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Pardus 2008 – A Linux Switcher’s Review
July 8, 2008, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Computing | Tags: , , ,

Before I start, I want to draw your attention to the title. This is my first Linux distro that I have managed to get working, so some of the points that I make may be true to all flavours of Linux and not just Pardus, but if you know this then you can just skip over it. I am writing this in an attempt to show people what Linux is actually like in general, although Pardus specifically.

Ok, so onto the hardware – since Linux is renowned for it’s ability to run on older hardware, I decided not to give it a partition to itself. Instead I will be using virtual machine software in the form of Parallels Desktop. Parallels assigns the guest OS 256MB of RAM by default, but I felt that that wouldn’t really do any OS justice, so I upped it to 500. It splits my dual-core processor in half so Linux has a single core 2GHz processor to work with. I am also using a GMA950 integrated graphics card and a 1280×800 monitor. The HDD size is set to 31GB as default and I won’t be changing that. I think that this should be enough to run Linux comfortably, although I’ll try not to bash any speed issues as I know it’s not the fastest system in the world.

The Install

Pardus does not come as a Live-CD/DVD, presumably so it can pack all of those packages onto a single CD. I worked my way through the simple setup process, formatting my hard-drive and installing. The main install process took a total of around 30 minutes, although I’d be happy to set aside half an hour to install an OS nowadays. The install finished without a hitch, and by the time I had rebooted I had already set-up an administrator user with it’s own password set to log in automatically. When I first logged in, I was greeted by the Kaptan set-up assistant.

The Kaptan makes the set-up easy

The Kaptan makes the set-up easy

At this point Pardus is running at 800×600, which is a little annoying although more likely down to Parallels than the OS. I worked my way through, changing the mouse to open files/folders with one click, setting a plain background and my network settings. The wizard came to an end and gave me the opportunity to tweak my system further.

The Kaptan\'s further tweaking options
The Kaptan’s further tweaking options

I took this opportunity to spruce up my desktop a bit. Firstly I changed my resolution, so now everything looks sharp and defined. I then fiddled with the panel a bit. I removed the extra desktops button as I wasn’t going to be using it, then I removed the task bar. Oh dear. After a short panic I managed to restore it with a few mouse clicks, which was fortunate. I proceeded to turn transparency on for the panel and added a custom background.

I couldn\'t think of any other background
I couldn’t think of any other background.

I also adjusted the window theme slightly. I’d say this is the main system installed, so let’s move on to the next section, shall we?

Media

Sometimes I like to have a little music bopping while I sit at my computer, so I set off in search of the audio player. A click later, I find Amarok, nicely labeled ‘Audio Player’. Ok, fire it up! I tried a few files to ensure all my songs would work before importing, and I was pleasantly surprised. It could play .wma, .mp3, .mp4 and .m4a straight out of the box. I was surprised it played .m4a, although that may just be me being a noob. In any case, I copied my music collection in and let it play for a while.

Next I tried some videos. I slipped in Peep Show and let that play for a while, but then I would expect an operating system to play DVDs out of the box. I did not expect it, however, to give me the option to rip the DVD. For all of this coming out of the box I was very impressed. I opened up Kaffiene, and had a play with that. It opened every file I threw at it flawlessly, including .swf, which surprised me again. In short, Pardus has so far been the best multimedia OS I have ever used, although a front end like Windows Media Centre or Front Row would have really topped it all off. The subject of out of the box brings me nicely to my next section, Software.

Software

Pardus comes with a massive range of packages pre-installed, from the media applications mentioned earlier to an entire office suite. It includes the latest Firefox web browser, an e-mail client, RSS, IRC, torrents, FTP and a download manager – and thats just the internet subsection. I have never seen an OS come so equipped without downloading a single thing. It also includes a selection of games, the entire office suite, and many other personal management applications. I can really think of no other mainstream application that you would need that isn’t already installed. On other operating systems you would expect to pay for the software that comes included with Pardus for free.

However, if there is software that you can’t find preinstalled or you want to replace an existing application (I, for example, replaced Kopete with Pidgin), simply open the PiSi Package Manager. This is Pardus’s own Package Manager, and I find that it works well. I know that installing things on Linux is always this simple, but I love the fact that installing something new is as easy as searching for it, selecting it and clicking install. It will download all of the packages that it needs to run as well, so you don’t get an annoying error message when you try and open your application. On the other hand, I found that the Package Manager was slow to load and sometimes became laggy mid-use, although as I said I’m in no position to comment due to the hardware it’s running on.

The PiSi Package Manager

The PiSi Package Manager

The PiSi Package Manager contains a massive range of packages that can be downloaded and installed in the blink of an eye, thankfully with a search engine and sections to browse that can really help you find what you’re looking for.

