

You can buy a 16 Gigabyte SD card for as little as £5.53 and install the Raspberry PI operating system yourself (as this guide shows) or you can pay a little bit extra and buy a 16 Gigabyte SD card for £12.99 with NOOBS pre-installed.

To be honest it will take you no time at all to install NOOBS onto an SD card but you do need an SD card reader. (either built into your computer or available for purchase).

If you need to buy an SD card reader you might be better off buying an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed.

The Raspberry PI


You will of course need a Raspberry PI 2.

This little computer is fantastic. There are other single board computers out there and they all claim to be better than the Raspberry PI because they either provide more memory, a better chip or some other unique selling point.

The beauty of the Raspberry PI is how much you get for so little money.

Just £29.99.





WIFI Dongle

If you plan to keep your Raspberry PI next to your router then you can get away with using the ethernet port with an ethernet cable and connect via a wired link but most people like to connect wirelessly to the internet from their Raspberry PI.

If you plan to use the Raspberry PI for digital signage you will almost certainly need a WIFI dongle.

Be careful when choosing the WIFI dongle because not all of them are as simple as plug and play.

The LP Link dongles are particularly hard to use.

Bluetooth Dongle


A bluetooth dongle isn't particularly necessary but if you plan to use your Raspberry PI as a retro gaming console you will need one in order to pair up games controllers.

You can use a WII controller or an OUYA controller with the Raspberry PI using a cheap bluetooth dongle.








Raspberry PI Case


A case isn't 100% necessary but if you are using the Raspberry PI as a media centre or for retro gaming it will certainly look better than a small circuit board with lots of protruding cables.

If you use your Raspberry PI for electronics then the case might get in the way when trying to connect breadboards.

A case will help however to keep dust off the Raspberry PI.

Powered Hub


The Raspberry PI 2 consumes less power than the original Raspberry PI but you will almost certainly need a powered USB hub.

Everything you plug in to the Raspberry PI's USB ports draws power and it doesn't take much to stop your little computer in its tracks.

By using a powered USB hub you can add bluetooth dongles and even an external USB hard drive without crashing the Raspberry PI.

This is pretty much an essential requirement.



Power Supply

You will need a power supply in order to make the Raspberry PI 2 work.

Be very careful when buying a power supply and make sure that it is designed to work with the Raspberry PI 2 otherwise you might fry the board.


Formatting The SD Card

Note: Skip this section if you bought an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed

That last section was longer than I intended it to be. Hopefully you have what you need in order to set up and use your Raspberry PI.

To actually get started however you will need to put NOOBs onto the SD Card.





















Before you can put NOOBS onto the SD card you will need to format it.

Insert the SD card into your SD card reader. (If you are using an external card reader connect the reader to your computer).

This guide assumes you are using Windows to format the drive.

Visit https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/eula_windows/index.html, read the agreement and click "Accept".

The SD Formatting software will be downloaded to your downloads folder. Open the downloads folder and double click on the SDFormatter zip file.

When the zip file opens double click on the Setup file.

A welcome screen will appear. Click "Next" to continue.





The second screen asks you to choose where to install the SDFormatter.

Unless you wish to change the default folder click "Next".










Finally you are ready to install the software.

Click "Install" and answer yes to any question that asks whether you are sure or you need to give permission to install the software.










An icon should appear on your desktop for the SD Formatter.

Double click on the icon and this screen will appear.

Add a volume label and click the "Option" button.







Make sure the format type is "quick" and that the format size adjustment is set to "On".

Click "OK" to continue.







When you return to the main screen click the "Format" button.

The SD Card will be formatted and a screen will appear telling you that the process is complete.








Install NOOBS To The SD Card





















Note: Skip this section if you bought an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed

NOOBS stands for New Out Of Box System.

When the original Raspberry PI was created you had to perform a number of steps to install Raspbian which is the most popular operating system available for the Raspberry PI.

The NOOBS system makes setting up the PI easier and allows you to choose how you will use the PI and includes options for setting the PI up as an XBMC device.

To get NOOBS visit www.raspberrypi.org/downloads

Click the "Download Zip" link next to NOOBS.



























Navigate to the downloads folder and open the NOOBS zip file by double clicking on it.

Click the "Extract All" button to extract all of the files.

You can choose the location where the files are extracted to.

At this stage it is worth sticking with the defaults.

Click "Extract"





Go to the extracted folder containing the NOOBS files and press CTRL and A to select all of the files.

Now drag the selected files to the drive letter assigned to the SD card.

Open the SD card and make sure the files have copied correctly.





Set Up The Raspberry PI Using NOOBS






















I apologise for the quality of the images for this bit but they are direct camera shots of the Raspberry PI connected to a monitor as there is no internet connectivity at this stage.

Insert the SD card into your Raspberry PI. (Don't bother enclosing the Raspberry PI in a case at this stage in case the image has been copied incorrectly).

Make sure that you have a USB keyboard and mouse connected via the USB ports on the Raspberry PI and add a WIFI dongle or an ethernet cable from the PI to your router.

Power up the Raspberry PI. A screen should appear as shown above with an option to install Raspbian.

Check the box and click the "Install" button.

A message will appear telling you that your SD card will be overwritten with the Raspbian software. Click "Yes" to continue.

The files required to run Raspbian will be extracted to the SD card.

The process takes between 15 and 20 minutes.

A message will appear stating the OSes have installed successfully.




After pressing OK the Raspberry PI will reboot into a config screen.

As you are using NOOBS you will not need to choose option 1 as the file system will automatically be expanded.

You should however change the password for the PI. Select option 2 and press return on the keyboard.

A message will be displayed saying that you will be asked for a new password. Press OK to continue. The request for the new password will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. Enter the password, press return and repeat the password when asked to do so. Press return again.

You can choose whether the Raspberry PI boots to the command line or a desktop operating system. You can also request for the PI to boot straight to SCRATCH which is a game programming environment aimed at kids.

By default the system boots to the command line. If you require a graphical user interface choose option 3 and press return.


If you need to change the language or keyboard layout choose option 4.

If you have a Raspberry PI camera choose option 5 to enable the camera module.

Option 6 lets you add your Raspberry PI to a global map showing all of the places where the Raspberry PI is being used.

When the original Raspberry PI was released you almost had to overclock it in order to be able to use it properly. The Raspberry PI 2 has 1 gigabyte of RAM which isn't massive but the requirement to overclock has diminished slightly.

Overclocking provides a small amount of risk and it can reduce the lifespan of your Raspberry PI. If you find that you can't use the PI for what you want to use it for then consider overclocking the device. 

To finish the setup press the tab key until the "Finish" option is selected and press return.

Raspbian






















After clicking "Finish" you will be asked to reboot the PI.

A loading screen will appear and eventually you will get to the main desktop.

There is a single panel at the top with icons for the menu, web browser, file manager and terminal.

A full review of Raspbian and the Raspberry PI 2 will be coming shortly so I won't go much further than that at this stage.

The last thing I am going to focus on in this article is connecting to the internet.

Connecting To The Internet

If you have a wired internet connection via the ethernet port then you can browse the web from the PI by clicking on the icon next to the menu icon.

This section deals with setting up a wireless connection.

Click on the menu and choose "Preferences" and then "WIFI Configuration".

The GUI for setting up WIFI isn't particularly user friendly.

Press the "Scan" button.







A list of wireless networks will appear.

Double click on the one you wish to connect to.








You will now need to enter your security key.

The screen used for this is fairly large and encompasses all encryption methods and authentication types.

As you can see from the screenshot, to connect to a WPA Personal network all you have to do is enter your security key into the PSK box and click "Add".












Your internet connection should now be set up and you should see a status of completed.

After you have set up a network once you can connect to it on subsequent occasions by selecting it from the network dropdown list.

Clicking "Connect" connects you to the internet.



Further Reading

I hope you found this guide useful. I will be writing further guides in the coming weeks including taking a look at Scratch and the GPIO functions of the Raspberry PI.

Thankyou for reading.




Setting Up The Raspberry PI 2

Introduction

It has been a while since my last Raspberry PI article. I have recently been given the new Raspberry PI 2 so I thought I would produce a new tutorial showing how to set it up.

