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Budgeting Software Options to Keep Linux Users From Seeing Red | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

May 17, 2019 9:48 AM PT

Budgeting apps come in all sizes and shapes. Budget apps for Linux are part of a software category that has been all but abandoned. But take heart. A number of Web-based solutions will more than meet your budget-tracking needs. If you still insist on finding a pure Linux-based application, do not mix the concept of open source with free.

If you want an actual free budget program that works well with your flavor of Linux OS, a Web-based offering may your best — or perhaps only — option. A few of these non-Linux solutions are proprietary products.

As is the case with the vacant category of Linux-made tax accounting software, some of your best options for working with your budget figures will be accessible through a browser. Ironically, the catch in finding your ideal budget software solution for your Linux OS is not open source — it’s that many of the budgeting app offerings cost money.

This week’s Linux Picks and Pans is a roundup of the best options for budget-tracking software for Linux. The winner for you might not be an open source entity.

Some solutions are standalone applications. Others are attached to Web-based software services. A few are free. Most come with a price tag, however. Just because an application runs on Linux does not mean it is free to use.

At a bare minimum, these applications and Web services will help you become more aware of where your money goes. A few might even help you figure out how to stem the financial bleeding, or at least slow it down for a month or two.

The products included in this budget-tracking roundup are not presented in any ranked order. Some are readily available in distro repositories. Other packages require manual installation. The rest you visit online.

You Need A Budget: A New Way to Track Your Spending

The
You Need A Budget app runs on Linux systems courtesy of Adobe AIR. YNAB also has a Web version that eliminates the need to be limited to an operating system. It operates a bit differently from earlier versions and other budgeting applications.

This personal financial budget app is income-based. After the 34-day free trial, it costs US$5 a month to use the YNAB Web and mobile app.

You Need a Budget app screenshot

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The latest release is version 5. It brings some important updates that make it more competitive to use. The new budgeting approach forces you to shift your mindset to work your budget so that you live on last month’s money. The process encourages you to think ahead for your expenses, break them down month-by-month, and live off the money you earned the previous month.

The look and feel resembles traditional budgeting software. You enter your categories, track your spending, and adjust if you go over or under in certain categories. It is easy to personalize your budgeting by removing or adding categories in each section as needed.

At the top of the screen sits your total cash flow for the month. To the right sits the total amount budgeted for the month, along with your total monthly activity, and the total available amount of your budget. Plus, your total monthly inflows are visible.

When you add a bank account, you can enter your transactions manually or choose to link your accounts. This sets the foundation for adjusting your budget based on your cash flow and spending from the previous month.

As you spend, YNAB shows you what is left in your spending categories. If you go over on a category, you can shift money around to cover your additional spending.

For example, if you earn enough income that you have more money to budget, the top bubble turns green. That money is now available to roll over to the next month. Meanwhile, you are still aiming to spend only the money you had available last month.

Setting up and maintaining your budget with YNAB is simple and flexible. This new approach is called “aging your money.” If you can’t age the additional money yet, at least you can apply it to cover shortages in other categories.

Features include the ability to import transactions automatically, straight from multiple bank and credit card accounts. You then have to assign them to categories. Splitting these transactions between multiple categories is easy. Or you can enter your transactions by hand.

YNAB lets you track your credit spending separately from your bank account transactions. If your goal is to balance credit and cash spending, this is handy. YNAB syncs with more than 12,000 banks, and it lets you connect multiple devices.

Another neat feature is the ability to set financial goals in one or more budget categories. The process is as easy as clicking on a category and adding the goal.

Mint: Smooth Bank and Credit Account Syncing

Intuit Mint is a simple personal finance program that is Web-based. Your financial data gets updated automatically every time you visit the site. Mint presents your financial information in an easy-to-use interface with graphs and reminders.

Intuit Mint

The website and app combination provides everything you need in a budgeting and money-tracking tool. However, it lacks a standalone app for any desktop or laptop OS, and it has no bill payment capabilities.

The website and mobile apps are easy to use, whether to create a personal budget, track bills or set up payment alerts. The interface offers the added benefit of tracking your credit reports and your credit score, along with special tips and strategies to boost your credit profile.

The Mint system works across multiple financial platforms so you can work with all of your accounts in one place. Your bank account, credit card account, brokerage account and retirement savings account are all available on your website login and mobile apps.

Mint has several key features that make it more than useful. It sends you alerts when you go over your budget. Using it is totally free. Mint comes from Intuit’s TurboTax.

Mint and its clone-like apps use a very effective expense tracking and management system. In fact, it is the key to taking control of your budget and reaching your spending goals.

For example, whether the display is on a full-size computer or laptop screen, or a much smaller mobile device screen, it presents an overview of your budget status and your individual financial components, showing monthly income, the amount spent on bills and other categories, and the amount of money left over.

Mint’s analysis gives you personalized money-saving tips and spending advice. When you make a financial decision, such as a large purchase, Mint steps in and shows you ways to save money and make better choices.

Personal budgeting on Mint makes it easy to enter your accounts quickly. You can import the information without completing an endless succession of steps. Everything you need is in one place. For instance, the built-in finance calculator shows you visual aids, such as graphs and charts, to reveal the whole financial picture.

You decide what to do with your money. You can adjust your budget based on the tips and recommendations. You can set alerts and reminders to avoid missing payment due dates and incurring late fees that put more strain on your budget. You also can have Mint send set text alerts and emails to remind you of nearly anything that relates to your budget.

Mint’s primary feature is budgeting and tracking expenses, and this is where the service really shines. Budgeting is super easy to set up: After you download and sync your transactions, they will get auto-categorized into predefined categories. You can create your own subcategories, but unfortunately cannot modify the top-level ones.

Another prominent feature is the goal-tracking and managing feature. New goals, such as paying off credit card debt or saving for a new home, are simple to set up and easily are reflected in your monthly budgeting.

MoneyDance: A Complete Financial Toolkit for Linux

MoneyDance is easy-to-use personal finance software that runs on Linux and is loaded with features that go well beyond basic budgeting. You can ignore the other modules and just focus on using the budgeting options if you wish.

MoneyDance app screenshot

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However, the overlapping financial components can be useful. Much like an office suite, MoneyDance offers a complete set of financial tools that include online banking and bill payment, account management, budgeting, and investment tracking. It handles multiple currencies and virtually any financial task with ease. The download provides a limited free trial, but you can remove its limitations by purchasing a license.

