Category Archives: Stiri iT & C

SolydXK Delivers Rock Solid Linux Performance | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Oct 4, 2019 9:56 AM PT

SolydXK Delivers Rock Solid Linux Performance

SolydXK is a Debian-based distribution with a choice of Xfce or KDE desktops. Both versions are simple to use and offer dependable and consistent performance.

SolydX and SolydK are Debian Buster-based Linux OSes with the Xfce and KDE desktops respectively. The latest release arrived on Sept. 27.

The SolydXK distro is a solid open source alternative for small businesses, nonprofit organizations and home users. The distro’s developer team lacks an enterprise business structure and costly tech support services that come with business options such as Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux.

However, this distribution is ideal for typical noncorporate computing tasks. SolydXK installs without challenges and needs little-to-no set up or manual configurations. It has more polish and smoother performance than many of its Linux OS counterparts.

SolydXK Evolution

Solyd made its debut in February 2013 as an unofficial variant of Linux Mint’s Debian edition with KDE as the default desktop. The main Linux Mint offering is based directly on Ubuntu, an offshoot of Debian Linux as well.

Later in Solyd’s development, the community gave the KDE version its own identity as SolydK. The community added SolydX as an option after Linux Mint dropped its Debian-based flavor that used the Xfce desktop.

The SolydXK headquarters is based in the Netherlands and runs on i686 and x86 64-bit architecture. The team dropped the Raspberry Pi 3 image from this release due to apparent lack of user interest.

Under the Hood

This current release, SolydXK, is based on Debian Buster 10.1 with the latest kernel version 4.19. The Live ISO now boots with localization support. This is a good update feature for gaining a wider user audience.

SolydXK 10 includes the new GRUB2 theme and a USB Creator tool that was rebuilt from scratch to improve stability, speed and maintainability.

Another improvement is a change in the SolydXK Firefox settings to improve user privacy. This is done in the firefox-solydxk-adjustments package, which can be purged if you don’t need it.

The developers thoroughly cleaned up the ISOs, removing any packages that are not strictly needed without compromising system stability and safety. This update is welcome. It helps keep the download size of the ISO smaller and contributes to a reduction is system software bloat.

Limited Approaches

Arjen Balfoort, a key developer of two discontinued desktop options within the Linux Mint distro, developed the SolydXK distro to continue where the Linux Mint line left off with the dropped Debian branch desktop options. The result grew into a very suitable Linux operating system with two equally efficient desktop environments. Both choices give you a full range of controls over system performance.


SolydXK 10 Xfce desktop edition

SolydXK 10’s Xfce desktop edition comes with a good assortment of default applications.


Linux Mint, perhaps best known for its flagship Cinnamon desktop, also has several other desktop environments. These editions are all based on Ubuntu Linux. So the distinction between SolydXK’s desktop editions and those same environments in Linux Mint and other distros offering the same desktops is significant.

The Linux Mint developers later introduced Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) as an experimental project to see how the Linux Mint lineup would fair with a Debian Linux base. It offers only the Cinnamon desktop.

The real distinction between choosing the SolydXK options of Xfce or KDE Plasma desktop environments rests with the distribution base of Debian versus Ubuntu in other distros. I see very few added features on either desktop. For typical users, the steadfast performance in SolydXK may be all it takes for full adoption.


SolydXK 10 KDE Plasma desktop

SolydXK 10’s integration of the KDE Plasma desktop offers a unified desktop view with a user interface similar to the companion desktop offering.


SolydXK’s uniqueness lies in the software choices the community includes compared to the same desktop options in other distros. The other differences remain under the hood.

X Versus K

The Xfce desktop is a Linux standard that provides uncomplicated desktop handling with a stuffed toolbox of settings tools. The settings offer numerous options that let you tweak how the OS looks and works. All it lacks in eye candy from fancy displays and desktop animations.

KDE Plasma is a long-standing favorite desktop that has changed drastically in recent releases to simplify its use and modernize its appeal. It has settings that let you add desktop widgets and desktop visuals that add handy features.

Either choice could eliminate any need for new desktop creations that have yet to find a level of maturity and stability. If your computer hardware is starting to show its age, try out SolydXK’s Xfce edition first. It packs a lot of power.

