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 favorite free RSS newsreaders

Since Google Reader will be shutting down in a few months, I was looking around the internet at the Linux alternative newsreaders/feed readers.

After looking over and trying out several alternatives (without discussing ALL the alternatives in detail), here are my personal suggestions:

I prefer a web-based newsreader instead of opening up a stand-alone application. Though Liferea seems like a good choice for Linux users if you want a computer-based application, and it’s already in many Linux distro repositories.

The Google Reader replacement I’m now using on the Chromium/Chrome web browser is The Old Reader (since Chrome doesn’t have RSS built-in). It looks and works pretty much like Google Reader. It transferred all my RSS subscriptions from Google without any problem, except that it took a few days to finally download my feeds. Because a lot of people are scrambling to find another newsreader, it seems the servers at The Old Reader were backed-up. When I clicked to import my news feeds, I was put on a waiting list of several thousand other people. But  about two days later I got an email notifying me that my feeds were ready, and now The Old Reader works great! And unlike some of the other alternatives, there are no subscription fees.

Old Reader Screenshot

My other favorite feed reader, which no one seems to be mentioning much on the web, is Firefox. I’ve been using Firefox Live Bookmarks for years to keep tabs on my favorite RSS feeds. It’s quite easy to add a feed to wherever you want in Firefox just by right-clicking on an RSS link on a web page. But if you want to use an RSS extension in Firefox, this article will give you lots more options. Of course,  Chromium also has many extensions for this too.

And if you want a newsreader that syncs with all your devices, Feedly looks like a popular choice.

That’s all for now…

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.

Native Linux Tax Software?

 

My wife is the one who does our income tax returns every year (God bless her!). It usually takes her about an hour or so and it’s done. Up through 2011 she’d been using TurboTax on our ancient G4 Power PC Mac that I bought in 2002.

Since then I put the old Mac in storage (the kids had been using it) and replaced it with a not-as-old computer running Linux. When this January rolled around I was wondering what we should use to prepare our taxes. The Mac uses OS 10.4, which is too old for the new 2012 edition of TurboTax to run on. Unfortunately, TurboTax still does not offer a Linux version of their software. And since we use Linux-based operating systems for everything else, I wanted to find a Linux tax return application that would be comparable to TurboTax.

This proved to be a much more difficult task than I would have imagined!

The first alternative application that was recommended to me was Open Tax Solver. The website was updated January 7th of this year and states that the new tax forms aren’t ready yet , and that the new version of the software for this year should be available by the last week of January. However, as of this writing there is still no new version to download.

Another thought I had was installing WINE or VirtualBox and running a Windows version of TurboTax in Linux. But that seemed overly complicated and I haven’t used emulation software because I’ve never had any need to run Windows or Mac software. There had to be a better option!

The other application that seemed like the best Linux alternative is TaxACT, which can be installed to your computer and has Linux, Mac and Windows versions. However, for some reason I was a little hesitant to try it since my wife is used to using TurboTax. Now, TurboTax, like H&R Block and other Tax preparation sites, has the option to file your returns online. This did not initially seem like a wise thing to do. But the more I searched about online, the more I discovered that the majority of Americans seem to be filing online these days.

I did more searching which led me to Ubuntu and other Linux forums, and it seems like most Linux users are doing it on the web! When going to the TurboTax website, the documentation says you need a web browser running in a Windows or Mac environment, but this is not exactly accurate. I found THIS page from the TurboTax forum. Click on the link in that article and it takes you to the webpage that will allow most users to access TurboTax online with a Linux operating system. If that doesn’t work for you, there is also a User Agent Switcher extension for Firefox and Chrome/Chromium that makes a website think you’re using a Windows or Mac browser.

Why Linux-based web browsers are blocked from some sites to begin with really pisses me off, but that’s a discussion for a different place!

But I finally got the TurboTax website to let us log in and my wife had our returns done in no time! It certainly is easy to do your taxes online. I hope time will tell that it’s also safe enough, considering how many people are doing it these days.

