Featured Articles
All Stories

Monday, 9 January 2017

Introduction

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

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


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

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

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

Linux Mint






















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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Debian






















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

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

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





















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

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





















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

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

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

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























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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ubuntu






















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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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






















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


openSUSE






















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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manjaro






















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

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

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

Manjaro has basically made Arch available to the masses. 

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

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

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

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


Fedora














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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zorin






















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

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

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

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

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

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


Elementary OS






















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

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

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






















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

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

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

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

CentOS






















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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arch Linux

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Analysis Of The Top 10 Linux Distributions Of 2016

Introduction

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

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


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

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

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

Linux Mint






















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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Debian






















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

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

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





















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

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





















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

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

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

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























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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ubuntu






















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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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






















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


openSUSE






















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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manjaro






















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

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

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

Manjaro has basically made Arch available to the masses. 

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

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

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

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


Fedora














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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zorin






















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

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

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

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

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

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


Elementary OS






















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

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

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






















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

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

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

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

CentOS






















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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arch Linux

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Posted at 21:50 |  by Gary Newell

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Introduction

This is going to be my last post for 2016 and as many of you know I have been using Q4OS during the past month to see how well it would work over the course of time.

During the month I also reviewed Zorin OS and I was very impressed with the new look and the more complete experience that Zorin provided when compared with previous versions.

Last week I embarked on trying to use Microsoft Office with Q4OS with minimal success. I could use the online versions easily enough but PlayOnLinux and WINE let me down when I tried to install the full version to my computer.

I was planning this week to talk about software development which is the final issue with working on Linux as I am a .NET developer and whilst there has been some move to enabling .NET within Linux it is far from a complete solution.

However I managed to actually get Microsoft Office installed within Q4OS and it works, well, it sort of works. Well it works now, it didn't but now it does. I am not sure why and what fixed it.

So what does this have to do with Zorin? I tried Microsoft Office with Zorin and it works, and it really works without any of that bizarre not working and then working nonsense

This post therefore is going to be a mish-mash and cover a few things. First of all I will show you what I did to install Office. I will then let you know about the issues I have faced with Q4OS, what happened with Zorin, a little bit about software development and then a summary. 

How To Install Microsoft Office For Debian/Ubuntu

The steps I followed to install Microsoft Office are as follows:

  1. Sign into Office 365 (you need an account and it costs a monthly subscription fee)
  2. Click the install button which downloads an executable file to your computer called "setup.x86.en-US_o365HomePremRetail.exe"
  3. Visit https://www.codeweavers.com/products/crossover-linux
  4. Download the free trial (although to continue using Office you will need to pay for the software at some point). The full version costs £38.
  5. The download is a debian file (.DEB). Double clicking on the file installs Crossover.
Crossover Linux is much like PlayOnLinux. It is a commercial venture rather than being open source. I did however get surprising results in that it worked with Microsoft Office.


When you first run Crossover you get a screen much like the one above. There is a button at the bottom called "Install Windows Software".


You can search for Office 2013 in the search bar and the option to install it will appear. Click on the "Continue" button to move forward.


You will be given the option to choose an installer file.



If you are using the trial version you will be given the option to buy, register or try Crossover.


You will be asked to accept the license agreement for installing MSXML.


Enter your name and click next to install the MSXML parser.


After you click install, the Office installer will start to download and the full suite of applications will be installed.




After a while the software will have been installed and you can launch Word, Excel and Outlook via the Crossover application. You can also find all the tools under the Q4OS menu.

What Worked And What Didn't

Microsoft Word worked perfectly under Q4OS although I haven't tried every feature (really, who does?).


Microsoft Excel didn't initially work so well. When I clicked on new document it said that it was out of memory.

The only way to start a new spreadsheet was to open an existing file and save it under a new name and delete the contents. Obviously this wasn't ideal.

Microsoft Outlook worked ok but running against a GMail account required me to reduce the security to allow Outlook to work with it. Hardly ideal.

I had no issues with Microsoft Powerpoint nor did I have any issues with Microsoft Access.

The other issue I had was the activation wizard kept popping up asking me to activate Office 365 even though I was signed in. The activation wizard didn't want to activate Office and from the message that was displayed it appeared to be complaining that the system wasn't really Windows 7 as Crossover had set up WINE to show it to be.

Ironically the time limit ran out for activating Microsoft Office and now it works perfectly well with Q4OS and Excel now works. It seem the activation wizard was taking up lots of memory.

Within Zorin I tried the same installation via Crossover and everything worked straight away. Excel had no memory issues. The activation wizard did however pop up although not all the time.

