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Updated: May 26, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma 5.13 review

Two years ago, the Plasma desktop was just another offering in the Linux pool, with a modern but overly complicated interface, bereft of enthusiasm and brimming with problems. Then, suddenly, it changed. Like a primordial being crawling out of a mineral soup, it started morphing into a slick, fast, elegant desktop. And now, it’s become the leading force in the Linux world.

Several months ago, we looked at Plasma 5.12, the LTS release, and I outlined all the different issues and problems surrounding it. The KDE team has its ear(s) to the ground, and there’s been a lot of positive momentum and hard working invested into making Plasma amazing. Sometimes, the mission is set back by regressions in the distro space. If only the emotional rollercoaster wasn’t so swingy. Now, we have another chance to be dazzled – or shocked. Plasma 5.13 is in its last beta stages, and I took an opportunity to check what gives. Not one but TWO tests. After me.

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Updated: May 25, 2018 | Category: Linux

MX Linux MX Tools

Roughly fourteen full phases of the moon ago, I wrote an article on MX Tools, a unique and useful bunch of dedicated utilities packaged with the MX Linux distribution. This toolbox offered the ordinary (or new) MX Linux user a chance to perform some common configuration tasks with easy and elegance.

In general, MX-16 was a great player, and the recent MX-17 is even better - and at a first glance, so is the new version of MX Tools bundled with the system. Good stuff. So I set about testing, to see what has changed, and in what way this set of utilities has improved, if at all. But I'm positive. Let us commence.

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Updated: May 23, 2018 | Category: Linux

Linux Mint tools

Creating Linux distro spins is relatively easy. A few string replacements, some branding, and you're done. Creating unique, independent and self-sufficient projects, that's another matter entirely. The latter category is reserved to only a small number of distros that manage to balance their parenthood and individual identity while still providing users with a sensible and meaningful setup for work and fun. Linux Mint is one of such rare examples.

For many years, Mint has successfully paddles its gray-green look and feel, topped with good and easy access to everyday needs. This hasn't always been easy, as Ubuntu changes a lot, and this has often affected Mint in unpredictable ways. Still, overall, it managed to retain an edge of worth that goes beyond being yet another bland clone. Staying with the LTS releases as the baseline is one such manifest. A set of unique tools is another. We explore.

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Updated: May 21, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver review

After covering the other three major flavors, it's time to focus on Ubuntu. So far, the spring season has been rather mediocre. Kubuntu started well but then sort of ruined it with crashes and bugs. Ubuntu MATE delivered a fairly strong offering, but it had its own shares of crashes and it took a huge amount of effort getting into order. Again, not the LTS quality. Xubuntu was all right, except no innovation, and it took too much putting together into a reasonable package. All of the stuff you expect NOT to have to do with a pro LTS release.

Meanwhile, after sampling Ubuntu in its beta phase, I let it rest for a while, and now it's time to look at the flagship edition, and see what it can do. The big contention point is the use of Gnome 3 as the desktop environment, of course. It's simply not good enough for serious use. Not pro, not anything. Which makes the Ubuntu effort almost a lost battle. But there's a caveat. Let's do it.

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Updated: May 19, 2018 | Category: Media

SMTube review

It's a no brainer. On the desktop, you go online, and you open a tab and you load Youtube, and then you play clips. But then, on mobile devices, you have dedicated applications, which usually offer a somewhat more efficient media experience. So, on the desktop, it's the browser way or the ... SMTube way?

SMTube is a cross-platform Youtube player, which allows you to search and play videos from the popular media platform, with some additional search tweaks and filters, and extra download options, all this from the desktop, without having to keep a browser tab open. It's a convenient tool to use, and with the recent rewrite, it actually works, and it works fairly well. I decided to test to see what gives.

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Updated: May 18, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ego & fragmentation in the Linux distro world

If Tom Clancy had been a technophile of the software kind, he'd have used this title instead of the familiar one for one of his iconic blockbuster thrillers. The thing is, Linux accounts for a tiny percentage of the overall desktop market share. The perennial 1% has been around roughly since 2005, and even if the actual share is higher than that, it's still a small and largely insignificant fraction. And yet, there are hundreds of Linux distributions populating this narrow, crowded arena. Why? Well, ego, of course.

