Peppermint 4 – An OS for everyone? & The Probem of Linux Advocacy

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Its been a while since I wrote a distro review on Openbytes and its also been a while since I visited Peppermint developments.  To this day I still have a Netbook (Acer) which many years ago I installed Peppermint on and whilst in the days of tablets and just about every device in your house having a CPU and net access, I’ve not been back to see how the project has progressed as far as the rigs I’m using today.  I have written this review rather differently and taken into account readers and users who may have little interest in the “bones” of computing and merely want a decent computing experience, for those people the sections are marked as “new user” although if “experts” want to have a look, I’m sure a few of them will feel slightly perturbed by some of my observations of them.  This review serves two purposes for me, one to highlight Peppermint which I recently looked back into and another to highlight where Linux (as far as advocacy of others) has gone a little wrong over the years with it’s “do as I say” or “you can’t do that” attitude.

Its interesting for me to look back at my original review (found here: ) as it was a time when cloud computing was still gaining traction.  There were fears about storing your data on the cloud, fears about using web based apps (or machines that required a permanent net connection to be fully functional) and people still harboured strong feelings to owning “physical” things – the idea’s of app purchases or indeed pay for streaming, were still seen by many as things of the future. – One look at the volume of app purchases on mobile devices today suggests to me that the majority of users are boldly moving into “non-physical” purchases at warp 10.  Back in May 2010 when I first looked at Peppermint, I had reservations, but unlike some of the more vocal “do it our way or not at all” GNU/Linux/FOSS advocates, I kept more of a “lets see” attitude.  Whilst the rights or wrongs of cloud computing and non-physical purchases still have the jury out, it was obvious to me at the time which way the wind was blowing with the mainstream consumer.

I digress, back to the Peppermint 4 review which offers itself in both 32 and 64bit flavours for the user.

Running the LXDE desktop environment, Peppermint 4 begins the race at a fast pace.  After selecting it at boottime via the GRUB menu (please see below), its about 20 seconds from being Net ready.  Peppermint has always focused more towards the cloud computing ethos, so the installed apps (as in locally stored) are few in number and mostly relate to system admin/config utilities you will require when refining your desktop.

You’ll find a media player, bittorrent client and IRC client amongst the locally installed applications, however most of your other needs will be served via web based applications through what is called ICE (again see below)


Peppermint offers a very simple and straight forward approach to installing, infact its doubtful if you will really want to start changing things (especially if you are a new user) and one of the things it offers you is to dual boot (that is to install Peppermint along side whatever operating system is already on your machine)

Since I don’t wear a tin foil hat, I facilitate the Chromium ability to store all my passwords, links, history.  For me as soon as the installation was complete (about 30mins on a very slow net connection) I was able to log into Chromium and have my browser exactly the same as it was in my other OS, complete with all my links and saved passwords.


As was touched on above, the majority of local applications (those installed on your harddrive) relate to modifying your system and customizing it for your needs.  Tranmission the BT client is one of the exceptions, as to are the media players.

You’ve got Google integration (for your drive etc) here already, although to be fair, any distro can be set up in the same way in a matter of seconds, but the nice thing here is that Peppermint is, (as far as installation of local applications goes) a bare-bones system which offers complete functionality at first boot.  Dropbox is also present, but most users (both expert and not) spend most of their time in the browser (I’d guess)

Here we have the Twiter website, running through browser/app ICE, as you can see it almost looks like a local app on the desktop.
Here we have the Twiter website, running through browser/app ICE, as you can see it almost looks like a local app on the desktop.


As I said many years ago Peppermint OS is a great system.  Whilst it has a strong leaning to the cloud, it does not force you down that route and is a powerful Linux distribution that will run very quickly on your hardware.  Peppermint is not bogged down with “fluff” and packages that you won’t use, since most of the software is browser based, removing it is merely removing a link.

In the past, I’ve crossed paths with some of the Peppermint team (in a good way) and they are a dedicated, friendly team who have remained true to their vision of a Linux distribution all these years.  Peppermint is a reflection of this dedication which doesn’t force you to adopt their vision, merely presents you with a very fast operating system which you can customize to your own needs very simply and regardless of how much of a toe you dip into the cloud world, Peppermint will serve your needs very well.

