Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elementary OS Pulling an Elive - Charging for Linux?

So I caught a comment here about Elementary OS being released today so I headed over to their website to see if the disc had been released yet and I was greeted by a count down timer listing twelve hours left till release. Okie-doke count down timers are cool and all - then one of the buttons caught my attention -


Huh - pre-orders are usually needed only by software that requires a cost to download... Upon clicking on the link was I redirected to paypal with the item "elementary: Jupiter" in my order summary. I've read a few things around the internet about Elementary OS and I was keen to give it a try, but after having paid for Elive I don't think I'll ever be using a Linux based OS again that requires me to pony up some green for it.

Now I am not saying distro developers don't deserve contributions from their users (being one myself I know how much donations are appreciated), but a monetary contribution I feel should not be required for installing an FOS operating system. I also think that requiring a payment such as this is going to cause a good deal of people to look else where for the Linux distribution of choice (I mean - its not like Gnome+Ubuntu is hard to find). Do you think - will Elementary OS still take off if they are going down the Elive route and charging for their distribution?

Update: It appears Elementary is going to be free and the cost is for having a physical disc shipped out to you. Still odd though that this information is not posted on their website! Thanks to Jai Ho for the tip i.n the comments

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dialog with the Girlfriend

About a year ago I made a post about installing Linux on my girlfriend's laptop. Just recently I was quoted on Linux Insider about how successful the installation had been a year later. I said that I believed it to have been a successful conversion of a Windows user to Linux. My descriptions were from my observations only, not my girlfriend's. I had not thought at that time to ask my girlfriend what she thought about the change of operating system on her computer.

Last night I sat down with her and we talked a bit about what she thought of her penguin powered laptop. With her permission I am going to post some of her responses.

You always hear people say Linux is only for “hackers” or “code monkeys” obviously you must have some programming background to use Linux everyday?

Girlfriend: I know a bit of HTML, but I've never needed to “code” anything to work on my Linux computer.

You've used the Gnome, Enlightenment, and the KDE desktops. Do you have a preference to which you use?

Girlfriend: To be honest beyond appearance I never really noticed much of a difference between the three. Enlightenment and KDE are pretty, while Gnome has a bit of a crude feeling. They all function equally well though. I never had a problem doing what I wanted to do on the computer regardless of the desktop.

Is it important that the software you use is open source? Why or why not?

Girlfriend: I don't write code – I don't look for bugs. I just want an application that works and gets the job done. The most attractive component to FOSS to me is that it is free of cost. Take photoshop for instance – instead of spending thousands of dollars I can use GIMP for free. GIMP does everything I need, GIMP does everything most people need.

What aspect of Linux most appeals to you?

Girlfriend: The software center is great. It allows for you to easily find and install things and know they are safe. Installing things on Windows can cause your computer to die. As long as I am using the software center on Linux I have piles of choices I can just install without the fear of hurting my system (and with out costing me a thing).

What aspect of Linux least appeals to you?

Girlfriend: Most closed source programs are not universal. I still have to load a Windows virtual machine in order to do some of my school work. Aesthetically some of the FOSS applications aren't as good looking, but they typically get the job done so their appearance really doesn't matter to me.

Would you recommend Linux to a friend?

Girlfriend: Sure. If they had Linux then they wouldn't have to have all the extra trash on their system (that normally comes pre-installed on Windows). System stability is better on Linux, it doesn't start running slow after a few months. They also wouldn't have to pay to get viruses and spy-ware removed every few months.

What do you think needs to happen for Linux to become a major contender as a desktop operating system?

Girlfriend: 10 out of 10 people know what Microsoft is because it comes with their computer. People also can be afraid of free thinking you “get what you pay for”. Maybe you should try charging for Linux? Its really pretty dumb, but if Mac can be so popular with being so expensive I don't see why Linux can't do the same. Windows, Linux, OSX – they all do the same thing. Linux just tends to do it cheaper, more efficiently, and quickly.

