Review: Chakra 2011.12 "Edn"

There's a new build of Chakra out, and I have some free time to check it out, so I'm doing so now. The other reason why I want to try it now is because a member of my family was raving about KDE in Fedora, so I figured it would be worth my time to dig deeper and see if I can massage KDE into becoming something that I could really like and use regularly. I'll spare any introductions because I've reviewed Chakra enough times already, so I'll skip to the main part of it.

Kickoff + KDE System Monitor
There doesn't seem to have been too much changed from the last version, aside from updates of applications across the board. But now that the day is getting closer for me to look into upgrading from Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora", I'm not just going to do my usual testing, but I'm also going to dig a bit deeper and really see if I can recreate something at least as good as what I have right now. With any Ubuntu-based distribution, it's almost guaranteed to be a trivial process, but with Chakra, I can't say that with as much confidence off-hand. I did all the testing using a live USB made with MultiSystem; I did not test the installation. Also, do note that I tested the DVD edition this time, so it does have more stuff out-of-the-box than the CD edition, which is what I have tested in the past. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Done with 3rd Semester!

I'm finally done with my 3rd semester! Yay! Although this semester I was just taking the classes for my major/that I wanted to take, thanks to the combination of 4 classes (all of which have problem sets and exams), a UROP, and grading, this semester was way more grueling than any previous semester. Thankfully, I think I've done fine, so I feel like I would be better prepared to do the same (4 classes, a UROP, and grading) next semester.
But before I need to worry about next semester or even IAP, I get to go home for winter break! Woohoo!


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 December 11

There weren't any posts the previous week, so that's why there was no "Featured Comments" post last week. That's because I was quite busy that week finishing up the last of my problem sets and midterm exams. This past week, there was one post that got a handful of comments, so I'll repost a few from that.

Review: VectorLinux 7.0 Standard Gold

Reader Barista Uno said, "I have the same experience in regard to the speed of Vector Linux 7.0. It is noticeably slower than SalixOS 13.37 when installed on one of my rigs, a vintage HP Pavilion running on 500MZ processor and 500MB RAM. SalixOS is well-integrated, elegant looking and snappy. Unfortunately, I had to replace it with Bodhi Linux 1.2.1 on the same machine because it uses LILO instead of GRUB or GRUB2 and applications available are limited."
Commenter kelvin said, among other things, "i have not used vector for a long time but I have used Salix and it is fast. In answer to Barista, what is wrong with lilo it does all that grub does I used it with multiboot win+ 4 linux distros no problem. regards software with Salix you have the whole world of Slackbiulds at your feet and a wonderfull packagebuilt system that finds all the deps. Also 64bt uses only 180mb ram running KDE4 its more stable than bodhi."
Reader kevin had these issues: "i tried vector linux 7.0 and it ran fine on my machine with the live usb but trying to installl it would not order my drives correctly. i have 1 IDE for my OS drive plus multiple SATA drives for storage. it would not see the IDE as drive A which every other OS does. ended up going with pinguyOS".
Commenter Ken had a few suggestions: "Nice to see a review on Vectorlinux. Thanks. There are a couple points I would like to look further into. 1. This distro is one of very few running the latest Xfce. Since it is new, I think some of your reviewing audience would have liked to hear what you thought of it's newest features. Networking right in Thunar, compositing, etc. 2. Kind of unfair comparing speed of Vectorlinux to a distribution that is not running the newest Xfce. If you want to compare apples to apples, turn off the avahi daemon, (old xfce never did networking), turn of compositing, and quit cairo-doc. (You can take Cairo-doc out of auto-start if you never want to see it again.) 3. Sure you can install google talk. Here is how. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsOjNA0OaoE 4. Your comment "ie for powerusers". This is just not true. After install everything is ready to go. Codecs, applications, drivers. Where does the need to be a power user come in." I especially appreciated the video made just in response to this article.

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I have final exams, so I don't think I'll be posting anything new. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: VectorLinux 7.0 Standard Gold

One of the distributions I've been wanting to check out for a while now has been VectorLinux. Recently, version 7.0 of VectorLinux was released, so I'm reviewing it.

Main Screen
What is VectorLinux? It's a Slackware-based distribution that ships customized versions of Xfce and KDE that aim to be a lot more user-friendly, while retaining the benefits of using Slackware. The version I'm reviewing today is the Xfce edition ("Standard"), because the KDE edition ("SOHO") of version 7.0 hasn't been released, and as far as I understand it is not free of charge.

I tested the live session using a live USB made with MultiSystem. I tested the installation in VirtualBox on a MultiSystem-made Xubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" live USB, with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 November 27

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

Review: openSUSE 12.1 GNOME + KDE

An anonymous reader also had some audio issues and some tips to deal with them: "I noticed some quirks with sound when upgrading a couple of systems previously from openSUSE 11.3 to 11.4, in part I think because PulseAudio had now been imposed as default. You could try running Alsamixer in a terminal and fiddle about with some of the switches for mic autodetect / speaker out / LFE, etc. Or try upping the volumes of anything that is muted in there. When I did that, suddenly the sound issues got sorted out, and neither YaST nor Kmixer's controls had been able to do the same. However, I'm not sure if having PulseAudio installed limits Alsamixer's controls, in which case you'd need to either run a PulseAudio-specific tool like pavucontrol or uninstall PulseAudio altogether (by deleting all pulse* files in YaST but for libpulse and rebooting). Anyway, just a hunch. Maybe you've got some other issue."
Another anonymous commenter had the opposite experience — lots of problems in version 11.4, only to see them all solved in version 12.1: "I was glad to get off of 11.4 . I had some font/sound and more issues with 11.4 that I was never able to resolve. For me 12.1 has been awesome. I don't mind Gnome 3.x or KDE and either works well. Sound and font issues are a thing of the past. As well, the annoying beep I would get on my laptop on shutdown with 11.4 is now gone - happy days!!! I have done 4 installs and only one of them has given me issues. I do believe it is hardware based though. My wife, who is not technical, loves suse 12.1 and functions well with both interfaces. So 12.1 gets my vote."
Reader buy my laptop had this to report: "Have been testing 12.1 and the only issue I found was that the wireless network does not log in automatically."
Commenter m_goku said, "openSUSE 12.1 is the first openSUSE that had a lot of issues for me. My bluetooth does not work, loading kmix make KDE stall for a long time, my wifi unable to detect encrypted AP, and it fail to detect my printer. I uninstall pulseaudio, that fix my issue with kmix. And then i uninstall systemd-sysvinit, that fixed my issue with bluetooth. Load my printer ppd file manually (from YAST printer module), fixed my issue with printer. The last one is issue with my wifi, unfortunately i don't know how to fix it."