The Xfce edition is a lightweight environment that leaves you feeling like nothing is missing. The KDE Plasma version is a more heavyweight rendition with trimmed down bells and whistles.

The major differences between them are the cadre of applications indigenous to each desktop environment. The look and feel of each one is very different.

What’s Inside

This latest release of SolydXK 10 is based on the Debian Buster 10.1 release with the latest kernel version 4.19. An added feature can be quite handy, especially if you crave additional security. The developers have a fundraising deal of sorts with NordVPN for Virtual Private Network services.

If you create a new NordVPN account, SolydXK gets a small commission. That in turn helps support the continued development of SoldydXK. You can install the NordVPN application with the system tray icon or through the SolydXK Welcome screen.

Both editions come with a shortlist of productivity applications. Version 6.1.5.2 of LibreOffice is included. You also get Firefox ESR as the default Web browser. Of course, you can add specific applications from the package managers.

The Xfce version has a far better collection of desktop tools and other default software. The KDE version is almost devoid of any of the standard KDE software family applications.

Overall, you see a more unified common layout and software content regardless of which edition you install. From there, you can make the OS what you want it to be.

Bottom Line

SolydXK is a well-designed and well-managed Linux distro. You can not go wrong with SolydXK. It provides a state-of-the-art Linux platform.

I particularly like its emphasis on no-nonsense computing without bogging down users in mundane setup and tinkering. I constantly look for Linux distros that do not try to reinvent the wheel. SolydXK will not discourage newcomers and will not turn off seasoned Linux users.

This distro takes something old and makes it new again. It is a very workable combination.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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ArcoLinux Eases the Way for the Arch-Curious User | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Sep 27, 2019 5:00 AM PT

ArcoLinux Eases the Way for the Arch-Curious User

ArcoLinux (also the subject of this
website) is a big change for the better for anyone switching from other Linux lineage to the Arch Linux infrastructure.

ArcoLinux, based in Belgium, previously was known as “ArchMerge Linux.” It is a rolling update distribution based on Arch Linux, but it offers an unusual learning path to make assimilating into the Arch architecture a more pleasant experience.

ArcoLinux is a continuation — albeit taking a slightly different direction — of ArchMerge Linux and its family line. ArchMerge Linux was a spinoff of another breakaway distro,
ArchLabs Linux. ArchMerge’s development team split with the Archlabs community to release a forked version that offered a choice of Openbox, Xfce or i3 desktops.

ArcoLinux and its breakaway relatives are a step up from most Arch Linux offerings in terms of installation and use. Arch Linux distros in general are notorious for their user-intense installations and sometimes-challenging software management processes.

In general, no Arch Linux distro is a suitable starting point for Linux newcomers. However, that reality changes a bit with ArcoLinux. You can use this distribution’s unique approach to learn the inner workings of Arch Linux’s underbelly more easily.


ArcoLinux installs into an easy-to-use Xfce desktop environment

ArcoLinux installs without frustration into an easy-to-use Xfce desktop environment with a handful of default applications as the first step in mastering four phases of learning to use Arch-based Linux.


ArchMerge Linux’s developer, Erik Dubois, spearheaded the rebranding in February 2017. He designed his distro as part of a platform to help users learn how to use Linux in general and Arch Linux in particular.

Dubois developed a series of learning steps that enable new users to gain proficiency and comfort using Arch Linux. The goal of ArchMerge Linux remains intact in ArcoLinux. That goal is to make the distro more than just an Arch-based operating system.

The Back Story

The transformation of ArchMerge into ArcoLinux involved a bit more than mere rebranding. The most important reason behind the name change, according to DuBois’ blogs, was a shift in developmental direction. Put simply: The name no longer covered what the development was doing.

The ArchMerge distro merged Xfce, Openbox and i3 desktops. That was the initial idea behind the “ArchMerge” name. Later development produced the ArchMergeD edition and added 13 desktops to it.

Additional plans would increase the disparity between the “ArchMerge” name and the new developmental direction, so the distro’s name needed to change.

ArchMerge Linux did not fall into an inactive state. That is often what happens when developers no longer maintain a distribution. ArcoLinux did not reintroduce the same distro under new developers.

Rather, the developer replaced ArchMerge Linux with ArcoLinux to reflect the new directional path. The new or replacement distro kept much of the look and feel of its former self.