A few of the responses she gave were exactly what I was expecting. It was refreshing to hear someone who is only a desktop user share some of the same insights as a seasoned Linux advocate – maybe we aren't all just nutty “Linux Zealots” after all. At the same time a few of her answers have given me some food for thought (and future posts).

While my girlfriend is smarter than the average bear, she is by no means a “programmer” or a “power user”. She is an accounting major, full time student and manager at a local bowling alley. Just like most end users her computer is a tool and Linux allows it to function better than it ever did while running Vista.

Have you installed Linux for friends or loved ones? What have their responses been to their new operating system after having time to use and adjust to it?

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bodhi Linux 1.0.0 Stable Release Goes Live

After two more weeks of hacking and user feedback since our final release candidate the Bodhi Team and I are proud to announce the availability of the first ever Bodhi Linux Stable release (1.0.0). This release includes a couple minor bug fixes and a few final touches polish wise. For a full change log see here. The first thing you will notice when starting the newest Bodhi disc is that our plymouth (boot splash) has a sleek new look:

In addition to the standard plymouth being reworked - a text based plymouth is now installed by default so older/virtual systems no longer display the harmless "missing library" message that had looked tacky in the previous versions.

After booting the live CD you will be greeted by the same profile and then theme selections that you where provided with previously. There is one change to the profiles however, the "Desktop" profile is now laid out in a manner that will make those coming from KDE/Linux Mint's Gnome feel at home:

Regarding the default application selection there has been a single change from what is found on the 0.1.7 release. The nautilus elementary file browser has been removed in favor of the latest version of the light weight and feature rich PCManFM file browser.

You will also notice two changes in the main menu. First there is now a Bodhi entry for quickly accessing our Quick Start Guide, Software Page, and Art website:

Second, all your system configuration tools are no longer buried like they where in previous version - they are under applications with the rest of your programs:

Current Bodhi users do not need to reinstall for these changes to take effect. Simply apt-get update && apt-get upgrade as root on your Bodhi system (or use synaptic) and you will pull down an relevant updates. New users can download the ISO via direct download from here.

This is our first ever "stable" release and we want feedback on it now more than ever! If you know of anywhere that does reviews of Linux distributions be sure to let them know about Bodhi - the more people that are using the distro the better it will become.

For those wondering about our version numbering scheme. The first number represents a major release, the center number represents a kernel update, and the third number presents a minor package update release. Bodhi 1.0.0 should be our final release until we have the 2.6.38 kernel ready to go - so expect a Bodhi 1.1.0 disc some time towards the end of May. Our major release cycle is set to go from Ubuntu LTS to LTS, so a Bodhi 2.y.z should not be expected any time before the end of the summer of 2012.

Finally, a big thank you to the entire Bodhi team and our every growing community that made this release possible!

~Jeff Hoogland

Many a Tux Do Not Exist

So I was reading a review of the latest Zorin OS posted over at the Dark Duck blog and the title of it is rather interesting:

"Tux Which Does Not Exist..."

The reason Dark Duck gives for his curious title is the fact that Zorin OS does not exist on what is respected by many as the one stop shop for most all information on the internet - Wikipedia. Now I am not sure as to why Zorin OS does not have a page there, but I would not be terribly surprised if it was for a similar reason Bodhi Linux still does not have a Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia moderators are inconsistent and sometimes just jerks!

A couple months after I first release Bodhi Linux into the wild, one of our many users erected a Wikipedia page about Bodhi. It was promptly taken offline due to a citing for lack of notability. At that point, this was a 100% fair assumption - our project was only a couple months old and really the only place that had mentioned it was my own blog here.

About a month ago one of our users put up a page for Bodhi again. This time we where listed on distro watch, had write ups on ghack, webup8, omgubuntu, techrepublic, and about a dozen other Linux/tech orientated websites. We are quickly attaining our goal - becoming the standard for what people think of when they look for an Enlightenment distribution. This time the page stuck - success! We had achieved a noteworthy status.

