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Peppermint OS 5: Light, Refreshing Linux
August 08, 2014
The Peppermint OS is built around a concept that may be unique among desktop environments. It is a hybrid of traditional Linux desktop applications and cloud-based apps. This innovative approach puts the latest release, Peppermint OS 5, well ahead of the curve. It brings cloud apps to the Linux desktop with the ease and flexibility of a Chromebook, and it supports installed software as well.
MyNotex Strikes an Almost Perfect Note
July 31, 2014
Note-taking applications in Linux are a dime a dozen. It can be difficult to sort through the feature sets to find the best solution. MyNotex has a near-perfect combination of features and uniqueness to put it into a class of its own. MyNotex is a multipurpose tool to take notes, file documents, and manage information or research. It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit Deb and RPM packages.
Skype for Linux Redesign Is Ugly but Functional
July 23, 2014
If you do not mind having a free non-open source Microsoft product on your Linux computer, the latest Skype for Linux release catches up to the Windows and Mac versions, providing most of the features they've had for some time. Microsoft rolled out Skype version 4.3.0.37 in mid June. The catch-up release has an updated user interface, some additional features, and lots of bug fixes.
Amazon Fire Phone Wins Respect, if Not Raves
July 23, 2014
Early reviews for Amazon's first foray into the smartphone market are mixed, with a general sense that the device is a good phone overlaid with some flashy features. Amazon announced the Fire Phone last month, trumpeting its 3D display, which uses facial recognition and front-facing cameras to shift perspective, depending on where the user's head is.
KaOS Calms Down KDE
July 15, 2014
KaOS is an interesting and very efficient Linux distribution built around a refined KDE desktop environment. The KDE integration is much more controlled in KaOS than in other Linux choices. The latest release for this 14-month young Linux distro came in late June. KaOS is a bit of a rarity. It is independent of other distros -- not a direct relative of other Linux offshoots.
Linux Mint 17: Fresh and Long-Lasting
June 30, 2014
Linux Mint 17, dubbed "Qiana," is one of the best releases from this community since Linux Mint 13 arrived in 2012 with the Cinnamon desktop. Qiana is filled with extensive improvements and embellishments to all five desktop editions. It is available in Cinnamon, Xfce, KDE, Mate and LMDE. Regardless of which desktop you favor, the core improvements are well worth the upgrade.
LXQt Desktop Could Be a Real Beaut
June 19, 2014
If you like the economy of working in a lightweight desktop environment such as LXDE, you no doubt will love the tweaked performance of the LXQt desktop. It is a fusion of the LXDE and Razor-Qt desktop environments. The LXQt hybrid is the next generation of the popular Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. The result is a lightweight, modular, very fast desktop environment that is user-friendly.
Pinguy OS Makes Gnome Desktop as Good as It Gets
June 13, 2014
The Pinguy OS is a solid Linux distro with a focus on simple and straightforward usability for the non-geek desktop user. This approach may disappoint those who favor newer user interfaces, but if you consider yourself a normal computer user who does not like to tinker with settings and various desktop environment options, Pinguy OS could be a good choice.
RoboLinux Smooths the Linux Migration Path
June 05, 2014
RoboLinux is an impressive traditional Linux desktop distro. It could be an ideal vehicle for both enterprises and SOHOs to make the migration to Linux. RoboLinux comes with a few extra features that solve some of the potential problems of leaving other desktop platforms. One of its more enticing migration tools is a preconfigured virtual machine add-on.
All Things Appy: Top 5 Android Launcher Apps
June 05, 2014
One easy way to refresh an aging Android smartphone phone is to replace the home screen with a Launcher. Launchers are skins with themes and unique behaviors, like transparency and scrolling styles. Our No. 1 pick is Nova launcher, an extremely customizable launcher app designed to speed up performance. Neat tricks include substituting KitKat-styled icons for the aging Ice Cream sandwich versions.
Deepin's Functionality Is a Bit Too Shallow
May 29, 2014
Deepin Linux is something totally new. It is an Ubuntu-based distribution built around its own desktop environment called "DDE" or "Deepin Desktop Environment." The Deepin desktop design is snazzy yet simple to use. It is one of the first Linux distros to take advantage of HTML 5 technology. The distro so far is available only in English and traditional or simplified Chinese.
Blue Pup Distro: Pride of the Puppy Linux Litter
May 21, 2014
It had to happen sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner. It is here. The Blue Pup Linux distro brings the Metro view to the Linux desktop. This arrangement is not a true Metro interface the likes of the much criticized Windows 8. Instead, it is a Puppy Linux derivative distro, or Pupplet, built around the Chromium Web browser with a Chrome extension.
