Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bodhi Linux Get Software Page Goes Live

What good is an operating system if the end user is unable to use it? Not very useful really. A large of part of being able to use your operating system is having the right application for whatever task you are trying to accomplish. I have had a number of users ask me since I released Bodhi Linux if I plan to make the operating system more "user friendly" for those who do not know their way around Synaptic and/or apt-get.

I was a little bit torn as to what exactly I wanted to do. I like Bodhi being minimalistic, so including everything and the kitchen sink in an attempt to increase user friendliness was not an option. I also kicked around the idea of simply including the Ubuntu Software Center, but I don't care for the way it sorts the software (or lack of sorting). Most users I think get lost in all the software it lists, some of which doesn't exactly exemplify the best FOSS has to offer. I wanted something that was easy to sort through and at the same time would be familiar to most users.

Many people are comfortable navigating the web, so I feel a web interface for installing applications would be something most people would find easy to navigate. The "Get Software" link on the Bodhi Linux home page has been a place holder for the last month and a half now. This evening the Bodhi Team and I launched our Joomla! powered, online software center:

Our software page will allow users to either choose by application function or search for what they are looking for (based on application name or functionality). Once a user has found the application they are looking, they can begin installing the program with a single click or download a pre-packaged installer (handy for taking to systems without an internet connection).

The website uses apturl for the one click install (modeled after how GetDeb works) and the download-able installers are a combination of shell script and a package archive. The Joomla! template is still a little bit rough, but it is functional and that is the most important part. There are currently only a handful of applications listed, but more will be added in the coming weeks until we have the perfect Linux application listed for every task you can think of. See here for a full list of applications we currently plan to list.

Have any questions, want to suggest an application I should add to the page, or if you have any trouble installing things, feel free to drop a comment here or make a post on the Bodhi Forums.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ten Linux Distros that use Enlightenment

In case you haven't noticed I've had a bit of an obsession with the Enlightenment desktop of the late. Even though this desktop is fantastic there are currently not very many distributions that utilize it. Today I would like to take the time to mention those that offer a version with my favorite desktop.


The biggest name distribution to (currently) offer an "official" Enlightenment variation is PCLinuxOS. PCLOS is an RPM based distribution that uses apt-get for it's package manager. As this is an official PCLinuxOS variation it is fully compatible with and uses the standard PCLinuxOS repositories. PCLinuxOS E17 currently has the beta 3 EFL packages in its repositories and stays regularly up to date.


Sabayon is a derivative of Gentoo that is fully backwards compatible. They recently released an "experimental" spin that utilizes the Enlightenment desktop. This spin is based on the latest version of Sabayon. You can find more information on it here.

Bodhi Linux:

Bodhi Linux is an Ubuntu derivative that uses 10.04 as a base, but back ports newer software from Maverick and even Natty repositories. It receives regular Enlightenment updates and currently features the EFL beta 3 libraries. It is fully backwards compatible with Ubuntu 10.04 packages.


Macpup is a distro based on Puppy Linux. Macpup's latest release is based on "Lucid Puppy" a version of Puppy that is compatible with binaries made for Ubuntu 10.04. Macpup ships with ELF beta 1 version of the Enlightenment files compiled from SVN revision 52995. Something worth noting is that Macpup feels a bit incomplete as certain Enlightenment features do not work (such as shutting down). Finally I'd like to note that if you want to update Enlightenment under Macpup you will need to compile and install the updates yourself from source.


Unite17 is the first derivative built on top of Unity Linux, which in turn is a derivative of Mandriva. Unite17 is a Hungarian Enlightenment distribution that has a large default application set. Unite17 was formly known as PCe17OS.


Elive is based on Debian stable (5.0), over time it has become what I believe to be kind of the defacto standard of Enlightenment distributions. While it does work well and is more than elegant all of it's packages are fairly old. Even it's Enlightenment packages are dated at this point, it's last release was over nine months ago.


Pentoo gets it's name from it's Gentoo base and it's function for network penetration testing. It utilizes Enlightenment more so for it's speed than for it's elegance. It is backwards compatible with Gentoo, but it's last release is over a year old at this point.


MoonOS is an Ubuntu derivative whose last release used 9.04 as a base. It is important to note that MoonOS no longer receives updates as 9.04's life span has run out. Still, it is nice looking and if you are willing to compile your own Enlightenment updates it can work just fine as an OS (after upgrading Ubuntu versions). This 9.04 version is the last copy of MoonOS to use the Enlightenment desktop, an announcement was posted that future versions will be using the Gnome desktop.


