Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1

There are many different distributions that use Ubuntu as a base, but one you might not have heard of is Black Lab Linux. Black Lab Linux uses…you guessed it…a cute black labrador retriever as its mascot, and the distro itself is focused on providing a compelling and easy to use desktop version of Linux. Toward that end they’ve tried very hard to create a desktop distro that someone coming from a Mac or Windows could jump in and use, even if they are completely new to Linux.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Boot Menu

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Boot Menu

Since Black Lab is based on Ubuntu, you might be wondering why you should even consider it instead of Ubuntu. Well, Black Lab has a section on its site that explains the advantages of Black Lab Linux:

With Windows and Mac OS X you get support from Microsoft or Apple. When you contact them they don’t ignore you, they don’t say “Too bad”. With Black Lab Linux you get the same type of dedication that you get with Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. We will help you with any problems or missteps you may have. We are 100% dedicated to you to make sure your experience is the best you ever had and we have phenomenal response times. Many inquiries and results are handled the same day. We have the most dedicated and friendly staff you can find.

Most Linux distributions, Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, OpenSUSE don’t come with any multimedia playback possible or they are very limited in functionality. With Black Lab Linux you get full multimedia playback of various formats: Windows Media, Apple Quicktime, Flash, HTML 5 as well as DVD and Blu-Ray. For audio playback you also get full functionality including: Windows Audio, Apples AAC and Real Media. This allows you to play all multimedia either hard drive based or on the web. For web browsing we use the popular Google Chrome browser so compatibility is ensured with all of your banking or personal sites. We are also one of the first Linux distributions to bundle the popular Steam gaming client. With HD capable graphics we offer a stunning user interface with unprecedented clarity and crisp graphics that’s unseen with anything on the Linux market today.

Black Lab Linux is designed for users by users. We understand that coming from a different operating system sometimes incorporates a rigid retraining process. You have to rethink your workflow and how you do things. Black Lab Linux is one of the only Linux distributions that users say is just as easy to use as a Mac. We designed the user interface so users can jump in without a manual and feel comfortable and knowledgeable on how the system works. Every part of the system is recognizable for any novice or advanced user.

Obviously, some of the quote I included leans a bit toward marketing-speak, but it gives you an idea of why Black Lab Linux might be a better choice for some users than Ubuntu. Do click through to the Black Lab site though to read much more than the three paragraphs I’ve included here. Black Lab is clearly taking the Ubuntu base and building on it to offer an experience comparable to commercial operating systems like OS X and Windows.

The MATE desktop is a new iteration of Black Lab Linux that was released mostly due to user demand, according to an interview with one of the developers on the Black Lab site:

We are releasing Black Lab Linux MATE because of user demand. Aside from KDE it has been one of the most requested desktop environments from our users.

We have actually produced a Mate build since Black Lab Linux 5 but that was produced for 1 specific customer. We had updated it to 6.0 to bring that customer up to date with what we were doing with 6.0. But the conversation about using Mate really started when we released Black Lab Linux 6.0 with GNOME3 which was a very popular release we had users write us and ask us if we wouldn’t mind doing a Mate or Cinnamon build. I gave one of our Facebook users a copy of the Mate build we were doing (without that customers customizations and specific apps) and it got passed around and so we decided to release an official build.

Mate is a great desktop. Its like XFCE on steroids…Mate is very compelling because of its speed, its beauty and its all around functionality.

What’s new in Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux Kernel 3.13.0-45
Mate Desktop 1.8.1
Firefox 35
Thunderbird 32
Steam Gaming Desktop
LibreOffice 4.4
Gimp
Scribus
Pidgin IM client
OpenShot
VLC
App Grid appstore

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 download and install
You can download Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 from the official downloads page. You can get Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. Black Lab is a live distribution, so you can run it without doing an install on your system. The ISO file I downloaded weighed in at about 1.77 GB.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 uses the Ubuntu installer, so it’s about as easy as it gets. You have the option during the install of using the default hard disk partitioning or you can set up your own. You can also opt to download updates and have third party software installed by default. I did both things since I hate having to bother with updates or installing additional software after my installation is complete.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Install

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Install

Note that this version of Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 currently uses the default Ubuntu slide show during the install. The developers noted on the Black Lab site that the next release should have a customized slide show instead of the default Ubuntu one. My install went perfectly, and it was very quick. If you’ve ever installed Ubuntu then you should have no problems with Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Install Slideshow

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Install Slideshow

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 desktop
The Black Linux MATE 6.1 desktop is about what you’d expect from a distro based on Ubuntu. You’ll find the Home, Computer, Trash and Network Servers icons on the desktop itself. At the bottom is the panel where you’ll see a Menu button (complete with a cute paw icon), a hide/show desktop icon, Firefox and Thunderbird. Over to the right you’ll see a networking icon, volume and also your multiple desktops.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Desktop

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Desktop

If you click the Menu button you’ll see the usual MATE menu. You can quickly access your Computer, Home Folder, Network, Desktop or Trash. The Control Center, Logout and Quit icons are also on the menu. The menu defaults to showing Favorites, but you can click All Applications to see a list of applications broken down into categories such as Education, Games, Internet, Sound & Video, etc. It’s very easy to find your way around the Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 menu, even if it’s your first time with this distro.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 MATE Menu

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 MATE Menu

The only issue I really noticed with the Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 desktop is that the App Grid application isn’t on the desktop or panel by default. I’ve noticed this lately with a number of distributions. For some reason developers seem to forget that it should be easy to find the software management tool when you first load up a distro’s desktop. Instead of making it easy to find, some developers have tucked it away under the Administration category or some other category.

In the case of Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1; if Firefox and Thunderbird are going to be on the panel, then I think it makes sense for an App Grid icon to appear there as well. It’s better not to force users to poke around to find out how to add or remove software to their distributions.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 system settings
You can tweak your Black Lab system settings via the Control Center. Just click the menu button on the panel, then click Control Center. You’ll find the following categories:

Personal
Hardware
System
Other

The Personal section includes language, appearance, main menu, popup notifications, screensaver, as well as a few other options including MATE Tweak. MATE Tweak will let you alter the Desktop, Interface and Windows settings on your system.

The Hardware section of the Control Center lets you change Monitor settings, mouse, sound, printers, keyboard, etc. You can also manage Bluetooth and drivers, among other things.

The System section offers access to App Grid, your network settings, users and groups, Synaptic and the time/date settings.

Other lets you tweak firewall settings, set keyboard shortcuts, manage backups, change Qt 4 settings and change your Software & Updates settings (including repositories).

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Control Center

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Control Center

Linux software included in Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Steam

Graphics
Eye of MATE
GIMP
ImageMagick
Inkscape
Scribus
Shotwell
Simple Scan

Internet
Dropxbox
Firefox
HexChat
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission

Multimedia
Audactiy
Brasero
Cheese
gMTP
OpenShot Video Editor
Sound
VLC

Office
Atril Document Viewer
Dictionary
LibreOffice

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 uses App Grid as its software manager. If you haven’t used it before, App Grid can take a little bit of getting used to since it’s quite different than the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager. That said, App Grid is quite good once you adjust to the interface differences.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 App Grid

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 App Grid

You can easily search for applications, or you can browse apps by clicking on the Category link at the top. There are also State and Sort links at the top that let you see your installed software or see Top Rated applications. If you click on an application in App Grid, you’ll see a page with a screenshot of the application as well as a description. You will also see user reviews, complete with smilies or frowns.

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Application in App Grid

Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 Application in App Grid

If you want to install the application, just click the Install link. Or click the Remove link if it’s something you want to get rid of on your system. If the application is installed, there’s also a Launch link you can click in App Grid to start the application.

As I noted above, App Grid is a different cup of tea than some other software managers. But once you get used to it you’ll find that it works very well for adding or removing software. And it’s a good way to discover new applications that you haven’t used before but that might add some real value to your system.

Where to get help for Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 resources:

Black Lab Documentation
Email the Black Lab Support Team
Black Lab Support

Final thoughts about Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1
My experience with Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 was quite good. I think it’s one of the better Ubuntu-based distributions. It’s well suited for those who want a MATE version of Ubuntu that is set up well, and that essentially works “right out of the box.” Once you’ve installed it there’s not a lot left that you need to do to use it. It’s mostly one of those “it just works” kind of desktop distributions.

I think it was wise of the Black Lab developers to offer a MATE version for those who prefer it to the regular GNOME version. While GNOME has its virtues, many people simply seem to prefer the classic desktop environment offered by MATE. In that sense, Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 offers an important alternative for Black Lab users.

Now one question remains: Should you choose Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 or opt for the now-official Ubuntu MATE instead? Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to use Ubuntu MATE so I cannot tell you for sure which one is better. It may also simply be a case of both distros being great, and each user will have to figure out which one suits him or her the best.

The Linuxed blog has a full review of Ubuntu MATE 14.10 that you might want to read to get an idea of what that distro has to offer. My feeling after reading it is that you can’t really go wrong with Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1 or Ubuntu MATE 14.10, so you might want to try both in a virtual machine before trying to decide between the two.

What’s your take on Black Lab Linux MATE 6.1? Tell me in the comments below.



Bodhi Linux 3.0

There are times in life when less is really more, and that’s quite true with certain Linux distributions. Bodhi Linux 3.0 is a desktop distribution that uses the Enlightenment window manager to provide a light-weight alternative to other distros that use full-blown desktop environments such as Cinnamon, MATE, Unity, etc.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 is also quite sparing in its inclusion of desktop applications compared to other distributions. I’ll have more to say about that in the software section, but the bottom line is that Bodhi is geared toward minimalists rather than users who want tons of software installed by default.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Desktop

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Desktop

What’s new in Bodhi Linux 3.0
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Enlightenment E19.3
Terminology 0.8.0
ePad 0.9.0
Numix Icons
Linux Kernel 3.16
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Core

Bodhi Linux 3.0 download and install
You can download Bodhi Linux 3.0 from the official download page. You can get Bodhi Linux 3.0 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. There’s also a legacy version, and a version for Chromebooks. Bodhi Linux 3.0 is a live distribution, so you can check it out without having to do an install on your computer.

The Bodhi installer is easy to use and you will see a slideshow while your install completes. The slideshow provides some basic information about Bodhi, and it will probably be appreciated by those who are completely new to this distribution.

During the install you’ll have the option to completely erase your disk by using the default partitioning, or you can opt to set up your own preferred partitions. For this review I opted to use the default partitioning.

My install was quick, and I had no problems with it.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Install

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Install

Bodhi Linux 3.0 desktop
The first thing you’ll see when your desktop loads is a browser window that pops up with the Bodhi Linux Quick Start Guide loaded in it. Don’t just close this window if you are new to Bodhi, take a moment to look at what’s listed there as it covers some important things such as how to use the Enlightenment window manager, and how to install software. There are also links to an FAQ and other helpful resources.

If you’ve never used the Enlightenment window manager then you’re in for a bit of a treat. It’s quite different than Cinnamon, MATE or other desktop environments. Speedy is one word to accurately describe Enlightenment. It is very fast indeed compared to some of the chunkier desktop environments found in other distributions.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Quick Start Guide

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Quick Start Guide

You’ll find a panel (called shelf in Enlightenment) at the top with the usual icons such as the menu, web browser, file manager, updates, multiple desktops, volume, date/time and shutdown. If you prefer you can simply left-click the desktop to pull up the same menu that appears when you click the white arrow in the panel.

The menu lets you access applications, navigate, take a screenshot, tweak your desktop or Windows, access system settings and other useful items. If you’re new to Bodhi then it’s worth browsing the main menu to familiarize yourself with what’s there because you’ll probably need one thing or the other at some point.

If you prefer, you can move the shelf by right-clicking it, then clicking shelf then on orientation. From there you can move it to the bottom or wherever else you feel like putting it. I left it at the top as I found that it worked fine for me there. But others users might feel more comfortable with it in a different spot on the desktop.

The desktop itself has three icons on it: Home, Root and Temp. The wallpaper is dark, as is the theme, and the Bodhi Linux logo appears in the center of the wallpaper. If you find that you want a change in scenery, pull up the Settings panel and then click on Wallpaper. There are a number of colorful wallpapers you can choose from that will brighten up the Bodhi Linux 3.0.0 desktop.

The overall experience using the Bodhi Linux 3.0 desktop is quite different than most other desktop environments, and that’s mainly because it uses the Enlightenment window manager. If you’ve never used Enlightenment then be sure to read through Bodhi’s Enlightenment Guide to help you learn how to use it. Enlightenment is a very different cup of tea indeed than full-blown desktop environments so it’s worth spending a few minutes familiarizing yourself with it before trying to use Bodhi Linux.

I rather enjoyed using Enlightenment since I tend to be a minimalist at heart. As I noted earlier, it’s very fast. I never had to wait for windows or applications to open up, everything happened immediately. And I had no problems finding my way around the menus when I needed to tweak Enlightenment to suit my own tastes.

If you are completely new to Enlightenment then I counsel patience when you first start using it, especially if you are coming from some other desktop environment that you’ve spent a lot of time using. You may initially be thrown off by Enlightenment, but if you give it some time I think you will be very pleased with it.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 system settings
If you want to change Bodhi Linux 3.0 then just left-click the desktop and move your cursor over the Settings option. You can access various settings right from the drop-down menu or you can click on Settings Panel to open that panel and make your changes.

You’ll also find an All option at the bottom of the drop-down menu. If you put your cursor over that you’ll see the following list of settings options:

Look
Apps
Screen
Windows
Menus
Language
Advanced
Input
Launcher
Settings
Extensions
Files
Preferences

Click on any of the ones I listed above and you can tweak whatever you want in that settings category. You can access all of the categories above by also just opening the Settings panel, but make sure you make the default Settings panel window bigger so you can see all of the settings. When I first opened it I only saw the first four categories of settings, the rest appeared when I dragged the side of the window to make it bigger.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 System Settings

Bodhi Linux 3.0 System Settings

Linux software included in Bodhi Linux 3.0
Here’s a sample of the software included in Bodhi Linux 3.0.

Games
None

Graphics
Ephoto

Internet
Midori Web Browser

Multimedia
None

Office
ePad Text Editor

As you can tell from the list of software above, Bodhi Linux 3.0 comes with an extremely minimal amount of software. This is not because the developers were too lazy to include it, but rather because Bodhi Linux is at heart a minimalist’s distribution. It makes a point of not overloading you with applications that you might not want or need.

Don’t worry though because you can easily add more software. Remember I mentioned how I mentioned that the Quick Start Guide was important? Well if you take a peek at it you’ll see a link labeled Installing Software. If you click that link and scroll down you’ll see a link to Bodhi’s AppCenter. That’s where you can get more software for your Bodhi Linux 3.0 system.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 AppCenter

Bodhi Linux 3.0 AppCenter

Yes, you need to use your web browser to add or remove software in Bodhi. When you load the AppCenter you’ll see a search box, with a categories drop down menu. You can search all categories or opt to search a particular one.

You’ll also see a list of common application categories at the bottom of the AppCenter page. Click the one you want to browse and you’ll see all of the apps available for that category. Click the application you want to install and then click the Install button. A menu will popup asking for your password, and you can then complete your install.

I added Chromium to my system and had no problems installing it. It was listed on the Applications menu under the Internet category after the install was finished. The default browser Midori seemed to work well enough, but I’d opt for Chromium if I had to choose between the two applications.

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Chromium Install

Bodhi Linux 3.0 Chromium Install

One thing I liked is that after I installed Chromium, the Bodhi Linux Quick Start Guide also appeared as the default page in Chromium (just as it does in Midori). I thought that was a nice touch for users who might want to switch browsers but still have the convenience of seeing the QuickStart guide each time their browser loads.

It’s important to note here that Bodhi’s AppCenter has a relatively limited amount of software compared to other software management tools such as the ones found in Ubuntu or Linux Mint. The emphasis seems to be on quality rather than quantity so don’t expect to have 30,000 different applications available. The ones that you’ll find in each category should work well for most desktop users though, and I doubt most Bodhi users will be disappointed.

