Featured Comments: Week of 2011 June 19

There were two posts this past week that got a handful of comments, so I'll try to repost a few from each.

2011 June 20: Linux and My Computers' Hardware

An anonymous reader said, "DELL Latitude E6400 with Linux Mint 11 (64bit). Everything works flawlessly on the E6400. Touchpad, audio, sleep, hibernate, wireless, wired, microphone, audio volume buttons. Just like it was made for this laptop. The only thing I really do not like on the E6400 is the LAME Intel graphics hardware. I would pick ATI/AMD or NVidia graphics hardware over Intel graphics hardware any day--twice on Sunday. I also recently had Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS 64 bit desktop on the E6400 and had no problems at all. I moved to Mint 11 because I really like the work they did to bring in the visual elements and general usability. The Mint Gnome menu arrangements and color schemes are much easier on my eyes and brain and I like that it is ready-to-go upon install without modifications/additions. I highly recommend Mint 11!"

Review: Porteus 1.0

An anonymous reader (seeming to either be the lead developer or someone close to the development of Porteus) said, "Thanks for the review! I'd like to add that the installer uses SYSLINUX tools and a preset configuration file, which allows users to boot into KDE or LXDE without logging in via the CLI (though text mode is available as well from the boot menu). The boot parameters also allow users to boot with persistent changes and/or a copy2ram function. Skype didn't work on 64-bit because you were using a 32-bit binary on a 64-bit system, and Porteus is not a multilib environment. We do have a package manager included (it's further down in the system menu, 'Porteus Package Manager' or 'PPM'. This is still in beta and we're still working on populating it with modules. If you'd like Skype for 64-bit and it's not in the repo, let us know in the 'module requests' section of our forum, and someone can whip one up for you :). Thanks again, and I'm glad you liked it!!"
Commenter Barnaby had this to say: "Further to the 32 bit Skype on a 64 bit system which obviously did not work, I think the idea is for people to create their own modules from other formats with the easy to use Modules tool. Automated conversion into modules is one of the greatest strengths of Slax and now Porteus."
Another anonymous reader had this gripe: "I tried Porteus. I liked most of it, but I hated the primitive way of 'persistence' or saving config setups. You have to hack config files to specify some 'save.dat' file. In 2011, why not just make persistence auto like Ubuntu, et al, do??? Also, I wanted to auto boot with lxde and copy2ram but again, this is very complicated. I do not want to type boot cheatcodes every time I use the distro. Maybe there is a hack to do this. BTW, Puppy has a friendly way of using a 'pesistence' save file ...no editing of config/boot files."
Yet another anonymous commenter said, "I agree with the negative comment about the the office suite selection. However, it was choosen because of its compactness. Would abiword and gnumeric be some better options?
For those who would like to have the openoffice suite on porteus instead of the koffice suite (the latter being Porteus standard because it is lighter, so to respect the small size of the distribution), openoffice is installed rather fast in cli mode, see post 6 of KSA_ARAB: https://porteus.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=58 Installing packages could be a very fast process once you catch it. Different possibilities are available, amongst other Porteus package manager. It is also a very good idea to install porteus hdd, also called the (Slackware) frugal install (some kind of poor man's intall), instead of running it usb or cd. A few hdd procedures are available on the Porteus forum."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. Unlike this past week, where I did have two reviews planned, I don't have anything planned for this coming week, but again, I'm sure I'll be able to think of something to write about. Remember, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing to, commenting on, and sharing these posts!


Review: Sabayon 6 KDE

Sabayon needs no introduction here, considering I've reviewed 4 previous versions of it here. So why am I reviewing Sabayon 6 KDE?

Main Screen + Kickoff Menu
Well, the Sabayon developers have a laundry list of improvements for this new major release of Sabayon. The most significant, if you ask me, is the claim of huge improvements in speed and functionality to Sabayon's GUI package manager Entropy. Aside from that, the included and available programs are newer, and there are many other bug fixes and speed improvements to go around.

I tested Sabayon 6 KDE in a live USB made with UnetBootin. I tested the installation procedure in VirtualBox within the live USB system with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what the latest release of Sabayon is like.


Review: Porteus 1.0

64-bit: Main Screen
Considering that I reviewed Zenwalk 7.0 not too long ago, I must be going on a Slackware-derived binge or something. Yes, both Zenwalk and Porteus are based on Slackware. Maybe my subconscious is trying to make up for the terrible review (not my assessment of Slackware, but my skill level and writing in that post) of Slackware 13.1. Maybe. I don't know. Anyway, Porteus 1.0 came out yesterday, so I decided to review it.

