Posted by: linuxmoose | August 14, 2011

WattOS R4 – An alternative to Lubuntu

I have always been interested in lighter weight desktops, and having a laptop I also am interested in saving power and maximizing battery life. WattOS promises both of these by offering a Lxde desktop. It’s also based off of Ubuntu 11.04, so it is up to date and has a great amount of packages.

I do all of my testing in Virtualbox for lack of a spare machine to install to. I dedicated one gigabyte of RAM to Virtualbox for testing out WattOS. Booting from the iso image took two minutes and two seconds, which isn’t too long of a time, but I have certainly seen better. Still, it was soon up and running with the lxde desktop. The desktop has a nice silver colored panel and a wallpaper with some sort of insect clinging to a blade of grass. The icon theme is the ever popular Faenza, and the Openbox theme is the default for Lxde, which goes by the name of Onyx. The GTK theme is Clearlooks, which is simple but looks nice with pretty much any setup. The desktop is fast, and did not slow down noticeably even when I ran nearly every pre-included program, something that can’t be said about many distributions.

Installing WattOS took 12 minutes and 58 seconds, which is quick enough that all but the most impatient users will be able to wait for it’s completion, but still slow enough that I recommend grabbing a book or something to pass the time, instead of staring at the progress bar like I did. Rebooting from the installed system took one minute and ten seconds, which is fairly slow but not slow enough that I’m going to complain. After all, it does boot. The system, once installed, takes up 2.3 gigabytes of hard disk space. The included applications are as follows:

Accessories:

KeePassX
Leafpad
LXTerminal
Xarchiver

Graphics:

Document Viewer
Fotoxx

Internet:

Chromium
FileZilla
Sylpheed
Transmission
Wicd

Office:

Abiword
Gnumeric

Sound & Video:

Alsamixergui
Audacious
VLC

In my opinion that is a fairly well rounded variety of applications, particularly for a lightweight distribution. If anything else is needed, it can almost certainly be found in Ubuntu’s extensive repositories.

All in all I really liked WattOS R4. It was fast, looked good and was fairly full featured. I really have no way of proving whether or not it uses any less power than any other lightweight system, but it probably uses significantly less power than say, a KDE distro. I would recommend WattOS as a good alternative for Lubuntu, if anyone is looking for one, or just as a good Lxde system in general. If you would like to find out more, WattOS’s website is at http://www.planetwatt.com/.

Screenshots:

 

Recently I have been pondering the always recurrent problem of desktop environments and window managers. What with the advent of Gnome 3 and Unity the old ways of using panels and the like appear to be fading into the past. I love the freedom that Linux provides, and that anyone capable of programming it can create a new desktop environment according to what they think will work. I actually quite like both Gnome 3 and Unity, and have experienced none of the instability that others have with them. Still, I find them slow to use and far more reliant on a good computer than necessary. And so, while this has been done countless times before I shall try to detail several ways to get back the older style desktop and hopefully use less resources than those more elaborate setups.

LXDE: LXDE is a light environment with the traditional layout. It does not have that much customizability, but it is perfect if you just want a simple, easy to use and complete environment. LXDE uses the Openbox window manager, so any themes for Openbox will work in LXDE. Many pieces of LXDE will also work in other environments, and are available in individual packages. LXPanel is a very useful panel as it contains an automatically updating menu. LXAppearance can manage GTK themes, icon themes, fonts and, with a plugin, Openbox themes. PCManFm is a light file manager although I prefer Thunar. Leafpad is a light text editor, and LXTerminal is a good terminal.

Xfce: Xfce is a more complete replacement for Gnome 2.X, although it is still missing some features. There are some nice xfwm themes, but Metacity themes often look better. Xfce 4.8 can now use Alacarte to edit it’s menus and, with the help of xfapplet, can use many Gnome applets such as Dockbarx and MintMenu. Xfwm contains it’s own compositor, making Xfce great for those who want to use Docky or AWN without Compiz. Xfce is admittedly not as light as it once was, but it is still lighter than Gnome 2 and is a suitable replacement.

