My new epic biblical mythology novel I Shall Slay the Dragon! has been published. Go get it.

Updated: June 8, 2019 | Category: Linux

Dstat tutorial

In the world of Linux, the typical trend is to diverge, create new tools, fork and split, leading to an ever growing number of programs and utilities revolving around identical or similar functionality. But sometimes, you get software that does the opposite - trying to combine the usage of multiple programs under a single umbrella, but WITHOUT becoming cumbersome or complicated.

One such handy tool is Dstat, a monitoring application that is designed to replace, or at least supplement, a whole range of system monitoring utilities like vmstat, iostat and ifstat. Dstat aims to be simple, extensible, robust, and accurate. All of these make it a good candidate for a dedicated article. Follow me.

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Updated: June 7, 2019 | Category: Internet

Android 9.0 Pie road test

People often complain how reviews, not just mine but in general, software and hardware, tend to be short and superficial. Kind of one-off thingie. Which is why I always try to do long-term testing with my gadgets, taking them to wondrous places, using them in earnest, trying to expose their weaknesses and foibles.

My current guinea pig is the Moto G6 phone with Android 9.0 Pie. I've recently bought the device as a possible contingency for when my superb Lumia 950 goes tragically end of life. While I intend to use Windows Phone as much as I can, I'm also getting ready for the option of having to make without, hence the purchase and the testing of the Android alternative. You can read all about that in my rather lengthy Moto G6 review. And you can read about my Pie upgrade. Now, some news and delights since.

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Updated: June 5, 2019 | Category: Linux

Fedora 30 & tweaks after install

The title of my article is a bit misleading. It implies that fun and productivity are not to be had in the default guise. In a way, this is true, and it sure is my stance on the matter. Gnome 3 isn't usable in its naked form, and one needs some tweaks and extensions to get the classic desktop experience. And then, you'd also want extra software and visual polish.

We did this with Fedora 29, and we will do this now with Fedora 30. Things will be somewhat similar, but then also a little bit different. Or as they say, same same but different. Have a look at my Fedora 30 review first, make sure you're happy enough to proceed, and then read on.

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Updated: June 3, 2019 | Category: Linux

Slimbook & Kubuntu combat report 8

The Neverending Slimbook. This is the best way to describe my journey with this laptop. But I'm a man on a mission, and you are getting thorough, honest, nothing-held-back reports of my attempt to consume Linux in a production environment with serious, complex use cases and needs. So far, this journey has been a really good one. You can read more about that in no less than seven colorful reports. Start with the last one, of course.

But rest, we cannot. We must continue testing and tweaking and learning. The nice thing about the Plasma desktop is that it isn't boring. That's a really good sign of quality and fun. Ideally, the OS should fade into the background, so you don't notice it, but when you do, it ought to be a pleasant moment. Well, let's see what we can learn today.

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Updated: June 1, 2019 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu MATE 19.04 Disco Dingo

We commence to continue the distro testing. Among the Dingo pack, we sampled Kubuntu and Xubuntu, both of which proved to be rather solid. A cautious yet optimistic beginning of the spring season. Which means it is time to cast our critical eye upon the MATE edition, the stalwart defender of the classic desktop formula, the protector of yore, and perhaps a useful desktop system should all the chakras and technical details align.

MATE Cosmic was decent, with some excellent areas here, horrible areas there, mediocre spots in between, and a good reasonable mix of qualities everywhere else. I remain pleased with the fabulous Boutique package manager and the overall momentum, plus you get lots of freedom in how to customize the desktop. Now though, we must see if and how Disco changes the balance. Tested on my eight-boot Lenovo G50. After me.

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Updated: May 29, 2019 | Category: Internet

Noscript for Chrome

For many years, Firefox had a distinct advantage over other browsers - a superb array of add-ons that could do pretty much anything and everything. Come the era of WebExtensions, this advantage has largely been erased. But one rather important tool (extension) that remained the sole domain of Firefox was the clever and totally awesome security suite called Noscript - the ability to control Javascript on each and every site.

