A Month with Manjaro 0.8.13

Greetings, Linux users old and new!

I’ve not posted a thing here in at least a couple of years, but I’m feeling a desire to share my desktop Linux experiences once again.

Over the past two and a half years I’ve been running Zorin OS (6.2) on my main desktop computer. This is by far the longest period of time I’ve used any one Linux distro. And the reason for this is, I had Zorin configured just the way I wanted it. It looked beautiful and worked flawlessly. I’ve had no problems in all that time. I had all the applications I like and everything worked perfectly!

But then, over the last few months, I started feeling the sluggish stirrings of the old distro-hopping fever slowly returning. Well, that’s not quite true. I’m always looking at the changes in some of my favorite Linux distros, and new distros sprouting up here and there, and I can’t help but wonder how they would run on my 5 to 6 year old AMD Desktop machine. As updated versions of distros come out, I’ve downloaded and tried out many of my old favorites. But because of newer kernels and my not-so-Linux-fiendly hardware, many of the new versions of Linux did not run well with my graphics card.

But after reading and watching numerous reviews and videos about the ever-changing world of Linux distro development, I started becoming more and more curious about Manjaro Linux. I’ve always used Debian/Ubuntu-based Linux operating systems. Manjaro is based upon Arch Linux, which is fast and light and been around a long time, but also has a reputation of being much more difficult to set up and use for us ‘non-geeky’ Linux users.

But Manjaro is quite a different beast altogether from it’s parent. The Manjaro developers have taken all the package-building, command line tediousness out of using Arch, and created a very user-friendly, gui-driven desktop experience. They’ve created system tools that are simple and intuitive and made the power of Arch Linux accessible for even the least-experienced computer users. So about four weeks ago, after trying out a couple of Manjaro Live DVDs on my computer with no problems at all, I crazily took the plunge and installed it!

Why would I install a totally new operating system over one that worked perfectly for all my needs for two-and-a-half years, and still had a year-and-a-half of support left, you might ask? I really don’t know. I must be crazy, but the thrill and challenge of trying something new, based on Arch instead of Ubuntu, was just too tempting for me! So after making triple-sure I had everything backed up, and that all of the software that I regularly use was available through the Manjaro repositories, I installed Manjaro Xfce addition. So here is my experience so far:

The installation was very quick and easy, and everything went great with copying my backup /home settings and preferences. I have a separate Data partition, which was untouched during installation and made the process very simple. Reinstalling all the applications I had on my Zorin OS installation was wonderfully easy, using the Manjaro Xfce package manager, Pamac. Manjaro maintains it’s own software repositories, which have all the open-source software you could want, plus a few more obscure applications that I like; and everything is the newest version! Manjaro users can also access the Arch User Repository (AUR), for anything that might not yet be available for Manjaro, but that is generally discouraged. I did install two applications through the AUR, and Pamac built the programs and installed them with no problems at all. Installing software is point and click, just like using Synaptic in Ubuntu-based distros. Below is my current desktop. I decided to move the Xfce panel to the top of the screen and installed Docky to launch apps at the bottom. Plus I have Rainlendar desktop calendar and Conky-Manger top right.

Manjaro_Screenshot

After using Manjaro for a while, though, I did encounter some graphics glitches, and twice my system froze and I had to reboot. Now here is another amazing thing about Manjaro: the Manjaro Settings Manager, within the Manjaro Xfce Settings Manager, lets you install and uninstall several Linux kernels, as well as graphics drivers. After experimenting a little, I found that using the proprietary Nvidia driver instead of the open source driver, and downgrading the kernel to the 3.12 series, my graphics problems are gone. Just click, click and reboot!

Manjaro_SettingsManager

I had a couple of other small software glitches, which I posted on the Manjaro forums and found quick fixes to in a very short time. The Manjaro forums and online documentation are excellent! Also, getting my HP printer working in Manjaro was quick and painless. Since the first couple of days, I’ve had no problems at all with Manjaro Xfce. I really couldn’t be happier with this operating system!

