Newly Installed Xubuntu 18.04

Ah, I can relax now. I’m back home, and it’s as warm, cozy, familiar, and easy as I remember. And the neighborhood is lovely, upscale but not snobby and uptight.

Home is Xubuntu, of course. I’ve been away a long time! But this is just exactly the way I remember my home distro, except that it seems a little slower than before. That might be just because the last time I was here was before systemd and all that extra junk was foisted on users. But I think I can speed things up a bit with the usual little things, like turning off services I don’t use, adjusting the “swappiness,” maybe going back to Seamonkey instead of the usual separate Firefox and Thunderbird applications.

This time instead of the usual Xfce panel with launchers on the bottom, I thought I’d throw a liiiiiiiiittle bit of eye candy in, so there’s Cairo Dock with weather applet, analog clock applet, and silly bouncing effects when you mouse over them and click them. Yet it’s lightweight, and just prettier than a plain ol’ Xfce panel. And I like that 3D shelf thing.

Lots less bloat than Linux Lite, and all I added was Synaptic Package Manager, because it’s what I’m used to and I think it’s better than “Software Center.” I added SystemBack and MintStick, just because they’re super-simple graphical tools for formatting and writing images to a USB drive, creating restore points and allowing me to make a bootable and installable copy of my installed system and write it to a pendrive. All done in under 40 minutes. On Debian this would have taken me a few days!

But this is Xubuntu. Almost perfect as-is, right out of the box, saving me lots of work and letting me get right to work, doing what I love.

On One-Man Linux Distros, Stability, Simplicity

It kinda makes you wonder, when you think about the many super-cool Linux OSes out there that are supported by just one person, maybe one or two others helping. Recently the main guy behind the wonderful (and systemd-free) PCLinuxOS announced that he needs to step down for health reasons. Not a surprise, he’s been having health issues lately and everyone knew and had time to prepare. PCLinuxOS will very probably continue it’s awesome run for many years after Texstar, the lead developer, passes on. That’s because the distro has an awesome, large, and loyal community that will no doubt keep PCLOS going.

That may not be the case for one-man distros like Linux Lite, though, if anything happens to Jerry, the lead (and only?) developer. Slackware, God bless it, is the oldest surviving Linux distro. But it’s still basically a one-man show, and struggling financially, and losing popularity to “the big guys” with huge corporations behind them (SUSE, Ubuntu, Fedora/RedHat/CentOS). Maybe the best support for a Linux distro is actually one of those community-based distros. I might count PCLinuxOS amongst them because of the very substantial community around it. I doubt that the same is true for Linux Mint, and smaller distros like Bodhi, Salix, and Linux Lite.

Some real community-built and community-maintained gems can be found in official spin-offs of the big corporate distros. My old favorite, which I will remain a rabid fanboy forever – Xubuntu – is such a distro. Probably the same is true of Lubuntu and Kubuntu as well. Little known but truly community-developed and users can get involved in all kindsa ways. Mine has always been “evangelism” of a sort, though I really don’t do that much “Linux evangelism” anymore; and donating dollars.

Just something else to consider when choosing a distro.

Likely to Be my Permanent – and my Only – Linux OS

I have kept Linux Lite and MX-Linux around for a long while, mostly to help introduce new users to Linux. Many of them got started because the Microsoft OS they were used to is such a freakin’ resource-hog that you have to buy a new computer every three years or so just to keep up! Why let a perfectly good working machine go to the landfill because Micro$oft has decided not to support it anymore, right? So, Linux to the rescue, right?

Nope, not nearly as much as it ought to be. A trip to the Swap Shop finds a dozen or so vendors offering refurbished computers for $40 or so, but they still have Windows and they’re slower than snails. When I used to brag about how Linux could make them run better than new, and without any need for the dreaded terminal, I won a few “converts,” and a few more by cleaning up and donating old computers with a lightweight “newbie-friendly” distro pre-installed. Of allllllll those people I helped, guess how many are still using Linux?

One. Just one. As far as I know, anyway, we lost touch when I moved away. So maybe none! All of them – and we’re only talking a dozen or so – have since traded up to new computers and – one guess – they’re Windows or Mac.

So, my OS is gonna be for ME, not for anyone else. Not to “show off” to others in hopes of winning them over; not on my computer so I can walk others through the steps of configuring, fixing, tweaking, and installing software. Not for the coolest, awesomest, most thrilling visual effects and eye candy I used to care about. No more of that now… my ‘puter is my own, and it’s just for me, and it’s gonna be what I want: Blazing fast, graphical, simple, uncomplicated, and basic. No systemd. No bloat. Nothing I don’t need or want. One application per task, faithful to the old Unix ideal, quaint and outdated as that might seem to others who like the bleeding edge, eye candy, and super gaming capability. Does anyone know of a Linux distro that offers just that, without all the busy bovine excrement that has to be included in the OS just to make this-or-that other thing work that you actually want? One that is still supported and up-to-date without the instability of the Big Major desktop distros? I can think of one. It’s an old faithful standby that has kept my ancient spare 32-bit Dell out of the landfill for over a year now, with no issues. And it’s mind-bending fast on my higher-end 64-bit desktop and laptop.

