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Updated: March 30, 2020 | Category: Office

OCRFeeder review

Recently, finding really cool, new, unique Linux software has become a difficult task. A chore. And by recently, I actually meant these past four or five years, even since the slow decline of enthusiasm and innovation in the desktop space started. After all, there's a limit to how much good stuff can exist in a finite volume of intellect, but let's not forget the wrong shift of focus to mobile and the shattering of the year-of-the-Linux dream.

This makes my test of a four-year-old piece of software named OCRFeeder valid, I think. For two reasons. If it's good, it's good. Second, I've always been interested in the progress of optical character recognition, and whether our tools (read AI) can do a reasonable job here. I wrote about this in detail a while back, and then reviewed YAGF in 2015. Now, let's have a look at OCRFeeder and what it can do. After me, brave Linux warriors.

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Updated: March 28, 2020 | Category: Linux

Arcolinux 19.12 review

Walking the Tux road, one system at a time. A short while back, I thought a departure from the proven mainstream dozen distros would do me some fresh good. So I grabbed Solus OS, I tested Peppermint, and now, I'd like to embark on an Arch adventure.

Previously known as ArchMerge, Arcolinux is a distro that obeys Monty Python's rule of three. Three shall be the number of versions, and the number of desktop environments shall be three. Not two, not four. ArcoLinux has the main edition plus D and B builds for tinkerers. I opted for the Xfce-clad 19.12 release. Without further ado, let's see what gives.

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Updated: March 27, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 26

"Maybe you use some of that gay charm to talk our way out of this?"

Lee Qiang put a hand on Lip's shoulder and loved the fact the man flinched ever so subtly. "Not sure if that’s going to work here, but thank you for your suggestion."

There was a bridge.

Flowing lazily under it, the Volga River.

Guarding both banks was a shady bunch of troops in mismatched camo and a serious stock of weapons.

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Updated: March 25, 2020 | Category: Hardware, Linux

Ultrabook road test

Over the past several months, you've read my Slimbook combat reports, detailing my real, production-level use of a Linux-only laptop for serious stuff. But this is not the first time I've utilized a Linux machine for actual desktop work. There was the eeePC, a journey-hardened beast. And then, we also have an age-weathered 2013-vintage Asus Vivobook, which has served loyally in this capacity for several years.

For almost five years, the laptop ran the most excellent Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty, and it did well, at home and abroad, in known and unknown locations. It was always utterly stable, the keyboard is amazing, the battery life has always been decent even if the performance isn't that stellar. The only complaint would be a somewhat weak Wireless signal compared to most other machines. Several months ago, come the end of Trusty LTS, I upgraded the system to Bionic, and installed Unity and Plasma desktops. In this article, I want to tell you how the Ultrabook fared in so-called "combat" conditions since. After me.

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Updated: March 23, 2020 | Category: Office

Calibre review

What makes for a really good program? The usual suspects would be efficiency, stability and great functionality. But what about the frequency of use? Well, not if Calibre has anything to do with it. Because this is an application that I use relatively sparingly, and yet, it's an immensely useful, possibly even irreplaceable tool when you need to do any sort of e-book work. For authors, doubly so. Being one, ergo hint, ipso facto, then perhaps it's time for a review.

I've been using Calibre for years now - I've even written a short tutorial on how to convert KFX files a while back, but so far, I have failed to write a full, proper review. Because it's not just a program to convert among different e-book formats. It's so much more. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's begin.

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Updated: March 21, 2020 | Category: Windows

Open-Shell review

Some weeks ago, I encountered the Windows 10 black-screen search bug while setting up a new computer, just before I managed to put in the tweak that disables any sort of online search functionality. This was a silly bug that shouldn't have happened, and a day later, I would have missed it. But it got me thinking. Maybe it's time to re-explore Classic Shell?

Classic Shell was the one tool that allowed me to use Windows 8, without having to go through the chromosomally challenged full-screen Start Screen that was supposed to be the new rage of touchified nonsense in the desktop space. Then, I discovered that Classic Shell had ceased development. But there's a fork available, called Open-Shell, and it's also supposed on Windows 10. So I started testing.

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Updated: March 20, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 25

Yefim had rhotacism.

Back in Poland, when Lee Qiang had been growing up, such a speech impediment would have earned a child a lifetime worth of beating. Probably in all the Slavic countries. The fact Yefim was still very much healthy and alive in Sector 8 meant the childhood bullying had prepared him well.

They sat in the man's house, in what would technically be the living room, drinking too-sweet tea from small crystal glasses. It was surreal.

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Updated: March 18, 2020 | Category: Linux

Translation tools in Gnome, KDE

Here's an interesting problem slash scenario for you. The Gnome and Plasma desktop environments support online account integration to some extent. Fine. You also have fairly powerful, online-aware search tools, which let you do all sorts of complex actions, including wiki queries, mathematical calculations, application functions, and more. Krunner in Plasma is a great example.

But then, you don't really get translations. If you work with several languages and you have a need for occasional linguistic sparring, this option doesn't really feature highly in Linux desktops. Or at all. Combine that with the healthy fact you have no integrated assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, whatnot) that could potentially do this for you, translations are something you must either: a) do online yourself b) use a dedicated app. So I thought, is there an easy way to integrate this kind of functionality into the Linux desktop, Plasma and/or Gnome? Well, let's find out.

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Updated: March 9, 2020 | Category: Office

FocusWriter review

A few weeks ago, I was looking around for some nice Linux software, and I came across the home page of the person who had created the Whisker Menu for Xfce. Since I really like this one - I even included it as my favorite desktop menu in the 2018 best Linux apps compilation, I was intrigued by the other software in the repertoire, and decided to do some random testing. A program called FocusWriter drew my attention.

