August 23, 2015

Linux Never Had a Better Chance to Beat Windows

The main feature is now privacy and not security


Windows 10 is out, and everyone is talking about it. It's clear that Microsoft did something right for a change and that the latest version of the OS is better than the previous releases. This is actually a good thing.

What's not great about it is the fact that Windows 10 collects huge amounts of data about your PC and you as a user, and most media outlets seem to think that it's OK and that it's just an evolution of the operating system. From my perspective, it's just another reason to move to Linux.

Many journalists have treated Windows 10 with a lot of lenience, to say the least. Many have said that Windows 10 does collect plenty of data, but that it is OK because others are doing it as well and pointed fingers at Google or Facebook. Just because others are doing it doesn't mean that it's OK for everyone involved. It's interesting to see how, in just a couple of years, we've moved from being apprehensive about sharing our personal details online to calling it an evolution.

There are so many things that send information from Windows 10 that it will take you a while to stop them all. Microsoft collects a ton data about you as a user, and not just about your computer. Stuff like location, preferences, and even contacts is being collected and sent by default if you don't stop it. Even with everything turned off, it's hard to determine if something else is happening.

I need to make one thing abundantly clear. There is nothing wrong with Microsoft gathering all of this data. They admit they do it, and they seem to be pretty forthcoming with everything. In the end, it's the user's choice, and if they want to be a part of the greater Windows ecosystem, which apparently needs a lot of user data to work, then it's fine.


Cortana as an example


This is just an excerpt from Microsoft's website. It's not an interpretation, just a quote. We're not judging, but this is what actually happens. It you want to know more, just visit the Cortana, Search, and Privacy: FAQ.
"When you use Cortana, Microsoft collects and uses information including your device location information and location history, contacts (People), voice input, searching history, calendar details, content and communication history from messages and apps, and other information on your device. In Microsoft Edge, Cortana collects and uses your browsing history."


Linux as an example


I have only two problems, and neither of them is with the Windows 10. One has to do with the media that makes all of this data collection, albeit legally binding, feel like it's the most natural thing in the world. Please, stop saying it's OK to gather it and that everyone is doing it. Linux is doing no such thing, and it needs no such thing.
The second problem I have is about the Linux community, which is not consistent with its criticism. To paraphrase The Joker, Microsoft is gathering every bit of data from Windows 10 and no one bats an eye, Ubuntu sends some search queries to Amazon and everyone is losing their minds.


Linux as an alternative


One of the statements that were floating online was that Linux missed a good chance to shine when Windows 8 turned out to be a flop. Well, I tell you that Linux never had a better chance than now. It provides the ultimate privacy protection, and it will never gather data about you or your PC. Linux systems will never need data from you to perform better. Linux is already doing almost anything better than anyone else.

A very clear line is being drawn right now. Windows is clearly opting to use the online components more in its internal functionality and Linux is going towards privacy. When you add the security component to this equation, you can only get a single answer.


August 22, 2015

Windows 10 privacy concerns may help Linux

In today's open source roundup: Will Windows 10 privacy issues bring more users to Linux? Plus: Windows 10 keeps talking to Microsoft even when you try to shut it up. And Ars Technica readers sound off about Windows 10 and privacy
Windows 10 privacy concerns may help Linux
Windows 10 is out now, and many people are shocked at some of the privacy issues involved with Microsoft's latest desktop operating system. But will Windows 10 and its privacy problems prove to be a boon for Linux? A writer at Softpedia thinks that Windows 10 could be quite good for growing the Linux user base.
Silviu Stahie reports for Softpedia:
...Windows 10 collects huge amounts of data about your PC and you as a user, and most media outlets seem to think that it's OK and that it's just an evolution of the operating system. From my perspective, it's just another reason to move to Linux.
Many journalists have treated Windows 10 with a lot of lenience, to say the least. Many have said that Windows 10 does collect plenty of data, but that it is OK because others are doing it as well and pointed fingers at Google or Facebook. Just because others are doing it doesn't mean that it's OK for everyone involved. It's interesting to see how, in just a couple of years, we've moved from being apprehensive about sharing our personal details online to calling it an evolution.
There are so many things that send information from Windows 10 that it will take you a while to stop them all. Microsoft collects a ton data about you as a user, and not just about your computer. Stuff like location, preferences, and even contacts is being collected and sent by default if you don't stop it. Even with everything turned off, it's hard to determine if something else is happening.
A very clear line is being drawn right now. Windows is clearly opting to use the online components more in its internal functionality and Linux is going towards privacy. When you add the security component to this equation, you can only get a single answer.
More at Softpedia
Windows 10 keeps talking to Microsoft