One problem I noticed with the AppCenter is how hidden it is in the Quick Start Guide. I’d actually like to see the Bodhi developers put a link to it right on the desktop and in the panel. That would make it much easier for users new to Bodhi to find it without having to go to the Installing Software page then scrolling down to find the AppCenter link.

A software management tool are one of the things that no user should ever have to look around for when they first load their desktop. It should be right next to the browser on the panel or in some other prominent place. Otherwise the user ends up spending his or her time poking around trying to find out where to get more applications.

Note that if you want even more applications, you can easily install Synaptic via a large green “Install Now!” button on the software install page in the Quick Start Guide. I couldn’t resist clicking the button and I had no problems getting Synaptic installed in Bodhi Linux 3.0. After the install, Synaptic was listed in the Other section of the Applications menu.

Where to get help for Bodhi Linux 3.0
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Bodhi Linux 3.0 resources:

Bodhi Forums
Bodhi Live Chat
Bodhi Wiki

Final thoughts about Bodhi Linux 3.0
Bodhi Linux 3.0 is clearly geared toward minimalists. If you’re someone that wants a zillion apps installed by default or that wants to browse through thousands and thousands of apps in an app store, then it’s probably not for you. In that sense Bodhi is almost the exact opposite of a distribution like Ultimate Edition, for example.

But if you’re someone that wants a very light-weight desktop, and that only needs or wants certain core applications then Bodhi Linux 3.0 might be a perfect choice for you. It really is a minimalist’s dream in that sense. It compares quite well with other minimalist distros such as Lubuntu or Xubuntu.

The Enlightenment window manager is a breath of fresh air in Bodhi, and it provides a compelling alternative to Cinnamon, MATE, Unity and the rest of the usual desktops found in other distributions. Once you get used to using it, you may find full-blown desktop environments to be a bit overbearing and stodgy.

I highly recommend checking out Bodhi Linux 3.0 if you are a true minimalist.

What’s your take on Bodhi Linux 3.0? Tell me in the comments below.

Korora 21

Fedora has always been a popular desktop Linux distribution, but it has not always had the reputation of being welcoming to new Linux users or to those who just want it to work right “out of the box” with multimedia codecs or proprietary software. Korora is a Fedora spin that tries to provide a user-friendly desktop experience with little or no additional work needed by the user. Korora 21 is the latest release and it offers a number of improvements for users.

Note that Korora is offered in a variety of options in terms of the desktop environment. You can get it with GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon or Xfce. For this review I opted to install the Cinnamon version of Korora 21.

Korora 21 Desktop

Korora 21 Cinnamon Desktop

Before I get into the review, here’s a brief explanation about how Korora differs from Fedora:

Korora is a Fedora Remix, which means it ships with regular Fedora packages along with others that Fedora cannot ship. We also make changes to the system, so exactly how does Korora differ from Fedora?

Firstly, all our code is open source and freely available to anyone via our GitHub account. We also provide a tool called kp which will let anyone rebuild all of our packages and an entire Korora image, or modify these to build their own variation. That’s the tool we use to build all of the Korora packages and images.

We do however ship some software that is proprietary, such as Adobe Flash, and others are installable, such as Google Chrome. We don’t have source code for these as they are not open source; however, anything we create, or modify is.

The base kickstart also spells out the repositories to pull packages from. Many of these, and in particular RPMFusion, are added by most Fedora users and we can do this out of the box because we aren’t restricted by Fedora’s own project rules. They include:

Adobe
Fedora
Fedora Updates
Korora
RPMFusion Free
RPMFusion Non-Free
RPMFusion Free Updates
RPMFusion Non-Free Updates

Korora is an open source project and we do support open source software, even though some of the software we ship is proprietary. What we have done is to put all the pieces together and try to make a Fedora Remix that is useful for anyone out there, but there’s nothing that we do that you couldn’t do yourself.

What’s new in Korora 21
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Cinnamon 2.4
GNOME 3.14
KDE Software Compilation 4.14.3
Xfce 4.10.1

Korora 21 download and install
You can download Korora 21 from this page. You can get Korora 21 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. Korora 21 is a live distribution, so you can create bootable media and boot into it without having to do an install on your system. Please note that Korora’s speed might be slower in the live desktop than if you are running an actual install, so bear that in mind if you opt to try the live desktop.

Korora 21 also uses Fedora’s Anaconda installer. So if you are familiar with that then you should have no problems installing it on your system. If you’re new to the Fedora installer, don’t worry. It’s quite usable but it’s a bit different than the installers used for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and some other distributions. The Fedora Project has an install guide for Anaconda that you might want to check out before doing an install of Korora 21.

Korora 21 Install

Korora 21 Install

My install went quite well, I had no problems and the install itself was relatively speedy. Bear in mind, however, that I have used the Anaconda installer often in the past. So I’m quite familiar with how it is laid out and what it has to offer. Use the Fedora install guide for Anaconda I linked to above if you’re new to it as it might save you some time when installing Korora 21.

Korora 21 desktop
As I noted above, I opted for the Cinnamon version of Korora. When your Korora 21 desktop first loads, you’ll see the welcome menu. You can access documentation and support links on the menu, and you’ll also see an option to contribute to the project. Additionally, there’s a link to see the new features in Korora 21.

Korora 21 Welcome Menu

Korora 21 Welcome Menu

If you’ve ever used Cinnamon in Linux Mint then you’re in for a bit of a surprise with Korora. It has an entirely different set of desktop and menu icons that make it look much different in some ways than the Linux Mint version. Whether or not it’s better depends entirely on your own perspective. You know what they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I liked the icons but your mileage may vary.

Applications on the Cinnamon menu are laid out pretty much the same as in Linux Mint. They are broken down into the usual categories: Graphics, Internet, Office, Sound and Video, Administration, Preferences, etc. So not much is different in that sense. But visually the Korora menu icons are certainly different as you can see from these two screenshots:

Korora 21 Cinnamon Menu

Korora 21 Cinnamon Menu

Linux Mint Cinnamon Menu

Linux Mint Cinnamon Menu

Another difference between Korora’s implementation of Cinnamon and Linux Mint’s is that the panel appears at the top in Korora while it’s at the bottom in Linux Mint. If this bothers you then you can easily go into the panel settings and put it at the bottom. I rather liked it at the top so I left it there and had no problems using it.

The panel has icons to show the desktop, launch Firefox, start Thunderbird, open the terminal or access your files. You’ll also find icons to adjust brightness, the size of your display, access multiple desktops, your network connection, volume and the date and time.

The desktop itself has just three icons on it: Computer, Home and Trash. The wallpaper is quite simple and is a relatively neutral color with the Korora logo in the middle. If you right click the desktop you can change the wallpaper. The Backgrounds tab offers the biggest selection of different wallpapers.

Overall I had no problems with the layout of the Korora 21 desktop. It’s set up in a way that makes it easy and fast to use even if you’ve never used Korora or Fedora before. The icon design and colors are relatively pleasing to the eye and they offer a nice change of scenery from Linux Mint’s version of Cinnamon.

Korora 21 system settings
If you need to change your system, you can access System Settings on the menu. You’ll see sections for Appearances, Preferences, Hardware and Administration. As with the desktop and menu, the icons on the system settings have a different look than in some other distros. But everything you need to tweak your system is available in Korora’s system settings.

Korora 21 System Settings

Korora 21 System Settings

Linux software included in Korora 21
Here’s a sample of the software included in Korora 21.

Games
None installed by default

Graphics
Darktable
Document Viewer
Font Manager
GIMP
Image Viewer
Inkscape
LibreOffice Draw
Shotwell
Simple Scan

Internet
Deluge
Ekiga Softphone
Empathy
Firefox
Gwibber
Liferea
Thunderbird

Multimedia
Audacity
Brasero
gtk-recordMyDesktop
Handbrake
OpenShot Video Editor
PulseAudio Volume Control
Rhythmbox
Sound Converter
Sound Juicer
VLC

Office
Document Viewer
FBReader
LibreOffice
Project Management

As you can see, Korora 21 comes with a very good selection of software installed by default. Flash is already installed if you want to run videos, and there are plenty of other applications available in the application menu for all the usual categories.

There’s enough available that most desktop users will probably be quite happy with it on their systems. And that’s a good thing because Korora really stumbles badly when it comes to adding more software.

This is the first review I’ve written of Korora, and when I first booted in my desktop I looked for the software management tool as I always do when doing a review. It’s important that it be placed in a prominent area where new users can easily find it and begin adding or removing software. I looked all over the place and I finally found Yum Extender, which seems to be the only GUI-based tool for managing software.

If you have ever used Ubuntu’s Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager then you will be quite disappointed with Yum Extender. It’s very primitive visually compared to the other two and it’s not easily found if you’ve never used Korora before. Yes, you can find software by searching for packages or by browsing but it’s not intuitive and there are no screenshots or user reviews of applications.

Frankly, I was very surprised by this since Korora’s mission is to provide a user-friendly version of Fedora. Yum Extender flat out stinks as a tool for desktop users to add or remove software. I’m not sure why the Korora developers picked it but it clearly needs to go, and the sooner it is replaced the better.

Now you might think I’m exaggerating here but if you were a newbie to Linux or just a casual desktop user which one of these tools would you pick: Yum Extender or Linux Mint’s Software Manager? See the screenshots below before you choose, I know which way I’d go.

Korora 21 Yum Extender

Korora 21 Yum Extender

The Linux Mint Software Manager

The Linux Mint Software Manager

After seeing Yum Extender, I realized that it’s a darn good thing that Korora has a good selection of desktop software installed by default. Using Yum Extender to find more applications would certainly be no fun if you were new to Linux and had no idea which applications to search for in it.

Now don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing wrong with Yum itself if you prefer using the command line. It can be a great tool, but that’s a very different kettle of fish than Yum Extender. A GUI-based software management tool should be far easier to use and much more visually intuitive than Yum Extender. It comes across as a relic of the Linux desktop from days gone by, and it prevents Korora 21 from being on par with other desktop distributions in terms of graphical software management.

Where to get help for Korora 21
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Korora 21 resources:

Korora Documentation
Korora Engage
Korora Support

Final thoughts about Korora 21
I think that Korora 21 has the right idea in terms of making Fedora more accessible to casual users or those new to Linux. It hits all of the sweet spots of a desktop distribution until you get to the software management tool. And, as I noted above, that’s where it stumbles and stumbles very badly. This is such a shame because otherwise Korora 21 is a fine desktop distribution.

If I had to make a recommendation, I’d suggest that only experienced Linux users try Korora 21. Yum Extender shouldn’t matter to those folks one way or the other since they’d probably opt to use Yum at the command line anyway. But newbies or casual desktop users would be much better served by sticking with the Linux Mint version of Cinnamon until Yum Extender is replaced by something that more closely resembles an app store.

So in the end I was left with mixed feelings about Korora 21. It’s a desktop distribution with a lot of potential, but the software management tools need a complete overhaul that put it on par with Linux Mint, Ubuntu and other top desktop distros. Until that happens Korora 21 is a desktop distribution that only partly gets it right.

What’s your take on Korora 21? Tell me in the comments below.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0

Once in a while I run into a Linux distribution that surprises me in terms of how much I enjoy using it. MakuluLinux is definitely one of those distros. I found an article about it when I was doing my usual news roundup article for my blog Eye On Open on ITworld. I was intrigued enough to want to do a full review here on Desktop Linux Reviews.

Here’s some basic information from the Makulu site:

Makululinux ( Pronounced “Ma-Cool-Loo” ) Means “big Chief” in the Zulu Language is Debian Based, running on a PAE Kernel, provides a Sleek, Smooth and Stable user experience that is able to run on any computer from old to new, from netbooks to notebooks, desktops to server stations.

Makulu provides software and codec’s pre installed on the OS, to provide an out of the box experience for the end user and his day to day tasks.

Steam is pre installed on Makulu, you can simply log into steam and start playing your favorite game titles. Wine is pre installed on Makulu, installing windows software has never been easier, simply double click your installer or exe files and they will operate in linux much the same way they do in windows.

You can get MakuluLinux in Xfce, Cinnamon or KDE versions. I’m a big fan of Xfce so I downloaded that version for this review.

What’s new in MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
Here’s a sample of the new features and changes in this release:

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 was built from the ground up
Based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS PAE 3.13.xx I686 Kernel, 5 year support life
A blend of Xfce 4.10 and 4.11 packages
Speed improvements
Smaller ISO file
Beautiful theme
Settings center improvements
Compiz improvements
Emerald theme manager
Steam and PlayOnLinux included
WPS office suite
Wine included
Variety wallpaper changer
Alternative Whisker Menu
Synapse replaces Slingscold
Docky included but not on by default
More PPAs

This is the first time I’ve reviewed MakuluLuLinux so I am not sure how much it has improved in terms of speed from previous releases. My experience with it was that it seemed quite speedy when opening or closing applications, and I saw no signs of overt slowdown or hesitations. So I have no reason to doubt the developers claims of improved speed in this release.

The inclusion of the WPS office suite definitely sets Makulu apart from some other distributions that include LibreOffice. Which one is better? Well, I suspect that the answer depends solely on your individual needs and preferences. Bear in mind though that the version of WPS available for Linux is in alpha as a I write this, so it’s probably a good idea to install LibreOffice. Running an alpha version of an office suite might not be a good idea if you are trying to get work done.

Wikipedia has a good background article on WPS:

WPS Office (an initialism for Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets,[1] previously known as Kingsoft Office) is an office suite for Microsoft Windows, Linux (currently in Alpha state), iOS[2] and Android OS,[3] developed by now Zhuhai based Chinese software developer Kingsoft. Kingsoft Office is a suite of software which is made up of three primary components: Kingsoft Writer, Kingsoft Presentation, and Kingsoft Spreadsheet.[4]

The basic version is free to use,[5] but a fully featured professional-grade version is also available. The current version of Kingsoft Office is KSOffice 2014.[4]

The product has had a long history of development and success in the People’s Republic of China under the name “WPS” and “WPS Office”, and under the “KSOffice” brand is currently attempting to gain a foothold in international markets. Since WPS Office 2005, the user interface is similar to that of the Microsoft Office products, and supports Microsoft document formats besides the native Kingsoft formats.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 download and install
You can download MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 from this page. Makulu is also a live distribution, so you can run it off a disc to check it out without having to do a full install on your system.

The installer itself is basically a tweaked version of Ubuntu’s, so it’s quite easy and fast to get it running on your system. When you first begin your install you have the option of downloading updates and adding some third-party software. I did this as I usually do since it helps save me time later on.

The rest of the install was quite painless, and there is the usual kind of slideshow you can watch while waiting for the installer to finish it’s job.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 desktop
When you first load Makulu’s desktop you’ll see a gorgeous wallpaper and a quote in the bottom right. I must admit that I enjoy such eye candy, and I like the added flavor of having an amusing or informative quote to read. While the default wallpaper is quite attractive, there are others included that are just as beautiful (two screenshots of desktop wallpapers are included below with the rest of the screenies for this review).

The panel at the bottom contains icons on the left for the menu, minimize/show desktop, updates, the Software Center (App Grid), the terminal, Firefox and the file manager. On the right you’ll find icons for languages, networking, the Variety wallpaper manager, sound, time and the Synapse search popup.

MakuluLinux Xfce uses the Variety wallpaper manager by default. You can access it in the menu on the panel (click the menu button and then go to All then scroll down) as well as via the icon on the far right on the panel, and it’s worth taking a few minutes to check it out. There are eight different tabs: General, Effects, Sync and Social, Manual Downloading, Color and Size, Customize, and Tips and Tricks. Variety offers quite a bit of control over how your desktop wallpaper looks so do take a peek at it after you’ve installed Makulu.

Compiz is also available if you want to use it. Just look in the menu for a toggle switch to turn it on or off. I opted to skip it as I’m not a big fan of the doodads that Compiz offers. But I’m glad to know it’s available for those who choose to use it on their systems.

