Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.0 Xfce

Main Screen + Xfce Menu
I was busy at home for the last two weeks with many people coming and going; plus, I never had any other reason to post much else. Well, now I'm into the last few days of my break at home before getting back on campus and there haven't been as many people coming and going, so I've gotten some time to do a review. On DistroWatch, I read of the release of Manjaro Linux 0.8.0, and while I initially didn't think about it further, I saw quite a few articles reviewing it and other press about it, which convinced me that I should review it as well. That is what I'm doing now.

Manjaro Linux is based on Arch Linux and primarily ships the Xfce desktop, though it also provides editions with KDE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon (as opposed to GNOME 3/Shell). It aims to retain most of the code simplicity and speed of Arch Linux while providing spruced-up desktop environments that are user-friendly. In that regard and in the DEs it provides (not just which ones, but also in which priority) it reminds me quite a bit of Bridge Linux, which I reviewed several months ago. As you may see, the differences don't end there (but I won't focus on that comparison too much because this is just supposed to be a review of Manjaro Linux).

I tested this using a live USB made with MultiSystem. On that note, I wanted to do this review yesterday, but I couldn't because I realized that since upgrading my installed system to Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, I hadn't installed MultiSystem again. It wasn't until today that I could find adequate and not confusing documentation on how to install MultiSystem on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" and its derivatives, because a lot of the other documentation was obsolete. Anyway, that went smoothly. Also, I didn't test the installation fully (though I will have a word to say about that near the end of the post). Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Samsung versus Apple

I wasn't planning on posting anything this week, but I've read a few news posts that Samsung has lost against Apple and must now pay $1 billion in damages for patent infringement. If this is indeed true (and I sincerely hope it isn't, because while I am not necessarily a Samsung fanboy, what Apple has done is beyond outrageous), this really gets my goat.
I hope Samsung appeals this. All of the arguments for why the case is ridiculous have been done to death, so I won't repeat them here. If this ruling stands even upon appeal after appeal, that'll basically mean that only Apple will control the smartphone market. But now Steve Jobs is gone, and I've noticed as a result that some of their new product releases haven't exactly been groundbreaking; plus, their new advertisements on TV (which I've been able to see since coming home for a short break) are pretty awful in their cheesiness and are nothing like what Steve Jobs would have put out there. So this means that the Apple-dominated smartphone market will stagnate. I'm going to guess that while the cult of Apple will keep drooling over every new product release, eventually regular people will wise up to the lack of innovation at Apple and stop buying said products. But while that would make it amusing for me to watch Apple fall in such a way, it won't change the fact that Apple's monopoly of the smartphone market is essentially codified in law. They have essentially set a nuclear strike on the smartphone market, so that if they should fail, so should everyone else.
Oh, who am I kidding? I'll stop prognosticating ridiculous scenarios and be satisfied with the fact that I have a perfectly functional LG dumbphone that can talk, text, and take pictures.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 August 5

There is no "Featured Comments" post for this past week because there were no posts that week, but the one for the previous week is this one because I was out of town last weekend and couldn't write this post at that time.

Review: Stella 6.3

An anonymous reader supported the puns: "I know what you mean about Tennessee Williams, I been perfecting my Marlin Brando Stanley Kowalski impression since I first heard the name. I know there's a pun headline there somewhere, but I just can't seem to capture my 'Stel-la!' impression in text."
Commenter crabbos said, " This one sounded interesting until you mentioned it has 2 panels. That just killed any interest I had right there. Still waiting for a look at Voyager too hehe ^_^"
Reader Nux, who is also the developer of Stella, had this to say: "Thanks for trying out Stella. Glad you liked the name, at least. :-) The remix is intentionally kept simple, I didn't want to create the new **insert random ubuntu remix here**, I just wanted Centos (EL) fans a hassle free installation, hence just a few small modifications here and there as you noticed: - nautilus uses the browser mode by default - the default fonts differ - totem should load subs automatically and also resume playing files (a la smplayer) - Bluecurve: this theme was one of the graphical landmarks of RedHat linux, old redhatters know. Using it was my own way to give credit, if you like, to this great distro. I also happen to think it's one of the most beautiful themes, but that's just me. :-) * And a tip for those who have it installed: add yourself to the "wheel" group and you will be able to use sudo and install/update software (via gui or pkcon) without the root password."
An anonymous commenter had this bit of support for a decision in the distribution: "I actually like the bluecurve theme a lot and hope you will continue to atleast have that as one of the optional themes even if you decide to change the main theme."

