Category Archives: Software

Fedora 15 KDE – First Impressions

A long time Mandriva user, I was distro-hopping for the past 6 months. I tried openSUSE 11.3, 11.4 and Fedora 14 – all in their KDE avatars. I couldn’t wait to try Fedora 15, which was released this week. I downloaded the KDE Live CD and copied it onto a USB stick using Unetbootin (I hate booting from a CD/DVD since it is terribly slow). Fedora booted up in less than a minute on my 4-year-old laptop and presented me a clean, pretty and solid desktop. After playing around a while, I decided on replacing openSUSE 11.4 KDE with Fedora 15 KDE.

Why KDE?

The big question first. I tried the new GNOME 3 on Fedora 15 Beta. First, my laptop didn’t have enough graphics capability to load GNOME 3 and fell back to the GNOME 2.x style desktop. Second, when I tried it on my brother’s computer, I found myself clicking more than required and I hate clicking twice when once should have been sufficient. GNOME 3 isn’t for me. I am planning to spend more time with it later, to check if I can use it as per my liking.


An old Dell Inspiron 6400 with Intel C2D T5300 @ 1.73 GHz, 2.5 GB RAM and 10 GB for the root and 10 GB for the home partition with a GB for swap. Windows Vista resides in a 25 GB partition and my data in another 60 GB one.


The installation from the USB drive took about 15 minutes. It was pretty straightforward with standard questions like language, time zone, disk partitioning, root password and the like. Just before installing the boot loader, a message “Resizing partition /dev/sda1” popped up and put my heart in my mouth, but nothing untoward happened in the end.

Boot up and Shutdown

Fedora booted in about 50 seconds into a usable desktop. I have a single user setup and so this time includes auto login as well. It shut down in about 6 seconds.


A customized Fedora 15 KDE Desktop

A customized Fedora 15 KDE Desktop

The desktop after the installation is clean with only an icon for the home folder and another for trash. On the panel, there is only the Kickstart menu to the left and the usual system tray and clock on the right. Of course, everything can be customized to either present a simplistic or fully loaded desktop feel. The wallpaper is slick and fresh, even-though I wondered  what the little golden thing on the bottom right of the tree is 🙂


Here is a list of software that comes with Fedora 15 KDE from a user’s perspective, in addition to a host of other utilities.

  • KDE platform 4.6.3
  • KOffice
  • Konqueror
  • Dragon Player
  • Gwenview
  • digiKam
  • Kopete
  • K3B

Fedora sticks to free software and there are no codecs, flash or Java support in the default installation. These can be obtained by adding the RPM Fusion repos. I installed the following applications to make my desktop complete

  • Mozilla Firefox 4.0.1
  • Gstreamer codecs – Good, Bad and Ugly
  • VLC
  • GIMP

I have not yet installed one of the other Office Suites. Right now I don’t have a pressing need to create documents or presentations, so I kept installing office suites for another day.

My integrated Intel GMA wasn’t capable of running desktop effects. I turned on desktop effects only to be told that it was quite slow and hence temporarily disabled. I then disabled it permanently. It is nice to have desktop effects, but I hope I won’t miss it.

Update 1 – 28 May 2011: (Courtesy: comment by Arthur) To set up desktop effects that don’t get temporarily disabled, I followed these steps.

  1. Go to System Settings > Application Appearance > Style and select the Fine Tuning tab. From the Graphical Effects drop down select High Display Resolution and Low CPU and click on Apply button
  2. Click on Overview button to go back
  3. Go to Desktop Effects and select the General tab
  4. Check the Enable desktop effects box and click on Apply button
  5. Select the Advanced tab
  6. From the Compositing type drop down, select OpenGL and click on Apply button
  7. Select the All Effects tab and configure the effects you like
  8. Make sure the Blur effect is disabled


Wi-fi connectivity is a snap these days and I had no problems connecting to my router.

The Bluetooth adapter was not detected. So this was the only piece which did not work. I have to investigate this further.

Update 2 – 28 May 2011: The problem with Bluetooth seems to be pretty widespread and is documented in Bug 695588. The solution is to run the following commands in Konsole as root.

systemctl enable bluetooth.service
systemctl start bluetooth.service


I must mention this. KPackageKit worked way better than it used to on Fedora 14 and openSUSE 11.4. It was buggy and behaved inconsistently earlier but now it is just fine, although it is a bit slow sometimes.


When I started my distro-hopping from Mandriva, I was of the impression that Fedora was going to be cumbersome to set up and unstable considering that it is cutting edge and needs to be tweaked quite a bit. But none of that was required. Fedora 14 was a solid release that reassured me to go ahead and install Fedora 15. I was not disappointed. So far, nothing has crashed or my laptop has not frozen. I find Fedora 15 far stable than openSUSE 11.3 and 11.4 and I intend to continue using it as my primary Linux system, unless Mandriva 2011 comes out and beats Fedora hands down.


