Google Chrome Beta for Linux Released

Good news for those of us who have been using Firefox as a last resort in our Linux machines. Google has announced the beta release of the mouch-touted browser for the Linux platform. Chrome is said to be faster and lighter than Firefox.

I’ve been using Chrome in pre-beta for quite some time without incident. It is a great step forward for Linux!

For more details and how to get your copy, check out:
http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en/w00t.html

Programming: IE8 and PHP $ SERVER[‘HTTP REFERER’]

IE Does Not Behave Like Firefox for Many PHP Variables
Forget it, IE doesn’t pass on the PHP referer variable.  You cannot rely on IE for the referer variable.

What’s really frustrating for LAMP programmers is that we often test in Firefox and things look great, and then you jump over to a Windows machine for QA and find out that IE doesn’t behave the same way.

Recently, I had to open a new window with a link from a page on website I was developing.  In order to validate that the new page opened had come from the same domain, I thought to use the referer code that PHP so conveniently keeps as a global session variable  ($ SERVER[‘HTTP REFERER’]).

However, this variable actually is reading from the Apache log of info that was sent in the header from the visitor.  Alas, not all browsers are alike, and hence you cannot rely on this variable to be populated.

Workaround:

It’s messy, but you can always rely on the PHP $_SESSION[‘id’] variable, since that is a server-side variable. It should always perform the same way regardless of the OS or browser that is using the site.

A simple way to check that the page opened has come from the page you sent it would look like this:

Origin page:

1. Populate the session variable:

session_start();
$_SESSION[‘id’] = session_id( );

Link by tagging on the session variable:

LINK to 2nd PAGE ?x= ECHO SESSION ID HERE

2. Next page

session_start(); //make sure to check that session is started
if (isset($_GET[‘x’])){$x=$_GET[‘x’];} //populate the get variable
if($x!=$_SESSION[‘id’]){
//test if the session variable sent from the first page, matches session here
//this area matches, do your things here
}else{
//no match, tell them to try again, etc…
}

Windows 7 Has Bigger Market Share Than All Linux Flavors Combined

Face it, we live in a Windows world.  The Windows 7 OS has been on shelves for nearly two weeks, and according to various reports, it already has taken a 2% market share of all installed OS in the world.

By comparison, Linux OS, in all its flavors and variations, holds less than a 2% market share of installed OS.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better…

Read our review of Windows 7 Ultimate and see why we think it is a lot like Linux OS.

SLAMPP 2.0 Linux Server on your PC in Minutes – Review and Screenshots

An Instant Home Server

SLAMPP 2.0 is a “simple solution for home server” based on Zenwalk 6.0 and using the Slackware package repository.  Slampp is released as a Live DVD that can also be installed on your hard drive.  Slampp claims to enable users to install an ‘instant home server’.  Slampp v.2.0 – (Kalinda) was released on July 28, 2009.

Slampp download mirrors –  The 1.9 GB download went rather smoothly.  Slampp currently has a handful of mirror sites, and I expect that will grow as the popularity of the distro increases.

Installation

The live DVD booted up but didn’t recognize my keyboard at first, and went to a default boot after 30 seconds. The installation is the same as Zenwalk, and if you are familiar with that distro, you will feel at home here.  The installation asks you if you need to install any proprietary software drivers.  I said No, and the computer hang.  I then rebooted, got to that screen again, and said Yes, and the installation continued with the X11 session manager.  After about 3 minutes, the Xfce desktop appeared.

First Impressions

desktop

Slampp looks alot like Zenwalk, which makes sense, since it’s based upon it.  The Xfce 4 desktop is clean and quite easy to navigate.  Slampp is loaded with many installed packages (see gallery screenshots) which adds to the bulk of the download.

The quick launch menu bar at the bottom center is user-friendly and there are quick luanch icons on the left bottom for network settings and file manager.  Slampp borrows much of its good looks from Zenwalk, and its power from Slackware – both of which are worthy bases from which to draw.

Who Needs This?  New users or webmasters?

