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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
For more advanced trainees it can be a desktop reference, and a collection of the base knowledge needed to proceed with system and network administration. This book contains many real life examples derived from the author's experience as a Linux system and network administrator, trainer and consultant. They hope these examples will help you to get a better understanding of the Linux system and that you feel encouraged to try out things on your own.
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» Number of reviews : 267 - viewing 10 Per Page
Last Review by DavidMcCann - posted: 09-05-2014 01:20 PM
Zorin OS Light is based on Ubuntu with the LXDE desktop. It seems to be the largest LXDE distro, but it would still run well in 512MB of RAM.
Pressing a key at boot-up gives a menu where you can choose a live session or installation. Donít use the installer from the menu if you need to reconfigure the HD: do that in a live session with Gparted, then run the installer. And donít try to encrypt /home ó it locks-up the installer. Despite my choice of a UK keyboard, I was given a US one. Luckily they have a keyboard management applet on the panel, so that was sorted with a few clicks.
Software includes Abiword (with dictionary), Gnumeric, Firefox (with flash), Gnome-mplayer (with codecs), Audacious, and Wine. Running from the CLI gave critical warnings for Firefox and Gnumeric, but both worked.
As with many Debian-based distros, more advanced activities were tricky. I had to install pulse-audio to get my USB speakers working, and that disabled the volume buttons on the keyboard ó the solution came (doesnít it always?) from the Arch wiki. Also im-chooser doesnít work, so changing input from GTK had to be done with ~/.profile. Still, these are exotic problems, the sort of thing that this site is here to solve.
There are quite a few Debian-derived LXDE distros. Exe and WattOS are based on Debian Stable, Sparky is rolling-release, while Zorin and Lubuntu are currently based on Ubuntuís long-term support version. WattOS uses a non-pae kernel. Exe has the most software on the installation disk, while WattOS and Zorin will fit on a CD. Take your pick: all are well done.
Peppermint is designed specifically for cloud computing: the only applications installed are a browser, video player, and music player. It is also said to be lightweight, using LXDE, and suitable for XP refugees with older computers, so long as they have a minimum of 256MB and x86 architecture.
The main problem is that the latter promise is not true. The browser supplied is Chromium, compiled to run on CPUs with sse2. That means that the only 32-bit CPU that can run it is a Pentium 4: not a P3 or any AMD chip. I decided to install Opera, but that's not in the repository. I tried Midori, and that crashed with an illegal instruction. Finally I got Epiphany working, very slowly.
The desktop is LXDE, but instead of using Openbox as its window manager, they've used the one from Xfce. But LXDE is developed using Openbox and xfcewm is written for Xfce. How long before the two fall out? In fact, that may have happened already. Some of the preset keyboard shortcuts, like Alt-F1 and the media buttons, do not work, even though they are entered in the configuration file. Also, the menu doesn't update properly when software is added or removed.
The 64-bit version may be better, but the bad choice of desktop / window manager combination, and the sse2 problem suggest that these people don't have the skills to create a reliable distro. Still they seem to be learning: Peppermint 3's installer mistook my USB speakers for a keyboard.
Black Lab offers 64-bit, 32-bit, and non-pae versions. I tested the 32-bit one. It draws on various repositories: Ubuntu, Xubuntu, and Elementaryos. No documentation is provided, but obviously the Ubuntu and Xfce sites provide all thatís needed.
No md5sum is provided and the disk is not self-checking, but it does have m5dsums for its files, so you could check them yourself. Gparted is not provided, so shrinking a Windows partition is best does from Windows. The installer is the usual Ubuntu one, with the option to encrypt /home.
The interface is Xfce, with the whisker menu. Many shortcuts are preset, like super+e for the editor and super+t for the terminal. Itís said to support a touch-screen, but I wasnít able to test that. At the request of their clients, the commercial version will switch to Gnome in edition 6, but itís hoped that an Xfce image will still be provided for the free version.
The software installed included Abiword (with spell-checking), Gnumeric, Firefox (with Flash), Thunderbird Mail, Pidgin, Xchat, Audacious, Audacity, OpenShot, VLC (with codecs), and Steam. Everything worked except VLC, and only Audacity left warnings in the terminal. I installed Parole to replace VLC, and it worked after I reconfigured with ďparole --xv falseĒ.
Black Lab competes with Xubuntu, AntiX MX, Linux Lite, and ZevenOS. All are good and very similar. Black Lab has a non-pae version and offers commercial support, but is the only one without Gparted; AntiX has a better installer; both AntiX and Linux Lite give you LibreOffice by default; Linux Lite canít encrypt /home; Xubuntu has support for the blind.
The appearance of a Gnome version of Ubuntu seems to show the Canonical can recognise when theyíve got it wrong: the result is an example of getting it right.
The disk menu includes the option to check the files, a better option than just verifying the download with a checksum. If you need to shrink a Windows partition, do it with Windows: thereís no Gparted provided. The installer is simple and offers encryption of /home. It needs 1GB of RAM to run. The old bug of the disk failing on certain video chips has been cured.
The default is the main version of Gnome, although you can switch to the Classic version by clicking on the gearwheel at log-in. I found the system sluggish, but I was using the 32-bit version and I donít think Gnome is suitable for older computers any more. There were a few problems: some keyboard shortcuts didnít work and neither did installing a second keyboard driver. One small triumph: this version of Ubuntu joins the very small group of Debian derivatives which can handle multiple sound devices without problems.