Email clients?

After overhearing a conversation at work about email clients, I couldn’t resist coming up with this 🙂

Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring – First Impressions

A few days back, Mandriva released the newest version of its operating system, Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring. As I had already taken a

Mandriva Logo

Mandriva Logo

look at the Release Candidate 2, I know pretty much what was in store. I wanted to setup this new release and get it running as quickly as possible even though the previous version Mandriva 2009 was working like a charm on my laptop. It was by far the most stable OS to have run on my laptop.

Live CD

I downloaded the Mandriva One GNOME Live CD. GNOME has been my default desktop for a few years now and that is what would eventually reside on my laptop. I also downloaded the Mandriva One KDE Live CD to see what changes have gone into KDE 4.2. The Live CD booted pretty fast. The speed bump was already visible in the RC and I was glad to see it stayed that way.


The installation took about 12 minutes on my laptop. This machine is a 2 year old, Dell Inspiron 6400, with an Intel Core 2 Duo clocking 1.73 GHz, 1 GB RAM and an Intel 945 GMA graphics chip and an Intel 3945 Wireless. I chose the new ext4 file system for the root and home partition. The post installation step of updating the media is where I met my first stumbling block. It seemed to take forever to download the media, but once I pulled my ethernet cable out, things proceeded smoothly. I had to update the media later.

Boot Time

I timed the boot with a stop watch. It took me 36 seconds from the grub menu to the desktop. I don’t have any complaints here. I can see that a lot of improvement has gone into the boot process and it really shows. I guess the ext4 file system would also have helped in this regard, though I have no means to measure it.


There is no denying the fact that Mandriva has one of the best looking default themes around. I rarely changed the theme or the window

Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring - Customized Desktop

Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring - Customized Desktop

decoration on Mandy. The only thing I change is the icon theme, since the default GNOME icon theme has become old and boring. Carrying on the tradition, the desktop was slick. The fonts were crisp and have been improved from what existed in the previous version. An idle desktop after boot, consumed about 285 MB of RAM. I also did not install AWN since the auto hide feature did not work well and ended up being intrusive at best. The Mandriva Control Center remains one of the best control centers on the Linux desktop and serves as a one stop shop for all configuration requirements.


Mandriva comes with kernel and a regular array of software that comprises of the GNOME desktop. However, here are the specifics for a few of them

  • GNOME 2.26.1
  • – 3.0.1
  • Mozilla Firefox – 3.0.8
  • Pidgin – 2.5.5
  • The GIMP – 2.6

Flash is available in the One edition. However, Java runtime, audio and video codecs have to be installed as is the case with most distributions. Additional software is a always a couple of clicks away in the Install and Remove Software section.

The KDE Edition

I also had a quick look at the KDE edition. Last time around Mandriva’s KDE implementation was very polished compared to the rest. This

Mandriva Spring 2009 KDE Desktop

Mandriva Spring 2009 KDE Desktop

time too I would say the same. They have also put the desktop which everyone is used to – where one kept files too – back into KDE 4.2 in quite a clever way by using Folder View. The KDE desktop also uses the default Mandriva theme instead of the KDE default Oxygen theme. This edition comes with the regular KDE applications, Kontact, Konqueror, Kopete, Kwrite to name a few.


One of the biggest improvements in my opinion is, I never had to consult the Errata. Also, never once was I required to visit the terminal (command line) for any accomplishing any task whatsoever. Almost all the things work the way they should. The One CD image was only 633 MB for the Africa and Asia edition. The available CD space could have been packed with something useful. On the whole, Mandriva Spring 2009 is a solid release with a great blend of stability and polish.


Here are a few screenshots of Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring – GNOME


I just Slax’d my USB drive

After trying out Slax yesterday, I did the obvious. I wanted to carry it around with me and so I Slax’d (did I coin a new term? 😉 ) my almost three year old Kingston Data Traveler 2GB drive. I emptied the drive contents on another drive and installed Slax on it.

I extracted the TAR ball to the drive and executed but there was a problem with the installation. I moved the /boot and /slax directories to the root of the drive and then ran and this time everything went well. I booted the Slax from its new home and voila I had an OS with the most necessary tools at my finger tips.

However, there were a few hiccups. I downloaded two modules, Firefox and Amarok. The modules came with warnings that they may not work properly but I still went ahead and installed both of them. Amarok refused to start but Firefox behaved well. I set the network IP as mine is a static IP and played around a while. I was really curious about the settings getting saved. So I rebooted with my USB drive again.

