It seems like I keep hearing about this distro so that means I had to take if for a spin. Right off the bat things were looking good. Ubuntu LTS base, up-to-date KDE, and minimal preinstalled software. The install was quick and painless. After rebooting back into the installed distro I was notified that I had updates available. The software updater is decent and ran without a problem. The only issue I could find is with the logon/lock screen and I know this affects all KDE distros. If you set the wallpaper and user image, the logon screen shows the wallpaper but not the user image and the lock screen shows the user image but not the wallpaper. It’s a small quirk but it is rather irritating. That aside, this distro is pretty great and it has earned its way into my list of distros I want to try on real hardware.
Category: Ubuntu Based
Over the last year I’ve tried a number of distros/OSs and felt I need to wrap things up with what I liked, didn’t like and what I am looking forward to. So without further ado, here goes.
Best Distro 2016: Linux Mint MATE 18.1
My main machine runs Manjaro XFCE 16.10 but I have had some issues with certain updates. For anything I use that needs to be reliable, I go with Linux Mint MATE. It works and I don’t need to worry about an update leaving me dead in the water.
Biggest Letdown 2016: Manjaro LXQt
I really want a good LXQt distro but this not it. It has so much promise but keeps letting me down. Whether it is updates that just won’t install or weird design choices, I want to like this but I just can’t.
Best DE/WM 2016: XFCE
I really like Fluxbox but can’t find a good distro for it. It looks like KDE5 and Budgie are coming around but they are not there yet. I also like MATE, but run into the occasional quirk. XFCE is so solid though. It is customizable (is that a word?) and relatively low on resources (I’d call it mid range for resources). XFCE is my daily driver and I prefer it over everything else right now. Whether it is LinuxMint, Majaro, Xubuntu, or Debian; XFCE is great.
Best OS 2016: Linux
This is pretty obvious. I’m not a complete Windows hater like some but Windows 10, while nice at times, really irritates me (quit reinstalling “Modern” apps I removed!). But that is nothing compared to OSX. OSX is good for basic things, but I need more out of my PC. If I didn’t, I’d just use my tablet. OSX blows Windows out of the water for running Photoshop and Premier but mapping a network drive, have fun with that. Chrome OS is getting better as well (I can finally run Team Viewer!) but it is still a bit too limiting.
Now that I have closed out 2016, here is what I am looking forward to in 2017
I wish I could say LXQt but it seems only ROSA has figured out how to make a decent LXQt distro (seriously, give ROSA a shot). I started playing with Budgie using Manjaro’s spin and while it had rough edges, I could see a lot of promise. As Budgie has matured it keeps getting better. I have a machine I use just to store VMs I’ve tested and it runs Ubuntu Budgie Remix. While it hasn’t been pain free, I really like what I see. With Budgie getting an official Ubuntu spin I think it can only get better.
I quite like Lubuntu and I am really hoping that when they switch to LXQt I finally get an LXQt distro I like. I know they keep delaying the move but I hope to see it this year. Both Lubuntu 16.04 and Lubuntu 16.10 have been working great for me so I can only hope for a great LXQt based Lubuntu this year.
Some other thoughts going forward
Bring back Manjaro Fluxbox or create an Ubuntu spin. Fluxbox is great but is really in need of some love. I’ve kept my Manjaro Fluxbox install running on an Acer C720, it is absolutely great but requires careful updating to keep in one piece. I’ve also built a Fluxbox setup from the Manjaro Net install just to learn more about how it works. I have tried the same with Ubuntu but have not go it dialed in yet. Besides Manjaro (whose Fluxbox spin hasn’t been updated since December 2015) the only other distro I have tried with Fluxbox is VSIDO (I’m open to suggestions) which was rough.
It is so close to being great again. Maybe 2017 will be the year it gets back to being my favorite DE but it needs to cut down on resources and run a bit smoother.
I’ve never been a fan, I don’t expect Gnome or Unity to win me over any time soon.
Cinnamon is good and always getting better but the resource usage gets me. It also has a bit of a dated look which I don’t mind if the resources match.
I really want to see Androids apps come to Chrome OS and run stably. Chrome OS is great but it is lacks the apps to be a full fledged PC replacement. Android apps can fill this gap but stability is a must. My Chromebook is rock solid and I want it to stay that way.
I’ve given up on this OS, it will never work the way I need it to.
Don’t become OSX, let the user decide what they want to do. I still uses Windows (almost daily), and don’t like the direction Microsoft went when Windows 8 came out. Windows 10 has started to rectify the problems and they need to stay the course of listening to users.
To wrap this overly long post up, here are a few things I have in the works
Fedora 25 LXDE- hint it is just as good, if not better than Fedora 24 LXDE.
Pixel Desktop – I’ve only started playing with it but I always love a new (ish?) DE.
Manjaro LXQt 16.10 – I’ve been having issues but hope to wrap this up soon.
Something with Lumina – I’ve used this with PC-BSD and Manjaro, not satisfied yet.
RetroPie – It is awesome, I’ve actually spent too much time with it lately.