Windows 10 comes with various privacy control settings, but a writer at Ars Technica notes that Windows 10 will keep talking to Microsoft even when you try to shut it up.
Peter Bright reports for Ars Technica:
Windows 10 uses the Internet a lot to support many of its features. The operating system also sports numerous knobs to twiddle that are supposed to disable most of these features and the potentially privacy-compromising connections that go with them.
Unfortunately for privacy advocates, these controls don't appear to be sufficient to completely prevent the operating system from going online and communicating with Microsoft's servers.
...Windows 10 will periodically send data to a Microsoft server named This server seems to be used for OneDrive and some other Microsoft services. Windows 10 seems to transmit information to the server even when OneDrive is disabled and logins are using a local account that isn't connected to a Microsoft Account. The exact nature of the information being sent isn't clear—it appears to be referencing telemetry settings—and again, it's not clear why any data is being sent at all. We disabled telemetry on our test machine using group policies.
We configured our test virtual machine to use an HTTP and HTTPS proxy (both as a user-level proxy and a system-wide proxy) so that we could more easily monitor its traffic, but Windows 10 seems to make requests to a content delivery network that bypass the proxy.
More at Ars Technica
Ars Technica readers sound off about Windows 10's privacy problems
As you might imagine, Peter Bright's article on Ars Technica caught the attention of the site's readers and they weren't shy about sharing their thoughts about Windows 10's privacy issues:

Caffarius: "If they don't release a way to stop this incessant collection of data, it's looking like all my machines are going to be Linux based once Microsoft's Windows 7 support drops off. Arch doesn't want to know a thing about me. And that's how I like it."
Anowack: "Surprise! A company that disrespects user privacy enough to remove the option to turn off telemetry in all consumer versions of its operating system is going to disrespect it in other ways also."
Causality: "This is completely ridiculous. Can somebody write an overhaul patch that just puts a "F##K OFF" button in the privacy settings menu?"
Delicieuxz: "The Windows 10 EULA and Microsoft's Privacy Statement declare that Microsoft will access and use the content of people's emails and other files, such as documents uploaded to One Drive, according to Microsoft's discretion. "Share with our partners" also includes law enforcement, wherever Microsoft deems required. And I think Microsoft cannot ignore any instance which they feel should be forwarded to law enforcement without making themselves complicit in any potential criminal activity.
Windows 10's all-your-contents-are-belongs-to-us policy is also a widening of the backdoor which law enforcement asks OS manufacturer to build into their systems.
Basically, Microsoft's Windows 10 EULA claims that all files used in Windows 10 may be accessed, searched, and contents utilized by Microsoft, with Microsoft exercizing sole discretion over what it will access, and how it will be used.
I think all businesses, content creators, and even nations should be dismayed at this."
Sifaka: "You should not need to install a firewall to stop your OS from sending data to a remote server."
ZPrime: "While what this article reveals is somewhat disconcerting, a lot of what MS mentions in its privacy policy is stuff that the product needs to function as intended (i.e. OneDrive, various Live Tile apps / etc) and people are just fearmongering the hell out of it.
Personally I have no problems with "telemetry" because it's not traceable to an individual user, and it's there to help improve the product. OTOH, as the article says, if I've turned off Bing / MSN crap, Windows shouldn't still be poking those URLs."
ZeroHazard: "Let's not forget the purely monetary concerns: metered internet. If it's constantly reading and sending your data to an offsite server, you're getting dinged by data usage charges. I wouldn't be surprised if ISPs welcomed this 'feature' with open arms and greased palms."
Peter Chastain: "Does the postal carrier need to know the contents of my mail in order to deliver it? Does the storage center need to know the exact contents of my boxes, or only that they don't contain harmful material?
MS doesn't need to know the contents of your files or your emails to store or deliver them. They do need to know the contents if they want to send you targeted offers or turn you over to law enforcement."
Temtka: "Right now I am dual booting Windows 10 Enterprise and Linux. I use linux for 95% of my stuff. Windows for the other 5%. I store nothing personal on my Windows partition. Which is sad, because for the most part I really like Windows 10. Too bad it can't be Windows 10 without all the tracking."
PaidthePrice: "Microsoft's final good operating system is and will be Windows 7. Now, Microsoft treats every device like a cell phone. So they treat it as a "service" not a product. I prefer a product over a service."
More at Ars Technica


