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Friday, 12 September 2014

Introduction

You might be surprised to learn that outside of work, bringing up three children and a dog and writing about Linux that I try to find time for other hobbies such as being a navigator at classic car rallies and playing old computer games.

This article looks at the options available for potential retrogamers using a fairly standard Linux Mint or Ubuntu setup.

There are already specialist Linux distributions available for playing computer games such as Puppy Arcade. If you just want to play games casually then running a whole distribution to do so might seem a bit overkill.

I have written other articles in the past about games emulation and in one of my earliest articles I showed how to set up the Sinclair Spectrum in Linux Mint 13.

Generally when people think of retrogaming they think of games emulators and ROMS. They will also think of old consoles such as the Atari 2600, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Megadrive and Dreamcast.

Old Windows games can also be considered retro and there are some great examples of games that used to work in DOS or on the earliest versions of Windows such as Sim City, Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Wolfenstein 3D.

A few years ago I used to own a number of consoles including all those listed above as well as an Atari ST, Gamecube, Playstation 1 and N64. I still have a Gamegear, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance.

Unfortunately space was at a premium and so I reduced my collection but in order to do so I bought a Raspberry PI. The Raspberry PI is great for games emulation up to a point but you certainly need patience when setting it up.

My wife bought me an OUYA last Christmas which lets me play Android style games on a television. The OUYA has a large number of games emulators available for it and I find it works much better than the Raspberry PI for this purpose. The Raspberry PI is much more suited to repetitive tasks without a GUI. I therefore now use my Raspberry PI for other purposes and the OUYA for retrogaming using emulation.

For retrogaming with old DOS and Windows games I use my best Linux laptop.

GOG.com


STEAM has been hailed as a Linux revelation as it has brought main stream gaming to Linux.

Before STEAM arrived on the scene however GOG.com (Good Old Games) were providing games that worked very well in WINE and recently they announced that they were releasing games for LINUX.

The Linux games library is fairly small at the moment with just under 100 games available.

Titles include Witcher 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Flatout 2, Pinball World, Crystal Caves and The Hugo Trilogy. Prices for the Linux games range from free to £13.

To test out the Linux games I downloaded "Stargunner" which is one of the free games.














You have to sign up for an account in order to download the free games and you are basically sent through the same purchasing procedure although of course you end up paying nothing.

After purchasing the game (even though it is free) you can go to your accounts area and download the game. The game format is provided as a .deb file.

To install the game all you have to do is double click on the .deb file and the GDebi package installer will do the rest. (This is all of course assuming that you are using a Debian based distribution such as Debian, Ubuntu, Mint etc).

When you start the game it loads in dosbox which is a DOS emulator. The game loads in full screen mode which is probably fine for most people but you can make it open in windowed mode by following these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window
  2. Enter cd "/opt/GOG Games/Stargunner"
  3. Enter sudo nano dosbox_stargun.conf"
  4. Find the line that says fullscreen=true and replace the true with false
  5. Press CTRL + O and then CTRL + X to save the file
If you are using Mint then you should have an icon for the game on your desktop. Double click on the file. Ubuntu users will find an icon in the dash.

Controllers

The main problem you will have at this stage is that you can only control the game with the keyboard controls.

It is worth noting that whilst a game is open within dosbox that if you press F1 it will provide you a list of other options. For example pressing F4 will let you decide which controller you wish to use (keyboard, mouse, joystick etc).

If you choose to control via joystick then it will ask you to calibrate your joystick.

I have three joysticks available to me:
  • XBOX 360 Controller (Wired and Wireless)
  • WII Remote
  • OUYA Controller


Plugging the XBOX 360 Controller in using the USB port is the easiest way to get started and if you have one of those then I recommend using it.

The OUYA controller is fairly straight forward as well. If your computer has bluetooth available then all you have to do is search for a new bluetooth device and then hold in the OUYA controller power button until the device is found.

The WII remote is a bit different and I found it difficult to set up.

I think most bluetooth or USB based joypads would work well enough.

Calibrating Joysticks

To calibrate your joysticks and joypads install jstest-gtk.

jstest-gtk is available from the software manager or software centre.

Simply search for jstest-gtk and click install.



jstest-gtk can be launched from the menu in Linux Mint or via the dash in Ubuntu by searching for jstest-gtk.

Make sure you have the controller plugged in. If it isn't plug it in and click refresh. Click on properties to start calibrating.


To test out the current calibration rotate the joysticks and press all the buttons on your joystick.

All the button presses should light up a number button.

The left joystick on an XBOX controller or the OUYA controller will move the cross on the left hand axes dial.

If something doesn't seem right click on the calibrate button.






Press the Start Calibration button to start the calibration and you will be asked to perform various tasks such as rotating the joysticks and pressing all the buttons.














WINE

If 100 games isn't enough for you (and it really isn't for me) then you can also try out the Windows games at GOG.com by installing WINE. You can also install your own Windows and DOS games that you have on CD/DVD.

You can install WINE from the Software Manager.






All you have to do to install a game is find the setup program, right click and select open with WINE Windows Program Loader.

Once the game has been installed it is likely that an icon will have appeared on your desktop. If it hasn't then you should be able to run the program from the menu or dash depending on your distribution.

There are other programs that you might wish to run such as WINE Graphic Mode Setup.





This application lets you determine whether the program opens full screen and the graphics mode it uses.

The Advanced Settings screen lets you choose the window resolution (Note that choosing a smaller resolution in Mint made my bottom panel move halfway up the screen).

The scaling engine is probably the most useful feature as it lets you set the size the game appears in Windowed mode.





The main issue I found with WINE games (and I tried about a dozen of them) is that the joystick sensitivity is crazy on older games.

There is a program called WINE Control which can be ran from the terminal which lets you test the calibration of the joystick and certain games have a joystick calibration option which came as part of the installation.

Neither of these options fix the sensitivity issues and this is because modern joypads have far more axis than older joysticks from the past. 

QJoyPad


In order to get the joysticks to work properly with older WINE games I used an application called QJoyPad.

QJoyPad is not available from the default repositories and you will need to follow this guide in order to set up the getdeb repository.

I recommend following option 2 as option 1 still appears to be pointing at an older version.

When you have the repository set up open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install qjoypad

QJoyPad is a GUI application and can be ran from the menu or dash (depending on your distribution and desktop environment) and the screenshot is shown above.

QJoyPad lets you map each direction on your joystick/joypad to a key on the keyboard.

Press "Quick Set" to map the keys.

You will be asked to select an axis on the joypad and then you will be asked to map that axis to a key on the keyboard.

The point of this is to press up on the joystick and select a key, press down on the joystick and select a key, press left and select a key, press right and select a key, press fire and select a key. Each joystick function has a key on the keyboard assigned to it.


Remember that older games only had a 4 (or 8) directional joystick and a couple of buttons. All you need to do now is select keyboard as the input device within the game and remap the keys.

The game will ask you to choose the key for up when remapping the keys and instead on pressing a key on the keyboard you press up on the joystick. Similarly when it asks for the down key press down on the joystick and so on.

You will find that old games play much better using this method than using the joystick in its full glory.

Summary



This is only the first part of this series and I have only just touched on the subject of gaming thus far.

In the next article I will be looking more closely at PlayOnLinux and WINE and I will also look at some of the games emulators that are out there.

In future articles I will be looking at distributions specifically designed for playing games.

Thankyou for reading.


























Retrogaming With Linux

Introduction

You might be surprised to learn that outside of work, bringing up three children and a dog and writing about Linux that I try to find time for other hobbies such as being a navigator at classic car rallies and playing old computer games.

This article looks at the options available for potential retrogamers using a fairly standard Linux Mint or Ubuntu setup.

There are already specialist Linux distributions available for playing computer games such as Puppy Arcade. If you just want to play games casually then running a whole distribution to do so might seem a bit overkill.

I have written other articles in the past about games emulation and in one of my earliest articles I showed how to set up the Sinclair Spectrum in Linux Mint 13.

Generally when people think of retrogaming they think of games emulators and ROMS. They will also think of old consoles such as the Atari 2600, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Megadrive and Dreamcast.

Old Windows games can also be considered retro and there are some great examples of games that used to work in DOS or on the earliest versions of Windows such as Sim City, Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Wolfenstein 3D.

A few years ago I used to own a number of consoles including all those listed above as well as an Atari ST, Gamecube, Playstation 1 and N64. I still have a Gamegear, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance.

Unfortunately space was at a premium and so I reduced my collection but in order to do so I bought a Raspberry PI. The Raspberry PI is great for games emulation up to a point but you certainly need patience when setting it up.

My wife bought me an OUYA last Christmas which lets me play Android style games on a television. The OUYA has a large number of games emulators available for it and I find it works much better than the Raspberry PI for this purpose. The Raspberry PI is much more suited to repetitive tasks without a GUI. I therefore now use my Raspberry PI for other purposes and the OUYA for retrogaming using emulation.

For retrogaming with old DOS and Windows games I use my best Linux laptop.

GOG.com


STEAM has been hailed as a Linux revelation as it has brought main stream gaming to Linux.

Before STEAM arrived on the scene however GOG.com (Good Old Games) were providing games that worked very well in WINE and recently they announced that they were releasing games for LINUX.

The Linux games library is fairly small at the moment with just under 100 games available.

Titles include Witcher 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Flatout 2, Pinball World, Crystal Caves and The Hugo Trilogy. Prices for the Linux games range from free to £13.

To test out the Linux games I downloaded "Stargunner" which is one of the free games.














You have to sign up for an account in order to download the free games and you are basically sent through the same purchasing procedure although of course you end up paying nothing.

After purchasing the game (even though it is free) you can go to your accounts area and download the game. The game format is provided as a .deb file.

To install the game all you have to do is double click on the .deb file and the GDebi package installer will do the rest. (This is all of course assuming that you are using a Debian based distribution such as Debian, Ubuntu, Mint etc).

When you start the game it loads in dosbox which is a DOS emulator. The game loads in full screen mode which is probably fine for most people but you can make it open in windowed mode by following these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window
  2. Enter cd "/opt/GOG Games/Stargunner"
  3. Enter sudo nano dosbox_stargun.conf"
  4. Find the line that says fullscreen=true and replace the true with false
  5. Press CTRL + O and then CTRL + X to save the file
If you are using Mint then you should have an icon for the game on your desktop. Double click on the file. Ubuntu users will find an icon in the dash.

Controllers

The main problem you will have at this stage is that you can only control the game with the keyboard controls.

It is worth noting that whilst a game is open within dosbox that if you press F1 it will provide you a list of other options. For example pressing F4 will let you decide which controller you wish to use (keyboard, mouse, joystick etc).

If you choose to control via joystick then it will ask you to calibrate your joystick.

I have three joysticks available to me:
  • XBOX 360 Controller (Wired and Wireless)
  • WII Remote
  • OUYA Controller


Plugging the XBOX 360 Controller in using the USB port is the easiest way to get started and if you have one of those then I recommend using it.

The OUYA controller is fairly straight forward as well. If your computer has bluetooth available then all you have to do is search for a new bluetooth device and then hold in the OUYA controller power button until the device is found.

