REVIEW: Sabayon 6 (Xfce) and a look at my migration away from Gnome.

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Xfce customized to be more like my Gnome desktop. After only a few minutes work, the results are already pleasing. Lets not forget though its Sabayon 6 - an excellent distro! (Oh and the Space Marine desktop is due to the fact I'm currently loving it on PS3)

It’s no secret that Gnome 3 (and Gnome-shell) are not being well received by everyone.  Canonical is going with its Unity and for many other Gnome users, the future is Gnome-shell.

KDE is/was never an option for me, I simply don’t like it.  Over the last few years I’ve tried to get on with KDE, but found myself time and again going back to Gnome after only a very short period of time.  Maybe that’s because when I migrated fully to a Linux desktop, I mostly used Gnome and have now become indoctrinated in working with it.   Series 2 offered everything I wanted, it was simple, clean and familiar, however with its move to 3 series I find that it no longer has a place in my heart.  Without repeating views which I’ve stated many times in the past, I will merely say that Gnome-Shell to me feels as if it should be on a smart phone, not a desktop form factor.  My personal comfort zone in desktop computing is not having a “cushion” between myself and the OS (Gnome-shell).  People may disagree, people may like Gnome-Shell.  I do not.

My first Xfce experience came a couple of years ago with the distro Wolvix and at the time Xfce impressed me with the same simple functionality that Gnome had previously offered me for so long, it seemed then only natural that when Sabayon (my distro of choice) was returned to my desktop, I went with Xfce.

My previous Sabayon (Gnome) desktop. As you can see, I'm not far off realizing my goal of an Xfce alternative.

So lets look at  Sabayon 6 Xfce, where I’ll be dropping in my observations of Xfce as we go along.  For this review I’m running the 64bit version.

Sabayon is a strange distro, in all the experiences I’ve had, it offers out of the box support for hardware, rock solid stability but its never achieved the ranking on DistroWatch that it so rightfully deserved.    I understand (as I highlighted in a recent TechBytes episode) that the ranking is in no way indicative of the actual usage stats, but even so, I would expect Sabayon to have more people talking and ergo more hits on its Distrowatch page.

Installation – Sabayon the unsung hero!

Whilst its common to read about the simple installation of Ubuntu, Mint et al, Sabayon has been running with a simple installation certainly before I migrated over originally.  After choosing your partition options (in simple English) you are taken step by step through the rest of the process without the “l33t speak” which can put some users off.  Again, I go back to what I said earlier and it’s a surprise why Sabayon has not received more attention.

Sabayon prides itself on providing many proprietary packages at install time, its no bad thing for the user who does require some proprietary solutions.  I am almost 100% sure that on previous releases of Sabayon you could “bulk accept” licenses, which now seems to be replaced by having to click on each one separately.

So whats included in a default install?

One comment I’ve made time and time again when looking at a distro is the need to customize much of the default flavour with my own preferences.  This is not said as a complaint and its to be expected that all an individuals requirements are not going to be met out of the box with the developers vision of the distro.  That being said, Sabayon Xfce really was by far the most “ready” after install for me.

Entropy covers all your package needs. Its very simple to use however can be rather sluggish on operation.

Xfce is 4.8.0  which is the most recent version, released on January 16 this year, Thunar 1.2.2 is the file-manager, a lightweight offering that serves its purpose well and compliments Sabayon Xfce as a distro for those on more limited hardware, however more powerful machines will be given an easier time – more time to dedicate to running essential applications, not the platform from which they are launched (the OS).

Chromium as its default web browser scored points since I’ve been using it from early in its development (and I believe 5.5 bundled Midori so it was a relief to see that gone), LibreOffice is presented in version 3.4.3

There’s none of those play once games included either, which saves the job of removal after installation.

There were a couple of surprises for me though.  There was no mail client (Thunderbird at the ready!) and instead of Audacious (or similar) we were given Exaile, a package which I have never used before.  Quite why this decision was made I’m not sure, in terms of footprint and cpu usage there’s very little difference (that I’ve found) so to me, the aesthetically more pleasing Audacious would have been a better choice (that’s if you choose to run it in Winamp Classic interface!). – I think Sabayon Xfce needs to consider that it will no longer only be a choice mostly for those on very limited hardware.

The default image viewer is ristretto 0.0.93 which is a rather bemusing choice, it’s quite laggy (especially when zooming in and out of large files), that I replaced almost immediately with Eye of Gnome 3.0.2 which offers a far better experience on my rig.  There was also no screen grab utility present, so currently I’m using Shutter – something I think will be replaced shortly.