In case you didn't know, Wikipedia articles are case sensitive. The page that had stuck around for about two weeks was located at Bodhi_Linux. Another of our users (not realizing we already had one) put up another page with the title Bodhi_linux. This page was correctly flagged as a duplicate and promptly deleted - the issue? The moderator that deleted the duplicated page also took a look at previous page and this moderator decided there was not enough about the project there for the page to exist. Never mind the fact that it had already been up for two weeks and had already been approved by another moderator.

The kicker? There are at least a dozen or so other Linux distributions listed on Wikipedia that have seen far less attention than Bodhi has or have been around for just as long (or less) time. Yes I know Wikipedia is a volunteer service it is just a shame that we cannot get some consistency among the decisions those volunteers make. We will have a page eventually I am sure, but at this point I am not terribly worried about it.

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The End of the N900 in the USA

It's been awhile since I blogged about my N900 (even with Nokia kicking FOSS out it is still a solid handset). I like the Maemo operating system, the fact that it is a real Linux based operating system on my handset (not some Java based OS) is the reason I ponied up the 500$ about a year ago for the device. I live in the United States, which means that T-Mobile is the only mobile carrier that provides anything faster than 2g speeds on the N900.

Well that is the case for now anyways.

In case you have been living with your head under a technological rock AT&T is planning on buying T-Mobile. Should the fates allow this to happen (here is to hoping antitrust acts prevent it from happening) AT&T as announced they are planning on taking down T-Mobile's 3g/4g/HSPA+/WhateverYouCall it network due to "upkeep" costs. Never mind the fact that T-Mobile's network blows LTE out of the water - the fact that this network will be going offline means the N900's mobiles speeds will be rendered relatively useless in the Unite States (AT&T's network only gets about 15kb/sec with the N900's radio). Not to mention even if the N900 did get decent speeds on AT&T's network their mobile internet plans are horridly restricted (and priced even worse)!

Now not just the N900 will loose its mobile internet snappyness if this merger happens - all TMO handsets will. AT&T's solution? Get everyone phone upgrades (They factored this cost into their merger). Its a shame that this leaves all of us that purchased our handsets outright (such as the N900) out in the cold, reminds me of the many reasons I left AT&T some time ago. Honestly though, even if they where going to offer everyone a free handset - nothing on the market currently can really measure up to what Maemo does. I had been hoping to get a few good years out of my N900 as it does everything I could ask from a handset and I just recently purchased a second N900 for my girlfriend to use, guess I should have waited on that decision.

If the merger does go through the best I can hope for is a decent handset from the Samsung Linux Platform some time in the next year to replace Nokia before my mobile internet drys up. Anyone else hoping this merger falls through?

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tiny Core Fraud on Source Forge

If you watch new projects that are added to source forge then two weeks ago you might have noticed that Tiny Core Linux was added to their projects.

I thought this was a little bit odd as I knew Tiny Core had been around for a couple of years now. Typically if a FOSS project is going to use source forge for hosting they do so from the start. Still, I let the thought drop and went on with my day.

This evening it was brought to my attention that the Tiny Core page on source forge was not added by anyone from the Tiny Core project itself - but simply by someone trying to solicit donations from themselves with someone else's work! Roberts, the founder of Tiny Core, tried to contact source forge, but did not receive any good news from them:

"When I contacted Sourceforge with a take down notice, I was told that if it is copyrighted material that I need to contact legal and prove it"

Check his post here for his full scoop on the matter. In short - the md5 sums on the source forge page match the md5 sums on the Tiny Core main downloads site - it is the exact same disc. I think it is horrible that source forge is refusing to take down this obvious fraud without first being called into legal action.

This is a slippery slope and I think if this issue is not resolved swiftly and properly we are going to see more of these copied projects appearing on source forge trying to solicit donations for greedy people. If there anyone out there with some legal background that can lend a hand - please get into contact with the Tiny Core folks and help them get this resolved!

