Friday, November 18, 2011

Holidays, here I gooooo...

Time for a good and deserved three weeks off!

No more posts until I am back.

Meanwhile... ENJOY!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Save the Internet!!

From Save the Internet pledge:

"Right now, the US Congress is debating a law that would give them the power to censor the world's internet -- creating a blacklist that could target YouTube, WikiLeaks and even groups like Avaaz!

Under the new law, the US could force internet providers to block any website on suspicion of violating copyright or trademark legislation, or even failing to sufficiently police their users' activities. And, because so much of the internet's hosts and hardware are located in the US, their blacklist would clamp down on the free web for all of us.

The vote could be in days but we can help stop this -- champions in Congress want to preserve free speech and tell us that an international outcry would strengthen their hand. Let’s urgently raise our voices from every corner of the world and build an unprecedented global petition calling on US decision makers to reject the bill and stop internet censorship. Sign the petition and then forward as widely as possible - our message will be delivered directly to key members of the US Congress ahead of the crucial vote."

Please go ahead, VOTE and share this with people you know. Let's make a lot of noise!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Linux Mint 12 Mini Review

Once again Linux Mint developers released their release candidate for Lisa and, as is often the case, made it available with no expected date for the final release. Fine by me... Mint RCs are usually very good in quality, very mature and stable, so I rarely wait for the final version to get to grips with it.

Those who read my Linux Mint 11 REVIEW probably remember that I was not particularly surprised with it. It felt like a conservative step forward that didn't include that many surprises. In a sense, Katia was probably a safe bet to stay away from the brand new (and heavily unstable) Ubuntu's Unity interface and also to ensure the move to GNOME3 happened at the right moment. In that sense, Mint 11 was a great release and one of the best implementations of GNOME 2.32, with a very personal caracter and carefully designed aesthetics.

Linux Mint 12 is probably the opposite, for it represents the transition to GNOME3 and GNOME Shell, the developers first attempt to swim in these cold, unexplored waters.

How does it do, you ask? Let's take a look.


In previous releases, it was easy to tell how Linux mint kept polishing their identity as one of the most characteristic GNOME 2.32 desktops out there. It was not simply an "Ubuntu improved" distro, but an alternative that included features of its own, such as its software center, its update tray agent, the very cool Mint menu, etc. Come this new release, Mint somehow maintains part of its essence, but it's undeniable that the move to GNOME3 and GNOME Shell has had significant impact.

To begin with, the Mint 12 desktop heavily relies on GNOME Shell extensions, and given the very young nature of this technology, it's easy to tell that Lisa's looks have gone through more than a few compromises. There is a extension for the lower horizontal panel and something similar for the Mint menu, but it's got little in common with its GNOME 2.32 older brother. It's short in features, not as customizable and let's face it, plain uglier.

The way extensions work is weird, because even with the lower panel and the "classic" menu available, the standard GNOME Shell interface is somewhat fully functional, so users get a mixture of the classic desktop paradigm and the new approach GNOME Shell is pushing forward. Aside from that feeling of having a desktop mismatch, there are many aesthetic inconsistencies, like the Faenza icon theme being used in some places and the old Mint-X being used in others, window decorations that feel a bit out of place, etc. Another element that does not help is that Mint's own applications, such as its very own Software center have not been migrated to GNOME3, so they feel like they are poorly integrated.

As I kept using Mint 12 I thought I would get a popup window saying "Under construction" sooner or later, because that's what it conveys. More over, one can tell that the big majority of the development efforts in Mint 12 have concentrated around the transition to the new environment and trying to tame it a bit, which means that Mint's own applications and features return with little or no change.


Of all the latest Mint releases, I feel Mint 12 is probably the worst. Don't get me wrong, it does everything that has made it popular, it is stable and the transition to GNOME3 has been somewhat successful, but it would be unrealistic to expect such a big jump to be 100% successful on the first go. Indeed, Mint needs time, perhaps a couple more releases to settle down in the new GNOME3 environment and start gaining an advantage just like they did in GNOME 2.32. It also needs to continue to polish itself, and to regain its own character, which has diluted in the midst of transitioning to GNOME Shell.

In my opinion, Mint developers have chosen the wrong path using extensions to try to mimic their old Desktop. I believe they should embrace GNOME Shell as is, improving minor things release after release, creating their own themes and becoming a reference in the GNOME Shell Universe, just like they did for GNOME 2.X. In fact, I think Mint 12 would have been better off concentrating on transferring its applications to GNOME 3, rather than adding tons of makeover to try to make GNOME Shell look like something it is not.

I never was a big fan of Mint myself, but after my experience with Lisa, I think I am going to step back for a couple releases and come back to it a year from now. The changes it has absorbed are pretty severe and time is required for them to settle down and mature.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A look at KDE 4.8 Dolphin 2.0

As some of you may know, one of the most exciting changes/features landing at KDE 4.8 is Dolphin 2.0. The KDE main file manager is already full of powerful features and has seen its performance heavily improved in recent releases, but sounds like the jump to version 2.0 will bring several impressive extras.

Peter Penz goes deep into details in his ARTICLE on the subject, so I very much encourage reading it in full for those interested. For a quick summary, though, here are some highlights:

  • Dolphin 2.0 will no longer use Qt's Interview Framework: "The new view-engine for Dolphin 2.0 is built on a (very) modified subset of Itemviews-NG. In the longterm (probably with Qt 5) it is planned to integrate Qt-Quick but this affects only a non-critical minor part of the view-engine and has not high priority at the moment."