The WII remote is a bit different and I found it difficult to set up.

I think most bluetooth or USB based joypads would work well enough.

Calibrating Joysticks

To calibrate your joysticks and joypads install jstest-gtk.

jstest-gtk is available from the software manager or software centre.

Simply search for jstest-gtk and click install.



jstest-gtk can be launched from the menu in Linux Mint or via the dash in Ubuntu by searching for jstest-gtk.

Make sure you have the controller plugged in. If it isn't plug it in and click refresh. Click on properties to start calibrating.


To test out the current calibration rotate the joysticks and press all the buttons on your joystick.

All the button presses should light up a number button.

The left joystick on an XBOX controller or the OUYA controller will move the cross on the left hand axes dial.

If something doesn't seem right click on the calibrate button.






Press the Start Calibration button to start the calibration and you will be asked to perform various tasks such as rotating the joysticks and pressing all the buttons.














WINE

If 100 games isn't enough for you (and it really isn't for me) then you can also try out the Windows games at GOG.com by installing WINE. You can also install your own Windows and DOS games that you have on CD/DVD.

You can install WINE from the Software Manager.






All you have to do to install a game is find the setup program, right click and select open with WINE Windows Program Loader.

Once the game has been installed it is likely that an icon will have appeared on your desktop. If it hasn't then you should be able to run the program from the menu or dash depending on your distribution.

There are other programs that you might wish to run such as WINE Graphic Mode Setup.





This application lets you determine whether the program opens full screen and the graphics mode it uses.

The Advanced Settings screen lets you choose the window resolution (Note that choosing a smaller resolution in Mint made my bottom panel move halfway up the screen).

The scaling engine is probably the most useful feature as it lets you set the size the game appears in Windowed mode.





The main issue I found with WINE games (and I tried about a dozen of them) is that the joystick sensitivity is crazy on older games.

There is a program called WINE Control which can be ran from the terminal which lets you test the calibration of the joystick and certain games have a joystick calibration option which came as part of the installation.

Neither of these options fix the sensitivity issues and this is because modern joypads have far more axis than older joysticks from the past. 

QJoyPad


In order to get the joysticks to work properly with older WINE games I used an application called QJoyPad.

QJoyPad is not available from the default repositories and you will need to follow this guide in order to set up the getdeb repository.

I recommend following option 2 as option 1 still appears to be pointing at an older version.

When you have the repository set up open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install qjoypad

QJoyPad is a GUI application and can be ran from the menu or dash (depending on your distribution and desktop environment) and the screenshot is shown above.

QJoyPad lets you map each direction on your joystick/joypad to a key on the keyboard.

Press "Quick Set" to map the keys.

You will be asked to select an axis on the joypad and then you will be asked to map that axis to a key on the keyboard.

The point of this is to press up on the joystick and select a key, press down on the joystick and select a key, press left and select a key, press right and select a key, press fire and select a key. Each joystick function has a key on the keyboard assigned to it.


Remember that older games only had a 4 (or 8) directional joystick and a couple of buttons. All you need to do now is select keyboard as the input device within the game and remap the keys.

The game will ask you to choose the key for up when remapping the keys and instead on pressing a key on the keyboard you press up on the joystick. Similarly when it asks for the down key press down on the joystick and so on.

You will find that old games play much better using this method than using the joystick in its full glory.

Summary



This is only the first part of this series and I have only just touched on the subject of gaming thus far.

In the next article I will be looking more closely at PlayOnLinux and WINE and I will also look at some of the games emulators that are out there.

In future articles I will be looking at distributions specifically designed for playing games.

Thankyou for reading.


























Posted at 00:26 |  by Gary Newell

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Introduction

Go to Google and type in a query. As you type you will notice that Google suggests some questions and topics for you.

The suggestions that appear are based on the most searched for topics based on the keywords provided. There is a caviat and that is each person may receive a slightly different list based on things they have naturally searched for in the past.

The concept of todays article is to provide answers to the most commonly asked questions using terms such as Why is Linux, What does Linux, Can Linux and Which Linux.

I borrowed the concept of this article from the Going Linux podcast which did something similar in episode 253.


1. Why Is Linux Better Than Windows?

I have incorporated the first three items on the list into the answer for this question because on their own they are meaningless.

Why is Linux better than Windows?

This question is at the best subjective and many Windows users would probably suggest otherwise. In fact there was an article that appeared last week, by John Dvorak, who suggested that Linux had failed to win over the desktop and was nothing more than an operating system for hobbyists.

You can read my response to that article by clicking here.

Here are some reasons where it can be argued that Linux is better than Windows:
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Customisability
  • Price
  • Community 
  • Support
Linux can be made to work on the oldest hardware or the most modern hardware. By tweaking the desktop environment and the applications you use it is possible to make Linux perform in a much more efficient way than Windows.

Another reason Linux performs better is the fact that it doesn't deteriorate over time.

When you first get a computer with Windows on it the performance is usually pretty decent.

Antivirus software instantly places a load onto the computer that just isn't required on a day to day basis for home Linux computers.

Windows tends to slow down after a period of use. This is due to installing applications, system updates and various other tasks that fill up the registry and leave junk on the computer.

Windows 7 is definitely an improvement on Window Vista and XP because it automatically defragments the hard drive but it is noticeably slower running either Windows 7 or Windows 8 compared with any version of Linux that I run on the same machines.

With regards to security, Linux is better for various reasons. The use of a normal account as opposed to an administrator account certainly helps as it limits the amount of exposure to potential hackers.

Viruses are less likely to affect Linux than Windows as well and this can be attributed to the use of package managers in Linux, the ability for viruses to spread and the level of chaos that virus developers can generate by writing viruses for Linux. This is covered again later on in the article.

If I want to download a Windows application then I have a choice of the whole internet to download from but how do you know a reputable site for a non-reputable site. Even so called reputable sites bundle search tools, optimisers and toolbars with the applications that you download from them. The use of package managers as repositories is a far better way to distribute software.

Linux is ultimately more customisable than Windows. Everything on Linux can be built the way you want it to be. You can choose the display manager (login manager), the window manager, the docks that appear, the terminal, the applications, the fonts, menus and widgets. In Windows you can change the desktop wallpaper, what else?

Linux at the point of use is free. Now many people would say that because Windows came with the computer they are using it is also free. With Windows everything costs money. You buy the computer and the Windows fee is already included. Then you have to pay for the antivirus subscription. If you want to use an office suite you have to pay for it.

Also consider about what happens when something goes wrong with Windows. Can you fix it? How much is it going to cost for you to get it fixed? With Linux there is such a great community and support network that you can probably fix most problems for free and you don't have to worry whether you lost the disks that came with your computer because you can create them again for free.

It is unfair to do a ying without a yang and so whilst searching on Why Linux I noticed that second on the list is "Why linux sucks".

Nobody answers this question better than Brian Lunduke
















2. Can Linux Read NTFS?

NTFS is the native Windows file system and has been for quite some time.

Can linux read NTFS?

I can prove this one by example. The computer I am using is running Windows 8 and Linux Mint 17. If I open up the Nemo file manager I am able to see the Windows 8 partition.

As you can see from the image above I am able to access the files and folders in the Windows partition formatted to NTFS and I can open photos, music, documents etc.

The answer to the question is therefore yes you can.

A better question might have been "how safe is it to write to NTFS partitions using Linux".

3. Can Linux Get Viruses?

Every operating system can catch a virus but a better thing to consider is the purpose of a virus.

Malware comes in many different forms and the aim of malware is to either extract money or to cause chaos. In order to do either the reach of the malware has to be wide spread.

To get one person on one computer to run an application to install Cryptolocker
will earn the reward of one person paying the ransom. In order to make real money the people spreading ransomware need to get as many people as possible to install it.

Why are there more burglaries in city centres than in country villages? It is easier to burgle a number of properties in close proximity than go from village to village and do one house at a time.
Real life viruses spread in the places that are most populated and with the least protection against that virus.

The same can be said for computer viruses. Windows has the larger userbase and so it is easier and more profitable to create viruses for Windows.

People using Linux for the first time are more likely to stick with installing applications via the package managers and by following guides from recognised sources. These users are unlikely to contract any sort of virus as the package managers are kept clean by the wider community.

Long term Linux users are technically savvy and therefore ultimately less likely to install a virus and even if they do they can probably fix the damage caused anyway and therefore there is little point targeting them.

The biggest danger to new Linux users is following instructions on websites that give false information. Entering commands into a terminal window without fully understanding the commands is potentially very dangerous.

4. Can Linux Run Windows Games?

Linux can do better than run Windows games, Linux can run Linux games as well.

This question therefore also incorporates "Can Linux Run Games?" and "Can Linux Run Steam?"

Steam has over 500 games available for the Linux platform and GOG.com have started releasing games with full Linux support






There are native Linux games as well. I wrote an article a while back discussing the games installed with the KDE desktop.

Are there any Minecraft players out there? You can play Minecraft using Linux as well.

To answer the actual question, Windows games can be played using WINE and PlayOnLinux. A full article on WINE and gaming is coming up shortly.

5. Can Linux Replace Windows?

Can Linux replace Windows? Which version of Windows are you looking to replace?

For Windows 7 you can follow this guide to switch to Linux Mint.
For Windows XP you can follow this guide to switch to Lubuntu.

Like the Windows look but not the functionality? Follow this guide to switch to Zorin OS 9.

6. Can Linux Read exFAT?

What is exFAT?

exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) is a Microsoft file system optimized for flash drives.[3] It is proprietary and patented.[2]
exFAT can be used where the NTFS file system is not a feasible solution (due to data structure overhead), or where the file size limit of the standard FAT32 file system (that is, without FAT32+ extension[4]) is unacceptable.
Although the industry-standard FAT32 file system supports volumes up to 2 TiB, exFAT has been adopted by the SD Card Association as the default file system for SDXC cards larger than 32 GiB.
The above snippet was taken from Wikipedia. exFAT appears to be the file system used on large USB drives and SD cards.

The answer to the question is yes. Linux can read exFAT partitions. You will need to install exfat-fuse and exfat-utils. (See here for details).

7. Can Linux run exe?

Linux works in a different way to Windows. Files with the .exe extension are executable programs in Windows, they have no meaning in Linux.

In Linux programs are installed via a package manager and are stored as binary files. You can start a program in most versions of Linux by double clicking it or by running it via the command line.

Simply downloading and double clicking an "exe" file in Linux will not work. If you have WINE installed it is possible to run executable files.

8. Can Linux Run On Mac?

It is possible to get Linux to run on Macs and I have written a guide showing how to dual boot Linux Mint and OSx on a MacBook Air.

This article appears if you ask the same question in Google and there is a really detailed response by someone who has tried Debian and Arch.

The MacBook Air internet connection issue has been solved in my article above but the other points raised are worth thinking about.

I am not a big Mac fan so maybe you can provide your experiences with running Linux on a Mac in the comments below.

9. Can Linux Run Windows Applications?

I feel like I am covering this question to death. The answer is yes (and no). Using WINE it is possible to run many Windows applications and in a lot of cases the applications run perfectly well.

