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VSIDO makes its mark

December 2, 2013 4 comments

Back in March, I had a chance to take a lap or two with Terry Ganus’ VSIDO and wrote about it here. I liked what he was doing — revealing that Debian Sid is not the monster some people make it out to be while proving that it could be used by the average user as a daily distro. Also, I liked the offering back then when it came out.

I gave VSIDO another shot last week, using the 64-bit Raptor, which features Debian Sid under the hood with the Fluxbox window manager on the surface. I ran it on a dual-core Toshiba laptop. Like in March, again I found it a solid distribution which would serve any user well.

A word about Fluxbox: It’s a good call to make this the default window manager. Like CrunchBang’s Openbox window manager, Fluxbox is very lightweight, however the advantage over Openbox is that it does not share Openbox’s starkness. For those who like a little color in their menus, not to mention a lot of flexibility in tweaking their window manager, Fluxbox is an outstanding option.

The lineup of software available also sets VSIDO apart. There’s the standard programs you’d find in Debian-based systems augmented by other programs which are not as well known but are adequately solid. For example, Audacity is present, but there’s also a video viewer called UMPlayer that gives any other player a run for its money. Ceni and WICD star as the network managers (more on this later). There are even a couple of things you may not find on regular distros — Filezilla comes immediately to mind, as well as menu-ized items like the htop command to easily keep track of what’s running on your system.

All of this shows that a lot of thought was put into what VSIDO users might want, and the choices are right on the mark.

One thing that I encountered last time that I encountered again, and I know this is PEBCAK moreso than a reflection on the distro: I have always fought a losing battle with WICD, and this time was no exception. This is not unique to VSIDO, because I’ve lost this battle on other distros as well. White flag, surrender — c’est la guerre. Ceni, on the other hand, came in handy and saved the day when using wireless. I don’t know what the logic is behind having two network managers — and I’m glad to be enlightened here by the VSIDO crew — but this redundancy saved the proverbial bacon this time.

A lot can be said for distros like VSIDO, most of which renders moot those ludicrous complaints about there being too many distros in the FOSS universe. There are currently the right number of distros — as many distros as the market will bear, to echo Adam Smith — and the good ones rise in direct proportion to their commitment to quality.

VSIDO is one of those rising in the Debian constellation. If VSIDO continues on its current course, it has a bright future.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Apoplectic? Moi?

November 10, 2013 6 comments

I can imagine that in the wake of, um, events over the past few weeks regarding Mark Shuttleworth’s and Canonical’s, um, behavior, many of you might think that I was apoplectic about it; green-enraged, up-the-wall-and-across-the-ceiling furious about being tagged a Teabagger by The Mark, to say nothing of the cease-and-desist letter sent by Canonical to Micah Lee regarding fixubuntu.com.

Nope.

Shuttleworth needs to learn a lot of things, one of which is a closer look at the American political system, not to mention how the closely the playbooks of Canonical and the right-wing Tea Party are related. Also, we already know that The Mark has offered a non-apology apology — akin to the “non-denial denials” we used to get from the White House during the Watergate scandal — where he says, among other things, he might have offended the Tea Party with his remarks (note FOSSForce.com — no smileys here, so I guess he was serious) and he says our framework may vary when judging Canonical’s behavior.

You nailed it on the last one, Mark.

But the big picture? It’s saddening moreso than maddening.

One thing from this whole situation that bears pointing out is that when long-time Ubuntero Aaron Toponce leaves Ubuntu, it’s a serious matter. Aaron’s blog item is worth a read, as are the comments. Especially the comments: What’s monumentally ironic is that Jef Spaleta — with whom I run neck-and-neck for the title of Canonical/Ubuntu Public Enemy No. 1 — actually urges Aaron to rethink leaving Ubuntu and sticking it out, trying to change Ubuntu from within. Jono Bacon? He waves and says “good luck.”

There’s a conclusion to be drawn there, but I’ll leave you to make your own.

Actually, what has kept my attention is looking at doing some more testing now that I have some more hardware to test upon. The two distros I’m going to give a test-drive this week — wait for it — are VSIDO Raptor Fluxbox because, well, it looks like Terry Ganus has been going great guns on his Debian Sid-based distro and he just released this guy at the end of last month, and Korora 19.1, now coming in Cinnamon and MATE flavors.