Openbox/Fluxbox/PekWM/Blackbox/Sawfish: All of these window managers are usable alone, some more than others. However, with the addition of a few programs they can be used as a much lighter alternative to a full desktop environment. Setting the wallpaper can be done with Feh or Nitrogen depending on whether you want to have a GUI switcher (Nitrogen) or not. Older versions of PCManFm can manage both the desktop icons and the wallpaper, or you could set up Idesk or ROX Filer (also a great light file manager) to handle the icons. A panel without a menu can be gotten using BMpanel2, Tint2 or Pypanel if one wants to use the right click menu (although Sawfish does not provide one) or with Perlpanel, Qtpanel, Xfce4-panel or Lxpanel if you want a menu. Conky is a very themeable information display that draws to the desktop. Gmrun provides a run dialog, or one could use Demu (be certain to assign dmenu_run to a keyboard shortcut), which provides a different approach at a menu. Stalone tray is a standalone systray for those who don’t want a full panel. In order to build a full environment out of all of this just research what programs you want, download them and add them to a startup file for whatever window manager you are using. Then just log in to the chosen wm.

Icewm/JWM: Icewm and JWM both provide panels with a systray, a clock, a pager, a window list and a menu. IceWM is also capable of managing the wallpaper and is compatible with several (outdated) control panels written specifically for it. They are also both themeable and have editable menus, although one needs to use text files to do it.

Other options: KDE 3 and 4 both use the single panel layout, although I have never really liked either of them and thus know next to nothing about them. It should be fairly simple though. Enlightenment (E17) is nearly a full desktop environment, although it’s a little unconventional, it’s also a great and improving project. Gnome 2 can also still be used, although it is now unmaintained and there will be no more updates. One final option is to use Gnome Shell Frippery, which is a set of extensions for Gnome 3 that adds features such as an applications menu, a window list, a pager, and shifting the clock to the right side of the top panel. All of this makes it look essentially like Gnome 2. The overlay that appears when you move the mouse to the top left of screen is still there, however.

That just about wraps up what I have to say about Linux desktops at this time. Hope that I’ve been helpful, enjoy!

Posted by: linuxmoose | July 2, 2011

Now Powered by Simply MEPIS 11

Firstly, sorry about the lack of posts recently. I kind of function on a post-when-I’m-not-doing-anything-else schedule. Recently, doing anything else has involved, at least computer wise, breaking yet another Ubuntu based installation. This time it was Netrunner, which is a shame as it looked quite nice from what I saw. It was probably my fault. Anyway, I have never actually given KDE a fair shot. I like GTK a bit more, particularly because it is used in more than one environment. Netrunner’s implementation showed me that KDE 4 could actually be quite simple to use and of course, nice to look at.

So I wanted to keep trying out KDE, but also to escape an Ubuntu base and the instability it brings (at least in my experience, yours may very well be different). This left me with many options. Fedora, Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, OpenSuse, Sabayon, Calculate and Salix all offer KDE desktops, among others. MEPIS, Chakra and Pardus are also great devoted KDE distributions. Still, I wanted stability without losing the package variety I am accustomed to from Ubuntu so I opted for the only Debian stable based distro out of those, MEPIS 11.

Previously I had issues booting MEPIS on my laptop. Something to do with my Intel graphics chip. However, thanks to a post from a fellow blogger (I forget who, sorry) I found a solution, which is to add xdrvr=intel confx to the GRUB screen on the live cd when it appears. Thanks for that, and sorry that I don’t remember where I got that tip from.

So, having installed MEPIS I was digging around their wiki for lack of anything else to do and found, to my delight, that MEPIS has a community repository. That allows me to easily get some software, such as my favorite music manager and qt application Clementine (you really should check it out if you haven’t. It has the feature set of Banshee without the mono and gtk requirements).

Having used MEPIS for a few days now I can officially say that it is as stable, nice looking, and easy to use as it is said to be. So, if you want a Debian based distribution, or a KDE distribution or just a good distribution in general I say that you should definitely try Simply MEPIS 11.

Posted by: linuxmoose | June 11, 2011

Review of Sabayon 5.5 Xfce

Sabayon, despite being in the top ten on Distrowatch, isn’t as publicized as other popular distributions. Xfce is my desktop of choice, so I thought that I would review the Xfce version of Sabayon 5.5, the newest edition.

