Archive: ‘Desktop Environments’

Arch challenge and KaOS

03.04.15

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Hi all, as a linux user since 2003, I decided it was time to leave my comfort zone and take an opportunity to learn and do things “the arch way”.

My son has been using our old Macbook 2009 for playing Minecraft and while this isn’t a big deal in and of itself, it has been giving the computer a really sizeable beating in terms of CPU, GPU, and overall computer temperature. I wanted to let him play his game, however on a not-so-critical computer and spare the Mac.

We came into an older (about the same production year) HP G-60 laptop. I bought an SSD for it, and designated the machine as his to use for Minecraft. I now needed an Operating System. Of course, it was not going to be Windows anything. Sorry.

With an faster, empty, open hard drive, I wanted a solid linux distro that I would not have to reinstall every 6 months. The idea of a rolling release came to mind, as opposed to an Ubuntu LTS release, which I use now (Kubuntu 14.04) on my Dell.

That’s when I discovered the super-nathan arch challenge courtesy of the Linux Action show featured here.

I could have chose from among several rolling distros, but I came across KaOS, which is rolling, and arch-based.
KaOS is a lean KDE distribution.
I loved it, and got so taken in with learning how things are done in the Arch Linux world. The only downside I found was, after a while, my son actually wanted to “use” the computer and I found myself trying to get in my learning in the off hours.

That’s fine, but I then also reached a point where I was going against the main purpose and philosophy of Arch itself…I found myself wanting a system that stayed stable and would not require much fuss. I do know this is a conflict or contradiction in terms as Arch does not make this promise. If the computer were purely for my use, it would be no big deal.

Another awesome thing you’ll see with KaOS is that it uses Plasma 5 or KDE5 desktop environment. It really is a big improvement over KDE4, which isn’t bad to begin with.

If you like KDE, and are willing to use an Arch-based system, I recommend KaOS. However, be sure to visit as many pages of the website as you can, including the FAQ and the KCP section of the site to learn how KaOS does its packaging and the new things you can see at github.

Thanks for reading this far, and in good spirits, I’ll say that since I wanted a distro for the HP G-60 that would be easier to maintain and less fuss, I went with Ubuntu Mate, which is based on the 14.04 LTS. This way my kid can play, and when necessary, I can quickly and easily update and maintain the system.

Cheers,
Adam

LXQT Desktop Environment

07.24.14

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Hi all. I’m just writing a quick post here about this sort-of new desktop environment called LXQt.
You can find info on the LXQt Desktop Environment by clicking here.

I have my Dell Inspiron 15z for over a year now. Sure, it has Windows 8 and I’ve settled in to the long-term support version of Kubuntu. I like Kubuntu more than Ubuntu (never really loved Unity. I got used to it mind you, but I never saw it as my long-term environment).

Other distros simply gave me too much stress due to the UEFI/MBR/GPT constraints I finally had enough and “started over”, no, I didin’t nuke and pave and reinstall Windows, instead I got rid of a fine distro called SolydK and converted the machine back to a realistic dual-booter with Kubuntu 14.04.

From listening to the Linux Action Show podcast, I found out about LXQt and decided to give it a try. I tried LXQt while learning about OpenSUSE by way installing OpenSUSE in a VM and then adding the LXQt environment. I really enjoyed the fast response so I added it my main host machine (Kubuntu). My machine has 8gb of RAM, and Kubuntu runs well, but of course, a lighter environment is going to be faster.

What I think could be improved with LXQt is the settings. I found them to be “too sticky” in some places, and “not sticky enough” in others. Let me explain:

  • I use a 2nd monitor with my laptop. Each time I logged into LXQt I’d have to reset my monitor settings to make use of the 2nd monitor.
  • Under Kubuntu, the YaKuake terminal loads for me automatically. Under LXQt, this does not occur so you need to add a command to a startup script for that to happen. Easy enough to do, but…log back into the Plasma Kubuntu workspace and YaKuake terminal gets invoked twice.

Other than that it was a very fast and visually appealing Desktop Environment. Enjoy it with one of many distros.

Solyd is great but I had to switch back

02.25.14

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  3 Comments »

What does this mean? Well, it means that for a good run I was able to use Solydk, the KDE version of the SolydXK Linux Distribution. I recently had to replace Solydk with another distro because I ran into issues with my Dell Inspiron 15z, which is UEFI, Secure Boot with Windows 8 Pre-installed.