Well, now, there's a fresh version of this add-on also available for Chrome users. Giorgio Maone has decided to try his luck with Chrome, too, and has offered his tool to, well, given the current browser landscape, pretty much everyone. This is an interesting development. Because I'm thinking - will this work on Android? Aha. Anyway, test we must, so test we shall. Let's see.

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Updated: May 27, 2019 | Category: Windows

Karen's Replicator & Windows 10

In Windows, my favorite data backup and replication tool is the simple, humble and super-effective program called Karen's Replicator, which I use with much delight on Windows 7 machines. I also used it for a while on a Windows 8.1 box, but had to stop when it ceased working following a filesystem change after a system update. Since the original developer of Replicator had sadly passed a few years ago, I thought there would be no more program updates, and that would be the end of it.

But one of the family friends picked up the glove and continued working on the program. Since, Karen's Replicator has had several updates, which also include a fix to make it run on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Delighted by this news, I grabbed the new version, did some testing, and wrote this article.

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Updated: May 25, 2019 | Category: Linux

Unity desktop & brightness fix

Just recently, I upgraded my Asus Vivobook to Bionic. After five great years, Trusty had come to the end of its supported life, and I had to make a choice. So I did. I made two choices. I upgraded the system, and then decided to test and eventually use both Unity and Plasma desktops, sort of in tandem. In both cases, the results are quite good. Especially with the former, this is rather encouraging, because Unity is no longer an official thing.

The one really outstanding problem that I've discovered in this setup is that my laptop Fn brightness and volume keys had stopped working. Not a major thing, but it does mar the overall feel, plus on laptops, you sort of expect to be able to use them. The rest of the keys work fine (including, for instance, screen off), and there are no such issues in either the Ubuntu (Gnome) or Plasma environments. I spent a bit of time reading, tweaking, and I do have a fix.

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Updated: May 24, 2019 | Category: Linux

Linux & VPN plugin connection failure

This is an obscure problem. An alarming one. But there's a happy ending. So let me introduce the problem statement. On me Slimbook, which happily runs Kubuntu Beaver, I set up a VPN connection, to see how well the operating system handles all manner of things, technologies and use cases. This wasn't trivial, as a necessary package was missing and whatnot, but in the end, I got things running.

Then, suddenly, things stopped running. The VPN would no longer connect, with a rather ambiguous error showing in the system log (nothing else is shown to the user, there's just a silent fail on connect) reading something like: VPN plugin: failed: connect-failed (1). My first thought was, oh noes, a regression. But rather than just blaming Kubuntu, I decided to dig into this some more.

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Updated: May 22, 2019 | Category: Linux

Fedora 30 Workstation

Typically, I care not for release announcements or lists of features available in products as an incentive to sample from said goods. But occasionally, I do see something unique or interesting, and I think, I might as well give it a good look, see what gives [sic]. Case in point, Fedora 30.

As the bleeding edge tech demonstrator slash nerd distro slash Gnome trailblazer, Fedora was often a victim of its own destiny, plus the combination of (until recently) FOSS-only approach limited its appeal to the wider desktop audience. But this changed recently. Fedora 29 had non-free repos available through the Software Center, allowing much easier access to fun stuff. MP3 is no longer taboo. And now Fedora 30 brings in speed improvements, in package management and the desktop. I've always complained about Gnome being slow, so test we must. Begin.

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Updated: May 20, 2019 | Category: Linux

WINE & Mono (dotNET) setup

Linux. WINE. Interesting use case. As it happens, I was playing with WINE, trying to install some Windows software. Turns out, the particular program is available natively, so no biggie, but occasionally, I am trying this framework, to see if it's made progress in becoming simpler and easier.

On this particular rainy day, I was not having success with Mono, or dotNET if you will. The application couldn't run, because there was Mono missing on my Linux box, but getting it configured correctly was far from trivial. Hence this tutorial. Someone somewhere out there may have an obscure use case, and this little guide shall come handy one day. Or not. After me.

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Updated: May 17, 2019 | Category: Car reviews

Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI

When it rains, it pours. Or something. Well, shortly after I got the chance to test the Golf 1.6 TDI, the wheel of fortune (alloy not steel) provided me with a short opportunity to drive the Passat, too. One equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, with a cavalry of 150 horses deployed onto the tarmac. The test was short, but the experience sweet.