Docky is also included, but it’s not turned on by default. To change that just go to the menu, click on the Docky On/Off menu item and then you’ll need to restart your computer for the change to take effect. I also skipped it since it’s not something I’m likely to use.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 uses Whisker Menu and it works very well on the desktop. As I noted above, Slingscold has been removed in favor of Synapse. The combination of Whisker Menu and Synapse provides a great experience. It’s very easy and fast to find and launch applications in MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0.

Overall, I think the Makulu desktop is set up quite well for most users. It won’t take you long to find your way around even if you’ve never used Makulu or Xfce before, and you should settle in very comfortably after spending a little time on your desktop.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 system settings
You can access the Settings menu via the icon on the bottom right on the menu. Settings lets you control all of the usual things including preferred applications, screensaver, Compiz and many other options. You can also configure Wine, your Display settings, and you can customize Grub.

The Settings menu is broken down into Personal, Hardware, System and Other sections so it’s easy to locate the icons you need to click to make the changes you want for your system. You should check out Settings right after you install Makulu to make sure everything is set up just the way you prefer it.

Linux software included in MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mahjongg
PlayOnLinux
Steam
Sudoku

Graphics
ImageMagick
Nomacs
Pinta
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail

Multimedia
Rhythmbox
Videos
Xfburn

Office
FoxitReader
Orange Calendar
Orage Globaltime
WPS Presentation
WSP Spreadsheets
WPS Writer

As you can tell from the list above, Makulu has an interesting and somewhat different selection of software. LibreOffice is nowhere to be found and neither is GIMP. But the software that is included represents a fairly good selection that should fit the needs of most desktop users, even if it does differ a bit from what you’d get in Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

If you need more software you can get it from the App Grid (Software Center). I must admit that the interface for Makulu’s App Grid surprised the heck out of me when I first saw it. When you first launch it you’ll notice that it doesn’t look anything like Ubuntu’s or Linux Mint’s. The title of the window is “App Grid” and that’s exactly what it seems to be.

At the top of the App Grid is a search box, as well as tabs for Category, State and Sort. The Category tab breaks applications in the following categories: Arts, Games, Productivity, Programming, Sciences and System. The State tab lets you see which applications you have currently installed on your system. And the sort lets you filter applications by Top Rated.

If you click on an application, you’ll see a large image, with a description and some other information right below it. On the right side you will see user reviews, complete with smilies to indicate whether or not the user liked the application.

To install or remove an application, just click the Install or Remove link at the top right of the application’s page in App Grid. After the application is installed you can click the Launch link to start using it right away.

The App Grid in MakuluLinux takes a bit of getting used to if you are coming from another distribution. And yet I think it mostly works well because the layout is easy to read and understand. The colors and fonts are attractive and easy on the eye, and it’s simple to find your way around once you start using it.

I do think that the developers might want to add an easier to see Install or Remove button under the identifier/addons/etc part of each application’s description. The text link at the top works fine but it’s somewhat unintuitive to look up there after you’ve read the description of the app lower down on the page.

I’m nitpicking a bit here about the lack of download buttons. Adding them would be nice but it’s certainly not required to enjoy using the App Grid to install or remove software.

The Software Updater is the other important tool for managing software. I ran it and had no problems while my system and applications were updated. It notified me when I had updates and I just had to click to install them and then type in my password.

Where to get help for MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 resources:

MakuluLinux Forums
MakuluLinux Contact

Final thoughts about MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
As I noted above, this is the first time I’ve reviewed any version of MakuluLinux. I must admit that I am very impressed with it. It was quite stable for me, I didn’t experience any crashes or other problems. And it was also very speedy when it came to launching and running applications.

Makulu’s desktop also worked very well for me. Not only does this version use Xfce, but it adds some additional value to the overall Xfce experience by including Whisker Menu and Synapse. I also really liked the wallpapers bundled with this distro, and the Variety wallpaper manager made it very easy to manage them while also providing some additional functionality.

If there’s one tiny onion in the ointment here, I think it might be the App Grid (Software Center). It’s definitely a different cup of tea than what most people are probably used to in terms of software management (at least visually). Adjusting to it might take a little bit longer than going from the Ubuntu Software Center to Linux Mint’s Software Manager. But don’t let it keep you away from MakuluLinux, it’s definitely something that you can get used to fairly quickly.

Overall, I was very pleased indeed with MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0. It’s definitely worth considering if you need a new desktop distribution. And it should certainly be added to any distrohopper’s list of distros to run regularly.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0? Tell me in the comments below.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 screenshots:

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 VLC Media Player

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 VLC Media Player

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Top Rated Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Top Rated Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Updater

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Updater

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Center App Grid

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Center App Grid

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Settings

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Settings

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Login menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Login menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installer Slideshow

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installer Slideshow

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installed Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installed Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 1

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 1

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Variety Wallpaper Manager

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Variety Wallpaper Manager

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Boot Menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Boot Menu

Linux Lite 2.2

It’s been quite a while since I last looked at Linux Lite, the last version I reviewed being 1.0.6. Much has changed in Linux Lite since that release and now it’s reached version 2.2. If you aren’t familiar with it, you should know that Linux Lite is a distribution geared toward helping current Windows users transition to the Linux desktop.

What’s new in Linux Lite 2.2
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

New Program locations:

Backups – Menu > Accessories > Backups
File Search – Menu > Accessories > File Search
Date & Time – Menu > Settings > Date & Time
Lite Cleaner – Menu > System > Lite Cleaner
Light Locker Settings – Menu > Settings > Light Locker Settings
Linux Lite Welcome – Menu > Settings > Linux Lite Welcome

Other Changes:

New adjustable size mouse theme added.
Added File Roller as the default archive manager.
Added Light Locker.
Added new Login theme.
Clementine added to Install Additional Software.
Create System Report has been converted to GUI.
Added md5sum check to right click menu.
Added libreoffice-gnome to open files on a NAS.
Launchers now use exo-open instead of xdg-open.
Fixed power settings/screensaver conflict.
Mumble has been dropped.
inxi has been added by request.

Linux Lite 2.2 download and install
You can download Linux Lite 2.2 from the downloads page on the Linux Lite site. You can get Linux Lite 2.2 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. The ISO file for the 32-bit version weighs in at just 737 MB, and the 64-bit version is just 738 MB. For this review I opted for the 64-bit version of Linux Lite 2.2.

Linux Lite uses the same installer as Ubuntu, so it’s a piece of cake to install. During the install you have the option of downloading updates during the install, and also adding third-party software. I opted to do both so I didn’t have to bother doing them later on. You also have the option of encrypting your install, using the default partitioning or setting up your own. I went with the default partitioning setup and skipped the encryption.

The Linux Lite 2.2 installer is also fast, it didn’t take long at all for my install to finish. During the install you can watch a slideshow about some of the features found in Linux Lite 2.2. I had no problems with my install and when it was completed I rebooted to the Linux Lite boot menu.

Linux Lite 2.2 desktop
When your Linux Lite 2.2 desktop loads, you’ll notice a very helpful welcome menu that appears on the screen. The menu is broken into three sections: Start Here, Support and Contribute. Start Here contains links to install updates, read the release notes or see hardware recommendations. Support will link you to online support, a help manual and a hardware database. Contribute lets you access code, donate to Linux Lite 2.2 or find the distro on social media.

I’ve always been a big fan of these kinds of welcome menus. Yes, it’s true that experienced Linux users might not need or care about them. But for people new to a distribution or to Linux in general, they can be a huge help. Linux Mint was one of the first distributions to do this, and it seems that the Linux Lite developers have followed in their venerable footsteps.

Linux Lite 2.2 uses the Xfce desktop environment (and includes the Whisker menu), which is pretty much my favorite desktop. The panel at the bottom of the screen contains a menu link, an icon to show the desktop, Firefox, an icon for the Thunar file manager and an icon to open a terminal window. Farther to the right you’ll see multiple desktops, keyboard, networking, volume and the date/time.

The Linux Lite 2.2 desktop itself is completely devoid of icons. All you’ll see is what looks like a feather caught in free fall in the center of your screen. It’s a simple visual but it’s also quite elegant in its own way.

Clicking the Menu button will let you access settings, favorite applications, recently used applications, all applications, and applications broken down into various categories. Also at the bottom right of the menu you’ll find additional icons for All Settings, Lock Screen, Switch Users and Log Out. And there is also a search box available at the bottom of the menu.

Finding your way around the Linux Lite 2.2 desktop is very easy, even if you’ve never seen it before. The developers have done a good job making sure that it’s easy to access everything you need to use your Linux Lite 2.2 computer. Windows users should have no trouble jumping right into the Xfce desktop environment in Linux Lite 2.2.

Linux Lite 2.2 system settings
If you click the All Settings icon on the Menu, you’ll see the settings menu. All of the usual options are available there: Appearance, Desktop, Notifications, Display and many other desktop settings. All of the settings options are broken down into four categories: Personal, Hardware, System and Other. The only thing listed in Other is the Settings Editor and most casual desktop users will probably never bother with that part of Settings.

If you are new to Linux Lite then I recommend that you take a look at the Settings menu as one of the first things you do. Once you are familiar with its layout you’ll know where to go when you want to change something about your system. While doing my review, I kept the settings on default so I could use Linux Lite 2.2 without making any changes to it.

One other useful system tool you should be aware of in Linux Lite 2.2 is the Lite Cleaner. You can access it by clicking the Menu button on the panel, then click on System, and then Lite Cleaner. It will let you clean the package cache, automatically remove packages, clean your thumbnail cache, clean Whisker Menu’s recently used menu, locate large files and remove additional kernel files. Lite Cleaner definitely adds some real value to Linux Lite 2.2, and you should certainly check it out once you have this distribution installed on your computer.

Linux software included in Linux Lite 2.2
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Available in Install Additional Software or in Synaptic

Graphics
GIMP
Image Viewer
Scanner

Internet
Firefox
Network Connections
Support
Thunderbird Mail

Multimedia
CD/DVD Burner
VLC Media Player
Volume Control

Office
LibreOffice
PDF Viewer

The selection of installed software is somewhat sparse, but functional. It covers most of the basic functionality needed in a desktop, but doesn’t really go beyond that. But that’s not a big problem for Linux Lite 2.2 and you’ll find out why in the next paragraph.

There are two ways to install more software in Linux Lite 2.2: Synaptic or the Install Additional Software menu. Synaptic lets you find individual packages via browsing or searching. The Install Additional Software menu provides a list of applications that you can quickly install and it includes the following:

Apple Trailers Plugin
Chrome
Chromium
Dropbox
File and Folder Search
Games Pack
Google Talk Browser Plugin
iDevices Manager
Instant Messenger
Java Web Applet Plugin
Music Player
Password Manager
PlayOnLinux
Remote Desktop Software
Restricted Extras
Skype
Steam
Teamviewer
Torrent Software
Video Editing Software
VirtualBox
Weather Monitor
Webcam Software
Wine
XBMC

So which option is best to install more software? Synaptic offers much more software and experienced users will probably prefer it to the Install Additional Software menu. Newbies might just want to hit the latter though since it contains quite a lot of quality software in one easy to find place.

I decided to be quite bold and install everything on the Install Additional Software menu to see how well it would perform. Unfortunately, there was a drawback to installing all of this software. Each time a new application started to install, a menu popped up asking me for a confirmation before the install would commence. Then another menu popped up after it installed and I had to click “Okay” to get past it. Ugh.

So I had to click and click and I finally just skipped installing the rest of the software on the list. All of these menus and their subsequent need to be clicked on was definitely a big pain in the ass. I think the developers need to make this a click-free process once the user has selected the software he or she wants to install from the Install Additional Software menu.

I freely concede that most users aren’t going to want to install all of the software on the menu, but even so the developers should revamp the application install process to remove all of the clicking for each application install. As it stands now the menu gives the user the impression that with just a few clicks then can install a whole bunch of software and that simply isn’t true.

If you decide you want to remove software that you installed via the Install Additional Software Menu, just go instead to the Remove Additional Software menu. From there you can quickly remove whatever it was that you installed previously.

If you need to update your system, click the Menu button on the panel then click on Install Updates. A terminal window will open, and you can type in your password, and then you can type in “Y” to start the update to your system.

I must admit that I was surprised that Linux Lite – a distribution geared toward Windows newcomers – is using the command line for updates. Personally I have no issue with the command line, it’s a great tool. But newbies coming to Linux Lite from Windows may be intimidated by it. I’d have thought that Linux Lite would have some sort of GUI-based update system in place a long time ago.

Where to get help for Linux Lite 2.2
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Linux Lite 2.2 resources:

Linux Lite Manual
Linux Lite Forums
Linux Lite Hardware Database

Final thoughts about Linux Lite 2.2
Linux Lite 2.2 mostly fulfills its mission as a welcoming desktop distribution for Windows users.

But I can’t help but feel that a little bit more software installed by default would be a good thing for this distro. What is installed covers basic functionality but doesn’t offer much beyond that. And, as I noted above, using the Install Additional Software menu requires too many clicks to get through the installs of a bunch of applications. And the use of the terminal to update the system seems to run contrary to the idea of welcoming newbies to Linux.

In Linux Lite 2.2’s favor, the desktop is well laid out and easy to navigate and use. Xfce works very well in that sense, and new users should not have a problem with it. The distribution also seemed very stable for me, and I didn’t notice any application crashes or lockups while using it. The installer is a breeze, and you get the options of downloading updates and adding third party software while it completes. Plus, Lite Cleaner has the potential to be an extremely useful system cleaning tool in certain situations.

Overall, I think Linux Lite 2.2 is well worth considering as a desktop distribution. It’s certainly well suited to beginners for the most part, and even more experienced Linux users might enjoy using it.

What’s your take on Linux Lite 2.2? Tell me in the comments below.

Linux Lite 2.2 screenshots:

Linux Lite 2.2 Lite Cleaner

Linux Lite 2.2 Lite Cleaner

Linux Lite 2.2 Welcome Menu

Linux Lite 2.2 Welcome Menu

Linux Lite 2.2 Updates

Linux Lite 2.2 Updates

Linux Lite 2.2 Settings

Linux Lite 2.2 Settings

Linux Lite 2.2 Menu

Linux Lite 2.2 Menu

Linux Lite 2.2 Install Additional Software

Linux Lite 2.2 Install Additional Software

Linux Lite 2.2 Install 1

Linux Lite 2.2 Install 1

Linux Lite 2.2 Install 2

Linux Lite 2.2 Install 2

Linux Lite 2.2 Install 3

Linux Lite 2.2 Install 3

Linux Lite 2.2 Desktop

Linux Lite 2.2 Desktop

Fedora 21

Fedora 21 is out and I’ve been able to spend some time with it. The last version of Fedora I looked at was more than two years ago, so there have been quite a few changes since then. The new version of Fedora comes in three basic options: Fedora Cloud, Fedora Server and Fedora Workstation.

For this review I opted to use the GNOME version of Fedora 21 Workstation. The GNOME desktop is the default environment of Fedora, but there are a number of other Fedora spins available for including the following:

KDE
Xfce
LXDE
MATE-Compiz
Electronic-Lab
Security
Scientific KDE
SoaS
Design-suite
Robotics
Games
Jam-KDE

So do check out the alternative spins if GNOME isn’t your cup of tea. The Fedora developers have made sure that there is a desktop environment for everybody to choose for their computer.

What’s new in Fedora 21
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux kernel 3.16.3
GNOME 3.14
Software installer
Terminal application improvements
Support for Wayland (experimental)
DevAssistant developer helper
Web service integration
HiDPI support

GNOME 3.14 has a number of changes including a redesigned GNOME weather app, a redesigned Evince app, better support for Wi-Fi hotspots, multitouch gestures on touchscreen devices, Google services support in Photos, and a few other things. The GNOME 3.14 release announcement has more information about its features and changes.