Well, FocusWriter is meant to be a simple, straightforward, distraction-free advanced text editor, designed to provide those using it with maximum productivity. In other words, you don't waste time managing the software, you don't waste time getting your fleeting attention span diverted, you get stuff done. Well, that's the core idea on paper. As someone who writes books, I found the concept curious and inviting. Perhaps I could be doing something more effectively? Well, let's find out.

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Updated: March 7, 2020 | Category: Linux

Cockpit Project review

There are many Web-based admin GUI in Linux. Lots. They all have something in common - they let you monitor and manage your environment using a centralized facility. They also have something else in common, and that's the complexity of configuration. In most cases, if you like to have a robust network of hosts talking to each other, you have to sweat it. XML, JSON, events, whatever. Boring.

The Cockpit Project is an integrated and easy-to-use Web-based management tool, which I happed to discover on Fedora 30 some time ago. Well. While I wasn't too impressed with what Fedora 30 had to offer me, it is a test bed for cool and new technology. So I was quite intrigued and went abed - testing. Or rather, I strapped into the cockpit, ha ha ha, hi hi he. Indeed, let's begin.

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Updated: March 6, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 23

Dusk. Rest.

Orenburg was still there around them, a torn postcard of destruction, obscured by the wilderness. At the bottom of what looked like a dry irrigation canal, there was a convoy of abandoned cars all sunk deep in sandy ground. Plastic bags of rubbish poked through the grass, spangles of red and blue against the sunburnt carpet. Higher on the west bank, there was a bus.

The rust-splotched husk was lying on its belly, the axles half-sunk into the ground, leaning slightly toward the incline. The old thing had burned down, and was mottled reddish-black all over. There was a patina of lichen-like growth climbing up its sides. Inside, the plastic chairs had melted, forming a frozen river. Even now, even with his senses dulled by illness and the ashes, he could smell the waxy, phenol stench.

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Updated: March 4, 2020 | Category: Virtualization

VirtualBox & NAT networks tutorial

Several days ago, I hit an interesting problem slash snag. Well, more sort of an operational challenge that reinforced my liking for VirtualBox. Namely, I wanted to setup a small private network with several virtual machines. One machine would be a server, and others would be clients running agent software and reporting to the server. Sounds simple. Except all my NAT-ed machines were getting the same IP address:

Indeed, if you're using the most basic VM setup - your machines use a single NAT adapter, and as it turns out, each machine gets the exact same IP address, even if they are running in parallel. This means you can't really have a network. Well, not this way. But there is a way. We've talked about VirtualBox network & sharing at quite some length in the past, and I'd like to show you a few more network-related tricks. After me.

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Updated: March 2, 2020 | Category: Linux

Peppermint OS 10

Time to Linux. With a fresh, hale air of shellshocked optimism about it. Hello? Peppermint! The namesake operating system is an Ubuntu-based flavor of Linux, clad in Xfce and meant to be friendly. At the time of writing, all was jolly, but as it happens, today, I noticed the official page throws an out-of-date certificate error, so no direct link. Not the best start either, but the stuff you're about to read has been collected and compiled in the last few weeks.

Anyway, recently, my Linux compass has been pointing off. Not quite where it ought. Sad face. And yet, somehow, I find myself doing the tests again, trying to get the chakras all sorted and buffed. Let's see what Peppermint 10 can do. As always, the guinea pig is the eight-boot Lenovo G50 machine, with its assorted mess of Windows and Linux instances. Onward.

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Updated: February 29, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox Preview for Android

After I've published my recent series of Firefox articles, mostly the review of versions 71 & 72, and the important essay on why you should be using it as your primary browser, I got a bunch of emails from readers suggesting I take Firefox Preview for a spin. This seems to be the next-gen edition of Firefox for Android, designed to be faster, lighter and more appealing, and hopefully endear a bunch of hearts to Mozilla's effort.

While I'm not too keen on anything touch, I still want to be able to have a hassle-free, stupidity-free browsing experience anywhere, including the mobile, so I set about testing Firefox Preview. As the test device, I used my Motorola Moto G6 phone, which ought to be fairly representative of the kind of results we should be seeing. Let us begin, then.

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Updated: February 28, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 22

"I have no access."

"You're taking the piss."

Why did I think the enemy would be stupid and incompetent? Just because I managed to screw the lead security developer?

There could be a million reasons why the system refused him entry. It was unlikely the Alliance space command changed things too often, but they just might. Security codes, protocols, ciphers—there were infinite possibilities. Lee Qiang didn't have time to indulge in self-pity. This was going to be one hell of a battle to the death.

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Updated: February 26, 2020 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 post-install tweaks

Typically, I write post-install tweak guides for Linux distributions. And yet, here I am, blithely writing one for Windows 10. The reason is, recently, I did a Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade, and then, roughly at the same time, I bought a new desktop and had it freshly installed with Microsoft's latest operating system. Both these experiences provided me with enough data to write an article. This article.

Before you read on, my angle is as follows: I don't like low-IQ stuff. This means mobile stuff, especially when applied to the desktop. Anything touch on the desktop, don't want. Touch-optimized software is inferior to full desktop programs, and it doesn't belong on workstations where you work with the keyboard and mouse. This naturally extends to anything "online" that happens on the desktop, like tiles, Web applications, the whole drama for the common chimp. Hence, this tutorial will show you the range of different things I did to make my Windows 10 experience pleasant, efficient and quiet. Follow me.

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Updated: February 24, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Motorola One Zoom follow-up review

It has been a few weeks since I've embarked on my One Zoom adventure - which means I'm no longer using my fabulous Lumia 950, and my touch experience focuses primarily around Android. Now, this does not mean it's a tragic or a bad experience. Far from it. I'm quite pleased with how things have turned out. I was able to tame the operating system, reduce the noise and low-IQ features, the hardware behaves well, the camera is splendid, and all in all, Android delivered reasonable, better-than-expected results.