One might say: open source. Ah, well, the open-source nature of Linux has been the chief excuse to the colorful abundance of replication and duplication of the Linux desktop world, while at the same time serving as the main catalyst to the expansion of Linux in the commercial space, which makes for a dubious cause. I believe the reason is different. Let me tell you what it is.

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Updated: May 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

The pursuit of happiness is an alienable right of any techie, especially those who dabble in the open source. Shall they find what they seek? Well, I'm like Bono this spring season: I missed the rains down in Africa, and I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Namely, my experience with Kubuntu and Ubuntu MATE, both of the Beaver persuasion, were somewhat disappointing.

Well, we're continuing the hot pursuit. Next on the menu, Xubuntu. It will be interesting to see how well this distro fares, and whether it blindly embraces the bugs and inconsistencies that plague its two LTS siblings. One thing is certain, my hopes are low, for LTS editions are meant to be free of problems, and that's not what we have. Maybe the Xfce-clad Bionic can deliver?

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Updated: May 14, 2018 | Category: Linux

12 cool features in Ubuntu MATE

I have to admit, I wasn’t too pleased with my experience with Ubuntu MATE 18.04 so far. I mean, it was all right and all that, but there were too many bugs, too many problems, and even a few application crashes, which are a big no-no for an LTS release. But at the same time, I was quite intrigued by all the features and options that MATE offers. And this is why we’re here.

I want to explore the innovative side of things in the reincarnated Gnome 2 desktop. We touched on some of these things in my MATE 1.20 review, and then in more detail in my article on Mutiny, a Unity-like desktop layout for MATE users, designed to fill in the gap left by the unfortunate demise of Ubuntu’s flagship environment. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. So with the dichotomy of dissatisfaction and amazement, let’s see what this old-new desktop can do for us.

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Updated: May 12, 2018 | Category: Linux

2018 best Linux software

Greetings. Over the years, I have compiled several articles detailing the best-of software for Linux and Windows, starting as early as 2008, and then making the last bundle in 2012. Six years is a very long time in the software sphere, so I thought about making another compilation.

My criteria for the inclusion and nomination are relatively simple: Applications need to be robust and stable, they need to accessible, the installation process should be relatively straightforward, and ideally, these will be cross-platform tools that run on other operating systems, too. There's a certain degree of personal taste, too, but I believe my choices are pragmatic, useful and fun. With the necessary expectation for a certain amount of hype, let us proceed. And do note, in some cases, you will see older and/or official screenshots, but that's mostly for aesthetic purposes.

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Updated: May 11, 2018 | Category: Windows

Windows WSL & various distributions

Being an industrious pioneer of technology that I am, already in 2016, I've written about the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and how you can use it to run BASH in Windows 10. Then, I've also shown you how you can actually run Linux graphical applications in Windows using an X11 server. Good stuff.

Essentially, the early escapades with WSL were mostly, understandably, focused on Ubuntu. However, recently, Microsoft has expanded the range of available distributions in the Windows Store, with Kali being the first edition. But since, several more systems have been added, and this calls for another review.

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Updated: May 9, 2018 | Category: Virtualization

VirtualBox WinTrustVerify error

Several weeks ago, I decided to test Macrium Reflect, a free system imaging software. Macrium Reflect uses Windows PE as bootable live media, inside which you can perform both backups and restore operations. Now, with system imaging software, testing restores is the most important thing, and I decided to do this both on physical hardware as well as in a virtual machine.

This is where I hit a problem. Trying to boot the PE image in VirtualBox, I got the following error - E_FAIL (0x80004005), with more details available in the VBoxHardening.log file. Inside this file, among many lines of text, I found several hits that read lacks WinVerifyTrust, one of them resulting in the failure below. What now?

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Updated: May 7, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu MATE 18.04 Bionic Beaver review

Let us continue the saga of happiness. I mean, the spring distro testing season. In my first test, I tried Kubuntu 18.04, and it was average. Disappointingly so. I was hoping for a rock-solid Plasma offering to dazzle me for the next five years, to make me upgrade my production systems, but all I got was a handful of tears. It will get better, but so does a shrapnel wound.

Today, I'd like to test Ubuntu MATE. This flavor has recently come into my focus with the release of MATE 1.20, which brings about a whole spectrum of fresh ideas and solutions to the retro-Gnome scene. I was also quite intrigued by the Mutiny Unity-like panel-and-menu implementation. All in all, this should be interesting, although my hopes are quite low, following the Kubuntu test. But then, I ended up with more than 100 screenshots collected, so let's see what gives.

