Best Linux Lite Yet

Wow. They heard me! That’s one little benefit of these “small” Linux distros, especially when the lead dev frequents the forums. Once I wrote that Linux Lite was not so light anymore. That might still be true I suppose, but it still runs snappy and nimble on my faithful old Dell Optiplex 7010. And the current version is better than ever!

One of the bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful things they’ve done – perhaps after reading Robin’s Rants and Raves (?), was make systemd less of a big honking hungry threat to computer disk space in the new-and-improved Lite Tweaks feature:

Lite Tweaks, explained

Like Linux Mint used to do with it’s Updater, Linux Lite has done by suggesting things that are completely safe, those which should be used with caution, and also categorized by function: Clean, Fix, Performance, Information, Administration. Easy to understand!

Great Choices!

Have a look at that last one: Systemd Log Cleaner. That darn systemd keeps logs which grow quickly and have even caused problems for some users (rarely, but at times) just by their sheer size. Now you can wipe them clean. I do it often, maybe just because I’m still uneasy about systemd even being there. Yet systemd is one of the reasons a lot of distros “just work” as opposed to those which have to have all kindsa work-arounds and substitute software solutions to make them work reliably. So as long as you “have to” have systemd, you may as well keep it somewhat under control. And Linux Lite makes it so you can do it in a few mouse clicks! How freaking cool is that!

Lite Tweaks is one of the big reasons I still refer “newbies” to Linux Lite. As much as I like my SalixOS system (Slackware-based, systemd-free, quick and responsive), it’s hard to get up-to-date software, and sometimes applications lose support way before the same apps are updated in the Slackware repositories. Yeah, you can add the “testing” repository, but I’d be alternately enabling and disabling it according to what software quit working (like the Xfce desktop weather applet) and what might get broken by a late update. It’s like using Debian “Old Stable.” Solid as a rock, but largely unsupported as the rest of the world moves on. Even Slackware gave way to let PulseAudio in because a lot of apps just won’t work without it, and I wonder if they’ll end up doing the same eventually with systemd. Well, I still love my Salix. But this latest Linux Lite is the best yet, and I heartily recommend it!

Moving On

My beloved Xubuntu 18.04 is good until next April, but I won’t wait that long to replace it. In my previous post I wrote about the Future of Ubuntu, and have looked closely at the new default package management, snap. The old .deb packaging will still be around for legacy apps and stuff that we all depend on, but the default in 20.04 is snap packaging. To me this will mean a ton of duplicated libraries and cruft, since snaps are kinda-sorta sandboxed and snaps do not share libraries. Bad for those of us who don’t have super-ultra-mega-terrabyte hard drives, right?

Ordinarily rolling-release distros scare me a bit. But even without selectively updating (other than the kernel), there are cool tools like Timeshift that can put things back to a “restore point” in a few clicks and a few minutes’ time. And I dislike the idea of re-installing an OS from scratch and configuring everything the way I want it, adding and removing applications, fonts, themes, and all the rest of it. Updates breaking things has always been a kind of phobia for me I guess, but maybe it’s one that I have overcome with the reassurance offered by super-simple backup-and-restore tools, and the fact that my new distro of choice has a thorough vetting process for updates that filters out a lot of buggy stuff before it hits the stable repositories.

Experimental, beta, or too-new-to-be-proven stuff appears in Ubuntu (and all it’s flavors and downstream distros) without warning all too often. I still remember how buggy PulseAudio was when it foisted upon us all. I dumped it for ALSA with every new installation for months until it wasn’t possible anymore, but by that time it was stable enough. Then Unity. Then systemd. All buggy as hell at the start, but everyone became a tester, like it or not. In a distro intended for newcomers, novices, simpletons, technophobes, and other “ordinary” desktop users, this buggy experimental stuff thrown in as the new default is – well, bullshit. Snaps is the last straw. While I grant that snap isn’t replacing apt for the time being at least, by making it the default, Ubuntu has again brought buggy beta crud to “ordinary” users. No lessons learned from the last several times they’ve pulled this kinda stuff. I’m all for innovation, but let’s not use the LTS versions for that! Enough surprises.

Goodbye again, Xubuntu. Hello, PCLinuxOS!