But that's early glamor. With a moon or two behind us, I had a chance to sample the phone in a series of real-life scenarios, things that you can't necessarily plan for or do in a restricted early testing set. Somewhat similar to what I've shown you with my Moto G6 and the Android road test. Now, let me share some more findings from the One Zoom usage.

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Updated: February 22, 2020 | Category: Linux

Solus 4.1 Budgie review

Commence to test a fresh distro. I took a short break from Linux distros after the end-of-year compilations, because overall, I felt exhausted by the indefinite products, the unpredictable outcome, the emotional seesaw of quality, brilliance and then sadness. Now, with renewed vigor (Igor with vigor, right), I'm about to set sail into the Tux waters once again. Our candidate today: Solus 4.1 Budgie.

Last year, I was pleased with Solus 4.0 Fortitude. First, it was my only successful complete test with this system, after several botched attempts in the past, mostly due to bootloader problems. Second, despite the rough patches, it delivered a pretty interesting, reliable and even moderately fun setup, so much in fact, that is scored quite highly in my Best of Gnome annual summary, even though Budgie isn't technically Gnome, but then, it is. Anyway, we're testing again. So let's begin.

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Updated: February 21, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 21

Waiting was the hardest thing for a soldier. Waiting for sentry duty to tick away so you could go back to sleep. Waiting for the weekend pass. Waiting to hear whether you'd qualified for the next stage in the training process. Waiting for news from your family or the estranged loved one. Waiting for the enemy to do something.

That was the worst.

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Updated: February 19, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Hard disk reliability study

As you already know, I like to do long-term tests and reviews of hardware and software that I use. Over the years, I've given you my take on how different operating systems progress and change, how different laptops cope with the passage of time, and now, I want to embark on my most ambitious long-term project yet. A reliability study of hard disks. I've waited fifteen years to publish it.

Because I needed time to gather data that has value to the readers. Unlike Google and Backblaze, I don't have thousands of disks buzzing in a data center, so I couldn't just provide any sort of results quickly. But I think you will find this study valuable, as it took place in my production setup, under real-life conditions most home users could or would encounter.

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Updated: February 17, 2020 | Category: Linux

Plasma 5.18 LTS review

Here we go. The KDE team has released the latest version of Plasma, numbered 5.18. This also happens to be a Long Term Support (LTS) release, which in Plasma parlance means two years of support. Since I'm an avid user, and even have Plasma deployed in my production setup via Kubuntu 18.04 running on a Slimbook Pro2, it's time to set scopes on the future, and see what gives.

I did my testing on Lenovo G50, which happens to be my hardware scapegoat de jour. Also, I have KDE neon installed there, Developer Edition (Stable), so I get to see all the little changes and fixes and whatnot almost as soon as they are introduced. This means I had a chance to sample Plasma 5.18 since the earliest build, and now that we have the official release, I must share me experience. Avanti.

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Updated: February 15, 2020 | Category: Windows

How to block Internet Explorer

Like many a techie, I've read the recent flurry of advisories on a new critical vulnerability in the Internet Explorer legacy scripting engine (jscript.dll), and how it's being actively exploited. On its own, this can happen, right. But what annoyed me was the portend of gloom and doom around the Web. Mostly panic, with very little focus on trying to analyze this problem, and see if it can be mitigated in an elegant way.

In fact, Microsoft has listed a workaround - you can deny access to the affected library. But this also causes side effects. You may see problems with printing, access to the group policy editor, and a few other issues. So I sat down and thought, is there a way to reduce the impact of the vulnerability, without actually making the system go all wonky?

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Updated: February 14, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 20


Everyone shared the sentiment, even Lee Qiang.

Crossing the no-man's-land of empty fields, flattened neighborhoods, and glassified rubble only partially covered in dirt and weed, he had felt exposed, vulnerable, impotent, feeling half a dozen scopes trailing him, making his skin itch. But no bullets came.

They had settled in a less devastated part of the city, with some of the concrete and iron frames still standing, providing some cover from the wind and any chance patrols. Thorny, tough vegetation crept over everything, reclaiming what used to be its kingdom. It was hard to imagine what this city had looked like whole. It looked like a bad, deliberate prop from a war movie.

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Updated: February 12, 2020 | Category: Hardware

New custom desktop PC

How frequently should one replace their desktop systems? Every three years? Four? Five? How about nine? Indeed, with my primary desktop slowly but surely approaching its first two-digit birthday, I thought it would be prudent to buy a successor for its honorable, loyal, kickass service.

And so I went a-shoppin', and got myself a new desktop. The idea is to have a general-purpose computer that will be practical, useful, relevant, and powerful enough for all necessary tasks for a good few years. To be more precise, a full decade. Hence beginneth the adventure of my new PC. Let's see what gives.

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Updated: February 10, 2020 | Category: Office

Customize Microsoft Office installations tutorial

Back in 2016, I bought myself a copy of Microsoft Office 2016 Pro Plus. I didn't really need it, and the actual installer sat on a proverbial shelf for about three years, collecting digital dust. Then, I did have a need, a need for office, and I ran the installer. I expected it to give me some customization options, as I was only interested in the three main programs - Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and didn't care about the rest of the suite.

Lo and behold, the installer completed without asking me anything, and all the programs were set up. No. So I spent time trying to find a way to undo this nonsense and then re-setup Office with just the three applications, and the end result is this tutorial. Let me show you the rather non-trivial way of how you need to go about customized Office installations. After me.

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Updated: February 8, 2020 | Category: Media

OBS Studio review

Having recently tested Kdenlive 19.08 and then taken a brief but pleasant look at OpenShot, I decided to expand my cinematic horizons and explore some additional software on the media market. One program that came into the hazy spotlight is Open Broadcast Software (OBS), a free and open-source video editor, designed primarily for video recording and live streaming.