I was looking for some hardware to install LinuxMint KDE 18 on and I found it. I’ve had a Macbook Air that I don’t use because I find OSX to be incredibly irritating. So I decided to dual boot it. After getting rEFIt setup I proceeded through the install like normal. Everything works great. I just had to get the wifi drivers installed as the MBA uses Broadcom. It’s been a while since I liked used KDE or my MBA but now I can say I enjoy both. The MBA is a great piece of hardware (but not as good as my Dell XPS 13) with a terrible OS. I only wish this had a bigger hard drive so I could dual boot a couple of distros at once.
Before it was released I had heard that LinuxMint was making a green theme. Not sure what happened as I see a lot of blue. I also see a lot of extra junk I don’t want. I started cleaning up only to realize I needed to allocate more resources to the VM as it was running terribly, not that this is weird for KDE (or Gnome for that matter). I then reboot and it decided that it was going to hang up multiple times while trying to enter my password. Not sure why that happened as it is running normal now. After reading that you probably think I hate the distro, actually after some cleanup I think it is great. Once it settled it felt much more usable than the other KDE distros I have tested. The only lasting issue I have is finding some good hardware to run it on physically. I’m also a little worried that I hear the LinuxMint team is having trouble managing this spin.
While looking through my old VMs I found this guy. I made this VM while distro hopping a few years back so I could keep working versions for a few things as I bounced between distros trying to find the right fit. I didn’t know I still had this and it made me remember how I thought LMDE was a great idea. It was originally billed as a rolling release that would use Debian testing with all the ease of LinuxMint. After short time problems kept arising and the Mint team completely overhauled it with LMDE2. LMDE2 is not a rolling release and is based on Debian stable. It’s not like Debian comes out with new releases often so that wasn’t a big deal but it did mean the packages would be even more dated. The original LMDE was an interesting idea that I thought would be great, but instead it became a battle to keep a working system and eventually ended up in a lot of manual tweaking. So after creating a snapshot of this machine I figured I’d try my hand at getting it updated. Right off the bat I had issues. Most of the repos I had were dead. I was able to update a few Mint specific packages and as part of this my repos were updated. I got it as far as an “apt-get upgrade” would take me (the 1st screenshot) it was now time for an “apt-get dist-upgrade” which I figured would completely destroy it. Surprisingly it did boot after but I had errors and weird issues. I found most of my errors were due to hal being killed off. After removing it most of the errors were gone. Updating the VBox guest additions also helped out a bit. The rest of my issues seemed to be from an XFCE upgrade that took place during my updates. This one took a bit to figure out but after clearing my cached and saved XFCE sessions it looks like all is well. With the problems I had when using this I never imaged that years later I’d be able to get it up-to-date after not touching it for so long.
This laptop has been a hassle since I got it. I picked it up for my wife years ago. At the time I had also had the larger sibling the HP Pavilion dv6700. Both were similar with the most noticeable difference being the dv6700 having a Broadcom wifi chip and the dv2500 having the Atheros wifi chip. These laptops went through many different setups. They came with Windows Vista, were downgraded to Windows XP, and were upgraded to Windows 7. The dv6700 spent most of its life running different Linux installs (which the Broadcom chip always made difficult) until it died from the video card issue that plagued a number of the HP Pavilions from this time. My wife replaced the dv2500 years ago and it became a machine to test different distros on. The Nvidia card tended to require some tweaks to Ubuntu based distros but worked decently. For the last couple years this laptop ran different versions of Lubuntu without an issue. Upon upgrading it to Lubuntu 16.10 though, the video card became a bigger nuisance. It didn’t give me the normal line offset video issues as older version upon install but I could not get anything to actually use the video card (Minecraft would not even launch). After a bit of tweaking I got it to kinda work but never got it working perfectly. I then decided to try another distro, Antergos with Openbox. It installed and worked but it kept trying to add a 2nd screen via the svideo port. No matter how many times I disabled it, it reenabled every reboot and tried to spread the screen across both making it a battle to even login. I also tried Manjaro LXQt which crashed everytime I tried to install Next up was ROSA LXQt R6. It installed but had the lined video screen like older Lubuntu. I figured I could get it fixed but after installing, everytime I started typing my password the display crashed and all I got was a black screen with the “X” cursor. I then tried Ubuntu Budgie Remix 16.10 and the video crashed at every login (testing on another machine, I now know this has to do with the Nvidia driver). At this point I gave up and installed Ubuntu MATE 16.10 and am not worrying about dealing with the video card. It can do the basic like run Chrome and Firefox so it is good enough for now. I’ll try some more distros in the future but at this point I’m thinking this machine may be ready for retirement.
Is it better than Unity? Yes. Is it better than Gnome, Yes. Is it better than Cinnamon? I don’t know yet. From my testing this is a great spin. So good I am installing it on real hardware. This distro was recently made an official Ubuntu distro similar to Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Mate, and Ubuntu Gnome; so I had to take a look at it. From what I can tell, it bypasses some of the more terrible Gnome features. It is similar to Cinnamon in resource usage but I really like the layout. Once I start using it on real hardware this may change but I do think this spin is worth a try. It looks good, it has the huge Ubuntu repo behind it, and (something Gnome and Unity lack) it feels really usable.