Whilst my Acer Aspire One with its old version of Peppermint gets little use now (its tablets, Playstations and desktop’s in our house) I can certainly see Peppermint remaining on my main rig now for a considerable time.  Maybe that’s an indicator that my usage of computers has changed? Or maybe it’s simply that like it or not, the cloud is inevitable and the best way to stay on-top of this without having to put all your eggs in one basket, is with Peppermint.

The GNU/LINUX experts (for new Linux users)

“Experts” come in all shapes and sizes with probably some of the most intimidating (in a tech sense for a new user to Linux) in the GNU/Linux world.  You’ll read all manner of rants about software freedoms, proprietary software and its “evils”.  For most people who use their machine as they would any other device around the house, they leave the experience baffled.  New to Linux? Then get ready to be baffled by “experts” who will tell you about DE’s, proprietary, opensource, GRUB and many more terms.

Linux “experts” and the type who are most likely to baffle you with software “ethics” et al can be quite easy to spot.  Amongst the most obnoxious can be the ones who show screenshots of their Linux system running in the command line.  To them, the less aesthetically pleasing it looks, the more advanced they must be (or thats my theory anyway).

Let me hopefully make this simple for you: Select what is right for you, learn (if you wish) at your own time, then if you find yourself with opinions on certain software/configurations you can make changes then. – If you listen to many of the sites that will rant on about KDE or BASH and how to use script files to solve all of life’s issues, you will end up confused and nowhere fast, migrating back to Windows or that delicious fruit branded operating system.  This is, I think the problem desktop Linux has had over the years and I think deep down many of these “experts” with Linux and FOSS don’t actually want the mainstream using them as they can then feel special or important that their machine runs on software very few people use – or know how to use.

Whats GRUB? – Its the menu system you get when you switch your machine on that allows you to chose between say Linux and Window (if you have what is called dual boot).  What’s ICE? its basically your Chromium browser stripped down of all the fluff and menus and allows a web page to be run (for example Twitter) like a application. – See? two terms which at first seemed complex, explained in a few lines and shown to be rather simple.

Myths dispelled (for new users)

Here are some of the comments you will hear from people online in respect of Linux.  It’s unclear if these people are just sincerely ignorant or if they have a vested interest in keeping you away from software which is free and will complete the tasks you are currently doing on software you’ve had to pay for.

1. You have to compile your own Kernel. – Rubbish.  I won’t explain what the Kernel is at this time (its not required) but suffice to say, in 2008 I started reviewing Linux distro’s (having used Linux for a long time) and not once have I had the need (or desire to compile the Kernel).  If someone makes this remark, you can ignore it completely.

2. You have to compile your applications, its difficult to install software. – Again rubbish.  For many years most Linux distro’s have the equivilant of the app store that you see on your mobile phone.  Software is categorised with reviews and screenshots within the software center (or similar) and installing is merely a click away.  There’s no zip files, no compiling, no editing script files.  If you can install an application on your mobile phone, then you’ll have no difficulty on Peppermint.

3. Linux doesn’t work with your hardware – Rubbish again, of course there can be issues (just like when some people tried to install Windows Vista for example) so when it comes to installing any new operating system on the plethora of hardware options out there, it’s impossible to say before hand if there are going to be any issues.  I’ve installed Linux on over 100 machines and not had issues – is this an indicator of a “perfect” Linux anymore than a naysayers claiming Linux won’t work? No of course not.  This is why anyone considering Linux should follow the suggestion I make below, if you are wanting to swap your current operating system experience and find out for yourself.

4. You can’t play Windows games on Linux – This is half true.  Just as you wouldn’t expect to play Xbox One games on a PS4, you can, for the moment take it that if you buy the latest Windows game, it won’t work on Linux.  Whilst you are new to the Linux environment its best you stick with that, there are ways to get Windows games running on Linux (using a package called WINE) however, this is something that should be looked at later when you’ve become used to how Linux works.  For now, if you want to play the latest Windows games, stick with Windows, moving to Linux for the sole purpose of playing games made for Windows is not worth it.

