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Reviews

Review: CircuitMess Ringo: The Educational DIY Mobile Phone Hobby Kit

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Linux
Hardware
Reviews
Sci/Tech

The Ringo is a fun and exciting educational kit, a do-it-yourself build your own mobile phone set that actually functions with micro SIM cards.

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10.1-inch RPI All-in-One PC review with Raspberry Pi 4

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Reviews

A couple of months ago I received “RPI All-in-One”, a 10.1-inch touchscreen display for Raspberry Pi boards, listed the specifications, checked out the package content, installed a Raspberry Pi 4 inside the display before booting my new all-in-one (AiO) PC successfully.

I’ve now had time to spend more time with the PC/display and see how it performs under various conditions. I also tested HDMI and USB-C input features with a laptop and mini PC.

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GNOME Boxes review: no-frills and no-thrills desktop virtualization

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Software
GNOME
Reviews

GNOME Boxes is an easy-to-use graphical virtual machine (VM) installer and launcher. It’s not a VM manager and offers practically no settings for micromanaging your VM. However, its easy-to-use design philosophy can also prevent its users from getting any use out of it.

Boxes is built on top of Linux’s excellent KVM+QEMU/libvirt virtualization stack. The app is intended for users who’re overwhelmed by such alphabet-soups and just want to run a visualized operating system.

KVM is a virtualization system from the Linux kernel project. You can expect high performance and a smoother upgrade experience compared to third-party alternatives like VirtualBox. QEMU and libvirt add management layers on top of KVM. Boxes sit on top of these tools.

You’ll likely find references to Boxes being used to manage remote desktop sessions to remote machines. This functionality has been moved into the new Connections app. I believe it was a good decision to split the two use cases into separate apps. Connections looks and behaves almost identically to Boxes.

The app is great for managing virtual machines with other recent versions of Linux. Everything works out of the box if you choose one of its presets for popular Linux distributions. You’re presumably already running Linux, so the end-users are maybe more likely to want to emulate Windows?

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Review: instantOS Beta

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

A project that has been sitting on the DistroWatch waiting list for several months is instantOS. The instantOS project is currently in its beta stage of development, but has been around long enough to review and it claims to offer a number of intriguing features. instantOS is based on Arch Linux and strives to be both light and fast. The distribution's website reports instantOS requires less than 200MB of RAM.

The project also ships with its own graphical environment. This custom environment is called instantWM and it reportedly offers both tiling and floating window management. This window manager seems to be the centre piece of the distribution.

instantOS is available in a single edition for x86_64 computers and is provided through a 1.4GB download. Booting from the downloaded media brings up a menu which offers options for booting into "Arch Linux".

Booting into instantOS brings up a graphical environment. A thin panel is placed across the top of the screen. This panel provides access to an application menu, nine virtual desktops, a clock, and system tray. Shortly after the window manager loads we're presented with a welcome application which looks just like a simple drop-down menu. This menu lists a handful of options, including Get Started, Install, Documentation, Settings, GitHub, Support, and Close.

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What If You Could Fully Customize Your Ubuntu Desktop Experience

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Linux
Reviews
Ubuntu

It turns out a college student frustrated by the limited customization options available on the latest Ubuntu Linux releases, and inspired by the settings offered by Linux hardware vendor System76 in their Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS Linux distribution, created an alternate version of the Ubuntu/GNOME settings app with new features.

He managed to modify GNOME Control Center and add in a new panel called Personalize, which includes four new pages that allow you to take full control over your Ubuntu Desktop. These include General, Appearance, Dock, and Multitasking.

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tickrs - terminal realtime ticker data

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Software
Reviews

One way of keeping alert regarding your financial position is to use a stock ticker. This is software that provides live updates of stock prices and enables you to easily monitor your investments.

tickrs is a stock ticker that is written in Rust. It’s published under an open source license.

