Monday, February 24, 2014

MakuluLinux 5.0 Review: A good Debian spin with an attractive XFCE desktop

Can you name an XFCE distro which can put any GNOME / KDE distro to shame in aesthetics? Yes, I know - Voyager. Now add another XFCE distro to that list - MakuluLinux. Normally XFCE distros are designed to be functional and less importance is placed on looks. Even the best of the XFCE distros like Linux Mint XFCE, Xubuntu or Manjaro XFCE, don't look as attractive as a KDE or a GNOME. And it is not that I don't agree with the developers of these distros - they are meant to run on low spec / relatively low spec machines and hence, very little attention to aesthetics.

Voyager is a definite trend setter in this regard and now we have MakuluLinux, a South African distro. I used their previous release and found it refreshing. The present release, based on Debian Testing, takes it a completely new level. I'll take you step by step my experience with the distro in this review.

From MakuluLinux 5
MakuluLinux us a South African distro based on Debian and ships with XFCE as the default desktop environment. The latest release boasts of a lot of improvements in terms of aesthetics and animations, as stated in the release note by Jacque Raymer:
"MakuluLinux Xfce 5.0, built on a strong Debian base, offers users not only stability and speed, but now also provides a much more effective modern animated desktop environment. Pre-compiled with hundreds of themes and wallpapers, users can really take full advantage of configuring their desktop to their liking. Dual menus now allow users to either click bottom left of the desktop to make use of the familiar whisker menu or click bottom right and make use of the fancy mouse-driven slingshot launcher. MakuluLinux Xfce 5.0 is also the first release to show off the newly revamped Makulu Installer. Based on Debian 'Testing' and PAE-enabled Linux kernel 3.12. Major software changes: GIMP replaced by MyPaint 1.1; WINE 1.4.1 replaced by WINE 1.6.x...."

Makulu has 32-bit version only but it works pretty fine on 64-bit machines with greater than 4 GB RAM pretty well because of the pae-kernel. In fact, the machine on which I installed and checked Makulu had 8 GB RAM and it detected the same quite well. The 32-bit ISO is about 1.8 GB in size and I used Mint Image Writer to create a live USB out of it.

I did a live boot followed by installation on Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce hybrid graphics.

MakuluLinux 5.0 ships with XFCE 4.10 as the desktop environment with Linux kernel 3.12.1. Thunar 1.6.3 is the default file manager. Makulu also has some documentation about how to install and use, available on the distro desktop. Also, the common issues in Makulu 5 are documented there. Documentation quality is mediocre at best.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chakra GNU/Linux "Curie" 2014.02 Review: Attractive, functional and true to KDE/Qt

Chakra Linux is quite unique a Linux distro intended to provide pure KDE experience to the users. It is originally based on Arch Linux and focused to provide GTK+ free KDE experience. I have used Chakra previously but never got time to actually pen a quality review in 2013. However, I included Chakra in my article on the best KDE distros of 2013. So, with no big release this week, I thought why not review one of my favorite KDE spins.

For this review, I have the latest Chakra release (2014.02). Chakra abandoned releasing the 32-bit versions in August 2012 and now it comes as a 64 bit version only. Chakra follows a "half-rolling release" system. What I understood from is that the core packages are updated periodically after each release. I guess this renders more stability to Chakra than Arch Linux itself.

From Chakra Linux 2014.02
I created a live USB of Chakra using Linux Mint Image writer. I did a live boot followed by installation on my Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce graphics. The release concerned ships with KDE 4.12.1 desktop (which got updated to KDE 4.12.2 post installation) and Linux kernel 3.12.6. In the subsequent sections, I take you step by step my experience with Chakra Linux and it's rating in my assessment based on a week's usage.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

LXLE 12.04.4 Review: Much more than a lightweight distro!

While using LXDE for last one week or so, I noted that I haven't reviewed a single LXDE distro for last 4 months. The last LXDE distro I reviewed was Lubuntu 13.10 32-bit edition. In between I refrained from trying out LXDE distros, possibly waiting for LXDE-Qt to release sometime in 2014. However, when the 4th update of LXLE 12.04, the LXDE distro with 5 years of support, got released in Feb, I couldn't resist myself. This is perhaps the best LXDE distro I've ever used and somehow I never managed to find time to pen down a review on it! Now I am making up for it.