So what is Porteus? As I just said, it's based on Slackware, but it's more than that. As Slackware has never had an official project for creating Slackware live media, Slax came in to fill in that void. Quite a while ago, Slax ceased regular development, so after a while, Porteus came in to succeed it. Now, typically, these stories of evolution and succession aren't of much consequence (e.g. AriOS coming from mFatOS, Kororaa moving from Gentoo to Fedora, et cetera), but as you will see, it is quite important here that Porteus is the revived and modernized Slax project.

32-bit: Main Screen
Porteus comes in 32- and 64-bit flavors. Curiously, while LXDE is available for both architectures, KDE 3.5 Trinity is found exclusively in the 32-bit version, while KDE 4 is found exclusively in the 64-bit version. As my laptop has 64-bit hardware, I tested both using a live USB made with MultiSystem. I didn't test the installation because apparently the installation isn't one in the traditional sense; it's essentially booting the live medium off of a hard drive, which seems hard to achieve with not-particularly-interesting results. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


2011 June 20: Linux and My Computers' Hardware

A couple things (which will be mentioned later in this post) prompted me to write this, so here it is. This is an overview of the two computers on which I have installed and used Linux regularly and things related to regular Linux usage on those computers.

First Computer (Past)

Sony VAIO desktop with Intel Pentium 4/HT processor at 2.8 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, integrated ATI Radeon 9200 graphics card with available 1920 by 1200 resolution (used 1280 by 1024), integrated sound card, used in conjunction with a 21 inch Nokia CRT 4:3 monitor, Sony speakers, keyboard, and mouse, and Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX webcam

Second Computer (Current)

ASUS U30Jc laptop with Intel Core i3-370M processor at 2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, integrated Intel GMA 4500HD graphics card with available discrete NVidia GeFore 310M (512 MB graphics memory) graphics card with 1366 by 768 resolution, integrated sound card and speakers, integrated keyboard, integrated webcam and mic, used in conjunction with Microsoft USB mouse

Follow the jump to see the rest.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 June 12

There were a few posts that got a whole bunch of comments, so I'll only be able to repost a few from each.

Microsoft Windows Update Annoyances Strike Again

An anonymous reader said, "I have Windows update disabled totally along with UAC and Windows Firewall. I consider it Microsoft's version of idiot-proofing"
Another anonymous commenter, in response to a comment asking about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of my decision, countered, "While closing the laptop lid does - usually - result in a sleep, the OS *should* be able to disable this feature when it is performing a critical task." And this has been my point all along.
Yet another anonymous reader added, "What's annoying is a lack of the system asking 'hey do you want me to download 5GB of updates now when you're about to shutdown the laptop trying to make it to your next meeting'? Or force the message that windows likes to use "we're giving you your updates whether you want them or not. Don't shut down until windows updates are complete or bad things will happen"? My Ubuntu systems will prompt a reminder that there are new updates so that I can choose to do it later when I have time to let it work away at the magic."
Still another anonymous commenter said, "I usually put my Windows laptop on the night before I actually might want it so the annoying updates can be done. Yes I find it mad coming from being a long time Linux user and it's the biggest pain whilst trying to work in the day job too the usually fortnightly push of updates grinding the machine close to a halt as they happen silently."

Poll: Should I Switch away from Linux Mint?

