Saturday, June 26, 2010

Locking Down Linux: Is it Necessary?

One thing I love about Linux is it's ability to be modular and customizable to degrees Windows users can only dream of it. The insides of the operating system are available to sift through if doing so peaks your fancy and the source code is free to take and edit. Many Linux Advocates, myself included, assert that our operating system of choice is more than ready for the "general public" or "average user". In recent years it seems the term "user friendliness" has become associated with the exact opposite of what I love about Linux:

Lack of freedom, and customization.

So long as "there is an app for that" it seems it really doesn't matter if your device is controlled by a company that feels it has a "moral responsibility" to filter content to it's users. The numbers speak for themselves, the iPhone has a 25% market share while the N900 had a 96% return rate for Vondaphone.

Is locking down your operating system so a user can't "hurt themselves" with it really the only way to sell a product in 2010?

Google seems to think so. It appears they thought correctly, Android has been rapidly gaining market share - so they must be doing something right. Will other distributions that are hoping to become more mainstream need to follow suit? Shuttleworth seems to think so. With MeeGo handhelds looming around the corner for later this year, I am wondering if they will also go down this path.

Before anyone says anything - yes I know we can jailbreak (or root) iPhones and Android devices, but honestly why should I have to hack at my own device just to have access to all the features it can offer?

What do you think? Is locking down the version of Linux we ship on devices the only way they are ever going to get sales with "Joe Normal"?
~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

HOWTO: Use Ubuntu Software Center in Mint 9

There are a few reasons why I use Linux Mint instead of Ubuntu on my systems. That being said one of the reasons I do not list for using Mint over Ubuntu is their "Software Manager". The software manager in Mint 8 was flat out sad compared to the Ubuntu Software Center that Ubuntu 9.10 included. Now even though the software manager in Mint 9 has many improvements, it still has issues, and I don't think it is quiet on-par with the updated Software Center Ubuntu 10.04 includes.

Now I still like Mint and a poor software center is not enough to make me to stop using the distro as a whole. As such, a quick fix to the issue is to remove Mint Install and apt-get the Ubuntu Software Center. Now this works fine in Mint 8, but after installing the Ubuntu Software Center in Mint 9 I was greeted by a lovely terminal out when the application failed to load:

jeff@jubuntu ~ $ software-center
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/usr/bin/software-center", line 78, in
from import SoftwareCenterApp
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/", line 42, in
from view.viewswitcher import ViewSwitcher, ViewSwitcherList
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/view/", line 34, in
from import SoftwareChannel
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/", line 22, in
from softwarecenter.distro import get_distro
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/distro/", line 88, in
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/distro/", line 77, in _get_distro
module = __import__(distro_id, globals(), locals(), [], -1)
ImportError: No module named LinuxMint

After having a thread go nowhere useful for a day and a half on the Mint forums, I decided to put my python background to use and try to resolve the issue myself. The following steps are what I have done to resolve the issue.

Open a terminal and run the following in order:

sudo apt-get install software-center
sudo rm /usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/distro/
sudo mv custom__init__ /usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/distro/

And you are all set! Run software-center and it should pop right up for you.

Now, if you are like myself and want the Ubuntu Software Center to run instead of the Mint Software Manager when you click "Software Manager" on your Mint Menu run the following in terminal:

sudo apt-get purge mintinstall
sudo ln -s /usr/bin/software-center /usr/bin/mintinstall

Now in case you are curious (or don't trust me) the edit I made to the file you are downloading is made on line 72 in the _get_distro function. By default this line reads:

distro_id = subprocess.Popen(["lsb_release","-i","-s"], stdout=subprocess.PIPE).communicate()[0].strip()

My updated line simply manually sets our distro_id to be Ubuntu.

distro_id = "Ubuntu"

Hackish, but it works :) Isn't it fantastic when you have the source code for a piece of software so people can create fixes such as this?

Have any input on the subject or an issue with the HOWTO drop a comment below.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, June 18, 2010

Zorin 3 - Distro Review

I recently came across Zorin, an Ubuntu based distro that focuses on easing a Windows user's transition to Linux by theming it's interface to look like Microsoft's operating system. Zorin 3 is built on top of the recently released Ubuntu 10.04 and by default it looks very close to Windows 7

Zorin offers three different free version downloads
  1. 32bit Core
  2. 64bit Core
  3. Educational 32bit
In addition to these there are also three "premium" versions of Zorin
  1. Gaming (10 euro)
  2. Multimedia (10 euro)
  3. Ultimate (15 euro)
For this review I downloaded the 32bit core version to take for a spin. All of the downloads are DVD size, the 32bit core ISO is just over 1gig in size.