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Updated: May 5, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu 18.04 & Samba problems

Microsoft Windows makes up the vast majority of desktop systems in the world. Easily 90%. This means that if you're testing Linux or considering dual-booting Windows and Linux, you will most likely have a Windows machine in your setup, and you will want to share files. Samba is the easiest way to do things. In your Linux box, in a file manager, in the address bar, type smb://, followed by a host name or IP address, and you should be able to connect to your Windows shares. Well, in Ubuntu 18.04, not so anymore.

I've encountered this problem while testing Bionic Beta and then again when I took Kubuntu 18.04 for a spin. In both cases, I was not able to reach my Windows shares. Now, this is a stupid problem, because I can connect to Windows shares from EVERY other Linux system I have. Let me show you how you can fix this.

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Updated: May 4, 2018 | Category: Hardware


Several months ago, I finally managed to resolve the read-only saga on my Lenovo G50 laptop. You can read about the original problem and then my first workaround attempt, and then finally, once the problem really became popular due to the Ubuntu 17.10 drivers fiasco, the real solution came about in the form of a kernel update, and henceforth, I had my UEFI working properly again. The funny thing is, this is a much bigger issue, and not restricted to Ubuntu, but it was casually ignored for a long while.

Now, while I was waiting for the fix to be created - not knowing if there ever was going to be one, I tried to find ways to get new operating systems to boot on the Lenovo machine. As I mentioned, raw disk access via VirtualBox is one. Another method, somewhat less risky but also somewhat less effective is: GRUB2 ISOBoot. We shall discuss that now, for there could come a day when you might face (or still are) the BIOS/UEFI NVRAM read-only issue, and need a way to work around that, and no kernel updates and such available. Let us proceed.

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Updated: May 3, 2018 | Category: Various

Macrium Reflect 7 review

I am a strong proponent of system imaging. The ability to restore your system to an earlier point in time is extremely valuable, as it can save you many hours normally required to install and configure a machine should things go wrong and necessitate a complete rebuild. Whether it's a bad system update, malware or anything else you don't like, just roll back and Bob's your uncle.

Macrium Reflect is a Windows-based imaging and cloning solution that fits the bill. The list of features and options is quite impressive, and both free and paid editions exist. Now, we've already talked about Macrium Reflect a long time ago, in my second article on free Windows imaging software, but now I want to give version 7 a full-blown review.

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Updated: April 30, 2018 | Category: Linux

Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

The day of reckoning is upon us. Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver has been released, and with five years of promised support, it's potentially a great candidate for a production desktop setup. The emphasis is on the adverb used in the previous sentence, as we know how fickle and erratic and regressive Linux distros can be.

But I am genuinely intrigued. I may want this in my production setup. After all, Kubuntu Zesty was the ultimate Plasma release, the best Kubuntu ever, and among the finest Linux systems released in the past decade, and it spiked my interest and desire to deploy Plasma on my serious big-boy machines. With such gentle expectations, let us commence.

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Updated: April 28, 2018 | Category: Media

Elisa media player

A bunch of days ago, the first stable version of Elisa, a new KDE-oriented music player, was released unto the wild. The program aims to be a simple, nice and flexible player, with good integration as well as cross-platform support. Sub-1.x releases of any which application are always tricky, but I still decided to give it a whirl.

Overall, the Linux world is over-saturated with music players, many of which offer only limited functionality, and just a few consistent programs that have survived the rite of time and steady use. In a way, this proliferation mimics the larger distro world, with hundreds of offerings, some with only minor differences among them, and usually something really cardinal missing. Which is what makes Elisa potentially interesting. Can it outplay the overplayed game?

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Updated: April 27, 2018 | Category: Linux


Backup solutions for Linux-based systems are many - most of them using rsync as the backend service. In this regard, Timeshift isn't much different, but its presence of the tool in Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia, as well as the way it behaves prompted me to take it for a longer and more thorough spin.

Indeed, looking at the product - it's not only rsync what Timeshift does. It also supports BTRFS, and it's not just a user data backup tool, it's actually a system backup tool. Sounds interesting. And this is why we're testing.