The truth therefore is that you can get Microsoft Office 2013 working within Linux and Crossover has proved itself to be a fairly decent tool.

Software Development

As part of my full time role I develop software in .NET and I am a dab hand with Microsoft SQL Server.

These just aren't available within Linux although there has been some movement on this front in recent months.

This isn't going to affect the average computer user which is who this site is dedicated to. If you are interested in software development then Python is well catered for and you can create cross platform applications using Python and QT.

You can also use a tool called Plunker which lets you easily develop applications using AngularJS and React. These are the current future (although the future of software development seems to change on a daily basis).

Personally whilst I am a .NET developer and I am qualified as a SQL Server developer and DBA I started off as a C developer and then moved on to C++ before moving to .NET and beyond. Switching to Java and Python shouldn't really be a big deal and one I intend to embark on in 2017. I am also competent with Oracle and PL/SQL as well as MySQL so is a 100% move to Linux possible? 2017 could be that year.

Summary

The whole point of the past month has been to prove that Q4OS can be used as an operating system for the Everyday Linux User. 

I believe that it is a perfectly decent distribution and I have no qualms in recommending it to you as a complete replacement for Windows. 

It is worth noting though that I used Zorin OS during this month as well and now here is the tricky bit. I think Zorin comes out slightly on top. 

There is no doubt that based on performance Q4OS uses less resources and for older computers will probably be better than Zorin. Q4OS is also probably better for people who are used to older versions of Windows such as XP because everything is even named the same. The XPQ4 theme will even make everything feel the same.

Zorin however is more intuitive. Downloads go to the downloads folder and it handles the insertion of USB drives a little bit more effectively. Q4OS isn't particularly clever when you remove and insert a drive. 

Q4OS sometimes leaves the previously mounted folders populated which means if you format a drive and copy new files to it the folder shown in Q4OS contains what used to be on the drive and not the new content. Zorin updates itself correctly every time.

It might be worth trying out both and making your own judgement. I am personally happy using either of them.

What Is Next?

In January I will be removing both Q4OS and Zorin from this machine and embarking on something new. 

I have Fedora 25 and Enlightenment available to me and I intend to review the latest openSUSE.

I will also review more Linux applications.

Thanks for reading the blog this year and I will you all a happy new year.

Q4OS vs Zorin OS - The Final Word (and Excel, Outlook, Access etc)

Introduction

This is going to be my last post for 2016 and as many of you know I have been using Q4OS during the past month to see how well it would work over the course of time.

During the month I also reviewed Zorin OS and I was very impressed with the new look and the more complete experience that Zorin provided when compared with previous versions.

Last week I embarked on trying to use Microsoft Office with Q4OS with minimal success. I could use the online versions easily enough but PlayOnLinux and WINE let me down when I tried to install the full version to my computer.

I was planning this week to talk about software development which is the final issue with working on Linux as I am a .NET developer and whilst there has been some move to enabling .NET within Linux it is far from a complete solution.

However I managed to actually get Microsoft Office installed within Q4OS and it works, well, it sort of works. Well it works now, it didn't but now it does. I am not sure why and what fixed it.

So what does this have to do with Zorin? I tried Microsoft Office with Zorin and it works, and it really works without any of that bizarre not working and then working nonsense

This post therefore is going to be a mish-mash and cover a few things. First of all I will show you what I did to install Office. I will then let you know about the issues I have faced with Q4OS, what happened with Zorin, a little bit about software development and then a summary. 

How To Install Microsoft Office For Debian/Ubuntu

The steps I followed to install Microsoft Office are as follows:

  1. Sign into Office 365 (you need an account and it costs a monthly subscription fee)
  2. Click the install button which downloads an executable file to your computer called "setup.x86.en-US_o365HomePremRetail.exe"
  3. Visit https://www.codeweavers.com/products/crossover-linux
  4. Download the free trial (although to continue using Office you will need to pay for the software at some point). The full version costs £38.
  5. The download is a debian file (.DEB). Double clicking on the file installs Crossover.
Crossover Linux is much like PlayOnLinux. It is a commercial venture rather than being open source. I did however get surprising results in that it worked with Microsoft Office.


When you first run Crossover you get a screen much like the one above. There is a button at the bottom called "Install Windows Software".


You can search for Office 2013 in the search bar and the option to install it will appear. Click on the "Continue" button to move forward.


You will be given the option to choose an installer file.



If you are using the trial version you will be given the option to buy, register or try Crossover.


You will be asked to accept the license agreement for installing MSXML.


Enter your name and click next to install the MSXML parser.


