Featured Comments: Week of 2012 December 16

There was one post that got a comment this past week, so I am reposting that one.

Done with 5th Semester!

Reader Mechatotoro said, "Good work, my friend! It's great to hear you also made it through this intense year. Enjoy your free time--you earned it!"

Thanks to him for that comment during the past week. This coming week, I will be spending time with family out of town, so I don't anticipate posting much until after new year's day. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting! Also, happy past-doomsday, happy holidays, and happy new year!


Done with 5th Semester!

Wow. This semester was longer and far more difficult than any previous one here. Most of that is courtesy 8.13, though 8.231 and 14.04 were certainly contributing factors. Final exams were also fairly challenging as well this time. My only regret is that my UROP somewhat fell by the wayside as a consequence. I really enjoyed learning what I did in my classes, and the experiences I gained were immensely rewarding in the end, but I am so glad that I am done with it now. Right now, I'm just focusing on going home in a few hours and spending quality winter break time with family and friends. I will be back over IAP to continue my UROP. After that, in the spring semester, I intend to take fewer classes, because I realize that I may have bitten off a little more than I could chew this semester. Anyway, happy holidays everyone!


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 December 9

There was one post that got a handful of comments this past week, so I will try to repost most of those.

Review: Linux Mint 14.1 "Nadia" MATE + GNOME 3/Cinnamon

An anonymous reader said, "It's too bad you didn't get to experience Mint 14 with Cinnamon. I have it running on both a Pentium E5300 desktop with Nvidia 440 GT, and on a 6-year-old laptop with Intel C2D T7200 with Intel 945GM integrated video, and it runs great on both."
Another anonymous commenter had this to say: "Cinnamon now comes with Nemo instead of Nautilus. I like it, but I am o so missing the ability to have scripts and actions from within Nemo. In my opinion it was made default file browser too early."
Reader ArcherB shared this experience: "I just installed MATE on top of my standard Ubuntu installation. Works great without the stability issues of Mint. Tried Cinnamon, but, like the author ran across, it was simply not stable enough for me. It would launch and run for a while, but then weirdness would crop up. It would either lock up, "tear", or certain aspects of it would fail. MATE works fine for me, so I'll stick with that and KDE."
Commenter Jonc said, "I've run into no stability problems with Mint 14.4 Cinnamon. Or any other problems. One of the pleasures of Cinnamon is that it requires little customization, unlike many other distributions that tout their configurability but release products that are ugly and disfunctional in their default state. I've found MATE to be slow after using it on Mint, Fedora and OpenSuse. The transitition from Gnome is incomplete (Check the Startup Apps: several instances of MATE processes running in parallel with their Gnome equivalents). I also wonder if the resources behind MATE are enough to sustain it and if it can make a successful transition to GTK3. If I wanted to run a Gnome 2 desktop, I'd go with CentOS. Now, that does require a good bit of tweaking to get a good looking usable desktop, but it is fast and very reliable."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I have final exams, but after that is finished, I'll probably have a post out looking back on this semester along with possibly another review. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Linux Mint 14.1 "Nadia" MATE + GNOME 3/Cinnamon

Wow. It's been a really long time since I've had the time to sit down and do a review like this. The reason for that is because this semester has been incredibly busy in pretty much every way, and today was finally the last day to turn in problem sets and other assignments. Now, I can finally do this review.

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
Linux Mint needs no introduction here. However, one thing to note is that this is the first release since version 4.X "Daryna" to have a version number with a digit after a decimal point. The reason for that was that some sneaky bugs got past final-release testing, so they needed to be fixed and the ISO file needed to be released as an updated image. Right now, the editions with MATE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon are out in final form, so those are the ones I am going to be reviewing today. For reference, the KDE and Xfce are coming soon, as those already have release candidates out now.

I tested this as usual on a live USB system made with MultiSystem. I did not test the installation. Follow the jump to see how this fares relative to my current preferred version 13 LTS "Maya".


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 November 11

There hasn't been a post featuring comments in a while because there hasn't been any post that has gotten comments in a while...until this week. This past week, there was one post that got a handful of comments, so I'll repost most of those.

Long-Term Review: openSUSE 12.2 KDE

An anonymous reader shared, "Regarding this: the YaST2 GUI package manager and updater would not work as it would complain about PackageKit... OpenSUSE uses PackageKit, because of the KDE appstore application(called Apper). This constantly looks for updates and intervenes with Yast (very annoying). The solution is simple: remove Apper as soon as possible after every OpenSUSE install. Personally, I never encountered the problems with Okular you described."
Another anonymous commenter had this open question, "long time ago , last time i tried a Desktop linux, i did some simple test, using kde. I Opened a remote SMB share and play a 100 Mb avi. What i had : the system told me it was coping the entire file in /tmp and after that it was going to open it. It did 'not work and copy the entire file in the local system is quite a silly thing. Working on a big company it happen many times a day to open file in remote SMB shares ( linux , Netapp , readyNAs and others. ) If this thing will not be fixed linux on the desktop of a big company can't go much further IMHO. Stefano . Italy."
Yet another anonymous reader provided a response to that: "Next time, try using an application which uses the .gvfs system like Nautilus or from within gnome / xfce and NOT kde. Then you will not need it to be copied first and then played."
Still another anonymous commenter said, "You can remove Apper, but what I've done (with both openSUSE 12.1 and 12.2) is to simply stop Apper Monitor from starting up (Main Menu > Favorites > Configure Desktop > System Administration > Startup and Shutdown > Service Manager -> uncheck the box next to "Apper Monitor"). Then, I think you'll need to restart the session. After doing that, I have had no problems simply using YaST Online Update Also, I read this comment at DistroWatch -- if you don't remove or disable Apper, you may want to check to see if this solves the problem: "The package kit problem can be solved by editing the list of sources. The DVD is left enabled and package kit keeps looking for it." Besides that issue, openSUSE 12.2 looks very good after a couple of months on two different computers."

Thanks to all those who commented on that post. After the middle of this coming week, I will be home for Thanksgiving and will likely be busy with all the associated events there, meaning that I probably won't have much out this week. Also, if you look at the post from this past week, I've said that I probably won't be doing many distribution reviews until possibly IAP. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Long-Term Review: openSUSE 12.2 KDE

I did this long-term review on my normal UROP desktop computer with the 64-bit edition of the OS. Follow the jump to see how it fared. Also do note that there are more days logged because I intend to use it for about 60-80 full hours of work, which is the equivalent of 7-10 full days in the summer, though now I am working on a part-time basis as classes have started. Finally, for some reason Blogger decided to delete the content of what I had here, so everything up until "Day 2" is very much paraphrased from memory.


2012 Election

This is just a quick post that tomorrow is the 2012 election in the US. I have voted absentee from my home state. I know a lot of people who are apathetic about voting because they feel like in the face of large corporations and lobbyists, their votes don't mean much. I used to have an apathetic attitude like that too...until SOPA/PIPA got rejected. What I learned from that is that the people still matter; no matter how much corporations may support a particular agenda and no matter how much it seems like a local or state politician has been bought out by special interests, if people like us bombard them with letters to support a particular position that we want, the politicians will always come cowering to us rather than the lobbyists because it is our votes in an election that matter at the end of the day. In short, your vote does count, and democracy is not dead, so get out and vote!


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 October 7

There haven't been any "Featured Comments" posts in the last few weeks due to the general dearth of posts in that time stemming from my busy schedule. There was one post this past week that got a handful of comments, so I will repost all of those.

Review: Cinnarch 2012.10.01

Reader Alexandre Filgueira, who is the lead developer of Cinnarch, said, "Hi, [...] Thanks for the review. It was very interesting. I wrote down some things that you said to improve the distro I will include a link to your review in our monthly stats."
Commenter Greg shared, "I accidently messed up my install by editing the menu while trying to move my WINE app from Other to WINE submenu. I unclicked my app off the other menu and my screen started flashing and then got an error saying OOPS. So I couldn't log in anymore without this error. So I chroot into my install from the livecd, cleared my home folder and rebooted. My install went back to a more "default" Cinnamon. I have the show desktop back, the icons were the gnome icons, the menu had the widget instead of the Cinnarch logo. I like it. Also, I uninstalled files-bzr and installed nemo-fm. I think it's better because it gives more options, like a location bar, which I have a hard time living without."
Reader Eddie agreed: "Totally correct. Cinnamon is a work in progress. It's not bad now but still needs some polish. Just a checking it seems that the problems are more related to Cinnamon than Gnome3 and I do believe they are upstream problems as you stated. Anyway, nice review."
Commenter Denis Leukhin said simply, "Great review! Thanks."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I was intending to do a review for this coming week, but it didn't work out at all, so I won't be posting anything else about that. I probably won't have time for many other posts, as has become the norm this semester. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Cinnarch 2012.10.01

I haven't gotten the chance to do a review in a while. It's a long weekend, so I finally do have some more free time now, and I need to take a break from the otherwise endless stream of work, so I'm taking a look at Cinnarch now.

