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Choosing your GNU/Linux Distro

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Most of the time, the differences between one distro and another aren’t so important – most distros work the same as one another, which we are swift to be reminded of when asking “what’s the best distro for beginners?”

But what about drilling deeper into that question and instead asking, “what are the key differentiating factors between desktop distros?”

Here’s the list of things I consider, when deciding whether to take the time to download and install, or recommend, a distro.

This post aims to answer the questions:

  • What’s the best distro for new Linux users?
  • How do I know what Linux distro is right for me?
  • What are the main differences between Linux distros?
  • What Linux distros are backed by companies?

Read more

About that: Rich, Conceited and Alive – choose two.

Currently, Silicon Valley is looking more and more like the Third World: some extremely rich and showy people, and a lot of poverty, with no middle class.

One extremely rich chappy likened the rebellion of the poor against the rich to “a nazi rampage.”

In the comments section on Slashdot, one simple statement illustrated the balance perfectly:

I have lived in Brazil for quite some years now. Here the gap between rich and everyone else (there is no middle class here so to speak) is to such an extent that if you have money you are a target. This means that you must live in a gated community in constant fear that you or your kids might be kidnapped. You need to own a cheapo car so you won’t stand out too much when driving around. Of course you will have a nice car too, but this is only for weekends or maybe travel to places where other rich people go. In the end it is easy to become a prisoner of that wealth that is supposed to make you more free. I would prefer to live middle class in a 1st world country than rich in Brazil. The sad thing is that the erosion of the middle class in the 1st world countries means that they soon might resemble Brazil, and this is not good, even if you are rich.

Another commentator puts it quite bluntly.

When the poor start to starve, they will not die quietly, they will get violent. Keeping the masses reasonably well off is a good investment, even for the most psychopathic rich.

Remember what happened to the likes of Marie-Antoinette and Tsar Alexander.

History doomed to repeat and all that.

About that: the Internet narrows minds, however open they start out

A commentator on a Slahsdot article reminds that the Internet is a double-edged sword for politics, and for information spread in general:

Rather than a world-wide network enabling us to reach and appreciate a far wider range of topics and beliefs, we’ve instead been largely enabled to find the most comfortable echo chamber to reinforce all of our crazy without having to listen to neighbors who might not agree with our increasingly detached beliefs.

Not that that’s always a bad thing, if you’re a persecuted minority, for example. But I think the edge facing us does more cutting than the other side of the sword most of the time. Just look at how partisan things have gotten.

Read more

About that: Cracking down on sites like Ask.fm

A petition landed in my inbox today: “Shut down cyberbullying website, Ask.fm, in memory of Izzy Dix & 12 other teens globally

This is, alas, another misunderstanding of how websites work, but most importantly how social interactions, in general, work. I’m not saying that anyone is at moral fault in these cases; what I am concerned about is that the petition spreads the idea that any one site should be targeted for crackdown. Politicians can jump at this easily, scapegoat easily, and look like progress is being made. This is shortsighted, and ultimately leads us to rest on laurels until the next, identical, scandal arises.

(TLDR:) In brief, it’s not a crackdown on websites we need, but action on a large scale. We must be in control of the message that society projects to young people, the message must be on every wall a young person will see, and the message must be:

If you are a victim of BULLYING, it is never your fault, and you must always SPEAK UP immediately.

Read more for details. Read more

First look at Manjaro

Currently I’m having a go in a VM at Manjaro, a distribution based on Arch Linux.

There are a few things that make the Arch family particularly awesome, and a few things that make it quite daunting, but it’s really looking promising…. the following notes serve to document what I’ve learnt so far.

I’m using the 0.8.8 install release, 32-bit with Xfce in VirtualBox (the KDE ISO results in a blank/black screen after boot into LiveCD, both driver modes. Mouse visible and still possible to switch to tty terminals. Couldn’t be bothered troubleshooting yet). Read more

Drivers in Linux: ndiswrapper and the demise of Windows XP

With the impending demise of Windows XP (even though it has recently been announced that XP will now continue to receive updates until July 2015), the prime time for migrating casual Windows users to Linux is nigh.

However, one crucial aspect remains: driver support.

Some will be swift to point out that in-kernel driver support has come leaps and bounds lately, and most things just work “out of the box.” Unfortunately, that is not sufficient in the Real World. Read more

Response to: Foster Care After 18

The Guardian is reporting on new legislation for England where foster children will be allowed to continue to have foster parents until the age of 21, up from 18 previously.

This is not an effective solution to the core problem of dealing with adulthood, and an exposé of comments from some ex foster-children shows this: for those of us who are lucky to have our parents, they remain still our parents, whether we’re four, fourteen or forty. Read more

Response to: Will 2014 be the “year of the Linux Desktop”?

An open poll for opinions on Linux Voice.com asks whether the tired and still popular question “is 20XX going to be the year of the Linux Dsktop” is still relevant.

My take on it is as below – but in brief (TL;DR) it is no longer relevant technologically, it is relevant and in progress from an industrial point of view, and is is most definitely still relevant when it comes to users at home, with no technical skills. The question beyond that is, do we even want non-techies using Linux? Read more

Resource Forks, large files, and FAT32 – and still no cross-platofrm standard

Here are a few things I learned in a recent experiment in backing up, erasing, and restoring a Mac.

  1. Use HFS to back up from Mac to Mac (to preserve idiosyncratic Mac structures like the ResourceFork)
  2. If you want to allow access to the backup in other operating systems use FAT32 (the only file system which Mac/Win/Linux can all read AND write to)
  3. But you will lose the following:
    1. any file larger than 4 GB (hard limit on FAT32 filesystem)
    2. you will lose anything that relied on the presence of a ResourceFork in the file.

Read more

The Surf

I was reading an article on why DRM has always been a bad idea, with mounting evidence to show it when the following came to mind:

Spread out your arms to stop the waves
From crashing into your lovely little sand castle
And be vanquished by its might

Or swim out into the unknown waters
Tussle with the ever changing unmarked currents
Fight to stay afloat in these tides

And then turn shorewards once more
Rush in with the swell and the implacable force of nature
Ride in on a wave of victory

Voila.