The word “Arch” translates in many languages to the words “Arco” and “Arka,” according to Dubois. The name “ArcoLinux” sounded better to the developer team. It signaled that the distro is based on Arch but is not actually the Arch Linux distro.

Dubois saw the distinction as a remix of part Arch Linux, part Arch Users Repository (AUR) and part unique ArcoLinux packages hosted in the community’s own software repository.

Differences That Matter

ArcoLinux is a training ground for those who want to learn about using Arch Linux without the frustration and blind trial-and-error approach that usually is present with Arch-family distributions. ArcoLinux has a fully functional live session that lets you try it out without installing anything.

Be careful when you first load the live session DVD or USB. You first see the Xfce desktop that is quickly covered by a full screen installer window. If you are not careful, you inadvertently will start installing ArcoLinux on your hard drive.

Avoid all potential trouble by pressing the Escape key to close the installer window. You will again see the Xfce desktop and can use it without making any changes to your existing computer system.

A few other breakaway Arch-based distros also offer a live session, but they lack the built-in learning modes that help Arch newcomers understand what happens internally beyond live session handholding.

Most Arch Linux options merely let you burn the downloaded ISO file to DVD or USB to use as an installation medium. They usually do not boot your computer into a standalone demo mode.

Building Block Approach

ArcoLinux is a full-featured distribution. You start out with a basic installation built around the Xfce desktop. You do not get bogged down with figuring out what desktop to select from the other available desktops, including Awesome, Bspwm, Budgie, Cinnamon, Deepin, Gnome, i3, Mate, Openbox, Plasma and Qtile. More are planned down the line.

Although the initial ISO contains Openbox and i3 environments, you must work your way through the learning projects to discover how to install them.


ArcoLinux right-click secondary menu is a staple in the Xfce desktop

The right-click secondary menu that is a staple in the Xfce desktop lacks a section to access installed applications in ArcoLinux.


The projects progress through four building phases. Phase 1 is the starting point with the default Xfce desktop. Get the ArcoLinux ISO version. It installs with a graphical installer for ease and comfort.

Phases 2 and 3 get you started building a more complete computing system from minimal scratch. Get the ArcoLinuxD.ISO version, which includes scripts that enable you to install any desktop and application.

Phase 4 gives you many more ISO download options. It is here that you get access to installation files for a specific desktop choice. This phase is named “ArcoLinuxB.” The file name includes a dash and the desktop name. For example, arcolinuxb-gnome.

At this top phase level you have additional choices of installation medium. You can select full, bare or minimal. You also can choose between Linux kernel ISOs and Linux-LTS kernel ISOs for long-term support.

Choosing the Minimal ISO installs fewer default software packages. You then manually install only the applications you want on your system.

With the Bare ISO you’ll have almost no default software installed. The goal is to have the least number of software packages on your system.


The ArcoLinux Xfce desktop lets you add numerous screen applets with the Conky Manager tool.

ArcoLinux’s default Xfce desktop lets you add numerous screen applets using the Conky Manager tool.


Getting Going

The developers provide some 29 different ISO combinations. ArcoLinux also provides various video tutorials to support its emphasis on learning and acquiring Linux skills.

However, do not look for the download links on the two ArcoLinux websites. Instead, you will find only a link to two different locations on Sourceforge.

Get ArcoLinux and ArcoLinuxD ISO download links
here.

Get ArcoLinuxB ISO download links
here.

AroLinux is a rolling upgrade distro, so system updates are pushed to the computer as soon as they are ready. This means you will not have to download new ISO files to install newer releases. The latest ISO files were released on Sept. 13.

Bottom Line

I like rolling up my sleeves to tinker with a variety of Linux distros, but some Linux families require more effort to set up and maintain than others.

Seasoned Linux users who like the higher level of hands-on control that Arch systems provide rave about Arch’s superior reliability. Typical Linux users, however, often just want a configurable desktop that they can use without complicated setup and hands-on system maintenance demands.

The building blocks approach ArcoLinux offers lets you start with a basic, easy-to-use desktop environment with enough default software to get you started. Then it lets you move through higher-level phases of functionality to master the Arch Linux platform.