Cinnarch is a relatively new distribution on the scene. True to its name, it is based on Arch Linux and uses GNOME 3/Cinnamon as its primary DE. At first I figured that the packaging would be fairly stock, but as it turns out (and as you will see later in this post), there are a few other mild customizations present as well.

I tried this on a live USB using MultiSystem; I did not try the installation. To be honest, this is going to be more of a look at GNOME 3/Cinnamon in general rather than Cinnarch specifically as a distribution, though there may be certain things in the distribution affecting the experience of the DE. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Economic Thoughts About Chubby Pageant Toddlers

I haven't gotten a good time to write this until now, despite how short this will be. Anyway, before the semester got busy, I remember browsing around some YouTube videos, and before one of them started, I saw a longer version of the television advertisement for the show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo".

Like most people, I thought the show represented yet another new low in yet another new dimension of reality television. But then I also realized that this family is perfectly happy doing their own thing, while the TLC show executives are essentially manipulating them to gain viewers, and the family is doing this for TV only because they need the money that badly. That's worse!

So then I wondered about two economic possibilities. Given the multiplier effects present from consumption and investment in the economy, how would the growth of the US economy change if instead of spending as much money as they are on filming the antics of this family, the TLC show executives were to spend that much to help give this family and many others like it a decent education and steady jobs? Or, what would happen to the economy if instead of making a show that essentially mocks this family, TLC were to make a show specifically following this family in getting them a decent education and steady jobs? This way, when the show ends, even if the family ends up squandering all their money, they will still have steady paychecks coming in.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Anyway, I'm going to get back to...uh...my own education (i.e. the never-ending stream of problem sets and other classwork).


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 September 9

There was one post that got a handful of comments this past week, so I will repost a few of those.

Review: openSUSE 12.2 KDE

Reader DarkDuck shared, "Absolutely agree that the menu in OpenSuSE KDE version is too cluttered. This is valid for each KDE-based version of this OS, unfortunately."
Commenter alcalde said, "This is really a review of the live CD rather than the distro as such because the live cd is not identical to the full install. If you didn't have the opportunity to actually install the distro, you could have at least installed it into Virtualbox to get a better idea of the final product. Even then, the installer on the live CD isn't as full featured as the DVD (doesn't allow choosing which packages to install) and about 75% of OpenSUSE users install from the DVD rather than the CD according to the last time statistics were published on this. Regarding KDE submenus - this is an artifact of the live CD, because what you described is not present in a VirtualBox install. If you right-click over the KDE launcher and select "Application Launcher Settings", you can click on "Reduce Menu Depth" to prevent items being placed into submenus with only one entry. This is the default on install from the DVD; it must have been disabled on the live CD for some reason (bug?). [...] Other than that, a great overview of OpenSUSE 12.2. So far it seems a lot more stable than 12.1 (which I don't believe should have even been released when it was) and it also offers a lot of improvements users can see and appreciate, unlike the last release."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I don't have anything planned for this coming week, and of course due to the workload of the semester there may not be anything out for this coming week. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: openSUSE 12.2 KDE

It has been over 10 months since I reviewed openSUSE 12.1. Since then, version 12.2 has been released, so I am reviewing it now.

Main Screen + openSUSE Welcome Screen
In my review of openSUSE 12.1, I was unhappy with the fact that Skype and Google Talk would not work, especially given that they both worked in openSUSE 11.4. I want to see if those and other regressions have been fixed with version 12.2. Also, I see that the GNOME developers want to make their desktop regress further, so with few exceptions (like Pinguy OS), I will stay away from GNOME 3/Shell as much as possible; that is why I am only reviewing the KDE edition of openSUSE 12.2 today.

I did this review using a live USB system made with MultiSystem. I did not test the installation. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 September 2

There was only one post this past week that got a comment, and that itself was a "Featured Comments" post, ironically enough.

Featured Comments: Week of 2012 August 26

Reader Charlie had this bit of support: "I enjoy reading your blog for the reviews of distro's that I have never heard about. Its neat to hear about whats out there and one day I may find a better solution than my Ubuntu I use now. Thanks for all you do!"

Thanks to him (or her, perhaps) for commenting on that post this past week. This coming week, I intend to have a review out, but that will probably be all that will be out for a while. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Fifth Semester at College

Well, it has indeed happened. I am now a junior! Wait, what? When did this happen all of a sudden?
Classes start tomorrow, and this semester I'm taking 8.05 (Quantum Physics II), 8.13 (Experimental Physics I, also known as "J-Lab"), 8.231 (Physics of Solids), and 14.04 (Intermediate Microeconomic Theory); in addition, I am continuing my UROP from the summer. I'm most scared about J-Lab, because I've seen other friends take it in the past and I've seen how they have had essentially no time to do anything else (often even to the detriment of other classwork). Well, I'll see how it goes; while 4 classes and a UROP will be quite a time-crunch, I think I'll make it through OK. That said, this blog will probably see many fewer posts over the course of the semester. I guess I'll wait and see how that goes too.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 August 26

There was one post that got a whole bunch of comments, so I will repost a few of those.

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.0 Xfce

An anonymous reader said this in response to my question about Xfce RAM usage: "Debian Wheezy Xfce - 92 mb RAM".
Another anonymous commenter said, "Good distro,however; try to get cups to work with HP Officejet which will work on nearly any Debian distro".
Reader Phil Mulley had this to share: "I set up Manjaro (also after having read about it on DistroWatch) using VirtualBox and was very pleased with its performance. I tried both the XFCE and the Gnome (using Cinnamon) versions. The XFCE one is by far the best: I had some issues with the cinnamon one after a couple of system updates the update manager
stopped loading updates, but with exactly the same updates the XFCE version had no issues.  On the whole it was a very slick experience so kudos to the Manjaro people."
Commenter claudecat clarified, "Manjaro is interesting in that it is its own distro with its own repos and packages - some of which are "newer" than Arch's, which will lead to trouble if you try to change the mirrorlist to Arch and update from there. Bridge is a better choice if one is looking for a simpler way to install Arch. Manjaro adds more polish but is less Arch compatible."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I'm back on campus now and classes start this week; this semester is shaping up to be incredibly busy, so while I will have a post this week about classes, after that posts will become much more sporadic. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.0 Xfce

Main Screen + Xfce Menu
I was busy at home for the last two weeks with many people coming and going; plus, I never had any other reason to post much else. Well, now I'm into the last few days of my break at home before getting back on campus and there haven't been as many people coming and going, so I've gotten some time to do a review. On DistroWatch, I read of the release of Manjaro Linux 0.8.0, and while I initially didn't think about it further, I saw quite a few articles reviewing it and other press about it, which convinced me that I should review it as well. That is what I'm doing now.

Manjaro Linux is based on Arch Linux and primarily ships the Xfce desktop, though it also provides editions with KDE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon (as opposed to GNOME 3/Shell). It aims to retain most of the code simplicity and speed of Arch Linux while providing spruced-up desktop environments that are user-friendly. In that regard and in the DEs it provides (not just which ones, but also in which priority) it reminds me quite a bit of Bridge Linux, which I reviewed several months ago. As you may see, the differences don't end there (but I won't focus on that comparison too much because this is just supposed to be a review of Manjaro Linux).