Well, here I am, with me unfunny collection of Youtube clips, and here it is, OBS, waiting for me to test and review it. Sounds like a plan, and proceed so we shall. Once again, I'm back on Linux, in Kubuntu, but that shouldn't really make much difference. Anyway, let's begin.

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Updated: February 7, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 19

The village was not marked on any map.

Of course.

It was a collection of half-ruined buildings, rubbish, and rust-eaten cars. There was an old tractor in the field directly south of the house strip and its cracked road, but it was sunk half a meter deep into the hard ground. The water tower had more holes than tin. The barn had gaping holes in the roof, probably caused by mortar.

Lee Qiang looked at Sveta. She just shrugged.

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Updated: February 6, 2020 | Category: Linux

Geany plugins, tips and tricks

A few months ago, in my quest to find THE text editor for Linux, I came across Geany, and it got me pleasantly surprised. It shares a lot of underlying goodness with Notepad++, my go-to text program, a Windows-only application that I nevertheless often use in various distros through WINE. Geany is powerful, efficient and versatile, and so I expanded my exploration quite some.

I also got lots of emails from you, telling me about useful plugins, which I could try to improve my productivity still further, especially since I've noted Geany doesn't have all the features that its Windows counterpart boasts. Well, in this article, I'd like to share with you some of the excellent plugins as well as some other neat tricks in Geany, all of which ought to make it even more practical and fun. Let's commence.

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Updated: February 3, 2020 | Category: Linux

Fedora & root account locked boot issue

Three years ago, I wrote an article that explaining how to recover from a failed boot following a major version upgrade in Fedora. At that time, I was working with Fedora 25, and suddenly, I was no longer able to get to the desktop. The issue turned out to be a buggy initramfs, which is an issue I've only encountered once in the past, back in Ubuntu, back in 2009. Since, it's been quiet.

Well, the wheel of time has dumped us back at the beginning. The same issue happened again. I had (somewhat) recently upgraded an instance of Fedora 29 to Fedora 30, and lo and behold, I found myself facing the same problem. Almost. I had a black screen, and a message that said: Cannot open access to console, the root account is locked. At this point, trying to do anything didn't yield any results. I could only reboot. I did try another kernel, and this helped - I got to my desktop. While the issue seems to be similar, I had to go a slightly different way about fixing it.

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Updated: February 1, 2020 | Category: Other operating systems

GhostBSD 20 review

In the Linux world, Arch is the great noob equalizer. But there's an ever more frightening beast in the forest. It's BSD, and even invoking its name can send the lesser man into despair. The simple truth of the matter is, throughout the nerdy circles of the world, BSD holds a respectable place as a stable, reliable workhorse. But it's never distinguished itself as a viable desktop alternative.

Over the years, I've dabbled in BSD quite some - you can check my UNIX reviews to figure out what gives. Sometimes, there would be this or that BSD flavor that surprised with its simplicity, but things would usually unravel at some point, whether it's hardware compatibility, disk-greedy partitioning, or perhaps the ease of everyday use. Then, recently, I came across GhostBSD, and it looks pretty and inviting. So let's see what gives.

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Updated: January 31, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 18

Light at the end of the tunnel.

A promise of salvation. Or a gruesome, violent death.

It was amazing how quickly the human body and mind could adjust to new situations. Going into the damp darkness of the mold-smelling bunker network had felt like exploring one's own coffin. After four days of tense, numbing blackness, there was almost a peaceful sense to the underground passage. Lee Qiang knew it was his brain trying not to go mad. Now, this.

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Updated: January 29, 2020 | Category: Cars

VW Polo GTI review

On the road again. On the wrong side of the road again. But there are good news, too. I had a sweet chance to lay my hands on a very nice, brand new Volkswagen Polo GTI, painted bright and shiny red, with a 2.0-liter engine under the hood, producing some 200 chipper horses. This means we will be having a nice little review right here, and tons of great pics.

Over the years, Polo has grown quite some. Not just in physical dimensions, which it sure has, but also in its identity and the message it conveys to the buyers. It's transformed from a somewhat shy and reserved mini hatch to a mature, confident and not-too-small family car, with the robust, effortless quality and seriousness of its bigger sibling, the Golf. The latest model, Mk.6, is also the first version to include a 2.0-liter engine, which promises lots of future growth (previous Polos had smaller units). The question is, has this growth harmed the fun factor? Well, I've got me here a 2019 Polo GTI 5dr DSG model, and it's time for a road test.

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Updated: January 27, 2020 | Category: Linux

Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat report 12

We haven't spoken about my Slimbook Pro2 system in a while. Well, there's a reason for that. A good reason. Everything is fine. Boring, I know. There's nothing sensational or controversial to report. But then, if you are thinking of buying yourself a Linux-adorned machine, you sure do want to know how robust one of these might be, and whether they can withstand the test of time, usage and real-life functionality. Which is why we're here.

Now, we have done this exercise eleven times already. In the last report, we mentioned some errors and bugs, a few oddities here and there, but by and large, the Slimbook experience remains uneventful. With several more months of usage tucked under the belt, it's time to pause and reflect.

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Updated: January 25, 2020 | Category: Virtualization

VirtualBox 6 review

When it comes to virtualization - mostly semi-pro or casual usage you'd find in a typical nerd setting, VirtualBox offers an excellent bundle of goodies; a friendly UI, lots of features, reasonable performance, simple and advanced options to suit every skill and mood. I've written about VirtualBox many times in the past, reviewing a whole range of topics, from the Guest Additions configuration to sharing & port forwarding and then some. Several dozen articles to be more precise. Including major release reviews among them, of course.

Recently, VirtualBox 6.X has been released, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a look at what's new, check some of the improvements and fixes, and see whether you should move off the 5.X branch onto the latest edition. Come along, let's see what gives.

