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 188.8.131.52 in mid June. The catch-up release has an updated user interface, some additional features, and lots of bug fixes.
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, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Zorin OS 8.0, released last month, is available in the free core and free education versions, as well as in a paid or ultimate version that provides support and a few other features. Though it is an interim upgrade, Zorin OS 8.0 has several very noteworthy changes and software improvements that make it worth using despite the shorter support period.
MakuluLinux was already a solidly performing distro, but the latest version, released last month, takes Makulu to the next level of usability and maturity. Earlier versions offered a choice of Xfce, KDE and Enlightenment 17 desktops. So far, only the Xfce version is available in MakuluLinux 5. However, the tweaking Makulu developer Jacque Raymer built into this upgrade makes up for any loss.
Not everyone who dabbles in the realm of the Linux OS needs all the enterprise-specific tutelage this guidebook offers. However, it certainly has chapters to enlighten even casual readers interested in learning really useful stuff. Sobell assembles in one spot his accumulated experience as a Linux expert and his keen insights about succeeding with two enterprise workhorse distributions.
Etm, an acronym for “Event and Task Manager,” is a very useful calendar and planning tool. However, it is a bit cumbersome to learn and far less convenient to use than alternatives. It has an intuitive task-entry format, once you learn its plain text shorthand. Etm stores events, tasks and other user-generated notes and data in text files. You can create, modify and view entries using two primary methods.
The Linux desktop offers distributions for many diverse interests and specialties. Distro Astro is for astronomy enthusiasts. The latest version, Distro Astro 2.0, is dubbed “Pallas.” It was released Nov. 20, 2013, at the South East Asian Young Astronomers Collaboration conference in Bandung, Indonesia. It is a major upgrade focusing on refinements for professional astronomers.
If you’ve been thinking that there must be a better way to handle email than the email client supplied natively in Android, I bring good news: There is, and it’s called “Aqua Mail.” As things are right now, my on-device solutions are a bit of a mess. I have my Gmail-produced work emails appearing in the Gmail client, while my personal, custom-domain email is housed in the Android-native client.
Lightworks is a professional-grade nonlinear video editor now available for Linux. It is a cross-platform editor from a well-known player in the media market, so this first-time Linux release could be a big thing. Lightworks version 11.5 for Linux was released late last month, following three years of development. Linux users now can download a free version or pay for a Pro version.
The holy grail of Android apps has got to be the one that best compensates for botched typing. The smaller the device I use, the more my typing deteriorates. I’m reasonably quick and accurate on a desktop PC; I slow down on a laptop; I get by on a tablet; and I am virtually incapacitated on most smartphones, though my thick peasant fingers work better on an iPhone than an Android.
Just when you think you have found the sweet spot with an ideal Linux desktop distro, along comes yet another version to tug at your computing heart strings. In this case, it is LXLE. Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension, aka LXLE, is based on Lubuntu, a version of Ubuntu running LXDE. If you have yet to experience the LXDE desktop, prepare yourself for a wonderfully smooth computing experience.