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Blue Collar Linux: Something Borrowed, Something New | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jan 15, 2019 1:24 PM PT

Sometimes it takes more than a few tweaks to turn an old-style desktop design into a fresh new Linux distribution. That is the case with the public release of
Blue Collar Linux.

“The guidance and design were shaped by real people — blue collar people,” Blue Collar developer Steven A. Auringer told LinuxInsider. “Think useful and guided by Joe and Jane Whitebread in Suburbia.”

Blue Collar Linux has been under development for the last four years. Until its public release this week, it has circulated only through an invitation for private use by the developer’s family, friends and associates looking for an alternative to the Windows nightmare.

Another large part of his user base is the University of Wisconsin, where he engages with the math and computer science departments.

This new release is anything but a just-out-of-beta edition. It is very polished and is constantly updated and improved. A growing cadre of users submit bug reports and contribute feature suggestions based on real-world user requests.

Auringer does as not bother with versioning each release, however. Average people do not care about those things, he claims.

“You don’t hear them talking about Windows 10-1824-06b-build257. They use Windows 10,” he noted.

That view in part led Auringer to develop a Linux distro with a goal that responded to typical users who had no interest in learning computer technology. The distro’s goal is to be easy to use and be useful for Joe and Jane Whitebread.

“There are Millions of home systems. Most are not powerful state-of-the-art office systems. There are a lot of older systems sitting on closet shelves waiting to be brought back to life. Some are hand-me-downs. Is Joe or Jane going to spend money to use Windows 10?” asked Auringer.

From Shell Script to OS

Auringer is a retired U.S. Marine with a doctoral degree in applied mathematics and a master’s in computer science. He worked 10-plus years as a senior software engineer.

He started developing Blue Collar Linux as a shell script that would add/delete and configure software/fonts/colors/drivers, etc. He used the scripts and shared them for simplifying automated installation routines. That led to developing his own Linux alternative to the Microsoft Windows nightmare.

Auringer was determined to avoid the frustrations nontechnical users experienced with so many Linux distros — overwhelming software packages and the daunting maze of desktops choices. To remove those barriers, Auringer selected easy, yet powerful, Linux applications. He adopted a one-of-each approach.

“I have looked at over 75 Distros. Most — even the supposed easy ones — assume some level of Linux geekiness. I spent a lot of time listening to my beta users. They want to point, click and go,” he said. “They don’t want to search the Net comparing six programs, downloading and polluting their systems just to solve an easy problem.”

Auringer learned from his beta users that they did NOT want three music players, three video players, four text editors, two video editors, three photo editors, a large complex office suite and Visual Studio IDE to develop software.

Most average people are not going to burn an evening trying to get a program to work, he explained. They are not going to log into blogs, ask questions, try six different answers they don’t understand, and still have a broken system.

For example, they have no idea why removing program A broke program B, or why reinstalling program A does not fix program B. They do not know that it also may have broken program C, Auringer added.

Most average people do not know or care about Xfce, KDE, Gnome or Unity desktops. They do not know or care about what a window manager is, he said.

“They want to turn it on and use it to accomplish a goal without turning it into a hobby,” Auringer maintained.

That is precisely what Blue Collar Linux gives nontechnical users. It is difficult not to love Blue Collar Linux. It has all of the usability boxes checked. It does just what the developer designed it to do: make computing simplified!

Blue Collar Overview

Blue Collar Linux offers both home and small business users an ideal computing platform. They are the developer’s intended user base.

What makes Blue Collar ideal? Installation is uncomplicated. When the process is finished, no tools or setup are required.

The desktop has a simple uncluttered look. You have plenty of options to change the default settings. Personalizing the desktop is easy.

Blue Collar Linux's modified Xfce desktop design

Blue Collar Linux’s modified Xfce desktop design has a panel bar with multiple menu buttons, system icons, and a collection of applets to display information on the bar.

Out of the box, everything works. Nothing is confusing. No time must be spent reading online how-to documents.

Blue Collar is Gnome 3.10/GTK-based and runs the Xfce 4.10-based desktop. However, the modifications Auringer built in specifically for his distro are responsible for the tremendous difference in how Xfce works and looks.

For example, the applications and controls/buttons look like they belong together. Unlike other desktop designs, each application’s appearance reinforces the design and gives users the feeling that it is part of a complete system.

Older Code Base vs. New

Blue Collar has one slight downside that might only be a concern for more tech-savvy users. This distro is based on Ubuntu 14.04.5 LTS, the Trusty Tahr series released in August 2016. Its long-term support ends this April. That means the developer will be issuing an updated release on a newer code base eventually.

In fact, Auringer is working on using Ubuntu 16.04 as a replacement base for Blue Collar Linux. Ubuntu supports 16.04, dubbed “Xenial Xerus,” until April 2021.

Still, he is happy with the continued performance of 14.04.5 and is not rushing to swap it out. Trusty Tahr code works well today and is not going to drop dead on any certain date in the near future, according to the developer. He plans to support critical issues himself if any develop when the long-term support from Ubuntu runs out, rather than rushing to change the code base.

A major advantage of 14.04.5 is the solid support by third-party drivers. Manufacturers and developers of printers, scanners, wireless and other systems have well-developed and tested drivers. Maintaining existing stability counts more than change.

“That is more of a concern to my user base than bleeding edge. They generally don’t know and don’t care what the base version is. All they know is that it never crashes — or worse, locks their box and loses their work,” Auringer said.

He prefers the Xenial Xerus code base to the current 18.04 LTS, AKA Bionic Beaver, released last year and supported to April 2023. The 18.04 code base is “squirrelly, unfinished and generally not recommended, or recommended [only] to experienced users.”

Only experienced users will put up with Bionic Beaver, just to be bleeding edge, he said.

The code base was impressive when it was released. It included an updated kernel and X stack for new installations to support new hardware. Since it has been an integral part of Blue Collar from the start, stability and reliability are of no concern.

Why Xfce Instead of Other Desktops?

There are several answers to the “Why Xfce?” question, noted Auringer, but they all have to do with Xfce having better desktop functionality and adaptability. Since Blue Collar must run on a wide range of legacy computers, a lightweight but powerful desktop environment is essential.

For example, newer options such as LXDE and LXLE are light, but the menus are sparse. Plus, their configuration is limited. Auringer sees the Cinnamon desktop as bloated, slow, buggy, and difficult to configure.

The Mate desktop lacks comments in the menu for new/beginning users — something Xfce’s Whisker Menu provides. Plus, the Whisker menu in Blue Collar Linux lets you add, delete or rearrange your favorite applications in the main menu. You also can resize the main menu.