I tested this using a live USB made with MultiSystem. On that note, I wanted to do this review yesterday, but I couldn't because I realized that since upgrading my installed system to Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, I hadn't installed MultiSystem again. It wasn't until today that I could find adequate and not confusing documentation on how to install MultiSystem on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" and its derivatives, because a lot of the other documentation was obsolete. Anyway, that went smoothly. Also, I didn't test the installation fully (though I will have a word to say about that near the end of the post). Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Samsung versus Apple

I wasn't planning on posting anything this week, but I've read a few news posts that Samsung has lost against Apple and must now pay $1 billion in damages for patent infringement. If this is indeed true (and I sincerely hope it isn't, because while I am not necessarily a Samsung fanboy, what Apple has done is beyond outrageous), this really gets my goat.
I hope Samsung appeals this. All of the arguments for why the case is ridiculous have been done to death, so I won't repeat them here. If this ruling stands even upon appeal after appeal, that'll basically mean that only Apple will control the smartphone market. But now Steve Jobs is gone, and I've noticed as a result that some of their new product releases haven't exactly been groundbreaking; plus, their new advertisements on TV (which I've been able to see since coming home for a short break) are pretty awful in their cheesiness and are nothing like what Steve Jobs would have put out there. So this means that the Apple-dominated smartphone market will stagnate. I'm going to guess that while the cult of Apple will keep drooling over every new product release, eventually regular people will wise up to the lack of innovation at Apple and stop buying said products. But while that would make it amusing for me to watch Apple fall in such a way, it won't change the fact that Apple's monopoly of the smartphone market is essentially codified in law. They have essentially set a nuclear strike on the smartphone market, so that if they should fail, so should everyone else.
Oh, who am I kidding? I'll stop prognosticating ridiculous scenarios and be satisfied with the fact that I have a perfectly functional LG dumbphone that can talk, text, and take pictures.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 August 5

There is no "Featured Comments" post for this past week because there were no posts that week, but the one for the previous week is this one because I was out of town last weekend and couldn't write this post at that time.

Review: Stella 6.3

An anonymous reader supported the puns: "I know what you mean about Tennessee Williams, I been perfecting my Marlin Brando Stanley Kowalski impression since I first heard the name. I know there's a pun headline there somewhere, but I just can't seem to capture my 'Stel-la!' impression in text."
Commenter crabbos said, " This one sounded interesting until you mentioned it has 2 panels. That just killed any interest I had right there. Still waiting for a look at Voyager too hehe ^_^"
Reader Nux, who is also the developer of Stella, had this to say: "Thanks for trying out Stella. Glad you liked the name, at least. :-) The remix is intentionally kept simple, I didn't want to create the new **insert random ubuntu remix here**, I just wanted Centos (EL) fans a hassle free installation, hence just a few small modifications here and there as you noticed: - nautilus uses the browser mode by default - the default fonts differ - totem should load subs automatically and also resume playing files (a la smplayer) - Bluecurve: this theme was one of the graphical landmarks of RedHat linux, old redhatters know. Using it was my own way to give credit, if you like, to this great distro. I also happen to think it's one of the most beautiful themes, but that's just me. :-) * And a tip for those who have it installed: add yourself to the "wheel" group and you will be able to use sudo and install/update software (via gui or pkcon) without the root password."
An anonymous commenter had this bit of support for a decision in the distribution: "I actually like the bluecurve theme a lot and hope you will continue to atleast have that as one of the optional themes even if you decide to change the main theme."

Reflection: 2012 Summer UROP

Reader Chenyu Zhao said, "Scheme is great! You must read SICP if you haven't already: http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/"

Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE

Commenter Erno had this experience to share: "I found Amorok as painfully bad working with Mint 13 KDE. So i uninstalled it and replaced it with much better working Banshee. Perhaps one of the reasons might have been my old cd/dvd device. However with Banshee in both Lubuntu, Mint 13 MATE and Mint 13 KDE it has worked very well."
An anonymous reader asked in response, "Curious to know how you got Banshee to work in Mint 13 KDE. Tried it and 1st time it dissapeared. Restarted the app and it crashed again.
I have a Sony Vaio VPCF234FD which reverts to HDMI audio at the slightest provocation and Amarok keep switching phonon to the HDMI audio (quite annoying), So for me it has been back to good 'ol Gmusicbrowser. Frankly I'd like to know your secret to make Banshee work in KDE."

Commenter crabdog also responded, "I've become rather fond of Clementine of late. So much so that it's now my default music player in Windows 7 as well as my various Linux distros. As for Mint, I've tried all flavors of Maya and didn't find anything compelling enough for me to stick with it. I'm currently running Voyager 12.04 xfce, a Zorin 6 respin and BigLinux KDE."
Reader Rudy Hartmann shared this tip: "I had a few crashes in Linux Mint 13 KDE too. I think it has better polish than Kubuntu also. But I upgraded Mint 13 KDE to KDE 4.9 and all the bad stuff stopped happening. sudo apt-add-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports -y sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get dist-upgrade Try it! Works good!"

Thanks to all those who commented on the previous week's posts. There were no posts this past week as I was relaxing with family and friends at home. That will continue to be true for this coming week and the following week, meaning that posts may or may not happen during that time. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE

I recently reviewed Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE, and I was quite pleased with it. My long-term review of the Xfce edition just ended, so this one will go for another 8 days. This will be the last such long-term review of the summer, because after this I am going home and won't be back until just before the semester starts, at which point I probably will not be able to continue this.


Reflection: 2012 Summer UROP

The long-term reviews I have been doing this summer have been on the desktop that I have been using for my UROP work this summer. Most of my thoughts about that have basically been along the lines of "UROP work went fine today". But I've realized that I haven't properly discussed what I've done this summer, I figured that I should share a little bit about that today because tomorrow is my last day here for the summer before I go home for a few weeks' break.

Let us start with the basics. A dielectric is essentially any material medium that changes the average speed at which light propagates due to the interaction of the electromagnetic field with the atoms and molecules constituting the dielectric. A photonic crystal is a periodic array of dielectric, and this periodicity can be found in 1, 2, or 3 dimensions. The photonic crystals that I was modeling this summer are in 2 dimensions; specifically, they are rectangular slabs of dielectric material with cylindrical holes of air/vacuum punched through the center along one axis. These sorts of periodic structures are special because they have certain bands of natural resonant frequencies at which the electromagnetic field is very well supported and other bands of frequencies where the field basically can't exist in the structure at all. This allows for very efficient manipulation of light at various frequencies. For instance, last fall, I was looking at optimizing photonic crystals to absorb the most light at various angles of incidence given a range of frequencies. This summer, I have been characterizing the electromagnetic energy flux from the photonic crystal structure that I mentioned before as a function of frequency and wavevector; the energy flux comes from localized current sources embedded in the dielectric material, and this models spontaneous emission. Such spectra should and do show peaks near the resonant frequencies. I was working closely with a postdoctoral associate and graduate student who had previously determined the functional dependence of the flux spectrum analytically and verified it experimentally. I was essentially providing a third method of verification through numerical analysis in MEEP. I have also asked the graduate student with whom I work about the ultimate applications of these flux spectrum modeling techniques, and the closest thing I have gotten to a good answer is that many macromolecules look like photonic crystals locally, so knowing the resonant frequencies and wavevectors for the flux spectrum makes imaging said macromolecules much easier.

In the process, I've become much more accustomed to using MEEP. I'm no longer scared of Scheme despite my C++/JAVA programming background; in fact I'm almost used to using Scheme. I've gotten a better handle on the tricks of the Linux terminal. And this was the first time that I was able to have a good level of appreciation for what I was doing, because this was the first full term that I was able to UROP after the lecture in my 8.04 (Quantum Physics I) class in 2012 May about photonics. Overall, I would say that my UROP was a success in that I really enjoyed every bit of it!


Review: Stella 6.3

Main Screen
A couple weeks ago on an unrelated review, I remember a commenter asking if I could review a Linux distribution called Stella. It seemed interesting, but I didn't think much of it until the last few days when its release of version 6.3 made news on several major Linux news sites. At that point I knew I should check it out, so here it is. (Also, if Tennessee Williams were alive today, I think that "A Linux Distribution Named 'Stella'" would have made a great title for one of his plays. Yes, I really did have to make that pun, and it won't be the last time either.)

A lot of distributions that I come across that aim like Stella to be more user-friendly than their respective parent distributions are based on Ubuntu. There are quite a few based straight on Debian. There are also a handful based on Slackware, Arch, or Gentoo, which are all generally not very easy for new Linux users to use. And there are a few based on Fedora, though I feel like the only big-name one that's still around is Kororaa (and even that was originally based on Gentoo, so it hasn't been based on Fedora for that long — plus, Fuduntu forked from Fedora a while ago, while I haven't heard anything about Fusion recently). But until now, I don't think I've ever heard of a distribution that aims to make straight-up RHEL/CentOS more user-friendly, and that is exactly what Stella aims to do, so I think it may be unique in that regard. This is a great thing, because while I don't think CentOS is particularly unfriendly to general consumers, I do think it is generally geared more towards enterprise desktop and server settings. But CentOS has a reputation of being absolutely rock-solid, and this is made better by the fact that every CentOS release is supported for 7 years (and RHEL provides an additional 3 years of support to paying customers on top of that, if I remember correctly). So that seems like an ideal starting point upon which to build a user-friendly desktop.

