2016-01-24

Featured Comments: Week of 2016 January 17

There was one post this past week that got a few comments, so I'll repost all of those.

Review: Solus 1.0 "Shannon"

Reader whs001 said, "Thanks very much for a thorough review of Solus. I've been paying attention to Ikey Dougherty's work ever since Linux Mint Debian Edition, and I've read quite a few reviews of Solus - yours is more thorough than many others, and the first one I've seen that mentions all the problems you found. At this point I'm relying on reviews of Solus because I can't even get it to finish booting on either of my 64-bit machines. It starts to boot, but hangs up before even getting to the logon screen. Not ready for prime time. I'm actually writing because you are the first review I've ever seen who has complained about scroll bars that jump all the way to where you click rather than just going one "page down" the way they ordinarily do. I have strange problems with that behavior. On my Dell OptiPlex desktop running Linux Lite with XFCE, most of the scroll bars work normally, but in Synaptic they jump down (or up) as you describe. On my Dell Inspiron laptop running Xubuntu, it seems as though the scrollbars in all applications have this stupid jump-down behavior. I would blame that on Ubuntu (particularly since it has a history of messing with scrollbars, giving us that dopey long, skinny place marker rather than the usual squarish one), but Linux Lite is also based on Ubuntu. In fact what I'm running is Xubuntu 14.04 and Linux Lite based on Ubuntu 14.04, so the fact that they have different forms of scrollbar misbehavior is really odd. Thanks again for the review", later clarifying in response to a question from me, "I wrote Solus onto two different USB sticks with dd, and neither one of them would finish booting on either machine."
In response to the above posts, commenter keithbluhm shared the following: "I've been checking out Solus just because, and I'm no computer hardware/software guru, but I was able to install, boot, update, use, shutdown, reboot, etc, etc, using the provided ISO within VirtualBox on Win7...zero issues. No idea what the differences would be between a VM, Live USB, and so on."
Also in response, reader Jake had the following tip: "@whs001: Sounds like an issue with uefi. Check your bios settings and ensure that uefi is first or enabled. Perhaps you need to make sure that your drive is selected as the boot device as well."

Thanks to all of those readers for those comments. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have gathered that I'm basically posting around once per month now. That schedule is not going to change much for the next few months. It won't decrease because I do still enjoy posting from time to time, and I would personally feel a bit badly for neglecting this blog for an entire calendar month. That said, it also won't increase because this semester, having finished classes (basically), I need to prepare for my general examinations (also called qualifying examinations) which occur at the end of the semester, which will determine whether I get to stay in my PhD program or not. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!

2016-01-18

Review: Solus 1.0 "Shannon"

The semester has finally ended, and with that, I am officially done with all of my technical classes forever! (I still need to take an ethics class next semester, but that shouldn't be a big deal.) I've had a free weekend, so I've taken advantage of it by reviewing the recently-released Solus 1.0 "Shannon".

Raven + Budgie Menu
If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you may be wondering why I'm reviewing Solus with a version number of 1.0, if I already reviewed SolusOS 1 "Eveline" over 3.5 years ago. The reason is that this Solus is different from the SolusOS of a few years ago. The deal (as far as I can tell, so if I get parts of the story wrong, please let me know in the comments) is that for the previous SolusOS, version 2 was to be released with all sorts of cool things like an independent base, a fork of GNOME 2 supporting Compiz (separate from MATE), and so on, but then the development team ran out of funds to continue development, so SolusOS died at that point. More recently (around a year ago), the lead developer of the former SolusOS project, Ikey Doherty (along with presumably other people involved with the old SolusOS project, but I'm not too clear on that point), started working on a new lightweight DE called Budgie, built from GNOME 3 technologies to maintain compatibility with the upstream code base (in direct contrast to the forking that Cinnamon and MATE had done). He put it into an independent distribution called Evolve OS, but then a trademark dispute briefly ensued; this was quickly resolved by dropping the Evolve OS name and resurrecting the Solus name, and that is the distribution that I am reviewing today.