Unless I’ve missed it, there is no media burning software included.  That didn’t matter much to me, as I’ve yet to see a non-KDE distro package K3b, my package of choice there.

Transmission 2.33 is present and I think its been (unofficially) decided that as far as most people are concerned, it’s the defacto BitTorrent client for the desktop (in the Linux world).  I’m still waiting for anyone to come forward with advantages of Deluge over Transmission.

Entropy Store is your package manager and whilst its a simple enough affair to use, its a little bit of a pig performance wise, even running on a quad-core.  That doesn’t detract from its flawless operation and simplicity – however I think its something which should now be addressed (its been this way ever since I first tried Sabayon).

My requirements had me introducing a few packages, LottaNZB, K3b (as stated above), Skype, VLC and as I’ve said in the past,  Sabayon repo’s are large and comprehensive.


Previous versions have had some complaining about boot-time.  Whilst Sabayon is not the fastest “booter”, it’s certainly no slouch and I can have a net-ready machine in around 35 seconds.   I’m sure with a little work, I could trim that down a little, however in days of Windows machines that I’ve seen taking over 2.5 minutes (and apparently being acceptable to the user) I don’t really feel the need to complain about 35 seconds of my life.  Conversely, shut down takes around 10 or so seconds which again is respectable.

Having been a Sabayon user previous (albeit in a Gnome incarnation) you have a Gentoo based distro which is speedy (more so with Xfce) and reliable.  The Sabayon repo’s are comprehensive and the default packaging on the whole (with a few surprising omissions) was good.

With Sabayon almost certainly making the move to Gnome 3 sooner or later, perhaps what critics once touted as a flaw of Linux (the amount of diversity and choice) is now paying dividends.  For Linux users, we are not forced to follow the visions of the big name distros and as you will see in the Xfce observation below, the amount of choice means that finding replacement is usually no problem at all.

For those looking for a rock solid, punchy distro I would wholeheartedly recommend Sabayon.  For those wishing to migrate away from Gnome, I can thoroughly recommend Xfce.

The XFCE Solution?

Whilst I have briefly reviewed Sabayon, the main purpose of this article was to explore Xfce.  As mentioned earlier, Gnome 3 is not for me.  I am not alone either since it appears from numerous forums that many people are already looking for Gnome alternatives.  Prior to installing Sabayon Xfce, I spent a couple of hours with LXDE.  I’ll probably be covering that over on Diaspora in due course.

With moving to Xfce, my first task was making it as similar to my Gnome 2 series desktop as I possibly could.  Having a taskbar at the top of the screen for my applications menu/shortcuts and the bottom for virtual desktop management and open packages.  It’s the way I work, maybe not the way you do.  I was recently talking about DE’s and noted that any machine running just the single “tradition” single taskbar at the bottom of the screen, has me getting flashbacks of Windows, not pleasant ones I hasten to add.

Getting to grips with Xfce was rather simple.   As you can see in the screen-shot, I have what already resembles a Gnome desktop and this was only a few minutes of work.  I have noticed a few aesthetical features missing from Xfce (which maybe someone can answer) the main one being I’m offered no transparency on my taskbars – hardly a deal breaker though. I should just elaborate, for some reason, the transparency slider just does not effect the taskbar (this may be an issue my end and I’m looking into it)

I am very happy with my Xfce “emulation” of my familiar Gnome desktop and I believe people would be hard pushed to differentiate my rig now from its previous Gnome incarnation.  I can confidently say for anyone looking to jump off the Gnome ship before 3 settles in, you can not afford to ignore Xfce, especially if, like me you were less than comfortable with KDE.

I said earlier that migrations away from Gnome have been mentioned in many forums and that in itself poses many question, notably:

How will the (presumed) surge of users to Xfce affect the development? – With the last release (4.8.0) being in January this year, can we expect a more rapid (with assumed more contribution) cycle?

If Gnome 3 is in the most part to appeal to the more casual/average user, will this fragment further the Linux desktop? With Canonical moving in its own direction (and doing very well I believe) we could see a very different Linux landscape this time next year.

These questions will be answered in due course, but I think that one thing is for certain, the Xfce user base will expand considerably over the next few months – and rightfully so, its a fantastic collection of projects.

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights on

A look at: ArtistX (1.1) – LiveCD (3.6GB)

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ArtistX running on a WM. There's some surprising bundled packages (for a creativity distro) that being emulation.