I tested Stella 6.3 as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. (I tested the 32-bit edition because I happily have a new installed system, so I'm not looking for anything anymore so I don't really need the 64-bit edition. This also means that as before, from now on all reviews are of the 32-bit edition unless I specify otherwise.) Follow the jump to see how Stanley reacts. (Yes, I did that pun again.)


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 July 29

There was no "Featured Comments" post last week because comments on the previous week's posts didn't come until after that week was done. There were two posts that got a couple comments each, so I will repost all of those.

Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

Reader Bernard Victor suggested, "Have you tried Xubuntu. I am using it and find it very good. Even able to change to Nautilus from Thunar. All my sound and video files play without any tuning, using either VLC or Gmusicbrowser. Rhythmnbox is also available."

My Installation of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

Commenter Innocent Bystander said, "Someone trying to discover the installation of LM14 XFCE would have hard time to learn anything from this article", later clarifying, "Sorry I meant LM13 XFCE. In the article "Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce" http://dasublogbyprashanth.blogspot.ca/2012/07/long-term-review-linux-mint-13-lts-maya.html There was too much emphasis about the attempt to replace MDM by LightDM. Although I understand your motive but I was expecting to see if LM13 XFCE is worth a move, in terms of software and "habits" compatibilities. Speaking of MDM, I wonder why a "friendly & design focus" distro like LinuxMint would opt for the inconvenient MDM. Do you know why?"

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week will see the publication of the last long-term review of this summer. In addition, I will have a normal review out along with possibly a second (if the release of that [second] distribution happens this week), and I'll probably have another random post about the summer in general. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


My Installation of Linux Mint 13 "Maya" Xfce

Old: [Customized] Mozilla Firefox + Desktop Cube
Well folks, this is it. After many months of looking for a suitable replacement for my setup of Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME, I have found one and have followed through with it. There were two reasons why I wanted to make this upgrade/switch: I wanted to stay up-to-date and take advantage of the support promised in the latest LTS release, and I needed to either reinstall my current OS or install something else because my present installation of Linux Mint stopped recognizing my laptop's ethernet card when I accidentally pulled out the power adapter cord from the laptop about 2 months ago. I got by with wireless Internet, but it was painful, and it had become so painful in the last few weeks that I couldn't stick with it for much longer. The following is a log of my experience installing and customizing Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce on my laptop. As of the moment that I write this sentence, this will simultaneously be the last post that I write with the old version of Linux Mint and the first that I write with the new version. I have to confess that I've become somewhat attached to the way that I've customized the old version (and that's what made finding a suitable replacement so difficult), but given that it looks like I can do the same things in the new version, I eagerly anticipate having the new version installed. Follow the jump to see what happens.


Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

If you've read my very recent review of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, you'll know how pleased I was with it. Given that my latest long-term review of Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" just ended, I needed something new, so this was going to be it. Follow the jump to see what this is like over the course of 7-10 days.


Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE

Main Screen + Kickoff
About a week ago, I reviewed the Xfce edition of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya". While I was quite pleased with how that turned out, I held off on going ahead and installing it because I wanted to try the KDE edition as well. Now that is here, so I'm reviewing it.

I tried the 64-bit edition as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see if it could be worthy of installation on the hard drive of my laptop.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 July 15

There were two posts this past week that got several comments each, so I'll repost a few from each.

Long-Term Review: Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin"

An anonymous reader suggested, "Please can you try Mageia 2, the KDE edition. Use the livecd version and have a great time with it. Only problem is mupen64plus is not in the repos, but you can make package request or try out mupen64plus from Mandriva Cooker. Should work without any issue. I have used many KDE edition pass this year and Mageia 2 is the best of them all."
Commenter avelinus also suggested, "Please, can you try Sabayon 9, the KDE edition. I am very pleased with it. I installed the 64 bit version on my HP dv6 2180 with an i5 520M I tried all versions since 4 and 9 is the best ever. Appears to be the safest and friendliest of user friendly OS.. I haven't any problems so far with any of the programs that I added. Only the update that i decided to do, I canceled twice due to the delay. the older versions, did not like the installer."
In addition, reader Stefan Ivić suggested, "Did you tried openSUSE KDE? Best KDE experiance by far..."
Another anonymous commenter had this tip with regard to my comment about Mageia not playing nicely with live USB creation even with the "dd" command: "I had the exact same issue with one of my usb-stick. It failed with both Mageia and Chakra. But then I tried my other usb and with that usb it worked like dream with dd. So if you have more then 1 usb it could work for you also."

Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

An anonymous reader said, "I agree with you regarding MATE and Cinnamon. I wonder why it is necessary to create them when LXDE and XFCE already exist in a stable state. I am using Lubuntu + Ubuntu Studio (xfce). I add Gnome-fallback and Enlightenment to have some alternatives to boot into and try out, and they don't seem to fight too much or use too many resources. I like Nautilus for its double-pane but since that is on the way out, I may be done with all gnome bits. Good riddance, gnome. Lxde and Xfce are my favorites, and I rarely notice that I am no longer using gnome. In gnome or unity, I cannot really function anymore. I am also not accustomed to using KDE. Enlightenment E17 would be my third choice after xfce and lxde (tied). I have tried Mint a few times but see no advantages and some disadvantages to the *buntus. I wonder also if you don't think a *buntu has a better upgrade (and sidegrade?) path than Mint. In fact, even on Distrowatch, Mint has not yet reached the level of Ubuntu+Lubuntu+Xubuntu+Kubuntu+Ubuntu-Studio. Mint just seems like Ubuntu done right, and I do hate almost all of the decisions made at the head Ubuntu office, but the spinoffs that are still in the Ubuntu family seem to get it right, too."
Commenter Chris had this to say: "yes i really really think also that xfce mint is one of the best distro oute there for guys of old school...  I cannot understand this unity thing (although it seems it is getting somewhere), gnome 3 is out of question while kde is stable now but i use too many gnome apps...What is going with linux DE??"
Reader crabbos had the following suggestions: "I'm surprised that there's been little to no mention of PCLinuxOS Phoenix XFCE on this and other popular sites. I've been testing it myself over the last few days and it's brilliant. I'm also quite fond of VoyagerOS and Porteus, both XFCE and both I feel deserve more attention. Voyager is a bit more resource heavy but works nicely and Porteus is amazingly quick and responsive."
Another anonymous commenter clarified, "PCLinuxOS XFCE has no maintainer right now and it is not considered an 'official edition' any longer. There is some political back story there from what I gather from reading their support forums. I briefly installed it a couple of weeks ago and ran into a few small bugs, like issues with numlock causing me to be locked out with my password after I updated it."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE is now unofficially released on the mirrors, though no official announcement has been made yet, so I will review that this week. Aside from that, there may be other random posts too, but the next long-term review won't come out until the following week because it started this past Friday. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce

Main Screen + Xfce Menu
The final release of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce hasn't even been officially announced yet, but despite that, I'm reviewing it now (and it is indeed the final release and not an RC). How is that possible? To be honest, I was quite anxious to get my hands on it, and earlier today I found that some mirror sites of Linux Mint had uploaded (though not others, which was weird, although as I write this, more mirrors have uploaded it). Well, in any case, now I'm trying it out.

The main editions of Linux Mint now feature the MATE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon desktop. I've checked out Cinnamon from time to time and have found it to be too unstable for my use, at least in a live USB session; plus, some extensions like the Auto-Move-Windows extension don't work as they should. That leaves MATE, which I tried over a month ago. I wasn't especially happy with it because of the issues with Compiz trying to work with MATE, and this surprised me considering that MATE should have replicated the GNOME 2 experience. That left me waiting for the KDE edition. Then I found out that Xfce would make an official return to Ubuntu-based Linux Mint, which was surprising given past statements by the developers that the Xfce edition would be exclusively offered with the Debian base. Now that this has happened, I want to see if Ubuntu-based Linux Mint with Xfce can effectively replicate and replace my current and ideal GNOME 2 setup on Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora".

I tested the 64-bit version of the live session through a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. Also, please note that because this is Linux Mint, I may be more biased in favor of it, but then again, I just couldn't overlook the deficiencies of the MATE edition no matter what, so this may or may not be an issue.


Long-Term Review: Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin"

This is the second of a handful of long-term reviews I will be doing this summer. The initial subject of this was the 64-bit edition of #! 11 "Waldorf", so follow the jump to see how that turned out.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 July 8

There was one post that got a handful of comments, so I will repost most of them.