MenuLibre, a menu-editing tool included in Xfce, makes it easy for Blue Collar users to arrange menu content their way. Xfce is mature; it runs well on minimal hardware and is fast.

Plankless and Dockless

Another major user benefit with the Xfce desktop is the ability to add or remove application launchers on the panel or the desktop itself. An even nicer feature that you will not find in other Xfce systems is the ability to unlock the panel and move it to the top or side if you prefer.

Some Linux distros use both panel bars and a Cairo-style dock or plank-style application launcher. You will not find modifications in Blue Collar Linux built around docks or planks.

They do not work well in general, according to Auringer. Some distros tried Awn or Plank and then dropped it. The Cairo dock has lots of bells and whistles, but nothing to add in terms of functionality or ease of use.

“I have also found that depending on the version and settings, Cairo can be a little unpredictable,” he said.

One more great feature with Blue Collar’s modified Xfce desktop is the triple menu system. Finding and launching applications is fast, thanks to an application search field built into each menu.

The menus live at either end of the panel bar. On the far left is the Whisker menu. At the far right end of the panel is a GNOME-style full-screen display of application icons. With either menu, hover the mouse over an icon to see a brief explanation of what the application does.

Right-click anywhere on the desktop not covered by a window to launch a third style menu. The bottom label cascades a list of installed applications. the rest of the column lists various system actions such as creating folders, UL links and application launchers.

Massive Software Inventory

Auringer’s decision to bundle a single software title for each computing task is a win-win. It actually lets the developer bundle more diverse applications without creating bloat.

His goal is not to make Blue Collar Linux minimalist in terms of its software inventory. To the contrary, this distro comes with more preinstalled titles than I see in most distros, whether they are Xfce systems or not.

The included applications are solid choices. They do not require hours of learning how to use them.

For example, typical users do not need feature-heavy office suites with separate components like spreadsheets and database managers they will never use, argues Auringer. So he includes the Abiword word processor with plugins already enabled.

Preinstalled applications include Homebank for personal finance management; LibreCAD, a professional-strength drafting program; Diagram for creating and editing designs; and RedNoteBook — a tool for keeping notes and daily journal entries and calendar.

Specialty Tools Included

This distro also has Wine, an emulator that lets you run Microsoft Windows programs within the Linux environment. I have used Linux for so many years that I no longer rely on Wine.

However, having Wine preinstalled in Blue Collar Linux gives newcomers to the Linux OS an added comfort zone that lets them continue using familiar programs until they find better Linux alternatives.

It creates a pseudo C: Drive in the Blue Collar directory to show Wine-installed Windows programs. It comes with tools to install and uninstall windows programs as if you were running them on an actual Windows computer

Another great find in Blue Collar Linux is the Parental Controls feature. I test and review hundreds of Linux distros. This is my first time seeing a parental control application. What a great idea for helping children learn responsible computer behavior.

It is as simple to use as creating an alarm in a computer calendar. You can set the number of hours per day a user can access the computer. You can add a check for the approved days of usage in general, as well as allotted times and days to use the Web browser, email client and Instant Messaging applications.

Using It

One of the essential features that a well-designed operating system can provide is access to virtual workspaces. This functionality lets you view different applications or sets of open application windows on separate screens. Some distros make navigating among workspaces confusing and difficult.

Not Blue collar Linux. The standard Xfce desktop does a nice job of handling virtual workspaces. Blue Collar Linux goes well beyond the normal functionality.

This distro includes the Brightside Properties tool, which enhances navigation options for workspace switching.

Blue Collar Linux's Brightside Properties Tool

The Brightside Properties Tool is very handy for adding new features to the Xfce desktop for controlling workspace navigation and hot corner actions.

For instance, rolling the wheel in the workspace switcher moves to other workspaces. So does this keyboard shortcut: CTRL-ALT and left/right or up/down arrow keys.

Other options let you change workstations by moving the mouse pointer off the left or right screen edges, or clicking the mouse wheel down or using the middle mouse button to display a switcher panel on the screen.

With the Brightside tool, you can set a different wallpaper for each workspace. The tool also lets you turn on hot corners, which usually is not a function available with the Xfce desktop.

You can select special actions from a dropdown list that activates when you push the mouse pointer into a chosen corner of the screen. You also can create your own action command using the custom option in the dropdown list.

One more need trick is rolling the mouse wheel on the sound icon in the system tray to raise or lower the volume.

Blue Collar Linux's workspace switcher panel

Click the mouse wheel down or use the middle mouse button to display a switcher panel on the screen.

Bottom Line

Blue Collar Linux is a seasoned operating system that will not disappoint you. It runs well on older computers with less-than-modest resources. It runs superbly on more recent hardware.

Even if you are not a fan of the Xfce desktop environment, give this modified iteration a try. What you find in Blue Collar Linux is not the same old thing. This distro is feature-rich. It is easy to install and easier to use.

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?

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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Top Open Source Tools for Staying on Time and on Task | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jan 11, 2019 10:53 AM PT

Keeping up to date with multiple daily activity calendars, tons of information, and long must-do lists can be a never-ending challenge. This week’s Linux Picks and Pans reviews the best open source Personal Information Managers (PIMs) that will serve you well on whatever Linux distribution you run.

In theory, computer tools should make managing a flood of personal and business information child’s play. In practice, however, many PIM tool sets are isolated from your other devices. This, of course, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to share essential information across your smartphone, desktop, laptop and tablet.

There are some obvious cloud solutions that ease the hassle of accessing personal and business information across devices. For instance, you can access Microsoft’s proprietary OneNote software for free via the cloud on your Linux gear, including Android and Chromebook devices.

As long as you have a free Microsoft email account, you can access your OneNote content directly from your browser or via the OneNote app available for most platforms. The only roadblock with Microsoft is using it on portable devices (laptops and tablets) beyond a certain screen size.

Google offers similar cloud-based PIM solutions with its Keep note-taking and Tasks to-do list services. Keep has numerous features for cataloging notes and imported images using labels and color options. Tasks lets you enter a simple event to track, as well as drill down to storing details and due dates.

If you use Google’s Chrome Web browser, you can integrate both the Keep and Tasks content as part of the Google Calendar display for added flexibility.

OneNote, Tasks and Keep serve different purposes and let you take the PIM process only so far. All three solutions lack specific tracking and reminder features that true PIM packages provide. Still, they do provide a reliable measure of cross-platform access for basic PIM functionality.