After you click install, the Office installer will start to download and the full suite of applications will be installed.




After a while the software will have been installed and you can launch Word, Excel and Outlook via the Crossover application. You can also find all the tools under the Q4OS menu.

What Worked And What Didn't

Microsoft Word worked perfectly under Q4OS although I haven't tried every feature (really, who does?).


Microsoft Excel didn't initially work so well. When I clicked on new document it said that it was out of memory.

The only way to start a new spreadsheet was to open an existing file and save it under a new name and delete the contents. Obviously this wasn't ideal.

Microsoft Outlook worked ok but running against a GMail account required me to reduce the security to allow Outlook to work with it. Hardly ideal.

I had no issues with Microsoft Powerpoint nor did I have any issues with Microsoft Access.

The other issue I had was the activation wizard kept popping up asking me to activate Office 365 even though I was signed in. The activation wizard didn't want to activate Office and from the message that was displayed it appeared to be complaining that the system wasn't really Windows 7 as Crossover had set up WINE to show it to be.

Ironically the time limit ran out for activating Microsoft Office and now it works perfectly well with Q4OS and Excel now works. It seem the activation wizard was taking up lots of memory.

Within Zorin I tried the same installation via Crossover and everything worked straight away. Excel had no memory issues. The activation wizard did however pop up although not all the time.

The truth therefore is that you can get Microsoft Office 2013 working within Linux and Crossover has proved itself to be a fairly decent tool.

Software Development

As part of my full time role I develop software in .NET and I am a dab hand with Microsoft SQL Server.

These just aren't available within Linux although there has been some movement on this front in recent months.

This isn't going to affect the average computer user which is who this site is dedicated to. If you are interested in software development then Python is well catered for and you can create cross platform applications using Python and QT.

You can also use a tool called Plunker which lets you easily develop applications using AngularJS and React. These are the current future (although the future of software development seems to change on a daily basis).

Personally whilst I am a .NET developer and I am qualified as a SQL Server developer and DBA I started off as a C developer and then moved on to C++ before moving to .NET and beyond. Switching to Java and Python shouldn't really be a big deal and one I intend to embark on in 2017. I am also competent with Oracle and PL/SQL as well as MySQL so is a 100% move to Linux possible? 2017 could be that year.

Summary

The whole point of the past month has been to prove that Q4OS can be used as an operating system for the Everyday Linux User. 

I believe that it is a perfectly decent distribution and I have no qualms in recommending it to you as a complete replacement for Windows. 

It is worth noting though that I used Zorin OS during this month as well and now here is the tricky bit. I think Zorin comes out slightly on top. 

There is no doubt that based on performance Q4OS uses less resources and for older computers will probably be better than Zorin. Q4OS is also probably better for people who are used to older versions of Windows such as XP because everything is even named the same. The XPQ4 theme will even make everything feel the same.

Zorin however is more intuitive. Downloads go to the downloads folder and it handles the insertion of USB drives a little bit more effectively. Q4OS isn't particularly clever when you remove and insert a drive. 

Q4OS sometimes leaves the previously mounted folders populated which means if you format a drive and copy new files to it the folder shown in Q4OS contains what used to be on the drive and not the new content. Zorin updates itself correctly every time.

It might be worth trying out both and making your own judgement. I am personally happy using either of them.

What Is Next?

In January I will be removing both Q4OS and Zorin from this machine and embarking on something new. 

I have Fedora 25 and Enlightenment available to me and I intend to review the latest openSUSE.

I will also review more Linux applications.

Thanks for reading the blog this year and I will you all a happy new year.

Posted at 22:20 |  by Gary Newell

Friday, 16 December 2016

Introduction


As the regular readers of this blog will be aware I have embarked on a mission to try out Q4OS as my sole operating system for a month to see how well it stands the test of time.



I wrote my initial review of Q4OS on the 25th November and at the time the experience was so positive I wanted to give it a longer run to see if I could find any major hangups compared to more popular and well known distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint and Zorin.

Thus far I have managed to install Q4OS, set up the hardware (see part 2) and theme Q4OS to make it look retro. (see part 3).

Obviously as time goes on you start using the operating system for day to day tasks and it is only when performing these tasks that you will find real issues.

This week I have been focusing on one of two things that has stopped me from completely ditching Windows from all of my computers.

Office Software

As a freelance software developer I often have to send my CV to employment agencies.

I am more than happy most of the time using LibreOffice. It works for writing letters, articles and I used it to write my eBook a few years ago.

I also use LibreOffice Calc for performing financial tasks such as accounts and forecasting.

