Thursday, July 28, 2011

Awesomeness to land in KDE with release 4.7

Ever since the bumpy start of KDE 4 series, KDE has maintained a steady improvement, consistently bringing stability, performance and features, as well as raising its overall quality release after release. Personally, I think KDE 4.4 was the first release to really bring stability and performance to high standard levels, while 4.5 and 4.6 have managed to improve that even further and expand that same level of quality to other areas.

Today, KDE 4.6.5 is an impressive desktop environment, packed with great features and no longer suffering from the issues that held it back in the past (lack of stability, performance and a heavy resource footprint). Having said so, I have historically disagreed with some of the project fundamentals and its apparent lack of interest for setting the basics consistently. Unfortunately, things don't seem to improve much in that regard with version 4.7, as explained by Bruce Byfield in this ARTICLE.

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Issues aside, today I want to talk about the new features that will soon be available in KDE 4.7, which are significant both in terms of quality and quantity. Note that you can get more information from the Official KDE 4.7 announcement HERE.


According to the official announcement: "The Plasma Workspaces gain from extensive work to KDE’s compositing window manager, KWin, and from the leveraging of new Qt technologies such as Qt Quick."

That already sounds juicy, but a bit more detail and examples truly help in understanding the extent of these improvements. One of the first changes in this department (and a very welcome one, I might add) is an update of the Oxygen icon theme that should improve overall aesthetics. Another change involves better consistency in panel items, such as clock and notification areas. While it's hard to understand how far that consistency goes now, I have been thinking it was a much needed improvement for quite a while. Just hovering over one of the panel icons or clicking on it will randomly bring up menus that either look like plasma or nothing like it. I think that's acceptable for third party applications (i.e., Dropbox), but sound, clock, calendar, klipper, battery and device notifier should all behave and look the same, preferably like plasmoids. Hope that's been achieved in KDE 4.7.

One of the most exciting new features is Kwin support for OpenGL ES, which not only will make KDE portability to mobile devices easier, but will also make Kwin perform better in standard computers as well as position it in a favorable spot looking towards a future transition from X to Wayland. Along those lines, another impressive feature can now proactively detect if support for OpenGL ES is available, if support for less advanced graphical features is, or if none at all, automatically configuring desktop visuals accordingly. This is quite an impressive achievement in an area in which KDE is leading over other desktop environments.

Improvements are not limited to visuals, though, and the fact that KDE 4.7 includes NetworkManager 0.9 support, as well as BlueTooth tethering (Yes!), 3G (Yessss!!) and VPN support makes me want to upgrade already! KIO, the system-wide proxy manager also gains features and stability. Media management improvements are also part of this release, including Phonon Zeitgeist support, as well as better integration between Kmix and PulseAudio.


KDE 4.7 brings a lot of exciting new features and improvements to the table in the application arena. Probably the most anticipated (both due to its relevance as well as the fact that it missed release KDE 4.6) is the return of Kontact, now with full Akonadi integration. Similar levels of Akonadi integration apply now to Kmail 2, which apparently brings no significant interface changes (shame, as there are things that need work, such as a better account creation wizard), but should provide much more robust contact management.

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In a somewhat surprising turn (in that it is not consistent with what other apps in KDE are doing), Dolphin returns with a simplified interface that gets rid of the standard menu bar. Whether this is an actual improvement or not, we will see, but I think it is a plus from an aesthetics stand point... and it's not like I use Dolphin's menu all that much!

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Digikam 2.0 comes out at the same time as KDE 4.7, including great and much anticipated features such as face recognition, image versioning support and reverse geotagging, among others. Kate, KDevelop, Gwenview, Marble and Okular also bring interesting changes and enhancements.

An interesting new addition is KDE-Telepathy, the new instant message solution in KDE, which for now is not part of the main release due to very early stages of development. If this solution brings similar features as the one in GNOME Shell, like deep desktop integration, it will be a big plus. If, on the opposite, it is just another chat client, well, I know I won't be using it.

On a different note, KDM can now interact with GRUB2, making it possible to choose which OS to reboot to (obviously on machines with multiple OS). Not like this feature is incredible useful or time saving, but I think it's nice.