An application designed for Windows will probably never work quite as well on Linux as it does for Windows because it wasn't built for the Linux architecture and you are relying 100% on WINE.

The simplest solution is to either find a good alternative (and believe me there are loads of great alternatives for most Windows applications) or try out the application in WINE to see how well it works.

Another alternative is to dual boot Windows and Linux or run Windows in a virtual machine for the odd piece of software that you need that requires Windows use.








10. Which Linux Distro?

This is the question that I get asked most every single day. Which Linux distro is best on this machine or which Linux distro is best on that machine?

Choosing a Linux distribution is a personal thing. I recommend trying a few out in virtual machines or as live distributions and then decide which Linux version suits you the best.

I recently ran a series of articles designed to help in this quest:
I have added to that series by producing an article for linux.about.com.
Here are a couple of articles for those of you looking to put Linux on a netbook:
  

Bonus Question. What Does Linux Look Like?

That is an almost impossible question to answer. I did say almost. Linux can be made to look however you want it to look.

I have a Pinterest page that has a selection of the wallpapers and images that have appeared on this site over the past few years.

Summary

The Google search tool throws up some interesting questions and the 10 that I answered just scratched the surface.

Just by adding an extra letter after the search term brings up new results. For instance "Why Linux a" brings up "Why Linux Ate My Ram" and "Why Linux Arch". The search tool also throws up some fairly bad grammar such as "why linux are better than windows".

I will be looking at Linux gaming over the next week including purpose built gaming distros, games emulators, STEAM and PlayOnLinux.

Thankyou for reading.













10 Answers To The Most Frequently Asked Linux Questions On Google

Introduction

Go to Google and type in a query. As you type you will notice that Google suggests some questions and topics for you.

The suggestions that appear are based on the most searched for topics based on the keywords provided. There is a caviat and that is each person may receive a slightly different list based on things they have naturally searched for in the past.

The concept of todays article is to provide answers to the most commonly asked questions using terms such as Why is Linux, What does Linux, Can Linux and Which Linux.

I borrowed the concept of this article from the Going Linux podcast which did something similar in episode 253.


1. Why Is Linux Better Than Windows?

I have incorporated the first three items on the list into the answer for this question because on their own they are meaningless.

Why is Linux better than Windows?

This question is at the best subjective and many Windows users would probably suggest otherwise. In fact there was an article that appeared last week, by John Dvorak, who suggested that Linux had failed to win over the desktop and was nothing more than an operating system for hobbyists.

You can read my response to that article by clicking here.

Here are some reasons where it can be argued that Linux is better than Windows:
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Customisability
  • Price
  • Community 
  • Support
Linux can be made to work on the oldest hardware or the most modern hardware. By tweaking the desktop environment and the applications you use it is possible to make Linux perform in a much more efficient way than Windows.

Another reason Linux performs better is the fact that it doesn't deteriorate over time.

When you first get a computer with Windows on it the performance is usually pretty decent.

Antivirus software instantly places a load onto the computer that just isn't required on a day to day basis for home Linux computers.

Windows tends to slow down after a period of use. This is due to installing applications, system updates and various other tasks that fill up the registry and leave junk on the computer.

Windows 7 is definitely an improvement on Window Vista and XP because it automatically defragments the hard drive but it is noticeably slower running either Windows 7 or Windows 8 compared with any version of Linux that I run on the same machines.

With regards to security, Linux is better for various reasons. The use of a normal account as opposed to an administrator account certainly helps as it limits the amount of exposure to potential hackers.

Viruses are less likely to affect Linux than Windows as well and this can be attributed to the use of package managers in Linux, the ability for viruses to spread and the level of chaos that virus developers can generate by writing viruses for Linux. This is covered again later on in the article.

If I want to download a Windows application then I have a choice of the whole internet to download from but how do you know a reputable site for a non-reputable site. Even so called reputable sites bundle search tools, optimisers and toolbars with the applications that you download from them. The use of package managers as repositories is a far better way to distribute software.

Linux is ultimately more customisable than Windows. Everything on Linux can be built the way you want it to be. You can choose the display manager (login manager), the window manager, the docks that appear, the terminal, the applications, the fonts, menus and widgets. In Windows you can change the desktop wallpaper, what else?

Linux at the point of use is free. Now many people would say that because Windows came with the computer they are using it is also free. With Windows everything costs money. You buy the computer and the Windows fee is already included. Then you have to pay for the antivirus subscription. If you want to use an office suite you have to pay for it.

Also consider about what happens when something goes wrong with Windows. Can you fix it? How much is it going to cost for you to get it fixed? With Linux there is such a great community and support network that you can probably fix most problems for free and you don't have to worry whether you lost the disks that came with your computer because you can create them again for free.

It is unfair to do a ying without a yang and so whilst searching on Why Linux I noticed that second on the list is "Why linux sucks".

Nobody answers this question better than Brian Lunduke
















2. Can Linux Read NTFS?

NTFS is the native Windows file system and has been for quite some time.

Can linux read NTFS?

I can prove this one by example. The computer I am using is running Windows 8 and Linux Mint 17. If I open up the Nemo file manager I am able to see the Windows 8 partition.

As you can see from the image above I am able to access the files and folders in the Windows partition formatted to NTFS and I can open photos, music, documents etc.

The answer to the question is therefore yes you can.

A better question might have been "how safe is it to write to NTFS partitions using Linux".

3. Can Linux Get Viruses?

Every operating system can catch a virus but a better thing to consider is the purpose of a virus.

Malware comes in many different forms and the aim of malware is to either extract money or to cause chaos. In order to do either the reach of the malware has to be wide spread.

To get one person on one computer to run an application to install Cryptolocker
will earn the reward of one person paying the ransom. In order to make real money the people spreading ransomware need to get as many people as possible to install it.

Why are there more burglaries in city centres than in country villages? It is easier to burgle a number of properties in close proximity than go from village to village and do one house at a time.
Real life viruses spread in the places that are most populated and with the least protection against that virus.

The same can be said for computer viruses. Windows has the larger userbase and so it is easier and more profitable to create viruses for Windows.

People using Linux for the first time are more likely to stick with installing applications via the package managers and by following guides from recognised sources. These users are unlikely to contract any sort of virus as the package managers are kept clean by the wider community.

Long term Linux users are technically savvy and therefore ultimately less likely to install a virus and even if they do they can probably fix the damage caused anyway and therefore there is little point targeting them.

The biggest danger to new Linux users is following instructions on websites that give false information. Entering commands into a terminal window without fully understanding the commands is potentially very dangerous.

4. Can Linux Run Windows Games?

Linux can do better than run Windows games, Linux can run Linux games as well.

This question therefore also incorporates "Can Linux Run Games?" and "Can Linux Run Steam?"

Steam has over 500 games available for the Linux platform and GOG.com have started releasing games with full Linux support






There are native Linux games as well. I wrote an article a while back discussing the games installed with the KDE desktop.

Are there any Minecraft players out there? You can play Minecraft using Linux as well.

To answer the actual question, Windows games can be played using WINE and PlayOnLinux. A full article on WINE and gaming is coming up shortly.

5. Can Linux Replace Windows?

Can Linux replace Windows? Which version of Windows are you looking to replace?

For Windows 7 you can follow this guide to switch to Linux Mint.
For Windows XP you can follow this guide to switch to Lubuntu.

Like the Windows look but not the functionality? Follow this guide to switch to Zorin OS 9.

6. Can Linux Read exFAT?

What is exFAT?

exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) is a Microsoft file system optimized for flash drives.[3] It is proprietary and patented.[2]
exFAT can be used where the NTFS file system is not a feasible solution (due to data structure overhead), or where the file size limit of the standard FAT32 file system (that is, without FAT32+ extension[4]) is unacceptable.
Although the industry-standard FAT32 file system supports volumes up to 2 TiB, exFAT has been adopted by the SD Card Association as the default file system for SDXC cards larger than 32 GiB.
The above snippet was taken from Wikipedia. exFAT appears to be the file system used on large USB drives and SD cards.

The answer to the question is yes. Linux can read exFAT partitions. You will need to install exfat-fuse and exfat-utils. (See here for details).

7. Can Linux run exe?

Linux works in a different way to Windows. Files with the .exe extension are executable programs in Windows, they have no meaning in Linux.

In Linux programs are installed via a package manager and are stored as binary files. You can start a program in most versions of Linux by double clicking it or by running it via the command line.

Simply downloading and double clicking an "exe" file in Linux will not work. If you have WINE installed it is possible to run executable files.

8. Can Linux Run On Mac?

It is possible to get Linux to run on Macs and I have written a guide showing how to dual boot Linux Mint and OSx on a MacBook Air.

This article appears if you ask the same question in Google and there is a really detailed response by someone who has tried Debian and Arch.

The MacBook Air internet connection issue has been solved in my article above but the other points raised are worth thinking about.

I am not a big Mac fan so maybe you can provide your experiences with running Linux on a Mac in the comments below.

9. Can Linux Run Windows Applications?

I feel like I am covering this question to death. The answer is yes (and no). Using WINE it is possible to run many Windows applications and in a lot of cases the applications run perfectly well.

An application designed for Windows will probably never work quite as well on Linux as it does for Windows because it wasn't built for the Linux architecture and you are relying 100% on WINE.

The simplest solution is to either find a good alternative (and believe me there are loads of great alternatives for most Windows applications) or try out the application in WINE to see how well it works.

Another alternative is to dual boot Windows and Linux or run Windows in a virtual machine for the odd piece of software that you need that requires Windows use.








10. Which Linux Distro?

This is the question that I get asked most every single day. Which Linux distro is best on this machine or which Linux distro is best on that machine?

Choosing a Linux distribution is a personal thing. I recommend trying a few out in virtual machines or as live distributions and then decide which Linux version suits you the best.

I recently ran a series of articles designed to help in this quest:
I have added to that series by producing an article for linux.about.com.
Here are a couple of articles for those of you looking to put Linux on a netbook:
  

Bonus Question. What Does Linux Look Like?

That is an almost impossible question to answer. I did say almost. Linux can be made to look however you want it to look.

I have a Pinterest page that has a selection of the wallpapers and images that have appeared on this site over the past few years.

Summary

The Google search tool throws up some interesting questions and the 10 that I answered just scratched the surface.

Just by adding an extra letter after the search term brings up new results. For instance "Why Linux a" brings up "Why Linux Ate My Ram" and "Why Linux Arch". The search tool also throws up some fairly bad grammar such as "why linux are better than windows".

I will be looking at Linux gaming over the next week including purpose built gaming distros, games emulators, STEAM and PlayOnLinux.

Thankyou for reading.













Posted at 23:50 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 1 September 2014

Introduction

During the past month I have been in discussions with a number of people at about.com.

I have been provided with the opportunity of writing articles on the linux.about.com subsite and I am in full control of all the content that will appear on that site.

It is early days and there is some old content on the site which is a bit out of date but I plan to make linux.about.com a great resource for everyone.

What about Everyday Linux User?

Nothing changes with regards to Everyday Linux User.

Everyday Linux User is about providing guides for the average computer user and it will continue to have reviews and how to guides and all the usual content that this site provides.