LibreOffice Impress has been used to help my kids with their homework especially when they need to create presentations for school projects.

On a day to day level LibreOffice does everything you could ask it to.

So what is the problem? Why not write your CV using LibreOffice and save it as a Word document? The answer is simple, formatting.

A CV is a very important document. You spend ages writing it, formatting it and making sure the layout is perfect for when it lands on the recruiter's desk. I have found that when I create a CV using LibreOffice and save it to Word format that the paging is quite often not synchronised correctly and certain items will have been pushed onto the next page which throws everything out of kilter.

For this reason and one other reason I have always kept a computer with Windows handy whether it is the sole operating system or dual booting with Linux. 99% of the time I live in a Linux only world but the 1% matters.

Microsoft Office And Linux

I subscribe to Office 365. It costs about £8 a month. For this money I can download and install the latest version of Microsoft Office to up to 5 computers and I have done so on a Windows 10 computer.

I wanted to see however whether Microsoft Office would run on Linux and particularly WINE / PlayOnLinux.


I tried various ways to install Office 2013 via PlayOnLinux including using the Online Installer and downloading the full installer.

Unfortunately it appears that WINE is not ready for Office 2013. I received a number of different errors such as error in POL_WINE, Wine seems to have crashed, cannot find WINWORD.EXE etc.

Whilst writing this article I found a thread on Reddit where somebody says they have managed to install Office 2013 within Linux but then there are many mentions of crashes and poor performance.


The truth is that some things just aren't meant to run in Linux. Everything required to get Microsoft Office working natively in Linux at this moment in time is a hack. Some people may get it to install, some people may even get it to run but the truth is you will be constantly suffering from inconsistency.

So is that it? Is the experiment over? No.

Office 365 Online

Microsoft Office 365 is designed so that you can use it on the move which means there are browser versions of most of the office tools including Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

If you read my review of Q4OS you would know that it comes with the Chrome browser and Office 365 works well within the Chrome browser.


I am not going to lie to you. The online versions of Word and Excel do not have all the features you will get in the fully installed versions.

Wait a minute though, the reason I need Word is to make sure my CV looks good when I send it out. Therefore it doesn't need to be fully featured. I just need it for formatting.


The version of Excel is fine for viewing spreadsheets and performing many of the more common tasks. Formulas work and you can connect to external data sources. 

The main feature that is missing for me is VBA and the ability to create and run macros. 


The online version of Outlook is fine for sending and receiving emails and you can create appointments and meetings.


To be honest I don't really use a Microsoft account for sending emails. I am perfectly happy with Google.

Summary

The point of this series is to work out whether I can truly ditch Windows and use Q4OS as my sole operating system.

All of the office features I need are available in LibreOffice so for the most part I don't need Microsoft Office at all.

The only thing I need Microsoft Office, or should I say Microsoft Word for is to make sure the formatting of my CV is correct and I can use the online version of Microsoft Word for that.

The mission of living life without Windows is still very much on the go. Q4OS is extremely stable. As well as working out the Office stuff I have also used it to watch Breaking Bad on Netflix and for researching and writing the articles at Lifewire.com.

There is only one more snag. I am a software developer and I develop Windows software. I will show you how I am overcoming that snag next week.

Q4OS - Part 4 - Life Without Windows

Introduction


As the regular readers of this blog will be aware I have embarked on a mission to try out Q4OS as my sole operating system for a month to see how well it stands the test of time.



I wrote my initial review of Q4OS on the 25th November and at the time the experience was so positive I wanted to give it a longer run to see if I could find any major hangups compared to more popular and well known distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint and Zorin.

Thus far I have managed to install Q4OS, set up the hardware (see part 2) and theme Q4OS to make it look retro. (see part 3).

Obviously as time goes on you start using the operating system for day to day tasks and it is only when performing these tasks that you will find real issues.

This week I have been focusing on one of two things that has stopped me from completely ditching Windows from all of my computers.

Office Software

As a freelance software developer I often have to send my CV to employment agencies.

I am more than happy most of the time using LibreOffice. It works for writing letters, articles and I used it to write my eBook a few years ago.

I also use LibreOffice Calc for performing financial tasks such as accounts and forecasting.

LibreOffice Impress has been used to help my kids with their homework especially when they need to create presentations for school projects.

On a day to day level LibreOffice does everything you could ask it to.

So what is the problem? Why not write your CV using LibreOffice and save it as a Word document? The answer is simple, formatting.