August 21, 2015

A linux alternative for Windows users - Xubuntu 15.04

With the discovery of Microsoft tracking everything you do on Windows 10, there is a renewed interest in open source linux software. Google also does the same. To this effort, I setup the latest Xubuntu 15.04 as a Windows XP / 7 / 10 alternative. I am using the Radiance theme for a polished look from my previous post this month. Also installed the excellent newly released Clementine and Yarock music players with built-in Internet radio stations. Below are my results and a link where to download the latest Xubuntu. Open source works....!

You can also give Xubuntu a Windows 8/10 theme as well. See the link below to get it.

You can get the XFCE theme, XFCEight here:

You can download Xubuntu 15.04 here:

August 20, 2015

Install Elementary 3.0 Gtk 3 Theme on Ubuntu

Install Elementary 3.0 Gtk 3 Theme on Ubuntu 12.04 Precise/11.10 Oneiric/Linux Mint 12

elementary theme

Changes in Elementary Gtk theme 3.0 version:
  • GTK3 support, including :backdrop class, but there’s no dark theme yet
  • elementary now uses the Unico GTK3 engine
  • Granite support (which is used by many applications that will be default in the elementary OS Luna, such as BeatBox, etc.)
  • Dropped GTK2 classes for GTK3 apps so there’s no more support for applications like Nautilus elementary and others (so any application that has a GTK3 version doesn’t have support for GTK2 anymore)
  • The default placement is now close:maximize
  • The maximize button has been changed from the “+” (typically used to mean new) to two opposing arrows
  • And More.

To install Elementary Theme via Noobslab PPA on Ubuntu/Mint GTK3 open Terminal (Press Ctrl+Alt+T) and copy the following commands in the Terminal:

(Elementary OS) Noise Audio Player for Ubuntu/Linux Mint/other Ubuntu derivatives

Install Noise Audio Player in Ubuntu 13.04 Raring/Ubuntu 12.04 Precise/Linux Mint 15/13/other Ubuntu derivatives

Noise is an official audio player in Elementary OS Luna. Noise is a fast and beautiful GTK3 audio player with a focus on music and libraries. It handles external devices, CDs, and album art. Noise utilizes Granite for a consistent and slick UI. It automatically find tracks and show them without any complication.
It exposes albums in big shadowed previews, display extra information to the selected tracks, also previews helped by the right-side panel. It has it's own offers Equalizer to adjust track tone. Also there are filters in the left pane, like favorite, never played, history, recently added, and similar. 
Noise also can handle external devices, such as: iPods, iOS devices and syncing music to Android devices. Additionally, it offers CD ripping, separate partitions, and more.

noise player

noise player
Note: It is not available for Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal/Linux Mint 14

To install Noise Player in Ubuntu/Linux Mint open Terminal (Press Ctrl+Alt+T) and copy the following commands in the Terminal:

That's it


August 19, 2015

Qt Music Player `Yarock` 1.1.3 Released, Available In PPA

Yarock 1.1.3 was released recently with a new radio service: Radionomy (which has replaced Shoutcast), support for importing APE files in the playqueue, MP4 audio tag reading and more.


