30 Apr 2012

Announcing the poll results

A month ago I announced a poll regarding recent changes in the blog. There were different questions about different aspects of the articles I publish.
It is time now to get the results published.

28 Apr 2012

Special non-blog post has been distributed

A week ago I announced a unusual e-mail which I was going to send to all my e-mail subscribers.
I have done this today.
So, please check your inbox.
If you see this message, but not the "special edition", then please write to me with a request to re-send. I know e-mail system is not reliable.

27 Apr 2012

Ubuntu 12.04: A Stairway To Heaven?

Many of Linux users waited for that day, the 26th of April 2012. The day when Canonical released their Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin. The day when Unity became the only available desktop environment for the current long-term support version of Ubuntu.

The day has come.

Let's see what it brought.

Canonical stuck to the classical ISO image size this time: only 700 Mb, which is just fine to be burnt onto CD.

As usual, there are several options available, either in terms of the system (32- and 64 bit, desktop and server, text-only and graphical installation), or in terms of downloading options (direct download from a mirror or using a torrent). I chose 32-bit desktop version and used torrent this time.

Downloading of ISO image from the torrent was not a big problem. Initial downloading speed was low, but I guess that was an issue of the last mile, i.e. my connection to the provider. Soon that problem was resolved, and I got my own ISO image of the Ubuntu 12.04 operating system.

This time the image was burnt onto the CD-R disk, because I was fulfilling orders which came via my eBay site and via Buy Linux CDs page. I usually quickly test each CD for the ability to boot and to run few programs. That's why I decided to use one of those CDs to get my own picture of Ubuntu 12.04.

So, CD is in the drive of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from optical drive. Let's go!

25 Apr 2012

SliTaz 4.0: light and stable

When I first started this blog, I tended to write mostly about pocket-size distributions. SLAX and Puppy Linux were my first ones. And I still love them.

Even though I've branched into more heavyweight distributions since that time, pocket-size small Linux distributions are still my favourites. I like trying them out, and then writing about them for you, my readers.

SliTaz is one of those small-size distributions. I reviewed SliTaz 3.0 earlier. It unexpectedly declined to work on my relatively old laptop Compaq C300 at that time, but worked on a newer Toshiba L500-19X. It was more than a year ago. Much has changed since then. First, I no longer use my Compaq laptop, and Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 became my main guinea pig. Second, and this is more important, a new version of SliTaz was released.

So, SliTaz 4.0 was released in stable version on the 10th of April 2012.

The ISO image grew in size a little bit since last time, but remained absolutely tiny - only 35 Mb. It means that you can download and burn it to your disk in no time. In my case, I burnt the ISO image onto a DVD-RW disk. The Buy Linux CDs site does not offer SliTaz in the list, but you can request one using the contact form, if you want.

So, the disk is ready and inserted into the optical drive of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from DVD. Let’s go!

23 Apr 2012

Devil Live twins of OpenBSD: the project is kicking

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about twin brothers in the world of Open Source. They are not Linux-related, but rather BSD-based operating systems: LiveCD OpenBSD and LiveUSB OpenBSD.

If you re-read those posts, you may notice that I was not happy with those operating systems at all. They were not working more often than they were working.

Since that time, I talked to the author of the project, Girish, several times. He let me know recently that the project has an updated release, published on the 10th of April 2012. I must admit that it was not the only release since my first review of LiveCD/LiveUSB OpenBSD. But the one(s) you probably missed were not worth reviewing, from my point of view.

Now, let's check what has changed recently.

As it was before, there are 3 versions of the operating system available for downloading: Full, MiniX and Minimal. I chose the Full version. It is about 1.7 Gb in archive file form. The file is hosted on Sourceforge network, so you are likely to get good downloading speed. Once the file is downloaded, you need to use an archiver to get the ISO image out of the archive. Not a big deal, to be sure.

Even though the project officially bears the title "LiveCD OpenBSD", this is not the LiveCD in normal terms, in the form we are used to seeing it. Yes, you still need a CD (or a DVD for the full version). Once the disk is burnt, you need to boot from it and then... you still need to create a LiveUSB with the actual system! Yes, you can't use the LiveCD for work. It is only a step to create a LiveUSB. I think that this is not useful for popularisation of the distribution, and this is one of the areas which the developer might well look into.
Update: the developer updated me that he's looking into improvement in this area.