Ubuntu is probably the most common for distro’s to derive from, the number of Ubuntu variants is staggering and whilst many can share aspects rendering them virtually identical, the one thing about a distro based on Ubuntu is that there is an accepted (high) level of functionality you can expect out of the box.

ArtistX is no exception to this continuing trend and here we look at a distro aimed at the creative souls amongst us.

The LiveCD comes in at a whopping 3.5gb, which may be a slight deterrent to some prospective users on limited data plans or slow connection speed, with that in mind though ArtistX comes with a wealth of creative apps that pretty much cover every task you would wish to perform (and some surprising extras which I will cover later.)

The test machine for this review is currently running Mint 11 (again based off 11.04) so in this reason ArtistX will be examined via a VM.

First impressions were that as an Ubuntu variant, boot-time, hardware recognition were flawless.  I was surprised that the devs being ArtistX had not changed the boot loader to personalize their distro, which still proudly displays “Ubuntu 11.04”

As already mentioned, ArtistX has its roots in 11.04, Kernel 2.6.38 with Gnome 2.32 / KDE 4.6and Firefox as its pre-packaged browser, as you would expect Libreoffice is here too.

The “meat” of ArtistX is in the packages included which really do represent a massive selection of the best free software.  From the site (a tiny example of the total included packages):

  • 2D Graphic Software: Gimp, Inkscape, Nip2, Krita, Synfig, Rawstudio, Skencil, Hugin.
  • 3D Graphic softwares: Blender, Wings3D, K3D.
  • Video softwares: Cinelerra, Openshot, Kino, Openmovieeditor, Kdenlive, Pitivi, Avidemux, Devede, and many others.
  • Video and Music players: Mplayer, Videolan, Xine, Kaffeine, Kmplayer, LastFM and many others.
  • Music software: PD and externals, Rosegarden, Ardour, TerminatorX, Cecilia/Csound.

I looked at 11.04 recently, albeit with a Unity focus.  You can read that article here.


Any review on 11.04 will represent (more or less) ArtistX, though its the software pre-packaged which will be the draw here.  It’s often very interesting to see distro’s such as ArtistX because the pre-packaged software (presumably chosen by the devs on recommendation) are someone else’s views on what is the best application for a specific task.  Often I discover new software as a result of this and I think its safe to say that when choosing the application for you, its best to get any many different alternatives as you can to make a balanced choice.

I mentioned earlier that there were some “extra’s” and it was these extra’s that came as a surprise to me.  Readers of OpenBytes will know that in the past I’ve covered many emulation projects in varying stages of development.  ArtistX, amidst is creative frenzy also caters for a few old platforms such as Amiga and various machines in the Atari family of computers, which was surprising but very welcome.

Unity, which has caused so many differing opinions is absent upon boot from ArtistX, however this I think would be expected as ArtistX is probably more geared towards existing Linux users or people with a specific purpose for the ArtistX distro.

Audacity presence is a welcome familiarity for me, with TechBytes and the soon to be released Byte.Me facilitating its powerful yet simple features for audio editing/remastering.  With so many other packages offered it affords me the opportunity to try out other alternatives, a few of which will be covered in the future on OpenBytes this is one of the advantages of running someone’s realization of Linux – the introduction to new packages.

Built on the strong foundation of Ubuntu 11.04, ArtistX will blow you away by the sheer choice in its pre-bundled creative application.  There is everything here you could conceivably need to be creative – and who knows, amongst this plethora of choice you may discover the killer app you have been looking for.  I only hope that the large .iso filesize doesn’t turn some users away.

You can visit the ArtistX homepage here: http://www.artistx.orgl

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on


REVIEW: GhostBSD 2.0 (LiveCD)

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I would expect it’s a welcome release for established GhostBSD users but new users may find that it’s neither polished or packaged as fully as they would like.

Its been a while since I wrote a review and it was GhostBSD that caught my eye over on Distro Watch.  It’s nice to look at BSD for a change and its also nice to spend a little time reviewing something that is not derived from Ubuntu – thats no insult to Ubuntu or its derivatives, but I think its long been established that a distro derived from Ubuntu is a winning formula for an OS that works out of the box.

So on to GhostBSD and BSD is something which I have shamefully spent little time.  My distro hopping days are rare occurence now since Ive settled on what I consider to be a solid Sabayon and my other machines have a selection of more “exotic” distro’s to fit a specific task.

The site (whilst currently incomplete and with typo’s) does much to introduce Ghost and I have to say from the outset I was looking forward to my run of it.