Long-Term Review: Chakra 2012.05 "Archimedes"

Reader manmath sahu suggested, "prasanth, liked the review very much and the way it's done over a period of 8 days is very useful. please take Stella (a CEntOS remaster) linux for a spin. i found it good, but would like to know about your experience."
Commenter abveritas, who I think is a leading developer of Chakra itself, had this to say, among other things: "Chakra being a rolling release, it is an absolute must to always update the system, before installing any package. Seems quite a few packages were installed during this review, which were build on newer deps, but only the new app was installed, not the system properly updated. One other thing that is an absolute must on a rolling distro, is for all our users to read the news, when seeing a fairly large update, there is no other way to give sometimes needed instructions to update correctly. In this case, using the rm command was very wrong, and in most cases would have killed pacman, the correct way to update was in the news, forums, and all social sites, to make sure all users would be reached.
http://chakra-linux.org/news/index.php?/archives/68-Manual-intervention-needed-with-next-pacman-Syu.html For the rest, really pleased to see you taking the time to put Chakra thtough a serious test, and hopefully we can get some logs, to see why the crashes, since it would be great to try and reproduce, so a fix can be found. Any and all logs you are willing to provide from /var/log would be greatly appreciated."
Reader Jagdeesh Deshpande said, "Good that you got another PC. It has certainly helped to give depth to your reviews. I always try real installations on one of 6 ext4 partitions among sdb6 to sdb11. Hence presently I can compare mint 9, LMDE-64-mate-cinnamon, openSUSE 12.1, and kububtu 12.04 Before a week, I installed kubuntu 12.04 LTS after a long wait for Mint 13 KDE and feel that at last I have found successor of mint9. In openSUSE 12.1 the configuration module for Wacom Bamboo CTH-460 is broken and so I can't make the touch 'off' and this is interfering very badly moving the courser due to my finger's touch while using the pen. In Kubuntu 12.04 the configuration tool is working as in Pardus 2011.2. The trouble with kubuntu is- by default hibernation is disabled. If 'sudo pm-hibernate' (in konsole) hibernates the system, enable it by referring the forum post https://help.ubuntu.com/12.04/ubuntu-help/power-hibernate.html Then I added plasma widgets plasma-widget-quickaccess plasma-widget-lancelot and @ 25 applications Now i am very satisfied with it and may not install mint13kde. If Kubuntu 12.04 is not in your list and this creates interest in you to try Kubuntu 12.04, your review will be very much useful for the Linux community. Thanking for the indepth review."
Commenter Kartik had this suggestion: "Hi Prashant, good review. I myself have used chakra for almost 3 months and found it to be a really fast KDE distro. If you are looking for something long term on your PC I suggest you give Mageia 2 KDE a spin. I found it to be very stable, fast and polished."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, there will be another long-term review published, and the review I was going to do of Fuduntu 2012.3 has been briefly incorporated into that. Depending on how things work out, I may be able to do another regular review as well. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Long-Term Review: Chakra 2012.05 "Archimedes"

For those of you who don't know what this is about, this post should clear things up. Essentially, I now have another computer upon which I can do tests of installed distribution sessions for several days at a time. There will be three more posts like this one this summer; I may or may not be able to continue it through the semester. For reference, I used the 64-bit minimal CD for live testing and installation. Follow the jump to read my experiences with Chakra over more than a week of use.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 July 1

There were three posts, each of which got a handful of comments, this past week, so I'll try to repost most of those comments.

Review: Pinguy OS 12.04 LTS

An anonymous reader had this bit of support: "Very Good Review!!"
In a similar vein, commenterبرق  said, "Nice review as usual. Good job, Prashanth!"
Reader Ant said, "I installed it on my wife's Dell laptop that previously had Win7 and she loves it. It's now her OS of choice :)"
Commenter linxbot shared this comparison: "I tried pinguy in my old compaq presario V3000 which has only 512 RAM and simply freezes in the splash screen stage.. but Zorin OS 6 which is based on same Ubuntu 12.04, its blued Desktop come within seconds and installation taken in few minutes. I have already installed Zorin OS some twenty of my friends on whose computers that 'windoze' infected except games and office for all other social activities they are doing fine in Zorin..If pinguy drop its many bloatware I may consider to try it in my old lappy..with zorin I am very happy!"


An anonymous reader could only say, "Oh, really?"

Preview: CrunchBang ("#!") Linux 11 "Waldorf"

Commenter Fred said, "Openbox's failure to update menus as apps are installed or removed is a deal-breaker for me. For most of last year, I had the Xfce version of #! Statler installed on my computer but left when it was announced the Xfce version was being dropped. Unfortunately, for the first half of this year, I had been unable to find a distro that I had enjoyed as much as #! Xfce, so I finally gave in and installed #! Waldorf. But to me, Openbox's refusal to automatically update its menus as new apps are installed or removed is inexcusable, so I replaced Openbox with Xfce (my favorite desktop, BTW). And BTW, I too get similar memory usage readings with Xfce as you did with Openbox. In any event, it's good to be back with #!, even if it involved taking the extra time to ditch Openbox and everything associated with it in favor of Xfce."
Reader Istok responded, "openbox is a minimal window manager. it aims to manage windows and do that well, and it really does. it doesn't even have a native panel, that is how it's designed. there are plenty of WMs and DEs with self-updating menus, and so on and so forth. no WM can be everything to everyone. openbox is what it is, it's actually very consistent in its "philosophy". i believe that your criticism is not valid from an objective pov, although of course you're perfectly entitled to be unhappy and ditch it. [...]"
Commenter Neil Houghton suggested, "Auto updating Openbox menu is easy with; http://mimasgpc.free.fr/openbox-menu_en.html Or try Archbang with auto updating openbox menu included; http://archbang.org/"
Reader Tom had this response to that suggestion: "Build Arch from the ground up, don't go with Archbang. And if you need a self-updating menu, check for Debian menu and add it to the Openbox menu.xml by hand."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I will have at least one new review out along with the first long-term review. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Preview: CrunchBang ("#!") Linux 11 "Waldorf"

I've been a fan of #! ever since I tried version 9.04.01. It's quite lightweight, yet the UI doesn't feel antiquated, and it's quite well-stocked with features that normal users would find useful. Two months ago, the first testing images of version 11 "Waldorf" went online, so I am previewing that now.

#! is a Debian-based Openbox distribution. It used to be based on Ubuntu, and at one point, it gained [and then later lost] an Xfce edition. It aims to be quite lightweight yet have the niceties of other distributions with more mainstream DEs.

I tried the 64-bit edition on a live USB made with MultiSystem. I should also say that until I finally get a new OS for my laptop, I will probably be trying the 64-bit editions of various distributions (after which point I will go back to trying the 32-bit editions), so I will not mention that bit after this. Follow the jump to see what this is like.



Today is Independence Day for the United States of America. But more importantly, today was the day that the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery(ish, because more experiments have to be done to verify its other properties) of the Higgs boson!
This is HUGE! It's an amazing vindication of the Standard Model of particle physics as it stands today, and it should be the last nail in the coffin of the old trope I have heard frequently that there is no new interesting research to be done in physics. So with that in mind, happy Independence Day, but more importantly, HAPPY HIGGS DAY!!!


Review: Pinguy OS 12.04 LTS

Main Screen + Cardapio Menu
A couple weeks ago, the latest version of Pinguy OS came out, and I wanted to try it. I haven't had the time until today, though, so that's why the review is happening today.

I previously reviewed Pinguy OS 11.10 and found that while there are certain things to which I may not be able to become fully accustomed, the "beta" label on Pinguy OS 11.10 seemed overly cautious considering its stability and high quality overall. The latest version has not changed much from that beta version besides having newer packages in general, but because version 11.10 was never truly official, the changes in version 12.04 LTS are of course huge compared to version 11.04. Also, accompanying the new release is a revamped website, which looks a lot cleaner and less bloated than before.

I probably would not normally seriously consider a distribution with GNOME 3/Shell for installation on my hard drive, but one of the things that caught my eye about this release was the option of using the Axe menu instead of the default Cardapio menu in the top panel. I did some searching and found out that the Axe menu looks and could potentially act almost identically to the Linux Mint Menu, which is amazing. That is why I am trying the 64-bit edition (as a live USB made with MultiSystem); sure, GNOME 3/Shell doesn't have my nice desktop cube, but it could potentially have everything else I could want, and given that, I'm OK with giving up the desktop cube if I am left with no other good alternatives. Follow the jump to see what this is like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 June 24

There were two posts that got a couple comments this past week, so I will repost all of those.