Looking at the official announcement release notes, this is one of the most ambitious KDE 4 releases ever. After a few mostly concentrating on stability and performance, KDE 4.7 brings many new features and enhancements that should raise the bar even higher. Unfortunately, some of its long-time shortcomings are still not getting much attention.

Expect a KDE 4.7 review as soon as it lands in my PCLinuxOS installation!

NOTE: All images from

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

King of KDistros

Alright, so I have been trying to make up my mind about which distro is the best KDE implementation at the moment, but it´s not easy! I checked out some articles out there, but I always felt they were too biased towards this or that distro, or simply incomplete. As such, I would like to get your thoughts on which KDE distros are the current best, then pick 3 or 4 out of those and review them head to head.

Please pick your choice(s) and vote on the poll I created to this effect. Once the poll closes, I will download the latest releases from the four distros with most votes and put together my review.

Thanks for your help... Now vote away!

Monday, July 18, 2011

PCLinuxOS 2011.7 KDE MiniME

Quick note to let you all know that 5 days ago PCLinuxOS RELEASED its 2011.7 KDE MiniMe version, a barebones KDE setup aimed at advanced users who know exactly what they want to install.

If the standard version is already quick and responsive, MiniMe can get even faster!

Highly Recommended!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

At last, the Bird became the Thunderbird

Back from a week in London, it's about time I post something, right? Well, today I want to talk about Thunderbird 5, a recent update to the popular Email client from Mozilla that I believe is worth talking about.

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Straight from the official Mozilla RELEASE NOTES, here's a summary of the most relevant features/improvements for Linux users:

  • More responsive and faster to start up and use
  • Thunderbird is based on the new Mozilla Gecko 5 engine
  • New Add-ons Manager
  • Revised account creation wizard to improve email setup
  • New Troubleshooting Information page
  • Tabs can now be reordered and dragged to different windows
  • Attachment sizes now displayed along with attachments
  • Plugins can now be loaded in RSS feeds by default
  • Over 390 platform fixes that improve speed, performance, stability and security

So, does it actually live up to its expectations?


I first tried Thunderbird 5 on my new PCLinuxOS 2011.6 installation. The Mozilla Email client comes installed in the default image, so I just had to upgrade to get it. To be totally honest, I don't think I would have tried it otherwise, for I personally gravitate towards minimalistic distro configurations that don't use heavy local clients for services that I can otherwise get through a browser. Fortunately, though, PCLinuxOS gave me the opportunity to test the latest Thunderbird, and I am glad it went out that way... It really is worth the try!

The initial configuration wizard has been polished further and is now easier than ever (not that it was not already). As soon as we enter our information, we are taken to the home screen.

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The first thing I noticed was that Thunderbird 5 was much quicker than previous releases, both in terms of start up times and overall performance. The same power is available, perhaps more than before, but it does not feel bloated or slow any longer. At first I wondered if that snappy behavior was down to PCLinuxOS (a very optimised distro) or, most probably, to the SSD it was installed on. As a result, I decided to install it on my Zorin 4 OS installation using the Ubuntu Stable PPA. Thunderbird 5 proved itself convincingly again, behaving much faster than it had in previous versions, and surprisingly close to how it does on an SSD.

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Lightning is still an add-on, something that some may regret, but I don't. Not everyone may be interested in checking their calendar through their email client, perhaps not even interested in a calendar itself. I believe that including it as an option is a smart move, but because many people use it, it could be offered as an option during the initial setup.

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Among many other great features, I was happy to see that Thunderbird now includes a button to manually display remote content for messages that include images, which are not often not displayed by default for security reasons.


In order to install Thunderbird 5 in Ubuntu, you'll first need to add the Thunderbird stable PPA, as shown below:

1.- From the command line, add the Thunderbird stable PPA.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/thunderbird-stable

2.- Update your repositories.

sudo apt-get update

3.- Install Thunderbird 5.

sudo apt-get upgrade

Other distros, like Fedora and PCLinuxOS probably can get away with a standard upgrade.


Thunderbird fans will find more than a few reasons to smile in this latest version. Those who were not, may find reasons to become fans themselves... And if you never tried Thunderbird, there probably never was a better time to do so.