I’m so disheartened by the fact that all my enthusiasm, “evangelism,” and newbie support for Linux hasn’t actually changed anyone’s mind for more than a temporary short period, that I think I’m pretty much done with all that now. I’ve got better things to use my computer for than just writing about computers, OSes, software, and why these things should matter to people. In fact they don’t matter to most people, and desktops and laptops have largely been replaced by smart phones and tablets now anyway. You like your Chromebook? Cool. Does it matter to most people that it’s Linux-based? Prob’ly not. Does it matter that it’s a Google gadget and it’s likely spying on you and reporting back to the Mother Ship for targeted ads and to predict what you’re likely to spend money on and where you go every day? Apparently not.

Well, it matters to me. And to maybe 2% of all desktop computer users on Earth. The other 98% are content to be carried along, captive to a single vendor and subject to it’s whims. Fine, fools.

I’m moving on.

Moving on from Diaspora the digital ghetto, moving on from trying to convert others to this truly better way of computing and managing applications, data, and workload. I’ll still advocate for Linux and Free Open Source Software (FOSS) when and if the subject ever comes up at school or work or church or hanging out, and here in this blog from time to time when I feel moved to do so and have something interesting to write about that might be of interest to others who appreciate it’s value.

More Awesome MX-Linux

This post is just to show off another of MX-Linux’s cool tools, called MX-Clocky! You can pick from several desktop clocks, including this cool-looking one that also monitors CPU and RAM usage. There have both analog and digital, from plain to fancy.

Today I have my “Salute to Mepis” desktop wallpaper on, and my newly-discovered neofetch display.

My Desktop

MX-17 is simply gorgeous right out of the box! But y’know I like to change things up a little bit, and I like a clean, simple, pretty desktop with just a tiny bit of bling. I still haven’t decided if I’ll keep Cairo-Dock on or go back to the awesome Xfce panel on the bottom that I always love. I’m just play’n around with it.

That’s just the notification stuff in the top panel, and favorite app launchers in the super wicked-kewl dock on the bottom that magnifies the icons when you mouse over them and bounces them when you click on one to launch it. I also always liked that 3D effect you get from the little table the icons appear to be resting on, reflected on the panel. So pretty, so cool.

This is Debian Linux made really easy, but without the instability and bloat of Ubuntu and most of it’s derivatives. With the ‘buntu-based ones (besides Linux Mint and PeppermintOS), I generally was very leery of updates from upstream (meaning, from Ubuntu). I have learned to selectively update, but for new users who haven’t learned to selectively update, I always recommend either Mint, Peppermint, or Linux Lite as long as the updater from unlockforus is installed first before updating a new installation. But that kinda limits your choices, doesn’t it? While that updater should theoretically work on any Ubuntu-based distro, including the official Ubuntu flavors (Xubu, Lubu, Kubu, etc), it’s intended only for the distros that ship with it or on Linux Lite.

Better yet, choose a distro that doesn’t need to be modified with added special software to make it safe. That’s one of the things I always hated about Windows for goodnessakes, you had to add extra stuff just to maintain the operating system! Like antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-ransomware, crap cleaners, optimizers, etc. Well I prefer to run applications, not the operating system! Of course the user should maintain his computer and it’s OS, I’m not say’n (s)he shouldn’t! I’m jus’ say’n a newcomer to Linux should start with a system that is already as safe and stable and reliable as it can be. If it’s super newbie friendly, that’s a nice bonus, but starting with a rock-stable foundation that isn’t borked by updates is, in my opinion, lots more important.

For goodnessakes I didn’t want a Linux that “looks and acts like Windows” in order to “make it easy for Windows users to adapt to Linux.” Fine, make it easy, but I don’t want a FOSS copy of the operating system I just replaced because it sucked and got in my way all the time and required abuncha bloatware and time to maintain. I want it to be different enough from Winblows to make me feel good about choosing an alternative OS, but point-and-clicky enough to be “friendly.” That’s one of the reasons I reeeeeally like the Xfce desktop! It can be modified all kindsa ways to look and behave just about any way you want it to, and it’s not a resource-hungry behemoth like KDE or Gnome. In fact, the Xfce desktop is the same one Linux Lite uses to “make it easy for Windows users to adapt.” Alot of people apparently like and want a “Windows-like” desktop, which is why Zorin and Linux Lite are so popular I guess. But for me, no thank you, I want nothing to look or act like Windows. In fact, if it looks a little scary and sinister, like “touch it and die,” that’s cool too.

