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After spending a bit of time away from Ubuntu installations and staying with Debian, I finally went back to Kubuntu with Jaunty(9.04) and only because it had KDE4.2 and I’d finally got bored with KDE3.x.x. When KDE4.3 was released I immediately upgraded to it and was extremely impressed, but it simply had something lacking still in Jaunty, I knew it was a backport though, so I waited for the Beta release of Karmic to come out, which I new would have KDE4.3 full-on.

I originally upgraded Kubuntu to Karmic from Jaunty over the net, the install went well and I was pleasantly pleased with my new OS, the only problem is, I was too pleased and I decided to upgrade my laptop as well. The laptop network upgrade did not go well, something happened during the installation (Possibly because I was on wireless while doing the upgrade, who knows?) and it simply failed. This left me with a relatively borked Laptop and only one real option, download the Karmic Koala Kubuntu 9.10 Beta CD and install it from scratch.

Next I encountered more problems, I found the fresh installation (i.e. not an upgrade) so good that I was now disappointed that my upgraded desktop just wasn’t good enough and it required a re-install with a fresh system instead. Now I figured I would download the 64bit version for my desktop, especially since I already had 64bit hardware and that was all about to get upgraded anyway. The 64bit install just went nowhere unfortunately, I’m not sure if the processor was too old for modern 64bit installs (It was a 4 year old AMD Athlon64 Socket939 4000+ after all) or if the processor was damaged, I’m suspecting the former because the processor handled 32 bit installs just fine.

I installed the 32bit system for the time being while I waited for my new hardware and was happy enough, but then my new hardware turned up and the whole ball game changed. I tried to boot up with the existing disk on a new processor, motherboard and RAM, bearing in mind I’d gone from a single core 4 year old processor to a brand new twin core processor, a 4 – 5 year old DFI motherboard to a brand new Asus one and from DDR1 to DDR2 I would have been surprised if it had actually booted, and sure enough it didn’t. Usually Linux tends to handle hardware changes pretty well in my experience, but this just wasn’t going to happen.

What a shame I thought, I’m going to HAVE to install the 64bit system instead, DAMN! ;)

So I set about installing my new 64bit system, completely fresh hardware AND OS, what could be better than that? I am so unbelievably impressed with Karmic Kubuntu that I just can’t express it in words, the problem now, is that the interim upgrades have been suspended now, so I’m left with those last couple of little bugs that are being fixed by Canonical and waiting with baited breath for the full release to happen, so I can download all the Karmicly Krantastic goodies to my system and be even happier!

What’s really new then? Well the interface looks much clearner, much sharper and it just seems “smoother” somehow, programs are faster to load (Even on my older hardware before the upgrade), there are less problems with graphical display errors when using Desktop Effects etc. Kmail is a MASSIVE improvement in my humble opinion, Amarok is just Amarok but the rok part of the name seems to mean even more now if you get my meaning, desktop widgets seem to shine more, have less crashes and be even easier to find and install than ever before. In short I’m completely blown away by Karmic and I couldn’t be happier. Please feel free to share your experiences below, good and bad.

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Author:  Hollow
October 21, 2008



Debian (Lenny) Linux – Beta2

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Lenny) Installer - Screenshot.

Forget taking the Linux world or even the AIX systems world by storm, Lenny is revolutionary and is going to be (Yes that’s right I’m asserting that it WILL be, not saying I think it will be) one of the singular most important distribution releases of Linux as a whole, EVER!

Let’s start out with the improvements over Debians previous release, Debian 4.0 Etch. Well we now have a very clear menu once the Live CD boots up, it’s unbelievably easy for new users and power users alike to choose which installation procedure they would like to follow. If you’re a completely new user to Linux, you can take the Lenny CD, put it in your drive, select the Graphical Installer as opposed to the options for experts, or simply text based, Then follow a few very simple instructions, click a few buttons and presto, you’ve got a fully installed, totally usable and perfectly working system. It really has never been easier, and I’m talking easier than Ubuntu here, now that’s saying something.

