New Distros Released, Linux Keeps Getting Better

Just a couple of brief things relating to Linux Mint 6 KDE CE and a new (to me) distro called moonOS.

Let’s start with Mint.  On Wednesday, Linux Mint 6 KDE CE was released.  Based on Ubuntu Intrepid and using KDE 4.2, I think that this is the first usable KDE 4.x distro to be released.   Mint KDE ships with the default Oxygen theme, which is actually very distinctive, but not what I would call beautiful.  Thankfully KDE remains the desktop tweakers choice in Linux desktops, easily customizable.  With this release, KDE 4 finally comes to the masses and it is apparent that a firm foundation has been laid for future development.  The development team at Mint deserves credit for being the first out the door with a usable KDE 4.x.

Also worth noting is that this past Tuesday Linux Mint 6 Fluxbox CE was also released, I am not a fan of Fluxbox so I have no comment to make.  But if you are, then check it out.

The other distro that I wish to mention is a new one (to me) called moonOS.  moonOS comes out of Cambodia and is based on Ubuntu, like Mint it uses the same repositories as Ubuntu.  moonOS uses the E17 desktop which is fairly lightweight and fun to work with.  What sets moonOS apart is the themeing that has been done, it is unique, beautiful, and very funcional.  Check out the screenshots, as you can see it has a very Asian feel to it, at least in this Westerner’s mind.  It seems that moonOS has managed to break out of the sterile machine feel of most distros.  It is clear that a lot of time and energy (and talent) went into this release.  I had no problems getting it up to speed on my Toshiba laptop.  While their are a few niggles in version 2 which was released about 7 or 8 weeks ago, development is underway for version 3.

With Mint’s graduation into the top tier of distros, moonOS has become my favorite up and coming distro…go check them both out…

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Linux Mint 6 KDE CE RC1 To Be Released

Keep an eye on this page, it should be released at any time.  KDE is back and it is better than ever.

I checked out the newly released Debian 5, it comes with KDE 3.5x and it is screaming fast and well put together.  If you are afraid of change and want a stable and fast system, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

But for those who want to move into the new era of QT 4, Mint 6 KDE CE is the way to go.  I expect it on Monday.  I got my hands on an advance copy and put it on my laptop.  After playing with it for a few hours…making sure that wireless, power management, and easy customization were available…I went ahead and overwrote my Windows partition and gave over the laptop to it.

So far, no regrets.   In my mind, the thing that sets KDE above all others it the applications…Amarok, Digikam, and K3B are all better than anything available on any other desktop (yes, I am aware that this is subjective).

Even though this is an RC, in two days of heavy testing I have not really found any bugs with the Mint release.  And this is from one who thought that the Mint devs had made a serious mistake in going with KDE 4 with this release, I did not think it was ready and I had underestimated the prowess of the lead Mint KDE dev, Boo.  I really thought that Mint should skip this CE release, after all the prevous release was great, and focus on getting the Mint tools ported to QT and getting ready for the next release…I was wrong.  And never has it felt so good to be so wrong.

The KDE devs deserve props for doing what they knew to be right in the face of opposition from the community.  I know they took a lot of undeserved heat from folks, some of it downright nasty, but they stayed above it and persevered despite the naysayers…all I can say is; “Great Job!”

To Boo for his thankless devotion, to Clem for demanding what he knew was possible, I say kudos and props, you’ve earned it.

Now go follow the above link, see if the release has happened yet.  It is a live CD so you can check it out without making a commitment.

Edit: Hmmm….  Maybe it won’t get an official release, you can download it here.

KDE on Windows

I’ve been hearing about this project for quite some time…but I hadn’t heard how it was progressing in quite some time. Last I heard they had Amarok running but it did not actually play music.
Today I had some time to waste, and I stumbled across the KDE for Win website, so I gave it a try.  I put it on my laptop as I expected it to bork my system…and I would much rather rebuild my laptop than my desktop.  I downloaded the KDE installer and that gave me the option of installing a bunch of  packages.  I chose Amarok, Digikam, Games, and some others.  To my surprise it downloaded and installed them, much more surprising was that the applications ran!!  I played some games, they were good.  I opened and configured Amarok but I only had a few albums on my laptop so I could not test the library management features.  Same for Digikam, no picture collection to play with.  I decided that if I could get the KDE stuff to uninstall I would go ahead and install it on my desktop…I found that if you run the installer it unintsalls fine.

So I put Amarok and Digikam (with Kipi plugins!) on my main desktop.  I have about 5000 pictures and more than 20000 songs, so I really appreciate good management tools.  And both of these are best of class.

I was amazed by how well they run.  They are close to “being there”.  I loaded up my libraries and actually have them both running.  There are still missing features but I don’t know if they have yet to be implemented in KDE 4 or if they are waiting to be ported to Windows.

I bring this subject up because if you are a fan of KDE and its apps, you should really check this project out…it has come a long way…

I believe KDE has large goals for Windows…even hoping to replace the Windows shell some day…

I wish them well and thank them for the work they have put into making this possible…a job well done.

Edit: (in response to a personal email) No, neither Amarok or Digikam are ready for prime time.  There is something called kio slave that keeps crashing.    Both apps load the library but are slow and somewhat unstable, not all features are implemented.  Amarok is closer to primetime than Digikam.