Terminal-based software is light on system resources (very useful on low specified machines), can be faster and more efficient than their graphical counterparts, they do not stop working when X is restarted, and are great for scripting purposes.

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Manjaro 21.2 Qonos Plasma - Very nice, high five

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Reviews

Manjaro 21.2 Qonos Plasma is a pretty darn good distro. Let's start with the negatives. A few small bugs here and there, the system menu needs to be resizable, the package management is under-developed, and the battery life is only solid+, but not more than that. Everything else? Well, quite nicely done.

I have to say that Qonos Plasma is one of the more cohesive distros I've tried in a while, and the level of consistency with the Gnome edition is quite admirable. The system delivers beauty, speed, a good arsenal of programs, decent defaults, even more decent configurability thanks to the Plasma desktop, elegance, and stability. If not for the rolling nature of this distro, I might even consider doing some risky production-level experimentation. We ain't there yet. But. But. Manjaro is constantly improving, and so, who knows what might happen a year or two from now. All in all, quite recommended and more than worth your time and testing.

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Review: The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) on a modern Linux distribution

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Reviews

Once upon a time, in a long ago age called the 1990s, I attended a class on operating systems. It was my first hands-on exposure to UNIX-like operating systems and the course focused on Solaris. One feature which was relatively new to Solaris at the time was the Common Desktop Environment (CDE).

CDE took an approach to the desktop concept I had not experienced before. Windows, at the time, focused on launching applications from its Start menu and then tracking open windows with a task manager; and macOS was mostly driven by a global menu at the time. CDE took a different approach which seemed designed to truly reflect the concept of a literal work desk. A panel along the bottom of the display contained drawers and toggle buttons. Programs and files could be accessed by opening the drawers and placing work items on the desktop. (It might be more proper to say "desktops" since CDE offered four virtual desktops by default.) Items on the desktop could be minimized or moved off to the corner of the desk when not being used.

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Mini review - TextShine is a simple but powerful text modification tool for Linux

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Software
Reviews

Textshine is a single task application originally developed for the elementary OS platform, but since it is available in Flatpak format it can be used on any Linux distribution.

TextShine is an application that focuses entirely on converting text to a specific format easily and quickly. I do not mean the file format here, but the format in which the text itself is converted, such as well-known text presentations such as camel case, title case, upper case, lower case, etc. But also options such as indent, change to curved quotes, double to single quotes, remove leading whitespace, etc. TextShine is therefore a powerful tool to easily implement large amounts of standardized changes to a text. Consider, for example, a coding assignment for which a standard naming convention with camel case must be applied based on a list of attribute names, or a messed up text from which duplicate sentences must be cleaned.

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Review: Jesse's Top Picks Of 2021

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GNU
Linux
Reviews

Generally speaking, when I review a distribution the experience exists in a sort of bubble for me. That is, I'm very interested in the operating system while it is in front of me. I'm intrigued by its features, I'm curious about its infrastructure, and I try to slide into the workflow of its desktop environment and tools. However, when my week with the distribution is over I tend to put it out of my mind. I don't often dwell on a particular problem or special feature of the distribution once I've started trying something else, unless the distro presented a feature or concept that was especially useful for me.

This year though I started making an effort to keep certain distributions in mind - bookmarking them in my brain, in a manner of speaking. Recently I've had more people ask me about which distributions are my favourites or which projects I'd be more likely to recommend for someone new. I've also felt like it would make it easier for me to evaluate some projects if I had a "high water mark" of quality against which I could compare new distributions.

With this in mind, starting in the early days of 2021, I began making note of when a distribution impressed me. Sometimes a distribution would just not do anything wrong or annoy me. Other times a distribution offered a particularly nice feature or seemed unusually user friendly. As we march into 2022 I'd like to take a look back at some of the distributions which stood out this past year as especially pleasant or interesting to use and explain why. This list is more or less in chronological order (the order in which I used the distribution) rather than by alphabetical order or in order of quality.

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