Debian 10 | Review from an openSUSE User

Debian review title

I have used Debian for years on and off… probably more off than on… but when I had some odd hardware to install Linux, Debian is always the go to distribution. In my mind, Debian is known for old packages and a crusty installer. For many applications, old packages are fine and a crusty installer is not a big deal, after all, my early Linux experience did include installing Debian Linux on HP PA RISC systems. It wasn’t a cake walk but it wasn’t exactly difficult. The Debian installer works well if you are willing to read what is on the screen.

This is my biased review of Debian 10 from an extremely entrenched openSUSE user. I am perfectly happy where I am and have no intention on switching to any other distribution. I will be looking at the KDE Plasma Desktop on Debian and comparing it to my regular home of the KDE Plasma Desktop on openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The bottom line, up front, Debian is great. It is a pure and sterile experience, not much emphasis is put onto the look and feel but it is very apparent that they put their effort into the technical underpinnings. If I had to choose between an artistic piece or a technically sound technology, I will go for the technical merits and do the last mile of polish to satisfy my needs. I can highly recommend Debian to any intermediate user.

Installation

Installation was pretty straight forward. I went with the graphical installation tool and being familiar with the text installer, this was much the same but with more “modern” graphics.

The installer will start off by asking you to select a language and your country.

Next you need to select the keyboard map. The installer will then load components. This takes just a bit.

Next you will set the host name and the domain name. These are each on different screens. I think they could have consolidated this to one screen but that is just my opinion.

Your first “account stop” is setting up the root password with a well written instruction and precautions about setting up the root user. You are also notified that if you leave the password empty, the root account will be disabled and the initial user will be given the power to become root using the sudo command.

Debian 10 8 Installation

You will then be prompted for a Full Name followed by the Username. This too could have probably been put on a single screen but stepping through one at a time has its merits.

After you enter your password for your user account, you’ll be prompted to set the timezone of the system clock.

The partition setup of the system will be next, for the purposes of this installation, I chose the guided – use entire disk and the virtual disk presented itself on the next screen.

For the Partition disks setting, I chose the option recommended for new users and that is all files in one partition. This is seemingly more and more common now. Next you are given a breakdown of the automatic partition screen and a final sanity check before committing the changes to disk.

Base system will install. When complete, you will then be asked if there is any other CD or DVD media you want the system to scan for additional media. In this case, I do not have such a thing and I find it interesting that this is even an option. I am struggling a bit to find the use case for it but I am sure there is one.

The package manager will need to be configured. In order to pull the packages from a mirror closer to you, you are asked to choose a country. Then you are given an option of mirrors. I chose the default highlighted deb.debian.org. I didn’t have to configure an http proxy so I left that blank.

After the package manager configures apt, you will be asked if you want to supply the developers with statistics about your system. This will run once a week and send the packages to the distribution developers. If you are okay with that, select yes.

The options you are given for desktop environment is pretty fantastic. You can even choose no desktop environment! Right out of the gate you can choose between GNOME, Xfce, KDE Plasma, MATE, LXDE and LXQt. Interestingly, they are not presented in alphabetical order. It actually baffles me a bit why GNOME would be at the top when clearly, the best desktop is KDE Plasma.

The next step is to install the GRUB bootloader on the drive. Should you select, Yes you will be given a list of drives or to enter a device manually.

GRUB is the last step, you will be notified that the installation is complete and you can boot into your freshly installed system, which, undoubtedly will have the new car smell.

First Run and Impressions

The GRUB bootloader looked pretty typical an I saw my “GNU/Linux” option sitting right there so a quick tap of the Enter key began the loading of the operating system. I was unpleasantly surprised by the login / greeter… blah, not sure what display manager that is but, blah. It certainly does not go well with a Plasma Desktop.

I shouldn’t complain, it does the job, it just looks… Xfce…

The splash screen was the default Plasma splash and you are presented with a vanilla KDE Plasma 5 Desktop with the not-so-fantastic Application Launcher. That is easily enough fixed.

The default theme is the Breeze So-bright-it-burns-your-retina but that is also easily fixed with the more comfortable Breeze Dark theme. I also played around with some other settings, the region settings is all wrong for my preference and I wanted to see how the Info Center presented the operating system. It didn’t pull a Debian Logo, not a big deal. I also went there to check the Plasma version 5.14.5. Just a bit older but not a big deal. Still better than not having Plasma.

I was interested in checking out the default applications in Debian. It was pretty sparse, but had the basics. I would call it a pretty lean installation. Thankfully, by default this Plasma installation does have the GTK widget style module installed. Not sure if it is even an option to not install but I do remember, once upon a time, that this was not an automatic thing.