Somewhat akin to what I did with Peugeot 208 GTi and Skoda Octavia vRS, I can quickly share the sum of my findings from a single day with a Volkswagen Passat, roughly 500 km worth of roads, mostly on highways and with excellent 80s music playing inside the cabin. Shall we.

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Updated: May 15, 2019 | Category: Linux

Kubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo

We embark on another test, another distro, another review. This time around, we shall glimpse, sample, taste, torture, and examine Kubuntu, the KDE-flavored of them distros of the current spring crop, and it ought to be an interesting exercise. Plasma Cosmic was good, fairly so, bringing back some of the zest [sic] and fire that we saw with Zesty back in the day.

As you know, I'm driving daily with Beaver on my Slimbook, so I'm always very keen on improvements in the Plasma space, as I cast me gaze to the future and wonder how and when and if I'll ever be able to fully and unreservedly embrace Linux for home use. Until that day, I paddle up the distro creek, in pursuit after happiness and high-quality software. Perchance Disco shall deliver. Or will it be deliverance? Let's see.

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Updated: May 13, 2019 | Category: Office

Calibre & KFX conversion

This is a rather interesting topic. Over the years, Amazon have changed the Kindle file format several times. Their digital books came in a variety of formats, including AZW, then AZW3 and finally KFX. The last one is a complex archive that combines numerous features, including typesetting engine, fonts, multi-page thumbnails, and also DRM. I noticed this starting with Decay, one of my books published in 2017.

Reading some more, I realized KFX seemed to include DRM even for books that are not meant to use DRM, and I found this quite weird, because as an author, I have specifically chosen not to publish my own works with any sort of lock-in encryption. So this got me thinking. Is there a way to actually convert KFX into the old format, or other e-book formats, and use them in Calibre and other readers, the way the older formats allowed? Follow me.

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Updated: May 11, 2019 | Category: Internet

Android look like Windows Phone

E.T. phone home? No, Windows Phone home. Aha! So yes, we are here to attempt the unattemptable. Well, not really, because the apps are in the store, and all that, but really, the reason we're here is because I want to try using Windows Phone theming on an Android phone. With the inevitable demise of the Microsoft smartphone line, including my most fabulous Lumia 950, the supreme ergonomics of its tiled user interface will be one sad day consigned to memory. That leaves me and like-minded users with color-iconics approach used by the market leaders, Android and iOS.

I've recently gotten meself an Android phone, to test the waters so to speak, and I'm very pleased with the Moto G6 choice I've made. It's quite reasonable, in all aspects, and if it had the tiled interface, 'twould be superb. As it happens, there are apps of this nature in the Play Store. So I'm testing, and trying to come up with an answer to the important question: can one use a WP-like layout on Android? Well, I tried this four years ago, so now we need to have a second look at this. Follow me.

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Updated: May 10, 2019 | Category: Internet

Android 9.0 Pie update

Me no smart smartphone user. Me someone who likes their things big and comfy and efficient. Tapping with fingers doesn't quite translate into those needs. But ... with Lumia slowly ascending toward the big phonebooth that is in the heaven, alternatives must be evaluated. Hence, Motorola Moto G6, which I find to be a surprisingly good device, Android notwithstanding. On the contrary. This was another solid surprise.

So perhaps there's light at the end of the touch tunnel. As it happens, you also get updates for your phone, be it test device or not. This article tells my story of the Android 9.0 upgrade, how it went, the good, the bad, and the weird. So whether you're reading this on a nice 24-inch screen or a tiny phone in your lap, lean back, if you can, and enjoy. Let us commence to begin.

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Updated: May 6, 2019 | Category: Linux

MX Linux & fan control and brightness tweaks

This may sound like an odd topic. After all, my eeePC is 10 years old. But ... recently, I had it successfully restored to a full, meaningful new life with the use of MX Linux! Just about as I was to consign it to ashes, this nimble little distro made the netbook relevant once again, with decent performance, modern software and good looks. So not only am I happy, I'm amazeballsed.