The LiveCD booted in reasonable time, not the fastest Ive ever experienced but certainly not the slowest and after its finished you are presented with a plain but aesthetically pleasing Gnome 2 DE.

The first issue I encountered when clicking on Firefox 3.6 was that my router had not been detected and setup automatically and whilst a very simple issue to fix, is it too unreasonable to expect a liveCD to have this sorted? Nearly every other distro I tried in the last year provides this small (but relevant) feature and I think its important that little things like this are considered. I see the LiveCD as being the medium which many users will either decide to install or not.  Its the first chance you get to “sell” your product and if you fail to deliver on the LiveCD the chances of install are slim.

I digress, after a few clicks I was up and running and I certainly don’t need to go into any detail on page rendering for FF3.6 and the surfing experience in general.


GhostBSD offers a Python script as its installer.  There’s nothing difficult to it and its very straight forward, again though if you were trying to sell the idea of GhostBSD to a new user (especially an ex-Windows one) I don’t think the script really endears itself to them.  For everyone else though its functional and does its job fine.

Some have commented on very quick installation times, I didn’t really notice and since its been such a while since I did a real install (no VM fakery for me!) so  I can’t really comment.  My distro of choice (Sabayon) is a rolling release (and Ive been very happy with all its releases) so maybe Ive been spoiled by that feature for too long to appreciate a complete fresh install.


Here’s a section I found myself a little disappointed with. GhostBSD doesn’t claim to be stuffed with every package under the sun, but then I expected a little more than what I found. We have the usual (or expected) AbiWord 2.8.4 , Python 2.6.6 , Thunderbird 3.1.7 , Firefox 3.6.13 et al, but I would dare to describe my first impressions as bare.

The limited amount of software packaged with GhostBSD I suppose is a good thing.  I have often complained that I found many distro’s being far too bloated with multiple packages doing  the same thing, however I would have hoped for a little more.  Of course you can install software until your heart is content but in an age where most Linux distro’s offer stability (the BSD selling point IMO) and out of the box functionality, GhostBSD is in a far more competitive world to get users attention.

Proprietary codecs/drivers/software are not present in the initial install.  Whilst this may be great news to the FSF, its not for me.  Yes, I know its easy to install but again I find myself comparing install time experience to that of Sabayon, where if you wish, proprietary software can be installed (and agreements digitally signed on mass) with a click of a button.  I don’t intend for a debate to ensue over proprietary but suffice to say at the present moment in time it does play an integral part of my desktop choice.  If its not in yours then great, I think you will be more than satisfied.


It’s been said by others that GhostBSD is designed with the new BSD user in mind. On that level it performs its job adequately however the Python install script is far from friendly looking for the person who is moving away from a computing life with Windows. I don’t think it would hurt for future releases to jazz up the install script and there are plenty of python bindings to help them do just that.

There is no doubt that GhostBSD is rock solid in the stability stakes however over in Linux land this stability is in the majority of cases (in my experience) the norm anyway. Debian for example prides itself on such stability although I’ve always found myself staying away for the sole reason that packages wise its hardly runs with bleeding edge (and rightfully so – its stable!)

As I find myself migrating towards a KDE DE and with amongst other things the review copy of Ghost being a Gnome DE, I see it as a step back for me.   It’s not bad, but there’s not enough here for me to justify a migration.

Looking at GhostBSD from the view of a migrating Windows user, again there is nothing wrong with what’s on offer here but I think for someone who has led a Windows lifestyle, they are going to want more “bells and whistles”.  I say that though with a little reservation since I have seen nothing from the developers which suggests its specifically aimed at such a user.

For established Linux users, again, I cannot see anything which would tempt them over.  I say that not to create flame as I would really love to say that GhostBSD offers something really special, much hard work has obviously gone into this but as it stands I can best sum up the distro as: stable, solid and “does what it says on the tin”.

The homepage for GhostBSD is certainly starting to look the part. I say starting because it has typos and incomplete sections to it. I would stress that this is not a harsh criticism because a lot of hard work has gone into the distro and its very generous of the GhostBSD devs to spend their time working on this great project. With that in mind I think new users will not be filled with confidence in a project where the site intended to promote it has so many obvious errors and omissions. This is a shame because GhostBSD is in no way lacking functionality or stability and I think errors on its homepage will undersell GhostBSD.

In closing, I would expect it’s a welcome release for established GhostBSD users but new users may find that it’s neither polished or packaged as fully as they would like.


