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Updated: April 23, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma widgets

The concept of addons is an interesting one. At some point over the past decade or two, companies developing (successful) software realized that bundling an ever-growing code base into their products in order to meet the spiraling tower of requests from their users would result in unsustainable bloat and complexity that would not warrant the new functionality. And so, the idea of addons was born.

Addons come in many flavors – extensions, plugins, applets, scripts, and of course, widgets. A large number of popular programs have incorporated them, and when done with style, the extra functionality becomes as important as the core application itself. Examples that come to mind: Firefox, Notepad++, VLC, Blender. And then, there’s the Plasma desktop environment. Since inception, KDE has prided itself on offering complete solutions, and the last incarnation of its UI framework is no different. Which begs the question, what, how and why would anyone need Plasma widgets? We explore.

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Updated: April 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver Beta review

In about two weeks, Canonical will release its next LTS, 18.04 Bionic Beaver. What makes it special is that it's going to be running a Gnome 3 desktop instead of Unity, a sort of full-circle reversal of direction and strategy, and that means ... uncertainty. With Trusty Tahr being the only production Linux system in my setup, I am quite intrigued and concerned, because I need to choose my next LTS carefully.

So far, the prospect isn't encouraging, given the more-than-lukewarm performance by Aardvark. There's a lot of hope in the Plasma spin, given the stellar performance of the Plasma desktop recently, but that's still a big unknown, especially since Kubuntu 17.10 was a regression compared to the most magnificent and awesome Zesty Zapus. Therefore, I decided to check this beta, to see what gives ahead of the official release. Normally, I don't like testing unfinished products, but this be an extraordinary occasion. Let's do it.

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Updated: April 15, 2018 | Category: Linux

Ubuntu Windows 10 trans pack

As a man with a keen eye for aesthetic details, I do like the concept of trying to make operating systems mimic their rivals, provided this can be done with elegance, style, quality and attention to detail. A great example would be the Macbuntu transformation pack. Including but not limited to.

Now, Windows 10. Say what you will about it, it ain't ugly. It's actually a reasonably pretty distro, although the whole flatness deal is a bit overplayed. But since Linux can be made to look like anything, I set about testing, in Ubuntu, Kubuntu and even Linux Mint, to see whether this is something worth your time and decorative skills in the first place. Will this work? An open question. After me.

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Updated: April 13, 2018 | Category: Office

Manjaro & Microsoft Office Online

The Linux desktop has never made it big. Canonical tried with Ubuntu, they made a big ripple, but the effort fell short of a revolution, in part because of the necessary monetary resources required, in part because of missed timing, and also because of some rather stiff rand unneeded resistance from the community. A paradox. Linux folks want to displace Windows, but when one tries, they are scorned for selling out.

There isn't a single formula for success - but the one component that cannot be removed, whatever the equation might be: applications. Without offering the needed functionality to Windows converts, they have no use for an empty shell called the operating system. Proof, Windows, the most successful desktop system, did not succeed in the mobile world, because it did not have any applications. Same way, Linux on the desktop stands no chance without the everyday software that Windows folks need. The most prominent among them: games and Microsoft Office. We have Valve Steam to thank for the former, and now, Manjaro for the latter?

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Updated: April 11, 2018 | Category: Internet

Falkon browser

The world of browsers is a weird one. There are many programs out there, but in essence, it all boils down to only several rendering engines and their numerous forks, spin offs and adaptations. You may think you have a lot of choices, but you don't.

In the KDE world, there have been many players - Konqueror, rekonq, QupZilla - and now Falkon, and I have probably forgotten some. Falkon, you ask? Yup. QupZilla used to be the official KDE browser until it was renamed, rebadged and slightly revamped as Falkon. Well, the official domain name is still the old one, but the use of the letter k is the giveaway, right. Is it any good, you ask some more. Well, that is something we shall answer today.

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Updated: April 9, 2018 | Category: Linux

Antergos 18.3

Antergos is one of those distros that require a bit of luck and tough love to get going. For a while, it stubbornly refused to boot on my Lenovo G50 test system, and I let it be. Then, while my G50 was on the fritz (blink for the imperialists), I had it tested on my older LG RD510 machine, and I was quite impressed. The distro delivered a fairly solid experience, with some nifty and unique tricks along the way.