The Future of Ubuntu (and Ubuntu-based distros)

There are Pros and Cons for everything, but when a distro’s development team makes big changes in policy towards users, there’s always a reason for it, and it’s not always a reasonable choice. Such may be the case with Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution. There’s a big discussion about it going on in their forums (clicky here to have a look). Yes, this matters a lot because it affects every flavor of Ubuntu and every “downstream” project derived from Ubuntu (Linux Mint, Linux Lite, ElementaryOS, and one zillion and twelve others).

Snaps and Flatpaks and such are probably the future anyway, but the vetting of software by a bunch of testers before distribution to users should never go away. But unless you build your own OS from scratch (and some people do), you have to live with whatever the distribution developers decide.

That would be most of us. This “apparent” decision by Ubuntu developers, while probably relieving them of the burden of maintaining packages for their users (and making their job a lot easier and not having to keep package maintainers on the job getting updates to testers and then to users), it also means that we ordinary desktop users could end up as unwitting software testers, trying to find workarounds for broken software. We’re already finding that in instances where the Snap version of a software won’t work but the .deb version from the repository works fine, or vice versa. And that, more than anything else, has been my chief complaint with Ubuntu for years: Making unwitting testers out of novices and newbies without their knowledge (let alone consent).

Read the linked discussion and offer some comments! I’d love to know what some of my Linuxer readers think of this new trend.

Guest Post: Responsible Ownership

Guest Post by “Artim:”

When I got my first car, I wasn’t allowed to drive it until I could demonstrate how to check the oil, coolant, belts, hoses, lights, signals, tires and stuff. A lot of people chipped in and got this special set of elevated pedals for it since I’m very small:

In fact I still get pulled over when I’m not in my own home town, by police responding to reports of “a small child driving a car.” The officers usually just laugh along with me after running my license, and pass the word along to other cops, LOL. The point being that a lot of good people have gone to a lots of trouble to make it possible and easy for me to operate a car, but I am still responsible to know how to maintain it as well as operating it.

Computers are the same way! A lot of good people have done a lot of work to make it possible for li’l ol’ me to use LINUX (Linux Lite, Linux Mint, etc) instead of Windows. But just like my car, I need to be responsible with it. Like any major appliance, a computer needs maintenance and you can’t just “drive” it without updates, cleanup, etc. That’s not just blowing the dust out of the box and keyboard, either. But the operating system needs to be kept up as well, with regular maintenance.

Linux has lots of advantages over Windows! It’s practically virus proof (unless you treat it like Windows, downloading stuff from web sites and installing it), it works on modest hardware or even really old 32-bit computers people used before I was even a twinkle in my daddy’s eyes. It’s amazing how awesome Linux is. It costs nothing, there’s all kindsa software for it for school, web, social media stuff, music and video editing, and even games. All at no cost (but donations are suggested for your favorite stuff).

But like me with my car, learn how to maintain it! And thanks to Linux Lite especially, much more than Linux Mint in my opinion, learning and maintaining your computer with the Linux Lite operating system is the easiest, simplest, and fastest way for new Linux users to do that. The welcome screen gives you all the steps, in order, and with point-and-click simplicity. You can even bring back the Welcome screen any time, even after you’ve been running Linux Lite for a long time. It does the updates, the cleanup, and tune-up stuff so you hardly even have to think about it!

With support for Windows7 ending in a few days, now is the perfect time to try it out. And you don’t even have to install it to try it out, just test-drive it on a USB thumbdrive without making any changes to your computer at all! Then if you like it, click to install. Just be sure you have backups for all your important stuff, like bookmarks, passwords, school papers, pictures, music, and stuff. Oh, and backing up stuff in Linux is super easy too by the way.

Since so many good people did so much hard work to make it possible for a tiny boy like me to drive a car, I drive it carefully and keep up on the maintenance. In the same way, since so many people have worked so hard to make it simple and easy for a kid with no technical expertise to use the amazing Linux Lite operating system, be sure to maintain it, just like my car, and donate if you can to the people who give us so much.

Get Linux Lite here!

Thank you!

Good News on Linux Lite

Greetings!

