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Posts Tagged ‘Distro Hopping’

Distro hopping around DistroWatch challenge: Zorin OS

July 1st, 2017 No comments

I have an older Lenovo X60 laptop lying around that I don’t really use for anything these days and I decided that it might make for a decent computer to use to play around with some random distributions. It’s not the best machine in the world but does come packed with an Intel Core2Duo (T7200) @ 2GHz and 2GiB of RAM.

OK so it’s not the newest laptop in the world but it’ll do 🙂

OK so I have the machine and now to install a new distribution! …Unfortunately when I went to finally pick which distribution to actually install I couldn’t make up my mind and instead figured that I should first come up with an interesting way to help out with that process. So I went over to everyone’s favourite website DistroWatch.com and, after loading up their big list of distributions, I kind of just scrolled up and down while randomly moving the mouse for a while. Yeah not the most scientific approach but whatever. When I stopped my mouse was highlighting a link for Zorin OS and so the decision was made.

Designed for Windows XP but not limited to it!

I also came up with a simple rule for this round of distro hopping: stick to the base included software if possible. So for example if a distribution ships with Evolution as its e-mail client then use that instead of installing Thunderbird or something else. The point of this ‘rule’ is simply to try and use it in the way the packagers intended, rather than simply falling back to my standard set of software choices.

Very nice first impression

Zorin OS is a distribution that I’ve never actually used before and so this was a good first stop. According to its website it positions itself as:

“…the perfect blend of power and usability for everyone. Zorin OS was built to be as easy as possible, so you won’t need to learn a thing to get started thanks to its familiar user interface. It comes loaded with all the apps and tools you need out of the box for browsing the web, working, playing and everything in between.”

OK so let’s see what major software Zorin OS comes with by default:

I must say I’m actually quite impressed by this list. This is extremely close to what I would normally install on my systems and I think it will offer an excellent experience to Linux newcomers. I should also point out that even though it doesn’t look like it, Zorin OS is running on top of GNOME Shell and is actually based on Ubuntu so you inherit a lot of nice things (e.g. online help, PPAs, etc.) as a result.

Even something as boring as the menu is really, really nice!

My first impressions of Zorin OS in the brief time that I’ve used it so far are that the team spent a lot of time really polishing the presentation of their desktop. There is a lot of attention to detail here in the small things, for example how the logo fades in during boot or how the menu animates and slides as you move through it, that you just don’t find in a lot of other major distributions.

In terms of how it performs, even on this old laptop it seems pretty decent. On cold start it uses about 900 MiB of RAM which is a tad bit high but after a few hours of using it I was only up to around ~1.5 GiB or so which isn’t too bad.

I’ll be playing around with Zorin OS more over the coming days/weeks/whatever and will post anything interesting that I find as I go. Then it’ll be off to hop to another DistroWatch link. If you’re interested in joining me on this crazy made up challenge we would love to feature your write ups here at The Linux Experiment as well. Simply head over to this link and get in touch!

Distro hopping: feeling good with my time on LXLE

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

Well the time has come to officially switch off from LXLE. This time around however I find myself in a weird spot. I’ve honestly struggled with LXLE; not in using the distribution itself but rather coming up with things to write about it. That isn’t to say that LXLE is bad by any stretch of the imagination, in fact it is quite good, it’s just that once you get used to the light weight desktop environment (DE) there is a perfectly capable “heavy weight” distribution underneath. What I mean by this is that once you get used to the DE and it fades into the background you’re left with a perfectly functional distribution that could just as easily have been Ubuntu or Linux Mint or Fedora or {insert your favourite one here}.

Due to this strength I didn’t find myself struggling to make things work or figure out new ways to accomplish the things I needed to do… things were pretty much where I expected them to be… and that’s a great thing! It means that if you want to run a distribution that will be somewhat lighter on your system but you don’t want to scrimp on the applications you need to get work done then LXLE may just be for you.

The desktop

The desktop

Pros:

  • One of the few distributions that uses the light weight LXDE environment
  • Very low system resources (my machine took less than 400MiB of RAM after logging into the desktop!)
  • Just because it is a light weight distribution doesn’t mean it gives you less featured alternative applications
  • Boring… but in a good way! The distribution gets out of your way and lets you get work done!

