Easy Linux. So Easy It’s Downright BORING.

And isn’t that what we casual computer users want our operating systems to be? Yup, literally nothing to write about. It’s that dull.

So I must confess, out of some twisted need to have something “Linuxy” to write about, I went and tried the Xfce flavor of Linux Mint. And sure enough, there’s stuff to write about. But let’s be sure to note that this test was one of the community editions of Linux Mint, not the big official flagship Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint, which I’m sure must be awesome. I did the Xfce flavor because I’m a rabid Xfce fanboy, that’s all. Bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful desktop environment in the history of ever because it’s super-simple, infinitely configurable, rock-stable, and intuitive. For me. Some people think it’s too boring and retro, but those are the very reasons I like it! So to each his or her own.

Okay, so Linux Mint Xfce 20 installed effortlessly as always, thanks to Ubuntu’s awesome Ubiquity installer. Even setting up partitions was no big deal, daunting as it once was having to use GParted and stuff. Install, reboot…

Then it gets interesting.

The first thing I always do after updating the OS (and I’m a big fan of the Mint Updater, by the way) is switch out some of the distro’s default applications in favor of the ones I prefer. I have issues with Mozilla (the company) and refuse to use their politically-correct software even if there’s nothing better on the planet. So I open a terminal and get a black screen with spaces between every letter:

r o b i n > a p t – g e t a p p l i c a t i o n

It’s hard to read even full screen for cry’n out loud. But I manage for a few tasks, then decide to try out Mint’s software center. I want Geary instead of Mozilla Thunderbird, Brave Browser instead of Firefox, stuff like that. Geary installs from a .deb in the repositories, cool. Brave is a Flatpak. What?! There’s no .deb for Brave? Okay I understand why the lead dev over there at Mint refuses Snaps, and the sneaky way Canonical redirects input from Synaptic Package Manager to their own software store. But Flatpaks are okay? Why? They’re just Red Hat instead of Canonical as far as I know. Nope, I want a good ol’fashioned Debian-type package, so I do the PPA thing to get Brave.

Geary doesn’t get past the Create Account screen before it locks up and has to be put to death via the Terminator – I mean terminal.

p k k i l l G e a r y

Two or three tries, okay, bye Geary. Let’s try something else. Y’know, computers exist to do what we tell them to do. If they don’t do what we tell them to do, then they have no freakin’ reason to exist! Right? This is how computers get smashed with sledge hammers and axes! Okay, sorry, /rant.

An unexplained installation error prevents me from getting either Ungoogled Chromium or Brave Browser installed. Unexplained. “Installation failed.” No explanation given. The freakin’ attitude, right?

So instead of using the sledge hammer literally, I used a virtual sledge hammer to silence Mint Xfce’s sassy attitude and restore order to my galaxy. And now it’s just boring again. But peaceful. Reliable. Simple. Everything just works (including Geary) and life is good again.

Next time I get bored for something to write about, I’ll not go beyond a Live session (maybe).

ElementaryOS

So I had two days off in a row, and after I got all the important stuff done I decided to tinker with a new Linux operating system I had heard a lot of cool things about. I’ve messed around with several different desktops, from minimal Openbox with no “real” desktop environment at all, to the big major popular ones like KDE, Gnome, Xfce, LXDE, and Enlightenment. One I never tried is the newest one, called Pantheon, created especially for ElementaryOS, a wicked cool Ubuntu respin. It’s available for Arch Linux too! It doesn’t mix well added to the Ubuntu family (Kubu, Xubu, Lubu, etc), even though ElementaryOS is an Ubuntu-based distro. This ain’t just Ubuntu with a PPA tied on, it’s Ubuntu with a bunch of bloat and junk removed to make it nimble and fast, and a special wonderful desktop that is the most intuitive I’ve ever seen! Users coming from Mac or Windows will navigate around this system effortlessly. In fact, I’d bet that new computer users who may never have even used a desktop or laptop computer would find this system has a very gentle learning curve.

It isn’t especially configurable like Xfce or even LXDE, but the cool thing is that it doesn’t have to be! It’s not really for tinkerers anyway, just people with modest to modern hardware who just want to load up and go to work (or play). Very Mac-like in appearance, with basically two desktop features – a top panel for accessing the menu and setting the volume and stuff like that, and a dock at the bottom that looks like Docky, kinda sorta. It’s set up very much the way Xubuntu is by default, with a few differences: None of the resource-hogging “goodies” run in the background, the cool icons “leap” when you click on them, and open apps have a “reflection” under them on the launcher. Screenshots are easy to find by just Googling “ElementaryOS screenshots,” but you know I can’t resist posting my own anyway, even though I’ve done very little to make my own desktop especially unique. But it’s just so simple and pretty!

The current stable version, based on Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty), ships with Midori as the web browser (nice easy browser from the Xfce project), Geary as the e-mail client (no longer active, but being forked and developed by the ElementaryOS team), and none of the usual bloat. It has it’s own simple file manager with would probably suit most casual users and not scare them away with “options” that just confuse and frustrate newbies and technophobes. I reluctantly added Thunar after fiddling with the default one a little bit, and worried that adding Xfce stuff would mess something up, but it didn’t.

I added Seamonkey after trying Geary and finding it comparable to Kmail, kinda broken and lacking some features that matter to me. Midori has a history of crashing a lot when I’ve used it before, so I just ran home to my default favorite. But I just love this desktop to bits, and it’s every bit as nimble and lightweight as LXDE, and stays out of my way. If you like icons on the desktop itself, this Pantheon desktop is not for you. I don’t think it’s even an option! But I like my desktop clean, and I’d rather open apps and stuff from the dock or the menu anyway. The only thing I might add to the desktop is a Conky display, which is easy, but I probably won’t bother. Conky is just more extra noise to me.

This is a totally cool desktop, preconfigured almost exactly the way I always customized my LXDE and Xfce desktops anyway. People who judge only by screenshots say the Pantheon desktop is “a Mac clone,” but it’s not at all. It just looks super cool like Mac, but it’s lean and simple and fast. I’m really enjoying it!