A CV is a very important document. You spend ages writing it, formatting it and making sure the layout is perfect for when it lands on the recruiter's desk. I have found that when I create a CV using LibreOffice and save it to Word format that the paging is quite often not synchronised correctly and certain items will have been pushed onto the next page which throws everything out of kilter.

For this reason and one other reason I have always kept a computer with Windows handy whether it is the sole operating system or dual booting with Linux. 99% of the time I live in a Linux only world but the 1% matters.

Microsoft Office And Linux

I subscribe to Office 365. It costs about £8 a month. For this money I can download and install the latest version of Microsoft Office to up to 5 computers and I have done so on a Windows 10 computer.

I wanted to see however whether Microsoft Office would run on Linux and particularly WINE / PlayOnLinux.


I tried various ways to install Office 2013 via PlayOnLinux including using the Online Installer and downloading the full installer.

Unfortunately it appears that WINE is not ready for Office 2013. I received a number of different errors such as error in POL_WINE, Wine seems to have crashed, cannot find WINWORD.EXE etc.

Whilst writing this article I found a thread on Reddit where somebody says they have managed to install Office 2013 within Linux but then there are many mentions of crashes and poor performance.


The truth is that some things just aren't meant to run in Linux. Everything required to get Microsoft Office working natively in Linux at this moment in time is a hack. Some people may get it to install, some people may even get it to run but the truth is you will be constantly suffering from inconsistency.

So is that it? Is the experiment over? No.

Office 365 Online

Microsoft Office 365 is designed so that you can use it on the move which means there are browser versions of most of the office tools including Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

If you read my review of Q4OS you would know that it comes with the Chrome browser and Office 365 works well within the Chrome browser.


I am not going to lie to you. The online versions of Word and Excel do not have all the features you will get in the fully installed versions.

Wait a minute though, the reason I need Word is to make sure my CV looks good when I send it out. Therefore it doesn't need to be fully featured. I just need it for formatting.


The version of Excel is fine for viewing spreadsheets and performing many of the more common tasks. Formulas work and you can connect to external data sources. 

The main feature that is missing for me is VBA and the ability to create and run macros. 


The online version of Outlook is fine for sending and receiving emails and you can create appointments and meetings.


To be honest I don't really use a Microsoft account for sending emails. I am perfectly happy with Google.

Summary

The point of this series is to work out whether I can truly ditch Windows and use Q4OS as my sole operating system.

All of the office features I need are available in LibreOffice so for the most part I don't need Microsoft Office at all.

The only thing I need Microsoft Office, or should I say Microsoft Word for is to make sure the formatting of my CV is correct and I can use the online version of Microsoft Word for that.

The mission of living life without Windows is still very much on the go. Q4OS is extremely stable. As well as working out the Office stuff I have also used it to watch Breaking Bad on Netflix and for researching and writing the articles at Lifewire.com.

There is only one more snag. I am a software developer and I develop Windows software. I will show you how I am overcoming that snag next week.

Posted at 10:49 |  by Gary Newell

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Introduction

A short while ago I was worried that Zorin had ceased to be because the current release is so far after the Ubuntu LTS release on which it is based.

Well Zorin 12 is here and there has clearly been a change of direction. Previous versions of Zorin have focused on making it possible for users to make their desktop look like various versions of Windows and OSX.

This version is different. Zorin has now gone in the direction of providing the GNOME 3 desktop with the Zorin Appearance tool providing ways to customise it.

I have to admit that I was a little worried recently as to the viability of Zorin. In the past it clearly had its place as a starting distribution for those people who wanted to move to Linux but didn't want a huge learning curve. It provided a look and feel that new users would be familiar with.

The trouble is that time has moved on and really there was nothing that Zorin could offer that Linux Mint wasn't already offering. Mint has always been a little bit more stable than Zorin.

I think the developers of Zorin have done well to change direction. This version definitely feels more focused and it dispenses with gimmicks and the flashy effects.

How To Get Zorin























There are 2 versions available:
  • Ultimate
  • Core
The "Ultimate" version is not free. According to the website you get the best media and business apps, 20 games, MacOS and Gnome themes, video wallpapers and premium support.

I personally went for the "Core" version for the review.

There is a button halfway down the page which encourages you to pay 19 euros but you can download the ISO for free by scrolling to the bottom. There are links for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

There are a few tools I normally use to create USB drives for distributions such as Win32 Disk Imager, Rufus, UNetbootin and Universal USB Installer. On Linux I use the dd command.

However to create a working Zorin USB drive I had to use a piece of software called Etcher. I wrote a guide to Etcher here.


First Impressions























Zorin has a nice clean look and feel. There is a panel at the bottom with a menu button, quick launch icons and a system tray.

