Linux Mint’s Debianized Xfce

I discovered Mandriva in the wake of a catastrophe…but that is a story for another day, one which I shall spin when I write up my review of Mageia. I bring up Mandriva because in my life, the most usable desktop I’ve ever found has been in the Gnome variant of Mandriva 2010. Mandriva 2010.2 is still a go-to installation on the laptop, but that one (and 2010.1) gave me a little trouble with sound on the “Fun Computer”. Otherwise, they were perfect, but a little less perfect, so to speak. But the combination of the Mandriva Control Center and the cool, crisp Gnome design is hard to beat.

Linux Mint 10 came close. Very close. Until that version, I wasn’t especially a fan. I had looked at versions from time to time, and installed a few, but I didn’t return to them, and they were usually the first to get plowed under when I needed the space to experiment. With 10, or Julia (you young people might not remember when the National Weather Service gave female names to all hurricanes; there’s an interesting page about it here), I became seriously interested. Gone was that annoying, if harmless, “unverified source” error message you got while installing new software. The performance seemed livelier; speed is one of my lower priorites and really isn’t a make-or-break issue (Mandriva isn’t maniacally fast, after all), but Mint could be out-and-out sluggish at times. I’m not sure why I liked the appearance better; I think it is slightly more gray and slightly less, ummmm, mmminty, hence more professional in my eyes (which, themselves, are more blue than gray). Anyway, Julia occupies a well-worn partition on the “Fun Computer”, and the Linux Mint Debian Edition, which is so close to the standard edition that I sometimes have trouble remembering which is which, has pride of place (that is, it owns the MBR) on the “Play Computer”. Linux Mint has moved away from its identity as Ubuntu with a different suit (I should say dress, maybe), and has staked out its own place.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Rollback, a barrel of fun

One morning, not long ago, I ran the sudo conary updateall command in the terminal emulator in one of my Foresight Linux Xfce installations. Conary did what it was told, as Conary always does unless the connection times out or something. But this time, one of its gifts was a beta of Opera 11.50.

Opera did something clever. The beta installed itself as opera-next and borrowed my bookmarks ‘n stuff from the ~/.opera directory, so I could use both the stable version (11.11) and the beta side-by-side. Or so that was the theory. The beta didn’t work, for whatever reason, and the stable version wouldn’t load.

Reader, I was plunged into despair. Maybe someday I’ll write a blog post about why I love Opera so much. But I understand that browser discussions can get as perfervid as WordPerfect vs. Word or (X)Emacs vs. Vi(m), so for now, all I want to say is that I’ve been using Opera since version 5, which came out a couple of days before the Supreme Court stopped the Florida vote recount, and I’ve hardly ever had a problem with it. I’ve run alpha versions that have been worked better than the stable versions of some programs. Not this time. Ahh…nobody’s perfect, you know what I’m sayin’?

But despair is fleeting in the world of Linux, where our women are tougher than their men. I decided to try the promising command sudo conary rollback, which cancels the effects of the last updateall while it insinuates hokey Wal-Mart jingles into your brain. Rollback is pretty customizable; you can roll back the last two, or more, or you can even roll back every update and restore your Foresight system to what it was like the very minute you first installed it. You can think of it as the Linux version of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Reader, I ask you to remember the power of sudo conary rollback…a power so great that, yea, verily it can reshape the past.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Screenshots are here

Responding to some eminently reasonable suggestions in the comments, I made a few screenshots for Foresight Linux and for Pardus. Links are over in the right column, under “Screenshots ‘n stuff”.

I spent part of yesterday playing around with some of the photo galleries this blog’s site host (to wit, these guys, who have been really nice to deal with) offers, and if you happened to visit last night you might have seen a link to one of my efforts. But I didn’t really love working with any of them, and I didn’t see any advantages over WordPress. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the shots.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pardus and Xfce: a bright and powerful parade

Pardus has been around for years, and occupies a luxury-car niche in the Linux world: easy to install and configure, extremely stable, very friendly, and very KDE-centric. It is not related to Mepis, but its rôle in the Penguinist ecosystem is comparable. There are differences, of course. Pardus is a government-sponsored project, and it exists for the benefit of Turkish universities and research centers. The main support board is in Turkish, and the independent international one is hosted in Germany.