Using the Live System:
Once you do a double take and realize that you are using a Linux LiveCD and not a Windows install you will see Zorin's Ubuntu roots. The webrowser and email client are at the top on the menu, each of the different categories are listed below, next is the Ubuntu software center, then places, and finally system information. I had an issue with my mouse freezing up during the live session, upon pressing alt+f2 the mouse came to though.

Installing the system is almost identical to installing Ubuntu 10.04, in fact the only difference is the images the slide show displays while the system installs.

Look and Feel:
Zorin's goal is to make a Windows user feel at home and it does a good job of this. Their is a custom gnome applet that emulates the Windows 7 taskbar fairly well
Each application appears as it's icon on the task bar and having multiple instances of the same application open causes them to stack. When you hover your mouse of the icon you are presented with a preview of all the copies of the application you have open on your current desktop. I found this window preview works better than the default compiz preview. I say this for two reasons
  1. It doesn't get confused when I have applications open on multiple desktops
  2. You can mouse over a copy of the application and click on it to select the window
Also similar to the Windows 7 taskbar you can right click on an opened application to "pin" it to the start menu.

Perhaps you are replacing Windows on an older computer that is running Windows XP not a worry using Zorins built in "look changer" you can make your desktop look like Windows XP (or normal Ubuntu desktop) with a single click
The default compiz configuration Zorin 3 has is fantastic! There is enough flare to keep most any user happy and I really like the default sounds that have been chosen for the operating system.

The only negative thing I have to say about the look of Zorin is that because the Windows 7 taskbar works best with a fatter taskbar (40 pixels by default) it makes the tray icons huge and they just look bad. Hopefully something will be done about this in a future version.

Default Software Selection:
One of the nice things about having a DVD installation is that Zorin's creators did not have to limit their default software selection. Zorin 3 comes stock with all the normal Ubuntu software plus
  • Openshot
  • VLC
  • Ubuntu Tweak
  • GIMP
  • Scribus
  • Cheese
  • Play on Linux
  • Wine 1.1.42
  • Adobe Flash
  • All Multi-Media Codecs (excluding w32codecs)
Something that I think will greatly confuse (and annoy) new users is that for java OpenJDK is installed by default. Don't get me wrong, I love open source software but OpenJDK just isn't as functional as normal Java. Meaning when a user goes to use a Java website that does not work under OpenJDK and they install Java they may be confused as to why the website is still not working (until they un-install OpenJDK).

The Zorin community is the weakest link in the distro. I posted a simple question on their message boards and it took nearly two days to get a response. This isn't really a deal breaker necessarily, because since Zorin is built on Ubuntu 10.04 for the most part you can get all the help you need from the Ubuntu Forums.

Final Thoughts:
Zorin is a fantastic distro and I think many Windows converts will feel at home using it when first making the transition to Linux.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Ubuntu is harder than Windows

I use Ubuntu on all my personal computers and I even recommend it to friends. I am starting to think maybe I shouldn't though, because it is obvious:

Ubuntu is harder to use than Windows
Don't believe me? Read through a few of these comparisons below and I think it will be obvious which operating system is more "user friendly".

Installing Software:
To install a piece of software on Windows you just follow a few easy steps. First you go to the store and buy the software, then you pop the CD into your disc drive, enter the CD key, wait for the software to install itself onto the hard drive, and you are good to go! Be sure to put the CD and key in a safe place in case you ever need to reinstall the software.

On Ubuntu to install a piece of software you open the software center. Type in the name of the software you are looking for (or browse by category), click install, and wait for the software to download and install.

Default Software:
Windows offers a fantastic default software install. Need to write a paper? No worries, Windows has the feature-rich Wordpad. Want to surf the net? Internet Explorer has always provided a safe webrowsing experience.

Ubuntu's default software selection is somewhat disappointing. It has a full featured word processor, spreadsheet editor, and presentation creator. I know most people don't use facebook or twitter, but just in case you do Ubuntu includes Gwibber, a software that fully integrates your social networking with your desktop. For webrowsing Ubuntu only has Firefox and if you want to instant message Ubuntu's Empathy only supports facebook, AIM, yahoo, MSN, IRC...

