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Updated: July 19, 2018 | Category: Linux

Kdenlive 18.08 Beta review

Kdenlive is my video editor de jour since the dawn of civilization, or rather, as far back as my video editing attempts go. Pretty much all of the clips I uploaded to my Youtube channel were made using Kdenlive, with only some extra work in other programs. Kdenlive is powerful, flexible, useful, and now there’s a new beta that promises many good things and delights.

The 18.08 version can be found under the label Refactoring Branch – sounds like an avantguard field of mathematics – and it is distributed as a self-contained AppImage, meaning you just need to make the file executable and then run it (single- or double-click). Which is exactly what I did. Follow me.

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Updated: July 16, 2018 | Category: Books

System Administration Ethics book announcement

Happy news. A few weeks ago, my proposal for a new book topic - that of System Administration Ethics - has been accepted by a big-name publisher. With the contract signed and writing underway, I can now talk a little more about this endeavor.

First, a little bit of context. In 2015, my problem solving book came out. I loved it; the sum of my work experience and knowledge, the combination of industry tricks and scientific methodologies, statistical engineering, best practices, and Linux Voodoo magic. 'Twas a heavy, detail-rich tech book, through and through. Now, a colleague of mine - a friend and ex-manager to be exact - had a suggestion. Why don't we write a book that shows not only how to do system administration right, but also why. Because for every action, there's also an ethical reaction.

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Updated: July 16, 2018 | Category: Books

I Shall Slay the Dragon!, behind the scenes

When you think about it, few red-haired people share the same fame as the biblical Romeo cum Rambo - the archetypal good-guy Samson, whom I chose as the protagonist for my latest book, I Shall Slay the Dragon! Yes, I know what you're thinking. Of all the fantasy themes I could have picked, why this one?

Now that the book is out there, I thought about spending a moment or three talking about this idea. On one hand, it feels obvious: the quintessential tragic love story, the olden-day West Side Story, the best the mythology can give you - and the dragon, of course. On the other, each one of these motifs on their own has been told and resold numerous times. But I've never seen them blended together. That's how my book was born.

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Updated: July 15, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu MATE customization

Over the years, I've written dozens of pimping guides for various Linux distributions: Xubuntu, Fedora, CentOS. The only place on Earth with more pimping is the RDL in Amsterdam. But we're here to talk software. As you may recall, I tested Ubuntu MATE 18.04 a few months back. It was okay. No the best, but like a child with so-called potential, this one has a decent chance of becoming a reasonable choice for your production desktop, if and when the various bugs and issues THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE MADE INTO AN OFFICIAL LTS RELEASE are finally fixed.

On the visual side of things, while you wait for the code redemption - akin to Kubuntu - well, there's a lot you can do. In this article, I'd like to show you the many ways and tweaks you can use to make Ubuntu MATE looks the part. The reason is, MATE has so many features and options, it's not all straightforward. So let's talk.

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Updated: July 13, 2018 | Category: Linux

CentOS & Flatpak

Self-contained app mechanisms are gaining traction in the Linux world. A workaround to multi-distro fragmentation, frameworks like Snap, AppImage and Flatpak seek to offer simple click-to-install, click-to-use software management to common users. Every now and then, I do some extra rigorous testing, to see whether the new approach makes sense, and whether it's masses ready.

To that end, spurred by a recommendation from a reader, I set about testing Flatpak in CentOS 7.4. I've recently updated my CentOS instance on the G50 laptop, and I'm always trying my best to keep this distro relevant, modern and elegant, like adding the latest 4.x family of kernels. We've also seen how to add latest software to the distro, but now let's try taking it to the very edge of bleeding with Flatpak. After me.

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Updated: July 11, 2018 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 & SMBv1 protocol

Windows 10 disables SMBv1. Windows 10 does not disable SMBv1. Windows 10 may disable SMBv1. I've been seeing a storm of these claims recently, revolving around Windows 10 Builds 1709 and 1804, which state that Microsoft has removed the SMBv1 protocol from Windows. This means that users trying to connect to other boxes in their network (most likely home environment) will not be able to do so. Maybe.