You were expecting a review of Ghost BSD, well that’s coming, hopefully this weekend. But I just heard this little bit of great news from Linux Lite: Series 5.x will have no added PPAs!!

All those extra PPAs have been a source of update woes, regressions, malfunctions, and frustrations to Linux Lite users for far too long. There were even PPAs in there for software that was already available to Linux Lite users in the Ubuntu repositories (Linux Lite is based on Ubuntu) without the added PPAs, which I think is counter to Linux Lite’s purpose. Aimed at new users and non-technical users, particularly those coming to Linux from Windows, Linux Lite aims to be the easiest “newbie distro” while remaining lightweight for use on older, modest hardware.

“Emerald,” the codename for Linux Lite 5 series, will have no added PPAs at all. That is the best possible news for Lite users who have been put off by the constant update issues that have plagued the distro in the past. When I was using it, one of the first things I always did was to eliminate all those extra PPAs, so I was able to dodge many of those update problems. I also removed them in new installations of Linux Lite for computers I was refurbishing for others.

Other improvements include some great new Tweaks in the Lite toolbox that accomplish lots of maintenance tasks with a few mouse clicks. One of the new ones is a way to clean up the crazy huge Systemd logs that accumulate on the users’ hard drive:

My friend Ralphy is no longer maintaining UnlockMe for Linux Lite, which was one of the tools I found especially useful on Lite, but lookie here! Much of his familiar and brilliant coding shows up in Lite Tweaks, which is maintained and even improved upon. I’m very glad to see this!

In my book these new developments will elevate Linux Lite 5.x series above even the venerable Linux Mint for introducing Linux to newcomers.

In Praise of Linux Lite

In reply to someone’s suggestion in another forum that “Linux distros which are derived from other Linux distros contribute nothing new to the larger desktop Linux world:

The thread was entitled Linux Lite vs Xubuntu, and a reader asked what the differences were and why they mattered.

There are important differences. I did a little homework before switching to Linux Lite from my all-time favorite Xubuntu:

In Linux Lite, applications are named for their function, not their “real” names. A newbie wouldn’t know that Evince is a pdf viewer or that Thunar is the file manager. Linux Lite is for novices who don’t know even what they don’t know. This one little thing is very thoughtful, all by itself.

The Xfce desktop is highly customized in Linux Lite, yet still infinitely customizable by the user. Again, with newbies in mind, and simple people like me who would rather run applications than running the operating system.

Linux Lite includes a magnificent set of tools to make maintaining and tweaking the OS effortless and non-stressful, with point-and-click simplicity and explanations for us non-tech types. If unsure, there are explanations and the support of this awesome forum, in which the Lead Developer actively participates. That is rare!

This is better for newbies than even Linux Mint in my opinion. From the start, it has always been designed with newbies and simplicity-loving technophobic users like me in mind. And lastly, and most importantly:

Before Linux Lite, it was an axiom in the desktop Linux world that speed and performance was a trade-off to achieve “user-friendliness” with a GUI. Linux Lite has proven that you can “have your cake and eat it too,” so to speak. No longer does it have to be a trade-off of lost performance to achieve a newbie-friendly GUI.

As in any Ubuntu-based distro, the hidden danger to newcomers and inexperienced Linux users is in the quality of updates from upstream Ubuntu (newbies cannot be expected to update selectively), and in the addition of several PPAs to the standard Ubuntu repositories. The simlest work-around in my opinion is the addition of the Updater adapted for Linux Lite from the Linux Mint treasury. Find it here.

Linux Lite Control Center is back! – Unlockforus

I could not get AntiX to fully cooperate on the old Dell Dimension, so it’s running Peppermint Linux today, and it’s surprisingly faster than even LXLE was! It’s a wonderfully curious mixture of LXDE and Xfce. Made especially newbie-friendly with the addition of UnlockMe, it races along better than brand new. Linux Lite runs adequately on the same machine, by the way… but as old as that old relic is, I wanted to go even “lighter.”

I haven’t been a Linux Lite user for very long, but for users who have used it since before series 3.x, there is good news! My friend and techno-wizard Ralphy has resurrected and updated the Lite Control Center.