5. You can’t run Microsoft Office – For now agree that you can’t, but why do you need to? Do you have a specific need for the Office suite of Microsoft or are you one of the millions of users who merely need a Word Processor et al and it just so happens you’ve always used Office? There’s plenty of options.  My first book which is awaiting publication was 80,000+ words and went nowhere near anything of Microsoft.  GoogleDocs? (as stated above Peppermint already has the integration there for you) Libreoffice? – A great Office Suite that will cost you the princely sum of £0.00.

How to explore Linux

When I’m introducing someone to Linux, I don’t believe the “all or nothing” approach works, so if you are new to Linux and would like to see the benefits it can offer you, download and burn onto disk the latest version of Peppermint and follow these steps.

1. Run it from the DVD/CD – Now that you’ve burned your copy of Peppermint, you can run it from the disk without having to install anything at all.  So put your disk in reboot the computer and look out for a message similar to “press f12 for boot options” select to boot from your DVD and in a short while (please note if you do install Peppermint it will load far faster) Peppermint will boot to the desktop, where you can access the net and have a play around with Linux.

I normally tell people to boot from a CD for about a week, get on with the tasks that they need to do and see fully if they enjoy the Linux experience.  If, after a week they are happy, I suggest the next step.

2. Install Linux alongside your existing operating system.  Peppermint (and many other distro’s) offer you the facility to install alongside what currently installed on your PC.  Doing this will mean that every time you reboot, you will be presented with a menu giving you the option of which operating system you wish to run.

After step 2 has been completed, I usually leave the user for a few weeks to see how they get on.  If they are still happy, then they can make the decision to either remove the old operating system or leave it in there. And finally:

3. Once they’ve had Linux running on their system for a few months and are happy with the experience, I tell them to let other people know.  Probably the biggest myth that needs to be dispelled about Linux is that it is the remit of “experts”.  Ironically since 2008 and this sites creation, the most complex issues I’ve had to fix on friends PC’s have been on Windows machines.  Could I merely be saying that in order to promote Linux? Well I could, but just like a recommendation of anything from anyone, the only way you find out is if you give it go yourself and come to your own conclusion.

You can check out this punchy, simple to use desktop on their homepage:


Windows spec requirements out of control? & quest for a refund

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A different type of post today, this is my personal story.

On Friday 20th August I went to my local store for a new base unit after “old faithful” finally gave up.  I have to say before I go any further that Acer products have always been in my opinion, rock solid and built to last.  I had no issues replacing a machine which served well and I consider had value for money.  Its a shame then that the purchase was tainted by me having to spend money on software I neither wanted or needed.  More on that later though.

With my trusty debit card in one hand and dreams of a weekend tinkering with a new toy, I entered my local store – Comet.  Before I go any further I have to say that the service I received was excellent, the salesperson was polite, friendly and knew what he was talking about.  The price was also very reasonable and I ended up parting with £399 for a AMD Athlon II Quad Core, 750gb HD, 3gb of DDR3 ram, Nvidia Gforce 9200 (and of course the compulsory installation of Windows 7 )

It was whilst I was being told the spec’s of the models in-store that I noticed the tech sheet for the model I was buying, which came with Windows 7 Home Premium.  On the sales sheet for this model it clearly stated that it was not suitable for video/picture editing.  Excuse me? I was performing these tasks very well with a machine many years older and with considerably less power.  Of course I was doing it with Linux so maybe that’s the answer.  I questioned this “fact” with the store to which I was told that the spec requirements of 7 meant that this was the case.

I’ve had the opportunity to play around with Windows 7 for about a month earlier in the year and was very underwhelmed, but that was on a high spec’d machine.  I never thought to question performance on your average desktop PC.   What on earth will Windows 8 require to edit video’s? Skynet? ;)

After the shock of that revelation subsided I asked how I would go about getting a refund on Windows 7.  I was directed to Microsoft customer services and so my quest began…..

Before we move on though its worth noting that I have not even booted into Windows once on this new machine.   I had already downloaded the 64bit version of Sabayon 5.3 (Gnome) and burnt to disk.  Sabayon was booted to the LiveCD environment and installation began as soon as the machine was switched on for the first time.