In my review of Build 1804, I did not encounter such a problem, but then, this was not a fresh install, and I was using a well-configured, existing setup. So I decided to perform a full, fresh, clean install of Windows 10 and see what kind of behavior awaits me. This should also put to rest all the rumors and counter-rumors.

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Updated: July 9, 2018 | Category: Books

I Shall Slay the Dragon!

Shimshon. Dlila. And a dragon.

It's been a thousand years since the last war against the Beast. Now, the serpent is awake again, and the armies of Gog and Magog are on the march. If they are not stopped, the world will be enslaved by the dragon. The end of days is near.

Shimshon, a fearless warrior with an Ammonite father and an Israelite mother, is a man with little care for divine affairs. He only has two passions in life: women and battle. But he suddenly finds himself surrounded by dark omens.

Troubled, Shimshon begins a journey that will test his courage and convictions. His new path leads him to the Israelite Prophet Ieremiah - and a beautiful Pleshet girl named Dlila. Together, they must learn how to defeat the dragon.

Only the price for victory is higher than Shimshon ever imagined...

Amazon link

Updated: July 9, 2018 | Category: Linux

Linux Mint 19 Tara review

The pursuit of happiness continues. Will I find the next Linux distro to bless my production machines? For that matter, will you? Our latest candidates comes with promising credentials. Mint Tara is an LTS edition, should work well till 2023, and it's meant to bring all the friendly goodies to the table, out of the box. Hopefully.

Once upon a time, this was the perfect distro in Dedoimedo's book. But then, recently, it's hit a hard patch, often caused, directly and indirectly by the wild swings in the quality of Ubuntu releases. Mint 19 is indeed based on Beaver, which isn't exactly the most stellar of distros, although its Unity form is quite reasonable. Anyway, let's see what gives here. After me.

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Updated: July 7, 2018 | Category: Linux

Fedora 28 KDE review

Every now and then, I go blithely about my way, when suddenly, I feel this sharp pain in my lower back, slightly below the tailbone. It's a sharp stabbing sensation. It's the sensation of betrayal. The kind of pain you experience when you love the Plasma desktop, you go about extolling its virtues left and right, and then suddenly you discover that you cannot launch the Plasma file manager - Dolphin - as root. W00t.

About a year ago, this restriction was implemented in Plasma because "root was dangerous" [sic] and for a while, you could not launch Dolphin as root or with sudo. This would-be security measure made my rage enzymes spike through the roof. Since, the KDE team has wisely gone back on this change, and starting with KDE Application 18.08 bundle, you can do this again once more. Job well done. Kudos. But what if you're running an older version of Dolphin? This tutorial offers a non-intrusive, stopgap measure for that.

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Updated: July 6, 2018 | Category: Linux

Fedora 28 KDE review

Time, now it's time, to test your distro again. Indeed. Fedora. I have recently taken the latest release, Workstation 28 Gnome, for a spin, and I found it rather mediocre. Overall, it was buggy, slow, and the desktop required a lot of changes to make usable, as the default configuration simply wasn't good enough. All that happened with the Gnome environment. So what about KDE?

Today, we take a Plasma spin for a spin - provided you can find it, because it takes a somewhat convoluted path to find the KDE version (a completely different domain). Roughly 1.8GB worth of data later, I booted the USB thumb drive on my dual-boot 2009 LG laptop, which comes with Nvidia graphics. If you recall, one of the new and fancy things in Fedora 28 is the simplified media and proprietary drivers handling process, and I promised I'd check this. But beyond that, I also want to see if Fedora 28 KDE can deliver better results than the standard version. To wit, let's see what gives.

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Updated: July 4, 2018 | Category: Office

LibreOffice styles

I had an email from a reader, asking me to look more deeply into the Styles functionality of LibreOffice. This came off the back of my LibreOffice 6.0 review, in which I praised the improvements introduced into the latest version of this free office suite. But the reader felt the covered points were insufficient and inadequate, and that the real deal breaker in LibreOffice functionality is in its styles.

This is a valid request, after all. In a similar manner, I have people emailing and asking me to add or extend my Linux distro testing with additional features and use cases, and I'm always happy to try to make my work as thorough and as accurate as possible. So, styles. Well, challenge accepted.