There were two hardware issues with the netbook - screen brightness Fn keys not working and fan control not kicking in. I had these SAME issues when I first got the device. Nevermind, let me show you how to fix these problems. We'll get the full range of Fn keys working again, and then sort the fans. After me.

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Updated: May 4, 2019 | Category: Internet

Firefox disables all add-ons problem

Earlier today, I was merrily browsing the net using Firefox, when all of a sudden, the browser restarted, and when it launched again, I saw a yellow warning message that my add-ons have been disabled because they could not be verified. Adblock Plus, Noscript and Greasemonkey had simply vanished. W00t.

A quick search confirmed my suspicion: a wider problem with Firefox, globally. Apparently, a certificate used to sign add-ons in order to verify their validity had expired, which made the browser unable to check add-ons, resulting in the foobar that I and millions of other Firefox users had just experienced. Well, let me show you what you can do to mitigate this issue. After me.

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Updated: May 3, 2019 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo review

In the spring, the snow thaws, the animals come out of hibernation, and the hunting season begins. The season of distro hunting! Fooled you there for a second, didn't I? Also, this is not true in Australia, which is on the side of the planet, and there it ain't no spring, it's autumn (or fall if you like). Why? Because Dingo. Hence Xubuntu.

We shall commence the spring crop review with the Xfce-flavored one of the bunch, with testing being done on me Lenovo G50 scapegoat machine, with its eight-boot configuration, Windows and Linux mixed. My impression of Xubuntu Cosmic was okayish, but nothing too remarkable. The sweet momentum of yore seemed to have wandered away elsewhere, like MX Linux. But there's always fresh hope. So it's download and test. We begin.

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Updated: May 1, 2019 | Category: Linux

KSysGuard review

If you want to know how your Linux machine is behaving, you have a range of options: from GUI tools that show nice graphs to simple command-line dashboards to sophisticated statistics collection programs and profilers like dstat and perf. Typically, the GUI tools are the least powerful ones, with best graphics and scantiest information. Except, it does not have to be that way.

KSysGuard is the Plasma system monitor (hint, K letter in the name), designed to shatter the simplicity reputation. Indeed, if you look across the pond, Windows 7 introduced a refined task manager and resource monitor, and then you also get Process Explorer, which offers a deep, multi-dimensional glimpse into the system behavior, pretty colors notwithstanding. KSysGuard is a tool with comparable capabilities, and you just wouldn't believe that from your first encounter with the program. Explore we must.

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Updated: April 29, 2019 | Category: Linux

WINE & uninstall applications

Sounds like a noob question, does it not? Well, turns out, some things aren't trivial. In fact, the whole WINE framework isn't trivial. There are many ways you can go about trying to install and configure Windows software on Linux machines. You have 32-bit and 64-bit WINE, there's UI (but it's weird) and command line, you can also use winetricks, and then some.

Most if not all of the guides related to WINE out there showcase testing and installing software - but not how to remove said software. Well, in this short little tutorial, I'd like to explain how you do exactly that. And because things aren't simple, we will do this in several different ways. After me.

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Updated: April 27, 2019 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 updates change

Several months ago, I wrote my prophetic piece Windows 10 updates - One step forward, one step back, which lamented the massive over-complication in the update facility in the latest version of this operating system, the amount of time needed to get things done, as well as some planned improvements designed to address these issues. Then, there was also the matter of quality.

I highlighted this in my recent Creators reviews - for the first time ever, I had big errors in the 1804 build, something that has never happened to me before, as Windows Updates used to be legendary rock-solid. And then, Build 1809 introduced still more issues. Not for me, but everyone. Microsoft actually paused this update, restored it, and then axed it completely. And then, they revamped the update functionality.

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Updated: April 26, 2019 | Category: Game reviews

Assetto Corsa & main screen loading problem

Speed. Or at least, there used to be. A couple of years ago, I bought Assetto Corsa, a really cool racing simulator. Impressed by the physics and driving dynamics, my finances dropped some when I bought a G27 wheel to go along with the game. Many hours were spent perfecting the line going into this and that turn, including me favorite track, Spa-Francorchamps. At least, this used to be the case.

