NSA: Please Turn off the Lights When You Leave. Nothing to See Here.

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz shows how the general public can take action to truly protect their privacy using GnuPG with Evolution email. Read the details.

Mailvelope for Chrome: PGP Encrypted Email Made Easy

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz officially endorses what he deems is a truly secure, easy to use PGP email encryption program. Read the details.

Step off Microsoft's License Treadmill to FOSS Linux

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds CIOs that XP Desktops destined for MS end of life support can be reprovisioned with FOSS Linux to run like brand new. Read how.

Bitcoin is NOT Money -- it's a Commodity

Linux Advocate shares news that the U.S. Treasury will treat Bitcoin as a Commodity 'Investment'. Read the details.

Google Drive Gets a Failing Grade on Privacy Protection

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz puts out a public service privacy warning. Google Drive gets a failing grade on protecting your privacy.

Email: A Fundamentally Broken System

Email needs an overhaul. Privacy must be integrated.


Cookie Cutter Distros Don't Cut It


The 'Linux Inside' Stigma - It's real and it's a problem.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Turn a Deaf Ear

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds readers of a long ago failed petition by Mathematician Prof. Donald Knuth for stopping issuance of Software Patents.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Use Bitcoin: Credit Cards Weren't Designed for the Internet

by Dietrich Schmitz

Just yesterday, I registered my account at Coinbase, one of the largest most reputable, secure web Bitcoin brokers in the World.

The choice was careful and made after a period of weeks of study.  

If you don't know the history, during the past 12 months, Bitcoin has grown into a full scale 'made for the Internet' web commerce payment solution.

Credit Cards Pose Unacceptable Risk

Bitcoin stands to replace all known on-line payment methods including Credit and Debit cards, PayPal, etc. for many good reasons.  The clincher for me was the realization that credit cards simply weren't designed for the Internet. 

Think about that for a moment.  

Regardless of the safety assurances you receive from merchants, whenever you make the overt choice to pay using a credit card, you are placing trust in one or more commerce intermediaries to facilitate a transaction and also a level of trust they are keeping your secret credit card information secure on a merchant's website.  Often, that information also includes your date of birth and social security number.  This poses both a financial and identity theft risk.  That is unacceptable and the potential for global crime rings hacking websites to steal your credit and personal information is all too real as the frequency with which website attacks occur escalates.

As often happens, we have almost become numbed to news of millions of credit cards being stolen with regularity.  Clearly, this has become a profitable business for the criminals.  And in this case, crime often does 'pay' large sums of money, all at the victims' expense, and where the criminal may be on the other side of the world immune from local prosecution.

What is Bitcoin?

You can find an abundance of information on Bitcoin just by googling it.  But, I think this video does a nice job of explaining it for starters:

Why Use Bitcoin?

The other day, I came across a story which covers the most compelling reasons for why Bitcoin should be considered for Internet commerce.  Here are the story's abstracted key points:

- It's fast (faster than Bank Transfer, faster than cc with zero confirmation) 

- It's cheap. Bitcoin transaction fees are minimal, or in some cases, free. 

- Central governments cannot take it away because Bitcoin cryptocurrency is decentralized (peer-to-peer P2P). 

- No Chargebacks. As can happen wit credit card purchases. Once a Bitcoin purchase is made it cannot be retrieved without the receiver's permission (receiver is getting Bitcoin from sender). 

- People cannot steal your information from websites. There's only a public key and private key. You own the private key inside your encrypted wallet. Credit cards are insecure and require you to provide your secret information as part of a transaction that then gets stored on the merchant's website. If a website attack is successful, then the bad guys have your credit card to use as they see fit. 

- Bitcoin is not inflationary. Unlike fiat currencies such as the U.S. Dollar that get printed however capriciously the Federal Reserve desires, Bitcoin is set at a fixed amount. The more printing (Quantitative Easing), the more likely inflation will occur. 

- It's as private as you want it to be. Sometimes, we don’t want people knowing what we have purchased. Bitcoin is a relatively private currency. On the one hand, it is transparent; thanks to the blockchain, everyone knows how much a particular bitcoin address holds in transactions. They know where those transactions came from, and where they’re sent. On the other hand, unlike conventional bank accounts, no one knows who holds a particular bitcoin address. It’s like having a clear plastic wallet with no visible owner. 