Review: Linux Mint 12 "Lisa" GNOME + MATE

Reader kelvin had this defense of GNOME 3 Shell: "what is so hard with moving the mouse to the right hand side of the screen to preview minimised programs or using gnome window switcher extention yes a extention get real compiz extentions aren't installed by default niether is windows its up to you if you want to use them or not also as far as i know compiz works with gnome3 but not in gnome shell or it did upto 3 months ago. gnome 3 will carry on where 2 left off when people stop slaging it off and start using it also as far as i know developement of comppiz ended a long time ago so its days are numbered."
An anonymous commenter said, "i have installed mint gnome and mint mate from a ubuntu mini.iso and mint gnome3 works nice with compiz. for mate i had to install it and enable it from mateconf manager (replace the /desktop/mate/session/required-components/windowmanager/ marco with compiz)".
 Reader Psychorat had this tip: "Robert, you've got a point there as KDE is more mature than Gnome3. But as a gtk lover i prefer the interface minimality of Gnome3. Im quite sure that the customization that is missing right now, will be come pretty fast as the users push for it. Compiz with gnome3 is an issue as i tested atm. Gnome3 shell / Compiz = Panels are disappearing Gnome3 Failback Mode / Compiz = Working Mate / Compiz = Working To enable the compiz in MATE, do what i mention above: 'From mateconf manager (replace the /desktop/mate/session/required-components/windowmanager/ marco with compiz)' Also it helps to install fusion-icon Mate Team workaround 1 (didnt work for me) https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?pid=983409#p983409 Mate Team workaround 2 https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?pid=985190#p985190".
Another anonymous commenter said, "[...] I have subsequently downloaded LM12, and tested it. So far the only problem I've had is it fails to recognise the different resolutions of the two monitors, on my test machine, settiing both to the same resolution as the lower of the two. In all other respects MATE appears to function the same as I am used to with GNOME 2.x. It's a releif to know that when I do finally upgrade, I have a decent upgrade path available."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I don't really have anything planned because I'm probably going to be quite busy. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


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.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 October 23

There were no featured comments the previous week because the comments on the post that week came after the end of the week. That's because I published that post quite late that week. This past week, though, there was one post that got a handful of comments, so I'll repost most of those.

Review: Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot"

An anonymous reader said, "The installer now has a checkbox for installing codecs, as well as a box for installing updates, it's pretty handy. Previews for inactive windows in the taskbar has always been on by default for me in Kubuntu, either way you can turn it on from the desktop effects settings. I have used Kubuntu for many years as my main desktop and it really has improved a lot. I don't mind the vanilla KDE so much as I always customize KDE to my liking. I don't know why they keep trying to push rekonq though, it will never be as good as FF or Chrome."
Another anonymous commenter had this to say: "Took a look at Rekonq recently in another distro; crashed on me about 3 times, during something like a 5 minute session. I would have played around with it longer, but that was enough for me. If I installed Kubuntu, I'd add another web browser right away. Nice review as always, but I'm still hoping you'll start doing reviews with actual installations. Yeah, I've read all of your explanations about why you don't, so no need to repeat all of that. But it's the only area where your reviews fall short, at least for me. (Please don't take offense -- just calling 'em like I see 'em.)"
Reader Kelhim2 had this suggestion, of sorts: "One downside of Kubuntu 11.10 is the inclusion of KMail2 which uses Akonadi and therefore needs all of your mails migrated to the new database - and inevitably fails to do so. People who don't read the official release statement, which makes it quite clear that the KMail2 migration assistent is unreliable and explains how to migrate manually, will be put off entrusting their data to KMail2."
Commenter carretillo said, "Some lost features from kde 4.5, are comeback, like daysi task and fancy task. I recommend strongly change kickoff for lancelot. Another tweak is install xfwm4 for use instead kwin. Is a really good kde distro. I use like my principal distro. But I still waiting for LMDE KDE."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I hope to have another review out, but that's not guaranteed. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot"

You can consider this to be the second part of a series of reviews of the relatives of Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot. Today I'm reviewing Kubuntu.

Main Screen
I've said some bad things about Kubuntu in the past. Mainly, it has to do with how a couple years ago on Ubuntu, KDE and GNOME would not mix very well, and Kubuntu's implementation of KDE, while vanilla-looking, wasn't very vanilla-working (and really didn't work well at all). Things have improved since then: Kubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" was generally lauded as the first good Kubuntu release since the transition from KDE 3 to KDE 4. Kubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" was even better, and this version has been reviewed by others as the best ever; not only that, but the aforementioned other reviewers have also said this is among the best KDE distributions out today, period. That's quite a lot of praise, so I'm seeing if (1) that praise is warranted and (2) I need to change my previously sour opinion of Kubuntu.

I tested Kubuntu on a live USB made with UnetBootin. I was going to test the installation...on a real computer! A $friend of mine in college heard me and another friend discussing computer-related things and how I thought it would be interesting and ironic if I could put Linux on an Apple iMac/MacBook and use it instead of Apple's Mac OS X. $friend had a slightly older Intel-based Apple iMac that $friend wasn't using, so $friend was willing to lend it to me for the year; $friend was cool with me using it to test and install Linux distributions on the hard drive, because $friend actually used a triple-boot Linux setup on the Apple iMac on a regular basis before it fell into disuse. I figured I should use this opportunity to try to install Kubuntu, so I followed the instructions on the Ubuntu website to create the appropriate live USB with another 2 GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB stick I got 4 years ago but haven't used at all since high school; unfortunately, while the Refit bootloader (that I installed beforehand) did apparently recognize the live USB, booting just hung at the white screen. While I am aware of a few potential solutions, I've also read on the Refit website that different Apple iMac generations tolerate live USB booting at different levels: some are fully cooperative, while others pretend live USBs don't exist. I believe this particular Apple iMac is closer to the latter end of that spectrum, so I didn't pursue it further. I do know another friend who has been collecting many desktop computers that are a few years old, so I might ask that friend to borrow a working one for such installations. That'll have to wait for a future review though. In any case, this time around, despite my best efforts, installation did not occur. Follow the jump to see what Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" is like.


Review: Edubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot"

Main Screen
Well, it's that time of year again: it's October, so another edition of Ubuntu has been released. This includes its official derivatives, like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, and Edubuntu. Today I'll be testing Edubuntu because I feel like it doesn't get reviewed enough, yet it provides the same experience and support as standard Ubuntu, aside from having a whole bunch of educational applications included in the live session (hence the name).