Firefox, after tweaking the GTK theme, looked great, and looked great going into the Big Daddy Linux discourse page. No complaints there.

Debian 10 45

Here is a little bonus with the Debian KDE Plasma, Discover works and works very well. I do believe it is the best Discover experience I have ever had. I was not able to find Discord but Telegram was there.

I wanted to check to see if I could install Kdenlive and indeed it was available. It was version 18.12.3, so a bit behind but seemingly worked well enough. I was just surprised it was even available. Should I be surprised?

I truly enjoyed using Plasma on Debian. It far exceeded my expectations and although I don’t intend on moving from my happy place called openSUSE, this was a great place to visit.

What I Like

Pure experience, no distribution specific influence almost in a kind of sterile hospital feel. That might sound like a negative but having no “cruft” as it were does have its merits.

Discover works great in Debian 10. Not that this should be on my top “what I like” list but it is great to see Discover working and working well.

The package selection in Debian is pretty robust. If it is not in the repository, getting the package elsewhere is almost a trivial process. Everyone builds a deb package.

What I Don’t Like

System configuration tools are a bit light. Being used to having a tool like YaST, navigating Debian can be a bit daunting. If you have experience with Linux and you know what tools you need this is not a problem

The Default Display Manager was almost jarring as I was expecting the wonderfully polished, silky smooth SDDM as my greeter. I know that I can​ change this but at this stage, I am just a bit too lazy to do so.

What I’m Not Sure About

There is this option to send the developers statistics from your system. This Debian popularity contest package statistics is run on a weekly basis and sent up, I don’t know how I feel about it running weekly. I like giving developers information but I am just unsure about the frequency.

Final Thoughts

Some distributions focus on technical merit, others on creating a visual experience. Debian is very much a technical merits distribution. You can polish it up to your own personal tastes, and frankly, this is what I am used to. The other reality is, Plasma doesn’t need much work to make look good, Breeze Dark and it looks great.

Debian popularity contest package statistics is a bit dubious to me but I am glad it is there… I think… The jury is still out on that one.

Overall, Debian is a fantastically stable, but sterile experience. I see this is a great place to go to support multiple hardware platforms and something you can count on. I highly recommend dipping your toes in Debian.

Reference

Debian for PA RISC
Get Debian
BigDaddyLinux Live Stream Debian 10 Distro Challenge
BigDaddyLinux Debian 10 Distro Challenge Discussion
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Feren OS | Review from an openSUSE User

FerenOS review title

I haven’t been able to do one of these in a while but it is always fun to try out other distributions and experience another example of how to answer that user experience question. As part of the BigDaddyLinux community. I have given Feren OS a spin to see how it goes for me, the biased, well entrenched openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation is done by what looks to my poorly trained eye to be the Calamares Installation Tool. This is, in my opinion, one of the most user approachable installation tools I have used. Clean, not clumsy and but yet not so basic that you can’t configure it to your liking.

Feren gives you one option when it starts. Live Media mode. You can play around with it or go right into the installation.

The installation is straight forward and works quite well. When the installation tool starts up you get an animated wheel while it “warms up” or whatever, presumably detecting bits about your system and starts you off to select your language.

Next you need to select your location and keyboard layout. This auto detected my location and keyboard layout.

For the partitions I used to erase the entire disk because for this purpose, erasing the disk works fine. Next, I entered my user information. There isn’t an option to add multiple users and I am unsure if you were to do an upgrade if you would be able to pull in previous user information or not.

The installation process provides an installation summary that includes everything you just selected, Location, Keyboard Layout and partition layout. After you select “Install” it will give you one final opportunity to bail out.

During the installation you aren’t given a slideshow of distribution propaganda, just one image to stare at. I would have liked to have had details fly by the screen during this process. Not that most people would care about that sort of information but I happen to like it. When the installation is complete, selecting “Done” will have the system reboot.

First Run

I really meant to nab the Plasma version of Feren OS but instead seem to have snagged the Cinnamon version and in keeping true to my form… I just went with it. Cinnamon is a fantastic desktop environment and since I haven’t played around with it during my last Linux Mint journey, this was a good refresher.

My overall impression of this spin of Feren OS is that it is a kind of re-imagining of the Cinnamon desktop, set aside the technical shortcomings of Cinnamon as it is based off of Gnome Shell and is encumbered with the single thread process limitation, it just looks fantastic. The Cinnamon developers have done a great job of mashing up the visual capabilities of Gnome into a more familiar desktop paradigm with which many are familiar. No one can argue that that Cinnamon (or Gnome for that matter) don’t have a kind of pleasant, well polished smoothness to it with the right level of desktop effects as to not distract you but also give you that plush Corinthian leather interior feel.