Slampp’s website says this distro is intended for first-time Linux users to experience a non-Windows OS from the Live DVD.  However, the headline of the website is that Slampp is for an easy home server implementation.

Those two goals seem to collide.  Most Windows users looking for a Linux joy-ride would not also want to implement a server from a live-DVD.  It seems like they are trying to cater to two distinct user types.

I was initially turned on to the easy home server setup concept.  I was somewhat dismayed to realize  what that meant is there are server tools in the networking section.  I did not see the expected quick-link icon on the desktop telling first-time users to click on this button to  “Create a Home Server”.

Packages Installed

Slampp is like Zenwalk on steroids.  This is a 1.8GB download, and they’ve stuffed a whole bunch of packages into this distro that aren’t usually added due to size restrictions.  The networking section is loaded with server tools, such as SSH server, NX Session Admin, DHCP server, etc…  The application toolset it filled with goodies, including a full open office installation.

Gallery of Screenshots

Continue reading “SLAMPP 2.0 Linux Server on your PC in Minutes – Review and Screenshots”

CrunchBang Linux 9.04 (OpenBox with Ubuntu) Review and Screenshots

CrunchBang – Fast Linux with Many Customization Options

CrunchBang Linux 9.04 is an Open-Box distro based on Ubuntu with Gnome packages.  CrunchBang promises performance and ultimate customization options. Version 9.04.01 was released a couple weeks ago, and we decided to give it a test drive.

CrunchBang Standard vs. Lite

CrunchBang is offered in standard and lite packages for both 32 and 64 bit machines.

The CrunchBang Standard iso files are approximately 620 -675MB, and downloaded quickly from their download mirror pages.  The Lite files are ~420MB in size.  The major difference between these two versions is the number of packages installed.  We tested the Standard version.

Installation and First Impressions

The Live CD loads rather quickly and the screen you are brought to is reminiscent of a warehouse or old hangar that needs a good coat of paint.

Desktop
Desktop

Who says looks are everything?  We Linux users have become too accustomed to flashy backgrounds, 3-D and animated objects.  At the end of the day, how much do we really need them, and don’t they sometimes just get in the way?

CrunchBang takes the minimalist approach to graphics.  After a short period of adjustment (like walking into a dark room from the outdoors), things seem to fall in to place and CrunchBang shows just how efficient it really is.   All your favorite programs are a keystroke or two away.  Simplicity can be very efficient, especially when the desktop is in order.  Your main menu is opened with a mouse click, where you’ll find the full assortment of menu items and important system functions.  There’s even a handy ‘map’ of quick access functions on the right top side, which you can memorize before changing the desktop background to your favorite Penguin photo.

Super Key – Huh?

In case you are wondering what the heck is the ‘super key’ used for quick access to many programs and functions, they are referring to the “Windows” key found on most modern keyboards, usually next to the Ctrl button.

Packages Installed

We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of packages included in the Standard version.  Instead of Open Office, you get Gnumeric and Abi Word.  You can always add Open Office later.

Sound and Video is fortified with VLC, Audactiy, and Rythym Box, all which are missing from the standard Ubuntu lineup, but are welcome additions.  They’ve also included a bunch of video and sound editors, something for everyone.

For internet browsing and email, you get Firefox and Claws Mail (we’re seeing this lineup in more and more distros these days).

Graphics packages include Gimp and a host of other design tools.

The package selection is quite extensive for a live CD installation.

Speed and Performance

As promised, CrunchBang is fast.  There’s little graphics to get in the way, and that’s fine for most people.  You have quick access to your tools with the handy-dandy menu popup.  The default desktop displays memory and CPU usage, so you can easily keep tabs on your PC’s performance.

Flexible Configuration – OpenBox

Here’s where CrunchBang shines.  OpenBox is like taking an easel and paint and being given carte blanche to define your desktop configuration.  OpenBox is not for folks who want an easy configuration tool.  If you do want complete control and options to change just about how everything looks and functions on your desktop, then OpenBox is for you.

openbox_config

Ubuntu Base

CrunchBang was wise to use Ubuntu’s repository.  There’s (just about) everything you need under the sun waiting to be installed from the handy package manager.

