2011-05-22

Featured Comments: Week of 2011 May 15

Unfortunately, last week there was no "Featured Comments" article because (1) I couldn't post that much due to final exam-related business and (2) all the comments on my article about Mozilla got deleted in the Blogger service outage. Once again, I apologize for that. This past week, nothing of that sort happened, so I will repost a handful of comments from this past week's posts.

Practical Alternatives to Skype (For Me)

Reader tracyanne said, "There's Brosix, a proprietary VOIP application, and there is Jitsi a LGPL licensed VOIP client, both are cross platform Linux Mac and Windows, and both are as easy to install and configure as Skype."
Commenter Muhammad Bashir Al-Noimi had this justified rant against censorship: "Sorry for disturbing you but I'm still dreaming in really freedom softwares or any related services just like ubuntu. Well, for me it's not a big deal when I see Microsoft Skype because most Skype and Google services are forbidden!!! Do you know why? because I'm living in Syria!!! [...]"
Reader Murder's Last Crow was a little more skeptical about the premise for the original post: "I find it hard to believe that Microsoft is going to cut off paying customers like me just out of spite for Linux, especially when Skype itself is built on Qt and there is almost no difficulty in supporting it- I could package it myself in my spare time, so Microsoft probably won't have a lot of issues in that regard. Then again, they could be buying Qt applications since they see it as a competing platform and making them somehow non-Qt, or making them rely on Mono, or all kinds of things. Or they could simply not be doing anything horrible and actually not have an evil plan behind buying the most popular VOIP service available. Until I see some proof, I'm not going to assume the intentions of anyone in Microsoft, because the company has changed a lot (although it, admittedly, is still flailing just as wildly against Linux at times, only more quietly), and if this is the start of a mutual benefit for the community and Microsoft, I think we should grasp it, and stop criminalizing Microsoft before they even do anything bad. The best thing we do when we make these assumptions (and I am guilty of it, too) is give Microsoft ideas of what their users think. And if I'm paying the price for Skype as a home phone, I'd hate to have that taken away because of some silly idea that Linux users don't care anymore. They don't have to, but I hope they can see I care from my bills, lol. I'm totally all for using Google's service, until the free and open alternatives get better branding and visibility."
Commenter dadreggors suggested, "Nobody mention the cross platform pidgin which supports gtalk (Google Talk), Facebook, XMPP, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, ICQ, and more. It even does voice and video chat."

Revisited: SimplyMEPIS 11.0

An anonymous reader said, "Actually, being a long time Linux user (Currently Debian), I feel that your last review was much better. It's far better that you post a negative review highlighting all the difficulties you experienced with install and such. Of course fanboys will flame you and you should expect that. Developers will appreciate your feedback though, because they understand that trying to gloss over real issues should never ever be acceptable to the Open Source community. What you experienced is a serious flaw with MEPIS. If you cant install and have it work the first time through, then there is a real problem and you were right to report it, albiet the wrong way. You should have reported it on the projects bug tracker. Having to manually enter anything into the GRUB boot line is a serious issue that new users will not even bother with. They will just throw the MEPIS cd into the trash can and move on to something that does work. So don't apologize or feel as if you did something wrong. You didn't and you were right to post as you did."
Commenter flagstaffphotos had this bit of support: "@Prashanth - Bravo! Awesome review - I'm really impressed with all the work you put into this. Great job digging into the history of the distro, describing your experiences with the different Mepis system control programs, and even digging into the guts of how progressive versions of Mepis got their look in KDE through different types of Qt theming. You explained what sets Mepis apart from other distros, what the devs should consider changing in order to modernize the distro, and the ways in which Mepis is not really so different from other Debian derivatives - to the point of no longer having a clearly defined niche for itself. This is a review you should be proud of, and other reviewers should read this and learn how to improve their own reviews. They should dig into the guts of the distro - not just tell us what the installer looked like and what the default programs were on their desktop. They should dig into the history of the distro, and tell us what sets the current version apart from past versions. They should tell us how the distro they are reviewing compares to other similar distros, and whether or not there is a clearly defined special purpose for the distro - and how well it fulfills that purpose. Thanks for all your hard work, I am impressed. I am still working on my own review for my blog site - maybe I'll have time to finish it this weekend. I think that ultimately my review will pale in comparison to the detail you have set forth here."
Reader Jerry had this tip regarding package installation in the live session: "'As I couldn't install anything in the SimplyMEPIS live session' Actually, this is incorrect. If you choose the boot option AUFS (the second one down; use the GRUB help or see Users Manual Section 3.3 on "Booting up"), you can install software for the session, which allows you to test hardware that need special drivers, check Skype, etc. Also, using that option, there is no "APT caching issue," which only appears anyway on the LiveMedium. You are totally right about the Assistants; we are aware that they are now somewhat out of date and need revision. We tell users in the Manual to use Network Manager, for instance. A good thorough review--nice work!"
Commenter m_pav said, "[...]  Well now we have a real picture of what the reason for your initial issue was. With Mepis being based on Debian stable, the xorg it comes with is not aware of your laptops dual graphics engine, therefore it is hardly surprising that you got a blank screen and had to use a boot cheat-code. Next, to answer your assertion about beign read only, you are correct, but a simple search would have revealed that there is a cheatcode that enables packages to be installed, and if you had bothered to actually burn a DVD and insert it, then looked at its contents, you would have seen that it has an autorunner (albeit for windows) with a HTML miniguide that would assist newbies in their quest and lets face it, if someone is at the point of searching for alternatives and serious about it, some of them WILL do the research. There's even links to pages with screencast type tutorials on installation with instruction on how to avoid the common pitfalls of installing Linux in a dual boot environment. Also, in the system assistant, I too was surprised about the labelling of the USB bootable device type to create, but I can assure you that the process will create a bootable flash drive and it does it better than unetbootin. Concerning the bootsplash, the only place it doesn't work is on the Live Media, but it works perfectly after installation. As for hardware not offerign up a desktop, I have opportunity to use the Live-DVD and/or USB more than most and I can honestly say that those that have no-screeners are the exception, not the norm, though to be fair, you are right in saying a newbie wouldn't take the time to investigate it fully, so would likely move on. That's just the way the cookie crumbles and lucky for them, there are other options. Finally, despite Mepis being based on Debian Stable,t he community packagers make it possible to almost effortlessly use later version packages as they become available, instead of begin trapped in the Debian Squeeze pool, so Mepis is one of the best choices for anybody that wants a phenominally stable base system they can use for a couple of years without having to reformat." Unfortunately, this comment somehow got caught in the spam filter (probably due to the use of dashes to separate my original statements from the rest of the comment), so I had to manually fish it out upon seeing the second comment complaining about that. Please know that the only comments I delete are my own if I need to fully rewrite them, truly spam-y comments, and duplicate comments. I will try hard to check the spam filter for perfectly fine and not spam-y comments, but if you find your comment has disappeared, please let me know in a follow-up comment.

Review: Zenwalk 7.0

Reader Arjun Krishna said, "XFCE? Not bad. I prefer KDE though. Especially KDE 4.6 that just released. The problem with XFCE is that it's just not as slick and smooth as KDE works. Some users of GNOME feel this way too, when comparing it to KDE. With KDE, your workspace is much improved over XFCE and GNOME Kernels/Interfaces. kde.org"

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I'm starting my internship at NIST, so my blogging frequency will probably go down (which is ironic because I started this blog on a whim on a slow day at NIST 2 years ago). I'll find something to write about at least once a week, and this is probably how I will relax in the evenings, so don't fret. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing (on the right side) and commenting (at the end of posts)!

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