Firefox was nowhere to be found. Amarok would still not start. Well, these modules are add-ons and may not work well and I was indeed warned ahead. But what surprised me was the static IP, Subnet mask and Gateway addresses had disappeared leaving only the Primary DNS IP intact. I am not sure what is wrong but I am definitely going to investigate. I could live with Konqueror, if, I was only going to use Slax as a recovery/emergency OS but since I am planning to use it as a regular OS on my older computer, Firefox becomes a necessity. I also need a good music player and JuK by no stretch of imagination is comparable to Amarok.

I still have to try the other included programs. Will keep posting about my discoveries on Slax 🙂


Slax – Tiny, beautiful, functional

I had downloaded Slax a few days ago. But due to work commitments, I could try it out only today. I should say, I am



very impressed with this little distro.  Slax is a Live CD distribution meant to run from a CD or a USB drive. The default package is just 190 MB and the site offers iso images for those wishing to run Slax from a CD or a tar archive for those wishing to run it from a USB drive. An iso image can also be made from the tar archive and the iso image can also be used to run Slax from a USB drive. It works both ways and it is pretty convenient.

The best feature of Slax is Modules. Modules can be added to the default pacakge before download. Modules include additional programs, tools and utilities. Modules can also be added or removed at a later stage. This makes the distribution very versatile. Slax makes for a very good recovery or emergency OS.

Live CD

I tried the Live CD flavour of Slax. It booted up quickly on my laptop running an Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 processor with 1 GB RAM. I did not time the boot sequence, though. Another nifty feature of Slax is it can be loaded and run completly from RAM without the CD in the drive. This is very useful for people who have just one CD drive on their desktops or people using laptops.

Included Software

Slax is a KDE based distribution and it runs KDE 3.5.10

Other packages include


plus other utilities a couple of games and tools for the Internet. The packages are not bleeding edge and this helps greatly in the stability of the distribution. There is no or Firefox in the default package. I figured out that Firefox can be downloaded from the modules, but did not check on


After running this distribution for a while, I immediately thought it would be a great fit on my very old PIII 1.1 GHz with just 256 MB of RAM. Currently this machine is chugging along with Win XP and Ubuntu with Ubuntu replacing Mandriva since the drive containing Mandriva failed. It is a stop gap distro and I was searching for something light to replace Ubuntu. From the time I discovered Slax, I have been researching how to install it on a computer. Since it is a Live CD distro there doesn’t seem to be a direct way to install it. All in all Slax is beautiful, minimal and functional.

I am still trying to empty my flash drive to run Slax on it and to see if my other files can happily co-exist. If I manage to do that, I will do another post.

Screen shots

Here are a few screen shots of beautiful Slax


Bluecurve Classic

About 8 years ago, this time of the year, I used Linux for the first time. I had read about how stable, versatile, open, configurable it was. I tried my first Linux distro. It was not one of the biggies. It was PCQLinux a derivative of Red Hat Linux. Fedora was still sometime in the future. I installed the distro on the same machine that I still have and use. My old and reliable P3.

The first thing I was impressed was the looks of Linux. Belive me or not, I liked Bluecurve, the theme and the window decoration more than Windows look and feel. And here is a screenshot of how Bluecurve looked then. It changed a bit in Fedora Core 1 but I still like the classic look.



Times have changed and today we have a lot of new themes and styles, but the “curve” has its special place in my heart. It is a great feeling to look back and see how far Linux has come 🙂


Giving Intrepid Ibex a pass

Well, the delay I had in laying my hands on Ubuntu 8.10 aka Intrepid Ibex lead to something else. In the mean time I was able to get Mandriva Linux One 2009 and I decided to give it a try. I was sceptical at first because I have been using Ubuntu for almost two years now. But Mandriva blew all that away.

The installation of Mandriva One 2009 GNOME was completed in about 10 minutes. The quickest Linux install on my computer so far. Also, the Mandriva iso for GNOME was pretty small at 607 MB. This meant a few applications were not included. At first glance I could see there were no games and there was no Tomboy something which I had grown to use more frequently. No big deal, I was able to install them from the Add and Remove Software tool.

As expected, there was no support for some audio and video formats. This too was fixed by installing the gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg-0.10.5-2mdv2009.0.i586 package from the net. So everything was set. One major positive I noticed was Mandriva never froze when watching videos as Ubuntu did. I had to do several reboots if I am watching a bunch of videos on Ubuntu. This stability of Mandriva impressed me the most.

AWN seemed to work fine although it was bare-bones. I was able to easily install the extras from the AWN Wiki and get things going. Here again the stacks applet worked perfectly while it did not work on Ubuntu. There were a couple of more applets which worked on neither distros.

So I am going to hang on with Mandriva as it is serving my needs perfectly well. The Mandriva Community is also very friendly and helped a lot when I faced any issues. Mandriva may not be as huge as Ubuntu but the stability and polish of the OS is unmatched. I can say that Mandriva 2009 is the best GNOME desktop I have run so far.

That effectively also means I would give the Ubuntu a pass this time and wait for the next iteration to see how things have improved.