Solus 3 Linux Minor Review

I tried out at a number of Linux distributions this week with the goal of identifying one or two Linux distributions that could be used by several people who would be new to Linux. The Linux distribution needs to be simple, so anyone can operate the Linux OS without help. From that perspective there are several Linux distributions I looked at for this environment. Of course each one of us has their own opinions of what works and what does not. This is my initial experience with Solus 3, a Linux distribution which is starting to be noticed.

Solus 3 Linux was my first choice as a Linux system to be used by Windows users. I read many good things about Solus, and I thought it might be a great Linux OS to install on an older multi-user laptop. Solus 3, I found, does many things right, and is well thought out. There are just enough programs to satisfy a basic user, but not overwhelm or annoy them. The new user is shielded from too many settings, and too much software. Solus 3 looked like a winner right from the start.

Solus 3 is a winner if you have the correct printer, or do not need to print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a major limiter made itself known. I have a Brother printer, and there was no included printer driver for my particular printer. No problem, I downloaded the correct driver from Brother website and started to install. I then found I could not install the driver for two reasons.

First, I learned Solus Linux uses Eopkg and not .deb or .rpm as is common. I thought this was a minor obstacle. I would unpack the printer driver on another computer and copy the files to the Solus computer, and install them.

Only root may install drivers or other software. I tried, SU, sudo, and sudo su as I had read in a forum note. None of these commands allowed me root privilege. I thought initially this problem was because I was using Solus 3, as a live cd. I proceeded to install Solus 3 to an empty local hard drive, which is a simple process.

During the install, I created two users, one with admin privileges and one ‘normal’ user. Once again however, I could not gain root access with either user. In fact I could not determine any differences in the privileges of the two accounts. To shorten this story, I was completely unable to gain root privileges and install the Brother (or any other brand), downloaded printer drivers.

Solus Linux uses an EOPG packaging, which is a packaging format few if any vendors support for their peripherals. Not being able to print, made an otherwise very pleasant Solus 3 Linux experience unusable for my needs. Per the website, only Hewlett Packard and some Espon printers are currently supported.

Solus 3 is very good for use, if the standard (across most Linux distributions) printer driver is present, or you have no need to print. Sadly, the idea that printer drivers cannot be installed, brings me back a decade or more in Linux life. Years ago, many peripherals were hit and miss for working in a random Linux distribution. You had to find a Linux OS where the Distribution Development Team used the monitor and printer you owned.

For myself, this printer driver issue, makes Solus 3 another Windows OS, in that it is a closed system. I hope in the future to see better from Solus Linux. Solus Linux has the potential to be one of the best, but it has to create some solutions for their currently closed operating system.

As a side note, if you really wish to to use Linux with the Budgie desktop, Ubuntu Budgie is an alternative, though Ubuntu Budgie has higher minimum operating requirements and may not be a good fit for an older laptop or desktop.

Note Taking Apps For Linux

I have been trying out different tree note and wiki notes software for Linux. Below are several software programs with a blip taken from the home page of each. I included links to their home pages  if you wish to check one or all out. They are all in different forms of refinement and style depending on the authors intent. Some are simply a note dumping ground, others are wiki type, tree storage, and one or two may be all types. Most if not all should be in your Linux repository. If not they can be downloaded and installed.

gJots2 –  gjots2(1) is a simple jotter application for your desktop – an outline processor.

Tomboy – Tomboy is a desktop note-taking application for Linux, Unix, Windows, and Mac OS X. Simple and easy to use, but with potential to help you organize the ideas and information you deal with every day. Tomboy has a lot of plugins that may be useful for you.

Gnote – Gnote is a port of Tomboy to C++. It is the same note taking application, including most of the add-ins (more are to come). Synchronization support is being worked on.

