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.

Voyager: A Beautiful French Remix of Xubuntu

A few weeks ago, in my endless quest for new and useful Linux distros, I came across a very groovy remastered version of Xubuntu (Ubuntu + Xfce Desktop Manager) called Voyager 11.10. The website is in French, but you will notice a pop-down menu to translate it into English or numerous other languages. The Google translation is a bit quirky (pretty funny, actually) in English, but you’ll get the gist of it.

Over the last few months, while searching for alternative Desktop Environments to use instead of Gnome 3 or Unity, I’ve become very fond of Xfce. It uses less system resources than Gnome or KDE and thus runs quicker on older hardware or computers with less RAM. For this reason I installed Xubuntu on our almost 8-year-old Dell D610 laptop that gets daily use in the kitchen for web browsing/email/internet radio listening. It’s a faithful old machine, but only has 756 Mb of RAM; so Xubuntu runs pretty well on it. I’ve also run Bodhi Linux, WattOS, MoonOS and a couple of other distros on it.  But one day I heard about Voyager 11.10 on the PinguyOS forum as one of someone’s top 3 ‘perfect’ distros. So I downloaded the Live Voyager ISO image and installed it on my ‘testing’ computer; a used HP Compaq desktop machine that is about seven years old, which the kids are now using. And I was very pleased and impressed by the numerous great tweaks the Voyager people have made to the standard Xubuntu experience.

Instead of the bottom panel with launcher icons that comes with standard Xfce; Voyager has the Avant Window Navigator (AWN) installed instead. See my screenshot above. Voyager also comes with a nice, unobtrusive little conky setup along the top edge of the screen to monitor hard drive space, RAM and cpu usage, etc. There are also numerous applications and utilities installed that are not standard on Xubuntu; like Synapse, Zoho Cloud Office Web Apps, Cheese Webcam app, Minitube (a nice way to watch Youtube videos without using Flash), and one I use a lot: Radio Tray, among many other tweaks and Firefox extensions. Flash and mp3 playback are also pre-configured. Oh, and the developer of Voyager is apparently really into travel photography; it comes with a lot of nice wallpaper photos!

Voyager comes with a default Ubuntu Ambiance theme and has all the functionality of the Xfce panel and menus. I’ve really come to love Xfce lately. Because of its ease and configurability, I think I now prefer it to the old Gnome 2 experience! And Voyager is a stylish and useful variation on Xfce/ Xubuntu. I would recommend giving it a try on any system, but especially on an aging computer.

Voyager is now installed on our laptop. On a final note: last week the trusty Dell laptop screen stopped working; nothing but dull psychedelic flashy colors. So I hooked up a spare 17 inch LCD monitor and rebooted. Then in the Xfce System Settings under ‘Display’ it showed both the Laptop monitor and the Dell LCD monitor and I was able to enable the one and disable the laptop screen. So now we actually have a larger, nicer monitor for the old laptop!

To leave you, here’s a short video of a preview of Voyager 12.04 that will be coming out at the end of April (along with Ubuntu/Xubuntu/Kubuntu/Lubuntu). It comes with a new conky configuration manager that looks really cool!