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.

Puppy Linux 4.2 – Super Fast Linux – Quick Review and Screenshots

The Fastest Linux Ever?

Puppy Linux is a popular Linux distribution that runs on less than 128MB of Ram.

We reviewed the June 2009 release v.4.2 of Puppy Linux, which comes in a 110 MB file download from their website, or from accepted mirrors.   The iso file is then burnt to CD and runs as a Live CD.  After installing the Live CD into RAM, I experienced my HP Laptop (2GB RAM) run faster than I’ve ever seen with any other OS or Linux Distro.

Bootup is fast and intelligent

The bootup sequence asks a few questions, such as if it has detected your mouse and keyboard correctly. It also gives you a chance to select, and preview, a suitable display for your monitor.  Lastly, you are given the choice of which X Server to load – bare-bones,Xvesa (Standard Graphics), or the recommended default Xorg (Advanced Graphics). The desktop environment is JWM, which is intuitive and well-organized.

Feel the Speed of RAM

Once you have reached the desktop screen, your entire session has been loaded into less than 128MB of RAM on your computer.  Your hard drive and CD ROM drives are not touched (unless you save files to them).  If you haven’t experienced it yet, you must feel the power of a computer running on RAM.  There’s no delays.  No skipped beats.  The nerve center of your computer asks almost human-like, action – response –  Scary!

Desktop Layout

Everything is very nicely placed on your desktop.  A lot of thought must have gone into where to put what elements.  The left top side of the screen has quick link icons, with a gadget that makes it easy to drag additional icons to the desktop.  The right side of the screen is for widgets, and has a gadget to choose and add from dozens of available widgets.

Puppy Linux Initial Desktop
Puppy Linux Initial Desktop

Wireless Network Support

I ran Puppy Linux on my HP Laptop and was able to connect, after several minutes of tinkering, to a secure wireless network.  This was one of the few kinks in the Puppy Distro.  I clicked on the Connect icon on the desktop and had to repeat the steps of scanning for and connecting to a wireless network several times until I got it to work.  The average user may have given up after a couple tries.

Repository

Like every great Linux Distro, Puppy Linux has its own repository PET. When you want to add new packages, you can do so through the package manager, or just GET PET  – what an infectious phrase.  The thin-client targeted default installation comes with hundreds of very useful apps.  The repository gives you access to much of everything else.  Tough decisions on which packages to include (or exclude) in order to keep away from product bloat are discussed on the Puppy Linux website.  For example, Sea Monkey is the default browser, and the Sea Monkey email package comes installed.   The website FAQ explains the difference between Sea Monkey (by Mozilla) and Firefox means a savings of over 40 MB, which is required to get everything in to the target RAM budget.

Great for Network Clients

Puppy Linux is suitable for thin-clients, and can be booted from a network, USB Flash key or hard drive (buy why?).  There’s a nifty setup menu that gives you step by step instructions on how to install Puppy Linux on to your USB Flash drive.

Save configuration to your CD

One of the nice features of Puppy Linux is that you never have to touch a hard drive, and can even keep all your settings and added files to the original live CD.  The program writes the changes since your last session to a file that contains an EXT2 file format onto another session of your Multi-Session CD.

Or you can simply write your files to a USB or Hard Drive, and keep files the “old-fashioned” way.  As strange as it sounds, your Multi-Session CD is still probably the best archival system out of the three choices.

Look and Feel

Continue reading “Puppy Linux 4.2 – Super Fast Linux – Quick Review and Screenshots”

Ultimate Edition Linux 2.2 vs. Ubuntu – Quick Review and Screenshots

Ultimate Edition 2.2 was released on June 17. It’s the latest salvo from TheeMahn, creator of this popular distro of Linux. Ultimate Edition was originally released in late 2007 to be Ubuntu with a “better user experience and with improved usability.” In the releases since, they have broken from Ubuntu and actually have created their own repository .