Some other perks of this distro: Manjaro comes in two main official flavors – KDE and Xfce. But they also offer community editions with other desktop environments like Mate, Cinnamon, Enlightenment, Gnome, LXDE, Openbox, LXQt, even Deepin! The software selection is huge, cutting-edge, and the  software managers are dead-simple to use, making an Arch-based system available for users with a minimum of computer skills. And Manjaro is a rolling release, so there is (theoretically) no need to install a newer version; by installing updates when they appear in the update manager, the OS and software is always upgraded to the newest version.

After one month using Manjaro, I am quite glad I took the plunge. For a more thorough look, please check out these video reviews:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3PBWb_m2jA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEymH5klxgg

Coming soon: Linux Lite keeps getting better!

Linux Mint 16 RC

I noticed a couple of days ago that Linux Mint 16 (Petra) release candidate is available, so I downloaded the iso and burned it to a DVD.

I’ve been a fan of Mint for a few years, up until Linux Mint 10. With Mint 11 and 12 and the transition to Gnome 3, Mint got a bit fragmented and I strayed to other distros; but the past year or two I’ve been drawn back to Linux Mint, and especially the Cinnamon desktop. So even though I am very happy with Zorin OS 6 on our main machine, I had to try out the spanking new Mint 16 with the new version of it’s Cinnamon 2.0 desktop environment!

After booting from the DVD and playing around with Mint 16 ‘Petra’ for about half an hour today, here is what I found:

Mint 16 Screenshot01

The Good: 

Mint 16 had no trouble with my Nvidia graphics card, even only using the open source nouveau driver (unlike OpenSuse 13.1 RC that I tried a couple of weeks ago).

Mint 16 looks as lovely as ever. After changing the desktop picture from the default white one, I checked out the Cinnamon 2 System Settings. Under ‘Themes’ there are only three default themes installed. But when clicking the ‘get more themes online’ button, it refreshes and you have a choice of many dozens of new themes that you can install in seconds, which I did.

Under ‘Extensions’ you can also install a vast number of new extensions to increase the functionality of Mint 16. As shown below, there are a huge number of new and exotic-sounding applets (since I last checked out Cinnamon 1.6) that can also be added to the Cinnamon panel. The Cinnamon panel is extremely configurable compared to when it first came out! As well as adding applets, you can resize the panel, or move it to the top of your screen, or have two panels if you want. I even added the weather applet to the panel, and, unlike in the past, it worked with no mucking about!

Mint 16 Screenshot02

Mint 16 Screenshot03

Even when I had System Settings, System Monitor, several open File Manager windows and Firefox running a Youtube video, Mint only used a little over 500 Mbs. of RAM, with very low CPU usage. It definitely seems lighter and quicker than the previous Mint 15!

The Bad:

In my time playing with Mint 16, the only thing that didn’t work flawlessly was a sound effect for unmaximizing a window! In the Sound preferences for Cinnamon there is a new (at least I never noticed it before) section where you can configure groovy sound effects for different functions. And Mint 16 comes with Firefox 24 instead of version 25, which was updated in my Zorin OS a couple of weeks ago.

Among some other nice changes I discovered: Nemo (the Cinnamon File Manager) version 2.0.4, and the Software Sources application now has a built-in PPA Manager, which is very cool. For a comprehensive list of changes and improvements in Mint 16, look right HERE.

If you’re looking for a polished and easy-to-use Linux distro, the new Mint 16 Petra is just beautiful! Sleeker, faster, more features, and I am loving the Cinnamon desktop environment more than ever! And this is not the final release yet! It should be available very soon, though.

Keep watching Linuxmint.com for more news.

A Few Links of Interest

I’m here today with just a few links for people looking for an easy to use, full-featured, Ubuntu-based Linux desktop distro.