Reader Aks said, "I tested Linux Mint "Katya" Gnome version and it seems to work well. Since you have long been working with Linux Mint, you can switch to the new release. Switching to a new distro might require some time to learn new interface/tools. For me myself, I've been a long user of Fedora and Fedora is treating me quite well."
An anonymous commenter added, "Don't switch. After trying a lot of distro's there is no need to leave Linux Mint behind imho. The reason? Other distro's have issues as well because there is no silver bullet. Linux Mint comes closest to perfection, so file bug reports there and ask questions on their forums."
Reader Microlinux had this long suggestion: "I'm an IT consultant working 100% with GNU/Linux since 2001. I install Linux-based networks (servers and clients) for town halls, schools, public libraries and the likes. I also do some Linux training, and I'm quite proficient on most major - and some minor - distributions. I recently came back to Slackware, which was my first Linux distro back in 2001. There are a few reasons for that. 1) Slackware doesn't reinvent the wheel every six months like every other distro currently does. Take a peek at the init system of Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu and the likes. It's an unhealthy mix of SystemV, Upstart and systemd. Now compare that to Slackware's boot scripts: clean and well organized since 1993. 2) Healthy release cycle: Slackware releases roughly one new version in a year, which suits professional users well. Plus, versions back to 8.0 (that's ten years old!) are still supported for bug fixes. 3) Slackware *never* chokes on exotic hardware, because I can always configure it by hand. Now, install Fedora 15 or openSUSE 11.4 on machines with slightly older NVidia cards - which happens all the time in my day to day work - and appreciate the mess. 4) If I need a package not included in the distribution, there's SlackBuilds.org, but more often than not, I just quickly write a compilation script myself. Never seen an application that doesn't build on Slackware. Conclusion: if you're not a lamer for RTFM and got some basic UNIX skills, Slackware is my favourite choice, and the distribution I'd recommend to everyone. Plus, it's a lot of fun."
Another anonymous commenter said, "I am using LinuxMint Debian edition (xfce) and aptosid (also xfce). LMDE installed fine. Don't know what that one poster meant by installer being broken. Aptosid installed fine also. I use it because I like to be on the bleeding edge. With linuxmint, doing a dist-upgrade gets you the latest and greatest without having to do a complete new install. I have never had a problem doing a dist-upgrade. But to each his own. If you have the itch to switch, you have a lot of options."

FOLLOW-UP: Poll: Should I Switch away from Linux Mint?

Reader JJMacey said, "Sticking with what works is the point here. I am sticking with UBUNTU 10.04 (Lucid Lynx). I have given the last 2 UBUNTU newer versions a pass. I know Clem from the very early days of Linux Mint. If I want to change my OS Linux Mint will be the one I'll run. That is if I get that itch for something new."
Commenter larrythefreesoftwareguy supported this: "Sticking with what works is always a good policy."
An anonymous reader said, "The new Unity Desktop is totally unacceptable, and Ubuntu 11.04 running the Gnome classic Desktop is quite a disappointment compared to Ubuntu 10.10 so I'm seriously looking for another distribution as it appears Ubuntu is becoming less reliable with each upgrade. The main attraction to Ubuntu has always been the Gnome Desktop and Synaptic package manager, but the continuing unsolved bugs, and now frequent crashes of applications is giving me cause to look at other distributions."
Commenter Soak had this to say: "My desktop - which functions as a server throughout the house - has been running 10.04 very smoothly since installation and, for the purposes I'm using it, it will continue to do so until 'end of life' (and maybe after). On my laptop I'm running Mint for about a year now. Recently switched to Katya, but downgraded compiz to 0.86 caus'e upstream compiz was a DISASTER. Everyone experiencing troubles with upstream compiz (like disappearing window boarders, compiz crashes, etc) should downgrade. I've tried quite a few distro's before and after Ubuntu, but the only one that I REALLY liked was Mint. Like some say, it really is 'Ubuntu done right'.To be honest, I rarely ever use Linux for work, because the places I work at continue to install M$ (at least on their desktops). At home I rarely ever touch Windows though. To make a long story short. I have no doubt you made the right choice. I'm making the same one..."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I don't have anything in particular planned for this week, but I'm sure that I'll be able to write something. Remember, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing to, commenting on, and sharing this posts!


FOLLOW-UP: Poll: Should I Switch away from Linux Mint?

So yesterday, I wrote a post asking if I should switch away from Linux Mint to a different distribution. Many comments suggested that I stay with Linux Mint, but upgrade to the newest version. A few others suggested Pinguy OS or Ultimate Edition. Still others suggested...Slackware, of all things.

As I read the comments and thought about this more, I realized that I was just irrationally itching for something new. Aside from the minor Compiz and AV by AIM issues, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my current OS, and I'm going to use it either until Linux Mint 13 LTS "M[...]a" comes out or (if Linux Mint moves away from Ubuntu before that happens) until its support runs out, at which point I would probably switch to Debian-based Linux Mint. This is of course assuming either version of Linux Mint is as good as or better than my current one on my computer, but given that it's Linux Mint, I have no doubts about that. So thank you all for your suggestions. I'm doing what most people suggested: I'm sticking with what works.


Poll: Should I Switch away from Linux Mint?