Adding Hardware:
Windows is the most popular operating system in the world. Almost any piece of hardware you purchase comes with a handy CD for installing the drivers the hardware needs to function properly. Again, keep that CD in a safe place in case you ever reformat or attach the hardware to a different computer.

If you have one of the millions of pieces of hardware that is supported on the Linux platform then 99 times out of 100 once you attach it to your computer it still start functioning right away. What about that hundredth time? Ubuntu will offer to automatically download and install any closed source drivers the hardware needs to function.

System Upkeep:
Upkeep on Windows is easy. Just remember to periodically run your anti-virus program, your anti-spyware program, and don't forget to defragment your computer every couple months. Also a yearly reformat tends to help keep things running smoothly.

Ubuntu? Well there aren't really any viruses for Ubuntu and the filesystem it uses doesn't fragment nearly as much as NTFS does.

Updating the Operating System:
To ensure your operating system is secure, by default, whenever Windows is connected to the internet it will automatically download and install updates without asking. Windows is very through with it's update process. As soon as it is finished updating the system will shutdown, install some more updates, and then possibly install the last bit of the updates and apply configurations the next time the computer boots up.

Ubuntu on the other hand tends to be kind of lazy by default with it's update process. When a new update is available the system asks you if you want to download and install it. Then, it only installs the updates once. I guess Ubuntu just assumes it installed them correctly the first time.

I think I covered all the points that I often hear people complain about when they first start using Ubuntu. Anyone else know of other areas where Ubuntu is still harder to use than Windows?

In case the point (and my reeking sarcasm) where not conveyed to you in the above paragraphs, my point is this. Ubuntu/Linux really is not any harder to use than Windows is these days. In fact, in many respects it is simply different (in a good way) than what a Windows user is used to. I am tired of hearing from people who try to use Ubuntu for all of two seconds that it is "too hard" to use, because obviously - they aren't really giving it a chance.

~Jeff Hoogland

Sunday, June 13, 2010

HOWTO: Installing Ubuntu Packages Offline

Something that is difficult to do in Ubuntu (and Linux in general) is installing packages on a system without an active internet connection. This is a brief HOWTO for easily installing packages on an offline Ubuntu system. In order to do this you will need another system (preferably something with Linux) that has an active internet connection as well as a flash drive.

Step 1 - Manually performing an apt-get update
This step is optional if your system was online at some point, however if the system never had an internet connection (or never had apt-get update run) you will need to manually update the packages lists.

To do this goto your system that has an active internet connection, open a terminal and run the following commands in order:

mv Release archive.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_lucid_Release

bunzip2 Packages.bz2
mv Packages archive.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_lucid_main_binary-i386_Packages

bunzip2 Packages.bz2
mv Packages archive.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_lucid_restricted_binary-i386_Packages

bunzip2 Packages.bz2
mv Packages archive.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_lucid_universe_binary-i386_Packages

bunzip2 Packages.bz2
mv Packages archive.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_lucid_multiverse_binary-i386_Packages

This should generate five files for you, copy them to your flash drive. Take the flash drive over to your Ubuntu system that is offline and copy them to


Note, you will need super user privileges to do this. To open a super user file manager on Ubuntu run

sudo nautilus

Step 2 - Generating Package List
On your offline system we now need to generate the list of packages we want to install. For this example I am going to use the wine1.2 and filezilla packages, however it will work for any package(s). On the offline system run the following in terminal

Due to issues with the terminal code posting on blogger the two lines needed can be found here.

Note you can list as many (or as little) packages as you want to install. Take the apt_list_new file we just generated and copy it to your flash drive.

Step 3 - Download the Packages
Plug the flash drive with the apt_list_new file into your computer that has an internet connection. Copy the file to the desktop of the computer and then run the following in terminal

cd ~/Desktop && wget -i apt_list_new

The above command will download all the packages you need to your desktop, copy them to your flash drive.

Step 4 - Installing the Packages
Attach the flash drive you copied all the packages onto to your offline system. Next, copy all the files ending in .deb to /var/cache/apt/archives as root. Finally run

sudo apt-get install wine1.2 filezilla

It will tell you "Need to download 0 of XMB" just enter "y", press enter, and poof! Your software will be installing.