From LXLE 12.04.4
For this review, I downloaded the 64-bit ISO of LXLE 12.04.4. As mentioned, it is a LXDE distro with long term support (LTS), based on Ubuntu Precise Pangolin. The Lubuntu 12.04 didn't have support for more than 18 months and hence, LXLE has the advantage of longer support (5 years, till April, 2017), over Lubuntu. Unlike Ubuntu Precise, LXLE ships with the Linux kernel 3.2.0 (Ubuntu Precise now has kernel 3.11.0). The release note states of the following improvements:
"After patiently waiting for Ubuntu to officially announce their 12.04.4 update and once the number of seeders of LXLE grew to an adequate level to 'serve' it, LXLE 12.04.4 has been released. This particular release builds on the idea that many 'at idle' processes can be replaced by 'on demand' solutions, such as weather, battery, updates, power management, etc. It also introduces microcode kernel updates for your processor and preload, a readahead daemon, by default. Notable new features: LXLE PPA enabled by default; updated core LXDE components; updated BleachBit, Catfish, MiniTube; updated Elementary icon set; added Steam, VokoScreen, Schedule Tasks; GNOME Commander replaced with Sunflower; Fast Forecast replaced with Typhoon; GDiskDump replaced with Startup Disk Creator; enhanced Firefox and bookmarks toolbar...."

I used my Asus laptop K55VM with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce graphic card as the test machine. First I created a live USB using Unetbootin and then used it to live boot & finally install on the Asus laptop. I'll take you step by step the experience I had with LXLE in the subsequent sections.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Zorin OS 8 Review: A very good distro for beginners

Zorin is definitely one of the easiest Linux distros to use, IMHO. Most of the things ship pre-installed and pre-tweaked to make life easy for a new Linux convert. Further, it looks quite similar to Windows 7 and it really helps.

From Zorin OS 8
Zorin has a commercial and a non-commercial line of release. For this review, I downloaded the free Zorin OS 8 Core 64-bit ISO (about 1.6 GB in size). It's final version was released on 27th Jan 2014 and is based on Ubuntu Saucy Salamander with support till July 2014. Zorin 8 ships with a tweaked GNOME 3.8.2 desktop and Linux kernel 3.11.0.

I used Unetbootin to create a live USB on a 4 GB USB drive. I booted it up on my Asus K55VM laptop (2.3 Ghz Core i7 Processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphic card) and then installed it on a 50 GB partition.

From Zorin OS 8

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mageia 4 KDE Review: Very very good!

I installed Mageia's new release a week back. It took me a bit of time to pen down a review as my familiarity with Mandriva distros is not as great as Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora or OpenSUSE. It was indeed a good learning on my part and I enjoyed my experience with Mageia 4. Let me take you step by step of what I experienced of Mageia.

Initially I downloaded the KDE x86_64 LiveDVD of Mageia 4 but I was unable to create a live USB using Unetbootin and Mint Imagewriter in Linux and Mandriva-seed in Windows 8. I spent a day trying to create a live USB but wasn't successful to boot it up.
From Mageia 4

So, I downloaded the 3.6 GB Mageia 4 x86_64 DVD or the full 64-bit DVD and Mint Imagewriter worked well with it. I created a live USB, boot it up on my Asus K55VM (2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics) laptop. It took me directly to installation (and there was no live boot option there). Hence, I couldn't record the installation process.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e" Review: More than an educational distro!

I have a 3.5 year old daughter. For her I often search suitable educational distros. I like the educational distros released by Zorin, Ubuntu, Doudou, etc. but nothing comes close to the superb experience I had with OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e". The beauty of the distro is that it ships with an enviable ensemble of packages suitable for both young and adults alike. I'll take you through my experience of using it for over a month or so.

The "Education Li-f-e" is an extension of the OpenSUSE base distro and ships with KDE 4.11.4 and Linux kernel 3.11.6. The 64 bit ISO I downloaded is about 3.3 GB in size and the bulk is primarily due to a whole lot of packages it ships pre-installed.

From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
I created a live USB using Mint Image Writer on a 4 GB pendrive. First I did a live boot on my Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and hybrid graphics with 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics. Once satisfied that everything is working well, I installed it on a 70 GB partition.

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