    The benefits of this new approach include improved performance, unclipped filenames and more flexibility around item boundaries, which no longer have to be rectangular nor as big as they used to be.

  • Grouping enhanced: "Currently the "grouping" feature is only supported for the icons mode but will be available for all view-modes in Dolphin 2.0."

  • Animated Transitions: Probably the feature that adds less value, but the most visually evident and thus, the one that has created most noise. Here´s a preview which demonstrates this feature:

    Personally, I think it adds to the eyecandy side of things, those animations do look good, but I have no strong feelings one way or the other. It seems Peter made sure those animations wouldn´t end up becoming a bloat fest, so as long as Dolphin does not slow down, I am good.

  • Reduced complexity: "From a developers point of view the new engine simplifies the maintenance a lot and lowers the barrier for developers to contribute patches for Dolphin."

So there you have it, Dolphin 2.0 is definitely one more reason to look forward to KDE 4.8, which will go live some time in January 2012.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Fedora 16 fiasco

I was very much looking forward to testing Fedora 16, to finding out about its latest new features and enhancements, so I downloaded the ISO images for both GNOME 3.2 and KDE 4.7 and on I went to test. I was so confident that both would be so great that I decided to wipe out Mandriva from one of my machines to make room for Verne. Unfortunately, my experience was short lived and a bit of a disaster.

To test and install Verne, I decided to use my HP 2730p and 2740p tablets. Specifically, I wanted to install both on the latter, being a model that´s usually demanding and difficult in terms of hardware recognition. That would also allow me to compare how KDE and GNOME squeeze the latest from Fedora camp following an accurate approach. My plan was also to install the KDE flavor on the former, given that I like Fedora better than Mandriva myself. Unfortunately, I was not able to get anything working.

On the 2740p, both the GNOME and KDE Live desktops would load perfectly and smoothly (albeit without support for the on board Broadcom Wireless card, a disappointment, I have to admit), so on I went with the installation. I used all standard steps, nothing fancy, choosing to use the full internal drive in both cases. I got identical results: an apparently good and complete installation that wouldn´t boot. In fact, it rendered my hard drive useless, for I was getting your typical "non-system drive found..." error. Because it happened in both cases, I started to worry that my drive was indeed broken, but after a quick Kubuntu installation, everything was working fine, so the conclusion is that both Fedora flavors were failing on me miserably.

On the 2730p, the error was even more interesting. Both GNOME and KDE Live desktops would load, but with a very weird and persistent screen flicker that would not go away. First time I had seen anything like that happening on a machine that has proven its worth with Linux, successfully running Fedora 14 and 15 in the past. Thinking that the problem could be down to the Live Desktop and hoping it would go away after the installation took place, I decided to go on anyways, but in both cases the installer would crash when completing the post-installation steps... Argh!!!

Here's a video of the terrible screen flickering:

Now, here's the crash (apologies, the quality is not that great!):

So there you have it, no Fedora fun for me. This is particularly disappointing because I am using machines that ran previous versions of Fedora smoothly. There may be a remote chance that it is all down to the ISO files I downloaded being corrupt, but I doubt it (EDIT: Indeed, it has nothing to do with the quality of the ISOs). I will download them again and give it another go anyways (EDIT: I did and didn't work), but I don´t keep much hope that I will be able to enjoy Fedora 16 any time soon (EDIT: Sounds about right, unfortunately).

How was your experience? Did you encounter any installation problems?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fuduntu goes solo!

Quick note to both congratulate Fuduntu on its first year and to let you know that it has become independent from Fedora, as it recently forked from the Red Hat sponsored distribution (more on the official ANNOUNCEMENT). Fuduntu was already a very interesting distro, but it will be even more so now, when it will have the opportunity to fly solo.

Where will it take us in its second year? Let´s wait and see.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Linux Mint 12 promises interesting changes!

Just wanted to quickly share a recent Linux Mint Blog ENTRY which explains some of the most relevant changes and features that will make their debut sometime late november, come Linux Mint 12. That post is very interesting (screenshot included) and I can tell you some very interesting surprises are coming!.

Want a hint? Say "GNOME Shell"...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Next Ubuntu sounds good

No, I am not a fan of how "precise pangolin" rings, it´s just that I am hearing things about the next LTS Ubuntu release that I find interesting and promising.

On the one hand, I like the fact that Ubuntu 12.04 development will focus on stability and polish. The following are a couple excerpts from Mark Shuttleworth´s own POST on the upcoming Ubuntu release:

"so this cycle is an opportunity to put perfection front and center."

"While there are some remaining areas we’d like to tweak the user experience, they will probably be put on hold so we can focus on polish, performance and predictability."

At last the words I wanted to hear... I still don´t like Unity and don´t think I will even after they improve it, but I am glad they decided to stop, think and get it to at least work as it was meant to when they designed it. In addition, further improvements in different elements that made their debut in 11.10 are expected, such as better integration of LightDM. I think Canonical also decided to extend LTS release support to 5 years now, so things are aligning towards a very promising release.

Last but definitely not least, we have seen some previews of what could become Ubuntu´s very own new icon theme. I personally think they look amazing and if they end up finally becoming the default theme in 12.04, Ubuntu looks will take a huge step forward! (See the previews from Yellowicon own site HERE).