Moneydance can download transactions automatically and send payments online from hundreds of financial institutions. It learns how to categorize automatically and clean up downloaded transactions.

Using it is fairly straightforward. You start at the summary page. There you see an overview of your finances. It displays account balances, upcoming and overdue transactions, and reminders. It also points out exchange rate information.

Click on an account or choose an account from the drop-down account list to view that account’s register and enter transactions or reconcile the account against a statement. Clicking on a transaction reminder displays a window to record the transaction automatically.

The account register lets you enter, edit and delete transactions. Visually, it resembles a paper checkbook register with two spreadsheet-like improvements. One, it calculates balances and sorts transactions automatically. Two, the payee autocomplete feature enters and categorizes your transactions automatically.

You can use the graphs and reports feature to generate visual reports of your income and expenses. You can set the graph type, the date range, and any specific settings for the type of graph you desire. Pop-up balloons display more information about the graphed data as you move the mouse pointer over different regions of the screen. Graphs also can be printed or saved to PNG image files.

Use the free Moneydance mobile app for Apple or Android to enter or edit transactions and view balances on the go. Changes sync instantly and securely with your desktop.

MoneyDance 2019.2 Spring Edition downloads for Linux, macOS and Windows are free in limited feature trial versions. You can remove feature limitations by purchasing a license for $49.99.

wxBanker: A Barebones Budgeting and Basic Financing Kit for Linux

wxBanker is ideal for users who just want to keep track of their most basic finances. It does two things well.
First, it keeps your own separate balances to compare with your online banks and other accounts. If you are looking for a lightweight advanced digital checkbook register, wxBanker is an excellent alternative to using a spreadsheet-style transaction register. wxBanker synchronizes account balances online via Mint for added functionality.

wxBanker app screenshot

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It has a secondary function as well. It is a simple tool for keeping track of your expenses and spending. For example, you can spend $360 at several stores without hoarding receipts to remember what you bought. This package will help you keep track of the cost of each item.

wxBanker has a clean interface that syncs with Mint. This gives you added features and functionality. It does not handle your small business needs, and it will not sync with your bank records. However, it will record all of your transactions, and it includes a built-in calculator.

Its lightweight nature gives this Linux banking application another convenience service point. Use it to create arbitrary accounts to keep track of your other banking functions. For instance, use it to track reimbursable deposits, loans with friends, or allocations of monthly savings for special purchases.

wxBanker does what you would expect from any basic banking software. It lets you keep track of account balances easily. Its functions include adding, editing and removing transactions and accounts, making transfers, searching transactions, and viewing a graph of balances over time. An integrated calculator also makes calculations quickly and easily.

You can download the free open source wxBanker project from
Launchpad. It is also available in the official Ubuntu repositories. Yet another option is to use the PPA to obtain the latest version.

Make sure you have python-wxgtk2.8 installed as a required dependency.

BudgetView: A Budgeting Bonanza for Linux Users

BudgetView is a free featured-packed budgeting solution that comes with data import, operations and unlimited user sessions, and supports limitless bank accounts. It also includes a budget calculator, data management features, and customization capabilities.

BudgetView app screenshot

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Import your financial statements from your bank’s website. After a couple of sessions, BudgetView automatically categorizes most of your transactions, leaving only a few operations for manual processing. This way, your budget can be up to date in just a few minutes, at any time!

BudgetView comes with a powerful set of features that are fully activated without having to buy anything:

  • Data import of transaction records to OFX, QIF or CSV from the bank website;
  • Recovery operations from Microsoft Money, Intuit Quicken, or any other application capable of exporting records to OFX, QIF or CSV;
  • Operations such as adding notes; changing labels; splitting one operation into several; shifting an operation to the previous or next month’s budget; filtering your operations by accounts, envelopes or month; and searching operations by label;
  • Data management tasks such as exporting your statements as QIF or TSV files to be imported into other budget management tools; copying the contents of tables displayed in BudgetView to paste into a spreadsheet program such as Excel or Numbers; creating and restoring backup copies of your data; printing your transaction records; and storing your data locally or in Dropbox or Google Drive.

Other essential features include options to use a password, fully encrypt data, set up multiple user sessions and unlimited bank accounts, and manage debit and credit card accounts.

A built-in budget calculator helps you organize your budget as a set of envelopes organized into revenues, fixed, variable, savings and extras. The calculator lets you observe the evolution of your accounts’ positions in the weeks and months ahead. It also assists in transferring the remainder of an envelope to the next month.

A bit of a learning curve and setup period are necessary to get the best results from BudgetView. For the first sessions, you will need one or two sessions from 30 minutes to two hours long in order to set up your initial budget and get comfortable with the application.

Then plan on setting aside two to five sessions each month at five to 20 minutes each. That time will let you update and pilot your budget.

BudgetView is available for download in .DEB, .RPM, and compressed .SH format for all other installation needs. The free version of BudgetView is largely enough for managing most family budgets without any limitation.

You can install paying add-ons to benefit from advanced budgeting features. Each add-on costs about $20 and includes an Android mobile app, a budget analysis tool, an organizing component for budget categories, and an accessory to add more functions to the basic feature set.

Budget Calendar: Simple Home Budget and Payment Planning For Linux

Budget Calendar is just that. It shows all transactions in an easy-to-understand calendar format. It identifies each payment type at a glance with unique icons on the calendar monthly view.

Budget Calendar app screenshot

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While this budgeting tool is unique to MiShell Software Systems, it is not the only budget software bearing the “budget calendar” name or a similar one. You want the MiShell product for the Linux compatibility.

Budget Calendar has an intuitive and unusual user interface. In the setup panel, enter the amount and dates of your expected income at the start of the month. As you make payments or banking transactions, click the calendar day to enter the details. The calendar view shows the total funds available, the amount of the bill pay or other transaction, and the updated balance.

The day squares on the calendar vary in color, and the outgoing entries are displayed in a color, as is the running balance. As you enter payment details, you can assign an identifying category icon with a click.

You can drag budgeting entries around the daily squares to fit your needs. Budget Calendar shows you where and when you are spending your money and lets you easily adjust your balance when needed.

The top portion of the calendar screen displays navigational links to different parts of the calendar year. Other links show graphs of spending patterns and other financial analyses. The top left portion of the screen shows a list of running balances and average money-in and money-out statuses. Everything you need to know is clearly visible or a quick click away.

Part of the Budget Calendar’s function involves parsing your actual spending activities with the established monthly budget that you’ve set up. The cute graphics and colorful icons let you see what your money situation is at all times. Your job is to make adjustments as you spend your money so you can cover or prevent cash shortfalls.

This is a novel approach that makes it fun to stay on top of your budget. The graphical approach is much different than traditional ledger-style bookkeeping processes.

Budget Calendar is a simple yet powerful intuitive software tool at an affordable price. Try it free for 30 days. Then purchase a household desktop license for $29.95 to use on all computers that belong to you. Updates are free, and well-done tutorials get you started quickly.

Bottom Line

These six budget-manager solutions for Linux offer a varied range of features and user interfaces. Some of these Linux money applications are good starting products for users with little or no experience with this category of software or online service. Other titles give you all of the tools to manage your household and your small business budgets.

Some of them are easy to set up and use. Others are more involved and can be frustrating if you are not familiar with money managing procedures.

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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Elive Elevates Linux With Enlightenment | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

May 10, 2019 9:41 AM PT

Elive Elevates Linux With Enlightenment

The
Elive distro’s integration of the Debian Linux base and the Enlightenment desktop is a powerful combination. Together, they offer a unique computing platform that is powerful and flexible.

Elive is not like most Linux distributions today. It does not have a team of workers supporting multiple desktop offerings cranking out frequent upgrades each year. It also does not have a thriving community.

In fact, Elive is one of a few Linux distros that aggressively asks for donations in order to download the installation ISO file. You can get the download without donating, but the process requires you to verify your email address and wait for the download link.

Elive first appeared in January 2005. The second stable version came in 2010. Eight years later the third stable version arrived, version 3.04.

Developer Samuel F. Baggen announced the release of version 3.05 on April 29. It is based on Debian 7 “Wheezy,” with a customized Enlightenment 17 desktop.

The customization is key to what gives Elive the edge over the few other distros running the latest version of Enlightenment, which is E22. However, this latest Elive version is likely the last update in the Elive 3 series.

The developer is focused on the next release, which will be based on Debian 10 “Buster.” That release could be well in the future, though, because donations from users have not been sufficient to support the developer’s continued efforts so far.

The silver lining is that this latest Elive release is updated with some of the internal improvements Baggen developed for the next version of Elive. So this latest release provides an early look at what may be coming next.

Elive is a fast and very configurable Linux OS that has an unusually pleasing appearance. It is designed to run fast on older computers with more modest hardware specs. It is blazingly fast on newer computers with more memory and better graphics circuits.


Elive's screen gadgets and a macOS-style dock

Screen gadgets and a macOS-style dock provide a modern and speedy look and feel for a stable Linux platform.

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Debian and E17 Worthy Marriage

It is refreshing to see the union of Debian and Enlightenment 17 as the foundation for Elive. Typically, you see more distros built upon Ubuntu or Linux Mint, which themselves are based on Debian Linux.

Debian developers tend to be more cautious with package upgrades, making it a bit more stable and less bleeding edge. Enlightenment 17 is known for its artistic design quality and its keen support for older hardware.

In its infancy, Enlightenment started out as a window manager for Linux/X11. It grew into a suite of 10 core libraries to create beautiful user interfaces with much less work. Each library fulfills a purpose, and all are not required in every distro integration.

The Enlightenment desktop’s use is not as widespread as more popular and older environments. So the learning curve is steep for new adopters, no matter which flavor of Linux or Microsoft Windows they previously used.

It is not that E17 is overly difficult to learn — it is simply different. The lack of similarity to other desktops means that even more experienced Linux users have to acclimate themselves to what can be a jarring experience.

Elive does a good job of simplifying the first steps of using E17. It presents a workable basic configuration. It has enough applications pre-installed to let you get work done or explore the OS with less frustration than literally having to build from scratch.

Ample User Options

Like Debian-based Linux distros in general, Elive is fairly easy to install.

You can install if from a live CD/DVD. You can install it to a USB thumb drive and carry it with you as a portable Linux OS. Unlike most Linux live sessions on rewritable DVDs or on USB drives, Elive’s live session provides a speedy environment that also comes with an option to create persistence.

Persistence set up on a USB drive is a very handy alternative to an actual hard drive installation. The persistent memory feature lets you add/remove software and keep configuration settings and saved data intact.

Either way — full installation or portable persistence — Elive includes an interesting collection of wallpapers. It has a gorgeous default theme that is superior to standard E17.

An added benefit is having a full inventory of applications out of the box. Just make sure that you include all the third-party applications made available during the installation process.

My one disappointment with the included software is the age of some of the packages. For example, the LibreOffice suite is the version 4.3.3 series. That predates the new user interface in the version 6.2.3 series.

Look and Feel

The Elive desktop view is beyond nice. It is uncluttered. It lacks a traditional panel bar. It does not have a main menu button.

The design of its menu system and user interface are very different. Perhaps the only elements bearing similarity to other desktop environments are a macOS-like dock and the ability to left- or right-click anywhere on the screen.

What, no menu button? Correct. Working without a traditional menu system and panel with applets takes getting used to.

No panel bar applets also means no virtual workspaces switcher tool. No, workspaces navigation is not done through awkward side panels like those in GNOME 3.

The upper right-hand corner of the screen has a very workable solution. A thumbnail-sized grid with 12 workspaces lets you move among virtual workspaces and move open application windows to other workspaces.

Elive's modified E17 desktop screenshot

Elive’s modified E17 desktop has a unique user interface that lacks traditional panels and menus.

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Menu Mania

To access a fully populated menu system, right- or left-click the mouse button anywhere on the screen. Depending on which mouse button you use, a different configuration of system functions pop up in a cascading set of lists.

In a process somewhat reminiscent of an earlier version of the KDE desktop, one of the system menus lets you place gadgets anywhere you want on the screen. These gadgets perform various tasks, such as providing a launcher for a tool or a monitor.

Other menu options let you finesse the desktop appearance and functionality.

Warning: Do not get too involved with configuring all of the settings. You will find yourself in a timeless void.

The default settings work fine. Take your time to get used to the default settings. Then investigate all that you can do to modify the appearance and functionality as you become more “enlightened.”

Questionable Future

Moving into a non-mainstream Linux distro always comes with a risk. That’s especially true with poorly monetized distros that struggle to grow and lack a large user base to give the developer a reason to persist.

Elive is one of those distros. The developer is quite open about the possibility that he will not release a new version any time soon.

Meanwhile, a built-in upgrader should keep the existing OS receiving patches. At this point, no clear date for a future major stable release is scheduled.

Baggen has a legitimate concern about his future support. He is trying to walk a thin line that separates charging for free open source software to keep the lights on and generating enough user support to keep the Elive distro progressing.

Donations Requested

This series 3 release removes the donation gateway to download a donation-less copy of the Elive distro. About one week after I verified my email address to receive the installation download, a polite follow-up note from the developer appeared in my in-box reinforcing the call for support.

Included was
this link to the GNU/Linux ethics statement about selling free software.

“…for us, it’s more important to give Elive cost-free to the world than making a profit from it, so we turned crazy and removed the requirement to donate!” the support appeal read in part.

The appeal continued with the developer’s announcement of a new problem: “There’s not enough funding to make a new version! But we won’t enable back the forced donation… not yet! We want instead to increase the user-base so that the volunteer donations could increase proportionally too, in that way we could keep it entirely cost-free for everyone!”

Bottom Line

Elive has a very minimal set of requirements. Of course, the more your computer exceeds these minimum specs, the better the performance will be.

Here is what you need: 300 MHz CPU with 128 MB of RAM.

The integration of Enlightenment in the Elive Linux distro is different from all of the other distros running the Enlightenment desktop that I sampled. It is more refined.

Elive provides animated elements like backgrounds, icons, widgets and the terminal. It makes possible an animated desktop with 3D effects without an accelerated graphics card. If you take the time to fiddle with its design controls, you can finesse its desktop appearance and functionality like a painter creating a scene on a canvas.

Elive is something different. Give this distro a trial run. It offers a new approach to computing productivity.

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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POP!_OS Makes Classic GNOME Simpler to Use | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

May 3, 2019 9:29 AM PT

POP!_OS Makes Classic GNOME Simpler to Use

Are you Looking for a hassle-free Linux operating system that is very user-friendly and extremely stable?
Pop!_OS from System76 is a prime candidate to fit that order.

Pop!_OS is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution featuring a custom GNOME desktop. Custom is *the* essential part of that description. The developers have done an impressive job of tailoring the classic GNOME environment into a unique desktop flavor.


Pop!_OS desktop screenshot

Pop!_OS is a customized version of the GNOME desktop based on Ubuntu.

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That Ubuntu connection is important. The combination of an Ubuntu base and customization of the very stable GNOME desktop makes POP!_OS a winning choice. Pop!_OS is built from Ubuntu repositories. You get the same access to software that you get from the Ubuntu distro.

The System76 team is very proactive in addressing user reactions and concerns about features and performance. Developers monitor user feedback and do their own in-house testing to make changes and updates to the operating system for quality-of-life improvements.

That tweaking is essential to making POP!_OS different from other GNOME iterations. Perhaps the developers are confident their reworking of pure GNOME will not require additional user fine-tuning. No GNOME tweaking tool is included.

Of course, you can add it from the Pop!_OS’ version of the application store, the Pop Shop. It resembles the ElementaryOS App Center more than the Gnome Software Center. After installing the GNOME Tweak Tool, however, you can solve or at least minimize other design issues typically associated with GNOME.

That said, you probably will not be inclined to get it. POP!_OS is tweaked like no other GNOME desktop iteration I have tried. Normally, I do not sing GNOME’s praises, but System76’s version is definitely worthy of an exception.

Strong Word of Mouth

POP!_OS is available for free, as you would expect with any bona fide Linux distro. It actually is designed to power computers built by System76, though. The Pop!_OS design gives you a minimal amount of clutter on the desktop for distraction-free computing.

I have been hearing good things about this relatively new customized Linux specialty distro for a while. My intent is to review the software and not the hardware options that you can buy from System76 with POP!_OS preinstalled.

The hardware specs are far from low-end, but the software’s hardware needs are fairly forgiving. So chances are pretty good that you can run POP!_OS on your existing hardware.

Buying the new hardware with the free OS makes good sense, however. System76 fine-tuned the OS to be optimized for the computer model you select. Still, POP!_OS will run fine on most computers meeting the minimal hardware requirements.

The company released its latest version, Pop!_OS 19.04, on April 20 with Linux kernel version 5.0 and GNOME 3.32.1. That combination includes numerous visual enhancements.

POP Primer

System76 announced Pop!_OS after Canonical decided to stop the development of the Unity 8 desktop shell in 2017. POP!_OS is not a skinned version of Ubuntu GNOME as a replacement. It involves much more. It has its own icon pack and GTK theme, for example.

Many of the theme and icon combinations come from other projects. Some of the design features are based on the Adapta Theme. There are two unusual fonts for the user interface. One theme is the Roboto Slab; the other is Fira, developed for Firefox OS in 2013.

The “borrowed-to-make-almost-new” look works quite well, thanks to the way System76 integrates the basic design elements into what otherwise is the standard GNOME desktop. While the designs are not brand new, they provide a modern look that is noticeably different.

Overall, the view is minimal, flat and clean looking. It bears a striking resemblance to the latest material design appearance that Google is pushing.

You can enhance the screen appeal by going to the Appearance Setting menu. There you will find toggles for Slim Mode and Mode.

Slim Mode maximizes screen visibility by reducing the height of the header on application windows. Dark Mode gives applications a soothing ambience for nighttime viewing.

Not Just a Pretty Face

The spruced-up look that System76’s designers applied does make the POP!_OS GNOME desktop look inviting. When it comes to the look and feel of any Linux distro, appearance can be more important to users than overall performance. Appearance serves POP!_OS well. However, it’s no slacker when it comes to performance either.

Pop!_OS fits in well with the look and feel of several modern-looking distros. That is true thanks to all of them being tweaked and integrated for a unique user interface. POP!_OS’s beauty rating is on a par with the likes of the Pantheon desktop in Elementary OS, Solus OS’ Budgie desktop, and Deepin and Manjaro’s GNOME editions.

The two pressing questions about whether to try POP!_OS:

  1. Is POP!_OS different enough?
  2. How does it perform on non-optimized hardware platforms?

The answer to the first question is “It depends.” If you like the classic GNOME 3 desktop, the System76 tweaks will make you smile. The answer to the second questions is more generalized.

You will be happy with it as long as your existing hardware meets these basic demands: 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage with a 64-bit processor.

Yes, there is no 32-bit architecture support. You also have to download the correct software version. Then all should be well.

Hardware Counts

System76 offers two different Pop!_OS downloads: one for Intel/AMD drivers and one for Nvidia. The key difference is the Nvidia drivers automatically download and configure to your system, so the graphics card works properly from the start.

Other computer firms have tried with varying degrees of success to provide their own hardware with preinstalled Linux distributions optimized for the host hardware. System76 also offers software designed for the machines that will run it.

The big difference: Although System76 potentially created a uniquely branded GNOME-based desktop environment that is designed for the company’s own hardware, it does not play the Apple Mac game of locking in its own operating system.

You can download POP!_OS and run it on your existing computers — or you can buy a new System76 computer with the tweaked GNOME desktop on an otherwise standard Ubuntu-based Linux platform. You also can install a Linux distro of your choice on the new computer.

However, keep one caution in mind if you plan on installing POP!_OS on legacy gear. I have not found an easy way to install drivers. This is usually a no-brainer with other distros, especially those based on Ubuntu. So make sure all of your eclectic stuff works with the live session ISO before committing to a hard drive installation.

A potential solution is opening the terminal to run the ubuntu-drivers autoinstall command, but not having a graphical driver manager tool is a potential problem for users new to Linux.

Personalizing Performance

If you prefer other desktop environments, like Cinnamon, XFCE or KDE Plasma, you might find GNOME a bit lacking in the user controls department. However, POP!_OS goes extra distance to improve on that with System76’s customized GNOME environment.


Pop!_OS Settings page screenshot

The Settings page presents a unified and simple list of all the system configurations in Pop!_OS.

– click image to enlarge –


New users coming from Windows or macOS might like the easy-to-configure single settings panel in POP!_OS, but experienced Linux users will find the tweaked shell a bit insufficient.

Advanced Linux users or those with no interest in changing their user interface routine will be less pleased due to the absence of certain settings and features in Pop!_OS.

In addition to adding the Tweak Tool, you can apply the Dash-to-Dock GNOME extension to make it more convenient to use POP!_OS. Dash-to-Dock gives you control over the dock’s behavior.

Using It

The desktop is a pure classic GNOME environment with an Activities Overview serving as the main navigation center. Press the super key or the Activities button in the upper left corner of the screen to view all your open applications in a grid. The same key combination displays the GNOME dash and virtual desktops.

Do not look for the main menu button that displays applications by categories in two-column fashion or a bottom panel or dock to launch applications or view running windows. None of these UI elements exist in GNOME. Instead, all installed applications and system tools fan out in a full-screen display.

POP!_OS has the same user interface with simpler animations. You must adjust to not having buttons on the window borders to minimize and maximize. The only window control is the right-corner X button to close the window.

Clicking on the Activities button in the upper right corner or using the Super key slides from the left edge of the screen a favorites panel and from the right edge of the screen snapshots of the virtual workspaces.

Click dots at the bottom of the favorites panel to display an applications grid. You can right-click on an application icon from the grid to add/remove it from the favorites panel.

Dealing With the GNOME Design

Pop!_OS includes a selection of comprehensive lightweight applications. The developers avoid providing some larger programs by default that slow down your computer. Pop!_OS is optimized for your workflow.

This is especially true for library applications, such as one for storing your photos. Instead, the developer substitutes image viewers or similar apps that are smaller in size. However, you easily can add bulky photo manager apps on your own, as they are available in the Pop!_Shop.

One major design change with POP!_OS is how the keyboard shortcuts work. The simplified approach is much different than in standard GNOME. It is based on using the Windows or Super key combination with other keys plus a number or letter combination.

Some keyboard shortcuts are more efficient for common user behaviors. For example, the shortcut for switching workspaces is Super + Arrow Up or Down.

System76 developers created an in-house set of power management tools. They also designed several user profiles based on the actual hardware running the operating system, which manages the graphical card in much the same way as the Nvidia tool does.

Stellar Installation

The POP!_OS ISO performs well in a live session. It does have an annoying trait not usually found in live demo versions, however. It loads into what looks like an installation screen.

You can not close the installation window, but you easily can open other virtual workspaces to get the installation window out of your way.

System76 developed its own installer experience that closely resembles an OEM installation. This installation routine itself is similar to a stock Ubuntu process.

Pop!_OS goes through the partitioning and installing process and then reboots to allow you to create users. This OEM tactic requires the first person logging in after installing the OS download to set up the user account as if turning on that computer for the first time.

You have the option to enable full-disk encryption out-of-the-box during the installation. This is a handy feature if your computer usage is geared toward work rather than casual at-home play.

Privacy concerns, in addition to the full-disk encryption option, are addressed nicely with the ability to disable data and usage reporting that otherwise is sent to Ubuntu. No communications with third parties occur by default. They will occur only with your consent.

Special Considerations

System76 regularly updates this distro without requiring constant reinstallation. The developer updates POP!_OS on a rolling release cycle.

The operating system gets updates, security patches and updated releases as they are ready. Rolling releases ensure that you never have to handle ISO installations again with configuring settings to recreate the same look and feel of the current version.

The recovery partition on this operating system is a full copy of the Pop!_OS installation disk. It can be used exactly the same as if a live disk copy of Pop!_OS were booted from a USB drive.

You can use it to repair or reinstall the operating system from the recovery mode. You have two options: A refresh install lets you reinstall without losing any user data or data in your Home folder; a fresh install resets all OS data.

Caution: Refresh Installs are available only on a fresh install of either Pop!_OS 19.04 or 18.04. You can not use this method as an upgrading path.

Bottom Line

The performance of POP!_OS is nearly indistinguishable from GNOME iterations in other Linux distros I have tried. The developers’ customized tweaking is what makes the difference.

Presumably, running POP!_OS on an optimized System76 hardware will give you better performance than just installing the distro on your existing hardware. Comparing your existing machine specs to what is built into a new System76 computer should give you a clue to how much of a performance boost you can expect.

Either way, try out the live session on your current computer. Then weigh the potential benefits of a new computer if you like the customized version of the GNOME desktop.

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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MakuluLinux Core OS Is Dressed to Impress | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 30, 2019 5:00 AM PT

A new Linux OS gets to the core of Linux computing with a revamped desktop environment and a new way to have fun with your daily computing tasks. Developer Jacque Montague Raymer on Monday debuted the
MakuluLinux Core OS. He hopes Core becomes the crown jewel of the Series 15 release family.

MakuluLinux released the latest versions of family members
LinDoz and
Flash several months ago. While the Core entry integrates some of the features of its two cousins, it offers something new and exciting that brings MakululLinux to a higher level of usability. It adds a homegrown desktop design that turns something old into a modern Linux platform.

This story was originally published on April 10, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

MakuluLinux is a relative Linux newcomer. Its positive reputation has been growing since 2015, thanks to a variety of desktop environments the developer adapted for better integration. Its small developer team, based in Vietnam, forged the first two desktop distributions, both efficient and productive, in a relatively short time period.

All three of the Series 15 editions — LinDoz, Flash and now Core — feature a redesign of the original Ubuntu-based LinDoz OS. First, the team revamped LinDoz’s Ubuntu foundation. Series 15 is based on a hybrid that gets its primary updates from both Debian and Makulu directly.

Serious Revamping

The new strategy is not to borrow the base from Debian or Ubuntu, as other big developers have done. Makulu’s team chose to build its own base instead.

LinDoz uses an in-house modification of the Cinnamon desktop developed by Linux Mint. Flash runs a modified version of the previously forked environment the developers designed for Flash. Series 15 is not an update of previous editions.

Both LinDoz and Flash are complete rip-and-replace builds on top of developed-in-house computing bases. The new Core OS is not an upgrade of Flash.

Instead, Core introduces some radical changes under development for the last two years. Core borrows heavily from features designed for Flash and adds even more adaptations.

For me, the most exciting eye candy that the Core edition offers is the dynamic animations that provide a new way to interact with the OS. Core does not have the classic Linux layout.

Getting the Timing Right

The debut of MakuluLinux Core was held up for more than a month while developers debated the merits of waiting for a newer, better kernel. At stake was speedier performance with a patched kernel to avoid the infamous slowdown bug caused by computer chip vulnerabilities discovered last year, said developer Raymer.

“Core is ready. However, we can already see some problems on the horizon and are not sure we should rush to release,” he told LinuxInsider last month.

The distro team gets kernel updates from the Testing Repository, which then was on the 4.18 kernel and soon would go to version 4.19. That posed a potential performance hit.

One of the upcoming 4.20 kernels that will be moving through testing repo slows down Linux by 50 percent. The kernel after that one fixes that bug, Raymer explained.

“So we are just sitting and waiting to see how the testing repo handles this,” he said. “It will be a big blow if we release now and three weeks later that kernel with the slowdown bug enters testing.”

A second dilemma added to the mix was that Raymer’s team also was busy working on an Ubuntu variant of Core.

“So there is that to consider as well,” he said. “To release now and release the Ubuntu variant later — or make use of this time and get the Ubuntu variant on par and release both.”

Good Seasonings

Core uses a combination of a Cairo-style dock for favorite applications and a spin-wheel style circular menu display. This approach is innovative and attractive.


MakuluLinux Core's innovative circular menu display.

The centerpiece of MakuluLinux Core’s innovative homegrown user interface is a spin-wheel style circular menu display.

– click image to enlarge –


The biggest difference that distinguishes the new Core OS from LinDoz and Flash is the way the Xfce desktop design works as the Core desktop. A dock along the lower right vertical edge of the screen holds system icons and notifications. This design keeps the essential system elements separate from the applications dock.

In numerous ways, Core’s new desktop design blends some of the best features found in Flash’s use of Xfce and the forked Cinnamon environment that LinDoz uses. Core especially borrows heavily from the Xfce tweaking in Flash.

Both the latest editions of LinDoz and Flash remain unique operating systems in their own right. Core has the winning recipe for a tasty change in computing platform design, however.

Adding the Cinnamon spices to Xfce boosts the new desktop’s performance. Mixing in MakuluLinux’s own special sauce bakes Core into a computing environment that is exciting and refreshing.

Change of Scenery

One of the little things that makes the three MakuluLinux distros artistically distinct is the wallpaper. The background images are stunning.

Core, Flash and LinDoz use the same Wallpaper Changer tool, but each has a unique set of scenery to display.

The wallpaper changer in Flash and LinDoz displays thumbnail views in a vertical display on the right edge of the desktop. Scrolling through them is quick and easy. One tap and the background is updated.


MakuluLinux Core's two additional menus as alternatives to the spin-wheel menu

MakuluLinux Core has two additional menus as alternatives to the spin-wheel menu. A wallpaper changer banner display at the top makes choosing background images quick and simple.

– click image to enlarge –


Core goes one better. Its wallpaper display scrolls across the top of the screen.

Core has many new color schemes for the themes and icon sets. These themes are not the same as the ones in Flash. They use the same color schemes, but the Themes themselves are quite different. Also, Core is optimized for Virtualbox.

Optional Fine-Tuning

The settings controls let you fine-tune how Core looks and how its features behave. The animations and options come close to the degree of personalization that used to be available in the KDE environment.

If you are a power user, you can fine-tune Core to your heart’s delight. If you are not into fiddling with settings, Core’s default configurations work fine.

Core comes stuffed with Makulu toolkit applications that supplement the usual Xfce settings panels. The system tools provide yet another layer of settings.

You also get a large collection of desktop applets. To add or remove them, open the Conky Manager panel and check/uncheck your choices.

Menu Innovations

Core’s new menu system is far superior to the tired columnar-style panels that pop up from a traditional panel bar in other distros. Core provides multiple options for using menus and docks. The interface is mouse-driven with a touchscreen gesture system.

The traditional Xfce right-click menus and panel-style menus are still part of the user interface. There is much more than the right-click Xfce standard.

Put the mouse pointer into the left bottom corner to get a traditional two-column vertical menu to appear along the bottom left edge of the screen. Or press the dedicated Windows key to pop up the same Whisker-style menu in the center of the screen.

One of Core’s more radical interface innovations is the new circular menu display. Application icons and launchers for system tools appear in a spin-wheel design displaying icons for each software category.

Fly over any icon in the circular array to have the contents of that category hang in a larger circle layered over the main menu display in the center of the screen. The menu system is also hot corner-based.

You trigger the new menu along with a few custom actions by mousing into the designated screen corners. Use the Hot Corner option in System Settings to set up your choices.

Easy Transition

Another option for launching the circular menu is to pin its menu launcher to the Cairo dock. Oh yes, the dock is another replacement feature in Core. There is no panel bar at the bottom of the screen or anywhere else.


MakuluLinux Core's Cairo dock

The MakuluLinux Core Edition runs on a heavily tweaked forked Xfce environment that functions as a new style desktop. The Cairo dock at the bottom of the screen replaces the traditional bottom panel. The design includes a Web applet bar at the top, system icons in a right-side panel, and a collection of Conky widgets.