Of course, Ubuntu 13.10 was recently released, along with all the related community editions based on it, like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, etc.

So without further ado:

Infinitely Galactic Ubuntu 13.10 Review – Also check out Blaine’s other fine distro reviews!

Desktop Linux Reviews: Kubuntu 13.10

Desktop Linux Reviews: Xubuntu 13.10

Another great Linux disro for beginners, based on Ubuntu core: WebUpd8: Pinguy OS 13.10 Alpha Released

Here’s a good in-depth review of the pros and cons of Ubuntu 13.10 and where it’s headed from Ars Technica

That’s all for now!

News About Solus OS

solusosblack

I just discovered a nice article about one of the more interesting Linux distros out there (in my opinion), Solus OS.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the development of Solus OS and it’s creator, Ikey Doherty, on Google+. And over the past many weeks there’s been a lot of activity going on! Solus OS is being rebuilt from the ground up, so to speak. And as it seems that we’re getting nearer to the first Beta release, I’m getting really excited to check it out! I’ve mentioned Solus OS in the past, but this article does a better job than I could about explaining concisely what it’s all about. So check it out Here thanks to Ken Starks and FossForce.

I had the original Pardus Linux installed on an old box about three years ago, and really liked the Pisi Package Manager that it used (Pisi, pronounced ‘peezee’, as the article adeptly aludes to). Pardus was my favorite KDE distro at the time.

It will be very interesting to see what Ikey has made from Pisi and Gnome 3 and a whole lot of innovation.

From what I’ve seen so far, it should be something quite beautiful and unique.

And here’s a link to Ken’s website Reglue, a project that provides used computers running Linux to kids who might not be able to afford a computer. It’s a pretty great idea!

elementary OS Luna: Simply Fantastic!

Last month, elementary OS (small ‘e’) came out with the first official, non-Beta release of it’s operating system that’s been in the works for almost 2 years. I just happened to notice it on DistroWatch the day it came out. I’ve heard about elementary OS for quite a long time. I’ve checked out the Beta version (called ‘Jupiter’) in the past, and though I liked the concept behind it, I wasn’t all that impressed with the earlier version. But many Linux enthusiasts have been waiting a long time for this, and I just had to give it a try! It’s based on the Ubunbtu 12.04 Long Term Release core.

After downloading the ISO and booting elementary OS 0.2, ‘Luna’ on our main computer, I found myself very pleasantly surprised! The elementary OS developers have a philosophy that ‘it’s not ready till it’s ready’, and though it was quite a long wait for the final product, I can see how much love and effort they put into every detail of their distro.

My first impression: “Peppy”. Navigating the desktop, using the custom-made application launcher (top left on the panel bar) and opening apps felt instantaneous!  And this was running from a CD! Even desktop animations like opening and closing windows was very quick and smooth, without a proprietary driver installed. Other impressions: Clean, Light, Beautiful! There was something very refreshing about using this darn distro. It’s fun!

Elementary_Screenshot02After using elementary OS for about twenty minutes from the Live CD, I was hooked! I was impressed enough that I also tried it out on the kid’s old computer with a Pentium 4 processor, and it ran just as fast on that! So I installed elementary, very quick and easy, and it’s been running on that PC for over a month now with zero problems.

The elementary team began a few years ago with a fresh, simple icon theme; then a visually-appealing, streamlined version of Gnome’s Nautilus file browser called ‘nautilus elementary’, which was very popular. The operating system they’ve created is based on the concept of simplicity, with a few basic applications for the things most people use a computer for; a clean visual style and a consistent look and feel throughout the OS.

Elementary_Screenshot04elementary OS uses it’s own desktop environment, which obviously is based on Gnome 3, but reduced to the bare essentials. They’ve also made their own music player app, movie player, Instant Message App and a Calendar app which, for now, is quite basic, along with Plank, a simple Dock launcher at the bottom of the desktop. The OS also comes with the Midori browser and Geary Mail application. There’s an App Store installed, because you’ll most likely want to install more than the minimum of apps that comes with elementary OS. But with all the applications for Ubuntu available, you can find anything you’re likely to need. 