Articles at Linux.about.com

The articles at Linux.about.com are likely to be more varied with some basic content for new users and some command line stuff for those who want to get their hands well and truly dirty.

There will be some overlap between the two sites and that is to expected.

And the first article is....

The first article has just been published and shows how to install Ubuntu within Windows using Virtualbox

Thankyou for reading.



Linux @ About.com

Introduction

During the past month I have been in discussions with a number of people at about.com.

I have been provided with the opportunity of writing articles on the linux.about.com subsite and I am in full control of all the content that will appear on that site.

It is early days and there is some old content on the site which is a bit out of date but I plan to make linux.about.com a great resource for everyone.

What about Everyday Linux User?

Nothing changes with regards to Everyday Linux User.

Everyday Linux User is about providing guides for the average computer user and it will continue to have reviews and how to guides and all the usual content that this site provides.

Articles at Linux.about.com

The articles at Linux.about.com are likely to be more varied with some basic content for new users and some command line stuff for those who want to get their hands well and truly dirty.

There will be some overlap between the two sites and that is to expected.

And the first article is....

The first article has just been published and shows how to install Ubuntu within Windows using Virtualbox

Thankyou for reading.



Posted at 23:24 |  by Gary Newell

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Introduction


I like to read the "Today in open source" column written by Jim Lynch.

On the 27th August there was a link to an article by John Dvorak which basically stated that Linux has run out of time.

Speaking of Munich, John Dvorak uses it as the opening to a diatribe about how Linux on the desktop has run out of time or something like that. Think carefully before you click through to read the article

The above quote was written by Jim Lynch and I should have heeded the warning. Jim told me before clicking through that this was an article designed to stir up a wasps nest.

What has this to do with the Ghostbusters video linked above? There is a line in Ghostbusters where Ray says "Ok, I'm opening the trap, don't look into the trap" and just seconds follow before Egon says "I looked into the trap, Ray".

Humans are curious and if there is a big red button that says "do not press" our natural instincts makes us wonder what the button is for and the second instinct is to press it to find out.

Linux has run out of time

The reason for John's article appears to be the on off relationship that Munich appears to be having with Linux at the moment.

John Dvorak believes that Linux has had its chance and it has failed to impress. 
I like Linux and would love to just go all-in with it as the mavens tell me I can do. But I cannot. I use these computers to make a living by writing and podcasting. I also produce photographic art as a hobby. I can't accomplish any of this with Linux.
Does this tell us more about John's failings than the state of Linux. Let us consider podcasting for example. Linux Outlaws, Everyday Linux, The Linux Links Tech Show (TLLTS), Ubuntu UK Podcast, Mintcast, Linux Action Show. All of these are really excellent examples of Linux podcasts. Am I supposed to believe that all of these podcasts are made using Windows? If John is right then it wouldn't be possible for all of these excellent podcasts to create their recordings using the operating system that they discuss on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

What about writing? Linux User & Developer Magazine, Linux Format Magazine, Linux Journal. Are all of these magazines using Windows to write articles about Linux. That would seem a bit counterproductive. How can people write so religiously about a topic that they don't have faith in?
There are a lot of products that I need that will run on WINE, a chunk of code that allows Windows software to run on Linux. It's not perfect. It takes tweaking, there are all sorts of issues, and, more importantly, what's the point? If I have to run Windows applications, I want Windows, don't I? 

John wants Windows and therein lies the problem. You can't write an objective article about Linux if ultimately you want Windows. WINE is great and it is getting better year on year at running Windows based applications but at the same time there are less and less Windows applications that Linux users truly rely on. 
Then we have Photoshop, Illustrator, and the entire Adobe universe. None of it runs on Linux natively and people "have heard" that it runs okay on WINE. This is no good. Then GIMP enters the conversation. Yes, as a Photoshop clone it's actually pretty good. But the name says it all: hobbled.
The main issue with people using GIMP professionally as opposed to Photoshop is the hype given by people like John.

Why do so many offices around the world run Windows? For decades Windows has been taught in schools as the only operating system and Microsoft Office has been taught in schools as the only office suite.

When you enter the business market place it can therefore be no surprise that big companies run Windows and use Microsoft Office. The people that run the IT departments and their senior managers and directors were all brought up on Windows. They feel safe by using it. It has nothing to do with what works and what doesn't.

Photoshop is the same. Photoshop has become a commonly known product and web design companies hire people because they have Photoshop skills. The people running these agencies have become too ingrained into thinking that Photoshop is the only way to go.

Things do change though. Microsoft used to dominate everything. Every man and his dog used to use Hotmail but now more and more people use GMail. Do we even need a mail client anymore such as Outlook? I can have a million emails in my GMail account and with a quick keyword search I can find the email I am looking for.
Ironically, Microsoft didn't need to change anything. Word is just better. Excel is better. PowerPoint is better. It's that simple.

Is Word better than LibreOffice Writer or is LibreOffice Writer better than Word? Is Android better than Apple? Were Nirvana better than Pearl Jam? Which were better "The Beatles" or "The Rolling Stones"?

Microsoft Word has a lot of flaws that people seem to gloss over. Bullets and numbering for instance are just random. The fonts change, the numbering changes, the indentation changes and for no apparent reason.

The Microsoft ribbon bars have surely just been added to sell training courses because there is no way they are better than menus, toolbars and keyboard shortcuts. Everything we have been used to for 20 years all switched around for no seemingly good reason. I don't like it when my local supermarket rearranges all the shelves for no apparent reason either. If you want a ribbon bar then there is always Kingsoft Office.
 My wife, for example, likes the Windows way of tracking and saving all changes in a document, and the ability to reclaim old text.
Good for her John. I quite like my computer to boot in under 30 seconds, not display a blue screen saying there has been an error and then spend 3.5 hours reconfiguring itself. Each to their own I guess.

LibreOffice Calc is probably a more difficult sell. IT departments in the business world are commonly underfunded and therefore to get around IT deficiencies every other department in the company has the so called resident Excel expert who knows VBA. Companies big and small have badly designed spreadsheets with poor VBA code, whereby the expert left long ago but nobody dares to change the spreadsheet for fear of breaking it.

Getting companies to clean up these spreadsheets is not a cheap task and therefore abandoning Excel for LibreOffice is probably not going to happen.

If I want a word processor to create e-books, for example, or to organize large texts I use Scrivener. Does Scrivener run on Linux? Maybe someday. I still do the original writing in Word, then run it to Scrivener for organizing and compiling. Linux is not part of the scheme.
It just so happens that Scrivener has arrived on Linux. At the moment it is in Beta but then so was GMail for about 5 years.

Right now Linux on the desktop remains a cheap curiosity, that is kind of fun to play with when you are bored.
I am not suggesting for a minute that Linux has made it on the desktop. To be honest I'm not sure what the big fascination is.

All I know is that for me Linux is easy to install, easy to use and for home use it has served me well for over 10 years.

I haven't had a virus or any sign of malware in all the time I have used Linux. I only have to switch on my Windows based computer before I am bombarded with an Antivirus package that wants to update itself constantly and scan every single file and process slowing down the whole machine to crawling point.

I can't reboot my Windows based computer without it wanting to install updates 1 of 63, 2 of 63, 3 of 63 on what appears to be a daily basis.

Free software in Windows doesn't mean free anymore. Once the bastion of freeware and shareware CNet now seems to supply software riddled with endless toolbars, search tools and PC Optimisers and they aren't the only download site doing that.

When I run Windows applications at work, every so often I will receive a message saying that the application has stopped working. It doesn't give a reason, it just tells me it has stopped working. The application then dies and I have to restart it. I'm not saying that I have never had an application crash on me in Linux but it is far less frequent and the reasons why are far more verbose.

I don't write about Linux to force Windows users into changing their operating system. If somebody is using Windows and they want a change then I try an aid that process.

Why does it have to be one thing or another?. For Windows to survive must Linux die and for Linux to succeed does Windows have to die? Of course not. The people who want to use Linux will and those who don't won't.

Thankyou for reading.





Linux has run out of time - I looked into the trap, Jim

Introduction


I like to read the "Today in open source" column written by Jim Lynch.

On the 27th August there was a link to an article by John Dvorak which basically stated that Linux has run out of time.

Speaking of Munich, John Dvorak uses it as the opening to a diatribe about how Linux on the desktop has run out of time or something like that. Think carefully before you click through to read the article

The above quote was written by Jim Lynch and I should have heeded the warning. Jim told me before clicking through that this was an article designed to stir up a wasps nest.

What has this to do with the Ghostbusters video linked above? There is a line in Ghostbusters where Ray says "Ok, I'm opening the trap, don't look into the trap" and just seconds follow before Egon says "I looked into the trap, Ray".

Humans are curious and if there is a big red button that says "do not press" our natural instincts makes us wonder what the button is for and the second instinct is to press it to find out.

Linux has run out of time

The reason for John's article appears to be the on off relationship that Munich appears to be having with Linux at the moment.

John Dvorak believes that Linux has had its chance and it has failed to impress. 
I like Linux and would love to just go all-in with it as the mavens tell me I can do. But I cannot. I use these computers to make a living by writing and podcasting. I also produce photographic art as a hobby. I can't accomplish any of this with Linux.
Does this tell us more about John's failings than the state of Linux. Let us consider podcasting for example. Linux Outlaws, Everyday Linux, The Linux Links Tech Show (TLLTS), Ubuntu UK Podcast, Mintcast, Linux Action Show. All of these are really excellent examples of Linux podcasts. Am I supposed to believe that all of these podcasts are made using Windows? If John is right then it wouldn't be possible for all of these excellent podcasts to create their recordings using the operating system that they discuss on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

What about writing? Linux User & Developer Magazine, Linux Format Magazine, Linux Journal. Are all of these magazines using Windows to write articles about Linux. That would seem a bit counterproductive. How can people write so religiously about a topic that they don't have faith in?
There are a lot of products that I need that will run on WINE, a chunk of code that allows Windows software to run on Linux. It's not perfect. It takes tweaking, there are all sorts of issues, and, more importantly, what's the point? If I have to run Windows applications, I want Windows, don't I? 

John wants Windows and therein lies the problem. You can't write an objective article about Linux if ultimately you want Windows. WINE is great and it is getting better year on year at running Windows based applications but at the same time there are less and less Windows applications that Linux users truly rely on. 
Then we have Photoshop, Illustrator, and the entire Adobe universe. None of it runs on Linux natively and people "have heard" that it runs okay on WINE. This is no good. Then GIMP enters the conversation. Yes, as a Photoshop clone it's actually pretty good. But the name says it all: hobbled.
The main issue with people using GIMP professionally as opposed to Photoshop is the hype given by people like John.

Why do so many offices around the world run Windows? For decades Windows has been taught in schools as the only operating system and Microsoft Office has been taught in schools as the only office suite.

When you enter the business market place it can therefore be no surprise that big companies run Windows and use Microsoft Office. The people that run the IT departments and their senior managers and directors were all brought up on Windows. They feel safe by using it. It has nothing to do with what works and what doesn't.

Photoshop is the same. Photoshop has become a commonly known product and web design companies hire people because they have Photoshop skills. The people running these agencies have become too ingrained into thinking that Photoshop is the only way to go.