Like Ubuntu, Ultimate Edition is Gnome based. TheeMahn also built Ubuntu Gamers Edition, and it shows in Ultimate Edition (UE). Ultimate Edition has software pre-installed and ready for use on a live DVD environment.

Slow to load, Gamer appearance
We reviewed the live DVD x64 version. The file was 1.1 GB and downloaded  quickly from one of their mirror sites.  They do recommend you seed this file as a torrent afterwards to help distribution and to enable UE to continue to be offered  for free.

The DVD loaded to the desltop environment after a couple minutes of considerable churning.
Here’s the default desktop

Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop
Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop

First impressions are that it’s a gamers distro.  I can’t imagine business users embracing a mouse cursor of a rotating fighter jet (at least that’s what I think it was).

Here’s a gallery of screenshots for all the menus and installed software

There is a healthy helping of installed programs.  There aren’t 2,500 programs as we saw in the “uber” linux version of ArtistX, but there is definitely a good mix, with emphasis on sound and video, and graphics.  UE also comes packaged with some non-licensed video tools,  such as Handbrake.  Although Ubuntu doesn’t offer some of these tools out of the box, and sometimes not in their official repositories, there is such a large Ubuntu user-community, that often you’re only a few clicks away from adding anything that you can’t find at first try.

UE comes with a large assortment of backgrounds and Gnome themes.  That may account for the bloat in the size of the file download, as the installed base of programs is not too different that what is available out of the box for Ubuntu.

UE backgrounds ultimate edition linux

Conclusion

Ultimate Edition has done a good job with deskop design, and offers a great number of themes and background to further tailor to your individual needs.  The initial default setup looks childish and is geared more towards a young adult gamer group.  The product set of installed programs was very good, but we didn’t see an amazing jump over what’s available out of the box from its mentor, Ubuntu.   The usability was good, but not a great diffrentiator to give up the comfort of the solid Ubuntu distro with the large installed user base.

For users looking for a “different distro”  than Ubuntu/Kubuntu, we recommend trying out Mandriva Dream Linux, ArtistX, and MintLinux (click for reviews).

18 KDE Edutainment Programs – Great free Linux kids Tutors & learning tools

Free Babysitter and Tutor rolled up into one

Linux is just one of the great things that everyone should know about.  If you ever experienced one of your kids saying “Daddy, what should I do next, I’m bored”, then you’ll appreciate the great number of free and wonderful educational programs available on Linux.  The apps shown here are KDE based but should work in most if not all Linux distros and desktop environments.  My recommendation – You can install Edubuntu and get many of these apps, or if you’re just looking to add a kids ‘section’ install Kubuntu or your favorite KDE desktop (Debian, Mandriva are excellent choices, see our reviews in the Linux tools section).  Then jump over to your package manager and select these games to install.

KDE Edutainment Tools

Khangman

khangman-screenshot

Simple to use hangman program for kids.  Comes with a hint prompt to make it easier for the youngsters to get the correct answer.

KLatin

klatin screenshot

Klatin has three parts – vocabulary, grammar and verb testing sections.   The purpose is to revise latin through translation and grammar checking.  Development has been stopped as of KDE 3.5, however we tested it to work on Gnome as well.

Klettres

klettres alphabet learning snapshot

This nifty learning tool teaches you alphabet and phrases in English and these other languages as well – Czech, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Kannada, Hindi Romanized, Low Saxon, Luganda, Spanish, Slovak and Telugu.

kanagram

kanagram screenshot

This tool mixes up the letters of a word (creating an anagram), and you have to solve what was the word.  It’s a lot of fun.

kverbos

kverbos screenshot

Learn Spanish and have fun at the same time.  This tool has several different options, and with over 9,000 verbs in the language database, your kids will surely be kept busy.