My previous guide for setting up the original Raspberry PI is somewhat out of date. You should follow this guide regardless as to whether you have bought (or are going to buy) the Raspberry PI B+ or the Raspberry PI 2.

Who Is The Raspberry PI For?

There are so many uses for the Raspberry PI that it is hard to define one single user but here are a few reasons to get one:

  • Great for children and teenagers to learn how to use computers and create their own programs
  • Great for children and teenagers who have an interest in electronics
  • Can be used for a web kiosk in a cafe, small bed and breakfast, guest house or hotel
  • Can be used for digital signage in small outlets such as local shops
  • Can be used to run XBMC to turn your television into a media centre
  • Can be used to run games emulators for retro gaming
  • Can be used as a small file server, web server or print server
  • Can be used to download large files from the internet 
In the coming weeks I will explore some of these concepts.

What Equipment Do You Need?






















The image above shows the equipment I have for the Raspberry PI 2.

The items and reasons why they are required are as follows:

The Keyboard

You will need a keyboard to set up the Raspberry PI the first time.

If you are going to use the PI as an actual computer then you would probably be better off buying a standard USB keyboard but if you are more likely to use the PI as a server or fpr digital signage you can buy a mini keyboard.

Remember this is a one time only purchase as you will be able to use the same keyboard whether you use the original Raspberry PI, Raspberry PI B+, Raspberry PI 2 or in the future the 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7.



The Mouse

The mouse is also required during the initial setup of your Raspberry PI.

Again if you use the Raspberry PI as an actual desktop computer you will need the mouse all the time but if you use the Raspberry PI as a server you will probably only need to use the mouse once.


SD Card



You will need a micro SD card for running the operating system on the Raspberry PI and for storage space.

You can buy a 16 Gigabyte SD card for as little as £5.53 and install the Raspberry PI operating system yourself (as this guide shows) or you can pay a little bit extra and buy a 16 Gigabyte SD card for £12.99 with NOOBS pre-installed.

To be honest it will take you no time at all to install NOOBS onto an SD card but you do need an SD card reader. (either built into your computer or available for purchase).

If you need to buy an SD card reader you might be better off buying an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed.

The Raspberry PI


You will of course need a Raspberry PI 2.

This little computer is fantastic. There are other single board computers out there and they all claim to be better than the Raspberry PI because they either provide more memory, a better chip or some other unique selling point.

The beauty of the Raspberry PI is how much you get for so little money.

Just £29.99.





WIFI Dongle

If you plan to keep your Raspberry PI next to your router then you can get away with using the ethernet port with an ethernet cable and connect via a wired link but most people like to connect wirelessly to the internet from their Raspberry PI.

If you plan to use the Raspberry PI for digital signage you will almost certainly need a WIFI dongle.

Be careful when choosing the WIFI dongle because not all of them are as simple as plug and play.

The LP Link dongles are particularly hard to use.

Bluetooth Dongle


A bluetooth dongle isn't particularly necessary but if you plan to use your Raspberry PI as a retro gaming console you will need one in order to pair up games controllers.

You can use a WII controller or an OUYA controller with the Raspberry PI using a cheap bluetooth dongle.








Raspberry PI Case


A case isn't 100% necessary but if you are using the Raspberry PI as a media centre or for retro gaming it will certainly look better than a small circuit board with lots of protruding cables.

If you use your Raspberry PI for electronics then the case might get in the way when trying to connect breadboards.

A case will help however to keep dust off the Raspberry PI.

Powered Hub


The Raspberry PI 2 consumes less power than the original Raspberry PI but you will almost certainly need a powered USB hub.

Everything you plug in to the Raspberry PI's USB ports draws power and it doesn't take much to stop your little computer in its tracks.

By using a powered USB hub you can add bluetooth dongles and even an external USB hard drive without crashing the Raspberry PI.

This is pretty much an essential requirement.



Power Supply

You will need a power supply in order to make the Raspberry PI 2 work.

Be very careful when buying a power supply and make sure that it is designed to work with the Raspberry PI 2 otherwise you might fry the board.


Formatting The SD Card

Note: Skip this section if you bought an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed

That last section was longer than I intended it to be. Hopefully you have what you need in order to set up and use your Raspberry PI.

To actually get started however you will need to put NOOBs onto the SD Card.





















Before you can put NOOBS onto the SD card you will need to format it.

Insert the SD card into your SD card reader. (If you are using an external card reader connect the reader to your computer).

This guide assumes you are using Windows to format the drive.

Visit https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/eula_windows/index.html, read the agreement and click "Accept".

The SD Formatting software will be downloaded to your downloads folder. Open the downloads folder and double click on the SDFormatter zip file.

When the zip file opens double click on the Setup file.

A welcome screen will appear. Click "Next" to continue.





The second screen asks you to choose where to install the SDFormatter.

Unless you wish to change the default folder click "Next".










Finally you are ready to install the software.

Click "Install" and answer yes to any question that asks whether you are sure or you need to give permission to install the software.










An icon should appear on your desktop for the SD Formatter.

Double click on the icon and this screen will appear.

Add a volume label and click the "Option" button.







Make sure the format type is "quick" and that the format size adjustment is set to "On".

Click "OK" to continue.







When you return to the main screen click the "Format" button.

The SD Card will be formatted and a screen will appear telling you that the process is complete.








Install NOOBS To The SD Card





















Note: Skip this section if you bought an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed

NOOBS stands for New Out Of Box System.

When the original Raspberry PI was created you had to perform a number of steps to install Raspbian which is the most popular operating system available for the Raspberry PI.

The NOOBS system makes setting up the PI easier and allows you to choose how you will use the PI and includes options for setting the PI up as an XBMC device.

To get NOOBS visit www.raspberrypi.org/downloads

Click the "Download Zip" link next to NOOBS.



























Navigate to the downloads folder and open the NOOBS zip file by double clicking on it.

Click the "Extract All" button to extract all of the files.

You can choose the location where the files are extracted to.

At this stage it is worth sticking with the defaults.

Click "Extract"





Go to the extracted folder containing the NOOBS files and press CTRL and A to select all of the files.

Now drag the selected files to the drive letter assigned to the SD card.

Open the SD card and make sure the files have copied correctly.





Set Up The Raspberry PI Using NOOBS






















I apologise for the quality of the images for this bit but they are direct camera shots of the Raspberry PI connected to a monitor as there is no internet connectivity at this stage.

Insert the SD card into your Raspberry PI. (Don't bother enclosing the Raspberry PI in a case at this stage in case the image has been copied incorrectly).

Make sure that you have a USB keyboard and mouse connected via the USB ports on the Raspberry PI and add a WIFI dongle or an ethernet cable from the PI to your router.

Power up the Raspberry PI. A screen should appear as shown above with an option to install Raspbian.

Check the box and click the "Install" button.

A message will appear telling you that your SD card will be overwritten with the Raspbian software. Click "Yes" to continue.

The files required to run Raspbian will be extracted to the SD card.

The process takes between 15 and 20 minutes.

A message will appear stating the OSes have installed successfully.




After pressing OK the Raspberry PI will reboot into a config screen.

As you are using NOOBS you will not need to choose option 1 as the file system will automatically be expanded.

You should however change the password for the PI. Select option 2 and press return on the keyboard.

A message will be displayed saying that you will be asked for a new password. Press OK to continue. The request for the new password will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. Enter the password, press return and repeat the password when asked to do so. Press return again.

You can choose whether the Raspberry PI boots to the command line or a desktop operating system. You can also request for the PI to boot straight to SCRATCH which is a game programming environment aimed at kids.

By default the system boots to the command line. If you require a graphical user interface choose option 3 and press return.


If you need to change the language or keyboard layout choose option 4.

If you have a Raspberry PI camera choose option 5 to enable the camera module.

Option 6 lets you add your Raspberry PI to a global map showing all of the places where the Raspberry PI is being used.

When the original Raspberry PI was released you almost had to overclock it in order to be able to use it properly. The Raspberry PI 2 has 1 gigabyte of RAM which isn't massive but the requirement to overclock has diminished slightly.