Things do change though. Microsoft used to dominate everything. Every man and his dog used to use Hotmail but now more and more people use GMail. Do we even need a mail client anymore such as Outlook? I can have a million emails in my GMail account and with a quick keyword search I can find the email I am looking for.
Ironically, Microsoft didn't need to change anything. Word is just better. Excel is better. PowerPoint is better. It's that simple.

Is Word better than LibreOffice Writer or is LibreOffice Writer better than Word? Is Android better than Apple? Were Nirvana better than Pearl Jam? Which were better "The Beatles" or "The Rolling Stones"?

Microsoft Word has a lot of flaws that people seem to gloss over. Bullets and numbering for instance are just random. The fonts change, the numbering changes, the indentation changes and for no apparent reason.

The Microsoft ribbon bars have surely just been added to sell training courses because there is no way they are better than menus, toolbars and keyboard shortcuts. Everything we have been used to for 20 years all switched around for no seemingly good reason. I don't like it when my local supermarket rearranges all the shelves for no apparent reason either. If you want a ribbon bar then there is always Kingsoft Office.
 My wife, for example, likes the Windows way of tracking and saving all changes in a document, and the ability to reclaim old text.
Good for her John. I quite like my computer to boot in under 30 seconds, not display a blue screen saying there has been an error and then spend 3.5 hours reconfiguring itself. Each to their own I guess.

LibreOffice Calc is probably a more difficult sell. IT departments in the business world are commonly underfunded and therefore to get around IT deficiencies every other department in the company has the so called resident Excel expert who knows VBA. Companies big and small have badly designed spreadsheets with poor VBA code, whereby the expert left long ago but nobody dares to change the spreadsheet for fear of breaking it.

Getting companies to clean up these spreadsheets is not a cheap task and therefore abandoning Excel for LibreOffice is probably not going to happen.

If I want a word processor to create e-books, for example, or to organize large texts I use Scrivener. Does Scrivener run on Linux? Maybe someday. I still do the original writing in Word, then run it to Scrivener for organizing and compiling. Linux is not part of the scheme.
It just so happens that Scrivener has arrived on Linux. At the moment it is in Beta but then so was GMail for about 5 years.

Right now Linux on the desktop remains a cheap curiosity, that is kind of fun to play with when you are bored.
I am not suggesting for a minute that Linux has made it on the desktop. To be honest I'm not sure what the big fascination is.

All I know is that for me Linux is easy to install, easy to use and for home use it has served me well for over 10 years.

I haven't had a virus or any sign of malware in all the time I have used Linux. I only have to switch on my Windows based computer before I am bombarded with an Antivirus package that wants to update itself constantly and scan every single file and process slowing down the whole machine to crawling point.

I can't reboot my Windows based computer without it wanting to install updates 1 of 63, 2 of 63, 3 of 63 on what appears to be a daily basis.

Free software in Windows doesn't mean free anymore. Once the bastion of freeware and shareware CNet now seems to supply software riddled with endless toolbars, search tools and PC Optimisers and they aren't the only download site doing that.

When I run Windows applications at work, every so often I will receive a message saying that the application has stopped working. It doesn't give a reason, it just tells me it has stopped working. The application then dies and I have to restart it. I'm not saying that I have never had an application crash on me in Linux but it is far less frequent and the reasons why are far more verbose.

I don't write about Linux to force Windows users into changing their operating system. If somebody is using Windows and they want a change then I try an aid that process.

Why does it have to be one thing or another?. For Windows to survive must Linux die and for Linux to succeed does Windows have to die? Of course not. The people who want to use Linux will and those who don't won't.

Thankyou for reading.





Posted at 23:03 |  by Gary Newell

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Spoiler alert. This post has absolutely nothing to do with Linux and is simply a way for me to vent my weekend frustrations.

I had planned this week to review a distribution and write an article about Debian.

On Friday morning I set up my Raspberry PI to download the necessary files whilst I went to work. I have mentioned before that I live in the Scottish wilderness and therefore my internet connection is based on a couple of tin cans attached to a piece of string.

The Raspberry PI is perfect for this sort of thing. I don't have a desktop computer and therefore to download files whilst away from the house used to require using a laptop and leaving it on all day. Now I just queue up the files and let the Raspberry PI do its thing.

I tend not to do much on a Friday night and so it was Saturday before I needed to use one of the files.

Unfortunately something catastrophic happened to the Raspberry PI and not only did it not have the files I needed it had also corrupted the operating system.

Luckily I back up the Raspberry PI quite often so all I needed to do was take out the SD card and put the backed up image onto it.

Unfortunately the last time I had backed up the Raspberry PI it was to my Windows 8 machine and I hadn't had time to copy it over to my backup drives. No worries though because the Windows 8 machine was working ok or so I thought.

Whilst booting up a message appeared stating that something had gone wrong and that the computer needed to restart. The restart took me to a blue screen where it said something along the lines of reconfiguring settings.

The reconfiguring settings took 3.5 hours.

Installing most versions of Linux takes up to 15 minutes. Installing Windows takes up to 30 minutes. What on earth was Windows doing for 3.5 hours. It wasn't connected to the internet so it wasn't downloading anything.

One final reboot and the computer restarted and I was able to use Windows again and there were no apparent changes whatsoever.

I ended up spending a little bit of time on Sunday reinstalling the image on the Raspberry PI and downloading the files required for the next distribution review.

In the mean time I have just released an article showing how to convert from WAV to MP3 and MP3 to WAV using Linux Mint.




Raspberry PI frustrations and Why Windows 8, Why?

Spoiler alert. This post has absolutely nothing to do with Linux and is simply a way for me to vent my weekend frustrations.

I had planned this week to review a distribution and write an article about Debian.

On Friday morning I set up my Raspberry PI to download the necessary files whilst I went to work. I have mentioned before that I live in the Scottish wilderness and therefore my internet connection is based on a couple of tin cans attached to a piece of string.

The Raspberry PI is perfect for this sort of thing. I don't have a desktop computer and therefore to download files whilst away from the house used to require using a laptop and leaving it on all day. Now I just queue up the files and let the Raspberry PI do its thing.

I tend not to do much on a Friday night and so it was Saturday before I needed to use one of the files.

Unfortunately something catastrophic happened to the Raspberry PI and not only did it not have the files I needed it had also corrupted the operating system.

Luckily I back up the Raspberry PI quite often so all I needed to do was take out the SD card and put the backed up image onto it.

Unfortunately the last time I had backed up the Raspberry PI it was to my Windows 8 machine and I hadn't had time to copy it over to my backup drives. No worries though because the Windows 8 machine was working ok or so I thought.

Whilst booting up a message appeared stating that something had gone wrong and that the computer needed to restart. The restart took me to a blue screen where it said something along the lines of reconfiguring settings.

The reconfiguring settings took 3.5 hours.

Installing most versions of Linux takes up to 15 minutes. Installing Windows takes up to 30 minutes. What on earth was Windows doing for 3.5 hours. It wasn't connected to the internet so it wasn't downloading anything.

One final reboot and the computer restarted and I was able to use Windows again and there were no apparent changes whatsoever.

I ended up spending a little bit of time on Sunday reinstalling the image on the Raspberry PI and downloading the files required for the next distribution review.

In the mean time I have just released an article showing how to convert from WAV to MP3 and MP3 to WAV using Linux Mint.




Posted at 23:57 |  by Gary Newell

Introduction

Straight out of left field and completely unrelated to recent content on this blog is an article showing how to convert audio files from one format to another including from MP3 to WAV and WAV to MP3.

So the reason I am writing this guide is that I had to convert some audio files at the weekend really quickly (more of a want than a need really).

Last week I was given an Amazon gift card and so I used some of the money to update my music collection. I downloaded the files straight to MP3 as opposed to buying the CDs and waiting for them to be delivered.

On Saturday mornings I take my daughter swimming and I felt the urge to subject her to an eclectic mix of "Chas and Dave", "Brian Setzer", "Louis Jordan" and "Cab Calloway". Hey that is what dads are for.

I had fifteen minutes before we needed to leave and I realised that I had to burn the songs onto a CD and what is more I needed to convert them from MP3 to a format a standard CD player can play such as WAV.

In this article I am going to show you the method I used to convert the files and then I am going to show you the easy way.

Converting MP3 to WAV using mpg123

I used a command line tool called mpg123 to convert the MP3 files to WAVs.

To get mpg123 I opened a terminal window in Linux Mint and typed the following:

sudo apt-get install mpg123

The following command shows how to convert a single MP3 to a WAV file:

mpg123 -w "02 Big Fat Rat.wav" "02 Big Fat Rat.mp3"

Now obviously when you are time limited and because you would drive yourself insane having to type in each and every filename it is better to write a script to convert all the files.

for file in ./*.mp3
do
mpg -w ./wavs/"${file}".wav "$file"
done

For a complete script that you can use again and again click here.

This script works perfectly well and will work on any distribution that has mpg123 available.

Convert MP3 to WAV using Gnac

This is the Everyday Linux User website and the point of this site is to make it easier for the average user and is not for command line wizards.

There is a Gnome based tool called "Gnac" (Gnome Audio Converter) which is perfect for the task and is really easy to use.

You can install "Gnac" from the Mint Software Manager by simply searching for it.





The reviews aren't very inspiring. There are just two of them. 1 for 5 stars and 1 for 1 star. 1 person said it worked perfectly and 1 said it didn't work at all. 

Once it has been installed "Gnac" can be loaded by clicking on the menu and searching for it using the search bar.






"Gnac" is very easy to use.

There are 4 icons on the toolbar:

  1. Add files
  2. Remove files
  3. Clear files
  4. Convert
Clicking the "Add files" button brings up the standard "open a file" dialogue. You can select individual files or select a folder. Selecting a folder loads in all the valid audio files within that folder.

If you add files by accident you can remove them by clicking the "Remove files" icon.

Got it completely wrong? Simply clear the list by clicking the "Clear files" icon and start again.

There is a dropdown in the bottom left corner which shows what the file will be converted to. By default WAV is selected which in this case is exactly what is required.

Clicking "Convert" either on the toolbar or in the bottom right corner of the window starts the process.

The conversion takes a matter of seconds to complete.

Converting WAV to MP3 using gnac

Converting from WAV to MP3 used to be a common task as people used to buy CDs and then convert them for use on their computers and MP3 players.

Most people probably download more music than they buy on physical disks and so it is more likely that they want to convert the other way around now.

"Gnac" can convert to multiple formats and so if you need to convert from WAV to MP3 you can.

The file format dropdown box can be set to have other formats as well.

Click the "Edit" button to add new file formats.





When you use "Gnac" for the first time there is only "wav" listed. To add new file formats click on the "New" button.



The Name and Description fields are there for your benefit to describe the format that you are adding. 

You might choose to have 3 MP3 formats all with differing quality settings. It is therefore a good idea to use the "Name" and "Description" fields wisely to define the format that you are adding.

The "Format" dropdown provides a list of possible conversion formats such as FLAC, OGG, MP3 and M4a.