Gallery of Screenshots

Continue reading “CrunchBang Linux 9.04 (OpenBox with Ubuntu) Review and Screenshots”

Linpus Linux Lite 9.4 – Review and Screenshots

Linpus Linux is a Fedora based distro that was designed to support the Asian market with Unicode support.  However, Linpus is available in English, as well as several other languages, from their website.  The Linpus Linux Lite version reviewed here is designed to be a simple to use and low memory usage for the Netbook and light-computer user community.  Some Acer Netbooks come pre-installed with Linpus Lite.

The version reviewed here, Linpus Lite 9.4, was released in December 2007.  Many of the installed packages are outdated, however once you’ve installed the OS, you can easily update any required application by accessing the RPM Repository.

Installation

Linpus Lite came as a 700 MB download from their website.  We had to jump through a few pages to get to the actual download file.  The download itself was quick and the bootup for the Live CD installation was quick and painless.  After the OS loaded, the initial desktop display is in simple-mode.  After the initial loading, we did not experience any CD churning including during heavier memory tasks, such as loading Open Office and Firefox.

First Impressions

Linpus Lite is actually two Linux OS in one.  There’s simple mode, which is easy enough for children and total computer newbies to navigate, and the more standard Fedora desktop which is fine for most users.  We liked the choices provided, and the simplicity of the setup in both environments.

desktop
Simple Mode

Full Mode
Full Mode

The Simple mode is super-intuitive.  There are five menu tabs on top, each opening a new screen of applications represented by big icons in squares.  The layout is not only pretty, but also very functional.  I did not see a way to add or edit the icons or paths to the quick links.  That would further add to the usefullness of this menu structure.

The Full mode is actually a full-power Fedora Desktop.  If you never knew that the simple mode existed, Linpus would exist in its own right as a capable Fedora-based distro.

There’s a little icon on the bottom left corner toggles between the simple and full modes.

Toggle Desktop
Toggle Desktop

Installed Applications

This section is a bit dated since this distro version was launched in late 2007.  The aging Open Office 2.2 and Firefox 2.0 are shining examples of packages that require immediate updating once you’ve got the OS running.  The good news is that with Synaptics Package Manager, you can select the afore-mentioned RPMs and easily update, as well as install everything Fedora has to offer.

Gallery of Screenshots

Continue reading “Linpus Linux Lite 9.4 – Review and Screenshots”

Zenwalk 6.01 Live CD Review & Screenshots

Zenwalk 6.01 is a Linux Distro that aims to modern, user-friendly, and fast.

They offer four versions for download on their website:

  • Standard desktop OS
  • Core version – for minimal installation.  This can be used as a server, or as a starting point for desktop users to then install whatever packages they need rather than going with a standard installation.
  • Live Edition (reviewed here) – Try out Zenwalk Linux from your CD drive without installing to your hard drive.  Includes a full complement of programming tools, disk and partitioning management, and more.
  • Gnome Edition – Gnome Desktop installation.

Download and Install

Developers love Zenwalk.  It’s fast but has frills too.   We downloaded the Live CD iso file, which was approx 687MB, one of the larger Live CD distro downloads we’ve seen thusfar.   The download was quick and painless.

First Impressions

The live CD boots quickly and without problems.  The default Xfce desktop is clean and easy on the eyes.  There’s a handy menu bar at the bottom for quick links to most used items. The menu tree expands from a start button on the top left of the screen.  We instinctively knew where all elements and items were to be found since everything was placed exactly where you’d expect.

Desktop
Desktop

It Ain’t Fancy, But It Works Well

Zenwalk follows the Mies Vander Roe school of thought that “Less is More.”  There are few gadgets and widgets to get in your way here.  Lack of fancy does not equal a reduction in usefullness.    Zenwalk Live CD comes installed with a full aray of your favorite Linux apps, with a nice and well fortified repository for you to add more programs after installation.