For over two years, Linux Mint has served me quite well. It's been incredibly easy to use and learn and just a pleasure to work with. It comes with the software I need (and really easy ways to get more stuff too), it's polished, it has a beautiful interface, and it's generally very stable. That said, I've been having a few issues with it lately. One regards Adobe Flash and the fact that I'm on a 64-bit system: until a couple months ago, I wasn't able to watch Hulu at all, and I'm still not able to use AV by AIM, which requires an up-to-date fully functional Adobe Flash plugin. The AV by AIM thing may seem a bit trivial, except that I need to actively look for alternatives to Skype so that if and when Microsoft decides to end Skype support for Linux, I won't be left floundering all of a sudden. In addition, I still sometimes have issues of Compiz removing my titlebars upon startup, the theme not loading properly on startup, Conky overlapping with other windows, and some panel applets disappearing/crashing from time to time. Sure, many of these things are the results of my own tinkering with the system, but it's still annoying to deal with those issues, as I would expect those breakages to not occur at all. And finally, I guess at this point, I just want something new and fresh to take my breath away again.

At the same time, readers of this blog know that I'm also enamored with #!. It's stable, fast, and quite lightweight, yet in almost all respects it's just as easy to use as Linux Mint. Other things in its favor are using Openbox instead of Compiz (meaning I get to play with cool transparency effects without worrying about titlebars disappearing), having a good way to upgrade packages and the system as it's based on Debian (pointing the package manager to new repositories and then upgrading usually works on Debian but not on Ubuntu), and having a working Adobe Flash plugin that lets me use Hulu and AV by AIM out-of-the-box even in the 64-bit version. The biggest downside will be the lack of niceties like the Linux Mint menu and tools along with the corresponding need to do some more manual configuration.

Other options include Pinguy OS 11.04 and Linux Mint 11 "Katya" GNOME, which I know work well with Hulu and AV by AIM but which won't be supported for as long.
So what should I do? Should I stick with my tried-and-true, familiar Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME? Or should I switch to #! 10 "Statler"? Or should I switch to one of the other alternatives I listed? Or should I switch to another distribution entirely? (Please note that I'm trying to minimize manual configuration; I'm trying to get stuff done on my computer, after all. Therefore, no Gentoo/Slackware/Arch/et cetera for me, but derivatives may be welcome. Also, Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac OS X are not welcomed as suggestions. I'm not going back to Microsoft Windows, and I'm not buying an Apple product.) Please let me know in the comments!


Microsoft Windows Update Annoyances Strike Again

Although Linux Mint is my primary OS, I still have Microsoft Windows 7 around because I play a couple games from time to time. However, because I don't do that so frequently, whenever I do boot Microsoft Windows 7, I get bombarded with updates, and unfortunately, Microsoft Windows sometimes goes ahead downloading and installing those updates without letting me choose first.

For example, yesterday, after I finished using it, I shut down Microsoft Windows. As usual, it needed to install more updates, so it decided to do so between clicking "Shut Down" and actually shutting down. I figured it shouldn't take that long, so I closed my laptop lid and went to eat dinner. This wouldn't be news, except that when I came back, I found that it had gone to sleep in the middle (i.e. it hadn't actually finished installing updates). That was one annoying thing. Anyway, I woke it up, and it finished installing updates and then properly shut down with no apparent errors.

Today, when I booted back into Microsoft Windows, I got a message saying that Microsoft Windows didn't shut down properly the last time. WHAT? It's telling me that it's my fault that it took so long to install updates that the laptop went to sleep before it could finish, and that what looked to be a fine shutdown process was actually faulty in some magical way, and I'm supposed to blindly believe all that?

Sure, I could use this opportunity to promote how Linux has a much more sensible way of staying updated, but really, any other OS has a better update mechanism than Microsoft Windows. It's really frustrating. Hopefully the Google Chrome OS netbooks (and to a lesser extent the Ubuntu netbooks made by ASUS) will help promote OSs other than Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac OS X in the public eye, so people realize they don't have to put up with stuff like this or seek needlessly expensive alternatives. (OK, so I did just promote Linux over Apple's Mac OS X, et cetera. So I'm a bad person.)


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 June 5

There were a few posts that got a handful of comments, so I'll try to repost a few from each.