For those that are not familiar with Tiny Core it is a super minimalistic Linux distro that runs on the 2.6 kernel and weighs in at 10megs. It uses Busybox, Tiny X, and Fltk. Check it out if you haven't already.

~Jeff Hoogland

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Holding on to KDE 3.5.x and Gnome 2.x in 2011

Something I have brought up on a number of occasions when talking about software is that people are very much resistant to change. This is true of both people that use closed source software and open source software.

There are many different kinds of desktop environments Linux users have to choose from, but there is no doubting that currently the two most popular of all of these are the KDE and Gnome desktops. Just over three years ago (wow, where has the time gone?) KDE released the fourth major revision of their desktop. The team behind Gnome is on the verge of releasing their third major revision.

Personally I think the release of Gnome 3.0 will be very similar to the release of KDE 4.0 Both of these versions bring with them drastic changes to their respective desktops. Are the changes they bring necessary? I am not one to make that decision - one thing that is clear however is that they changes they bring (brought) with them (will) upset a good deal of people.

Next, enter one of the many beauties of FOSS - the ability for fork a project. The previous stable versions of both KDE and Gnome will live on in two new projects.

Trinity Desktop:
The Trinity Desktop is a project dedicated to keeping the sleek, fast, power of the KDE 3.5.x desktop alive. From their about page:

"This project aims to keep the KDE3.5 computing style alive, as well as polish off any rough edges that were present as of KDE 3.5.10. Along the way, new useful features will be added to keep the environment up-to-date."

Their current stable release is 3.5.12 and as you can see it looks very much like the classic KDE 3.5.x desktop:

Personally I am glad to see someone is keeping the old KDE 3.5.x desktop alive. It was the last time I seriously ran KDE as my main desktop. KDE 4.x just feels to bloated and clunky for my liking.

EXDE Project:
Not currently an "official" project at this point as Gnome 3.0 has not made it's stable debut as of yet. The EXDE project will aim to do essentially the same thing for Gnome 2.x that Trinity has done for KDE 3.5.x While there still has yet to be anything of substance in terms of code from the newly announced EXDE project they do have a nicely laid out road map, a clearly stated project vision, and a very informative FAQ.

As with most things only time will tell what will come of the EXDE (pronounced "X-D" by the way) desktop, but hopefully it will keep the Gnome 2.x desktop alive for those that plan to continue using it.

Do you use the Gnome or KDE desktops? If you use the KDE desktop, was it rough to change over when version 4.0 released? Do you still find yourself wanting 3.5.x back and might give Trinity a try? If you use Gnome, do you plan to start using Gnome shell when it releases or will you seek out something else?

~Jeff Hoogland

Lazy Linux Distro Reviews

It's been some time since I've written a a review about a Linux distribution, in fact the last one I wrote was back in September. The reason I have taken a step back from writing these is because with my status as head of Bodhi Linux I feel I am no longer an impartial source for these reviews. That being said, since I am so involved in the Bodhi project I've been reading more reviews of the late and I've been astonished how many "reviewers" don't really even look at the distro they are reviewing!

Whenever I took the time to write a distribution review, I always made it a point to actually install the distribution on my system and use it as my main operating system for a minimum of a few days. Sure this takes a little bit more effort, but it is necessary if you are going to write an informed article. I amazes me how many people that write reviews simply boot a distribution in virtual box (some don't even install it!) take a few screen shots and then call it a day. Some don't even load any of the default applications or even look at the project's website. Sure it is OK to load the distribution as a virtual machine, but this should not be the only method of testing it for the purposes of a review.

I believe that if you are going to do something then it is worth doing right. I've been approached by distributions before to write reviews and if I didn't have time to write something of substance I just wouldn't write anything at all.

