Archive for December, 2009

Mint 8 to Mint 7

Posted: December 20, 2009 in OS Reviews

Well, I reluctantly decided the other day that Linux Mint 8 was just not going to work for me. Clem Lefebvre and the development team at Linux Mint are a great group and made a great new distro, don’t get me wrong. Lots of really great improvements in this version. The problem then? Ubuntu, in a word. Karmic Koala has some bad karma! Instability and bugginess plague this version and not too many folks are happy about it. In the meantime, I have gone back to Linux Mint 7, that I reviewed as glorious, and will await Linux Mint 9.

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I just had the opportunity to download Google Chrome for Linux yesterday..I believe I was a little late off the mark but in fairness, they were supposed to email me about it when it became available and they didn’t.  So, at any rate I finally got it..I’ve been waiting excitedly as I do love to do these reviews lol..

So, what can I say about Google Chrome for Linux so far?  For one thing, it’s minimal.  I am used to everything under the sun being available with my beloved Opera browser.  Chrome is very minimalistic and there is definitely a large audience that surely appeals to.  For my part, it was a strange feeling but not unpleasant at all.  At first, I couldn’t figure out why it looked a little off and then I realized that by default, the system window decoration is disabled.  Once I enabled that, it looked right, and nice.  There’s not much to it but it is full of rounded edges and smooth lines.  I was taken to a page reminiscent of Opera’s speed dial, where one of the pages was just for themes.  I personally didn’t find any of the so called artist themes to be very good at all, but a couple of Google’s own themes were quite nice and I ended up with a nice deep and dark blue, a color I don’t yet have as one of my now four web browser colors.

The address bar at the top dominates much of the toolbar real estate but that’s okay; it does double duty as a search bar too (with Google of course) and you can add other search engines too..I added them all but Bing since I don’t do Microsuck products.  The new tab page (that has the speed dial like setup) contains your most frequently visited pages, with the option to pin them there to keep permanently or they can change as often as you browse different places.  In the Firefox tradition, there are lots of extensions to choose from.  Of course, one that I had to have was mouse gestures but it proved a difficult task to find one that worked with Linux (take a cue from Opera!)  I also got a Tab manager and a Scroll Searcher that takes whatever text I am searching and finds the isntances of it on the resulting pages and I can click on it and go straight to that text.  I really like that!

There was an option to import settings and bookmarks and such but it didn’t do Flock or Opera and Firefox just takes up real estate on my hard drive and little else.  Tabs are moveable, removeable, and droppable.  Browsing in “incognito” mode keeps your browsing out of the history.  There are several important options to tweak but few overall, keeping with the minimalist nature.  Last but not quite least is the web page options button that drops down for cut/paste options and so forth.  The address bar slides out when needed and hides when it’s not.

As to browsing itself..I had mixed emotions on it.  There for the first few times I searched things and periodically afterwards, this browser gets my highest honor of “Wow-fast.”  Then, at other times, it’s slow, usually when doing a keyword search..this could be one of the extensions I installed, no idea.  I will keep an eye on it in the future. 

To summarize, I enjoyed the experience of using this browser and will keep it around to see what else it can do.  It is very intuitive and there’s no real learning curve to it at all, making it super newbie friendly for anyone.

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Linux Mint 8-Helena

Posted: December 6, 2009 in OS Reviews

Okay, I have been busy for those of you who may be wondering why I haven’t rushed to put out a review of Linux Mint 8. The reason is that I have been installing it. As I make no secret of it, while I try to be impartial, I do prefer Linux Mint as my choice of Operating System. Unfortunately, for me, this install has not been as much fun as it usually is. First of all, my backup data disk went awry when Brasero ate my entire .opera file, which contained all my backups for my mail accounts, passwords, speed dial boxes and bookmarks. Yes, yes I did shed a few tears as you may imagine. Even worse, as I had been neglecting my Opera community for quite some time now, I had no idea about Opera Link. <–cries some more. So it has taken me the better part of 5 days to reset everything..and I do mean everything. So I am not writing this review of Linux Mint 8 in the best of moods, so please bear that in mind. Okay here we go!

Running a Linux Mint 8 Live CD, I boot into an adorable Linux Mint logo that’s animated! Then the splash screen really grabs my attention. I understand Zwopper of the Mint community is to “blame” for this beautiful background. Nice Job!

As I dutifully read the release notes, I first checked out the Update Manager. The default time on the auto-refresh has been changed to 15 minutes instead of 5, which is much better although I still set mine to run just twice a day. My favourite feature of the new and improved Update Manager is that you now have the option to ignore updates from any packages that you specify. This is great, as I got really tired of running through long lists of updates wishing that I wouldn’t get Tomboy updates! Additionally, from the Update Manager you can choose your software sources from a list or add your own (I added the GetDeb repository) and you can also choose which server to download from as well as view the security keys. The Update Manager has been vastly improved!