- You don't need to trust anyone. In a conventional banking system, you have to trust people to handle your money properly along the way. You have to trust the bank, for example. You might have to trust a third-party payment processor. You’ll often have to trust the merchant, too. These organizations demand important, sensitive pieces of information from you.  Because bitcoin is entirely decentralized, you need trust no one when using it. When you send a transaction, it is digitally signed, and secure. An unknown miner will verify it, and then the transaction is completed. The merchant need not even know who you are, unless you’ve arranged to tell them. 

- You own it. There is no other electronic cash system in which your account isn’t owned by someone else. Take PayPal, for example: if the company decides for some reason that your account has been misused, it has the power to freeze all of the assets held in the account, without consulting you. 

- You can 'mine' Bitcoins yourself. In spite of the amazing advances in home office colour printing technology, most national governments take a fairly dim view of you producing your own money. With bitcoin, however, it is encouraged. You can certainly buy bitcoins on the open market, but you can also mine your own if you have enough computing power.

Coinbase has the added benefit of two-factor authentication which means only I can access and make transactions.  Take a look at Coinbase's security and you'll see they are dead serious about keeping your Bitcoin safe.

I won't use Coinbase to store my personal Bitcoin Wallet.  It will facilitate making web payments, per se,  as I can 'on demand' transfer from my bank account the precise amount required for making payment to a participating Coinbase merchant.


If I choose to transfer amounts and send them to my local PC, I can do so as well, using Bitcoin-Qt.  Bitcoin-Qt is available for Windows, Apple Macs, BSD variant and Linux operating systems for download here.  You'll find some good information on using Bitcoin-Qt here to help with getting up to speed.


I see nothing but a huge upside potential for Bitcoin and so do thousands of merchants now adopting this payment method, around the globe.

The virtue of having this payment method makes so much sense to me.  It eliminates the risk of stored secrets on the Internet.  There are none.  And one need only transfer the needed amount from cash to Bitcoin to cover the cost of a purchase.  This makes the transaction effectively behave as though it were your 'Debit' type card where the money is deducted from your Bank account directly, only you have control over how much and when that will occur.  There are no stored secrets to reveal and no intermediaries to get involved.  It's just you and your Bitcoin.

So, if you use Bitcoin for nothing else (such as its inherent cryptocurrency virtual commodity trading potential), it makes emminent sense to employ it for your Internet commerce transactions.  Close down the risk of using credit cards today -- they weren't designed for the Internet.  

Watch the below youtube Coinbase tutorial and then sign up to create your Coinbase Bitcoin account today!

-- Dietrich

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fedora 20 LXDE Spin Tune-Up Tips and Tricks

by Dietrich Schmitz

Regular readers will have figured out by now that I have a particular obsession affinity for Fedora.  It has things that make it just 'better' than the competition.

Still, competition exists and Fedora is not everyone's cup of tea.  And isn't that the way of the world?

It seems that it suffers from an arguably undeserved reputation for being more difficult to set up and use.  Some of that is true, still.  But, I maintain that the Fedora Team has done a brilliant job pulling together their twentieth iteration family of spins, Fedora 20 and the 'ease of use' category hasn't been overlooked.

All the spins have their merits -- you have Gnome (Fedora Desktop default), KDE, Xfce, Mate, and LXDE spins from which to choose.  Conspicuously missing from the line-up is a Cinnamon Spin, but, fortunately, as with Enlightenment 17, Fedora chose to include software groups, should you feel the need to run with those GUIs.  Only you must install one of the aforementioned spins first before installing one of the two guis.

That is all well and good.  But, some of you also know I have this thing about minimalism.  It's not just about visual elements; it's minimal in terms of resource consumption as well.

Thus, I have come to like the LXDE Desktop along the way using Lubuntu.

Let me say that Lubuntu is a very fine Distro for new users coming from a Windows perspective.

I've gone back to Lubuntu several times in the past because of one thing or another that set me off and I got annoyed by so as to induce a reflex response -- go back to that which 'just works well'.  That was, for me, Lubuntu.

