The DistRogue

Monday, April 30, 2007

Review: openSUSE 10.2

I'll admit, right now, that my experience with openSUSE 10.2 was much better than the horror story that was SUSE 10.1. Maybe they really did make the changes that 10.1 needed to become viable. Maybe it was just that I installed KDE instead of GNOME. In any event, I was seriously considering using it as a main system, but it strikes me as more of an enterprise system than a home OS.
The CD I used to install openSUSE wouldn't boot. A minor setback, but I got it working anyways, with the help of the network install CD. After a few hours, I had a working KDE desktop. And a slightly creepy one...
The color-changing lizard was cute. The eyes that followed my mouse cursor were kind of freaky... And yes, the so-called "Kickoff" menu does take some getting used to. What happened to the KDE menu we know and love (or hate)?
YaST, or Yet Another Setup Tool, is used for everything. And I mean everything...

Everything from package management to AppArmor control to X11 configuration... YaST covers it all. You can use YaST to lock down your computer to almost any attack or just to install some games.
Speaking of games, YaST claims my install comes with kernel headers, which are required to install NVidia 3D acceleration drivers, but those were the first problems it ran into. Performance was poor, as you can see:

GLXGears isn't really a benchmarking tool, but I can easily get over 350FPS on my laptop, through Knoppix. (Aren't Live CDs supposed to be slow?) And because of the lack of 3D drivers, I couldn't test-drive the famed Xgl/Compiz effects, either. :(
openSUSE is, in my opinion, a decent desktop. It has plenty of features, most of which are aimed at the corporate/server market, as opposed to SoHo users like you and me. It would make a nice enterprise desktop (enterprise-class features for free), and a rock-solid server, but as far as features the average desktop user would like, Ubuntu is still a better choice.
Friendliness: 4/5- Windows users won't turn up their noses at YaST, and welcome the idea of a centralized control panel.
Performance: 3/5- Maybe it was KDE, but openSUSE is a slow, somewhat bloated distro compared to others.
Features: 4.5/5- Feature sout the wazoo. Doesn't get a 5 because they aren't as practical.
Packaging: 4/5- YaST is a great package manager. No, really. I see some major potential in it.
Overall: 3.75/5- The shiny polish makes it clear that this is an enterprise OS.
Thanks for waiting. Now, it's on to the good stuff... ;)
From Xubuntu 7.04,
The DistRogue

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Open source in school

Steering away from the subject of my upcoming reviews (all three of which are, in fact, on the way), let's talk about something closer to home for some people- or to school. At my high school, every computer is the same: Windows XP, Internet Explorer (with the occasional Firefox install), Microsoft Office... Our servers are no different, and it was hacked twice last year alone. If anyone here uses a Mac at home, I honestly feel sorry for them. But why feel sorry for myself?
Everyone's "My Documents" folder is typically a mash-up of PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, maybe the odd Publisher file... Each person gets 500MB, which, obviously, the average student isn't going to use. See where I'm going with this? Since I don't have admin rights on most computers, I just install Firefox/The Gimp/Abiword/Inkscape to my My Documents folder and make some shortcuts. It's not that hard: Most installers have a box that asks you where the program should be installed. Just browse to My Documents and install it there! (If it doesn't have that field, try a custom install.) With a little customization and shortcut-making, I can run Firefox wherever I am. The Gimp and Inkscape add some flair to my PowerPoints, and now, I use Abiword instead of Microsoft Word to do word processing. School doesn't have to drag...

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The image is downloaded, the MD5s are matched...

One review for Xubuntu 7.04 coming right up- as soon as I get the review for openSUSE out. As for Mandriva, well... I've been having boot problems, but I'll try to get some Metisse screenshots ASAP. Brace for some major reviewage.
And if you haven't heard the news by now, where have you been? While you were gone, Ubuntu Feisty came out right on schedule, with no delays!
From Xubuntu 7.04,
The DistRogue.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

2 reviews queued, maybe 3...