There is also another fundamental difference in Lennys installer options, you can choose an expert installation, WITH a graphical interface, this is brilliant. Just because I’m a power user and an I.T. engineer doesn’t mean I want to spend my life looking at text based installers, just to prove I’m a power user. I can now choose the expert installer, giving me the options I need to configure my system, exactly the way I want it, whilst still feeling that I am choosing this option as a power user, and that I have control over how my system will be installed. An option you don’t get with some other distributions like Ubuntu, and yet I can look at a relatively attractive (Although slightly too pink for my liking) installer at the same time. The expert installer is almost as detailed as following a Gentoo Installation Document, identifying all the really intricate parts of the installation, right down to asking if it should look for PCMCIA devices or not (Pre-empting the possibility that you may be using a laptop). For a graphical installer, I think I can safely say this is the most in depth you could get it, without risking the users options screwing up the installation with conflicts. Which if memory serves me correctly, Gentoo once did back in 2005 and I fell out with their installer from that moment onwards.

During the expert installation we did, we had an option to use a mirror to supplement the software already on our CD, this is an option we usually choose, if it’s given, with all distros, because it allows us less problems (usually) once the installation is finished, because it’s using the absolute, most up to date software out there and requires a lot less effort to get a fully working system. The downside to this however, is that the installation does take a lot longer while it downloads the software required and is very dependent on your connection speed to the internet.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

On to the more important parts of the review. Debian Lenny comes with several installation CD options, a KDE CD, a Gnome CD or an XFCE CD. Since it’s our favorite desktop environment, we chose the KDE install CD, however I love the fact that you have the options available for those users who prefer Gnome or XFCE and want to install it from the first minute of installation, instead of having to install a Gnome desktop, then later once the system is up-to date enough, installing KDE or XFCE as well, which can cause clutter in the menus, excess baggage of programs you don’t want or need, etc. This again really shows how much effort and thought has gone into the Lenny release.

After the first reboot, I found a very much fully working operating system, there were still a few updates required, I had to manually upgrade the kernel so that I could install the VirtualBox drivers and enable seamless mode, but it’s not as if it’s as difficult as it used to be with having to completely re-compile the kernel, so no harm in that. Not great for new users but most new users won’t be using Virtualbox to install Lenny. Possibly the full release of Lenny (Remember this review is based on Beta2 and not a full release) may be a little more intuitive and automatically install the latest kernel during the inevitable apt-get update, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade, after an installation, which we all have to perform usually with every distro we install.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Lenny Control Center - Screenshot

A couple of updates, reboots and a virtualbox kernel module compilation later, (Not as difficult as that sounds in all honesty, some more apt-gets and a little research if needed into the packages available and how to issue the right commands if you’ve never done it before) and we’re up and running, but wait, installation of the VBox kernel module and drivers has caused an issue with the resolution, it’s defaulting to 1280×768. So I start looking for the control center, only to realize, Lenny still uses the default KDE one, just as etch did. Now although that’s fine for power users who know where everything is already, that’s not the case for new users. In this particular instance for example I wanted to change my screen resolution, so you start opening up the menus, as shown in the screenshot, and you eventually find the display settings under “Peripherals”. Now this hasn’t changed from Etch and there are other distributions that do this as well. But in terms of Lenny for new users this is a real let down to me. I would expect a distribution that is this polished everywhere else, and had this much development put into it, and is this easy to use for all the other things it includes, to have the control center side of things sorted out by now.

Kubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mandriva and several other distros, have a customised control center, which for new users is much much easier to navigate if they want to change simple settings like the resolution, or keyboard settings. Lenny is still lacking the “noob proof” setup here. However from a power user point of view it’s incredible, the control center has just about every setting you could want it to have, plus a few you don’t really need. Short of things which still require command line hacking in EVERY distribution out there, the abilities of the control center in Lenny FAR out weigh those of the distributions which have made it easier to navigate for newer users.

Unfortunately the display configuration is still quite limited as well with the VBox drivers and I had to go back to command line hacking to give my new system a resolution above 1280×768. This is no reflection on Lenny however, as I was in a VirtualBox VM and did not have the NVidia or ATi drivers installed that I inevitably would have, were it on a real system, giving me better configuration tools to configure my display with. This being a virtualbox installation is also the reason we didn’t get to play with any of Lennys really cool new toys on the wireless front.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

It’s worth a mention that Lenny, once installed, comes with a full compliment of programs, both fun, professional and functional. I honestly don’t think you could find a Linux distribution that came this well equipped out of the box.