Cons:

  • Still a couple of little bugs that seem like obvious things that would be caught if it had a larger user base
  • Ships with a load of applications, the majority of which most people probably won’t use day-to-day (maybe they could save some space instead?)
  • Boring… other than the desktop environment there isn’t anything overly unique to this distribution. Seems like you could just install LXDE on top of Ubuntu and get the same thing.

Other:

  • How awesome is the desktop background changer button right in the tool bar? I mean at first I thought it was a ridiculous waste of space but now I’m addicted to changing my desktop wallpaper with the push of a button.

Be sure to check back here soon to find out where I land next!

This post is part of a series:

Categories: LXLE, Tyler B Tags: ,

Distro hopping: slimming down with LXLE

November 8th, 2015 1 comment

Now that my time with BSD has come to an end I thought I should jump back into Linux via a distribution I had never even heard of before (just to keep things interesting!). DistroWatch is an excellent source for finding different, unique and of course obscure distributions but I was surprised to find one in the top 10 that I had never even heard of before: LXLE.

LXLE on the DistroWatch top 10

LXLE on the DistroWatch top 10

So what exactly is LXLE? Well according to their website:

LXLE is based on Lubuntu which is an Ubuntu OS using the LXDE desktop environment. It is designed to be a drop-in and go OS, primarily for aging computers. Its intention is to be able to install it on any computer and be relatively done after install. At times removing unwanted programs or features is easier than configuring for a day. Our distro follows the same LTS schedule as Ubuntu. In short, LXLE is an eclectic respin of Lubuntu with its own user support.

After a quick install I am now running on LXLE!

The desktop

The desktop

Let’s take a quick walk through of what comes with this light weight distribution.

To browse your files it comes with the slim PCManFM:

PCManFM

PCManFM

Unfortunately it is also where I ran into my first issue with the distribution. The default user name in the installer was “qwerty” but somehow this survived, even though I replaced it with my own name, in the quick Places links along the left-hand side of the window. They still pointed to non-existent locations based on this default user name.

That's... not right...

That’s… not right…

Seamonkey suite is used for most basic Internet functionality including web browsing, e-mail, FTP, IRC, etc.

Seamonkey

Seamonkey web browser

Other interesting inclusions are anti-virus scanner ClamTk, password manager KeePassX, open source BitTorrent Sync alternative Syncthing, instant messenger Pidgin, Tox client uTox, music editor Audacity, music player Guayadeque, a load of games and many, many more utilities.

ClamTk, for all your virus scanning needs

ClamTk, for all your virus scanning needs

For a distribution that prides itself on being light weight it sure does ship with a lot of software! Like the others I’ll be playing around with LXLE over the next couple of days and post my thoughts and experiences here.

This post is part of a series:

Categories: LXLE, Tyler B Tags: ,

Distro hopping: shutting down PC-BSD

October 14th, 2015 2 comments

Like the other distros before it the time has come for me to move on from PC-BSD. This has been an interesting experience as it is really my first time working with BSD up to this point.

Welcome to your PC-BSD desktop

Welcome to your PC-BSD desktop

Pros:

  • Neat standard technologies (like ZFS, file system compression, jails, etc.).
  • Really not that different from Linux so it feels very familiar.
  • Good software selection for the most part, although it could be more clear as to what the differences between some versions are. Common software makes it easy to jump between PC-BSD and other operating systems.

Cons:

  • Weirdly AppCafe which is designed to make installing software easier gave me a lot of problems. Sometimes clicking install wouldn’t actually install anything. Other times there would be errors but redoing the same process a second time would make it work. Once I somehow initiated a system update while trying to install a program and it wasn’t very clear what was happening or how much longer it would take before I could continue.
  • Konqueror is unnecessary with Firefox installed by default and often times doesn’t even work well. This is especially odd because I haven’t had as many problems using Konqueror in the past on Linux so the problems may be unique to PC-BSD.
  • I know this will likely start a religious debate but from a practical day-to-day desktop user perspective I’m not quite sure what would draw someone to using PC-BSD over Linux. That isn’t to say PC-BSD is bad or even lacking but with the much larger software library and support for Linux and very little differences between the two it seems like a no brainer to stay with Linux.

Other:

  • How come PC-BSD uses /usr/home/{account}? It still requires a link from /home/{account} (I assume for compatibility) so why not just keep it all under /home?

Where will I distro hop to next? Stay tuned!

This post is part of a series:

Categories: PC-BSD, Tyler B Tags: , ,

Distro hopping: so what comes with PC-BSD?