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Updated: April 25, 2018 | Category: Game reviews

Cities Skylines Mass Transit

Without using too many superlatives, Cities Skylines is a great little game. Well, not little. It's a superb, rich, complex, and fun urban slash city building simulator, and the first game of its kind since SimCity 4 to actually stir a response in my proverbial loins. But it also a ravenous beast, and it chomps through system resources like there's no tomorrow.

Over the last year or so, I noticed a weird phenomenon - you play, and everything is fine, but then suddenly, you add a new road, train line or a subway section, or delete some buildings, and the game starts to lag. It begins running very slowly. There's no apparent reason for this. I spent a lot of time investigating, and I believe I've come up with a nice solution. It's witchcraft, which makes it even better.

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Updated: April 23, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma widgets

The concept of addons is an interesting one. At some point over the past decade or two, companies developing (successful) software realized that bundling an ever-growing code base into their products in order to meet the spiraling tower of requests from their users would result in unsustainable bloat and complexity that would not warrant the new functionality. And so, the idea of addons was born.

Addons come in many flavors – extensions, plugins, applets, scripts, and of course, widgets. A large number of popular programs have incorporated them, and when done with style, the extra functionality becomes as important as the core application itself. Examples that come to mind: Firefox, Notepad++, VLC, Blender. And then, there’s the Plasma desktop environment. Since inception, KDE has prided itself on offering complete solutions, and the last incarnation of its UI framework is no different. Which begs the question, what, how and why would anyone need Plasma widgets? We explore.

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Updated: April 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver Beta review

In about two weeks, Canonical will release its next LTS, 18.04 Bionic Beaver. What makes it special is that it's going to be running a Gnome 3 desktop instead of Unity, a sort of full-circle reversal of direction and strategy, and that means ... uncertainty. With Trusty Tahr being the only production Linux system in my setup, I am quite intrigued and concerned, because I need to choose my next LTS carefully.

So far, the prospect isn't encouraging, given the more-than-lukewarm performance by Aardvark. There's a lot of hope in the Plasma spin, given the stellar performance of the Plasma desktop recently, but that's still a big unknown, especially since Kubuntu 17.10 was a regression compared to the most magnificent and awesome Zesty Zapus. Therefore, I decided to check this beta, to see what gives ahead of the official release. Normally, I don't like testing unfinished products, but this be an extraordinary occasion. Let's do it.

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Updated: April 15, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu Windows 10 trans pack

As a man with a keen eye for aesthetic details, I do like the concept of trying to make operating systems mimic their rivals, provided this can be done with elegance, style, quality and attention to detail. A great example would be the Macbuntu transformation pack. Including but not limited to.

Now, Windows 10. Say what you will about it, it ain't ugly. It's actually a reasonably pretty distro, although the whole flatness deal is a bit overplayed. But since Linux can be made to look like anything, I set about testing, in Ubuntu, Kubuntu and even Linux Mint, to see whether this is something worth your time and decorative skills in the first place. Will this work? An open question. After me.

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Updated: April 13, 2018 | Category: Office

Manjaro & Microsoft Office Online

The Linux desktop has never made it big. Canonical tried with Ubuntu, they made a big ripple, but the effort fell short of a revolution, in part because of the necessary monetary resources required, in part because of missed timing, and also because of some rather stiff rand unneeded resistance from the community. A paradox. Linux folks want to displace Windows, but when one tries, they are scorned for selling out.

There isn't a single formula for success - but the one component that cannot be removed, whatever the equation might be: applications. Without offering the needed functionality to Windows converts, they have no use for an empty shell called the operating system. Proof, Windows, the most successful desktop system, did not succeed in the mobile world, because it did not have any applications. Same way, Linux on the desktop stands no chance without the everyday software that Windows folks need. The most prominent among them: games and Microsoft Office. We have Valve Steam to thank for the former, and now, Manjaro for the latter?

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Updated: April 11, 2018 | Category: Internet

Falkon browser

The world of browsers is a weird one. There are many programs out there, but in essence, it all boils down to only several rendering engines and their numerous forks, spin offs and adaptations. You may think you have a lot of choices, but you don't.

In the KDE world, there have been many players - Konqueror, rekonq, QupZilla - and now Falkon, and I have probably forgotten some. Falkon, you ask? Yup. QupZilla used to be the official KDE browser until it was renamed, rebadged and slightly revamped as Falkon. Well, the official domain name is still the old one, but the use of the letter k is the giveaway, right. Is it any good, you ask some more. Well, that is something we shall answer today.