Most of the current code has been developed from the ground up, and it is considered an independent distribution. As far as I know, it has no derivatives, either, and no spins from outside the development team. In the Linux family tree, it is the sharp-dressed uncle you saw at funerals and liked, but whenever you suggested visiting him your parents suggested that he was probably out of town.

I myself have had that kind of relationship with Pardus: cordial but infrequent. It was one of the first distros on which I got wireless to work, back in 2008. Because of that early triumph, I have at least sampled most of the Pardus releases since then, and I’ve usually kept one stashed on a partition somewhere. Except for those early wireless days, though, Pardus has never been my go-to distribution. Early on, I tended to gravitate to Gnome and I also developed preferences in what applications I used. I consider KDE one of the major technological triumphs of the open source world, but the way I work is not always compatible with the way KDE presents itself.

Pardus has traditionally had only the KDE desktop, so I was surprised—and thrilled—to learn of the existence of an Xfce version. It is not marked “beta” (actually, later on I saw the B-word flash across the screen during boot) (and as I was doing a late draft, I noted that Pardus’s entry in my Grub–which is owned by the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS installation on Partition 1–now displays Pardus 2011.1 Beta), but there are some uncharacteristic roughnesses. For instance, the slide show that is provided for your entertainment whilst the files are being copied still points to KDE and makes an offhand reference to the “less feature-rich” Enlightenment and Xfce desktops. The title of this article is from the slide show: “Pardus experience may be summarized as a bright and powerful parade of free and open source softwares.” I just love that.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Foresight Linux, Xfce, and me

Gnome 3 looks to the future without fear. It even looks like the future, when everybody will have hooks implanted in their foreheads so they can look at their smartphones while they’re walking down the street. I’m getting old, and I’ve been kind of cranky for a while now. I don’t especially want to learn a new human interface. My phone is dull—borderline retarded, even—but I can usually make and receive calls on it, most of which are on the order of “this is Dr. Proctologist’s office confirming Edward’s appointment”. I don’t hate Gnome 3, but that’s because I don’t hate anything about Linux, and I don’t let myself hate anything in (or out of) Linuxland until I’ve used it for a couple of weeks, and I’m not a hateful sort of person anyway, and I haven’t managed to find the time to use Gnome 3 very much yet.

But for the time being, I had heard some good things about the new Xfce 4.8, and I wondered if it might be more Gnomey than Gnome 3. I installed three Xfce-based distros: The Xfce version of Foresight Linux 2.5, a “testing” Xfce mix of Pardus 2011, and Beta 1 of Xubuntu 11.04. One of Foresight’s developers posted an announcement on Bruno’s All Things Linux saying the alpha was out. I didn’t have much else going on that weekend, so I installed it on the “play” computer. I liked it, so I installed the real deal a day or two after it came out.

Many Penguinistas have probably never heard of Foresight Linux, but to me it’s an old friend. The “play” computer actually came with a very early version (1.2, I think) preinstalled. I had some trouble with it—some of which, in retrospect, was because it had a newer version of Gnome, but some of which was a certain instability. I eventually plowed it under and installed something else, which kinda brings new meaning to the term “old friend”, if you think about it. I kept meaning to give it another try, but new releases were few and far between, and it fell out of my mind.


Installation was Spartan but speedy. The interface is kind of gloomy, or maybe “aged” is more apt. It isn’t a curses-based interface (though there is one of those available, as will be demonstrated shortly), but it is rather colorless. It worked, though. The only substantive criticism I would make is in the bootloader installation. In one screen, you are able to choose between Grub and Syslinux, but if you want to avoid the defaults—and I wanted to install Grub on the Foresight partition—you have to choose to go to another screen, and I wasn’t sure that the two screens synchronized. They do, and everything is cool, but people who worry about wiping out existing Grubs, and/or don’t know how to restore a Grub, and/or never heard of Syslinux, might not like it.

(Later on, I installed the 32-bit version on the laptop, and was dropped to the text installation module with a message that Anaconda, the installer, couldn’t load VESA. The text installer was as usable as the graphical one, and not really that different. I don’t know if being dropped into text mode was because of some subtle difference between the 32- and 64-bit versions, or if Foresight had a perceptual problem between the two video cards, both of which are undistinguished Intels.)

One thing about the installation: it is fast. Ungodly fast. I didn’t time it, but it’s easily the fastest installation from DVD I’ve ever done, and beat most CD-ROM installations, too. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments