Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Linux desktop doesn't matter any more, my bourgoise white derriere!

Every work morning, I make a fresh cup of coffee and jump-start the synapses as I fire up my Manjaro machine. One of the first sites I hit is Google News, where I search "Linux". Anyway, this afternoon I repeated the ritual and the top ranked piece had the following emphatic title:

Why The Linux Desktop Doesn't Matter Anymore.

(For those of you who would like to read the piece first, check it out here - Interestingly, the link is entitled, "Why the Linux desktop NEVER mattered. Ooh la la! More on that in a bit.)

I must confess at this point, I carried on reading not so much out of interest or curiosity - I find such fundamentalist speak, boring - but rather out of a growing sense of irritation. Here I am, a relative GnuLinux babe-in-the-woods of one year standing, being told that I am an enthusiastic & satisfied user of what is, and always has been, an irrelevance - for the record, there are more Apple products in our house than any other tech brand. But I digress. Irked, my eyes moved on to read these words:

"...the Linux desktop has lost whatever slim chance it once had to be relevant..."

Oh, okay. The Linux desktop is now irrelevant. Defunct. Dead on it's feet. I continue...

"'s equally true that Linux has completely failed as a desktop operating system."

Completely failed as a desktop OS eh? That implies, amongst other things, that it is insecure, unstable, slow, lacking applications to get things done and devoid of value for money. At this point, the all-to-familiar "Windows envy" that plagues Linux users started to raise it's head. I whispered to myself, "Damn it, this guy is right! What have I been thinking for the last 12 months. Lets dump this this piece of sh*t & fire up my old XP box in the corner."

Crying into my coffee upon realising that all my efforts as part of the Manjaro Linux support team & wider FLOSS community were an utter waste of sentient life, I continued reading in the pathetic hope that the writer would reveal the Forbidden Apple Of The One True OS.

Jokes aside, I wanted to puke. You see, I live in South Africa. The country that a few years back, overtook Brazil as the nation with the greatest disparity between rich and poor. Just down the road, people live in shacks, up to 10 or more in a space no bigger than our garage. The vast majority of them will never own a PC & have never heard of Linux.

Local visionaries like Mark Shuttleworth set out to challenge that - let us set aside any feelings about Unity/Canonical for a moment. He established a foundation that successfully brought computer training labs to over 80 schools across the country. A core driver was his desire to create a user-friendly Linux desktop for all. This is echoed in Bishop Tutu's description of the the word "ubuntu":

"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness." 

This touches the heart of what I found most distasteful about this article. It was written from the limited point of view of someone who has the luxury of owning a combination of smart and desk/laptop devices. Also, how can one judge the GnuLinux desktop against the integration offered by the Apple product range - a company of singular focus and relatively immeasurable R&D budgets - and deem it to have failed, to have never mattered?

I find that point of view economically provincial and quite frankly, pathetic. As if your "average" user is a hairdresser, a new media kid or a hacker @ Google Inc. That demographic might have the money. However, they are NOT the mean. 

Right now, in developing nations across the globe, disadvantaged youth are firing up discarded Pentium notebooks and that irrelevant, failed open-source OS slash bastard Stallman-Torvalds love-child, that never mattered. These kids are learning. Exploring. Widening their horizons. Hacking their present in search of a better future.

Mac OSX is largely out-of-reach and therefore irrelevant to such as these. 

The Linux desktop doesn't matter any more, my bourgoise white derriere!


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Manjaro Xfce Desktop Refresh!

I wanted to freshen up my desktop and after watching a great Manjaro GNULinux review by Spatry on his YouTube channel. I installed some extra themes & a set of KDE tools & messed around. I really like the blend that you get with an Xfce base & some great functionality from the wonderful KDE team. Enjoy the holidays with your family & friends and here's to an epic & unforgettable 2014. Peace, Ruziel.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Back doors & GNULinux.

Hi all.

For those of you who read this post, it's good to have you here as someone with a level of interest in GNULinux. I think you will agree that we live in epic, extraordinary times. Our planet is changing. Our nation is changing. Our friends & family are changing. The economy is changing. Music is changing. Science is changing. Everything is changing.

I have used Manjaro for business & pleasure for almost a year now & that's from a standing start as a new GNULinux user, after a couple of weeks messing around with Mint 13 & Maya/Cinnamon/Xfce/KDE. Suffice to say that on glimpsing the incredible plethora of options in KDE, I immediately decided against it. The last thing I need is more options! But some of you do, so it's there. That's another great thing about GNULinux. Choice.

Anyway, on to the topic in hand. Back doors and GNULinux? Are they mutually exclusive? Could a back door ever be slipped in under the radar by a core member of the development team? How regularly is the code comprehensively checked for potential back doors & obvious weaknesses?