You already may be using these Microsoft or Google cloud-based tools. However, if your needs do not require sharing information on multiple devices, one of the following more traditional Linux PIM packages may be more to your liking.

Osmo: Info Management Done Simple

Osmo is a lightweight yet feature-heavy do-it-all PIM for any Linux desktop. It is an ideal all-around PIM that manages appointments, tasks, contacts and notes.

Osmo full-featured do-it-all PIM for any Linux desktop

Osmo is a full-featured do-it-all PIM for any Linux desktop. It manages appointments, tasks, contacts and notes.

Osmo’s design is not unlike other datebook-style calendars. You can choose a horizontal or vertical orientation. The preferences panel lets you juggle several appearance and functionality options for each of the components. These include the Calendar, Task List, Contacts and Notes databases. You even can hide PIM components to match the way you use Osmo.

Osmo employs a plain XML database to store all personal data. Find this file on the hard drive and copy it to a thumb drive to make Osmo portable, and to update the PIM on other Linux devices. Osmo does not have a real file storage exchange mechanism. A backup and restore features helps to automate this process.

Moving around the app is simple. Click the tab for the desired component. The display shows the current month with markers indicating days with events entered. Below the current month’s display is a selector arrow to show previous and next month.

The day note icon pops up a note entry screen for the selected date and shows it at the bottom of the app window. The day note panel has a tool row of buttons to modify the text display of information you enter.

The Notes panel is surprisingly flexible. For instance, the opening note screen shows a file-list type of directory display. You can use its dropdown menus to select a note category. A handy search window lets you find information in the notes database rapidly. Icons let you add a new note, select an existing note for editing, or delete a note from the list.

The contact component in Osmo is fairly slick. It has an icon and tool row along with a search window similar to the Notes component. These include New, Remove and Edit buttons. The search box finds matches as you type. The contact panel also has options to show birthdays, and buttons to import and export contacts.

A nice touch is a globe button that shows a contact’s location on a map. Osmo lets you choose either Google, Bing or OpenStreetMap as a map provider source.

While Osmo does not sync with other computers or a Web-based calendar, it does much of what you would expect from a solid PIM. Osmo does very well what it was designed to do — keep track of your lists, calendar events and contacts.

Osmo’s Last Update: 8-26-2018

Journal Life With RedNotebook

RedNotebook is built around the concept of a simple design with enhanced features. This application is much more than a daily diary maker. Its flexible design is a perfect platform for storing notes and information tracking.


RedNotebook’s flexible design is a perfect platform for storing notes and information tracking.

It is an information magnet that lets you add files, links, images and notes divided into categories. Assigning tags to your entries adds a sophisticated way to organize the content. The ability to insert images, files and links to websites makes it very viable as a general note-taking program.

The design incorporates tags and other cool navigational features that drive RedNotebook’s functionality. Its interface is divided into three parts.

On the left is the calendar. Click a day within any month to see the content appear in the display panel in the center. The annotations panel is to the right. Annotations are notes that elaborate on the basic diary entry. You can sort annotations into categories easily.

RedNotebook’s features include easy calendar navigation, numerous customizable templates, export functionality and word clouds. It also lets you format, tag and search your entries, something that other diary and note apps do not offer.

Along with spell-checking capability, RedNotebook has some nice advanced-level features, including the ability to export in PDF format, drag and drop content between entries, and display markup highlighting. Plus, it automatically saves at set intervals and upon exit.

To facilitate use on multiple computers, you can save your journals on a remote server. The application by default makes Zipped backup copies of all entries upon exit.

Another cool feature is Word Cloud. RedNotebook keeps track of your most-often-used words in the note entries. Click on the Clouds tab to view this list. Select your category or tag clouds by clicking on the scroll-down menu. Right click on any words in the cloud that you want removed. Or you can add these words to the blacklist menu in the Preferences menu option to filter them out.

Use RedNotebook for a combination of things to keep track of daily information, activities and links to other reference files. You also can use it to maintain a running to-do list. The advantage to this feature is never having to enter a start or end date.

Last Update: 11-15-2018

qOrganizing for Multiple Device Use

qOrganizer goes a long way toward solving usage issues on multiple computers. This PIM does a nice job of going head-to-head with other information managers to track and manage your day.

You might have some trouble getting it from your distro’s repository, however. qOrganizer is readily available at Sourceforge, but it is available only in 32-bit architecture. You will have to unzip the archived file and manually install the program. Still, qOrganizer should run on your system and is worthy of a tryout.


qOrganizer has a useful collection of tools that give it an edge over other PIM solutions.

qOrganizer is a general organizer that includes a calendar with schedule, reminders, journal/notes and a to-do list. Its comprehensive collection of components and simple interface give this app a fresh, innovative approach to tracking your important activities.

One of gOrganizer’s most unique components makes it a cool tool for the academic set, both high school and college level. Its Timetable and Booklet features are unique to general purpose PIMs.

qOrganizer has an intuitive design so it mostly works the way you would use a handwritten day planner with pen on a page. Click an entry line and type your information. All the controls are handled by icons that switch easily from Calendar to To-Do List and other features. Icons in the tool row put every control one click away.

This PIM automatically saves all your data. You can choose the storing mode: text files, an SQlite database or MySQL database for transferring over the Internet. This gives you a way to sort of sync your PIM content on all your computers.

This app prints each module as a separate page, so you can carry a printed version of just the calendar, the to-do list, the timetable or the booklet.

Finding information stored in qOrganizer is fast and easy. A search window with previous and next buttons is located on the bottom right of the display. This tool searches for the entry data in any of the components.

A neat feature is data entry shortcuts. You can enter the number in the to-do start and deadline columns. The full date appears. The Priority column lets you enter a ranking number for each task. Click the arrow that appears in the entry line to have date selection calendar pop up.

The right side of the task display is the completed column. You can enter a number to show the percent of completion. A progress bar fills in the line.

The calendar page display is a split screen. The month fills the top left. The bottom left is the daily schedule for the highlighted date. The right side of the panel is the journal or note entry for the selected calendar date.

qOrganizer has a useful collection of tools that gives it an edge over other PIM solutions. It is too bad that the developer no longer provides updates for this open source project.

Making Informational Kontact

Kontact has its roots in the K Desktop environment. Originally, it was an integral set of tools designed as part of the KDE desktop. It still is.

However, you can use this integrated PIM with nearly any Linux distro. In most cases, any dependencies will be installed along with the core Kontact components.

Kontact information manager

Kontact’s integration makes it a more powerful information manager than other tools in this roundup. It displays email, address books, calendars, tasks, news feeds and other personal or business data in one window.