I’ll have much more to say about the Software installer in that section of the review, but suffice to say it’s a big step forward for Fedora and kudos to the Fedora developers for getting it done.

The terminal application now supports transparent backgrounds, automatic title updates, a toggle for disabling shortcuts and you can search for terminals by name in the GNOME desktop.

Experimental support for Wayland is included in this release for developers to test their applications. Developers will also enjoy the DevAssistant which helps setup different programming environments, as well as better web service integration. And all users will appreciate the improved HiDPI support in Fedora 21 Workstation.

Fedora 21 download and install
You can download Fedora 21 from this page. You can get Fedora 21 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. I downloaded the 64-bit ISO file and it weighed in at about 1.47 GB.

Fedora 21 is also a live distro, so you can run it right off the disk to test it before installing it on your computer. I recommend that you check out the live desktop if you’ve never used Fedora before, it will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with what Fedora has to offer before committing to an actual install.

Here are the recommended minimum system requirements for Fedora 21:

1GHz or faster processor
1GB System Memory
10GB unallocated drive space

The installer in Fedora is quite good though it is a bit different than what you’ll get in Linux Mint and some other distributions. It may throw you off if you haven’t seen it before, but stick with it and you’ll find that it’s very easy to use. Just follow the on-screen prompts and you should have no problems. You’ll need to type in a root password and create a user account. While you do that the installer will be installing software and you can watch its progress at the bottom of the installer menu.

At one point you’ll also be able to connect your various online accounts. Google, ownCloud, Windows Live and Facebook are all options on the Connect Your Online Accounts menu. Since I have don’t plan on using Fedora as my day to day desktop distro, I opted to skip trying to connect any online accounts. I also loathe Facebook so there was no chance I would have bothered with that anyway.

The Fedora installer seemed pretty fast (though I didn’t actually time how long it took, I would have noticed if it lagged like some other distros), and I had no problems completing my install. One thing that it lacks is a slideshow that users can view while installing Fedora 21. Other distributions offer this and it can be a nice way of easing new users into a desktop distro by pointing out various things such as new features, updated applications, etc. I’d like to see the Fedora developers add something like that in the next release.

If you need assistance with installing Fedora 21, see the official install guide for more information.

The Fedora 21 desktop
I noted earlier that the default desktop of Fedora 21 is GNOME. GNOME is…well…it’s GNOME, and you either like it and want to use it or you don’t. If you haven’t used GNOME before then I recommend patience, it’s a different way of working that you can get used to if you give it some time. But it is not the same as MATE, Cinnamon or Xfce and if you are used to just those desktop environments then Fedora 21 might throw you off the first time you try it.

Note that you can also opt for the GNOME Classic desktop if you prefer that to the current version of GNOME. Just click the gear icon on the login screen and then select GNOME Classic. There is also an option to use GNOME on Wayland if you want to give that a try too. My preference would be GNOME Classic, but I tend to be a bit more old school in my desktop environment preferences. Your mileage may vary considerably, so try the old and the new versions of GNOME if you aren’t sure which one will work best for you.

Assuming you load the current version of GNOME, you can get started using the Fedora 21 desktop by clicking the Activities button after your desktop loads. Firefox, Evolution, Rhythmbox, Shotwell, the file manager, the Software installer, and the Show Applications button are all available on the panel. At the top of the Activities screen you’ll find a search box, and on the right the desktop switcher.

If you click the Show Applications button you’ll get a list of all the other applications on your system. Two tabs are available on the bottom: Frequent and All. After you’ve used Fedora 21 for a while, you’ll probably appreciate the Frequent tab since that’s a fast way of accessing the applications you use most often. Or you can use the search box to quickly find them.

Fedora 21 system settings
If you want to change how your system is set up, click on the Settings icon after you click the Show applications button on the panel. The Settings menu will come up and you can do all of the usual things such as change your background, adjust online accounts or privacy settings, change your network settings, manage users, etc.

There are three main categories on the settings menu: Personal, Hardware and System. So it’s easy to quickly locate the settings icon that you need to click to make your changes.

Linux software included in Fedora 21
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Available in Software installer

Graphics
Cheese
Image Viewer
Shotwell

Internet
Empathy
Firefox
Transmission

Multimedia
Rhythmbox
Videos (Totem)

Office
Evince
Evolution
gedit
LibreOffice

Fedora 21 provides a fairly good default selection of software that should cover most desktop needs. If you want more applications just click Activities and then Software. The Software installer is quite reminiscent of the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager. If you’ve used one or the other you will feel at home in Fedora 21’s Software installer.

When you load the Software installer, you’ll see a featured application at the top, followed by Editor’s Picks and then some Recommended Applications for one category or another. Further down the menu you’ll see a list of applications categories. Click one and you’ll see some sub-categories in the left frame, along with some featured applications in the right frame.

Applications categories include Audio, Education, Games, Graphics, etc. And you can always search if you prefer that to browsing around for applications. You can also see all of your installed software in one tab of the Software installer, and your available updates in another. I updated my system immediately, and had no problems installing the updates.

Installing or removing software is easy. Just click the blue Install button or the red Remove button, and then your administrator password. The Software installer will do the rest of the work for you. After the application installs, you can click the Launch button right from the application’s menu in the Software installer.

Overall, I think the Fedora developers did a good job with the Software installer with a couple of exceptions. Currently you can see star ratings, but no user reviews are available to read. I always enjoy reading the opinions of other users before I install software. Sometimes it helps me to filter out applications I might not actually enjoy using, so I appreciate having that option. I’d like to see it in the next version of the Software installer.

The other thing that I don’t like about the Software installer is the name. You can sort of tell that Fedora is a distribution geared toward developers because it’s never been very slick in terms of naming things. I’m not sure why they just didn’t call it Software Market or Software Central or Software Center or something similar. Right now it’s just labelled as “Software” and that comes across as half a name.

The name thing is a minor nitpick, of course. The Software installer works well and provides access to many different applications, so I have no complaints about the actual usage. But a full name would be better than just the generic term “software.”

Where to get help for Fedora 21
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Fedora 21 resources:

Fedora Help
Fedora Downloads
Fedora Community
Fedora Site

Final thoughts about Fedora 21
Fedora 21 ran very well for me, I had no problems using it. It seemed fast when launching applications and none of them crashed for me. As a desktop distribution it seems quite stable right out of the box, and I think most users will appreciate that when putting it through its paces.

For desktop users the biggest and probably most appreciated change in Fedora 21 is the Software installer. It puts Fedora at almost the same level as Linux Mint, Ubuntu and other desktop distributions with intuitive and easy to use software management tools. As I noted above, there are a couple of things that need to be improved in the Software installer, but the overall experience is quite strong already.

Now one question remains: should you use Fedora? You most certainly can use it as your main desktop distribution, but remember that Fedora 21 Workstation is geared toward developers. Casual users can and should check it out, but there are things in it that might have no appeal to non-developers (such as the DevAssistant). If that’s a deal breaker for you then Linux Mint, one of the Ubuntus or some other distribution might be a better option. If the developer-centric focus doesn’t bother you then Fedora 21 might just be your next desktop distro.

Fedora 21 is best suited to intermediate and advanced Linux users, but beginners can certainly give it a try in a virtual machine or by running the live desktop off the disc.

What’s your take on Fedora 21? Tell me in the comments below.

Fedora 21 screenshots:

Fedora 21 Install 1

Fedora 21 Install 1

Fedora 21 Install 2

Fedora 21 Install 2

Fedora 21 Install 3

Fedora 21 Install 3

Fedora 21 Desktop

Fedora 21 Desktop

Fedora 21 Software Menu

Fedora 21 Software Menu

Fedora 21 Updates

Fedora 21 Updates

Fedora 21 Featured Applications

Fedora 21 Featured Applications

Fedora 21 GIMP

Fedora 21 GIMP

Fedora 21 Installed Software

Fedora 21 Installed Software

Fedora 21 Settings

Fedora 21 Settings

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon and MATE

It’s always a major event in the world of desktop Linux when a new version of Linux Mint is released. This time around it’s Linux Mint 17.1, a long term support release that will be supported until 2019. Linux Mint 17.1’s code name is Rebecca and it brings numerous bug fixes and tweaks, along with some significant new features for the Cinnamon and MATE desktops.

In this review I’ll cover the MATE and Cinnamon desktops, as well as the common feature changes shared by both desktops. Screenshots of both desktops and the new common features are at the very end of the review. The screenshots of the common features were done mostly in MATE, but the features work the same in Cinnamon.

What’s new in Linux Mint 17.1
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:

Cinnamon 2.4
MATE 1.8
MDM 1.8
Linux kernel 3.13
Ubuntu 14.04 package base
Compiz support for MATE
Update Manager improvements
Kernel selection screen redesigned
Language Settings enhancements
Login Screen improvements

For a complete list of changes to each desktop, see the Cinnamon and MATE new features lists.

Linux Mint 17.1 download and install
You can get Linux Mint 17.1 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions, and you can download Linux Mint 17.1 from this page. Or you can just use these links to access download mirrors and torrents:

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon 32-bit
Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon 64-bit

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE 32-bit
Linux Mint 17.1 MATE 64-bit

The Linux Mint 17.1 ISO files weigh in at between 1.3GB and 1.5GB, depending on whether you choose 32-bit or 64-bit Cinnamon or MATE. For this review I picked the 64-bit versions of both desktops.

Installing Linux Mint 17.1 is about as easy as it gets. It uses the same installer as Ubuntu, so even those who are totally new to Linux should have no problems getting Linux Mint 17.1 to install on their systems.

I really wish there was something I could complain about or note here that would add some spice to this section of the review, but I had no problems with my install and it was quick too. You can watch a slideshow about Linux Mint 17.1’s features and software while you wait for your install to complete.

Common features and improvements in Linux Mint 17.1
I’ll cover the common feature changes that apply to both desktop environments here. I’ll talk about specific changes to each desktop in their respective sections below.

Linux Mint 17.1 Login Screen
The Login Window Preferences menu now provides Theme, Auto Login, and Options icons on the left side to make it easier to access different settings. You can access HTML and GDM themes from the same list, and you have the option of previewing the theme via a preview button.

The login screen itself now has a wallpaper slideshow. When you first load it, you’ll notice that it scrolls through different wallpaper backgrounds. You have the option of choosing one wallpaper by clicking a button in the controls in bottom right corner to stop the slideshow and stick with your preferred wallpaper. However, I recommend checking out the range of wallpapers before sticking with just one of them. Some of them are downright beautiful, and there are many to choose from in this release of Linux Mint.

The only problem I noticed with the login screen slideshow is that in some wallpapers, it’s hard to see the buttons because of the colors of the wallpaper image. They become almost invisible and you have to stare hard to find them. This is a very minor nitpick though because I actually thought it was great to see such a range of choices available right on the login screen.

Linux Mint 17.1 Update Manager
The Update Manager now groups packages together based on their source package. When you look at a line in the Update Manager it now shows a software update that may include multiple packages. In the new features list, the Linux Mint developers cautioned against selectively installing packages:

When a developer fixes a bug or writes new features, the source code is modified and all packages which are related to it become available under a new version. It is therefore futile and sometimes dangerous to apply some package updates and not others within the same source package.

I suspect that most users will appreciate the changes in Update Manager. They make it less of a chore to know what’s in a particular software update, and should help users avoid installing incomplete package updates.

I ran Update Manager immediately after installing both Cinnamon and MATE, and had no problems with the new version of Update Manager. Everything installed without a hitch, and I definitely prefer this version of Update Manager to previous ones.

Linux Mint 17.1 Linux kernels menu
The kernels menu has been redesigned to make it faster for you to see security updates and regressions. Descriptions have been added in your chosen language, and the main window will remain in view after you install your kernel updates.

Linux Mint 17.1 Language Settings
The Language Settings menu now includes two settings for your locale: Language and Region. Input Methods support has been added in this release as well.

Linux Mint 17.1 artwork and fonts
Linux Mint 17.1 uses the Noto fonts, and Mint-X (the Linux Mint theme) now comes in various colors including Aqua, Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Sand and Teal. You can right-click on a directory to change its color too. Linux Mint 17.1 also includes retro, modern and flat themes.

And there are many more background wallpapers to choose from as well that span backwards to the very beginning of Linux Mint. I counted about one hundred and forty one different backgrounds in the Background tab of Appearance Preferences, so there really is something for everybody in terms of wallpapers. And, of course, you can get more online as well.

Changes and improvements to the Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon desktop
The Linux Mint developers have put some effort into making Cinnamon faster, and in reducing memory usage. The developers note that about thirty memory leaks were located and fixed in Linux Mint 17.1. So Cinnamon may run noticeably better on current as well as older hardware. I can’t say I noticed any big changes in how Cinnamon performs, but it was never a problem before for me so I didn’t expect to be wowed with it in terms of increased speed in Linux Mint 17.1. But some folks may notice much better performance from Cinnamon.

Cinnamon also now starts with a cool zoom animation. I noticed it when I loaded the live desktop to do my install. It adds a bit of zest to Cinnamon that wasn’t there before when starting it up. It’ll probably take you by surprise the first time you see it, but it definitely improves Cinnamon’s coolness factor.

Cinnamon also supports single-button trackpads in this release, and you can configure actions for two or three finger click. You can also configure the desktop font in Cinnamon. The screensaver can be configured with a custom date format, as well as custom fonts.

The Theme and Background Settings have been redesigned, and you have the option using a background slideshow. Network Settings are based on the latest GNOME configuration module, and privacy settings have been added. Cinnamon’s Control Center has a new Notifications icon and menu, along with a Privacy icon and menu.

The Nemo tool bar also was redesigned for this release, and it includes configurable buttons and a new button that lets you open a terminal in your current directory (this button defaults to being hidden though). Nemo also supports emblems now for directories and files. The sidebar includes highlight effects if you hover, and smarter dynamic bookmarks.

I really liked the option of making directories different colors, it’s a fun way of highlighting important folders. And it makes it much easier to distinguish them visually from folders that you don’t use or care about as much. To make a folder a different color, just right-click it and choose the color from the popup menu.

The emblems are also a neat way of customizing and visually distinguishing your important folders. To add an emblem to a folder, just right-click it and select properties. Then click the Emblems tab. There are thirty six different emblems you can choose from including Favorite, Important, and Urgent. You’ll see your emblem displayed on your folder.

Compiz in the Linux Mint 17.1 MATE desktop
The big attraction in Linux Mint 17.1 for MATE users is the inclusion of Compiz. The default window manager Marco is still available, but you can now go to Desktop Settings, click on Windows and then use the Window Manager drop down menu to change to Compiz. Then logout and log back in to start using Compiz.

I switched to Compiz to try it in Linux Mint 17.1 MATE, and it certainly has a definite coolness factor to it. However, I soon got bored with the glitz of Compiz and switched back to Marco. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how Compiz has a lot of appeal for some users. Expo is a great feature and who doesn’t enjoy seeing a rotating cube of their desktop? I also liked the Wobbly Windows feature as well, it looks very amusing if you drag a window around on your screen. But it’s not something I’d really use on a day to day basis.

But I am certainly glad that Compiz is now available for MATE users that want it. If you aren’t familiar with Compiz, go to Control Center then click on CompizConfig Settings Manager, and you can scroll through the various effects. Marco Giannini posted a quick video on YouTube of Compiz in action in Linux Mint 17.1 MATE that demonstrates some of its cool effects:

The Linux Mint developers posted a couple of cautions in their list of new features for MATE, and I want to post them here for folks who might into problems using Compiz in Linux Mint 17.1 MATE:

CompizConfig is also installed by default so you can configure every aspect of Compiz to your liking.

If things go wrong, remove ~/.config/compiz-1 for Linux Mint to regenerate it automatically.

If you’re unable to log in or if compiz does not work at all on your computer, open a terminal and run “mate-wm-recovery” to switch back to Marco on your next login.