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Updated: April 9, 2018 | Category: Linux

Antergos 18.3

Antergos is one of those distros that require a bit of luck and tough love to get going. For a while, it stubbornly refused to boot on my Lenovo G50 test system, and I let it be. Then, while my G50 was on the fritz (blink for the imperialists), I had it tested on my older LG RD510 machine, and I was quite impressed. The distro delivered a fairly solid experience, with some nifty and unique tricks along the way.

It is time to revisit the test with the 18.3 release, and once again, I'll be testing on the Nvidia-powered machine. Gnome, again, too. The reasons for this choice are many. One I want to see how Antergos performs over time under the same test conditions, and not because I don't want it tested on the Lenovo. Perhaps it if proves worthy. Much like the recent Manjaro test, which I had extended once the distro showed good quality and promise. Two, we need some variety, hence Gnome. Three, Nvidia always makes for a fun test case. Shall we?

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Updated: April 7, 2018 | Category: Linux

CentOS 7.4 upgrade

I have not updated the CentOS instance on my Lenovo G50 laptop since mid-2016, more or less. But then, a few days ago, I decided to revisit the distro, both to see how it fares, performance and relevance wise, and also to update its package set to the latest 7.4 build. We're talking 18 months of backlog, tons of customization.

If your memory is a bit dusty, I am really fond of CentOS, and despite the fact it's a server distro, it still offers great value in home setups. Specifically on the G50 machine, I had it installed and then tested the KDE, Gnome, Xfce, and MATE desktops individually, plus added a whole of pimping and extra software. You may wonder, will all this work get in the way of a version update? Let's check.

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Updated: April 6, 2018 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 17.04 to 17.10 upgrade

Zealous Zoltan (Zoltan!) was one of the better Ubuntu releases in the past years. No matter what desktop environment you chose, it delivered well. Then, Aardvark was among the less successful ones, be it Gnome, Plasma or Xfce. Still, the clock inevitably ticks forward, and with only nine months of support, one must either abandon or upgrade.

I already showed you what I did with my fabulous Kubuntu Zesty, going to Aardvark. It was a somewhat lukewarm experience, but over time, with patches trickling in and some extra work on my end, I was able to fine-tune the Plasma desktop in the 17.10 release into one closely matching the 17.04 edition. My next endeavor was with Xubuntu. Only the Zapus release was now officially EOL. Let me tell you a story.

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Updated: April 4, 2018 | Category: Linux


This is my BEST pun yet. Or not. A few days ago, I've read the release notes on Ubuntu 18.04 MATE beta, and there was a lot of good stuff in there, enough to have my jaded curiosity glands intrigued. Many new features are going into the reincarnated version of Gnome 2, and they make for an appealing case for the retro desktop that MATE is. Neat.

In my review of this desktop environment, the freshly released 1.20 version, I did mention that in order to compete with the likes of Gnome 3 or Xfce, MATE needs to step its game up and introduce modern features that go beyond what Gnome 2 used to. Lo and behold, her we have Bionic MATE, and it seems to be just the thing I was looking for. Specifically, a Unity-like Dash-and-Launcher setup called Mutiny. Let's explore.

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Updated: April 2, 2018 | Category: Linux

AHCI mode & ATA link resets

My hardware arsenal, used for Linux distro testing, is quite varied. It includes some new machines as well as several relics. The oldest among them happens to be a 2009 LG RD510 dual-core box, the first one I ever bought for the sake of proper Linux testing. If you're in for a bit of nostalgia trip, check the original report. Since then, it's had its uses, and recently, I brought it back into the game as the test mule.

The laptop comes with an old Nvidia 9600M GS card, and what's special about it is that no Linux distro installed on it has ever really been able to resume from suspend successfully. I've decided to tackle issue with my recent set of distro checks, just to figure out why and what the underlying issue might be. For those coming through search engines - this article is the fix for suspend & resume problems in Linux on machines with Nvidia cards, caused by ATA link resets for devices running in AHCI mode. Now, shall we?

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Updated: March 31, 2018 | Category: Linux

Manjaro 17.1.6 Hakoila Xfce

Several days ago, I tested Manjaro 17.1.6 Plasma edition on my Nvidia-powered LG laptop, an old beast still bravely soldiering on into its ninth year. The experience was pleasant enough if rife with bugs, but overall, Hakoila delivered a whole bunch of goodies, including some super-unique features that you don't see in other systems, making me intrigued enough to extend the testing onto my eight-boot Intel-graphics Lenovo G50 laptop.