Software included LibreOffice (with spell-checking), Firefox (with flash), Evolution mail, Empathy, Shotwell, Rhythmbox, and Totem (with codecs). Firefox, Evolution, and Rhythmbox gave critical warnings in the CLI, but everything worked. LibreOffice Writer is the new version that gives display problems on some hardware: the solution is to use 100% zoom instead of Optional, or to get OpenOffice. If you need a firewall, install and run gufw.
If you like Gnome, you will like this: for ease of installation, user-friendliness, and long-term support, it has the edge on Debian, Fedora, or OpenSUSE.
For this yearís Pinguy, I tested the 32-bit version. This is now the second most bloated distro after Mageia. It used 50% more memory than Ubuntu Gnome and 5 times the CPU load. Even after removing a lot of daemons and start-up programs (like one to download new wallpaper every 10 minutes), it was still heavier than Ubuntu and unbearably slow. It also took 3 minutes to boot.
Software included LibreOffice, Wxbanker, Firefox, Thunderbird, Xchat, Openshot, Clementine, VLC, Totem, media codecs, and flash. VLC kept going blank. When I ran Firefox, Wine started trying to install Silverlight and hung up the computer. Now that Ubuntu has a Gnome edition, this is a waste of time.
HandyLinux is a French distro which has only recently started supporting English. The documentation is not yet completely translated, and the forum is mostly in French ó all the information on UEFI and secure boot is in French ó so this may be a problem. I tested the 686 version.
A usb installer cannot be created with unetbootin but there are instructions for using the Windows usb-creator or dd in Linux. If you need to double-boot with Windows, partitioning should be done from the live session using gparted, as the installerís partitioning feature is far from easy. Otherwise, installation is simple and takes only ten minutes.
The Xfce panel has no pager and a phone-style menu, but that can be rectified. The software included LibreOffice (with no English dictionary), Chromium, Icedove mail client, and VLC (with codecs). On my computer Chromium refused to run and gave no error messages, so I replaced it with Midori. Chromium was a silly choice for a 32-bit system, as it wonít play flash videos on AMD hardware. There was a struggle, as usual with Debian, to enable my usb speakers and even then the volume buttons on the keyboard failed to work. Also as usual in Debian, the firewall is disabled: a bad idea with the increasing use of USB modems.
As a Debian-based Xfce distro, Handy is competing with AntiX, Linux Lite, OS4 Open Linux, and ZevenOS. Itís perfectly usable, but those are rather better and fully supported in English.
I tested the 32-bit version of SalentOS, based on the latest long-term-support Ubuntu. The installation disk offers a live session or installation. The installer is easy to use and supports encryption of /home.
I found it unusably slow to start with, because the Compton compositor was running by default. To remove it, I had to edit the startup script. The program obkey didnít work, so creating keyboard shortcuts also involved editing a script. The panel is the very basic tint2 (no pager or applets), which I replaced by lxpanel (more editing). Itís difficult to see whoíd want such a bare-bones system as Openbox with tint2 if they have the power and RAM to run Compton.
The software includes Deadbeef music player and Gnome-mplayer with the their codecs, Geary email, Chromium, Pidgin, and Libreoffice with spell-checking. Everything ran, but Gnome-mplayer left some critical warnings in the CLI and LibreOffice is the version where the display corrupts on some hardware (in that case, stick to 100% zoom, or install OpenOffice). As is common in Debian-based distros, I had to edit a script and install pavucontrol enable my USB speakers.
If you like Debian-based distros and Openbox, youíll like this. That doesnít seem to be a large category, though, since the forum has only 48 registered users!
This was my second encounter with Antergos, and my second failure.
The first thing I tried in the live session was Chromium, which failed with an illegal instruction. Then I ran the installer. The graphical installer was labeled beta software, so I used the curses one. Contrary to the release notes, you do not get the option to use KDE or Mate: only Cinnamon, Gnome, or Xfce. Imagine my surprise when I found that the installer was not using the disk, but downloading all the packages! Now if you have problems with downloading the disk, wget will let you continue; but with this net install, if the connection is lost you have to start over again ó and again, and again.
Antergos looks like just too much trouble.
Salix is one of the few distros which seems equally reliable, whichever GUI you choose. This time I tried Mate, in the 32-bit version. At present, Salix only offers an installation disk. The installer is keyboard- rather than mouse-based, but easy to use provided you read the excellent user guide first. There is no option to encrypt /home. The recommended minimum hardware is a Pentium III and 512MB of RAM.
The software provided included LibreOffice, Firefox, Pidgin, Claws-mail, Exaile, Totem, and Gimp. As usual, the menu includes a tool to install media codecs, and the Flash plugin was provided. The only missing item was the help file for LibreOffice, which was quickly added: make sure you get the US-English help, as the other English versions arenít recognised. All the software worked well, and I had none of the problems Iíd had with the latest Mint. The repository contains all the software from Slackware and almost as many extras. There are also good Ďhousekeeping toolsí, and I was able to select my USB speakers with a few mouse-clicks, unlike the situation in most Debian derivatives. Currently, this seems the most reliable Mate distro.
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. Itís simple to use, but it doesnít 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 Mintís Debian Edition, Semplice, or SolydXK. The choice will depend on which GUI you prefer, although Mint is marginally better.