If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on

REVIEW: Salix 13.1-rc1 (Live LXDE)

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A pleasant pastel theme greets you on first boot. A slackware distro that spares a thought for someone who might be after something other than Ubuntu or one of its derived variants. Picture source:

Salix, a slackware distro, is one I’ve looked at previously on Openbytes.  It has a history with Zenwalk, but not in just the fact that they are two Slackware offerings, it was reported that a group of developers left the Zenwalk project and created the Salix project, lucky for us as Salix has matured into an accessable product and yet another option for those looking for a different distro.

So here is release candidate 1 of a distro which from previous experience offers a punchy performance (and is here in an LXDE flavour)  Whilst the plethora of Ubuntu based distro’s continue with them ranging between unique and more of the same, its refreshing to have a chance to take a look at another Slackware distro (and especially one which I was pleased with before)  The features listed by the developers on Salix’s homepage state:

  • one application per task on the installation ISO
  • fully backwards compatible with Slackware
  • optimized for desktop usage
  • high quality package repositories with dependency support
  • incredibly fast package tools
  • simple & fully localized system administration tools
  • nice artwork
  • installation ISO fits on a single CD
  • supports 32-bit and 64-bit architectures

and they say:

Based on Slackware Linux 13.1, it features the lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, with a clean look and feel. The main applications that complete the LXDE experience are the lightweight and fast PCManFM file manager and the popular Openbox window manager. As with the standard Xfce edition, this CD image allows installation to be performed in three different modes – core, basic and full. The core mode is identical to the one you get from the Xfce edition. Basic will only install a minimal LXDE desktop with only Midori and gslapt installed as extra and full will install everything that is included on the CD image. That includes the lightweight Midori web browser, the Claws-mail e-mail client, the Transmission BitTorrent client and the Pidgin instant messaging client.

Compatibility wise, Salix had no problems detecting anything.  The test machine for this review was an AMD Athon II x4 635, with 3gb of memory and an shared/integrated Nvidia 9200 graphics card.  The liveCD booted far faster than my current distro of choice did when I was installing.  The fresh, clean and aesthetically appealing wallpapers for Salix are a testament to the effort being put into it and the “little things”.

Installation was offers three options –  Full, Basic and Core.  You’re probably not going to opt for core unless you have a beard, so for many the option will be Basic or full.

The .iso clocks in at around 526mb which is hardly going to challenge anyone’s connection and as commented on by many, Salix LXDE has a blisteringly fast install time (around 10 minutes)

Whats packaged as default?

So lets look at some the packages you expect to find installed as default on this distro.  For the complete list of whats packaged, you can check here.   It’s refreshing to see none of the play once games included, if you really have a desire you can fill your boots in the repo’s and Ive long said that the “time is up” for the generic games of solitaire, snake et al on a distro.

Abiword is present here as default in version 2.8.6, which is the latest release.  This for me is welcome since I don’t need an entire office suite packaged as default and I find AbiWord fits the bill for an all purpose word processor.

Theres plenty of help to be had on the liveCD and if you are coming to Salix from a more “nannied” distro such as Ubuntu, help is on hand should you require it.  The liveCD has a desktop link to a web-based Freenode IRC client (and the Salix chat room)  The installation of multimedia codecs is a case of merely clicking an icon.

I’m pleased to see Transmission included since I’ve not been convinced by Deluge and it’s “busier” GUI.

Midori is the browser packaged with Salix, which whilst I’ve always liked and found to be a very punchy, solid experience, I’ve never replaced Chromium with.

Gslapt handles package management and I think its a given that this is a rather user-friendly, simply way to handle your package needs.


As I say, Ive deployed Linux quite extensively, from friends and family to friends of friends and our local computer club.  Most of these people have no clue what an operating system is or how to install one and merely want an escape from their Windows desktop.  When looking at a distro for OpenBytes, I consider two things  – would I want this on my main rig? and; How easy will this be to deploy and provide support for to a user who may not have any experience of Linux.  In both cases Salix received a favorable answer.  Little things like a package that installs the multimedia codecs is very welcome as if I am around a friend’s house installing it on their desktop, I want things handed on a plate, so that I spend as little time as possible.

The speedy install times, make this a very attractive distro for me to deploy to others too and with the one click installation of all the codecs I could wish for also appeals greatly to me  (although is not unique to Salix and Sabayon 5.3 (currently on my main rig, offers the same feature at install time)

The installation itself was simple and I think shows just how far Linux on the desktop has come.  Not so long ago, there were only a handful of distro’s that truly offered a user friendly installation, now it seems a “minimum standard” of any new release.