Overclocking provides a small amount of risk and it can reduce the lifespan of your Raspberry PI. If you find that you can't use the PI for what you want to use it for then consider overclocking the device. 

To finish the setup press the tab key until the "Finish" option is selected and press return.

Raspbian






















After clicking "Finish" you will be asked to reboot the PI.

A loading screen will appear and eventually you will get to the main desktop.

There is a single panel at the top with icons for the menu, web browser, file manager and terminal.

A full review of Raspbian and the Raspberry PI 2 will be coming shortly so I won't go much further than that at this stage.

The last thing I am going to focus on in this article is connecting to the internet.

Connecting To The Internet

If you have a wired internet connection via the ethernet port then you can browse the web from the PI by clicking on the icon next to the menu icon.

This section deals with setting up a wireless connection.

Click on the menu and choose "Preferences" and then "WIFI Configuration".

The GUI for setting up WIFI isn't particularly user friendly.

Press the "Scan" button.







A list of wireless networks will appear.

Double click on the one you wish to connect to.








You will now need to enter your security key.

The screen used for this is fairly large and encompasses all encryption methods and authentication types.

As you can see from the screenshot, to connect to a WPA Personal network all you have to do is enter your security key into the PSK box and click "Add".












Your internet connection should now be set up and you should see a status of completed.

After you have set up a network once you can connect to it on subsequent occasions by selecting it from the network dropdown list.

Clicking "Connect" connects you to the internet.



Further Reading

I hope you found this guide useful. I will be writing further guides in the coming weeks including taking a look at Scratch and the GPIO functions of the Raspberry PI.

Thankyou for reading.




Posted at 23:34 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 16 March 2015

I have added a forum to the site. It is just an experiment at the moment but if it works it will stay full time.

The reason for creating the forum is that the comments section at the end of articles sometimes get really long.

In addition I am asked a large number of questions every week and it would be good if everybody had visibility of all of the questions so that we can try and help each other. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to answering queries by which time it might be too late.

The forum might also be a place where you can get to know each other as readers and share views and resources.

I haven't published any rules yet because it is in its infancy and I don't know where this will end up. In other words I am winging it.

I just want it to stay friendly and be useful. If you have any Linux based questions or suggestions for the site, sign up for the forum and add a new thread.

Thankyou

Click here to view the forum

Click here to register

I have created a new forum

I have added a forum to the site. It is just an experiment at the moment but if it works it will stay full time.

The reason for creating the forum is that the comments section at the end of articles sometimes get really long.

In addition I am asked a large number of questions every week and it would be good if everybody had visibility of all of the questions so that we can try and help each other. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to answering queries by which time it might be too late.

The forum might also be a place where you can get to know each other as readers and share views and resources.

I haven't published any rules yet because it is in its infancy and I don't know where this will end up. In other words I am winging it.

I just want it to stay friendly and be useful. If you have any Linux based questions or suggestions for the site, sign up for the forum and add a new thread.

Thankyou

Click here to view the forum

Click here to register

Posted at 10:43 |  by Gary Newell

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Thoughts on using Linux Mint Cinnamon Edition 17.1

I had long been attracted to the idea of using Linux. When Microsoft ceased to provide security patches for XP I got an excellent independent computer shop to install Lubuntu on my netbook for me. This allowed me to get used to the ways of Linux, and experiment with different programs. Any fears I may have had regarding ease of use were soon forgotten, and despite my experimentation, installing and uninstalling lots of programs, the system remained far more responsive than XP.



My wife is a keen photographer and uses our Windows 7 desktop far more than she used to, so my mind turned to a new laptop, and Linux. After a lot of deliberation I settled on Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.1, and had the same local computer shop install it on a new laptop for me.



As well the many testimonials to Mint's ease of use for beginners, I was also drawn to its clean good looks. The expression eye-candy is often used to describe the graphical appearance of operating systems. I would describe Mint as attractive, clean, easy on the eye. Eye-candy feels superficial to me. To use a Hi-Fi metaphor, many people are attracted to Hi-Fi when they hear it in the dealers showroom because of false emphasis, a little unnatural excitement imparted to the treble and bass. When they have lived with such systems they find them tiring over extended listening. Such it is, in my experience, with eye-candy. No such problem with Mint, its clean, understated good looks, and remarkable consistency of appearance have remained a pleasure to use.



I suppose I should come up with some criticisms, nothing can be perfect can it, but after using Windows for so many years, and never being satisfied with it, Mint feels like a dream to me. Far from Linux being difficult, in the form of Mint it is a pleasure to use, and I found myself wondering why Windows has become so awkward.



As has been remarked in many reviews, Mint comes with pretty much everything you need already installed. I have used Libre Office for ages, and like it, so that was not a new experience for me.



If there was one thing I find useful that was not installed, it was a Font Manager. After Installing a few extra fonts I wanted I seemed to have far too many, especially a lot of rather similar sans serif ones. When I had experimented with Lubuntu I (mistakenly as it turned out) installed the Edubuntu fonts, most of which seemed neither useful or attractive to me. Uninstalling them had not worked, so I was left with a lot of unwanted fonts. I tried Fonty Python, which I had problems with, and eventually settled on Fontmatrix, which solved the problem for me. This time I tried Font Manager, which suits me even more for its simplicity of use, and it seems to me that it ties in nicely with the Mint look and feel.



I am a writer, so a good dictionary and thesaurus is essential. On Windows the excellent Oxford Concise was my choice, but as far as I can see is not available under Linux. I didn't want one that is tied to an internet connection, and after a lot of looking found Artha, which uses the Princeton University word net project for its definitions, and although it describes itself as a thesaurus, actually provides good definitions as well. In fact, the method of displaying both definitions, synonyms, antonyms and much more, in one place, beats the Oxford Dictionaries method hands down. I thoroughly recommend it if you haven't come across it before. And yes, it recognises English spellings as well as American ones.



At the same time as the laptop I purchased a new printer. After working out that I needed to turn off the Firewall (yes, old habits are difficult to cast aside, and I installed a firewall and the ClamTk virus checker, but I will occasionally exchange files with our Windows PC, so I am being extra cautious) it was incredibly easy to connect to the printer wirelessly, and as I found afterwards, just as easy to select a rule for the firewall to allow the printer through. What was it people say about Linux being difficult to use? Rubbish, it's easy.



The only thing that did make me scratch my head was how to create more than one workspace. Not that I use this facility, but I like to have as full an understanding of the operating system I use as possible. In case you are new to Mint 17.1, and haven't figured it out yet, just try pressing ctrl+alt+the up key, and you should be presented with two available workspaces. The second one only becomes available to the little icon in the bottom right hand corner of the system tray, that usually says workspace 1 and shows the programs you are using, when you actually open a program in the second workspace. There is also a large plus sign that allows you to create more workspaces.



So, as a newbie I can only say that I am deeply impressed with the ease of use of Linux, and Mint Cinnamon edition 17.1 in particular. Like new believers often are, I am in serious danger of becoming evangelical about it. Next time I think I will have plucked up courage to do the install for myself.

Paul Surman is a poet living in Oxford. He says he regards his computer as a useful tool, but without being obsessed he tries to understand how they work as best he can

Thank you for the article Paul.

If you would like to contribute to Everyday Linux User send me an email and if the content is good then I will be happy to publish it.

What are your thoughts about Linux Mint? Why not leave a message on the new Everyday Linux User Forum telling everyone about your experiences.







Thoughts on using Linux Mint Cinnamon Edition 17.1


Thoughts on using Linux Mint Cinnamon Edition 17.1

I had long been attracted to the idea of using Linux. When Microsoft ceased to provide security patches for XP I got an excellent independent computer shop to install Lubuntu on my netbook for me. This allowed me to get used to the ways of Linux, and experiment with different programs. Any fears I may have had regarding ease of use were soon forgotten, and despite my experimentation, installing and uninstalling lots of programs, the system remained far more responsive than XP.



My wife is a keen photographer and uses our Windows 7 desktop far more than she used to, so my mind turned to a new laptop, and Linux. After a lot of deliberation I settled on Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.1, and had the same local computer shop install it on a new laptop for me.