So what's new with Edubuntu? Version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" came with Unity for the first time, and I reviewed Edubuntu then; I found that while I didn't encounter any stability issues, I couldn't use the interface very easily and it didn't seem that polished. Since then, version 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" has seen a few new features and revisions to the interface, along with the replacement of GNOME 2 by GNOME 3, but most of the work has gone into fixing bugs and making the experience much more stable and polished. One other thing is that the GDM login screen has been replaced by the lighter yet more polished LightDM; as the live session has automatic login, I wasn't able to see that.

The live ISO file is 2.6 GB, which is a pretty hefty download, but that can be explained by the large number of extra educational programs included. I tested Edubuntu using a live USB made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation, but fear not, because I will test the installation procedure with either Kubuntu or Xubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot", and I hope to review those soon. Follow the jump to see what the latest version of Edubuntu is like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 October 9

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

Review: Sabayon 7 KDE + GNOME + Xfce

Reader MacLone said, "My problem with every Sabayon i test is the buggy installer. I have tried to install on several machines and the installer ends with some python bugs. This is not new, it has been the same with earlier versions of sabayon. The only way to install this problematic distro is by text. As a "whole" Sabayon is the most rushed and buggy of all the linuxes i test."

Thanks to that reader for commenting on that post. This coming week, I hope to have a few reviews out, but that depends on my work schedule. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Sabayon 7 KDE + GNOME + Xfce

I've reviewed Sabayon here enough that I don't need to introduce it here anymore. Let's just say that version 7 was released recently, so I'm reviewing it.

KDE: Main Screen
But usually, I only review the KDE edition, so why am I reviewing the GNOME and Xfce editions too this time? Well, GNOME is now at version 3.2, and the Xfce edition is now considered to be stable enough to not be "experimental" anymore, so I think both of those things warrant reviews. Of course, I'm going to be reviewing the KDE edition as well, and KDE is now at version 4.7, which I haven't had much experience with as most recent KDE distributions I've tried have included KDE only at version 4.6.

I tested all 3 editions using live USBs made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation procedures, because I didn't see anything in the release notes about improvements to the installer, so I don't really anticipate any changes from last time. Follow the jump to see what each edition is like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 October 2

There was one post this past week that got two comments, so I'll repost both of those.

Review: Kororaa 15 "Squirt"

Reader Jonquil had this clarification: "You can change the icons and themes using Gnome-Tweak-Tool, which should be available in the repositories. Also, Appearance hasn't been deprecated. Something is wrong with the distribution you're using. I've used the Appearance settings in Gnome 3.0 AND 3.2 in Fedora, and they work just fine."
An anonymous commenter said, "I totally agree with the above article. After getting my first build up and running (I was completely supervised by my friend and mentor who has several certifications and has been building computers for over 20 years now.) I installed Kororaa 15 KDE on it. What a load of crap! When using Jockey to download the NVIDIDA drivers as instructed and installing them and going into desktop settings to set slideshow my screen went black. I have tried several distributions and the only ones that work with NVIDIA are Ubuntu based. AT least Bodhi comes with them already in place. I am using Ultimate Edition 2.9 and it works like a charm. Kororaa has definitely taken a hug step backwards and has lost its credibility with me as have Fedora based distributions. Fuduntu 14.11 failed miserably as well. So Prashnath I totally agree with what you have written here. Kororaa has definitely gone bad and gone bad quickly."

Thanks to those two for commenting on that post. This coming week, I don't really anticipate writing about much, because while I do have the next two days off, I also have an exam at the end of this week, and I'll probably be preparing for that. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing, commenting, and sharing!


Review: Kororaa 15 "Squirt"

KDE: Main Screen
I've been swamped these past couple weeks. I mean, I've been absolutely, completely, and totally bogged down by work. I had 4 problem sets to do, on top of my recently-started UROP and other work-study stuff I'm doing, so I seriously had no room to breathe, until now. I briefly thought about starting work for next week tonight, but then I realized that whatever sanity I had left at this point would go out the window if I worked any more. I needed a break, so what did I do instead of working? I wrote this review! (This is my pre-emptive excuse if some people may feel that this is not thorough enough, or whatever. Yeah, yeah, sue me.)

GNOME: Main Screen
I've reviewed Kororaa before, and that was version 14 "Nemo" which featured KDE 4.6 and GNOME 2.32. This new version 15 "Squirt" has an unchanged semi-major version of KDE, but GNOME has been upgraded to version 3.0. Other applications have been updated too, so I figured it would be time to give it another go.

I tested both versions through live USB systems made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation processes because there haven't been significant changes to the Anaconda installer since Fedora 14 "Laughlin". Follow the jump to see what each is like.


KevJumba and Google Search Results

I know I'm quite late on this one, but I just thought of a better way to explain this somewhat recent TechDirt post on why US Senators' assertions that Google remove all biases and put up "natural" search results is wrongheaded, because Google's search results are inherently influenced by people's searches, companies' advertising, and Google's own algorithms. The issue, if I remember correctly, revolves around the fact that Google is advertising for Canadian drugs when people search online to buy drugs, and it is in some instances illegal to buy Canadian drugs that are the same type and quality as comparable American drugs. Since then, it has basically become an antitrust lawsuit against Google (or the two cases may be separate, I'm not sure which), despite the fact that Google doesn't seem to have done anything like Microsoft did in its monopoly position to actually bar other competitors from entering or raise costs for consumers, and that's the key to actually making an antitrust suit successful. Plus, the Senators themselves have basically admitted that the issue is to stop Google from growing for the sole sake of stopping it from getting to a certain size (and not actually for protecting consumers), and they've even claimed that Google was destined to succeed and monopolize, which is totally false given that quite a few famous names in computer technology predicted in 1998 that Google would fail and that in 1998, there were about 10 different big competing search engines, and few people thought Google could muscle into the market.
But I'd like to share a thought or two specifically regarding the "biased search results", and show why they would be inherently biased anyway. As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm a fan of the videos of Kevin Wu, who goes by KevJumba on YouTube. In the first video posted here, KevJumba tells the viewers about how searching on Google the phrase "Is KevJumba" yields "Is KevJumba gay?" as the first suggestion. Leaving aside the issues of homophobia and all that, it's clear that happened because thousands upon thousands of users searched for that, and that became the search result most associated with his name. In response, he asked his users to make the result a bit more masculine: "Is KevJumba a heterosexual bear wrestler?" In the second video posted here, KevJumba thanks the viewers for making his dream come true, as "Is KevJumba a heterosexual bear wrestler?" is now the first suggestion not only for the phrase "Is KevJumba" but also just for the word "Is". That only happened because of his legions of fans rushing to Google and searching it repeatedly to make that the best suggestion for the phrase "Is". That already shows in two ways the fact that Google has no "natural/unbiased" search results; for now, I rest my case.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 September 25