I tested Sabayon in Virtualbox with 1 gigabyte of RAM. It booted from the iso image in 3 minutes 33.2 seconds. This seemed slow to me, but I really have no comparison. I think Ubuntu booted from cd this slowly, but I really don’t have any evidence on this. Anyway, it was slow. Once I reached the Xfce desktop I was dismayed to discover that there is no theming of Xfce, nor GTK. Checking the apearance section of the control panel I discovered that there is indeed nothing other then the default Xfce and GTK themes included. I don’t really understand this as the Gnome and KDE editions are quite heavily themed with very dark colors. Perhaps this is because the Gnome and KDE version are the main ones. Regardless, I found it irritating and it kind of put me off of the distribution from the start. The wallpaper selection is good, if you can find it. The wallpapers are all stored in /usr/share/backgrounds/.

The live envirnment was quite speedy, which was a good thing. The software selection is as follows:

Web Browser: Midori 0.3.2
No E-Mail cient
Xfburn
Xchat
No media player
No music manager
Abiword
Ristresso Image Viewer
Xarchiver
Thunar
Leafpad
Entropy Store

Plus a bunch of Xfce stuff. I was quite disappointed with the software selection. I have zero idea why a music manager was neglected, although it is excusable as lightweight music managers are rare. A media player’s absence, however, is pretty much inexcusable. There are plenty of candidates: Vlc, Mplayer, Totem, Xfmedia, Parole, and Whaawmp are ones that I can think of off the top of my head, there are probably many more that I don’t know of. Sill, one of those should have been suitable. There is also no e-mail client, although I didn’t mind that as I always end up uninstalling and E-Mail clients preincluded.

The package manager is the Entropy Store. It was slow, and the basic mode doesn’t provide all of the normal options found in a package manager. Switching it to advanced mode provided more options, and I don’t really see why it is not the default. Package selection is all right, but nothing like Debian’s. Still it should be suitable for most users.

The installation was easy to use, and I am fairly certain that Sabayon utilizes the Anaconda installer that is employed in Fedora. The install was quick, taking only 11 minutes and 38 seconds.

Rebooting into the newly installed system I noticed that it took quite a long time. Thinking that it may have been the first boot slowing things down I rebooted again and actually timed it. It took three minutes, which is slower then Windows 7 on a two year old laptop. Wondering what was taking so long I switched into verbose boot mode and noted that it actually looked good, which was a surprise. However I could find nothing that could be causing the abnormally slow boot.

One positive thing about Sabayon 5.5 Xfce was that there was only one crash. The crash was in XArchiver when I tried to open a .tar.gz file in order to attempt to make Xfce look a little better. This may very well be XArchiver’s fault though and I hope that the next version of Sabayon includes Squeeze or File Roller instead.

All in all I did not like Sabayon 5.5 Xfce. The interface was ugly and the boot times and application selection was pathetic. Entropy was slow and confusing. Admittedly I did not spend all that much time with Sabayon, but I did not enjoy the time I spent with it. The best part was the speed once it was installed but it wasn’t exceptionally fast either. I hope that Sabayon’s Gnome, Lxde and KDE editions are better because I was very disappointed by the Xfce version.

Posted by: linuxmoose | May 29, 2011

So, here is how the MPD server worked out

Ok, I got it working. After not finding MPD in the Slackware repository, I gave up on that and just installed Xubuntu 9.10. Finding MPD and installing it with FVWM-Crystal in order to have a lighter desktop then XFCE I then proceeded to configure it. Everything worked all right with only a little bit of head scratching and banging the monitor to get the image to come back. Once MPD was set up I put the laptop on the convenient shelf below my stereo and plugged it in. I then hooked up my 500 gigabyte hard drive with all of my music on it and ran MPD. It worked, both from my iPod and my laptop, and everything would be functioning properly, but I made the mistake of tampering when I didn’t need to. I tried to make a .Xinitric script that automatically ran tinywm and then MPD. I must have done something wrong, however, because I just got a waiting cursor and a blank screen. MPD was not running. After that, I gave up on the project, so my old laptop is once again sitting unused in my basement. Oh well. I’ll think up another use for it soon.