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Updated: July 2, 2018 | Category: Linux

Typemock Isolator++ review

Testing software is like educating children. The earlier you do a good job the cheaper it is in the long run. When you code new solutions, ideally, you will have made a perfect job in one go. Alas, for things more complicated than Hello World!, the issue of bugs will inevitably come up. And with object-oriented programming, the complexity of real-case scenario simulations is exponentially higher.

The ultimate goal is to find bugs - as well as logical problems - before you hit the production environment. To wit, a variety of methodologies exist, all designed to help simplify multi-varied testing with minimal interaction. Mock testing is one of the popular and acceptable ways of doing this. Indeed, several days ago, I was asked by the Typemock team to take their Isolator++ tool for a spin. This unit testing solution supports both Windows and Linux, and works with C and C++ code. I will be testing the Linux version here. After me.

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Updated: July 1, 2018 | Category: Linux

Cinnamon desktop & Icing task manager

Sounds like a funky recipe, or a beginning of a very weird artistic movie, but it is in fact related to software. Linux Mint, specifically, and its Cinnamon desktop environment. As it turns out, over the years, Linux Mint has striven to give its users a consistent, classic desktop formula, which blends both functionality and intuitive approach, as I've shown many times over the years, including more recently in my Sylvia review. The only problem is, the problem of limited space creeps in on smaller screens.

Having shortcuts tucked in on the left side of the panel is all nice and dandy like when you have many inches of screen equity and high resolutions, but on a typical laptop screen, a dozen app shortcuts will take 50% of the width, and soon you may find the list of your open app windows inaccessible. Various operating systems and desktops solved this by using the icons-only task manager idea. Not so with Cinnamon, though. Enter Icing.

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Updated: June 29, 2018 | Category: Linux

Xfce with dock and global panel

The one thing that unifies all Gtk-like desktops, and please don't crucify me over technical semantics, is that they all look alike. Unity, Gnome 3, MATE, Xfce, they (mostly) follow the macOS layout, with a top panel and menu, and an optional application dock at the bottom - or left side if you will. Not always, of course, but the idea is there. This makes for a somewhat different usage model compared to Windows or Plasma, but it's all right.

Recently, I've done a handful of testing with Xfce systems, including MX Linux and the Xubuntu Beaver, and I got meself thinking. Xfce normally goes for a more conventional UI, and I was curious to see if it's possible to make an Xfce desktop behave like a proper little Mac clone - or more like the parent distro, similar to what we had with Mutiny in MATE, plus the stuff we did in Ubuntu MATE 18.04. Just, y'know, because I can. So I sat down and started fiddling. Let me show you what happened.

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Updated: June 27, 2018 | Category: Linux

Winepak

The concept of running Windows software on top of Linux is a tricky one. First, it defies the intended usage. Second, it requires some significant digital acrobatics in order to marry two incompatible layers, the Linux system and Windows applications.

Over the years, the primary effort trying to reconcile the almost impossible yet tantalizing wedlock has been through WINE, a compatibility framework that translates Windows API into POSIX calls. Easier said than done, and if you’ve read my reviews on this topic, you will have noticed that: 1) not too many programs can run well in this fashion 2) few common, popular programs that Windows folks use fall into the previous category 3) the quality of abstraction has been going down over the years. Top that with the inherent nerdy nature of WINE, which requires a fair deal of manual labor, and the end result is not a satisfactory one. But now, a new challenger has appeared. It’s called Winepak.

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Updated: June 27, 2018 | Category: Books

Free books

Ladies! Gentlemen! Dedoimedo has just turned twelve. A dozen sweet summers of fine articles and witty humor. Or something. To commemorate this fine date, I am most benevolently giving away some (more) free books. Amazon Kindle stuff.

The books in question are: The Betrayed, Book One of The Lost Words, a complete four-book series, and this one will be available for free June 27-29, midnight to midnight PST. Then we also have The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich, the first volume in the splendid trilogy Woes & Hose, and it will be available for free download July 2-4. So if you haven’t yet gotten my books (oh the humanity!), it’s a good opportunity to do so now.

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Updated: June 25, 2018 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 Build 1804 review

It is time for another Windows 10 mini review, and this time, I'll be examining the update process and the post-upgrade experience with the biannual Windows 10 major version upgrade. This one was released in April, hence the number 1804 (well 1803 but still). From what I've been reading online, there seem to have been quite a lot of problems with this particular edition, so I waited a few weeks before testing.