~Jeff Hoogland

No FAFSA for FOSS Users

I'm a student in my last semester of undergraduate school currently. I've written twice now about various pieces of online software that restrict your freedom to use the operating system of your choice to access them. My girlfriend is also a student and as many of you may know - college is expensive. This weekend she went to fill out her FAFSA application online, for those of you unfamiliar "FAFSA" stands for "free application for federal student aide", and was annoyed when she found out she couldn't!

You might share in my shock when I found out that this free application cannot be filled out from a free operating system. When clicking the "start here" button on the FAFSA main page from a Linux based operating system you are kindly redirected to the incompatible browsers page. Just like with blackboard "supported browsers" really means "supported browsers and operating systems". The FAFSA website supports:
  • Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8
  • Firefox 3.5 and 3.6
  • Google Chrome 6 and 7
  • Opera 10.x
Now even though three of these browsers are cross platform, the only operating systems you are able to use with these browsers are Windows and OSX. The kicker at the end of all this? At the very bottom of the page there is a citing of standards compliance as the reason for certain browsers being redirected:

"For the past few years, every major Web browser released has been built around a set of open standards designated by the World Wide Web Consortium, a non-profit organization charged with overseeing the continuing development of the Web. What this means is that one piece of code now looks the same on every modern browser, whether it be Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or others. The majority of our users are using these modern browsers, so we can present content which is optimized for them. "

While that is all fine and dandy, last I checked browsers on Linux where not any less standards compliant than those on Windows or OSX. At the end of the day I guess this is just another example of a large organization ignoring the FOSS ecosystem. I wonder how much longer it is going to be that Linux users are going to have to deal with this sort of ignorance.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Joys of Open Source Software

You know, I've been using open source software for some time now and occasionally I forget all that I walked away from when I left the closed source world. In addition to the power, freedom, flexibility, I've grown used to in the world of Open Source Software I sometimes forget one other benefit FOSS comes with... I was walking through the store with my girlfriend the other day when I came across something on the shelf I just had to take a picture of with my N900:

and before I finished laughing I noticed on the shelf below it:

I sometimes forget in addition to Windows itself being costly, most people get conned into spending further money on "protection" software.

While open source software is not free, it is very much free of monetary cost. I just have to step back and remember to count my lucky charms at the end of the day that so many devoted developers are committed to the world of Open Source software. It has easily saved me thousands of dollars in closed source software across the piles of computers I have laying around my house.

I'd just like to say thank you to all the developers out there that spend their time hacking away at code for everyone to use and share. Many are grateful for your time and dedication.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bodhi Linux Final Release Candidate Goes Live

The Bodhi Linux team and I are proud to announce the release of our third and final release candidate. This release includes several important bug fixes including several that increase boot time. For a full change log please see the forum post here.

The first thing you will notice is that we now have a new background image for the LiveCD menu and your grub menu:

Bodhi pride's itself on being minimalistic so it doesn't come with much in the way of default applications. We also highly value user input and after conducting a poll we came to the conclusion that Fiefox 4.0 was no longer the best default browser. After having almost a three way split between Firefox 3.6, Firefox 4.0, and Chromium for favorite browser, the team and I made the choice of going with something that was light and wouldn't take up much disc space on the default install.

The winner ended up being Midori. Midori is a fast, GTK based, webkit browser that has an install foot print of only a few megabytes. After working with the Midori developers the browser now also supports the AptURL protocol necessary for it to function with our online software center.

Speaking of default software - you will notice one new tool in the default install of Bodhi. The light weight graphical text editor Leafpad is now packaged by default. Don't worry, this is the last added application you will see in Bodhi.

After installing you will notice that our login screen no longer has excessively large "login" text on it:

After logging in you will notice we have a new theme in our default selection - Brown on Bodhi:

If you are using Bodhi on a tablet computer you should be happy to know we are now using the developmental (but stable and sleek) ELFE launcher by default in our tablet profile:

ELFE video preview:

The team at Bodhi has also been steadily growing. We have four translators working on our team now and you will find our quick start guide (default local home page on the disc) is now available in five languages.