There’s also a warning message that pops up when you go to open the CompizConfig Settings Manager:

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE CompizConfig Settings Warning

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE CompizConfig Settings Warning

The Linux Mint 17.1 Control Center
One thing I want to point out to newcomers to Linux Mint, or Linux in general, is the Control Center in Cinnamon and MATE. Control Center is where you have access to all of the tools needed to configure your Linux Mint system. Do take some time to browse through it and familiarize yourself with the layout so you can quickly find what you are looking for as you configure your Linux Mint computer.

You can access the Control Center in MATE by clicking on the menu button on the panel, and then clicking on Control Center. In Cinnamon you can click on the panel menu button and then click on the gears icon (it’s labelled as Control Center in the bottom right of the panel menu if you hover your cursor over it).

Control Center’s layouts are slightly different in Cinnamon and MATE, but it’s easy to find your way around and locate the tool you need to adjust your system settings. Control Center in Cinnamon is broken down into categories such as Appearance, Preferences, Hardware, and Administration. In MATE the categories are slightly different and include Personal, Internet and Network, Hardware, System, and Other.

Linux software included in Linux Mint 17.1
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
None installed by default but available in the Software Manager

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb
Image Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
HexChat
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission

Multimedia
Banshee
Brasero
Sound
Videos
VLC Media Player

Office
Dictionary
Document Viewer
LibreOffice

System Tools
Caja
Disk Usage Analyzer
GDebi Package Installer
Log File Viewer
New Login
Power Statistics
System Monitor
Terminal

I have no complaints about the selection of default software in Linux Mint 17.1. There are plenty of applications for most basic desktop needs, and you can always get tons more software in the Software Manager. I highly recommend that you click on the Featured icon when the Software Manager first loads up. There are forty five applications there that are worth checking out, including Steam, Wine, FileZilla, Wesnoth, Blender and numerous others.

The Software Manager itself is a very easy tool to use to add or remove applications. I particularly like that you can click on an application and then scroll down to see star ratings and reviews by other Linux Mint users. It’s a big help in weeding out some applications while also promoting others. I always enjoying seeing the comments posted by other users as I can sometimes learn interesting tidbits about an application.

To add or remove an application, just click on it in the Software Manager and then click the Install or Remove button. There are more than seventy one thousand applications available in Software Manager, so if you’ll have plenty of packages to choose from to use on your Linux Mint 17.1 system. Applications in the Software Manager are broken down into the following categories:

Featured
All Packages
Internet
Sound and Video
Graphics
Office
Games
Accessories
System Tools
Fonts
Science and Education
Programming

If you prefer to use it, Synaptic is also available. Experienced Linux users may prefer it to Software Manager, but I don’t recommend that folks new to Linux use Synaptic. By all means check it out though, and learn about it. Synaptic is a powerful tool in the right hands, but Software Manager is a much better option for casual Linux users that just want to find applications, and install or remove them.

Where to get help for Linux Mint 17.1
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Linux Mint 17.1 resources:

Linux Mint Blog
Linux Mint Documentation
Linux Mint Downloads
Linux Mint Forum
Linux Mint Site

Amazon has a selection of books about Linux Mint that you might find useful as well. And you can also buy USB sticks with Linux Mint bundled on them.

Please be aware before doing an install that there are some known issues in the release notes for Linux Mint 17.1:

Keybindings migration

Cinnamon 2.4 uses new schemas for keybindings. If you’re upgrading from an earlier version, you can migrate your old keybindings by running the following command:

  • cinnamon-desktop-migrate-mediakeys

Issues with Skype

In 64-bit, if you’re experiencing issues with Skype, install the package “ia32-libs”.

DVD Playback with VLC

If VLC does not find your DVD player, click on Media->Open Disc, and specify ‘/dev/sr0’ as the disc device.

HiDPI

HiDPI is detected automatically. You can however force Cinnamon to run in low or in high DPI mode by going to Menu->Preferences->General.

EFI support

If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.

Note: Linux Mint 17.1 places its boot files in /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu to work around this bug.

Misconfigured Swap when using home directory encryption

When using the option to encrypt the home directory, an upstream issue in the installer results in the Swap partition not being configured properly.

Click here and here for more information on this bug.

Solving freezes with some NVIDIA GeForce GPUs

If you are unable to boot Linux Mint with an NVIDIA card, or if you are experiencing constant freezes and system lock ups, please append “nomodeset” to your boot arguments. At the boot menu of the live DVD/USB, press Tab to edit the boot arguments and add “nomodeset” at the end of the line.

If you’re still having issues, you can also remove “quiet splash –” from that same line.

Alternatively you can use the “nouveau.noaccel=1” boot argument.

Once the system is installed, use the Driver Manager to install the nvidia-304 driver.

Booting with non-PAE CPUs

To boot Linux Mint 17.1 on CPU which do not officially support PAE (Pentium M processors for instance), please use the “Start Linux Mint with PAE forced” option from the boot menu.

Issues with KDE apps

If you’re experiencing issues with KDE apps (Okular, Gwenview, KStars..etc) run the following command:

  • apt install kdelibs-bin kdelibs5-data kdelibs5-plugins

Note: These issues do not affect the KDE edition. A regression in KDE 4.14 prevents these applications from working fine out of the box outside of KDE.

Other issues

If you’re experiencing keyboard or mouse freezes, please check the following bug report: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/nfs-utils/+bug/1270445

If you own an AMD CPU with an MSI card and your computer keeps rebooting, please check the following bug report: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1309578

Final thoughts about Linux Mint 17.1
I was very impressed with Linux Mint 17.1. The common feature upgrades and bug fixes add real value to this distribution. The changes in Update Manager, the Login Screen, Language Settings, Kernel Menu, and artwork should please almost all Linux Mint users. And the huge range of background wallpapers, along with the slideshow feature make it a great choice for those who want frequent changes to the look of their Linux Mint systems.

Cinnamon and MATE have both improved significantly in this release as well. Compiz brings MATE up to par with Cinnamon in terms of desktop glitz, and the changes in Cinnamon have made it even better than it was in previous versions of Linux Mint. I had fun futzing around with Compiz on MATE, and there’s no doubt that it adds some serious desktop bling to an otherwise rather sedate, traditional desktop environment. And Cinnamon’s colored folders and emblems make it much simpler to visually identify your important and most used folders. I really liked having that option even though I initially didn’t think it would matter too much.

Upgrading to Linux Mint 17.1 seems like pretty much a no-brainer to me after my experience using it. If you’re already running Linux Mint then you should be able to use Update Manager to get Linux Mint 17.1, and I recommend that you do so when you have the chance. It’s well worth upgrading, and I think you will enjoy the latest version of Linux Mint quite a bit. There’s not much to complain about in Linux Mint 17.1, the developers did a great job in tweaking MATE and Cinnamon while also improving the common features that both desktops share with each other.

But which desktop should you choose? Cinnamon or MATE? Frankly, I don’t think you can go wrong with either desktop in Linux Mint 17.1. If you aren’t sure which one you might prefer, try installing both in VirtualBox. Use each of them for at least a few days each, then make up your mind and install whichever one you prefer. Both of them work very well, but my personal preference right now is MATE since I lean more toward the traditional desktop set up.

Linux Mint 17.1 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on Linux Mint 17.1? Tell me in the comments below.

Linux Mint 17.1 screenshots:

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Colored Folder

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Colored Folder

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Control Center

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Control Center

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Desktop

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Desktop

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Folder Emblems

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Folder Emblems

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Menu

Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Menu

Linux Mint 17.1 Featured Applications in Software Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Featured Applications in Software Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Install Slideshow

Linux Mint 17.1 Install Slideshow

Linux Mint 17.1 Login Screen

Linux Mint 17.1 Login Screen

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Compiz Cube

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Compiz Cube

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE CompizConfig Settings

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE CompizConfig Settings

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Control Center

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Control Center

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Desktop

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Desktop

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Menu

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE Menu

Linux Mint 17.1 Software Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Software Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Synaptic Package Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Synaptic Package Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Update Manager

Linux Mint 17.1 Update Manager

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos

There are many different Linux distributions available, but not all of them are focused on providing a truly free software experience. What do I mean by free software? Well, I don’t mean free as in free beer. I mean free as in the freedom do what you want with it. Here’s a snippet from GNU.org’s definition of free software:

“Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price.

Trisquel is one of the few Linux distributions that really believes in providing users with free software. So if that matters to you then Trisquel should definitely be at the top of your list of desktop distributions. You won’t find nonfree software in it, but you will find lots and lots of free software that will meet the needs of almost all desktop users.

The latest release of Trisquel is version 7.0, which has been dubbed “Belenos” after a Celtic sun god. Hey, it’s hard not to love a distro with such a cool name. Trisquel 7.0 is also a long-term support release, and I’ll walk you through what it has to offer in this review.

What’s new in Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Kernel Linux-libre 3.13 with lowlatency and bfq scheduling by default.
Custom desktop based on GNOME 3.12 fallback.
Abrowser 33 (a free Firefox derivative) as default browser.
GNU IceCat 31 available as single-click optional install from Abrowser’s homepage. Complete with many extra privacy features.
Electrum Bitcoin Wallet preinstalled.
Moved to DVD format, now with 50+ languages and extra applications.
Improved accessibility by default.

As you can tell, this release is not chock-full of new features. As I noted above, it’s a long-term support release and that means that the real focus is stability and bug fixes. However, I think it’s still worth looking at because there are probably many people out there who aren’t familiar with Trisquel in the way that they might be with Ubuntu, Linux Mint or other better known distributions.

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos download and install
You can download this distribution from the Trisquel site. You can get Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. I opted for the 64-bit version. For this review I downloaded the main version of Trisquel 7.0, which weighs in at about 1.5GB and uses the GNOME 3.12 fallback desktop.

But you also have the option of downloading the Trisquel Mini or Trisquel Sugar TOAST versions, which are only 600MB and 500MB each. The Trisquel Mini version offers the LXDE desktop environment and should hold great appeal for minimalists. The Trisquel Sugar TOAST edition is geared toward kids up to twelve years old, and it offers the Sugar Learning environment.

You can also opt to do a NetInstall, and that ISO is just 25MB. There is also a sources DVD available that is a 3GB download.

The Trisquel installer is quite easy to use, and it’s also very fast. My install happened without any problems, and I opted to download updates during the install. You can watch a slideshow during your install as well. If you’ve ever installed Ubuntu, you will have no problem installing Trisquel 7.0 on your computer. It’s a very simple to use installer that gets the job done without any fuss.

The Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos desktop
Trisquel 7.0 offers a custom desktop that is based on the GNOME 3.12 fallback. This means that you have what most would consider to be a more traditional desktop than Ubuntu GNOME, for example. There is a panel at the bottom that has an application menu, home folder and browser icon. You can also control the sound, clock and click an icon to show the desktop. And you can see your networking information by clicking the up/down arrows.

If you click the Trisquel icon in the panel, you can access all of your applications as well as system settings and the add/remove applications tool. You can also logout, lock your screen or power off your computer. Applications are broken into the usual categories (see below) and it’s very easy to navigate around the menu.

I may be a bit of a throwback, but I really prefer how Trisquel’s menu is set up compared to some of the other distributions I’ve used. For me it makes it simple and fast to get to the applications or tools I need while using my computer. I know that some folks prefer the Unity or GNOME 3 type interfaces, but they have never worked as well for me as the traditional menu system that is in Trisquel and some other distributions.

You can change your desktop background, as well as many other things in System Settings. Just click the Trisquel icon on the panel, and then click on System Settings. You’ll find all of the usual tools there including display settings, bluetooth, passwords and keys, system monitor and many other useful items.

Linux software included in Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Chess
Mahjongg
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb Viewer
Simple Scan

Internet
Abrowser
Evolution
Pidgin
Liferea
Electrum Bitcoin Wallet
Remote Desktop Viewer
Transmission

Multimedia
Videos
Brasero
Cheese Webcam Booth
OggConvert
Pitivi
Rhythmbox
Sound Recorder

Office
LibreOffice

I was mostly pleased with the selection of software that comes with Trisquel. All of it is free, and it pretty much covered all of my day to day computing needs. However, if you find you need more software you can just open the Add/Remove tools application to get additional packages.

To add software, just click the checkbox next to the application you want to install then click Apply changes. Applications in the Add/Remove applications tool are also broken down into the usual categories but you also get access to Education, Programming, Science and a few other options that aren’t in the Trisquel applications menu in the panel.

If you prefer, you can skip the Add/Remove Applications tool and use Synaptic instead. Synaptic is not listed on the applications menu on the panel. But you can find it listed under System in System Settings. Synaptic is a great tool, but it can be daunting to those who are unfamiliar with it. I recommend trying the Add/Remove Applications tool first to see if it will meet your needs.

I was very happy to see that Abrowser defaults to DuckDuckGo instead of other search engines. DuckDuckGo is always my default search engine, regardless of which browser I use. But it was great to have it the default right away instead of Google. Note though that Google is available in the dropdown menu, as is Yahoo, Bing and a number of other sites such as Amazon, Wikipedia, and eBay.

Note that if you want enhanced privacy features, you can easily install GNU/IceCat and use it instead of Abrowser. Just open Abrowser and then click the “install GNU/IceCat” link on the Abrowser default home page. A dialogue box will popup to confirm your choice, just click the Install button. GNU.org and Wikipedia both have helpful overviews of GNU/IceCat.

If you want to update your Trisquel 7.0 system, you’ll need to launch the Software Updater found in the System section of System Settings. When I started it I found I had about 101MB of updates to install. My updates took a few minutes, but everything seemed to install with a problem. The biggest parts of the update seemed to be for LibreOffice.

Where to get help for Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos resources:

Trisquel Forum
Trisquel Documentation
Trisquel FAQ

Final thoughts about Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos
I was very pleased with Trisquel 7.0 while I was using it. I found it to be incredibly stable and also very fast while I was opening and using applications. I did not experience any crashes or other overt indications of stability problems.

For me Trisquel 7.0 is pretty much what a desktop Linux distribution should be in terms of usability, software selection and stability. I had pretty much everything I needed right after my install was completed. And I had the satisfaction of knowing that I was using free software the entire time I used Trisquel 7.0.

I highly recommend that you check out Trisquel 7.0, even if you’re not a free software aficionado. It’s well worth a download. And once you get a taste of it, it may end up being your preferred desktop distribution.

What’s your take on Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos? Tell me in the comments below.

Trisquel 7.0 Belenos LTS screenshots:

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos System Settings

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos System Settings

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Prepare Install

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Prepare Install

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Preinstall Boot Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Preinstall Boot Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Panel Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Panel Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Login Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Login Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Install Slideshow

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Install Slideshow

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Home Folder

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Home Folder

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos GRUB Boot Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos GRUB Boot Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Electrum Bitcoin Wallet

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Electrum Bitcoin Wallet

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Desktop

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Desktop

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Add or Remove Applications Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Add or Remove Applications Menu

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Abrowser

Trisquel 7.0 LTS Belenos Abrowser

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon

Linux Mint has long been one of the most popular desktop distributions, so it’s always a big deal when a version is released. This time around it’s Linux Mint 17. This review covers the Cinnamon version of Linux Mint 17, but much of it also applies to the MATE version with the exception of changes to the MATE 1.8 desktop.

As to which desktop environment you should use, I think it just gets down to your own personal preference. MATE is a more traditional desktop while Cinnamon has a more modern feel to it. If you aren’t sure which one you might like better, my advice is to try both of them and then make your decision.

Linux Mint 17 is a long term support release. It will receive security updates until 2019. The Linux Mint developers plan to use this package base until 2016, so upgrading should be a piece of cake once you start using Linux Mint 17.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Desktop

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Desktop

What’s new in Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Update Manager

Drivers Manager

Login Screen

Language Settings

Software Sources

Welcome Screen

Cinnamon 2.2

System Improvements

Artwork Improvements

Main Components

LTS Strategy

Update Manager

The Update Manager has had some serious improvements to it in this release. It’s faster, and you don’t need root mode to load it. It also doesn’t look for an Internet connection, and it doesn’t lock your APT cache when it starts up. You can also see kernel information in a new section of Update Manager.

