The DistRogue

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Arch: Pros Only, But Not Bad

Arch Linux is one of the few distributions to be optimized for an i686 processor- in other words, it's really fast without having to compile anything. It uses a custom package manager called Pacman (which, surprisingly enough, doesn't seem to spark any legal controversy), which works similarly to Apt in that it has dependency tracking and relies on repositories. Arch's philosophy is to start with a base system and install all the graphical components manually via Pacman. This means you need a working Intertube connection and a fair amount of time on your hands. A caution before you install Arch: Arch is NOT meant for newbies. If you're afraid to get your hands dirty with a little low-level tweakage, you might want to consider trying something else.

-Phase One: install base system from CD
The base install went pretty well. User setup is done manually, and as a result, there were only a few steps I had to go through. Partitioning was a breeze- I only needed to set up the mount points and format the / partition. Although the base system is tiny, there's still detailed package selection (optional). All in all, the base install took about 10 minutes from boot to boot.
-Phase Two: Setting up the base system
Setting up a wired connection was annoying, but it didn't take that long. After searching around for a bit, I ran "dhcpcd eth0" and the connection worked. It took me about half an hour of looking through the Pacmanual to find something that was right under my nose: to update the database (which I needed to do before installing anything), run "pacman -Sy". Pacman has an annoying number of options, but they're divided into 6 main commands, each with their own options, so it's not a complete mess.
-Phase Three: Installing the desktop
After typing "pacman -S xorg kde" and waiting 30-odd minutes (most of which was spent downloading- the installation itself was extremely fast), I had a working desktop environment. It took a few more "pacman -S"es to make it usable, but thanks to hwd ("pacman -S hwd"), Intel GMA drivers ("pacman -S xf86-video-intel 915resolution"), and a little tweakage, my desktop ran quickly and at full resolution. Obviously, this isn't a "Just Works (tm)" distro, but it's not supposed to be.

It's Plastik/CrystalSVG with some (bland) Arch wallpaper. Nothing special...

Installed Software
The CD itself comes with barely any software. A full install like the one I used, on the other hand, is pretty good. The kde metapackage doesn't come with amaroK, and Firefox isn't included, but they're both a "pacman -S" away. (The kde package, however, did have MP3 playback.) Installing the xfce4 metapackage yielded a decidedly complete XFCE desktop. Flash, unsurprisingly, wasn't in any of the metapackages I used.

Hardware Support
My wireless card, strange as it might seem, was supported out of the box. But without any nice, easy programs to get it working (short of iwconfig, which worked, but dhcpcd still didn't like it), that didn't really matter. I did, however, get my native screen resolution working with a minimum of tweaking. On the minus side, there's still that nasty little screen bug...

As would be expected, Arch ran very fast. Tremulous ran amazingly smoothly, even with a full KDEMod desktop, as did Sauerbraten, even with water refractions and dynamic lighting/shadows.

Archers get to use KDEMod, a modified version of KDE built specifically for Arch. It isn't really that much different from vanilla KDE, except that it has better artwork (Domino windeco/theme engine) and a slightly better Qt3. The biggest improvement seems to be Domino, which can be installed on other distros anyways. It isn't really anything insanely special.

-Very customizable
-Fast, capable package manager
-Very hard to install
-Hardware support is minimal
Friendliness: 2/5
- At least you don't have to compile anything.
Performance: 4.5/5- It's i686 optimized. If you want anything faster, you'll have to use a source-based distro.
Features: 3/5- A basic desktop is easy to install.
Packaging: 3.5/5- Good package manager, but no GUI.
Artwork: 1/2.5- Nothing special.
Community: 2/2.5- The Arch community seems friendly and helpful, the wiki even has an in-depth beginner's guide for newbies.

Overall: 3.2/5- A solid distribution, but not recommended for newbies.
From Arch (versionless),
The Distrogue.