Salix (thanks to its LXDE flavour) is very fast.  Whilst some will find LXDE too simple looking and would probably migrate towards KDE or Gnome, LXDE affords even the lowest of specs a very fast, functional performance and a great introduction to a Slackware distro.  If you are after a Slack distro that spares a thought for the new or inexperienced user, give Salix a go.  Either way, seasoned Linux expert or Linux newbie, Salix LXDE is a great release and very worthy of a look.


Salix has its Distrowatch entry here:

You can download (directly) from here:

NewsBytes – Thursday 2nd September 2010

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uTorrent for Linux nearly here!

I reported a few months back that due to popular demand (so much for an alleged 0.8% Linux usage) the makers of uTorrent announced that they would be releasing a Linux version of the popular Windows binary. uTorrent server has just been released for Linux and a full client is due in the coming weeks.

The creators of uTorrent say on their blog:

When we started our Idea Bank a few months ago, a Linux version was immediately the most requested feature, and has stayed #1 ever since.  We’ve heard you loud and clear, and today, we’ve taken a notable first step toward making it a reality……

Today’s version is only the first step, and we will continue to support the Linux user community with new versions in the near future. If you prefer to stick to more conventional user experience, rest assured we are working hard to build a full-featured client, coming soon. µTorrent Linux will offer the same clean and full featured UI that millions of users of of µTorrent on Windows have enjoyed.  We are hoping to get this out to you for testing in a few months. Stay tuned!


Microsoft IE market share drops again?

Its being reported over at ITProPortal that Microsoft’s browser is dropping in popularity again:

The overall market share of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser fell by 0.34 per cent in August to end up at 60.4 per cent, despite a rise of 1.03 per cent in IE8’s marketshare.

Source: ITProPortal

Why bother with Windows when theres KDE?

Bruce Byfield has written a very interesting article entitled “7 things you can do in KDE but not in Windows”  A good read and makes a very valid point which Microsoft Advocates will do anything to stop you from believing (since for many of them claim Linux is hobbyist):

What I am saying is that KDE far outstrips Windows 7 in features that enhance the way you work on the desktop …. if I want functionality comparable to Windows on the operating system of my choice, I can turn to minimalist desktops like LXDE or Xfce — all of which run with much less hard disk space or RAM than Windows 7

Source: Datamation

Goblin –

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Netrunner 2 – Blacklight – A new release!

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A switch to KDE from Gnome by the Netrunner team. A speedy distro with the "out of the box" functionality we have come to expect from a Ubuntu derived distro.

Regular readers to Openbytes may remember the coverage we gave to Netrunner.   The first release “Albedo” impressed with its speed and its removal of Mono, which for some is not seen as the “gift to the world” its touted as being.   If you want a recap you can read that review here. The tradition and ethos continues with this latest release “Backlight” so it was only due to me being away from home that I didn’t manage to download a copy on its official release day (26th June 2010)

The first major change for Backlight is it’s switch from Gnome to KDE. However it still does come packaged with a few Gnome apps, including Nautilus and Synaptic.  I will discuss this change later in the review as we first look at some of the packages you can expect to see packaged as default with Backlight.  What also now stands out is that the .iso comes in at just over 1gb, where previously it was 774mb.


I hate using the term “out of the box” for two reasons, firstly because I cannot assume everyone will have the same experience as me (good or bad) and also with the diversity of specs on users rigs, there will bound to be issues for some, this is true regardless if you use Windows, BSD or Linux.   The other reason for not liking the term “out of the box” is because Linux is at a position now where that is expected as standard.  There are a few distro’s that cater for the “fiddler” but I think its fair to say that most distro’s (both established and new) have the primary goal to get you up and running with as little fuss as possible.

Ive been using Linux for many years and can count on my left hand the amount of distro’s where after much persistance, the distro simply failed.  With so many distro’s being derived from established and mature brands, a “bad release” is certainly not common and from experience of years installing Windows and Linux systems for a variety of reasons, I can say Ive had less trouble with Linux than Windows.

Hardware proprietary drivers were identified and installed without issue.


Netrunner uses ext4 and at the present that is my file system of choice.  Netrunner also has Gnome compatibility so all my favorite Gnome apps should run without flaw.

Perhaps the unique point of Netrunner is KDE 4.4.2 and I expect there will be many people who want to get their hands on this. KDE is though currently in 4.4.5 which was released on 30th June.