Yarock is a Qt music player "designed to provide an easy and pretty music collection browser based on cover art".

The player provides multiple views such as artists, albums, tracks, genre, years and so on, all based on cover art and it includes features such as: music collection database (SQLite 3), playlists support (including smart playlists), can play radio streams, Mp3Gain tag support for volume normalization, scrobbler, command line and Mpris interfaces, favorites support, automatically downloads cover art and more. Also, the player includes a radio browser which supports Tunein, Dribble and with this release, Radionomy.

Yarock Radionomy

Changes in Yarock 1.1.3:
  • new radionomy radio service (replace shoutcast)
  • added radio covers for all radio views
  • added symbolic link support for file system view
  • added MP4 audio files tag reading
  • added ape files import into playqueue
  • added browsing history support for stream link in radio views
  • many minor updates for the widgets/ui
  • fixed "" provider
  • fixed volume slider for phonon engine
  • fixed network redirection management
  • fixed now playing widget update
  • various other fixes and improvements
The complete changelog can be found HERE.

Also, since our last article about Yarock, the app has received support for an alternate audio engine: mpv, equalizer support for vlc audio engine as well as support for building the app with Qt5 (Qt4 is still supported).

Unfortunately, the PPA that used to provide Yarock for Ubuntu users (Sam Rog's PPA) was removed. To make it easier to install the latest Yarock in Ubuntu, I used Sam's initial packaging and I uploaded the latest Yarock 1.1.3 to the main WebUpd8 PPA. The package is built with Qt5 and Phonon and without the mpv audio engine (because mpv from the official Ubuntu repositories is very old).

Install Yarock in Ubuntu or Linux Mint via PPA

To install the latest Yarock in Ubuntu 15.04 or 14.04 / Linux Mint 17.2, 17.1 or 17 and derivatives, you can use the main WebUpd8 PPA. Add the PPA and install Yarock using the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install yarock

If you don't want to add the PPA, you can download the deb from HERE.

Arch Linux users can install Yarock (Qt5) via AUR.

For other Linux distributions, grab the source from Launchpad and build the app using the official instructions (note: the PPA listed there doesn't exist any more)


August 17, 2015

Ambiance & Radiance Colors Themes

Install Ambiance & Radiance Colors theme in Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty/12.04 Precise/Linux Mint 17/13/other related Ubuntu derivatives (GTK + Xfce + Lxde)

This suite is offered by RAVEfinity. Ambiance & Radiance Colors Suite is offers many colors of default Ubuntu themes (Ambiance & Radiance), a Unique and complete GTK 2 & 3 theme that brings you Ubuntu's Default Ambiance and Radiance Themes in 9 awesome new colors! Along With many other improvements. These themes can work under: Unity, Gnome Classic, Gnome 2 (Mate), XFCE ,LXDE & Openbox desktops.

Ambiance & Radiance-Xfce-LXDE brings you The Radiance theme (Ubuntu theme) but, completely ported to Xfce,LXDE and Openbox desktops. It is in fact quite likely, The most comprehensive and tested port of Radiance to Xfce,LXDE and Openbox. (It includes XFWM4 and Openbox window themes). Now you can easily have the beautiful and refined look and feel of the Radiance theme (Ubuntu Theme) on the XFCE,LXDE and Openbox desktops.

FS & zonColor icons used in screenshots or check icons collection. Also download black wallpapers.
You can use Unity Tweak ToolGnome-tweak-tool or Ubuntu-Tweak to change themes/icons.

To install Ambiance & Radiance Suite in Ubuntu/Linux Mint (Press Ctrl+Alt+T) and copy the following commands in the Terminal:

To install Ambiance & Radiance Colors for GTK, use this command:

To install Ambiance & Radiance for Xfce & Lxde, use these commands:

August 2, 2015

4 Linux Music Players That Deserve Your Attention Now

Finding a good music player for Linux is not an easy task. A few big name projects, like Amarok and Songbird, have come and gone throughout the years, but none of them have been stable enough to match the staying power of iTunesWinamp, or any of the other music players available to non-Linux users.
Fortunately, the issue isn’t one of availability; there are dozens of music players out there in Linux land. The problem is finding the ones that are modern, feature-rich, performance-friendly, and easy to use.
I’ve done a bit of searching. Here are my findings.