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Updates about SYS-Linux

I've learned a little more about SYS-Linux through the forums. Apparently, while it's still harder to upgrade than Windows, it *does* have a package-management system. And it uses the worst kind possible (at least IMO): Slackware's .TGZ packaging system. In a post, the lead developer says to download the packages yourself (as far as I can tell- I'm not a native Portugese speaker) and doesn't even provide a working link. I'm sorry, but I don't think "http:///" has any .TGZ packages. Anyways, downloading packages yourself, installing them via command line, and not even using dependency tracking? And this guy says his distro is for newbies? If you really like Slackware's packaging system, get Wolvix or Zenwalk, both of which have GUIs that download and install packages automatically, and have dependency tracking.
Then there's the package list. Bleeding-edge, fortunately enough, since you'll probably have to go for a while without upgrading it. In fact, it uses kernel 2.6.24-rc6-git2 (yes, a nightly build, which is probably as unstable and buggy as you can get- and this is the KERNEL!), Firefox 3.0-b2, Opera 3.25 (an ancient version released in 1998- cutting-edge indeed!), and db "1.85,2.4,3.3,4.2,4.4". Whatever than means. :S I honestly don't think a newbie likes it if their kernel crashes every 5 minutes, so they might want to pick a more stable version. Good news, though: kernel 2.6.24 just went stable!
And check it out: This distro satisfies everyone with its enormous package selection! Take a look at AV production, for instance:
* Audio-/Video-Studio/Produção: audacity 1.3.4 ; avidemux 2.4 , cinelerra 20071124 , dvdrip 0.98.8 , ffmpeg 20071102 , dvdshrink , dvd+rw+tools 7.0 , k3b 1.0.4 , freevo 1.7.5 , acidrip 0.14, gstreamer 0.10.14 , kino 1.1.1 , kvideoencoder 0.0.8 , kstreamripper 0.3.4 , lxdvdrip 1.7 , mplayer 20071021 , muse 0.9.2 , rosegarden 1.6.1 , soundkonverter 0.3.6 , transcode 20071004 , sox 14.0 , streamripper 1.62.3 , winki 0.4.5

Errrm... Cool, but... I see 5 video editors (counting FFMpeg), 3 DVD rippers, 4 audio editors (counting Rosegarden), and a bunch of other redundant programs, but not much else. And under multimedia? There are 10 different media players. Looks like someone forgot didn't have time to fine-tune his app selection, did he?
And, of course, the all-emulating Wine.
* Emulador, p/usar programas de outros sistemas (McIntosh, Unix, Atari, Commodore, Windows): wine 0.9.51
Wait, Wine can emulate Mac/Atari/COMMODORE systems TOO? Wow, I never knew that! I always thought that "Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X, OpenGL, and Unix," like the site says. Really, if you don't know what something does, don't put it in there.
Now for the challenge: I will make a CD image based on Xubuntu that is marginally complete (and it's not complete unless it has Compiz, we all know that much) and can still fit on a CD. It's not only possible, but easy thanks to Reconstructor, a tool for remastering Ubuntu images. It will have improved artwork, a more complete app selection, and Compiz, but most importantly, it will fit onto a CD roughly a quarter as large as the SYS-Linux image. I'm doing this just to show that it's possible to have a complete system that doesn't take up /!\ 11GB /!\ when installed. SYS-Linux is based on Slackware, but a key tenant of Slackware got lost somewhere in the remastering: "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"
From Arch (versionless),
The Distrogue.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Images down

My secondary site at has been suspended because of all the traffic. Since that site hosts all of my images, my blog looked like an utter mess after the images went down. I'm switching to a predefined Blogger template for now, but that's only a band-aid fix while I look for a more capable host. Sorry again for the inconvenience.
From Arch (versionless),
The Distrogue.

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Zenwalk 5.0: Slackware Made Somewhat Easier

I tried Zenwalk back at v3.0 and liked it. It was a fast, sleek, minimalist OS based on Slackware, but supposedly only aimed at more technically advanced users. With the release of v5.0, I decided to try it again and see how far it's come in the past year or so.
For those who aren't familiar with Zenwalk, here's a brief explanation: Zenwalk is a one-CD installation of Slackware which has a philosophy of only including one program for each task. It was originally called MiniSlack in the pre-1.0 days when it shipped with WindowMaker as the desktop. Now, it's based on XFCE, supposedly has much better hardware detection, and is a more complete desktop overall. It's still based loosely on Slackware, using Slackware's packaging system and using LILO instead of GRUB as the boot loader, but it's a more complete OS out of the box, despite being smaller.