I feel much more comfortable security/privacy-wise using GNULinux than I did with XP. That much is certain. What isn't certain is how complacent we can be, safe in the knowledge that the very nature of the open source philosophy will mean that multiple independent, libertarian eyes will analyse the code & sniff out anything malignant.

That sounds a bit like the parents at a pool party, tucking into the wine, assuming that with so many adults around, nothing could happen to the kids in the pool. Experience tells us otherwise.

How do you see it?



Thursday, 14 November 2013


I woke up this morning to find six comments posted by one or more trolls. As you would expect, each of them was low on intelligence or any kind of valid insight, but full of crass language, personal insults and stupidity. By way of example, consider the following statement - swearing edited slightly:

"Mother****ing pussy go back to using windows and quit ruining Linux by attracting point-and-click mindless f***s to it"

I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about the mental state of this individual. My main point is that due to the recent wave of trolling, I have decided to moderate comments from now on, largely to spare you having to read such drivel, as well as to deny such people the attention they crave.

Please feel free to post your thoughts, even (and especially) if you disagree with what I have written. Only overtly rude comments will be withheld. I appreciate hearing from you.

More power to you all.


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Manjaro Linux: "Arch Done Right!" "Arch For Complete Idiots!!"? Or something else?..

Anyone who has spent some time in Linux space will have come across the "distro b*tch" phenomenon. These are individuals and cliques who for whatever reason, over-identify with their particular GNU Linux OS of choice, to the point where they feel compelled to insult - subtly or otherwise - anyone stupid enough to choose a different operating system. The attitude of this sub-species of homo sapien ranges from the crass, unthinking troll, to the most anally retentive intellectual elitist, looking down his (usually) or her nose at those of us are too un-enlightened to see their particular distro of choice for what it is.

The One.

(Oh yes my brothers and sisters, hear ye, hear ye...)

In the minds of such people or groups, one's choice of an alternate Linux flavour appears to offend them more deeply than the existence of starving people in the third world or greedy corporations poisoning the beautiful planet we all share. This sad loss of perspective reflects a related loss of gratitude for the wonderfully diverse range of exceptional operating systems GNU Linux has blessed us with - a plethora of options that Windows & OSX users will never see. Whether you are an 80 year old retiree or a lentel eating heavy metal head - in fact, pretty much whatever your sub-culture or user requirements - there exists one or more distro's catering to your tastes. This diversity acts like a thorn-in-the-side of distro dogmatists, who one must logically assume, secretly believe that GNU Linux would finally conquer the desktop if only every other distro except The One were eradicated.

Having clearly stated my complete contempt for distro elitism in any form whatsoever, let me move on to the question I pose in the title. Having used Manjaro as my primary OS for the last 10 or so months, I have come across a multiplicity of views about this young Arch-based upstart, that elicits a range of emotions and points of view. The two perspectives that I find most interesting are "Arch done right!" and "Arch for idiots and lazy people!!" The "Arch done right!" viewpoint bases itself on the fact that the Manjaro Way takes Arch Linux and says to users, "You can have your cake and eat it. You can enjoy the speed, simplicity and minimalist essentialism of Arch, along with a newbie friendly installation process and a reduced risk of system breakages". In short, an Arch-based system, minus the knowledge and time requirements demanded by Arch proper. Some people call this "Arch done right".

In opposition to this point of view is the one that sees Manjaro as breaking one of the cardinal rules of The Arch Way, opting for "user-friendly over "user-centric". To clarify these terms, a relevant quote from the esteemed Arch Wiki serves us well: "Whereas many GNU/Linux distributions attempt to be more user-friendly, Arch Linux has always been, and shall always remain user-centric. Arch Linux targets and accommodates competent GNU/Linux users by giving them complete control and responsibility over the system."

For some Arch users therefore - thankfully a small minority - Manjaro equates to "Arch for complete idiots and/or lazy people". It is the ultimate blasphemy made manifest, standing in the temple. Within this belief system, the fact that it simplifies (dumbs down?) the installation and day-to-day running of Arch, is unacceptable and at the very least, casts significant doubt on the users credibility. Few would disagree that this subtle yet significant difference in guiding values and principles, has been the source of some heated debate in the wider Arch community, between a small coterie of insecure Arch and Manjaro users.

Thankfully the majority of Arch and Manjaro users can see the small-mindedness of both of these positions. Manjaro can only ever be judged subjectively, as "Arch done right or wrong FOR ME", and not for humanity as a whole. For those users who like myself, don't want to invest the time required to achieve the level of competency needed for "complete control and responsibility over the system", but still want an Arch-based system, Manjaro offers a lot. Likewise, for users with the necessary knowledge, time and will to maintain their own system, Arch is an extremely compelling option.