Not to be confused with Audacity, which is a well-known audio editor, Audacious is an audio player which has no relation to the former except for the fact that they’re both free, both open source, and both excellent.
This wonderful program actually got its start back in 2011 but was often overlooked in favor of big name alternatives in the past. Those giants have since fallen asleep and Audacious is the perfect tool to fill the vacuum that was left behind.


Audacious is marked by low resource usage and a minimal interface. It’s not ugly by any means, but if you’re used to the kind of visual flash offered by modern media players, you may feel underwhelmed by this program’s simplicity.

It comes with plenty of advanced actions that are all tied to keyboard shortcuts, making it easy to do whatever you want without much effort at all. There’s also a surprising amount of customization available, considering just how simple it tries to be. As for the interface, it can be toggled between GTK Classic and Winamp.
But the best aspect of this music player has to be its plugin system, which allows for extensibility through third-party code. The community of Audacious developers isn’t all that big yet, but if you’re interested in hopping along, check out their plugin development forum.


The way we use the web has changed so much in the past few years. Isn’t it about time that the way we manage our music has caught up? That’s the exact line of thinking that sparked – and continues to drive – the development of Tomahawk, a music player for the modern generation.
Music has recently shifted away from local playlists and shifted towards streamed services, which are popularly known as Internet radio. And if you’re like me, you don’t just stick to one or two of them; you listen to this one or that one depending on your mood, whether that means Soundcloud, Google Music, Spotify, Rdio, etc.


And that’s exactly why Tomahawk is so awesome. Not only does it manage and play local music files like any traditional music player would, it also incorporates some of the more popular streaming services available today, thus allowing you to enjoy all of your music in one place.
The ability to connect to these various streaming sites is due to Tomahawk’s plugin system, so you can toggle those features on or off at will. Tomahawk will also watch your indicated music directories for any changes and update your library automatically.
As far as the interface, you’re either going to love it or hate it. It feels very modern, but modern in a way that’s reminiscent of the Modern style that’s been used by Windows since the Zune days. In general, though, the layout is very simple, easy to navigate, and the aesthetics are quite pleasing.


Do not be put off by this program’s strange name! I almost overlooked DeaDBeeF because of its unconventional name but I’m glad I didn’t. Truly I wish for it to be rebranded because it’s such an awesome program and it’d be a shame if it never gained traction due to something as trivial as a name.
Long story short: if you prefer something lightweight like Foobar2000, you’ll probably love this one.


DeaDBeeF is not meant to be a music library manager. Rather, much like stanard Foobar2000 affair, you just create separate playlists that you fill up with whichever music files you want for said playlists. That’s about as simple as it could be.
However, if the out-of-the-box functionality is too basic for you, you can always expand on it through plugins. DeaDBeeF comes with a lot of built-in plugins that are disabled by default, such as a LastFM scrobbler, a global hotkey manager, and even an alternative interface.
The only downside was that DeaDBeeF did not integrate into my native desktop environment, so I couldn’t control it using the volume panel. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but it may or may not prove irritating for you, so beware.

Nuvola Player

Nuvola Player is a bit of an outlier on this list. It completely foregoes the idea of local music storage and focuses entirely on cloud-based music streaming. In that sense, it’s like Tomahawk but more specialized.
The goal, as described by the developers, is to provide Linux users with a native application that interfaces with as many streaming services as possible in order to make the user experience as clean and straightforward as possible.