 

Redo Backup and Recovery

Useful Software Department:

While roaming around the internet recently I found a Backup/Cloning solution that works for Linux and Windows that I was not familiar with. It’s called Redo Backup and Recovery, and it’s a Live CD image that’s based on Ubuntu. It seems to do what Clonezilla does, but with a very easy-to-use GUI (Graphical User Interface). I’ve used Clonezilla before to clone my hard drive to an external drive, and it worked great. If you want to copy your entire OS with data, applications and user settings, cloning an image of your system is the way to go. However, it could be a little daunting to use Clonezilla’s text-based interface. If you’re new to this sort of thing (and not a command-line guru) it could be a bit confusing and stressful.

I HAVE NOT used Redo Backup and Recovery yet myself, but from everything I’ve seen this looks like an excellent and foolproof method for copying your system to a safe place in case of hard drive failure. Or if your system gets screwed up or becomes unusable for whatever reason, you can easily restore everything back to the way it was with a simple user interface.

I’ve downloaded the ISO file and am going to try this out. Like any Live CD, it boots from a disk (or a USB stick) and it also comes with many other utilities for checking partitions and even restoring deleted files. Here’s another link for more info from MakeUseOf.

Right now I use Grsync for backing up data, but Redo looks like an easy solution for cloning the whole shebang!

Next Time: Searching for Linux Tax Software! 

A Few of My Favorite Linux Distros for 2013

One of the things I like about Open Source software and Linux distros is that they are continually being updated and improved. Since last October, new versions of some of my favorite distros have been or will soon be released. So today I just wanted to mention a few of my personal favorites to look forward to.

The computer I’m using to write this on has Voyager Linux installed. Voyager is a French re-mix of Xubuntu, but with additional software, artwork and optimizations. Another nice distro that uses Xfce is Manjaro Linux, but for my favorites list I’m sticking to Ubuntu/Debian based distros.

Right now I’m using Voyager 12.04 on the main computer I share with my wife, though there’s a new version that’s based on Ubuntu 12.10 that came out the first of November. Voyager is a great balance of being lighter on your hardware (thanks to Xfce) while providing an attractive appearance and useful pre-installed software. I especially like the Conky Control utility that makes configuring the Conky system monitor incredibly simple. And Voyager comes with a pre-configured AWN Dock also.

I tried out the Live CD of Voyager 12.10 a while back. But since it still uses Xfce 4.10 (as the 12.04 release does) and there don’t seem to be any earth-shaking changes to Xubuntu/Voyager, I’m staying with Voyager 12.04 for now. The only big change I noticed in the new Voyager is that they have substituted Cairo Dock for AWN as the bottom Dock launcher, because AWN has stopped development. Voyager 12.04 works dandy and is set up just like I want it.

However, I’ve been toying with the idea of installing a different distro on this machine, just for the fun of it! Here are a few I’m considering…

Linux Mint. I’ve expressed my love for Mint before, and I’m especially fond of Mint’s Fork of Gnome Shell: Cinnamon Desktop Environment. It adds more features, customization and beauty with every new release. I think this is a great Linux distribution for newbies and experienced Linux fans alike. It’s easy to use with a lovely balance of simplicity, power and visual elegance. And I like Mint’s fork of the Nautilus File Manager, Nemo, that comes with Mint Cinnamon. (Wow, it seems like lately everyone’s making their own fork of Nautilus!) I also think their Xfce and KDE versions are top-notch; but Cinnamon is my favorite at the moment.

Mint14 2013-01-14

The only trouble is, I have it installed on another one of our computers (above). So just for variety, I might also want to try…

Netrunner 12.12. Or Netrunner Dryland, Version 4; they seem to be the same thing. Netrunner looks like a very nice KDE distro that is based on Kubuntu. I have to confess, I’ve not yet installed Netrunner to a hard drive, but I’ve tried it from the live CD quite extensively, and it works beautifully. I’ve been burned by KDE bugginesss a couple of times before (with Kubuntu), so I’n not sure I want to commit a KDE distro to the main computer right now. But from what I’ve seen and heard from others, it looks like Netrunner is about the nicest implementation of KDE around these days. Maybe when KDE 4.10 is finally released I’d try it out. But if you’re already a KDE fan this distro might be very appealing.