Of all the distributions to use a live/install hybrid CD, Zenwalk isn't one of them. The live CD is usually released a month or so after the main release, and so I found myself jumping straight to the install. It wasn't like I didn't know what to expect: I'd asked around on #zenwalk about a few things, in addition to doing some research on DistroWatch. Zenwalk ships with some of the latest software (GIMP, Iceweasel, X.Org, Pidgin, and XFCE are all in their latest versions at the time of writing) and includes iwl3945 drivers.
The install is text-based, but thanks to some nice framebufferwork, it seems graphical. You'll notice it's text-based once you try to use your mouse, but it's not that bad. It guides you through the usual steps, leaving user setup for after the reboot. The first phase only took 10 minutes from a CD- not bad.

Zenwalk has meh-ish artwork. The window border is pretty much the exact same as the Tyrex style for XFWM. Thanks to XFWM's built-in compositing, you can have windows turn transparent when dragged or resized, all without Compiz- but you have to turn it on yourself.
Controls are handled by Clearlooks. Except it's not Clearlooks- it's "Zen". Whatever. It looks like Clearlooks to me. In fact, it *is* Clearlooks rebranded so it shows up as "Zen" in the XFCE settings. But a rose by any other name...
As a (relatively) old-time Zenwalker, I switched to the legacy themes because I still think they look cooler.

Installed Software
Zenwalk has a meticulously-trimmed software selection, but that doesn't mean it's incomplete. No way. Wolvix 1.1 "Hunter Edition", for example, is far from incomplete, and it only takes up 480MB on the CD. Zenwalk uses a simple philosophy: "You only need one program for each task." That means there's only one web browser (IceWeasel), only one image editor (GIMP), only one IM-ing client (Pidgin)... But there are a lot of categories. Zenwalk comes with an FTP client (gFTP), CD burner (Brasero), CD ripper (Asunder, which I'd never even heard of before)... On the codec side, MP3 playback is flawless (assuming your sound works), but Flash needs to be installed manually since it isn't open-source (and won't be until Gnash is stable). Suffice it to say that Zenwalk is a complete desktop and a half.

Hardware Support
Hardware support in Zenwalk is good considering its KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) philosophy. I only had to do a little tinkering in xorg.conf to make X recognize my screen resolution and stop it from annoyingly switching it off. My wireless card was detected, but I had to mess around with iwconfig (only one command) and wicd (a GUI for wireless connections, like NetworkManager) to get it set up. Sound worked without a hitch.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed how slow Zenwalk was. Slackware-based distros typically run very fast (Wolvix is the fastest distro I've used, for instance), and Zenwalk ran with little-to-no bloat over time, but I credit that to the lightweight desktop environment. GLXGears ran at a dismal pace (950FPS), and Tremulous only cranked out an average number of FPS. It was okay for online gaming, but something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Slackware uses an ancient, much-outdated packaging system that doesn't have any form of dependency tracking, which is another reason to use Zenwalk. It has a useful GUI called Netpkg that downloads and installs packages automatically. Dependency tracking still needs a little work (Exaile took 3 separate tries to install), but it works pretty well most of the time. In addition, the package repository is much larger than I remember it. Ah, the good old days when GNOME installed in only 6 packages and there were only about 100 or so packages available...

-Small, lightweight, but complete system
-Good hardware support
-Still needs some minor tweaking after setup
-No dependency tracking in Netpkg
Friendliness: 3.5/5
- Some things need a lot of tweaking, some work out of the box.
Performance: 3.5/5- I'm seriously disappointed.
Features: 4.5/5- A great package selection for such a small distro.
Packaging: 4/5- The dependency tracking needs improvement, but it's definitely an improvement over Slackware.
Artwork: 1.5/2.5- Meh. It works, but it's not very original.
Community: 2.5/2.5- Zenwalk is mostly compatible with Slackware, which has an enormous, knowledgeable support base.