I do regret purchasing a Windows-based machine thinking it would be easy to dual-boot with Windows and Linux. More specifically, a non-BIOS machine anyway. It’s been blogged about countless times, that it’s just downright painful to get Linux and Windows 8 (with UEFI) to play nicely and dual-boot without issue. In retrospect, a System76 laptop with a Windows 8 VM would have probably been a better choice.

Here’s what I learned before I first switched to Solydk. That (on this machine so far) Ubuntu and its derivatives (for that matter) will install (in general) without major issues. But I discovered soon after that the Ubuntu Boot Repair CD becomes your best friend soon after. And of course, tutorial sites such as How To Geek come in handy as well. Here is a tutorial which may help with boot repairs. Even though Ubuntu has gone to the trouble of getting their kernels signed and approved by MS, there are still some minor post-install issues where you have to jump through a few hoops to have a reliable dual-boot system.

Then I switched to Solydk, as I recently became a big fan of not only the KDE, but the concept of installing a rolling release – install once, update as necessary. Sadly, because Solydk installed GRUB to the MBR, (my bad choice) I was unable to boot into Windows 8. Thus my machine became a single-boot laptop. It wasn’t bad for a while – but then you reach a point where you need to get at that Windows 8 OS to do something. And it won’t boot.

I reached for the Boot Repair CD, which has a feature to restore the MBR. That part of it worked great, as I was finally able to get to Windows. The bad news was I could no longer get to Solydk. Tried many different things and of course got some really supportive help over at the SolydXK Forums. But did not have any luck in getting the machine back to dual-boot capability.

At that point, it was time to choose a distro that would dual-boot properly and play nice with Windows 8 and all the UEFI/Secure Boot nonsense installed on this computer. I considered Fedora 20, but I could not get my head around the errors I was encountering on the manual partitioning page. I’ve been using Debian derivatives for so long, that I kind of got used to the way they do things. The Fedora partitioner was the deal-breaker for me. Maybe someday I’ll get it working via experimentation in a virtual machine.

The other viable candidate was Kubuntu, so I installed the current latest version (13.10) and had a lot of issues with the well-known “black screen on boot from grub” issue. This occurred whether the Live DVD booted in EFI mode or Legacy mode. It simply didn’t matter. I followed many blog posts that advised adding grub parameters `nomodeset` and `acpi_osi=Linux`, and `acpi_backlight=vendor`. None of these parameter add-ons fixed the issue. So it was time to make a judgment call. Fix the 13.10, or do something else. With April only days away, I decided to move forward toward the long-term support release of version 14.04 “Trusty Tahr” but since it’s not yet officially released, I downloaded and installed the Alpha2 version.

Kubuntu 14.04 Alpha2 installed nicely (the Live DVD booted just fine with the computer in UEFI mode), and the install process did not wipe out the MBR. However it did do some kind of monkey business as I was unable to boot into Windows. Once again, the boot repair DVD to the rescue. I was able to properly purge and reinstall GRUB and of course repair the MBR. After that, I am able to dual-boot Windows 8 and Kubuntu 14.04 with no black screen issue.

I’m seeing two somewhat interesting and strange items, but I can live with them both. One of them is that the grub menu theme is missing a character to the point where my grub boot screen is using “? in a box” as its border character. Also I have the Yakuake terminal set to autostart, where under normal conditions it stays hidden until you press F12 key. Currently, the terminal drops down once the desktop has fully loaded into a usable state. Again these are minor things that are possibly the result of rocking an Alpha2 (Pre-release) version of the OS.

In summary, it’s back to Kubuntu for now, but I can see myself reinstalling Solydk at a later time. Preferably when they implement support or handling of EFI and allow the boot loader to not be put onto the MBR. The SolydXK team is working on it, so hopefully they’ll release this feature soon.

Thanks for reading.

Bye Bye Buntu, hello Solyd

12.22.13

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

I’ve used Ubuntu for quite a long time now. I would say since 12.04 on my current laptop (Dell Inspiron 15z that I mentioned in another post. Yes, the one with Windows 8 and Secure-boot UEFI). Seemed to be the “good/easy” choice to get up and running with a dual-boot for this newfangled secure-boot BIOS since Ubuntu has “signed kernels” since 12.04 version. Setting this up, was not simple, yet not too complicated once I found advice on the net that actually worked.