Review: Sabayon 9 KDE

Reader Jesse said, "I tried to load it twice. Didn't finish after abt 45 min. Tried again, same problem. Decided not worth it."

Revisited: SolusOS 1.1 "Eveline"

Commenter manmath sahu had this suggestion: "prashant, it's strange, just now I installed the latest skype right inside solus. it was just an apt-get away. here's my skype package list.: dpkg --list | grep skype ii skype Skype"
In a similar vein, reader Kirk M said, "Funny thing, Skype installed and worked fine for me on Solus 1.1 on both my desktop PC and my laptop (from the repos). It also installs and works fine on SolusOS 2 alpha builds."

Thanks to all those who commented on those posts. This coming week, I plan to have at least one review out (though there may be more too). In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Random Thoughts about the Affordable Care Act

Unless you have been living under a rock these days, you know that this week, the United States Supreme Court ruled (5-4) in favor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly known as "Obamacare". What shocked everybody was that Chief Justice John Roberts was in the majority of that ruling. Basically, he and other Justices reinterpreted the clause about the ACA mandating the purchase of health insurance as being a tax rather than forced commerce. In addition, the only major setback to the ACA was the striking down of the clause saying (if I understand this correctly) that states must expand Medicaid coverage to cover low-income people who would otherwise be unable to afford the mandated insurance or else forgo funding for health care entirely. (Please note that I am not anything close to a legal scholar. The following constitutes little more than random mumbling, so you don't have to take it for more than that.)


Revisited: SolusOS 1.1 "Eveline"

This is the follow-up to this review. At the time, the 64-bit edition had not been released, and I was unable to install packages in the live system probably due to a bad USB writing procedure by that particular version of MultiSystem that I was using at that time. For this post, I tried the 64-bit edition of SolusOS 1.1 "Eveline" using a live USB made with UnetBootin. Because I am simply discussing whether installation of my preferred packages worked, I will keep it short and sweet.

Using the Synaptic Package Manager to install the Linux Mint Menu and Redshift worked, and those packages started and worked fine too. Also, as SolusOS 1.1 "Eveline" is based on Debian 6 "Squeeze", the Mupen64Plus package in the repository is version 1.5, so I was able to install and use that fine too.
Google Talk was not in the repository, but that is generally to be expected. I was able to install and use it through the DEB file fine.
SolusOS uses Nautilus Elementary, but interestingly, Gloobus-Preview is not present. As SolusOS is not based on Ubuntu, installing Gloobus-Preview is nontrivial, so I would like to see that included in the future. Then again, SolusOS 2 will have GNOME 3 and has GNOME Sushi (which is basically the same sort of thing as Gloobus-Preview) in a repository already, so given that SolusOS 2 will not be released more than a few months from now or so, this is probably not a big issue.
Skype, at version 4, was the bad apple here. Neither the static DEB file from the website nor the package from the repository worked. I mean, the package installed fine in both instances, but in both cases Skype refused to start, throwing an error (that I think I have seen before) about the inability to load some critical shared library. Unfortunately, searching in the SolusOS forums yielded the same question with not much of an answer, and the suggestions made for users of Debian 6 "Squeeze" on various websites did not work either, as Skype continued to throw the same error.

The lack of a working Skype means that I would not install SolusOS 1.1 "Eveline" on my computer. I do hope though that it works better on SolusOS 2. In fact, I am downloading and trying out SolusOS 2 Alpha 5 right now.


Long-Term Review: Because Now I Can

I am doing a UROP on campus this summer (as opposed to last summer, when I interned at NIST), and it is a continuation of my UROP from the last two semesters concerning photonic crystals. This summer, my ultimate goal is to be able to use MEEP finite-difference method simulations to recreate the spontaneous emission spectrum of a particular photonic crystal structure of great interest to the research group in which I am working.

To do that, I create the simulations as programs written in the Scheme programming language (a derivative of Lisp) and executed through MEEP. These actual steps are done on a cluster of computers, so the laptop computer that I have been using at my office is merely a terminal for the cluster. Because that laptop runs Microsoft Windows XP, there is no built-in way to SSH into the cluster, so I have to use a UNIX-like terminal emulator for Microsoft Windows; in my case, I use SecureCRT combined with XWin32 for graphical programs like Gedit and Geeqie. Unfortunately, that laptop is at least 7 years old (judging from its hardware specifications and thickness), and with Microsoft Windows XP, it is certainly showing its age; last semester it worked just fine, but a few days ago, it started choking trying to run Mozilla Firefox/Adobe Reader, LibreOffice Calc, and SecureCRT simultaneously. I asked my UROP faculty advisor if I could use a much newer desktop in the office that I use that no one else seems to be using, and he was fine with that; I even asked him if I could run Linux on it, and given that my previous UROP postdoc advisor (in the same research group) ran Ubuntu and helped other people set up Linux for work computers, he was fine with that too.

This presents a unique opportunity for me this summer with regard to this blog, and that's where the title comes in. One of the most common complaints about the reviews I do here is that they use the live session without trying the installation on real hardware at all. Also, because I usually only test the live session, the actual amount of time I spend is not more than a few hours spread over two days or so. Now, I have finally secured the official go-ahead to do with the computer whatever I feel is useful, so I will attempt to take more time to test some distributions (now as an installed session on real hardware) that I have said before that I would have no problem installing, because I want to see just how true of a statement that is. The computer in question is probably not more than 3 years old; it is a Dell desktop with a 64-bit Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, and an ATI graphics card (though I am not sure if the graphics card is integrated or dedicated).

Given the amount of time I have left this summer to work, I intend to test each distribution for between 7-10 days of work, though that may change depending on my schedule and if a given distribution really does not work out. I have already installed Chakra 2012.05 "Archimedes", so that will be the subject of the first real "Long-Term Review" post. Each of these posts will be updated with a daily label detailing any changes, bugs, or other things that I notice. Each post will also have a "Day 0" label at the top sort of revisiting the live session like I normally do to set up my ideal desktop once more. At the end of the testing session (again, 7-10 days), I will publish the full post. While the "Day 0" section will basically be like a full review all over again, the following days' sections will be shorter. It doesn't take a long time to see if my favorite applications work or not, but it does take longer to really feel comfortable with the desktop, look for bugs and quirks, and make sure that upgrades go smoothly. So in these posts, I will really be looking out for details like how well the file manager and panel do stuff that I want them to do on a daily basis, how stable the system is, et cetera, as opposed to simply seeing once if something like Skype works; at my UROP, I only really need a web browser to see some web pages and check email, a PDF viewer to read papers, and a terminal emulator to SSH into the cluster, so I could theoretically settle for something like Ubuntu, but I don't want to waste this opportunity.

Again, I have already started with Chakra. I've always been fond of #!, so I might give that a go too. I'll also give Sabayon a run given that version 9 seemed to work so incredibly well. All of these will be the 64-bit editions because the computer has a 64-bit processor and 4 GB of RAM, so I want to make use of that. That leaves room for a fourth distribution (but probably not more than that); I will have to think about what I want to save for last, and I certainly welcome any comments and suggestions on the matter. Do look out for these posts along with my usual reviews and other random posts.

(UPDATE: Duh. I just realized I could do a long-term test of a prerelease version of SolusOS at the end of summer, and that would be the fourth distribution to test. Hopefully by then a 64-bit beta edition will have been released. I haven't written about it formally, but I have checked out SolusOS 2 Alpha 4, and I'm quite pleased with what I see, especially for an alpha release. Now, I will be able to see if that is really true over a longer period of use on an installed system instead of just a shorter period of use on a live system.)


Review: Sabayon 9 KDE

Main Screen + Kickoff Menu
Over the last several months, I have become a fan of Chakra GNU/Linux. It seems like the best combination out there of stability, newness, and ease-of-use, as it uses KDE and is a rolling-release distribution. But even since before I found out about Chakra, there has been another distribution that aims to do all that, and that is Sabayon.

The last version of Sabayon that I reviewed was version 7, and it has been a while since that review. (If your memory needs refreshing, Sabayon is based on Gentoo and also uses KDE as its primary DE.) Since then, Sabayon has changed its GUI package manager and has of course brought in the usual round of application updates; I think it is now trying harder than ever to appear less amateurish, more professional, and more user-friendly, so we will see how that works out.

I tested [32-bit] Sabayon 9 KDE using a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 June 17

There were two posts that got several comments each, so I will try to repost a few from each.