Have any issues or suggestions on an easier method of installing software on an offline Ubuntu system please drop a comment below. Also, if you only have a windows system with an internet connection available to you a LiveCD is a good option or you can always install wget on Windows.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Netbook MeeGo a NoGo - Review

Now I am all for trying new distros and netbooks are a place where I feel Linux truly outshines all other operating systems, so when a new netbook focused distro comes to maturity I always like to take it for a test drive. MeeGo, the joint operating system between Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin, has been getting alot of hype recently in the Linux community and the world at large. I can understand why, personally I was very excited when MeeGo was first announced. Nokia and Intel are both very large names that bring substantial financial backing to the table, beyond this they are also allowing the Linux Foundation to manage the MeeGo project.

After having used the 1.0 release of MeeGo that is targeted for netbook devices I really must say: I'm really not impressed.

Late last year I did a review of Intel's Moblin Linux 2.0 and this MeeGo 1.0 release is so similar to Moblin that is really doesn't even feel like a different distro. Don't believe me? Well lets start with the interface, this first screen shot is Moblin 2.0:

This second screen shot is MeeGo 1.0:

See what I mean? Now don't get me wrong, I don't think MeeGo is a poor distro - in fact all the positive things I said about Moblin also still apply here. The only issue is most of the negative things also still apply.

MeeGo fails to ship with an Office Suite still and the software selection from their package manager is still decently limited. Two things that are improvements in MeeGo are the default webrowser and media player. For all your media needs Banshee is at your service. Banshee is a full featured, matured, media player with plenty of features that should keep most all users happy. In terms of webrowsing, MeeGo ships two different .img files - the first uses the open source Chromium as the stock browser, the second requires you to agree to an EULA as it uses Google's Chrome browser.

Another nice addition is the ability to customize the top bar where you switch between your different applications and zones. A piece of customization that is still lacking however is the ability to change which messaging client is integrated with the operating system (empathy is alright, but I am a die hard pidgin user and prefer to use it whenever possible).

MeeGo still integrates well with twitter (just as Moblin did), but unlike the latest Ubuntu release (which has Gwibber), MeeGo still lacks Facebook integration. As I mentioned above empathy is still the default messaging client and it does support facebook chat by default.

The only real issue I had with MeeGo was the fact that it's network manager was unable to connect to my WPA encrypted network. It did connect to un-encrypted and WEP encrypted networks without a hitch though.

The MeeGo desktop, just like the Moblin desktop, is snappy and responsive (just as much as lightweight desktop environments such as LXDE or E17). The operating system boots slightly faster than Ubuntu 10.04 does on my hardware (7 seconds versus 9 seconds). Over all MeeGo makes for a great "webrowsing" operating system, but for anything beyond this I would recommend something else.

Final Thoughts:
One of the reasons I was so excited about MeeGo was because it was the merging of Moblin with Maemo. I have been using Maemo on my N900 for over six months and I must say, I can't find a trace of Maemo anywhere in the MeeGo 1.0 release. Now, perhaps there is some of the Maemo core hiding behind the scenes in the MeeGo code, but personally I am just hoping Moblin did not simply swallow up Maemo.

Honestly while I am hopping the MeeGo project takes off (especially as a competitor to Android), at the same time I have to wonder what this could do to the public opinion of what Linux is. I say this because the way MeeGo is designed it does not feel like a full blown operating system as distros like Ubuntu or Fedora do (or Windows does). I would hate to see the general opinion of Linux become the idea that the operating system is limited to netbooks and hand held devices and not for "real" work/computers.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Four Different Types of Linux Users

In the three years I have been using Linux as my primary operating system I've taken note that in general there are four different types of Linux users. Each one fits a distinct niche and it is possible to change from one type into another over time.

The Computer User:
This is a person that feels no emotional ties to FOSS/Linux. The computer is a tool to get the job done and they use Linux because it is the best tool for the job they are trying to accomplish. If Windows or OSX was better suited for the task, then they would be using that instead. They may have no idea of what FOSS or Linux is, they just know their computer works when they need it to. Odds are Linux was installed on their system by friend or relative who is a Linux Advocate or FOSS Extremist who was tried of fixing issues that kept popping up on Windows.