And now we are testing. The Windows 10 resides in an eight-boot setup on a Lenovo G50 laptop, cozily nestled among various Linux distributions. The system uses a local (and limited) account, and it's configured for solid privacy, as I've outlined in my Windows 10 privacy guide. All right, let us commence.

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Updated: June 23, 2018 | Category: Greatest sites on the web

Greatest sites

The Internet has its bad corners. Mostly bad corners. But there are some good corners too, and then some really great ones. Today, I'm pleased to add two more excellent domains to my greatest sites list. Bob Ross - The Joy of Painting and Stack Overflow.

Candidate Number One: I got my first Bob Ross instruction manual when I was 14. Fast forward many years later, framed painting of my own creation still lurk out there, with splendid nature vistas that blend talent with technique, a testament of how wonderful and practical that booklet was. Indeed, if there's one contemporary artist who managed to make art so easily accessible to the public, it's Bob Ross.

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Updated: June 22, 2018 | Category: Linux

OpenSUSE Leap 15

Testing, testing. One, two, fifteen. OpenSUSE is our next volunteer. Over the years, for me, openSUSE has lost much of its glamor and quality. Once upon a time, it was the most "pro" choice for home users, with some serious, intelligent enterprise fiber woven into its brawn. But then, crashes, repository conflicts and difficulty enjoying the stuff that people need, like music, videos and whatnot, made it very hard for me to recommend openSUSE. Once, I did it with passion and dedication. Not anymore.

It's time to try to rekindle some of the old love, and the new version promises a lot. Live media is back in the game, new features abound, and with Plasma being a delightful cookie, we're looking at a gourmet meal. Maybe. So far, there's been little reason to rejoice this spring testing season. Distro after another came, scarred with apathy and bugs. Only Ubuntu 18.04 WITH Unity was okay - and Kubuntu post upgrade. My test box will be a 2009 laptop with Nvidia graphics, currently dual-booting Linux. Let's see what gives.

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Updated: June 20, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver slow boot

After I let the fires of bad QA settle following the official release of Ubuntu roughly a month back, I decided to pick up the smoldering baton and continue the race. Hence, I upgraded my two Kubuntu 17.10 instances to the LTS release. The two machines in question are my Lenovo G50 laptop and HP Pavilion laptops, with Intel and Nvidia graphics, respectively, quite a bit of difference in age and use and complexity of their multi-boot configurations. After the successful upgrade, I noticed a super-slow boot on the Lenovo system.

The time to reach the desktop went from an okay 60-seconds to a horrendous 4-minute mark, making short work of any fun associated with the adventure. I realized I had to debug this, especially if and when one day I choose to commit my production systems to the new LTS. So let's elaborate on the problem and then figure out what we need to do to resolve it.

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Updated: June 18, 2018 | Category: Linux

Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver upgrade results

A few weeks had gone by since my initial test of Kubuntu 18.04. I wasn't too pleased, I have to say. I was expecting more, so much more, and the scattershot of bugs and issues that do not belong in an LTS release saddened me. I really was hoping to be able to upgrade my production boxen - those running Linux - to this edition.

Fast forward a bunch, and the early snags and woes should be fixed. Which is why I bravely decided to upgrade my system. Sorry, systems. Not one but TWO different hosts, with completely different setups and hardware. This should be interesting, and it will shed fresh light into the readiness of Kubuntu Beaver in becoming a household item. Let us.

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Updated: June 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

Gnome 3.28 review

Now that I've tested Fedora 28 Workstation and sampled from its cuisine of good and bad stuff, I'd like to focus on testing Gnome 3.28 proper. I've already hinted at a full, separate review in my Ubuntu Beaver review, being rather sorely disappointed with how Gnome (and as a consequence, Ubuntu) is shaping up. The whole pseudo-touch minimalistic approach feels wrong.

But then, I might be mistaken. The last time I tested Gnome 3 was a whole bunch of years ago, and back then, the overall trend of over-simplification and functionality neutering was strong in this one. Gnome began and continued stripping valuable configurations from its menus, hiding them or removing them altogether, making visual and functional deviations from the intended default state near impossible. Gnome 3.28 brings a whole bunch of changes to the table, so it's time to revisit my impression. After me.