Zim – Zim is a graphical text editor used to maintain a collection of wiki pages. Each page can contain links to other pages, simple formatting and images. Pages are stored in a folder structure, like in an outliner, and can have attachments. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a nonexistent page. All data is stored in plain text files with wiki formatting. Various plugins provide additional functionality, like a task list manager, an equation editor, a tray icon, and support for version control.

Cherrytree – Cherrytree [is] a hierarchical note taking application, featuring rich text and syntax highlighting, storing data in a single xml or sqlite file. If you search on this blog you will find a more in depth previous article on cherrytree.

nvpy – nvpy [is a] Simplenote syncing note-taking application, inspired by Notational Velocity and ResophNotes, but uglier and cross-platformerer. If you search this blog you will find a more in depth previous article on nvpy.

TreePad for Linux, one of several tree note type software packages for Linux.

TreePad for Linux, one of several tree note type software packages for Linux.

Treepad – TreePad Lite for Linux is a freeware personal information manager designed specifically to run on Linux (PC and Raspberry Pi). It supports Unicode, is fully portable, and does not need to be installed.

Plume – Plume Creator helps you to write your stories in chapters and scenes, write fullscreen, edit notes and synopses, export in html and odt formats, edit in rich text, and manage characters, places and items.Are you a writer ? Plume Creator will help you with this hard task! This software gives you an outliner, a distraction-free mode, a note manager and much more!

Kabikaboo is a simple tree-branch note organizer. It is meant to be used to help aid in the writing of a novel. Users can plan out their story, plot, and characters. Created with Python, PyGTK, Geany, and Glade, on Ubuntu Linux.

I did not include KDE Basket notes which many people do use and enjoy, due to the additional programs I would need to run Basket Notes with XFCE. If you use KDE and Basket Notes is not installed you may wish to check the program out.

I gave most of these a test and settled on what works for me. I hope if you are in need of a notes program, one of the above work well for you.

Friendlier Debian Linux Discovered

If you have read any of my Linux posts, you know I am a fan of Debian and XFCE. I found a couple of Debian Distributions and each do better at bringing Debian to the Desktop than Debian itself. Both are based on Debian and use Debian repositories. Both make some modifications to Debian to enhance Debian and make it a more complete desktop experience.

Debian 8 screen shot

Debian 8 screenshot

Debian is not the most user friendly distribution. Nor is Debian recommended as a beginner Distribution. When using Debian, one is pretty much on their own when looking for answers. There excellent resources and references for Debian, but they are scattered and at times difficult to understand. Some of the material of course is outdated which complicates things. There is a Debian newsgroup, but it is stuffy and mostly unfriendly to beginner questions.

Basic Debian is pretty much basic upon install. Debian is boring and like it that way. Depending on your needs Debian is incomplete and will need you to install additional programs. You need to have some idea of what additional programs you want added.

What Debian does do in an outstanding manner is produce a small footprint, very fast OS. The system is not cluttered with junk you do not want or need. The blandness of Debian allows each user to create the system they want. What these two distributions do is take Debian from bland to outstanding.

The first Distribution I stumbled upon is from the Mepis folks, actually a subgroup of Mepis. The Debian modification they are putting out is called MX-15 based on Debian 8. The changes you are most likely to notice is a change in XFCE. They have upgraded XFCE and are using the version in Debian Testing. The next thing you will notice is MX-15 is complete both on the desktop or with the software.

Mepis MX-15 screenshot

Mepis MX-15 screenshot

MX-15 Linux makes other less obvious but enjoyable changes to the main distribution that the average user may not even notice. MX-15 is worth checking out. Of the two distributions in this post MX-15 is more user friendly to install. EFI install is an option during install. You will wish to read the notes during install.

http://www.mepiscommunity.org/mx

The second and flashiest Debian distribution I found is from Voyager Linux which originates in France. The Debian spin Voyager has created is named Voyager X8 and is based also on Debian 8. Voyager Linux is interesting in they take Debian and Xubuntu (Ubuntu XFCE) and give each distribution a colorful change over and dress up, from the desktop to the programs included.