It is time to revisit the test with the 18.3 release, and once again, I'll be testing on the Nvidia-powered machine. Gnome, again, too. The reasons for this choice are many. One I want to see how Antergos performs over time under the same test conditions, and not because I don't want it tested on the Lenovo. Perhaps it if proves worthy. Much like the recent Manjaro test, which I had extended once the distro showed good quality and promise. Two, we need some variety, hence Gnome. Three, Nvidia always makes for a fun test case. Shall we?

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Updated: April 7, 2018 | Category: Linux

CentOS 7.4 upgrade

I have not updated the CentOS instance on my Lenovo G50 laptop since mid-2016, more or less. But then, a few days ago, I decided to revisit the distro, both to see how it fares, performance and relevance wise, and also to update its package set to the latest 7.4 build. We're talking 18 months of backlog, tons of customization.

If your memory is a bit dusty, I am really fond of CentOS, and despite the fact it's a server distro, it still offers great value in home setups. Specifically on the G50 machine, I had it installed and then tested the KDE, Gnome, Xfce, and MATE desktops individually, plus added a whole of pimping and extra software. You may wonder, will all this work get in the way of a version update? Let's check.

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Updated: April 6, 2018 | Category: Linux

Xubuntu 17.04 to 17.10 upgrade

Zealous Zoltan (Zoltan!) was one of the better Ubuntu releases in the past years. No matter what desktop environment you chose, it delivered well. Then, Aardvark was among the less successful ones, be it Gnome, Plasma or Xfce. Still, the clock inevitably ticks forward, and with only nine months of support, one must either abandon or upgrade.

I already showed you what I did with my fabulous Kubuntu Zesty, going to Aardvark. It was a somewhat lukewarm experience, but over time, with patches trickling in and some extra work on my end, I was able to fine-tune the Plasma desktop in the 17.10 release into one closely matching the 17.04 edition. My next endeavor was with Xubuntu. Only the Zapus release was now officially EOL. Let me tell you a story.

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Updated: April 4, 2018 | Category: Linux

Munity

This is my BEST pun yet. Or not. A few days ago, I've read the release notes on Ubuntu 18.04 MATE beta, and there was a lot of good stuff in there, enough to have my jaded curiosity glands intrigued. Many new features are going into the reincarnated version of Gnome 2, and they make for an appealing case for the retro desktop that MATE is. Neat.

In my review of this desktop environment, the freshly released 1.20 version, I did mention that in order to compete with the likes of Gnome 3 or Xfce, MATE needs to step its game up and introduce modern features that go beyond what Gnome 2 used to. Lo and behold, her we have Bionic MATE, and it seems to be just the thing I was looking for. Specifically, a Unity-like Dash-and-Launcher setup called Mutiny. Let's explore.

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Updated: April 2, 2018 | Category: Linux

AHCI mode & ATA link resets

My hardware arsenal, used for Linux distro testing, is quite varied. It includes some new machines as well as several relics. The oldest among them happens to be a 2009 LG RD510 dual-core box, the first one I ever bought for the sake of proper Linux testing. If you're in for a bit of nostalgia trip, check the original report. Since then, it's had its uses, and recently, I brought it back into the game as the test mule.

The laptop comes with an old Nvidia 9600M GS card, and what's special about it is that no Linux distro installed on it has ever really been able to resume from suspend successfully. I've decided to tackle issue with my recent set of distro checks, just to figure out why and what the underlying issue might be. For those coming through search engines - this article is the fix for suspend & resume problems in Linux on machines with Nvidia cards, caused by ATA link resets for devices running in AHCI mode. Now, shall we?

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Updated: March 31, 2018 | Category: Linux

Manjaro 17.1.6 Hakoila Xfce

Several days ago, I tested Manjaro 17.1.6 Plasma edition on my Nvidia-powered LG laptop, an old beast still bravely soldiering on into its ninth year. The experience was pleasant enough if rife with bugs, but overall, Hakoila delivered a whole bunch of goodies, including some super-unique features that you don't see in other systems, making me intrigued enough to extend the testing onto my eight-boot Intel-graphics Lenovo G50 laptop.

Then, I decided to actually try the Xfce flavor, so as not to repeat myself. This means the results ought to be ever so slightly different, or perhaps significantly different, but if this be a good, robust distro then it should deliver. Let's see what gives. After me.