Overall: 3.9/5- A well-rounded distribution, but newbies beware!
From Zenwalk 5.0,
The DistRogue.

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Appologies, unbanning, and restoration

I will be restoring my review of Zenwalk 5.0, with some minor changes. After doing some research as to what happened with MP3 playback, Flash, and compositing, I found that some of the errors in my review were caused by settings I'd made under other OSes. I admit that Zenwalk does not include Flash (but my ~/.mozilla/plugins folder does), that compositing is not turned on by default (but somewhere in ~/.config, it is), and that the MP3 playback bit was in error. Being the packrat I am, I kept backup copies of everything I removed from my site, and Zenwalk and Slackware have been unbanned from being reviewed again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Zenwalkers Give Dolphins A Bad Name

Dolphins are among the most intelligent of all animals. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Zenwalk Linux chose one as its mascot. After all, Zenwalk came from Slackware, one of the oldest, most pro-oriented distributions of all. (In fact, Slackware is the oldest surviving distribution, having existed since 1993, back when the Linux kernel was still in beta testing.) Slackware is also known for its devoted, experienced following, so closely-knit that it's almost become a religion. And some religions have witch hunts- Slackwarism being no exception.
How do I know this? Well, a couple of days ago, I decided to review Zenwalk, one of Slackware's closest forks. I gathered some info on #zenwalk and DistroWatch, just to know what I was getting into. It sounded so good that I even grudgingly installed LILO as the default boot loader (Slackware uses LILO by default, and installing GRUB is a long, painful process). The fact is that I desperately wanted to like Zenwalk.
After spending some time using nothing else, I came to my conclusion and gave Zenwalk a 3.7/5. Not horrible, but certainly with some room for improvement. I never lied once about my experience, giving an honest account of what I found. But obviously, 3.7 wasn't high enough to pay tribute to the awesomeness that is Slackware! Burn the witch! The angry readers swarmed in, calling for me to recant and repent. The also asked me to admit that I was lying, that Netpkg's divinely-made dependency-tracking system worked 100% of the time without fail, and that the sun revolves around the Earth. I stood by what I said, as I do now.
To answer some questions, for the fifth time:
-Compositing: I really mean it when I say that I found drop shadows under my windows after the installation. I went into the XFCE settings and found that compositing was on. I turned them off, and noticed a minimal change in performance, so I decided to turn them back on.
-MP3 playback: I double-checked my notes, and I have to give you guys this one. It turns out that when I tried listening to music, another app was running that was locking the sound.
-Dependency tracking: I still say that I had to install 3 separate packages (manually) in order to get Exaile working (but it was worth it, as usual). Everything was in a full Netpkg GUI, including the original Exaile install.
-Flash: I said that Last.FM and YouTube worked out of the box, and they did. I was pretty puzzled as well, but it really happened.
I'm not the only one. A while ago, Beranger was burned banned from the Zenwalk forums for heresy alleging that the church Zenwalk devs weren't abiding by the Bible GPL. Truth hurts...
Because of this fanboyism and bias, I am banning Zenwalk and Slackware from my site/blog. In addition, I've removed Zenwalk from my site's list of distros. In short, Zenwalk is dead to me. If this is how the community acts, then I don't want any part in an 3-1337-157 community of "more-haxor-than-thou"-ness and witch-hunts.
I sincerely hope that the Arch community is less annoying than this.
From MEPIS 7.0,
The Distrogue.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SYS-Linux, aka why you should leave distro-making to the pros

