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Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 07-09-2014 10:40 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 301

Sparky is a rolling release distro, based on Debian testing. The default desktop LXDE, but I tested the 32-bit version with Xfce. I had trouble downloading from one server, but the other was fine. The installer is run from the live session, and listed in the menu under System. It’s simple to use, but it doesn’t offer encryption and it will hang if you choose any filing system other than ext4. Both the installation and the installed system would be fine with 512MB. Xfce is well implemented and set up with top panel, bottom dock, and Conky. Software includes Icedove, Iceweasel, Pidgin, Xchat, Liferea, LibreOffice, Gimp, VLC, Exaile, Gnome-mplayer, and a bundle of games. Flash, media codecs, and spell-checking are installed. All programs worked, with a few warnings when run from the CLI. Like most Debian distros, other than Mint, Sparky had no tool capable of making my USB speakers the default, so I could only get sound with media software, not with Iceweasel. I also had what seem to be the usual Debian problems doing an update, which were not helped by Sparky getting the name of a mirror wrong. If you want a rolling-release derivative of Debian, the alternatives are Mint’s Debian Edition, Semplice, or SolydXK. The choice will depend on which GUI you prefer, although Mint is marginally better.

Rating: 7
Product Details: "3.4 "MATE", "Xfce", "Base"" by wsteward - posted: 06-28-2014 - Rating: ******* 7.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 07-01-2014 12:04 PM [ Post a Review

Views: 312

Linux Lite is based on the long-term-support version of Ubuntu. It fits onto a CD and will give a reasonable performance with a Pentium III or M and 512 MB. Installation is done from a live session with Ubuntu’s installer, but without the option to encrypt /home. There’s a good installation guide on the website. I tested the 32-bit version. The desktop is a standard Xfce, although it defaults to the Whisker menu and Orage and Catfish aren’t installed. The file manager has been given a useful “open as administrator” option. The software includes LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Mumble, Xchat, Gimp, VLC, and Steam. Flash and the media codecs are installed, but not spell-checking for LibreOffice. Everything worked perfectly. Apart from the usual shortage of configuration tools in Debian derivatives, my only complaint was that it gave me a US locale; finding out how to change that brought me back to Debian’s lack of good GUI tools… Linux Lite is well worth considering among the Debian derivatives with Xfce: slightly better than Xubuntu, Mint, and OS4, although not quite as nice as Antix MX.

Rating: 8
Product Details: "Lite 2.0" by wsteward - posted: 06-02-2014 - Rating: ******** 8.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 06-26-2014 12:53 PM [ Post a Review

Views: 338

For my annual inspection of PCLinuxOS I’ve tried the 32-bit KDE and Mate versions. The start-up screen offers a live session (normal, failsafe, or loaded into RAM), installation, or a disk check. If you choose to check the disk, it will go to a live session afterwards, so if you need a different language, select it first with F2. The desktop of the live session has an icon to access detailed installation instructions, and the menu has a Help Portal giving links to many useful web sites. The installer is easy, although it doesn’t support encrypting /home. The KDE version naturally needs a reasonable amount of memory — 1GB would be the absolute minimum — but, since the special effects are not activated by default, it’s not sluggish on single-core CPUs. The first thing to do is to get the updates. I had a couple of failures, solved by switching to a different mirror. There’s a lot of software installed: LibreOffice (with spell-checking), Gimp, KolourPaint, Inkscape, Firefox (with Flash), Thunderbird, Kmail, Skype, Clementine, Dragon, VLC (with codecs), Great Little Radio Player, and a bundle of games. The items I checked worked well. It gave me a US locale, despite my UK keyboard, but there’s a locale-setting tool in the excellent configuration centre. The Mate version starts you off with very few programs: Firefox, Pidgin, Thunderbird, Skype, Clementine, VLC, and Great Little Radio Player. There’s a menu option to install LibreOffice but, since the current version of that doesn’t like my computer, I installed OpenOffice: the job was simple, unlike in Mint. As with Mint, the notification area on the panel was invisible, but this is a Mate bug that only affects certain hardware. Finally I looked at the Xfce respin. This is unofficial, and the download link is in the Xfce section of the PCLinuxOS forum. The software selection was different again: Firefox, Pidgin, Thunderbird, Skype, XChat, VLC, Great Little Radio Player, DeaDBeef, DeVeDe, Gimp, Inkscape, and LibreOffice. I noticed that, as well as the usual HPLIP, support tools for Epson and Lexmark printers were included. The only problem was that the developer had forgotten to populate the keyboard shortcuts file: not even Alt-F4 was there! The tool to do this is the one to configure the Window Manger, not the one for the keyboard. The only criticisms I could make are the few niggles mentioned above and the usual struggle to enable my USB speakers : not major issues. This is the most stable of rolling-release distros, and a good choice for beginner or expert. And it’s the only distro that has a free monthly magazine!