Then, I decided to actually try the Xfce flavor, so as not to repeat myself. This means the results ought to be ever so slightly different, or perhaps significantly different, but if this be a good, robust distro then it should deliver. Let's see what gives. After me.

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Updated: March 30, 2018 | Category: Internet

Noscript 10 second guide

As you know, Firefox 57 ushered a new era of WebExtensions into Mozilla's addons world, breaking the ecospace, and forcing massive changes. One of the affected addons is the highly popular Noscript Security Suite (NSS), which, frankly, is probably the only real reason to still favor and use Firefox over Chrome. Giorgio Maone, the Noscript creator, had to make a brand new version of his tool, and it was a radical change for many users.

To that end, I wrote my first guide on Noscript 10 usage, trying to explain the new terminology and concepts, new permissions model, and such. It was received fairly well, and it's quoted in the official basic usage howto on the Noscript forums. Yay. Now, several weeks had gone by, Noscript had undergone additional changes, and I'd like to give some more focus on this sweet little tool and its capabilities. Of course, you should read the first guide first to grasp the basics, then continue here. After me.

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Updated: March 28, 2018 | Category: Linux

Krita review

Krita? GIMP? Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra. So, if you are into any kind of image manipulation, you probably have heard of GIMP, a free would-be (!) alternative to Adobe Photoshop, and in its own right a very reasonable and powerful image manipulation and processing suite, hence its acronymy name. But there's less of a chance that you have heard of Krita, a digital painting program with secondary focus on image work.

I decided to test Krita, to see what it can offer a semi-casual user, both as a plug-in for GIMP and its own art creation software. To that end, I had it installed in KDE neon with Plasma 5.12.3, the latest edition currently available on the market. And before we begin, do remember that genuine art takes talent, skill and patience, and that’s not achievable in the span of a single review. Let’s roll then.

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Updated: March 26, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma 5.12 second test

The pun is strong in this one. As it happens, your favorite Jedi, ergo me, went about testing Plasma 5.12, and it proved to be a very reasonable, rounded edition. A good start for what is essentially the current slash next LTS baseline for the wider KDE desktop experience. I performed my exploratory delights in the official Plasma demonstrator, AKA KDE neon Stable Dev Edition.

Now, a bunch of weeks have passed, and there's been a flurry, no, blizzard of activity getting all sorts of little bugs and problems and issues that I've raised fixed. Those and more. Lovely plummy. Which begs some follow up testing, don't you think? Indeed, let me show you the other side of the bug fixing coin, the user side. After me.

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Updated: March 24, 2018 | Category: Game reviews

Cities Skylines Mass Transit

Cities: Skylines is one of the rare few new games that I'm super-happy to be playing. I go to sleep thinking about all the fine urban planning I've done, and I'm anxiously waiting to wake up, find some free time and start building and evolving my cities once again. This kind of giddy feeling normally belongs to my distant youthful past, and it's a true testament to how great a computer game can be.

After the amazing SimCity 4, this is the ultimate urban simulation, and it comes with all the right bits and pieces to keep you motivated and engaged. I've happily purchased the After Dark and Snowfall expansions to support the company and have some extra fun - although I normally hate DLC, but when it's done right, it's done right. And just recently, I also bought the Mass Transit DLC. And this is the reason, once again, why we are here, chirping merrily about this fantastic little game.

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Updated: March 23, 2018 | Category: Linux

GRUB Customizer

The proverbial Linux bootloader - GRUB - and its TNG guise - GRUB 2.0 - is a highly customizable thing. Only the domain of its tweakability is reserved for expert users, who do not shy away from the command line. If you want to fiddle with the bootloader and its settings, you can. My two tutorials explains all the bits and pieces in gory detail.

For less knowledgeable users, the path is less obvious. Arguably, one should not dabble in GRUB if they don't feel comfortable. But say you want to change the background picture, the default entry, the timeout, maybe another setting or two. There's no reason why you should know the entire mechanism to be able to do that. Well, you should, for other reasons. Now, if you do want to make small changes, you're in luck. GRUB Customizer at your service.