Recently, I encountered a problem. Whenever I'd click the 'Start engine' button, which takes you from the main screen and into the actual game, Assetto Corsa would start loading the splash animation and then go back. The racing part would simply not launch. So I set about debugging.

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Updated: April 24, 2019 | Category: Linux

Asus Vivobook + Ubuntu 18.04 + Plasma

Let's spice things up, shall we. A few weeks ago, I upgraded the Trusty instance on my Asus Vivobook to Bionic, doing this via two consecutive updates in the same day, both rather successful. Then, I installed Unity as the desktop environment of choice, and did some basic testing, to see how well everything works. And well work everything (almost, 99%) did.

Then, I thought, what about Plasma? After all, it is my desktop environment de jour, and I'm using it in my production setup on the Slimbook laptop. So it only makes sense to see what is going to happen if the same exercise is applied to this device. Plus a twist. Hence the article. Read.

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Updated: April 22, 2019 | Category: Game reviews

Medieval 2: Total War

As the article headline says, good games are timeless. Now and then, I come across new titles that really grab my attention, with the likes of Cities: Skylines and Euro Truck Simulator 2 being some really awesome recent examples. But more often than not, I go back to my classics, games created ten and even twenty years ago.

One such example is Medieval II: Total War. Having played a whole bunch of installments in this franchise, this one happens to be the pinnacle of the series. Shogun was still early steps, Medieval was a little rough around the edges, Rome was an experiment, and MTW2 was everything combined - history, drama, romance, religion, politics, the cunning battle system, and kickass graphics. Ten years on, I'm still glued to the screen, thanks to the Definitive Edition on Steam. Now, we talked about this game before, but we shall talk again.

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Updated: April 15, 2019 | Category: Linux

Solus 4.0 Fortitude (Budgie)

If distributions had personalities, then it would be fair to say that Solus and I never got along on. I liked the promise of Solus and what it could deliver, but somehow, this never translated into successful, prolonged usage, mostly because it used a custom bootloader, and things weren't that simple on that front.

I got a blizzard of emails from you, asking, demanding and cajoling me to try the latest version, one merrily and optimistically named Fortitude. Well, that sure sounds promising, so I grabbed the Budgie version and went about a-testin'. But then, instead of going for my Lenovo G50 machine, I decided to try running it on the old RD510 machine, which has recently seen credence revival in the form of MX-18. But that's just a side point, because we want to see how well Solus stands on its own, and there's a Nvidia card in the mix, too. Let's do it.

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Updated: April 13, 2019 | Category: Linux

10-year-old laptop & MX-Linux MX-18 Continuum

Time to try reviving another old machine with Linux. This time, a 10-year-old LG RD510. You will surely recall my escapades from yesterdecade, with four Ubuntu 9.04 installations in parallel, gaming with a nice Nvidia card to do all the hard work, the fun, the thrill, the memories. But age does takes its toll.

Recently, I've used this laptop for testing, primarily to see how well distros handle old hardware, and more importantly, Nvidia graphics. In my Fedora 29 review, I noted some performance sluggishness, and I thought, well, we're approaching the usability limit, in that I have to be mindful OF systems I use on this box. But then, only a few weeks ago, I went through a similar ordeal with my equally ancient and even more under-powered Asus eeePC. I upgraded the operating system, and it wouldn't run well. Then I tried MX Linux on this sweet little relic, and it gave new life to the netbook! Amazingly so. Encouraged, I decided to repeat the experiment here. After me.

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Updated: April 12, 2019 | Category: Best of the best, sir!

Greatest sites

So what do we have today? Numero uno: Rarely do I come across personal blogs that are really captivating. I'm talking honesty, insight, engaging writing styles, inherent tragedy of those programmatically inflicted, and disillusionment with the buzzwordy nonsense that we call technology today. Now and then, a gem surfaces up, and Tonksy's digital memoirs happens to qualify.

Numberskaya dva: New action, old action, action action. The Action Elite! I mean seriously, how wrong can you go with a website that has Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme on its front page? Indeed, The Action Elite is a website dedicated to movies packed with blazing guns, exploding things, car chases, and tons of sweet 80s cliches. Ergo, let off some steam Bennett.