Rating: 8
Product Details: "2014.05" by DavidMcCann - posted: 06-26-2014 - Rating: ******** 8.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 06-14-2014 11:28 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 1216

I tested the 32-bit version of Mint with the Mate desktop. The live disk started well enough, but once installed the GUI kept crashing. I eventually solved that problem by changing the display manager, replacing mdm with xdm. That led to plymouthd continuing to run, which was only solved by disabling it altogether. The software included LibreOffice (without spell-checking), Gimp, Firefox (with Flash), Pidgin, HexChat, Thunderbird, Banshee, and VLC and Totem (with codecs). There were several warnings from GTK and GLib when running from the CLI, but everything worked except for LibreOffice. In Writer, display problems made it almost unusable. I replaced it with OpenOffice from Apache, which worked except for having an invisible scrollbar. That was cured by changing the theme. I also had an invisible notification area on the panel: a Gnome2/Mate bug which has affected Ubuntu and Mint sporadically for at least 4 years, for which there seems to be no remedy. There seem to be quite a few people having graphics problems: it may be well to wait for version 17.1.

Rating: 6
Product Details: "17" by wsteward - posted: 06-01-2014 - Rating: ******** 7.50

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 06-04-2014 10:38 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 728

WattOS has switched its base from Ubuntu to Debian. The main version still uses LXDE, and Mate and Openbox are also offered. I looked at the 32-bit LXDE version. This was partly because the the others, on different servers, were threatening to take over 24 hours to download! There’s a small user forum, but no wiki or installation instructions available, although the Debian and LXDE documentation can obviously be used. The live session loaded without any problems, and installation was simple. There’s little choice, however: the filing system must be ext4 and there’s no provision to encrypt /home. WattOS installs very little software: just Shotwell, VLC (with codecs), Audacious, and Iceweasel (with Flash). Being taken from Debian Stable, there were no detectable bugs. Synaptic is available for installing extra software. Configuration beyond the basic can be a problem, as neither Debian not LXDE are user-friendly in this respect. For example, enabling my USB speakers (a mystery in itself) removed the volume control from the panel, and the keyboard buttons don’t work in LXDE by default. WattOS is competing with Lubuntu, Zorin Light, and Salix. If you need a non-pae kernel, it’s the only option. Otherwise, I preferred Salix and Zorin Light, while Lubuntu is the only one to offer encryption of /home.

Rating: 7
Product Details: "R8" by wsteward - posted: 05-12-2014 - Rating: ******* 7.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 06-04-2014 10:35 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 747

This version of Lubuntu is a long-term-support one. I tested the 32-bit version, using the alternative installation disk. This is not live, but it will run in 256MB rather than needing 512. It’s quite powerful, though, and offers a wide range of filing systems and encryption of /home. Software included Abiword (with spell-checker), Gnumeric, mtPaint, Firefox (no Flash), Pidgin, Sylpheed, Audacious, GNOME Mplayer (with codecs). There were some warnings in connection with Glib, two labeled critical, but everything ran. Neither Firefox not the Software Centre could find Flash, but Synaptic came to the rescue. Ubuntu’s Software Centre generally seems better at trying to sell things than finding programs. As with WattOS, enabling my USB speakers (no easy task) made the volume control disappear from the panel, and the buttons on the keyboard don’t work with LXDE by default. Lubuntu is competing with WattOS, Salix, and Zorin Light. It needs more memory than the others : an absolute minimum of 256MB. For a computer old enough to need a non-pae kernel, choose WattOS. If you want better configuration tools, try Salix.

Rating: 7
Product Details: "14.04" by wsteward - posted: 04-18-2014 - Rating: ******* 7.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 05-31-2014 10:19 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 737

I tested Xubuntu’s 32-bit version. The installation disk’s menu can be obtained by pressing enter; otherwise it boots into a live session in English with a US keyboard. The menu offers a live session, installation, or a disk check. You can set the language and keyboard, and even use a screen reader or a Braille terminal. The desktop comes with a panel at the top which is missing the pager (why is this getting so common?) and with the Whisker menu instead of the Xfce one. Several keyboard shortcuts to run applications were preset. The video seemed to have a problem, with Xorg using far more CPU than normal and with occasional screen ghosting. The software included Firefox (with flash), Thunderbird, Pidgin, Gimp, Gmusicbrowser and Parole (with codecs), Abiword (with a dictionary), and Gnumeric. There were several critical warnings when I ran them from the CLI, but everything worked. However, when I tried importing a couple of odt documents into Abiword, the formating was not properly preserved. Most configuration tasks could be easily achieved, but there were the usual Debian/Ubuntu strugles for anything more advanced, like enabling USB speakers. For adding software, only the Software Centre was provided. This failed to find items which were subsequently found with Synaptic: it’s better at trying to sell you things. Xubuntu invites comparison with AntiX MX, Mint, OS4, and Snow: there’s not a lot of difference, but the others, especially Mint, are rather better.

