To what extent can you tinker and customize Ubuntu when compared and contrasted with Debian?

Well recently I was using Ubuntu KDE, i.e. Kubuntu. You can customize it to look and feel pretty much like anything you want!

For example, are you tired of the Ubuntu logo rotating as your computer boots? You can change that. Are you tired of the boring login screen when you type your password? You can change that with two programs I helped write. Here they are.

ISS-Sunrise shows the sun rising over Earth while your computer is booting. You candownload it here and follow the instructions in the readme file.

PenguinOfLiberty is an alternative login screen with animation and sound. You can download it here. Again follow the included instructions. They come as zip files. Unzip them by clicking on them. Ubuntu will give you an option to extract the files. Extract them all.

I like PenguinOfLiberty. It shows a statue of Liberty that looks like a Linux Penguin at night. There are little stars floating about and sounds from the city and the ocean sounds you might hear in New York. I spent a lot of time developing the sound track. It annoys my wife whenever I reboot my computer, though!

Here’s a screen shot of the login screen on my computer.

Why I switched from OpenSUSE Tumbleweed to Kubuntu to Fedora

I’ve been doing this awhile – installing Linux on my computer is my hobby. By “awhile” I mean I first started using Linux back in the 1990s. I ran RedHat Linux before it went public!

Let me tell you about my journey from stable point releases to full-rolling distros back to point to point distros and now to Fedora.

Everybody, and I do mean everybody in the Linux world has a million opinions about which Linux OS or desktop environment is best. You can see people arguing this stuff intensely online! I have no intention to try to convince you which Linux to run. I’ve run a lot of them over the years. No sense in naming them.

For stability, I settled on “point to point” distros for years. These included Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE Leap – the list will go on and on, trust me.

The problem is that most of these require you to do a reinstall of the OS when there comes along a major upgrade every six or twelve months or so.

It occurred to me, then to move from Ubuntu Studio (which I was using a year ago) to something completely different. I went with Manjaro Linux, a rolling distribution based on Arch. From there I went to Antergos and stayed there a long time.

Then I switched, just to be different, and went with OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, a rolling distribution that worked great for me. I used it for an exceptionally long time – a few months I believe.

Now, as a Linux hobbyist, I’m always fiddling, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken my Linux and had to reinstall! What ultimately happened, though, is that my Tumbleweed system broke all by itself with just a simple upgrade. Then it happened two or three more times and I got frustrated. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed began to look unstable and frustrating to me.opensuse_tumbleweed_01

Said I to my wife (who tolerates me – she runs Windows on her computer), “That’s the problem with rolling distributions. I’m going back to something more stable.

So I went with Kubuntu and was very happy for a long time.kubuntu

After some time, however, I did start to notice that online videos from sources like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, started to get “choppy,” which was very annoying. I reinstalled and it fixed it, but not completely. You could still detect a slight jerk in the video every 5 seconds. Oh how annoying that became. On top of that I started thinking about that selling point of the rolling distros: “Once you install a rolling distribution of Linux you will never have to reinstall it again.”

Well, I know that’s not completely true, because it can break, but it’s still a good selling point.

Then I started thinking about Fedora, the upstream distribution to RedHat Linux (a commercial version of Linux).

Fedora-Core-400x270

Fedora is a point to point distribution. There are minor security system and other updates, but the base system changes once every six months. And…. get this… you don’t have to reinstall to upgrade from Fedora 27 to Fedora 28 (for example). The whole thing can be upgraded simply from a command line interface.

So here I am. Fedora. (Also I’m using KDE these days, but that’s another journey to tell you about sometime.)

And guess what? The “jerking” of the videos? It doesn’t happen anymore! I didn’t expect that, but my video experience has improved many times over.

Of course, learning things like “dnf” instead of “apt-get” and getting things like kdenlive or ffmpeg working for me took some fiddling, but nothing too difficult and always easy to find help online.

That’s why I’m now using Fedora.

What’s your favorite Linux Distribution?

Make a comment below and participate in the discussion! Which is your favorite distribution of Linux, and why?

Ubuntu? Linux Mint? SolydXK? Arch? Antergos? Manjaro? Gentoo? Slackware? Calculate Linux? Puppy Linux? The names are obviously far too many to mention.

For the record, at present, I am using Manjaro KDE Plasma and exploring other distros in Oracle’s Virtual Box. I’m experimenting with Solus-Gnome.

KDE Activities vs Virtual Desktops vs Both

268307_389740747757019_285270731_nA long, long time ago, KDE was a simple a great desktop environment for use on Linux, but they started going off in weird directions that I couldn’t understand so I gravitated toward Linux Mint Mate. Now I’m back.