Technical Problems!

EDIT: My bad, there is actually an easy way to recover deleted files in Dropbox, which I have completed already!... Forget about the text below!



Hi all,

Unfortunately, Dropbox played nasty tricks on me today. I was trying to create a folder and it wouldn't do it, simply showing a "Saving..." message forever. After a few tries, I noticed that it was actually creating the file despite that message never going away, so I tried to cancel that last try by deleting that specific entry... AND IT REMOVED THE WHOLE PARENT FOLDER! As a result, you will notice that all screenshots are missing and links to them are not working.

I have already contacted Dropbox Support to see if they can recover my folder.

Sorry for the inconvenience!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

PCLinuxOS 2011.6 Review

It's been a while since I published my last article on PCLinuxOS. Those of you who have read previous reviews know that it is one of my favorite distros, certainly a favorite among KDE contenders. I decided to use the opportunity provided by the recent release of PCLinuxOS 2011.6 to go ahead and revisit it, find out what's new and how it has evolved in the last year or so.

For those who don't know, PCLinuxOS is rolling distro that originated from several other distros, Mandrake/Mandriva probably being the most influencial. It incorporates stuff from others as well, though, as well as its own software. Its goal is to provide a smooth user experience, which it achieves through very thorough hardware support, lightning fast performance and a wide range of applications, most of which are constantly updated to their latest stable versions.

A LOOK AT 2011.6

As usual, PCLinuxOS 2011.6 is provided in a LIVECD format, which has both pros and cons. I personally love the smaller size, specially because lately I spend more time uninstalling preinstalled applications than installing new ones. What can I say, I can live with a fairly small selection of software!

Booting from the LiveCD is a cool experience, I particularly liked the new branding, which has changed significantly since the last time I saw it. Overall, it is more consistent transitioning from splash screen to KDM and then to the desktop, as well as more attractive with that brushed metal outfit. Unfortunately, the default desktop in the LiveCD is not that visually appealing.

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Simply changing a couple things already makes things look better, so that's not really big deal by any means. The LiveCD session is what one would expect, always recommended to understand whether your hardware is correctly supported, but it should be a short stop before installation.


As was the case when I first tried it, installation of PCLinuxOS went by pretty quickly this time around. Perhaps I am bit biased from recent installations, which involved heavy LiveDVD configurations, but PCLinuxOS seemed to get installed almost too quickly.

Booting for the first time provides an introduction to the new branding, starting with a new splash screen showing the PCLinuxOS Logo and a progress bar at the bottom. In my opinion, both look poor and dated, and the same applies to the default KDM theme, unfortunately. This is a shame, specially because the default installation brings better looking alternatives with it, such as the Textar KDE KDM theme.

As I mentioned already, the default desktop is not that good looking, but changing the Workspace theme already makes a big difference.

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All in all, PCLinuxOS 2011.6 is an even more refined version of the great KDE distro I tested about a year ago for the first time. Let's dive a little deeper into it.


From the announcement:

"PCLinuxOS KDE 2011.6 for 32-bit and 64-bit computers is now available for download. The Linux kernel was updated to version Additional kernels are available from our repositories such as a PAE kernel for computers with more than 4 GB of memory. A BFS kernel for maximum desktop performance and a standard kernel with group scheduling enabled. X.Org Server was updated to version 1.10.2. Mesa updated to 7.10.3 and libdrm to version 2.4.26. These updates bring enhancements to the PCLinuxOS desktop including speed, 3D desktop support for most Intel, NVIDIA and AMD/ATI video cards, better font rendering, black screen fixes for most NVIDIA cards, better Flash playback and more."

Aside from that list of features, one thing that is easily noticeable after installing PCLinuxOS is that it is very fast and responsive. In fact, it kind of makes one wonder how there can be such a difference in performance when comparing it with other distros that sport KDE as the default desktop manager. This proves that some of the claims raised against KDE (heavy, slow, bloated, resource eater, etc.) may actually be down to the distro it sits on top of.

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As can be seen from the screenshot above, resource consumption is fairly low. More on this on the screenshot below, the KDE system monitor, which demonstrates reasonable CPU and Memory use, even with KTorrent, Chromium and the system monitor itself open.