This method is not well suited for all Linux users, but it has several advantages if you are curious about using Arch-based Linux distros.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Manjaro 18.1: Goes Arch One Better | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Sep 20, 2019 7:00 AM PT

Manjaro 18.1: Goes Arch One Better

Manjaro Linux 18.1, released on Sept. 12, is one of the most complete Linux OSes you will find. It is a powerhouse distro that offers a better Arch Linux computing platform, and it is the de facto standard for comparing Arch family options.

After six months of development, the latest series is a fast, user-friendly, desktop-oriented operating system based on Arch Linux — but its independent nature makes this distro a hallmark of out-of-the-box computing.

Arch Linux itself is renowned for being an exceptionally fast, powerful and lightweight distribution that provides access to the very latest cutting-edge — and bleeding-edge — software. Manjaro exceeds that reputation and has more benefits.

Manjaro Linux is not Arch Linux in the pure sense — but yes, it is based on Arch underpinnings and Arch principles. Nor is using Manjaro Linux the same as using pure Arch or more direct derivatives.

Its independence breaks away from the pure Arch mold. It puts a user-friendly face on an Arch-based distro and gives you a choice of sensible and productive desktop interfaces and features. Manjaro’s user base targets newcomers, not the more technically inclined experienced Linux user.

Developed in Austria, France and Germany, Manjaro provides all the benefits of the Arch operating system combined with a focus on user-friendliness and accessibility. The prime directive for all things Arch is simplicity, modernity and pragmatism.

A Better Arch

Manjaro’s independence is one of its key distinguishing traits. That is clearly evident with its software packages. Manjaro has its own repositories that are not affiliated with Arch Linux.

Reliability is one of the chief benefits of Manjaro’s software policy. Fewer things break, because the Manjaro team takes more time to make sure its software packages are compatible. In addition, the repositories contain software packages the Arch community does not provide.

One software feature Manjaro closely shares with Arch Linux is compatibility with the AUR or Arch Users Repository. This is a community-driven repository for Arch Linux users. Its compatibility with Manjaro Linux expands access to free software stores within Arch-related communities.

In addition, AUR brings a simplified package installation process that augments Manjaro’s software management method. Arch community members port applications to the AUR and provide scripts to install applications not packaged for Arch or Manjaro.

More Manjaro Mainstays

Manjaro developers build into the releases tools such as the Manjaro Hardware Detection utility and the Manjaro Settings Manager. Also, Manjaro has its own way of doing system functions compared to Arch.

A collection of system applications built into Manjaro make using it much easier. For example, Arch distros usually require familiarity with terminal windows to carry out package installations and removals. Manjaro’s front-end assistance and improved system tools provide less-experienced users with considerable handholding.

Another invaluable tool is the console-based net-installer Manjaro-Architect. You can install any of Manjaro’s official or community-maintained editions. Or you can configure your own custom-built Manjaro system.

What’s New

Codenamed “Juhraya,” Manjaro 8.1 offers numerous system improvements, including an enhanced package management tool. Another significant update offers a choice of office productivity applications at installation — LibreOffice suite or SoftMaker’s FreeOffice 2018. In previous versions, only LibreOffice was preinstalled.

The new Manjaro version includes a graphical front end for managing Snap and Flatpak packages through a tool called “buah.” Other key features include an intuitive installation process, automatic hardware detection, and a stable rolling-release model.

You also get the ability to install multiple kernels, special Bash scripts for managing graphics drivers, and extensive desktop configurability.

Why Use It?

If you are a frequent reader of Linux Picks and Pans, you know that I do not often sing the praises of so-called pure Arch distros. They have earned a reputation for cantankerous installation routines, minimal default software offerings, and user unfriendliness.

I highlight a newer crop of friendlier Arch-based distros when I find them. For example, in a few recent reviews I point to some newer Arch derivatives that are creating a bridge between hard-core Arch distros and more soft-core alternatives.

Check out my
ArchLabs review and my
review of
Archman
.

Manjaro’s independent nature allows it to take the edge off the usual technical skills requirement for productively using an Arch Linux distro. It sets the standard for making ease-of-use a sensible trait for the newer Arch-based options to adopt.

A Package Deal

Manjaro Linux offers Xfce, KDE and GNOME as core desktop options. All three of these latest core Manjaro desktop editions have been enhanced significantly with new features. They contribute to an overall unified designed to bring the desktop and operating system into perfect harmony.