The quality setting determines how much quality you lose during the conversion. If you use the highest quality the file size will be bigger and therefore of course a lower quality file will have a smaller file size.

The  "Advanced" options lets you choose bit rates and the number of channels (mono/stereo).

When you are happy that you have set the format the way you want it click on "Save".

From the "Profile Manager" screen you can copy a profile. This is useful if you have for example an MP3 format but you want another one with a higher or lower quality. 

To amend a profile click it within the list and click "Edit".

Finally, to delete a profile select it and click "Delete".

When you return to the main "Gnac" interface you will now be able to choose your required format from the dropdown.

Summary

Most of us listen to music digitally nowadays and so converting from one format to another probably doesn't happen all that frequently anymore.

If you need to create an audio CD for use in a car stereo (some of us still have older cars) or you have an audio CD you need to convert to MP3 then "Gnac" is perfect for the job. 

Of course the annoying thing is that with seconds to spare I managed to get in the car and insert the CD into the stereo only to find out that printed in bold writing were the words "MP3 Audio".




Convert from MP3 to WAV and WAV to MP3 using Linux Mint

Introduction

Straight out of left field and completely unrelated to recent content on this blog is an article showing how to convert audio files from one format to another including from MP3 to WAV and WAV to MP3.

So the reason I am writing this guide is that I had to convert some audio files at the weekend really quickly (more of a want than a need really).

Last week I was given an Amazon gift card and so I used some of the money to update my music collection. I downloaded the files straight to MP3 as opposed to buying the CDs and waiting for them to be delivered.

On Saturday mornings I take my daughter swimming and I felt the urge to subject her to an eclectic mix of "Chas and Dave", "Brian Setzer", "Louis Jordan" and "Cab Calloway". Hey that is what dads are for.

I had fifteen minutes before we needed to leave and I realised that I had to burn the songs onto a CD and what is more I needed to convert them from MP3 to a format a standard CD player can play such as WAV.

In this article I am going to show you the method I used to convert the files and then I am going to show you the easy way.

Converting MP3 to WAV using mpg123

I used a command line tool called mpg123 to convert the MP3 files to WAVs.

To get mpg123 I opened a terminal window in Linux Mint and typed the following:

sudo apt-get install mpg123

The following command shows how to convert a single MP3 to a WAV file:

mpg123 -w "02 Big Fat Rat.wav" "02 Big Fat Rat.mp3"

Now obviously when you are time limited and because you would drive yourself insane having to type in each and every filename it is better to write a script to convert all the files.

for file in ./*.mp3
do
mpg -w ./wavs/"${file}".wav "$file"
done

For a complete script that you can use again and again click here.

This script works perfectly well and will work on any distribution that has mpg123 available.

Convert MP3 to WAV using Gnac

This is the Everyday Linux User website and the point of this site is to make it easier for the average user and is not for command line wizards.

There is a Gnome based tool called "Gnac" (Gnome Audio Converter) which is perfect for the task and is really easy to use.

You can install "Gnac" from the Mint Software Manager by simply searching for it.





The reviews aren't very inspiring. There are just two of them. 1 for 5 stars and 1 for 1 star. 1 person said it worked perfectly and 1 said it didn't work at all. 

Once it has been installed "Gnac" can be loaded by clicking on the menu and searching for it using the search bar.






"Gnac" is very easy to use.

There are 4 icons on the toolbar:

  1. Add files
  2. Remove files
  3. Clear files
  4. Convert
Clicking the "Add files" button brings up the standard "open a file" dialogue. You can select individual files or select a folder. Selecting a folder loads in all the valid audio files within that folder.

If you add files by accident you can remove them by clicking the "Remove files" icon.

Got it completely wrong? Simply clear the list by clicking the "Clear files" icon and start again.

There is a dropdown in the bottom left corner which shows what the file will be converted to. By default WAV is selected which in this case is exactly what is required.

Clicking "Convert" either on the toolbar or in the bottom right corner of the window starts the process.

The conversion takes a matter of seconds to complete.

Converting WAV to MP3 using gnac

Converting from WAV to MP3 used to be a common task as people used to buy CDs and then convert them for use on their computers and MP3 players.

Most people probably download more music than they buy on physical disks and so it is more likely that they want to convert the other way around now.

"Gnac" can convert to multiple formats and so if you need to convert from WAV to MP3 you can.

The file format dropdown box can be set to have other formats as well.

Click the "Edit" button to add new file formats.





When you use "Gnac" for the first time there is only "wav" listed. To add new file formats click on the "New" button.



The Name and Description fields are there for your benefit to describe the format that you are adding. 

You might choose to have 3 MP3 formats all with differing quality settings. It is therefore a good idea to use the "Name" and "Description" fields wisely to define the format that you are adding.

The "Format" dropdown provides a list of possible conversion formats such as FLAC, OGG, MP3 and M4a.

The quality setting determines how much quality you lose during the conversion. If you use the highest quality the file size will be bigger and therefore of course a lower quality file will have a smaller file size.

The  "Advanced" options lets you choose bit rates and the number of channels (mono/stereo).

When you are happy that you have set the format the way you want it click on "Save".

From the "Profile Manager" screen you can copy a profile. This is useful if you have for example an MP3 format but you want another one with a higher or lower quality. 

To amend a profile click it within the list and click "Edit".

Finally, to delete a profile select it and click "Delete".

When you return to the main "Gnac" interface you will now be able to choose your required format from the dropdown.

Summary

Most of us listen to music digitally nowadays and so converting from one format to another probably doesn't happen all that frequently anymore.

If you need to create an audio CD for use in a car stereo (some of us still have older cars) or you have an audio CD you need to convert to MP3 then "Gnac" is perfect for the job. 

Of course the annoying thing is that with seconds to spare I managed to get in the car and insert the CD into the stereo only to find out that printed in bold writing were the words "MP3 Audio".




Posted at 23:21 |  by Gary Newell

Friday, 22 August 2014

Introduction

This is part 4 in a series of articles designed to help you choose the right Linux distribution for your circumstances.

Here are the links to the first three parts:
Some of you will have computers that are really old and none of the solutions presented thus far are of much use.

This guide lists those distributions designed to run with limited RAM, limited disk space and limited graphics capabilities.

Ease of use is sometimes comprimised when using the really light distributions but once you get used to them they are every bit as functional as a Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Before I start I would like to say that unlike the other two lists this one is in no particular order.

1. AntiX

The AntiX website claims that you can run it on a Pentium II with 64 megabytes of RAM although it is recommended that you have at least 128 megabytes.



Click here for a full review of AntiX

The download image for AntiX is just 690 megabytes in size. It is amazing how much is packed into that image.

AntiX comes with dozens of applications and that includes the LibreOffice suite. All of the other applications are lightweight in nature including Gnome MPlayer for listening to music, Iceweasel as a web browser and Claws as an email client.

The desktop that comes with AntiX is IceWM which uses very little of your computer's processing power.

AntiX is based on the Debian testing branch which means the applications are fairly up to date and in the main fairly resilient.

2. SparkyLinux





















Click here for a full review of SparkyLinux

SparkyLinux is another Linux distribution based on the Debian testing branch. There are a number of choices of desktop available including LXDE, Razor-QT, OpenBox/JWM, e17 and MATE.

SparkyLinux will work quite well on really old and just plain old old computers.

If you have an ancient computer then the Razor-QT, LXDE and JWM desktops are the ones to go for.

The minimum requirements are 256 megabytes RAM for LXDE, OpenBox and e17 or 384 megabytes for Razor-QT. You will need at least 5 gigabytes of hard drive space.

You can download SparkyLinux from http://sparkylinux.org/download/

I believe that the i486 versions include a non-PAE kernel making it accessible to everyone.

The applications aren't so lightweight in nature. LibreOffice, GIMP, PlayOnLinux, DropBox, Teamviewer, QMMP and VLC are installed by default.

The installer for SparkyLinux isn't as easy to follow as other distributions but there is a full guide available at http://sparkylinux.org/hard-drive-install/

3. Crunchbang



Click here for a review of Crunchbang
(This is a little bit out of date and a new review is forthcoming shortly)

Crunchbang is also based on Debian and it uses the Openbox window manager.

The following quote comes from the Crunchbang website
Put simply; CrunchBang could be thought of as a layer built on top of Debian, specifically to provide a great Openbox experience.
Crunchbang is genuinely lightweight in nature and that is reflected in the applications with Abiword and Gnumeric installed instead of LibreOffice (although the option is there to have LibreOffice).

The Crunchbang website isn't overly forthcoming with minimum specifications but this forum page has people listing RAM requirements of anything from 64 megabytes to 512 megabytes.

4. Puppy Linux

There isn't just one version of Puppy Linux. There are dozens of them. They are all built using the same tools and are all light on resources.

My personal favourites are Simplicity and MacPup but Precise, Wary and Slacko are really good as well.

Puppy has a number of really good applications with small footprints including the excellent PMusic audio player.

There are dozens of tools available including ftp clients, screengrabbing tools, torrent clients, CD rippers and audio download tools.

Puppy is designed to run from a USB pen drive as opposed to installing it on a hard drive. (You can if you want to though).

The Puppy Linux wikka page states that Puppy Linux can run on 64 megabytes RAM but 256 megabytes is more realistic with a 512 megabyte swap file.

The desktop environments used vary depending on the version you install and they vary from IceWM to JWM and LXDE.

You can download Wary, Precise and Slacko from http://puppylinux.org
You can download Simplicity from http://simplicitylinux.org/
You can download MacPup from http://macpup.org/

5. Lubuntu

Click here for a review of Lubuntu 14.04



Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu 14.04 and comes installed with the LXDE desktop.

Windows users will find Lubuntu more familiar than any of the aforementioned distros.

Lubuntu can apparently work with just 128 megabytes RAM but becomes more useable with 256 megabytes RAM and it is highly recommended to have 512 megabytes or more.

The applications installed are all light in nature with Abiword and Gnumeric installed as the word processing and spreadsheet tools. Audacious is installed as the audio player which is decent if not spectacular.

With Lubuntu you get access to all the Ubuntu repositories but your choice of applications will be determined by the amount of system resources available to you.

You can download Lubuntu 14.04 from here

Summary

The obvious choice for users coming to Linux for the first time on really old machines would be Lubuntu but AntiX and SparkyLinux are both worth a go. With Lubuntu you will find a larger support network.

The choice doesn't have to be Lubuntu or Puppy as you can try Lubuntu as a full installation and install Puppy to a USB drive.

Crunchbang is a very popular distribution and you will soon realise that functionality outweighs shiny.

Thankyou for reading.









5 Linux distributions for very old computers

Introduction

This is part 4 in a series of articles designed to help you choose the right Linux distribution for your circumstances.

Here are the links to the first three parts:
Some of you will have computers that are really old and none of the solutions presented thus far are of much use.

This guide lists those distributions designed to run with limited RAM, limited disk space and limited graphics capabilities.

Ease of use is sometimes comprimised when using the really light distributions but once you get used to them they are every bit as functional as a Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Before I start I would like to say that unlike the other two lists this one is in no particular order.

1. AntiX

The AntiX website claims that you can run it on a Pentium II with 64 megabytes of RAM although it is recommended that you have at least 128 megabytes.