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Updated: January 24, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 17

They needed rest.

But they couldn't rest. Not yet.

Lip had probably recited these numbers a dozen times to "rookie" teams over the years—a lack of sleep was a powerful enemy. A full day without sleep rendered you 15% less efficient. Two days, it was 70%. Three days, you had one in three chance of injuring yourself with your own weapon. The longer you went without rest the more dangerous it became. They were all hurt, exhausted, and have not drank or eaten enough. That made the math even more unfavorable.

And then there were the wounded.

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Updated: January 22, 2020 | Category: The good Web

Greatest sites

The Internet is getting worse by the day, but there's still some hope out there. Today, we shine light on two such examples. Number one: People take pictures, all the time, even when they shouldn't - like their restaurant food or selfies, for that matter. And they do it using all manner of devices, from lowly phones to sophisticated, expensive SLR with lenses that wouldn't shame Hubble. Indeed, if photography is more than just a social reflex to you, then you will want to know which camera to buy for your occasional visual memoirs. To wit, Digital Photography Review, or Dpreview in short, is a great resource of all things camera.

Number two: Few people define the 80s better than the Gubernator: the epitome of masculinity, swagger, casual violence, and of course, the bestest one-liners in the history of cinema. Few people are better remembered for their words, be they Rennaissance philosophers or modern-day politicians. Going to cinema, or more aptly, sitting down to play some grainy VHS and watch Arnold kick ass, one would soon be exposed to scene after scene of delightful, cheesy, out-of-this-world quotes. You came looking for copper (or choppa), and you found gold. Arnoldum.

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Updated: January 20, 2020 | Category: Media

OpenShot review

As you probably know, my go-to video editor is Kdenlive, which I've used many times before, to great success, creating dozens of unfunny clips, all of them available on my Youtube channel. But then, I've recently had less luck with the program, having tested both 2018's beta and last year's 19.08 stable edition, and neither really impressed me.

I came across bugs and crashes, and overall, it felt like the application has taken a nosedive. While older versions ought to keep working fine for quite a while longer, I wouldn't like to be in a position where my artistic spread of majestic wings is curtailed for any reasons. Hence, alternatives, hence testing. And thus, I came across an old-new title, OpenShot, a free, cross-platform video editor. Funnily, I've seen it many times before, but never really used in properly. This article shall remedy that.

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Updated: January 18, 2020 | Category: Hardware

Motorola One Zoom review

The end of an era. The start of a new one. I strongly believe that Windows Phone will go down into the annals of history as the most beautiful, ergonomically pleasing touch interface ever designed. But the phone support is no more (just remember the hysteria around making the desktop like this, all in vain), and I require a new mobile device. Any good story starts with a conflict.

Roughly two months ago, I began me hunt for a successor phone for the Lumia 950. My requirements weren't that stringent, but they were also quite peculiar. In the end, after a good few days of online research, reading and then some more reading, I bought a Motorola One Zoom. Now, let me share the details. And if you're wondering, yes, this is a proper, long smartphone review, with a dose of dramatic prose. After me.

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Updated: January 17, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 16

Lee Qiang came about to see a Chinese soldier bearing down on him. He instinctively reached for that which wasn't there; his rifle was pinned under him, the strap torn off his harness. Without thinking, Lee Qiang pulled his pistol from his thigh holster and fired a dozen rounds into the man's legs and groin. Whatever words or screams the East Alliance man may have uttered were lost in his sophisticated helmet-mask.

There was a whole bunch of enemy soldiers pressing toward the gap between the two Magdas. Pablo wasn't shooting at them.

Pablo wasn't there anymore—just his machine gun, propped against the rock.

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Updated: January 15, 2020 | Category: Windows

Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade

Let's start with a little teaser. I have a whole bunch of Windows 10 articles coming out in the next few weeks. They mostly revolve around the installation of new devices with the aforementioned operating system, the upgrade of old devices from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and the subsequent mandatory post-install tweaks and changes. We shall start, as the title subtly hints, with the middle option.

With the Windows 7 deadline loometh (now passeth), I decided to sacrifice one of my olden Windows 7 desktops for this experiment. I mean, it wasn't a big deal - as I had contingencies in place (hint: new hardware), and with the lovely Seven going out of support (but that shouldn't scare you, right), I wanted to see what kind of future awaits anyone willing to bite the bullet and try their luck with the latest Windows version. This article is a tale of that attempt.

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Updated: January 13, 2020 | Category: Internet

Firefox 71 & 72 review

Strange how things work. Apparently, people rarely learn unless they go through an experience personally, and often, even not then. Companies and organizations are much alike, so when Mozilla embarked on its Firefox revamp many years ago, it went after Chrome, and it trying to be like Chrome only made Chrome better.

Fast forward, Mozilla re-discovered the meaning behind its motto, and figured that it has a golden opportunity of making its browser stand out. People are sick of getting their private info trafficked left and right by careless data vampires, and they want something ... more humane. Recent versions of Firefox seem to be doing quite all right on that front, and the last two or three releases are a great example of a champion effort. Let's see.

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Updated: January 11, 2020 | Category: Windows

Multi-boot Windows 10 laptop recovery

All right. Just a few days back, we talked about my messed-up laptop and the subsequent recovery of the KDE neon instance in its eight-boot Windows-and-Linux setup. As it turns out, various distributions would not boot because they were configured to mount a non-existent partition. This happened because new Linux systems use a sub-optimal way of marking devices, with meaningless, human-unreadable UUID strings rather than simple numbers.

Well, we need to fix the Windows 10 instance as well. Here, the issue was kind of similar. Windows 10 would start booting, then there's be a message about diagnosing PC, automatic repair - and then, predictably, the automatic repair would fail. In the previous article, we've already established that the Windows 10 partition was healthy, all the data was there, so I didn't want to do any reset or such. Let me show you how I gracefully fixed this rather annoying issue.