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Updated: March 21, 2018 | Category: Linux

Magnificent Linux projects

While the technology landscape feels big, complex and colorful, the actual variation in creativity and uniqueness isn’t that huge. Often, ideas build upon other ideas, with small changes and incremental improvements. This is also true of our favorite domain, Linux, with its towering pyramid of distros and forks and still more forks, a whole cutlery division. Lots of stuff but not necessarily variety.

In fact, I even believe there’s a decrease in uniqueness over the years, caused by over-saturation of ideas, the demise (or at least, the decline) of several major projects, and with them, the hope and enthusiasm, and of course, the weariness of the human intellect involved. Having inadequate resources, with teams and projects stretched thin, sure does not help. But that’s the negative side. The good thing is, alongside mediocrity, there have been some really amazing things out there, and I want to give them special attention in this article.

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Updated: March 19, 2018 | Category: Linux

Manjaro 17.1.6 Hakoila Plasma

My relationship with Manjaro is somewhat complicated. Much like MX Linux, it started seeped in trouble, supported by understanding, love and kindness ... NOT ... from the community. Regardless, I felt there was something in the distro worth the tender caress from the users, and over time, it has grown better, more refined. Much like MX Linux. Both starred in my end-of-the-year distro round session.

Manjaro has a new version out - 17.1.6 Hakoila. Which means I should be testing, again. I chose the Plasma edition, because Plasma has been on a roll recently, plus my old Nvidia-powered LG RD510 laptop, currently dual-booting two instances of Linux. Now, ere you forget, Manjaro is based on Arch, and Arch is like a bouncing anti-personnel mine, best left in the hands of professionals. Hands - get it? 'Tis a military joke, right. High five. Anyway, let's see if this wunderkid can deliver.

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Updated: March 17, 2018 | Category: Linux

Black and white Linux icons

One might say, on a rather philosophical day, that my Moby Dick is finding a nice and elegant monochrome icon theme set that will make me all happy and bright on the inside. So far, my pursuit of happiness has been less than ideal. I had some success doing this with CentOS 7, but not much since.

Sure, there are many awesome icon sets - Papirus, Numix, Moka, Faenza, you name it, full of color and whim. But I want black & white icons. Difficult? Well, I recently came across a series of nice desktop pictures in Gizmo's Freeware forum, asked a few smart questions, and then learned about a set called ACYLS. And thus beginneth anew my quest after monochrome icons. Let me tell you, and show you, how it went. After me.

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Updated: March 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

SwagArch review

If you think SWAG is reserved to teenagers only, step off the cool bus now. Because we're going Archtown, where the Linux is hot and the desktops are pretty. Yup, someone decided to put together a derivative of the labor-intensive Arch Linux into a pretty, modern and hip distro called SwagArch.

Ignoring the hype, perhaps it's actually a good system, right? After all, my expectations from the likes of Manjaro and Antergos weren't high either, but then, they proved to be delightfully clever. So maybe this swagster can also deliver. Testing version 18.02 on my olden LG laptop, what be blessed with an Nvidia graphics card and many years of age. After me.

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Updated: March 14, 2018 | Category: Linux

MATE 1.20 review

Once upon a time, Gnome 2 was the perfect desktop environment. It was balanced. It combined beauty and simplicity in an elegant, bulletproof package. You had everything you needed, plus stability, plus performance. Then, Gnome 3 came along and took most of this away. Fast forward many years, Gnome 3 still hasn't reached the level of friendliness that its predecessor had.

The void created by the demise of Gnome 2 was filled by MATE, a fork that tries to keep the old alive and running. Fast forward many years, it is still around, still relevant, and the recent 1.20 release brings many goodies, albeit nerdy ones, to the proverbial table (or desk if you will). Testing time, excellent!

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Updated: March 12, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma mobile

It is not every day that you hear news about Linux mobile. With Android (Linux not Linux) reigning supreme in the touch world, pretty much all and every partisan effort to break through in this space has gallantly and yet miserably failed. Remember Ubuntu Phone and Ubuntu Tablet? Ah, the memories.

But then, a challenger appears. Wearing a Plasma cloak! Now, hold your horses, put the saddle of enthusiasm away and listen. Plasma mobile, in one form or another, has been around for about half a decade, and it is only now that we're getting an alpha version of a mobile product available for testing. Nevertheless, it is an important milestone in the Linux world, in the Plasma world, and in the mobile world. Hence, test we shall.