I forgot to mention earlier: while testing elementary from the Live CD, I tried out the Music application to play an mp3 file from my hard drive. A dialog box popped up telling me I didn’t have the appropriate codec to play it, but offered to download and install it for me. I clicked OK and in moments the mp3 codecs were installed and my music file played! You can’t get more user-friendly than that! (Of course, once I had installed the OS to my hard drive, the proper plug-ins and codecs were good to go).

CONS: For computer users who are new to Linux, I think elementary OS is a pretty good choice. It’s clean, simple to use and things just work. However, for more advanced users there is a certain lack of configuration ability that may be a little frustrating. elementary OS comes with a System Settings control panel that is very similar to the one in Gnome 3, but it’s limited. The dock app Plank has no right-click configuration options; themes are limited; the OS does not come with a firewall or back-up software installed.

But fear not! There is an essential website that supplies  much-needed information for filling out the functionality of elementary OS right HERE, called elementary update. Even more essential, just go to Top 10 Things to do After Installing Luna. Adding elementary Tweaks to your System Settings will allow many more options (similar to Ubuntu Tweak). Also this User Guide is quite helpful. A few more tips: to access options in the File Browser, right-click on the browser window background (but only in ‘Icon’ view, apparently) to show hidden files, etc. (See below).

Elementary_Screenshot05I also installed Synaptic Package Manager, just because I like it, and GUFW for my simple firewall, as well as Firefox (Midori has some problems with Flash, which can be rectified through previous link). As for backup software, I initially installed Grsync, which always works great for me. But in elementary OS it would not run my backup once I set it up! I Googled around some more and found Cronopete, by Rastorsoft, which is made to run on elementary OS. It’s a clone of Apple’s Time Machine app, and it works beautifully!

So in closing, I would highly recommend elementary OS for a clean, fast and attractive operating system that works well and gets out of your way to use your computer. It may not appeal to some Linux power users, but for the average person looking for a free alternative to Windows or Mac, this one is a beauty!

If anyone out there uses Luna and has any more tips, please share them!

Elementary OS Interview – Iconic Design

Add ‘Open in Terminal’ to Pantheon Context menu in Elementary OS

Linux Mint 15 is here, and better than ever!

After a long absence (Spring is such a busy time!) I’m back with great news for Linux lovers.

Mint 15, ‘Olivia’ was released a couple of days ago, and it looks like the best version yet of the Ubuntu-offshoot distro. We’ve been using Mint 14 with the Cinnamon Desktop on the computer my kids use (an old HP Compaq with a Pentium 4 processor) for several months. I have been loving Cinnamon more and more with each update, and Mint 14 has been working beautifully on this machine. Everything works! I don’t recall having a single problem, except initially getting the Cinnamon Weather applet to work, which took a little bit of internet searching.

So when I saw that Mint 15 was out, with a new version of the Nemo file manager and Cinnamon 1.8, I had to download and check it out. And I must say, I love Linux Mint more than ever! It comes in two flavors: Mate and Cinnamon. The Mate Desktop Environment is actually pretty cool, using the old MintMenu and all the Gnome 2 panel applets and such; but after trying both Desktop Environments I find Cinnamon is the one I prefer. It looks and feels like a modern OS, and it seems Cinnamon 1.8 is a lot leaner on resource usage than before. Even on that old Pentium 4 computer, Cinnamon 1.6  runs quite smoothly, no proprietary graphics drivers needed.