The process of installation itself is simple and is fully described on the screen which is presented by the installer CD.

So, using this unusual way, the LiveUSB was created for me. Reboot. Let's go!

21 Apr 2012

Something unusual is coming!

You may have noticed that I was not writing much reviews of Linux distributions in the recent past.

The reason for this is that I was away for holidays.

Of course, new reviews are coming. The next one is scheduled to be published in a couple of days.

In the meantime, I’d like to excuse a little bit more. I am preparing an absolutely unique post. I’ve never done this before, and this is unlikely I’ll do it in the future.

To be precise, this won’t be a blog post. Rather, this will be an e-mail, which I will send to all my e-mail subscribers. This e-mail will not be about Linux, but still about our favourite Tux.

Puzzled? Interested? Intrigued? Baffled?

Don’t waste your time – subscribe to this blog right now. The subscription form is on your right, or just under this text. The e-mail will be sent in a week’s time, and only to those who will be in verified subscribers’ list on the 27th of April 2012.

Subscribe to e-mail updates:

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20 Apr 2012

Артем Зорин о Zorin OS - воротах в мир Linux для пользователей Windows

Чаще всего имя бренда – это что-то абстрактное. General Electric, FIAT, Airbus, Pepsico, RedHat – названия всех этих компаний не имеют ничего общего с именами их основателей. Тем не менее, иногда имя человека становится именем бренда. Разрешите мне представить человека, чье имя стало брендом, по крайней мере, в мире Линукса: Артем Зорин.

Посколько и я, и Артем - русские, проживающие за границей, это интервью доступно на двух языках: русском и английском.
English version of the interview with Artyom Zorin.

DarkDuck: Привет, Артем. Я думаю, что твоя фамилия более широко известна, чем ты сам, потому что ее носит популярный дистрибутив Линукса. Расскажи, пожалуйста, немного о себе.

Artyom Zorin: Меня зовут Артем Зорин. Я – студент из Дублина, Ирландия. Мои родители – русские, переехавшие из Украины в Ирландию много лет назад. Именно поэтому мое имя не похоже на обычные ирландские имена. Я начал экспериментировать и работать с Линуксом в 2008 году, и это привело меня к разработке операционной системы Zorin OS, над которой мы работаем совместно с моим братом Кириллом.

19 Apr 2012

Artyom Zorin on Zorin OS, the gateway to Linux for Windows users

Most often than not, the brand has an abstract name. General Electric, FIAT, Airbus, Pepsico, RedHat – all these companies have names which have nothing to do with names of their founders. Although, there are still some cases when person’s name becomes a name of the brand. Let me introduce a person who’s name became a brand. At least, in the Linux world. Please meet: Artyom Zorin.

Because both me and Artyom are Russians living abroad, the interview is available in both English and Russian.
Русская версия интервью с Артемом Зориным.

DarkDuck: Hello Artyom. I think your surname is more famous than you are, because a popular Linux distribution bears it. Could you please tell few words about yourself?

Artyom Zorin: My name is Artyom Zorin. I'm a student from Dublin, Ireland. My parents are ethnic Russians who moved from Ukraine to Ireland many years ago, which explains why my name doesn't sound like a normal Irish one. I have been playing around and working on Linux since 2008 and this led me onto developing the Zorin OS operating system with my brother Kyrill.

18 Apr 2012

Pre-order your own disk with Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu or Lubuntu 12.04 NOW!!!

With the coming release of next long-term support version of Ubuntu 12.04 just a week away, many of you already looking for downloading of your own ISO image of the system.
But many of you are not so lucky, and will need to wait longer, because you can not or do not want to create their own CDs with operating system images.
Here we are to help!
You can pre-order your own copy of Ubuntu 12.04 (or Xubuntu, or Lubuntu, or Kubuntu) right now. It means that CD with your favourite OS will be burnt to you as early as possible, and dispatched on the 26th of April, or soon after. Dispatched to anywhere in the world.
How you can get the CD? Go to http://buylinuxcds.co.uk site, purchase the Ubuntu CD from there, and in the PayPal comments state that you want version 12.04. If you want K-, L- or Xubuntu, state it also in the same comment. That's easy.

To help you even further, here is a mini-shop which you can use straight away. It supports PayPal checkout, similar to Buy Linux CDs site.

