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 One application per task, faithful to the old Unix ideal, quaint and outdated as that might seem to others who like the bleeding edge, eye candy, and super gaming capability.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.

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.

SalixOS: Marketing and Support

Salix OS has done some pretty amazing stuff to bring Slackware Linux down to us mere mortals, ordinary desktop users. They were doing for Slackware what Ubuntu once did for Debian. Except for the installer, perhaps, SalixOS is incredibly simple and intuitive. Maintaining 32-bit support, Salix OS is systemd-free, equipped with cool tools like Slapt-get, Sourcery, and a codecs-installer, and the one-application-per-task simplicity that makes light and fast. I say they WERE doing for Slackware what Ubuntu once did for Debian, because it looks like no one is doing it anymore.

In this thread, Salix forum users talk about “marketing” and targeting “a larger user base.” It’s right that they should. Suggestions include promoting Salix on social media, but no one is doing that, apparently. Others suggest blogging about it, but on WordPress almost every reference to Salix is about Japanese groundskeeping, and SalixOS brings up next to nothing. I wonder if they don’t really want a larger user base after all, since newbies would appear in their forums with questions and “silliness” that the old hands would rather not be troubled with. The forums have very few recent threads or posts, and many go unanswered for days, weeks, months, or longer.

Perhaps part of it is that Slackware doesn’t have or use any Gnome stuff. Fine with me, I hate Gnome, and I think Gnome hates a lot of Linux users too, judging by the stupid choices they have made in the past couple of years. The funny thing is, you can get and use Gnome stuff in SalixOS if you want, though few people even know that. It’s not that easy to do, but with Sourcery, Salix’s wicked-kewl slack-building-from-source tool, you can!

There are other other Slackware derivatives that are more popular and gaining ground, but the most popular of those is no longer compatible with Slackware anymore! SalixOS remains fully compatible with it’s parent, so all the treasure trove of software available to “Slackers” (Slackware Linux users) is also available to “Lazy Slackers” (SalixOS users). Salix is an Xfce desktop distro. Other Slackware-based distros use different desktop environments. Slax, Slackel, etc. But it’s not like different “flavors” of the same familiar base, as in Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Kubuntu, etc. These are entirely separate distros with entirely different developers, goals, communities, and users. It seems kinda fragmented to me, looking from the outside in, and I wonder if that isn’t part of the reason for the declining “market share.”

That, and the recent appeals for funding of Slackware, which for a time apparently was on the verge of going under. Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution, but it’s still basically a one-man show. When he goes, so will Slackware and all her children. Unless there are others to pick it up and maintain it. This is a huge disadvantage as far as “market share” is concerned. By contrast, Debian is driven by a huge community and will never die. Red Hat and it’s family has a large, fat corporation backing it. Ubuntu is backed by a corporation as well, but not one that is profitable yet. All it’s derivatives are basically one-man-show distros, maybe with a few paid developers among the big ones like Mint.

The future of Linux may be in the hands of the Big Corporations after all, perhaps with a few exceptions like Debian, a truly community-driven project that forms a superb base for others to build on. Which others will continue to do as long as Debian needs to be “brought to the ordinary desktop user” instead of aimed at servers and technocrats.

What does the future hold for Linux? For your own favorite distribution? Feel free, comment below.

Kinda Missing My Linux Lite

I know, I know. I’ve already got the bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful Linux distro in the history of ever on my ‘puter. It’s not encumbered by systemd, it’s got cool tools, good looks, great performance, and a wonderful supportive community.

But I still miss my Linux Lite, and I’m torrenting the latest release all day today. I intend to dual-boot it with my equally fantastical and awesomeful MX-18.

Why, you ask? Why, why whyyyyy would you do such a thing?! After all that stuff you said about Ubuntu-based distros putting Beta software in their updates and all that stuff about what systemd might well become?

I have several good reasons, and I’m not alone! A lot of cool techno-wizard types who use MX-Linux and AntiX and post regularly in MX forums also use Linux Lite and help out in their forums! The two distros share a common mission in spite of their different bases and different philosophies. That mission is making and keeping desktop Linux easy and simple for us “mere mortals,” us ordinary desktop and laptop computer users. They have different ways of doing it, and both are great! I tend to give Linux Lite the edge in that department so far. My reasons for dual-booting:

  • For new Linux users that I don’t do the installations for, Linux Lite is much easier to install. That Ubiquity installer from Ubuntu is just the best there is, and I wish the Debian-based distros would adopt and use it.
  • If I do the installation, it’s likely to be MX-Linux if they are interested in really learning how to configure and maintain it. If they’re honestly not willing or inclined to learn more, and to join the forums and learn to responsibly maintain a DebianLinux system, I’ll install Linux Lite for them, which – for now at least – has a very low learning curve and built-in maintenance features for “lazy” users.
  • I can provide much better support to these new users if I use the same distro and can “click along with them” to configure, adjust, and maintain their OS.
  • I can remove 99.999% of the risk posed by the Ubuntu base by adding the “after market” tools that minimize the update dangers and make the menus and such more intuitive (in my opinion). UnlockMe also has the simplest way to add software that isn’t in the Linux Lite and Ubuntu repositories. If I do the install, I’ll use a custom iso that includes these wonderful tools.

Linux Lite has a wonderful community of friendly people, and like the MX-forums, the developer(s) actively participate in those forums. That means a lot to me, still being as technophobic as I ever was, despite being geeky enough to use Linux and actually understand some of the techno-jargon in Star Trek, my all-time favorite entertainment escape. They are also easily searchable and welcoming for those few newbies who actually regret not wanting to learn more at first.

So look for an overdue review of the current version later this week or next.

“Artim”

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.