It is easy to install, use, familiar, comfortable, lean, minimal and wicked fast.

When briefly using it not long ago, I thought to myself, "Self, why can't Fedora be like this?"  I was left to wonder about it until this past week and I set out to reproduce the "Lubuntu Experience" by seeing if I could tweak up the 'bland' out-of-the-box Fedora 20 LXDE Spin by making a few needed changes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to achieve the desired result.  Fedora 20 LXDE tweaking helps more than a bit, I think.  But, you can be the judge.  

Here's a run-down on what I've done to tweak up the LXDE Spin a bit.

Btrfs Filesystem

I don't think this is easy to do on Ubuntu, but, I can't remember if I tried to make Lubuntu run with Btrfs as the root filesystem.  Somewhere, I read that it gives grub major headaches, but, I have found the out-of-the-box selection of Btrfs with auto-configuration makes a separate partition for /boot (512MB) using ext4.  There was no thinking on my part to make that happen, but given grub is running on ext4 is the 'rub'.  Nicely done Fedora Team for making this a 'seamless' process.  There's nothing worse than the feeling one gets after an install seeing on first boot a grub> prompt.  That's a sign that something has gone fubar and it usually requires going back to grub.cfg and/or booting up a pendrive and using fdisk to remedy.  So, I was quite pleased that the new Anaconda installer handles Btrfs so well.

Full Disk Encryption

Full Disk Encryption will encrypt your entire HDD/SDD and every time you boot, you will need to input your WDE password to unlock the drive before the system can bootstrap.  This is strongly recommended in today's world where theft of Laptops has become rampant.  As a matter of good security practices, I'd suggest it be used on any hardware, regardless of whether it is a Laptop or not.  In the Anaconda installer, it's a checkbox [x] selectable item.  Check it!

Linux Kernel 3.12 zswap

My good Friend +birger monsen shows in a Google Plus post how to enable a new feature found in the Linux Kernels >= 3.11 called zswap.  

Zswap essentially takes data that would otherwise head to I/O disk swap space and compresses it in a kernel ram cache using LZO compression.  Effectively, a speed performance gain can be realized by using zswap.

Interestingly, Lubuntu 13.10 has zRam, a similar technology (but not the same), enabled by default and it helps greatly with older PCs, even ones having as little as 256MB ram will benefit.  Naturally, I have zswap.enabled.  Why?  Because I am bad. :/ Seriously, if you google around, you'll find information that shows IBM is equipping their Linux mainframes with zswap for heavily I/O bound applications yielding measurable performance gains.  Enough said.

Yum Plugins

If you love yum as much as I do, then Fedora is for you.  It's just far superior to Apt-Get for so many reasons.  In Fedora 20, presto has been merged so a separate install of the plugin is not necessary.  But, I installed two delicious plugins: yum-plugin-fastestmirror and yum-plugin-fs-snapshot.  The former, determines the 'closest' mirror to your geo-location -- this actually can make a difference in terms of number of hops your tcp/ip packets must travel to reach your PC, believe it or not.  It's a must-have as far as I am concerned.

The latter, yum-plugin-fs-snapshot, is 'money in the bank' if you need to have a restore point from which to recover.  Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows users enjoy having such when things go fubar.  Now, with this plugin installed, whenever using yum to make an update/change/removal, the plugin will diligently create a 'snapshot' (a standard feature in Btrfs).  The plugin automatically backs up each time yum is called.  By virtue of copy on write (COW) technology Btrfs uses minimal disk space and the backup time is near instantaneous.  The first time I messed with Btrfs a few years ago I thought something was wrong.  The snapshot command returned to a prompt in less than a second.  I thought, "Did it just core dump?"  Nope.  

It all seemed counter-intuitive at first but with COW you only get only pointers to read-only data (data that hasn't changed) with any other disk 'writes' getting a full copy.  It's a great idea that Btrfs borrows from the SUN's Solaris ZFS filesystem. (See directly above yum in a terminal session doing an automated fs-snapshot.)

Install both plugins with:

$sudo yum install yum-plugin-fastestmirror yum-plugin-fs-snapshot

Google Droid True Type Fonts

Google Droid fonts, easily, are as good as Windows Tahoma TTF and Ubuntu TTF true type fonts and were installed with:

$sudo yum install google-droid*

After installation, be sure to go to the Preferences->Customize Look and Feel->Fonts tab and make sure hinting is using Rgb and set to 'Full'.  This is especially helpful on LCD Laptop displays.  On the 'Widget' tab, set the 'Default Font' to Droid Sans 10 point.

Adwaita Nemo Widget Theme

I chose by trial and error Adwaita-Nemo Widget theme.  Install with yum:

$sudo yum install adwaita-nemo

Select from the Customize Look and Feel->Widget tab.

Elementary Icon Theme

Just by chance, I decided to try Elementary Icon Theme and liked how it gives LXDE an overall professional feel.  Install it with yum as follows:

$sudo yum install elementary-icon-theme


FedoraUtils is a 'grab bag' of utilities with a Zenity gui wrapper for a series of shell scripts.  Used judiciously (not all scripts are applicable), one can quickly configure features which otherwise might require additional time when done manually at the terminal command line.    

Features include:

  • Install codecs and additional software
  • Fix various problems
  • Tweak and cleanup your system
  • View system information
  • And much more...

OpenBox 'Flatbox' Window Decorator Theme

What really sets LXDE apart is it's OpenBox window manager.  I love OpenBox for it's blazing speed and minimalism.  I went to Box-look.org to check around for other styles of OB window decorations and ultimately chose Flatbox.  Download the obt file and import from Preferences->OpenBox Configuration Menu->'Install a new theme' button.

The decoration is clean and doesn't cause the eye to break -- it integrates as though it was meant to be.

It's a clean crisp look that when added to the Elementary Icon Theme and Adwaita-Nemo Widget style is simply superb.  In fact, I really think appearance-wise it is better than stock Lubuntu.

Pidgin Instant Messenger - pidgin-libnotify

I hate how Google Plus Hangout (formerly GTalk) works.  So, instead I set up Pidgin.  It's really better anyhow, since you'll never miss any message from a friend with Pidgin (such as when your G+  tab is closed).  And if you install pidgin-libnotify along with xfce4-notifyd you'll have notifications screen up when friends come and go.  Don't forget to go to Pidgin->Tools->Plugins->Libnotify Popups (select)->Configure Plugin button  and checkmark [x] 'Buddy signs off' and 'Buddy signs on'.  Also, in Tools->Preferences, be sure to have Pidgin minimize to your system tray 'Always'.

Install pidgin-libnotify and xfce4-notifyd with:

$sudo yum install pidgin-libnotify xfce4-notifyd

If you don't like the default location for Pidgin's popup notifications (top right), open a terminal and type xfce4-notify-config and set the location to lower right as I did.

Compton Composting

LXDE in the Fedora Spin is considered lightweight by design.  Thus, you don't get any compositing like KDE, MATE, Gnome Shell, or Cinnamon.

If you have the intestinal fortitude, clone the compton project using git and manually compile as I did.  This rpm 'should' be installable on Fedora.20 if you pass in $sudo yum localinstall --releasever=19 <package name>.  But, I haven't tested it.

RPMFusion Free and Non-Free Repositories

RPMFusion provides Free and Non-Free rpm packages which aren't found in the standard Fedora repository system.  Follow the directions to install the *.repo files and you are good to go.  Once done, I installed VLC Media Player, Mozilla Totem plugins which are accessible from both Chrome and Firefox.


At first, I was skeptical about this technology.  But now, I am sold.  What does Redshift-Gtk do?  Well, it when fed your latitude and longitude, goes to its own database of current weather conditions indexed by time of day, and then makes a display color 'heat' adjustment.  It automatically adjusts throughout the day to the most ideal setting for viewing and eases eye strain accordingly. I strongly recommend it and you will appreciate it most at night when an otherwise 'bright' screen can kill your vision.  Install redshift-gtk with:

$sudo yum install redshift-gtk

With LXDE, you'll need an autostart file in your ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE/ directory.  