Right now on the newer computer I’m writing this on we’re using Zorin OS 6.2 (which, by the way, also has a new release out this past week: Zorin 6.3, based on Ubuntu 13.04). I’m still really enjoying Zorin OS. Everything works and it looks great. And version 6.2 is based on the Long Term Support version of Ubuntu, 12.04. The new Mint 15 is based on Ubuntu 13.04 and will only be supported with software and security updates for 8 months. That may be a drawback to some users, but for me it’s not that big a deal to reinstall the next version of Mint, as long as you have a reliable backup. Also creating a separate ‘/home’ partition before installing an OS makes a clean install much easier.

So I have no compelling reason to switch to Linux Mint 15 at this time. But still… I’m tempted to install it anyway! It looks that good. For anyone out there interested in trying out Linux for the first time, I would say you can’t go wrong with Mint 15.

Also with a new version out this week: Pinguy 13.04 is another great distro that comes with everything but the kitchen sink pre-installed.

Mint, Zorin OS and Pinguy OS are all full-featured and easy to use Linux distros. The best way to choose is just to download the Live CDs/DVDs and give them a spin on your computer.

Linux Mint 15 – Linux Distro Reviews by InfinitelyGalactic

Mint 15: Today’s best Linux desktop (Review)

Linux Mint 15 – The best Linux distro gets better

Sad News for Fuduntu Linux

Just a quick post for today.

Sad news. I’ve just discovered that Fuduntu as we know it is coming to an end in a few months. There goes one of my top 5 favorite Linux distros!

I’ve been wondering what they were going to replace the Gnome 2 desktop with, but did not think this would happen! Something new may eventually arise from the ashes of Funduntu; however without Andrew Wyatt, the lead developer of Fuduntu.

For full information look HERE.

 

Four good lite Linux distros for older computers

I discovered another nice Xubuntu-based operating system a few months back, and yesterday I installed it on my ancient Dell D610 experimental laptop. It’s called Linux Lite. Check out the new website.

I’ve been using Zorin OS Lite on this machine for a few weeks, which is based on Lubuntu/LXDE. Also very nice, but I find the LXDE panel is not quite as configurable as the Xfce panel. There are not as many applets available (like weather forecast) and Radio Tray would not work in it on Zorin Lite; but strangely, it does work in the Peppermint OS 3 LXDE panel, which I have installed on my HP Mini netbook. Strange.

Anyway, though LXDE uses a little less RAM than Xfce, I find it’s not that much of a difference on my 8-year-old Dell, even with only 756 Mb. of RAM. I got Linux Lite installed and set up in pretty short time, and it’s quite perky and useful. I like it a lot! Of course for older hardware, Peppermint OS and Zorin OS Lite are also good choices.

You also might want to check out LXLE, a new Lubuntu-based distro that is fast and attractive. I also installed this on the Dell laptop a few days ago. It has a unique application-script-thingy called Fast Forecast that places an icon in the panel that gives a detailed weather forecast. In my case, the forecast was for a city a couple of hundred miles away; but I was able to edit the script and put in our zip code, and then it worked fine! The only reason I decided to go with Linux Lite is that the Dell D610 would not go into sleep mode (Suspend) using LXLE. I searched the web for hours and tried some things, but Suspend just wouldn’t work on that particular hardware! Oh well, you never know how a distro will work until you actually try it out. It’s good to shop around! That’s the great thing about Live Linux CDs.

I’ll leave you with my Linux Lite desktop with Mediterranean Night theme. It comes with Mediterrean Light, but I just prefer those darker themes. I also used the simple Conky script from LXLE on my Linux Lite. Thanks, LXLE!

Linux_Lite_Screenshot

My Experience with Zorin OS 6.2

I’m finally back after a long delay, and a lot has been going on in he Linux world over the past month: Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu Phone, a new release of OpenSuse, the demise of Google Reader, to name a few.

But also during these last few weeks I decided to install another operating system on the main computer I share with my wife. This decision came about because, while attempting to run a back-up with Grsync, I discovered the mount point to ‘/media/Backup’ (my external hard drive) had mysteriously changed, and was now located at ‘/media/davey (my home directory)/Backup’. Naturally, I got error messages that ‘/media/Backup’ could not be accessed.