At first glance Nuvola feels like an extremely basic web browser that loads each service – e.g. Pandora, Rdio, Google Music, etc. – as an actual webpage. Indeed, my first thought was, “Why the heck would I use this when I can just load it in my already-open browser?”
As it turns out, because Nuvola ties in with the operating system, it can be controlled directly through the desktop environment when you want to skip songs or change volume. It also has native popup notifications on track change. It’s a very niche program, but a useful one if that niche describes you.
Out of the box, Nuvola supports Amazon Cloud Player, Bandcamp, Deezer, 8tracks, Google Play Music, Grooveshark, Grooveshark Mobile, Hype Machine, Jango, Logitech Media Server, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, and This Is My Jam.

Which Music Player is Your Favorite?

In a past life, back when I was enamored with Foobar2000’s minimalism, I would have fallen for DeaDBeeF and its surprising similarities. These days, however, I need a little bit of eye candy in addition to functionality because I’m looking for a balanced user experience, which is why I think Tomahawk is the best.


Other honorable mentions:


Gmusic browser

July 14, 2015

How to Enable Google’s Chrome App Launcher on Linux

For those wanting more of the Chromium effect on their existing Linux desktops, you can add the Google App Launcher. See an article below on how to add it.

The Chrome App Launcher offers a super handy way to launch your favourite Chrome Apps, sift through your engorged collection of bookmarks and trigger a web search, all without having to open the browser itself.

It’s included out of the box on Chrome OS, and Windows and Mac have been able to add it for some time. On Linux the feature remains disabled by default, but getting it is easy. And we’ll show you how.

Enable Chrome App Launcher on Linux

It should be obvious, but you do need to be running the latest release of Google Chrome (any channel) to add the app launcher. Google provides Debian and RPM installers suitable for most Linux distributions. Head on over to this link to grab one.
The simplest method (assuming you’re running the latest Stable release) is to click the link below (or copy the URL into a new tab) and hit the ‘Get App Launcher’ button on the page. This will add the feature to your system.
Alternatively, if for whatever reason the above step doesn’t work, you can enable it manually. To do this, paste the following address into the omnibar and then hit return/enter:
Click the blue link titled ‘enable’ that is listed underneath the “enable the app Launcher” heading. Finally, relaunch Chrome when prompted to do so.

Positioning the App Launcher

After the item has been ‘installed’ you’ll be able to add it to your application launcher or desktop panel by finding the launcher item in your desktop app menu, overlay or Dash. You can place it anywhere you like: at the top of the Unity Launcher, the far left of your Cinnamon desktop panel, or slap bang in the middle of your GNOME Shell dock.

Using the App Launcher

With the launcher item now added and in place on your desktop all that’s left is to click on it.
The apps list will open in rough proximity to its icon, though this isn’t always the case. For example, on Cinnamon the launcher often appears on the right screen, despite the App Launcher icon being clicked on the left. Given that the feature is yet to be enabled by default on Linux bugs should be expected.

chrome app list linux

If you find the positioning is really off, you may want to turn on the “Enable the experimental app launcher position” flag. This experiment positions the apps list in the centre of the screen.

Anatomy of the launcher

We mentioned in the introduction that the Chrome App Launcher is able to do a few handy things. And while those of you on Linux won’t get to take advantage of the “Ok Google” feature available in the Chrome OS launcher, you do get most of the other features.
Folders let you group your apps into custom directories, like ‘Google Apps’, ‘Media Apps’, etc. Enabling the ‘App Folder Sync’ flag allows you to keep these groupings between desktops and OSes.
Another flag Linux users can enable to achieve parity with Windows users is ‘App Info’. This flag appends an extra entry to the menu that appears when right-clicking on apps within the list. When selected a small overlay will appear in-launcher to give brief information on permissions the app in question has access to, shortcut app opening preferences (‘Window’, ‘In Tab’, etc.), and an uninstall button to save you having to use the Extensions page.
To help differentiate between Chrome Apps (those that can run offline, in their own window and integrate with your OS) and “glorified bookmarks”, look out for the shortcut badge on icons:
Web Apps and Chrome Apps

Web Apps (badged) and Chrome Apps (unbadged)
The search bar at the top of the list will return results from the web, your bookmarks, installed applications, and the Chrome Web Store.