This latest version upgrade includes the new “Matcha” theme of the Xfce Edition, KDE’s completely redesigned messaging system variant, and new buttons for the Gnome version. It uses Xfce 4.14, KDE Plasma 5.16 and Gnome 3.32. The core releases include a minimalist edition for more advanced users.

The Xfce desktop environment is lightweight, which makes it fast with low demand on system resources. It is visually appealing and user-friendly. Xfce offers the traditional Unix philosophy of modularity and reusability. It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality of a modern desktop environment.


Manjaro-Xfce user interface screenshot

The Manjaro-Xfce user interface provides a modern integration of classic Linux bottom panel and simplified main menu.


Xfce’s modularity component is essential to its inclusion in the Manjaro Linux desktop array. Its desktop-specific software is packaged separately. This allows you to pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment.

The More, the Better

KDE Plasma, a very modern and flexible desktop, is very user-friendly and flashy, but it is also quite resource heavy. It is an ideal desktop option within the Manjaro Linux offerings. It offers a user-friendly and customizable desktop that rivals those traits in Xfce.


Manjaro-KDE edition screenshot

The Manjaro-KDE edition offers a multi-layered main menu panel that is tab-driven, with a transparency effect that does not fully cover any of the desktop area. The desktop design presents lots of eye candy displays that make the user interface fun and productive.


The newest redesign in KDE Plasma contributes to its feature-rich and versatile desktop environment. One nicety is its several different menu styles to access applications. Another is its built-in interface that makes accessing and installing new themes, widgets and such from the Internet fun and easy.

KDE Plasma is simple to use and provides a clean work area that stays out of your way. The result is the ability to create a computing workflow that is more effective.

One of the pluses in running the KDE edition is the abundance of desktop customization possibilities. You have access to a collection of eye-snappy widgets to add to your desktop. The result is a much more configurable resource-heavy desktop.

GNOME’s Allure

The GNOME 3 desktop breaks with traditional concepts so users can focus on their tasks more easily. It comes with the GNOME desktop-specific inventory of applications with clearly defined guidelines to make them more consistent to use. This desktop design is fresh and uncomplicated.


Manjaro-GNOME 3 desktop screenshot

The Manjaro-GNOME 3 desktop includes the latest refinements that make GNOME easy to use.


The latest GNOME integration in Manjaro makes it easier to access frequently used features like virtual desktops. The panel bar sits vertically on the left edge of the screen. The main menu button is at the base or bottom point.

A second menu button sits in the top left corner of the screen. It provides separate access to a second menu style. It includes a button to a workplace switcher that slides out from the right edge of the screen. You can use the “Windows” key on the keyboard to bypass the menu button entirely to reach the workspaces panel.

Manjaro Linux has more choices available, thanks to an active and efficient community support team of developers who maintain an impressive collection of other desktop versions. The community-developed desktop versions include the Budgie, Cinnamon, Openbox, MATE, LXDE, LXQt, Awesome, Bspwm and i3 desktop environments.

Bottom Line

Manjaro Linux’s in-house system tools, easy installation application and better range of software packages make it a better Arch-based distro than Arch Linux itself. Manjaro offers much more than a pure Arch Linux environment.

Regardless of which desktop style you select, the welcome screen introduces Manjaro tools and get-acquainted details such as documentation, support tips, and links to the project site.

You can get a full experience in using the live session ISOs without making any changes to the computer’s hard drive. That is another advantage to running Manjaro Linux over a true Arch distro. Arch distros usually do not provide live session environments. Most that do lack any automatic installation launcher from within the live session.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Newcomer EndeavourOS Offers a Friendlier Arch Linux Experience | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Aug 8, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Newcomer EndeavourOS Offers a Friendlier Arch Linux Experience

Good-bye Antergos Linux. Welcome to the Arch neighborhood, EndeavourOS. Here’s hoping that you are well received!

That may seem like a strange way to begin this week’s Linux review discussion. After all, Linux distributions come and go far too often. However, the handoff from Antergos to EndeavourOS is significant.

EndeavourOS rolled out its first stable release on July 15. It is a new Arch-based Linux distro that picks up where Antergos left off, in terms of seeking an easy-to-use online installer and modern user-friendlier Arch environment.