The problem I was having, even recently, was understanding what KDE’s Activities were. A lot of people complain that KDE is favoring Activities over Virtual Desktops and the KDE team say that Activities are the way to go.

Then there are those that wonder, “Aren’t ‘Activities’ just another way of implementing virtual desktops?”

I’m here today to tell you after using KDE Plasma 5 now for about 5 months I finally get it.

No, Activities are not virtual desktops. Yes, virtual desktops are essential. Activities make them even better.

Let’s say, by default, you have 4 virtual desktops, and you’ve set up your system so you can rotate between them with Ctrl-Alt-Right or Ctrl-Alt-Left.

Now, if you create another Activity, it will also have four virtual desktops, but a different set of virtual desktops. Therefore, you can have one set (aka Activity) with virtual desktops dedicated to entertainment where you watch videos, another Activity has four virtual desktops dedicated to following bitcoin prices, another Activity has four virtual desktops dedicated to downloading stuff, and so on.

Each Plasma Activity has its own set of virtual desktops. Each Activity can have different icons on their desktops, different backgrounds on their desktops, and so on.

It’s kind of like having whole different computer environments that you easily flip to and from with Superkey-Tab.

It’s brilliant. I’m back and I’m loving it.

Which Version of Linux is Right for You?

Do you know how many times I’ve heard that question asked in the media or various Linux magazines or what not? Too many. So I’m going to tell you KISS, Keep it simple, stupid. That is the philosophy of the Arch Linux distribution, but for those who are just starting out with Linux, I highly recommend Keep it Simple, Stupid by just going with Linux Mint. I use Linux Mint KDE when I use Linux Mint.

Now I’m an experienced user. I’ve used all kinds of distros from Arch itself as well as offshoots like Manjaro and Antergos to Gentoo and Slackware. I’ve used Debian, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, SolyXK, Fedora, openSUSE plus I use an Android phone (Android being a derivative of Linux developed by Google).

I’m not talking about installing these operating systems in a virtual box. I’m talking about actually installing it on my computer as my sole and only operating system for weeks, months or years at a time. So I really know what it’s like to live and work in a computer that runs Linux as it’s operating system.

This blog post – posted inside Linux. Although once I was also a kind of Windows XP expert, but I don’t even like, trust or understand Windows anymore. Everything I need is here on my computer and I pay nothing for the privilege of using any software I need. I’ve learned to meet all my needs inside a “Linux box” as we call it.

There’s people going to tell you to install this version or that version, and that’s fine. But if you’re just starting out, go with the most popular, robust and driver friendly version of them all that works right out of the box every time on every computer. Linux Mint.

Too Many Options

I cannot decide. There are too many options. A Microsoft Windows person would have no idea.

It’s all the fault of Linux, or more properly “GNU/Linux” pronounced “Gah-New Lin-ux” or sometimes “Gah-New Lin-ox.” Much to the distress of the GNU people who provide all the software for Linux and BSD systems, nobody wants to say “Gan-New” before “Linux.” The harsh reality is this: the vast majority of the public just calls it Linux.

First decision: Which Linux? There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of the open-source, free operating system. It’s already running on devices you probably own, like your modem, router, Android Phone, tablet and smart TV. At my house it also runs my Desktop Computer.

I feel secure in Linux. No viruses. No compromises. Safe, functional, beautiful, incredibly powerful.

So for the first choice I decided I wanted a “rolling distribution,” or one that once installed, it never had to be installed again. It will update itself forever, including the Linux kernel. I am tired of the versions that get outdated and have limited support after an expiration date. There is no need anymore to put up with that. There are both stable and “bleeding edge” rolling versions of Linux out there that do everything that Ubuntu or Mint do. Tough it out.

Next I needed it to be functional. Out of the box working, for the most part. At least in major areas. I shouldn’t have to have a command line prompt and build the entire operating system from the ground up like with Arch or Gentoo. I have no time for that. I wanted a version of Linux which made disk partitioning easy and left me with some kind of graphical interface when I’m done installing and at the same time which gives me complete control over what I’m putting on my computer.

Finally, I wanted to be slightly off the beaten path, but not too far off. I didn’t want Debian/Ubuntu/Mint family versions, or Red Hat versions, Gentoo derivatives or Slackware. Something different. I decided on Arch derivatives, and I narrowed that down to one: Antergos-OS. I did, in the process, over the years, explore all of the above options.

Second decision: What desktop environment? This is where Microsoft Window users are lost. They just have to accept whatever Microsoft has decided for them. They can customize their desktop to some degree, but not with the flexibility and complete range of power that someone using Linux has. In Linux we have many “DEs” such as KDE Plasma, Gnome 3, Mate, Xfce, Cinnamon, Deepin, Enlightenment, Openbox, Lxde and so on. Each of them handles things a little different, look a little different, have different functionalities, strengths and weaknesses.

