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17 septembre 2014

Should You Root Your Android Device?

Rooting-android-visualThere are many settings that can be tweaked in an Android device; however, these tweaks are restricted to what the manufacturer permits. Rooting an Android device or gaining root access allows tweaking the device at a very deep level. This article covers the pros and cons of rooting an Android device while instructing readers how to do it.
Having the freedom to tweak your operating system has been and will always be of great importance for any open source enthusiast. With Google backing the porting of Linux-based operating systems to handheld and portable devices, this freedom has increased manifold. Companies manufacturing mobile phones and handheld devices have had to give in to Android’s growing popularity as it’s competing head-to-head for space with other popular mobile operating systems such as the iOS, Blackberry OS and other proprietary operating systems. A number of tweaks and functionalities have been added to the most recent version, Android KitKat, which was released at the end of October 2013. However, a number of users continue to be on earlier Android versions such as Jelly Bean (on devices with low hardware configurations).
As with other open source desktop operating systems, it is possible for Android users to tweak or change any part of the system within the limitations set by the open source community and by the licences. Although there are several apps available on the famous Google Play store, Android primarily doesn’t allow its users to make any changes to the system. This can, however, be achieved by using a method commonly referred to as the rooting of an Android device. A device that has undergone this procedure is referred to as a rooted phone or tablet. The name is derived from the term ‘root access’, which is actually the ability to attain permissions only restricted to super-users or administrators. Rooting allows you to perform a number of operations that would have been otherwise impossible because of the limitations set by the carriers or phone manufacturers.
Although rooting your device might sound like a great idea, there are several disadvantages that negate its advantages. Before I go ahead with the procedure for rooting an Android device, let us look at the factors that will affect your decision on rooting.

What you might lose

Bricking your phone

When you’re tampering with your phone’s operating system, you should be aware that one wrong move could damage the device’s software, turning the phone into a useless brick. So if you are wary of taking risks, please refrain from trying this procedure. Although the risk is minimal, rooting your device is still quite a risky business. So, you need to be absolutely sure of what you do.

Manufacturer’s warranty

The process of rooting in almost all cases challenges several clauses in the agreement with the hardware manufacturer and results in the warranty becoming invalid.

Legality

Rooting a phone is allowed legally almost everywhere in the world. In fact, in some European countries, replacing the original operating system with another does not void the statutory warranty that covers the hardware of the device.

Security concerns

Rooting essentially allows applications to perform actions that require administrative privileges. The real reason for disallowing all applications from obtaining these privileges is to ensure air-tight security in this amazing operating system. Although Android has not been plagued by viruses, Trojans, spyware, malware and other members of the digital disease-causing pathogens, it is only a matter of time before anti-social elements try to exploit the innocent. Rooting your device is like giving ammunition to these elements on a silver platter.

What do you gain?

Despite these drawbacks, a number of users continue to root their phones or tabs. The gains are listed below.

Delete those pesky apps

Did your manufacturer bundle your phone with promotional applications and games that cannot be deleted? Geeks refer to these apps as bloatware, as they usually take too much space on the device’s memory. So, it is always advisable to remove all that you are never likely to use. However, you have to be especially careful not to delete any system app that can affect the basic functionality of your device. What you can safely remove are games and apps that have the manufacturer’s brand name.

Take essential back-ups

Rooting your device takes the performance of system and data back-ups to a completely new level. In addition to backing up user data, you can also back up applications and settings. Also, rooting allows you to take Nandroid back-ups, which is essentially a back-up of the complete operating system. The name Nandroid is a portmanteau of NAND, which is the widely used Flash memory on these devices, and Android.

Apps galore!

If you think that 1,000,000 (a million) apps and 50,000,000 downloads would be enough for open source enthusiasts, you are sorely mistaken. In addition to Google Play, there are several app distributors and stores available online. The most famous among these is F-Droid, an alternative software repository comprising only free, open source software. A quick search would reveal that most of the apps available on these stores require super-user permissions.