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Updated: March 30, 2018 | Category: Internet

Noscript 10 second guide

As you know, Firefox 57 ushered a new era of WebExtensions into Mozilla's addons world, breaking the ecospace, and forcing massive changes. One of the affected addons is the highly popular Noscript Security Suite (NSS), which, frankly, is probably the only real reason to still favor and use Firefox over Chrome. Giorgio Maone, the Noscript creator, had to make a brand new version of his tool, and it was a radical change for many users.

To that end, I wrote my first guide on Noscript 10 usage, trying to explain the new terminology and concepts, new permissions model, and such. It was received fairly well, and it's quoted in the official basic usage howto on the Noscript forums. Yay. Now, several weeks had gone by, Noscript had undergone additional changes, and I'd like to give some more focus on this sweet little tool and its capabilities. Of course, you should read the first guide first to grasp the basics, then continue here. After me.

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Updated: March 28, 2018 | Category: Linux

Krita review

Krita? GIMP? Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra. So, if you are into any kind of image manipulation, you probably have heard of GIMP, a free would-be (!) alternative to Adobe Photoshop, and in its own right a very reasonable and powerful image manipulation and processing suite, hence its acronymy name. But there's less of a chance that you have heard of Krita, a digital painting program with secondary focus on image work.

I decided to test Krita, to see what it can offer a semi-casual user, both as a plug-in for GIMP and its own art creation software. To that end, I had it installed in KDE neon with Plasma 5.12.3, the latest edition currently available on the market. And before we begin, do remember that genuine art takes talent, skill and patience, and that’s not achievable in the span of a single review. Let’s roll then.

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Updated: March 26, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma 5.12 second test

The pun is strong in this one. As it happens, your favorite Jedi, ergo me, went about testing Plasma 5.12, and it proved to be a very reasonable, rounded edition. A good start for what is essentially the current slash next LTS baseline for the wider KDE desktop experience. I performed my exploratory delights in the official Plasma demonstrator, AKA KDE neon Stable Dev Edition.

Now, a bunch of weeks have passed, and there's been a flurry, no, blizzard of activity getting all sorts of little bugs and problems and issues that I've raised fixed. Those and more. Lovely plummy. Which begs some follow up testing, don't you think? Indeed, let me show you the other side of the bug fixing coin, the user side. After me.

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Updated: March 24, 2018 | Category: Game reviews

Cities Skylines Mass Transit

Cities: Skylines is one of the rare few new games that I'm super-happy to be playing. I go to sleep thinking about all the fine urban planning I've done, and I'm anxiously waiting to wake up, find some free time and start building and evolving my cities once again. This kind of giddy feeling normally belongs to my distant youthful past, and it's a true testament to how great a computer game can be.

After the amazing SimCity 4, this is the ultimate urban simulation, and it comes with all the right bits and pieces to keep you motivated and engaged. I've happily purchased the After Dark and Snowfall expansions to support the company and have some extra fun - although I normally hate DLC, but when it's done right, it's done right. And just recently, I also bought the Mass Transit DLC. And this is the reason, once again, why we are here, chirping merrily about this fantastic little game.

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Updated: March 23, 2018 | Category: Linux

GRUB Customizer

The proverbial Linux bootloader - GRUB - and its TNG guise - GRUB 2.0 - is a highly customizable thing. Only the domain of its tweakability is reserved for expert users, who do not shy away from the command line. If you want to fiddle with the bootloader and its settings, you can. My two tutorials explains all the bits and pieces in gory detail.

For less knowledgeable users, the path is less obvious. Arguably, one should not dabble in GRUB if they don't feel comfortable. But say you want to change the background picture, the default entry, the timeout, maybe another setting or two. There's no reason why you should know the entire mechanism to be able to do that. Well, you should, for other reasons. Now, if you do want to make small changes, you're in luck. GRUB Customizer at your service.

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Updated: March 21, 2018 | Category: Linux

Magnificent Linux projects

While the technology landscape feels big, complex and colorful, the actual variation in creativity and uniqueness isn’t that huge. Often, ideas build upon other ideas, with small changes and incremental improvements. This is also true of our favorite domain, Linux, with its towering pyramid of distros and forks and still more forks, a whole cutlery division. Lots of stuff but not necessarily variety.

In fact, I even believe there’s a decrease in uniqueness over the years, caused by over-saturation of ideas, the demise (or at least, the decline) of several major projects, and with them, the hope and enthusiasm, and of course, the weariness of the human intellect involved. Having inadequate resources, with teams and projects stretched thin, sure does not help. But that’s the negative side. The good thing is, alongside mediocrity, there have been some really amazing things out there, and I want to give them special attention in this article.