In the DistroWatch Weekly comments for this issue, I came across a distribution called "SYS-Linux", which is currently in pre-alpha state. It was an attempt to create an easy-to-use, complete distribution which assumed the user didn't know anything about computing. Its main claim to fame is apparently that it can be installed without a wizard- the user doesn't have to answer any questions. Wow! So the user doesn't have to set up the disks so that they don't lose any data, doesn't have to set up a user account for themselves so that the system isn't completely screwed if it's hacked, and doesn't even have to set up the boot loader (whatever it may happen to be)? Wow... A newbie's dream come true!
Wait, who is this guy? What does he know about Linux? Apparently he knows enough to make a SLAX remaster, but doesn't know how to get the ISO size any smaller than /!\ 2.7GB /!\. Which is how big it is.
Anyways, here are the main issues I see:
-Desktop. He never says what desktop is used. From the Softpedia page, it looks like KDE.
-Partitioning. No partitioning controls means you have no clue how badly the installer will fsck your disk up. That means you risk losing all your data by installing this distribution! Bleh. No thanks, I'll pass. And that's why I didn't bother trying it. That and the /!\ 2.7GB /!\ DVD image.
-Accounts. Since there's no account setup, I assume everything's done via root, which is a whole other story. If you get hacked, that means the hacker will have /!\ TOTAL CONTROL /!\ over your system. And that, my friends, is why we usually set up separate accounts for the regular users. Plus, what if you slip up with a command in the terminal? The results can be dire.
Wait a second, what's the root password? I'm guessing it's either tucked away somewhere on the 'Net, so that you have to look for it for an hour before you can even log in (and not from another OS, obviously, because if there was one, it got wiped off your HD during the partitioning...), or it doesn't exist. In that case, someone could just SSH into your system and instantly have root access. Wow, Linux is really secure, isn't it?
-Elitism. I despise elitism of any kind, especially aesthetic elitism. I quote from this guy's DWW comments:
Just today when I opened this new home page, I saw the new SuSE installer in ugly green color. Impressionant program, with plento options ..... I felt me very glad that users of my distro don't need it !!!

Color choices are subjective. A lot of people like that color scheme, and I bet they outnumber the people that like a grayscale pic of two guys boxing on their desktop, which is what SYS-Linux ships with (according to the Softpedia screenshot). How accurate, though, that that comment on openSUSE's installer was below the belt.
-Packaging. Wow. Packaging on SYS-Linux is a disaster. It says it's built with "a good working mixture of .tgz , .rpm packages and own compiled progs". Whatever that means. It probably means it either has no packaging tools at all or a mix of them. And if that means what I think it does, some package aren't removable. Too bad, since the CDDVD installs to /!\ 11GB /!\. With no package selection. Wow, they make Sabayon look good.
So, how do you upgrade it?
For the most new releases in the future, it's not necessary to download the whole new install DVD. Instead, you can download SYS_Linux-.tgz , install it with #installpkg ... .tgz, go into its main folder, copy thereto the file SYS_Linux.ext3.lzma , and then execute ./mkbootcd . This produces an updated install DVD .iso .

That's right, you do some crap with the image, re-burn it, and re-install it (losing all your data in the process). [sarcasm type="extreme"]That's really user-friendly, isn't it? I think someone with no computing skills could grasp that pretty easily.[/sarcasm]
-"Completeness". He says it's a complete distribution. Way to go. In fact, it seems REALLY "complete". As in it has about 10 programs for each purpose. I mean, GIMP, Krita, AND KIconEdit? 11 different image viewers (not counting the previously-mentioned 3)? It's true- just look at this screenshot. (Caution: May result in your eyes burning. The previous link is not Goatse.)
Okay, what did I say about Zenwalk 5.0 just a day ago? I said that it was a marginally complete desktop even though it was less than a 500MB download. It does this by including only one program for each purpose and by not including stuff that people won't need. Really, how many people use Hydrogen? I personally love it, but I'm a musician. Most people don't need a drum machine on their computer.
My theory on why it's so big? It's impossible to install anything.
-Homepage. I crawled the Web looking for reasons to redeem this distro, info that might change my mind, and guess what I found?
It doesn't have a homepage.
Hmm... Those in glass houses... The domain seems to be somewhat associated with it, but it doesn't even have a homepage.
-The name. Does anyone think that naming a distro "SYS-Linux" will not turn off newbies? As if that's not enough, check it out: the name's taken. Syslinux is a commonly-used boot system used to set up Live USBs, among other things.
I like the idea of a zero-work-to-install distro as much as anyone, but what do you think that work's for? To make you look 1337? Give me a break. Until someone competent decides to spearhead a campaign to get an easy-install OS out there, it remains a dream. Or a nightmare, for anyone who installed it.
Still from Zenwalk 5.0,
The Distrogue.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Ulteo Watch: It's alive!