Stability

Since Linux is famous for it’s stability and lack of viruses, I came into Pardus with high expectations. I have never experienced a single error message or crash, and the only slowdown occurs with PiSi, but that could be due to the constant referring to the internet. In any case, I expected Linux to provide me with a rock solid base for whatever I wanted to do, and I was not disappointed. There’s not really a lot more to say, as you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever used Linux, and if not and this sounds good then you definitely should.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I chose Pardus hoping it would provide a good entrance into the Linux world, and I couldn’t have asked for any more. It looks beautiful, it comes with a mass of packages that provide everything you could need at a basic level, and many other packages in the repositories. I have not found it difficult to do a single thing yet, even when I wasn’t sure what to do. The only gripes that I have with Pardus is the lack of fonts and the fact that Compiz-Fusion wouldn’t work, and the window manager that would supposedly fix it wasn’t in the repository. Other than these (very) minor issues, I would highly recommend Pardus, especially if you are just coming into the Linux world.

Further reading: http://bulletspawn.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/pardus-2008-review/



The Blackening
July 4, 2008, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , ,

The Blackening is the sixth album from California metallers Machine Head. Magazine reviews have heralded it as the best metal album of 2007. I’m going to say it was probably the best album of 2007 full stop. When an album produces music fine enough for you to find the time to put a 10 minute track on repeat and listen to it religiously until you know it inside out, you know it’s done well.

Flynn puts in a brilliant performance, switching from raw, pounding vocals to a quiet whisper in a heartbeat. Phill Demmel adds tons of scorching leads and fretboard wizardry to the mix, occasionally taking on the rhythm roles to let his co-guitarist into the limelight. The bassist is not abused in this album – Duce plays a large role in many of the songs, in particular ‘Now I Lay Thee Down’ and ‘Halo’. The drummer (Dave McLain) is capable of making the same riff inspire something different every time.

The enitre album is definitely worth listening to, but notable tracks include Halo (a metal masterpiece), Wolves (a full on shred fest) and Now I Lay Thee Down, which relies on a riff so simple that you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it yourself yet it’s so effective.

There isn’t really a lot more to say, other than if you’re even remotely interested in metal music or any other kind of rock then it’s definitely worth picking up a copy. I can’t really describe the sheer brutality of the riffs and the lyrics combined, only recommend you listen to it yourself. You won’t regret it.



Haze – A first look
June 18, 2008, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Games | Tags: , , ,

What can I say about Haze? Although the gameplay isn’t that bad, the annoying characters and strangely un-next gen looking graphics can be a little off-putting.

The gameplay isn’t shocking, so long as you are using the nectar function. On the other hand, the enemies (and your team-mates) are such awful soldiers the game is more or less target practice. How many times have you seen a group of soldiers run, shoulder to shoulder, down a narrow corridor of trees directly at their enemies? Not often? Thought not.

The guns themselves work well, although your starting sidearm, the magnum/pistol thingy has the slowest rate of fire of any gun I’ve ever seen. It takes a good second or two for the gun to reset itself to a state in which it can be fired again. Of course, the entire point of a firearm is to ‘whip it out’ when your rifle starts clicking and firing small puffs of air at the enemy so you can clear them up in close quarters. Of course, you needn’t worry about being killed in this situation, I don’t believe these enemies could hit, well, anything from 5 feet.

Now for the graphics. The characters and vehicles are nicely designed and rendered, but should you look down you will see a hideous excuse of grass. The sharp, blocky edges make it look as if it should be running on an early PS2 game, not one of the mainstream PS3 games. However, Haze does utilise the PS3’s power some areas. Looking at objects far away are slightly blurred, giving a realistic feel to the game. You’ll be lucky to notice though – the characters viewpoint has a bob-effect (and the resulting motion sickness) to rival King Kong.

Your team-mates are, in short, total douche bags. They shout obnoxious and downright annoying catchphrases such as ‘BOOSH!!!!’ and ‘Yeah, boiii!’ constantly. There’s no getting away from it. As well as being total bell ends, they are (second only to your enemies) some of the worst soldiers ever. There is never any hint of any formation or covering fire, just a bunch of drugged up cock jugglers running blindly into the fight. It’s up to you and your nectar to fight off the enemy, although this is no monumental task. Unless, of course, your team-mates decide to help. They have an annoying habit of wandering aimlessly directly into your line of fire, usually from behind, so you have no choice but to unload a handful of bullets into the back of their heads.

Another (yes, another) downer for the game is the vehicles. The buggies suffer from unrealistic physics, poor handling and naff sound. Other than the fact that the FPS style gameplay is quite good in heated battle, I really can’t think of many more good points for Haze. Hopefully as I finish reviewing Haze can impress me.