The configuration options with KDE and the Plasma Desktop are almost overwhelming for me, personally. But it sure is a thing of beauty when it behaves itself! Despite the gorgeous compositing effects, I’m still leaning toward a simpler, cleaner and slightly less hardware-taxing operating system. With that in mind, there are two other distros I’d consider installing in the near future…

SolusOS is the one distro I’m most looking forward to. I’ve mentioned it before – but the spankin’ new, completely rebuilt version of SolusOS 2 is now under heavy development, and I can’t wait till it’s finished later this year. This is the distro that will probably take the place of Voyager Linux on the main machine. I think it’s going to be awesome!

Another distro that just had an update is Fuduntu 2013.1. Since it’s a rolling release, there’s no need to re-install for Fuduntu 2012.4 users, just perform regular updates for the newest version. Well, I cheated a little – this is based on Fedora, NOT Ubuntu/Debian. But I really like this distro; it just gets better and better! Another great distro for people wanting to try Linux.

And also for your consideration… ElementaryOS has been getting a lot of buzz for a long time. It looks like it may soon be released (beta 1 is available now). For a simple, uncluttered and modern OS, this may be your cup of tea as well.  All the components many Linux users have come to love over the past few years (like Nautilus Elementary) wrapped into a complete operating system. This is sure to appeal to many new and current Linux users.

Update March 18, 2013: Since I wrote this, I’ve installed Zorin OS 6.2 Core Edition on our main computer. See here for more details. Zorin OS is very easy to use and touts itself as being a good distro for Windows users who want to try Linux. Also, OpenSUSE 12.3 has been released, and it looks fabulous. The Linux Action Show just reviewed it (starts at around 32 minutes in). Check it out!

Those are my personal recommendations for the moment. I’ll leave you with a few more review links below.

Mint 14 Cinnamon Review Infinitely Galactic

Netrunner 12.12 Review: TOSToday

Elementary Luna Beta Preview: Top 5 Features

My Nexus 7 Tablet

Gosh, it’s been a long hiatus, but I’m back for the New Year!

Nexus7

For Christmas (actually, two weeks before) I got a Google Nexus 7 tablet.  Up until now I never felt a need for a tablet computer of any type. Since we have 2 desktop computers, an old laptop, and a netbook, I didn’t see the point in owning a tablet. But over the last few months I’ve heard a lot of people on the internet and our local computer radio show singing the praises of the Nexus 7. I watched Youtube videos and reviewed comparisons of the most popular small tablets. And for a long time I’ve thought an ebook reader might be a handy thing to have. So with all the other things that a tablet can do, I decided to get the Nexus, which does not cost much more than a full-featured ebook reader. And after I’d used it for just a few days I knew this was a good investment. I love this thing! And for $199 you can’t beat the price!

Setting up and using the Nexus 7 was a breeze. I have a gmail account, use Google Calendar and Docs and Google+ (a very nice alternative to Facebook, which I should talk more about in the future) and have lots of photos on Picasa, now owned by Google. When I first booted the Nexus it asked for my Google account user name and password, and after that initial log-in, everything in my Google universe was synced to the Nexus. There was really nothing much to set up except my wi-fi network password; the device just did everything automatically! The ease of it was amazing! Of course, the price for this magical ease-of-use is that any last pretense of privacy is now gone. The Nexus knows everything about me; tethered as I am to the All-Seeing Eye of Google on the desktop and now on this more mobile device. (I did disable the GPS for now).

Because I don’t use a smart-phone; just a simple, cheap, no-contract cell phone that I primarily use just to actually TALK to people (I don’t text, either), I’ve never realized how most people are ceaselessly tracked and monitored by their phones. Even most of the Android apps that run on this tablet and smart-phones have (or we give them) permission to access our private data, track our every move and desire and interest and report them back to our Google or Apple or Microsoft overlords, for the purposes, of course, of making our lives so much more convenient! But sometimes it disturbs me to think where this will all end!

But I digress… and here I am buying right into this 21st century interconnectedness (I’m sure that’s a real word)! But I must admit, I love using this thing a lot more than I would have imagined. There are so many wonderful and useful apps available for it on Google Play, most of them free! And I’ve actually been having loads of fun installing and playing games on the darn thing; primarily for the kids, of course. I’m not really much of a computer gaming, or console gamer for that matter. So I never thought Angry Birds would be so much darn fun!

