Linux Distributions Mid 2015 Overview

Notes from my thoughts on the current state of several major Linux Distributions. I am partial to the least mouse clicking and movement over how a distribution looks. I can modify the default settings if I wish to make a desktop into what I want it to be. These Distributions are cream of the Linux crop of distributions I have tried out lately. The Linux Distributions are listed in no particular order.

Voyager Linux – Ubuntu with XFCE Desktop, some nice added touches really classes up XUbuntu. This is probably the most elegant of recent Linux distributions. If you enjoy a pretty desktop with functionality with added Desktop and Browser modifications, Voyager is for you.

Xubuntu Linux – Ubuntu with a XFCE desktop. Well mannered, fast, fairly light, easy to use, and feels to be less mouse movement, clicking than when using KDE, Mate or Cinnamon Desktop. Needs a few wallpapers added for a personal touch.

One modification I do with stock Xubuntu is is add a few pet programs and remove the bottom dock and replace it with Docky. I like Docky as it adds a little fun and eye candy to the desktop. I am thinking about adding some Conky too.

Linux and Coffee

Several Live Linux DVD’s and an old Victor Coffee Mug

Mint Linux – I am not sure how I feel about Mint Linux. Mint is a great product. Mint is on the pinnacle with the best of Linux distributions. Mint comes in several Desktop flavors, from KDE to XFCE. Mint also has a Debian version using Cinnamon and Mate Desktops. Consistency is a virtue of Mint Linux. No matter which Desktop you choose to use, they are all configured as much as possible to mimic each other.

The different desktop look the same, and as much as possible operate in the same way. The menus pretty much contain the same programs. The only differences will be programs and settings for the desktop environment you choose to use.

Personally I am a fan of Mint LMDE – Linux Mint Debian Edition, as I have always been happy with Debian. Mint is not Burger King however, you can not have it your way on the desktop. If you start modifying the desktop, you risk breaking your Mint install.

Debian Non Free live CD – I am surprised to be writing this. Debian Linux has a live CD that contains non free software. I tried Debian live with both the LXDE and XFCE Desktops, and everything I love about Debian without the Debian hassle is present.

Debian is light, fast, and to the point. If you are a mainstream user who is not into elegant desktops, Debian is an awesome distribution. I have used Debian on and off for over a decade, and Debian never disappoints.

Debian it seems wants to be a behind the scenes Linux distribution and not a spotlight player. Debian is one of the most carefree distributions around, but as a desktop it does not always play well.

As long as the software you want is in the repository, you are okay. If you want to use a program not in the repository, in my experience, you will spend time hunting down dependencies to make your program work. Same goes for support. You are mostly on your own.

As much as I want to stick with one distribution, something happens where I end up trying out a handful of Linux distributions. Recently it was Crunchbang Linux who closed their doors while working on a new Crunchbang.

Crunchbang #! Linux Development Ends For Now

Corenominal, founder and developer of Crunchbang Linux announced today on the #! forum he will no longer develop Crunchbang Linux.

To sum it up in a few words, development goes on, and there are desktops that did not exist when #! development and initial release happened. As stated better in Corenominal’s post, there was no easy to use Debian, Ubuntu, or LXDE desktop when #! was developed and released.

Here is a link to Corenominal’s forum post.

I really enjoy using Crunchbang Linux. #! is the first Linux distribution that I stayed with rather than hopping off to another distribution after a few weeks to a few months. That is saying a lot. Over the years, I have tried out more distributions in the top 100 of Distrowatch listing than a reasonable person should. There was always something better in the next distribution.

We will have to wait and see what becomes of #!. I hope Crunchbang Linux lives on. There are many new and great Linux distributions to choose from however. Easy to use use and light on resources desktops, such as LXDE and XFCE. These two desktops are my favorite Desktops for speed and ease of use, after #! of course.

Voyager Linux, Cadillac Style Built on Xubuntu LTS

I installed Voyager Linux a few weeks ago on my desktop, and have been playing with Voyager on and off since. Voyager is Xubuntu dressed to the nines. Voyager makes no claim to be anything but Xubuntu with a fresh look and some modifications. Those add-ons and modifications make Voyager mighty pleasing to the eye.