Enlightenment Linux: It's Not What You Think
May 16, 2014
The Enlightenment desktop environment is not for everyone. Experienced Linux fans may delight in some new light bulbs switching on, but Linux newcomers may find themselves groping in the darkness. For the Linux-initiated, Enlightenment offers some powerful new flexibility in how to set up and use the operating system. Enlightenment is radically different from other lightweight interface shells.
For Safe, Private Mobile Browsing, Huddle Under F-Secure's Freedome
May 15, 2014
At a meeting with the press earlier this year, F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen -- yes, the man who sparked the angry exodus of a small group of malware vendors from the RSA security conference -- mentioned the company would soon unveil Freedome, a cloud-based service that would be pretty much the bees' knees for protecting mobile devices.
AV Linux Dazzles Both Eyes and Ears
May 08, 2014
AV Linux can turn a new or old PC, or an Intel-powered Mac box, into a workstation for audio/graphics/video enthusiasts. AV Linux is a specialty distro much in the style of the CAELinux distro for engineers and scientists and the Musix distro for audio and music production that I reviewed in recent weeks. AV Linux is not your typical Linux desktop. It has a custom-designed Linux kernel.
All Things Appy: Top 5 New or Improved Android Apps
May 01, 2014
Five of the top free Android apps that either have been introduced for the first time or significantly updated this year are in the categories of password management, Web browser compression, lock screen functionality and media. Google's Android OS apps can be obtained in Google's Play Store. Browse to the Play Store -- you'll find it in your device's app drawer. Then search for the app.
Musix Linux: Sweet Strains Jarred by Sour Notes
April 30, 2014
The Musix Linux distro is a specialty OS with an impressive collection of tools for users with a passion mostly for audio and music production. That same collection of tools should be included for video, given the blending of music and video popular in distributing entertainment on the Internet today. Yet it is missing from Musix. Musix also lacks its own software repository.
Ubuntu Trusty Tahr: More Yawns, More Polish
April 24, 2014
A new Ubuntu Linux desktop line -- Ubuntu 14.04, known as "Trusty Tahr" -- lacks much in the way of new features or eye-popping special effects. You will find, however, a fresh batch of improvements in what is already a solid distro family of desktop and server implementations. Canonical continues its record of consistency with its latest version of Ubuntu, released this month.
uGet Gives Great Downloads
April 17, 2014
The latest version of the uGet Download Manager rekindled my interest in grabbing files without relying on a Web browser. uGet version 1.10.4. was released last month. Written in C, it uses GTK+3 for its user interface, and it is packed full with improvements. It is very reliable and stable, with 11 years of growth behind it. The uGet website has received a makeover to better support users.
CAELinux Is the Ideal Distro for Designing Scientists
April 10, 2014
CAELinux is a perfect example of the power of open source to tailor the Linux OS to users' specialized needs. This computer-assisted engineering distro clearly is not for the vast majority of Linux users, but it certainly has all the features you would expect in any mature Linux OS -- and then some. The extra ingredients make CAELinux a unique Linux distro for engineers and scientists.
Calligra 2.8 Is Too Sweet for Words Alone
April 03, 2014
If you spend any amount of time creating documents, graphics or organizing data into reports or visual presentations, drop whatever collection of tools you use and put the Calligra Suite to the test. The Calligra Suite is a forked set of office tools for the KDE desktop that branched off the stalled KOffice suite. However, you do not have to run the KDE environment to get it.
New Linux Office Suite Too Soft to Be King
March 27, 2014
The Kingsoft Office Suite holds the promise of bringing a near perfect clone of Microsoft Office to Linux desktop users. However, Kingsoft's developers still have some work to do on the Linux Alpha release to make it a beta deal. Other than OpenOffice and LibreOffice, the Linux platform lacks any full-featured office suite. Both of these more in common with each other than distinguishing features.
Linux Goes to the Head of the Class
March 21, 2014
A new book on open source education teaches school leaders and parents why kids need to see coding as more than cool. Energizing Education through Open Source: Using Open Source Software to Enhance Learning by Christopher Whittum makes a strong case for deploying the Linux OS and its academic software in schools. This book should be required reading for developing computer-driven curricula.
Android-x86 Just Might Make a Good Linux Desktop Alternative
March 20, 2014
Working with the Android OS on a desktop computer environment takes personal computing in a new direction. How many will follow it remains to be seen. The release of Android-x86 version 4.4-RC1 (KitKat-x86) by the Android-x86 Project brings the viability of an Android distro as an alternative desktop several steps closer, but it is still a work in progress.

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