The Dual Booter:
Typically someone who has some computer savvy about them. Odds are they decided to give Linux a try because they just caught an interesting article about a shiny new distro release on Digg or because they know a Linux Advocate who recommended it. They might make a forum post or two to try and solve an issue they are having, but odds are if the distro doesn't "just work" they will start going on about how Linux "isn't ready for the average user" or "will never make it as a desktop operating system". If their Linux install does work, they still keep Windows around because they are a "gamer" or because they need to use a piece of Windows software that does not have a decent FOSS/Linux alternative as of yet.

Linux Advocate:
Someone who uses Linux because they feel it is a superior or more stable operating environment. Typically this is someone who knows their way around the computer a bit and isn't afraid to post on a forum asking a question or get their hands dirty with a bit of terminal code to get their system up and running. While they love the power of FOSS they realize at the same time that the entire world does not work in this manner (although it would be great if it did). They are typically willing to use restricted codecs and closed source video drivers to get the performance and functionality they need out of their system. While it is not uncommon for them to recommend Linux to their family and friends, most times they will even help them get it setup, they realize that some people are happy with Windows and they acknowledge this.

FOSS Extremist:
They use Linux not only because it is fast and stable, but because it is FOSS. They view software that is closed source as something evil that must be conquered or changed for the good of man kind. The know the ins and outs of their system - most times for an FOSS Extremist the GUI is optional. If their hardware does not work right "out of the box" on their favorite distro they are willing to spend hours pouring over manuals and help pages to get it working. They almost constantly preach about the evils of Windows and Apple and take every chance they get to convert those they know to Linux or and FOSS operating system.

Do you think I covered most Linux users here? If not let me know other "types" of Linux users you think there are in the world. If I did cover them all where do you fit into my four different categories? Perhaps you are even a mix of two, personally I find myself somewhere inbetween FOSS Extremist and Linux Advocate depending on my mood.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

N900 Opera Mobile - Review

When I posted my Firefox Mobile review for the N900 a couple months back many people prematurely left comments asking why it was better than Opera Mobile. Now that Opera Mobile for the N900 has been out for some time, it is even in the repositories now, I figured it was only fair to give Opera it's dues and give an overview of Opera on the Maemo platform.

If you have used Opera Mobile on any other device before then you will find the interface on the N900 very familiar
Opera Mobile is designed for the touch screen interface many devices have and it functions well on the N900. The home screen of Opera Mobile displays nine widget "speed dial" you can set to your favorite websites. Above these is the URL and Google search bar that you will be used to from most desktop web browsers. Across the bottom of the screen are your backwards, forwards, refresh, tabs, and settings button.
When you are viewing a webpage Opera displays full screen, maximizing your viewable screen space. The only parts that are obscured are the lower right hand corner and the lower left hand corner portions of the screen.
When it comes to overall usage Opera is much snappier than Firefox on the N900. It loads much quicker and uses far less system resources when multi-tasking. Another feature that sets Opera apart from other browsers on the N900 is it's excellent portrait browsing mode. Firefox Mobile does not support portrait mode at all and even though with PR 1.2 MicroB (the N900's default browser) supports portrait mode - it does not as of yet have an on screen keyboard when browsing as such (which makes entering text near impossible on MicroB one handed).

Which brings me to my next point about Opera Mobile - the on screen keyboard. All I have to say is: it's fantastic. Seriously, I wish every application on the N900 could use Opera's on screen keyboard, it only takes up half the screen and using it feels much cleaner than the default Maemo on screen keyboard.

While there are many good things about Opera Mobile, it is not all sun shine and roses. The primary thing that keeps Opera from being the only browser on my N900 is largely the fact that it feels very much like a mobile browser. The lack of flash support and it's inability to fully render more than a few webpages keeps Opera from providing the full blown browsing experience I am used to on my N900.

Anyone else been enjoying Opera 10 on their N900 and have some input on the browser?

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Overview and Explanation of Linux Desktop Environments

Something most new Linux users often struggle to understand when first using Linux is the concept of desktop environments. What a desktop environment actually is I feel gets further clouded when users start exploring different "spins" of a distro. For example it is very common for a new user to think Kubuntu or Xubuntu is something entirely different from the well known Ubuntu. Many do not know that they can easily install any *buntu on any other *buntu with a single command!

Just as choosing the distro can be difficult so can choosing the right desktop environment. The following is an overview of some of the best known desktop environments so you can be more informed in your decision.