The package selection of Feren OS is undoubtedly satisfactory. There will always be the debate as to what should be default as part of the installation but I am not going to belabor this point. It has all that you need to do the basic computing tasks, a browser and LibreOffice.

Theme switching is much like you would expect in Cinnamon but with Feren OS you get a nice dark spin on that GTK theme that is much needed. I still wonder why light themes exist…

An interesting feature is this very user friendly browser selector application. If you are not satisfied with having only Vivaldi or Firefox, you can try another by selecting the install button

FerenOS-14-Web Browser Manager

What I Like

Feren OS is a good looking desktop. Cinnamon seems to work very well and I like the theme customization options provided. The key selling point to Feren OS is the theme configuration settings. It is truly effortless and

The Browser Manager is a great tool that gives you a great tool to select additional browsers as you desire. I like the ease of which you can install and uninstall them. Well done!

The installation process is seemingly painless and I appreciate any installation that is painless. I can’t say that any of my hardware is odd enough to cause issues with any any distribution I have tried as of late.

What I Don’t Like

I didn’t dig into it enough to find things I didn’t like about it. Aside from the default choice being Cinnamon which is GTK and Gnome Shell 3 based and my personal preference is to shy away from GTK and Gnome, it is quite nice. I did have some issues with Cinnamon launching and going into a “fallback mode” but this is in a beta stage and from my understanding, a known issue.

Since this is based in Linux Mint, it does use APT for the package manager which is not my preference. That is a nitpick issue but also saying, I would like to see a Feren OS with an openSUSE base, specifically on Tumbleweed.

Final Thoughts

In testing these various distributions of Linux. I have come to a loose conclusion that what makes a distribution for me, at least initially, that what makes it appealing is not so much the default theme and appearance but rather, how quickly I can modify the theme and tweak the interface to my liking. Cinnamon, especially the Feren OS Cinnamon is very close to my liking and with a few clicks, I can modify the theme to not trigger a headache.

Feren OS is easy to install and the provided applications make it easy to get along very quickly. It looks nice and the defaults appear to be sane. The only thing in which I struggle a bit is trying to understand the the unique selling point and ultimate goal of Feren OS but I can certainly see that the theme chooser is probably it’s greatest selling point. After seeing how the “classic” version of Feren OS is set up. I will be checking out the Plasma version in the coming months. If the developer can make GTK sing a Qt version will be even better.

In the end, would I leave my beloved openSUSE for Feren OS? No, I would not. I did enjoy my time in Feren OS, I enjoyed the way the desktop is customized. I do hope that this one-man show keeps going with it. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop his distribution.

Further Reading

Feren OS Home

Calamares Installation Tool

LinuxMint 19.1 | Review from an openSUSE User

BigDaddyLinux.com Community

LinuxMint 19.1 | Review from an openSUSE User

LinuxMint review title.pngLinux Mint is a very popular distribution and has seemingly been so since the start. My first look at Mint was in 2010 about the time I went through my second season of distro hopping. At the time, ultimately, openSUSE won out but it was close. I am taking another look at Mint, not due to any dissatisfaction of openSUSE but because 19.1 came out and the good folks in the BigDaddyLinux community decided to try it out.

This review is not going to be a comparison to previous Linux Mint versions. I have mostly stayed on top of it. I have even contributed a bit to the project in my time and talents for setting up the smart card reader. Linux Mint has been know for it’s being a well polished distribution. I would say that release 19.1 keeps in this tradition. I will be evaluating Mint strictly against what I use today, openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma. This is a biased review but with a mostly open mind.

Installation

I didn’t test Mint on actual hardware, for my purposes, that wasn’t necessary, my evaluation is about the user experience, interfacing and ease of use. At this point, pretty much all Linux distributions run great on main stream or older hardware and Linux Mint is known for just running well.

When booting from the installation media, there wasn’t an option as to what to do. It just did an automatic boot. I see this good for some users but not my preference.

linuxmint-01-live media boot

The media boots quickly and you are presented with a great looking desktop and I was even given a warning that it is using software rendering. It brought a smile to my face to see how the desktop looks friendly yet, “cool” and approachable. Often approachable has to be bright in color but this is not.

linuxmint-02-live media first run

The installation is is the standard Ubuntu Ubiquity installer that I have grown to appreciate with so many other distributions. It is a well done installer that is easy for even the non-technical to navigate.

You start with your language and keyboard settings. Then if you want third party software and how you want to install Mint. In this case, I just went with to use the entire disk.

I should have explored my options further but did not and regretted after more exploration into the depths of Mint. More on that later.

After partitioning the hard drive you are asked to create the user and off it will go writing your new Linux experience to disk.