In the speed department, Voyager is no slouch considering it is Xubuntu dressed up. I found Voyager to be crisp, fast and solid, even after updates, which is an area where other distributions have fallen flat on their faces. XFCE and Docky are running the desktop, with a quick launch bar on the right side, with links to all four screens, selected programs, and system stats.

Voyager is a French distribution based currently based on Xubuntu 14.04.01 LTS, giving it a rock solid base and a long life. I first heard of Voyager a few years ago. I tried Voyager, but at the time I was not swayed to move away from the distribution I was using.

Why is Voyager different? Voyager does not call itself a new distribution which it is not, but refers to itself as “a personalization Xubuntu”, which is correct. Think of Xubuntu all dressed up and ready to show off.

Voyager Linux

Xubuntu with excellent modifications

Voyager is Xubuntu upgraded even to include modifications made to in the Firefox browser. There are other software additions that fill gaps and add choices. A well thought out mixture of programs that everyone should find useful.

Voyager installation is Ubuntu install so I won’t bore you with it. Ubuntu has made installation as simple and boring as possible and that is what you get.

While I am on the fence about switching to Voyager in the moment, Voyager is made made for someone like me. I want fast over pretty, and I want pretty over base install. Voyager is as fast as Xubuntu and more pleasing to the eye. It will stay on my hard drive so I can play with it and see if Voyager reaches out and grabs me.

I enjoy XFCE for what it adds to the speed side of the Linux desktop. I do not enjoy XFCE in its basic state. I also am not someone who derives pleasure from dressing up my desktop. That is where Voyager shines. No one is going to see Voyager on your desktop and think it is too plain, or too slow. I imagine anyone who sees Voyager on your desktop will want to know what is, and where you found it.

In finishing, Voyager is Ubuntu dressed up for a very special Friday Night. Voyager comes in both 32 and 64 bit flavors. There is one fun quirk in Voyager, and that is the software center. Parts of it on the main screen are in French. I find it refreshing, and not a deterrent, as most of us already what programs we want to add.

If you want XFCE on your desktop and are not inclined to dress it up, but want a polished desktop and an excellent selection of programs, Voyager belongs on your computer.

New Sheriff in Town

I think the website OSnews is  fishing for comments or missed the mark completely on this article. The article makes a point that a 2003 post which states if Linux is to dominate the world of computers Linux needs to have one and only one desktop.

While the thought has some merit, it has too many fallacies to be treated as anything but noise. Anyone care to drive one specific model of car, sleep in the same brand name bed, eat the same meals as the rest of the world? I think not.

We live in a world filled with choices. Linux is one of the best OS choices for many. Some Linux users obviously feel it is important that Linux as an Operating System rule the world, and dominate Microsoft and Apple. For myself, I need to use all three Operating Systems, and as far as I can see into the future, no single OS has an edge on the other.

NewSheriffinTownI would think we (as in the whole world) have had enough of world domination attempts to know they do not work, and why they are not good for all people. Linux, Microsoft, and Apple are no exception to this idea of domination.. If Linux were to become the worlds OS of choice, Linux would be seen as another Microsoft or Apple, only worse, and a new OS would rise from the trenches and become the favorite of those who are able to make their own choices.

As for OSnews, I hope they achieved their objective, whatever it is.

Your Linux Desktop Choice

There is such a wide choice in Linux Desktops one has a difficult time deciding which desktop is the right desktop? Search engines are my friend, I open up my browser and do a search for Linux Desktop.

The search result is more than I expected. There are more Desktops than would fit in ten articles. Being the literate computer user I am, I narrow my search and find some interesting comparisons.

It seems that the correct Linux Desktop for me is not how I prefer to do things. What? Exactly the best Linux Desktop for me as recommended by several experts is defined by the age of my computer.

If I own a new computer, I should be using Unity, Gnome, Cinnamon, KDE of course, and maybe XFCE.