UK (2.00 GBP):
Ubuntu 12.04 pre-order (UK)
USA (6.50 USD):
Ubuntu 12.04 pre-order (USA)
Other countries (4.50 GBP):
Ubuntu 12.04 pre-order (Other countries)

17 Apr 2012

Six (plus one) ways to use Linux Live CDs in your business

Do you think an operating system should always be installed on the hard disk of a computer?
It was true up until a certain point. Things changed when Knoppix Live CD was released by Klaus Knopper in 2000.
Knoppix was a pioneer in Live CD for Linux, and it still remains one of the most respectable Linux distributions. Of course, Knoppix is not alone. There are many more Linux distributions available on the market now that can run in Live mode.
There are basically two types of media which you can use as your Live Linux: CD/DVD or USB. Some distributions allow you to have Live USB, some only work from optical media. In both cases, some distributions allow you to save changes you’ve made. This feature is called “Persistence.”
Here are the main ways in which Live Linux can help your business.

#1 Evaluate the features and compatibility of new releases

This is the main reason why most Linux distributions currently have the ability to run in Live mode. You can check new features, hardware compatibility, and get a general feel for a Linux distribution right away without the need to install it on your hard drive.
If your company runs Linux on desktops or servers, Live run can help you with the initial evaluation of new releases. Of course, thorough testing should be done when the OS is installed, but running Live can help you in your decision-making.

#2 Test the security of your network

There are some specific distributions on the market which aim at the niche of security specialists. The most famous and most powerful of them is Backtrack Linux (now Kali). It is a Live CD which hosts lots of tools for security specialists. Even if you have no security specialists on staff, it is worth it to periodically check your network vulnerability using the most common testing tools.
Of course, you don’t need these tools in your everyday life, that’s why having Live CD is the most convenient way to run the checks.
Another purpose of Backtrack Linux could be forensic research if you need to investigate any suspicious activity of users on your systems.

#3 Perform one-off tasks

Do you plan your office party? Do you want to invite a professional DJ or maybe just prepare your in-house mix? Or maybe you want to make a short video to show your customers or vendors, but don’t have enough budget for a professional team of multimedia creators or editors.
Live Linux can help you here. There are distributions which are oriented to the multimedia market: running your own DJ set or editing video is easier when you have the proper tools. Musix and PureDyne are good examples.
Of course, usage of multimedia-oriented Live Linux CDs is not the only area. There are many more niche-oriented distributions which host useful software for specific tasks.
Because these are one-off tasks, you don’t want and don’t need to install additional software onto your hard drive. Run it from Live CD!

#4 Secure your transactions

It is not true that you can use only pre-built Live Linux distributions. Some of them like SLAX or Puppy have a persistence option or the ability to add your own configuration steps. It can help you, for example, to secure your financial transactions. Pre-configure your SLAX, save changes as an additional module and run this operating system from a CD or from USB without saving further changes. What do you have in this case? A stable, secure system that prevents an intruder from being able to change it and activate malicious code. You may use it, for example, during access to your online bank.

#5 Impress your customers (or suppliers)

You just have finished a very important meeting with a potential customer. It’s time to say goodbye and leave a business card. Stop! Who says your business card has to be paper? You can have it on plastic with your name on one side and a recorded CD or DVD on another. Yes, modern technology allows you to record information on almost any piece of plastic.
So, your customer puts your business card into a CD reader (sounds funny, isn’t it?) and starts…your own operating system! It is branded with your name. It brings full-featured copy of your website right to the customer’s desktop. It lists all the marketing materials which you usually send by post or hand out during presentations - and all of them are in electronic format.
It’s just another application of Live Linux…
And yes…customers can install it on their own desktop or laptop computers, if they want.

#6 Use for low-maintenance computers

How many times do you see powerful computers with huge hard disks being used for trivial tasks? Let me give you some examples: print servers, routers, Internet kiosks. Do they actually need hard disks? Almost surely the answer is no. Then, why do they boot from a hard disk?
Let’s start them off Live Linux CD or USB instead. As a bonus, you have stable system which can be easily restored to initial state (and nothing else) in a matter of seconds. It is well-protected from external intruders, hackers and silly users — there is no place to record malicious code. It is easy to maintain as the only operation you may need there, if any, is reset/reboot. It is quick, because most of the time it runs from memory. It’s low in resource requirements, because Linux distributions like TCL, DSL and Puppy were built with low-resource computers in mind.
Dust off your old computer and make it a print server instead of a current quadro-core monster!
As you can see from above, there are lots of places where every company can employ Linux, and not only Linux working as a normally installed operating system, but also as small and modest Live Linux systems.
Do you use any of them in your company right now? How do you like to use Live Linux in your workplace?