I can definitely say that Lenny is a big step forward in terms of desktop computing, I haven’t tried out the server installation for Lenny just yet, but you can count on me doing so as I always use Debian for my servers :D . I’m exceptionally happy to see that the KDE release of Lenny is geared around KDE3.5.9 and not KDE4.1, I think choosing the more stable, better known and tried & tested Desktop Environment was the way to go. They’ve ended up with a better product than the distributions who are already incorporating KDE4.1 into their default setup. Don’t get me wrong here, KDE4.1 is a great product, and is getting better all the time, but I still don’t think it’s really all that ready for new users who are booting Linux for the first time. Mandriva did a good job with KDE4.1 in their 2009.0 release, but it was nowhere near as powerful as the Lenny installation is and if KDE4.1 is your default desktop you may well need another desktop installed as well, to configure things that KDE4.1 can’t handle yet, I think Debian made the right choice here.

Overall I think Debian have surpassed themselves with this release, I was extremely happy to see the much needed new features, such as the graphical installer, the option to install Grub2.0 (Which I did and was very impressed with) and overall just how well the system installs itself. Well done Debian, I can’t wait for the full release of Lenny. If I hadn’t JUST migrated everything from my Kubuntu 8.04 x86 installation to my Kubuntu 8.04 X64 installation, ready for the Intrepid Ibex (8.10) release, I’d be installing Lenny on my desktop right now instead of writing this review. As it is, I’ll have to resist the temptation for now in order to assure I have a fully working system and am not just “playing around with my system”. :D

For an Operating System release this would be amazing, for a Beta2 release, this is excellence!

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Author:  Hollow
October 12, 2008



You know what, I think it might be!

Click to look at the full elemt inspector and page highlights

LXDE Menu a pleasure to use - screenshot

I’m stuck at home this weekend with a cold and a second head (A Cist) sticking out of my cheek, so I started reading through some Linux news reviews on other sites. Low and behold while I was looking through the release announcement for one of my favorite recovery/helper distributions on distrowatch I noticed they had switched from using XFCE (A Very lightweight desktop based on KDE but not particularly pretty and not all that functional IMHO) to LXDE. Now I’d heard of LXDE and seen some write-ups on it before but never considered it to be all that much use to anyone really. This  opinion changed over the course of this weekend.

After installing LXDE on our company laptop (Dual boot HP NX9420 with Windows XP and Kubuntu 8.04) and logging into it, I found an extremely fast (And I’m talking lightning), relatively attractive (Not gorgeous but doesn’t make you want to look the other way in disgust either), useful and functional desktop infront of me.

Chrome Right Click Features

LXDE Clean desktop, fresh load - screenshot

File manager and My Documents - screenshot

File manager and My Documents - screenshot

I decided to delve further with this new Desktop of mine and see where it would fall over, there had to be a problem with it somewhere, it was too fast and too useful at the same time to be perfect. Sure enough it did struggle to load a couple of the KDE apps I had installed but for the most part it actually handled everything very cleanly.

The menu in LXDE is a pleasure to use, it’s simple, straightforward, does what it says on the tin and it’s very functional. This menu doesn’t have all the bloat of more recent modern menus and just allows you to do what you need to with it, without being over the top.

Why haven’t I used this desktop before, I asked myself? Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be using KDE3.5.9 as my main desktop for another 10 – 20 days until the release of Intrepid Ibex comes out from Kubuntu, that’ll have KDE4.1 on it, if that doesn’t please me I may well be switching my main distribution over to Mandriva, but LXDE is definitely staying on the company laptop and going to be used extensively in the coming months.

Adept package manager and Konqueror Home Page - screenshot

A Linux desktop which not only looks quite nice but is actually functional and super fast, I really do think this might be the new KDE in the next year or two. Several people are unhappy with KDE4.1 (Me being one of them, although I have mentioned in my Mandriva 2009.0 review that they’ve done a great job of making me like it) and KDE4.1 is definitely more of a resource hog than KDE3.5.9 was. Given another year or so and I think LXDE might be the default desktop on several distributions. LXDE ALREADY is the default desktop on some distributions but they’re all the minimal distributions, I’m talking about it being the main desktop for Ubuntu in 9.04. This may all be rubbish and the cough syrup might be finally kicking in but I think LXDE could and will go a lot further than it has up to now.

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I’d say it’s already widely used and adopted wouldn’t you?