Kvoctrain (KDE 3.5)  KWordQuiz  (KDE 4)

kwordquiz screenshot

These tools are pretty straightforward flash card games that teach your kids spelling, verb conjugation, and vocabulary in English, French, or German. This game is also a great learning tool for businessmen and travellers who need to brush up on popular phrases before and during a vacation/business trip.

kbruch

kbruch screenshot

Practice your math!  Practice calculations, fractions, algebraic formulas, conversion, and more.  This little program kept my 8th grader busy for hours.

kpercentage

kpercentage screenshot

Kpercentage is a nice simple tool for kids to practice their skills in calculating percentages.

kig

kig snapshot

This program is for more advanced math students, high school (even college!) and for math teachers.  You can practice geometry, sine curves, and other things that we’ve all forgotten after passing the last test for that subject.

kmplot

kmplot screenshot

For the advanced students, this math plotter has a built-in parser too with a function library too!   Plots can be printed in scale with a great degree of precision.  There are some very smart people out there…

kgeography

kgeography_screenshot

This new geography learning tool is a great way to brush up on country capitals, political borders, flags, etc…

kturtle

kturtle screenshot kturtle 2 screenshot

Kturtle is a teaching & learning environment with several modules.  Your older kids can learn how to program, math, language skills, and more, all in a fun educational interface.  The programming language skills are a great way to start your kids off on a career of programming.  The application was ported to KDE4, but some have commented that it works better in KDE 3.5.    We had no problem running it in Ubuntu/Gnome.

blinken

blinken screenshot

Let’s have some real fun!  Simon-Says…  This memory learning tool is great for the younger and older kids.

keduca

keduca screenshot

This educational tool enables teachers and parents to create tests and questionnaires with a whole assortment of helper modules.   This project was abandoned when KDE moved to 4.x, but it still works on my KDE 3.5 and on Gnome.  Get it while it’s hot.  Hey, maybe you want to continue development for this tool?

ktouch

kktouch screenshot

Learn touch typing the fun way.  I wish we had (free) programs like this when I was learning how to type.  By the way, I hit 70 words on my practice test.  I think programmers generally type faster.   Well anyways, this program will help you get ahead.

kstars

kstars screenshot

Kstars is easily my favorite application from those listed on this page.  Explore the universe.  This app is best viewed in a dark room with the lights out, and a Pink Floyd tune (preferably Shine on you crazy diamond) playing in the background.  This app is billed as a KDE planeterium, and it certainly lives up to its calling.   If you look closely, you can see up 100’s of millions of stars, planets, asteroids, etc…  There are also tools for amateur astronomers such as a sky calendar, observation plans, etc…  Not to be missed!

kalzium

kalzium_screenshot

Periodic table of elements, right on your desktop.  Very cool as a learning tool and as a reference.  How many times a day do you need to know the mass of barium and just get to the numbers fast enough!?  I also wish I had this tool while studying science in high school.

More in depth notes, screenshots, and reviews for all of these tools can be found at http://edu.kde.org


Next – we’ll review about 35 free arcade, card, and board games for your KDE desktop.

Slax 3.5 Minimal Linux KDE – Live CD – Quick Review & Snapshots

Continuing on my search for a Kubuntu replacement as I wrote about in my earlier post.

Slax 3.5 Minimal Live CD
Here’s a nice KDE 3.5 Linux distro with a minimal set of applications and only a 180 MB download. The Live CD took about 5 minutes to fully load and the CD was constantly churning throughout the entire time I demoed the product.

Since it’s a minimal distro, there’s no Gimp, no Firefox, no Open Office. Instead, you have Kplayer, Kopete, K3B, Konquerer, ,Konsole, Kword, Kspread, and Kpresent. Everything worked fine (except for the excessive CD churning).

The desktop is aesthetically pleasing with the tux background spread over the continents.  The menus are set pleasingly to the eyes.  The folks at Slax have decided not to jump to KDE 4 yet, and I think that’s a great move, until the kinks have been ironed out on the plasma desktop.

Although Slax was pleasing, it didn’t tickle my Linux bone enough to give up Ubuntu in my search for a Kubuntu replacement. The search continues…

Slax Live CD Screenshots


Open Suse KDE Live CD Quick Review – Snapshots

Looking for a KDE replacement for Kubuntu…

Open Suse KDE with Live CD

Novell has got this baby hopping and it’s a serious contender for the Kubuntu replacement that I’ve been searching. Although it’s running on KDE 4.1, they seem to have put the pieces together nicely.