Antergos, a popular distro among Arch enthusiasts, shut down in May when its developer team members declared they no longer had time for it. Distros coming and going is an all-too-familiar story in LinuxLand — but it is also the saga that keeps the Linux community thriving with fresh open source participants.

Bryan Poerwoatmodjo (Bryanpwo), project leader and founder of EndeavourOS, was the Antergos community forum moderator. His goal for the new distro — which is not an Antergos clone — is to make the terminal an integral part of the new OS while also providing a GUI for software installation as a small layer of convenience.

EndeavourOS promises something sorely needed. A key component of this new distro is a nontoxic community environment where users actually can get friendly technical help.

The need for a more supportive community is not limited to Arch Linux — other distros could benefit by following EndeavourOS’ lead.

Feature Prospects

EndeavourOS offers users interested in learning about Arch Linux a mixed bag of opportunities. Arch Linux distros tend to be challenging. The EndeavourOS community wants to make Arch a little less so.


EndeavourOS comes with a fairly nice set of system tools menus

EndeavourOS comes with a fairly nice set of system tools. Other menu categories are a few applications, leaving you the choice of what to add to your computing platform.


Still, the new distro comes with a learning curve. Just because the developers state that they want to make this new distro user-friendly does not mean you can jump right in and find a simple-to-use system waiting for you. Arch ain’t like that!

This first stable release comes with a lightly themed Xfce Desktop environment. It also packs some subtle encouragement to use Arch’s Pacman app for package management needs.

No graphical package manager is included by default. Instead, EndeavourOS uses the familiar Calamares installer to automate the normally complex and command line-based Arch installation process.

There is much more that makes EndeavourOS a good follow-up to Antergos Linux, but before I go any further into telling you what the developers want to do differently, let’s reminisce about the things that stand out about Antergos that might make choosing a replacement upsetting for its orphaned adopters.

Antergos Obituary

Antergos was one of the better Arch Linux options. It was a powerful and modern computing platform that was designed elegantly and brought power users almost all they could desire.

Antergos had a significant history. It was initially the Cinnarch distro, until 2013 when it morphed into Antergos.

One of the biggest challenges in getting started with any Arch distro is surviving the installation. Requiring manual installation routines that rely on a command-line process is the Arch Linux norm. Other Arch-based distros use a combination of scripts to semi-automate the installation routine.

A secondary challenge with Arch-based distros is the software management process. Arch newcomers who get beyond these two factors gain a solid-performing Linux desktop with more layers of security, and a computing system with little or no software bloat.

Common Ground for Something Better

A popular alternative to Antergos was
Manjaro Linux. According to Linux folklore, many users adopt Manjaro because it is designed a bit differently than other Arch-based options.

Antergos provided a less frustrating user experience through the installation process. The support options and easy-to-use desktops made Antergos Linux a good fit for most users from that point forward.

Another thing that can trip up users with Arch-based distros is how to start the installation. Most Arch-based ISOs are for direct installation. Typically, Arch distros do not have fully functional live session environments. Those that do require you to exit the live session environment to start the install process externally.

You will not find a live session environment with EndeavourOS, but the distro’s dev team eases the installation pain nonetheless.

The Scoop On EndeavourOS

The Arch software philosophy mostly toes the line, but EndeavourOS is not a strict follower of the entire line. The developers keep the golden Linux and Arch prime directive of freedom of choice in mind, however.

This new distro provides a basic installation process that lets you explore choices such as installing GUI apps like Pacman and software sandbox solutions like Flatpak or Snaps. It is up to the user what gets installed to make EndeavourOS work. Unlike other Arch-based distros, the main difference with this distro is the push to help users who have trouble.

EndeavourOS does not ship with an office suite, an email client or GUI installers like Octopi or Pacman by default. The developers intention in excluding those packages/apps is not to be elitist or Arch purists.

Rather, doing it yourself with the terminal gives you a better understanding of what Pacman or Arch is all about, according to the Wiki on the new distro. In fact, that notion reinforces the basic Arch design philosophy.

Despite that reasoning, the distro includes the yay app by default. Yay is “Yet Another Yogurt,” a common name game for Arch-based packaging tools.

Put simply, Yay is an Arch User Repository, or AUR — a helper for managing packages on Arch Linux. That is a finger in the eye as far as Arch purists are concerned.

Desktop Maven

EndeavourOS ships with the Xfce desktop, but the distro is not limited to Xfce. Again, this is Arch World, so you have choices galore.