After upgrading from 12.10 to 13.04, things simply were not the same. The machine would not boot in secure mode. No big deal, but after a while it makes one think… what changed? what’s different? and the next thought… do i really want to be forced to press and hold the F12 key each and every time I want to boot into Linux properly. The answer to that last part was an obvious ‘no’.

So, it was time for a change of distro. The criteria was kind of simple: Stable (well I think everyone wants stable..) and if possible, a rolling style release, so I wouldn’t have to worry about `upgrades in-place` doing silly things, or having to do fresh installs. Under ‘normal’ circumstances I prefer fresh installs, but also prefer it when the machine itself is easy-to-control. Which I would say is somewhere between the days of Fedora Core 2 (when I was learning Linux) and this new age of Secure-boot BIOS. I feel like this machine’s BIOS is not under my full control (A P.I.T.A if you ask me).

The Linux Action show podcast reviews Distros every now and then, and one week, they mentioned “SolydXK“. The review goes back a few months, so I had forgotten most of the review. It was a positive one, which made me consider trying it. I wanted a KDE environment (as recently) I’ve been using KDE, even in Ubuntu (google for the 3-5 commands it takes to migrate Ubuntu to Kubuntu) if you like Ubuntu but have grown a bit tired of Unity and older GNOME.

My choices came down to Kubuntu 13.10 and SolydK (the KDE version of Solyd). So far, I’m really liking Solydk. There are few weird things, such as flickering splash screen on boot – which occurs whether I have the USB external keyboard/mouse plugged in or not. Also, I’m liking that SolydXK is a rolling distribution. Given that Linux offers choice, I can always switch back if necessary to Kubuntu. But for now… Solyd is working really nice. Really responsive on this computer and gives a great KDE Desktop where stuff basically works as expected in other KDE-based distros.

Some other qualities of Solyd are that it was not derived, but “forked” i believe from Linux Mint (read more here), which I have used and is quite nice. So that puts in the ‘based-on-debian’ category of distros. Solyd is based on Debian testing and uses Synaptic Package Manager. Even though software stores/managers are all the rage these days, I still (from time to time) will use the GUI Synaptic or the more common apt-get install command at the terminal.

If you’re in a similar spot with a relatively new computer (2 yrs old or so) and want a good KDE experience (rolling release) you do (thank goodness) have many great choices. Some of you still reading might be screaming “Arch, Archlinux has all this!” and you’re correct, Arch is well-known for its rolling style. However, it’s not easy or quick to set up and I wanted to get going quick so I can try the distro out.

I recommend SolydK for KDE fans out there, (no shopping lens or other spying apps that send data – as far as I know). And I’m thinking of putting SolydX (the XFCE version) on a friend’s computer (right now the machine runs Puppy Linux from CD-rom).

More new software

11.29.13

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

With the upgrade to Ubuntu 13.10, I was looking forward to the better performance (which it “does have”) however what I failed to consider – was what things might “stop working” post-upgrade.

I should have paid more attention to the multiple questions during the upgrade process. Questions such as “do you want to keep existing file “fileName” or use new file. I didn’t consider the impact of the decisions. Nor do I remember them to be honest.

End result – system that previously dual-booted windows and linux now would not boot directly into linux. At all. I then proceeded to turn off Secure Boot in the BIOS and after quite a few tests, trial, and error I wound up being able to get into Linux by holding down F12 at every boot and then selecting UEFI OS. Not ideal to say the least.

Got so irritated, that I was “moments away” from dumping Ubuntu 13.10 in favor of Fedora 19. But before doing that, I first made a backup of files, and followed some easy steps to convert Ubuntu into Kubuntu. Wow, I had not used KDE in such a long time, and I must say that I’m impressed with it. For many years I didn’t use it, as it simply works better on newer machines with decent Ram and hardware. Since I now have a machine with decent specs, I figured “why not” try out KDE again.

I’m writhing this post in KDE as we speak, and it’s wonderful to have the choice of booting into Unity Ubuntu, Ubuntu Flashback, or KDE. I totally enjoy the customizing and how it “gets out of the way”. I put my favorite/most used applications icons in a vertical dock at the right-hand side of my screen and set the bottom panel to auto-hide. Konsole is an awesome terminal and starts immediately.