There is also a vibrant looking wallpaper which brings the desktop alive. I have noticed that many distributions go for a plain, almost dull wallpaper. I've never understood why.






















A word you are going to read a number of times in this review is "clean". The menu looks great. It is clean and easy to navigate. On the left side are the categories and on the right are common folder locations and applications.

Obviously clicking on a category displays a list of the items in the category, so it is easy to browse for programs. You can also search using the search bar.




















Embracing the beauty of GNOME 3, Zorin now also provides access to the activities view making it easy to find applications using a dashboard style interface.






















The GNOME 3 interface also makes it easy to switch workspaces.

Customising Zorin

In the past you could use the Zorin Theme Changer to switch themes. You could switch to Windows 7, Windows 2000, OSX and other such interfaces.

This has been replaced in Zorin 12. Now you have the Zorin Appearance tool.




























This tool has 4 tabs:

  • Desktop
  • Theme
  • Fonts
  • Panel
The desktop tab lets you choose whether to have icons on the desktop and it also lets you change the layout.



The theme tab lets you change the colouring of the windows and other objects.

The fonts tab enables you to change the font size and names for very aspects.

Finally the panel tab lets you change the panel position, the icon sizes and other attributes for the panel.

You can of course also change the desktop wallpaper and the lock screen wallpaper. Simply right click on the desktop and choose "change background".


There are a number of different wallpapers available. You can of course choose your own or pick a plain colour.

Connecting To The Internet


To connect to the internet you have to click on the icon next to the clock.

This provides a window which lets you adjust audio, network, power and user settings.

To connect to a network click on the WIFI settings option.



A list of wireless networks will appear.

Click on the network you wish to connect to and enter the key.







Applications

Zorin 12 has the following applications available by default:

  • Chromium - web browser
  • Geary - Email client
  • Nautilus - File Manager
  • Terminal
  • Activity Journal
  • Gnome Photo Manager
  • Maps
  • Weather
  • GIMP - Image editor
  • Empathy
  • Zorin Web Browser Manager
  • LibreOffice - Office Suite
  • Brasero - CD-Rom Burner
  • Cheese - Webcam Tool
  • Pitivi - Video Editor
  • Rhythmbox - Audio Player
  • Totem - Video Player
  • Play On Linux
  • WINE
There are various other applications and tools such as games, disk management tools and the such but these are the main ones.


The default email client is Geary. The trouble with Geary is that if you use GMail then you have to reduce your security settings to allow less secure applications. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me.



The first time I ran Rhythmbox I received the above error. However on the subsequent attempt and every attempt since it worked.
























The Zorin Web Browser manager lets you choose your default web browser. You can choose between Chromium, Firefox, Web? and Midori.

Chromium is installed by default, the others have to be installed to be used.


PlayOnLinux and WINE are both installed which means I can play Sensible World Of Soccer which is still a secret indulgence of mine.

To be honest when I first started using Linux, WINE was something I saw as a necessity. In recent years I have found very little need for it.

It doesn't work that well for very modern Windows applications and generally there is a decent Linux alternative. If there isn't, I use a machine with Windows on it.

The 2 main tools I use Windows for are Visual Studio as I develop Windows software and Office 365 for updating my CV. LibreOffice is good but the pagination doesn't work perfectly when saving in a DocX format and when you are sending a CV to a potential client you want them to see it as you see it and most in the UK only accept it in Word format.


GNOME photos is the default image viewer and it provides a nice clean interface.

There are basically 3 tabs:


  • Recent
  • Albums
  • Favourites
By clicking on an image you can choose to add it to an album or make it a favourite. You can also choose to open the image to view it.


The mapping tool is pretty decent. You can search for a place and get directions between multiple points via foot, bike or road.



There are also multiple views available. You can use the general mapping mode and there is a satellite view. I understand that most of you might be thinking Google Maps but as a desktop application it integrates nicely.


Another application that integrates nicely is the weather application. Simply search for a place and the weather appears. You get a 7 day view by default and by drilling into a day you can see the weather for the hours on any given day.

Installing Software
























The average user will run the Zorin Software tool to install software. You can access this from the menu in the bottom right corner.

It is ok for free software but has the same issues as Ubuntu.

Dropbox was found without too much hassle but when it comes to things like Steam, Skype, Chrome and applications of a similar ilk you have to go hunting elsewhere.


Steam can be installed from the command line by running the following command:

sudo apt-get install steam

Steam

Talking of Steam. It seems to work on most distributions but sometimes I have had issues. 