Firefox 3.6.3 is the default browser here and you also have Java and Flash also installed as default.  Other packages include (taken from Website)

  • OpenOffice Software Suite 3.2
  • VLC (with codecs)
  • Thunderbird
  • WINE 1.42
  • GIMP
  • Audacious
  • Pidgin
  • Vuze

Theres the standard selection of play once games which don’t particularly need a mention and Im personally of the opinion that they need not be there at all.  Quassel 0.6.1 (in addition to Pigeon) provides IRC, not my personal choice, however Quassel is a solid enough IRC client.


The switch to KDE (4.4) came as a surprise to me.  I was very happy with the Gnome offering of Netrunner and thought it was an excellent grounding for future versions.  I’ve never been a fan of KDE, whilst many users rave about the DE, Ive often said that I don’t feel in control with it, it feels plastic and is far too Vistaesque for my liking.  Maybe I subconsciously yearn for an XP type DE or maybe it goes back further to Workbench 1.3, but my DE of choice has always been Gnome with a top+bottom taskbar and the more traditional menus.  It’s worth noting that whilst the taskbar and desktop are obviously KDE, the menu systems have a very Gnome look to them.  Is this an intention by the devs to please both KDE and Gnome users?  Maybe, although I don’t keep ontop of the latest KDE releases so I’ll stand corrected if its the default setting for the new version.

KDE 4.4.2 on Netrunner and its menu's which look rather similar to Gnome. A great thing for people like me who were less than impressed with KDE style.

With that in mind though the distro is excellent, speedy and simple to install (thanks to its Ubuntu origins) with very little fuss “out of the box”.  As I remarked previously, theres very little to find fault in Netrunner, although I still stand by the original comment that the name of this distro undersells its true potential.  When I was informed of this new release by email, I instantly thought of a net kiosk distro (since Ive looked at many distro’s since the original review)   Of course Netrunner is far from being a net kiosk package (although it will play very nicely on a netbook or limited spec machine) and also think the title since “Netrunner” implies something more net/cloud orientated, which compared to say Peppermint, its not.  Netrunner has menu links to Twitter and other online services, but instead of providing these services through Prism, they merely open up a new instance of Firefox (if one is not open, or simply open in a tab).  One has to ask the question, are they really needed? and if so could these shortcuts not simply be in a favorites menu within Firefox, rather than taking a desktop submenu up? – Only you can be the judge of that.

The choice of Firefox is not my preferred package although FF is great.  I would have liked to have seen Netrunner “thinking outside the box” and default packaging Chromium (or another alternative).  When you have so many Ubuntu based distro’s, its my opinion that you need something to set it aside from the rest so as it give it an identity. – Please don’t take that as a negative comment, as its a solid release and certainly worthy of a recommendation.

Netrunner prides itself on the complete removal of Mono and Blacklight is no exception in that continued ethos.  Despite implication (by some) to the contrary, Mono is not an essential package and I would expect many people who don’t have an interest in either Mono or the debate about it would ever notice it’s absence from Netrunner – unless of course they were fans of Gbrainy!???! in which case they will be devastated!  What the removal of the Mono packages does do is free up space to include more popular products and that can only be a good thing.

Ive mixed views about the increased iso size, although for most people 1gb is not a large download, although it does push it over that 1gb psychological threshold, which may make some consider it large.

Has Netrunner changed my view of KDE?  No.  Whilst I had absolutely no issues with the KDE implementation in Netrunner, I just don’t like it.  As for a distro Netrunner Blacklight does impress, users should find the “out of the box compat” of Ubuntu (and Netrunner is based off Kubuntu 10.04 I believe) and should enjoy the wealth of software that is available through the software manager.

I would recommend Netrunner to any user whose preference is KDE and I hope that as Netrunner matures we get to see an even more unique distro emerge so that nobody can suggest it’s “just another Ubuntu derived distro” – as I say its not and its a great piece of work by people dedicated to bringing you a user-friendly, out of the box, Mono free distro.


Netrunner homepage:

TechRights article:

Goblin –

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Grahame Morrison – No feuds on his watch?

Posted on Updated on

Is Mr Morrison "stirring the pot"? Does he actually think differences of opinion or "feuds" are harmful? We all remember "Ah....Youre killing FOSS"

I read an interesting article by Grahame Morrison entitled “Feuds and rivalries are damaging open source” (where all the quotes are taken from) which I start (and not beat around the bush) by saying is complete rubbish in my humble opinion.

After digesting his discourse I came to the conclusion that either he doesn’t understand the concept of different opinions being productive or simply wants to join in on some imagined “damaging” conflict in order to attract readers.  The article is not what I would expect TechRadar to publish and to be honest, its slightly cheapened Techradar credibility for me.