As well the many testimonials to Mint's ease of use for beginners, I was also drawn to its clean good looks. The expression eye-candy is often used to describe the graphical appearance of operating systems. I would describe Mint as attractive, clean, easy on the eye. Eye-candy feels superficial to me. To use a Hi-Fi metaphor, many people are attracted to Hi-Fi when they hear it in the dealers showroom because of false emphasis, a little unnatural excitement imparted to the treble and bass. When they have lived with such systems they find them tiring over extended listening. Such it is, in my experience, with eye-candy. No such problem with Mint, its clean, understated good looks, and remarkable consistency of appearance have remained a pleasure to use.



I suppose I should come up with some criticisms, nothing can be perfect can it, but after using Windows for so many years, and never being satisfied with it, Mint feels like a dream to me. Far from Linux being difficult, in the form of Mint it is a pleasure to use, and I found myself wondering why Windows has become so awkward.



As has been remarked in many reviews, Mint comes with pretty much everything you need already installed. I have used Libre Office for ages, and like it, so that was not a new experience for me.



If there was one thing I find useful that was not installed, it was a Font Manager. After Installing a few extra fonts I wanted I seemed to have far too many, especially a lot of rather similar sans serif ones. When I had experimented with Lubuntu I (mistakenly as it turned out) installed the Edubuntu fonts, most of which seemed neither useful or attractive to me. Uninstalling them had not worked, so I was left with a lot of unwanted fonts. I tried Fonty Python, which I had problems with, and eventually settled on Fontmatrix, which solved the problem for me. This time I tried Font Manager, which suits me even more for its simplicity of use, and it seems to me that it ties in nicely with the Mint look and feel.



I am a writer, so a good dictionary and thesaurus is essential. On Windows the excellent Oxford Concise was my choice, but as far as I can see is not available under Linux. I didn't want one that is tied to an internet connection, and after a lot of looking found Artha, which uses the Princeton University word net project for its definitions, and although it describes itself as a thesaurus, actually provides good definitions as well. In fact, the method of displaying both definitions, synonyms, antonyms and much more, in one place, beats the Oxford Dictionaries method hands down. I thoroughly recommend it if you haven't come across it before. And yes, it recognises English spellings as well as American ones.



At the same time as the laptop I purchased a new printer. After working out that I needed to turn off the Firewall (yes, old habits are difficult to cast aside, and I installed a firewall and the ClamTk virus checker, but I will occasionally exchange files with our Windows PC, so I am being extra cautious) it was incredibly easy to connect to the printer wirelessly, and as I found afterwards, just as easy to select a rule for the firewall to allow the printer through. What was it people say about Linux being difficult to use? Rubbish, it's easy.



The only thing that did make me scratch my head was how to create more than one workspace. Not that I use this facility, but I like to have as full an understanding of the operating system I use as possible. In case you are new to Mint 17.1, and haven't figured it out yet, just try pressing ctrl+alt+the up key, and you should be presented with two available workspaces. The second one only becomes available to the little icon in the bottom right hand corner of the system tray, that usually says workspace 1 and shows the programs you are using, when you actually open a program in the second workspace. There is also a large plus sign that allows you to create more workspaces.



So, as a newbie I can only say that I am deeply impressed with the ease of use of Linux, and Mint Cinnamon edition 17.1 in particular. Like new believers often are, I am in serious danger of becoming evangelical about it. Next time I think I will have plucked up courage to do the install for myself.

Paul Surman is a poet living in Oxford. He says he regards his computer as a useful tool, but without being obsessed he tries to understand how they work as best he can

Thank you for the article Paul.

If you would like to contribute to Everyday Linux User send me an email and if the content is good then I will be happy to publish it.

What are your thoughts about Linux Mint? Why not leave a message on the new Everyday Linux User Forum telling everyone about your experiences.







Posted at 22:09 |  by Gary Newell

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Introduction

It has been a long time since I last reviewed Fedora. Many of the distributions that I have reviewed recently are based on Debian and Ubuntu.

I felt that it was time to even the balance somewhat and take another look at Fedora.

The version I will be reviewing is the one provided with the default download link from the Fedora website which includes the Gnome 3 desktop environment.

What Is Fedora?

Fedora /fɨˈdɒr.ə/ (formerly Fedora Core) is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and owned by Red Hat. Fedora contains software distributed under a free and open source license and aims to be on the leading edge of such technologies

Fedora contains no proprietary software or drivers and therefore every part of the operating system is free to use, distribute and amend.

Fedora focuses on being cutting edge with all the latest software packages and technologies.

Click here for the Fedora Wikipedia Page.

Installation

Fedora uses the Anaconda installer which has matured to a point where it is fairly straight forward to follow.

I have created a couple of guides to help you install Fedora:

If you have a poor internet connection you can click here to buy a Fedora USB drive.

I did have a few problems during the installation process whilst making screenshots as the installer crashed when taking a screenshot of the users screen.

I don't think this is an issue that will affect many people however as most people just install the operating system and don't bother taking snapshots for their photo albums.

First Impressions



After you have gone through the installation and Gnome setup steps you are left with a simple looking desktop with a panel at the top.

The way modern desktop environments seem to be going is to make good use of the super key (Windows key) and keyboard shortcuts in order to find and run applications.

Unity for example brings up a dash when the super key is pressed and you can enter text into a search box to filter the applications by name. Windows 8.1 is much the same. If you are on the tiled window view you can start typing and the applications you wish to run will appear on the right side of the screen.

Gnome 3 works in much the same way. The super key pulls up the activities window with a search box and a list of favourite icons down the left. Entering text into the search box filters the relevant applications and files.





















The Gnome 3 desktop has been around for quite some time and has matured well. There was a time when people dismissed Gnome 3 because it  wasn't deemed as good as Gnome 2 and it seemed to be going in a direction people didn't like.

I think the developers have been vindicated by their decisions however because Gnome 3 is a really decent desktop environment.

When you bring up the activities window (either by pressing the super key or clicking the activities icon in the top left corner) you are shown an overlay screen with a search box in the middle, a list of favourites in a panel on the left side of the screen and a list of workspaces in the right panel.

The default icons in the favourites panel are as follows:
  • Firefox Web Browser
  • Evolution Email Client
  • Rhythmbox Audio Player
  • Shotwell Photo Manager
  • Files, File Manager
  • Software Installer
  • Show Applications
Clicking on the "show applications" icon brings up a list of all the applications on your system.

Note that there are two tabs at the bottom of the screen:
  1. Frequent - shows frequently used applications
  2. All - shows all applications
There are many things that make Gnome 3 good.

For example pressing the super key whilst you are using an application such as Firefox zooms out to show all the open applications on your system.

There are loads of keyboard shortcuts to help you switch applications, move applications to new workspaces and basically navigate your system.

You can also snap application windows so that they sit side by side.

To bring up notifications and messages you have to press the Windows and M key.


If you preferred the look and feel of Gnome 2 you can change the settings for your user to use Gnome Classic. Gnome Classic has a more traditional menu system.

The one thing that I noticed whilst running the Gnome 3 desktop was that it was fairly sluggish.

One of the other desktop options other than Gnome 3 and Gnome Classic is Gnome 3 with Wayland.

Wayland is developed by a group of volunteers led by Kristian Høgsberg as a free and open-source software community-driven project with the aim of replacing the X Window System with a modern, simpler windowing system in Linux and Unix-like operating systems.[5] The project's source code is published under the terms of the MIT License.[3]
Click here for the Wayland Wikipedia page.

Basically the X System has been around for virtually ever and has been the sole way to display windows within Linux.

Wayland is one of the replacement options being developed and Fedora has a Gnome 3 desktop environment utilising Wayland.

I have to say that it works brilliantly. My system performs a million times better using the Gnome 3 desktop with Wayland than without.

Customising the desktop

Gnome 3 isn't as customisable as Gnome 2 used to be but it really doesn't need to be. You can find what you are looking for and get on with your work with the minimum of fuss.

There is a tool you can install called the Gnome Tweak Tool.





