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Updated: January 10, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 15

Over many tens of thousands of years, human motor skills and reflexes evolved as a response to biological threats, long before any technology made things faster than neural signals could move the muscle tissue. The average response time to a visual stimulus is about three-quarters of a second, or half that for people who are alert. That does not sound like a lot until you take into account other factors, like rocket motors.

A typical anti-tank missile flies at about 250 m/s. This means it will clear about one and a half football fields in the time it takes the human brain to register and respond to a visual signal. It’s a metallic object the size of a bread loaf, jumping football field lengths as fast as you can blink. Even if you can see it coming, you have no time to react. You can't dodge missiles.

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Updated: January 9, 2020 | Category: Linux

Multi-boot Linux laptop recovery

Remember, I told you about a messed up laptop? Well, let's elaborate, shall we. I was doing some testing with imaging & recovery software, and once I was done, I wanted to see how well the process had gone. Not well, it turned out. GRUB was there, but no entry in the menu worked initially. Once I had that promptly fixed, I saw that Windows 10 wouldn't boot, and wouldn't auto-repair, and half the distros on the system (out of the total eight) in the multi-boot setup wouldn't start either, going into emergency mode. We're talking the full share of distros, take your pick.

Now, the GRUB recovery was quite tricky - none of the methods I could think of worked, and I ended up installing a test distro just to get the bootloader configured properly. Then, I started one of the distros that DID work, and noticed there was no data loss. Everything was there, all the partitions were sane and whole, and the files were in their right place, Linux and Windows included. In this article, I'd like to show you how I went about this problem, and how I fixed it - and in the sequel, we shall do the same for Windows 10. A useful exercise. Follow me.

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Updated: January 6, 2020 | Category: Internet

Android road test

Back in June, I posted an article summarizing several weeks of rigorous testing of my Moto G6, coupled with extra hardened security and privacy settings. I did this to examine and evaluate the usability of Android in real-life conditions, as a preparation for the tragic and inevitable switch come the end of life of the magnificent Windows Phone platform.

Recently, I decided to extend the testing and use Android even more stringently. Over a period of about two weeks, I used the phone in strange and wondrous places, I tried to rely on it for semi-essential needs, not that smartphones ever served more than ancillary needs for me, and I did this in parallel to my future phone purchase hunt. While you're going to read about my Lumia 950 successor shortly - it's not the Moto G6 device, that's a brave pioneer slash scapegoat - in this here be article, I'd like to walk you through my recent Android escapade. Commence we shall.

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Updated: January 4, 2020 | Category: Linux and Windows

How to make Windows 10 USB installation media - tutorial

The reason why I attempted this thing is a bit convoluted. It started, like any good story, with a problem, a conflict, a conundrum. I had a laptop with a multi-boot system, Windows 10 and a whole bunch of Linux distributions, and it was ill. Not booting. Nothing. I needed to recover it, and recover it I did, one system after another, until only Windows 10 was left and acting rather stubbornly.

I thought using the Windows 10 install media could help, as I'd have better control over the recovery tools and options than using the one that Windows offers on a botched startup. This meant creating bootable media, and this turned out to be more complicated than I thought. I wanted to create the USB media in Linux, without relying on any third-party tools that purport to do this. Why? Because independence. If it works with standard tools, you can use it anywhere. Begin to commence.

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Updated: January 3, 2020 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 14

Lee Qiang remembered his grandfather's stories. He had been an electrical engineer working in the Middle East in the 1980s, dabbling in some rather expensive projects in Libya and Iraq, and then later, in the 1990s, in Afghanistan. Grandad would proudly boast, sober or drunk, that he'd been one of the few Polaks with a passport and an unrestricted travel visa back in the day, before the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

And he had seen some rather gruesome things, which he had shared with his grandson the day he was accepted into special forces training.

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Updated: January 1, 2020 | Category: Game reviews

ArmA 3 - Terrorist Hunt mission

I love discovering fun, challenging scenarios in ArmA 3. This fabulous war simulation is the only shooter game really worth considering. Having played the franchise since Operation Flashpoint, I found its uncompromising realism to be an excellent form of meditation, especially after a long day of work full of IT buzzwords.

One mission that drew me in recently is Terrorist Hunt - Factory, by Fin Soldier, a remake of the Rainbow Six Vegas TH gamemode. In this mission, you and up to three other human players are pitted against 28 AI enemy soldiers at a factory plant. Sounds simple, but typically, you end up outnumbered, and a relatively simple premise becomes a very tricky, difficult objective. As I learned to perfect it, I realized something. I was mimicking the real combat tactics used by professional soldiers. Follow me.

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Updated: December 30, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best distro of 2019

Another year comes to a close. Another year of distro testing, surprises, illusions, disillusionment, some happiness, some sadness, and most of all, not the year of Linux after all. But while the dream may be fading, there's still reasons to be jolly. Or at least content. Because some pretty nice and solid Linux distros did come out in 2019, and we need to crown the bestest of them.

Last year, the winner was MX Linux MX-17 Horizon. It delivered a good, whole desktop experience. A pleasant twist, one sorely needed in the lethargy-bound world that is home Linux nowadays. Which makes for an interesting little competition this year, because it's not just about boring technical details, it's also about giving users something they can proudly run and enjoy, beyond the rudimentary point-and-click essentials. I've already given you my take on the Plasma, Gnome and Xfce winners, so now we need to put all that together, and see what comes out. Let's do it.

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Updated: December 28, 2019 | Category: Linux

Plasma & removable media

Before you say, removable media, that's so 90s, hear me out. First, Plasma is a highly versatile, polished desktop environment with tons of goodies and excellent features all around. Second, finding some of these capabilities does take a bit of patience and rigorous sub-menu digging, hence the use of the term hidden in the article title. So, not really hidden, but more sort of, revealistically challenged.