The integration built into Kontact makes it a more powerful information manager than other tools in this roundup. It supports the display of email, address books, calendars, tasks, news feeds and other personal or business data in one window.

The integration includes a PIM back end and the graphical applications connecting to the back end. The components include agents to merge new data with the existing data set, such as contacts and news.

This integration involves groupware servers that give your workgroup members access to shared email folders, group task lists, calendar sharing, central address books and meeting scheduling.

Kontact is not one program. In essence, it is a symbiotic collection of essential KDE tools.

One of its key components is Akonadi. This is a framework named after the oracle goddess of justice in Ghana. This framework provides applications with a centralized database to store, index and retrieve personal information, including emails, contacts, calendars, events, journals, alarms and notes.

Kontact’s other components:

  • Akregator — to read selected news feeds;
  • KAddressBook — to manage contacts;
  • KMail — to provide mail client services;
  • KNotes — to post sticky notes on the Desktop;
  • KOrganizer — to provide calendar, scheduling and journal/notes management;
  • Summary — to display an information summary screen;
  • KJots — to organize your ideas into a notebook structure that includes calendars, information and to-do lists.

This multifaceted PIM package helps you manage your information overload more easily. The result is better productivity and efficiency. The combination of tools and back-end servers offers additional benefits of group collaboration as a business tool.

Makagiga: The All-in-One PIM

Makagiga is an easy-to-use PIM solution that does everything. The project is about four years young. In fact, compared to the other products in this roundup, it is one of the most modern approaches to managing personal information.

Makagiga interface

Makagiga uses a modern, smart interface that contributes to its intuitive ability to handle to-do listing, text editing and RSS reading. It uses add-ons to implement its various capabilities.

Makagiga does just about anything you need it to do. It is a capable to-do manager. It handles note-taking with ease. It edits images you package into your notes.

Plus, it uses plug-ins to provide Web searching, an OpenStreetMap viewer, a thesaurus, and a LaTex/ Markdown/BB Code previewer. It can capture screenshots to integrate as notes, and it can generate bar codes.

Makagiga uses a modern, smart interface that contributes to its intuitive ability to handle to-do listing, text editing and RSS reading. It uses add-ons to implement its various capabilities.

Among them are a collection of widgets to provide calendars and sticky notes.

The main window displays a tree directory view for folders and feeds to the left. It shows a large pin board to the right. The window uses tabs to show changing content in the pin board — Widgets, Calendar and To-Do list.

A horizontal menu bar sits at the top of the main window.

A settings dialog sits under the settings option of both the View and Tools menu. Dialogues configure the software. The menu structure changes when a pin board tab is activated.

You can find the settings dialog for designing the view by selecting the Widgets tab. The three context-sensitive menus (Wallpaper, Colors and Border, Workspaces) are used to enhance the pin board’s visual appearance. Basic modifications are performed in the Tools | Settings menu.

The To-Do manager is one of the best in this roundup. You can set task priorities, assign them dates/times, and even organize them into categories. You also can add colors and tags for more organizational distinctions.

The Image editor has options to resize, rotate or flip pictures. It also has simple annotation tools and an inventory of filters and special effects.

The Notepad is more basic than I prefer. It limps along without a find-and-replace function. It does have word count, syntax highlighting and an HTML preview.

This application has mouse gesture support for 17 actions you can perform easily.

Latest version: Makagiga 6.4 | 11-17-2018

Bottom Line

Personal Information Management is a software category being overshadowed by cloud services and dedicated apps on portable devices. That is one reason there are few new contenders among open source PIM applications available for the Linux platform.

The titles in this roundup are solid performers. They offer a variety of options. They also share a similar look and feel. So trying out several of these PIMs is easy. Compare the features, and choose the best tool to meet your needs.

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?

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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Kodachi Builds Privacy Tunnel for Linux | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jan 3, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Kodachi Builds Privacy Tunnel for Linux

Online and Internet security are not topics that typical computer users easily comprehend. All too often, Linux users put their blind trust in a particular distribution and assume that all Linux OSes are equally secure.

However, not all Linux distros are created with the same degree of attention to security and privacy control. A misconfiguration of a firewall, or misapplied Web browser privacy and modem settings, can trash the best-designed Linux safety strategies.

Kodachi Linux offers an alternative to leaving your computer privacy and security to chance. It is developed by Oman-based
Eagle Eye Digital Solutions, an IT firm with a focus on preserving computer privacy and anonymity.

The developers announced the release of Linux Kodachi 5.6 last month. Based on Debian 9.5 Xbuntu 18.04 Long-Term Support, it runs from a DVD or USB thumb drive as a live session OS for a completely isolated and secure Linux session on any computer for portable Linux convenience.

You also can install Kodachi to a hard drive. That method blunts one of the primary features of the distro, though. Running in a live session removes all traces of your Internet activity and your documents from the host computer when you remove the DVD or USB.

Otherwise, either option provides an anti-forensic, anonymous operating system with all the features a person concerned about privacy needs. In this sense, Kodachi gives you built-in techniques, gadgets and software designed to hamper a computer investigation seeking to intercept your email or breach your digital data.

Two new features in this latest Kodachi release add additional layers of security and anonymity. One lets you self-destruct the entire computing platform with a single click. The other brings the ability to have persistent memory to live sessions so that application settings, software changes, and saved personal files remain available for subsequent computing sessions.

Easy Smeazy and Secure

Kodachi Linux requires no setup or Linux knowledge. The developer built all of the controls and settings options into the OS. The entire OS is functional from temporary memory RAM when running in the preferred live session.

Once you power off the computer in a live session, no trace is left behind. All your activities are wiped out. That is a major drawback from running Kodachi Linux as a full installation on a hard drive.

Firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), network nodes and proxy servers are the technical stuff that controls your online privacy and computer security. They are also the techniques that computer users without IT training often ignore.

Kodachi Linux comes with a toolbox of security applications and an assortment of preconfigured scripts. They make using security and privacy strategies a point-and-click process.

I am by no means a formally trained IT expert. I know my way around Linux. I learned what I know from years of using it and countless hours taking seminars and reading manuals.

I spent a few hours getting familiar with this distro’s documentation and viewing online demonstrations of earlier Kodachi releases. Then I burned a DVD of the latest ISO and started to check out Kodachi hands on.

One of the first things I did was scroll through the inventory of security tools and specialized browsers. I loaded a few system apps and took the Kodachi browser online. Then I loaded the Kodachi Security Test, which invited me to learn how to increase my security score.