I am pleased to say that there are no issues installing Steam within Zorin. It does the normal 252 megabyte download and then you can simply login.


Hardware Support






















The WD MyCloud network storage device was picked up straight away by Zorin and I can view the files within Nautilus and import music into Rhythmbox.

I have to admit that I haven't tried printing. There is no room for a printer at this time of year. It has been packed away to make room in a corner for the Christmas tree. Sorry about that.

However, printing works in Ubuntu so I suspect that it will work fine in Zorin.

My phone was picked up without any issues as was my Sony Walkman MP3 player.

Issues

Apart from one error which I showed earlier with Rhythmbox I haven't had any real issues.

There are various things I have changed since installing Zorin. I removed Geary and installed Evolution. I removed Chromium and installed Chrome because Chrome works better for the Google Play Store (videos).

Summary

This version of Zorin is a great step forward. It has a renewed sense of purpose and stands out in its own right as a decent Linux distribution.

I think Zorin should follow Mint's lead and stick with aligning itself to the Ubuntu LTS release. This gives the developers more time to push it along at their own pace.

All in all a decent alternative to Linux Mint and Ubuntu. 

An Everyday Linux User Review Of Zorin 12

Introduction

A short while ago I was worried that Zorin had ceased to be because the current release is so far after the Ubuntu LTS release on which it is based.

Well Zorin 12 is here and there has clearly been a change of direction. Previous versions of Zorin have focused on making it possible for users to make their desktop look like various versions of Windows and OSX.

This version is different. Zorin has now gone in the direction of providing the GNOME 3 desktop with the Zorin Appearance tool providing ways to customise it.

I have to admit that I was a little worried recently as to the viability of Zorin. In the past it clearly had its place as a starting distribution for those people who wanted to move to Linux but didn't want a huge learning curve. It provided a look and feel that new users would be familiar with.

The trouble is that time has moved on and really there was nothing that Zorin could offer that Linux Mint wasn't already offering. Mint has always been a little bit more stable than Zorin.

I think the developers of Zorin have done well to change direction. This version definitely feels more focused and it dispenses with gimmicks and the flashy effects.

How To Get Zorin























There are 2 versions available:
  • Ultimate
  • Core
The "Ultimate" version is not free. According to the website you get the best media and business apps, 20 games, MacOS and Gnome themes, video wallpapers and premium support.

I personally went for the "Core" version for the review.

There is a button halfway down the page which encourages you to pay 19 euros but you can download the ISO for free by scrolling to the bottom. There are links for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

There are a few tools I normally use to create USB drives for distributions such as Win32 Disk Imager, Rufus, UNetbootin and Universal USB Installer. On Linux I use the dd command.

However to create a working Zorin USB drive I had to use a piece of software called Etcher. I wrote a guide to Etcher here.


First Impressions























Zorin has a nice clean look and feel. There is a panel at the bottom with a menu button, quick launch icons and a system tray.

There is also a vibrant looking wallpaper which brings the desktop alive. I have noticed that many distributions go for a plain, almost dull wallpaper. I've never understood why.






















A word you are going to read a number of times in this review is "clean". The menu looks great. It is clean and easy to navigate. On the left side are the categories and on the right are common folder locations and applications.

Obviously clicking on a category displays a list of the items in the category, so it is easy to browse for programs. You can also search using the search bar.




















Embracing the beauty of GNOME 3, Zorin now also provides access to the activities view making it easy to find applications using a dashboard style interface.






















The GNOME 3 interface also makes it easy to switch workspaces.

Customising Zorin

In the past you could use the Zorin Theme Changer to switch themes. You could switch to Windows 7, Windows 2000, OSX and other such interfaces.

This has been replaced in Zorin 12. Now you have the Zorin Appearance tool.




























This tool has 4 tabs:

  • Desktop
  • Theme
  • Fonts
  • Panel
The desktop tab lets you choose whether to have icons on the desktop and it also lets you change the layout.



The theme tab lets you change the colouring of the windows and other objects.

The fonts tab enables you to change the font size and names for very aspects.

Finally the panel tab lets you change the panel position, the icon sizes and other attributes for the panel.

You can of course also change the desktop wallpaper and the lock screen wallpaper. Simply right click on the desktop and choose "change background".


There are a number of different wallpapers available. You can of course choose your own or pick a plain colour.

Connecting To The Internet


To connect to the internet you have to click on the icon next to the clock.

This provides a window which lets you adjust audio, network, power and user settings.

To connect to a network click on the WIFI settings option.



A list of wireless networks will appear.