Still, I find it a nuisance to need to press and hold F12 each time and make a BIOS selection in order to boot the system. I may yet still scrap Ubuntu entirely and go with Fedora and make use of KDE from there. While I got used to Unity via Ubuntu, I can’t say I’m a big fan of it. But then again, that’s the awesomeness that is Linux. We usually always have a choice of what we want to use right out of the box, or customize/add/remove things to our heart’s content.

New Hardware, New Software

11.28.13

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Well, new is tough to define since computers and technology move so fast.

April 2013: I treated myself to a new laptop: an i7 machine (Dell inspiron 15z) and I’m happy with it. Great specs, such as 8GB of RAM, a touchscreen, and the “dual-drive” thing where one drive is a 5400 RPM in tandem with a 32GB SSD. So far, it’s got the best response time of any computer I’ve owned.

We’ve covered the hardware, on to the Software! The machine has Windows 8 & a UEFI Secure-boot BIOS. Yes, my fellow fans of Linux, I was “well aware of the challenge” of dual-booting that lay ahead. Still, I pressed on.

Information these days it’s available from many sources. For up-to-date Linux info, I trust Chris Fisher and Matt Hartley over at the Linux Action Show podcast and have been a listener for many years – a shout out to you, Brian Lunduke as well. Miss ya bud.

While listening to the podcast, they mentioned the emerging (at the time) technology of Secure Boot computers, and the potential impact it would have on us Linux users. I could have (and there are days that I wish I had) purchased a System76 laptop – however I did want to have “some access” to a late-model windows OS “just in case”. Chris and Matt informed me that Ubuntu and Fedora were (again, at the time) the only distros that would be compatible with the UEFI Secure Boot System.

A few of you still reading this post may be saying “Booooo, down with MS Windows…” – but I must say that having the real “Microsoft word” was critical for my job hunting. Open Office just isn’t there yet (sorry Apache), and Libre Office… disappointing as well. I needed (and used) the “real deal” – I don’t enjoy saying this, but there are just some MS Apps that are not directly replaceable (yet) in the Linux world.

I will say that getting Ubuntu to properly dual-boot was an arduous process. The good thing is that I did eventually get it working with the help of various software (such as EasyBCD for Windows, and Boot Repair Tool for Ubuntu). Things worked great for a long time. Then it was time for upgrade to Ubuntu 13.10, which I now sort-of regret. The upgrade broke a lot of stuff. Broke it to the point where I had to disable a lot of BIOS things just so I could hold down F12 key each and every time I boot.

I was livid, and have so much ire about this, that it deserves to be in it’s own blog post. Stay tuned – more to come.

Old Hardware, Old Software

06.27.12

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  1 Comment »

Hello all. Feels like it was only yesterday talking about this old Emachines T-5048 computer.  This machine has been through a lot. Many distros tried, several distros failed.

The good news is, that in the process I learned that Old Hardware is just not going to be treated fairly by new software/OS Releases. It’s a reality that I used to think only applied to MS Windows users.  You may remember the days when you wanted to run Windows 2000, but it just would not work right until you made “some” investment in new hardware.  Me, I was lucky. I only needed to purchase a new video card.

This computer has been running Crunchbang 10 for a few months now.  While the response time is really fast, (due to its light resource footprint) I had to heavily modify the grub bootloader to get it to properly boot.  Changes such as turning off ACPI and LAPIC.  I thought the only downside was that I’d have to manually press a button to turn off the machine.  Sadly, I think it goes beyond that.  Playing sound files or CDs  produces a poor experience.  Music would sometimes start and then stop, or stutter (don’t know which is worse) and I attribute this to hardware on the machine.

To know for sure. I installed an old (yet still supported LTS OS version). I first chose Kubuntu 10.04 LTS for two reasons.  First, it is old (below kernel 3). Secondly, it’s KDE4, which I’ve never tried.  I enjoyed the depth of possible customizations, but disliked the slow performance.  I need a responsive desktop, and this machine cannot run KDE properly.

My next (and current) choice was to try one of my favorite “other” distros – Linux Mint 9 XFCE Isadora (an LTS based on Ubuntu 10.04). I chose XFCE version of Mint since I ran a dual-boot Xubuntu with Windows XP on an old DELL Laptop.  Now that I’m dual-booting with 2 Linuxes, I think I will leave Mint XFCE on here, as it seems a great balance of speed and visual appeal. KDE looks better (visually) than XFCE, but again, performance and the ability to get the most out of this aging hardware are crucial to me. Also, in comparison to Crunchbang– Crunchbang is faster, but with XFCE the programs I install wind up in the application menu.  In Crunchbang you have to add just about every program you install in a manual fashion. There might be a tool out there that does this automagically, but I haven’t found it yet.

Edit; Found it. And boy do I feel dumb. I’ve been using Crunchbang Linux for years, and the answer was only a Forum-search away. To access all of your installed applications, follow the advice to show Debian Menu.

So far, music playback works great, and hey, I can also issue the shutdown command and walk away, knowing the machine will power itself off. Yay!

Openbox Desktop Environment

02.02.10

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

[UPDATE TO POST] Hello, my apologies, but I have made a silly error in calling Openbox a Desktop Environment.  Openbox is not a desktop environment, Openbox is a Window Manager.

I feel I made that mistake for a few reasons:

  1. My current distro, CrunchbangLinux, runs Openbox with other apps such as a system tray & taskbar.  This “combination of apps” compose the desktop environment.
  2. For fast performance, you simply run Openbox without an overall Desktop Environment.
  3. Without a desktop environment, I thought Openbox was the desktop environment.

Openbox provides a “Minimalist Environment”.  For example, Openbox does not put icons on a user’s Desktop.

Here are some screen shots from my Openbox Environment on my Dual-boot laptop (MacBook).

Openbox Desktop Environment in Crunchbang Linux

Screen Capture: Openbox in Crunchbang Linux

In the above picture we see the main “Desktop” interface with a circa 1970’s picture of the dudes from RUSH.  To the right, some keyboard shortcuts. At the bottom of the screen capture,  we see three (3) virtual desktops represented by the thin gray rectangles, and the System Tray with a few icons: (wifi-connect, volume) and the system clock.  Multiple (virtual) desktops can help you manage your computing tasks.  Most (if not all) applications allow you to “pin them” to all desktops. There are 2 advantages to “pinning” (if that’s the correct term).

  1. It allows you to run only one instance of an Application instead of “1 per desktop”.
  2. No need to scroll between desktops to access an app that you need to use instantly.

Openbox Desktop in Crunchbang

In the above picture we see some applications running.  When an application is running, you will usually see its icon within the rectangle that represents a specific virtual desktop.

One thing I like about Openbox is that when you launch an app, it’s default window position is the center of your screen.  This can be changed, but I like it, so I’ll keep it that way.

The above screenshot features a few applications one might use when designing a website.  “Agave” lets you preview color schemes.  Selecting colors that complement each other on a web site is really important.  You don’t want to create a visually-jarring website.

Also shown is the “Specimen” font previewer—good for general usage for viewing a font at various sizes.  Specimen even lets you type in your own arbitrary text.  Last but not least we see the “Terminator” terminal emulator that comes with the Crunchbang distro.

Because Linux is all about choice, you can choose any Desktop Environment you like, or even make up your own if you feel like doing so.

KDE: a brief introduction

12.22.09

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

KDE is a desktop environment whose software is based on the Qt toolkit (wikipedia). It can be found in many Linux distros such as OpenSuse, Fedora, and Kubuntu (a derivative of Ubuntu).  It’s look and feel is different from that of the GNOME desktop environment. I’ve used the KDE environment a few years back, when I was running Fedora Core 4 on an IBM Netvista desktop machine.

While your mileage may vary, I can say that neither Fedora 4, nor KDE, operated very fast or smooth.

Then again, it could possibly be the result of an old, underpowered machine.

GNOME: a brief introduction

12.21.09

Posted by adamlinuxhelp  |  No Comments »

Gnome is a popular desktop environment for Linux Operating Systems.

Gnome can be found in many Linux distributions as the primary or “default” environment.

Using Gnome, KDE, or any other Desktop Environment can be said to be of personal preference.

I have used both Gnome and KDE and both are wonderful.  But I won’t recommend one over the other.  I think it’s up to you, the curious and adventurous user, to experiment and see which one you like best. Read the rest of this entry »