Yellow Dog is an Enlightenment distro that works on PowerPC and Cell processor architectures. It is designed for home use (on the PS3/PPCs Macs) and server use/cluster computing. It is built on top of the community version of Redhat Linux known as CentOS and is maintained by the company Fixstars.


OpenGEU is another Ubuntu derivative (there are always lots of those) whose most recent version is built on 8.10. It has been a long while since we saw any new releases from the OpenGEU team, but they promise us a Debian based release at some point in the future.

I think I covered most all the Enlightenment based Linux distributions - really shows how few there are that I can list them all like this in one post! If I missed anything please drop a comment below to let me know.

~Jeff Hoogland

More Enlightenment FAQ

While the Enlightenment desktop is fantastic, there is no doubting that in all it's grace and glory it is a bit different from other desktop environments. While I know there are some people (such as myself) that like to just muck their way through things on their own, I also know that others like a bit of a guide to follow along with. A couple of months ago I made a post detailing the answers to some common questions those new to the Enlightenment desktop have. Today I would like to address a few more such questions and give a few tips I have picked up over the years.

Your Desktop is a Menu:
Because most Enlightenment distributions have a "main menu" button on one of their shelves, I think many miss (or forget) the fact that the entire desktop acts as a menu. Left clicking on any open space on the Enlightenment desktop brings up the main menu:

Right clicking on open space on the desktop brings you directly to your "favorites" menu:

Run Everything (without Do!):
One application you often see recommended for Linux desktops is Gnome Do, a quick launcher that allows you to quickly find and launch applications that are installed on your Linux desktop. There is no need to install Gnome Do under Enlightenment so long as you have the Everything Applications module loaded. You can launch Run Everything from either the main menu or by hot key (alt+escape or super+space). Once it is launched simply start typing the name of the application you are looking for and then press enter once it is highlighted.

You can also navigate the listed applications with the arrow keys. The launcher also remembers which applications you use - so after a day you can find your applications even more quickly!

Key Bindings:
There are a lot of useful (non-standard) key binding setup under Enlightenment by default. It is worth searching through them to see what is there. One of these I would like to mention is that alt+fX will change to your desktop X (Through 12 of course).

Enlightenment Crashes:

Something I sometimes forget is that the Enlightenment desktop is still in an alpha state, because of this it does have hiccups now and then. If you have been using the Enlightenment desktop for some time then you may have seen this message before:

Once you get past how intimidating this message looks - take a deep breath - and press F1. Your screen will flicker for a moment and then everything should return to normal. Enlightenment is the only desktop that can crash and still save the state of all the applications you have open. It is important to note what you where doing when the crash happened and then report it to your distro creator (or right to the Enlightenment folks if you are compiling from SVN).

If you think of any other Enlightenment questions I haven't covered thus far - please feel free to drop a comment below asking.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mugen Power Extended Battery N900 - Hands on Review

A few months back I wrote a post mentioning that I had ordered a Mugen Power battery for my N900. If you have been by my blog here before then you may know that while I love my N900 the battery life isn't all that amazing (like most smart phones). If I am using the N900 to it's fullest extent I am able to drain the stock battery in just over two hours.

The stock battery weighs in at 1320 mAh. The Mugen Power extended battery is nearly twice this size (2400 mAh).

Look and Feel:
The N900 is a bulky hand held by default and the Mugen Power doesn't exactly help this figure.

The extended battery makes the N900 around 30% thicker, as a comparison base this isn't much larger than the Otter Box makes the N900.

The Mugen Power comes with a replacement back panel for the N900 (see the above image). This back panel is of a quality make and clips firmly to N900. Unlike the default panel, this Mugen Power panel does not contain a shutter over the camera lenses. For those that use the camera lenses opening to trigger applications launching on their N900 (I know I do), don't worry because there is an up/down switch on the Mugen Power panel that performs the same function as the old shutter. Another important thing to note is that while this back does make the N900 a bit thicker it doesn't obstruct the camera lenses at all.

Also, since I mentioned the Otter Box - it is worth noting is that you cannot use the Mugen Power with the Otter Box case.

Duration and Usage:
In my couple of weeks of testing I found the Mugen Power to over twice as long as the stock battery during my every day use. I went from having to find an outlet (or a powered USB port) by 2pm - too being able to get through my entire day on a single charge. Before I would connect to 3g only when using it to conserve battery, with the Mugen Power I could now leave my mobile Internet connected the entire day without a second thought.