It scanned the running live session for the system and Internet connections. Each component of the short “test” added or subtracted points based on how it affected the security and privacy potential of the settings.

My results? A score of 90 out of 100. This “test” offered brief explanations for what made each setting choice bad, good or ideal. So following the recommendations would help any new user to quickly harden the security and privacy results.

How It Works

One of the hallmarks of Kodachi is its collection of specialized system and security tools. These tools and scripts are easy to modify by changing settings and editing configuration files. Of course, these are advanced skills that may take you time to acquire.

Until you do, use Kodachi out of the box. Follow the recommendations of the Security Test app’s evaluation. Use the default Kodachi Web browser. Activate Kodachi’s built-in VPN.

When you run the Kodachi browser by itself, you are not connected to the Tor network automatically. When you want to run Tor, click the grayed circle in the top row of icons in the browser’s toolbar, scroll down the service options, and select Tor. The circle turns green to indicate a Tor connection.

Browse through the VPN and Tor Tools folders and try out the various settings for other VPNs and Tor nodes. These tools mask your true IP Address, DNS provider and real country identification.

Kodachi Linux TOR Tools

The Tor Tools folder makes it easy to mask your true location by clicking on preconfigured Tor nodes.

– click image to enlarge –

It is as simple as clicking on an icon to change settings. It takes a few seconds for the new connection to establish. Look at the screen applets to monitor the results.

Making a Recovery

If you start to make system changes and things go seriously wrong, just click on the self-healing options in the Panic Room folder. They can save you the hassle of rebooting into another live session or having to reinstall Kodachi to the hard drive.

The various tools restore the default configurations and software drivers to let you resume working in the OS without having to isolate the cause or do a system restart. It addresses problems with menu glitches, non-working hardware, or misconfigured security connections.

Overall, Kodachi is very easy to use. Whether booting from a hard drive, USB or DVD, you have a fully running operating system with secure VPN connections plus Tor connections with DNScrypt service running.

Doubled-Down Debian

Kodachi is built around several essential design standards. One ensures privacy. Unless you disable one or more settings, all Internet connections are forced through a VPN as well as the Tor network with DNS encryption.

A second design premise is the use of state-of-the-art cryptographic and privacy tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging. Kodachi’s security is bolstered by its stable Debian base with a heavily customized Xfce desktop environment.

Kodachi Linux desktop view

Kodachi Linux’s heavily modified desktop view shows the panel bar moved to the left edge of the screen and a Cairo dock stuffed with security tools at the bottom of the screen. Displays of connection
status fill the right side of the desktop.

– click image to enlarge –

Kodachi supports proxy servers, but the developer cautions users to avoid the proxy feature in most Kodachi use cases. It will defeat the purpose of using Kodachi, according to EEDS CEO Warith Al Maawali, developer of the system, in a video discussing the distro’s technology.

Proxy servers are unnecessary with the other security features in the OS with Tor activated. Proxy is included for when it is absolutely needed. The only safe strategy is to use a proxy connection when the URL you want to reach does not have a Tor or a VPN connection, Al Maawaii explained.

Desktop Tour

Kodachi Linux’s look and feel heavily conceals its Xfce desktop roots. The basic functionality remains. The appearance is heavily altered.

The desktop has four design elements. The left edge of the screen is bordered with a vertical panel. To the right of this panel is a vertically aligned row of icons for attached drives and folders.

The bottom of the screen sports a Cairo dock populated with a collection of folders containing application launchers. The launch icons rise and enlarge as the mouse pointer floats over them.

The right side of the desktop displays several applets and readouts. They monitor system status and Internet connection details.

Desktop Layout

The left panel retains the configurability of the standard Xfce panel. You can select user preferences and add/remove panel applets.

The top end of the vertical panel holds the usual system notification symbols. The lower end holds launchers for a few system tools.

The launcher button for the Main menu is at the bottom or first position of the vertical panel. The menu display is a single column panel in the lower left corner of the screen with a cascading sub panel. The categories are what you would expect elsewhere except for the addition of a Security category.

Kodachi Linux main menu software applications and settings panel

The Main menu shows a well-supplied inventory of software applications and a large cadre of offerings in the settings panel.

– click image to enlarge –

You get a limited selection of background images, but do not expect any colorful, cheery scenes. The images are largely colorless and highlighted with dark tones.

Also included is the classic right-click system menu that pops up anywhere on the desktop. However, you can not dock application icons on the Cairo dock, the desktop itself, or the left panel bar. Nor is there a favorites display for frequently used programs.

Software Supreme

A key strength of Kodachi Linux is the inclusion of multiple tools for the same task. For instance, you get multiple shells — Torrified Shell, Terminator Window and Root Terminator.

Kodachi Linux is more than a well-tuned specialty distro for security and privacy. It also is a very capable computing platform for everyday personal and business tasks.

It has the Synaptic Package Manager preinstalled for system maintenance and software addition/removal. However, so much software is included that unless you have unique needs, nothing should be missing from the default installation.

That says something about the overall quality and usefulness of this distro. I am not suggesting that the developers are guilty of pushing software bloat. Given that its primary purpose is to run as a live session, the large bundle of included software is unusual without first completing a hard drive installation.

The applications are high-quality open source titles. Included are LibreOffice, Blender, Inkscape, Audacity, OpenShot Video Editor and lots more.

Browsers Galore

Kodachi comes with several specialized Web browsers. The default Web browser is the Kodachi Security Browser. It is the Firefox browser with a library of plugins to enhance security and privacy. The toolbar has numerous buttons to activate security and proxy services.

By design, the Google Chrome browser is not included for obvious reasons. Chrome is embedded with tracking and data harvesting services that defy Kodachi’s goal of enhanced Internet security and privacy. The browsers use the Duck Duck Go search servers instead of Google search services.

Firefox Direct VPN Browser is included. So is Waterfox Direct VPN Browser. Waterfox is forked from Firefox and maintains support for legacy extensions dropped by Firefox.

The Iridium browser is another choice. Iridium is based on the Chromium code base. Its modifications enhance user privacy with security technologies.

Bottom Line

By default the system uses DNS-Crypt. You can change that with one click to more rigorous encryption by clicking on the icon for Tor-DNS in the DNS Tools folder on the bottom dock.

The security toolset lets you test the speed of each VPN connection as well as the relative security. You also can check for DNS leaks as part of the security reliability of each connection.

The DNS, VPN and Security Tools folders on the bottom dock are arranged in rows, usually with five icons across stacked three rows high. The position of the icon within the multi-row mapping indicates how each tool compares with the others. Their positions are in ranked order based on the developer’s performance and reliability assessments.