This is our last release candidate before our "stable" release at the end of this month. We are fairly certain most of the kinks are worked out at this point, but if you do find any bugs please be sure to let us know about them!

You can get Bodhi in 32bit flavor via direct download here or torrent download here.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Twenty Sleek GTK Themes for your Linux Desktop

Last month I posted about twenty two different icon sets you could use to class up your Linux desktop. Today I would like to share with you twenty of my favorite GTK themes that look fairly sleek. A picture is worth a 1,000 words as they say - so how about we just stick to a screen shot overview:



Azenis Green

Black Diamond

Blue Joy


Country Oak






Murrina Chrome

Murrina Cream


Silent Night



Wii Black

WoW Elementary

Do you have a favorite GTK theme I haven't listed here? If so drop a comment below letting me know what it is!

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Quality of FOSS Blogs

You may or may not be aware that I am the current project leader for Bodhi Linux. As such, in addition to developing the distribution I've also done my best to contact various websites that do write ups about Linux related things to do write ups about Bodhi. After all, what is the use of developing something if no one is going to use it? Up until now most everything that folks had written about Bodhi had been, fair, decently objective, and at least a small bit researched.

This evening I read an article that struck a bit of a nerve with me. I had contacted the author of Dedoimedo a couple months back to see if he would be willing to take a look at Bodhi. He said he was interested and then sent me an email back letting me know:

"Just an early FYI, I started testing the distro. It's got lots of issues,
I'm gonna release that in the review, but I wanted you to know up ahead, it's only fair"

Great, I love constructive user feedback. Find an issue? Let us know and we will get it fixed - we are still in a "release candidate" stage with the Bodhi project so we know issues are bound to occur.

I had been wondering exactly what "lots of issues" he had encountered, we have a decent user base now and no one else had reported anything more than a few minor things. Earlier this week he finally posted his thoughts about Bodhi - I was a bit turned off that he had completely missed the point of the project. We are not trying to be Pinguy OS or Zorin. We do not think it is necessary to install "everything and the kitchen sink" for all users. In fact quite the opposite, we pride ourselves on the exact opposite - user choice by allowing them to easily customize their own system.

He spent most all of what he wrote complaining about the lack of pre-installed applications found in the minimalistic distribution. This is like purchasing a fork and then complaining that it is difficult to eat soup with said utensil - just utter non-sense.

He then goes on to complain about a few configurable features of Enlightenment, including how it handles window focus and the behavior of maximized applications and your shelves. Towards the end he also says:

"Getting the extra stuff requires a liberal use of the package manager, turning minimalistic into a saga of hard work"

Which further proves how little he actually looked into the project itself because installing software from our online software center is about as easy as it gets.

At the end of the day he did come across one actual bug with the distro - the fact that the default home page in Firefox was a "restore last session" message, a small oversight before building the disc image. This has been corrected in our latest release and we extend our apologies to all those out there than had to click the restore button before going on with their webrowsing on Bodhi 0.1.5

Odds are you have heard the statement "Linux is not Windows" before. This isn't a bad thing, in fact different is good - it is however a fair warning that if you try to use Linux thinking it is going to look and feel the same as Windows you are going to be sorely disappointed. In the same respect - Bodhi is not Ultimate Edition or Pinguy OS and we are not trying to be. We advertise what we are, so the user (should) know what they are getting before they download our latest release.

I guess all in all I am just a little disappointed that some where as popular as dedoimedo gave such a biased post with obviously little research into what the project was about. I guess in the end it is a healthy reminder that you need to take everything you read on the internet with a (sometimes huge) grain of salt. Why am I posting this rebuttal here? Because Dedoimedo is kind enough to have any form of commenting disabled on his website (I could guess a few reasons why). At the end of the day I guess "any advertising is good advertising" - Right?

What do you think? Was dedoimedo objective in his post and I am just overacting because I am personally involved in Bodhi or am I right in my annoyance with his post?

~Jeff Hoogland