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Updated: June 15, 2018 | Category: Various

GIMP 2.10 review

Tonight, on PIMP My GIMP: Tuxy McGnu, the infamous explorer of all things free and open, goes about testing the latest edition of GIMP, the cross-platform raster graphics editor. Rather pleased with the available capabilities, options, filters, and plugins he’s discovered in earlier episodes, and the single-windows view mode in Episode 8, Tuxy is keen on learning about new things and features in the program.

Tuxy’s journey has been eventful. Not that long ago, he contested with Krita, another specimen of the OSS Race, and found it interesting and useful if somewhat less practical when it comes to pure image editing. Will GIMP deliver more of the same, or will GIMP be a surprise? And if so, will it be a good surprise? This ... and more, in tonight’s episode, on PIMP My GIMP!

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Updated: June 13, 2018 | Category: Linux

CentOS & kernel 4.16

The reasons why we have gathered here are many. A few weeks ago, my CentOS distro went dead. With the new kernel containing Spectre patches, it refused to load the Realtek Wireless drivers into memory. Moreover, patches also prevent manual compilation. This makes the distro useless, as it has no network connection. Then, in my CentOS 7.4 upgrade article - which was flawless, including the network piece, go figure - I wondered about the use of new, modern 4.x kernels in CentOS. Sounds like we have a real incentive here.

In this tutorial, I will attempt to install and use the latest mainline kernel (4.16 when I typed this). The benefits should be many. I've seen improved performance, responsiveness and battery life in newer kernels compared to the 3.x branch. The Realtek Wireless woes of the disconnect kind (like a Spielberg movie) were also fixed in kernel 4.8.7 onwards, so that's another thing. Lastly, this would make CentOS a lean, mean and modern beast. Bravely onwards!

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Updated: June 11, 2018 | Category: Various

Designevo logo maker

Several months ago, I was contacted by the DesignEvo marketing team, asking me to review their product. And now that I've made some solid progress through my neverending request and publication queue, we are indeed doing that. DesignEvo is an online logo maker tool, with thousands of high-quality templates available, offering both free and paid services.

In general, the creation of logos is a somewhat niche need, but then, a lot of people like to have business cards, or they may wish to design an icon for their website or online service, and usually, this process involves working with an artist. But some may choose to style their own custom work, and this is where DesignEvo comes in. Let's see what gives.

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Updated: June 9, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma desktop recovery

Testing unstable dev versions of Plasma has its perks - and dangers. You may end up with a desktop that no longer loads. As it happens, this happened to me. One day, my KDE neon tech guinea pig decided not to load anymore, probably tired of all my configuration changes and installations. No problem, reinstall ought to fix it then, right?

Well, not quite. Even a full reinstall (using the same home and user, of course) did not alleviate the problem. Come the first boot and the first hope of a login, I had the mouse cursor, and it would travel merrily across the wide 16:9 estate of the black screen, but the desktop simply refused to load. So what now?

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Updated: June 8, 2018 | Category: Game reviews

Cities Skylines - Good Traffic Guide

This splendid city building simulation is no stranger to Dedoimedo. I've talked about the game at length, covering both the original release and the combined After Dark and Snowfall expansions, and recently also covered the relatively new Mass Transit DLC. But that's not all. We have also talked about traffic management. A lot.

Like most urban simulators, the game places heavy focus on the road infrastructure - let's face it, a city cannot function without transportation, and everything else is a derivative of the tarmac grid, even if you do not really use grids in your games, ha ha. I've shed some personal advice on how to handle smooth flowing traffic against organic city growth, and the use of underground tunnels to achieve extra throughput and better aesthetics in your cities. Now, with Mass Transit offering a whole new range of additional transport technologies, I wanted to compile a complete guide on making your traffic perfect. Let us.

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Updated: June 6, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma tips & tricks

I like being surprised. I like being impressed. I like seeing quality, forethought, vision, and innovation embedded in software products. I like seeing pride and passion woven into the fabric of digital code. And when a nice piece of code walks in, I get sprung.