The commands in mine include starting Pidgin, compton, and redshift as follows:

dietrich@localhost LXDE$ cat autostart

@compton -c -r 16 -l -24 -t -12 -G -b


@redshift-gtk -l 43.030718:-74.992302 -t 5700:3600 -g 0.8 -m vidmode -v


Looking at the Desktop, it is clean, easy on the eyes.  If you've never tried Fedora, I would suggest LXDE especially for older PCs.  You'll find the machine will return to life and OpenBox's windows paints and LXDE GTk refreshes will snap on screen instantly.  Short of using Lubuntu or #!CrunchBang, I cannot think of any faster Linux Distro setup.  
Fedora 20 Linux LXDE Spin running with the tweaks shown in this story.

Hopefully, the tune-up tips and tricks I gave will increase your level of enjoyment using Fedora.

Fedora Linux:  The safest operating system on the planet.

I stake my reputation on it.


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Linux Consolidation Continues: CentOS Joins Red Hat

by Dietrich Schmitz

The news that CentOS has joined the Red Hat family is positive.

"With today's announcement, Red Hat extends its commitment to rapid open source technology and solution development to deliver:

Commercial development and deployment:
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the world's leading enterprise Linux platform, offering an extensive ecosystem of partners, a comprehensive portfolio of certified hardware and software offerings, and Red Hat's award winning support, consulting, and training services. Red Hat subscriptions deliver this value combined with access to the industry's most extensive ecosystem of partners, customers, and Linux experts to support and accelerate success.  
  • Community integration beyond the operating system: CentOS, a community-supported and produced Linux distribution that draws on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other open source technologies to provide a platform that's open to variation. CentOS provides a base for community adoption and integration of open source cloud, storage, network, and infrastructure technologies on a Red Hat-based platform.  
  • Operating system innovation across the stack: Fedora, a community-supported and produced Linux distribution that makes it easy for users to consume and contribute to leading-edge open source technologies from the kernel to the cloud. As a cutting edge development platform where every level of the stack is open to revision and improvement, Fedora will continue to serve as the upstream project on which future Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases are based."

The news is most positive in the sense that money doesn't grow on trees and funding to continue ongoing development has to come from somewhere.  I've maintained that this year, 2014, and going forward there will be an overall major consolidation of Linux Distributions as many will drop out by attrition and lack of financial ability to continue.

Last year, we saw evidence of that underway with first Fuduntu's demise, then Cloverleaf and SolusOS.  

However willing developers may be to work on Linux, the harsh reality is that one must have an income to sustain oneself, without which doing any sort of extracurricular project and particularly on a voluntary basis becomes exceedingly difficult if not impossible.

With that said, CentOS Project Leader +Karanbir Singh (left) shared some of his insights with +The Linux Foundation's esteemed +Libby Clark.

In Q&A fashion, here's some of what Karanbir had to say:

 "...Ten years ago when some of us were getting together to start the project, the aim was to get 300 people to use it, that was fantastic. From our perspective it's been fairly successful. How we define success is to build something we would use and that comes back to the user-driven approach. We cared about how things worked, where they worked, and overall it worked out well having that user perspective. 
I've never worked for a big open source company before but I hope to bring that user perspective to Red Hat and what I'll take a way is a large approach to user communities and hopefully manage that better. 

Otherwise, not much has changed. They sent me a phone and a laptop and that's how it's going to go. I feel quite privileged to have this opportunity to focus on the CentOS larger ecosystem side of things." 


"...There's been no money involved in the project. We have a bank account that's never had more than a couple hundred dollars for printing t-shirts for events. This is the first time there's a group of people 'professionally' working on CentOS as a platform (emphasis mine). 
How CentOS used to happen was some of us would go to work and then work another 40 hours a week on CentOS. You can't sustain 80 hours a week. The reason I did it wasn't for compensation, it was because I wanted to."
Clearly, having a big organization the likes of Red Hat certainly will help fuel development efforts at CentOS.  And, as has been seen with Fedora, Red Hat understand well how to cultivate and nuture community-led research and development.  Assuming CentOS will find its way into the Fedora community of spins will round out and close a big gap on server side offerings.

Here's wishing the CentOS Distro Team the best of luck in their new relationship.

