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.

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.

Updates in Linux

Hi everyone!

In previous posts extolling the awesomeness of Linux Lite, I have said repeatedly that even as awesome as it is, I would not dare use it – or any other Ubuntu-based distribution (including my long-time favorite Xubuntu), without a safe means of updating it. It’s one of the reasons I am such a big fan of Unlockforus.com. It not only offers a special adaptation of Linux Mint‘s wonderful updater which helps users avoid most of not all of the “broken after updating” issues that Ubuntu and it’s derivatives are infamous for. Linux Mint users enjoy this protection instantly by default. Users of Ubuntu and it’s other derivatives should get this application and use only that updater. In today’s post, I want to explain why.

First, because of this warning which appears in Updater’s Help Contents menu:

In other Ubu-based distros I have used, updates are ordinarily done non-selectively. Often by open Synaptic Package Manager and Reloading it, then selecting Mark All Upgrades and Apply. This is exactly what should never be done, especially since Ubuntu tends include ridiculous Beta stuff in their updates! I remain a huge fanboy of Ubuntu/Canonical for their pioneering stuff, and for being the most successful at making Linux useable for us mere ordinary mortals. But the inclusion of Beta (and Beta-quality) stuff in a Linux distribution intended for new and inexperienced users is simply unforgivable. Were it not for the safety afforded by Linux Mint’s updater (and it’s adaptation for other Ubuntu-based distros at Unlockforus), I would probably be using – as troublesome as it is – Debian Old Stable. Or a Slackware derivative like Salix. Gosh, now that I think of it, I should probably try Salix now that I have the means to do so… well, that’ll be for another post.

How it works

Levels One and Two usually only update or upgrade a single software application. It’s an update only to Firefox or the music player, for example. Unlikely to affect anything else. So if that update breaks anything, it’s easy to fix, and you know right where to go. Levels One and Two are the preselected defaults on a new installation of Linux Mint. Absolute beginners can select “Just keep my computer safe” and only Level One updates will be applied, except for Security updates, which should always be applied, but with care if they are beyond Level Two.

There’s a Level 5 category too, which might include updates to the kernel, the bootloader, and other critically important system stuff. These are likely to cause regressions.

What’s a regression, you say?

More good advice from Linux Mint 18’s greatly improved Updater Help Contents file. A regression is any update that breaks something that was working perfectly well before the update. You can read about these damned things in Ubuntu Forums frequently. I can only imagine it’s worse in those rolling-release Linux distros which maintain the cutting edge. I have used only one rolling-release distro – PCLinuxOS – and I must admit it was trouble-free for months! But that is because there’s a great team of testers try out all the new stuff before it finds its way into the repositories. They do an awesome job of protecting the users from regressions even though updates are all-or-none. HOWEVER, as awesome as the testers are, they can’t possibly be testing updates on every single hardware configuration their community is using. Rolling-release isn’t all bad, but for me it’s just too scary. PCLinuxOS is the only one I might trust, but it would have to be on hardware I was absolutely sure of.

Cheers!

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.

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!