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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: 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: 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.

The Best Newbie Distro is You

Whether they love it or loathe it, they'll need to brace for impact.

Whether they love it or loathe it, they’ll need to brace for impact.

Oft asked is the question, “What is the best Linux for beginners?” It is The First Question, the one that hopefully brings one more user away from the wholly proprietary desktop. And oft is the query answered with the name of a distro, straight, with no introduction, discussion or consideration.

A post I came across on LinuxInsider collated a few suggestions, but most pertinently concluded that the actual distribution does not matter quite so much as how much you are willing to help the new user. Dedoimedo guest posted at netrunner-mag.com how he imagined on-boarding an enthusiast would go.

I would like to point out how it is for the fearful – those who are needing to move because XP is running out, or who’ve bought a new PC with (woe!) Windows 8 preinstalled, or that friend for whom you’ve acquired an old laptop in serious need of a rejuvenation… Read more

Paying for Free Software

Who to pay money to when you’ve finally gotten round to the free software world?

Back when I was a student, and then when I was not working a terribly well-paid job, I couldn’t afford to fork over any significant amount of cash – so to those of you who are still in that situation, fret not the question!

But I now have a salary with which I can afford to financially support some (but not all) of the projects I have been using for free (gratis) for so long. I’d like them to stay free, both gratis and libere, and for that, some funding will likely not go unwelcome.

So how much to set aside? How often to pay in? And to whom?

I was going to post this to Ask Slashdot, but the question has already been answered there – though not particularly to my satisfaction.
http://ask.slashdot.org/story/08/05/23/046201/to-whom-should-i-donate

The following are how I am sorting the projects in my mind, and will probably pick one from each every 3 months or so to give some of my budget to. Read more

Installing GNU/Linux over multiple paritions or disks

Installing software is generally a breeze – run the installer, select the defaults, and hey presto, software installed! Even when installing a new operating system, be it Windows, Mac, or user-oriented GNU/Linux distributions, there are generally sensible and useful defaults provided. But sometimes, the defaults are not enough. Sometimes you need a manual install.

GNU/Linux systems allow you to install your system such that the system files, programs and suchlike all reside on one partition, and the user files, preferences, settings, browsing histories etc reside on another. This is useful at least in two typical scenarios:

  1. Isolating the user files (which live under the /home section of the GNU/Linux filesystem) from the rest of the OS allows you to reinstall the operating system any time, without affecting the user data
  2. If you have a SSD (solid state drive)/HDD (hard disk drive) pair in your computer, you can put your system and swap space on the faster but smaller Solid State Drive, and keep your user files on the slower but significantly larger Hard Disk Drive

This post is aimed at answering the following questions:

  • What are the differences and advantages of SSDs and HDDs each?
  • How do I install Linux using manual partitioning?
  • How do I use mount points in a manual install?
  • How do I reinstall Linux without changing my /home directory?
  • How do I install one Linux system on two different disks?
  • How do I isolate my /home directory on a different partition?
  • What is a SWAP partition/virtual memory?

Read more