I appreciate how Mint gives you  a “commercial” that is very relatable to a typical user. I do agree that Netflix is quite useful these days and rather expected. It’s just interesting to see that in the installation process. I also can’t help but think about the days I had to do a hacky work around to get Netflix working in Linux… oh, those were the days…

After the installation is done, you are asked if you want to continue testing or reboot immediately.  Of course, I chose immediate reboot.

First Run

The welcome screen on Mint it is a most certainly a well crafted and well thought out entrance to this desktop experience. This is a well done and very welcoming, especially for someone new to Linux.

linuxmint-13-welcome

The different sections of the welcome is clean and laid out very logically and not overwhelming to go through. This is a great crash-course for a new user to get going with Linux Mint.

It gives you a point to spring board into what is truly important to a user. From here you can set up a lot of the specifics for you hardware and whatever requirements you may have.

Should you have problems, help is a click away and I also like that they have a click for contributing to Mint as well. I really hope that its users do take the time to throw them some bucks because all the thought and effort they put into it really does deserve it.

Theme

The first order of business was to see how, if available, the dark theme would look on mint. The window borders and controls can be set separately. I set mine to be Mint-Y-Dark on both.

I give it 3-thumbs up. It just looks so pleasing on the eyes. I really believe that this should be the default theme for Linux Mint

Default Applications

Linux Mint has all the basic application installed to do whatever you need to do on a computer. LibreOffice for document creation. Firefox web browser, HexChat for IRC and Thunderbird for email.

The menu they have put together for it is also really well done. I do like that have it set up nicely organized and have an “All applications” listing as well. Not that I find that as useful, but I see the utility in it if you are just looking through the list of installed applications. It also has a search function that works well too.

linuxmint-21-menu

The default Firewall is also very approachable. This is the same as MX Linux and many other distributions out there, Gufw. It looks good and is pretty easy to use with a very nice help section too get you started. Interestingly, it was disabled by default.

linuxmint-20-firewall

System Snapshots

The system backup / snapshot utility has two options, RSYNC and BTRFS. I was excited to see the BTRFS option and wanted to see how close this would be to openSUSE.

linuxmint-22-snapshots

After hitting finish, I was given a sad dialog box that said it was not supported. Here is why I wish I would have looked at the partitioning options more closely. Maybe next time.

linuxmint-23-btrfs not really an option

Upgrades on Mint are about like what you would experience on seemingly any other Debian based distribution. I did have one issue of not being able to fetch some of the packages but the system still hummed along quite fine after a reboot.

linuxmint-24-updates

My only real issue with the installer was even after authorizing the upgrades, I had to do further authorizations in the same session. It was a bit odd but better to be safe than sorry.

What I Like

The dark theme on Mint is top notch. I am partial to the dark theme with green highlights, as that is how keep my desktop with openSUSE. Green is just a great color. Kermit was wrong, it is easy being green.

Cinnamon looks real nice and is very approachable for a new-to-Linux user. The menu is nice the icon theme is nice, it is all, real… nice. There really isn’t much to complain about with the appearance and usability. It does what I would expect, it feels clean and the system settings all feel very nicely integrated. Linux Mint feels like a complete experience.

The default applications are sensible basics that I am perfectly fine with. I don’t get hung up on default applications, so long as I can get what I want. I could get my work done in Linux Mint just fine.

What I Don’t Like

I didn’t care for how Mint automatically started a live media version when booting from the downloaded media. I do prefer having the option to install directly not just force me directly into a live media session. Perhaps the audience that Mint is catering to, this is indeed a good solution. Not my preference but I see its utility.

It is common in many distributions to require authentication to do updates. What I didn’t notice with other distros was without closing the update application, I had to enter my password again to attempt updates. I guess better safe than sorry but it is a bit of a paper-cut issue from my perspective.

The default partitioning is not my preference. I would prefer separate home and root partitions. I have played around with Linux to “configure” it my way or get something else working and have messed things up beyond repair. I have also spent enough time working on systems to know that there are times that a nuke-and-pave that is required periodically. I really believe that it is unwise to have one partition.

I was real excited to see BTRFS based snapshots as a way of backing up the system but that option was given to me after the installation. I would have had to know ahead of time to set it up as such but I didn’t see that immediately in the installer as an option.

Final Thoughts

Linux Mint looks great and I see this as a good distribution for the uninitiated into the Linux world. I would gladly recommend it to anyone, especially if you can’t be there in person to help them out with it and through it. The welcome screen is a great and seems to get a newbie right to where they have to go.

