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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Overclockix Revived: Debian-based Distro Nostalgia

Overclockix, like KNOPPIX STD (remember that one?), is one of those rare use specialist distributions that will always prevent it from widespread adoption, but that's not the point. It was discontinued in 2005 and has recently been revived by several enthusiasts on the Overclockers forum. Read the full announcement here. Back then it was built around the KDE 3 desktop, but the new development team have held a poll where Gnome Shell came out top as preferred environment.

As Overclockix is based on Debian (stable) this means we get GS 3.4 at the moment, a relatively early release still lacking many features.
The download is quite small, under CD size, and the distribution comes with some neat tools you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else by default. At this point it's probably a good idea to link to their main page so you can have a look around in another tab and download the latest file. It seems like they're starting their version numbering from scratch as the current release is 018. Overclockix is available for i386 and AMD64 as direct download, torrent and magnet links. I used the torrent and the download completed in only around 10 minutes.

Images are available in hybrid-iso format to burn to CD or use on a USB stick and as img files which allows for persistent storage after they have been written to memory stick or hdd and for creation and modification of partitions. Click here to see how to do this. The forum thread is really informative and acts as a sort of manual, all the important steps, including how to join the team and getting involved in Overclockix. I wrote the iso image to USB with mintstick which had been added to a modified CrunchBang 'Waldorf' install that is rolling with Debian Unstable/Sid. No problems here and soon I was able to boot into it. The password for the live user is 'live' and the root account can be accessed with 'sudo su -'.

As indicated before we get  a barren Gnome Shell 3.4 without anything in the way of tweaks or extensions, not even Gnome Tweak Tool is installed. Truth be told, this is probably enough for a working environment you only boot up once in a while to make use of the tools included here, but so is Openbox. Although I'm slowly warming to the Shell a bit and the possibility of getting around all by keyboard similar to Openbox, I can't see the point of switching to get something I already have. The provision of a graphical interface to Google Drive via the online accounts feature is pretty nice though. Anyway, GS 3.4 will be fine for the occasional use. If your graphics hardware is not supported, like when trying it out in VirtualBox, you'll be dropped into the fallback mode which, I'm sure you know, looks a lot like its predecessor but is more restricted.

There are a couple of tools included here like system profiler for hardware detection and to list sensors and the like, power statistics, Putty SSH and a remote desktop viewer and the BOINC distributed service manager, a tradition carried over from the old distro days. However, the real heart of the distributions seems to be the inclusion of the Phoronix test suite and I believe some overclocking utilities for graphics cards. Overclockix performed well on my measly testing laptop with an AMD dual-core E-350 at 1.6 GHz, an AMD Radeon HD 6310 and three Gigs of memory and the Shell was responsive overall, with a slight delay in the beginning and when launching the Applications overlay. It was utterly fast running on my Acer AMD Phenom II X3 with 2.1 GHz and a ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250. Unfortunately the network was not accessible. Trying to start it resulted in the error that "system network services are not compatible with this version" on both laptops.

Get the img and iso files here and take it for a spin.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Siduction 'Paintitblack' LXQt Dev Release: Screenshots

Earlier this month the Siduction team, which regularly updates snapshots based on Debian Unstable/Sid, released a development build showcasing the new LXQt desktop, the future of both the LXDE and the Razor-qt environments. Siduction have a bit of history here as they featured Razor-qt as a desktop early on and were probably the only distribution to ship a dedicated iso as part of their line-up throughout 2012 and 2013. Besides using KDE 4 for the main image Siduction have shown a great commitment to medium light and lower resource desktops.

This year's LinuxTag conference saw the release of siduction-14.1.0-lxqt images (64-bit only), code named 'paintitblack' if that's of any interest. The LXQt spin is currently the only one available, download it here directly (793 MB). Unfortunately their home page has recently fallen victim to the trend of having the forum replace a proper main page, but paintitblack is a great way of trying out this offering from the LXQt guys in a live session. If you don't know anything about Siduction reading the top of the manual page might serve as an introduction to the project. Best of all, as it's a continuation of previous work done in those other two projects, LXQt is now in version 0.7 and supposed to be usable in production environments.

Here are some screenshots:

You get a couple of applications but as this is a live CD for showing off the LXQt desktop the choice is of limited value and ultimately not important. However, we get the Plank desktop bar on top of the screen with links to PCManFM file manager and a virtual terminal, the medit text editor, HexChat, the Clementine audio player, Zimbra Wiki and a screengrabber. This bodes well for any upcoming non-dev version, except Qupzilla as a browser which choked on a number of web sites. Chromium or Iron would be a better choice here, or perhaps one of the many stripped Firefox builds like Abrowser, Burning Dog or Pale Moon. Or why not Iceweasel. We also get links to IRC, the manual and the installer, which opens in a browser, on the desktop.

The control center supports most of the usual choices in a form we have come to expect, like adjusting screen resolution and the like, and the Openbox window manager settings are integrated into the panel. Apparently Razor-qt did Xinerama well and it can be hoped this has carried over. Settings can be started from the bottom panel which also houses few widgets to the right not dissimilar to KDE 4, like the removable devices manager.

Some applications in the Graphics subsection. Menus have a slightly outdated slide-out effect, very much like the one known from Win98. This manages to look a little stylish and retro at the same time but can be disabled in the effects settings.

Preferences and ...

Settings menu.


Fortunately it was possible to install and use additional software in the live session and Chromium made uploading these shots a lot more bearable.

Overall it feels like a stripped down KDE desktop, or as I like to say, KDE 4 light done right. You get an elegant, modern look that LXDE has not been able to achieve while it was stuck on Gtk2 and it looks like their long announced intent to move to the Qt toolkit has paid off.

If you are using Slackware, Razor-qt was in Slackbuilds for 14.1 and I would expect LXQt to show up for the next Slackware release. Until then, we can always compile like true slackers. For Arch it's already in the repos and packages are available for several other distributions as listed on lxqt.org.


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