But that’s for next week. See you then, if not sooner.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Midweek ramblings

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, on a rainy Thursday after the Giants took two of three games from the Dodgers — always a good thing now that baseball season has started — I thought I’d catch up on a couple of things that crossed the proverbial radar this week.

First, essayist Bruce Byfield wrote an interesting piece on Debian entitled “Nine Myths That Shouldn’t Stop You From Trying Debian,” which can be found here. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t try Debian — it was my first distro, though I didn’t come back to it for good until about 18 months ago in the form of CrunchBang — but the points that Bruce makes about the perceptions of Debian in the wider FOSS world (and outside, for that matter) are ones that need both correcting, in those cases, or emphasis where it needs it. My favorite of all of them in Number 7: Unstable is Unstable — anyone who has used CrunchBang or the new distro VSIDO, based on Sid, knows what a misnomer “unstable” is, both in the form of much of the software and in the case of Sid itself. Fear of “testing” versions is something that may be falling by the wayside as the average Linux/FOSS user becomes more tech savvy.

Go and read it. It’s a good one.

Then, I sheepishly admit that after paying a bill to our friends at the service of internal revenue on the federal level (for those outside the U.S., those are taxes), I have had to consider parting ways with a laptop I saved from recycling doom, rebuilding it and using it for awhile. It’s a Tosihba Satellite L455 laptop that’s the size of an aircraft carrier, and it’s for sale (first $150 or so takes it). I reinstalled Linux on it, and rather than put on CrunchBang, I decided to use one of the Fedora 18 disks I got at SCALE this year to make the machine more useable for those who may not be regular Linux users (and if a Linux user buys it, then s/he will know what to do in putting the distro of their choice on it).

[Before you even begin to think about starting the question, here's why I didn't install Ubuntu or any of its desktop derivatives: Since the mid-teens -- around Fedora 14, maybe -- Fedora has been user-friendly enough for anyone to use and maintain. If Bruce Byfield wants to REALLY do some mythbusting, he might want to tackle that topic.]

Now I told you that story of the Toshiba to tell you this one: After I installed the “Desktop” version of Fedora 18 — that’s the GNOME desktop for those of you keeping score at home (though why Fedora doesn’t call it the GNOME desktop was always a mystery to me, even when I participated in the Fedora community) — I have to say that GNOME 3 has made great strides in becoming . . . how can I put this tactfully? . . . useable. In fact, it’s very agile and responsive on this 64-bit hardware and, after getting used to it, I can see where both experienced users can tweak it to their satisfaction, as well as how new users can get a handle on navigating it rather easily.

And, unlike Unity, it doesn’t spy on you by default. But that’s another topic for another time.

Time to head to the DMV — the Capitola office is always quick and I’ve never spent more than one hour there — and to the newspaper.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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VSIDO: Sid for Human Beings

March 24, 2013 2 comments

Terry Ganus is a man on a mission — a vast one.

True to Free/Open Source Software paradigm — where if you find you can make something better, you make it so (in FOSS circles, that’s reduced to three words: “scratching an itch”) — the long-time CrunchBang forum moderator and CrunchBang user created a new distro taking the experience he’s garnered over the years working within the wider Debian community.

VSIDO, Terry’s distro, can clearly be declared “Mission Accomplished.”

The genesis of the VSIDO project is twofold: When CrunchBang lead developer Philip Newborough stopped offering Xfce support in CrunchBang, Terry went to work to make a Debian-based distro with the Xfce desktop; more importantly, however, Terry wanted to erase the stigma of Debian Sid as some sort of distro black magic that only the most experienced users can succesfully navigate.

I’ll let him explain. “My main goal with VSIDO is to show that a Debian Sid distro can be fun, powerful and does not break. I am sure you have heard that Debian is being pushed to remove the ridiculous label/moniker ‘unstable’ from the Sid name to something more responsible like ‘rolling’ . . . [and] I also have detailed what and why I did it here in this thread on the [VSIDO] forum (entitled, ‘What is VSIDO? Why Should I care?’).”

VSIDO started out as an Xfce-only distro, “but I got a lot of encouragement to include OpenBox because I had managed to make it look good and not just a bland shell,” Terry explained. “I know this rubs most of the minimalists fans at CrunchBang (and other places) wrong, but I did want to showcase a different view of OpenBox.”