I think Cinnamon is nice desktop and would be satisfactory for any casual user but it is not exactly what I like. I still prefer the flexibility of KDE Plasma. Would I be happy on Mint? I really don’t know if I would. It was all real nice but I just don’t know. I think I would have to play around with it some more to be able to answer that. I certainly prefer it to many other distributions of Linux and I would take it over the Windows or Mac experience but as a daily driver on my main machine, it wouldn’t be my first choice. I very much prefer what openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma gives me, it satisfies those varied itches I have. Mint is not a bad place to be, it just doesn’t happen to scratch all my itches.

Further Reading

LinuxMint Downlaod

BigDaddyLinux Community

http://gufw.org/

 

KDE Connect CLI | A gift to Future Self

terminal-icon

KDE Connect is an application that I use on a daily basis between my mobile and my desktop or laptop Linux systems. Most of my systems are openSUSE machines running KDE Plasma and the mobile devices are running LineageOS (Android). Up until I decided to run a non-KDE Plasma desktop.

​I was given the distinct pleasure in getting to know the KDE Connect Command Line Interface application when pairing devices to a BunsenLabs and MX Linux installation. The main reason for this was to be able to share clipboards and use my HP TouchPad as an input device for the machine.

The commands are mostly easy to use. This is a guide for me, if it works for you, fantastic. If you have no interest in this, that is perfectly fine too.

Installation

Install using your favorite graphical package manager or in the terminal.

openSUSE

sudo zypper install kdeconnect-kde

Debian Based

sudo apt-get install kdeconnect

Process to Pair Device

There are two ways you can go about doing this. From the terminal on the non-Plasma system to a system with either Android KDE Plasma or the reverse. I am going to demonstrate this the fun way, which is from the terminal to the GUI systems.

Assuming that you have configured your firewall to allow KDE Connect communication, in short 1714-1764 for UDP and TCP connections, check with your distribution for firewall instructions, or here for the KDE Community instructions. Optionally, here for the openSUSE Instructions.
In the terminal run this to find KDE Connect enabled devices:

kdeconnect-cli -l

That will give you output something like this:

– TouchPADD: device_ID (reachable)
– SkyHigh: device_ID (reachable)
– Icarus: device_ID (reachable)
– Nexus5X: device_ID (reachable)
4 devices found

Now that you have identified the devices you will need to pair the device

kdeconnect-cli -d device_ID --pair

On the device you are attempting to connect to, you will see the notification that the a device is attempting to connect
kde connect pair notification

Accept it and move on to the next device you that you wish to connect.

How I am using it

I am using my TouchPADD as another input device for the non-KDE Plasma system, I am also using it to share clipboard contents between machines as well, usually URLs.

Final Thoughts

There are many more function of KDE Connect you can do in the terminal. You can play around with KDE Connect in the terminal by running.

kdeconnect-cli --help

The only other command I have used is to ping another device

kdeconnect-cli -d device_ID --ping

Since I couldn’t find any resources that plainly explained how to use the terminal commands so it was fitting to jot it down. Hopefully you find this useful.

Further Reading

https://community.kde.org/KDEConnect

https://en.opensuse.org/SDB:KDE_Connect

KDE Connect – Mobile and Desktop Convergence

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

https://lineageos.org/

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

MX Linux review titleMX Linux is a distribution I have heard many good things about for several months. It even ranks high on the arbitrary DistroWatch.com site (3rd as of late December 2018). Having had a fantastic experience with BunsenLabs Linux on old hardware, I wanted to give MX Linux a spin. The latest version, MX-18 has been released and can be downloaded from here. I downloaded both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions to see how they would perform on older hardware. I am a die-hard openSUSE fan and I was also curious to see how using MX compares to openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma. Additionally, it was also presented as a challenge from the BigDaddyLinux community.

So it is well understood, this is a biased review from an openSUSE Tumbleweed user. I prefer the KDE Plasma Desktop Environment as I believe it to be superior to anything else I have ever used. I will be looking at MX Linux from this perspective but I will be fair.

Installation

The MX Linux installer, although not the simplest installer I’ve ever used, is easy to navigate. The MX installer is straight forward and in my opinion easy enough for a new-to-Linux user to set up and get going with it.

From the initial machine startup, you are greeted with a pretty typical boot screen.

MX Linux-01-Live Media Start.png

The only aspect of this I wish could change would be the option to directly install MX Linux to the drive instead of going through the Live Media portion. It should be noted, that MX boots pretty quickly, I didn’t time it but even when installing it on old 32-bit hardware, it was surprisingly fast.

The welcome window, the MX-18 Continuum, is a real nice touch. For a new user or one that is getting acquainted with a new environment, this is absolutely fantastic. I would describe this like a landing page to get you access to the important bits of the system or information. Importantly, the codecs installer as well as the Tweaks cab be accessed from here. More on the Tweaks later. Should you close this window and not be able to find it, just type “MX” in the menu search to see all the MX tools.