On to one of my favourite Minty features, the MintMenu. The Menu Preferences option (accessed by right clicking the MintMenu icon) has been greatly improved also. There are now options for showing the side pane, recent documents, and you can change the main button icon size, button text and you can input your own search command if you don’t wish to use the Gnome default. You can show or hide application comments, category icons, their size, and the colors used on the menu <–that was particularly useful to me as I use a dark theme, so I had to change the menu background to dark also to be able to read it. On the favorites section of the menu, you can adjust how many columns there are as well as adjust the size of the icons here too. You can even swap the names in the menu entries with the generic names. A very nice new feature (for those who use the menu way more than I do) is the ability to now add custom places to the Places section and rearrange them in the list. I’m a Gnome-Do addict so I don’t make use of that much, but many people will be very happy with that feature. On the System section, you can’t add any custom items but you can remove some things if you don’t want them there.

On to themes…
As usual, Mint has the best backgrounds of anyone. My big gripe though is that there were a couple of really pretty ones for Gloria that were not included with Helena *cries* so now I am going to have to go after them if I want them back (and I do). The Minty good themes are here, with Aurora Mint, Carbon, Felicia and Cassandra Mints, Peppermint (which is cute), Shiki-Dust and Wise (odd name, good theme) but I was dismayed to see WildMint in there (bleh!) Speaking of themes, the LOGIN THEME IS HIDEOUS!!! Can you tell I don’t like it? I mean, seriously, someone have a brain fart? (Yeah, I’m annoyed about that..I miss my zombies greeting me when I log in!)

(I rip myself from that line of thinking with an audible pop!) Okay, so on to other various items…Wireless worked right out of the box with one click to choose my wireless connection. A new item, Disk Utility, in the Control Center was nice, giving me all the dirty details of my partitions, file system info whatnot. I kinda miss the Computer Janitor though..that was nice. As for the sound improvements, my laptop is so much louder now, I am very happy about that, although going into Sound is different now and I didn’t have the opportunity to ‘test’ the items like I did before but since the sound is better I guess I can’t complain. The Upload Manager has been changed, but to what degree I’m unclear about, since I never have cause to use it, I’ll have to let someone else review the good and bad on that (sorry!)

The Software Manager..uh, both of them? lol..okay somehow there are two entries in the Control Center that I just now caught (as I used it from the menu earlier) but anyway, whichever one you want to use is greatly improved! You can now install multiple apps at the same time and it’s great to see the reviews still there and ratings..those help a newbie a lot. I love the screenshots showing up in the lower corner, out of the way and thereby more useful. More info (when clicked) pops up with..more info..right away instead of having to wait on it to load. I also like the categories, being able to choose from what I can install, what I have installed, and what changes I’ve made..that’s good stuff right there.

Oh, yes, about the install screen on the Live CD, I really enjoyed the install screen. It was great having something to read while I waited, as I didn’t have anything to make for a snack! 😀 And afterward, booting and shutdown are much faster on this version than on Gloria (not that they were slow then)

SUMMARY:

Things I liked:
MintMenu improvements
Software Manager Improvements
Disk Utility
Major Sound Improvements (Pulse Audio)
Update Manager Improvements
Beautiful Artwork

Things I didn’t like:
WHERE IS MY GNOME-DO???? It’s a Gnome Desktop after all! (I installed it but still..geez!)
The most amazingly hideous login screen I’ve ever seen on any distro, ever!
Computer Janitor went away 😦
I would have liked to be able to test my sounds
Totem (as usual) <–someone kill that app for good and put it out of its misery.
Log in screen no longer configurable at all….THIS IS ALMOST A DEAL BREAKER! (fortunately I’m not that shallow yet)
Won’t remember my time zone

Okay, on one hand the improvements made on Helena were great, but the bad things were really bad..kind of a mixed bag here but as far as newbie friendliness goes (and of course that’s what I review based on) I do of course give Helena a resounding A, and a definite A for looks too. I think if some of the obvious things are fixed (HIDEOUS LOGIN SCREEN) then this will be the best Mint yet!
I saw a comment on the forums about how Mint shouldn’t necessarily follow the release schedule of Ubuntu. I think I agree with this. After all, if Ubuntu was doing it right, Mint wouldn’t be called “Ubuntu done right.” I think more time should be taken to make sure things are the best they can be, even if it means impatiently waiting 😀
Oh, and one final thing..something I would like to see is Mandriva’s amazing interactive firewall <–I reviewed the latest Mandriva and that was the best feature on the whole distro.

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