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

The Neutrino News and Science in the Public

Reader T_Beermonster had this excellent explanation/clarification: "It's probably just me misreading but it seems like you are saying the measurement was of neutrino speed in rock exceeding only photon speed in rock. The paper clearly states that the measurement was of muon neutrinos in rock (or at least assumed to be travelling through rock rather than taking a short-cut through a spare dimension) moving faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. The paper is still up on arxiv.org http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.4897 small quote from page 19 'We cannot explain the observed effect in terms of presently known systematic uncertainties. Therefore, the measurement indicates an early arrival time of CNGS muon neutrinos with respect to the one computed assuming the speed of light in vacuum. The relative difference of the muon neutrino velocity with respect to the speed of light is: (v-c)/c = δt /(TOF’c - δt) = (2.48 ± 0.28 (stat.) ± 0.30 (sys.)) ×10-5, with 6.0 σ significance.' Obviously the high likelihood is of some as yet unnoticed systematic effects. If the phenomenon is real there are various ways in which it could be reconciled with the Lorentz requirement of c as a hard upper (or lower) limit or even some c preserving Lorentz violating schemes (several suggestions already cropping up on arxiv). Or we could get some brand spanking new theory. The general press did however bugger up their reporting quite badly BBC Breakfast seemed to be suggesting that relativity was going to be cancelled and your mobile phone stop working. I even felt compelled to actually put a message up on my facebook wall for the day: 'Relativity still works. I have a laser pen to prove it. Also when scientists ask other scientists to check their data and try to reproduce their experiment and results this is not some humbling act of contrite fools. That is what scientists are supposed to do, science.'"

Thanks to that commenter who commented on a post this past week. I meant to post a double review this past week, but I couldn't do it simply because I was so swamped with work this past week. I'll try to do it this week, but I can't promise anything because in all likelihood I'll probably be just as swamped this week if not more so. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing & commenting!


So ACTA's Getting Passed After All

The title says most of it. It's supposed to be officially signed and enacted this weekend in a special ceremony. For new readers, you might notice in the sidebar a banner asking people to take action against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (also known as ACTA). Clicking on the banner will explain it to you a lot better than I ever could, but basically, there are so many problems with it, like the way it places liability on different people, how it allows for punishment just through accusation (without a fair trial), and stuff like that, just because the big recording and film industries can't adapt to the Interwebz; plus, the whole thing was negotiated in secret and repeated requests to reveal more information were turned down repeatedly for totally bogus reasons, which is completely against the openness and transparency the US is supposed to stand for.
It's official: President Barack Obama's stances on copyrights and patents when it comes to the recent bills he's signed disgust me, more than any other recent president's actions.


The Neutrino News and Science in the Public

I'm sure many of you have heard the news about the neutrinos that supposedly traveled faster than light through rocky material (though this is all still slower than light through a vacuum, which is still the ultimate speed limit). Given that I'm taking a class on relativity right now, this has made our class even more interesting than before. Our professor sent us all an email a few days ago echoing what I thought before: it would be really cool and interesting if these superluminal neutrinos weren't just an experimental error but were the real deal, but in all probability it was an experimental error that probably won't be able to be replicated, given that it also conflicts with previous neutrino data from supernovas, and in any case it should be taken with a large grain of salt.
This also got me thinking, though, about public reaction. Though admittedly I haven't been following mainstream news outlets very much since returning to college, as far as I can tell, the mainstream news media have basically hailed this as a revolution without stopping to think critically about things like systematic error and stuff like that. Along the lines of the discussion I had along with Michael Nielsen and other members of the Society of Physics Students at lunch last Friday, I think the public is basically going to say, "Look at how sure scientists were about the speed of light being the ultimate speed limit, and look now! These scientists don't know anything!" If, somehow, the result is replicated, that opinion probably won't change. If it isn't (and that is my prediction), people will probably say, "See? Look at what a big mistake scientists made with that neutrino thingy so many months ago! Can they get anything right? Why should we listen to them and their so-called 'expertise'?" It's a sad side effect of public ignorance about how the scientific process works; as a friend of mine aptly said at dinner, scientists have been persecuted for many centuries now, and that doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 September 18

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

Star Wars and George Lucas's Overreach

Reader T_Beermonster had this explanation: "It seems fairly straight forward, George Lucas really likes money. I and many others really like Star Wars. If George Lucas wants to sell a 1080p immortalization of my happy memories in a format I can watch (so not blu-ray obviously because only a handful of people on earth own or want a blu-ray player) then I'm more than happy to hand over some cash. On the other hand if George Lucas wants to sell me a high-def mockery of my childhood enjoyment in a format nobody except a sony executive wants to give house-space to then screw him. I can spend my money on beer instead. If he's too smug about pissing on my cornflakes maybe I'll even torrent a copy of his new abortion, seed up to 1000 then delete it unwatched."
Commenter Shergill Games agreed: "I can't imagine what goes on in that guy's head. He just keeps messing around with things that don't need fixing and making the movies progressively worse. If he'd just stop, create a restored cut of the original movies without any other changes and release it in 1080p he'd make a ton of money and keep the core fans happy. I don't understand why he doesn't."

Review: Linux Mint GNOME 201109

Reader 3d Beef said, "Great review, though I have to disagree with your Firefox comments. Mozilla has adopted a silly release schedule that isn't based around security or stability. Its more about catching up to Chrome in terms of version numbers. The idea that a release is supported for only 6 weeks is asinine. Asking the Mint development team to match that foolishness doesn't make sense. Beyond that, I appreciate your work."
An anonymous commenter, in response to another anonymous commenter's question about why Debian-based distributions seem to run lighter and faster than Ubuntu-based counterparts, explained, "Ubuntu wishes to run on a lot of computers... therefore, it needs a lot of drivers, patches and so on in order to do so. This means a heavier kernel, a higher memory usage. That's why it sometimes seems a bit bloated."
Reader JB had this positive experience to share: "LMDE Gnome has been on my laptop and tower since the first release, 2010.09. In that time I had 2 update related breakages where I had to re-install. Both were prior to the 2010.12 respin and could have been fixed if not for my "linux newbness" at the time. During this past year, I have found LMDE to be my main "go-to" distro for stability and just getting things done. I tried the update packs at first, but quickly went back to straight up Debian Testing due to boredom from lack of updates! As for Gnome 3, I hated it until I started messing around with it. By adding a few extensions and some tweaks, I have somewhat replicated the Gnome 2 experience with themes, application menu, and even taskbar on the bottom, in my Arch install. If a slob like me can figure it out with a web search, imagine what the Mint devs can come up with. Otherwise, Gnome 3 has a couple more point releases to be decent OOTB, my opinion."
Commenter Travelinrob countered, "I tried to install the new release on an HP Mini 110 for a friend. I could not get a lot of things to work, like wireless and video drivers (there was no Additional Drivers section or popup - and I even asked for help on XChat) and eventually gave up (because of invested time). I resorted to installing Mint 11 Main Edition which worked flawlessly, including desktop effects. Albeit, requiring more RAM at idle."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I plan to have a double review out, but I don't anticipate writing about much else. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


I Met Michael Nielsen!