Click on the network you wish to connect to and enter the key.







Applications

Zorin 12 has the following applications available by default:

  • Chromium - web browser
  • Geary - Email client
  • Nautilus - File Manager
  • Terminal
  • Activity Journal
  • Gnome Photo Manager
  • Maps
  • Weather
  • GIMP - Image editor
  • Empathy
  • Zorin Web Browser Manager
  • LibreOffice - Office Suite
  • Brasero - CD-Rom Burner
  • Cheese - Webcam Tool
  • Pitivi - Video Editor
  • Rhythmbox - Audio Player
  • Totem - Video Player
  • Play On Linux
  • WINE
There are various other applications and tools such as games, disk management tools and the such but these are the main ones.


The default email client is Geary. The trouble with Geary is that if you use GMail then you have to reduce your security settings to allow less secure applications. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me.



The first time I ran Rhythmbox I received the above error. However on the subsequent attempt and every attempt since it worked.
























The Zorin Web Browser manager lets you choose your default web browser. You can choose between Chromium, Firefox, Web? and Midori.

Chromium is installed by default, the others have to be installed to be used.


PlayOnLinux and WINE are both installed which means I can play Sensible World Of Soccer which is still a secret indulgence of mine.

To be honest when I first started using Linux, WINE was something I saw as a necessity. In recent years I have found very little need for it.

It doesn't work that well for very modern Windows applications and generally there is a decent Linux alternative. If there isn't, I use a machine with Windows on it.

The 2 main tools I use Windows for are Visual Studio as I develop Windows software and Office 365 for updating my CV. LibreOffice is good but the pagination doesn't work perfectly when saving in a DocX format and when you are sending a CV to a potential client you want them to see it as you see it and most in the UK only accept it in Word format.


GNOME photos is the default image viewer and it provides a nice clean interface.

There are basically 3 tabs:


  • Recent
  • Albums
  • Favourites
By clicking on an image you can choose to add it to an album or make it a favourite. You can also choose to open the image to view it.


The mapping tool is pretty decent. You can search for a place and get directions between multiple points via foot, bike or road.



There are also multiple views available. You can use the general mapping mode and there is a satellite view. I understand that most of you might be thinking Google Maps but as a desktop application it integrates nicely.


Another application that integrates nicely is the weather application. Simply search for a place and the weather appears. You get a 7 day view by default and by drilling into a day you can see the weather for the hours on any given day.

Installing Software
























The average user will run the Zorin Software tool to install software. You can access this from the menu in the bottom right corner.

It is ok for free software but has the same issues as Ubuntu.

Dropbox was found without too much hassle but when it comes to things like Steam, Skype, Chrome and applications of a similar ilk you have to go hunting elsewhere.


Steam can be installed from the command line by running the following command:

sudo apt-get install steam

Steam

Talking of Steam. It seems to work on most distributions but sometimes I have had issues. 


I am pleased to say that there are no issues installing Steam within Zorin. It does the normal 252 megabyte download and then you can simply login.


Hardware Support






















The WD MyCloud network storage device was picked up straight away by Zorin and I can view the files within Nautilus and import music into Rhythmbox.

I have to admit that I haven't tried printing. There is no room for a printer at this time of year. It has been packed away to make room in a corner for the Christmas tree. Sorry about that.

However, printing works in Ubuntu so I suspect that it will work fine in Zorin.

My phone was picked up without any issues as was my Sony Walkman MP3 player.

Issues

Apart from one error which I showed earlier with Rhythmbox I haven't had any real issues.

There are various things I have changed since installing Zorin. I removed Geary and installed Evolution. I removed Chromium and installed Chrome because Chrome works better for the Google Play Store (videos).

Summary

This version of Zorin is a great step forward. It has a renewed sense of purpose and stands out in its own right as a decent Linux distribution.

I think Zorin should follow Mint's lead and stick with aligning itself to the Ubuntu LTS release. This gives the developers more time to push it along at their own pace.

All in all a decent alternative to Linux Mint and Ubuntu. 

Posted at 22:19 |  by Gary Newell

    Popular Posts

    Total Pageviews

    Subscribe

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Popular This Month

    What are other people buying?

    Ubuntu Buy
    openSUSE Buy
    Manjaro Buy
    Zorin Buy
    PCLinuxOS Buy
    gNewSense Buy
    Edubuntu Buy
    Fedora Buy
    Uberstudent Buy
    Linux Lite Buy
    Lubuntu Buy
    Xubuntu Buy

    Followers

    Feedburner Followers

Blogger templates. Proudly Powered by Blogger.


back to top Google