When you first get the Mugen Power, as with any lithium ion battery, you will want to fully charge and then fully discharge the battery several times to maximize it's capacity. I found that even with my 3g connected all day I had trouble fully draining the battery to an empty state in just a twelve hour period.

Why the Delay:
The final thing I would like to mention about the Mugen Power is one of reasons why it has taken me five months since placing the order to write this summary. About two weeks after receiving my Mugen Power battery (right after it was finally broken in of course) my N900 took a tumble off of my kitchen table to the hardwood floor. I am not sure if it was just a fluke with the battery I had received, but this less than three foot tumble to the floor was enough to render the battery completely useless.

The battery refused to charge and after contacting Mugen Power they advised me against using the battery any further. Mugen was very understanding, all I had to do was pay to ship the broken battery back over seas and Mugen then sent me a replacement free of charge.

The Cost:
The extended battery does come with a bit of a hefty price tag, just under 100 USD. If you are someone that doesn't like having to remember to charge their N900 halfway through the day (or doesn't want to) then the Mugen Power battery is a quality piece of hardware worth the price.

Do you think you are going to pick up an extended battery for your N900? What other accessories do you have for your N900 that make it a more enjoyable hand held to use?

~Jeff Hoogland

Linux Gamers will Buy

"There is no money in making games of Linux"

They said.

"There is only a negligible market share for Linux"

They said.

"They" were wrong. Twice in fact they have been wrong. The folks who seven months ago brought us the first Humble Bundle have, just in time for the holiday, season brought us yet another chance to donate to some good causes and get some quality video games at the same time. For the next three days you can donate any amount you wish and receive each of the following DRM free, cross platform games:
  • Braid
  • Cortex Command
  • Machinarium
  • Osmos
  • Revenge of the Titans
The cost of buying each of these games separately would be around 85$.

What does all of this have to do with Linux Gamers being willing to purchase their video games? Well, lets look at the statistics this time around for who is donating what to the Humble Bundle:

Once again users donating for the Linux platform have surpassed both Windows and OSX users for the average donation amount. In addition to that, our "negligible" market share has made up nearly 25% of the total donations. To all my fellow Linux gamers out there - please help us continue proving all of "them" wrong. If you haven't already made a donation for the second Humble Bundle I encourage you to go do so now! Even the small sum of 15$ is enough to continue to raise the Linux average donation amount - an amount that is more than fair for these great games!

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Distro Watch Wait Listing

If you have been exploring the world of Linux for any amount of time then odds are you have come across the website Distro Watch at some point or another.

Distro Watch performs a great service for the FOS operating system community. They document releases, package lists, and a host of other information about Linux, BSD, and other FOS operating systems. It is the one stop shop to helping you find the perfect FOS operating system for you. A person can loose days (weeks, months) sorting through all the choices there.

My own project, Bodhi Linux, is really up and rolling now. My small team and I have a website setup, forums, our own debian repository and torrent tracker. As such I have been asked by a number of people as to why the distribution still isn't listed on Distro Watch. For those who are unaware, Distro Watch has a waiting list for new distributions. They currently receive between two and four distributions per week - the waiting list allows them sort out which distributions are going to last and which will simply fade away quickly. A distribution must sit on the waiting list for a year or until someone someone purchases a 200$ ad for it.

Bodhi was added to the waiting list on 11/18/10, so unless I find a spare 200$ laying around in my sock drawer there are only eleven more months before Bodhi finds itself listed. While there are exceptions to every rule - I'm not holding my breath that Bodhi will be one of them. Really a shame considering there are only a handful of distributions listed that use the Enlightenment desktop.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, December 18, 2010

User Familiarity != Software Superiority

Most anyone that has really used Linux, on the desktop, in the last few years knows that it is ready for the average user. The same is true for a number of other open source projects. Many FOSS projects are on-par with (or better than) their closed source counter parts when it comes to the number of features and functionality. Why is it then that FOS softwares are (typically) less commonly used by the general public? Simple:

User Familiarity

It is the sad fact that in our current society (mostly) only closed source softwares are used (and taught) in schools - at least in the US. This fact, combined with the resistance to change that is inherit to most people, means people are more inclined to click on that big blue E when going to surf the Internet as opposed to my favorite fox. Many users simply use the software that comes pre-installed on their computer or what is recommended by the sale's person. For example Microsoft Office.

In many FOSS vs Closed Source project comparisons I have seen to date this "user familiarity" is often referenced as a point of "software superiority". Not only is this a flawed form of logic, but it is really borderline FUD. The familiarity the users have with a given piece software is not something that they where born with (or was even developed over night). It is something they learned over an (often extended) period of time.