Click here for a full review of AntiX

The download image for AntiX is just 690 megabytes in size. It is amazing how much is packed into that image.

AntiX comes with dozens of applications and that includes the LibreOffice suite. All of the other applications are lightweight in nature including Gnome MPlayer for listening to music, Iceweasel as a web browser and Claws as an email client.

The desktop that comes with AntiX is IceWM which uses very little of your computer's processing power.

AntiX is based on the Debian testing branch which means the applications are fairly up to date and in the main fairly resilient.

2. SparkyLinux





















Click here for a full review of SparkyLinux

SparkyLinux is another Linux distribution based on the Debian testing branch. There are a number of choices of desktop available including LXDE, Razor-QT, OpenBox/JWM, e17 and MATE.

SparkyLinux will work quite well on really old and just plain old old computers.

If you have an ancient computer then the Razor-QT, LXDE and JWM desktops are the ones to go for.

The minimum requirements are 256 megabytes RAM for LXDE, OpenBox and e17 or 384 megabytes for Razor-QT. You will need at least 5 gigabytes of hard drive space.

You can download SparkyLinux from http://sparkylinux.org/download/

I believe that the i486 versions include a non-PAE kernel making it accessible to everyone.

The applications aren't so lightweight in nature. LibreOffice, GIMP, PlayOnLinux, DropBox, Teamviewer, QMMP and VLC are installed by default.

The installer for SparkyLinux isn't as easy to follow as other distributions but there is a full guide available at http://sparkylinux.org/hard-drive-install/

3. Crunchbang



Click here for a review of Crunchbang
(This is a little bit out of date and a new review is forthcoming shortly)

Crunchbang is also based on Debian and it uses the Openbox window manager.

The following quote comes from the Crunchbang website
Put simply; CrunchBang could be thought of as a layer built on top of Debian, specifically to provide a great Openbox experience.
Crunchbang is genuinely lightweight in nature and that is reflected in the applications with Abiword and Gnumeric installed instead of LibreOffice (although the option is there to have LibreOffice).

The Crunchbang website isn't overly forthcoming with minimum specifications but this forum page has people listing RAM requirements of anything from 64 megabytes to 512 megabytes.

4. Puppy Linux

There isn't just one version of Puppy Linux. There are dozens of them. They are all built using the same tools and are all light on resources.

My personal favourites are Simplicity and MacPup but Precise, Wary and Slacko are really good as well.

Puppy has a number of really good applications with small footprints including the excellent PMusic audio player.

There are dozens of tools available including ftp clients, screengrabbing tools, torrent clients, CD rippers and audio download tools.

Puppy is designed to run from a USB pen drive as opposed to installing it on a hard drive. (You can if you want to though).

The Puppy Linux wikka page states that Puppy Linux can run on 64 megabytes RAM but 256 megabytes is more realistic with a 512 megabyte swap file.

The desktop environments used vary depending on the version you install and they vary from IceWM to JWM and LXDE.

You can download Wary, Precise and Slacko from http://puppylinux.org
You can download Simplicity from http://simplicitylinux.org/
You can download MacPup from http://macpup.org/

5. Lubuntu

Click here for a review of Lubuntu 14.04



Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu 14.04 and comes installed with the LXDE desktop.

Windows users will find Lubuntu more familiar than any of the aforementioned distros.

Lubuntu can apparently work with just 128 megabytes RAM but becomes more useable with 256 megabytes RAM and it is highly recommended to have 512 megabytes or more.

The applications installed are all light in nature with Abiword and Gnumeric installed as the word processing and spreadsheet tools. Audacious is installed as the audio player which is decent if not spectacular.

With Lubuntu you get access to all the Ubuntu repositories but your choice of applications will be determined by the amount of system resources available to you.

You can download Lubuntu 14.04 from here

Summary

The obvious choice for users coming to Linux for the first time on really old machines would be Lubuntu but AntiX and SparkyLinux are both worth a go. With Lubuntu you will find a larger support network.

The choice doesn't have to be Lubuntu or Puppy as you can try Lubuntu as a full installation and install Puppy to a USB drive.

Crunchbang is a very popular distribution and you will soon realise that functionality outweighs shiny.

Thankyou for reading.









Posted at 07:30 |  by Gary Newell

Monday, 18 August 2014

Introduction

I was asked a long time ago now whether I would be willing to give HandyLinux a go. Due to time constraints this review has come about much later than I hoped it would.

HandyLinux is a French Linux distribution based on the Debian Stable branch (Wheezy).
HandyLinux is accessibility for all and freedom for everyone to evolve on its own. Based on Debian GNU/Linux with XFCE, a fast, light and stable desktop environment, HandyLinux is safehandy and free.
Designed to facilitate access to computers those who start, children, seniors and those who are looking for simplicity.  
The above quote was taken from the HandyLinux website. The aim of HandyLinux would appear to be to provide a simple, light and easy to use Linux distribution for everyone.

However if you read further down the homepage you will find the following text:
This distribution is only there to facilitate the use of your computer. Once your environment tamed, you simply remove the facilitating options and you get a “classic” Debian distribution with XFCE as desktop environment.
In essence what this appears to be saying is that you install HandyLinux to get used to Linux and then when you are happy with Linux you can continue to use the base Debian distribution.

Hardware Requirements

The hardware requirements listed on the HandyLinux website are:
  • 3.7 gigabytes hard drive space
  • 512 megabytes RAM
The default desktop environment is XFCE and so HandyLinux should work well on most computers.

How to get HandyLinux


There are two versions available. The 486 version is for computers made prior to 2005 and the 686 version is for anything more up to date than that.

Instructions for creating a DVD and USB drive are available from the above link.

Essentially all you have to do to create a DVD is burn the HandyLinux ISO to the DVD using your favourite disc burning software.

For burning HandyLinux to a USB drive you can either use LinuxLive USB Creator (Using Windows) or if you are already using Linux run the following command in a terminal.

sudo dd if=handylinux-1.6-686.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=4M && sync
The above command assumes the USB drive is mounted to /dev/sdb. You should check first to make sure this is the case and if not change /dev/sdb to be the correct location (ie /dev/sdc, /dev/sdd)

I would recommend following the instructions from the download page..

Note that if you would prefer to, you can buy a HandyLinux installation DVD here. There appears to be a non-PAE version available as well.

Installing HandyLinux

When you boot HandyLinux from the DVD or USB, a menu appears asking whether you want to try it in a live environment or install it to your hard drive.

Normally when you enter the live environment for a Linux distribution you can play around and then run the installer without rebooting but for HandyLinux there doesn't appear to be an install option available.

If you are going to try HandyLinux give it a spin in the live environment and then reboot and choose the install option.

I usually provide step by step instructions showing how to install the Linux distribution that I am reviewing but the HandyLinux developer(s) have done a fine job in detailing the steps required.

First Impressions





















The above screen shows the essence of what Handy Linux is about. When you first boot into HandyLinux you are presented with a plain desktop and a single XFCE panel at the bottom.



The icon in the bottom left provides access to the Handy Linux menu which is displayed in the middle of the screen as shown above.

On the right side of the panel there are system icons for adjusting settings such as the volume control, connecting to wireless networks and power settings. There is also the customary clock.

The HandyLinux menu is an interesting feature. There is basically a tabbed display with tabs for internet applications, places, multimedia applications, office applications, games and raiders.


Most of the tabs are self explanatory. For instance on the internet tab you can access the internet or read your emails and on the office tab you can use the word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tool.

The one that might seem confusing is "Raiders". The "Raiders" tab gives you access to a terminal window, the package manager and system settings such as printers and networks.

Incidentally, whilst running the live version of HandyLinux everything worked fine but after installing the full version to disk the HandyLinux menu wouldn't start when I clicked on it.

I therefore ran the menu from the command line and the message that appeared stated that the file "/home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs" could not be found. To resolve this issue I ran a search for the user-dirs.dirs file using the following command:

find / -name user-dirs.dirs

The file was found in /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs. I therefore copied that file to /home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs using the following command.

cp /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs /home/gary/.config/user-dirs.dirs

After copying the file, the menu started to work correctly.

Connecting to the internet

Connecting to the internet is as simple as clicking on the network icon in the system tray and choosing the appropriate wired or wireless network. You will probably have to enter the security key if you choose a wireless network.

The default web browser in HandyLinux is Chromium. (version 35)

Flash and MP3

Debian is a community distribution and it also provides only free software. This means that if you want to watch proprietary videos using Flash or listen to music in the MP3 format you have to jump through a few hoops.



HandyLinux has removed those hoops and it is possible to watch Youtube, play Flash games and listen to MP3s without adding repositories and installing further software.




















Applications

HandyLinux has a fairly extensive, if somewhat eccentric, set of applications installed by default as shown below:

Internet

























  • Chromium Web Browser
  • IceDove Email Client
  • mpartage File Sharing
  • Skype Video Conferencing
  • Teamviewer Remote Desktop Sharing
The IceDove email client is fairly decent. It is easy to connect your current email especially if you use one of the major webmail providers such as GMail.

Skype is obviously good for staying connected to friends, family and business clients. 

Teamviewer makes it possible to share your desktop or connect to somebody sharing their desktop. This is good if you are supporting your parents' computers.

Graphics



  • ImageMagick - Image editing
  • LibreOffice Draw - Drawing application
  • Shotwell - Photo management
ImageMagick isn't the best drawing or image editing package that you will ever use. Alternatives to install would be GIMP or Inkscape.

Games



  • AisleRiot Solitaire (Card Game)
  • Freecell Solitaire (Card Game)
  • gbrainy (Puzzle Games)
  • Mahjongg (Card Game)
  • Sudoku (Logic Puzzle)

Multimedia





















  • Asunder CD Ripper
  • Cheese Webcam Viewer
  • Minitube Youtube Viewer
  • Quod Libet Audio Player
  • RadioTray Online Radio
  • VLC Media Player
  • XFBurn DVD Burner
The image above is the Quod Libet audio player. It is functional but an interesting choice because there are loads of great audio players for Linux, even if you are trying to go for something light on resources. Personally for lightweight audio players I would consider GMusicBrowser or Noise.


Asunder is a decent CD ripping application and it is able to convert audio files to the free OGG format or MP3.

Minitube is a desktop version of Youtube. The interface is basic yet functional.

The RadioTray application adds a widget to the XFCE panel. When highlighted a menu appears with a large number of online radio stations sorted by category.

Office

  • Document Viewer (PDF)
  • HPLIP Fax Utility
  • LibreOffice Base (Databases along the lines of Microsoft Access)
  • LibreOffice Calc (Spreadsheet)
  • LibreOffice Draw (Drawing application)
  • LibreOffice Impress (Presentation Tool)
  • LibreOffice Writer (Word processing)

Installing Applications




HandyLinux has a software centre similar to the one that comes with Ubuntu. Note that the repositories are for Debian Wheezy and so the applications are limited. You will not find Steam or PlayOnLinux.

If you don't like the Software Centre you can also use Synaptic which is more basic in looks but more ultimately more powerful.

Customising the desktop

The HandyLinux desktop doesn't look particularly inspiring. The HandyLinux menu (HandyMenu) is fine for a little while but it is fairly limited.