That Manjaro is based on Arch and owes a debt of appreciation to it, few in the Manjaro community would, or should argue - Manjaro's technical relationship to Arch is a subjective fact. However, claiming that Manjaro is superior to Arch or vice versa, in an objective "true for all" sense, lacks any kind of logical/intellectual credibility. In certain respects, Manjaro stands in relation to Arch in a similar way to that of Ubuntu in relation to Debian, or Mint in relation to Ubuntu. Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Arch, Manjaro. These are all excellent distros, in their own right. I tried Mint before settling on Manjaro and enjoyed it. I will never be seen dead running Ubuntu, but I might try my hand at Debian or Arch (again) in the future.

Manjaro isn't "Arch Done Right!" or "Arch For Complete Idiots!!"?

It's occupies it's own space.

Manjaro is Manjaro.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

10 Reasons Why I Moved From Microsoft To Manjaro.

Moving from Microsoft to Linux at the beginning of the year coincided with shifting my entire business into the cloud. Having used XP for a decade and MS Office as my primary application over that period, migrating to the cloud freed me of my reliance on the Windows environment - subsequently, I have been a happy Manjaro user for the last 7 months. If you asked me which Linux distro I would recommend, I would say that it depends on what you are looking for. If you are a Windows user looking to try Linux, you can't go wrong with the likes of Mint, PCLinuxOS etc. There are many solid operating systems to choose from. The following is a list of what I see as the major advantages of Manjaro over Microsoft. Some of them pertain to any decent Linux OS, while others are characteristic of Manjaro itself. Here goes, in no particular order of importance...

Speed - Manjaro is fast! It's based on Arch Linux, which holds simplicity and minimalism in high esteem - the result is a lean machine, with zero bloat. On top of that I use the Xfce desktop environment, which is adaptable, great to look at and lightweight. The result is a PC with a box standard hard drive that boots up in 24 seconds & is highly responsive. My other laptop, an old ThinkPad with an SSD drive, boots up in around 6 seconds.

Freedom - This has more to do with the soul of Linux and the FOSS - Free And Open Source - community in general and the philosophy that underpins it. For me, Apple has long since lost that sense of freedom and counter-culture that it once had and as for Windows, it never had either. Using a Linux machine feels different - it's hard to describe exactly how it feels different but if I had to choose one word, it would probably be "freedom".

Community - One thing that I did not expect when I first moved across, was the incredible boon that is the Linux community. Sure, you get the odd ignorant elitist or troll, but I had no idea how enjoyable a distro community could be. Manjaro is no exception. It's community is highly supportive, vibrant, informative, quick to respond to questions and problems and above all, newbie friendly. If you are tired of trawling Windows boards trying to find solutions to glitches, there's a whole different experience to be had. I've made friends & enjoy my time there.

Rolling release - While I nearly opted for Linux Mint, one of the things that swung it for me is Manjaro's rolling release model. This means that rather than installing your OS & upgrading it every 2-5 years or whatever - which requires a complete reinstall - you install once & from there, receive regular updates on a consistent, rolling basis. The development team and generous crew of support testers do a brilliant job of testing updates before releasing them & I continue to be impressed with their professionalism and commitment to excellence. Any post-update problems I have experienced - very few indeed - have been quickly resolved with the help of the community. I absolutely love the rolling model and would definitely struggle to return to a more traditional one.

Privacy - Unless you have been living in a cave for the last few months, you will have heard about the NSA spying scandal and how the likes of Google, Apple & others share information with the authorities. Because Linux is open source, it is by nature much more transparent, which in turn breeds greater integrity and honestly. I have zero concern that the Manjaro team are providing access & personal data to the authorities. Linux is far more trust-worthy than Windows or Apple. Period.

Leading edge - As an XP user, I remember getting the obligatory service pack from time to time and updating applications individually. Not so with Manjaro. Like other Linux distributions, updating my system is a simple, unified process. The team deliver these on a regular basis - on average once a week - ensuring that I am always using the most up-to-date version of both the OS itself, and the applications that I run on top of it.

Security - There is a very good reason why around 90% of super-computers are run on Linux, as well as the majority of strategic servers these days. Stability and security. There are many technical reasons for this fact - including architecture, it being open source and the fact there are almost zero Linux viruses out in the virtual wild etc. Few would dispute the statement that Linux is more secure than Windows & desktop Linux users benefit directly from this.

Free - This is the least important reason for selecting a Linux OS. Sure, it's great not having to pay $$$ for applications, upgrades etc, but it's a perk more than a deciding factor for me. Having said that, especially in these hard times, it's a big bonus for a lot of people, especially given the quality & diversity of free software that the GNU Linux community produces.

Tailored - Unlike Windows & Mac, which largely decide for you what your desktop will look like, Linux gives you multiple desktop environments to choose from, each of which are highly configurable. For Manjaro users coming from Windows, Xfce will feel very familiar and intuitive. For those wanting something more minimalist & edgy, OpenBox is lightening fast and is growing in popularity. If you want an infinite number of desktop configuration options with all the bells and whistles, KDE is the way to go. You can even install multiple desktops. Talk about spoilt for choice.

Fun - Need I say more?

People have been predicting the death of the desktop for sometime but until that day comes, anyone looking for an alternative to Windows - or Mac for that matter - can now confidently make the transition to Linux and enjoy the many benefits that come with it. Whatever your particular needs are, I would recommend that you include Manjaro Linux on your shortlist and spend some time on the community boards, to get a feel of it. You might just love it.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

My Manjaro Xfce desktop.

This is what my Manjaro set-up with Xfce desktop looks like. I love it's speed and simplicity.

Finding Manjaro.

At the end of 2012, having used XP for a decade, I decided it was time to change my primary OS for business & general online life. I wanted something fast, light, stable, secure & leading edge - something FRESH. For a variety of reasons, neither Windows 7 nor OSX held much appeal & having become increasingly attracted to the open source philosophy, GNU Linux seemed the obvious choice.

For a completely green Linux newbie like myself, the vast number of options available was initially completey overwhelming. However, with a little reading & a clear list of requirements, a small pool of leading contenders came into focus. The main ones were Ubuntu, Debian, PCLinuxOS, Bodhi, OpenSUSE & Mint. Out of these excellent distributions I eventually installed Mint 13 with Cinnamon Desktop - it promised long-term support until 2017, along with a mature and helpful user community. It was easy to install and worked out-of-the-box - I was impressed. After running it for several weeks over the Christmas holidays & getting over my pre-conceived idea about Linux being for geeks & techies only, I decided to have one last look at alternatives, before settling on a Minty 2013.

It was then that I started reading about the light, minimalist, user-friendly & highly esteemed rolling distro called Arch. After a failed midnight hour attempt to install it, I started exploring a number of Arch-based distro's, which promised the advantages of Arch, but without the maintenance headaches & required techical know-how. ArchBang, Bridge Linux, Cinnarch & Manjaro seemed like the most established systems & after giving each a Live spin, I decided to take the leap and do a clean install of Manjaro Xfce 64 Bit, on my brand spanking new W530 i7 QuadCore ThinkPad. To my delight, my experience echoed that of Mint 13 - everything worked out of the box! Internet (wireless & ethernet), browsers, Flash, graphics card etc, all functioned perfectly, with zero need for tweaking. I then spent some time installing some fonts & themes to Xfce - squeezy peazy! - and within an hour, I had a beautiful desktop & a fully functioning Arch-based OS. I then clicked "update" using a simple and intuitive GUI & voila, I had a fully up-to-date machine with the latest versions of Skype, Firefox, Chromium, Opera etc, all running smoothly. And did I mention fast!? I was hooked.

The next step was to join the community. After an easy sign-up process, I started exploring the various areas of the forum and was immediately struck by how friendly, positive, enjoyable and lively the Manjaro community was. As with the Mint forum, there was none of the condescending "Read the f***ing manual" or impatient sounding responses that some Linux forums can be prone to. People were here to help and happy to do so. Having failed to install Arch, I felt immediately at home here. Within a week I was back at work and soon found that Manjaro Xfce was not only rock solid, but delivering significant increases in my productivity. Gone were the endless adverts and pop-up's suggesting I update my AntiVirus software. Gone too were the hours spent trawling the net for answers when I had a problem with Windows. In it's place I had a lightening fast OS, supported by a friendly & technically savvy community that were quick to respond to any questions I might have.

Almost 9 months after my Linux baptism, I must take my hat off to the Mint team and say thank you for your tireless efforts in maintaining a fantastic OS for Linux newbies & seasoned users alike. Had I stayed with that distro, I am sure it would have served me well & provided a secure & reliable business machine for years to come. However, I am 100% happy with Manjaro Linux with it's default Xfce desktop and would confidently recommend it to any Linux newbie, who is looking for a dependable & attractive OS, supported by a warm & growing user community. Whatever the numbers mean, Manjaro Linux shot into the top 10 on DistroWatch soon after it's fledgling release and has remained there for the last 12 months.

I can see this OS scaling the heights and standing tall and strong in the Linux universe, much like Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, after which it is named. I will be posting further dispatches about my adventures with Manjaro and community, from time to time.

Love and peace to you all.