– click image to enlarge –


The Cairo dock hides at the bottom of the screen when covered by an active window. Otherwise, it sits centered at the bottom of the screen.

Slide the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen to have the dock appear. When an application is running, its icon appears on the dock. You can pin or unpin an icon to the dock to use as a frequent program launcher by right-clicking an icon showing on the dock.

Core is a marriage of old and new. The new style circular menu displays may take time to adjust and fully adapt. Transitioning is easy, though.

Unusual Xfce Effects

Core still runs the Xfce desktop, sort of. This is a new type of Xfce, however. The developer integrated transparency and glitzy animations to give Core a version of Xfce you will not find elsewhere.

It goes far beyond the original MakuluLinux fork used in the current Flash edition. The new MakuluLinux base, combined with in-house tweaks that modernize the Xfce desktop, hikes features and convenience to another level.

MakuluLinux Flash comes with Compiz OpenGL compositing manager preconfigured for on-the-fly window dressing and fancy screen displays. With 3D graphics hardware you can create fast compositing desktop effects like minimization animation. Also, you can turn the Compiz effects off or on with a single click.

Workspace Navigation

I am somewhat anal when it comes to using virtual desktops or workspaces. My workflow demands multitasking: researching, note-taking, writing, editing and creating graphics.

If moving among workspace screens is not fast, fluid and intuitive, I do not hesitate to flag a Linux distro. The key to success for me usually is anchored in keyboard shortcuts and workspace switcher applets on a bottom panel.

MakuluLinux Core changes that assessment cycle. It does have the right-click desktop menu option built into window top borders — but Core has no panel applets.


MakuluLinux Core on-screen switcher display

With no panel bar, Core has no workspace widget applet, but keyboard shortcuts and mouse movements easily launch an on-screen switcher display.


Core lacks keyboard shortcut mapping. It also does not have slide-out panels with graphical views of workspaces for point-and-click channel changing.

What Core does have might well be the best-yet solution for moving among virtual desktops. The absence of a workspace switcher applet at first seemed heretical!

My panic quickly subsided when I discovered that all I had to do was point the mouse pointer on the desktop and press and hold the button wheel or the middle button. Other options include pressing the CTRL + left/right arrow keys. Or pressing the left and right touchpad buttons. Perhaps the handiest of all solutions to navigating around multiple workspaces is finger gestures on the screen or touchpad.

Handy Features

I can think of only a small handful of Linux distros that have Web applets built in. The feature is starting to gain attraction as a result of users liking the connection shortcut icons in Android and Chrome-based OSes.

Raymer borrowed the Web applets feature from an earlier distro he developed called “LeThe.” In Core, it is built into the Web Apps bar and is a handy feature.

Web applets are activated and deactivated easily with a single click. You can access the shortcut for the Web Applets toolbar from the bottom panel or in the settings manager.

Core comes with a few pre-set URLs mapped to icons. It is easy to configure additional Web app launch icons.

These Web applets do add to memory usage and are not recommended for use on systems with low memory. The developer recommends enabling this feature only on systems with at least 4 GB RAM available.

This lets you go directly to a frequently visited Internet spot without the baggage of using a full-featured Web browser. You can have a Web browser open and use the Web apps independently.

Smooth Installation

Like LinDoz and Flash, Core uses the Calamares installer. Core replicated the hassle-free installation I enjoyed when testing the earlier MakuluLinux offerings.

To its credit, the developers added updated scripts to ensure that Core installs smoothly. Core’s new ISO format has a fully working second update patch script that will allow the developer to patch any botched packages that come through the Debian repository.

Bucking a trend of Linux developers retiring 32-bit distro releases, Core will be available for both — 64-bit now and 32-bit systems soon. That makes it an ideal Linux platform for aging computers.

Raymer released the 64-bit version on Monday, but the 32-bit version is not yet ready. It will be released in a few weeks — most likely toward the end of February.

Quick Facelift

Core supports a facelift feature that eliminates the need to reinstall completely when an update goes wrong. This facelift script lets users reset the desktop to its current look and feel.

At the initial log in, the routine asks users to select a default Window Border and a GTK Color scheme. This is a repeat of the booting process when the DVD boots the host computer in a live session.

You can change your selections easily in the settings panel under the theme manager. This new feature is unique. The display changes color depending on which GTK theme is selected.

Bottom Line

I have charted the progress of Core’s development through sometimes daily ISO releases over the last few months. I can attest to the near constant revisions and design tweaks Raymer has applied.

The more I used Core, the better choice it became over its LinDoz and Flash kin. That, of course, is purely a personal observation. But the features I loved in the other two MakuluLinux options either were even better when integrated into Core, or were surpassed by the Core-only innovations.

MakuluLinux Core’s rebuilt Xfce desktop is so well tweaked it looks and feels like something new.

Given the amount of forking Raymer did to Xfce, he could call the desktop something new. For me, referring to it as “the new Core desktop” makes perfect sense.

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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Feren OS: An Almost Flawless Linux Computing Platform | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 26, 2019 10:22 AM PT

Feren OS: An Almost Flawless Linux Computing Platform

Feren OS might well be the Linux computing game-changer that lures you away from your current operating system.

Feren OS is based on Linux Mint 19 and the Cinnamon desktop environment that Linux Mint devs developed. This distro currently does not give you any other desktop options. However, it comes with a wide assortment of configuration choices that let you tweak the look and feel into almost any customized appearance you could want.


Feren OS Windows Theme Changer tool

The Theme Changer tool lets you alter the appearance of icons, background, window decoration, and just about everything else that determines how Feren OS looks on the screen.

– click image to enlarge –


The latest snapshot of Feren OS, 2019.04, was released on April 17. Part of what makes Feren OS so attractive is its developmental strategy. This distro follows a partial rolling release system that constantly updates the OS for its lifetime.

A true rolling release ensures that you never have to handle ISO installations again. That means no more configuring settings and getting the upgrade working with the same look and feel as the current version.

Feren OS pushes software updates and security patches as they are ready, just like many other Linux distros. In addition, the U.S.-based developers push a refreshed system update via a new ISO download at predetermined intervals. After you download the new ISO, let the software manager automatically integrate the latest core elements and system upgrades.

This is a very workable arrangement. It gives you the best of both upgrade worlds. It spares you the hassle of waiting for the latest computing ingredients. It has the built-in automated convenience of upgrading without the manual labor.

Feren’s Heritage

Feren OS first appeared in late 2015. Since then, the distro’s community and the OS’ performance have gained considerable maturity. Feren has its own personality, so you will not feel like you are using a Mint clone. Even the in-house customization of the Cinnamon desktop environment gives it a considerably different atmosphere.

You’ll find that it is a polished Linux distro that is well-suited to be a replacement for any Linux distro, whether you are a Linux newcomer or a seasoned power user — that is, of course, if you do not have an aversion to the Cinnamon desktop environment. With that qualification, Feren OS comes close to being an ideal replacement for Microsoft Windows and macOS.

If you are not familiar with the Cinnamon desktop, you do not have to worry about much of a learning curve. It is easy to use, especially with all of the customized features the Feren developer added.

Not everyone finds the Cinnamon desktop to be an ideal computing environment, but for me, Cinnamon offers the best all-around combination of features, productivity and ease-of-use.

Cinnamon has a basic computing layout that is comfy for users coming from most other platforms. Its default settings meet most users’ needs. Its collection of panel applets and desktop fluidity choices let you take what you like and leave what you don’t.

Easy Set Up and Go

Feren OS is easy to install. The new Calamares system installer is also very fast. I pulled off the storage shelf a long-unused laptop that ran Windows 7 on an Intel Core i5 processor with 4 GB of RAM. This laptop had multiple operating systems, so I geared up to handle partitioning and GRUB file editing.

Neither was an issue. The Feren installer offered three choices: install alongside, replace an existing partition, or set up manual partitioning. I clicked on one of the volumes and sat back while the installer replaced what was there with Feren OS.

After responding to a few set-up options some 10 minutes later, the reinvigorated laptop was waiting for a reboot. After a minute or two, I was looking at the default Feren background image and a freshly minted Cinnamon desktop.

Options Galore

On first run, you have the option to install third-party codecs. That same launcher is available in the Welcome Screen that appears on subsequent logons. However, the additional installations failed due to an error involving Ubuntu.com.

The initial setup screen offers the option of selecting your desired theme layout. There are two default layout options involving screen color and a choice of desktop clock or panel clock. Other layout options are Windows XP, Windows 7/8, Windows 10, macOS or Linux Mint.

You can change the selections later using the Conky (desktop clock) toggle in combination with System Settings > Applets. Similar setup options involve Theme Mode and Accent color. The choices are the default Light or Dark. More options are available later in System Settings > Themes.

Feren OS includes animations for extra eye candy in the default experience. You can adjust this setting later in System Settings > Effects.

The Theme Changer tool lets you alter the way icons, backgrounds, window decorations, and just about everything else in Feren OS look on the screen. The Themes manager makes personalizing the desktop easy.

This distro provides a handy tool not available in most other Linux distros. The Windows Transfer Tool makes it next to foolproof to move your Microsoft Windows documents and some settings to the Feren OS partition during the installation process.


Feren OS Windows Transfer Tool

Feren OS has a Windows Transfer Tool to move your Microsoft Windows documents and some settings to the FerenOS partition during the installation process.

– click image to enlarge –


This makes Feren OS suitable for those migrating to Linux or at least to this operating system. Feren OS offers a specialized software repository that is colorful and efficient to use.

Unique Among Contenders

A few other Linux distros attempt to distinguish themselves from more mainstream Linux offerings. However, the in-house customization of the Cinnamon desktop environment gives Feren OS an atmosphere that differs considerably from the current Linux Mint Cinnamon iteration.

The look and feel, along with the easy operation, resembles the
Zorin OS and
Condres OS. But Feren OS has what Zorin OS lacks — the Cinnamon desktop.

Feren OS is not a retread of Zorin, which runs the GNOME desktop (or an alternative edition that runs the Xfce desktop); or Linux Mint itself; or Condres OS, an Arch-based distro that offers the Cinnamon distro. All of them are designed to look like classic Windows.

Feren OS displays a handful of system icons on the desktop if you want them. It shows a fully functional task bar or panel on the bottom of the screen.

Cinnamon Flavoring

The left side of the panel is home to the main menu button and four launch icons for the Web browser, the file manager, the Software Center and a launcher to install proprietary icons. The right end of the panel houses the notifications tray and systems tools launchers.


Feren OS main menu

The Feren OS main menu is a change from the typical cascading displays used in Windows and many Linux distros.

– click image to enlarge –


A handy feature with Feron OS is the ability to keep the bottom panel visible but hide the work spaces switcher and other applet icons you add. These items tuck away automatically after a few seconds. A button slides them back into visibility to the left of the standard notifications area at the right end of the panel bar.

You can add a broad assortment of applets to that task bar. You also can choose from a library of desklets on the desktop to display various readouts, such as weather and system monitors.

The main menu is a change from the typical cascading display used in Windows and many Linux distros. It is a two-column menu display with the categories in the left column. The wider right panel lists installed software titles in rows.

Depending on how many software titles are installed, this panel slides out of sight and is replaced by another set of icons with titles as you click the buttons on the bottom of the menu.

A search window at the bottom of the left column lets you start typing the name of an application. A filtered list of what you might be looking for fills the right-hand column waiting for your selection. It is very classy!

Related Thoughts

Feren OS is one of very few Rolling Release Distributions taking the Stable Path over Bleeding Edge. I last looked at Feren OS almost nine months ago. This new snapshot release comes with a major overhaul and improvements over the January 2019 Snapshot. These include improvements to WinStyle and macStyle Window Borders (Metacity themes).

The distribution is still available in both 64-bit and 32-bit architectures. It also ships with the WPS productivity software, and the Vivaldi Web browser. This latest build involves lots of changes to theme designs.

Out of the box, Feren OS in not a good choice if you want to play games. You have to track down your own Linux games. PlayOnLinux and Steam won’t be waiting for you in the menu.

Bottom Line

Feren OS is a nearly flawless Linux computing platform. This distro is practically maintenance free. The developers have taken the best parts of several innovative Linux distros and seamlessly integrated them into an ideal computing platform.

Feren OS is attractively designed and has just enough desktop animation to make using it a tad bit more interesting.

Other than the missing games category in the main menu, this latest snapshot is a bit skimpy on including a better collection of applications. That is not a bad thing in terms of sensitivity to software bloat, but the developers should at least provide automated tools to download software bundles similar to what was included in previous releases.

Still, Feren OS is a nice alternative to Linux Mint, which has gotten sluggish and slow since the version 19.1 release. Feren OS is an easy stepping stone to transition to Linux from Microsoft Windows and macOS. It is also a satisfying change for more experienced Linux users.

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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