-- Dietrich
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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Top 5 Linux Desktops: Where Do You Want to Go Today?

by Dietrich Schmitz


No one can disagree, the level of choice one can have for coupling a graphical user interface to Linux to achieve the Linux Desktop metaphor has grown and become quite extensive. (Image right: Fedora 20 Desktop Edition)

By comparison, Apple's OSX and Microsoft's Windows legacy x86 7/8 have little choice to offer, by default.

I've been thinking about whether or not having so much choice is a good thing or not.  Certainly everyone understands that 'choice' is a tenet or, if you will, a cornerstone of Open Source and Linux and breeds variety and stimulates creativity.

But to temper one's thoughts, should it come with a level of restraint lest we find ourselves ultimately floundering with 'too much choice'?  That is an important question and distinction.

If one considers the abstraction 'Linux Desktop', one may not necessarily and reflexively fix their mind on a singular idea of what that is.  No, there are quite a few good choices one can make insofar as which GUI to use.  Might there be a 'down side' to having so much choice?

Newcomers to Apple Macs know the GUI will always be what Apple provides -- one and only one GUI.

Newcomers to Microsoft Windows will have the same expectation.

And now, upcoming Google Chromebook provides uniformity of its own.

These three commercial products are designed not to encourage decoupling the gui from the kernel.  The technophile may try to do so, but by and large, consumers in the larger mass market accept without conscious thought the packaging and presentation as found and just use a given product, because 'it works' for them, by design.

That reduces common-denominators dramatically and allows to a large degree a level of standardization to be fostered.

With Linux, the story is different.  For example, the commercial Distros Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux offer one GUI.  That makes sense as far as the aforementioned is concerned, providing consistency across varying hardware platforms, along with meeting user expectation.  If assumptions can be made on how software behaves then cost of operation will also be lowered appreciably.

On the community side of Linux, we have a garden variety of multiple GUIs, package managers, File Hiearchical Standard variations, because with 'choice' comes the ability to depart from what was previously done.

Each Distro brings with it a variation or 'spin', if you will, on what constitutes a 'better mousetrap'.  The design goals can be modest to major departures from previous attempts.  In some cases, one might not be able to distinguish the difference between Distro A and Distro B.

Distrowatch Top Five

Taking a look at the 'Top 5' Distros listed on Distrowatch today (Image left: taken 1/12/2014 by DTS) we see Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, Mageia and Fedora are in the pack.

These 'players' have moved around a bit but for the most part have been dominant insofar as a Distrowatch measurement gives.  It's not scientific by any means, but, over time one can get a feel for where the modalities are.

So, is it safe to assume these are the top 5 players in the Linux Desktop market?  There is room for debate and if you have played 'horseshoes' in your life, you know that 'close' counts.

We are seeing a 'clustering' around these data points happening for a long period of time.  I don't think we'd be out on a limb to say they represent the most popular Distros in terms of traffic detected.

Then making that assumption, what GUIs appear to be used with each of these?  Let's take each one at a time.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint Lead Developer Clem LeFebvre has much to be proud of.  He has shown that a better mousetrap can be built and the level of thought, fit and finish to his several 'spins' are worthy candidates for any newcomer to Linux.  In fact, I'd probably offer them first to a newcomer than Fedora my mainstay Desktop of choice.  Why?  They just work and nothing needs to be tweaked out of the box.  In its current incarnation, Linux Mint 16 "Petra", users have several GUIs from which to choose: KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, and MATE.

At one revision, I believe 12, Mint offered an LXDE spin.  How I wish they'd bring that back.  But, Xfce works really well as lightweight GUIs go.

Interestingly, Mint doesn't offer a GNOME spin and no Enlightenment either.  Enlightenment just released version 18.  I feel, Enlightenment is not getting the 'respect' that it deserves and the spins which offer it are few and far between.   Bodhi Linux is a good choice if you'd like a good out of the box experience.


Debian is the staid, pragmatist-favored Distro for reasons of intentional slow development to promote a stable operating environment.  If you want cutting edge technology, it won't be there by default.  The kernel will be at least 12 months old and packages will be likely aged the same.  As for GUIs, and if you want to stay in the present, you'll likely feel like you are living in the past if you opt for Debian's choices.  The website design hasn't changed much for many years, appears spartan, and if I were a new user, I'd be intimidated by it.  It certainly doesn't coddle the user by providing what I call user-friendly 'good guidance'.