I tried Solus (which is only usable on 64-bit systems) on a live USB written with the "dd" command, as this is the recommended method; the Solus wiki explicitly advises against using UnetBootin, and I figured that MultiSystem may not be able to handle a new independent distribution like Solus. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

2015-12-14

Review: Chakra 2015.11 "Fermi"

Main Screen + Kickoff Menu
Not only has it been a while since I've done a Linux distribution review on this blog, but it has been an especially long time (over 2.5 years, in fact) since I've looked at Chakra. I figured that now that KDE 5 (technically incorrect terminology, I know, but please bear with me, as I'm using this for the sake of brevity) is being used in Chakra, it may be time to see how a distribution I've rather liked in the past has evolved. In case you don't remember, Chakra was originally based on Arch Linux, but a few years ago, it branched off into its own independent distribution with its own repositories, though certain tools (like the package manager Pacman) are based on things found in Arch Linux. It focuses exclusively on KDE, and it uses a semi-rolling release model in which core system packages are updated less frequently in order to maintain stability, while front-end applications seen by users most often are updated more frequently to provide a competitive desktop experience.

I tried this on a live USB using the "dd" command; as in my review from over 2.5 years ago, neither UnetBootin nor MultiSystem work anymore for reliably creating Chakra live USB media. This wasn't a terribly difficult thing to do, but in any case, the Chakra wiki contains a little more information for people who might need a little more help with these steps (especially if they are new users from Microsoft Windows who are trying a Linux distribution for the first time). Additionally, note that Chakra can only be used on 64-bit computers. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

2015-11-09

On Transitioning into Graduate Life, One Year In

This is a post that's more about what's going on in my life right now, so if you would have liked to see a software review or an otherwise more technical/generally topical post, fear not! That shall come in at least one more post this month. This post is more about some thoughts I've had about mentally and socially transitioning to life in graduate school after a little over a year in it, so I just hope that anyone going through a similar transition may find this even mildly interesting. Follow the jump to see more.

2015-10-21

FOLLOW-UP: Personal, Corporate, and In-Between Fraud

This is a follow-up to my post from last month about the VW emissions cheating scandal and the case of the arrest of the "clock kid" Ahmed Mohamed.

Regarding the VW emissions cheating scandal, VW executives blamed (link from AP, Reuters, NBC News) "a couple of software engineers". Given how the cheat was pretty much impossible without a collaboration between many engineers of different kinds (mechanical, software, electrical, et cetera), all I can say is the following: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Regarding the case of Ahmed Mohamed, it turns out that he and his family are moving (link from Jessica Contrera, Washington Post) to Qatar, and that this decision was supposedly made less than 24 hours after meeting President Obama in the White House. In my previous post, I pretty much unconditionally defended him against accusations of fraudulent behavior. I still don't believe that he personally would have brought the clock in just to incite the response from the school and police that transpired, because for one, that would require a massive conspiracy, and for another, that absolves the school and police of responsibility for their actions. That said, I am now less sure of his family's actions and motives following the arrest and its initial reporting. Clearly they took advantage of the massive publicity, and while I'm certainly not a fan of that sort of exploitation of publicity, I was hoping that would be the end of the story. Yet now, I can't believe that a Sudanese immigrant family, where the father has run for the presidency of Sudan before, would within the span of 24 hours decide to move to Qatar, unless they already had high-level connections there. My guess now is that while this story would have likely been widely shared regardless of the family's behavior, a lot of the publicity was probably due to the family's influence itself, and they were able to use that to move out to Qatar (and use the story to get the Qatar Foundation to provide Ahmed a scholarship to sweeten the deal). It probably wasn't because of Ahmed's inability to go back to school in his district, because there have been plenty of other cases of kids who have been in situations where they can't go back to school in their home districts because of similar high-profile incidents. In such cases, the family usually moves to another district within the state, another state, or maybe their home country if they immigrated here, as opposed to a totally different country. Anyway, I still do wish Ahmed the best in his studies of engineering, but I now feel at least partially duped in some way by this whole turn of events, and hope that this story finally dies once the family moves out of the country.