Reflection: 2012 Summer UROP

Reader Chenyu Zhao said, "Scheme is great! You must read SICP if you haven't already: http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/"

Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE

Commenter Erno had this experience to share: "I found Amorok as painfully bad working with Mint 13 KDE. So i uninstalled it and replaced it with much better working Banshee. Perhaps one of the reasons might have been my old cd/dvd device. However with Banshee in both Lubuntu, Mint 13 MATE and Mint 13 KDE it has worked very well."
An anonymous reader asked in response, "Curious to know how you got Banshee to work in Mint 13 KDE. Tried it and 1st time it dissapeared. Restarted the app and it crashed again.
I have a Sony Vaio VPCF234FD which reverts to HDMI audio at the slightest provocation and Amarok keep switching phonon to the HDMI audio (quite annoying), So for me it has been back to good 'ol Gmusicbrowser. Frankly I'd like to know your secret to make Banshee work in KDE."

Commenter crabdog also responded, "I've become rather fond of Clementine of late. So much so that it's now my default music player in Windows 7 as well as my various Linux distros. As for Mint, I've tried all flavors of Maya and didn't find anything compelling enough for me to stick with it. I'm currently running Voyager 12.04 xfce, a Zorin 6 respin and BigLinux KDE."
Reader Rudy Hartmann shared this tip: "I had a few crashes in Linux Mint 13 KDE too. I think it has better polish than Kubuntu also. But I upgraded Mint 13 KDE to KDE 4.9 and all the bad stuff stopped happening. sudo apt-add-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports -y sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get dist-upgrade Try it! Works good!"

Thanks to all those who commented on the previous week's posts. There were no posts this past week as I was relaxing with family and friends at home. That will continue to be true for this coming week and the following week, meaning that posts may or may not happen during that time. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE

I recently reviewed Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE, and I was quite pleased with it. My long-term review of the Xfce edition just ended, so this one will go for another 8 days. This will be the last such long-term review of the summer, because after this I am going home and won't be back until just before the semester starts, at which point I probably will not be able to continue this.


Reflection: 2012 Summer UROP

The long-term reviews I have been doing this summer have been on the desktop that I have been using for my UROP work this summer. Most of my thoughts about that have basically been along the lines of "UROP work went fine today". But I've realized that I haven't properly discussed what I've done this summer, I figured that I should share a little bit about that today because tomorrow is my last day here for the summer before I go home for a few weeks' break.

Let us start with the basics. A dielectric is essentially any material medium that changes the average speed at which light propagates due to the interaction of the electromagnetic field with the atoms and molecules constituting the dielectric. A photonic crystal is a periodic array of dielectric, and this periodicity can be found in 1, 2, or 3 dimensions. The photonic crystals that I was modeling this summer are in 2 dimensions; specifically, they are rectangular slabs of dielectric material with cylindrical holes of air/vacuum punched through the center along one axis. These sorts of periodic structures are special because they have certain bands of natural resonant frequencies at which the electromagnetic field is very well supported and other bands of frequencies where the field basically can't exist in the structure at all. This allows for very efficient manipulation of light at various frequencies. For instance, last fall, I was looking at optimizing photonic crystals to absorb the most light at various angles of incidence given a range of frequencies. This summer, I have been characterizing the electromagnetic energy flux from the photonic crystal structure that I mentioned before as a function of frequency and wavevector; the energy flux comes from localized current sources embedded in the dielectric material, and this models spontaneous emission. Such spectra should and do show peaks near the resonant frequencies. I was working closely with a postdoctoral associate and graduate student who had previously determined the functional dependence of the flux spectrum analytically and verified it experimentally. I was essentially providing a third method of verification through numerical analysis in MEEP. I have also asked the graduate student with whom I work about the ultimate applications of these flux spectrum modeling techniques, and the closest thing I have gotten to a good answer is that many macromolecules look like photonic crystals locally, so knowing the resonant frequencies and wavevectors for the flux spectrum makes imaging said macromolecules much easier.

In the process, I've become much more accustomed to using MEEP. I'm no longer scared of Scheme despite my C++/JAVA programming background; in fact I'm almost used to using Scheme. I've gotten a better handle on the tricks of the Linux terminal. And this was the first time that I was able to have a good level of appreciation for what I was doing, because this was the first full term that I was able to UROP after the lecture in my 8.04 (Quantum Physics I) class in 2012 May about photonics. Overall, I would say that my UROP was a success in that I really enjoyed every bit of it!