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Updated: April 10, 2019 | Category: Linux

Slimbook Pro2 & Kubuntu 18.04, report 7

When I started my Slimbook & Kubuntu journey, I didn't know where it would end. And I still don't. But half a dozen reports later, I am much more confident into what kind of experience awaits me day in, day out. What I really value in software are two main qualities: stability and predictability, the kind of stuff one must have for their production setup. So far, this laptop and its blob of code are delivering nicely, reliably.

Another facet of this journey is its randomness. I typically have a very strict routine when it comes to distro reviews, but here, I'm letting the challenges surprise me. I am using the system, and if and when a use case occurs, I handle it. For better or worse. Well, you can definitely read all about that in the previous articles. Now, let's see what happened over the last handful of moonrises.

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Updated: April 8, 2019 | Category: Virtualization

VirtualBox NAT sharing & port forwarding

I have a rather interesting problem for you. It's also quite convoluted. Say you're using VirtualBox as your preferred virtualization tool. Say you're having trouble with 3D acceleration - black screen and all that. As you've seen in my tutorial, the fix is to use repo-provided guest additions. But this repo set, as provided by the distribution, unlike the additions provided by the official ISO, does not contain a shared folder driver. This means you don't have this functionality available.

To make things even more complicated, say you want to share stuff. We talked about this in another tutorial, aptly named network & sharing, but you're using NAT rather than bridged networking, so the guest machine is not accessible from your host by any normal means. And you don't want to use Samba or alike, so the whole situation is even more complex. Okay, so let me show you how you can transfer files from host to guest without having shared folders while using NAT. No Internet tomfoolery. We're doing it all local. After me.

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Updated: April 5, 2019 | Category: Linux

KDE Cantor

Education and science go hand in hand with Linux. The academy likes open-source in general, and there's a pretty good chance you'll find Linux software in research laboratories worldwide. So if you happen to dabble in sophisticated mathematics tools, you might as well dabble in Linux. Alas, most desktop environments don't have their own edu-sci applications. Well, KDE does.

Cantor is a multi-purpose scientific analysis tool, with support for multiple backends. You can use the program to run Python, R, Octave, Scilab, KAlgebra, Qalculate, Maxima, and other engines. This makes it useful as a single interface for all your mathematics needs. And I like the unique angle. But does it work? Let's find out.

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Updated: April 3, 2019 | Category: Linux

Shellcheck

Writing good scripts is difficult. There's the obvious PEBKAC skill, of course, but also ancient magic and history, with legacy conventions going to Plan 9 and FLOW-MATIC, which most people don't really understand or care about when writing their software. Then, the lack of a Dostoevskian crime & punishment in software development also means codes can be lazy and write however they like.

A bunch of moons ago, I've come across a neat little program designed to make your shell script suck less. It's called ShellCheck, it's available as an online console, and you can also install it in pretty much any distro and then integrate in your workflows or whatnot. Intrigued, I went about a-explorin'.

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Updated: April 1, 2019 | Category: Linux

Asus eeePC & MX Linux MX-18.1 Continuum

Several weeks ago, I upgraded my 10-year-old Asus eeePC from Xubuntu 16.04 to 18.04. The previous LTS was coming to an end, and so I let the system bump itself to the latest release. I then tested the behavior of the old netbook, and the results weren't good - either with the Xfce or the Plasma desktop I installed thereupon. It seemed like an end. But then you emailed me.

I've never received so many emails on any topic - and I have to thank you all for your suggestions. Some of you recommended hardware tweaks - more memory and SSD, but I felt investing in a decade-aged platform would not be wise. Most of you said - try a different frugal, lightweight distro. Your chief candidate was MX Linux, which has shown some great promise in the past two years. So I thought, well I ain't got nothing to lose. Indeed, when you have no choice, it can be quite easy sometimes. You do things you wouldn't normally contemplate, like perhaps marrying your cousin or introducing a brand new Linux distro in your production arsenal. I tried the latter.

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