If my computer is older, as in three years old or more, I should think about using: LXDE, LXQT, Mate, Openbox, LXLE. If my computer is ancient, I should think about using, Open Box or rat poison which does not use a mouse.

This advice is all a little slanted. Of course if your computer is older, you may not enjoy for a high graphic desktop like KDE to go through the motions of loading your menu. But that is common sense, not written in stone rules of computing in Linux.

What if you have a new computer and you are mouse adverse for any number of reasons? Should you get rid of your new computer by putting it in a closet until it is an old computer. Buy an old computer that is memory and graphics challenged to install Rat Poison desktop on?

Of course not. Linux is about choice, not about the age of your computer. If you enjoy high quality graphics, like dressing up your desktop, and clicking through more programs than you may possibly use, go with a desktop built for this purpose.

If you mainly compute through your web browser or office suite, you may not care for a lot bling on your desktop. Perhaps XFCE or Openbox better suites how you relate to your desktop.

Arriving at a place where your computer works the way you want it to and not the way a web article tells you it should is where you really want to be. From glitz to practical, to minimal, don’t be fooled into a desktop that does not work for you.

Linux is for the most part Linux. There are not several authors putting out their own versions of a program. Take time to be a little selective. You do not always need a repository with 20,000 plus programs. Possibly the default choices work just fine.

Linux Distro Hopping Dream Page

If you just can’t find enough Linux distributions to try out, or you are bored with what is out there, I found the crown jewel of choices! It resides at Distrowatch under the related links section.

There are enough Linux distros that have not been reviewed or made it into the top 100 of the Distrowatch main page to keep you busy for months, even if you try one a day.

And that is just Linux distro’s. There are sub sections of distro links that are not based on any distro, or even Linux, but stand alone.

The Distrowatch related link page is: http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=links

I do not have any relationship with Distrowatch, but as a reformed distro hopper, this Distrowatch links page reads pure gold if you are a hard core distro hopper!

Caution advised, some of these distributions are not for the feint of heart, and from what I read, some are not so friendly either.

Bullett Proof Linux For Beginners

I read this in a couple of places today. Someone had a real flash of insight when they thought of it. Whoever it was, let me know so I can credit it to you. I read this several times, and the source was not identifiable.

If you want a bullet proof Linux installation of your very own, how do you do it? How can you have an installation of your favorite Linux distribution that never breaks because of something you tried to do? A rock solid Linux that always performs as well the day it performed when you first installed it?

I wish this was around when I started using Linux. I would be a Linux pro by now, or at least a pretty advanced user. Enough delay and buildup to a great idea.

When you first install your Linux Distribution of choice, and it is updated, and everything is working perfectly, add a virtual box to your system.

Once you have  a virtual box installed, install your Linux Distribution on Virtual Box. You do not have to update it if you do not want to, and I am sure your distribution would prefer you did not.

If you really need to update your virtual machine do a little bit more. It would be fair, since you are doubling the work of the distributions server, to donate some money to your distribution of choice.

After all, you would be on your way to becoming a Linux Pro, if it were not for them. Contact the site admin, or one of the forum moderators on how to donate. Most Linux Distributions are ran on a shoe string, and they would really appreciate your financial support.

Now when you want to make any changes to your system, make those changes in your virtual machine first. This way, if you make a mistake, you can undo it, or copy back your pristine virtual machine backup, and start over, knowing your working system is safe and secure.

This is an almost perfect setting for a learning environment too. You can tinker, modify, and change settings to see what effects what. If they are not good changes, you haven’t hurt your working Linux System. If they work as you hoped, and wow you, you can make the changes on your working Linux system.

You can even go further. On the forums of your Linux distribution of choice, there are always one or more post install problem sections, where forum members write about their Linux problem in the hope someone knows the fix and responds.

If you like to tinker, and want to learn more about Linux, you can do what they did, breaking your virtual machine. Then you can see if you can fix the problem in your virtual machine.

When you can learn to fix simple problems, you can post the fix, helping out another Linux user who is not as advanced as you are. Then you can start tackling harder problems and help me out :-).

Not only, will this help you learn Linux, but it will help you better understand how Linux works because you can get in their and play with the nuts and bolts of your system.