The Quest for the Refund


My first port of call was Microsoft customer services for the UK.  After one of the all too common automated lines, I discovered that on a Saturday I was not going to get any human customer service on this number (unless, apparently, I am a Onecare customer – presumably paying more money to Microsoft.  What I did find amusing whilst looking for the customer services number was that Microsoft has a sponsored link that will answer your questions online.

After getting no joy with the phone I was confident that my question could be answered quite simply, after all it was merely “How do I go about getting a refund on an unwanted Windows 7?”.  After entering the question I was told there were advisors waiting to answer my question….for a price.  Typical.  Whilst it was a 3rd party company offering this “service” I should have known – when it comes to Microsoft products, you can never spend enough money.

So since it was a Saturday and all other avenues had been exhausted, I decided upon sending a quick tweet to “Microsofthelps”.  You can see that here, but since they have an out of office notice on their Twitter status, I suppose I will have to wait until monday.  Where it says:

MicrosoftHelps will be out of the office this afternoon starting at noon PST. We will return on Monday 08/23. Have a great weekend!

Thanks Microsoft, I will.  I’m using Linux.  I’ll have a good week too if I can get my refund and prevent my money lining your pockets (and have you claim another Windows 7 user stat).


I won’t delve into issues of Microsoft Tax.  The subject has been covered enough.

I feel rather resentful that I have to buy a product with no choice as to if Windows is pre-installed.  If that in itself was not bad enough, the fact that it’s not obvious on how you go about getting a refund.  I wonder if Europe should have been looking into the OEM issue instead of messing around with browsers and ballot screens?  Lets get our priorities right eh?

I am unsure when/if I will get a refund, but I will continue this quest until I get an answer (and update in future articles).  Should I be successful I will be donating the refund to the FSF and at least then it won’t feel as if my great purchase has been slightly tainted by having to pay for unwanted Microsoft software.

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.

REVIEW: Puppy Arcade 8 (LiveCD 105mb)

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The all new BIOS checker for Puppy Arcade 8. Picture source: Puppy Arcade homepage.

Puppy Arcade is one of the few Linux distro’s that Openbytes tries to keep following.  Since version 5, Puppy Arcade has not only been a favorite with friends and colleagues, but also has a home on a few of my machines around the house that would otherwise be obsolete.  Ive had the pleasure of a Q&A with Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis and Im pleased to say that he continues to keep me updated every time a new version is released.

Puppy Arcade is one of the more difficult distro’s to review because of the plethora of systems it covers and often when I try to write about Puppy Arcade, my article turns into individual reviews of the emulation packages it contains.  I will try to look at Puppy Arcade as a whole and how it performs in respect of a multiple platform emulator (and desktop distro too)  For the purposes of this review, the test machine is a 1.6ghz machine with 1gig of ram and a rather ancient gfx card.  I am reviewing this distro on pretty old tech, so its important to keep that in mind to appreciate how good Puppy Arcade actually is.

Puppy Arcade – The Desktop

I will only briefly mention Puppy Arcade as a desktop, since I would assume that users main requirement for it will be the default packaged emulation.  Since Puppy Arcade is based upon Puppy Linux, its requirements are low and it will absolutely fly, even on the lowest of specs.  The download for Puppy Arcade is only 105mb, which will be pretty speedy even for the slowest of net connection.  The ISO burnt without error and since its a LiveCD, simply throw it into your drive, reboot and you’re off.

Puppy Arcade offers numerous tools and util’s for standard desktop functions (when you are not playing with the emulators) but I’d suggest that to many users most of these will be of little consequence.  There is no Word Processor as such (No Abiword or however I doubt users will be downloading Puppy Arcade with anything else than emulation as their main priority.  Basic text/src editing is handled by Leafpad 0.8.16 or Geany 0.16, the later of which is rather good for src.  You have other utilities available and whilst I could list and comment on everything, it would make this review far longer than it needs.   What I will say is that CD/DVD burning software is included, as well as various media players and rippers.