In case you haven't heard the news, Mandriva 2007.1 Spring Edition came out today! :) Featuring... do I need to go over the list again? Metisse inside every version, a faster URPMI, updated packages, new artwork (everywhere)... And as if that's not enough, in spite of the recent delays, Ubuntu still says that version 7.04 will be out tomorrow. Exciting times ahead...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I see a lizard in my future

The review for openSUSE is still coming, but with a startling new development. A classic issue with my laptop has been getting my Atheros-based Belkin F5D7010 wireless card to work. I've found that after kernel 2.6.17, Linux's built-in madwifi driver fails to work, so I use 2.6.15 all the time. There was a solution on the openSUSE wiki, and it was something I hadn't tried before.
When I installed the driver and rebooted, lights came on under the card that I didn't even know existed. Scary. Even cooler, internet connectivity worked with a 2.6.17 kernel! This is awesome, as it will allow me to review a ton more distributions than I have been. Who knows, I might even install openSUSE on my laptop. I've heard it's a good mobile distro.
From Ubuntu 6.10, with kernel 2.6.17,
The DistRogue.
(PS: Ubuntu Feisty might not have an RC out yet, but they're still planning to ship it on schedule. Can you believe these guys?)

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Guess where I'm writing this from?

A review is imminent. For what? I'll give you a hint: It should not take me 3 hours to install this distro, but it did anyways. And it's not Gentoo.
How about this: The KDE version has a menu bar with a green lizard on it, and when you mouse over it, its eyes follow the cursor, sort of like XEyes.
Yes, I finally managed to install openSUSE 10.2! The "network install" image turned out to be the answer, since my main install disk wouldn't boot. It works, with difficulty, and if you use Windows, you're in for a treat. Screenshots are coming, as soon as I can get some snapz of Geeko the openSUSE Lizard's mad-1337 color-changing abilities (skillz, mahn, skillzzz). I'll say this much: YaST is entirely too overused. It does everything from installation to hardware detection to software installation to X11 (a 7.2 pre-release, to be exact, and not all that stable) configuration... Scary. But the window decorations are cool.
From openSUSE 10.2,
The DistRogue.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

A newbie's guide to Windows Vista

I apologize in advance for any eye or brain injuries you might receive from reading this parody.

Are you ready to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Microsoft "All your crash are belong to us" Windows? Well, here's everything you need to know:
-New artwork! We have a ripped-off completely new icon theme with Vista, and we've even changed the look of the little bar at the bottom! It looks shinier now, and that's all that matters!
-New effects! Look at all the shiny stuff! Vista has a new Alt-Tab switcher which nobody uses, a new Aero(tm) theme ripped off from KDE's "Crystal" windeco, and Windows Flip 3D which the Mac has had for years as Exposé!!! We know these don't matter to anyone with half a brain, but it's all shiny and we use a lot of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!1111 So go out and buy the Ultimate Edition for all the shiny stuff that you could get for free, but better, on Linux!
-Easier to use! Okay, so it's not really easier to use, but we're the marketing department! Believe us... It's easier than evar!!!!!!!11111oneoneone
-More secure! Remember all those people yakking about DRMs? Well, they lied! We have DRMs in Vista, but they're not to cripple your rights! They're there so you can enjoy a nice, buggy secure "Wow!" experience and not be bothered by bad men who exploit flaws we were too lazy to patch!!! Aren't we smaaart? Smarter than those Linux egocentrics who think their OS is better than anyone else's just because it just works better than ours?
All you need to have your "Wow!" start now is a Beowulf cluster of Core 2 Duo-based computers overclocked to 4GHz which is impossible since Vista has no clustering support, and a minimum of 8GB of RAM per system. That's low! The best Linux has to offer is 26GB idle! Oh, wait, that's 26MB, not GB, and an LFS-based desktop could probably go even lower... If you're still using that Core Solo 1.66GHz you bought last year, it's out of date, go get a new computer! Don't you feel sorry for those little Linux kids zipping by on their 800MHz Celeron laptops which you can, contrary to belief, actually use as a workstation? You want power! Don't try to deny it, you want those shiny new Aero effects! Compiz actually runs (relatively well, too) on said laptops...
Now, be a good little brainwashed Microsoftie and go out there and buy Vista... Because if you don't, we'll have it on every computer you buy by the end of 2007! Make your "Wow" start now. Wow! As in, "Wow, it took them five years to make this???"
From Windows Vista!!!
omgwtfbbq teh 1337-|)!57|206|_|3!

