Last week I moved a client from a single Windows Small Business Server 2008 setup to a Windows Server 2016 setup using Hyper-V. The new setup is 1 physical server with a handful of virtual machines broken out for different roles. Part of this migration was a new domain and a new Exchange server. The Exchange 2016 based setup worked without a problem until I was dealing with a remote user. The remote user is not on the domain but has a router to router VPN back to the main location. When trying to change their Outlook over to the new Exchange server I kept getting errors about a MAPI timeout. I tested and could ping the Exchange server by IP, name, FQDN, and even external address. Typically when changing a user’s Outlook from one system to another I just create a new Outlook profile so I can keep their old one as a backup just incase. After continuing to get the MAPI timeout errors I gave in and decided to blow out all their old Outlook profiles. No go. They had 3 Outlook profiles and when trying to delete any of them I would get the error: The action could not be completed because the action could not be completed. Not a very helpful error but it did confirm I had issues with the old profiles. I ended up deleting the profiles via the registry then guess what? The new Outlook profile worked without a hitch.
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.
Windows ME crashed constantly, Windows Vista ran terribly on almost all PCs available when it was released, but I believe Windows 8 beats both for the title of worst Windows release ever. When Windows ME wasn’t crashing things were usable. Similarly with Windows Vista, if you had enough power it was usable. Windows 8 on the other hand, doesn’t crash constantly and runs fine on most hardware. Where is falls apart is, it is completely unusable. The UI is a complete wreck. Drop someone in front of it and ask them to open a program without a shortcut on the desktop. See how long it takes for them to pull up even the Start screen. Then on top of that, wait for them to figure out how to get to the All Apps screen. There is also the garbage Charms bar which loves to popup when you don’t want it. Windows 8 is also the starting point for Windows jamming their terrible “Modern Apps” onto your PC. Windows 8 and 8.1 come with things like News, Sports, Stocks, etc. installed out-of-the-box. At least you can uninstall these apps. Windows 10 takes that idea and goes full on spam, installing the apps (and sponsored apps) out-of-the-box. Then even if you unistall them, it will reinstall after certain updates. This OS was a complete miss after probably the best Windows version ever, Windows 7. Windows 8.1 is not great either but when compared to Windows 8, it feels great.
It is crazy to think about just how old this OS. We it came out I upgraded my PC with 192MB of RAM from Windows 2000 to it. It finally brought the much more stable NT kernel to a consumer OS. Before XP I dual booted Windows 2000 with Windows ME because 2000 was stable and ME could run my games. XP was great for its time but it stuck around way too long. New technologies kept getting bolted on causing a need for piles of extra drivers and convoluted installs involving floppy disks (try installing XP onto an SATA drive when they came out). On top of that XP turned into a virus and malware filled cesspool. The massive flop of Vista kept XP around even longer and while XP has been EOL for over 2 years now it is still being used in some places. Playing with it in a VM now reminds me how little resources it needed (most PCs still running it are in terrible shape at this point). It also reminds me of how dated it is.
I finally got a chance to play with Ubuntu on Windows 10. It is still in beta so you have to turn on the developer option in Windows, add a feature, then run the install. Not a terrible process but it could be more straight forward. The Ubuntu install is Trusty so it is a bit dated but for what I use it for that is fine. I’ve just started playing with it and noticed some weird quirks but the basics work. I was able to connect through telnet and ssh as well as install and run htop and screenfetch. Htop has some quirks like showing all CPUs over 50% constantly. It is not perfect but it is nice to have bash in Windows.
There is something I don’t trust about Windows 10. It’s not me just being anti closed source software. I’ve installed Windows 10 on a bunch of different hardware and as an OS it works well enough but something does not feel right. Maybe it is the fact it is being given away for free. Maybe it is because Microsoft feels the need to sneakily force it on Windows 7 and Windows 10 users. Maybe it is the fact that when you uninstall Windows Store apps they come back on their own. The last reason is probably the most irritating. I don’t want Candy Crush, and I don’t even know what Sway and 3dbuilder are but I’ve have uninstalled them on multiple machines only to see them come back later on. This brings me to another issue, why can’t I easily kill off Window Store Apps through GPO? MS is very big on being the OS for business but wants to keep installing games on my workstations. Overall Windows 10 works fine but that lack of trust is a constant ping in the back of my head.