The Desktop Environment is where I falter.

The desktop environment sits on top and is what your Window Manager serves up to you to interact with your operating system – I think.

For years I used a well-known desktop environment called Mate, and pronounced it “Mate” like the British version of a friend. Only recently I figured out it’s not pronounced like a British friend, but a two syllable word “ma-tay,” which I have trouble getting my head around.

I also used Cinnamon, but didn’t like it so much. Mate was my DE for years.

Then I got bored with it. I tried Unity. Hated it. So I went with Xfce, which is pronounced exactly like the letters of the alphabet. I couldn’t figure out and didn’t seem to like KDE Plasma. We’ll get back to that.

Then I migrated to Gnome and discovered that half the YouTube world mispronounces it as “Nome” when the developers want us to pronounce it “Gah-Nome” because the G means something – what I don’t know, but it’s really supposed to be pronounced “Gah-Nome.”

Then I went back and looked at KDE Plasma, the most popular of all.

Now I have all three on my computer. I can switch from one to the other: Gnome, Xfce and KDE Plasma. I have them all set up. They are all beautiful, have rotating wallpapers, intense functionality and so on. I can do anything. I can place Facebook games, watch Netflix, watch Amazon Videos and YouTube, work on my spreadsheet, write and update this blog – all from any of them. It’s hard to remember which DE I’m in at the moment. Let me check … Behold – I’m in Xfce, which is weird because for the last few weeks I’ve been inside Gnome and the last two days I’ve been setting up Plasma. Xfce was my first of these three.

With it all set up so nicely, I can’t decide. I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.

I guess if you don’t like this kind of problem and like having to pay money for an anti-virus subscription just to protect your computer from software you have to download from questionable sources, then go on using MS Windows. In Linux all our software comes from trusted “repositories” and is safe and sound, and we don’t have virus problems. See my earlier post about Linux Virus protection.

So for now, if I get bored, I just switch. Why should I be nailed down to some boring window environment when I can have anything I want and complete freedom with my computer?

Those are some of my reasons I run Linux on my desktop computer.

Musings of an Amuser

This is a wandering article. It’s about the flu, my computer, and software.

As I write, I’m sick with what I think is probably the flu. Probably, because I haven’t been to the doctor. I will probably go to the doctor before I have to go back to work so I don’t have to go back to work so I can get better.

In the environment of my work place I am exposed to many people. Some of those people have confirmed cases of the flu. It’s likely I contracted the flu, if that’s what I have, from there.

Oh, I’ve had the flu before. I have aches and pains, my muscles and joints ache. I have a fever of about 100 F. My nose is stuffy. I sleep all day and all night. The glands on my neck are swollen. My head is in a fog. I have no energy.

I think it’s probably the flu.

I sit here in front of my computer because I can’t stay on the couch in the living room all day. I try flipping through Facebook or Twitter, but my head is in a fog. I feel awful.

I’ve got some minor glitches with my computer which, for the last several days, is running on Ubuntu Studio. Most annoyingly, the volume control on my keyboard isn’t controlling the volume control of whatever comes out the speakers. If this were Linux Mint it would be okay, but it’s Ubuntu Studio. There’s several fixes I found when I Googled them, but I’m sick and don’t have the concentration or energy to do anything about it.

I did think about going back to Linux Mint. It wouldn’t be hard. I could do that even if I was sick. But I’m happy in the Ubuntu environment for now. I do miss the software repositories. I do miss a lot of stuff. It wouldn’t be much different. I’d be using the same desktop environment, xfce.

So what is it that I want to stay away from Linux Mint for now? I’m not sure.

I guess I don’t want to be held in a box, backed into a corner, with no other options. I’m a “computer freedom” guy. It’s why I have a different operating system on my computer than most people who run the boring and security flawed Microsoft Windows.

So here I’ve been in the Linux world for years. I use an Android phone, Android being built upon Linux. iPhones being built upon Unix-like just like BSD. Windows phones, fortunately, never really took off, but Windows still dominate the computer world. Most people who use a laptop or desktop computer don’t even know that you don’t have to be restricted to running Microsoft software. You don’t have to pay for software. And why pay for vulnerable software anyway? You don’t have to.

For a couple years recently I went without my desktop. When I started this blog, I wasn’t using a desktop. It was all done from my tablet or Samsung Galaxy S6 phone. Eventually, however, I realized that I’m a touch-typist. I can type about as fast as I can think and I don’t have to look at the keyboard. I look at the screen. These words were typed looking at the screen, not the keyboard. Everyone should learn how to touch-type. It’s great. So touch-typists need a keyboard. I revived my computer and here I am. Inside Ubuntu Studio.