A point to note is that unlike previous versions of Puppy Arcade, there is no default packaged web browser, you can choose this from a sort of ballot screen, which works very well.  This does pose a slight issue if you are booting from a LiveCD, that being you are going to have to install a browser to ram every time you boot (unless you install to HD).  The reasoning behind the removal of the browser is to reduce the download and to be fair its a great idea.  I don’t think many will mind.  I was pleased to see Chrome offered as I have championed it for a long while and since I have never been a fan of Firefox plugins, the faster browsing experience of Chrome on any desktop is a big plus for me.

All in all as a standalone desktop Puppy Arcade 8 is great on any machine (new or old) and whilst in respect of a home desktop machine, it might seem a little lacking in util’s, there’s a plethora of software to install should you require, that can make Puppy Arcade 8 whatever you want it to be.

Puppy Linux has come on in leaps and bounds over the years and this is reflected in the out of the box experience. Puppy had no issues detecting any of my hardware, from USB keyboard to monitor settings.

Shadows of the Empire plays very well in Puppy Arcade 8! Just one of many titles you are going to enjoy from yesteryear!

Puppy Arcade – The multi-platform Emulation distro!

Here is where we get to the real “meat” of the review.  This afterall is why you downloaded Puppy Arcade.  What is included? What can it emulate? How well does it do it? and what do I need?

As I said earlier on my specs for this test are very low, but regardless of that, the experience is blisteringly fast.  The machines emulated in Puppy Arcade 8 are: Amiga, Amstrad, AppleMac, Arcade, Atari (8/16bit). Colecovision, Commodore, Doom, Gameboy, Genesis, N64, Nes, NeoGeoCD,PCEngine, PSX, Snes, Sega Saturn, Sega (8bit) and ZX Spectrum.  You’ve also got compatibility with DOS binaries (via Dosbox 0.73) and ScummVM to play many of those point and click games from yesteryear.  Openbytes featured a comparison of Dosbox and ScummVM which you can read here.

The standard desktop menu has been hidden by default (expanding when your mouse is over it) in favour of a custom dock with icons for all the emulators included.

Keeping it legal – No system roms included!

It’s often discussed in emulation forums about the legality of rom’s from obsolete machines.  Puppy Arcade removes this problem by not packaging any as default and instead having a simple GUI that allows you to download the system roms as and when you need them.  It’s a completely automated process and it will keep track of the rom’s which you have downloaded.  It’s a great little package which works well.

Whats new in version 8?

The rom loader (for starters) which I detail above.  I look forward to seeing this mature over the next releases of Puppy Arcade.  Importantly VLC has replaced Xine which is a great media player which can handle just about anything you throw at it.  As detailed earlier the removal of a default packaged web browser and theres been many GTK frontends updated (as well as the emulators themselves with later versions) is a change over the last version.

You can read more about the changes here:


Yet another great release for Puppy Arcade.  I like the idea of having a poll for the browser, which means that not only do you get a smaller .iso download, but you don’t have to waste your time downloading a browser which you are going to replace anyway.  The size of the download is another massive plus and will have you enjoying emulation in no time at all.  It’s quite amusing to think that the whole distro is downloaded in 105mb which is less than many PSX games themselves!

I think Puppy Arcade 8 is a landmark release, Scott, its creator has now had a few versions to fine tune and tweak the direction in which he is taking this project and now as we see more intuitive interfaces, it provides a solid foundation for future versions.  The delivery of Puppy Arcade reeks professionalism and from install to messing around with system BIOS files , there were no broken menu’s or incomplete features.  The only limitation to the emulation Puppy Arcade offers are the limitations of the emulators themselves, of which I’m pleased to say with my testing were very few.

You can download a copy of Puppy Arcade here:

And if you are interested in reading previous reviews on Openbytes:

Version 7 –

Version 6 –

Version 5 –

So what are you waiting for? Give yourself a little computing nostalgia and download Puppy Arcade!

Goblin –

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

Wolvix 2.0.0 beta Build 56

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Its been a long time. The last time I reported on Wolvix was in July 09 where the distro received praise (and became my distro of choice).

After that date I found myself praising the distro whenever I got the opportunity, there was so many great things about it – out of the box compat, its speed, its look.  I could go on.

