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!

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A Few of my Favorite Linux Distros

These days there are so many Linux distributions (operating systems) that are easy and enjoyable to use that it must be difficult for someone wanting to try Linux to choose. Of course Ubuntu is the one that gets most of the attention; and it is stable and relatively easy for beginners to try out. If you want to take a dip into the wonderful world of Free and Open Source Software, a distro based on Ubuntu is a good place to start.

The Unity desktop that is standard with Ubuntu has improved a lot, but I just don’t care for it as much as some alternatives like XFCE or Enlightenment or KDE. Of course, one of the neat things about Linux is that you can install other Desktop Environments and Window Managers, and even use several in the same distro. But for people who are not sure what “Linux” is all about, are not used to having so much choice, and just want to try out a Linux-based operating system that is free and ‘just works’ for the average user without a lot of fiddling (like adding Flash support and multimedia codecs and such); here is my short list of personal favorite distros.

1) Zorin OS: A great, easy to use OS that looks similar to Windows and from my experience is very solid. I’m using the newest version on our second desktop computer. Comes with pre-configured goodies and lovely effects. This is a wonderful intro to Linux for Windows users, and it uses it’s own variation of the Gnome 3 desktop that works quite well. Here’s a comprehensive video for more information: Zorin Linux OS 6 Ultimate Review.

2) Linux Mint: I’ve used Mint for a few years through many changes, especially after the change by Ubuntu to Unity (Mint is based on Ubuntu, as are all the distros I’m mentioning). There are many variations of Linux Mint these days, including a Debian-based version. But right now I have Mint 13 (Maya) using the Mint-developed Cinnamon Desktop installed on my HP Mini netbook, and it’s running very fine! Mint is versatile, user-friendly and a joy to use. It’s been the most popular brand of Linux on Distrowatch for a while now.

3) Pinguy OS: PinguyOS recently came out with their 12.04 version that also uses a nicely-augmented Gnome 3 desktop. This distro comes with a lot of extra applications, tweaks and PPAs pre-installed; including WINE software for running Windows stuff (so does Zorin). It’s got software for almost anything you’d want to do with a computer; and they have an exceptionally diverse and helpful forum.

 4) Solus OS: This is a relatively new distro based on the stable branch of Debian Linux. It’s the child of Ikey Dougherty, who developed Linux Mint Debian Edition. The aim of Solus OS is to be stable, user-friendly and beautiful. I wrote about it Here. This baby is changing fast and I’m looking forward to trying out the Solus OS 2 final release when it’s available soon. This distro is becoming very popular!

Then there is the distro I use on our main machine, Voyager Linux, based on Xubuntu using the familiar, configurable XFCE. I’ve blathered on about it before, so I saved it for the end. But I really love Voyager and think it’s a great choice for new Linux users, too!

And not to leave out a KDE-centric Linux operating system; honorable mention goes to Netrunner, based on good ‘ole Kubuntu. I have not installed Netrunner on any of our computers, but I am sorely tempted to do so. It looks great and runs very nice from the Live DVD. I think I should do another post on distros that primarily use KDE in the near future. There are a few nice ones out there. And Windows users would also feel right at home in KDE.

I’ll leave you with a couple more links. What do you think of my favorites? This is just a short list of great Linux distros. Other options would be welcome.

Unity alternatives – the many desktops of Ubuntu

25 Things I Did After Installing Ubuntu 12.04

Xfce is Becoming my Favorite Linux Desktop Environment!

I’m such a fickle Linux user! A few weeks ago Kubuntu was my Linux distro of choice and I was loving the K Desktop Environment. I also had Xubuntu (actually the modified version of Xubuntu called Voyager) installed on my kids desktop computer and my old Dell laptop, and I was becoming very fond of using Xfce.

Then about two weeks ago, just as I was preparing to install the new Kubuntu 12.04 on our main computer, Kubuntu started behaving very strangely. When I’d reboot, it would start in  my wife’s secondary user account instead of mine. It happened every time, and I’ve never known any Linux distro to do this. There have been other odd little irregularities while using KDE/Kubuntu, but nothing this strange. Although back in late February, after I’d been using Kubuntu 11.10 for about two months, the system started freaking out with some weird visual anomalies; items in the control panel disappearing and huge RAM usage, and I had decided to re-install it. Everything was good for a while, but now it was acting weird to the point where the system was becoming unusable again! Having to reinstall a distro twice in four months was just too much for me. So I thought about the one distro I’ve been using on the other computers for months and finding nothing I didn’t like about it; and I decided to install Voyager, which just came out with the new version based on Xubuntu 12.04.

I loved the beautiful look of the KDE Plasma Desktop very much, and it’s configurability and many of the native KDE applications. But after using Voyager/Xubuntu for a while now I totally love this operating system and Xfce! The operating system is very quick! I’m only using the native Xfce compositing instead of installing Compiz, Metacity or Emerald; and I must say; even though I’ve always enjoyed fancy desktop effects and fading, wobbly windows and all the other eye candy, I’ve found I really don’t miss it all that much. In Xubuntu windows snap open and close and applications launch quick as a wink. RAM and CPU usage is much lower with Voyager. And the basic compositing lets you adjust window transparency and shadows. The Xfce panel also supports transparency and can be configured with a right-click, very much like Gnome 2. In fact I find that I prefer Xfce to Gnome 2 or Gnome 3. It’s simple yet gives you many options. It has a nice Settings Manager, themes, icons, and is very responsive. The Voyager remix of Xubuntu also comes with a great set of pre-installed apps and a wonderful Conky Control app with numerous pre-made setups that makes using Conky a snap! See the screenshot. (I switched AWN (Avant Window Navigator) bottom dock for Docky, though Voyager’s default AWN looks cooler). And I just upgraded from Xfce 4.8 that comes in Xubuntu 12.04 to the new version, 4.10. It went without a hitch and works great!

I have to admit: I feel a little odd about running the same distro on three different machines! I love the choices with using Linux-based operating systems, and there are several distros that I really like and are quite different from each other (Bodhi Linux, Mint, SolusOS, Kubuntu, Pinguy OS, Linux Deepin, to name a few). But since running Xubuntu for many months now on different machines I’ve come to enjoy Xfce immensely, and Voyager is the best Xfce distro I’ve used. It’s fast, stable, attractive and easy to use. It just feels comfortable!

For those of you who like Gnome 3, or have been trying to like it; The new version of PinguyOS will be released shortly. I’ve been checking out Pinguy’s refinements to Gnome Shell, which will be their default Desktop Environment, and it looks promising. More to come…

Xubuntu 12.04 Review

Voyager 12.04: The Beautiful Xfce Distro from France

Voyager 12.04 LTS – Xfce/Xubuntu

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!