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Updated: March 19, 2018 | Category: Linux

Manjaro 17.1.6 Hakoila Plasma

My relationship with Manjaro is somewhat complicated. Much like MX Linux, it started seeped in trouble, supported by understanding, love and kindness ... NOT ... from the community. Regardless, I felt there was something in the distro worth the tender caress from the users, and over time, it has grown better, more refined. Much like MX Linux. Both starred in my end-of-the-year distro round session.

Manjaro has a new version out - 17.1.6 Hakoila. Which means I should be testing, again. I chose the Plasma edition, because Plasma has been on a roll recently, plus my old Nvidia-powered LG RD510 laptop, currently dual-booting two instances of Linux. Now, ere you forget, Manjaro is based on Arch, and Arch is like a bouncing anti-personnel mine, best left in the hands of professionals. Hands - get it? 'Tis a military joke, right. High five. Anyway, let's see if this wunderkid can deliver.

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Updated: March 17, 2018 | Category: Linux

Black and white Linux icons

One might say, on a rather philosophical day, that my Moby Dick is finding a nice and elegant monochrome icon theme set that will make me all happy and bright on the inside. So far, my pursuit of happiness has been less than ideal. I had some success doing this with CentOS 7, but not much since.

Sure, there are many awesome icon sets - Papirus, Numix, Moka, Faenza, you name it, full of color and whim. But I want black & white icons. Difficult? Well, I recently came across a series of nice desktop pictures in Gizmo's Freeware forum, asked a few smart questions, and then learned about a set called ACYLS. And thus beginneth anew my quest after monochrome icons. Let me tell you, and show you, how it went. After me.

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Updated: March 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

SwagArch review

If you think SWAG is reserved to teenagers only, step off the cool bus now. Because we're going Archtown, where the Linux is hot and the desktops are pretty. Yup, someone decided to put together a derivative of the labor-intensive Arch Linux into a pretty, modern and hip distro called SwagArch.

Ignoring the hype, perhaps it's actually a good system, right? After all, my expectations from the likes of Manjaro and Antergos weren't high either, but then, they proved to be delightfully clever. So maybe this swagster can also deliver. Testing version 18.02 on my olden LG laptop, what be blessed with an Nvidia graphics card and many years of age. After me.

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Updated: March 14, 2018 | Category: Linux

MATE 1.20 review

Once upon a time, Gnome 2 was the perfect desktop environment. It was balanced. It combined beauty and simplicity in an elegant, bulletproof package. You had everything you needed, plus stability, plus performance. Then, Gnome 3 came along and took most of this away. Fast forward many years, Gnome 3 still hasn't reached the level of friendliness that its predecessor had.

The void created by the demise of Gnome 2 was filled by MATE, a fork that tries to keep the old alive and running. Fast forward many years, it is still around, still relevant, and the recent 1.20 release brings many goodies, albeit nerdy ones, to the proverbial table (or desk if you will). Testing time, excellent!

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Updated: March 12, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma mobile

It is not every day that you hear news about Linux mobile. With Android (Linux not Linux) reigning supreme in the touch world, pretty much all and every partisan effort to break through in this space has gallantly and yet miserably failed. Remember Ubuntu Phone and Ubuntu Tablet? Ah, the memories.

But then, a challenger appears. Wearing a Plasma cloak! Now, hold your horses, put the saddle of enthusiasm away and listen. Plasma mobile, in one form or another, has been around for about half a decade, and it is only now that we're getting an alpha version of a mobile product available for testing. Nevertheless, it is an important milestone in the Linux world, in the Plasma world, and in the mobile world. Hence, test we shall.

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Updated: March 10, 2018 | Category: Car reviews

Citroen C4 Cactus

I have always been fascinated with Citroens, even as a child. The likes of DS, GS, CX, and others filled my imagination with their spaceship-like looks, their otherworldly tachometers and steering wheel controls, and their futuristic hydropneumatic suspension. Fast forward 40 years, Citroen is offering more mainstream technology to its more mainstream users, with an occasional spanner of flair and spice thrown into the tumbling spin of car models.

C4 Cactus is a great example. A car that blends retro looks with nostalgia with affordable practicality, without being boring or cheap. It's an elegant vehicle, and when I realized I had an opportunity to test one, I said aye. For two days and change, I drove a low-spec C4 diesel model in a rainy Mediterranean winter, with a chance to sample both its urban as well as highway behavior. So let's see what happened.