Review: Zorin OS 6 Core

Reader DarkDuck said, among other things, "I have done a quick screenshot preview of Zorin OS 6 Core, and my system used much less memory."
Commenter Kryten451 had this bit of support: "Good writeup. I like what they're trying to do with Zorin, and I've tried them last release, and I'll give it another look soon."
Reader Glenn said, "I installed it and it works really well. I like it. I'll d/l the paid version to give them a little support $$. Good job guys..."
Commenter Manic Miner had this to say, among other things: "I'm currently running Zorin 5 on my laptop and despite previous concerns I had about it I really do like it. Version 5 is very stable and the compiz effects are excellent without being too much. (A wee bit of jazz). I might give version 6 a go over the weekend."

Review: Netrunner 4.2 LTS "Dryland" SE

Reader starbuck had this suggestion: "the mic issue seems to be a known problem in ubuntu/kubuntu and is related to settings, so maybe these solutions help with correct setup: http://askubuntu.com/questions/142670/skype-no-mic-under-kde http://community.skype.com/t5/Linux/microphone-does-not-work-with-skype-on-kubuntu-11-04/td-p/73304"
An anonymous commenter said, "Working great for me. I think it's a beautiful distro. Glad I found it."
Another anonymous reader suggested this solution to another problem: "The KDE 4.x series has been tuned and revised a lot from version to version, especially due to plasma active, actually getting faster with each update, so here might be a possible explanation of the resources during testing: If suddenly your system becomes slower, starts acting weird or sluggish and perfomance seems way up, look out for the "nepomuk" icon in systray: It could be that nepomuk has just started indexing your files, which is especially resource hungry in case you just mounted a NAS storage permanently over samba-network with samba-mounter. In this case, you can either suspend indexing or leave it on for your network overnight. Other than that, Netrunner 4.2 runs exceptionally smooth and snappy on my samsung netbook n110 atom with 1GB ram."
Commenter Psychover said, "Netrunner is based on Kubuntu, according to Distrowatch. As far as I remember, Clement ( Founder /Developer of Mint) works in Netrunner project as Blue Systems is the main sponsor of Mint project right now. So I think LM Maya KDE 'll not be a huge difference with this."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. This coming week, I intend to have at least one more review out, and if Sabayon 9 works well with UnetBootin, I do intend to review that as well. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Rebutting the New York Times Review of "A Universe From Nothing"

I was talking to my family today, and they mentioned that this week, Stephen Colbert interviewed physicist/author Lawrence Krauss on The Colbert Report, where he promoted his new book "A Universe From Nothing". They also talked about how they saw a review of this book on the New York Times that seemed rather critical of it, and they suggested that I read that review.

In fairness, I have not read the book, nor have I (yet) watched the interview on that show. But reading this article made me laugh and cringe simultaneously, and I am going to lay out why. I should also say that the book, which is supposed to explain how quantum field theory lays the groundwork for the universe springing from nothing, is for a popular audience. I would say that among the scientific community, the predictions of relativistic quantum field theory have been accepted for decades. Follow the jump to see what else I think about this.


Review: Netrunner 4.2 LTS "Dryland" SE

Main Screen + KMenu
The first and most recent time that I tried out Netrunner, it was in comparison with Linux Mint 12 "Lisa" KDE. At that time, I felt like although Netrunner had a few quirky design choices that I didn't agree with as much, I felt like Linux Mint with KDE just felt too generic, while Netrunner made a conscious effort to improve the user experience of KDE. Now, Netrunner has come out with a new release based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin", and I am in search of something to eventually replace my installation of Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME, so I am trying out this latest version now.

Netrunner hasn't had a particularly long history, but it has grown quickly. It aims to offer a spruced-up KDE experience, and true to its name, it aims to offer a lot of cloud-based applications as well. The organization behind Netrunner has also sponsored Linux Mint with KDE, and has more recently taken over Kubuntu from Canonical. Given that these three distributions now fall within the same organizational umbrella, and given that I was pretty excited about the prospect of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE, I'm trying Netrunner to predict what may happen when I try Linux Mint with KDE in (hopefully) the near future.

Given that this could be the distribution for which I have been searching, I tried the 64-bit edition of Netrunner 4.2 LTS "Dryland" SE as a live USB made using UnetBootin (because it seems like MultiSystem on my installed OS is no longer able to reliably create live USB systems, which is a little disappointing). Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Review: Zorin OS 6 Core

Main Screen + "Zorin OS" GnoMenu
I've looked at Zorin OS before, and I liked what I saw then. That was based on Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", and now the new Zorin OS version 6 is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin", so I'm checking it out.

I haven't paid much attention to Zorin OS until recently because when GNOME 2 was still around, it seemed easy enough to create a Microsoft Windows-lookalike. Now, with GNOME 3, though, that is much more difficult. I saw on DistroWatch a bit about Zorin OS 6 RC, and the release announcement discussed using GNOME 3 and the Avant Window Navigator (AWN) dock with Compiz to recreate the old look. That really piqued my curiosity; that's why I'm doing this review, and because this looks like a possible candidate for long-term residence on my laptop's hard drive, I tried out the 64-bit version and did the more extensive round of tests.

I tried Zorin OS 6 Core 64-bit using a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 June 10

There was one post this past week that got a bunch of comments, so I will repost a few of them.

Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" MATE

Reader Fudger said, "I have Linux Mint 13 - 64 bit Mate edition running on 2 machines. Skype installed on both OK via synaptic. Laptop worked OOTB without tweaks, desktop needed microphone tweaking in alsamixer. Desktop has new ATI graphics and I had to add proprietary drivers via command line after fails with Jockey and Synaptic. I followed the simple instructions in a post on the Mint forum. I am very happy with both machines now."
Commenter Erno shared this: "I've tested 1½ weeks both MATE and Cinnamon and found MATE as much more stable. However i won't try too much new themes from websites because i found them eating memory and making system shaking. Last weekend i totally messed MATE and so i have to re-install it on Monday. I really worked fine, it's stable. One interesting thing: after updating Firefox from 12.0 to 13.0 Ubuntu could not bring language packages but Linux Mint Cinnamon and MATE did it. And that was another plus for this great OS named Linux Mint - my favorite."
Reader Michael Freeman had this tip: "There IS an Indicator Applet available for Mate. The problem is that it just loads the basic, included indicators. Any 3rd-party indicators that I've tried to load (such as My-Weather-Indicator) either refuse to show up, or are placed in the Notification Area instead, with limited functionality. That's a major drawback for me, since there are a lot of 3rd party indicators I enjoy and rely on. I'm not sure if there's a tweak that needs to be done somewhere. But at least it does have an Indicator Applet. Cinnamon has none (although a lot of nice Cinnamon applets replace most of that functionality - minus the nice sliding mouse activation you mentioned, sadly). For me, Cinnamon's issues with ATI drivers make it unusable. ATI's proprietary drivers cause problems with an unusably flickering screen on some full-screen graphics heavy programs, such as games, and the Open Source drivers are terribly slow and heat up my laptop like a furnace. So, since Cinnamon is basically crippled on my system, and Mate has a few integration issues (like, but not limited to my example above), I've been forced to use another desktop for now. I've settled on Gnome Classic/Fallback for the time being. It's actually quite good if you get it configured right. It's missing the Mint menu and some functional settings tools (have to go through gconf-editor for some tweaks), but aside from that it has everything that the Gnome 2 desktop had. And the Indicator Applet works better than the older Gnome 2 Indicator Applet did. It even puts the Skype icon on a nice indicator."
Commenter duskfire said, "I'm sure you have heard by now that Skype has received a major update, and they have brought the Linux version up to par (version 4). There's a .deb file that refers to Ubuntu 10.04, but I'm certain you can install it on more recent Linux Mint and Ubuntu editions."

Thanks to all those who commented on that post. I also intended to review Sabayon and/or Mageia for this past week or this coming week, but that won't happen because neither one plays nicely with MultiSystem. I'll see what I can do this week. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" MATE

Ah yes. I've been wanting to do this review for quite a while now. And now I can! So I will do just that.

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
Linux Mint has been my OS of choice for the last 3 years now. For the last 2 years, I have been using Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME. That will be supported for another year from now, but that also means that I need to start looking into replacements for when the old version loses its official support. I've played around with Cinnamon, but it's still a bit immature and unstable and doesn't quite fit my needs; given that MATE is supposed to be GNOME 2 with the essential components simply renamed, it seems like this would be the best candidate for remaining on my computer's hard drive for the next few years.