Ulteo is now working! You can now connect to an online, Kubuntu-based desktop from any machine with Java, and so far it's free. Keep in mind that it's still in beta testing, and it's extremely newbie-oriented- it doesn't have a terminal at the moment, but you can still make desktop shortcuts to run commands.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

PCLinuxOS 2008: And we have another winner!

I waxed poetic about PCLinuxOS 2007 a few months ago when I compared it to Mint (and even earlier about version 0.93a). After 8 months, Texstar and the "Ripper Gang" are in the process of releasing another version (about time...). The new version, PCLinuxOS 2008, will ship with KDE 4, but at the time of writing, the final isn't out yet. They recently released a so-called "MiniMe" version of the final product with KDE 3.5, and it's better than ever- to the point that I would actually use it.

As usual, PCLinuxOS uses a Live/Install hybrid CD, with the famous DrakLive wizard for installation. This time, though, they've tweaked it a bit. During the live install, you only have to set up partitions and the boot loader. Users, along with the root password, are handled on the first boot. Time zone configuration is eliminated altogether, and further configuration is done via the PCLinuxOS Control Center. That's far from a bad thing- the PCC got my wireless card working in under a minute, as PCLOS includes iwl3945 drivers.

Unfortunately, the artwork seems to have taken a step backward in this release. The last release was completely redesigned by the PCLinuxOS Beautification Project, and the results were great. This time, they've just ripped off Vista. The window borders are LiNSTA Squared, and the wallpaper looks as if it was taken directly from Vista. Even worse, the default fonts are insanely ugly, another step back from the last release. On the plus side, the icons look crisper and sleeker than the GNOME icon set used last time around.

Also a plus, Compiz Fusion was insanely easy to set up by installing a few packages (and not needing to mess around with the repositories), which helped considerably. The version in the repository is very recent, as is most of the software.

Installed Software
There's a reason why they call it MiniMe. In marked contrast to the software set included with the full version, the software on MiniMe is incredibly watered-down, not even including Firefox or any form of media playback (or even GIMP). It does, however, make a good base system with good hardware support, and can easily be upgraded to a full system with Synaptic.

Hardware Support
Hardware support improved with this release. This time, the included 915resolution worked, meaning that my 1280x800 screen resolution was detected. Also on the subject of graphics, the annoying screen bug that last release had has mysteriously vanished! I can now close my laptop up without the screen shutting down permanently.
On the wireless front, Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 drivers (now open-source!) are still included out of the box, and for the most part, they worked fine. I had a point when they stopped working, but that was fixed by switching the mode to AUTO in the PCC, which handles wireless configuration in addition to nearly everything else.

One of the reason why I like PCLinuxOS is that it's insanely fast. Version 2007 runs faster than anything else I've tried (except Slackware- and source-based distros), and with version 2008, this only decreased slightly. GLXGears scores were in the 1200s, and rose to 1300+ by installing kernel 2.6.23 and XFCE. Tremulous ran smoothly enough for me not to complain about it for hours.

The PCLinuxOS Control Center is similar to openSUSE's YaST, except it's less obtrusive and equally functional (except as far as package management, which Synaptic handles). It forms an extensive, capable front-end to most commonly-used system tools to make administration easy. There's also the KDE Control Center, both of which come with panel buttons out of the box.

