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Archive for February, 2008

Eight Distros a Week: gNewSense 1.1

February 13, 2008 3 comments

[This is the fifth in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

A couple of Saturdays ago, I appeared as a guest on KUSP’s GeekSpeak radio show to talk about Free Software, and about two-thirds of what I said on the radio was about gNewSense.

Truth in advertising: I was on with Richard Stallman, who the panelists really wanted to speak to (and rightfully so), and my total contribution to the hour-long radio show was three sentences. But two sentences out of three praising gNewSense isn’t bad.

What I said on the show was that gNewSense was the only completely free-as-in-freedom distros I would recommend, and that I have already had one user converted from a proprietary OS to gNewSense.

The third sentence — I corrected the host on how to pronounce my name, I think.

Nevertheless, of all the distros providing true digital freedom, gNewSense stands out as probably the best performing and most stable distro available. To those for whom complete free-as-in-freedom programs with the distro is of vital importance, gNewSense provides suitable alternatives to other-than-free (for whatever reason) software; Burning Dog, for example, is the free (albeit domesticated?) replacement for Firefox as a Web browser. Rhythmbox works well on a PIII, as does Serpentine.

The KDE version of gNewSense, which I ran on the PIII desktop, ran through its paces flawlessly, although the caveat here is that I didn’t have an Internet connection and couldn’t put it through some on-line tests that I did with the laptop.

Whether you prefer GNOME or KDE — and I don’t mean to start a flame war here, and past posts have outlined where my desktop loyalties lie — bear in mind that both desktops run the OS suitably and makes a strong argument for running completely free.

Further, Ireland is beginning to stand out as a digital leader in Europe — both gNewSense and Linux Mint (which we’ll talk about tomorrow) are two testaments to how Eire is taking a lead in FOSS. So a toast with a pint of stout to the both Brian Brazil and Paul O’Malley — and the rest of the developers of gNewSense on either side of the Atlantic — for providing a great distro.

Coming tomorrow: Linux Mint 4.0 Darnya Xfce

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Eight Distros a Week: Fluxbuntu 7.10

February 12, 2008 4 comments

[This is the fourth in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

Take the massively popular and versatile Ubuntu distro and minimize the impact on system resources so newer machines are raised to a higher level of performance while older machines can utilize it. What would you call it?

Fluxbuntu — Ubuntu under the hood with a Fluxbox desktop.

Fluxbuntu, which is based on Ubuntu (and, therefore, has its roots in Debian), is a wise choice for users who seek a low profile operating system, which would include a wide variety of users ranging from those who crave performance in their newer machines to those who wish to revive an older computer (something we’re fond of here — in the same way some folks would like to keep their ’57 Chevy or ’65 Mustang in top condition).

Fluxbuntu, like its distant cousin AntiX (which is based on Mepis, and also traces its roots to Debian), provides users with a lean, efficient operating system that accents performance and reliability. This was evident when we ran Fluxbuntu 7.10 — which was released at the same time Ubuntu’s Gutsy Gibbon saw the public light of day — on an IBM PL 300 (384MB RAM, Pentium II), which if you worked in an office in the 1990s was the machine with which you shared the most face time.

A minor caveat here was the boot time: While it took slightly longer to boot than AntiX on the same machine — Fluxbuntu provides a numberless stopwatch on the start-up screen in its green and gold motif that hung at what would have been the 4 o’clock position had there been numbers on it — but once over that minor hurdle, the distro and the programs associated with it ran without a hitch. The performance of programs on this office workhorse of decades past was flawless, and provides an exclamation point to the testament to Fluxbuntu’s versatility.

On a Pentium III-based laptop, the paces at which Fluxbuntu runs — and I do mean run, as in sprint — are nothing short of optimal. Multiple programs run seamlessly both together in the same window as well as in different windows (a GNU/Linux gimme, I know, but something I find incredibly endearing).

On the whole, Fluxbuntu conceivably could be all distros to all people, and Joe Jackson (not the musician/composer, but developer Joe Jackson IV, aka JoeJaxx) and his team have done a remarkable job with Fluxbuntu.

However — and I have to mention this — I am a little taken aback by my inability to sign up on the Fluxbuntu forum list. While this does not reflect on the distro’s performance or usability, it is a little annoying. In their defense, I know there was a problem sometime in the middle of 2007 which may have wiped out my account, but signing up should not be so difficult. In addition, personally my hopes were high that the PowerPC version of Fluxbuntu — discussed in the late spring of last year — would show up somewhere along the line, and it hasn’t. If one is forthcoming, those of us PowerPC users would like to know; and if not, that’s okay too.

Coming tomorrow: gNewSense 1.1

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Categories: AntiX, Debian, Fluxbuntu, Mepis, Ubuntu

Eight Distros a Week: Fedora 7 / Fedora 8

February 11, 2008 2 comments

[This is the third in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

They say timing is everything. I use Fedora 7 on a machine on which I do development work for a program called dbEntrance, a very cool (in my opinion) MySQL browser that currently runs on Mac OS and Windows, and will soon to be ready for GNU/Linux prime time.

So just when I get around to upgrading to Fedora 8, an announcement rolls around that Fedora 9 is in the proverbial starting blocks, ready for the starting gun to go off.

Argh. Now do you see why I lean toward Debian’s, um, release schedule?

On a philosopical level, Fedora — Red Hat sans rouge — gets high marks for standing behind both free software and open source software, often joined at the hip as Free/Open Source Software (or FOSS) despite nuances that make them different; note its commitment to Ogg as opposed to mp3, for example. And the Fedora community wraps this philosophy into a pleasantly dependable and blazingly quick pair of distros in Fedora 7 and 8.

On this brandless Pentium III machine I call “Frank” (short for Frankenstein, since it has come to life as the result of putting a variety of computer parts together), both Fedora 7 and 8 tackle whatever I choose to throw at it. Unlike Steve Ballmer, I have yet to throw a chair at it, however having used this machine to work on the dbEntrance project and a couple of other test projects, adding and taking away programs en masse, Fedora has been one of most solid distros I’ve used.

Not only this, the security provision that are native to Fedora — SELinux and the like — deserve special mention, not because of any real or imagined threat, but having it there is a security blanket that gives a user one less thing to think about. Also, Fedora does away with one of my pet peeves — most distros put the Terminal in the Accessories listing on the drop down menu (Argh, how I hate that! It’s more than an accessory!). Fedora’s drop down menu has it in system tools, where it belongs.

Ironically, I use Fedora most as a “work distro” — that is, it’s the one I use on a machine on which I do testing and development work — however, it’s a lot more well-rounded for regular home computer use. I say “ironically” because the distro’s appearance itself is incredibly clean and, well I’ll say it, disarmingly beautiful out of the box. The way I use it borders on criminal — in using Fedora for solely testing purposes, I feel like I’ve hired Julia Roberts to do my gardening; naturally she could do it, but her talents clearly lie elsewhere.

Dare I say it? Pun alert: A “tip of the hat” to the Fedora community (sorry) for making such a great, and attractive, distro. We promise to get to Fedora 9 when we have a chance to catch up.

Coming tomorrow: Fluxbuntu 7.10

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Categories: Fedora, Red Hat
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