I tested the live session of the 64-bit version using a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see if this is a worthy successor to what I have been using thus far.


Featured Comments: Week of 2012 June 3

There was no "Featured Comments" post last week because there were no comments on the posts from the previous week. This past week, one post got a handful of comments, so I'll repost a few of those.

PCLinuxOS (Kinda) Saved My Laptop

Reader shem suggested, "PXE at bootup is usually for booting via network, so yeah, something happened to your ethernet. Could try go into BIOS, check all settings and save changes, even if none made. If that doesn't help, power off for 20 seconds, go into BIOS again, load default settings or optimized defaults (if available) and save changes, again even if none made. No guarantees that it will work, but definately won't harm to try..."
An anonymous commenter said, "Try the ethernet in Win7. If id doesn't work there then you know that the hardware is the issue."
Reader Mechatotoro had this bit of support: "Congratulations on the recovery of your cherished Mint. PCLinuxOS has also saved me a couple times already and one can't get enough of a good thing. It is now the main system on my laptop. I believe all of us become clumsy when stressed out, so no problem there. Thanks for sharing your story!"
Commenter cirrusuk added this: "pclinuxos will always have a special place in my cyberheart , good stuff on getting everything back on track."

Thanks to all those who commented on this past week's posts. I'm back at MIT now and ready to start my UROP; this also means that I will have time (and USB flash drives) to do normal reviews again, so watch out for those soon. In the meantime, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


PCLinuxOS (Kinda) Saved My Laptop

Yesterday, I was surfing the web in my room as usual, when some exterminators came to my house and advised that I leave the room while the pesticides were applied. I unplugged my laptop from the wall outlet, forgetting that I had also removed the battery. Whoops.

Today, I was alarmed to see that I could not boot into my Linux Mint system; the OS would give a "no init found" error after the boot splash. First, I had to boot into Microsoft Windows 7; thankfully, that worked as Linux Mint was the OS I was [of course] using when I accidentally unplugged my computer. I looked up the error, and it turns out it's a common one that can be solved by a file system check ("fsck") from a live CD. All the guides I saw recommended using a live CD of the same OS whose hard drive partition is affected, but I had left my live CDs and USB sticks in my dormitory room. Whoops again. What I figured would just be a minor inconvenience turned into a semi-major problem.

First I tried making a Linux Mint live CD from within Microsoft Windows 7. The first attempt failed because I didn't use the right tool to burn the ISO file to the CD. The second attempt failed too, but that is because the live CD would hang during the [very long] boot process after the boot splash screen was done.

After that, I figured it may just be an issue with Linux Mint, so I rummaged through some CDs and found an old Fedora 11 "Leonidas" GNOME live CD. That would also hang right after the boot splash, so at that point I became quite worried that my computer may never be able to work with Linux ever again.

Finally, I found an old PCLinuxOS 2009.2 KDE live CD, and I gave that a shot. To my relief, it worked, although it would not connect to the Internet. I entered "su" into the terminal followed by "fsck -y /dev/sda5" (because my Linux Mint partition is "sda5"), and that seemed to work OK. Rebooting into my installed Linux Mint system worked! I was incredibly happy to see my main OS back in working order and to see that I would not have to resign myself to using Microsoft Windows 7. There are only two lingering issues, and both of them are quite minor. The first is that some odd error message involving "PXE" and "PCI" is displayed for a few seconds just before the GRUB boot menu is displayed, but that goes away on its own anyway. The second, which may be related to the first, is that Linux Mint is apparently no longer able to recognize my laptop's ethernet card, so I must now depend on wireless connections to access the Internet, and I will have to train myself to overcome my aversion to wireless connections stemming from numerous failed attempts by my family to send wireless Internet signals to the very room where I am typing this. Anyway, regardless of the fact that I don't particularly care for the newer versions of PCLinuxOS, I salute [the older version of] PCLinuxOS for doing its job when I needed it most!

(UPDATE: I was a little concerned that this accident may have fried my laptop's ethernet card, so as per some advice posted somewhere online, I unplugged my laptop from everything (power, ethernet, even the USB mouse), and didn't touch it again for the next 16 hours (i.e. from yesterday afternoon until now). For one, that weird error message has disappeared. For another, the ethernet card is now recognized in the "System Profiler and Benchmark" program as well as in the output of the terminal command "lshw -C network", although my laptop refuses to connect to the ethernet. Hooray!)


Can Politicians Outsmart the Internet?

I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at home last night, and Jon Stewart's guest for that show was Dan Rather, the former CBS Evening News anchor who had come to promote his new book. They talked about Rather's childhood, the perception of a liberal bias in the media, and how politicians have outsmarted TV.

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I would like to take a brief moment to discuss what Rather had to say about liberal bias in the media. He said that in his time as a TV journalist, he found that among his colleagues, there was an even split between those who identified as being politically conservative and those who identified as being politically liberal; he further explained away the idea of liberal bias in the news media as being the creation of the conservative journalists who were really just admitting that not all journalists were conservative like them. Yet I can't help but ask, why is it only conservative journalists who raise the issue of a liberal bias? If there was an essentially equal distribution of political viewpoints in Rather's time, shouldn't there have been an equal stink raised by liberal journalists about a conservative bias? Or were conservative journalists more likely to feel victimized for their political beliefs even before FOX News came on the scene?

I do agree with Rather that today's journalists have no guts, and that is because politicians have bent TV journalism to suit their wills. And I think that if there does exist a liberal bias in TV news, then it has evolved to reflect this as well. For instance, it has recently become known that Walter Cronkite was way more unabashedly liberal than anyone could have imagined. He used his liberal bias to actually ask tough questions of politicians with whom he disagreed. Now, many journalists like the majority of those on CNN use their liberal bias to ask stupid, uninformative "gotcha" questions just to make conservative politicians look bad to boost ratings; for a concrete example, see Wolf Blitzer trying to trap Mitt Romney a few months ago by asking him really silly questions about the movie The Hunger Games.

But the bigger question is, can politicians bend the Internet similarly to TV and print media? I think not. The Internet really is fundamentally different from TV and print media because it is a two-way medium, whereas TV and print are one-way media. Hence, TV and print can be used as mouthpieces for politicians or journalists with an agenda, and no one can really do anything about that except for perhaps writing letters to the editor. The Internet has a far more diverse set of viewpoints than TV and print could ever have just because it is open to anyone and everyone to publish anything and everything, rather than being restricted to a particular set of journalists. I mean, the fact that I can write this up on my own blog and have other people see it, leave their own comments, and possibly write their own blog posts in response rather than me simply disagreeing in my own head after watching that interview on TV shows how truly different the Internet is. Sure, politicians could manipulate the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other mainstream news publications that have online sites, but they can't possibly begin to manipulate every single online news source out there, because so many of them are from alternative, nontraditional sources of news.

I think the best example of how politicians will continue to be powerless against the Internet until they have a deep working understanding of how it works comes in the SOPA debate that happened many months ago. There, politicians seemed to take pride in their ignorance of how the Internet works, and for once, that totally backfired on their efforts to massively censor it. The traditional news sources by and large simply parroted the words coming out of politicians' mouths about SOPA, but people knew better that time because the tech companies (of all sizes) behind the websites people use frequently showed exactly why SOPA would be so harmful. Furthermore, alternative news sources, especially technology-related news sites that were not beholden to any politicians or political parties, had excellent news pieces about why SOPA would severely curtail the goings-on of the Internet. Through these efforts, thousands upon thousands of people petitioned Congress and the President to stop SOPA, and only after politicians realized the magnitude of the backlash did SOPA and PIPA stall and die.

Another way that politicians will never be able to outsmart the Internet lies in the Streisand effect. Most Internet users route around restrictions by any means possible on the Internet. Before the Internet, if a politician said or did something controversial or embarrassing, that politician could hope to survive politically by manipulating the TV and print news media to downplay its significance or, more directly, expunge mentions of the incident from the media. Now, however, if a politician tries that and attempts to remove controversial or embarrassing material from the Internet, users will simply copy and reupload said material elsewhere. The name for the term comes from the time when Barbra Streisand's house was accidentally shown in some news piece. When Streisand tried to have it removed from the Internet, users simply copied and uploaded that picture to even more news sites, so the effort to have it removed was completely counterproductive in that it had the exact opposite effect of what was intended. Thus, as long as politicians believe that they can manipulate the Internet in the same way that they have manipulated TV and print news media, the Internet will always outsmart politicians.