For a community that’s supposed to rally under the noble banners of freedom, fairness and fraternity, the world of free software is chockfull of disagreement, feuds and simmering rivalries.

Before we look at this comment, lets put something into perspective here.  We are talking about technologies, not world peace, global warming or famine.  There are plenty of other far more important issues in the world than software.  I don’t know about anyone else but I can have a disagreement with someone and actually get on with my life afterwards.  If that person (or opinion) returns again, fine, I debate again.  Its hardly detrimental to my life and Ive often said if overnight Linux (for example) was to wiped off the planet, it would hardly be the end of my world.  I’m an adult.  I hope you are too.

Now it might come as a shock to Mr Morrison, but the open source community (or any other IT related one) is not a collection of people patting each other on the back and agreeing blindly.  We all have our opinions and in the Open Source world, we have the flexibility to exercise a considerable amount of choice in our solutions.  In the FOSS world differences are championed, its maybe one of the reasons why the end user has so much choice and afterall, if everyone agreed that Transmission was the only BT client of choice, then we wouldn’t have Deluge and the plethora of others (as I said in a previous article here)

….Rather than promoting the use of open source, this division does more harm than good. The Gnome desktop is pitted against KDE, while Xfce dislikes them both

How silly.  I personally don’t like KDE and have Xfce as my DE of choice.  I do have/use/like Gnome too (and Fluxbox and Enlightenment) how is this damaging to the respective techs and how is Mr Morrison suggesting this “choosing of sides” is damaging a DE?  Utter rubbish.  Mr Morrison, I repeat, this is tech we are talking about and at the end of the day I would consider any such rivalry of little consequence.

Could Mr Morrison mean the devs themselves?  If he is then his point is even more ridiculous since competition (friendly or not) has shown in the past to produce better end products for the user.  If Linux/Mac never existed, do you think that Vista would have been replaced so quickly?  Thats one example, Im sure you can think of many more.

….If that doesn’t scare you off, take a look at some of the articles by the FSF’s President, Richard Stallman…..

So why then Mr Morrison are we seeing not only an increase in usage of Linux, but a larger deployment of FOSS technologies all across the IT spectrum?  I don’t see many people being “frightened” and I’d suggest that the only frightened users were those from the early days of Linux when it was not as “out of the box” as it is today.  The FSF has opinions that I don’t agree with, Canonical has ideas I don’t agree with….so what? They are opinions and I think the vast majority of users will base theirs on a mixture of many sources/views on the net.

In the end, those are the only things that are important, because without users there would be no work for the Foundation to do at all. It’s high time everybody lightened up.

Are you "scared off" as Mr Morrison seems to suggest or do you think (like me) that competition (or his words "rivalries") are good for the end-user?

We are already “lightened up”  Do you seriously think anyones world would come to an end if KDE was to remove competition (for example)?  Even though I am not keen on it, I think I would cope.  In the meantime I welcome healthy debate and disagreement.  To do otherwise would at best make for a dull community and at worst be dishonest.

Lets keep the “feuds” going, in my opinion they are great for the FOSS/Linux community.

Or should we all just stop what we are doing, move back to Microsoft products and all pretend that we agree with each other?  I don’t know if Mr Morrison has failed to grasp this whole concept anyway since whilst he was mentioning about “feuds” between DE’s, he seemed to completely miss a far bigger (and perhaps aggressive) “feud”, that being the Mono issue which he managed to quickly mention in a few words.  He claims Python versus Perl, really?  Ive dabbled with Python (which I stuck with for personal reasons, nothing to do with any “feud” that I honestly haven’t seen.)

Anyone seen this Python V Perl feud and can anyone evidence where it has damaged or hindered either product? and I wonder if Mr Morrison will think that my article which dares to challenge his opinion, counter productive in the same way?

I’ll let my readers decide and whilst they are at it, we can remind ourselves of an article by myself on the claim of “Killing FOSS”

….This eclectic position slowed progress toward version 3 of the GPL licence – used by most open-source projects

Did it? and how was this detrimental to the FOSS world we live in today?  I would love an explanation of that.  Specifically, what has suffered and how?

My question to Mr Morrison would be: How are these “feuds” of yours detrimental to Linux/FOSS?  Do you not agree its far more popular now than ever before?  In fact why don’t you evidence an example where a difference of opinion in community (or in your words feud/rivalry) is harmful to a product?

Goblin –

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.