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On top of that superb performance and tight KDE integration I just mentioned, PCLinuxOS has some other interesting features of its own. Its Control Center, one of the most obvious Mandriva influences, is a great tool to manage all things system, from Hardware to User accounts. As such, KDE's own network manager is nowhere to be found, users have to deal with PCLinuxOS own network manager.

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Now, is this mix of KDE and PCLinuxOS features good or bad? On the one hand, I see advantages in that the Control Center is easy to use, powerful and probably easier to grasp for users with a Windows background. Along those lines, the PCLinuxOS Network Manager is similarly easy to use, supports 3G connections out of the box and based on my testing so far, is both quick to connect and reliable (no connection drops). On the other hand, splitting some of those system management tasks can sometimes get confusing, and some of KDE's features don't seem to get along well with PCLinuxOS's own. For instance, many Plasma widgets that rely on a network connection (weather and RSS, to name a couple) often fail to fetch information or refresh it, which is something I have seen work perfectly in other, more "purist" KDE implementations.


One of PCLinuxOS best things, specially from an end user perspective, is that everything is perfectly setup and ready to go out of the box. Codecs, drivers, fonts... Anything you can think of "simply works", and that is quite an achievement.

Starting with fonts, PCLinuxOS 2011.6 sports Ubuntu's own by default. Perhaps a weird choice for some, I personally believe they look great in a KDE context, perhaps even more so than in GNOME... If they are rendered correctly, that is.

As it turns out, PCLinuxOS manages to make them look better and more consistent than even Kubuntu itself, which in my experience always seemed to lose correct rendering after a couple sessions. In any case, correct font rendering is not that common in KDE distros, so that makes PCLinuxOS even more special in that sense.

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Java comes installed and correctly configured, so downloading YouTube videos from was just a couple clicks away. Similarly, all kinds of Audio and Video Codecs come preinstalled, which enabled me to watch trailers from Apple's website without any extra configuration.

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Hardware support is superb, thanks to a wide range of preinstalled drivers. Except for Zorin 5 OS, no other distro managed to configure all hardware successfully on my HP 2740p out of the box as well as PCLinuxOS 2011.6 did. It even detected its infamous Broadcom wireless card, also perfectly configuring video and audio devices, including its webcam.

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PCLinuxOS 2011.6 includes many of KDE's best applications, such as digikam and Clementine, a photo manager and music player respectively.

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Digikam version is 1.9.0 and it has as many features as one could imagine, perhaps too many, but I guess that's the only way to appeal to both experts and novices in photo management.

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Clementine is on 0.71 and seems to be taking the KDE Audio player World by storm. At first, I was surprised to see several KDE distros drop Amarok in favor of it, something most seem to have done by now, but after using it for a while, I understood why. Clementine is a fabulous player, much lighter than Amarok, which includes the most relevant features in an easy and intuitive interface. It also gets the best from Amarok, such as the cover manager, leaving bloat aside.

All in all, I always felt like KDE had less options in terms of Audio players, certainly lacking something as cool as Banshee, but Clementine proved to be a perfect candidate to fill that gap.

Other application favorites include Firefox 5.0 (default browser of choice).

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Chromium 12 is available from the repositories.

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VLC is the default Media player.

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As I mentioned already, KDE shines in PCLinuxOS 2011.6. Not only does it feel solid and quick, but it also put me in a different mood, more willing to appreciate its strengths, given that its weaknesses were only partially showing. In all fairness, one has to wonder which one is the real KDE, the slow and heavy desktop manager that we see in many distros or the light, fast and responsive one we see in PCLinuxOS.

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All in all, I must admit I enjoyed this mature version of KDE 4.6, it is more flexible and less cumbersome than others I tried to this date. I still think it leans too much towards a desktop paradigm that originated in the 90s, but it's hard to challenge its strengths.

KDE users enjoy features that GNOME users only recently attained, or that require extra configuration, applications or plugins. A good example is the KDE panel, which incorporates features that GNOME users can only enjoy through the use of DockBarX. Similarly, mouse gestures that allow window maximize or split actions are native to recent KDE, while only recently present in GNOME Shell or Unity. Kwin effects, activities and semantic search are other relevant examples of KDE's great features.

My main thing against KDE is, as I have mentioned several times already, its unnecessary complexity and unintuitive aproach to certain pieces of functionality. Unfortunately, all of it returns unchanged release after release since KDE 4 series started, so I am starting to lose hope that it will ever improve.

Aside from what I just mentioned, some things are downright strange when compared with GNOME. For example, the use of conky requires some quirky fixes to get transparency to work.

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...But then again, it doesn't get along well with Plasma widgets!

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To be completely honest, though, I was pleasantly surprised with KDE 4.6.4 under PCLinuxOS.


PCLinuxOS 2011.6 is a natural evolution of all the great things that made PCLinuxOS 2010 the awesome release it was. I think it is a great Linux distro for any kind of user and the best way I know to experiment KDE in all its glory.

Download, install and enjoy!

EDIT (July 19th): Five days ago, PCLinuxOS released its 2011.7 MiniMe version, an interesting option for advanced users looking for a barebones KDE setup to customize at will. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New face!

Tired of the old outfit? Yeah, so was I... Time for a change!

Hope you all like it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fuduntu 14.10 Review

Back when I first tested and REVIEWED Fuduntu (14.7), I found it a bit lacking in certain areas, most of which were somehow linked to its Fedora inheritance. In fact, one of my main issues back then was that the influence of the distro it derived from was still way too evident. My review goes in detail into what my experience was like, so I recommend reading it to better understand how far release 14.10 has got.

Having talked with Fuduntu's lead developer Andrew Wyatt for some time now, I knew he wanted to keep pushing Fuduntu towards becoming a distro that could stand on its own, with a unique character. I kept checking back on it every now and after skipping a few releases that sounded interesting (but were perhaps too close to my first review), 14.10 felt like a great opportunity to find out what was happening at Fuduntu camp.


In the Official Fuduntu 14.10 ANNOUNCEMENT there is plenty of information around new features, packages and tweaks. Here's a brief summary including some highlights:


-Linux kernel
-Adobe Flash 10.3
-Chromium 12
-Shotwell 0.10.1
-EXT4 is now our default filesystem during installation
-Support for nVidia (akmod-nvidia), and ATI** (akmod-catalyst) proprietary drivers
-A tool to help simplify customizing your installation
-A Theme refresh, correcting several bugs and streamlining the look and feel.
-New background choices
-New tweaks to improve Flash playback
-Bug fixes
-As always, the quarterly patch rollup

Default Applications (for new installations only)

-Chromium 12
-Google Mail
-Google Docs

As you can see, there are lots of interesting things listed here. Let's see if Fuduntu 14.10 lives up to its expectations.


After an interestingly looking boot up Plymouth theme, anything from the GDM theme to the default wallpaper and GTK theme, including a highly customized application catalog and a nice AWN menu at the bottom, screams uniqueness. Fuduntu 14.10 feels a lot more like an entity of its own, not so much a slightly customized Fedora desktop anymore.

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The set of default wallpapers incorporates a few new custom Fuduntu ones along with some GNOME classics. I personally like the Fuduntu creations, even if I find them too dark at times myself (probably better for battery life but perhaps not the best choice aesthetically given how laptops spend lots of hours in screen saving mode).

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Many of the Look&Feel elements that were part of previous versions return almost unchanged, like the custom GTK+ theme, Faenza Cuppertino icon theme, fonts, etc.

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Being the customization freak I am, it didn't take long before I changed things my way. Equinox GTK engine, Droid Fonts, standard Faenza and Conky Lunatico came together for quite a make up. Looking sexy, huh?

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The application catalog also gained a character of its own, and I must admit I love where it's heading. Some of the choices that captured my interest the most have to do with leaning towards cloud applications, particularly Google related products. Chromium 12 is now the default browser, which is a great choice (I would have chosen Firefox 5, though, given its superior integration within the Linux desktop).

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When it comes to desktop Gmail and Google Docs, I wonder if this choice was somehow influenced by Peppermint OS. Any way you look at it, though, saving the space an Office suite (honestly, how many people really use OpenOffice or LibreOffice, let alone get the most out of them?) and an email client would take is a good idea.

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It could be argued that users are limited in what they can do offline (in fact, that's another argument to not use Chromium, as it does not support Gmail offline functionality), but with 3G and Wireless devices flying all over the place, chances are offline time shall be minimal.

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Other perhaps more common application choices include Shutter, Shotwell, VLC, Banshee, Cheese Webcam Booth, GIMP and Nautilus Elementary, to name about a few. I personally love these choices, as they are mostly what I use myself, but things got even better when I found Dropbox preinstalled as well!

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After using Fuduntu 14.10 quite regularly for a few days, I started to really notice how good a release it was. In the past, I have always found Fedora releases quite slow in terms of performance (not Fedora 15, though), at least when compared with Ubuntu and derivatives. It was hard to explain, but day to day activities always seemed to take longer in Fedora and, consequently, and the same applied in my Fuduntu 14.7 testing.

This time around, though, I noticed a big difference. Fuduntu 14.10 provides a snappy response, maybe just lacking when it comes to install/update packages, but I think that's the downside of using RPM packages (it has other advantages, though). Other than that, from booting up to logging in and opening applications, it feels fast and responsive. These performance improvements probably owe a lot to the enhancements introduced by Andrew and his team, some of which he discusses in the INTERVIEW I recently published.

Jupiter also provides an improvement in energy management. When I first tested Fuduntu, I must admit I didn't really notice much of an improvement, but my informal tests this time around show longer battery life.

One thing I miss in Jupiter, though, is the ability to manually tweak it to my liking. In that regard, KDE does a really good job providing several energy management profiles, all of them customizable. It does not stop there, for users can also decide when each profile kicks in. To provide a quick example, high performance profiles usually turn screen brightness all the way up, which may not be necessary with newer devices that already incorporate very bright screens. Therefore, what if I want to configure screen brightness for the high performance profile to be at 85%? Similarly, what if I want to trigger power saver profile when battery life is at 45%? I think those are parameters that most users with portable devices would like to be able to customize. Moreover, this approach is not necessarily intrusive, it wouldn't really require any extra effort from users. They would still be able to use default profiles if they so choose, but if they want to customize them, then the option is there. I would love to see something like this come to Jupiter moving forward.

So far I haven't been somewhat negative about the Fuduntu Fedora inheritance, but that's unfair, there are certainly many great things coming from it. One thing that I found pretty cool from a user stand point came about when I was trying to download a torrent file. I double clicked on the torrent file and the system detected that there was no default torrent downloader. I was then presented with a list of options to install. I chose Transmission, went ahead with the installation and that was it, I was set! Very neat and tidy!


In terms of hardware support, Fuduntu 14.10 partially passed my HP 2740p test. Having Kernel 2.39 series onboard, I was confident it would recognize its Intel HD video card, which it did, but it failed to do the same with its infamous Broadcom wireless card. Most distros I have tried have failed at this very same trial, but Zorin OS 5 did not, so there is room for improvement here. Similarly, Ubuntu and its derivatives do a great job noticing that the firmware is not available on the machine but can be downloaded, offering the end user the option to do so at will. Fedora, and consequently Fuduntu, are not there yet.

Other hardware recognition tests I ran involved printers and photo cameras, all of which were successful. Bluetooth worked smoothly as well, but I must admit I didn't test any Webcams.


Fuduntu is a fork of Fedora, but it is also inspired in Ubuntu, which shows. Its goal of providing a great Linux distro for tablets and laptops while offering a smooth user experience and overall ease of use is certainly closer now than it was just six months ago. This is nothing short of amazing, for Fedora requires much more polishing than Ubuntu if the goal is to create an easy to use laptop/desktop distro. During the few days I have been using Fuduntu, it somewhat reminded me of Moon OS, a great Ubuntu fork, which is quite an achievement considering where each of them starts from.

All in all, Fuduntu 14.10 is a great release which I recommend to anybody, even users who have historically used Ubuntu. Fedora fans will surely enjoy the smoother user experience, but even Linux novices will find lots to enjoy.

Congratulations to the Fuduntu team for a fine piece of work, can't wait to see how it continues to evolve, specially now that GNOME3 is available.