I did it today! Woot! (And I got a picture with him!) Although he is specifically a physicist, most well known for his seminal textbook on quantum computing, he came to give a colloquium about open science in general, and it's doubly cool for me because I'm interested in both physics and things like open science. (Also, before the talk, I mentioned to him that I first read about him on Glyn Moody's blog, which you should totally read. That's how Dr. Nielsen figured out I'm a free software kind of guy. He also told me that Mr. Moody's a cool guy too.)

He talked about stuff like the development of Linux and Wikipedia through crowdsourcing, but he also discussed failures like the innumerable abandoned technical wikis intended to attract the best researchers in that field that litter the web. He also discussed how scientists' conservatism regarding releasing data openly dates back many centuries, when 200 years after the introduction of the printing press in Europe, scientists in Europe were still reluctant to release their work in print. He took that to today and how that conservatism negatively affects research progress, along with what some people have done to combat it, and in the spirit of the talk, he opened the floor to questions and also to discussion about how individual scientists can promote and do open science.

I was able to ask him a question about one thing he said about Galileo: apparently, Galileo was concerned about other people getting credit for doing the same work as him independently of him, so he only "published" his work by sending a few select other scientists his work, but scrambled into anagrams unreadable at first sight. Then, if those scientists tried to publish similar work independently, he would be able to pull out the unscrambled manuscripts and prove that he came up with those ideas first. I asked him if the scrambling was really done for that purpose, given that Galileo published his work about a heliocentric universe in vernacular Italian, as opposed to the scholarly Latin, specifically to reach the masses (and that's what got him the undue attention of the Roman Catholic Church). Dr. Nielsen replied that while that might be the case, it is clear that his intent with those scrambled letters was to ensure that credit would go to himself first, as Johannes Kepler actually begged Galileo to tell him the unscrambled message, and Galileo refused until Kepler's patron (the Holy Roman Emperor) got into the act too. It was interesting for me to hear about these two sides of Galileo. I was going to also ask him how gene patenting squared with the Bermuda Accords, which were codified into policy by many countries to force scientists to release sequenced genomes into the public domain if said sequences were more than 1000 base pairs long. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to ask him that.

(UPDATE: I was also lucky enough to be picked (among about 7-8 other people) to chat with him over lunch today! Yay! Our conversation started with the question of how to get people to truly trust what scientists are telling them, because unless everyone is an expert in every field that gets featured on the news, at some point some level of trust and faith in the verity of what scientists say is unfortunately required. Plus, it's no good if scientists become like fundamentalist preachers standing at the front of the room as a so-called authority dictating how people should think. I think the consensus regarding outreach in this sense is really to start with getting young kids into science, and to plant seeds of curiosity and critical thinking in people in different cities and towns, because people will probably be more open and receptive to scientific ideas if they come from the mouths of their neighbors as opposed to the mouths of outsiders.

The conversation then shifted to other random stuff, including sports, movies, and the recent discovery of neutrinos that travel faster than light through the Earth's innards (but still slower than light in a vacuum). I was able to also ask the question about gene patenting versus the Bermuda Accords, and Dr. Nielsen admitted that his understanding of gene patents was only marginally better than that of a layperson and that he didn't really know what to say about it, aside from the fact that the Accords only seem to apply to sequences of already-existing DNA. Additionally, I asked him how people getting into academia who do not yet have tenure (and the associated very high job security) could practice more open science. He conceded that he really is advocating for more thorough, comprehensive reform on the part of scientists and journals; he reminded me of how yesterday he discussed how only the most cutting-edge (in terms of making the most use of new technologies) journals accept things like YouTube videos, despite the fact that many times, it is almost trivially easy to show in a video what is otherwise almost impossible to clearly write in a paper. He said that individual scientists should publish in open-access journals if said journals exist in the field and if they are of the same quality and have the same quality standards as closed-access counterparts; in addition, if scientists truly believe that things like computer code that they write will be very widely used, they should open that code into the public domain, but asking scientists to open-source everything would be too much and, perhaps, sometimes unwise in and of itself.

The conversations I was able to have with him before and during his colloquium talk and during this lunch were incredibly satisfying and intellectually stimulating, and it makes me so glad that I'm here right now!)


Review: Linux Mint GNOME 201109

Oh man. I've wanted to do this post for quite a long time now. And now I can! So here it is.
Main Screen + System Monitor
Regular readers of this blog know that Linux Mint has been releasing snapshots of its rolling-release Debian-based distribution alongside its fixed-release Ubuntu-based distribution. A few days ago, the newest snapshots of the GNOME and Xfce editions were released. Furthermore, even before that, the developers changed from simply passing along updates from Debian Testing to thoroughly testing them and then releasing them in bundles called "update packs". While this is not something I can test given the way I do these tests, judging from the comments in the forums and the developer blog posts, the update packs have been quite successful, and they seem to have made Debian-based Linux Mint's stability on par with that of Ubuntu-based Linux Mint. This has caused the developers to make an additional small change to the update process; whereas before the Linux Mint Update Manager, which was originally built for the Ubuntu-based distribution and was initially ported over to the Debian base essentially unchanged, had a system of numbering package updates based on their safety, now those numbers are gone and replaced simply by update pack numbers and the packages in that update pack. That last point has had the additional effect of hiding dependencies that are not themselves directly used, which makes the list look a lot cleaner. All in all, there have been some pretty major changes to the way Debian-based Linux Mint handles updates, and that's due to the fact that a rolling-release distribution is fundamentally different from a fixed-release distribution.

