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.

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Treat Your Moderate-to-Severe Technophobia With Linux Lite!

I’ve written before on both my own fear of technology, and about Linux Lite. Today I’ll combine both subjects. It all started with a flare-up of my moderate-to-severe technophobia that started last week, triggered by a discussion on Diaspora about systemd, the evil “one ring to rule them all” program manager used by most Linux distros these days. Just click on the systemd tag for a little more about it (but not much – I’m no expert).

But it’s big and intrusive and “does too much.” Some people complain that it’s an attempt to wrest control of Linux from it’s end-users to the developers, maybe more. The interest of so many “big evil corporations” in adopting it has the same familiar red-flag properties that have people running scared of Google and Facebook, using TOR and proxies online and that kinda stuff. Well I guess it just got to me, having gone on for so long.

I mean, it just depends on how you look at it, right? Or maybe…

I had already dumped Google, killed my gmail account, and quit facebook over fear of becoming a commodity for these companies to sell to advertisers and government agencies or whatever. Now, oh my Lord, systemd is threatening even the sacred refuge I fled to for privacy and safety and dignity! I’ve never experienced any issues – that I know of – with systemd as far as functionality. My Linux OS does what I want it to, does it well, and stays out of my way (unlike Microsoft’s OS). But still…

So…. I went and did something really stupid. Please don’t laugh (at least not where I’ll see you or hear you).

Instead of just switching back to Salix, PCLinuxOS, or any number of other systemd-free Linux distros that I have run before (because there’s no Gnome in any of the Slackware derivatives and PCLOS is too resource-hungry), I tried to rid Xubuntu of it’s horrific, demonic, intrusive systemd. I read on how to do it “safely” before I gathered my courage and ventured into the dark, fearful, mysterious netherworld of the command line interface (CLI). I didn’t do so recklessly or without a plan. I checked and double checked, referred to several official and unofficial sources, and proceeded with all deliberate caution.

I don’t care what the experts say. The only Ubuntu-based stuff that is free of systemd and that can function without it, is based on version 12.04 and older. None of those are supported anymore. I not only crippled my operating system, but apparently something I did in my efforts to exorcise the evil systemd demon from my machine seems to have physically damaged it somehow. Every technophobe’s worst case scenario! Push the wrong button and

Poor old Dell Dimension desktop. It served me so well for so many many years! Linux kept that old relic out of the landfill for decades! And then killed it, mercifully fast. No, I killed it, in a fit of technophobic panic over something that I really know too little about to be so worried about. Rest in peace, you trusty old friend. <sniffle>

But I didn’t spend a dime for my new one. An HP all-in-one with a huuuuge 500 GB hard disk drive! It was unresponsive after an upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10. My partner used it to play one of those Windows-based MMPORPGs (Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game) on Windows, and bought a new one to keep playing, and for Skype and other stuff she absolutely has to have for her job… All of which, by the way, will run in WINE on Linux. Now’s my chance to show her just how effective Linux can be as a drop-in replacement for that bloated, expensive OD from Redmond!

So:

I’ve loaded up Linux Lite again, because it has cool tools, Xfce desktop’s simplicity and beauty, and readiness for the tasks I want to demonstrate for my Windows-addicted partner. This new computer is many times more powerful than the noble old relic that preceded it, and I hope it will help me win over one of the most challenging Windows addicts I know.

Stay tuned!

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!