There’s also a type column that lets you see differences between traditional and security updates, backports and romeo updates. Update history now also includes all updates on your Linux Mint 17 system, including apt-get, Update Manager or via gdebi or dpkg.

Kudos to the Linux Mint developers for making Update Manager a much more useful tool. Update Manager is far better now it ever was in the past.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Update Manager

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Update Manager

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Linux Kernels

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Linux Kernels

Driver Manager

The Driver Manager can install drivers now even if you aren’t connected to the Internet. You’ll be asked to insert the disc or other install medium in order to add your drivers.

Linux Mint 17 Driver Manager

Linux Mint 17 Driver Manager

Login Manager

Login Manager (MDM) has also been improved. Multi-monitor support is better, with more options. And the HTML greeter offers HiDPI support. You can even use a user name that’s not present in the usual list of users, and the animation in the background uses less CPU resources.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Login Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Login Menu

Language Settings

Language Settings is a new menu that replaces Language Support. You can easily select a language, apply it to your entire system and also install new languages.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Language Settings

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Language Settings

Software Sources

The Software Sources menu has gotten improved usability and a few interface tweaks. You’ll see a warning now against use of backport and romeo components. That should come in handy for those who aren’t sure what they are but like to experiment anyway.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Software Sources

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Software Sources

Welcome Menu

The welcome menu is faster and does not use webkit. While I’m always glad to see improvements, I never thought it was slow before. Did anybody else? It seemed pretty zippy to me in past releases, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Welcome Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Welcome Menu

System Settings

The System Settings menu has been tweaked to include subcategories, along with some other interface changes. You can now see all settings all the time, you don’t need to switch between normal and advanced modes. This is a change I’m very glad to see since it has the potential to cut down on confusion among newer users who were’t familiar with System Settings.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon System Settings

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon System Settings

Artwork Improvements

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon comes with artwork improvements as well. The Mint-X theme has been changed in this release too. Tints and widgets are both improved. Check out the desktop backgrounds that are available now, some of them are quite beautiful.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Desktop Backgrounds

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Desktop Backgrounds

Hot Corners and HUD

Hot corners and the HUD have been tweaked a bit. The HUD will only appear now if you bring a window very close to the edge of the screen. And you can now choose hover, icon click or both for hot corners. The top-left hot corner default has been disabled.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Hot Corners

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Hot Corners

Lock Screen

The lock screen is now separate from the power management settings. You can easily change when your screen locks, or turn it off altogether. And you can add a custom message to your lock screen.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Lock Screen Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Lock Screen Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon download and install

You can download Linux Mint 17 from this page. You can get Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. The install is incredibly easy and fast, even folks new to Linux should have no problems. You can watch a slideshow during the install that will show you some of Linux Mint’s features and applications.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Boot Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Boot Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Install Preparation Screen

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Install Preparation Screen

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Install Type Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Install Type Menu

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Install Slideshow

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Install Slideshow

Linux software included in Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release. There are thousands and thousands of other applications available in the Software Manager. Be sure to check the Featured Applications section first if you aren’t sure which applications to install. There are some great ones there and that list might save you some time browsing around the Software Manager.

Games

Games are available in the Software Manager

Graphics

GIMP

gThumb

Image Viewer

LibreOffice Draw

Simple Scan

Internet

Firefox

HexChat

Pidgin IM

Thunderbird Mail

Transmission

Multimedia

Banshee

Brasero

Videos

VLC Media Player

Office

LibreOffice Calc

LibreOffice Draw

LibreOffice Impress

LibreOffice Math

LibreOffice Writer

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Software Manager

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Software Manager

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Featured Applications

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Featured Applications

Where to get help for Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon

If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or post in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out these Linux Mint 17 resources:

Linux Mint Blog

Linux Mint Documentation

Linux Mint Downloads

Linux Mint Forum

Linux Mint Site

Please note that there are some known issues with Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon. Here’s a list of them, bear them in mind before you do an install.

Issues with Skype

In 64-bit, if you’re experiencing issues with Skype, install the package “ia32-libs”.

DVD Playback with VLC

If VLC does not find your DVD player, click on Media->Open Disc, and specify ‘/dev/sr0’ as the disc device.

HiDPI

HiDPI is detected automatically. You can however force Cinnamon to run in low or in high DPI mode by going to Menu->Preferences->General.

EFI support

If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.

Note: Linux Mint 17 places its boot files in /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu to work around this bug.

Solving freezes with some NVIDIA GeForce GPUs

If you are unable to boot Linux Mint with an NVIDIA card, or if you are experiencing constant freezes and system lock ups, please append “nomodeset” to your boot arguments. At the boot menu of the live DVD/USB, press Tab to edit the boot arguments and add “nomodeset” at the end of the line.

If you’re still having issues, you can also remove “quiet splash –” from that same line.

Alternatively you can use the “nouveau.noaccel=1” boot argument.

Once the system is installed, use the Driver Manager to install the nvidia-304 driver.

Booting with non-PAE CPUs

To boot Linux Mint 17 on non-PAE CPUs, please append “forcepae” to your boot arguments. At the boot menu of the live DVD/USB, press Tab to edit the boot arguments and add “forcepae” at the end of the line.

Other issues

If you’re experiencing keyboard or mouse freezes, please check the following bug report: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/nfs-utils/+bug/1270445

If you own an AMD CPU with an MSI card and your computer keeps rebooting, please check the following bug report: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1309578

More at Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Release Notes

Final thoughts about Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon

Linux Mint rarely disappoints when a new version is released, and Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon is no exception to that rule. This release comes with lots of improvements and it has the virtue of being a long term support release. So not only do you get the benefits of all the various new features and tweaks, you get a desktop distro that you can use with confidence for the next few years.

There’s a ton of stuff to like Linux Mint 17, I think most Linux Mint users are going to be delighted with it. My experience has been extremely positive while using it. It’s definitely one of the best choices out there right now for desktop Linux users. I highly recommend checking it out if you need a desktop distro for your system.

What’s your take on Linux Mint 17? Tell me in the comments below.

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS

Minimalist distros are an important option for many Linux users. Not everyone wants tons of desktop glitz and zillions of bells and whistles. Lubuntu has always been a terrific option for minimalists who prefer to stay within the Ubuntu family. Now Lubuntu 14.04 LTS is available and it follows in the footsteps of previous releases by providing a high-quality desktop distro that is light-weight and fast.

You should know that LTS releases like Lubuntu 14.04 are mostly geared toward providing a long term, very stable desktop. So this release is not chock-full of new features. Don’t let that disappoint you though because Lubuntu 14.04 is still worth upgrading to if you are using an earlier version of it.

If you are totally new to Lubuntu you can get a pretty good overview of it, along with a history of prior releases on the Lubuntu page at Wikipedia:

Lubuntu is a lightweight Linux operating system based on Ubuntu but using the LXDE desktop environment in place of Ubuntu’s Unity shell and GNOME desktop. LXDE is touted as being “lighter, less resource hungry and more energy-efficient”.

Like Xubuntu, Lubuntu is intended to be a low-system-requirement, low-RAM environment for netbooks, mobile devices, and older PCs. Tests show it can use half as much RAM as Xubuntu, making it an attractive choice for installing on older hardware being refurbished for charitable distribution.

More at Wikipedia

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Desktop

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Desktop

What’s new in Lubuntu 14.04 LTS
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

LTS support (three years)
PCManFM 1.2.0
Lxsession-default-apps has a new user interface
Artwork update (themes and icons have been updated)

The LTS support will be quite useful for those who want to upgrade to a distro and then stick with it for a long time. Distrohoppers will probably not care about that though, since they prefer to hop around from distro to distro regularly.

PCManFM is a light-weight file manager and version 1.2.0 includes a dual pane view, menu editing and folder settings (among other features). There’s quite a bit in PCManFM 1.2.0, far more than I can cover here. Be sure to read through the release announcement for more details on the changes and new features. It’s definitely worth checking out if you want to know more about what’s in PCManFM 1.2.0.

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS PCManFM 1.2.0 File Manager

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS PCManFM 1.2.0 File Manager

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS lxsession-default-apps

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS lxsession-default-apps new interface.

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS also comes with new artwork that should please most users. This release includes updates to the GTK and icon themes, along with some pretty new wallpapers to spruce up the Lubuntu desktop.

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS download and install
You can download Lubuntu 14.04 LTS from this page. You can get Lubuntu 14.04 LTS in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. You can check it out as a live distro before actually doing an install. The install itself is quite easy and fast, as is the case with Ubuntu and all of its various spins. You should not have any problems even if you are totally new to Linux.

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Install

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Install

Linux software included in Lubuntu 14.04 LTS
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release. As you can tell from the list, Lubuntu 14.04 LTS does not overload you with gobs and gobs of software. You get just what you need for most functions and no more.

Don’t worry though, there are thousands and thousands of applications available in the Lubuntu Software Center. So you can add whatever applications you need with just a couple of clicks. And you can easily remove installed software as well.

Graphics
Document Viewer
mtPaint graphic editor
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox Web Browser
Pidgin IM
Sylpheed
Transmission

Multimedia
Audacious
GNOME MPlayer
guvcview
Xfburn

Office
AbiWord
Document Viewer
Gnumeric

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Software Center

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Software Center

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Installed Software

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS Installed Software

Where to get help for Lubuntu 14.04 LTS
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or post in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out these Lubuntu 14.04 LTS resources:

Lubuntu Site
Lubuntu Forum
Lubuntu Wiki
Lubuntu Documentation
Contact Lubuntu

Please note that there are some known issues with Lubuntu 14.04 LTS:

Installation
Some keyboard layouts may have problems (such as UK ones). You can workaround the problem by removing all the ibus-* packages (see 1284635))
Graphics and Display

Applications
Network indicator on the panel may not start at login. You can start it manually by launching “nm-applet” in a terminal. Some others autostarted applications may also be affected (such as automatic updates). See 1308348 for the details and the ETA for the fix. To turn on nm-applet in autostart, follow these instructions It may need two reboots to fully work.

PPC
PPC has several issues and workarounds, please refer to the documentation on the wiki.
Slideshow on PPC Desktop ISO was removed because of a bug on webkit (996568)
Installer on Desktop PPC (Ubiquity) is enable to resize and split partitions. you can use Gparted before launching the installation to make the modifications to your partitions (1307994)

More at Lubuntu Release Notes

Final thoughts about Lubuntu 14.04 LTS

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS performed very well for me. It was fast and quite stable while I was using it. I had no problems running any applications and the system as a whole lived up to its reputation as a great choice for Ubuntu minimalists. Overall, I think most current Lubuntu users are going to enjoy this upgrade.

If you haven’t used Lubuntu before but you are curious about it, I recommend downloading it and giving it a try. The LXDE desktop environment is very different than Unity for Ubuntu or GNOME 3 in Ubuntu GNOME. It’s a traditional desktop which means it’s very quick and easy to learn how to use. And if you are someone that doesn’t like Unity or GNOME then LXDE in Lubuntu 14.04 LTS might be just what the doctor ordered. You’ll get all the benefits of Ubuntu, but without the discomfort of the Unity interface.

Lubuntu 14.04 LTS is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on Lubuntu 14.04 LTS? Tell me in the comments below.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS has been released in the wake of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS so it’s time for a full review. Xubuntu 14.04 is a long term support release, so the focus is really on stability and finesse, not on adding tons of new features. Xubuntu uses the Xfce desktop environment instead of Unity, so it works very well as a lightweight alternative to regular Ubuntu. Xubuntu can be particularly useful if you have an older or otherwise underpowered computer.

If you aren’t familiar with Xubuntu, you can read the Xubuntu about page or the Xubuntu strategy document to discover more about it. You can also get a basic overview of what the Xfce desktop environment has to offer on its about page, the Xfce wiki, and you can connect with other Xfcse users in the Xfce forum if you have questions or comments to share.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Desktop

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Desktop

What’s New in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Light Locker replaces xscreensaver for screen locking, a setting editing GUI is included
The panel layout is updated, and now uses Whiskermenu as the default menu
Mugshot is included to allow you to easily edit your personal preferences
MenuLibre for menu editing, with full Xfce support, replaces Alacarte
A community wallpapers package, which includes work from the five winners of the wallpaper contest
GTK Theme Config to customize your desktop theme colors
Updated artwork, including various enhancements to themes as well as a new default wallpaper

More at Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Release Notes

Light Locker
Light Locker is a great replacement for xscreensaver, it comes with a GUI menu so you can easily change settings. Just go to Settings then click on Light Locker Settings to make it work the way you prefer. I must admit that I almost never bother to keep screen locking on as I’m lazy and hate typing in passwords over and over again. But your mileage may vary and if you like screen locking then you’ll probably enjoy Light Locker.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Light Locker Settings

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Light Locker Settings

Whiskermenu
Whiskermenu is now the default menu in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS. I’m happy to see Whiskermenu bundled into Xubuntu 14.04 LTS, I really enjoyed using it. You can easily search for applications, or just browse through the categories to find the app you want. You can also quickly access Favorites and Recently Used applications.

One thing I found strange about Whiskermenu is that when you click on System it only shows you Gigolo and Task Manager. To get to Settings you have to click the icon at the bottom of the menu. It seems to me that Settings should really be included in the System menu, otherwise it might confuse newcomers to Xubuntu and Whiskermenu. This is not a huge deal, but I think the developers should consider a change in the next release.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Whisker Menu

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Whisker Menu

Mugshot
Mugshot is also now included in Xubuntu 14.04. With Mugshot you can easily and quickly edit your user configuration details. You can add a photo, put in your name, email address, office phone and your fax number. I think most users will find Mugshot very useful since it allows user configuration information to be changed in a very intuitive and simple menu.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Mugshot

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Mugshot

MenuLibre
MenuLibre replaces Alacarte for menu editing in this release. It’s quite a useful tool and I’m glad to see it in Xubuntu 14.04. Go to Settings and click on Menu Editor to access it. You’ll love it if you’re into customizing your menus though most of the time I don’t generally bother. Still, it’s nice to have such functionality available if you want to use it.

Here’s some information about MenuLibre in case you aren’t familiar with it:

An advanced menu editor that provides modern features in a clean, easy-to-use interface. All without GNOME dependencies, so even lightweight systems can benefit from the sanity that MenuLibre offers. MenuLibre is your one-stop shop for menus in Linux, whether you use Gnome, LXDE, XFCE, or Unity.

Features
A beautiful interface powered by the latest version of GTK+
Create new launchers, or modify existing ones with complete control over common settings and access to advanced settings
Add, remove, and adjust quicklists: powerful shortcuts available to Unity and other desktop environments.
Edit user menus or administer system menus that are accessible to all users

More At Sean Michael Davis

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS MenuLibre

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS MenuLibre

New wallpapers
Xubuntu 14.04 LTS also comes with a selection of community wallpapers. Some of them are quite pretty so do take a moment to check them out. Right-click your desktop and go to Desktop Settings if you want to change your desktop background. I definitely think that the additional wallpapers add a bit of colorful zip to Xubuntu 14.04. The default wallpaper works well, but it’s a bit on the blander side compared to some of the others that Xubuntu has available.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Wallpapers

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Wallpapers

GTK Theme config and updated art work
You can also easily edit your theme configuration in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS, and this release comes with some updated art work that should improve your desktop experience.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Theme Configuration

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Theme Configuration

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Download and Install
You can download Xubuntu 14.04 LTS from this page. You can get Xubuntu 14.04 LTS in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. I used the 64-bit version for this review.