Review: Kororaa 14 "Nemo"

Reader jai ho said, "The developer could have used a kororaa logo (if any) in the gnome edition...using elementary logo removed this distro's individuality.. also you have forgot to give the link to kororaa website.. i do not know why you are reluctant to give a link to the websites.. its disgusting.."

Tech Support via CLI

Commenter T_Beermonster said, "And of course lets not forget that it's fairly trivial to set up ssh and screen. That way not only could you administer the system remotely but you can both attach to a shared screen session and he can learn from what you are doing. Much easier to do with cli apps than via x-forwarding", later adding in response to my response to that original comment, "It's often system administration even if you don't think of it as such. Getting a wireless card to work - sysadmin. Upgrading packages - sysadmin. etc. etc. ad nauseam. You aren't limited to sysadmin though - there is something slightly awesome about being able to set get-iplayer to download a TV programme at a relatives house. Or anything else you prefer to do."
Reader scan suggested, "You may want to give Teamviewer a try, it is free to use for non-commercial. It is super simple to use for both sides http://www.teamviewer.com/en/download/index.aspx?os=linux"
Commenter Linuxrich had this to say: "The command line is an awesome tool. As you rightly point out it makes a lot of tasks so much easier if you are willing to put aside anti cli prejudices. Not only can you cut and paste commands but it's often easier to describe how to do something on he command line as opposed to trying to explain which button to click..."
Supporting that, an anonymous reader said, "Hah exactly.. Im in IT Support (windows mostly sadly) and if I want to ask a user for the IP address of there machine should I a) try to describe how to click through parts of the GUI that the user has never used probably or b) start --> run -- type cmd --> type ipconfig.. read out IP please. CLI is awesome also for documentation as well.. a GUI tutorial or how-to is a million pages long with screen shots.. CLI is one page"

Review: Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini

Commenter Andy Prough said, "You make some good points about the different software options that come with Pinguy vs. Mint, but as you point out, either distro is easy to configure in terms of adding software. What I would like to see is a reviewer who is willing to take the devs for Pinguy, Mint, and even Ubuntu to task for failing to actually develop tools that would help users configure their distribution. For example, openSUSE has the YaST2 control panel, Mandriva and Mageia are using the Mandrake Control Center, and even Windows has a Control Center, but for all the Ubuntu clones and derivatives, you still don't have access to adequate tools to control the distribution. Instead, if you want to change something, you've got to wade through hundreds of thousands of pieces of very questionable advice from the Ubuntu user forums or other user forums. I would like to see all these "devs" actually "develop" something - namely, an intuitive way to interact with and configure their distros, backed up by rock-solid documentation. Until then, I don't consider any of them anything more than window-dressing on top of Debian."
An anonymous reader had this tip: "I think Ubuntu Control Center is on it's way! Check out OMGUbuntu, they've a full post dedicated to it along with PPA."
Commenter Daeng Bo countered to a previous comment, "Andy, As a user of Red Hat, SUSE, and Mandrake from the beginning of last decade, I'd have to say that Ubuntu, Mint, and Pinguy have the same things that these older distros have, though the tools lie in a menu instead of one giant tool."
Reader Linux said, "As usual, Pinguy Rocks!!"

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I don't have anything in particular planned for this coming week, but I'm sure I'll find something to write about. Remember, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing to, commenting on, and sharing these posts!


Review: Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini

Main Screen + Global Menu
Upon the advice of a commenter in one of my previous posts, I am reviewing Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini today. That commenter asked that I test Pinguy OS 11.04, and mentioned the existence of a Mini edition, so I became intrigued, because Pinguy OS is more known for being an "everything-and-the-kitchen-sink" distribution than anything else, so I thought it would be cool to see what the Mini edition would have in store.

For those who don't know, Pinguy OS is, it's an Ubuntu derivative that tries to improve upon the user interface and bring in as many useful applications as possible. Then again, the Mini edition seems to eschew that last goal.

I tested Pinguy OS using a live USB made with UnetBootin. I didn't test the installation because, well, it's yet another Ubuntu derivative, and I don't think there's going to be any huge surprises. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Tech Support via CLI

Recently, I installed Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME on the computer of a relative (who shall be known for the rest of this article as $relative). After the installation, we both got busy with things, so I couldn't properly configure stuff to $relative's liking post-installation, so I gave tech support for configuring stuff at home.