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Updated: March 9, 2018 | Category: Media

VLC 3.0

VideoLAN (VLC) is probably the most versatile media player in the world. I've written perhaps a dozen different articles covering this program and its features. There's little it can't do. Anything media-related you can think of, VLC definitely has. Streaming, no problem. DVD playback, check. Subtitles, yes please. Plugins, filters, portable mode. It's cross-platform, and it's free. And now there's a new version.

VLC 3.0 hails a whole range of improvements, including all the fancy new formats that plebs love, stuff like 4K, 8K, UHD, 60FPS, 360-degree video and images, and more. Ask any professional, and they will laugh in derision at the notion of capturing video at soap-opera rates, but plebs love them numbers, and the bigger the better. VLC obliges, with its most ambitious and spectacular release yet. Shall we take a close look?

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Updated: March 7, 2018 | Category: Linux

WINE 3.0

I am always happy to see major releases of open-sources projects, especially when they come loaded with features and enthusiasm. WINE 3.0 hails a significant overhaul of the framework, promising much better compatibility with Windows applications and the much needed support for Direct3D 10/11. Ah yes, if you're wondering, WINE is a software compatibility layer that allows you to run Windows stuff on UNIX-like operating systems.

My experience with this program has waned over the years - in line with the reduced quality and growing complexity of getting Windows applications to run. The last attempt was particularly bad, with lots of dependency problems and errors. Well, fresh version, fresh hope - and dev version 3.3 in the making. This ought to be interesting. Shall we?

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Updated: March 5, 2018 | Category: Virtualization

Amazon Linux 2 login password

You may have heard of Amazon Linux 2. It's an AWS operating system, developed by Amazon. It's offered for free, and you even get virtual machine appliances for testing. Which is what I did, as I showed you in my article on this topic.

The one snag that I hit during the testing was the login. Normally, you use SSH to log into your EC2 instances. But what do you use for an essentially offline virtual machine? I could not find any root/ec2-user combo online, and the usual method of trying to change password in single mode did not work. Hence this guide. It will show you how to manually change the login credentials for your Amazon Linux 2 virtual machine, so you can begin testing. After me.

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Updated: March 3, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma digital clock

The OCD demons compel people to do all sorts of weird things. Like keep on tweaking their Plasma desktop setup, for example. Just as you think you've dandied it all up nice and pretty like, the demons cometh and mess up things, and suddenly, you notice a bunch of new issues that need a-fixin'.

This is what happened to me while playing with Kubuntu 17.04 and openSUSE 42.3. I really thought I had everything sorted out, but then I realized the digital clock discrepancy between these two Plasma distros. Zesty had the big clock that just grew bigger with the bottom panel height, but Leap had a small, compact one that fit tidily into the system area. And so, another article was born. This one. P.S. The issue discussed here has been fixed in Plasma 5.12.1, but since most people are still not using a distro running the latest version of Plasma, this little guide has merit and use. After me.

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Updated: March 2, 2018 | Category: Windows

Windows 10 telemetry

After security, the notion of privacy is the most debated topic in the online world, especially in recent years, with the rapid and aggressive proliferation of social networks and mobile computing. Microsoft also got into the crosshairs of public scrutiny, especially with the release of Windows 10 and its supposedly questionable practice of collecting user data, more technically known as telemetry.

While I personally believe the subject to be blown out of proportion, just like computer security, I do understand why it's so important to so many people. Ignorance breeds fear, and fear leads to paranoia. Of course, IT companies are not helping with their casual attitude to using and abusing user data. Microsoft realized that this be a slippery slope, and so they made a change - Windows 10 now comes with far more information and transparency regarding the data collection practices. Let's talk.

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Updated: February 28, 2018 | Category: Office

LibreOffice 6.0 review

There are many free office suites out there, the quintessential among them: LibreOffice. Having taken over the free championship from OpenOffice, Libre stands as the zero-cost alternative to the hugely expensively, hugely popular and excellent Microsoft Office as your desk-and-chair productivity bundle. But wishful thinking aside, LibreOffice never quite managed to replace its commercial rival.

I've written about this time and again - the simple cruel reality is, if people need top notch fidelity in their documents, they must use Microsoft Office to cooperate with other folks. Over the years, LibreOffice has matured, grown better and more accurate in its support for the Office formats, but it never gave a perfect record. Wait now. Version 6.0 has just been released, and it promises to be the best thing ever. Is it?