Playing dress-up

Almost every hardware manufacturer bundles Android devices with tones, themes and skins that are specific to their organisation. However, you are not allowed customisation beyond a certain level. By rooting the device, not only can you change the way your system sounds or looks, you can also use the customisation options provided by other companies.

Staying up-to-date

As manufacturers come up with newer devices, it is customary for them to stop providing updates for the older ones. Also, there are several devices that possess the hardware specifications to run newer versions of the Android operating system but are stuck without any updates because of the business gimmicks of these manufacturers. Rooting allows you to install not only the new features but a tweaked kernel or a new operating system altogether.

Custom ROMs

Almost all phone and tablet manufacturers modify the Android operating system and bundle the device with a custom made OS with their own branding. The basic Android version specific to a device is known as a stock ROM. Most stock ROMs are also bundled with useful software, specific to the device’s manufacturer. Custom ROMs are modified versions of the Android operating system, created for a specific device by a third-party developer. Several developers have taken great pains to make it possible for users with low-end phones to enjoy the benefits of the latest developments in the Android world. Several companies such as Cyanogenmod sprang up to cater to people facing such limitations with their own fork of the Android operating system. Although rooting is strictly not essential in order to install a stock or custom ROM, it provides you the ability to take customisation and personalisation to a whole new level.

Automation

With automation touching every aspect of life, it would be natural to also want our phones to think and act as per our wishes. There are several apps available on Google Play and other app stores that allow you to automate devices. One of the best applications for this is Tasker, which helps you create tasks for greater automation. With such apps, you can have your phone switch from data to Wi-Fi, based on location. You can combine task killer apps and ensure that your tablet consumes the least possible battery, especially when you’re not using it. Rooting lifts the software restrictions and renders anything that’s within the limitations of the hardware possible.

The preparations

Before you actually go ahead with rooting your device, there are several steps to be followed. The most important is to ensure that you install the latest drivers for your device on the computer to be used in this process. You must also download and install the latest Android SDK from the https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html website. In addition, you need to put your phone into the USB debugging mode. To do so, enter the Developer Options in the system settings. You will be required to enable Developer Options and then enable USB debugging. A USB cable will also be required.

The real deal

I recommend you take a back-up of all your personal information on the memory card or a computer before you move forward with the actual rooting procedure. The process for rooting a phone or tablet varies greatly, depending on the device and the operating system of the computer used in the process.
There are several third-party applications, especially for the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, which allow you to connect the device and root without much intervention. Some of the popular applications for this process are Once Click Root, CF-Auto-Root and Super One Click. Most of these applications provide step-by-step instructions (sometimes with images) on how to root your device. Based on your device, the process will require you to press several buttons and reboot. As the steps vary from device to device, you need to search the Internet to find the best application-one that has had the most success with your device. Almost all these applications install the Superuser app that helps in granting super-user permissions or root access to other apps. There are also several ways to root a device using terminal commands from a Linux distribution. However, this procedure is only for experts. To verify if you have gained root access of your device, you can use apps such as Root Checker by joeykrim and Check Root by Avarna Software.

What happens next?

Once the rooting procedure is complete, you will see an app named Superuser, SuperSU or something similar among other installed apps on your device. Open the Superuser app and update it to obtain the latest version.

Superuser and SuperSU

As and when another app requests for super user permissions, the SuperSU app gives you a pop-up to ask whether or not you want to grant such access. Based on the option you choose, you can have SuperSU prompt you at a later time or not prompt you for access till the app is updated. Ensure that you provide root access only to trusted apps and revoke permissions for those you are unsure of. In addition, it is a good practice to have an app ask for permissions every time. This allows you to keep track of the apps yourself, in addition to the logs maintained by SuperSU. Superuser, SuperSU and other similar apps also allow you to unlock additional paid features and improve the functionality further. However, for a basic user, the free features would suffice.