MX Linux-02-MX Welcome.png

The installation of MX is a pleasant experience and to kick it off, the terms of service can be read in its entirety and in just a few seconds. I selected to auto-install using the entire disk. I am a one distro for one machine kind of guy so this is the way I like to roll. You will be asked for confirmation of the disk changes before it installed, so no need to worry about the installer doing anything without your explicit permission.

The machine then installs the operating system to your machine and while doing so gives you a series of “commercials” for the various features of MX. The feature I am particularly fascinated by is the ability to “repair your system”. I haven’t had a need for this in a long while but next time I should have a problem with a system, I intend on giving the MX repair tool a spin.

Upon the completion of the install, you will be asked your boot method. I have tended to go with the MBR on my legacy systems. Then you will enter your computer’s name, domain and Samba workgroup for Microsoft Windows style networking.

You’ll next set your localization defaults and your user name, password and root password. I didn’t see an option to add additional users but that is not a common feature I have seen from installers.

A really neat feature is the ability to save your changes to the desktop you made, presumably to the new user account you created. I didn’t test this feature but it sounds like a great idea and if you have been tweaking your system on the Live Media, it just might be very handy to pass those changes to your machine install.

MX Linux, like all distributions, will ask for your support in your time and talents. If you plan on spending time here, I would encourage you to do so. Once you hit finish, you are given another dialog box telling you that the installation is complete and whether or not you want to reboot immediately.

That’s it, nothing terribly complex, the installer walks you through step-by-step in a very clear and understandable method. One thing that I found it different, but not in a bad way, that the developers have chosen to install the system before you configure the user, computer name, domain and workgroup. I don’t see anything wrong with it, I just found it different.

Before the system reboots, you are instructed to remove the “disc” from the system. It gave me a moment of pause to think that I haven’t actually used optical media to install anything in quite sometime. Perhaps this should be reworded to be “Live Media” or “USB Drive” since that is probably more common these days.

MX Linux-13-Remove Live Media

First Run

The first thing I did when the system settled was to install updates. This distribution, too, requires you to enter root’s password. I am beginning to think that it is more common than not to require root password to do upgrades. I can’t help but to compare this to openSUSE Leap where it is not required to enter a password too do upgrades it is just click and go (Distribution upgrades are a different matter).

MX Linux-14-Upgrade.png

One area I will give high points with MX are the configuration tools. I do prefer KDE Plasma as my default desktop, being that it is very configurable, MX takes XFCE and give it almost as many customization options.

The MX Dark theme is pretty fantastic and, in my humble opinion should be the default theme. It just looks terrific and is very pleasant on the eyes.

Initially, the customization, for me, fell apart a bit when it comes to panel positioning. I am not a fan of the side or top positions for the panel. I’ll take the side before the top but I would really prefer it to be on the bottom. I don’t like ANYTHING at the top of the screen. I personally dislike the global menu or anything of that nature lingering on the top of the screen. This particular requirement is especially important for the way I have my multiple displays arranged. It only makes sense for me to have my Panel on the bottom of the screen. Anything else would just look goofy and be cumbersome.

Thanks to the developer, Dolphin Oracle, he informed on how to move the panel to wherever I wanted. Under Tweaks there is a panel tab. My failure was that I clicked on a panel button. In that panel tab, you can adjust exactly where you want that panel to live.

MX Linux-24-Panel Tweak

The package manager is fantastic. It is simple and straight forward with no weird bits about it. I like that there is a Flatpak Tab where you could search for applications that are not in the regular repositories. I was able to install Telegram and Discord without issue.

Another great feature of the package manager is how verbose it is. It shows you exactly what is going on. I much prefer that to a bar going across the screen like some kind of dummy light.

I have not a single complaint about the package manager. It has some great usability features that I appreciate and exposes what is going on behind the shiny GUI to the user.

What I Like

Dell Optiplex GX620.jpgThere is a lot to like about MX-18. I installed MX18 32-bit on an old piece of hardware and I was VERY impressed by how it operated. I could very happily watch YouTube videos and Netflix was ALMOST watchable, all this on Firefox. For the time being, I have decided that I am going to leave MX on this old Optiplex GX620. I want to do more comparisons between MX and BunsenLabs on two different older machines.

MX looks great, especially with the MX Dark Theme with Breeze Icons (available by default). The menu, although, not able to be placed in the correct spot, looks good and is very usable. It has a system tray and the virtual desktop switcher (pager) works as one would expect.

The package manager works very well and is very straight forward. I like how the tabs are laid out so that you can choose where you are getting your software. This is very opposite to the approach you would see on many other distributions. I don’t know that this is better or worse but I can say that it is an approach I can appreciate.