Anyway, the GNOME and Xfce editions were released on the same day, which is in contrast to the past when the Xfce edition would be released many months after the corresponding GNOME edition; because of that, I feel like the GNOME and Xfce editions now have equal standing, so I am testing them together. This also gives further credence to the idea that the Xfce edition could become the main edition if GNOME 3 (because after all, official maintenance of GNOME 2 will end sooner or later) cannot be transformed into something like Linux Mint or if it is too difficult to maintain.
Well, I would have done that, but booting the Xfce edition gave a kernel panic. I was able to reproduce this a few times using a variety of boot options. That's really unfortunate. I don't know if it's due to a bad image, a bad burn, both, or something else, but in any case, I can't speak for the quality of the Xfce edition. I will thus focus just on the GNOME edition now.
I tested this on a live USB made with UnetBootin. I tested the installation process in VirtualBox with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS on a Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini live USB host also made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Star Wars and George Lucas's Overreach

Recently, George Lucas has made news in the tech world by announcing changes to some of the dialogue in the original Star Wars movies to make the plot and background more complete. The reaction, at least among those who watched the original movies when they were released in the theaters, is that he is needlessly meddling with the movies they love and remember so well just to satisfy his own desires, and it's time that he opened it up (Will Gompertz, BBC News) to the fans to modify and redistribute.
I agree with most of the arguments presented in that post. Basically, the idea is that the artist doesn't have sole control over what happens to a piece of art, and that part of what makes art great is how other people view, use, and build upon it. The artist can't possibly think of every way the piece of art can be used, so it's not right for the artist to simply exclude all unofficial uses; in fact, that is stealing art from the viewers, much more than "piracy" is stealing from the artist. And finally, George Lucas, by essentially writing previous versions of the movies out of official existence, is destroying pieces of art that were valuable in their own right, even if he doesn't think so.
I'd like to add to this that I think there are basically three groups of people with regard to Star Wars fandom: there are those who will regard George Lucas's word as the gospel, those who will regard only the original movies as the gospel, and those who will create their own plot and dialogue patches to satisfy themselves and their friends. So what George Lucas should do is try to continue to sell the revised movies, because those in the first group will come anyway. Leave the movie to the second and third groups, because they will probably not be significant sources of direct revenue, yet they have the right to watch the movies as they see fit. Maybe there will be competition among the official George Lucas revisions, the original unaltered movies, and the fan-made alterations, but that's something that George Lucas will have to deal with, just like any other firm does in a free competitive market.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 September 11

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

Revisited: Fuduntu 14.10.1

An anonymous reader had this tip on how the web applications are created with Google Chrome/Chromium: "Windows user here. Google Chrome, Menu, Tools and here the first entry enables me to make a "Das U-Blog" App. Suppose it works the same with various Distros. Have a nice day."
Commenter FEWT, who is also the creator and lead developer of Fuduntu, said, "Firefox 6, LibreOffice, Thunderbird 6, and lots more apps are available in the repository. Take a look at System > Preferences > Customize your Installation. :D", later adding in response to my request for further clarification, "We are rolling everything we can, that includes non-default apps. :D Take a look at our development forum to follow some of the recent releases. http://www.fuduntu.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=22".

Thanks to those who commented on that post. This week, I will have a double review (though not a comparison test) out, but I don't anticipate being able to write about anything else. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing & commenting!


Revisited: Fuduntu 14.10.1

Main Screen + GNOME Main Menu
It has been almost exactly 6 months since I looked at Fuduntu. Since then, it has had one new minor release (version 14.9 became version 14.10) and an update to that release (version 14.10 became version 14.10.1). You would think that not much would have changed between then and now, so what's making me test this?
Before that, I apologize for the recent dearth of posts here (aside from the very recent one). First, I've been busy, second, I've been sick, and third, I haven't really thought of anything to write about. That's part of the reason why I'm writing this. Also, I can promise you that there will be a new review soon after this, and it will actually be two reviews in one (but not a comparison per se). With that, let's get on with answering that question.

So aside from the fact that I wanted to write about something here, I'm testing this because the Fuduntu lead developer made a pretty big two-in-one announcement yesterday: (1) Fuduntu is becoming a rolling-release distribution, meaning that users don't have to reinstall the latest version of Fuduntu every six months just to stay up-to-date, and (2) Fuduntu will stick with GNOME 2.X for as long as possible. These two really piqued my curiosity, so I gave it a spin.

I tested the live session using a live USB made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation procedure because I did that before, and I haven't read about any major changes to Anaconda since then. Finally, I don't usually mention details like this, but do note that the ISO file has decreased in size from about 1.1 GB to a bit less than 950 MB; the consequences of this will become evident later. Follow the jump to see what's the same, what's different, and whether I still like Fuduntu as much as I did 6 months ago (and I will make frequent reference to that review).


First UROP: Thermophotovoltaics

I apologize for not having posted anything in a while. For one, I've already become quite busy, so I haven't had much time to do stuff like this. For another, I have been (and still am, as of now) sick for over a week, so I've just been trying to rest whenever I can.
This week, though, I started my first UROP! Yay! It regards modeling new thermophotovoltaics (thermal solar cells) that use photonic crystals. Photonics are to light what electronics are to electrons, so the idea is that photonic crystals will give enough fine-grained control over photons to make capturing more parts of incoming solar radiation even easier and more efficient; this will of course increase the overall efficiency of solar cells too. Right now, photonic crystals have a lot of room for improvement, and ceramic-metal composites called cermets are currently the best at selectively absorbing different wavelengths of solar radiation, but the idea is that with time and many improvements, photonic crystals will be the way to go.
Currently, I'm just reading up on the basics of photonic crystals, but I can't wait to begin working on a topic and in a group that have both been recently featured in Slashdot, and which will probably have a pretty big impact on renewable energy sources!


Third Semester at College

Today was the first day of my third semester at MIT! I was excited to start with the classes that I want to take (and am not just taking to meet some requirements). This semester I'm taking classes in wave mechanics, special relativity, thermodynamics, and microeconomics.
There are a couple new things I noticed. First, there seems to be a lot of restoration work. I wonder why, given that the sesquicentennial celebrations have come and gone. Second, I've noticed that a lot more on-campus Athena computers that previously used Microsoft Windows now use Ubuntu, which is cool. Related to that, the Ubuntu version used has been upgraded to version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal"; Classic GNOME as opposed to Unity is the default, though Unity is an option when logging in, as are TWM/Ratpoison, WindowMaker, and a few others.
I'm really excited for this semester not just because of the classes I'm taking, but also because I'm going to start a new research opportunity regarding solar cells. It's pretty cool stuff, and I'll probably write more about it a few weeks after I actually start.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 August 28

There was one post that got quite a few comments this past week, so I'll repost a few from that.