But the Tegra 3 quad core processor and gorgeous resolution on this thing makes it a perfect device for playing games, watching videos and checking up on the Web. And I am really loving it for reading books! I mean, I LOVE physical, printed books; but the ability to change fonts, enlarge the type, and not to have to rely on an external light source to read (especially in bed) is marvelous. And to be able to hold thousands of books in a hand-held device is just so Star Trekky-cool. I’m glad we bought this thing.

And I enjoy using Android, which is Linux-based, a lot. I see over the past couple of weeks that you can also now install Ubuntu for the Nexus 7, and Bodhi Linux as well. But right now I don’t see the point, since I find Android 4.2 quite pleasant and easy to use.

Then today the news just broke about the Ubuntu Phone OS that will be coming out this year. And surprisingly, at least to me, it looks like it may be  a very nice OS. It might even get me to consider using a smart-phone! What is the world coming to!

Best Tablets of 2012: Infinitely Galactic Review

Another look at SolusOS

solusos

I talked about SolusOS  a few months back. And since I’m spreading the Linux Love this holiday season, I think this is a good time to become re-aquainted with this marvelous distro.

Ikey Doherty, the creator of SolusOS, has been very hard at work on the forthcoming 1.3 version of SolusOS Eveline. In fact, this man’s sheer passion for creating the best user-friendly Linux distro continues to astound and inspire me! Despite having to change flats and look for income-generating work over the past months, this guy spends an incredible amount of time and effort working on his baby; and I think his passion will be apparent to anyone who tries SolusOS.

Ikey has been posting a lot of updates on the progress of Eveline on Google+ and it looks like SolusOS 1.3 will be released very soon. There seem to be a lot of changes and refinements coming with this new version, so this would be a good time to check it out!

Also in the works for next year is SolusOS 2, which will be a very unique operating system, using it’s own modern desktop environment that will look and work just like Gnome 2. While still based on Debian (as far as I understand) it will use the PISI package manager from the Pardus Linux project (which unfortunately seems to have died). I’ve used Pardus in the past and really liked this package manager! Combined with SolusOS’s own repositories of stable, updated software, SolusOS 2 should be a perfect Linux distro for novices and experienced users alike.

Here are some links for you to check out which will give you a better look at Ikey and SolusOS rather than me blathering on:

SolusOS 1.2 review by Sneeky Linux

The Blog of Helios: Ikey’s Story

One last word. If you think that independent, open source software development is a good thing, and especially if you like SolusOS and want to contribute to it’s future, please consider donating whatever amount you can afford from the SolusOS homepage link. Free operating systems take a lot of work!

Happy Holidays!

A little Linux Mint love

About a week ago Linux Mint 14, ‘Nadia’ was released. As much as I like Mint 13, this new release based on Ubuntu 12.10 looks very, very nice.

For a while I fell out of love with Linux Mint (11 and 12 versions, when many Linux distros were going through a desktop identity crisis when Ubuntu switched to Unity and Gnome 2 went to Gnome 3 Shell), but now that the Cinnamon Desktop, Mint’s Gnome Shell fork, is making great strides in development (see my earlier post), I would definitely recommend Linux Mint as one of the best distros for people new to Linux. Or if you prefer a familiar Linux desktop experience like Gnome 2 or Xfce, and are not a fan of Unity and the direction that Ubuntu is going, Linux Mint may also be your cup of tea. It’s modern, attractive and everything generally works great without much tweaking involved (though the first thing I do myself is change the desktop picture/wallpaper)!

The newest Cinnamon 1.6 comes with lots of pre-installed themes, applets and other goodies to configure your workspace. And Linux Mint has always come with a full but not overwhelming set of applications to handle most user’s needs. Plus you have the entire Ubuntu repositories and PPAs, as well as Mint’s repository, to install whatever software you desire.

But my main inspiration for writing this post is the Linux Action Show episode I just watched, which did a glowing and comprehensive review of Mint 14 and Cinnamon. They point out many of the strengths of Mint and the differences between Mint and Ubuntu. If you’re curious about Linux Mint, it’s well worth a look HERE. The Mint review begins at about 46 minutes into the show.

For Linux users who love Gnome 2 and Xfce, I think Cinnamon is a solid, rapidly-evolving and modern desktop alternative.

DeLorean Dark theme available for Linux Mint 14