The tweak tool allows you to adjust themes, change the desktop wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper, icons and cursors.

You can also use a menu instead of the Gnome 3 dash style interface and add a window list at the bottom of the screen.

There are loads of options available within the tweak tool.

If you are just interested in changing the desktop wallpaper you can right click on the main desktop and choose "Change Background".

A window appears with two options available; change the desktop wallpaper and change the lock screen wallpaper.

Clicking on the background wallpaper brings up a settings screen.

























You can choose to use one of the wallpapers provided or choose one of your own pictures. You can also choose to use plain colours.

Connecting to the internet





















To connect to the internet click the icon in the top right corner and click "Select Network".





















A list of available networks will appear. Click on the one you wish to use and enter the security key.

Flash and MP3

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Fedora comes with free software, drivers and codecs and therefore Flash and MP3 don't work out of the box.






















To be honest Flash is dying and not something I am overly worried about except that one of my favourite online games utilises Flash.

Youtube is largely unaffected by the lack of Flash as it uses alternative technologies such as HTML 5 and Web-M.




Installing Flash isn't that difficult. You can visit the Adobe website where there are RPM packages for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

From within the Gnome Package Installer (which I will come to later on) you can check the Flash add-on box to install it and get it working with Firefox.










MP3s also do not play natively. You have to install the "GStreamer Multimedia Codecs - Non Free package".

In order to do so you need to add the RPMFusion repositories.

The easiest way to install the repositories is to visit http://rpmfusion.org/Configuration.

There are links to RPM Free Package repositories for versions 20 and 21 of Fedora and links to RPM Non Free Package repositories for versions 20 and 21 of Fedora.




Click the RPM Non Free Package repository link and open with "Software Installer" in order to get access to the good stuff.

All you have to do now is click the "Install" button to add the repository.

You will now be able to find the "GStreamer Non Free Package" within the Gnome Package Installer.

Simply click the "Install" button to install the codecs and you will now be able to import and play MP3 files within Rhythmbox.









Applications

Fedora has a good selection of applications and most things the average user will need to get them up and running.

To start off with there is the full LibreOffice suite (Version 4.3.2.2) complete with a word processor, spreadsheet package, presentation package, drawing package and database package.

The Shotwell Photo Manager is also installed which makes it easier to organise and view your photos.

Rhythmbox is the default audio player.

With Rhythmbox you can import your music collection, buy music from last.fm, listen to podcasts and online radio stations.

Rhythmbox also works well with external audio devices such as the Sony Walkman and Samsung Galaxy phones.




For watching movies there is the Totem media player. This is a really up to date version of Totem which integrates nicely into the Gnome desktop.

You have the choice of watching your own videos or choosing from video channels such as Youtube.

The default web browser within Fedora is Firefox (version 33.1) and the mail client is Evolution.



Evolution provides step by step instructions for connecting to your email client. The interface for Evolution is great by the way and more than matches anything provided by Outlook.

If you like to use a messenging application there is Empathy. Empathy can connect to many different types of chat including AOL, Google Talk and IRC.

Fedora includes a tool called "Dev Assistant" which is useful for software developers.

It doesn't matter whether you are a C programmer or a Java programmer, a Perl scripter or a Python guy.

The DevAssistant provides options for installing and using development tools for all of these and more.












The other real application of note is Boxes which is a tool for creating and running virtual machines.

Installing Software








The tool used for installing software is the Gnome Package Installer. Within the menu system it just comes up as "Software".

It is much like the Ubuntu Software Centre and pretty much every other graphical software installer available nowadays with a list of categories depicted with icons and a search box.

One thing I would say about this tool is that it doesn't always pick everything up that is available. For instance I wanted to install Steam and despite having the necessary repositories installed it just doesn't show up in the Gnome Package Installer. I had to use the command line tool Yum to install Steam. I now have Steam installed and it still doesn't show up as an installed package.

(If anyone knows how to help with that I would appreciate it).

Issues

Performance was fairly poor using Gnome until I switched to using Wayland. My experience with Wayland thus far is phenomenal.

During the install phase the installer kept crashing whilst trying to take screenshots of the users screen.

Sometimes when installing packages the package manager said "Cannot install" and then when I clicked install again the package installed correctly.

Trying to get the package installer to show everything is proving tricky. This might be a lack of knowledge on my behalf but this site is all about the everyday linux user and so if it is tricky for me it will be tricky for others as well.

Summary

I really like the Gnome 3 desktop environment now. It looks and feels incredibly professional and polished and the keyboard shortcuts work a treat.

Wayland has been a huge hit with me and if Ubuntu is going to use MIR then it had better be really good in order to beat this.

Fedora itself comes with a decent set of applications and you can get everything that it doesn't have via the graphical installer and by utilising the RPMFusion repositories.

The downsides have all been listed in the issues section above.

How have you found Fedora 21? Have you been left confused by the graphical package manager? Use the comments section below to let me know and to also inform me if you think there are errors with this review.

Thankyou for reading.




















An Everyday Linux User Review Of Fedora 21

Introduction

It has been a long time since I last reviewed Fedora. Many of the distributions that I have reviewed recently are based on Debian and Ubuntu.

I felt that it was time to even the balance somewhat and take another look at Fedora.

The version I will be reviewing is the one provided with the default download link from the Fedora website which includes the Gnome 3 desktop environment.

What Is Fedora?

Fedora /fɨˈdɒr.ə/ (formerly Fedora Core) is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and owned by Red Hat. Fedora contains software distributed under a free and open source license and aims to be on the leading edge of such technologies

Fedora contains no proprietary software or drivers and therefore every part of the operating system is free to use, distribute and amend.

Fedora focuses on being cutting edge with all the latest software packages and technologies.

Click here for the Fedora Wikipedia Page.

Installation

Fedora uses the Anaconda installer which has matured to a point where it is fairly straight forward to follow.

I have created a couple of guides to help you install Fedora:

If you have a poor internet connection you can click here to buy a Fedora USB drive.

I did have a few problems during the installation process whilst making screenshots as the installer crashed when taking a screenshot of the users screen.

I don't think this is an issue that will affect many people however as most people just install the operating system and don't bother taking snapshots for their photo albums.

First Impressions



After you have gone through the installation and Gnome setup steps you are left with a simple looking desktop with a panel at the top.

The way modern desktop environments seem to be going is to make good use of the super key (Windows key) and keyboard shortcuts in order to find and run applications.

Unity for example brings up a dash when the super key is pressed and you can enter text into a search box to filter the applications by name. Windows 8.1 is much the same. If you are on the tiled window view you can start typing and the applications you wish to run will appear on the right side of the screen.

Gnome 3 works in much the same way. The super key pulls up the activities window with a search box and a list of favourite icons down the left. Entering text into the search box filters the relevant applications and files.





















The Gnome 3 desktop has been around for quite some time and has matured well. There was a time when people dismissed Gnome 3 because it  wasn't deemed as good as Gnome 2 and it seemed to be going in a direction people didn't like.

I think the developers have been vindicated by their decisions however because Gnome 3 is a really decent desktop environment.

When you bring up the activities window (either by pressing the super key or clicking the activities icon in the top left corner) you are shown an overlay screen with a search box in the middle, a list of favourites in a panel on the left side of the screen and a list of workspaces in the right panel.

The default icons in the favourites panel are as follows:
  • Firefox Web Browser
  • Evolution Email Client
  • Rhythmbox Audio Player
  • Shotwell Photo Manager
  • Files, File Manager
  • Software Installer
  • Show Applications
Clicking on the "show applications" icon brings up a list of all the applications on your system.

Note that there are two tabs at the bottom of the screen:
  1. Frequent - shows frequently used applications
  2. All - shows all applications
There are many things that make Gnome 3 good.

For example pressing the super key whilst you are using an application such as Firefox zooms out to show all the open applications on your system.

There are loads of keyboard shortcuts to help you switch applications, move applications to new workspaces and basically navigate your system.

You can also snap application windows so that they sit side by side.

To bring up notifications and messages you have to press the Windows and M key.


If you preferred the look and feel of Gnome 2 you can change the settings for your user to use Gnome Classic. Gnome Classic has a more traditional menu system.