Modular Approach

Zenwalk focuses on a modular approach to application processing, while allowing only one application per task.  This modular processing approach makes things work fast!  Many users have configured Zenwalk in its minimal state (core download) and use it as a thin client or fast server for gaming or application handling.

Installed Apps

The Live CD comes with a fine assortment of installed applications.  Development tools included are Heany and Hex editor.  For graphics, Gimp is installed along with Evince.  Multimedia tools include Brasero for CD/DVD burning, Exaile, Media Player, and others.  The full Open Office 3.0 package is installed (which you’d expect with a nearly 700 MB download).   Zenwalk shines with a nice list of network tools, including SSH and VNC browsers, Icedove, Iceweasel, Pidgin, Bittorent, and more.  See screenshots for the Live CD menus.

Gallery of Screenshots

Conclusion

Zenwalk 6.01 Live CD is a worthy distro for users looking for a straightforward and fast OS with access to a full range of apps, particularly for the developer community.  Zenwalk is on version 6, which attests to its longevity, and for good reason.  Zenwalk (formerly minislack) has a dedicated community who actively participates in the forums on their website.  The fast Xfce desktop coupled with a good smattering of installed apps and an full repository makes Zenwalk a good choice for many Linux users.  There’s always room for a distro that just works.

I’m Back with Kubuntu Linux (and Happy as Ever)

It was an uneasy breakup.  Kubuntu and I had parted about two months ago rather abruptly after I had installed 9.02.   After a nearly four year love affair between us, I felt that I had been jaded.  The new KDE 4.1 Plasma desktop was awkward and things just didn’t seem right.

Numerous crashes.  Not knowing where things went.  Applications acting strange.  It was as though I had returned from a vacation to my home and all the rooms had been redecorated.  After much soul-searching and investigation, I decided not to leave the Ubuntu “family” just yet, but to forsake KDE (as I felt they had forsaken me with Plasma) and to move to Gnome with Ubuntu.

From the get-go, Ubuntu seemed familiar and easy to use.  All the elements were in the right place.   It was as though the stars had aligned.  I was happy again as a Linux user.  I was sold on Ubuntu.  I wrote off KDE and Kubuntu.  Sure, there were plenty of pleasant KDE implementations, many better than Kubuntu, like Mandriva and SUSE.  Even Mepis 8.0, with it’s KDE 3.5 was appealing.  But, I had decided to stay with Ubuntu.  It was inertia, and it felt fine.

After about a month of using Ubuntu on Gnome, the cracks in the foundation started appearing.  Where was Klipper!  Amarok didn’t work well.  The Gnome tools felt different than KDE.  The Alsa sound drivers were having problems all the time.  Come to think of it, I missed KDE…

So, after two months, I’m back with Kubuntu.  This time, I’ve installed KDE 4.2.  Many of the kinks of the original Plasma version have been worked out.  I’ve been reunited with all my favorite KDE apps in their native desktop environment.  Even the sound card is working again.  I’m happy to be back.  The only real holdover from my Gnome days is Evolution.  I’ve left Kmail, and for now have taken a real liking to Evolution as the best email app for my needs.

KDE is working on releasing v.4.3.  They are up to RC2, and there are details on the Kubuntu website on how to upgrade your existing KDE desktop within Kubuntu.   If you are still struggling with KDE 4.1, I strongly encourage you to check out at least v.4.2, and/or leapfrog to 4.3.

My next hill to conquer is whether to leap with KDE to another distro such as Mandriva or Open Suse.  There are so many choices out there for Linux users.  But the old adage still rings true – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Let us know about your KDE vs. Gnome vs. Xfce experiences.

Xubuntu 9.04 Linux – Official Ubuntu Lite Review, Screenshots & Comparisons

Xubuntu is Ubuntu’s official “Lite” version.  Their tagline “Linux for human beings” sort of makes me chuckle – as if the other flavors of unix are for monkees and aliens?  Xubuntu has set out to do what a number of comparable distros are also vying for, ‘the minimalist’ side of Linux.  They claim that Xubuntu is  “that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, document and spreadsheet editing software, instant messaging and much more.”  We set out to see for ourselves.