The most popular desktop environment currently in use is Gnome, it is the desktop environment that powers the three most popular desktop Linux distros (Ubuntu, Fedora, and Linux Mint). Gnome is a fully developed desktop environment that provides a fully integrated application set. It is easy to use and provides GUI tools for making edits to all the different features that are available within it. It is a very "user friendly" desktop environment that is fantastic for new users.

Gnome's memory foot print is modest for all the features it provides. A default Gnome install uses around 180megs of RAM. If you like eye candy on your computer odds are you will want to be running compiz (desktop effects) on your Gnome desktop. A default Gnome install with compiz running uses slightly more memory, right about 205megs.

In terms of popularity KDE is the second most popular desktop environment. Like Gnome it is fully matured and provides it's own full application set as well as GUI tools for configuration. KDE also has a wide selection of "plasma widgets", which are handy applets you can place all around your desktop for all sorts of tasks. They range from something as practical as a calculator to as useless as a display from "The Matrix".

Over all KDE is much more customizable than Gnome, but this comes at a cost. A default KDE install uses around 510megs of RAM, if you are looking for eye candy it does not cost as much to run kwin (KDE's built in desktop effects) as it does to run compiz. With kwin enabled a default KDE install uses around 520megs of RAM.

XFCE is designed to be simplistic and quick. It does not provide much in the way of eye candy (although you can run compiz on it) but, it is a decently fast/responsive desktop environment. While XFCE does have some of it's own applications, such as it's file manager Thunar and the XFCE system monitor, it does still borrow some applications from the Gnome environment (such as nm-applet network manager). Don't think XFCE is an immature project though, what it borrows from Gnome is more to save itself from reinventing the wheel than from lack of ability. XFCE does not have quite as many tools for making GUI edits as Gnome or KDE, but it does have a fairly good configuration panel.

Designed to be quick and lightweight XFCE leaves a low memory footprint on the system you have it running on. At defaults XFCE uses around 140megs of RAM.

LXDE is a newer project in the world of Linux desktop environments. Similar to XFCE, LXDE's goal is to provide a fast, lightweight desktop environment with little resource usage. LXDE has a few of it's own applications, but those applications it still lacks it borrows from Gnome and XFCE. The age of the LXDE project really shows when you start to look into making customizations to things. Many adjusts have to still be made by manually editing configuration files, not a bad thing if you know your system well (or are willing to learn it), but this can be a giant set back for a beginner who wants things to "just work".

LXDE may be a much younger project than XFCE, but it does a fantastic job of resource conservation. A fresh install of LXDE uses 100megs of RAM, the lowest of all the desktop environments I am reviewing today.

I cannot do an overview of Linux desktop environments without mentioning E17. E17 is designed to be a lightweight, but elegant desktop environment. It is very successful at both of these tasks. E17 uses all of it's own libraries, that have been built from the ground up for speed and flexibility. E17 is a tinkerers delight, you can customize and change anything and everything.

A base install of E17 leaves a memory footprint of around 110megs of RAM. Now, while a base install is functional, half the fun of E17 is playing with widgets, changing transitions, and generally toggling everything you can just to see how shiny you can make your desktop. After I had my E17 fully configured it's memory footprint was increased to a whopping 120megs of RAM.

A few of you may be wondering if E17 is so lightweight, flexible, and flashy why don't more distros opt to use it for their desktop environment? There are two reasons for this. First and foremost is the fact that E17 is very much "beta" software. Compiling the latest version from source at any given point can have piles of crashes/segfaults that can make using it a giant headache. Second, if you do take the time to piece together a stable E17 build (check out Elive or Bodhi for two good examples of what E17 can do) the desktop environment takes some getting used to. For many it will feel foreign regardless if they are used to using another Linux desktop environment or a Windows machine.

Final Thoughts:
All of the various desktop environments have their advantages and their disadvantages. Which one is right for you largely depends on your task at hand. Personally I run LXDE on my netbook, KDE on my gaming laptop, and Gnome on my home media center. If you are not sure which is best for you, try them out! It is all free software after all, get a feel for which desktop environment you
are most comfortable on and use that one.

Is there another desktop environment that you enjoy using that I failed to mention here? If so let me know, I am always looking to tinker with new things.

~Jeff Hoogland