The one thing that I noticed whilst running the Gnome 3 desktop was that it was fairly sluggish.

One of the other desktop options other than Gnome 3 and Gnome Classic is Gnome 3 with Wayland.

Wayland is developed by a group of volunteers led by Kristian Høgsberg as a free and open-source software community-driven project with the aim of replacing the X Window System with a modern, simpler windowing system in Linux and Unix-like operating systems.[5] The project's source code is published under the terms of the MIT License.[3]
Click here for the Wayland Wikipedia page.

Basically the X System has been around for virtually ever and has been the sole way to display windows within Linux.

Wayland is one of the replacement options being developed and Fedora has a Gnome 3 desktop environment utilising Wayland.

I have to say that it works brilliantly. My system performs a million times better using the Gnome 3 desktop with Wayland than without.

Customising the desktop

Gnome 3 isn't as customisable as Gnome 2 used to be but it really doesn't need to be. You can find what you are looking for and get on with your work with the minimum of fuss.

There is a tool you can install called the Gnome Tweak Tool.





















The tweak tool allows you to adjust themes, change the desktop wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper, icons and cursors.

You can also use a menu instead of the Gnome 3 dash style interface and add a window list at the bottom of the screen.

There are loads of options available within the tweak tool.

If you are just interested in changing the desktop wallpaper you can right click on the main desktop and choose "Change Background".

A window appears with two options available; change the desktop wallpaper and change the lock screen wallpaper.

Clicking on the background wallpaper brings up a settings screen.

























You can choose to use one of the wallpapers provided or choose one of your own pictures. You can also choose to use plain colours.

Connecting to the internet





















To connect to the internet click the icon in the top right corner and click "Select Network".





















A list of available networks will appear. Click on the one you wish to use and enter the security key.

Flash and MP3

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Fedora comes with free software, drivers and codecs and therefore Flash and MP3 don't work out of the box.






















To be honest Flash is dying and not something I am overly worried about except that one of my favourite online games utilises Flash.

Youtube is largely unaffected by the lack of Flash as it uses alternative technologies such as HTML 5 and Web-M.




Installing Flash isn't that difficult. You can visit the Adobe website where there are RPM packages for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

From within the Gnome Package Installer (which I will come to later on) you can check the Flash add-on box to install it and get it working with Firefox.










MP3s also do not play natively. You have to install the "GStreamer Multimedia Codecs - Non Free package".

In order to do so you need to add the RPMFusion repositories.

The easiest way to install the repositories is to visit http://rpmfusion.org/Configuration.

There are links to RPM Free Package repositories for versions 20 and 21 of Fedora and links to RPM Non Free Package repositories for versions 20 and 21 of Fedora.




Click the RPM Non Free Package repository link and open with "Software Installer" in order to get access to the good stuff.

All you have to do now is click the "Install" button to add the repository.

You will now be able to find the "GStreamer Non Free Package" within the Gnome Package Installer.

Simply click the "Install" button to install the codecs and you will now be able to import and play MP3 files within Rhythmbox.









Applications

Fedora has a good selection of applications and most things the average user will need to get them up and running.

To start off with there is the full LibreOffice suite (Version 4.3.2.2) complete with a word processor, spreadsheet package, presentation package, drawing package and database package.

The Shotwell Photo Manager is also installed which makes it easier to organise and view your photos.

Rhythmbox is the default audio player.

With Rhythmbox you can import your music collection, buy music from last.fm, listen to podcasts and online radio stations.

Rhythmbox also works well with external audio devices such as the Sony Walkman and Samsung Galaxy phones.




For watching movies there is the Totem media player. This is a really up to date version of Totem which integrates nicely into the Gnome desktop.

You have the choice of watching your own videos or choosing from video channels such as Youtube.

The default web browser within Fedora is Firefox (version 33.1) and the mail client is Evolution.



Evolution provides step by step instructions for connecting to your email client. The interface for Evolution is great by the way and more than matches anything provided by Outlook.

If you like to use a messenging application there is Empathy. Empathy can connect to many different types of chat including AOL, Google Talk and IRC.

Fedora includes a tool called "Dev Assistant" which is useful for software developers.

It doesn't matter whether you are a C programmer or a Java programmer, a Perl scripter or a Python guy.

The DevAssistant provides options for installing and using development tools for all of these and more.












The other real application of note is Boxes which is a tool for creating and running virtual machines.

Installing Software








The tool used for installing software is the Gnome Package Installer. Within the menu system it just comes up as "Software".

It is much like the Ubuntu Software Centre and pretty much every other graphical software installer available nowadays with a list of categories depicted with icons and a search box.

One thing I would say about this tool is that it doesn't always pick everything up that is available. For instance I wanted to install Steam and despite having the necessary repositories installed it just doesn't show up in the Gnome Package Installer. I had to use the command line tool Yum to install Steam. I now have Steam installed and it still doesn't show up as an installed package.

(If anyone knows how to help with that I would appreciate it).

Issues

Performance was fairly poor using Gnome until I switched to using Wayland. My experience with Wayland thus far is phenomenal.

During the install phase the installer kept crashing whilst trying to take screenshots of the users screen.

Sometimes when installing packages the package manager said "Cannot install" and then when I clicked install again the package installed correctly.

Trying to get the package installer to show everything is proving tricky. This might be a lack of knowledge on my behalf but this site is all about the everyday linux user and so if it is tricky for me it will be tricky for others as well.

Summary

I really like the Gnome 3 desktop environment now. It looks and feels incredibly professional and polished and the keyboard shortcuts work a treat.

Wayland has been a huge hit with me and if Ubuntu is going to use MIR then it had better be really good in order to beat this.

Fedora itself comes with a decent set of applications and you can get everything that it doesn't have via the graphical installer and by utilising the RPMFusion repositories.

The downsides have all been listed in the issues section above.

How have you found Fedora 21? Have you been left confused by the graphical package manager? Use the comments section below to let me know and to also inform me if you think there are errors with this review.

Thankyou for reading.




















Posted at 20:28 |  by Gary Newell

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Introduction

I have been asked on a number of occasions to take a look at LXLE.

I downloaded LXLE 14.04.1 a long time ago and for one reason or another it has taken until now to finally sit down and get to grips with it.

LXLE stands for Lubuntu Extra Life Extension. The purpose of LXLE is to take the base Lubuntu distribution and enhance it so that all the features the average person requires is available from the outset.

The features of LXLE are described as follows:
  • Light on resources; Heavy on functions.
  • Always based on Ubuntu/Lubuntu LTS.
  • Uses an optimized LXDE user interface.
  • Four familiar desktop layout paradigms.
  • Prudent full featured Apps preinstalled.
  • Latest stable versions of major software.
  • Added PPAs extends available software.
  • Weather, Aero Snap, Quick Launch
  • Random Wallpaper, Panel Trash access
  • Theme consistency throughout system.
  • 100 gorgeous wallpapers preinstalled.
  • Numerous other tweaks/additions.
  • 32 and 64 bit OS versions available.
  • Boots & is online in less than 1 minute. 
In this review I am going to take a brief look at the normal areas such as installation, connecting to the internet, Flash and MP3 support and the general look and feel but mainly I will be focusing on the applications as that is the part that adds the value to Lubuntu to make LXLE what it is.

Installation

I have developed an installation guide showing how to install LXLE.

Generally speaking the installer is much like the Ubuntu/Lubuntu installer but there are some subtle differences.

First Impressions


The first thing that you will notice is the visually pleasing loading screen and visually pleasing really is a feature of LXLE as a whole.

If any of you were lucky enough to try Fuduntu a few years back you will appreciate the artwork that was included as part of that particular distribution.

There are people out there who really hate these type of reviews because in their own words they hate pointless reviews which show off a few wallpapers and list the applications from the menus. If you feel that way about distribution reviews I would probably click away now.

I am not going to apologise however about showing off the wallpapers supplied with LXLE because when you have artwork as pleasing as the next few photos it would be a crime not to show them off.

The desktop environment used within LXLE is of course LXDE.