KDE Gets Some Mint Loving

Great to read over at the Linux Mint Blog that the KDE community edition will be getting more respect.

For those who are unaware, the Linux Mint KDE CE is maintained by community member Boo from Australia.  Unlike Kubuntu, this KDE edition is put together with the same love as goes into the main edition–it is not an after thought.  Without attempting to copy the main edition, the Mint KDE CE has beautiful artwork and a great default theme.  If there were no Gnome edition, this edition would be getting a lot more attention…and in my estimation, it would predominantly be positive.  The crew at Linux Mint deserve huge kudos for elevating this edition to more of what it deserves.

I run the main (Gnome) edition on my desktop and the KDE edition on my laptop, they are both beautiful and functional–the value added that Mint brings to this distro should not be under estimated…here’s looking to more stellar releases…

Why is the GUI turning into a clownish experience?

I do my best to not care much about the underlying OS. I run my computer in order to run applications in order to achieve goals. I prefer to forget about the OS and concentrate at completing tasks.

However, the major GUI’s seem to be heading toward making their respective OS’s look very clowinish…some would say outright garrish.

Window’s XP’s system notification balloons constantly intrude into my work. Not that I am opposed to system notifications…MS needs to implement an easy means to set up filters on these. XP’s giant rounded start button looks like it belongs inside a child’s game, not left as a constant eyesore on my desktop. Basically the XP default GUI with its rounded bright blue in-your-face appeal, seems as if it were designed for a clown to use during a skit about how goofy computing has become. And Vista…don’t even get me started…the best thing I can say about it is that Gates and Co. still have time for a complete overhaul of the UI. Let me illustrate my point with a single example; in the Beta 2 when you click on the clown looking button with windows logo on it, then hover over the right column, the picture at the top of the column changes. When you are hovering near it, it is somewhat useful. But when you are further away from it, near the bottom, it just becomes distractful flickering at the visual periphery. Clownish! Because we can! Not because it might be useful.
On the Linux front, Gnome seems much more clownish than KDE, with Fedora Core 5 seeming to be the most clownish of the major distros. At least with Linux you get more tweaking options, you can turn the most clownish distro into a sedate desktop with just a little work.

OS X’s (Tiger) default install with the giant dock and things bouncing for your attention is pretty clownish too. With the recent announcement of Core Animation this is only going to get worse, just as XGL (or whatever eventually catches on) is going to make things worse on the Linux desktop. I am not here claiming these technologies are bad, I am simply stating that they will be mis-used. Apple’s own use of animation in the OS is outlandish enough, let’s not bring this power to every two-bit shareware developer.

I think clownish sells. It looks good in the adverts. It looks good at the demos. As computers become “good enough” it becomes increasingly difficult to sell an OS upgrade, so they duct tape eye candy nonsense on top to make it seem new and innovative. Enough already.

In my computing experience, Windows 2000 was the first OS to become good enough on the desktop. In my mind OS X 10.3x is good enough, also. Has anything been released or announced for these products which make them more usable? Only search, and that is rather trivial.
But this is not to argue against refinement of the GUI experience, I only argue that this refinement (or even complete overhaul) of the experience should be based on usability. Usability and….well, pretty much nothing else.

Where is the innovation on the desktop? Ubuntu gets credit for using a brown theme in defiance of the blue grey/silver/undefined light-color which predominates the desktop. MS gets credit for the next Office update. Anybody else?

All I ask is for a useful platform to run my programs without making it seem as if they reside within a child’s game. Is that too much to ask?

openSUSE Rocks

I usually give SUSE a try every major release.  The last one I had tried was 9.2 which I actually bought with books and everything.  My recent misadventures with Xandros 4 (which I also bought) led me to try other distros before giving up and resorting to Windows again.  Tried FC5, but I don’t know enough about gnome to make the stuff work that I need to work, so I downloaded SUSE 10.1.  The propietary ATI driver installed without a hitch and I was up and working fast.  I think Novell has hit a home run with this release.  A simple UI without a bunch of bouncing garbage cluttering up the view.  This distro can not be called beautiful, but to me the beauty is in the function, not the form.  I’ve never really liked XP, I’ve even been quoted as saying that Win 2k was my favorite OS.  XP was out for years before I even tried it, and then I immediatly switched it to classic mode.  It was only in 2004 with the purchase of a Media Center (refurbished HP) and a tablet (refurbished Averatec) that I came to terms with XPs eye candy.  If my father were tech savy, he would say that this eye candy is a lot like having tits on a boar.

So, I like the cleanliness of SUSE.  Plus the KDE software family have seen tremendous gains in usability lately.  Amarok is a full featured music player/manager that is ad free.  While ad free music players were once common, they are rare these days.  I installed google’s Picasa, but found that I prefer Digikam for photo management/light editing.

The only thing that I am really missing at this point is a web development tool.  I tried Nvu, I can’t get it to open a php file on linux…but it works fine on Windows and Mac??  KDE includes Quanta Plus, and while it is fine, if you try to use the WYSIWYG interface, you are asking for trouble. I am currently running Dreamweaver in crossover office, but that is an imperfect solution.

I want to try novell’s new SLED 10, but I don’t want to muss up my current install.  When Vista RC1 is released, I will give it a try  and also try SLED…but I am thinking I will return to openSUSE.

Kudos to the developers, you people rock!