It is worth noting that the XFCE desktop environment is incredibly easy to customise. It is also worth noting that HandyLinux also has the Whisker menu available and the Slingscold dashboard style menu available.




















As you can see from the image above, the Whisker menu is more traditional in style with a list of categories and applications. There is also a search box available.




















The Slingscold menu provides an iconised view of applications split by categories laid out at the top of the screen.


You may have noticed in the images above that I had changed the desktop wallpaper. Changing the wallpaper is as simple as right clicking on the desktop and choosing "Desktop Settings".

HandyLinux has some plain wallpapers with the HandyLinux logo and some really nice photos. You can also add your own images by clicking on the plus symbol and locating the file.




















With just a small amount of tweaking the desktop can be made to look more attractive and much more functional.

Issues

The issues that I found were as follows:
  1. No install option from the live environment (you have to reboot to install)
  2. The HandyMenu didn't work after installation. I had to copy files around.
  3. Despite installing the English language version a lot of the menus had French terms. Examples for this include the Slingscold menu (search shows as recerche), Chromium loads in French, RadioTray has French radio stations.

Summary

HandyLinux was created using the Debian Live Build tools. This distribution shows you a small sample of what can be achieved with Debian.

HandyLinux was reasonably easy to install and there is a decent if not spectacular set of applications installed by default. 

The HandyMenu will probably be useful for people who want a basic computing experience but for everyone else there is the inclusion of Whisker and Slingscold.

Using Debian Wheezy as a base makes the system a little bit limited in terms of available software. I would recommend using the testing branch as a base.

There were a couple of issues as highlighted but nothing too hard to fix. It would probably be a bit disconcerting for a really new user to hit the menu icon and for nothing to happen.

The only guarantee that you will see all of the articles on this site

All of this leads on to another article that is coming up regarding when and why you would use Debian. If you want to read that or any other forthcoming articles why not subscribe via email (box in sidebar) or follow me on Twitter (@dailylinuxuser). 

Thankyou for reading.

HandyLinux 1.6 - A sample of what you can achieve using the power of Debian

Introduction

I was asked a long time ago now whether I would be willing to give HandyLinux a go. Due to time constraints this review has come about much later than I hoped it would.

HandyLinux is a French Linux distribution based on the Debian Stable branch (Wheezy).
HandyLinux is accessibility for all and freedom for everyone to evolve on its own. Based on Debian GNU/Linux with XFCE, a fast, light and stable desktop environment, HandyLinux is safehandy and free.
Designed to facilitate access to computers those who start, children, seniors and those who are looking for simplicity.  
The above quote was taken from the HandyLinux website. The aim of HandyLinux would appear to be to provide a simple, light and easy to use Linux distribution for everyone.

However if you read further down the homepage you will find the following text:
This distribution is only there to facilitate the use of your computer. Once your environment tamed, you simply remove the facilitating options and you get a “classic” Debian distribution with XFCE as desktop environment.
In essence what this appears to be saying is that you install HandyLinux to get used to Linux and then when you are happy with Linux you can continue to use the base Debian distribution.

Hardware Requirements

The hardware requirements listed on the HandyLinux website are:
  • 3.7 gigabytes hard drive space
  • 512 megabytes RAM
The default desktop environment is XFCE and so HandyLinux should work well on most computers.

How to get HandyLinux


There are two versions available. The 486 version is for computers made prior to 2005 and the 686 version is for anything more up to date than that.

Instructions for creating a DVD and USB drive are available from the above link.

Essentially all you have to do to create a DVD is burn the HandyLinux ISO to the DVD using your favourite disc burning software.

For burning HandyLinux to a USB drive you can either use LinuxLive USB Creator (Using Windows) or if you are already using Linux run the following command in a terminal.

sudo dd if=handylinux-1.6-686.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=4M && sync
The above command assumes the USB drive is mounted to /dev/sdb. You should check first to make sure this is the case and if not change /dev/sdb to be the correct location (ie /dev/sdc, /dev/sdd)

I would recommend following the instructions from the download page..

Note that if you would prefer to, you can buy a HandyLinux installation DVD here. There appears to be a non-PAE version available as well.

Installing HandyLinux

When you boot HandyLinux from the DVD or USB, a menu appears asking whether you want to try it in a live environment or install it to your hard drive.

Normally when you enter the live environment for a Linux distribution you can play around and then run the installer without rebooting but for HandyLinux there doesn't appear to be an install option available.

If you are going to try HandyLinux give it a spin in the live environment and then reboot and choose the install option.

I usually provide step by step instructions showing how to install the Linux distribution that I am reviewing but the HandyLinux developer(s) have done a fine job in detailing the steps required.

First Impressions





















The above screen shows the essence of what Handy Linux is about. When you first boot into HandyLinux you are presented with a plain desktop and a single XFCE panel at the bottom.



The icon in the bottom left provides access to the Handy Linux menu which is displayed in the middle of the screen as shown above.

On the right side of the panel there are system icons for adjusting settings such as the volume control, connecting to wireless networks and power settings. There is also the customary clock.

The HandyLinux menu is an interesting feature. There is basically a tabbed display with tabs for internet applications, places, multimedia applications, office applications, games and raiders.


Most of the tabs are self explanatory. For instance on the internet tab you can access the internet or read your emails and on the office tab you can use the word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tool.

The one that might seem confusing is "Raiders". The "Raiders" tab gives you access to a terminal window, the package manager and system settings such as printers and networks.

Incidentally, whilst running the live version of HandyLinux everything worked fine but after installing the full version to disk the HandyLinux menu wouldn't start when I clicked on it.

I therefore ran the menu from the command line and the message that appeared stated that the file "/home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs" could not be found. To resolve this issue I ran a search for the user-dirs.dirs file using the following command:

find / -name user-dirs.dirs

The file was found in /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs. I therefore copied that file to /home/user/.config/user-dirs.dirs using the following command.

cp /etc/skel/.config/user-dirs.dirs /home/gary/.config/user-dirs.dirs

After copying the file, the menu started to work correctly.

Connecting to the internet

Connecting to the internet is as simple as clicking on the network icon in the system tray and choosing the appropriate wired or wireless network. You will probably have to enter the security key if you choose a wireless network.

The default web browser in HandyLinux is Chromium. (version 35)

Flash and MP3

Debian is a community distribution and it also provides only free software. This means that if you want to watch proprietary videos using Flash or listen to music in the MP3 format you have to jump through a few hoops.



HandyLinux has removed those hoops and it is possible to watch Youtube, play Flash games and listen to MP3s without adding repositories and installing further software.




















Applications

HandyLinux has a fairly extensive, if somewhat eccentric, set of applications installed by default as shown below:

Internet

























  • Chromium Web Browser
  • IceDove Email Client
  • mpartage File Sharing
  • Skype Video Conferencing
  • Teamviewer Remote Desktop Sharing
The IceDove email client is fairly decent. It is easy to connect your current email especially if you use one of the major webmail providers such as GMail.

Skype is obviously good for staying connected to friends, family and business clients. 

Teamviewer makes it possible to share your desktop or connect to somebody sharing their desktop. This is good if you are supporting your parents' computers.

Graphics



  • ImageMagick - Image editing
  • LibreOffice Draw - Drawing application
  • Shotwell - Photo management
ImageMagick isn't the best drawing or image editing package that you will ever use. Alternatives to install would be GIMP or Inkscape.

Games



  • AisleRiot Solitaire (Card Game)
  • Freecell Solitaire (Card Game)
  • gbrainy (Puzzle Games)
  • Mahjongg (Card Game)
  • Sudoku (Logic Puzzle)

Multimedia





















  • Asunder CD Ripper
  • Cheese Webcam Viewer
  • Minitube Youtube Viewer
  • Quod Libet Audio Player
  • RadioTray Online Radio
  • VLC Media Player
  • XFBurn DVD Burner
The image above is the Quod Libet audio player. It is functional but an interesting choice because there are loads of great audio players for Linux, even if you are trying to go for something light on resources. Personally for lightweight audio players I would consider GMusicBrowser or Noise.


Asunder is a decent CD ripping application and it is able to convert audio files to the free OGG format or MP3.

Minitube is a desktop version of Youtube. The interface is basic yet functional.

The RadioTray application adds a widget to the XFCE panel. When highlighted a menu appears with a large number of online radio stations sorted by category.

Office

  • Document Viewer (PDF)
  • HPLIP Fax Utility
  • LibreOffice Base (Databases along the lines of Microsoft Access)
  • LibreOffice Calc (Spreadsheet)
  • LibreOffice Draw (Drawing application)
  • LibreOffice Impress (Presentation Tool)
  • LibreOffice Writer (Word processing)

Installing Applications




HandyLinux has a software centre similar to the one that comes with Ubuntu. Note that the repositories are for Debian Wheezy and so the applications are limited. You will not find Steam or PlayOnLinux.

If you don't like the Software Centre you can also use Synaptic which is more basic in looks but more ultimately more powerful.

Customising the desktop

The HandyLinux desktop doesn't look particularly inspiring. The HandyLinux menu (HandyMenu) is fine for a little while but it is fairly limited.

It is worth noting that the XFCE desktop environment is incredibly easy to customise. It is also worth noting that HandyLinux also has the Whisker menu available and the Slingscold dashboard style menu available.




















As you can see from the image above, the Whisker menu is more traditional in style with a list of categories and applications. There is also a search box available.




















The Slingscold menu provides an iconised view of applications split by categories laid out at the top of the screen.


You may have noticed in the images above that I had changed the desktop wallpaper. Changing the wallpaper is as simple as right clicking on the desktop and choosing "Desktop Settings".

HandyLinux has some plain wallpapers with the HandyLinux logo and some really nice photos. You can also add your own images by clicking on the plus symbol and locating the file.




















With just a small amount of tweaking the desktop can be made to look more attractive and much more functional.

Issues

The issues that I found were as follows:
  1. No install option from the live environment (you have to reboot to install)
  2. The HandyMenu didn't work after installation. I had to copy files around.
  3. Despite installing the English language version a lot of the menus had French terms. Examples for this include the Slingscold menu (search shows as recerche), Chromium loads in French, RadioTray has French radio stations.

Summary

HandyLinux was created using the Debian Live Build tools. This distribution shows you a small sample of what can be achieved with Debian.

HandyLinux was reasonably easy to install and there is a decent if not spectacular set of applications installed by default. 

The HandyMenu will probably be useful for people who want a basic computing experience but for everyone else there is the inclusion of Whisker and Slingscold.

Using Debian Wheezy as a base makes the system a little bit limited in terms of available software. I would recommend using the testing branch as a base.

There were a couple of issues as highlighted but nothing too hard to fix. It would probably be a bit disconcerting for a really new user to hit the menu icon and for nothing to happen.

The only guarantee that you will see all of the articles on this site

All of this leads on to another article that is coming up regarding when and why you would use Debian. If you want to read that or any other forthcoming articles why not subscribe via email (box in sidebar) or follow me on Twitter (@dailylinuxuser). 

Thankyou for reading.

Posted at 23:24 |  by Gary Newell

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