Being that Ubuntu is a big organization, the download mirrors for Xubuntu are quite vast. Xubuntu 9.04 is a ~600 MB file and downloads rather quickly assuming you choose a nearby mirror.

Installation

For a lite distro, I was hoping for a much faster installation.  From start to finish, the install took nearly 45 minutes.  There may have been specific hardware factors that slowed it down, but the installer never complained, it just took a lot of time.

Our reviews of other “lite” distros have proven to be much quicker to install.  The amount of install screens and questions to be answered is the same for Xubuntu than for example, Mepis, and Vector, yet both of those distros installed in a fraction of the time that Xubuntu required.

First Impressions

The Xfce desktop is neat and clean.  There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but the things you need are readily available.  Xubuntu is meant to be a “lite” version of Linux, and on that promise they deliver.

desktop
Desktop

Installed Packages

You’re a click away from the Firefox browser and your file manager.  The folks at Xubuntu settled on Mozilla’s Thunderbird for your email client.  This is an interesting selection since although Thunderbird is quick and competent, and there are plenty of plug-ins to choose from, it is lacking the off-the-shelf integration with calendar and other desktop tools.

Xubuntu has a sparce smattering of installed apps.  The heavy tools like Open Office and Gimp are missing, but what you are left with is just enough to get your work (and some play) done.  By comparison, other lite-linux versions, like Puppy Linux, have foregone Firefox prefering the less-memory hogging Sea.  Xubuntu lacks a comprehensive multi-media app, such as VLC Player, which is included with Vector Linux.

Competition

Vector Linux is a fair comparison to Xubuntu since it is targeting a similar user audience, and both distros have chosen the Xfce desktop.  We liked the speed and power of Vector very much.  Vector is built on the Slackware frame, whereas Xubuntu takes its roots from Debian.  Vector’s installation went quicker, but it was bit less fool-proof than Xubuntu.  Vector includes the useful VASM, for powerful configuration options in an easy format.  The Vector landscape is filled with useful tools, while Xubuntu has only a few.

Puppy Linux is also a good distro to compare with Xubuntu.  The Puppy runs exceptionally fast as the entire OS is loaded into the computer’s RAM at bootup.  Puppy Linux manages to get everything done in only a 100MB download.  The installation from a live CD is a cynch that any non-techie could easily accomplish.  First-time Puppy users may get spoiled with the speed of their OS and never want to try another lite distro.

It boils down to user preference.  There are many flavors of ice cream at the shop too, and they all seem to get eaten.  There is a whole sub-category now of Linux distros for older machines and lite installations.  Xubuntu is less of an invention in its own right, and more of an adaptation of Ubuntu.

Xubuntu Screenshots Gallery

Continue reading “Xubuntu 9.04 Linux – Official Ubuntu Lite Review, Screenshots & Comparisons”

Google Chrome OS + Monta Vista = Windows Killer?

Instant-On – 1 second boot

As we reported last week, Monta Vista has devised a way to boot Linux in 1 second.  Dell and others are working on a joint-project “Instant-On” which will boot their laptops in one second using Linux OS.   Dell Latitude ON is already available with Instant-On to bypass Windows and give users instant access to Email and other important apps.

Google has stated on its blog that it aims to give users easy and quick access to the tools they need – e.g. internet browsing and email, from its new Chrome OS.  Could Instant-On developers, such as DeviceXM and Phoenix Technologies be working with Google now to include their technologies in the new OS?

Windows Killer?

Clearly Google has a great opportunity here to catapult the Linux OS into the forefront as a real contender for favorite OS.  Microsoft’s advantage as the default OS shipped with laptops and netbooks can be challenged if Dell, HP, and others continue to give more attention to Instant-On technology coupled with the Linux OS.  If the Google marketing muscle can wrestle away a portion of the laptop segment to their new Chrome OS, 2010 could be a watershed year for PC users.