Under the summary of “My Computer” there’s a whole set of options, from desktop to network shares. Do have a look at the latest cool tool from Ralphy’s treasure chest of awesomeness:

https://unlockforus.com/linux-lite-control-center/

Cheers!

Unlockforus

Because it is fun

Linux Lite Control Center is back!

ralphy February 28, 2018 Linux Lite Control Center is back!2018-03-01T02:52:12+00:00 No Comment

Linux Lite Control Center is back for Lite users! – for better or worse. Over time, I’ve seen Lite users wishing to get back the Lite Control Center application; the simple yet quite useful app Johnathan put together in his Lite journey. Unfortunately, it went unmaintained after been completely dropped with the release of Linux Lite 3 series and the rest is history.

So, here it is… now you can once again enjoy from the Lite Control Center if you’re within those who missed it for so long.

Buy Ralpy a coffee :)Linux Lite Control Center is back!

Some new features have added while others have been fixed. I took it a step further and integrated it with UnlockMe. After all, it was the UnlockMe app who gave me the idea to complement it by adding some of its features into Lite Control Center.

Features Overview

Desktop Section

– The Add and Remove icon buttons have been merged into a single clickable option. Instead of having an array of buttons to either show or hide specific icons on the Desktop, a single button now covers both functionalities. This will not only save usable space in the interface but also makes it easier for users to find the button they are looking for with less clutter.
– A new Add/Remove Browser icon option has been added. It shows or hides the Desktop icon for your default browser as defined in Preferred Applications.

Linux Lite Control Center before
Linux Lite Control Center - Desktop Section

NOTE: FEATURES OVERVIEW IS BEING ADDED AS TIME ALLOWS. IT IS RATHER INCOMPLETE.

Anyways, the best way to see it in action is to actually install it and use it, so let’s jump right into it.

If you are currently using the UnlockMe app, just update it and visit the Application Software section to install Lite Control Center.

To install or update UnlockMe app, open a Terminal and copy and paste the line below (all in one line):

cd /tmp && wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/ralphys/unlockme/master/install.sh && chmod +x install.sh && ./install.sh

You’ll be running the latest version cloned from Github shortly after.

You can then launch UnlockMe and browse to the Application Software section; Lite Control Center will be there for you :)

UnlockMe App
Install Lite Control Center

You could also install Lite Control Center directly from UnlockForUs repo even if you are not running the UnlockMe app. From a Terminal:

 ~$ echo "deb https://unlockforus.com/repository/dists/xenial/ /" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/unlockforus-xenial.list ~$ curl -s https://unlockforus.com/repository/keyFile | sudo apt-key add - ~$ sudo apt update ~$ sudo apt install lite-controlcenter 

Last but not least, if you are not running the UnlockMe App and you’re not interested in receiving updates for Lite Control Center at all, you can manually install it in your system without even adding the UnlockMe repo; from a Terminal:

 ~$ cd /tmp ~$ wget https://unlockforus.com/repository/dists/xenial/all/lite-controlcenter_1.0-0010_all.deb ~$ sudo dpkg -i lite-controlcenter_1.0-0010_all.deb 

Feel free to share your feedback and enjoy the revamped Lite Control Center.

Cheers!

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Testing Conclusion: Linux Mint 18 Xfce

So I have been testing out Linux Mint‘s latest “lightweight” Xfce edition for about 2 and a half months now. It’s truly a wonderful distro, great for Linux novices, and good on most hardware newer than 5-10 years old. I have modified only by adding some cool tools from my friend Ralphy’s treasure chest of awesomeness. My “findings” are unscientific as far as actual measurements of performance and features other than what is observable to a casual user. And here they are:

Linux Mint Xfce is packed with features and tools that keep it safe and fairly stable, but it has gradually slowed more and more over a period of weeks. To be fair, some of the slowness may be due to the major kernel updates that have come in rapid succession in order to patch the recently discovered Intel vulnerabilities. Even the creator of Linux, the venerable Linus Torvaldes, has called many of these security updates “junk,” unnecessary and burdensome. I remain unconvinced that this Intel vulnerability is serious enough to justify the cure, which seems to be worse than the disease.