This post was first published as guest post at TechRepublic. But readers of my own blog have benefit of yet one more...

Bonus reason. And the most obvious one:

#7 Save your data

When your OS fails to boot (whatever it is, Windows or Linux) or hard disk starts playing funny games... Boot your computer from Live CD or USB with Linux. It can save you lots of time and efforts to save data on computer. Once data are copied to safer place, you can think of re-installing OS or repairing the disk.

13 Apr 2012

When is it time to change your operating system?

Image by Exey Panteleev

Can you imagine yourself in any of these situations?
  • You sit in front of your computer, whether a laptop or desktop, look at the screen, move your mouse and … wait until the computer is ready to take your commands. But, the computer is too busy doing other operations to respond to your commands …
    There are 1001 reasons why your Windows-based computer can behave like this. There could be issues with programs, errors in the Windows registry, running low on memory, viruses or other causes.
  • Your Windows gets … blue screen of death!
  • You need to pay (yet again…) for the newer version of your OS. Every time you upgrade your OS, you have to pay Microsoft.
Do you want to end these problems??? Yes, you do!


12 Apr 2012

Danny Pop: Give me my Linux and computers back!

Linux part of blogosphere is quite big. Different people take different niches there.
My blog, for example, is for people who want to read relatively short reviews of options available in different Linux distributions.
Other niches are taken by Guillermo Garron or Geek-in-Pink.
Today I will introduce you yet another person who writes blog about Linux. Please meet: Daniel Pop.

10 Apr 2012

Don't forget the newbies!

Let's say you're someone who has been using Linux for a while now. You've become used to installing new distros, you've built firmly established preferences for deb or rpm and KDE or Gnome, and the command line holds no more terror for you. You have become a part of the community, perhaps even a well-known and trusted forum contributor. It has been a long time since you had to resort to a wiki to learn the meaning of a technical term.
I'm a noob.
Image by Andrew*

But that wasn't always true. You were once a newbie, standing wide-eyed at the base of a long, steep learning curve and wondering whether it would really be worth the enormous effort it would take to climb it. On the way, it wasn't always clear you'd ever get to where you wanted, but you kept at it and succeeded. Good for you! Now it's time to give others a hand up.

The Linux community is famously helpful, of that there is no doubt. Post any reasonable question on any good-sized forum and you'll have an answer in an amazingly short time. But what happens if you post a poorly-expressed, vague question? That's when the bullies strike, descending on you like angry raccoons, nipping at you with curses like RTFM.

What if you're a newbie? Where do you look for the FM you are meant to have read? And how are you going to frame a well-expressed question when you are still learning the most elementary parts of the Linux vocabulary? In that angry moment a potential Linux user can be turned away permanently, and Microsoft will get to retain another victim.

I spent a good bit of my life as a professor, teaching students at all levels from freshmen to PhD candidates. I saw how easy it was for a student to be turned away from a subject by intellectual bullying, most often by a new Teaching Assistant so proud of his new-found knowledge that he had to flaunt it to impress the student. I hate to see that happening on Linux forums.

I grant you, it takes a good deal of patience to help out someone who is really, really new and ill-prepared, with little experience at computing beyond the passive obedience that is required to use Windows successfully. I was that someone myself, three years ago, intrigued by everything I had read about Linux and eager to take on the task of learning, but still mired in the Learned Helplessness that prolonged use of Windows creates.

Fortunately for me, between the many patient folks who answered my vague questions and the great Linux books by people like Carla Schroder, Keir Thomas, Brian Proffitt, and Mark Sobell, my climb up the learning curve began joyfully and still goes on. I'm nowhere near the top, but I'm far enough along to give a helping hand to those just starting up the slope.

I encourage you to do the same. Be kind when you answer, be patient when a newbie can't seem to understand, take the time to remember what you felt like when someone expressed an answer so clearly your understanding burst forth like a Compiz exploding window. There's only one feeling better than that: knowing you caused it!