There is a single panel at the bottom with the menu icon in the bottom left and icons for the file manager, random wallpaper changer, iconify windows, quick application launcher and workspace switchers.

The icons in the bottom right corner toggle on and off the info box in the top right corner of the screen, control audio settings, internet settings, weather, the clock and a battery monitor.

In the top right corner of the screen there is an information box showing your uptime, RAM usage, CPU usage, hard drive usage, battery power, what is in your trash, upload and download speeds.

On my ACER Aspire One D255 netbook with 1 gigabyte of RAM, the system uses 19% of RAM without any applications open.  Using FireFox with 1 window open uses 44% of RAM.

There are no icons on the desktop but if you move your mouse to the left of the screen a new panel drifts in from the left with icons for commonly used applications such as the file manager, application finder, email, internet messenger, audio player, office suite, personal organiser, task manager and software centre.

The overall appeal of the LXLE desktop is very nice. The dark panel works very well but it is slightly difficult to see the workspace switchers and I only realised they were there by accidentally clicking on one. (It is probably worth mentioning that I am colourblind and therefore struggle with shades).

The random wallpaper changer is worth checking out and the quick launch icon is very useful for finding an application quickly.


The menu is the same as the one that comes with Lubuntu (the default LXDE menu) but the theme used makes it look very good.

The main issue with the menu is that if you have lots of items in one sub-category the list becomes a bit too long.

Connecting To The Internet






















To connect to the internet all you have to do is click on the network icon in the system tray and choose the network you wish to connect to.

If the wireless network requires a password you will have to enter it the first time you connect to that network but it will be remembered the next time you need to connect to it.

Flash And MP3





















If you chose to install the third party add-ons when you installed LXLE, Flash will work straight away and so will MP3 audio.

If you forgot to check the box to install third party add-ons, you can install the Lubuntu-restricted-extras package via the software centre.

Applications

As stylish as LXLE is, the only way to really judge it is to look at the applications that are installed with it.

Accessories

I am not going to list every application in every category because there are too many to mention. I will highlight the applications that will help to separate LXLE from the crowd.

Viruses and malware aren't generally something that figure too prominently when talking about Linux.

LXLE however comes with ClamTK which provides a nice graphical user interface for the ClamAV antivirus package.

Click here for my review of ClamTK


KeePassX helps you store your usernames and passwords in a single application.

It provides a safer and more secure option to a piece of paper in your desk drawer or a spreadsheet in your home folder.



Games

LXLE comes with over 20 games including everything from tetris clones, breakout clones and chess, to minesweeper and hearts. LXLE also includes a link for installing STEAM.

Education






















The education category has just three entries.

Anki is described as an intelligent spaced repetition memory training program. It took me a while to get my head around the point of the program but basically it is a flash card system used for aiding with recall. For instance if you have an exam coming up you could create a deck of cards to help you remember important points and use Anki to test yourself.

LibreOffice Math is a formula editor for use with the rest of the LibreOffice Suite. Click here for more information.

Marble is a virtual globe. You can choose between the earth and the moon and spin the globe in any direction and zoom in and out.

Graphics



























The graphics sub-category includes the GIMP which is the Linux alternative to Photoshop.

For the average user though the more interesting applications will be Shotwell which lets you manage your photo collection and Mirage which is a photo viewer.

LibreOffice Draw is included as part of the full office suite and is good for creating anything from simple drawings to complex diagrams.

This category also includes a document viewer, font manager,  photo print application and a scanning application. An application that caught my eye was the image reducer which is obviously useful for blogging purposes.

Internet

The internet section has everything you could need including the Pidgin Instant Messenger, Filezilla which is an FTP client and the Claws email client.

Claws is a fairly basic email client but it does give a straight forward method of connecting to GMail accounts, something which Microsoft Outlook can't manage easily.

Other internet applications include the FireFox web browser, XChat IRC Client, a VNC client called Gitso, the Transmission bittorrent client and the UGet download manager.

Office

The office section has a full office suite and a couple of other potentially useful applications.

LibreOffice is the office suite and includes a word processor, spreadsheet package, presentation package, drawing application and database package.

There is a home budgeting tool called HomeBank. You can use this to keep tabs on all of your bank accounts. If your online banking allows you to export files in QIF format you will be able to import them into HomeBank.

Meanwhile the other application of note is Osmo which is a personal information manager.

Osmo has 4 tabs; calendar, tasks, contact and notes. If you use GMail you can export the contacts from Google and import them into Osmo. Unfortunately there appears to be no way to import tasks.

I would be interested in hearing how many of you find the desktop budgeting application and personal organiser useful. Personally I still use a humble spreadsheet for budgeting and my online banking gives me full control of my bank accounts.

As for a personal organiser, I am more likely to use the applications on my phone than a desktop application for managing contacts.

Sound And Video


The audio player within LXLE is Guayadeque. It isn't spectacular but does the job, and includes the ability to import all of your music, create playlists, listen to online radio stations, add podcasts and buy music via last.fm.

If you prefer to make your own music there is Audacity and for those of you who prefer to edit your own videos, Openshot is included.

I wrote a guide a while back to do with screencasting and video editing within Linux. LXLE includes video editing and screencasting tools.

For viewing videos there is the Totem video player and you can also watch Youtube videos by using Minitube.

Installing Applications



As LXLE is a respin of Lubuntu the graphical tool used for installing packages is the Lubuntu Software Centre.

You can search for applications using the search box or browse the various categories. The search feature is a tad annoying as it starts searching for applications after just a few milliseconds and doesn't give you enough time to type the name or description of an application.

LXLE includes a number of extra PPAs for specific applications. For instance there are PPAs for Guayadeque, Catfish, Claws and LibreOffice. There are also PPAs for noobslab and webupd8. By linking to the specific PPAs you are able to install and use the latest versions of the applications.

(Click here for an explanation of what a PPA is)

Summary

The LXLE community is fairly vocal and passionate about their respin of Lubuntu.

My installation guide has generated a number of comments and I have received a number of emails thanking me for writing the guide and for suggestions on improving the guide.

In the past when I have written about Lubuntu or Peppermint, I have received emails and comments telling me to try LXLE because it is ace.

So what is my opinion of LXLE?

Lubuntu is a minimal and lightweight distribution and gives you just enough to be useful but leaving scope for you to turn it into whatever you want it to be.

LXLE has taken Lubuntu and added extra value by providing more useful applications, wonderful visual elements and better navigation.

If you are looking for a lightweight distribution, for an older computer (or a computer with limited capabilities), which really does have everything you need without having to install extra software then you really are better off installing LXLE over Lubuntu.

Of course the alternative is to take Lubuntu yourself and turn it into whatever you want it to be by installing your favourite applications, themes and navigational tools.

What I like about LXLE is that the creators have kept it simple and not tried to over do things.

With some distributions you get the feeling that the developers weren't sure which applications to include and therefore ended up throwing 2 or 3 of everything in. With LXLE this isn't the case. 

Be prepared for LXLE 14.04.2

A new version of LXLE is due to be released in April. I will be writing an update to this article shortly after it has been released to highlight new features.


An Everyday Linux User Review Of LXLE

Introduction

I have been asked on a number of occasions to take a look at LXLE.

I downloaded LXLE 14.04.1 a long time ago and for one reason or another it has taken until now to finally sit down and get to grips with it.

LXLE stands for Lubuntu Extra Life Extension. The purpose of LXLE is to take the base Lubuntu distribution and enhance it so that all the features the average person requires is available from the outset.

The features of LXLE are described as follows:
  • Light on resources; Heavy on functions.
  • Always based on Ubuntu/Lubuntu LTS.
  • Uses an optimized LXDE user interface.
  • Four familiar desktop layout paradigms.
  • Prudent full featured Apps preinstalled.
  • Latest stable versions of major software.
  • Added PPAs extends available software.
  • Weather, Aero Snap, Quick Launch
  • Random Wallpaper, Panel Trash access
  • Theme consistency throughout system.
  • 100 gorgeous wallpapers preinstalled.
  • Numerous other tweaks/additions.
  • 32 and 64 bit OS versions available.
  • Boots & is online in less than 1 minute. 
In this review I am going to take a brief look at the normal areas such as installation, connecting to the internet, Flash and MP3 support and the general look and feel but mainly I will be focusing on the applications as that is the part that adds the value to Lubuntu to make LXLE what it is.