The thing is, $relative has never used a CLI before; $relative has previously only used Microsoft Windows and has never touched its command prompt. Although I'm continually becoming more comfortable with the CLI, I still retain a certain fondness, familiarity, and comfort with GUIs, as I was bred on Microsoft Windows as well until I was told about Linux Mint over two years ago. Yet, as I was giving tech support to $relative over an online chat, I felt far more comfortable giving CLI tech support, and I find this sort of ironic, if nothing else.

Why? Both I and $relative, as I said earlier, are far more comfortable with GUIs. Yet if I wanted to give tech support for GUIs, I'd need to know stuff like exactly what applications to use, exactly what the menu and button structures are like, and exactly what errors would commonly come up. With a CLI, I'd just ask $relative to copy the commands I type into the chat box verbatim into the terminal, and copy back any errors output. And despite having never used a terminal before, $relative did it all with ease, and it was all working perfectly. And that's what's great about Linux now; it's easy, flexible, and extraordinarily powerful all in one, and users now don't have to deal with that immense power if they really don't want to.


Review: Kororaa 14 "Nemo"

Main Screen + GNOME Main Menu
This review has been a long time coming. I actually wanted to include Kororaa in my comparison of Fusion and Fuduntu, but the final release of Kororaa only came a few days ago, and I felt it wouldn't be fair to compare two final products to a beta release of a distribution.

So what is Kororaa? Based on my previous statement, it would be pretty easy to guess that it's a Fedora remix. But it's actually a little more complicated than that. You see, Kororaa actually started life as an easy-to-use Gentoo derivative; it was basically Sabayon before (or maybe just around the same time as) Sabayon existed, and regular readers of this blog know from my numerous reviews of Sabayon that it is a Gentoo derivative that's supposed to be easy-to-use and that just works. After about 2 years, however, Kororaa went dormant, due, if I understand this correctly, to the developer not having enough time or resources to properly maintain a Gentoo derivative. He then found Fedora, and since then Kororaa has been a Fedora remix. Furthermore, while I believe that Gentoo-based Kororaa focused solely on KDE, Fedora-based Kororaa has both KDE and GNOME releases, both of which I will be testing in this post.

I tested these editions of Kororaa via a live USB system created with UnetBootin. I tested the installation procedure of the KDE edition via VirtualBox within the live session with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


LEDs: A Chicken & Egg(ish) Problem, For Now

Yesterday, I read a Yahoo! Finance news article (Gwendolyn Bounds, Wall Street Journal) about the current alternatives to incandescent light bulbs, given that the US will phase out sales of incandescent light bulbs by 2014. I also read some of the comments, many of which griped about the high costs of alternative lighting solutions and complained about government intrusion into their choice of light bulbs.

The story caught by interest because my work at NIST now deals directly with LEDs, and while LEDs have their benefits, they have their problems too. Some of the benefits include huge efficiency gains over comparable incandescent and even compact fluorescent light bulbs, as well as a much wider variety of applications. In addition, unlike compact fluorescent lights, LEDs have no mercury, so there is no toxicity risk associated with LEDs. However, there continue to be issues. One is that because LEDs (and this is true of fluorescent lights as well) do not produce light through heat like a blackbody (as incandescent lights do), the "warmth" of the LED's color can come close to but will never match that of the incandescent light, and this bothers many consumers; related to this, both LEDs and fluorescent lights exhibit flicker, which can be noticeable and irritating at some voltage frequencies. Another is of course that while compact fluorescent lights are now competitive price-wise with incandescent lights, LEDs are still relatively quite expensive (4-5 times more expensive than a comparable alternative); hopefully prices will continue to drop, and hopefully that happens soon. Adding on to that previous point, the efficiency gain of LEDs over comparable compact fluorescent lights is quite a bit less than the gain of the latter over incandescent lights, meaning the overall higher efficiency doesn't quite justify the higher price. Finally, there aren't yet good standards governing how to measure various technical specifications of LEDs.

This is why I'm excited to be working at NIST. At NIST, I'll be helping in at least a small way to test various LED components and make better LED standards. I'm also looking with other people into ways to eliminate flicker and improve both efficiency and color quality. Finally, I hope that all these efforts also result in cost reductions over time.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 May 29

There were two posts that got quite a few comments this week, so I'll try to repost a few from each.