Do you think a time will ever come when users will realize that just because you know how to use a piece of software doesn't automatically make it the best software for completing the task at hand?

~Jeff Hoogland

Netflix and FOSS Hypocrites

Perhaps you saw a couple weeks ago Netflix's post touting their advocacy of open source software. They provide a hefty list of projects they utilize and contribute back to:

Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, and Cassandra

It's a shame there aren't any video streaming programs on that list. If you use Linux and are familiar with Netflix then odds are you are aware of (what at this point feels like an age old argument) the issue of getting Netflix's instant stream functional on your Linux system. In case you are not aware of this dilemma, in short:

It does not work

You see, even with all of the FOSS projects Netflix supports they choose to use the DRM ridden Silverlight plugin to stream video over the Internet. This prevents the streaming service from functioning on FOS operating systems (Linux, BSD, ect.) at this current point in time. Why the lack of support? Some will say Linux has a small market share so is not worth the extra time it takes to support the platform.

Personally, I find it a bit absurd that they can find the time to support Windows, OSX, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, and now even the Linux based Android and still not provide a general streaming solution that would work across all PC platforms. As Netflix themselves stated, it is often cheaper to employ an FOSS solution to remedy software needs - so why they do not use an FOSS medium to stream their media is beyond me (or heck even a closed sourced solution such as flash that is cross platform).

In my opinion, Netflix loves FOSS just about as much as Microsoft does. They see it as something that can help their bottom line and nothing more. Don't get me wrong, I understand companies need to make money - but in my opinion if you are only utilizing FOSS to turn a larger profit, then you are falling far short of realizing the true reason this type of software exists.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bodhi 0.1.3 Released

Two nights ago after many complaints, complements, bug reports, and themes myself and the Bodhi Linux Team pushed out our forth alpha release of the minimalistic, enlightenment using distribution. This release includes a few bug fixes, ELF Beta 3 packages, Firefox 4.0 B7, and a good deal of "polish around the edges" previous versions of the distro had lacked. For a full change log see here.

Some images of the new system:

As our development team is small we still only have a 32 bit disc available. This 0.1.3 release is a bit larger than previous versions, coming in at 385 megs (still under our 400 meg goal). You can get Bodhi 0.1.3 via high speed torrent download here or via a bit slower direct download (via source forge) here.

If you know of anywhere that would be interested in doing a review of the distro please feel free to contact me via JeffHoogland at Linux dot com (I would post one myself but I think that would be a bit tacky). Thanks for using Bodhi and please report bugs as always!

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, December 4, 2010

HOWTO: Enable Compiz under Bodhi (Enlightenment)

One of the reasons I gave for giving the Enlightenment desktop a try was its elegance. While it is true that Enlightenment has a good number of built-in effects that run on a wide range of systems, those with a more powerful system might crave something more. If you are coming to Enlightenment from a previous Linux desktop odds are you are aware of Compiz Fusion (a compositing window manager known for it's many different effects). Thanks to the Ecomorph module for Enlightenment, you can enable many of your favorite Compiz effects on the Enlightenment desktop.

First things first: installing Ecomorph. If you are using Bodhi Linux you can simply apt-get the needed packages with the command:

sudo apt-get install ecomorph*

On other Enlightenment distributions the install command and package names will vary. You can also always compile it from source. Once you have Ecomorph installed, load the module (Settings->Modules->System). It is also necessary to disable the Dropshadow (and built in compositing if it is enabled) module under Look (it conflicts with Ecomorph's built-in shadow).

Next, using your preferred text editor, as root, create a .desktop file for launching Ecomorph. For example, run the following in terminal:

sudo gedit /usr/share/applications/ecomorph.desktop

For the contents of the desktop file, paste in this. Save the file. Then, if you want to always start compositing on login add our newly created menu entry to your startup applications.

Finally, log out and from your session list select E17 - Ecomorph instead of Enlightenment when you log back in. Please note: if you did not add Ecomorph to your startup applications you will have to manually launch the desktop entry for compositing to become active.

Once Ecomorph is running, you can customize your desktop effects under Settings->Ecomorph

Ecomorph also adds a list of actions you can bind to your preferred key-sets (such as toggling expo). Configure these under Settings->Settings Panel->Input->Key Bindings. Enjoy your tricked-out Enlightenment!

Have any questions or if issues arise while installing/configuring Ecomorph feel free to drop a comment below.

~Jeff Hoogland