Review: Linux Mint 12 "Lisa" GNOME + MATE

Recently, the latest version of Linux Mint was released. Considering that I almost exclusively use Linux Mint on a daily basis and I'm a huge fan of the distribution, I had to review it.

GNOME 3 Shell: Main Screen
This release could easily be one of the most highly-anticipated new Linux releases in a long time, far surpassing the anticipation of its parent, Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot". Why? Well, although Unity had to be ported to GNOME 3, the interface is still essentially unchanged from version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", so most of the changes have been back-end and bug fixes and general polishing. Linux Mint, on the other hand, used its classic GNOME 2.X setup through version 11 "Katya". Now, however, the small group of developers has had to port all that over to GNOME 3 with far fewer resources to do so than Canonical. Yet, the Linux Mint developers have essentially rolled 3 desktops into this one release. The main desktop is a heavily customized GNOME 3 Shell. The secondary fallback to that is a slightly customized GNOME 3 Fallback mode. The third (but really, equal to GNOME 3 Shell) desktop is MATE, which is a fork of GNOME 2.X akin to how Trinity is a fork of KDE 3.5; because MATE aims to be able to coexist with GNOME 3, it cannot use the "GNOME" names for files because otherwise there will be conflicts, so the MATE developers have had to completely rebrand GNOME 2.X along with making other small changes here and there. The Linux Mint developers advise using the GNOME 3 desktop, as MATE is still under heavy development and will still be a bit unpolished, but considering how much I really like GNOME 2.X, I think it's worth checking out.

I tested the live session through a live USB made with MultiSystem. I tested the installation using a VM in VirtualBox in the live USB session with 1024 MB of RAM, 64 MB of video memory, and 3D graphics acceleration capabilities allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

Review: openSUSE 12.1 GNOME + KDE

GNOME: Main Screen
It's November again, so what does that mean? It means there's another new release of openSUSE, and I'm reviewing it.

openSUSE doesn't really need much of an introduction here. There are a few new things with this release, though. The first is that GNOME 3 has become an official part of openSUSE; this is not surprising considering that openSUSE and Fedora were the only distributions who provided vanilla live CD previews of GNOME 3 before its official release. The second is that the release numbering and schedule have changed. Now, there will be releases in November, July, and March, and they will respectively have decimal numbers ".1", ".2", and ".3" before the number before the decimal point gets incremented by one with the next November release. This means that there will be no more ".0" or ".4" releases, and that the jump from, for example, version 13.1 to 13.2 will be just as significant as the jump from version 12.3 to 13.1.

KDE: Main Screen
I reviewed both the GNOME and KDE editions using a live USB made with MultiSystem. I tested the installation in VirtualBox in one of the live USB systems with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see if I'll like this release as much as the last one.

Featured Comments: Week of 2011 November 20

There was one comment on one post this past week, so I'll repost that one; interestingly, it was on a "Featured Comments" post.

Featured Comments: Week of 2011 November 13

Reader DarkDuck had this little tidbit of news: "Hi Prashanth, Looks like I overtook your blog by total pageviews. ;-) My counter is already at 430k. Hope to have half a million by January."

Thanks to that reader for commenting on that post this past week. I meant to have a review out this past week but couldn't do it due to the Thanksgiving holiday. (Incidentally, my holiday was great, except that traveling on Megabus was a pain, and I hope to keep future travels on Megabus to a minimum.) Therefore, this coming week, I hope to have two reviews out, but I can't guarantee anything because it'll all ultimately depend on my schedule this week with schoolwork and other stuff. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


FOLLOW-UP: SOPA: The Year of the Zombie Internet

This one's a quickie. It's just that I mailed a whole bunch of letters to my senators and representative expressing my opposition towards SOPA and PROTECT-IP and urged them to do the same. I also wrote a similar set of letters (to the same recipients) co-signed by my friends here at college. Hopefully they'll make a difference. If anyone wants to see what I wrote, I'll try to repost it here. And I'd love to see your letters or other comments in the comments section as well!

On a brighter note, happy Thanksgiving! I'm going home this evening, and I plan to have a lot of fun and do a lot of eating and relaxing!


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 November 13

There were no "Featured Comments" posts the last 2 weeks because I was too busy to post anything until this past week. Anyway, this past week, there were a few posts that got a bunch of comments, so I'll try to repost a few from each.