It seems lately I am being continually advised by various peers and colleagues, that Linux is not widely used and that it will never be fully adopted by the I.T. industry. Well someone here is either very ignorant or incapable of letting go of a concept and I’m not prepared to say whether it’s me or them.

I try to keep my eye on not only current trends in I.T. but also the ongoing industry standards, releases of new software for ALL operating systems that currently exist and previously existed, not to mention market share figures and software adoption press releases for all platforms as well. I have to say that there is most definitely a LOT of propaganda out there for various operating systems, Linux and Windows aren’t the only ones out there and neither are they the only ones putting out THEIR message and trying to ignore or put down the other. I try quite hard to distinguish what is propaganda and what is truthful articles while reading but it can be difficult.

Recently no matter where I look I’m finding articles written by people that I have no reason to believe are anything but impartial journalists, who are quite clearly stating facts and figures as well as self formed projections and opinions, with regard to Linux being adopted at a faster rate than I’ve ever seen before. Almost every day I read that another school or even school district, police department, regional council, global company, small company, charity or farmer and yes even his Collie, have adopted Linux or Open Source Software and that they have made a conscious and very public decision to do so. If I’m to believe that these stories are true then surely my advisors who say Linux just isn’t considered usable or worth the effort must be either very ignorant or just incapable of letting go of the “Microsoft Dream”.

But wait, another reliable, unbiased, impartial journalist has just written an article claiming that he thinks Windows latest server offering is the best thing he’s ever seen and that it’s going to crush the opposition of Linux, Unix, Solaris etc with one fell swoop. In which case surely I’m the one that’s being ignorant or just refusing to let go of my Linux ideals?

Well after you cut through all the bull thats out there from the journalists, and you’ve read through the forums and comments to posts just like this from Linux/Windows/Mac/Solaris etc advocates and you’ve tried REALLY hard to assess the situation as a whole and taken in everyones point of view, all the facts and figures that contradict themselves inside and outside, you come to realize that the old joke “98.5% of all statistics are made up, including this one” is actually less of a joke than it is an actual fact in itself. When it comes to choosing your operating system you have to decide for yourself what suits and it’s as simple as that.

Operating systems come down to personal choice, it really is that simple. Linux was always the underdog in years gone by, pushed to one side and not really considered to be useful for anything but web hosting and super computers, could only be used by uber-techies and rocket scientists. Well those days are past now, Linux is just as easy to use and set up for an average user (In some cases a LOT easier actually) than a Mac, Windows, Solaris, Unix or any other operating system you care to name.

Sure you can buy a Mac, open it up, and as long as you can type your own name and click a few buttons you’re greeted by that glorious Mac Music and a fantastic visual display to make you realize you’ve got something special, and with Windows, most people tend to buy it already installed on a computer and it’s much the same as buying a new Mac when you fire it up, just without the fanfare. With Linux you can buy it pre-installed as well now, not as many shops are selling it just yet as the community would ideally want but it’s really getting there, Dell, HP, Lenovo, just some of the big brands that are selling Linux pre-installed on their computers now.

So when it comes to pre-installed OS’s Linux is definitely a competitor these days and my personal belief is that it will continue to be just that, a competitor. I have no dreams of Linux crushing Apple or Microsoft, all I ask is that Linux gets given the recognition it deserves as what is now at the very least an equal and worthy opponent.

The area of Linux that really shines for me is it’s ability to boot up from a CD or USB key instead of insisting that it be installed on the very FIRST hard drive of a computer, install the majority of hardware in that CD or USB boot environment, with at the very least generic driver support, allowing you to use it without harming your computer, use the internet and play games etc WHILST installing it and because of all this it can be used to recover broken systems which natively are run by a completely different operating system that has become disabled somehow.

So to wrap this up do I think that Linux will really be widely used and fully adopted? Well no, I don’t think it will, it already is, when the two biggest retailers of pre-installed computers (Dell and HP) are releasing it pre-loaded and constantly announcing growth of sales in that area each year and the majority of the stock markets around the world are running it, NASA is running it and schools are starting to teach with it, I’d say it’s already widely used and adopted wouldn’t you? Besides that, how would you fancy watching Disney Pixars films without special effects? Or seeing action movies with smaller explosions, how about all you sci-fi fans missing out on all the really cool effects? Yup that’s right, the majority of all films made today are using Linux for their special effects generation. Go checkout LinuxMovies.org for more of an idea.

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