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This is why Microsoft's tactics disgust me.

Bill Gates: "Maybe we can define the APIs so that they work weel with NT and not the others even if they are open. Or maybe we could patent something related to this." [PDF Warning]

read more | digg story

5 new things in Ubuntu Feisty, and why they matter

As you may have heard, Ubuntu 7.04, aka "Feisty Fawn", won't be out on schedule. The release candidate, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been delayed due to bugs with PATA handling. In the meantime, users can upgrade from version 6.10 "Edgy Eft" by using "sudo update-manager -c". It will be buggy, but it will also have an obscene amount of new features.
1. A better installer: The Ubuntu Feisty installer uses the partitioning controls from Fedora's "Anaconda" installer. They're still under development, but they are quite easy to use, replacing the old GParted interface. As if that's not enouh, there's a new "migration wizard" that lets you import settings from Windows, such as FireFox bookmarks. Scary.
2. Compiz and controls: Yes, Ubuntu Feisty will have Compiz for 3D desktop effects! It will also have a simple, button-and-two-checkboxes interface for turning effects on and off, similar to Fedora Core 6's "Desktop Effects" dialog. There are just two options (cube and wobbly windows), but hey, it's a start.
3. Beagle, Tomboy and F-Spot: Three new Mono-based apps, Beagle, Tomboy and F-Spot, have been added to the GNOME desktop. Beagle is an indexing search engine (indexing slows down your computer a bit, and can be turned off), and runs rather fast with an index. People who won't use it that often will want to turn indexing off. Tomboy is a note-taking program, accompanied by a new sticky notes program for the desktop. F-Spot is a photo-management program, comparable to Google's Picasa. These enhancements are welcome changes that will help considerably.
4. Firmware installation: In Feisty, there will be a dialog box that can install NVidia and ATI drivers, wireless card firmware (Broadcom, anyone?), and other hardware drivers automatically. Yes, built-in. Anyone who was put off by Alberto Milone's Envy script will love this...
5. Codec installation: Complementing the firmware installer will be a new approach to another common problem with Linux: codec installation. Ubuntu does not come with built-in MP3 codecs, but this little box will allow you to install them easily. It looks like scripts such as Automatix and Envy will be unnecessary by the next version, codenamed "Gutsy Gibbon"...
Ubuntu has been at the head of the pack ever since it was started, but in some ways, it's also lagged behind other distributions. With Feisty, which will include better hardware support, it will be, unquestionably, the distribution of choice for people that want a system that "Just Works". Even Windows users will be blown away.
On a related note, here's a rough changelog of what was going on in Redmond in the more than five years it took to create Vista:
-Added some shiny eye-candy. That'll get people's attention!
-Added some DRMs. We don't care what consumers want to do with their OS, we'll make them do what we want them to.
-Plan to stop selling Windows XP to computer manufacturers by the end of 2007. The "wow" will start now...
Really. By the end of 2007, all new PCs will come with Vista installed. All we need to do is inform as many people as possible about how DRMed Vista is (one computer per install! How pathetic is that?!), and a tide of people will either get a Mac or switch to Linux. You can help. Just tell all your friends about Vista's problems, and to head to for a permanent bugfix.
From Ubuntu 7.04-Apt,
The DistRogue

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Something large, pink, and oinking flew past my window.