Third, I want to take to you about the rather unique, colorful way the Plasma desktop approaches and solves the removable media handling. Not something you think about often, but then, you can really turn this into a super-handy, time-saving exercise for your desktop. To wit, begin we shall.

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Updated: December 27, 2019 | Category: Books

The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich

Dear readers, the jolly season is upon us. And I thought, 'tis time for gifts. Which means the Kindle edition of The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich will be available for free on Amazon from now till the very end of the year. Five days. So maybe grab yourself a book and do so light holiday reading?

If you're not convinced for whatever cosmic reason, then, the name of the book series should sway your heart and mind the other way around. Wait for it ... Woes & Hose. That ought to do it. The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich is a hilarious, fast-paced, gunpowder-rich, grim yet fun novel that will take you into a crazy, hectic world of disappointed sons of royalty, romance, sharp humor, and even sharper swords. Guns, too. Enjoy.

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Updated: December 27, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 13

Sveta walked with a funny, stilted gait. She must have been stiff from the ride in the boot—as Lip liked to call it—of the car, and probably nauseated from having her sensory deprivation. There was a scowl on her pretty face, mirroring the one on Lip's chiseled, whiskered features. He was waiting impatiently for her to waddle over.

The captain pointed at the large binoculars, resting on a solid tripod in the middle of an old industrial rubbish heap, half-buried under weeds. "What's there?"

About five kilometers away, where the binoculars zoomed in, there was some kind of a town. The place wasn't marked on the maps. It didn't really look like a town. More like a makeshift market. Perhaps a military compound of some sort.

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Updated: December 26, 2019 | Category: Linux

Plasma Discover loading providers error

Here's an interesting problem for you. Remember my Asus Vivobook dual-booting Windows 8 and Ubuntu? Well, I had the machine upgraded from Trusty to Bionic, and in the course of further exercises, I also installed Plasma on the system. Everything was good, but then whenever I'd start Discover, I'd notice a message that shouldn't be there.

At the bottom of the Discover main screen, it would read: kdenlive_projectprofiles.knsrc" "Loading of providers from file: failed". Strange. Apart from this showing up for a few seconds, everything was working well. I was able to search for applications through Discover and install them, Kdenlive was working as expected. But my OCD demons wouldn't let this rest. So let's fix this, shall we.

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Updated: December 23, 2019 | Category: Internet

Why you should use Firefox

I have been using Firefox for roughly fifteen years, give or take. During that period, I've seen it grow into a beautiful project, become a world of wonderful extensions, and then slowly shrink and fade as it did what the competitors do, losing the core advantages it had in the first place. Despite all that, it remains my primary browser. And if you're asking me - well, you should - it ought to be yours, too.

In this article, I will tell you why. It goes beyond the everyday stuff like memory consumption, the extra three milliseconds of browser launch, or how pretty the application may look on a phone. It's about choice, the freedom of choice, and the critical importance of competition. As a nerd reading this article, you have a moral obligation to be part of that equation. Follow me.

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Updated: December 22, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best Xfce distro of 2019

And now, we've come to the third member of the Tux Triumvirate, the Xfce desktop environment. Previously, we talked about the KDE and Gnome desktops, and their best offerings of the year. Now, we shall embark on the same journey of soulsearching and whatnot with Xfce. Who knows what's gonna happen?

The thing is, yesteryear was a happy-ish kind of year. I had reasonable fun with Xfce, with MX Linux leading the pack, offering the freshest experience. Overall though, Xfce is usually a hit and miss experience. There was a time when it was kind of drab and apathetic, then things picked up nicely a couple of years ago, and now we're holding our breath for the 2019 showdown. Begin.

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Updated: December 20, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 12

A whimper.

It was a sound that did not belong in his fitful dreams.

Lee Qiang woke up, kicking the thin, camo-patterned top half of his space sleeping bag off him, rising, walking toward the source of the sound. For half a second, he felt disoriented and weak from low blood pressure before a rush of adrenaline made him alert and sharp.

He wasn't the only one to wake up, but he was the first to intercept the situation.

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Updated: December 19, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best Gnome distro of 2019

Ladies and gentlemen and rare penguins. It's time for another best-of article. Today, I'm going to cover the Gnome desktop. Just a handful of sunsets ago, we did the Plasma finals, with Kubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine as the lucky winner. Now, we shall look across the playground at the other major camp.

Gnome hasn't been the same since the integer increment from 2 to 3. What used to be super-slim, super-fact and super-ergonomic desktop became a minimalistic platform that just doesn't work for me, mostly because it removes essential components from the classic desktop formula that people need and expect. That doesn't mean Gnome can't be enjoyed, with some rigorous alterations and tweaking. In fact, there are some pretty decent systems wearing this guise out there. Let's see which one deserves to be the champion for this year. Follow me.

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Updated: December 16, 2019 | Category: Linux

Best KDE/Plasma distro of 2019

The end of the year is an important part of the, ehm, year. One of the cardinal reasons is the tradition of watching the best Christmas movie of all times, Die Hard. The second reason - and tradition - is to reflect upon the past twelve months of distro testing, and come up with a winner. But before we do that, we ought to have a little game. We should examine the Linux systems based on their desktop environment first.

Let's start with Plasma. Last year, I selected Kubuntu 18.04 as my winner, because Slimbook, with Manjaro in second place. I was rather happy with how things went yesteryear. I even had a sense of optimism imbue my brain cells, hoping that the Linux desktop world can, this time, despite the odds, sustain the momentum, grow and flourish. So let's explore 2019, and see what happened, Plasma style. After me.

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Updated: December 14, 2019 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

The end of the year is approaching. That means best-of compilations. But before we get there, we must test Xubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine. We've seen the autumn-crop MATE edition and Kubuntu in action, with reasonable results plus some annoyances and inconsistencies. Not bad, but then not exactly the emotional revolution that I've been hoping for. Which makes the Xfce case extra interesting.