-Still fast
-Drastically improved hardware support
-KDE 4 coming with the full release
-PCC is still an indispensable tool for adminning
-MiniMe Edition has a tiny software selection
-Unoriginal, somewhat ugly theme
Friendliness: 4/5
- It's PCLinuxOS. What do you expect?
Performance: 4/5- Fast enough and then some.
Features: 2/5, 4.5/5- The first is for the MiniMe, the second (presumed) for the full. The full version of PCLinuxOS usually includes lots of software.
Packaging: 5/5- You can't get much better than this.
Artwork: 1/2.5- Could everyone PLEASE stop ripping off Vista?
review EVERYTHING critically and comprehensively!
Community: 2.5/2.5- The PCLinuxOS community is strong and enthusiastic, not to mention VERY newbie-friendly.
MiniMe version:

Full version (assuming they don't change the artwork):

Overall: 3.7/5, 4.2/5- I can't wait for the full version.
From PCLinuxOS 2008 MiniMe edition (with XFCE),
The DistRogue.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

KDE 4: It'll be even better soon

KDE 4.0.0 was released on Friday. For the KDE team, it represents a huge leap forward in many areas, one of them being that they didn't add a K onto the name of every new app. For once. But elsewhere, KDE 4 brings huge enhancements both on and under the surface. The panel (aka the Kicker) has been replaced by a combination desktop/panel/widget layer called Plasma. Dolphin now handles file management, leaving Konqueror as the Web browser. The entire theme was redesigned from the top down through the Oxygen project. There are a lot of important changes that will shape KDE for years.


But before you get to the good part, you have to install KDE 4. And it's a beast to install. The instructions are here, and they're not pretty. You can just copy/paste them into a Konsole, but it takes about 2 hours (on my machine, a Core Duo/1.73GHz with 512MB RAM). Plus, it involves Kompiling countless lines of code, which will eat up roughly 3 gigs of disk space, so make sure to delete some CD images first.
Then, there's the problem of getting it to work. Head here for that. I tried and failed to set up a KDM session, and so I had to try the Xephyr method. A hint: To change the resolution of the nested X session, use this Kommand:
xrandr -display :1 -s [insert resolution here]
I had to settle for a 1024x768 resolution, so the sKreenshots aren't going to be as big as you're used to.
On the plus side, various distros will begin shipping with KDE 4 VERY soon. Ark Linux is supposed to be one of the first, followed by Mandriva 2008.1, Kubuntu 8.04, Fedora 9, and openSUSE 11.0, among others. Debian already has KDE 4 packages in Unstable, and KDE 4 will probably ship with 4.1 "Lenny", due out later this year.

The most striKinK thing about KDE 4 is the artwork. The Oxygen team spent countless hours developing an entirely scalable icon set for KDE 4, and it looks sweet. The theme also has a control set and a completely original window border. The Oxygen theme shows that LinuKs developers are capable of coming up with something original rather than taking the low road and 'innovating' stuff from other OSes a la Microsoft.

The desktop is something else entirely with this release. It has a widget layer that can be used to add little KloKs and stuff above the wallpaper and (if you MUST have them) icons.

The widgets can also be scaled and moved around the desktop, and have a nice semi-transparent border with drop shadows.

The Plasma panel has the Kickoff menu introduced to the world with openSUSE 10.2, and not much has changed.

And by the way, the desktop can be zoomed in and out.

Installed Software
In KDE 4, Dolphin replaces Konqueror as the file manager (Konqueror is still the default Web browser). Great, but what's Dolphin?

Dolphin is KDE's version of Thunar. It's a light-weight file manager designed for file management and nothing but file management. Konqueror doubled as the Web browser, and as a result, it had to load all sorts of libraries and extensions that a file manager shouldn't have to load. By trimming all that off, Dolphin is a lighter and faster file manager. It also looks a lot like Thunar...
Of course, the KDE team hasn't given up on Konqueror. Free of its file-management components, it loads faster than ever, along with other improvements (note the bottom part of the menu):

KDE 4 also has all the old KDE apps you know and love, along with some new ones, like this cute (and extremely useful) Run Program dialog.

KDE 4 also makes a huge leap forwards in sound. It uses a new audio framework, Decibel, to replace the aging aRts. Decibel is similar to PulseAudio, the new sound server used in Fedora 8, but even more advanced. It can route different types of sounds to different audio servers (including external ones- it has built-in JACK support). Sound worked out of the box- something I was NOT expecting.