Voyager X8 screenshot

Voyager X8 screenshot

Voyager X8 is less beginner friendly for install, but if you understand how the hard drive should be formatted, install is easy. Not only is Voyager X8 a live CD when you download the ISO, but you have some options to decide on before you start your download. Voyager X8 comes in two live versions, one for EFI installation and one for a normal Grub 2 mbr installation.

Click on X8, select your language on the right.

Between MX-15 and Voyager X8 and MX-15 both distributions go a long way towards making Debian a better Debian. MX-15 created some changes which Voyager X8 does not do. Documentation and help is on the main screen when you log in. MX-15 has a grub repair tool on the live CD. Voyager X8 is the most modified desktop with the Voyager group adding their own special additions to the desktop, with MX-15 not modifying the desktop.

Support for both these systems is very good and the documentation is excellent with the edge going to MX-15. If you are looking for a Debian based Linux, check out these two options. Both have a Live CD ISO, so you can try them first. Try them both, decide which you prefer, install it, and make it yours.

Chess Games and Chess Resources for Linux

I listed below the chess programs and resources I have on my Computer running under Linux. Some of these listed below are also cross platform.

3D Chess – glChess and this manual page were written by Robert Ancell bob27@users.sourceforge.net. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU General Public License, Version 2 any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.

On Debian systems, the complete text of the GNU General Public License can be found in /usr/share/common-licenses/GPL.

http://linux.die.net/man/6/glchess

Gnome Chess – GNOME Chess is a 2D chess game, where games can be played between a combination of human and computer players. GNOME Chess detects known third party chess engines for computer players.

https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/Chess

Brutal Chess – Brutal Chess features full 3D graphics, an advanced particle engine, and several different levels of intelligent AI, inspired by the once popular “Battle Chess” released by Interplay circa 1988.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/brutalchess/

Chessx – A free and open source chess database application for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/chessx/

Chinese Chess – GMChess is an open source Chinese Chess based on XiangQi Wizard. (link is external) Chinese chess (Xiangqi) is one of the most popular chess games to have originated in China.

https://lgdb.org/game/gmchess

One of many configurable from beginner to winner Chess games for Linux

Dream Chess – DreamChess is an open source chess game. Our primary target platforms are Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. DreamChess features 3D OpenGL graphics and provides various chess board sets, ranging from classic wooden to flat figurines.

A moderately strong chess engine is included: Dreamer. However, should this engine be too weak for you, then you can use any other XBoard-compatible chess engine, including the popular Crafty and GNU Chess.

Other features include music, sound effects, on-screen move lists using SAN notation, undo functionality, and savegames in PGN format.

The DreamChess team currently consists of only a handful of people. We could use help in many areas, such as programming, graphics, sound and testing. If you’re interested in helping out, please send an email to feedback at dreamchess.org.

http://dreamchess.org/

EBoard – EBoard is a user-friendly chess interface for ICS (Internet Chess Servers). While it will focus on FICS (www.freechess.org ), should work with any other ICS. It supports playing against local chess engines too.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/eboard/

Knights – Knights aims to be the ultimate chess resource on your computer. Written for the K Desktop Environment, it’s designed to be both friendly to new chess players and functional for Grand Masters. Here’s a quick list of Knights’ key features:

Play against yourself, against computer opponents, or against others over the Internet.

Customize your board and pieces with over 30 different themes, or create your own!
Audio cues help alert you to important events.
Novice players can preview potential moves.
Save your unfinished matches and play them again later.

http://knights.sourceforge.net/news_archive.php and http://www1.knights-chess.com/?kw=chess+pieces

Pychess –  PyChess is a gtk chess client, originally developed for GNOME, but running well under all other linux desktops. (Which we know of, at least). PyChess is 100% python code, from the top of the UI to the bottom of the chess engine, and all code is licensed under the GNU Public License.

The goal of PyChess is to provide an advanced chess client for linux following the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines. The client should be usable to those new to chess, who just want to play a short game and get back to their work, as well as those who wants to use the computer to further enhance their play.

Use Any Chess Engine

With PyChess it is easy to play a game against the computer or use the computer to help you find the best move during a game with the Hint Mode feature.

PyChess comes with its own built-in chess engine and will automatically detect and work with most popular chess engines as long as they’re installed on your computer. This includes engines such as GnuChess, Crafty, Sjeng and Fruit, and even Windows engines like Rybka.

In the case PyChess doesn’t automatically detect an engine you’ve installed, you can manually add and configure it engines menu. See the wiki for additional engines.

http://www.pychess.org/about/

Scid – Scid is a chess database application (cross-platform, for Unix/Linux and Windows) with many search and database maintenance features.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/scid/

XBoard – XBoard is a graphical user interface for chess in all its major forms, including international chess, xiangqi (Chinese chess), shogi (Japanese chess) and Makruk, in addition to many minor variants such as Losers Chess, Crazyhouse, Chess960 and Capablanca Chess. It displays a chessboard on the screen, accepts moves made with the mouse, and loads and saves games in Portable Game Notation (PGN). It serves as a front-end for many different chess services, including:

Chess engines that will run on your machine and play a game against you or help you analyze, such as GNU Chess, Crafty, or many others.

Chess servers on the Internet, where you can connect to play chess with people from all over the world, watch other users play, or just hang out and chat.

Correspondence chess played by electronic mail. The CMail program automates the tasks of parsing email from your opponent, playing his moves out on your board, and mailing your reply move after you’ve chosen it.

XBoard runs on Unix and Unix-like systems that use the X Window System.

https://www.gnu.org/software/xboard/

XShogi – GNU Shogi is a computer program that plays the game of Shogi, also known as Japanese Chess.

https://www.gnu.org/software/gnushogi/

Manjaro Linux Brief Overview

I recently installed Manjaro Linux, wanting to see what was out there for the leading edge of Linux. There are only a few Linux distributions which are difficult to install these days. There are several Linux distributions aimed at new users. Manjaro is fairly straightforward, is simple to install and maintain.

I downloaded the ISO, and went through the install which is quite a simple task. Manjaro Linux installed smoothly and update Grub without any issues. One nice touch with Manjaro and Grub, is Manjaro defaults to the last boot option you picked. This is good if you are using more than one operating system on your computer.

My desktop flavor of Manjaro is XFCE. I enjoy the right click menu of XFCE. Manjaro itself comes with a complete set of programs already. Not too many and not too few. Unless you need to do something an ordinary user would not do, you will get along fine with Manjaro’s default programs.

Everything went smoothly with my time with Manjaro, In fact Manjaro is still one of the systems on my computer. There were a few silly things that happened after the first update, but they went away with the second update. Nothing show stopping by any means.

Leading edge and great performance too!

Leading edge and great performance too!

My only concern with Manjaro and an average user, is the amount of updating, and the time it takes. Frequent updates are to be expected using Manjaro Linux as Manjaro is a leading edge Distribution and updates arrive shortly after they are created. Updating takes time however, so time needs to be set aside to update Manjaro.

Is Manjaro right for you? If you have a high bandwidth connection such as cable and want to be on the leading edge with as little fuss as possible, and you do not mind frequent updates, Manjaro is for you.

If your bandwidth is metered or limited, you may want a smaller distribution with less updating. I use Manjaro from time to time, and for my needs Manjaro just the way it installs is fine for my needs. I am an ordinary user, and for me the frequent updates for me are a detractor.

As mentioned updates are the proce you pay for leading edge Linux. Manjaro’s Team ensures all updates are tested and checked before you will see them. Crashing has not been an issue with Manjaro with credit going to the Manjaro Team.

All in all except for the first update Manjaro has been a good performer. You can do worse than use Manjaro Linux.