It had a large red spiral on it. This can mean only one thing...
After over 4 months of delays and constant development, and nearly 2 years since the last release, Debian 4.0 "Etch" has been released to the world! An exciting day for fans of one of the oldest surviving distributions, one of whom I actually know. Here are some of the changes:
-Almost everything updated, including GNOME to 2.14, XFCE to 4.4, KDE to 3.5, GIMP to 2.2.13, Firefox to IceWeasel, Linux to 2.6.18...
-Now 11 architectures are supported.
-Better themes... Mmm...
-Update manager! A feature Ubuntu has had since Hoary (2005, April), finally added to Debian.
For more details, head here. Salutations to users of *one of* the coolest OSes ever!
From Xubuntu 6.10,
The DistRogue
Friday, April 06, 2007

Why I love- and hate- Mandriva

Remember Mandriva? I did a review on it a while back, saying that it was best suited for newbies with well-paid administrators. Well, here's what I overlooked:
-EasyURPMI: I said that URPMI/RPMDrake, Mandriva's package manager, was a pain in the patookie to use, and that it was only good for removing packages because it didn't have any sources. Enter EasyURPMI, an easy was to get RPMDrake up, running, and, most importantly, installing programs. Now that I've tried RPMDrake, which, among other things, has dependency tracking, it rocks!
-Metisse: Okay, I didn't exactly overlook Metisse so much as fail to wait for it, but it's still cool. Mandriva claims that Metisse isn't a 3D desktop, but in some ways, it's more 3D than Beryl or Compiz. It is now officially my favorite 3D desktop, and I haven't even used it.
-XFCE support: Yep, the next version, due out within a week, will have an XFCE version. With Metisse!
-MCC Partitioning: The Mandriva Control Center's built-in partitioning might not seem like much, but it just saved me. After getting the desktop computer back from the techs, I was unable to install Linux because of a partitioning screw-up. I used MCC to format the errant partition, and now, it should work. MCC succeeded where Xubuntu's GParted and Knoppix's QtParted failed.
-New release cycle: Yes, I said the next version will be out in a week. There are some minor bugs that still need to be squashed, according to a developer blog, but if all goes well, the next version of Mandriva, version 2007.1 "Spring Edition", should be out in, say, 5 or so days (just a random educated guess). It was supposed to be out 2 days ago. Mandriva's returning to their roots!
Then again, there were some issues with the CD that were thrown into sharp relief recently:
-AIGLX and NVidia: For some reason, Drak3D doesn't allow AIGLX effects with NVidia graphics cards (or at least mine). Huh... Xgl is good enough for me, anyways.
-My life flashed before my eyes when I tried installing it. Why? I chose the "Use Existing Partitions" option, and it jumped to file copying- without asking me what partitions I wanted to use. Scary stuff. I thought I'd wiped the Windows partition my parents use! But no. Here's why:
  • It didn't format any partitions.
  • Of course, it could have copied the files directly without any formatting...
  • No. Mandriva can't even read NTFS drives, much less write to them. (A flaw I hope to see fixed in the next release...)
  • In any event, I had the infamous, loathed Windows flag on-screen in a minute.
I owe Mandriva a re-scoring. The DistRogue's apology in numbers:
Friendliness: 5/5- Mandriva, like I said before, is practically as user-friendly as Windows, and I'm staying by my words there, at least.
Performance: 4/5- Compiled for a Pentium and uses parallel booting. The NVidia drivers are slow, but the Discovery and PowerPack editions have faster ones.
Features: 4.5/5- Lots of stuff on the One edition. Even more stuff on the multi-CD editions. Seriously, who else has Cedega? Or LinDVD, which I've never even heard of?
Packaging: 3.5/5- EasyURPMI is an unecessary step that they need to eliminate at some point. But RPMDrake is easy to use and flexible.
Overall: 4.25/5- A solid distribution that will get even more solid in a matter of days. Expect Features to get a bump up to 5, and Performance to rise with the addition of XFCE.
From Mandriva 2007.0 One,
The DistRogue.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Don't think of it as an end...

I might abandon the DistRogue entirely. The reason: I recently applied for a more profitable position at Linux Forums. I'll continue to write articles, but look to the Forums for them. If I'm rejected... well, the DistRogue lives on.
From Windows XP (school computer :( ),
The DistRogue