Posted by: linuxmoose | May 21, 2011

Restoring an old Dell Latitude with Wolvix

Hello again people of the Internet. So here is the scoop. I have an old laptop with 128 megabytes of RAM and a Pentium III. It was running Mandrake 7 when I first got it, which was my first experience with Linux. Of course, it not really being my computer and me being a lifelong Windows XP and Mac OS 9 user up to then, I had no idea what a .tar.gz file or a .rpm was, so I had almost no chance of using the computer properly. I actually tried to download Firefox 3.something, double clicked the .tar.gz file and waited for it to install, like it does on Windows. Obviously, that’s not how it works, and I doubt that Firefox would have installed on Mandrake 7 when Mandrake was already renamed Mandriva and the operating system was at least 3 releases outdated. Anyway, I still have this old computer. I want to use it as an mpd server, and as great as Puppy is, I really don’t understand how to use it for applications such as an mpd server (now I’m probably going to get a lot of comments telling me exactly how to run an mpd server in Puppy, but I’m not going to anyway). The next best performance was achieved by Wolvix in my tests, so it’s Wolvix to which I turned. First I had actually attempted to install Debian 6 netinstall, but it was telling me to wait 3 hours, so I gave up. Basically I want mpd to be easy to set up, and for the system to be fairly stable. I now have to do the following:
1. Install Wolvix
2. Copy my music collection onto my 500 gigabyte external hard drive
3. Plug my external drive into the laptop.
4. Set up mpd to read from the hard drive.
5. Start the mpd server.
6. Set my good laptop, my iPod touch and my iMac G5 to connect through PyMPD, MPoD and a good graphical MPD client for Mac OSX 10.3 respectively.
If anyone can suggest a good MPD client for Mac OSX 10.3 that would be great. I’ll post more information as the project progresses.

Posted by: linuxmoose | May 11, 2011

Fuduntu 14.9 – A semi review

A few days ago I remembered Fuduntu. I had been running Ubuntu 10.10, and, while I was enjoying the smoothness I’ve always had a bit of fear of Ubuntu and the way it tries to hide the command line. I have in the past attempted to run Fedora, Debian, Arch and even Slackware (as well as a ton of derivatives) but I always kept coming back to Ubuntu, mainly because of the fact that there is almost always a way to get a program you want, wether it’s through the repository, a ppa or a deb package. Anyway, I wanted to leave Ubuntu, especially with trying to avoid both Gnome 3 and Unity and the power problems I was having. I was digging through the days new Linux news at tuxmachines as usual when I found an article on Fuduntu. I recalled the name and that it was often compared with Fusion, another Fedora based distro. I wound up on the Fuduntu website where I discovered, much to my delight, that Fuduntu had some sophisticated power management utilities. Overjoyed, I hit download and proceeded to wait for several hours as I downloaded the over one gigabyte file on my mediocre Internet. Once it finally finished I downloaded Unetbootin, plugged in my trusty 2 gigabyte USB drive that I use solely for making live USBs of Linux distributions of and rebooted. The bootsplash was simple, but pretty and it booted moderately fast for a live USB, although having used xpud I’ve certainly seen faster. Once the distro booted and loaded the typical Gnome 2 desktop I noted the pretty AWN dock and the preloaded Compiz setup. The gtk theme was also nice, and the Faenza Cupertino icons were of course wonderful. Pleased with both the configuration and the speed I proceeded to install. All went well as it always has for me with Anaconda and within half an hour I had rebooted and was Ubuntu free once again. After restoring all of my settings and installing Pidgin I set about the interface. I think this is the first Linux distribution I’ve used yet that I didn’t change everything immediately with. Still, I did wind up removing the AWN in favor if DockbarX in the top panel. I also set up a Pekwm configuration as usual, which was no harder or easier then normal here. All in all Fuduntu is one of the best Linux distributions that I have ever used, and in my opinion is right up there with PcLinuxOS, CrunchBang and Salix for my favorite Linux distribution out there. If you need a distribution to try, I highly recommend Fuduntu 14.9.