Plasma Desktop – like it or not
The plasma desktop, which is the new interface for KDE 4, is one of the ‘like it or not’ kind of things.  I personally do not like it one bit.  The tab menus are confusing.  The lack of a simple “desktop” metaphor that we’ve become accustomed to, and the hokey clicking on arrows to get to sub menus, just doesn’t ‘do it’ for me.

Loading took a long time

Loading of the live CD took about 3 minutes, which seemed like forever.  The CD was quiet once the loading stopped.

Beautiful Desktop

The default desktop is a very pleasing green with nice menu colors.  The tools are all there as you’d expect.  No surprises.  You will have to install Gimp on your own.

Screenshots

Open Suse KDE 4 Screenshot
Open Suse KDE 4 Screenshot
Open Suse KDE 4 Tab Menus
Open Suse KDE 4 Tab Menus

PCLinuxOS Quick Review and Screenshots – Kubuntu Alternative

Continuing in my quest for a replacement to Kubuntu as discussed here in my previous post. We are looking at KDE distros that can replace the Kubuntu 9.x release, which to me still seems like it’s in beta.

PCLinuxOS 2009 KDE
It’s running on KDE 3.5, which is a good start in my opinion. It took nearly 4 minutes to load the opening screen from the live CD, which seemed like forever. During the whole time I played with the live desktop, the CD was churning and I was afraid it was going to bust a gut.

Radically Simple

The PCLinuxOS tagline and philosophy is to make the Linux distro desktop simple and easy to use.

Some notables – They are still using Synaptic for package management, which is better and easier to use than the new Kubuntu package manager. The package selection was quite rich, with a heavy accent on graphics programs and sound and music devices. All told, I think there was a couple dozen programs in those two sub menus. Which brings me to the next point, the menu selection is based on hierarchies. Sometimes, you’ll have to wade through several submenus to get to an application.
Generally speaking, it was a pleasant distro.

Here’s some screenshots of PCLinuxOS 2009 on KDE 3.5

PCLinuxOS Snapshot on KDE
PCLinuxOS Snapshot on KDE

PCLinuxOS Snapshot Configuration Manager
PCLinuxOS Snapshot Configuration Manager

PCLinuxOS Snapshot Control Center
PCLinuxOS Snapshot Control Center

PCLinuxOS Snapshot on KDE
PCLinuxOS Snapshot on KDE

PCLinuxOS Snapshot on KDE
PCLinuxOS Snapshot on KDE

PCLinuxOS Snapshot - Help Screen
PCLinuxOS Snapshot - Help Screen

Knoppix 6.01 Quick Review – KDE Alternative to Kubuntu

I’m reviewing KDE distros of Linux as part of my ongoing series, searching for a replacement to Kubuntu, which I have been running for three years but decided to leave after their upgrade to KDE 4.x

Knoppix 6.01 Live CD

Knoppix 6.01 is running LXDE, that’s a good start in my opinion.  I remember using a much earlier version of Knoppix about 8 years ago as a Live CD version of Linux.  It was one of the first (correct me if I’m wrong) to push the outer limit of Linux distros and show that you can run an OS from a CD.

Having not used Knoppix in so many years, it was quite nostalgic to hear the nice lady say “initiating startup sequence”, like a 1950s sci-fi TV show.  The OS loaded rather quickly and once the KDE main window was up, the CD stopped churning and it didn’t churn again through the entire review.  They probably have the best memory-load of the live-cd distros.

Annoying Animation Effect

Someone made a design decision to make the windows and menus have animation.  It was cute for about one second.  No more.  Obviously, this is a configuration option that one could change, but why would you include that as a default?  How many people, regardless of age, really want their Firefox browser exploding into blocks when they close the window?  I set a capture screen on delay so you can see what I’m writing about.