Over the months that followed it appeared that development had stopped and just as I was trying to settle on a new distro, a new build is released with the author saying the following:

It’s been quite a while since there was any development here, but things are finally getting back on track now. The last couple of weeks I’ve been picking up the slack and I’m in the process of making a new public development release. (Beta3) A lot of packages has already been updated and the development is on going.

And for me thats great news.  Readers who have never heard of the Wolvix distro before may wish to familiarize themselves with the previous Openbytes review.

The latest build comes in at 665.39mb which is small when you consider the wealth of functionality it provides.

Wolvix has resumed development, for me it was July 09 when I downloaded the beta 2, so this update comes as very welcome!

The bugs present on a fresh install of the last version are now gone and whilst there is an absence of those silly play once games, I did question the choice of packaging an FTP client and not even giving a thought to a binary newsgroup reader.  This brings me onto my next point, whilst Liferea is a great product, what benefit does it give the user when Thunderbird is included by default?  I would like to see Liferea replaced with Klibido (or similar) in order to accommodate any .nzb requirements and I certainly think that now in the year of the Digital Economy Bill and the likes of ACS: Law we are going to see a migration to the binaries.  accommodating .NZB is in my opinion more critical that FTP in default packaging.

These are small issues and nothing that a little tinkering can’t sort out.  I did question the need for both IRSSI and Xchat to be present in particular since IRSSI (my client of choice) is a command line util and not linked on the DE.

Everything I said originally for Wolvix stands for this latest build.  The installation is flawless and quick and out of the box compat goes without saying.  I really love this blisteringly fast distro.  I am so pleased the project has found momentum again.

I will be keeping up to date with the progress of this distro.

You can visit the homepage of Wolvix here and Build 56 can be found on Linuxtracker where I hope you will help seed.  You should also note that there are a variety of places to get Wolvix from which can be found on the homepage.

Goblin –

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

When must you shill for Linux? – A rather disturbing idea.

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How many times have people accused me of “Microsoft Hater”, “Linux Zealot”, “Linux Unwashed”?  Comments like these (and many more vulgar ones) are often thrown by a Microsoft advocate with no argument to any person who dares to suggest there is an alternative to their products.  Its easy to dismiss a point of view with a single insult and the practice has been going on for years (and will for many more to come).

The purpose of this article is to report on a Linux distro and ask the question what would Linux users do?

I reported recently that I had been trying Elive and that due to the apparent lack of continuation of Wolvix (thats now changed) I was trying out many distro’s for my new distro of choice on the main rig.  With that in mind I eagerly downloaded Elive, from the professional site and the nice trailer it had me sold on at least a download and test.  And test I did.   The LiveCD functioned very speedily and was a very solid, reliable piece of software.

So far so good? Well no.  Due to limited time I had been running my secondary rig off the LiveCD and had not got around to installing it on the HD.  My mistake, if I had, I would not have wasted tweets (and lines in IRC) saying how good a replacement to my beloved Wolvix it was.

So what went wrong?  Well, whats not made clear is that Elive in fact wants a donation.  In itself not a problem at all, I fully support and champion the idea that hard work should be rewarded/supported, but Elive does it a little differently.  Firstly it requires payment before you can install it, so to me the donation comes as something of an enforced user contribution.  Secondly if you dislike the ethos of DRM, then you are not going to be happy at the fact that in order to ensure you have paid, an “install module” (unique to your PC apparently) has to be downloaded and present after payment.  Great stuff? This all came as a bit of a surprise since it is not clear on the site that you cannot install without payment, but the bigger surprise for me was yet to come if you want to get a “free” code to install Elive without payment:

Write an article about Elive on any website you like, we give you a free invitation code for this, depending of the importance of the website and how good the article is you can obtain up to 5 invitations.

Thats taken from the Elive website and found here.

Now over on which reviews the distro in detail and looking at the comments of users, on the whole this apparent covert way of asking for a donation is not well received.

But thats not my main issue with Elive and their “scheme”, what worries me is this free invitation “deal”.  I particularly dislike the part where it says “depending of the importance of the website and how good the article is you can obtain up to 5 invitations” which to me sounds like it would encourage that which Ive challenged so many times in the past – Articles on the basis of a freebie.  I wonder if this article will receive any free invites and I wonder if the average 1000 unique reads a day is deemed as important by the Elive creators?