While these security updates to the kernel (known to slow some machines by as much as 30 percent!) might help explain the recent slowdown, I still find Linux Mint’s most “lightweight” edition much more “bloated” with extra stuff that may or may not actually make it “better” – whether “better” for new Linux users or “better” in some other way I don’t really understand.

The old paradigm – that greater ease of use means greater loss of speed and efficiency – definitely holds true in this otherwise awesome distribution. That paradigm has become an axiom in the Linux world. But there is one exception that I have found and cannot explain. It’s Linux Lite! It is built on the same Ubuntu base as Linux Mint, yet suffers none of the loss-of-speed-in-exchange-for-user-friendliness issues that we all thought was “just the way it is, inevitably.” Even if the kernel updates account for a lot of this difference, it’s the highly-modified Xfce mixture in Linux Lite that accounts for this amazing exception to the rule. Too many Xfce distros aim at compositing window managers and unnecessary daemons running in the background. While Linux Lite has both compositing and background processes running, they are well-chosen and don’t demand the same resources as the most commonly found ones.

The only negative on the back burner is the Ubuntu base. Not that Ubuntu isn’t a great – maybe even the best – base to build a distro upon, but because the updates Ubuntu sends down the chute to it’s users (and all the Ubuntu-derived distros “downstream”) include Beta software and beta-quality software. Only Linux Mint has effectively addressed this hazard through the use of it’s wonderful Mint Updater. Fortunately, that superb safety net is also available to users of Linux Lite (at unlockforus.com), so you can have your cake and eat it too! Though I haven’t tried it, I suspect it might work just as well on any Ubuntu-derived distribution, from L/K/Xubuntu to Zorin, Bodhi, and Peppermint.

Were it not for the fact that I love restoring older computers and giving them new life using the most beginner-friendly distribution possible, I might not be a Linux Lite user because I remain always a bit leery and suspicious of Ubuntu and it’s inherent updating issues. But I use Linux Lite (modified with selected tools from Unlockforus, especially the Updater) to restore those old machines and introduce new users to the wonderful world of Linux. And I find that it’s easier to support these new users if I am a user myself.

Linux Lite 3.6

Some might say it’s “Xubuntu done right.”

But “right” is a very subjective term. Right for me is first simple, second, fast, third novice-friendly (because I prefer to use the same distro I’m sharing with so many people new to Linux, since it’s so much easier to provide support to them), and fourth suitable for modest, older hardware that can’t handle newer versions of Windows or the big fancy mainline Linux distributions. For others, Voyager is “Xubuntu done right.” For others, Linux Mint Xfce is “Xubuntu done right;” and for many others, it just doesn’t get any better than Xubuntu right out of the chute. Until I discovered Linux Lite, Xubuntu was my go-to distro. The others are all wonderful, but most were either to “heavy” for my old hardware, or not suitable for sharing with “newbies” who never used Linux before. Linux Mint Xfce would ordinarily be my first choice for newcomers to Linux, but many of these new arrivals are here because their computers are older models with low resources, and even the “lightweight” Mint can become a bit resource-hungry.

Linux Lite is built from Ubuntu core (minimal) and uses a very highly modified Xfce desktop which makes it far less demanding on resources than most Xfce-flavored Linux distributions.

But it doesn’t stop there. That would be enough, but Linux Lite aims to be beginner-friendly as well. The trick is to be “newbie friendly” without adding so much GUI stuff (graphical user interface) that you weigh it down and make it slow and cumbersome.

Ease of use used to be a trade-off, sacrificing speed. Or if you wanted speed and miserly demand on RAM and processors, you sacrificed the GUI stuff that makes Linux “friendly” for us ordinary mortals. Linux Lite blows that old paradigm away. You really don’t have to sacrifice speed and resource-demand to make Linux “play nice” for beginners, kids, great grandparents, and even technophobes.

Linux Lite achieves this “impossible” blend of simplicity and speed in three ways:

The first I already mentioned – the very highly modified Xfce desktop. Xfce is ordinarily easy on processing power anyway, but by not mixing it with Compiz and other extra goodies outside of Xfce’s own designs in hopes of making it “elegant” or whatever, it retains it’s undemanding qualities. Other tweaks make it even less resource hungry than “plain vanilla” Xfce.