It wouldn't cost much to improve its friendliness and that's why I won't ever have a new user first try Debian.  When you are drilled down to picking the isos from a barren directory tree structure, you'll find they offer GNOME, KDE, LXDE and Xfce 'flavored' isos.  Most will fit on a CD with 'overburn' but one or two require a DVD if you opt not to use a larger USB pen drive.


To be fair, Canonical Ltd. has succeeded in making Ubuntu Linux a true 'user-friendly' experience.  From the moment you arrive on their website to downloading, to installing, you will be coddled and that breeds confidence.  As it should be, Ubuntu is made for commercial use and for the general consumer.  It is designed to fit most users' needs with just one GUI, called Unity.

Unity is the bastard child in the Open Source community, promulgated by Canonical Ltd.  But it has resulted in somewhat of a 'wedge' in upstream development standards.  Namely, despite their vocal support for nurturing and being behind Wayland, the follow-on new Display server standard to replace the aging and 'problematic' X.org, they did a switch of direction by choosing to write Xmir, a variant containing some of Wayland but mostly rewritten by the Canonical developer team.  As such, much contention has arisen around its development and the long story short is that Unity isn't supported by any other Distro.  It's an island.  It's how Canonical does things.  They are in full control of it.  So be it.  The long-term prognosis for Unity is unclear as more and more Distros hop on board with Wayland-driven technologies.  I would personally offer another spin of Ubuntu such as Kubuntu or Xubuntu before I would recommend Ubuntu.  Both will support Wayland going forward.


Mageia is a community-based fork of commercial Mandriva Linux.  I cannot give you a statistic for it, but I would tend to believe that Mageia in terms of country of origin dominates in Europe since Mandriva was historically developed by a French concern.

Mageia is in the pack for very good reason and one need only go to their website to see the level of professional work and finish is a 'cut above'.  It's the same level of polish as that of Ubuntu, only they offer a comprehensive list of GUIs that include:

  • KDE4 SC 4.10.2,
  • GNOME 3.6,
  • XFCE 4.10,
  • LXDE,
  • Razor-Qt,
  • E17.


Fedora is my Distro of choice.  By default, Fedora 20 Desktop Linux Edition installs GNOME 3.10.x.  In their 'family' of spins one will find GUIs of KDE, Xfce, LXDE, and MATE.



It would appear that Fedora is the only Distro that offers their default Desktop with Gnome.  I would add that this is the first experience I have had with Gnome in a long time where I feel that it has reached a plateau of usability in version 3.10.  It's not perfect and there are issues for the more technically inclined who quickly hit limitations, but for a newcomer and 'Joe Six-pack', I feel that Fedora 20 Desktop Edition is more than 'adequate' to get the job done in Gnome 3.10.

Looking at Mint 16 Petra's other 4 Distros, Mint seems to premier KDE and Cinnamon and MATE provide good Gnome alternatives, while Xfce offers Gtk2/3 support going forward and no Gnome dependencies.

Canonical Ltd. continues to chart their own course doing many things that simply depart from common sense.  Unity being what it is, will still give new users ease of use and the work done to keep to a standard and polished commercial product stands out, nonetheless.

I expect to see continuing big things from Mageia.  While they tend to lumber along, they are dealing with a lot of moving parts so necessarily must be pragmatic and plan their changes carefully executing them in good time.  They are worth waiting for whatever they bring to the next major revision level.

Debian are probably not going to change a lot in terms of their software policy management and so while work continues on the next Debian 8, it will be slow coming.  The Distro spins and website could use a major face lift.  Get out of that '90s Yahoo look.  Is Debian a 'speed bump'?  Yep.

Mint stays firmly entrenched in the top 5 slot numero uno and for good reason.  The reputation and expectation is that one can quickly, easily install any flavor of Mint and hit the ground running.  Just use.  Mint doesn't include Gnome but makes up for it with a set of jewel-like Distros, shiney and ready to go to work for you.

That's it for now.  Let me know what you think.  -- Dietrich

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