Review: Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen"

Reader DarkDuck said, "I also tried to create Live USB for Mageia and failed. It was Live CD for me that time. 400Mb is way too much even for KDE version. My Mageia only takes ~170Mb freshly booted."
Commenter Mechatotoro, whose blog about Mandriva you should all read, said, "Thanks for the review. I installed Mandriva 2011 and I'm giving it a test drive. I must say that I'm not crazy about the ROSA panel, but it the environment gets more to my liking once that the pager and the effects are enabled."
An anonymous reader said, "No codecs? I've just installed and they were all there, although mp4 files played without sound. Since this is probably aimed at the home user who double boots, I was surprised I couldn't find any tool to mount a non-Mandriva partiton. You can set a shortcut for switching workspaces, but it's buried deep in the configuration options, in the usual KDE way."
Commenter Paul, Cork had this response to the other commenters' mentions of Mageia: "i am quite disappointed with this Mageia vs Mandriva commentary, i have in the past number of years seen the mandriva team and community do some great work and a recent example being 2010.2 a fantastic and stable distro, i in the above comments not seen one comment stating that 2010.2 has extended support and if users are not happy with Mandriva 2011 how about returning back to 2010.2 and letting Mandriva community know this, i respect the Mageia fork however just remember where it came from and that it would not have existent if it were not for Mandriva, Mandriva is obviously in financial difficulty and i can not understand why attacking rather than working as a Linux community is being done a total shame and prob the reason why Linux as a Desktop will never go anymore than a hobby , to many distro's out there and not enough unity" (To be honest I felt this was fanning the same flames it supposedly intended to put out.)

Thanks to all those who commented on that post this past week. I just moved back into my dorm room, so I'll definitely have at least one post this week. I also hope to have a distribution review out whenever that distribution is released, but I don't know when that will be. Aside from that, now that I'm getting back into the swing of college and work, while I will try to post whenever I can, don't expect anything particularly. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Reflection: 2011 Summer

My summer has finally come to an end. Tomorrow, I'll be headed back for college, where the classes of my third semester will start next Wednesday.
All in all, it was a great summer. I was able to participate in a really fun internship at NIST for 12 weeks. I was able to hang out with friends a lot. I was able to spend a lot of time with immediate and extended family during the two weeks after my internship ended. And this last week, I was able to relax quite a bit. Now I can't wait to get back to college and meet up again with friends from last year, start my classes, and start my first in-college research opportunity!


Review: Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen"

Before I begin, I'd like to say that the reason why there was no "Featured Comments" post this week was because there were no comments on last week's posts. That's probably because I didn't write a lot last week as I was spending time with friends and family. Anyway, let's get on with the review.

Main Screen
I don't think Mandriva particularly needs an introduction. Suffice it to say that it was among the original premiere easy-to-use Linux distributions, along with MEPIS, even before Ubuntu existed. It came up with the all-in-one Mandrake Control Center (now, of course, the Mandriva Control Center) and made graphical installations easier to do. It has continued with a dedicated following, but in recent months it almost collapsed, even prompting the introduction of Mageia, a fork dedicated to advancing Mandriva while staying true to its core values (more on that shortly). Its financial woes have continued, but while the last few releases made a few changes to the implementation of KDE 4 but overall nothing too drastic, this release aims to bring back some of the old luster by completely rethinking the way KDE 4 is supposed to work. Let's see how true that is in a bit.

I tested Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen" on a live USB, first made with MultiSystem and then made with UnetBootin. I was surprised that Mandriva booted after having the live USB made with UnetBootin, because for the last few years Mandriva ISO files have failed to work right with UnetBootin. I guess that application has gotten better at properly writing these ISO files to USB sticks. I tested the installation procedure in a VirtualBox VM in a Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini UnetBootin-created live USB host with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS; I initially tried to do the VM thing within the Mandriva live USB system, but that failed (more on that later), and anyway, using Pinguy OS ensured better consistency.

I don't think I've ever written about testing a system with both MultiSystem and UnetBootin. So why have I done so this time? Well, this was originally supposed to be a comparison test with Mageia 1 included. However, Mageia was not recognized by MultiSystem, and the UnetBootin-created Mageia live USB failed to boot properly. That was odd, considering that there were reports of older alpha and beta releases of Mageia that booted fine when the live USB was created with UnetBootin. I think I'll hold off trying out Mageia until it is supported by MultiSystem, at which point I'll review it separately but through the lens of a comparison test, sort of like how I approached Scientific Linux 6 and CentOS 6. In any case, I'm too impatient to hold off testing Mandriva for the sake of Mageia. Also note that while I made all the following observations about Mandriva in MultiSystem, I was able to replicate all of them in UnetBootin, as I have seen with other distributions as well.
With all this in mind, follow the jump to see what Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen" is like.


Resignation of the Jobs

If you look at the headlines of myriad technology news sources, you'll see that Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. But he's not leaving Apple; he's going to become Chairman of the Board, with Tim Cook replacing him as CEO. It's basically the same thing that Bill Gates did at Microsoft many years ago, with Steve Ballmer replacing him as CEO, though this time, Steve Jobs did it because of his failing health making him unable to keep up with all the duties of being CEO.
Given that Tim Cook has had large responsibilities in the past in the affairs of Apple, I don't think this will significantly change anything. I don't know exactly what Jobs's new responsibilities will be, but I feel like he will still be able to exert a whole lot of influence over the company's direction even in his new position. And even though I strongly dislike many of the things Apple has done and moves it has made, especially with regard to the ridiculously proprietary and litigious business models it has made for itself of late, I really have to congratulate Jobs for turning the company around with his vision a few years after his return to Apple after his first ouster. Thanks to him, the Apple iPod (and its descendants) became more than ubiquitous, and the desktop OS landscape changed from essentially "Microsoft Windows versus nothing" to "Microsoft Windows versus Apple's Mac OS X"; plus, while the official counts show Linux's market share has essentially stagnated around 2%, the market share of Apple's Mac OS X has only grown and grown. So bravo Mr. Jobs on all the success Apple has had so far, and good luck and good health in your new position.
(Note: half of me felt the need to write this, while the other half of me still feels like Apple doesn't deserve quite as much media attention as it gets, and feels like I'm only feeding that frenzy. Oh well.)