This to me is wrong, very wrong.  I do not blindly download software, I do not skim through EULA’s or T&C’s without reading them properly, thats why I believe this whole donation scheme which the Elive creators have is rather poor.  I would not have downloaded it had I known that before I could test it on my HD I would have to either pay, or write an article about it (presumably to help promote the distro)  There is reference to payment on the site, however its far from obvious and Ive learnt a valuable lesson that even I now need to check the fine print of FOSS products….what has the world come to?

How many times have we seen bloggers who will write in the hope they receive a freebie from Microsoft?  Have we not seen articles from people where its alleged they have received a free laptop from good old MS?  If I did not highlight this distro, I would be hypocritical and I hope that it will also put an end to our Microsoft faithful who claim I only challenge Microsoft because its Microsoft.  Wrong doing is wrongdoing whether it be Microsoft, Apple or anyone else and whilst Elive may not be doing anything wrong (I’ll leave you to make your mind up), I certainly have covered similar practices in the past by other companies.

I may be strange but I only champion software which Ive actually properly tested and have an honest held belief in.  I think that to write an article with the intention of getting a freebie is not only dishonest but also very damaging to the reader who expects (and rightfully so) that whilst they may not agree with the article writer, their opinion is coming a position of not having a hidden motive.

So what’s next?  I am composing an email to send to the creators in the hope that they may have a reply to this article and in the meantime do wonder, how many invites will I get for this? – I’ll let you know.

Goblin –

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

Netrunner (Albedo) – A look at a brand new distro!

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Netrunner - The stability and functionality you've come to expect with Ubuntu, minus the "gift to the world" of Mono!

Its been a while since I showcased a Linux distro with the last being Puppy Arcade.  Ive got Dr Schestowitz of TechRIGHTS to thank for bringing my attention to Netrunner.

During the years of running Openbytes and covering distro’s from all around the world based on a plethora of ideas/innovations/other distro’s, one thing in the main struck me, the out of the box experience of about 99.9% of them.  Linux has come a long way in that people don’t need to be as overly concerned with hardware issues that they may encounter since the “minimum standard” of a distro has had its bar raised much higher, so much so in fact that recently when looking at Windows installations, Ive appreciated just how simple Linux is to install.

Near the end of last year I had a run of reviewing quite a few distro’s and what was obvious to me was that it was mostly a case of “yep, it worked and worked very well”.   Unfortunately for the reader, it would prove very boring to highlight decent distro after decent distro so I made the decision to only cover distro’s I use on a regular basis, landmark releases or innovative releases.

And let me introduce you to one such release – Netrunner.

Code named Albedo, its an Ubuntu based distro, but before I hear groans about “another product derived from Ubuntu” let me explain some important differences.

The selling point (or uniqueness) about Netrunner is that the distro has been stripped of all Mono dependencies.  I do not intend to get in another Mono debate, but will only say that for ME, I am glad its gone.  If you really want to see my reasoning behind that (and debate the Mono issue) there are plenty of articles on this site in which to do that in.  So with that in mind, lets look at this Mono free distribution.

The first thing I would like to cover is operating speed of the LiveCD.  Speedy is all I can say, with Netrunner booting in around 40 seconds on a 1.6ghz system. The install process is initiated in answering 6 questions and even the Linux new user cannot go wrong here.  I think this is a testament to both Netrunner and its origins (Ubuntu).  Taking around 20 minutes for a complete install, the user-friendliness of Ubuntu shines through and its something I forget since I tinker with many other distro’s.  In the case of my system Nvidia GFX drivers are merely a click away and everything literally is handed to you on a plate.

I can’t really comment any further about installation except to say, expect an Ubuntu easy experience.  I’ll now move on to what included and whats not.

Packages – So where’s the space problem Canonical?

Some commenters cited space reasons for Canonicals decisions in certain area’s of its upcoming release, in relation to discussing what was to be removed.  This is strange because Netrunner managed to pack a lot of features for its ISO size.  Obviously the removal of Mono and its associated “wares” gave the Netrunner developers plenty of room to include packages that people would actually want to use, so don’t expect to find any “brain teaser” Mono game bloat here.