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Updated: February 23, 2018 | Category: Linux

Intuitive usage article

Our friend William Shakespeare once wrote: To be or not to be, we must rejoice, for our GUI is so well-designed, the user always has a choice. Not really, but if he lived in our modern era, he probably would gaze upon desktop environments with a combination of bemusement, scorn and confusion.

Testing desktops over the years has led me to a number of interesting conclusions. One, the chasm between the ordinary user and the nerd is so vast, it’s almost incomprehensible. Two, there’s such a thing as natural logic, and to deny is to to break the brain patterns we have developed over the past 35,000 years. Three, a good UI is intuitive, and that means is responds to how the user thinks. And so, if you ask, is there a perfect desktop out there, the answer is, let’s talk about KDE some more shall we?

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Updated: February 24, 2018 | Category: Greatest sites

Greatest sites

Two more awesome websites join the list. Number one, Michael O. Church and his blog. Are you or have you ever been employed in the tech industry? Then you probably have watched Office Space and realized the absurdity of your work environment. But that was then, the old Y2K Bubble era. A lot has changed since, and by that, I mean there are many new acronyms and methodologies to make your IT life ever more miserable than it already is. Most people keep silent, suck it up, and enjoy the quiche they get paid. Some do not.

Number two, NewsThump. I do not like politics. But I do like political spoofs. What I call Realpolitik. My top-three favorite TV series is Yes, (Prime) Minister, and it's such a delight to watch, you feel like you've stepped out of a classical music concert, all blissful and serene. So where I'm going with this? NewsThump.

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Updated: February 23, 2018 | Category: Hardware

BQ Aquaris E4.5 phone

Oops, I did it again. I decided to convert (in a nice peaceful way) my one remaining Ubuntu touch device to Android, as it sat there, doing little, collecting memories and dust. Thus beginneth the sad saga of how I stopped hoping for an Ubuntu Phone and learned to love Android.

Anyway, just to bring you up to speed, if you think I be tripping, long time ago, I was really hoping Ubuntu would make it big in the mobile space. First, we had the Edge and then we had Aquaris E4.5, and I ran a couple of contests, trying to promote the idea far and wide. When the Aquaris M10 tablet came out, I bought that one without hesitation, and several months ago, I installed Android there on. Dust versus nostalgia, right. Anyway, it proved to be the right choice, because the tablet has proven its worth since. Can the phone do the same?

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Updated: February 21, 2018 | Category: Linux

KDE neon 5.12

Several days ago, I published a long and detailed review of Plasma 5.12, the new KDE LTS release. It was a very decent experience. Now, Plasma still packs a lot of issues and has some cardinal functionality problems, mostly with network shares and smartphones, but it's a very polished, smart and elegant desktop environment, and the next five years of KDE will have a pretty solid foundation.

But then, the KDE quality does vary between distributions. Kubuntu Aardvark is one example, my last review of KDE neon another. Which is why we must embark on another neon testing journey, off the back of my Plasma test. Some of the stuff will be similar, but now, I will be judging those from the context of an operating system, and the user perspective rather than just looking at the desktop environment in isolation. In other words, if you fancy Plasma, should you neon? After me.

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Updated: February 19, 2018 | Category: Linux

KaOS Linux 2017.11

It has been two years since I last tested KaOS Linux. My last impression was fairly negative, not having been able to complete the installation. All in all, the distro had a lot of beta-quality qualities, and it did not feel robust enough. Two years later, we are testing again.

I decided to deploy KaOS on my Nvidia-powered LG RD510 laptop rather than the newer Lenovo G50. Even though, the IdeaPad is back in action after I successfully managed to fix its read-only NVRAM, I was hesitant trying KaOS in this setup, both because it did not perform back then, and also because I didn't want to risk the Lenovo box going AWOL that quickly after having been healed. It's not that there's anything particularly sinister about KaOS, it's just that I feel like the effort should warrant extra risk, and so far, KaOS has not proven itself. So we start humble, and if it delivers, we test on the Lenovo, too.

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Updated: February 17, 2018 | Category: Linux

Amazon Linux 2

In mid-December, Amazon Web Services have announced the availability of the Release Candidate of their own custom operating system called Amazon Linux 2, based on Red Hat Linux Enterprise, with five years of support and some neat, modern features that should help people test - and hopefully get even more interested - the AWS compute technologies.