You may not want to update your virtual machine, as it is likely to break, and you don’t want to put undo download stress on the distribution server; sending files costs money.

You should learn how to copy your virtual machine file to a safe location. Make sure you shut it down first before copying your virtual machine file to another location.

This way when your virtual machine breaks, you have a good working copy of your virtual machine. Copy your virtual machine back from its stored location to your virtual machine folder.
I read this in a couple of places today. Someone had a real flash of insight when they thought of it. Whoever it was, let me know so I can credit it to you. I read this several times, and the source was not identifiable.

If you want a bullet proof Linux installation of your very own, how do you do it? How can you have an installation of your favorite Linux distribution that never breaks because of something you tried to do? A rock solid Linux that always performs as well the day it performed when you first installed it?

I wish this was around when I started using Linux. I would be a Linux pro by now, or at least a pretty advanced user. Enough delay and buildup to a great idea.

When you first install your Linux Distribution of choice, and it is updated, and everything is working perfectly, add a virtual box to your system.

Once you have  a virtual box installed, install your Linux Distribution on Virtual Box. You do not have to update it if you do not want to, and I am sure your distribution would prefer you did not.

If you really need to update your virtual machine do a little bit more. It would be fair, since you are doubling the work of the distributions server, to donate some money to your distribution of choice.

After all, you would be on your way to becoming a Linux Pro, if it were not for them. Contact the site admin, or one of the forum moderators on how to donate. Most Linux Distributions are ran on a shoe string, and they would really appreciate your financial support.

Now when you want to make any changes to your system, make those changes in your virtual machine first. This way, if you make a mistake, you can undo it, or copy back your pristine virtual machine backup, and start over, knowing your working system is safe and secure.

This is an almost perfect setting for a learning environment too. You can tinker, modify, and change settings to see what effects what. If they are not good changes, you haven’t hurt your working Linux System. If they work as you hoped, and wow you, you can make the changes on your working Linux system.

You can even go further. On the forums of your Linux distribution of choice, there are always one or more post install problem sections, where forum members write about their Linux problem in the hope someone knows the fix and responds.

If you like to tinker, and want to learn more about Linux, you can do what they did, breaking your virtual machine. Then you can see if you can fix the problem in your virtual machine.

When you can learn to fix simple problems, you can post the fix, helping out another Linux user who is not as advanced as you are. Then you can start tackling harder problems and help me out :-).

Not only, will this help you learn Linux, but it will help you better understand how Linux works because you can get in their and play with the nuts and bolts of your system.

You may not want to update your virtual machine, as it is likely to break, and you don’t want to put undo download stress on the distribution server; sending files costs money.

You should learn how to copy your virtual machine file to a safe location. Make sure you shut it down first before copying your virtual machine file to another location.

This way when your virtual machine breaks, you have a good working copy of your virtual machine. Copy your virtual machine back from its stored location to your virtual machine folder.

Linux Distro Hopping, a few Distro Comments

Since I have been checking out a number of new distros, I thought I would post a quick line or two on them. One of the important things for me, is a distro be able to see youtube and Ted videos out of the box, or easily make them play. I also use usenet, so a usenet reader is also on my list.

One finding, or food for thought: Using LVM means you have to backup anything you want from your home directory before installing another distro. If there is a workaround, I did not find it.

I think the simplest hard drive scheme is a 10 – 15  gig root (if you have the space), a swap file that matches your memory or at least four gigs for movies, and whatever space you have left as home – unless you multiboot.

Crunchbang #! (Debian) – see my previous post, is awesome once you understand it, and can get past “Windows way” thinking.

Kubuntu & Xubuntu (Ubuntu 14.04) – This is a very stable, easy to use distro, using the KDE desktop of course. I find myself doing too much clicking when going through the menu for a program, depending on where it is. Uses about 550 mb of ram.

* This applies to all ‘buntu from what I read…If you multiboot, grub occasionally misses all your distros. Also only Kubuntu, though it was installed on sdb, put grub on sda without asking.