Installation

I have developed an installation guide showing how to install LXLE.

Generally speaking the installer is much like the Ubuntu/Lubuntu installer but there are some subtle differences.

First Impressions


The first thing that you will notice is the visually pleasing loading screen and visually pleasing really is a feature of LXLE as a whole.

If any of you were lucky enough to try Fuduntu a few years back you will appreciate the artwork that was included as part of that particular distribution.

There are people out there who really hate these type of reviews because in their own words they hate pointless reviews which show off a few wallpapers and list the applications from the menus. If you feel that way about distribution reviews I would probably click away now.

I am not going to apologise however about showing off the wallpapers supplied with LXLE because when you have artwork as pleasing as the next few photos it would be a crime not to show them off.

The desktop environment used within LXLE is of course LXDE.

There is a single panel at the bottom with the menu icon in the bottom left and icons for the file manager, random wallpaper changer, iconify windows, quick application launcher and workspace switchers.

The icons in the bottom right corner toggle on and off the info box in the top right corner of the screen, control audio settings, internet settings, weather, the clock and a battery monitor.

In the top right corner of the screen there is an information box showing your uptime, RAM usage, CPU usage, hard drive usage, battery power, what is in your trash, upload and download speeds.

On my ACER Aspire One D255 netbook with 1 gigabyte of RAM, the system uses 19% of RAM without any applications open.  Using FireFox with 1 window open uses 44% of RAM.

There are no icons on the desktop but if you move your mouse to the left of the screen a new panel drifts in from the left with icons for commonly used applications such as the file manager, application finder, email, internet messenger, audio player, office suite, personal organiser, task manager and software centre.

The overall appeal of the LXLE desktop is very nice. The dark panel works very well but it is slightly difficult to see the workspace switchers and I only realised they were there by accidentally clicking on one. (It is probably worth mentioning that I am colourblind and therefore struggle with shades).

The random wallpaper changer is worth checking out and the quick launch icon is very useful for finding an application quickly.


The menu is the same as the one that comes with Lubuntu (the default LXDE menu) but the theme used makes it look very good.

The main issue with the menu is that if you have lots of items in one sub-category the list becomes a bit too long.

Connecting To The Internet






















To connect to the internet all you have to do is click on the network icon in the system tray and choose the network you wish to connect to.

If the wireless network requires a password you will have to enter it the first time you connect to that network but it will be remembered the next time you need to connect to it.

Flash And MP3





















If you chose to install the third party add-ons when you installed LXLE, Flash will work straight away and so will MP3 audio.

If you forgot to check the box to install third party add-ons, you can install the Lubuntu-restricted-extras package via the software centre.

Applications

As stylish as LXLE is, the only way to really judge it is to look at the applications that are installed with it.

Accessories

I am not going to list every application in every category because there are too many to mention. I will highlight the applications that will help to separate LXLE from the crowd.

Viruses and malware aren't generally something that figure too prominently when talking about Linux.

LXLE however comes with ClamTK which provides a nice graphical user interface for the ClamAV antivirus package.

Click here for my review of ClamTK


KeePassX helps you store your usernames and passwords in a single application.

It provides a safer and more secure option to a piece of paper in your desk drawer or a spreadsheet in your home folder.



Games

LXLE comes with over 20 games including everything from tetris clones, breakout clones and chess, to minesweeper and hearts. LXLE also includes a link for installing STEAM.

Education






















The education category has just three entries.

Anki is described as an intelligent spaced repetition memory training program. It took me a while to get my head around the point of the program but basically it is a flash card system used for aiding with recall. For instance if you have an exam coming up you could create a deck of cards to help you remember important points and use Anki to test yourself.

LibreOffice Math is a formula editor for use with the rest of the LibreOffice Suite. Click here for more information.

Marble is a virtual globe. You can choose between the earth and the moon and spin the globe in any direction and zoom in and out.

Graphics



























The graphics sub-category includes the GIMP which is the Linux alternative to Photoshop.

For the average user though the more interesting applications will be Shotwell which lets you manage your photo collection and Mirage which is a photo viewer.

LibreOffice Draw is included as part of the full office suite and is good for creating anything from simple drawings to complex diagrams.

This category also includes a document viewer, font manager,  photo print application and a scanning application. An application that caught my eye was the image reducer which is obviously useful for blogging purposes.

Internet

The internet section has everything you could need including the Pidgin Instant Messenger, Filezilla which is an FTP client and the Claws email client.

Claws is a fairly basic email client but it does give a straight forward method of connecting to GMail accounts, something which Microsoft Outlook can't manage easily.

Other internet applications include the FireFox web browser, XChat IRC Client, a VNC client called Gitso, the Transmission bittorrent client and the UGet download manager.

Office

The office section has a full office suite and a couple of other potentially useful applications.

LibreOffice is the office suite and includes a word processor, spreadsheet package, presentation package, drawing application and database package.

There is a home budgeting tool called HomeBank. You can use this to keep tabs on all of your bank accounts. If your online banking allows you to export files in QIF format you will be able to import them into HomeBank.

Meanwhile the other application of note is Osmo which is a personal information manager.

Osmo has 4 tabs; calendar, tasks, contact and notes. If you use GMail you can export the contacts from Google and import them into Osmo. Unfortunately there appears to be no way to import tasks.

I would be interested in hearing how many of you find the desktop budgeting application and personal organiser useful. Personally I still use a humble spreadsheet for budgeting and my online banking gives me full control of my bank accounts.

As for a personal organiser, I am more likely to use the applications on my phone than a desktop application for managing contacts.

Sound And Video


The audio player within LXLE is Guayadeque. It isn't spectacular but does the job, and includes the ability to import all of your music, create playlists, listen to online radio stations, add podcasts and buy music via last.fm.

If you prefer to make your own music there is Audacity and for those of you who prefer to edit your own videos, Openshot is included.

I wrote a guide a while back to do with screencasting and video editing within Linux. LXLE includes video editing and screencasting tools.

For viewing videos there is the Totem video player and you can also watch Youtube videos by using Minitube.

Installing Applications



As LXLE is a respin of Lubuntu the graphical tool used for installing packages is the Lubuntu Software Centre.

You can search for applications using the search box or browse the various categories. The search feature is a tad annoying as it starts searching for applications after just a few milliseconds and doesn't give you enough time to type the name or description of an application.

LXLE includes a number of extra PPAs for specific applications. For instance there are PPAs for Guayadeque, Catfish, Claws and LibreOffice. There are also PPAs for noobslab and webupd8. By linking to the specific PPAs you are able to install and use the latest versions of the applications.

(Click here for an explanation of what a PPA is)

Summary

The LXLE community is fairly vocal and passionate about their respin of Lubuntu.

My installation guide has generated a number of comments and I have received a number of emails thanking me for writing the guide and for suggestions on improving the guide.

In the past when I have written about Lubuntu or Peppermint, I have received emails and comments telling me to try LXLE because it is ace.

So what is my opinion of LXLE?

Lubuntu is a minimal and lightweight distribution and gives you just enough to be useful but leaving scope for you to turn it into whatever you want it to be.

LXLE has taken Lubuntu and added extra value by providing more useful applications, wonderful visual elements and better navigation.

If you are looking for a lightweight distribution, for an older computer (or a computer with limited capabilities), which really does have everything you need without having to install extra software then you really are better off installing LXLE over Lubuntu.

Of course the alternative is to take Lubuntu yourself and turn it into whatever you want it to be by installing your favourite applications, themes and navigational tools.

What I like about LXLE is that the creators have kept it simple and not tried to over do things.

With some distributions you get the feeling that the developers weren't sure which applications to include and therefore ended up throwing 2 or 3 of everything in. With LXLE this isn't the case. 

Be prepared for LXLE 14.04.2

A new version of LXLE is due to be released in April. I will be writing an update to this article shortly after it has been released to highlight new features.


Posted at 21:45 |  by Gary Newell

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