The second is Linux Lite’s collection of awesome tools, not least of which is the Welcome Screen (which you can bring up on demand long after your first use of the distro) which offers step-by-step links to updating and upgrading, maintaining, cleaning, adding or removing software – all with point-and-click ease. Other cool tools include Lite Sources, which lets you choose from among software repositories anywhere in the universe, for faster updates and upgrades. Choosing the one closest to where you live is generally best, of course. And Lite Tweaks lets you personalize your desktop, clean up any junk, recover wasted space, and speed things up even more!

How is a new user supposed to know that Thunar is a file manager? They don’t know Thunar, but they know Files – Home – Pictures and whatever. So other than the applications everybody probably knows, like Firefox, apps are named for what they do, not the whimsical names that don’t really offer any clue as to their function. That’s simplicity without bloat if ever there was.

A feather is the official symbol of Linux Lite, and it’s completely appropriate. And that heart, well, that just means I love it! That huge dagger behind my back in the picture simply represents hacking out all the extra bloatware and cruft that most people assume is necessary to make a Linux distribution “user friendly.”

To make this Ubuntu-based distribution even more safe and secure, I recommend unlockforus – an “unofficial” repository of wonderful stuff not approved by Linux Lite (yet?) but either developed for Linux Lite or adapted for Linux Lite from other Linux distributions, like the awesome MintStick app and of course the must-have Mint Updater adapted for Linux Lite.

Enjoy!

A Totally Boring Operating System

Tinkerers on Linux like excitement. They enjoy messing with a distro until it breaks, then learning how to fix it. They like testing new updates, new software, new ways of doing ordinary things.

Developers, testers, experimenters – thank God for them – love that stuff. I say thank God for them because if it weren’t for all the wonderful geeks that do the scary stuff, trying out the new versions of stuff, coming up with cool ideas and making sure they work, the rest of us would be on the phone to tech support all the time, searching the forums for answers to new issues and better ways to fix old ones.

But for this technophobic sidekick, a positively boring OS is lots better! It’s stable, reliable, stays out of my way and lets me get my work done, and with no surprises, no interruptions, no random mysterious malfunctions. I bet I speak for the majority of computer users, too. Unfortunately most of them are still using Windows just because that’s “what came with the computer” and they either don’t know there are alternatives or they’re not aware of how easy it is to change their OS.

I have a wonderful, totally boring operating system on my old 32-bit desktop – just the way I like it.

I also have, on a spare 64-bit laptop, a more exciting one: Rolling-release, a little more techno-drama to challenge my inner geek, yet popular with beginners, and systemd-free. It dual-boots with another systemd-free favorite of mine that is every bit as boring as the old desktop.

All three are awesome.

It’s hard to pick a favorite from among these wonderful Linux mixtures. So much so that I’m stuck with all three of them! I suppose if I had to choose only one, it would be Linux Lite, but not without the added – and not officially supported – additions that help make it so wonderfully boring.

SalixOS doesn’t need any such safety features as the Mint Updater (adapted for Linux Lite by the venerable and talented “Ralphy” from unlockforus.com), because updates simply don’t break it. It’s Slackware! Legendary stability, ultra-long-term support. Salix is “friendly” enough, but better for experienced users than for newcomers to Linux. It’s Linux “for Lazy Slackers,” a phrase coined from the common term for Slackware users – “Slackers.”

If I ever get wildly paranoid of systemd again, Salix is where I would run to for safety, I think, rather than PCLinuxOS, because it’s Xfce by default and design, based on and fully compatible with it’s parent, so you get these vast repositories of awesomeness and some cool tools for compiling your own favorites. I even have “MintStick” in my Salix! It’s rolling-release kinda sorta, but not quite the all-or-nothing update methodology of PCLinuxOS.

  • For beginners, I recommend Linux Mint.
  • For beginners with modest hardware, I recommend Linux Lite with modifications I have described in a few posts here.
  • For beginners who want to explore and learn about this wonderful world of Linux, I recommend PCLinuxOS without reservations.
  • For experienced users with older to modern hardware who like stability and simplicity, I recommend Salix without reservation.

I’m enjoying the best of Linux with these three distros!