Linux Mint (Ubuntu 14.04) – Awesome. A very well thought out distribution. Most of the programs are programs you want to use. The different desktops are for the cpu speed, amount of ram, and hard drive space, although, even if your system is new, you may notice a speed difference between the desktops.

LXLE (Ubuntu 14.04) – Not sure what to think about this one. Comprehensive is a good word for LXLE. It is fast, and very large at the same time. There are enough programs you may never need to add anything. Though I did not notice any that would not get used over time.

Debian 7.5 – Sparse and fast. Installs with the LXDE desktop, which is one of the fastest desktops around. One of the most stable and secure distributions around. Not pretty, you will need to add software, and you may want to tweak the settings. You do have the option of loading any other desktop, and window manager such as XFCE, KDE, or Gnome. I think if you give LXDE a chance, you will like it.

Plays youtube videos from basic install, at least the few I tried. Copy and paste the link below to load flash player so you can watch TED and maybe some other videos.

https://wiki.debian.org/FlashPlayer

A downside of Debian is Debian and Debian users are not overly friendly at times. They are usually experienced users, and have little patience for asked a 1000 times questions.

Kannotix (Debian) – This is a good solid distro. It’s been around a long time. Not a lot of flash, just solid.

SolydXK (Debian) – Close to Kubuntu and Xubuntu. SolydK did not like my Intel video chip set, and gave me a few problems. Solid though, and upgraded just fine. SolydX is awesome, but the upgrade left search the engines option out of Firefox.

Net Runner – Very fast! I liked this distro right away, until I looked for a binary news reader – like Pan. I could not find one. Other than that, it may need to be tweaked for appearance, but it is very fast.

Manjaro – Fast, but too green for me. I became annoyed by the color scheme too quickly. I am not a KDE expert, and playing around with the settings left me wanting someone who knows what they are doing to change the color scheme. Also had a few small problems. This distro may be troublesome for new Linux users. Updates pretty quickly too.

CrunchBang 11 “Waldorf”, my Thoughts Jun 2014

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes less frees you from doing more. Less makes you think about what you want to do rather than what you could do. Less is very effective at removing time wasters.

I tried Crunchbang Linux some years ago, when it was unstable, and prone to breaking. I did not enjoy the Crunchbang experience back then. Who wanted a Operating System that was going to break, had a silly menu, and an empty desktop?

I finally get it. I finally understand what Crunchbang delivers, and what it represents for me. After the install, there is a dark mostly empty screen, with Conky on the top right side. The menu is sparsely populated. Only the minimum programs are there. A perfect blank canvas waiting for paint.

What programs are present are all most of us use in our day to day computing. From here on out, once Crunchbang is installed, if you want more, you need to do it yourself. This is the real power of Linux and Crunchbang in particular. The basics are covered, the rest is up to you.

Out of this emptiness Crunchbang Linux sits in the revered top twenty on the Distrowatch web sites ranking of Linux Distro’s most popular. For a long time I did not understand why. I think I do now.

Does it matter I have fifty of the greatest Linux programs ever written a few mouse clicks away if I rarely use them? Does it matter that my desktop could be placed in an art gallery when my net-centric apps are covering the desktop?

When I installed Crunchbang a few days ago, it was obvious some changes were needed. I thought I fell of the deep end, again. Where was the bling, the color and cool desktop pics, etc? Where were the programs I use?  I did not like the dark desktop which is the default Crunchbang. What was the point of how the menu is accessed. Who cares about Shortcut Keys?

I brightened up the desktop. I added the programs I prefer to use. I added them to the menu. I modified the menu to a menu I like. I don’t know if I am done, but I know I can add, remove, and modify almost everything.

My old dislikes were: The menu sucks, the programs are old, the distro is dark and boring. Truth is, menu access is brilliant. One left click anywhere on the desktop and there is the menu.  The programs are rock solid, and in almost every case perform every function the newest release does. I changed the desktop wallpaper to something lighter. I added some programs I prefer to use.

Using Crunchbang is watching your favorite television show at prime time, without commercials. Crunchbang is surfing the net without any ads. Crunchbang is a word processor which loads full screen with only the cursor as a distraction.