Like Crunchbang Linux, for example, came with a warning that it could make your computer go “Crunch! Bang!” if you press the wrong button or something. It had a black, almost sinister-looking Openbox desktop that made you feel like a superduper-techno-wizard just for having successfully installed it! Mwahahahaaa! Now to try to take over the planet!

MX-17 is my favorite Linux now, because it’s got the newbie-friendly stuff going on (enough of it to make it suitable for competent newbies – not enough to protect them from being irresponsibly stupid), but inherently much safer with it’s Debian Stable base than any of the Ubuntu-based stuff.

MX-Tools – Newbie Awesomeness Without the Ubuntu Risk!

Today instead of using the Systemback or Timeshift apps that I was used to, I tried out an awesome new one (new to me anyway) from the wonderful tool set that comes with MX-17. It’s called MX Snapshot and it does what the others do – flawlessly and simply. I was able to completely “clone” my desktop system to a bootable iso, then burn it to a USB key using MX Live USB Maker.

Other than being very slow to boot up, it ran and installed effortlessly on my laptop computer with every bit of information and settings saved from the desktop computer. Best of all, once installed and booted up from the hard drive, I did not have to fiddle around with stupid Broadcom drivers or Ndiswrapper or any of that stuff to get the wifi to work! It simply recognized the new network device and in two clicks I was connected! Without needing that fail-safe driverless wifi dongle I always had to use on the laptop when it was running Linux Lite.

The installer for the iso created on MX Live USB Maker is identical to the official installer. Very graphical and beginner-friendly. I gave MX the entire drive, since backups are so easy and I still have that iso and can create a new one in mere minutes.

The tool set in MX-17 is pure awesomeness. Not only simple enough for a technophobic Ba’ku boy to understand, but it actually works like it says!

MX may not be as novice-friendly at first (that is, to install and configure), but for the longer term it’s better for new Linux users because it’s built on Debian Stable. Unlikely to be bricked by one of upstream Ubuntu’s infamous updates and all the attending regressions and breakage.

Testing Linux Mint Sylvia Xfce

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Well, I kinda sorta stopped because for one thing, it’s our peak season at FedEx, and I’ve been working crazy long, frustrating workdays learning a new route at the worst time of year to do so. And for another, my ancient old Dell really won’t run anything other than the leanest of 32-bit Linux distros anymore, which really limits what I can write about! Salix, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, LXLE, then PCLinuxOS’s Xfce edition, and most recently Linux Lite. Of these, Linux Lite remains my favorite as long as the cool tools from Unlockforus are used to make it safer and simpler. In fact I wouldn’t use any Ubuntu-based distro without those tools, except for Linux Mint, which includes most of them. Also among the favorite lightweight Linux distros above, only Slackware-based Salix will continue to support for 32-bit computers after the others have abandoned support for this older hardware.

This week a friend has gifted me with a 64-bit machine with 4 gigabytes of RAM and a speedy dual-core processor. There’s no need to run a “lightweight” operating system for now, and it came to me with the latest version of Linux Mint Xfce pre-installed. It’s already safer and more secure than a freshly-installed and updated Linux Lite system would be, in my opinion, because of that wonderful Mint Updater which prevents the installation of high-risk software and beta stuff in regular updates. And to reiterate what I’ve said probably dozens of times, putting beta software in a distro meant for newbies (and technophobes) is unconscionable and unforgivable. Linux Mint comes with that vital safety feature, plus some super cool tools like MintStick, the USB-stick formatter and writer that I find so intuitive and simple.

So, here’s a little look at my slightly customized Linux Mint Xfce, 64-bit at last!

That star at bottom left is the menu (I replaced it, it’s ordinarily the mint leaf), then a launcher for Seamonkey (effortlessly installed using Ralphy’s awesome “Unlock Me” application) and a few other frequently used applications, plus the weather and clock/calendar widgets. One other cool thing I couldn’t do with Linux Lite was move the UnlockMe icon from the desktop to the panel. In Linux Mint, I simply right-clicked desktop icon and selected “add to panel,” and done! I used UnlockMe to install Seamonkey instead of adding the Ubuntuzilla repository and that was super-amazing! It actually goes to the mozilla’s website, downloads the tarball, unpacks it and installs it in seconds. “Look, Mamma, no hands!” It’s cool that I don’t have the hassle off adding a PPA. What about updates, you say? UnlockMe handles that too. Everything I love about Lite Tweaks can be found there too, and more.

If you are a use of any Ubuntu-based distro, I would urge you to visit https://unlockforus.com and make your own system easier and safer using the awesome tools to be found there.