Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The "Perfect" Linux Desktop?

I have seen many posts detailing the "perfect Linux desktop." These are usual semi detailed posts on installing and setting up a newly released distribution and the software set added to the base packages.

There is one thing about open source Linux distributions that seems to attract many of the love it or hate it crowd: choice. To some, the fact that there are hundreds of different distributions all built around multiple configurations of a common universe of packages wrapped in a decent list of available desktop environments, makes for an environment where there is something for everyones taste and if you don't like it - there is another distribution to fit your needs. To others, this fact is one of the loudest criticisms sung to the tune of a drum labeled fragmentation.

So of all the readily availably and well done distributions is there a "perfect" Linux desktop? This is one of the yes and no answers that centers around personal preference. The team at Canonical made waves with the introduction of their in house GNOME skin dubbed Unity that shipped as default in Ubuntu 11.04. GNOME changed the much beloved look and feel of the 2.x series with the introduction of GNOME 3. Many users love these new UI experiences and many loath them. KDE and XFCE also have crowds of loyal users.

When it comes to distributions with a default, untouched install - my personal favorite, and what I would consider the best looking or close to perfect as you can get - was Ubuntu 10.04. Version 10.10 looked pretty nice as well, but I stayed away from it due to the limited support life. For me no of the current releases fit what I want untouched, but Ubuntu 12.04 (with its 5 years of support) configured with GNOME Classic (gnome-session-fallback would be the packed to install) gets my vote and is what I use currently. A close second would be a slightly customized XFCE environment in Xubuntu 12.04.

Software set is another area where someones perfect would be vastly different that another users. With my system I have mainly added additional multimedia programs, such as Gimp (2.8 from PPA), OpenShot and DVD Styler.

I have had an interest in created a customized installation CD for some time, and will begin an experiment in creating one using the Remastersys tool - based on my version of the perfect Linux desktop with Ubuntu 12.04 as the base. I will be documenting my experience, the steps taken and the software set used here on my blog. I will also try and get the final ISO uploaded for anyone interested in downloading my customized version of Ubuntu.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip 4GB MP3 Player

I had been debating getting an MP3 player for sometime off and on and recently with some birthday money from my in-laws I finally purchased one. After some research and looking around on-line for something that would fit what I was looking for, I ended up purchasing a SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip 4GB model.

When I set out to look for an MP3 player I initially was thinking I wanted something with 16GB of storage to accommodate my approximately 8GB music collection and leave room for new music to be acquired without having to upgrade the device down the road. Well, the cheapest 16GB player I could find was around $90 and out of my budget as well as much more than I wanted to spend. Then I got to thinking there has to be a model out there with an memory card slot for expansion and I could get a budget model and slap in an inexpensive 16GB memory card and be good to go.

A quick stop at Best Buy on the way home from church and happy birthday I have a new 4GB MP3 player complete with micro SD expansion and included ear bud headphones, not bad at all for $39.99. Besides the memory card expansion, the Zip has an FM radio tuner, voice recorder and a stop watch feature. I will be testing the stop watch out when I start jogging again and find I use the FM radio quite a bit at work. You can also play audio books and podcasts with the Zip, provided they are in a supported format. The formats supported are the usual suspects of MP3, WMA, AAC and OGG Vorbis - and for all you audiophiles out there it even supports FLAC.

SanDisk advertises up to 15 hours of battery life and I have not been disappointed with the battery performance yet. I have had it playing for nearly a full work day and was at half battery. If you do happen to run out of juice during the day, even 5 minutes on the charger and you will have charged up enough to at least finish an entire album worth of music. I ran out of battery one day at work (and thankfully the USB connection to the Zip is the same as my work Android phone) and was able to finish the day out listening to music after just about 5 minutes charging time.

Compared to the nearest iPod in price (the 2GB iPod shuffle), you get double the storage (plus SD card capability), a color display screen, stop watch and FM tuner for less money.

The only drawback I have found so far is the way it utilizes M3U play lists. With M3U play lists all the music must be in one folder, anything in sub folders will not show up on the device when trying to play the play list. All in all I am very happy with the Sansa Clip Zip and would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking for a decent MP3 player at a good price. Throw in a 16GB memory card and you have a 20GB MP3 player for about $65 or less.