2011 August 23: Earthquake!

Yup. We had an earthquake here! Even though where I live is basically smack in the middle of a continental plate, halfway between the nearest two fault lines, earthquakes do happen around here. I also happen to live near a quarry, so initially, I thought it was a normal quarry blast, but then I realized that compared to a 0.5 second long quarry blast, the shaking was going on for a good 19.5 seconds longer. Truthfully, 3 hours after the event, I'm still shaking slightly and warily awaiting the aftershocks.
Even though I live far from established fault lines, apparently earthquakes can happen here because of loose soil just above the bedrock collapsing on itself. It has happened before; this is simply the biggest one in a long time, tying the biggest one on record (magnitude 5.9).
I just think it's ironic that my first real earthquake (I heard of, but did not directly experience, the magnitude 7 earthquake that occurred in Baja California, Mexico when I was visiting Caltech over a year ago — the only indication I got that something was amiss was that I was visiting the beach during low tide, but the tides were almost twice as high as typical high tide) would happen at home; that said, I apparently would have felt had I spent the summer at MIT as well. I say this because when I visited MIT and discussed my housing situation for the coming year (and at that point I was still deciding on which college to attend), the housing manager casually asked where else I Was considering enrolling, and I mentioned Caltech; the manager humorously told me that it's a very good school, but that I should stick with MIT unless I wanted to experience earthquakes every other day. So I enroll at MIT, yet I still feel an earthquake, something I honestly thought I would never experience in my life. Go figure.


Featured Comments: Week of 2011 August 14

There were 2 posts that got a pretty large number of comments (one in particular), so I'll try to repost a few from each.

Review: Linux Mint 11 "Katya" LXDE

Because this wasn't an entirely positive review (and for all that, my only suggestion was to go with the GNOME edition of Linux Mint as opposed to the LXDE edition, and for that people still somehow got up in arms), there were many comments, a few of them rather mean-spirited and baseless, but aside from that, let's get on with some of the more thoughtful (which doesn't mean no disagreements whatsoever) comments.
Reader dotmrt suggested a reason for the RAM usage discrepancies: "Actually I have used Lubuntu on one machine that had 256MB of RAM and it ran pretty smooth. I think that 320MB of RAM idle is simply the result of having more RAM available. Memory management is a difficult topic to tackle, but I can assure that LXDE desktop on Lubuntu's case was really nice and a lifesaver. There aren't much nice options for old machines with 256MB of RAM out there. Sure, you can install some really ugly and user-un-friendly distros, but that was not what I was after."
An anonymous commenter supported my methodologies in the face of some rather tired old comments: "When I boot the live cds, I check the ram usage, and it's generally mucy the same as installed usage, making this a valid form of testing. Don't complain just because you don't get a favourable review."
Another anonymous reader was slightly more critical, but in a good way: "This is not a hate comment :), just my observation of live v/s installed sessions. Quite often i've seen Live CD's loading lot of services and gobbling up RAM as a result, however the same when installed doesn't translate that way. Case in point is Crunchbang XFCE that i've in live & in my hard-disk, live takes about 100-110mb while installed takes about 70-80mb. Even LMDE was like that atleast in my case. Likewise i've seen other distros as well that take up so much RAM in live session but not the same amount after installation. Also in some cases certain things don't work the first time, but the same usb and same image when loaded subsequently seem to work. Call it defective usb, bad install image or anything else but they dont always exhibit the same behavior when installed. Btw this was just to point out the differences in live and hd install, not to incite another war of words."
Yet another anonymous commenter said, "If you understood the internals of how the Live System versus installed system works, you would realize that what you have done is a horribly foolish method for reviewing a Distro.  You can not even tell me now if the INSTALLER recognized and configured your hardware properly. only that the live script did. Not a big deal for me since I design custom remixes of Debian/Ubuntu for a living, and can tell you more about hardware compatibility then some of the folks on their development teams. As far as memory useage. believe it or not LXDE runs in no less ram then XFCE, and both of those only about 32-64MB less then Gnome with the same services running.  I run xfce 4.6 in 116MB Ram at idle. LXDE in the same setup takes 110MB, and Gnome 132MB Ram. (NOT Gnome 3, which sucks and takes a boatload of Ram and CPU. My company and clients just parted ways with bloat-gnome in favor of XFCE.)"

Revisited: openSUSE 11.4 GNOME

Reader enrico said, "is a good review, but i don't agree with conclusion. opensuse 11.4 was released month ago, and it was the only major distro that stuck with kernel 2.6.37 and gnome 2 instead kernel 2.39 or gnome 3, or unity. in fact, this choice is due to the release time, but gnome 3 is in a preliminari stage, and it's usability for now is improving every day, but has also less features than gnome 2. and kernel 2.39 has a big issue with power consumption in laptops. in conclusiom, suse remains major distro with a good release without major hicchups of ubuntu, or fedora. installing it in a real machine is a good choice to make a review, because the speed is good, repository are fully populated of applications. and there is the possibility to turn it into a rolling release, with all the new features of gnome, kde and so on."
Commenter JimC reached the opposite conclusion: "I always have "high hopes" for OpenSUSE leading up to a major release, since it always looks like it will be a great showcase for Linux, with newer versions of KDE, etc. But, I'm almost always very disappointed with the [supposedly stable] releases, since Quality Control appears to be be virtually non existent. For example, with OpenSUSE 11.4, I immediately noticed issues from both a Live CD and a hard drive install with things like the Exposure Blender choice from the graphics menus not working, since you'll see an error that a library needed by Hugin is not installed. I also saw other issues with it during some quick testing. For example, when I clicked on the icon in the tray to install new updates and KPackagekit came up, it installed the updates and went to a blank KPackageKit screen with no indication that it finished anything, then tries to reinstall the same updates again if you try to get it working (even though they were already successfully installed). From what I can see of reviews, my experience is not unique (as I've seen reviewers comment on how KPackagekit appears to have issues). IOW, my first impressions (even after a hard disk install) were that OpenSUSE 11.4 is very buggy, and should have been labeled a beta versus final release (at least for the KDE Live CD version of it, as I haven't tried the DVD version yet). That kind of thing seems to be typical with some distros like OpenSUSE, where I wouldn't want to recommend them to anyone other than seasoned Linux users (that wouldn't mind working through the bugs to get a stable system), so that I wouldn't give Linux a bad reputation when users run into menu choices that don't work, bugs trying to update packages and more. IOW, from outward appearances after a quick look at it, nobody even bothered to test and make sure application menu choices worked, much less test applications more thoroughly to find bugs. IMO, it should have been labeled a beta, not a final release."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. Once again, I have nothing planned for this coming week, but I'm sure I'll have something to write about. Again, if you like the stuff here, please continue subscribing and commenting!