Rating: 6
Product Details: "14.04" by wsteward - posted: 04-19-2014 - Rating: ****** 6.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 05-21-2014 04:33 PM [ Post a Review

Views: 612

The main AntiX is a re-spin Debian stable of with the Ice window manager, originally intended to keep very small computers in use. This version is a re-spin of Mepis with the Xfce desktop, aimed at the medium-sized machine. The boot screen enables you to set the language, time-zone, and various other parameters. If AntiX is run without installation, it can be copied to RAM for extra speed, and persistence can be used on a USB device to save settings and extra software. Installation can be done from the boot screen with a command line, or from the live session with the excellent Mepis installer. This gives a guide to each stage and even allows services like spamassassin and bluetooth to be selected. This seems to be the lightest Xfce distro, and I would suggest minimum requirements of a Pentium III, 256MB of RAM, and a 5MB HD. Xfce is set up with a single panel on the left-hand side of the screen: my preference, but rarely used as the default. The panel comes with an analogue clock that is hard to see and the Whisker menu, which doesn’t strike me as likely to appeal to admirers of Xfce, but these are easily changed. The programs provided include LibreOffice, VLC, Clementine, Claws-mail, and QupZilla web-browser. All were bug-free, and the media codecs, flash plugin, and spell-checker were installed. The file manager, Thunar, has a useful plugin which enables directories and files to be opened as root. There were a lot of updates available, so I installed them. After 20 minutes, I wondered why it was taking so long and asked Synaptic to show details. It was only then that I found it had been waiting for me to answer a question, of which I was naturally unaware! Of course, that sort of thing is just one of the eccentricities of Debian, for which AntiX cannot be blamed. Another is the usual struggle to set up my USB speakers. This is a useful addition to the stable of Xfce distros, as well as being ideal for computers which are not as young as they were.

Rating: 8
Product Details: "MX-14" by wsteward - posted: 03-25-2014 - Rating: ******** 8.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 03-23-2014 11:32 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 1727

When I tried the Openbox version of Slackel last year, after rebooting I was told “something bad has happened” and dumped into the command line. It turned out to be a segmentation fault and it’s still there. In my review of the KDE version, I asked “what has Slackel got that Salix hasn’t?” In this case, the answer is “only the bug”, since a check on my installation revealed that the Salix repository is the only one set up.

Rating: 1
Product Details: "6.0 "Openbox"" by wsteward - posted: 03-10-2014 - Rating: * 1.00

Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 03-18-2014 11:39 AM [ Post a Review

Views: 2876

LMDE is a semi-rolling release based on Debian testing: changes are saved into monthly update packs. I tested the 32-bit Mate version. The installer was not as easy to use as the normal Mint one and also more limited: you can’t encrypt /home and the only filing system available is ext4. As usual with Mint, Mate came with Mint’s own Gnomish menu applet and without a pager, but that’s easily remedied. Mate, or perhaps Mint, seems to be getting bloated: this was as big as Pinguy with Gnome 3. The programs provided included Totem, Banshee, VLC, Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Xchat, and LibreOffice. Media codecs and Flash were also provided. A few warnings were left when programs were run from CLI and, of the three media players, only Totem worked. I had a problem installing new programs: first I got ‘hash sum mismatch’, then next day a 404, so I had to run the software sources tool and select a new mirror. It would have been better if apt-get had tried a different mirror automatically, as yum does. Of course, that’s a Debian problem, not a Mint one, as is the incorrect dependency marking I ran into. Some of the things I installed really should have been there: gufw to enable the firewall and bum to configure the daemons. Compared to the regular Mint, you get a bigger repository, a semi-rolling release, and an inferior installer. Compared to Debian, you get Mint’s configuration tools: I was able to select my USB speakers — usually a nightmare in Debian — with a few clicks.

Rating: 8
Product Details: "201403 "Debian"" by wsteward - posted: 03-03-2014 - Rating: ******** 8.00

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