October 6th, 2015 No comments

In my previous post I talked about the differences between Linux and BSD and quickly showed the installation process. Now I will go through what comes with a default install of PC-BSD.

Just like Manjaro, for some reason PC-BSD ships with a number of development utilities including tools for Qt interface builders. It also comes with something called Easy PBI. I have no idea what a PBI is but apparently it’s easy to make one!

EasyPBI

EasyPBI

Interestingly the next two on the list didn’t even start when I tried to launch them… The first was Marble which claims to show a globe (again I can’t confirm that), and the second is AMOR which might be a game?

The graphics menu is full of little utilities but the real heavy weight there is the venerable GIMP.

For browsers PC-BSD comes with both Firefox and Konqueror. This is likely due to Konqueror being a big part of KDE but it still feels like an unnecessary addition that could confuse new users. Even weirder Konqueror is the set as the default which I guess actually makes Firefox the odd inclusion… very confusing indeed.

Two browsers for the low, low price of FREE!

Two browsers for the low, low price of FREE!

For media playback it also comes with two options in the form of VLC and SMPlayer. Again I’m not quite sure why both are included in the default install as each would have been a decent choice in their own right.

You also have your choice of default media players

You also have your choice of default media players

Beyond the major applications PC-BSD comes loaded with Adobe Flash saving you an install as well as a number of additional utilities. I’m not sure why it doesn’t come with an office suite by default like most Linux distributions but I suppose that’s not a huge deal.

So there you have it. A quick walk through of what comes with PC-BSD by default. Check back soon for my ongoing adventures in the world of BSD!

This post is part of a series:

Categories: PC-BSD, Tyler B Tags: ,

Distro hopping: a Linux user tries PC-BSD

October 6th, 2015 No comments

That’s right, the next hop on the great distro hopping experiment of 2015 is not a Linux distribution at all but a BSD instead! While some of us have briefly used BSD on The Linux Experiment before, including PC-BSD, I personally have not and so this is a bit of a new experience for me. I’m looking forward to seeing what the differences are and if I end up preferring one over the other but first what exactly are the technical differences between the two?

If you would like a full list of differences I would highly recommend checking out the following excellent links from which I will summarize below.

  • Different kernels
    • Linux distributions start by using a version of the (shocker!) Linux kernel whereas each BSD maintains their own BSD kernel.
    • While the distinction is largely a technical one the other main difference is that while Linux is worked on by many people it is Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, who maintains control over the direction of the project. For BSD each project team maintains their own control, although within each project there is usually a small group or single individual who has last say as well.
  • Linux is just a kernel
    • As mentioned above Linux is actually just a kernel, thus that whole GNU/Linux thing. BSD projects on the other hand maintain all software in one place, including things like the applications (Firefox, KDE, etc) as well. That doesn’t mean that BSD projects create all of that software mind you so the differences again are largely minor.
  • Different software licenses
    • Linux is released under the GNU General Public License while BSD is released under the BSD License. The major difference between the two are that if you make a change to Linux you must make the source code for that change available upon request and it must also be licensed under the GNU GPL. The BSD license on the other hand has no requirement for you to make your changes available to the public.
  • Not compatible with each other (well… sort of)
    • While Linux and BSD software are compiled differently and technically incompatible many BSDs come with libraries that can run Linux programs almost natively making the difference (at least in that direction) somewhat moot.

Without further ado I give you a walk through of the install process for those who are interested in seeing how it may differ from a standard Linux install.

Welcome to the graphical installer for PC-BSD

Welcome to the graphical installer for PC-BSD

On the first screen you get to choose the type of install (i.e. Desktop or Server) as well as customize the additional software you want to install. PC-BSD uses KDE by default which should provide some familiarity.

System Selection

System Selection

By default PC-BSD uses the ZFS file system and appears to enable compression on a number of directories which may not be unique in the BSD world but is certainly something new for a Linux user.

Default disk layout

Default disk layout

Here is one thing all operating systems have in common: loading bars…

Installing the system

Installing the system

A quick reboot and some minor user configuration later we get to log into our desktop.

A pretty basic login screen but not the worst I've ever seen

A pretty basic login screen but not the worst I’ve ever seen

Welcome to your PC-BSD desktop

Welcome to your PC-BSD desktop

In my next post I’ll go through the default applications that come with PC-BSD and provide my initial thoughts on using it.

This post is part of a series:

Categories: PC-BSD, Tyler B Tags: ,