Review: Stella 6.3

Main Screen
A couple weeks ago on an unrelated review, I remember a commenter asking if I could review a Linux distribution called Stella. It seemed interesting, but I didn't think much of it until the last few days when its release of version 6.3 made news on several major Linux news sites. At that point I knew I should check it out, so here it is. (Also, if Tennessee Williams were alive today, I think that "A Linux Distribution Named 'Stella'" would have made a great title for one of his plays. Yes, I really did have to make that pun, and it won't be the last time either.)

A lot of distributions that I come across that aim like Stella to be more user-friendly than their respective parent distributions are based on Ubuntu. There are quite a few based straight on Debian. There are also a handful based on Slackware, Arch, or Gentoo, which are all generally not very easy for new Linux users to use. And there are a few based on Fedora, though I feel like the only big-name one that's still around is Kororaa (and even that was originally based on Gentoo, so it hasn't been based on Fedora for that long — plus, Fuduntu forked from Fedora a while ago, while I haven't heard anything about Fusion recently). But until now, I don't think I've ever heard of a distribution that aims to make straight-up RHEL/CentOS more user-friendly, and that is exactly what Stella aims to do, so I think it may be unique in that regard. This is a great thing, because while I don't think CentOS is particularly unfriendly to general consumers, I do think it is generally geared more towards enterprise desktop and server settings. But CentOS has a reputation of being absolutely rock-solid, and this is made better by the fact that every CentOS release is supported for 7 years (and RHEL provides an additional 3 years of support to paying customers on top of that, if I remember correctly). So that seems like an ideal starting point upon which to build a user-friendly desktop.

I tested Stella 6.3 as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. (I tested the 32-bit edition because I happily have a new installed system, so I'm not looking for anything anymore so I don't really need the 64-bit edition. This also means that as before, from now on all reviews are of the 32-bit edition unless I specify otherwise.) Follow the jump to see how Stanley reacts. (Yes, I did that pun again.)


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 July 29

There was no "Featured Comments" post last week because comments on the previous week's posts didn't come until after that week was done. There were two posts that got a couple comments each, so I will repost all of those.

Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

Reader Bernard Victor suggested, "Have you tried Xubuntu. I am using it and find it very good. Even able to change to Nautilus from Thunar. All my sound and video files play without any tuning, using either VLC or Gmusicbrowser. Rhythmnbox is also available."

My Installation of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

Commenter Innocent Bystander said, "Someone trying to discover the installation of LM14 XFCE would have hard time to learn anything from this article", later clarifying, "Sorry I meant LM13 XFCE. In the article "Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce" http://dasublogbyprashanth.blogspot.ca/2012/07/long-term-review-linux-mint-13-lts-maya.html There was too much emphasis about the attempt to replace MDM by LightDM. Although I understand your motive but I was expecting to see if LM13 XFCE is worth a move, in terms of software and "habits" compatibilities. Speaking of MDM, I wonder why a "friendly & design focus" distro like LinuxMint would opt for the inconvenient MDM. Do you know why?"

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week will see the publication of the last long-term review of this summer. In addition, I will have a normal review out along with possibly a second (if the release of that [second] distribution happens this week), and I'll probably have another random post about the summer in general. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


My Installation of Linux Mint 13 "Maya" Xfce

Old: [Customized] Mozilla Firefox + Desktop Cube
Well folks, this is it. After many months of looking for a suitable replacement for my setup of Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME, I have found one and have followed through with it. There were two reasons why I wanted to make this upgrade/switch: I wanted to stay up-to-date and take advantage of the support promised in the latest LTS release, and I needed to either reinstall my current OS or install something else because my present installation of Linux Mint stopped recognizing my laptop's ethernet card when I accidentally pulled out the power adapter cord from the laptop about 2 months ago. I got by with wireless Internet, but it was painful, and it had become so painful in the last few weeks that I couldn't stick with it for much longer. The following is a log of my experience installing and customizing Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce on my laptop. As of the moment that I write this sentence, this will simultaneously be the last post that I write with the old version of Linux Mint and the first that I write with the new version. I have to confess that I've become somewhat attached to the way that I've customized the old version (and that's what made finding a suitable replacement so difficult), but given that it looks like I can do the same things in the new version, I eagerly anticipate having the new version installed. Follow the jump to see what happens.