AWS also released AL2 as a virtual machine appliance, so it is available for testing outside the AWS domain. Which is where this article comes into play. I downloaded the VirtualBox vdi and set up a virtual machine, to see what, how, where, and when. Let us commence.

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Updated: February 16, 2018 | Category: Linux

Plasma bugs

Call it bias, call it taste, I like the Plasma desktop environment. After many years, I feel KDE is finally regaining some of that solid pro feel it used to have back in the olden days. But then, the feeling of satisfaction is not guaranteed. Quality is a fickle thing in the Linux world, and KDE is not immune to regressions, especially when compounded by distro permutations and hardware dependencies.

Now, one might claim that a great operating system – and a great desktop – are immune to tiny variations in the operation setup. I agree. And so, I’d like to compile a list – with the necessary discussion of course – of some (of the many) things that I currently think are missing in Plasma. Things that could and should and would make it a professional contestant in the desktop world, currently a VIP club mostly reserved to Microsoft and a few other members. Then, some of you have expressed a view that I’m too biased when it comes to Plasma, but the lack of criticism (perceived as such) comes from the fact that Plasma is actually a genuinely good desktop environment. But it’s not perfect. Not yet. And here’s why.

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Updated: February 14, 2018 | Category: Internet

Firefox & Sponsored stories

Well, well, remember when I told you - the more desperate Mozilla gets vis-a-vis its market share, the more aggressive they will get with pushing "quality" content onto its users? I did, I did. Well, the bonfires of the Mr. Robot fiasco have hardly cooled, and now there's a new drama developing. Mozilla will start rolling a pilot that tests sponsored stories in the Pocket recommendations section on the New Tab page.

Since I'm usually a blithely cheerful chap, I'm actively looking for stories to sour my mood, and so I was excited (this is sales lingo, we will get to that) to read this announcement. After all, writing about how everything is peachy and efficient and good in the tech world is boring, we need these little burdocks of greed to make things complicated. After me, pioneers.

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Updated: February 12, 2018 | Category: Life topics

Fake news

Welcome! We shall debate a hot potato today. I am hearing this term "fake news" more and more recently, and for the ordinary homo sapiens out there, it has become synonymous with anything they do not like or agree. Like any pointless trend or fashion, it grips the low-IQ masses with frenzy. But that's only one half of the story.

The more important part is - how is this thing going to affect our lives in the coming years and decades? This has become relevant, especially since we have the chivalrous brigades of Internet morality working hard to make sure people receive filtered information that ought not to upset, challenge or change the masses. But there's another angle. Let us indeed debate some more.

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Updated: February 10, 2018 | Category: Windows

Windows Phone offline navigation

Many a moon ago, I wrote a comparison article between HERE Maps, Microsoft Maps and Windows Maps. This article was rather important following an announcement by Microsoft that they will no longer offer HERE WeGo on WP10. And then, software updates for the same program on WP8.1 would also stop. This mandated a test.

In that article, I did write that my testing was limited at the time, and I never offer any advice without in-depth research. Now that I've finally had a chance to clock several thousand km navigating by foot and car abroad, across several European countries, I can finally offer a proper verdict.

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Updated: February 9, 2018 | Category: Linux

MX Linux MX-17 Horizon & Lenovo G50 laptop

My Lenovo G50 laptop is back in business. After having its UEFI gently bricked by whatever dodgy QA-less mechanism in any which one distro that I've tested in the past year (but definitely NOT Ubuntu 17.10, it happened before), installing a new kernel helped resolve the issue. So we're testing distros on this machine once again, and the first candidate is MX-17 Horizon.

Now, I have already tested the distribution on the old LG machine that I have, and found it to be an excellent performer. Slick, fast, elegant, everything you need for fun and productivity. But will it shine on the G50 box? Let's check.

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Updated: February 7, 2018 | Category: Office

LibreOffice & Plasma fonts

If you're using the Plasma desktop, well you should because it's dope, and you happen to be using LibreOffice, which you most likely are, after all, let's face it, 'tis the most popular office suite for Linux, then you may have come across an annoying bug. Everything looks peachy but the LibreOffice interface has that grainy 2006 feel.

In this short guide, I will show you how you can improve the look & feel of LibreOffice so that it fits more naturally into the Plasma desktop environment. Moreover, the tweak also applies to a wider range of programs, and it should give you ever so slightly better fonts. Having read my Fedora font saga, you know what I'm talking about. After me.

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