A Disappointing Review of #! 10 "Statler"

An anonymous reader said, "The Debian installer is not that to use. It's true on Debian live cd images you have to look a little, no big deal. Crunchbang is designed to be light on resources so you shouldn't expect "point and click." I thought the Dedoimedo review came up short.He should not have done this review unless he was willing to do it right."
Commenter Neuromancer put things in perspective: "Considering how very long Statler has been out, no one probably gave any weight to his review; I know I didn`t. Never mind. He wrote a pissy article and you wrote a pissy response to it. It happens. It`s the internet. I`ve already forgotten about it. In 10 minutes, so will everyone else, lol."
Reader Matt responded, " Thank you for your critique of Dedoimedo's review. I distro hopped for years before landing solidly on Crunchbang, and I won't be leaving any time soon. Needless to say, I love it, and I don't think it deserved this review. Now, I do understand that any Linux user in their right mind would instantly dismiss his review, but still, bad press is bad press. It wasn't so much that his review was negative. I don't mind that at all, his opinion is his, and he has the right to share it. What stung about it was that he didn't give it a fair chance. This isn't a replacement for Fedora, OpenSuse, Mint, or Ubuntu. It's a fun, enjoyable distro for those of us who enjoy playing with Linux, not necessarily expecting it to work the first time, every time. [...] What further put a sour taste in my mouth is that Dedoimedo admitted to not wanting to configure things and expected the distro to 'Just Work', and yet he chose to download the openbox version of Crunchbang. The XFCE version is far more user friendly, and is recommended for those users who want the Crunchbang experience without having to edit all of the fun config files. @Neuromancer As for your your comment, Neuromancer- Really? A blogger on the internet doesn't have the right to question another blogger? Dedoimedo posted his review publicly, fully knowing that his review was critical and negative. By your logic, what gave HIM the right to do that to Crunchbang? As an adult, with a public profile and with public posts, Dedoimedo is just as entitled to receive criticism as he is to give it. I'm sure that if he read your post he would do a literal face->palm. I'm sure he doesn't need you senselessly and needlessly defending his honor."
Commenter rikhard seconded the description of the Xfce edition: "i use #!CB for a long time, uninterrupted since it's been Debian based and i have never had to configure any file, maybe because i use the xfce version, i don't know! it's clean, fast and easy to use, my girlfriend use it and she hates computers."

SOPA: The Year of the Zombie Internet

Reader Neuromancer said, "I admit it, sometimes in a case like Silent Hill 1 or Final Fantasy 7 where the company has long since got its money and the only copies go for hundreds of dollars on Amazon, I`ll download a torrent. As far as new content, no I won`t. I wonder if anyone else will admit to it... Plus, I live on Youtube, and I shudder to think of the chilling effect that this will have there. One last thing, one error in the article. It isn`t hard at all to find pirated copies of anything on Google. Just saying." S/he later responded to my clarification, "Good point about the first few searches. If someone doesn`t include "torrent" in the search it won`t show. Youtube actually closes users that upload copyrighted material very quickly now, it`s the fact that some companies, (and countries), insist that everything is copyrighted even when it isn`t. Good article!"

Review: Pinguy OS 11.10 Beta

Commenter Van Long had this tip to make GNOME-Tweak-Tool setting changes effective: "instead of logging out and back, you can press Alt F2, type r and press enter"
An anonymous reader reported these quirks: "I found that I can't delete the Docky at the bottom of the display. Also, my Workspace defaults to #2 (or maybe it is mis-labeled on the Display), but if I open Firefox, it's magically changed to Workspace #1 on the Display with no switching of Workspace by the user. Also where are the Screensaver settings to select the Floating Feet? I've searched every menu? It does appear to run good from LiveDVD, and I guess an install is needed to really test it appropriately."
Commenter Pinguy, the creator of Pinguy OS, had this bit of news: "I will have the mini's done pretty soon."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I plan to have out a review, along with maybe one other post. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Pinguy OS 11.10 Beta

A new version of Pinguy OS has come out, and as can easily be predicted, it's based on Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot". And because I've taken a liking to past versions of it, I'm reviewing this new one now.

Main Screen
For those who don't know, Pinguy OS is basically Ubuntu plus everything and the kitchen sink. Also, the interface is made to look much more like Apple's Mac OS X, with a top panel featuring a global menu, along with docks and similar themes. However, there have been some changes out of necessity because as of version 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot", Ubuntu no longer officially supports GNOME 2, so Pinguy OS has also had to upgrade to GNOME 3. As a result, the whole "Apple Mac OS X" look has had to be adapted to the new interface and restrictions (and there are many such restrictions) of GNOME 3. I'd like to see if it still remains as usable and friendly as before.