Installing Xubuntu 14.04 was quick and easy, as is typical with the Ubuntu spins. It took about fifteen minutes or so, and I had no problems with the install. As always, I recommend that you click the “Download updates while installing” and “Install this third-party software” (if you want it) checkboxes so that it’s all done during the install. This will save you time later on.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Install

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Install

Linux Software Included in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
Document Viewer
GIMP
Ristretto Image Viewer
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
gmusicbrowser
Parole Media Player
PulseAudio Volume Control
Xfburn

Office
Abiword
Dictionary
Document Viewer
Gnumeric
Orage Calendar
Orage Globaltime

Since Xubuntu is a lightweight distribution it does not come with LibreOffice installed. However, you can easily get it from the Software Center if you prefer it to Abiword and Gnumeric. Personally I am very fond of Abiword as I tend to write a lot and it’s a great little word processor. For me LibreOffice tends to be overkill since I don’t use a lot of its features.

The rest of the applications included should meet the needs of most desktop users, but there are thousands and thousands of other applications in the Software Center should you need them. I recommend first trying the ones that come with Xubuntu 14.04 LTS since I like to avoid cluttering up my desktop with too many applications. If you find that they aren’t cutting it then add any others you need from the Software Center.

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Software Center

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Software Center

Where To Get Help for Xubuntu 14.04 LTS
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or post in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out these Xubuntu 14.04 LTS resources:

Xubuntu 14.04 LTS System Requirements
Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Support
Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Documentation

Please bear in mind the following known issues about Xubuntu 14.04 LTS:

Xfce4 Power Manager does not restore screen power (1259339), see the release notes for details and workarounds

Window manager shortcut keys don’t work after reboot (1292290)

Sorting by date or name not working correctly in Ristretto (1270894)

Due to the switch from xscreensaver to light-locker, some users might have issues with timing of locking; removing xscreensaver from the system should fix these problems

IBus does not support certain keyboard layouts (1284635). Only affects upgrades with certain keyboard layouts. See release notes for a workaround.

More at Xubuntu 14.04 LTS Release Notes

Final Thoughts About Xubuntu 14.04 LTS
I’ve always been a fan of Xubuntu as I tend to go for lightweight desktops versus ones with a lot more glitz and features. So I was quite pleased with Xubuntu 14.04. It’s true that you aren’t going to find tons of earth shattering features in this release, and that’s fine because it’s a long term support release anyway. I never expect new feature overload in LTS releases since the emphasis is on stability and polish.

But Xubuntu 14.04 LTS is a definite improvement from the last version. The overall experience has been polished up significantly, and there are some small but useful features added like Mugshot, Light Locker and MenuLibre, and of course Whiskermenu. I think that most Xubuntu users will be pleased with this version, and upgrading to it from Xubuntu 13.10 is pretty much a no-brainer.

What’s your take on Xubuntu 14.04 LTS? Tell me in the comments below.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS

Ubuntu 14.04 was released recently and as usual the other flavors of Ubuntu have also been updated to 14.04 including Ubuntu GNOME. Ubuntu GNOME tends to get overlooked a bit, given all the attention that goes to the main Ubuntu release. However, that’s a shame since it has quite a lot to offer anyone who prefers the GNOME interface to that of Unity.

Please note that Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS is a long term support release. Such releases tend to focus on polish and stability rather than introducing loads of new features. So bear that in mind if you are looking for a desktop distribution that will be supported for a longer term.

If you aren’t familiar with Ubuntu GNOME, you may want to browse the FAQ about it on the Ubuntu GNOME site. There’s some helpful background information there that might be of interest to you. Wikipedia and DistroWatch also have information pages about Ubuntu GNOME.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Features
Here’s a sample of the features in this release:

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 is now an LTS (Long Term Support) release. This is our first LTS Release supported for 3 years.

Most of GNOME 3.10 is now included. See the GNOME release notes for more details. The few missing bits of 3.10 are available in ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3. gnome-weather, gnome-maps, gnome-photos and gnome-music are all available to install from the archives.

With GNOME 3.10 comes enhanced support for online accounts, and some general optimization of the user interface.

A set of 10 new high-quality wallpapers are included. For more details, see Ubuntu GNOME Wallpaper Contest.

GNOME Classic session is included. To try it, choose it from the Sessions option on the login screen.

More at Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Release Notes

The fact that this is a long term support release will please many current Ubuntu GNOME users since it means that they can rely on it for quite a long time before needing to move to a newer version. Plus, as I noted above, such releases generally zero in on stability rather than loads of flashy, new features.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Desktop

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Desktop

GNOME 3.10 also adds some zip to Ubuntu GNOME 14.04, particularly with its support of online accounts and user interface improvements. You may also like some of the ten new wallpapers that have been included with this release, some of them are quite beautiful.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Wallpapers

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Wallpapers

And of course GNOME Classic is also an option for those who dislike GNOME 3. I’m very glad to see GNOME Classic included, it’s great for people to have options. I’ve pretty much made my peace with GNOME 3, however. If you take the time to get used to it and you take it as it is rather than comparing it to other desktop interfaces, you may find it to be quite useful in its own way.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS GNOME Classic Desktop

The GNOME Classic desktop in Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Download and Install
You can download Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS from this page. Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS is available in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. I used the 32-bit version for this review.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS is also a live distribution, so you can run it off a disc before actually installing it on your system. The install itself is quite simple and easy, and it takes about the same amount of time as installing regular Ubuntu (fifteen to twenty minutes at most).

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Install

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Install

Linux Software Included in Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mahjongg
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
Image Viewer
Print Preview
Document Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet
Empathy IM
Evolution Mail and Calendar
Firefox
Transmission BitTorrent Client
Desktop Sharing
Ubufox Extension for Firefox

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
GStreamer Plugins
Rhythmbox Music Player
Videos

Office
LibreOffice Calc, Impress, Math and Writer

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Software Center

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Software Center

Where To Get Help for Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or post in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out these Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS resources:

Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 Release Announcement
Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 Release Notes
Ubuntu GNOME Documentation
Contact Ubuntu GNOME

Please note the following known issues from the release notes:

System Details shows Ubuntu 13.10 instead of 14.04 (1299912)
screen giberish (1307776)
Can’t select which drive to resize when using “install alongside” in Trusty (1262824)

More at the Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS Release Notes

Final Thoughts About Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
I know that some might be disappointed that this release of Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 isn’t chock-full of mind-blowing features. But that is perfectly fine in a long term support release like this. The absolute last thing we want developers doing is sticking in experimental doodads or other things that could adversely affect stability and performance.

For me the highlights of Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 (aside from it being an LTS release) are GNOME 3.10, the new wallpapers and GNOME Classic. Each thing adds some additional polish to Ubuntu GNOME 14.04, and I think that most reasonable users will appreciate them after spending some time with it.

I have seen some reviews of regular Ubuntu 14.04 that have proclaimed it to be “the best version of Ubuntu yet” and that sort of thing. Well, I think it’s fair to say that Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 may also be the finest version of Ubuntu GNOME as well, and that’s something that the Ubuntu GNOME developers and users can take pride in.

What’s your take on Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 LTS? Tell me in the comments below.

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

It’s time for another review of Ubuntu, Canonical’s popular desktop Linux distribution. Ubuntu moves to version 14.04 in this release. This time around the code name for Ubuntu is Trusty Tahr and it’s a long term support release (LTS) geared toward providing a more polished desktop experience.

I bet you’re wondering what the heck a tahr is right? Frankly, I’d never heard of such an animal until Ubuntu picked it as the mascot for this release. I have to give the Ubuntu developers credit for consistently finding weirdly named animals to represent each Ubuntu release. They must have a guy or gal who spends part of his or her time browsing Wikipedia to find these animals.

Perplexed about this strange critter, I did a bit of searching to discover more about it and here’s what I found:

Tahrs are three species of large Asian ungulates related to the wild goat. Until recently the three species were believed to be closely related and were placed in a single genus, Hemitragus. Genetic studies have proven that the three tahrs are not as closely related as previously thought. Now they are considered as members of four separate monotypic genera; Hemitragus is now reserved for the Himalayan Tahr; Nilgiritragus for the Nilgiri Tahr; Arabitragus for the Arabian Tahr;[1] and Ubuntu 14.04 for the Trusty Tahr which is an operating system.[2]

More at Wikipedia

Tahr

Tahrs are three species of large Asian ungulates related to the wild goat.

So there you go, it’s always enlightening to discover new animals that you’ve never heard of before when a new version of Ubuntu is released. Who knows what surprises the next release of Ubuntu may have for us…maybe it will be called Amazing Anaconda or Outrageous Ostrich or something like that.

Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop

The Ubuntu 14.04 desktop.

What’s New in Ubuntu 14.04
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux kernel 3.13
Local menus
Launcher icon size controls
Live window resizing on by default
Keyboard filtering for Unity App Spread
Super + L locks Ubuntu 14.04
Raise volume past 100%
Full menus in GNOME apps
Antialiased windows

Local menus
The lack of local menus was one of the most sought after features in Ubuntu and the Ubuntu developers didn’t disappoint in this release. To use them you’ll need to open Settings then go to Appearance and then click the “In the window’s title bar” option under “Show the menus for a window.” It’s a very easy change, it takes about two seconds.

After you make the change, click on the title bar on an application window and the local menu will appear. It contains all of the usual stuff: File, Edit, View, History, etc. Personally I find that the local menus are much faster and easier for me to use, but your mileage may vary. It’s a very good thing that the Ubuntu developers decided to give users the choice on how they want to use menus in applications.

Ubuntu 14.04 Local Menu Control

It’s simple to activate local menus in the appearance settings.

Ubuntu 14.04 Local Menu in Window

You can see the local menu active in this window.

Super + L locks Ubuntu 14.04
You can use the Super (Windows) + L keys to lock your Ubuntu 14.04 desktop. I don’t generally keep mine locked for the most part, but this is a very helpful keyboard shortcut for those times when you want to lock down your Ubuntu desktop to prevent unauthorized access to it. This is a small but very useful addition for some users.

Launcher icon size controls
Another great change in this release is the ability to control the size of the icons in the launcher. You can make them as small as 16 or as large as 64 pixels if you want. To change the launcher icon size just go to Settings then Appearance. From there you can use the slider bar at the bottom to adjust the launcher icons to your preferred size. This is a great way of making the launcher take up less screen space if you opt for smaller icons.

Ubuntu 14.04 Change Launcher Icon Size

It’s very easy and fast to change the size of the launcher icons.

Live window resizing
Here’s a feature that’s on by default, and you’ll notice it when you resize windows in Ubuntu 14.04. It’s not technically new, but the fact that it’s the default sort of makes it new. When you resize a window you’ll see the results as you do it. This is a bit better to look at than how it was previously done. It’s not an earth-shattering feature, but it is a nice piece of refinement that adds to the desktop experience in Ubuntu 14.04.

Antialiased windows
Another bit of refinement is the inclusion of antialiased window corners. Again, this is not earth shattering, but it does make the desktop more pleasant to use. I suspect that many users won’t even notice it, but I’m still glad that it has been included in this release.

Keyboard filtering for Unity App Spread
If you’ve ever used Unity’s app spread then you’ll appreciate the keyboard filtering in Ubuntu 14.04. You can now start typing the name of a window after hitting the Super + W keys to narrow down the windows that appear. This can be a fast timesaver if you need to switch to a particular window.

Raise volume past 100 percent
In the true spirit of Spinal Tap, you can now make the volume go past 100 percent. Yes, you can get that little bit of extra volume if you need it. To enable this, go to Settings then Sound and click on the “Allow louder than 100%” option.

Ubuntu 14.04 Make Sound Louder Than 100 Percent

Like Spinal Tap, you can make your Ubuntu 14.04 desktop go to 11.

Full menus in GNOME apps
GNOME apps have gotten full menus added back in. This affects apps like Rhythmbox and gives you the typical File, Edit, etc. selections in the menu. Given the changes in GNOME itself, this is a helpful tweak for Ubuntu users who may not be familiar with where GNOME has been headed.

Ubuntu 14.04 Download and Install
You can download Ubuntu 14.04 from this page. You can get Ubuntu 14.04 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions.

Installing Ubuntu 14.04 was trivial and took about ten minutes or so. Even complete newbies to Linux should have no problem installing Ubuntu 14.04 on their systems, and you also have the option of running it as a live desktop if you prefer not to do an install immediately.

Linux Software Included in Ubuntu 14.04
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release.

Games
Mines
Sudoku
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mahjongg

Graphics
Shotwell Photo Manager
LibreOffice Draw
Document Viewer
Simple Scan
Image Viewer
Photo Lens

Internet
Desktop Sharing
Thunderbird Mail
Firefox
Transmission
Empathy IM
Remmina Remote Desktop Client

Multimedia
Videos
Gstreamer extra plugins
Rhythmbox Music Player
Cheese Webcam Booth
Brasero Disc Burner

Office
LibreOffice
Google Drive Scope for Unity

Ubuntu 14.04 Software Center

There are thousands of applications available in the Ubuntu 14.04 Software Center.

Where To Get Help for Ubuntu 14.04
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or post in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out one of these Ubuntu resources:

Ask Ubuntu
Ubuntu Documentation
Ubuntu Downloads
Ubuntu Forum
Ubuntu Site

Final Thoughts About Ubuntu 14.04
Ubuntu 14.04 seems to be all about refining the Ubuntu desktop. While there are not a lot of amazing new features in this release, there are quite a few very useful and needed tweaks that add up to a much better desktop experience. Canonical’s designers seem to be listening to Ubuntu users again, and they seem willing to make the changes necessary to give the users what they want. That may be the single most important thing about Ubuntu 14.04. It could be an indication of a sea change in Canonical’s attitude toward Ubuntu users.

For me the highlights of this release are the local menus and the ability to control the size of the icons in the launcher. Both features really gave me much more control over certain aspects of the Ubuntu desktop that I had been irritated by in the past. I’m very happy indeed that Canonical decided to include them in this release, and I think those two changes alone make it worth upgrading to Ubuntu 14.04.

Ubuntu 14.04 is well suited for beginners as well as more advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on Ubuntu 14.04? Tell me in the comments below.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon

Linux Mint 16 Petra has been released so it’s time for a review. The newest release of Linux Mint is always a big deal in the Linux world, and I’ve been looking forward to checking out Linux Mint 16 for a while.

Please note that I’m going to cover the Cinnamon version of Linux Mint 16 in this review. I’ll do a separate review for the MATE version later.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Preinstall Boot Menu

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Preinstall Boot Menu

What’s New in Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Cinnamon 2.0
MDM 1.4
USB stick support
Performance improvements
Software Manager improvements
System improvements
Artwork improvements
Linux kernel 3.11
Ubuntu 13.10 package base

Cinnamon
Cinnamon 2.0 comes with sound effects for events, a better user management applet, improved edge-tiling as well as edge-snapping. Nemo has better MIME handling so it’s easier to associate applications and commands with file types. It’s also faster than in the last release of Linux Mint. The file operations window will now show as an icon in the system tray if you close it.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Sound Effects

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Sound Effects

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon User Applet

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon User Applet

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Nemo MIME Handling

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Nemo MIME Handling

There’s quite a bit in Cinnamon 2.0, more than I can cover in this review. You can see a full list of Cinnamon 2.0 improvements in the announcement on Segfault. I recommend checking it out to delve into all of the improvements in this release. Cinnamon is coming along quite nicely, each release makes it more and more polished.

MDM 1.4
The login screen has been improved in this release. It is faster, bugs have been fixed, and it’s easier to switch between users. It also comes with Num-Lock support.

Apparently, the Linux Mint developers removed 24,500 lines of code from MDM. Wow. Talk about slimming down the login screen!

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Login Window Preferences

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Login Window Preferences

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Login Menu

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Login Screen

USB Stick Support
There’s a new USB Stick Formatter tool that makes it easier to format or make a bootable USB stick. You can format to ext4, FAT32 or NTFS. It’s also integrated with Nemo, along with the USB Image Writer application.

All of this is very convenient for users who need USB stick support, particularly the Nemo integration.

Performance Improvements
This release comes with a number of helpful performance improvements.

    • The boot and login sequence no longer scan your system for btrfs partitions.
    • The MDM display manager no longer listens or communicates over the network.
    • The Update Manager is now started with a delay to make it faster for the session to load.
    • The Software Manager features significant speed improvements.
    • The Linux Mint 16 ISO images are not as compressed as before. They take more space and are bigger to download but also easier on the system and faster to decompress during the live session.