2015-09-29

Personal, Corporate, and In-Between Fraud

I realize that the two (really, 1.5) main topics of this post are already somewhat old news, having happened last week and having not really persisted into the news cycle of this week. That said, I didn't have a good opportunity to write this last week, and the end of the month is coming (and I didn't have any other posts this month), so I figured now is the best time for me to write this. Follow the jump to see more.

2015-08-31

A Year Through Graduate School

I realized about a week ago that I hadn't written anything for this month. I wanted to write this at the end of last week, but I didn't get around to it until today; thankfully, September hasn't come around quite yet.

This post is basically a quick update on things going on in my graduate career. I formally joined a group at the end of January, though I was already doing work for it by the middle of that month. The first project I picked up was about comparing existing approximations of the Casimir effect to a relatively new exact (up to numerical discretization error) boundary-element method for computing the Casimir force; this can be done in conjunction with nonlinear optimization methods, both to optimize for the difference in the exact versus approximate forces, as well as to optimize the overall energy (when making the situation more realistic by taking surface tension into account) and seeing how the resulting energies and structures differ. That has been going on for a while now. More recently, I've been looking at some code for volume integral equation methods to simulate electromagnetic phenomena like radiative heat transfer from a classical perspective (where the only quantum effect comes in the correlation function for different bound currents in a dielectric medium). In particular, I've been extending said volume integral equation code to incorporate nonlocal dielectric effects. Both of these projects have been quite enjoyable in how much I've learned and in the bits that I've been able to contribute; I hope to continue learning and contributing even more to these projects and to others in the future. Otherwise, I've gotten into a great group of friends, and my living situation has been pretty good too. Overall, I've had a really enjoyable first year, and I really look forward to my second year at Princeton! (I'm also looking forward to not having to take formal classes after my second year, though I'm not looking forward as much to dealing with general exams [often called qualifying exams for graduate programs in other universities] at the end of my second year.)

2015-07-26

Featured Comments: Week of 2015 July 19

There was one post this past week that got a comment, so I'll repost that.

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.13 "Ascella" KDE

Reader Kanthala Raghu said, "I'm currently on xfce edition of Manjaro Linux 0.8.13. Thanks for you review now I will be trying KDE too! Cheers ! :)".

Thanks to that reader for that comment. I don't have any posts planned for this coming week, but I do hope to have at least one review or other post coming out in the next few weeks, though I don't know right now exactly what that might be. Anyway, if you like what I write, please start or continue subscribing and commenting!

2015-07-20

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.13 "Ascella" KDE

Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
It has been several months since I last checked out Manjaro Linux. That review was of its Xfce edition, whereas this is of its KDE edition. As I mentioned in my recent review of SolydK, I wanted to originally compare the two in a single post. However, Manjaro Linux uses KDE 5 (again, I know this is a deliberate abuse of notation) whereas SolydK still uses KDE 4, so I feel like it wouldn't be fair to compare the two in one post. Instead, I have kept the two posts separate, and will make reference to my review of SolydK as needed.

I tested the 64-bit version of Manjaro Linux on a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Interestingly, unlike my previous review of Manjaro Linux, no extra modifications were needed after UnetBootin finished doing its thing. Anyway, follow the jump to see what it's like. (Regarding the title, some sites say that the codename for this release is also "Ascella", but this doesn't seem to be officially used in an entirely consistent manner.)

2015-07-13

Review: SolydK 201506

Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
Originally, I wanted this post to be a comparison test. Specifically, I wanted to compare SolydK to the KDE edition of Manjaro Linux. However, it turns out that Manjaro Linux uses KDE 5 (I know this is a deliberate abuse of notation), while SolydK uses KDE 4. That doesn't sound like a fair comparison, so I'm splitting these into separate reviews.

SolydXK is a pair of distributions that are basically like Linux Mint Debian, except with KDE (SolydK) or Xfce (SolydX) rather than MATE or Cinnamon, given that Linux Mint Debian discontinued its Xfce edition a while ago (and never really had a KDE edition). As far as I can tell, unlike Linux Mint Debian, SolydXK remains a semi-rolling release, as its website says that users never need to reinstall (which wouldn't be true if it had pegged itself to Debian Stable).

I tested SolydK as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.