DE is handled by Gnome, which Ive made no secret I recently (reluctantly) started to move away from on the grounds of increasing Mono relationship.  Its nice to see Gnome present without the Mono tainting and Netrunner facilitates Kernel 2.6.31-14.

Looking at the package list we see an absence of the “play once” games, which is no bad thing, if people really want to play them then installing themselves is very easy.

Without going into detail of packages that are well covered on this blog and elsewhere, Netrunner ships with Firefox 3.5.3, Openoffice 3.1.1, Xchat 2.8.6, Brasero 2.28.1, as well as a plethora of other utils to cover just about everything you need to get you up and running/functional.

One of the unique features of this distro is that it comes pre-packaged with Wine (1.0.1) which I think is a great idea to appeal to the users who are maybe taking their first steps away from Windows.


The Gnome DE and no Mono in connection with its Ubuntu roots make this distro a winner in my opinion. Whilst I am going to favor any distro which excludes Mono as default it has to be remembered how rock solid Ubuntu is.  Even when booting from the LiveCD a few things struck me, first was the speed.  I cannot say if this is due to the absence of Mono or the tinkering in other area’s by the Netrunner team, but Netrunner LiveCD is noticeably faster on the same machine than Ubuntu LiveCD(from which its based).

New users should not be put off by the fact that this distro isn’t coming from Canonical since the install procedure and operation of the distro itself is just as user-friendly as its Ubuntu cousin.

One of the other things which struck me was the removal of all the silly play once games and the streamlining of apps packaged as default, when customizing Netrunner to my requirements, I found myself removing very little.

So what didn’t I like?  Firstly I’ll start with the extremely petty, the name.  Netrunner suggests to me a distro for a Netbook and whilst Netrunner would sit very happily on one, its default packaging doesn’t suggest that this was the sole intention of the developer.  I think Netrunner sells the distro a little short since this is a fully fledged OS that would be just as happy on a desktop in the office or at home.  The Gnome taskbar is set up in a way which I didn’t personally like and if you are going to have a shortcut bar and menu bar, then instead of piling them on top of each other would have suggested one at the top and one at the bottom.  In regards to the two bars I would have also liked to have seen a more “modern” looking style.  This distro should (as could) act as one to entice users away from a Windows platform/other distro’s and the rather dated looking bars are not doing it justice.  For me they are ideal and its exactly what I like, however Im probably old/boring so no measuring stick for style.

I think Netrunner developers have shown that space does not need to be a concern, GIMP is present along with every other utility you could possible want to get functionality that you require.  Of course I would list “improvements” on the default packaging, but these are based on my own personal preferences.  Let me example some, firstly replace Brasero for the KDE app K3B, Ive been let down by Brasero of late and have switched to K3b with no further issues.  Xchat I would have replaced with Irssi or BitchX although since this distro is aimed at both new/old users then I think Xchat is the better choice.  I would have stuck with Canonical’s choice of Transmission instead of Vuse although the later is by no means inferior its merely that Transmission (for those with an Ubuntu history) will be the more familiar.

I am quite sure there are going to be some people upset by this distro, I remember when Mononono was released and the shouts of “killing the FOSS” and “blights on FOSS” were called.  Of course that isnt the case, software freedom is about just that, the freedom to choose and maybe if Mono was offered as an “Opt in” instead of “Opt out” it would be looked at with less suspicion.   Unfortunately there are some distro’s who are including it, I wouldn’t like to comment on the numbers of users who are not happy with Mono, however you can’t help but notice the amount of bad press it gets every time a Mono subject is brought up.  To me that cannot be good for any distro and when you look at the hard work that Canonical has put into Ubuntu one has to worry if its Mono association will damage it.

Don’t let this first release of Netrunner make you think its incomplete, I’ll stress this is a fully functional, damn good distro.  I expect Netrunner now only to improve on the solid first steps it has already made.

Highly recommended and Im glad that at least the developers of Netrunner have returned “the gift to the world” of Mono back to the shop.

You can visit the homepage of Netrunner here:

Goblin –