Software Manager Improvements
Software Manager has had a lot of bug fixes as well as some performance buffs. It uses less memory, starts faster and searches faster than it did in previous version of Linux Mint. It can also display multiple screenshots while you are browsing applications.

I’m very glad to see these changes in Software Manager. Multiple screenshots might not seem that important, but they do matter when you are checking out an unfamiliar application and trying to decide if you want to install it. The performance improvements are also quite welcome, and should make for a much better user experience while finding software.

See the software section for screenshots of the Software Manager.

System Improvements
There are a few miscellaneous improvements that need to be noted as well:

  • Safer kernel updates.
  • Faster boot sequence and faster login.
  • Better EFI support.
  • Better support for Steam and its addition in the repositories and the featured section of the Software Manager.
  • Additional private/secure search engines in certain countries.
  • APT “recommends” disabled by default.
  • Better colors in terminal and the addition of “ll” as an alias to “ls -al”.
  • Better help support.

Artwork Improvements
Even the artwork in Linux Mint 16 got some buffs. There’s a collection of gradient backgrounds that should add some pizzaz to the desktop. And the Mint-X theme has better GTK3 support and a consistent look between GTK2 and GTK3 applications. There are also some new icons for Mint tools and some other third party apps as well.

Three Cinnamon themes come bundled with Linux Mint 16: Linux Mint, Mint-X and the default Cinnamon theme.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Backgrounds

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Backgrounds

System Requirements for Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD/DVD drive or USB port

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Download
You can download Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 1.25 GB. You can get Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon in 32-bit or 64-bit versions.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox before running it on real hardware.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Installation
Installing Linux Mint 16 is as easy as usual. The install is quick and painless, and you can flip through a slideshow while your install completes.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon is also a live distro, so you can just run it off the disc before actually doing an install on your computer. Please note that the performance running off a disc will not necessarily be as good as running it after a real install. But it will give you a taste of what Linux Mint 16 has to offer.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Prepare Install

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Prepare Install

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Install Type

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Install Type

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Install Slideshow

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Install Slideshow

The Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Desktop
I covered some of the changes in Cinnamon 2.0 in this release, so I won’t go into that again here. The Linux Mint 16 desktop looks very good indeed when you first load it. The desktop isn’t cluttered with icons and it’s very easy to find your way around.

To get started using Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon, just click the menu button on the panel. You’ll see a list of application categories, administration tools, preferences, as well as your home folder, the software manager and other useful items. Even those completely new to Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon should not have much of a problem moving around the desktop.

The panel at the bottom contains icons to show the desktop, launch Firefox, launch the terminal or load the home folder. The other icons on the right of the panel cover the usual stuff: notifications, the user applet, networking, sound, updates, the time and your desktop spaces.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Desktop

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Desktop

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Home Folder

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Home Folder

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon My Computer

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon My Computer

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon System Settings

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon System Settings

Linux Software Included in Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release.

Games
Available in the Software Manager

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb
Image Viewer
Simple Scan

Internet
Desktop Sharing
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Banshee
Brasero
Videos
VLC

Office
LibreOffice

Linux Software Management Tools in Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
I covered the changes to the Linux Mint 16 Software Manager in the What’s New section, so I won’t repeat that here. Suffice to say that the Linux Mint 16 Software Manager is one of the best software management tools for desktop Linux distributions.

Applications are broken down into categories, or you can opt to search for a specific application. To add an application, just click the Install button. To remove one, click the Remove button. While checking out an application, you can see star ratings and user reviews for it.

When you first load the Software Manager, be sure to browse the Featured category. There are lots of very good applications available there, and it will save you time browsing around trying to find the best applications.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager Featured Applications

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager Featured Applications

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager Westnoth Game

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager Westnoth Game

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager Westnoth User Reviews

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Software Manager Westnoth User Reviews

Problems & Headaches Found in Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
I had no problems installing or running Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon. It ran very well for me. If you’ve noticed any problems, please share them in the comments below for the benefit of other readers. Thanks in advance.

Here’s the list of known issues with Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon:

Recommended packages and 32-bit libraries

Recommended packages are no longer automatically installed in Linux Mint. To install a package with its recommended packages, use the command “apt install packagename –install-recommends”.

If you’re experiencing issues with Skype or other 32-bit programs under Linux Mint 64-bit, install the package “ia32-libs”.

DVD Playback

Totem will read your files and decode multimedia on the Internet but it does not properly support DVD playback in this release. To watch DVD movies, please use VLC instead.

If VLC does not find your DVD player, click on Media->Open Disc, and specify ‘/dev/sr0’ as the disc device.

EFI support

If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.

If you installed Linux Mint in Virtualbox in EFI mode and it cannot boot post-install, type “exit”, choose “Boot Maintenance Manager”, “Boot from file” and select EFI/linuxmint/grubx64.efi.

Post-installation, the EFI boot file is located in /boot/efi/EFI/linuxmint/grubx64.efi. If your system is unable to find this file, copy it to /boot/efi/boot/bootx64.efi (alternatively you can write “fs0:\EFI\linuxmint\grubx64.efi” into a /boot/efi/startup.nsh file).

PAE required for 32-bit ISOs

The 32-bit ISOs of Linux Mint 15 use a PAE kernel. If your processor is not compatible with PAE please use Linux Mint 13 Maya LTS instead. Linux Mint 13 is supported until 2017.

mint4win

The mint4win Windows installer was not able to reliably handle the size of the ISO images. It was therefore removed and isn’t available in Linux Mint 16.

Other issues

Linux Mint 16 is based on Ubuntu 13.10. Make sure to read the Ubuntu release notes.

Where To Get Help for Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the DLR forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the Linux Mint 16 community site, forum, or blog.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on.

Final Thoughts About Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon
I’m very pleased with Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon. There’s quite a lot to like in this release, and very little to dislike. Cinnamon 2.0 adds some additional polish to an already great desktop environment. The login tweaks, USB stick support, and various performance enhancements also add value to Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon.

I highly recommend Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon if you’re looking for a new desktop distribution. It’s particularly good for folks who are totally new to Linux and who want to get some experience with it. It will work very well as a replacement desktop operating system for Windows or OS X users.

Linux Mint 16 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced users.

What’s your take on Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon? Tell me in the comments below.

openSUSE 13.1 KDE

openSUSE 13.1 has been released so it’s time for a review. I’ve always liked openSUSE, I started out with SUSE Linux years ago and it’s always had a special place in my heart. I’m glad it’s still around and doing so well these days. Whenever I install it, I’m reminded of where I got my start with Linux and I’m grateful that it was available back then.

This review covers the KDE version of openSUSE 13.1. However, you can also use GNOME as the default desktop environment. Both desktops are great, and work well in openSUSE. Ultimately it gets down to your personal preference, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either option.

If you aren’t familiar with what KDE has to offer, you can read an overview of KDE in openSUSE 13.1 that covers the advantages of the Plasma Desktop. Suffice to say that the combination of KDE 4.11 and openSUSE provides a powerful desktop operating system that is also elegant and pleasing in daily use.

openSUSE 13.1 Boot Menu

openSUSE 13.1 Boot Menu

What’s New in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

KDE
KDE Plasma Desktop is the default in openSUSE, and the 4.11 version of this Free Desktop is a long term maintained release. This release brings speed improvements in Desktop Search, file and window management, improved multi-monitor handling, brand new delayed mail sending feature and scam detection for KDE PIM and much more. Also new is deeper Android integration in the desktop and in the Amarok music player. See this great introduction to Plasma Desktop on openSUSE 13.1.

Stabilized
Much effort was put in testing openSUSE 13.1, with improvements to our automated openQA testing tool, a global bug fixing hackathon and more. The btrfs file system has received a serious workout and while not default, is considered stable for everyday usage. This release has been selected for Evergreen maintenance extending its life cycle to 3 years.

Networked
This release introduces the latest OpenStack Havana with almost 400 new features. Web server admins will appreciate the latest Apache, MySQL and MariaDB updates. Web developers benefit from an updated Ruby 2.0 on Rails 4 with improvements from core classes to better caching in the Rails framework and the latest php 5.4.2 comes with a build-in testing server. End users can now mount Amazon s3 buckets as local file system and use much improved Samba 4.1 with better windows domains support.

Evolved
openSUSE moves forward with AArch64, making openSUSE ready for development on the upcoming generation of 64bit ARM devices. 32bit ARM support has been heavily improved and a special Raspberry Pi build for openSUSE is available. This release also delivers GCC 4.8 with new error reporting abilities, the latest glibc supporting AArch64, C11 and Intel TSX Lock Elision, the new SDL2 and Qt 5.1, bringing QML and C++11 features to developers..

Polished
openSUSE 13.1 comes with much improved font hinting thanks to the new font engine in Freetype 2.5. YaST has been ported to Ruby, opening contribution up to a large number of skilled developers. In this release, ActiveDoc replaces doc.opensuse.org and the majority of packaged documents in openSUSE, lowering the barrier to contribution.

Faster
New is accelerated video with VDPAU support in MESA and an optimized version of glibc for 32bit systems. Linux 3.11 includes work on ‘page reclaim’, maintaining performance during disk operations.

Feature-full
Desktop users will appreciate the Android devices integration in the KDE file manager, in the shell and in music player Amarok. Artists have to try out the new Krita improvements with textured painting, greyscale masks & selections and more. GNOME Shell introduces a redesign of the system status bar and Header Bars in many applications, making better use of screen space. Enlightenment now also has an openSUSE theme.

Innovative
This release comes with a number of experimental technologies to try out. This includes preliminary Wayland support with Weston compositor in GNOME Shell and KDE Plasma Desktop as well as improved support for Ultra high-resolution in applications and shells. New is also the LightDM KDE greeter and a plasma NetworkManagement applet for testing.

System Requirements for openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s what you’ll need to run openSUSE 13.1:

  • Pentium* III 500 MHz or higher processor (Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or higher or any AMD64 or Intel64 processor recommended)
  • Main memory: 1 GB physical RAM (2 GB recommended)
  • Hard disk: 3 GB available disk space for a minimal install, 5 GB available for a graphical desktop (more recommended)
  • Sound and graphics cards: supports most modern sound and graphics cards, 800 x 600 display resolution (1024 x 768 or higher recommended)
  • Booting from CD/DVD drive or USB-Stick for installation, or support for booting over network (you need to setup PXE by yourself, look also at Network install) or an existing installation of openSUSE, more information at Installation without CD

openSUSE 13.1 KDE Download
You can download openSUSE 13.1 KDE from the openSUSE download page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 4.57 GB. I also used the 64-bit version for this review, but you can download the 32-bit version if you prefer it.

While I opted for the DVD version that requires an install, you can also download the live versions of openSUSE 13.1 instead. That will let you run openSUSE 13.1 off the disc instead of having to do an install. I recommend doing this if you’ve never used openSUSE before, it will give you a taste of what it offers without having to do an actual install.

You can choose KDE or GNOME if you go for the live versions, see the links for each desktop environment on the downloads page for openSUSE 13.1.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox before running it on real hardware.

openSUSE 13.1 KDE Installation
Installing openSUSE 13.1 is not difficult though the installer is not quite as slick as the one in Ubuntu. My install took longer than an Ubuntu install but there was also more software included with it.

You can watch a slideshow once the install starts. I recommend checking out the slideshow if you are totally new to openSUSE, it’s a good way to start learning how to use it.

openSUSE 13.1 Install Mode

openSUSE 13.1 Install Mode

openSUSE 13.1 Install Partitioning

openSUSE 13.1 Install Partitioning

openSUSE 13.1 Install Desktop Selection

openSUSE 13.1 Install Desktop Selection

openSUSE 13.1 Install Repositories

openSUSE 13.1 Install Repositories

openSUSE 13.1 Install Settings

openSUSE 13.1 Install Settings

openSUSE 13.1 Install Slideshow

openSUSE 13.1 Install Slideshow

The openSUSE 13.1 KDE Desktop
The openSUSE 13.1 KDE desktop is quite attractive. The first things you notice are the darker color and the openSUSE mascot in green. The desktop contains icons for Firefox, the KInfoCenter, LibreOffice, Online Help and openSUSE.

Click the chameleon button on the panel to access application categories, system tools, utilities, desktop configuration, favorites, and to shut down your system. openSUSE 13.1 defaults to the sliding menus in KDE, but I prefer the classic menus instead. To switch to the classic menus, just right click the chameleon button on the panel and choose classic style.

openSUSE 13.1 Desktop

openSUSE 13.1 Desktop

openSUSE 13.1 Applications Menu

openSUSE 13.1 Applications Menu

openSUSE 13.1 YaST Control Center

openSUSE 13.1 YaST Control Center

Linux Software Included in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in openSUSE 13.1.

Games
KMahjongg
KReversi
KPatience
KMines
KSudoku

Graphics
GIMP
Hugin
digiKam
DNGConverter
Expoblending
Panorama
Photo Layouts
showFoto
AcquireImages
Skanite
Gwenview

Internet
Choqok
Konversation
Kopete
KMail
Firefox
Konqueror
Akregator
KTorrent

Multimedia
Amarok
AMZ Downloader
K3b
Kaffeine
KMix
KsCD

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
LibreOffice
Okular

Linux Software Management Tools in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
There are two ways to manage software in openSUSE 13.1, YaST2 and Apper. Unless you really need it, I recommend using Apper. The interface is a bit more intuitive and applications are broken down into category for easy browsing.

To install an application in Apper, just find it and click the Install button and then click Apply. To remove an application, just click the Remove button then click on Apply.

openSUSE 13.1 Apper Software Management

openSUSE 13.1 Apper Software Management

openSUSE 13.1 YaST 2 Software Management

openSUSE 13.1 YaST 2 Software Management

Problems & Headaches Found in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
openSUSE 13.1 ran extremely well for me, I saw no stability or speed problems with it. It seems that the developer claims about improving stability and speed have been borne out by its performance. However, if you’ve seen any problems then please post them in the comments below for the benefit of other readers. Thanks in advance.

In terms of criticism, I think there are two weak points in openSUSE 13.1.

The first is the installer. It’s not hard to use but it isn’t as streamlined as it could be. The installer in Ubuntu and Linux Mint seems more intuitive and simpler to me. openSUSE 13.1’s installer could use a rework that makes it more appealing and easier for folks that are new to this distro.

The second weak point is in software management. Apper is okay, but it lags behind the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager. Using YaST 2 for software management is fine for very experienced users, but it’s not something well suited to casual desktop users.

So I’d like to see some improvements on these two points. Some sort of app store type software management tool would be very welcome in openSUSE, along with a revamped installer that simplifies the process for folks new to Linux and openSUSE.

Neither of these things is a deal breaker by any means. openSUSE is a great desktop distribution, but there’s always room for improvement and I think addressing these two issues would make openSUSE even better than it is right now.

Where To Get Help for openSUSE 13.1 KDE
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the DLR forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the openSUSE forums or mailing list.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on. You can also save lots of money with deals on laptops and tablets, desktops and monitors, components, and computer accessories.

Final Thoughts About openSUSE 13.1 KDE
openSUSE 13.1 takes an already fine desktop distribution and makes it even better. Ubuntu, Linux Mint and others have gotten more attention in recent years than openSUSE, but this release may very well change that. openSUSE 13.1 deserves to be included in any discussion of the top tier of desktop distributions.

I found myself really enjoying openSUSE 13.1, it’s well worth a download if you are in the market for a new desktop distro. If KDE and GNOME don’t appeal to you then you can build your own version of openSUSE or try one of the various derivatives of it.

If you are using Windows or OS X right now, openSUSE 13.1 is definitely a viable alternative. If you aren’t sure about using it, download one of the live versions of it and then run it off the disc first to see how you like it. My guess is that you will probably enjoy it once you get your feet wet with it.

openSUSE 13.1 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on openSUSE 13.1 KDE? Tell me in the comments below.