Finally, I especially appreciate how little memory MX uses. When watching Netflix, with a paused YouTube video still used less than 1 GiB of RAM which seemed delightfully low. It should also be noted that even after running MX for a few days, there was no evidence of any kind of memory leaking or creeping.

What I Don’t Like

What I don’t like is a short list. For starters, there isn’t an option to go right into the system installation. You are forced to go into a live media mode and install after that initial boot. If I were to only be deploying this to one machine, this is not a big deal but any kind of large scale deployments would make this less enjoyable.

With as many customization options that exist in MX, I didn’t immediately see where the pick was to put the panel at the bottom of the screen. I am not sure that there is exactly a fix for that as it was more of a PEBKAC issue (Problem Exists Between the Keyboard And Chair). Any of the customization issues that do exist for me is likely an issue that would clear itself up with more time using.

It doesn’t use Zypper… I know, this is a Debian based distro, so of course it doesn’t use Zypper by default, I just happen to like Zypper better and I wanted a third thing I didn’t like about MX. Remember, I said I was biased.

Final Thoughts

MX Linux is a great distribution. Weather you have older hardware or the latest and greatest, MX will likely be a good fit. It does lack some features of which I am accustomed but if I was without my beloved openSUSE + KDE Plasma, MX could fill that space quite nicely. Where I do see me using MX is on older 32 bit hardware as it does run very well, it’s reliable and breaths new life into what should be long-retired hardware. This can take past end of life hardware chugging along quite nicely with a modern Linux kernel. When I weigh this distribution against BunsenLabs Linux, I would lean a bit heavier to MX over BunsenLabs, mostly based on the the MX configuration tools. As far as performance goes, MX and BunsenLabs seem to be on par with one another.

At the end of the day, I would not swap MX with openSUSE Tumbleweed + KDE Plasma. As nice as MX is and as much as I have enjoyed using it, I just happen to enjoy openSUSE a bit more. It should be noted once again. I am heavily, heavily biased in my evaluation but that doesn’t mean that MX is, in any way a distribution you should just pass by. Even if you are content with where you are, MX is worth a spin.

Further Reading

https://mxlinux.org/

https://www.bigdaddylinux.com/

https://distrowatch.com/

MX-18, What’s New Video on YouTube

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

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NeptuneOS | Review from an openSUSE User

I am not a “distro hopper” but it is good to experience some of the other Linux distributions out there. It gives you a good understanding of what you like and what you like less and keeps things colorful. This time it is NeptuneOS, a Debian based distro. Most of my Debian experience as of late has been with the Ubuntu and its variants. As far as I am concerned. Linux really is Linux and they are all, for the most part, good.

Installation

I am doing all my evaluations in a Virtual Machine. I am using my current favorite, for such things, VirtualBox. When I downloaded the ISO, I took quick attention to the system requirements for how very specific they are. I wanted to try them at their minimum.

1 Ghz Intel/AMD 64Bit CPU, 1.6 GB RAM, 8 GB HDD

I didn’t scale the CPU but I did set the RAM to down to 1.8 GB because I do have a machine like that and the HDD just a bit bigger to be realistic to what I would get form an older netbook or current, cheap, laptop in a dual boot scenario.

For starters, I must say, I am a bit confused as to why there isn’t a direct install option, that you have to use it as a “Live CD” to start. I am not sure why Live CDs are really a thing anymore. If I am going to try a Linux Distribution, you can’t get the full benefit out of it in a kind of Read Only environment, would rather just install directly.

When the Live CD version boots up, you are greeted with a fine looking desktop. Very pleasant and simple. A great way to start.

I am not going to be too critical of the choice for a Live CD being the only option but it does seem like a bit of a waste of time to have to go that route, just to install.

Installation

The installation process was straight forward. With only six steps required to get the install going, seven if you count the confirmation to perform the install and eight if you count rebooting as part of the install.

The first two steps are pretty easy… what language do you speak and about where do you live. If only most questions life were this simple…

The keyboard selector is the best I have ever seen. Although I do not have a Dvorak keyboard, nor have I ever seen one in the wild, it was great to not only see this as an option but to see that the keyboard layout is what you are expecting. Very nice!

This really inspires me to want to get a Dvorak keyboard. The practicality is still in question as I don’t need one and it would likely just be a novelty.

I left the default partitioning scheme in place. This is not going to be a regular machine else I would have set a separate /home partition. I like for those home things to be separate should I have a desire to “nuke and pave” my system (clean install). The user set up was also nice and clean although, I like to be able to specify my own user ID.

My only criticism to the installation process is that it is just a series of commercials, I suppose that is fine but I like to watch and see what is actually happening, such as packages being installed and the like.