Chrome App Launcher

Click on the menu icon to access some app launcher specific settings (including “supervised user” access) or send feedback on it to Google.

Removing the launcher

To remove the Chrome App Launcher simply right-click on (or tear off) the list shortcut from your panel or dock. If you enabled the launcher through a flag, you can also disable it.


June 27, 2015

First impressions of Chromixium OS 1.0

Chromixium OS is a recent addition to our database of open source operating systems. The project has an interesting goal: to mix the user interface style of a Chromebook with the power and flexibility of a full featured GNU/Linux distribution. The project's website sums up its characteristics as follows: "Chromixium combines the elegant simplicity of the Chromebook with the flexibility and stability of Ubuntu's Long Term Support release. Chromixium puts the web front and centre of the user experience. Web and Chrome apps work straight out of the browser to connect you to all your personal, work and education networks. Sign into Chromium to sync all your apps and bookmarks. When you are offline or when you need more power, you can install any number of applications for work or play, including LibreOffice, Skype, Steam and a whole lot more. Security updates are installed seamlessly and effortlessly in the background and will be supplied until 2019."

At the time of writing, Chromixium provides one build for 32-bit x86 machines. The ISO we download for the distribution is 800MB in size. Chromixium's one edition provides users with the Openbox window manager and some LXDE components for the distribution's desktop environment. Booting from the Chromixium live media brings us to a graphical login screen. The default password for the live user account is "user". Signing in brings up a desktop environment with a scenic background. At the bottom of the screen we find a transparent panel. This panel is home to quick-launch buttons, an application menu and the distribution's system tray. One of the quick-launch buttons opens the project's system installer.

Desktop and application menu
Chromixium 1.0 -- Default desktop and application menu
(full image size: 812kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)

Chromixium's graphical system installer has a similar style to the installer used by its parent, Ubuntu, but there are a number of small differences. The installer begins by showing us the project's license agreement. We are then asked if we would like the installer to automatically partition our hard drive or if we would like to manually divide our hard disk. Taking the manual option, I found, launches the GParted partition manager. Using GParted, we can create the partitions we want and, when we close GParted's window, the installer moves on to the next step. The following screen asks us to create a user account for ourselves and then we can optionally enable the root account and create a password for the root user. The next screen asks us to assign mount points to the partitions we created earlier. We can also select the location of Chromixium's boot loader from this screen. There is a checkbox on the page which toggles "Transfer user settings" on/off. I enabled this option and nothing happened so I'm not sure if importing or transferring user settings has been implemented yet. The system installer then formats our disk and copies its files to our computer. When it is finished we are asked to select our time zone and then confirm our keyboard's layout through a series of menus. We then select our preferred language and reboot the computer.

Our local copy of Chromixium boots to a graphical login screen. Signing into the account we created at install time brings us back to the Openbox powered interface. Opening the distribution's application menu reveals an icon for launching the Chromium web browser. There are also icons for launching a minimal Chromium browser in order to access such Google services as Google Drive, YouTube, Google Docs and Web Store. The quick-launch buttons at the bottom of the screen provide access to these same services, plus there is a quick-launch button for opening the distribution's file manager.

Desktop and system settings
Chromixium 1.0 -- Desktop and system settings
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)

At this point in my trial I was wondering where the usual collection of GNU/Linux applications might be found since they were not available in the visible application menu. I found that by right-clicking on the desktop I could bring up a context menu. This menu gives us access to the distribution's settings panel and an application menu. The application menu takes several seconds to load, but it does give us a classic menu tree of software, with applications sorted into categories. The applications provided in the default installation include the Chromium web browser with Adobe's Flash plugin, the Transmission bittorrent client, an image viewer and an application for retrieving data from an attached scanner. The Brasero disc burning software is included along with the Parole media player. We are given the GParted partition manager, a hardware/system information browser and an on-screen virtual keyboard. Network Manager is available to help us connect to the Internet. We find such small applications as a text editor, archive manager and calculator. The GNU Compiler Collection is installed for us too. In the background we find the Linux kernel, version 3.13.