Not yet ready is an online installer tool to provide nine more desktop environments: Base, i3-wm, Openbox, Mate, KDE, Cinnamon, Gnome, Deepin and Budgie. Meanwhile, you can install your choice of desktops using the command line.


EndeavourOS Xfce desktop

The default Xfce desktop is a classic Linux layout. Once you install EndeavourOS, you can install one of the other nine desktop environments to replace Xfce.


Again, welcome to Arch. Learn to do the Linux basic things with the keyboard, not the mouse. These commands are fairly straightforward.

Find the
commands here. This link takes you to a basic EndeavourOS wiki manual that the developers plan to grow as the distro
matures.

Fear No Command-Line Evil

Do not fear the need to use the command line in EndeavourOS. If you are going to use an Arch-based Linux distro, you need to get well acquainted with it. Arch distros rely on the terminal window more than other Linux distro families.

See a
list here of the basic Pacman terminal commands to maintain the EndeavourOS system. That will get you started.

Or just click on the Wiki tab on the top of the developer’s website.

Download and Install

Click the Download tab on the EndeavourOS website for a direct link to the distro’s repository. You also can find links there to torrent download locations and other software centers.

The best place to go for the installation ISO is
Sourceforge if you are downloading from outside Europe.

Another fast
direct download spot is GitHub: direct download, mostly fast.

Either way, you are looking for a file named “endeavouros-2019.07.15-x86_64.iso,” which is 1.4 GB. The file takes about three minutes to download, depending on your source.

I did not find the installation to be difficult. The credit for that is not due to my skill set. The credit goes to the Calamares installer.


EndeavourOS Calamares installer

EndeavourOS uses the Calamares installer. This simplifies the process and replaces having to use the command line manual method.


Many Arch-based distros still rely fully on the manual installation. Calamares automates most of the installation routines.

Even with Calarames, though, the main stumbling block for novice users will be the fourth step in the process — hard drive partitions.

Calamares creates a graphical look and click approach. It provides options — but you still need to know what the options mean. If that is a potential problem for you, search the Internet for helpful videos.

Bottom Line

EndeavourOS has a lot of potential. It is an impressive addition to the shortlist of distros that want to make using Arch a more rewarding experience.

For a Linux distro built around one of the more challenging Linux families, EndeavourOS is a stable, solid performer with few, if any, noticeable quirks. That shouts volumes, given the relative youth of the first stable release following beta development.

EndeavourOS is not an easy choice for Linux users with no hands-on experience with the Arch Linux ecosystem. Despite its newness, though, it is a better Arch Linux choice than other Arch variants.

It is a great choice for those willing to roll up their sleeves and learn Arch Linux’s inner workings. Hopefully, EndeavourOS succeeds in making the Arch-based neighborhood a more inviting place for new users and seasoned Arch users as well.

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Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

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email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

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Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
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Microsoft, OpenAI Shoot for the Stars | Emerging Tech


Microsoft wants to empower its Azure cloud computing service with yet-to-exist artificial general intelligence (AGI) technologies to create new goals for supercomputing.

Microsoft on Monday announced a US$1B investment through a partnership with
OpenAI to build new AI technologies. The two companies hope to extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems.

Microsoft and OpenAI want to accelerate breakthroughs in AI and power OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence. The resulting enhancements to Microsoft’s Azure platform will help developers build the next generation of AI applications.

The partnership was motivated in part by OpenAI’s pursuit of enormous computational power. Based on a recently released analysis, the amount of compute used in the largest AI training runs grew by more than 300,000 times from 2012 to 2018, with a 3.5-month doubling time, far exceeding the pace of Moore’s Law, according to OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman.

“We chose Microsoft as our cloud partner because we’re excited about Azure’s supercomputing roadmap. We believe we can work with Microsoft to develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The partnership will allow OpenAI to significantly increase the amount of compute it uses for training neural networks,” he noted.

Microsoft and OpenAI also are very aligned in their values, Brockman said. Both firms believe the technology should be used to empower everyone, and be deployed in a trustworthy way that is safe and secure.

“OpenAI believes they can work with Microsoft to develop hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in comments provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Joel Gunderson.

What the Deal Delivers

Microsoft and OpenAI will collaborate on new Azure AI supercomputing technologies. OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure.