How-To: Make KDE Elementary

Reader Sreekumar said, "This article is good. I am a kde fan and i wonder why so many people treating like it as second-rated.Great reading and Thank you"
An anonymous commenter said, "KDE 3.x was better than KDE 4+ will ever be!" This same commenter later added, after my response, "I have KDE 3.5.10 but Trinity should be 3.5.12. The official site at trinitydesktop.org is down however. Other than being a faster desktop, I like 3.5.x is because it's virtually if not entirely bug-free, not full of glitzy and shiney see-through menus and widgets that just slows performance and general work productivity. Also, I have no intentions in wasting time learning to use new and not necessarily better user interfaces that in the end produces nothing more than the old more stable ones. Perhaps why Windows is so popular is because it really never changes much, even though it's a crap OS and desktop." The same commenter added again, after another of my responses, "Maybe I will give KDE 4.x another chance sooner or later. At the same time, if there's enough people out there who likes the KDE 3.x style, then surely that branch will continue and eventually evolve into a stand-alone desktop apart from KDE 4 and onwards. As it stands now, I don't think it's possible to have both KDE 3 and 4 on one file system. Too many conflicting system files. The good thing with Linux is however that there is always plenty of options."

Review: Linux Mint 11 "Katya" GNOME

An anonymous reader said, "Two points regarding your review: 1> for someone posting reviews that others may consider 'expert', it would be good if you actually read the release notes -- you would then KNOW about the compiz problem, and 2> personal preference regarding visual aspects of a distro hardly should really account for the overall value of the user experience -- beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. All in all, it is good that you have found a 'nit' to pick. Otherwise, how could you have justified the time taken to create this 'review'?"
Another anonymous commenter said, "@PV -- I guess the point that bothers me most about your review is its narrowness. The user interface issue is much more complicated than picking an initial 'look' for the newest edition of Linux Mint. The major desktop players (KDE, Gnome, AND Ubuntu) are making major changes in their desktop experience. Most, in my opinion, are trying to 'dumb down' the user interface in an attempt to attract more cell phone and tablet users over to the Linux desktop experience. Linux Mint has chosen to preserve the current user experience with Gnome 2 until the dust settles in this changing landscape. I think this is a courageous position that deserves some recognition, not criticism. Second, current Linux Mint users enjoy the ease of changing the 'default' desktop that Linux Mint devs provide. The attaching thread in Linux Mint forums, regarding user customization of the Linux Mint desktop, has enjoyed approximately 200,000 views and 6,000 posts: http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=10828 This seems to indicate a community that isn't deterred by what the distro devs provide as a first look. I commend you for taking the time and effort to provide the reviews that you do, as well as your willingness to take a public stance on your beliefs. I just wish you had taken a little larger perspective on the considerations most major distros are having to wrestle with. Hawkeye52@gmail.com" Also of note is that this was another comment that accidentally got caught in the spam filter. To all readers: please check back to make sure your comment has been posted. I don't personally moderate all comments, so once you enter the CAPTCHA, your comment should be visible. If it's not, please let me know with another comment.
Yet another anonymous reader suggested, "Give Pinguy OS 11.04.1 a try." I certainly will!
Still another anonymous commenter said, "I'm confused I have never had a problem with Linux Mint sooner, But one of my machines is behaving so weird with this system that after four days installing back Linix Mint 10 Julia who works 100% in all of my machines.this feels like a Rc or (nightly build)version."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This week, I hope to have two reviews out; the identity of one of those reviews should be obvious from the comments featured in this article. And remember, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing, commenting, and sharing these articles!


Review: Linux Mint 11 "Katya" GNOME

Main Screen
Linux Mint is currently my favorite Linux distribution of all and is the one I use almost exclusively on a regular basis. Since the release of Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora", I have made it a point to review new releases of Linux Mint. Six months ago, I previewed Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME RC. Since then, I have also reviewed two versions of Debian-based Linux Mint. However, due to Ubuntu's fixed 6-month release schedule, I haven't been able to check out the latest version of Ubuntu-based Linux Mint until now.

Regular readers of this blog know Linux Mint needs no further introduction. The only things to consider while reading this are that Linux Mint also has a Debian-based version that is going strong, while Ubuntu's state of transition (what with Unity, Wayland, et cetera) could pose difficulties for Ubuntu-based Linux Mint in the future.

I tested the live session through a live USB made with UnetBootin. Though this is an Ubuntu-based distribution, I tested the installation anyway through VirtualBox with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS with the live USB session as the host OS. Follow the jump to see if this new version of Linux Mint is just as good as ever.