A third option in window management — Fluxbox — is also offered with VSIDO. Terry explains: “Fluxbox became a part of it once I discovered Fluxbox, and honestly if I had known about Fluxbox before I ever used Xfce, I would have never used Xfce. It is that good. There are also very limited distros out there that use Xfce or Fluxbox, so they are both great fits.”

The program choices in VSIDO — one of the things that make the distro both unique and appealing — were just a list of what applications that Terry, as a power user, had used for years to make his desktop a powerful utility instead of just a work space. From a wide range of experiences with the programs included in VSIDO, Terry says that he has “gathered what ‘just works,’ not just for me, but for everyone else I have encouraged to use them.”

The list is filled with programs you already know, punctuated by some you — or, at least, I — may not have heard of.

For advanced users, tools like bleachbit, Disk-Manager, kernel-remover, debian apt protection tools, build essentials and a selection of debian power tools are standard features in VSIDO. For the beginner, everything for connection, multimedia, music, aliases, system panels, tint2 launcher panels and ease of use is standard. SpaceFM is the default file manager, though Thunar 1.6 with tabs is also installed. UMPlayer handles the media play.

What’s more, all of the programs used, like ceni for network management, might be new to some users, but given the fact that they’ve been tested for some time by Terry and others, it makes their addition to the mix.

Giving VSIDO a test drive

Those who regularly read this blog know I’ve mentioned this before: I don’t consider any review that is based on running a distro from a live CD/DVD/USB a legitimate review. It’s akin to sticking your finger in a bowl of cake batter, tasting it and telling us how great the cake is when it isn’t even baked yet.

That said — and bear in mind this is not a review as much as it is a test drive — VSIDO is an outstanding distro running from the USB drive that, if running the live version is any indication, is a solid new Debian-based distro.

VSIDO comes up quickly and provides easy navigation for those who have previously used the Xfce desktop environment. The Conky default in the upper left provides those who wish to monitor their systems an oustanding display of information. From the look of the desktop envirnoment — Xfce by default — it is very easily customizable and much of what you want is at your fingertips with a mere right-click anywhere on the desktop.

I threw a lot at the distro and was not disappointed — monitoring the memory use, the Debian-based distro handled everything with aplomb, never going over 500 MB in memory use (it should be noted that VSIDO is very lightweight in and of itself, coming up at around 170 MB of memory at the start).

The only possible stumbling block, albeit minor, for new users is working with unfamiliar programs. For example, I tripped over ceni since I had never seen it before, and while I picked it up pretty easily, it might be intimidating to some newer users.

The best way to determine whether VSIDO is right for you, of course, is to give it your own test drive.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that Terry is both active in his own distro while continuing to participate in the CrunchBang community, there are misconceptions that somehow VSIDO is a derivative or a descendant of CrunchBang. It’s not. Their sole relationship is that they are both Debian-based distros, despite the fact many CrunchBang users are lending a hand in VSIDO (and, conversely, vice-versa).

“I truly admire corenominal (Philip Newborough) for what he did with CrunchBang and if it were not for my passion for Sid and all it’s strengths, I would have never looked at VSIDO as an alternative,” Terry said. “My ‘following’ of smxi, tint2, xfce4, conky and lua for 18 music apps, netinstall scripts and of course GMB fans, all encouraged me to take that knowledge and experience to another level and VSIDO was born.

“More than anything to me, it is important that a user has fun, has the tools, has a vision and a strong community to rely on.”

Having used VSIDO for several days, albeit booting from the USB drive, it’s evident that Terry has taken Sid and made it the basis for a workable, and enjoyable, distro for everyone — beginner and seasoned user alike. If I had a second 64-bit machine to run it on (I only have one in an arsenal of 32-bit hardware, and VSIDO only comes in 64-bit), I wouldn’t hesitate to install it for a more in-depth look.

I will continue to use CrunchBang as my primary distro. Yet seeing and saluting the similarities between both the CrunchBang and VSIDO methods of augmenting a distro with a knowledgeable and helpful community — again, to both distros’ credit, there are many crossover personnel in both forums — I would gladly urge those who are curious to give VSIDO a try and would recommend folks who have an affinity for the Xfce desktop to use VSIDO.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software in his individual consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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