This is a guest post by Emery Fletcher.

7 Apr 2012

Host Your Own Video with Flowplayer

Video can be a powerful tool to deliver information over the Internet for marketing, corporate training, or social media purposes. Most people who think of Internet video probably think of YouTube first, but sometimes public hosting is not the best option for your video. What do you do, for example, if you want to upload a confidential interview, or training material for your employees to use on the corporate intranet? You might want to incorporate marketing video on your site without any YouTube branding, or your corporate policy might block YouTube at your firewall. In these cases you can self-host videos with Flowplayer and make them available on web pages to anyone with a browser.

5 Apr 2012

Linuxaria: I really fell in love with the idea of Open Source and GPL even before I actually installed my first Linux

Some time ago I announced a poll where I gather your opinion about the different changes on this blog. One of the questions there relates to interviews. Even though I have not published the results yet (you can still vote), I can tell that majority of my readers like the interviews.
I think I will continue with this line on the blog. And today I am happy to present you the interview with Riccardo Capecchi. You may or may not know his name, but you are more than likely know his blog - Linuxaria.

3 Apr 2012

Unity, GNOME3, Windows 8 and… jumping rats

I am not a full-time Linux blogger, you know. I am an IT consultant. It means that from time to time I have to run a training course about the software I implement.

More often than not, I start my training course with a parable I adore.
Lively Eyes on a Lifeless Corpse
Image by Furryscaly
A group of scientists made an experiment. They gathered a few rats in a box and started to lower a piece of cheese for them. Once the rats started to jump in the attempt to be first to reach the cheese, scientists poured cold water on them. This way, they taught these rats not to jump while the cheese is in the air. Wait until it is on the floor.

Then, one of the rats was replaced with a fresh one. Cheese started to come down and new rat… did not move!

One after another, all the trained rats were eventually replaced with rats who never felt cold water on their skin. But… no one jumped for the cheese!

Why? Because this was a rule for the place!
Why do I like the parable? Because very often people see only one way of doing things, and simply because everyone does the same. But there is always another way, and sometimes this way is better than the old one.

Stop, you may think. What has all this to do with Linux and Open Source?

It actually has lots to do! Not only for Linux, but also for the mightiest competitor: Microsoft Windows. Years 2011 and 2012 brought, and will bring, significant changes to all of these operating systems. Maybe not on the core level, but certainly on the user interface level. Unity, GNOME3, and now Windows 8 user interface styles are... I won’t say they are bad or wrong. I will say they are different.

Many people wrote on the Internet about their rants, excitement, pros and contras. I myself did not stand aside from that battle. I compared them both on early stages and running in the same Ubuntu system. But the war is far from being finished. It has just started. There will be more to come when the new Windows 8 eventually hits the shelves of computer stores. This wave promises to be much stronger than the Unity and GNOME3 ones.

But why is this war happening? One of the reasons, and far from the most productive, is that people got used to "good old" principles of desktop organisation. There should be a panel, taskbar, desktop icons, panel shortcuts and so on. They must exist on the user’s desktop. They were there for 17 years now, starting from Windows 95. Or even longer, if we look at early versions of Mac OS. Where no such items exist, there is a risk for the user to feel stuck.

But does it all mean that "classical" desktop is better than "new" one? Not necessarily! The only person who should really decide is the user. Not only the user who feels himself comfortable with the CLI interface of a Unix server, but also the user whose only task on the computer is to start the Internet browser and check the e-mail or Facebook page.

Let’s stop ranting and blaming new interface in dumbness and all the sins in the world. Let users decide! Let developers follow the users’ needs and add features when and as they needed!

If you don't understand why you need to wait for the cheese to go down, don't stop others from jumping.

1 Apr 2012

Hsiloof Linux: The Real Breakthrough, No More Wine!

There are plenty of things that you can do when you have plenty of money.

Mark Shuttleworth, for example, spent some of his fortune for the privilege of being one of the first space tourists. Another part of his capital is involved in the company named Canonical, which works on the famous Linux distribution, Ubuntu.

Russian oligarchs have not been enrolled in the list of space tourists yet. But, they spend money generously, too. There are football (Chelsea, Arsenal, Monaco, Anzhi) and basketball clubs (NJ Nets), yachts and other expensive projects.