A few days ago, I reviewed Plasma 5.13 and liked it a fair bit. Then, if you recall, I also wrote about nifty tricks in Ubuntu MATE, and then I thought, well, there ought to be an article on all the good things in Plasma, too. After all, it’s a fun, consistent and highly innovative desktop environment, and you need to get pumped.

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Updated: June 4, 2018 | Category: Linux

Fedora 28 Workstation review

Time to step away from the Ubuntu family and explore some other other distros. On the menu today, Tux Libre, with a side dish of Fedora and fresh garden Gnomes. Indeed, we shall be testing the latest incarnation of Fedora, the Red Hat test bunny. The two interesting things about it are: the use of the word freedom that it almost feels like an anti-war parody film and the fact it actually advertises itself as a distro for developers, plus the necessary friendly, easy and similar adjectives. But this is already a step in the right direction. It tells ordinary people they have nothing to look for here.

Still, I will do what I've always done - test software from the perspective of someone who doesn't really care for ideology, underlying architecture or finer points of Python code. It's about applications that bring valuable functionality and allow users to have fun. The Ubuntus sure didn't prove themselves worthy of this task so far, with a rather mediocre offering of LTS editions. Once upon a time, Fedora was decent, then it sort of stalled these past couple of releases, and maybe, Workstation 28 could be the Freedom Redeemer. Let's see.

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Updated: June 2, 2018 | Category: Linux

CentOS 7.4 & Realtek Wireless problems

Several weeks ago, I upgraded my CentOS instance, forming a part in the eight-boot setup on the Lenovo G50 laptop, to the latest release, version 7.4. Remember? Well, everything was peachy, including the networking. Then, a couple of reboots later (and more importantly, full system power offs), CentOS 7.4 would no longer recognize the Wireless interface! The Realtek RTL8723BE module was not being loaded anymore!

I decided to explore and troubleshoot this in detail, because I hate seemingly random issues, especially since it worked once, it should continue working. Intermittent problems are the worst. Let's see if we can understand the problem and fix it. After me.

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Updated: June 1, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver with Unity

Several weeks ago, Ubuntu 18.04 was released, and to me it felt like I was watching an episode of an old TV show, and all the grainy VHS quality didn't quite look as exciting as a bunch of decades ago. But whatever year you want to choose as your reference point for the larger regression, 2011, 2007, whatever, Ubuntu Bionic does not feel like a modern, slick, sleek operating system. The reason: it comes with Gnome 3.

Last year, Canonical decided to switch from Unity to Gnome. Their decision was economic, the impact on the user catastrophic. After having a fast, elegant and PROFESSIONAL desktop, we're now given something that best fits the description of a pseudo-touch experiment. But that's not why we're here. We're here to talk about Unity again! You can make Ubuntu glorious once more! Let's do it.

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Updated: May 30, 2018 | Category: Internet

GDPR guide

One day, you're a carefree blogger. The next, you're suddenly dealing with this big, looming thing called GDPR. The EU has introduced a new privacy-focused regulation, GDPR, and it dictates important privacy, security and data transparency requirements for websites handling personal data. You're asking yourself, does this affect me? And you're worried. Today, this article will help you better understand who, what, when and how, and hopefully give you both the knowledge and the tools to become a carefree blogger once again AND be merrily compliant.

Now, the one extra question that you maybe asking yourselves is: why are publishing this only now, AFTER the regulation came into effect? Well, the answer is, believe or not, most tools and services out there released GDPR-compliant updates only in the past week or so, and that finally allowed me to put this guide together. Let's see what gives.

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Updated: May 28, 2018 | Category: Linux

Software Boutique

Long time ago, before mobile and touch and fake news, Linux had app stores. It had app stores before there were app stores. The concept of centralized package management, wrapped nicely with an inviting GUI turned out to be a robust, welcome feature, be it free or paid software. But then, round 2012 or so, things went downhill.

Since Ubuntu Software Center, the one real "pro" store in Linux, there hasn't really been a successful GUI package manager. The old and proven Synaptic is there, of course, and there's Muon too, but they aren't really shop-and-buy things. As for all others, well ... half-baked products mostly. Well, now, a challenger appears, and its name is Software Boutique. First seen by me in Ubuntu MATE 18.04. Let's explore.

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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

UEFI NVRAM RO & GRUB ISO boot

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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