OpenAI will use the Azure platform to create new AI technologies. OpenAI will license some of its technologies to Microsoft, which will commercialize them and sell them to as-yet-unnamed partners. It’s hoped that the result will deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence.

Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies. OpenAI will enter into an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft to extend large-scale AI capabilities.

Both companies will focus on building a computational platform of unprecedented scale on the Azure cloud platform. They will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, including hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology.

The development teams will adhere to the companies’ shared principles concerning ethics and trust. This focus will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way, and it is a critical reason the companies chose to partner.

AGI a Work in Progress

Innovative applications of deep neural networks coupled with increasing computational power have led to AI breakthroughs over the past decade. That progress occurred in areas such as vision, speech, language processing, translation, robotic control and even gaming, according to Microsoft.

Modern AI systems work well for the specific problems they have been trained to address. However, building systems that can tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world today requires generalization and deep mastery of multiple AI technologies.

OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for artificial general intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multidisciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, personalized healthcare and education.

“This is truly going to help Microsoft. It has more technology in its marketplace to allow the rapid ascension of tools in the business workplace,” noted Chris Carter, CEO of
Approyo.

Combining these two entities to support the growth that is needed is “an absolute game-changer,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Chasing Computing Dragons?

A larger neural network is a more capable neural network, according to Brockman. Making larger systems will allow the two companies to solve more difficult problems going forward.

“We plan to keep doing this until we reach AGI,” he said.

The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will help developers build the next generation of AI applications.

“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI.

It must be deployed “safely and securely with its economic benefits widely distributed,” he added.

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time,” noted Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, with the “potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges.”

Grabbing for Powerful Straws

The most likely results of this partnership are that AI technology will grow faster and be utilized in more enterprise and business spaces. This partnership will enable the rapid indoctrination of AI technologies in the workplace, according to Approyo’s Carter.

“This will allow businesses to flourish. Individual workers will boost their productivity. They will also be able to support themselves on a day-to-day basis with technology rather than to be hindered by it,” he explained.

The partnership could hinder development of Cloud AI technologies, though, because Microsoft is prioritizing OpenAI over other emerging AI technologies that might be better, suggested Marty Puranik, CEO of
Atlantic.Net.

If the AI technologies are kept proprietary or work best only on Microsoft Azure, it will lead to Azure platform lock-in, he said.

“Many developers may develop services that use this technology, thereby forcing all their customers to use Microsoft. Microsoft historically has a huge advantage when it comes to enterprise development work, so this could be seen as a way they are trying to cement the position they had in enterprise software into the cloud,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It boils down to Microsoft trying to leverage new technologies, like AI, to be a leader in the cloud, Purani, maintained, similar to when Microsoft would make minority investments and take seats on the boards of hot companies a long time ago.

Ultimately, from Microsoft’s point of view, it would be ideal to have extensions for OpenAI that either would be exclusive or work best on Microsoft’s platform, similar to the “embrace and extend” ideas once applied to APIs, said Puranik.

Win-Win for Both

Microsoft is all about collaboration and open source since Satya Nadella took the reins. He recognizes that AI is the latest and greatest arms race, observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“As a result, they are embracing Open AI to increase the speed of development for their projects largely with an IT focus,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Both partners in this deal can learn and benefit from this effort, which is collaborative by design. Participating allows not only earlier access to the result but also a deeper understanding of it, Enderle said.

A Large Promise to Fulfill

In promising to deliver on artificial general intelligence’s potential, the two companies are not dreaming small, noted Arle Lommel, senior analyst for
CSA Research, but that dream may be a reach too far.

“They intend to solve something that nobody has solved yet and that we aren’t remotely close to solving today,” he told TechNewsWorld, “but beyond that, accomplishing that will mean ‘solving’ language as well.”

That means having computers really understand language and use it on par with humans. Despite press release claims about getting near-human quality, that goal is as far beyond present capabilities as a moon landing is beyond a Roman chariot, Lommel quipped.

“That said, I suspect they will get much further along with machine vision, categorization, diagnostics, etc.,” he said. “In other words, I expect this could result in improved versions of what AI already does well. But unless there is some fundamentally different secret sauce, I don’t expect that it will ‘solve’ language and human intelligence.”


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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