Step Eight, reboot. Interesting that it would be a check mark option.

First Run

Upon reboot, I happen to like this Grub screen; Big Chunky Red Bar to boot Neptune OS. It boot rather quickly, especially since this is happening in a VM. Time to boot is not something I would score real heavy on unless it is painfully slow like pre-systemD era Linux.

There is something about a fresh smelling, clean, un-customized desktop in KDE Plasma. It is like a sand box waiting for your own personal creation to take form.

I am going to give NeptuneOS points on their default menu selection. It is not my personal preference but for a new user, this is a great, comfortable menu that is clear and gives you some great starting points. Well done!

Personally, I prefer the “Application Menu” Alternative but that is the simply awesome thing about KDE Plasma, if you don’t like the default or have a different preference, there is an option for you.

For a light theme, I think the default desktop theme is pretty great. It looks clean and simple and I do like the shadowing effect. The NeptuneOS dark theme is also very nicely done. So theming wise, this is a great distro out of the box. No reason to hunt for a new theme.

Discover is basically what you would expect on a KDE Plasma Desktop. I must say, I am not used to the light theme for this application and I maybe like it better than the dark theme.

I am not really sure why you have to enter your password for updates but again, not a big deal. Maybe you don’t want an unprivileged user to be able to perform updates.

Plasma Vault

I may have been living under a rock but I haven’t seen this application before. I haven’t taken the time to research it at all but wanted to see how intuitive it would be to use knowing nothing about it.

The one thing I don’t really understand is why they would include Encfs as an encryption system by default if it is knowingly less secure and easily compromised. I can see having it available for legacy reason but installed by default seems just a bit silly.

After choosing your encryption system, you are prompted for your password to which it tells you how “secure” it is, a location for the vault, the mount point, and finally the type of cipher you wish to use. I chose the “default”.

Another nice feature was the option to limit the vault to specific activities. Plasma will close that vault if you goo to an activity to which it is not permitted.

To try it out, I created a text file in the vault to experience the process of interacting with mounting and un-mounting vaults.

When mounted, the vault acts like any other directory on the file tree. When you un-mount the vault, the contents of that vault disappears in much the same way you would expect from un-mounting a drive.

When mounting the drive, you are prompted for your password and the vault auto-magically becomes available once again.

On a side note I liked this so much, and to shoe-horn in my preferred distribution in this review, I installed it in openSUSE to play with it some more.

sudo zypper install plasma-vault plasma-vault-backend-cryfs plasma-vault-lang

What I Like

The general feel of NeptuneOS is great, from the Installation process to the menu selection and default theme selections, it was all quite fantastic. If I had to use NeptuneOS as a daily driver, I would be quite comfortable here. NeptuneOS is based on Debian 9.0 (Stretch), I could probably add a PPA or download the tarball or some other deb package of Telegram to get going with it. The same goes for Discord or any other application I regularly use. I am already familiar with the Debian way of doing things so living in the terminal here is not much different elsewhere.

NeptuneOS-31-Smart Card InstallationI used my directions for installing the Smart Card system for Ubuntu and derivatives and it all worked just as expected. I was a bit surprised that they worked. I did have to set it up for Chromium, which worked just fine. This tells me I need to make some adjustments to my page to spell out what I have tested. Something to think about…

The system requirements specified on the Download page are accurate. They are not just theoretical. For everything I tested, it all just worked.

What I Don’t Like

Telegram, Discord and Firefox was not available in the repository. Iceweasel was available, which I know is a re-branded Firefox but to a new-ish user that doesn’t know what Iceweasel is, that could be confusing. I am sure I could find Telegram and Discord but I wasn’t particularly inspired to do so.

I haven’t tested memory usage between Chromium and Firefox but based on my Chrome experiences, it seems like Firefox might be a better solution to meet that low system memory requirement or better yet, have Falkon available even though that is not a full featured browser.

It doesn’t have Zypper, the openSUSE package manager… but I wasn’t expecting that. I just happen to prefer it over Apt*.

Final Thoughts

NeptuneOS is a very clean KDE Plasma distribution. It looks good out of the box and since it is based on Debian 9.0, it has potential to have quite the extensive software library available to it. The experience is clean and well thought out with sensible defaults. Not all the defaults are my preference but that can be fairly easily adjusted to suit my needs. There are some applications that are not available by default which can be a bit frustrating but there are not many distributions that have everything you want upon install.

Over all, NeptuneOS is a winner, from an openSUSE user’s perspective.

Further Reading

NeptuneOS Home Page

VirtualBox.org

DoD CAC Reader | Ubuntu, Derivatives and Linux Mint

3 Ways to Install Telegram Messenger on Debian 9 Stretch

Other Distributions