-All sorts of cool new stuff
-Faster file manager
-Awesome new theme
-Sound works much better
-Plasma widgets are useful and customizable
-Kickoff menu- need I say more?
-Long install process
Friendliness: 5/5
- Even easier than before.
Performance: 4/5- Qt 4 supposedly boasts a 20-30% speed increase over Qt 3, but I couldn't test it.
Features: 5/5- The main reason to switch.
Packaging Installation: 2/5- Expect it to rise to a 4 as more packages become available.
Artwork: 2.5/2.5- Oxygen paid off big-time.
Community: 1/2.5- As more people are available to help you, expect it to increase to 2.5.

In a couple months or so:

Overall: 3.9/5, will eventually become a 4.6/5- Finally, Linux has a top-tier desktop environment.
From MEPIS 7.0 with KDE 4,
The Distrogue.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Okay, that didn't work (at first)

I'm disappointed by the results of that reskin (EDIT: not the current one). So I'll try something different. Be warned that until I say it's over, the looks of this site might vary wildly from day to day, or even hour to hour.
UPDATE: A-HA! It turns out the PHP script I use to buffer my blog images wasn't handling transparency the right way. Now that that's fixed, look forwards to some nice eye-candy on here.
UPDATE: Phase 1 is complete! On to touching stuff up in the CSS code.
FINAL UPDATE: Save some minor changes (the post headers and counter, for example), the update is complete. Please enjoy. The theme is based on Oxygen, the default style in the newly-released KDE 4 (!!!).
From MEPIS 7.0,
The Distrogue.
Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Years' resolution, effective immediately

For 2008, I resolve to reskin my blog AND main site to look similar and (in the case of my blog) less ugly. Behold, the news you've all been waiting for (not), and it's going to start now. I haven't decided on a color scheme yet, but it's going to look much more sleek and sophisticated (hopefully) than it does now. I'm just warning everyone so they don't complain about the page looking ugly while I give it a virtual nip-and-tuck.
From MEPIS 7.0,
Dr. 9021Rogue.


Copyrights, corporations and commercials

If you use Firefox, you might have stumbled across a few sites that deliberately block you for using Firefox. Welcome to the corporate-controlled Internet, my friend. Apparently, you forgot to RTFM, and the M is here: is a site that tries- pathetically- to explain why some sites practice this despicable (and legally questionable, one hopes) form of discrimination. The overall answer is simple, if a bit illogical: Firefox includes ad-blocking software, and Mozilla sponsors Ad-Block Plus (which I STRONGLY recommend getting!).
So this is The Man's way of sticking it back to us. Consequently, you're stuck using Internet Explorer (or, if you use Linux, Konqueror or Epiphany, which aren't nearly as bad as IE), leaving you open to not only ads, but viruses and hackers, because, from the site, "millions of hard working people are being robbed of their time and effort by this type of software"! Oh noes! You're actually harming the people who write ads by using a better browser! And we can't have that, can we?
It goes on to call these semi-humans who develop ads "honest, hard-working website owners and developers". Propaganda at its best- you can't get much better than this. They call ad-blocking "resource theft" over and over- as if the ads aren't stealing our resources (bandwidth- pages with no ads load much faster than pages with an average number of ads). The fact remains that, no matter how many "honest, hard-working" speechwriters helped make this elegant piece of slander, it's still nothing more than FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Denial), designed to keep you from making your own choices about what sites you want to visit, and how you want to visit them.
So, what do we do?
I suggest just using FireFox as usual, with one difference. The User Agent Switcher makes your browser looks like IE or any other browser to a server, effectively screwing over any form of browser-bouncer. But another good idea is to shove their own words back down their throats: if a site forces you to not use Firefox, then just don't go there. Boycott them. See how they like it. WhyFirefoxIsBlocked says that blocking Firefox doesn't cause much financial loss, but with more users switching every day, that's not going to be true anymore in a while. Eventually, they'll have no choice but to unblock us. Or maybe not- we are talking about big, stubborn corporations here.
From MEPIS 7.0,
The DistRogue.

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