I tested the live session on a live USB made with MultiSystem. I did not test the installation, because (1) this is an Ubuntu derivative, so there isn't much point in going through the whole Ubiquity song-and-dance one more time, and (2) the lead developer has said that this release is still beta-quality in terms of stability. Regarding the second point, the developer has also said that the stability of GNOME 3.X is not likely to improve anytime soon, so there will be no official final release of Pinguy OS 11.10; this is also why I'm calling this a review rather than a preview like I usually do with pre-release distributions, because this is as official as it will ever get. Follow the jump to see if it's the same Pinguy OS I came to know and love.


SOPA: The Year of the Zombie Internet

I haven't really talked about issues like these in a while, but there is a hugely important bill making its way through Congress right now that could make the Internet a mere shell of what it is right now. It's called the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA), and it has terrible implications for the whole Internet as it exists today.

But you must be wondering, "Isn't stopping piracy a good thing? What could possibly be bad about it? And won't it do its job right? What's there to worry about?"

1. I don't know if stopping piracy is such a good thing. Study after study has shown that piracy is merely a symptom of a need being unfulfilled. No, that need is not "greedy freetards wanting everything for free". It's people getting content they like in formats they can use in an easy way for reasonable prices. Many studies have shown that once iTunes came around selling music super-conveniently for $0.99 apiece and once that music started coming without DRM (which was supposedly made to increase sales by preventing piracy), piracy of the songs on iTunes dropped precipitously. All you need to do is compete with piracy by giving people something even more compelling; it may sound strange, but while it may be free of charge, piracy isn't actually all that convenient to carry out. And despite what major movie studios and record labels would like you to believe, you actually have to dig pretty deep into search results on sites like Google to find actual pirated content.

2. There are tons of things horrible about it. Foremost among them, it basically upends the justice system which requires that defendants be innocent until proven guilty and which requires that defendants be able to defend themselves in a court of law. This throws all that out the window: now, people can be punished severely just on accusations of infringement, and the burden of proof falls on said defendant and the website that supposedly enabled the infringement (even if it was a link to a link to a link or if the content was generated by other users of the site, not by webmasters). Basically, the big record and movie studios have admitted that they're too lazy to police their own content, so they're asking the government to do it for them and to play by their rules.

3. No, it won't necessarily do its job right. Recently, Warner Brothers admitted that it took down a whole bunch of legitimate content from other sites that they didn't even own in the first place. And Viacom has had a history of legally uploading its own videos to YouTube; under SOPA, it could basically shut down YouTube for its own stunts like that.

4. Well, considering what I've already told you, it should be pretty obvious by now that the Internet would be a far, far worse place under SOPA. Everyone from civil libertarians (i.e. the ACLU) to tech companies to small independent productions studios to libraries to lawyers to [et cetera] have come out against it. Petitions are growing by the day. It's really only supported by Hollywood and the recording studios (and maybe the big drug companies too who don't want to admit that generic drugs are legal and are not counterfeits). It's gotten to the point where a recent House of Representatives hearing was carefully stacked with 5 speakers supporting SOPA and only 1 speaking against it. That should tip you off as to how flimsy the case for SOPA really is.

There are a whole bunch of different petitions going out around the Internet. I myself have signed about 3 of them. Please, sign the petitions, tell your friends, and call your senators and representatives in Congress and convince them that you, as a humble constituent, matter more than big entertainment lobbies, and that the government can do better than being Hollywood's hired thugs. Do it before it's too late!

(Note: this law has gone through a few different names. In 2009 and 2010, it was called "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act" (COICA). After that it was called PROTECT-IP. After that it was called E-PARASITE, though I genuinely thought the sponsors of the bill were unwittingly referring to themselves as the "e-parasites", as they have just been reaping all the rewards of the Internet and are now going to kill it to make sure no one else can. Now it's called SOPA.)


A Disappointing Review of #! 10 "Statler"

Before I say anything else, I'd just like to say that the reason why I haven't posted anything in 2 weeks has been due to me being quite busy with classes, my UROP, and other related stuff. I will definitely have another post out this week (and it'll actually be a bit like this one), but I can't really promise much more. After all, I did say that I couldn't count on posting stuff regularly during the semester.

Anyway, I haven't done a post like this in a while; in fact, it's been half a year, when I criticized Dedoimedo's review of Bodhi Linux 0.1.6. There, I criticized the author for holding Bodhi Linux to an artificially higher standard and then trashing it from there. Well, this time around, it's another Dedoimedo review that's caused me to write this: this time, it's the review of #! 10 "Statler". Follow the jump to read my issues with the review.