Chromixium does not ship with multimedia codecs. However, attempting to open a media file brings up a window letting us know we are missing codecs. The system then offers to locate appropriate codecs for playing our files. During my trial Chromixium successfully found and installed the codecs I required, allowing me to play my media files. In the application menu there is a launcher for a program that will hunt down codecs and software for reading video DVDs from the Ubuntu software repositories.

Software management
Chromixium 1.0 -- Software management
(full image size: 510kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)

The distribution provides users with two graphical package managers. The first offers a web-based interface and is called Ubuntu Apps Directory. Launching this package manager brings up a website which looks and acts in a very similar manner to the Ubuntu Software Centre. We can search for packages, browse through categories of software and click on packages to bring up a summary of the selected application. Unfortunately, I found whenever I clicked on the button to download and install a package the Apps Directory displayed an error saying the package could not be found. This made the Apps Directory entirely unhelpful. Luckily there is a second graphical package manager which runs as a native application. The Synaptic package manager is present to help us locate, install, update and remove packages on our system. Synaptic worked well for me and the native package manager worked quickly. My one complaint while using Synaptic to add software to my system was that freshly installed desktop software would not appear in either of the distribution's application menus. The user needs to log out and then sign back into their account before new software is added to the context application menu. During my trial a number of software updates were made available. I downloaded 33 updated packages, totalling 70MB in size. Each of these software updates installed cleanly. Chromixium pulls software from Ubuntu's repositories. There are a number of extra add-on repositories configured on the system, but they are not enabled by default. We can enable these extra repositories via Synaptic.

I tried running Chromixium on a desktop computer and in a VirtualBox virtual machine. In both environments the distribution functioned well. My screen was set to its maximum resolution in both environments and both networking and sound worked out of the box. I found the distribution's desktop was a bit sluggish, especially when accessing either application menu. Opening the main application menu took a few seconds and opening the context application menu (where the native applications are stored) took about four seconds. Launching programs tended to be unusually slow too when compared with other Ubuntu-based distributions. In either environment Chromixium required about 290MB of memory to log into the Openbox interface. This seems like a large amount of RAM for such a light graphical interface, almost twice what Debian running the MATE desktop used earlier this month.

Browsing the application menu
Chromixium 1.0 -- Browsing the application menu
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I want to make it clear I do not own a Chromebook and, unless I'm mistaken, I've never used a Chromebook computer. I mention this because one of Chromixium's goals is to provide a Chromebook-like experience and, honestly, I have no idea whether it accomplishes this goal. Assuming, for a moment, that it does, I have to admit I'm entirely outside the target demographic for such a device. A computer which deals almost exclusively in on-line web services and web applications would not be useful to me. However, for a person who wants to use their computer almost exclusively for browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, checking e-mail and social networking sites, I can see how such a simplified user interface would be appealing. In a lot of ways I think Chromixium has similar design goals to Peppermint. Both projects have minimal interfaces, a focus on web apps and use local programs to round out their functionality.

My point is that people who are likely to enjoy Chromebooks and use their computers almost solely for accessing the web will probably find Chromixium quite useful. However, while it is technically possible to access more features and off-line software through Chromixium's application menu, the process is slow and awkward when compared with other desktop Linux distributions. Granted, Chromixium is still in its early stages, it just hit version 1.0, so the standalone features will probably improve in time. For now, I think Chromixium offers an interesting web-focused environment with the fallback option of using locally installed applications. The implementation has some rough edges at the moment, but I suspect it will get better in future releases. * * * * *
Hardware used in this review

My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
  • Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
  • Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
  • Memory: 6GB of RAM
  • Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
  • Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card 


June Desktop

Gave my desktop a Chromium look this month to go along with the Chromixium review. It is nice and bright for the summer and the soft gray colors work well. Below are links where to get them. Enjoy.

You can get the GTK3 theme here:

You can get the wallpaper here:

and below: