Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ubuntu 12.04.3 LTS Review: With much smoother Unity but no web apps yet!

Ubuntu is and always will be a special distro to me as my experience with Linux began with Ubuntu. I used it till 11.04 release, as long as the GNOME classic option was there and it supported customization. However, with Unity taking precedence in Ubuntu's flagship distro, I shifted to Linux Mint and other Ubuntu spins (with XFCE or KDE desktops). 

But, with the 12.04 release I started using Ubuntu with Unity 5 in patches again. I faced bouts of instability though initially with the LTS release. Things got a bit better in Ubuntu 12.04.1 which impressed me a lot and in one of my production  laptops, I switched back to Ubuntu again. This month Ubuntu released the 3rd update for the LTS release (Ubuntu 12.04.3). Surprisingly, there is no detailed release note yet. However, I try to take you through my experience with the present release and some of the improvements that I noted.

From Ubuntu 12.04.3

Ubuntu 12.04.3 comes with Unity 5 (Unity 5.20.0) and an upgraded Linux kernel 3.8.0; previous update had kernel 3.5.0. However, unlike Ubuntu 13.04, there is no Unity 7 in this update. I like the social networking features & social network integration in dash of Unity 7 and I miss those things in Ubuntu Precise. But, in terms of performance, possibly Unity 5 is more efficient. I'll cover a bit more on it in the performance section.

For this review, I did a live boot followed by installation of Ubuntu 12.04.3 32-bit version in my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. I generally don't prefer yet 64 bit versions as they are less efficient and rely more on 32-bit versions with pae kernel. The live USB was created using Unetbootin and I used a 4 GB USB drive for the same.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 Review: With KDE 4.11 and the most efficient KDE I have used!

I have been testing out OS4 for quite sometime, primarily their XFCE spins with BeeOS theme (in 13.6 release, of course, they changed it for better!). Mostly, they bring out user-friendly spins with all available multimedia codecs and plugins to make OS4 a good option for Linux novices as well as experienced users. For this review, I take up the latest update of OS4 KDE spin. OS4 OpenLinux 13 series is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and is supported till April 2017. The OS4 developers are moving towards KDE in their Enterprise Edition and possibly, KDE is right now in their center of things rather than XFCE. 

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

The OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 release note states of the "fastest KDE live image" showcasing the best of KDE, namely:

Today we are pleased to announce the release of OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 and OS4 Enterprise Linux 4.1.4. OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 is our updated KDE release that we provide for users. With OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 we have created a best of breed KDE desktop based system and the fastest KDE live image available. With that we also updated the OS4 OpenLinux core system with all applicable kernel bug fixes and updated kernel with new drivers and speed improvements. OS4 Enterprise Linux has undergone some major changes here. OS4 Enterprise Linux will be KDE-based for the rest of its life cycle. Xfce is still available via the custom image service. The DWM tiling window manager is still installed via default.

Naturally I was intrigued to test it out. I have used KDE 4.11 in Kubuntu 12.04 LTS earlier. I wanted to check what incremental benefits OS4 offers over Kubuntu.

The 32-bit ISO with pae kernel is about 1.6 GB in size. Even for 64 bit machines I prefer 32-bit ISOs with pae kernel as they are faster than the 64-bit ones and certain apps work better on 32-bit structure (like Skype). Anyway, the heavy ISO indicated that OS4 would be loaded with applications, and it didn't disappoint.

I created a live USB with unetbootin in a 4 GB pendrive. A live boot was followed by installation on Asus K54C with 2.2 Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. I removed all previous Linux installations from the laptop by using gparted live USB before the installation.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

KWheezy 1.1 Review: Good Debian spin for the beginners

I am using KWheezy for last 5 days or so, in parallel to Elementary OS 0.2 and it has been a really weird experience using both so far. On one hand, I experience a very simplified approach to Linux where the operating system, by default, provides only a shell on which you build your own customized system with very specific applications that you like and use regularly, as in case of Elementary OS. It kind of considers users as intelligent. And there is, on the other hand, KWheezy, which packs possibly 100% of KDE applications and 30-40% of the Debian repository leaving very little to download. It believes in idiot-proofing the system. Both approaches, of course, have their own merits and demerits. Without going into that debate, KWheezy is to Debian what Ultimate Edition (UE) Linux is to Ubuntu - only KWheezy is better in terms of stability and slightly better in aesthetics.
From KWheezy 1.1

KWheezy is a relatively new entrant in Distrowatch and if you go by the web traffic in last 1 week or so, it is ranked 9th. KWheezy comes in a mammoth ISO (3.5 GB) which took about 12 hours of time to get downloaded (internet speed is still slower in India compared to North America and EU; but I am hopeful that 3-4 years from now I won't be complaining of speed!). Going by the ISO size I expected a whole lot of applications pre-installed in the distro and KWheezy didn't disappoint me.

KWheezy, as the name indicates, is based on Debian 7 or Wheezy and the present update is based on Debian 7.1. Like Debian 7 KDE, it has KDE 4.8.4 and comes with kernel 3.2.0. If you think it is a tad bit old, I won't blame you. When Kubuntu and Arch users are excited about KDE 4.11, installing a distro with KDE 4.8.4 seems a bit lame. However, this is Debian and it is rock stable; I recall KDE 4.8.4 was doing good on my machine before the 4.8.5 update messed up everything. And believe me, between KDE 4.8.4 and 4.10.5 (available in Debian Sid repos, if you would like to install), you won't even notice the difference!

To try it out, I first created a live USB using Unetbootin (in a 8 GB USB drive) and did a live boot on my Asus K54C with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. Given I had Elementary OS 0.2 already installed there, I used a 20 GB partition to install KWheezy. Installation took 5 minutes flat and is a bit different from Debian/Ubuntu.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Elementary OS "Luna" 0.2 Review: Simple, effective, efficient

Like many other Linux users, I too, follow a lot about Elementary OS. They seems to be getting things right what's wrong with modern Linux in general and GNOME 3 in particular. Consider this, it is just the 0.2 release of Elementary and already ranked 27 in Distrowatch popularity! The 1.0 release is yet to come! As Darshak said in the comments section - it is going to be killer of a distro.

From Elementary 0.2
Anyway, I used the 32-bit Elementary OS Beta 1 release a few months back and was deeply impressed with it. So, when the 0.2 release note came with some incremental improvements, I wanted to try it out myself. Elementary OS too, like 70% of all Linux distros, is based on Ubuntu and to be more precise, on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and the present update comes with Linux kernel 3.2.0. However, it doesn't believe in Ubuntu's Unity philosophy and has come up with it's own GNOME 3 forked desktop, Pantheon. Even the Files file manager is forked and named Pantheon Files. 

The main USP of Elementary is a sophisticated, uncluttered and uncomplicated desktop. It comes from the same developers who created elementary GTK2 theme for Linux. Elementary OS provides users the basic desktop to work with and customize. I set the expectation right the very beginning itself - if you are expecting a whole lot of applications with all possible codecs/flash installed like other Ubuntu derivatives (incl. Mint), then you'll be disappointed with Elementary.

The release note of Elementary 0.2 states of the following incremental improvements:
  • Better support of international languages including some Asian languages like Sinhalese
  • Multiple display support (didn't test in my review)
  • Incremental refinements in design (checked most of them)
  • Updated applications like Music player, Pantheon terminal, Midori, Shotwell, etc. (checked all of them, except Shotwell)
I downloaded both the 32-bit and 64-bit ISOs (both less than 700 MB) for this test. Somehow, the 32-bit ISO didn't work that well for me. I couldn't connect to wifi, all of a sudden the desktop started becoming unresponsive, etc. etc. So, I didn't install the 32-bit version but instead did this evaluation based on the 64-bit one. I tested it on my Asus K54C laptop, with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. I used Unetbootin to create a live USB.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Linux Deepin 12.12.1 Review: Amazingly beautiful and soothing Ubuntu GNOME spin from China!

I have used Deepin Linux earlier but never got time to actually pen down a review. It is based on Ubuntu but uses the GNOME shell rather than Unity and comes with great support for Chinese language. I am no expert in Chinese and hence, downloaded the 32-bit English version of Linux Deepin for this test.

From Deepin 12.12.1
Originally, Linux Deepin 12.12 was based on Ubuntu 12.10. However, the present release 12.12.1 is based on Ubuntu GNOME 13.04 with same Linux kernel 3.8.0 and GNOME 3.8 as desktop environment (though heavily tweaked in Deepin). Files 3.8.1 is the default file manager and possibly it is the best file manager available now for Linux.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

OS4 OpenLinux 13.6 Review: XFCE spin with a difference!

I used and reviewed OS4 13 (LTS version) earlier as well. But, I didn't find it appealing earlier. The default design of XFCE looks way better than the legacy BeOS design of OS4. I checked out the 13.1 version earlier and was not that pleased with OS4. However, my opinion changed with the release OS4 13.6 (I missed out the other updates after 13.1, honestly). With a change in design, interesting applications pre-installed in the distro and a more refined interface, OS4 13.6 OpenLinux suddenly seems more attractive.
Desktop Cube From OS4 Openlinux 13.6

From OS4 Openlinux 13.6
OS4 13 series is based on Xubuntu 12.04 long term release and has Linux kernel 3.2.0. It comes with XFCE 4.10 and Thunar 1.6.3 as the file manager. More or less, it is similar to the offerings made by Xubuntu 12.04 or it's spins in terms of XFCE and Linux kernel. The OS4 release note states of some new additional features as well as introduction of OS4 based desktops and laptops with Acer:
"Today we are releasing OS4 OpenLinux 13.6 and unveiling our new hardware initiative. This release comes with a lot of bug fixes and application updates. We also have brought new functionality and services. First, hardware services. As a licensed ACER dealer we are bringing about a new hardware initiative. We are bringing state of the art, powerful, beautiful and functional hardware to the OS4 and Linux communities. We believe state of the art software deserves state-of-the-art hardware. So we have a wide range of towers, laptops, all-in-ones and of course our most popular, OS4 BriQ, is still available. We also have the engineering marvel, the Vision 64 all-in-one keyboard PC from Cybernet available. All of these systems make great gifts and they make a great addition to any home or office."
I downloaded the 1.8 GB ISO (pretty bulky for an XFCE distro!) from the OS4 site and did a live boot followed by installation on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. OS4 OpenLinux 13.6 installation took about 5.3 GB space on my hard drive which is a bit high considering a lightweight XFCE spin. Fedora 19 XFCE in fact installed in almost half the space - of course, it is a stripped down version compared to OS4. Even Linux Mint XFCE took 40% lower space. 

As I take you through the review, you'll understand that OS4 OpenLinux 13.6 is not meant only for less potent hardware but can run with élan on most modern systems as well.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zorin OS 7 "Lite" Review: Beautiful and functional LXDE operating system

Zorin has a history of creating pretty refined Ubuntu spins specifically targeted to newcomers. Their recent release Zorin OS 7 is based on Ubuntu 13.04 and it has 6 months of support. I earlier reviewed the Zorin OS 7 Core (with GNOME desktop) and found it to be very good in terms of functionality, stability and aesthetics. Zorin, as a tradition, first releases the core or GNOME distro and follows it up with "Lite" and "Educational Lite", two lightweight Zorin OS variants with LXDE desktop. Both are actually Lubuntu 13.04 spins. I, myself, am a big fan of LXDE desktop as it is possibly the most efficient of all fully featured DEs. However, LXDE requires the users to have a little bit of expertise in Linux; simple things such as autologin, adding programs to start up, setting up compositing manager, etc. are easier in other desktop environments (DEs) like XFCE, KDE & GNOME. However, of late, I saw LXDE control center in PCLinuxOS and ROSA which actually makes these things easier for the users.
From Zorin 7 Lite

With that prelude, I thought of checking out the LXDE "Lite" spin of Zorin OS 7. The release note states:

"The Zorin OS team is proud to release Zorin OS 7 Lite and Educational Lite, the latest evolution of the Zorin OS Lite series of operating systems, designed specifically for Windows users using old or low-powered hardware. This release is based on Lubuntu 13.04 and uses the LXDE desktop environment to provide one of the fastest and most feature-packed interfaces for low-specification machines. This new release includes newly updated software out-of-the-box, the introduction of new software and a new desktop theme. We also include our innovative Zorin Look Changer, Zorin Internet Browser Manager, Zorin OS Lite Extra Software and other programs from our earlier versions in Zorin OS 7 Lite"
I downloaded the 800 MB ISO from Zorin site. Only 32-bit ISO is available (with pae-kernel) for Zorin OS "Lite" as it is targeted to older hardware (which are mostly 32-bit machines). My mode of testing is the usual one: first a live boot followed by installation in my Asus K54C with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM.

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