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Updated: March 10, 2018 | Category: Car reviews

Citroen C4 Cactus

I have always been fascinated with Citroens, even as a child. The likes of DS, GS, CX, and others filled my imagination with their spaceship-like looks, their otherworldly tachometers and steering wheel controls, and their futuristic hydropneumatic suspension. Fast forward 40 years, Citroen is offering more mainstream technology to its more mainstream users, with an occasional spanner of flair and spice thrown into the tumbling spin of car models.

C4 Cactus is a great example. A car that blends retro looks with nostalgia with affordable practicality, without being boring or cheap. It's an elegant vehicle, and when I realized I had an opportunity to test one, I said aye. For two days and change, I drove a low-spec C4 diesel model in a rainy Mediterranean winter, with a chance to sample both its urban as well as highway behavior. So let's see what happened.

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Updated: March 9, 2018 | Category: Media

VLC 3.0

VideoLAN (VLC) is probably the most versatile media player in the world. I've written perhaps a dozen different articles covering this program and its features. There's little it can't do. Anything media-related you can think of, VLC definitely has. Streaming, no problem. DVD playback, check. Subtitles, yes please. Plugins, filters, portable mode. It's cross-platform, and it's free. And now there's a new version.

VLC 3.0 hails a whole range of improvements, including all the fancy new formats that plebs love, stuff like 4K, 8K, UHD, 60FPS, 360-degree video and images, and more. Ask any professional, and they will laugh in derision at the notion of capturing video at soap-opera rates, but plebs love them numbers, and the bigger the better. VLC obliges, with its most ambitious and spectacular release yet. Shall we take a close look?

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Updated: March 7, 2018 | Category: Linux

WINE 3.0

I am always happy to see major releases of open-sources projects, especially when they come loaded with features and enthusiasm. WINE 3.0 hails a significant overhaul of the framework, promising much better compatibility with Windows applications and the much needed support for Direct3D 10/11. Ah yes, if you're wondering, WINE is a software compatibility layer that allows you to run Windows stuff on UNIX-like operating systems.

My experience with this program has waned over the years - in line with the reduced quality and growing complexity of getting Windows applications to run. The last attempt was particularly bad, with lots of dependency problems and errors. Well, fresh version, fresh hope - and dev version 3.3 in the making. This ought to be interesting. Shall we?

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Updated: March 5, 2018 | Category: Virtualization

Amazon Linux 2 login password

You may have heard of Amazon Linux 2. It's an AWS operating system, developed by Amazon. It's offered for free, and you even get virtual machine appliances for testing. Which is what I did, as I showed you in my article on this topic.

The one snag that I hit during the testing was the login. Normally, you use SSH to log into your EC2 instances. But what do you use for an essentially offline virtual machine? I could not find any root/ec2-user combo online, and the usual method of trying to change password in single mode did not work. Hence this guide. It will show you how to manually change the login credentials for your Amazon Linux 2 virtual machine, so you can begin testing. After me.

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Updated: March 3, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma digital clock

The OCD demons compel people to do all sorts of weird things. Like keep on tweaking their Plasma desktop setup, for example. Just as you think you've dandied it all up nice and pretty like, the demons cometh and mess up things, and suddenly, you notice a bunch of new issues that need a-fixin'.

This is what happened to me while playing with Kubuntu 17.04 and openSUSE 42.3. I really thought I had everything sorted out, but then I realized the digital clock discrepancy between these two Plasma distros. Zesty had the big clock that just grew bigger with the bottom panel height, but Leap had a small, compact one that fit tidily into the system area. And so, another article was born. This one. P.S. The issue discussed here has been fixed in Plasma 5.12.1, but since most people are still not using a distro running the latest version of Plasma, this little guide has merit and use. After me.

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Updated: March 2, 2018 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 telemetry

After security, the notion of privacy is the most debated topic in the online world, especially in recent years, with the rapid and aggressive proliferation of social networks and mobile computing. Microsoft also got into the crosshairs of public scrutiny, especially with the release of Windows 10 and its supposedly questionable practice of collecting user data, more technically known as telemetry.

While I personally believe the subject to be blown out of proportion, just like computer security, I do understand why it's so important to so many people. Ignorance breeds fear, and fear leads to paranoia. Of course, IT companies are not helping with their casual attitude to using and abusing user data. Microsoft realized that this be a slippery slope, and so they made a change - Windows 10 now comes with far more information and transparency regarding the data collection practices. Let's talk.

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