I’m sad to say that it had been a while (too long) since my last back-up. But sometime since then, an update of the kernel seems to have changed the USB mount point in my Voyager Linux. It was simple to change the back-up path in Grsync from ‘/media/Backup’ to ‘/media/davey/Backup’ and then Grsync worked without a hitch for me. But we have another user account on this computer, and when I logged into my wife’s account and tried to run her Home folder back-up through /media/my_home_directory, I got an error message of ‘permissions denied’. See here and here for more info.

I tried creating a symlink as suggested, but it still didn’t work. I tried other suggestions, some of which were a little beyond my understaning, again with no success! I just could not find a way to run a simple back-up for the secondary user account, and it got me really cheesed off! Why do they change things that work to something that doesn’t? I suspect this has caused problems with a lot of Ubuntu-based distro users. I certainly hope this is changed by the time Ubuntu 13.04 is released next month!

So to make this long story a little shorter– I just decided to install another OS. I checked around for one that did not use this new /media mount point, (even Linux Mint 14 had changed to /media/username/). I was seriously considering installing Fuduntu 2013.1, and I would have except there are one or two applications that I really like that are not in the Fuduntu repositories (yet).  Then I considered Zorin OS.

I had recently installed Zorin OS Lite (which uses LXDE) on a very old Dell laptop, and it runs quite nicely. I’ve liked Zorin OS for quite a while, and since Zorin OS 6.2 just came out, I decided to go with that on the main machine.

My experience with Zorin OS 6.2 over the last two weeks has been pretty darn nice! Zorin is based on Ubuntu 12.04, so the ‘/media/Backup’ mount point is back, and running a backup for my wife just works once again! But beside that, Zorin OS is very user-friendly. They use their own fork of Gnome 3 Shell. While I’m not a fan of Gnome 3, this gives a relatively good balance between usability and  configurability. I was surprised to find compiz activated by default and working very nicely without having to install the proprietary Nvidia driver! The newer versions of the open-source Nouveau drivers have come a long way! Desktop effects, even wobbly windows, work out of the box. Plus all the applications I wanted were a breeze to install.

I was able to change permissions on some of my wife’s configuration files with the “sudo chown” terminal commands so I could copy them to the Backup external drive, and then back again to the new user account I created. After a few hours of tweaking and copying files from the back-up, this new installation of Zorin looks and works great. Also, it’s based on Ubuntu 12.04 Long Term Release.

ZorinOS_Screenshot

The only thing I’m not completely happy with about Zorin OS 6.2 is that it still uses Avant Window Navigator (AWN) as a bottom panel. This is probably a better option than Gnome panel, but AWN is no longer maintained, so a few things don’t work any more, like the weather forecast applet. In the screenshot above I decided to use the Clearweather screenlet to replace it. I haven’t used Screenlets in a few years, but if you don’t mind stuff on your desktop, it does the job. I also tweaked AWN’s theme and settings a bit so I like the look of it better. I’m hoping in the next version, Zorin OS will switch from AWN to Cairo Dock, as Fuduntu has done. I’ve also changed from the default Zorin GTK theme to Delorean-Dark and added a simple conky script (bottom left) I found on the web.

UPDATE: I just discovered that Zorin OS Core already comes with Cairo Dock installed. And it’s installed from the PPA, because it just updated today with the new version of Cairo Dock. That’s pretty cool! But for now, AWN is working just fine for me, so I guess I’ll keep using it for a while.

Beside that, and a couple of perplexing error messages last week, which didn’t amount to anything, I’m quite pleased with Zorin OS. I’m still thinking of eventually installing Solus OS 2 when it is released (which may be sooner than I originally thought)! But for now I’m very happy with Zorin OS! It’s a great user-friendly distro for new or more experienced Linux users.