Posted by: linuxmoose | May 2, 2011

Hello Internet

Hello to everyone who might read this. I have been meaning to start a blog in order to talk about Linux for a while now, so here it is. Hopefully I’ll update it once in a while, but don’t count on regular posts or anything.
I think that I’ll talk about window managers and desktop environments for my first post here, as they seem to be on people’s minds a lot recently thanks to the releases of Gnome 3 and Unity. Firstly, you should know that while I like my windows to have buttons and the like I am more inclined to use lightweight window managers such as Openbox or Pekwm over KDE of Gnome, although I will certainly use a heavier environment as my laptop has three gigabytes of RAM and can certainly handle it. Anyhow, on to the actual article.
First on the list is good old Gnome 2.X. I have spent a lot of time using Gnome 2.X, and I have cone to enjoy it’s many configuration utilities and plugins to the panel. When I’m not using Gnome 2.X I often miss the Panflute and DockbarX plugins to the panel. Gnome 2.X is (or was) the most popular desktop environment and was default in some major distributions, such as Ubuntu and Fedora and was an officially supported desktop in others such as OpenSUSE, Mandriva and PcLinuxOS. While I often preferred to use a lighter option Gnome 2.X was one of the first environments I tried and is still one of my favorites. Hopefully it will be maintained in the same way Trinity maintains KDE 3.
Gnome 3 is the successor to Gnome 2.X and introduces a whole new style of desktop. It’s mixed reviews and different approach (I still miss Mac OS 9’s interface, so I’m kind of old fashioned) made me reluctant to give it a try, but eventually I broke down and installed Fedora 15 beta, which was surprisingly stable. Anyway, I found it to be pretty, about as fast as Gnome 2 and usable, although I severely missed my menus and easier window switching. Still, I found it usable and logical enough if one is not attempting to get used it it from the older style of menus and taskbars.
Next up is KDE 4. I have never been a KDE fan, although I can’t tell you why. Maybe it’s because my first experience with Linux was with a horribly mangled KDE 2 setup, maybe it’s just because I’m crazy about my CPU usage, or I could just miss my GTK themes. Whatever the reason I have never given KDE a fair chance even though it is the second most popular desktop environment. The few times I have used it I have found it nice, but confusing.
Xfce is my favorite of the desktop environments, and with Xfce 4.8’s new features it is almost the perfect Gnome 3 alternative if you miss Gnome 2.X(at least to me). Xfce comes with some configuration utilities, although not as many as Gnome 2.X or KDE 4. It also has a reputation of being lighter then the two major desktops, which I like. It is default in many distributions, my favorite of which are Salix and Wolvix.
Lxde is the last popular desktop environment, and is the lightest of them all. While I like Lxde, it sort of feels like Openbox with some added programs such as Lxpanel, Lxterminal and Lxsession to me, particularly since I successfully pieced together an Lxde and Pekwm setup. I find that Lxde’s customization options are severely limited, but if one does not care about that sort of thing, it is a nice and fast environment, and one of my preferred ones.
Enlightenment 17 (commonly called E17) is also a fairly popular environment, although weather to call it a desktop environment or a window manager I am not sure. I think that it is technically a window manager, but it is pretty much self contained and could easily be called a full desktop environment. E17 has a lot of eye candy for being as light as it is, as while I have not been brave enough to try it on my old hardware it is supposed to be quite quick. I do not particularly like E17, but I have found it to be quite pleasant in systems such as Bodhi, PcLinuxOS and Macpup.
Pekwm is my window manager of choice. It is quick, simple and the configuration files make sense to me. There are a number of pretty themes, and I truly can not figure out why Pekwm is not more popular. If you like/use Openbox, Fluxbox or something else like them I highly recommend Pekwm.

Openbox is quite possibly the most popular window manager and comes with several configuration tools such as obconf and obmneu. While I feel that it’s themes are not quite the match for Fluxbox or Pekwm and certainly not Emerald, they are nice enough and it is certainly a good window manager, perhaps the best for newbies with older computers. Its implementation in Crunchbang (#!) is certainly wonderful.

Fluxbox is also exceedingly popular  for a window manager, and comes with it’s own built in panel and several utilities. I got a really nice impression of Fluxbox when I used it, and I felt that it was quite newbie friendly as well. Some of it’s themes are quite nice, such as the ones on tenr.de. Tech is especially nice in my opinion.

While there are several other window managers I would like to make a note of, such as Icewm, Fvwm and  WindowMaker I feel that this post has gone on long enough. If you noticed the lack of Unity, it’s because I haven’t actually used it in it’s current form, so I couldn’t talk about it. Anyway, I’ll try to end my tangent and post this. Enjoy!

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