So the tools in the bottom row are less secure than the middle row. The top row tools are most secure. The same hierarchy plays out from left to right in each row. The left side is less secure than the right side.

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?

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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The Most Popular Intel Linux News & Reviews Of 2018


With less than one week until the new year, here is a look back at the most popular Intel Linux/open-source news of 2018, among all of our other end-of-year articles.

It was certainly an eventful year for Intel with their OpenCL NEO driver coming about, the Iris Gallium3D driver taking shape for next-gen OpenGL, their ANV Vulkan driver continuing to keep up to the latest Vulkan specs, Clear Linux continuing to deliver leading Linux performance, the initial hits taken in dealing with Spectre/Meltdown mitigations although now at the end of the year many optimizations are fortunately in place, hearing just recently that Raja Koduri and others at Intel are working on open-sourcing the FSP, more excitement building around Intel discrete graphics, and much more.

Of 255 Linux/open-source-oriented news articles written this year about Intel, below is a look at the twenty most popular:

Intel Rolls Out Their New CPUs With Radeon Vega M Graphics
Kicking off CES 2018, Intel launched their new CPUs featuring integrated Radeon Vega M Graphics.

ODROID Rolling Out New Intel-Powered Single Board Computer After Trying With Ryzen
While ODROID is most known for their various ARM single board computers (SBCs), some of which offer impressive specs, they have dabbled in x86 SBCs and on Friday announced the Intel-powered ODROID-H2.

AMD Contributes 8.5x More Code To The Linux Kernel Than NVIDIA, But Intel Still Leads
Given all the new hardware enablement work going into the Linux kernel recently, I was curious how the code contributions were stacking up by some of the leading hardware vendors… Here are those interesting numbers.

Fedora 29 Succeeds At Flicker-Free Boot Experience On Intel Hardware
After optimizing the Linux laptop battery life last cycle, Hans de Goede of Red Hat has been working on Fedora 29 to provide a “flicker-free” boot experience. A Linux desktop flicker-free boot has been talked about for a decade or longer but with Fedora 29 and using Intel graphics that is finally becoming a reality.

Google Makes Disclosure About The CPU Vulnerability Affecting Intel / AMD / ARM
We’re finally getting actual technical details on the CPU vulnerability leading to the recent race around (K)PTI that when corrected may lead to slower performance in certain situations. Google has revealed they uncovered the issue last year and have now provided some technical bits.

Intel Releases New BSD-Licensed Open-Source Firmware Implementation
At the European Open-Source Firmware Conference happening this week in Erlangen, Intel announced the open-source “Slimbootloader” (also referred to as Slim Bootloader) project that is quite exciting.

Clear Linux Shedding More Light On Their “Magic” Performance Work
If you have been a Phoronix reader for any decent amount of time, you have likely seen how well Intel’s Clear Linux distribution continues to run in our performance comparisons against other distributions. The developers behind this Linux distribution have begun a new blog series on “behind the magic” for some of the areas they are making use of for maximizing the out-of-the-box Linux performance.

To No Surprise, Intel’s Discrete GPU Efforts Will Support Linux Gaming
It should come as virtually no surprise to any regular Phoronix reader given the significant investment Intel makes to Linux via their Open-Source Technology Center with working on Mesa for their Vulkan/OpenGL drivers and related components, but their discrete GPU undertaking will support Linux gaming alongside Windows.

The First Benchmarks Of The Intel-Powered ODROID-H2 $111 Board
Last month ODROID announced an Intel-powered single board computer after their experimenting with a Ryzen SBC hadn’t panned out for this company known for their high-performance ARM SBCs. The ODROID-H2 has begun shipping as this $111 USD Intel x86_64 quad-core board while for your viewing pleasure today are some initial performance benchmarks of this board.

Intel Working On Open-Sourcing The FSP – Would Be Huge Win For Coreboot & Security
Intel’s Architecture Day on Tuesday was delightfully filled with an overwhelming amount of valuable hardware information, but Intel’s software efforts were also briefly touched on too. In fact, Raja Koduri reinforced how software is a big part of Intel technology and goes in-hand with their security, interconnect, memory, architecture, and process pillars and that’s where their new oneAPI initiative will fit in. But what learning afterwards was most exciting on the software front.

Intel Open-Sources LLVM Graphics Compiler, Compute Runtime With OpenCL 2.1+
Now it’s clear why Intel hasn’t been working on the Beignet code-base in months as they have been quietly working on a new and better OpenCL stack and run-time! On open-source Intel OpenCL you can now have OpenCL 2.1 while OpenCL 2.2 support is on the way.

Intel MPX Support Will Be Removed From Linux – Memory Protection Extensions Appear Dead
Back in April was a discussion about dropping MPX support from the Linux kernel but no action taken. Now though an Intel developer is preparing to see this Memory Protection Extensions functionality removed from the mainline Linux kernel.

Intel Has Quietly Been Working On A New Gallium3D Driver Being Called “Iris”
After resisting Gallium3D for the past decade with a preference on continuing to maintain their “i965” Mesa classic driver and all they’ve invested into its compiler stack and more, it seems times are changing as the open-source Intel team has been starting up development of a modern Gallium3D driver.

Intel Prepares “Enhanced IBRS” As Better Spectre V2 Protection For Future CPUs
An Intel engineer has today published a patch providing support for enhanced IBRS within the Linux kernel, which aims to provide better Spectre Variant Two protection by default with future generations of Intel CPUs.

Intel Begins Teasing Their Discrete Graphics Card
Don’t expect the Intel discrete gamer graphics card to come until 2020, but with the SIGGRAPH graphics conference happening this week in Vancouver, they have begun teasing their first PCI Express graphics card.

Intel Clears Up Microcode Licensing Controversy – Simpler License, Allows Benchmarking
Over the past day online there has been lots of controversy following some high-profile sites reporting about Intel’s “un-friendly microcode license update” and its “ban on benchmarking”, among other catch phrases. It’s now been officially cleared up by Intel with a simpler license that doesn’t forbid benchmarking, allows distribution vendors to re-distributed these binary files to their users, and doesn’t have any other nastiness integrated into the legal text.

GCC 9 Looks Set To Remove Intel MPX Support
Last year we reported on GCC deprecating Intel Memory Protection Extensions (MPX) and now it looks like with GCC 9 they will be dropping the support entirely.

Intel Open-Sources Sound Firmware, Pushing For More Open Firmware
Imad Sousou, Intel’s GM of the Open-Source Technology Center, had some interesting remarks to make during his keynote today as part of this week’s Embedded Linux Conference in Portland.