Knoppix 6.01 Screen Shots

snap1
Knoppix Main Screen

Knoppix 6.01 Animated Window Close
Knoppix 6.01 Animated Window Close

The desktop itself came with no other major surprises. The software selection was a bit different than I’ve seen in other distros.  They had Gnome mplayer as the default music tool.  Gimp was included, as well as Open Office, and Korganizer.

When I shut down the CD, the nice lady said “Initiating Shutdown Sequence”.

Well, I’ve already left Kubuntu.  So far, Mandrive has shown promise.  Knoppix is not for me.  Onward the search for a replacement continues …

Mandriva KDE Quick Review & Screenshots (vs. Kubuntu)

As you may have read from my previous posts on leaving Kubuntu after 3 years, I am looking for a better KDE solution. To that aim, I am installing well-respected KDE distros and comparing them to the Kubuntu that I have known and loved, but that has gone to a beta feel in the recent 9.x release.

Mandriva KDE
Installing Mandriva KDE, similar to Kubuntu, is installed from a live CD. You get to taste the OS before actually installing. That’s where the similarities end.
Mandriva is using 4.x KDE and looks simply gorgeous. The developers took care to make a very pleasant looking and highly functional distribution. All the expected apps are installed in the live CD including, Open Office, Kmail, Firefox 3, and Gimp (which is not included standard on Kubuntu).

Mandriva Screenshots

Mandriva Snapshot - Software Configuration
Mandriva Snapshot - Software Management

Mandriva Software
Mandriva Software

Mandriva TV Time
Mandriva TV Time

Mandriva Main Menu
Mandriva Main Menu

Mandriva Backup Tool
Mandriva Backup Tool

Mandriva includes a host of neat tools that really add to its utility. The software configuration tool is straightforward and uncluttered. Mandriva comes with a Backup tool that automatically pops up when you insert a USB disk on key. The menu structure is also clearer and easier to navigate than it’s KDE cousin.  For example, the recently used apps sits atop the main menu (as you’d expect) and ready for easy access, as opposed to having to fumble through tabs and an array of mouse clicks on arrows on Kubuntu.

I was impressed also with the ease of installation and configuration which rivaled Kubuntu’s legendary ease.

Although this is a preliminary look, Mandriva looks like a real winner and has restored my faith in KDE even in the post v.3.5 era.

Goodbye Kubuntu, I’m Staying With Ubuntu. Here’s why.

Saying Goodbye to Kubuntu
I said goodbye to Kubuntu two weeks ago when I replaced my KDE desktop with Gnome and I haven’t looked back. It feels at the same time invigorating and betraying. Like I’ve left a former love for my new fling.
I had been using Kubuntu as my main OS for over three years, having started with v 5.x and migrated along all the way to 9.x. When the Kubuntu folks decided to abandon KDE 3.5 and jump to the new experimental KDE 4.x, I felt as though I was using a beta product, as opposed to the solid well-built OS that I had come to love.

Very Happy with Ubuntu Instead
But make no mistake, Ubuntu is a better distro. The Gnome environment is very straightforward. Yes, there are less gadgets. But how many flying windows and 3-D animations do you really need on your desktop?
As a developer, and entrepreneur, most of my day is spent either on Evolution (email), Firefox or in Terminal windows, developing and monitoring my servers. I’ll check some spreadsheets on Office and occasionally play some music in the background.

Kmail vs. Evolution  (Side by Side)

Kmail on KDE
Kmail on KDE
Evolution on Gnome
Evolution on Gnome

Sure, Kmail is nice, but I like Evolution better. Why? I can’t explain, it’s just a feeling that the software is more-baked. Evolution had a more elegant interface.   Evolution doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Kmail, but their handling of Signatures, HTML formatting, and general ease of use beats out the more extensible Kmail.  Both include calendar, memos, tasks, and contact management.
Continue reading “Goodbye Kubuntu, I’m Staying With Ubuntu. Here’s why.”