Crunchbang is so popular imo, because it is malleable. Crunchbang is true Linux putty. Crunchbang allows you to have a desktop and programs you want, not what a majority of people are willing to live with. Crunchbang allows you to create the perfect Linux for you.  You do not need a dedicated team to set up your desktop, You can learn in mere minutes how to modify the desktop and the menu to your liking.

Linux is a series of trade offs. Everything is a trade for something else, with few exceptions.  Crunchbang is one of those exceptions. Crunchbang frees you from some of what you do not need, and allows you to take control of your Linux experience.

Crunchbang has great resources in their forum, and more distant help scattered across the web. Everything I wanted to change, I found posts in the forum. Almost everything in Crunchbang is changeable, and explained in a way everyone can understand. The forum feels homey, somewhere you can hang out with friends and talk Crunchbang, even distro hopping if you wish.

The web’s Crunchbang comments and articles are helpfull too, but may not apply to the current version. I prefer forums for distro support. Crunchbang has a very good forum. I enjoy the tone of the posts I read.

Crunchbang is very personable, once you realize Crunchbang prefers you make most of the decisions beyond the basics. Perhaps this is the crux of Linux in the separation between beginning Linus users and more skilled Linux users.

Beginning Linux users want the experience of Linux with no thinking, and that is good as Linux is a new experience. Perhaps more experienced users know the difference. Jump in with an open mind, willing to learn, and no preconceived notions of what a Linux Distribution should be, and give Crunchbang a go. You might like being in control of your computer and master of your Crunchbang Linux realm.

Easy Linux Distro Hopping – Thunderbird and Firefox

One of the good/bad things about Linux is distro hopping. Distro hopping means trying out different distributions of Linux as the mood hits, or an exciting new distribution appears. Some people change Linux distributions monthly. Other people less often. Some people not at all.

A few people have their favorite distribution and try out other Linux distributions on the side, so to speak. I am one of those people. For me the Linux distribution I am using is possibly not as great as the new distro I will take for a test drive. I do not want to miss out.

One of the downsides to jumping Linux distributions is email and web browser settings. Email because I either have to keep email on the server, or I have to ensure I do not need any emails in the old distribution before I delete it for the next latest and greatest Linux Distribution.

There is an easy fix however, if you use Mozilla products which I am a big fan of. I prefer Thunderbird for my email and Firefox as my web browser. If you are using either or both of these, distro jumping becomes much less painful.

This post is for the new distro hoppers. A How To for easily moving your Firefox and Thunderbird email, address book and settings to your newest distro. This works for popular distros as of June 2014.

With [most] Linux distros, all your files are kept in your home directory. Your email, and your browser settings are stored as invisible files in your home directory. This is how Linux keeps everything right in the case of multiple users on a computer.

Each user or account has their own home directory where their personal files are stored.  This makes distro jumping easy. When you want to either try out a Linux distribution or try out a second distribution, keeping your email and browser settings is a fairly simple process.

In your file manager, no matter which manager you have is a setting in preferences for viewing hidden files. This needs to be checked because you want to view hidden files – temporarily.

After setting the hidden files switch, when you look at you home directory, you will see a number of files that have a period in front of the folder name. These are hidden folders. Most folders contain settings and other information for the user based software you have installed.  There are a number of hidden folders, and they tend to clutter up the file manager, so they are hidden and not viewed by default.

Two of these hidden folders you are most interested in are: .mozilla and .thunderbird. These two folders contain all your Thunderbird and Firefox email and settings.

Your new distribution needs to have Thunderbird and Firefox installed. If they are not present, install them both before proceeding.  Copy these two folders, .mozilla and .thunderbird, from your old home folder to your new home folder. Your file manager will warn you that these folders exist and do you want to replace them. Choose: yes.

Tat is all there is to it. I did one jump recently where this did not work for Thunderbird, not sure why. What I did was create my accounts in Thunderbird, and then close Thunderbird before allowing to to check of new email. When I reopened Thunderbird, my old emails, address book, etc were all present.