Speaking of interesting, MX Linux MX-19 patito feo. I tested the distro only a few days ago, and it aims to be friendly and usable Xfce desktop out of the box. Now, now, to make the results relevant, I'll be doing the Xubuntu experiment on the same machine as the others - my much used-and-misused Lenovo G50 box, with its plethora of installed systems, Windows and Linux, take your pick. So we'll do the usual, live session games, installation, some post-install fun and games. Hopefully. Begin.

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Updated: December 13, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 11

A woman?

When you think you've seen everything.

"Do not shoot," she repeated.

"Everyone, hold your fire," Lee Qiang instructed over the comms, his mind on fire. "This could be important."

"Check," Cem acknowledged.

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Updated: December 11, 2019 | Category: Linux

Fedora 31 Workstation

Last week, we talked about MX Linux MX-19. This week, let's have a look at Fedora 31. Now, some of you may already start grumbling and complaining. Because I will focus a lot of my energy on the Gnome desktop and what it doesn't do, and all that. But then, Fedora is the pioneer child (not in the communist sense) of the Gnome world, showcasing the latest fixes and features the environment offers. Therein lies my hope and my expected but hopefully proven wrong disappointment.

Looking back to the past two years or so, I found Fedora to have improved a little in the performance area, has become more consistent, gained stability in major areas side by side with bugs and problems in others, and still isn't user-friendly enough for immediate consumption. Y'know, proprietary stuff, window buttons, desktop icons, stuff like that. Fedora 30 is a good melting pot of all these observations. I wasn't happy, but then, it's time to rewind the clock, reset my emotions, and boldly charge head first into the wall of open-source.

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Updated: December 9, 2019 | Category: Linux

Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat report 11

It's been a while since I've done one of my Slimbook CRs. Well, I've sort of run out of things to complain, but also new features that I can meaningfully test. Not to worry! New experiences, new opportunities, and once again, a new article is upon us, with fresh real-life challenges. They are out there, it just takes a bit of time finding the extra use cases.

For those of you wondering what gives, about a year back I bought a Slimbook Pro2, installed Kubuntu on it, and since started writing about my real-life, no-nonsense production-environment experiences using Linux in a way most people consume Windows, which have culminated in some ten reports so far. Well, to get up to speed, grab the last one, and then work your way back. Now, let's continue.

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Updated: December 7, 2019 | Category: Internet

Firefox 70 review

Just recently, I wrote my melancholic Firefox & WebExtensions piece, summarizing roughly two years of the new Firefox, the changes, the market share, all of it. Not a pretty picture. But what can I say, I'm an optimist. A definition thereof, someone who keeps smiling despite repeatedly getting smacked on the forehead with a wooden ruler.

The thing is, I've been using Firefox since day one, and it remains my primary browser, despite all its failings and mistakes. There are many reasons for this, as I shall expand in a separate, important article. Now, I'd like to focus on Firefox 70, the latest minus one release. It looks neat, it comes with a slew of privacy-related tweaks, and it might be the remedy for my ailing soul. Wait, you may say, what about Firefox 71? That shall come soon. I'm not here to do news, I'm here to do meaningful technical tests and reviews, and this takes time. So Firefox 70, let's have a look.

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Updated: December 6, 2019 | Category: Books

The Golden Horde weekly serial, Chapter 10

An abandoned power plant.

No. Not abandoned.

"Turn around. We are going back."

Lip frowned. "Come again?"

"Turn around. We are going back. I want to inspect that power plant we just passed," Lee Qiang said.

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Updated: December 4, 2019 | Category: Writing

The Binary Conundrum short story

Dear readers, here's some good stuff. Electric Spec, an online speculative fiction magazine has published my short story The Binary Conundrum in their Volume 14, Issue 4. The story has a simple premise: To kill? Or not to kill? What if the question does not have an optimal answer? An AI system faces the dilemma even as the war against humanity draws to a close ...

"There," Senior 9 communicated.

Junior 48 focused on the transmitted coordinates. It didn't have Senior's camera resolution, but it could still see the disturbance on the plateau seven kilometers and four hundred and three meters away. A cloud of dust rising from the surface, caused by a non-climate phenomenon ...

Read more ... (Electric Spec)

Updated: December 4, 2019 | Category: Linux

MX Linux MX-19 patito feo

Let's mix it up a bit, shall we. So far this distro-testing season, we had Ubuntu MATE and Kubuntu, both of the Ermine stock. Reasonable results. Now, we will try something completely different. The distro of choice for today's session is MX Linux, a frugal, lightweight Xfce-clad system, with some nice features and perks.

Over the years, my experience with it has been ... mixed. But, most importantly, it's steadily improving. Version after version, it's getting better. Friendlier, more mature, more accessible to people outside the circle of diehard penguin-loving geeks. With that in heart and mind, and good results with MX-18, the previous version that is, we are testing the latest edition, patito feo. After me.

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Updated: December 2, 2019 | Category: Linux

CentOS 8 Stream

I don't like repeating myself. Or even linking to my own articles. I find the exercise tedious if somewhat necessary to help readers connect the dots. Now here's a theme that I've mentioned so many times it isn't possible to encompass all the relevant references from the past thirteen odd years of Dedoimedo: I want a super-stable desktop with a lifetime support that exceeds hardware life.

Sounds simple. And yet. Throughout my Linux adventures, I've used a tiny number of Linux distros in a serious, production fashion on the desktop. OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, Kubuntu. A little bit of MX Linux lately. But that's pretty much that. The golden formula seems so hard to nail. Distros are either modern and fickle or stable and old. You sort of can't get the sweet spot in between. Or maybe you can. CentOS 8 Stream.

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