Intel Posts Updated Microcode Files For Linux
In the wake of Meltdown and Spectre, Intel yesterday released new microcode binaries for Linux systems.

What Makes GLIBC 2.27 Exciting To The Clear Linux Folks
Released at the beginning of February was Glibc 2.27 and it’s comprised of a lot of new features and performance improvements. But what’s the best of Glibc 2.27?

And the ten most popular Intel Linux reviews/benchmarks this year on Phoronix:

Further Analyzing The Intel CPU “x86 PTI Issue” On More Systems
2018 has been off to a busy start with all the testing around the Linux x86 PTI (Page Table Isolation) patches for this “Intel CPU bug” that potentially dates back to the Pentium days but has yet to be fully disclosed. Here is the latest.

POWER9 Benchmarks vs. Intel Xeon vs. AMD EPYC Performance On Debian Linux
For several days we’ve had remote access to one of the brand new Raptor Talos II Workstations that is powered by POWER9 processors and open-source down through the firmware. For those curious how these latest POWER processors compare to AMD EPYC and Intel Xeon processors, here are some benchmarks comparing against of the few other systems in house while all testing was done from Debian GNU/Linux.

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS vs. Fedora 28 vs. Clear Linux Benchmarks
Given last week’s release of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and then Fedora 28 having debuted earlier this week, I decided to see how these popular tier-one Linux distributions now compare to Intel’s own Clear Linux platform. This three-way Linux distribution comparison was carried out on six systems comprising both of Intel and AMD CPUs.

The Ubuntu Linux Performance Over The Past Six Years On An Intel Xeon Server
In needing to make some room in the racks for some new hardware and some other interesting platforms on the way, I’ve retired the last of the Intel Nehalem era hardware at Phoronix that was still used for occasional historical Linux performance tests… I decided to take this Sun Microsystems SunFire X4170 server with dual Intel Xeon E5540 (Nehalem EP) processors for a final spin before pulling it from the racks. Here is a look at how the near-final Ubuntu 18.10 Linux performance compares to that of Ubuntu 12.10.

Intel Graphics On Ubuntu: GNOME vs. KDE vs. Xfce vs. Unity vs. LXDE
For those wondering how the Intel (U)HD Graphics compare for games and other graphical benchmarks between desktop environments in 2018, here are some fresh benchmarks using GNOME Shell on X.Org/Wayland, KDE Plasma 5, Xfce, Unity 7, and LXDE.

AMD Ryzen 3 2200G + Ryzen 5 2400G Linux CPU Performance, 21-Way Intel/AMD Comparison
Yesterday I posted some initial Linux benchmarks of the Ryzen 5 2400G Raven Ridge APU when looking at the Vega 11 graphics, but for those curious about the CPU performance potential of the Ryzen 5 2400G and its ~$100 Ryzen 3 2200G sibling, here are our first CPU benchmarks of these long-awaited AMD APUs. These two current Raven Ridge desktop APUs are compared to a total of 21 different Intel and AMD processors dating back to older Kaveri APUs and FX CPUs and Ivy Bridge on the Intel side.

Raptor Talos II POWER9 Benchmarks Against AMD Threadripper & Intel Core i9
For those curious about the performance of IBM’s POWER9 processors against the likes of today’s AMD Threadripper and Intel Core i9 HEDT processors, here are some interesting benchmarks as we begin looking closer at the POWER9 performance on the fully open-source Raptor Talos II Secure Workstation. This open-source, secure system arrived for Linux testing with dual 22-core POWER9 CPUs to yield 176 total threads of power.

Arch Linux vs. Antergos vs. Clear Linux vs. Ubuntu Benchmarks
Last week when sharing the results of tweaking Ubuntu 17.10 to try to make it run as fast as Clear Linux, it didn’t take long for Phoronix readers to share their opinions on Arch Linux and the request for some optimized Arch Linux benchmarks against Clear Linux. Here are some results of that testing so far in carrying out a clean Arch Linux build with some basic optimizations compared to using Antergos Minimal out-of-the-box, Ubuntu Server, and Clear Linux.

macOS 10.14 Mojave vs. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS vs. Clear Linux Benchmarks
With macOS Mojave having been released earlier this week, I’ve been benchmarking this latest Apple operating system release on a MacBook Pro compared to Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS with the latest updates as well as Intel’s high-performance Clear Linux rolling-release operating systems to see how the performance compares.

8-Way Linux Distribution Benchmarks On The Intel Core i9 9900K – One Distro Wins 67% Of The Time
Following last week’s release of the Intel Core i9 9900K, I spent several days testing various Linux distributions on this latest Core i9 CPU paired with the new ASUS Z390-A PRIME motherboard. I was testing not only to see that all of the Linux distributions were playing fine with this latest and greatest desktop hardware but also how the performance was looking. Benchmarked this round on the i9-9900K was Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS, Ubuntu 18.10, Clear Linux 25720, Debian Buster Testing, Manjaro 18.0-RC3, Fedora Workstation 29, openSUSE Tumbleweed, and CentOS 7.

Q4OS: A Diamond in the Rough Gets Some Polish | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Dec 20, 2018 11:19 AM PT

Q4OS: A Diamond in the Rough Gets Some Polish

Sometimes working with Linux distros is much like rustling through an old jewelry drawer. Every now and then, you find a diamond hidden among the rhinestones. That is the case with

I took a detailed first look at this new distro in February 2015, primarily to assess the Trinity desktop (TDE). That was a version 1 beta release. Still, Trinity showed some potential.

I have used it on numerous old and new computers, mostly because of its stability and ease of use. Every few upgrades I check out its progress. Key to this is watching the improvements and additional functionality of Trinity.

Q4OS is a lightweight Linux distro that offers some worthwhile alternatives to more established distros. Do not misunderstand what “lightweight” in Linux means, however.

Q4OS is designed with aging computer hardware in mind, but it does not ignore more modern boxes.

Its main claim to fame is the developing
Trinity project desktop. Trinity was forked in 2008 from the last official release of the K Desktop Environment’s third series (KDE 3), version 3.5.10.

Q4OS simplified KDE 3 design

Q4OS has a simplified KDE 3 design that has useful desktop applets for this alternative to the Trinity desktop. Other desktop options also are built in.

– click image to enlarge –

The Germany-based developers recently issued a significant update to the Q4OS snapshot of the distribution’s Testing branch, code-named “Centaurus.” Q4OS Centaurus 3.4 is based on the current Debian “Buster” and Trinity desktop (TDE) 14.0.6 development branches.

This distro is fast and runs extremely well on low-powered aging computers. Q4OS has superb performance on newer computers. Its design pushes classic style with a modern user interface in a new direction. Plus, it is very applicable for virtualization and cloud use.

From Rough to Polished

When I first started to monitor the Trinity desktop, I thought it had the potential for becoming a new attention-getter among up-and-coming Linux distros. The primary distro developer that implemented TDE was, and still is, Q4OS. The distro primarily is built around TDE as the default desktop.

It is easy to swap TDE into other more popular desktops without removing an easy return path to both TDE and KDE. Supported desktops include LXQT, LXDE, XFCE4, Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, Mate and GNOME. Installing a different desktop does not remove the TDE desktop. Instead, you can select between the alternative you installed and the TDE desktop at the login screen.

To install a different desktop environment, go to the Desktop Profiler tool and click the Desktop environments drop-down in the upper right corner of the window. A new window appears, where you can select your desktop of choice from the drop-down. Once back at the main Profiler Window, select which type of desktop profile you want, and then click Install.

These choices give both business and individual users lots of options. One of the big values in using Q4OS Linux is the add-on commercial support for customizing the distro to meet specific user needs. The name of the developers is not publicized on the website.

However, Q4OS clearly is intended to be more than a community-supported general purpose Linux distro. The website also invites businesses to makes use of Q4OS.org’s commercial support and software customization services.

What’s Inside

Q4OS is designed to offer a classic-style user interface (Trinity) or other alternatives with simple accessories. The distro provides stable APIs for complex third-party applications, such as Google Chrome, VirtualBox and development tools. The system also is ideal for virtual cloud environments, due to its very low hardware requirements.

One of the most important changes in this latest release is the switch to the Calamares installer. Calamares offers nice new installation features. For example, it offers optional full encryption of the target system, as well as easy disk drive partitioning.

Another important change is a move to the new Trinity 14.0.6 development version. All dependencies from the current stable Q4OS Scorpion version have been removed, making Centaurus fully independent, with its own repositories and dependencies.

Secure Boot support has been improved too. This is very handy if you install Q4OS on newer hardware hosting Microsoft Windows.

The Calamares installer detects if Secure Boot is active and adjusts the target system accordingly. If Secure Boot is switched off in the firmware, no Secure Boot files are installed.

Q4OS Centaurus offers the bleeding edge of Linux computing. It will be in development until Debian Buster becomes stable. Centaurus will be supported at least five years from the official release date.

The minimal hardware requirements are ideal for older hardware. The Trinity desktop needs at least a 300-MHz CPU with 128 MB RAM and 3 GB hard disk storage. Most of the other alternative desktops are lightweight and run with ease under the minimum resource requirements. The KDE Plasma desktop — and perhaps the Cinnamon desktop — thrive with at least a 1-GHz CPU, plus 1 GB RAM and 5 GB hard disk storage.

All About Trinity

The TDE project began as a continuation of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) version 3 after the Kubuntu developers switched to KDE Plasma 4. The name “Trinity” reflects that heritage. It means “three,” and TDE was a continuation of KDE 3.

The Trinity desktop design presents the simplified look of KDE applications while eliminating the layers of customization associated with KDE’s Activities and virtual desktop navigation. It displays the Bourbon start menu and taskbar.

Q4OS Trinity environment

Q4OS’s Trinity environment has a simplified desktop with bottom bar, classic menu options, and the ability to add/remove application icons on the desktop.

– click image to enlarge –

Timothy Pearson founded the TDE project and continues to lead it. He is an experienced software developer who was the KDE 3.x coordinator of previous Kubuntu releases.

TDE is both flexible and highly customizable. It has a pleasant visual appeal. Its desktop effects are compatible with older hardware. Trinity fills the gap left open with the other lightweight desktop options, which offer little in the way of desktop visual effects.

The field of new alternative desktop environments has created a clutter that may have blunted more interest in TDE. For instance, choices such as Pantheon, Enlightenment, Budgie and Awesome offer unique lightweight choices. Still, Q4OS levels that playing field by letting you use your desktop choice without undermining the unique system tools and customization opportunities the distro provides.

You will not find the Trinity desktop shipping as an option with most Linux distros. Those that use Trinity include Devuan, Sparky Linux, Exe GNU/Linux, ALT Linux, PCLinuxOS, Slax and Ubuntu Nightly.

TDE’s growth with Q4OS makes the combination a viable alternative to meet individual and small business computing needs. The TDE 14 series has been in development for more than two years. This extended development period has allowed the creation of a better and more stable feature-rich desktop environment than found in previous TDE releases.

Using It

Whether you adopt Q4OS to replace a Microsoft Windows experience or another Linux distribution, you will not have much of a learning curve. Out of the box, this distro works well with the default configurations.

Its simplified interface is intuitive. Whether you are a holdover from Windows XP or Windows 7 or even a disgruntled Window 10 refugee, Q4OS offers an inviting look and feel.

The basic collection of software barely gives you enough applications to get started. You will not find any bloat.

Installed titles include Google Chrome, Konqueror, KWrite text editor and a few system tools. From there, what you want to use is easily available through the software center and the Synaptic Package Manager (after you install it).

The Welcome screen makes it very easy to start setting up the desktop with just a few clicks. It is a good starting point. From that panel, you can add packages conveniently and quick start some of the unique features.

The Desktop Profiler lets you select which desktop environment to use. It also lets you select among a full-featured desktop, a basic desktop or a minimal desktop.

Install Applications installs the Synaptic Package Manager. Install Proprietary Codecs installs all the necessary media codecs for playing audio and video.

Turn On Desktop Effects makes it easy to activate more eye candy without having to wade through more detailed Control Panel options.

Switch to Kickoff Start Menu switches from the default Bourbon menu to either Classic or Kickoff styles. It is easy to try each one. Set Autologin allows you to set login to bypass requiring your password upon boot.

Q4OS desktop

A nice touch is the variety of background images and the right-click menu anywhere on the desktop.

– click image to enlarge –

Bottom Line

Q4OS has a focus on security, reliability, long-term stability and conservative integration of verified new features. This operating system is a proven performer for speed and very low hardware requirements. That performance is optimized for both new and very old hardware. For small business owners and high-tech minded home office workers, Q4OS is well suited for virtualization and cloud computing.

One of the hallmarks of this distro is to be a suitable powerhouse platform for legacy hardware. So the developers continue to resist a trend among Linux devs to drop support for old 32-bit computers.The 32-bit versions work with or without the PAE memory extension technology.

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?

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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