Busybox

Called the Swiss army knife of embedded Linux operating systems, Busybox is actually a stripped down version of powerful Linux tools made available for the Android operating system. You can visit http://www.busybox.net/ for more information on this project. If you’re into tweaking the device even further, you will need to make use of the several tools provided in this bundle. Some custom ROMs provide Busybox just as they do with SuperSU or Superuser. If not, there are several Busybox installers available on the Google Play app store, the most popular one being the BusyBox app by Stephen (Stericson). Most of the commands are the same as their counterparts on other operating systems.

SQLite

If you’re into heavy duty tinkering, you will require specialised tools. SQLite is a relational database management system that is used by several apps running on Android. There are several apps available on the Google Play store and on F-Droid that allow you to install the SQLite3 binary application on your device. Once this is installed, you can use database viewers and editors as per your convenience. I would like to recommend the ‘SQLite Installer for Root’ app by Ptsoft in case you plan to use a stable and secure installer.

The terminal

People with knowledge of the Linux command line will feel right at home in the terminal emulators available for Android. The Google Play app store showcases several terminal emulator apps that allow you to run shell level commands in Android. Some of the best terminal emulators are available on F-Droid, an open source repository of Android apps. Terminal emulators are also useful for running Busybox commands.

File explorers

Several file explorers, such as Root Explorer, allow users to view and edit Android system files if you grant them super-user permissions. You can also change file and folder permissions with the help of such applications. Most of these apps also allow you to connect to cloud storage and seamlessly work with archives and other such files.

Bye bye bloatware!

As discussed before, rooting allows you to remove the bloatware provided by your hardware manufacturer that you couldn’t get rid of previously. Apps such as Root App Delete are available on the Google Play store and help you free up space. However, you are advised not to remove or disable system apps as they may hamper the functionality of your device. Similar to bloatware, unwanted ads is another problem that most people face. To block ads, these apps require root access to write into the hosts’ folder in the Android system.
In addition to the above mentioned entities, there are many more avenues to be explored. Rooting, if done responsibly, opens new doors and adds tons of functionality to your devices.

An Introduction to Bitcoin: The Open Source Cryptographic Currency

Bitcoin is the new ‘virtual currency’ that has aroused the interest of millions of people, financial and banking institutions, and government agencies. As it is relatively new, much is not known about it. In this article the author demystifies Bitcoin.
Have you ever wanted to send money to India from a foreign country, or wished for a borderless currency that could easily be spent anywhere?  Open source comes to your rescue here as well. In the always-connected world of devices, you can now use Bitcoin from anywhere with the privacy and anonymity that’s similar to using cash, and in a medium that is very secure.
Bitcoin is an open source peer to peer cryptographic currency, which is quite revolutionary since it is based on a peer to peer protocol. This means that it is not regulated by any government, private body or organisation. Each user forms part of a payment network, which is basically a set of protocols for exchanging currency worldwide without any borders.
The very fact that it can be used and accepted anywhere can change the way our economy works. Moreover, the best part about using Bitcoin is that you can transfer it with little or no transaction fees! Bitcoin had a boom recently when its value spiked suddenly over a short period of time, but it is still not universally accepted in as many places as desired. This is partly due to the fact that the technology is still under development and also because many merchants or developers are still wary of accepting something that could essentially be a risky investment of their time and money.
Figure-1Figure--2
Bitcoin has been of interest to merchants, developers and consumers who are keen to break the boundaries and shackles of the existing payment methods to try something new. These are however niche applications, and its acceptance is at present limited to larger brands and in popular places. Moreover, Bitcoin has also been linked with black markets, money laundering and purchase of illegal goods. This is because of the anonymity and privacy provided by Bitcoin, which makes its use similar to using cash. An important point to note here is that Bitcoin transactions do not come with the kind of fraud protection that conventional platforms like credit cards and PayPal provide. Once completed, a Bitcoin transaction cannot be reversed unless the recipient decides to send you the money back in a new transaction. Many would assume that this is a loophole but it is, rather, a security feature which keeps you in control of your own money instead of interference from some other authority. This is one of the primary reasons why credit card and online payment methods other than bank fund transfers are not accepted even by third party merchants or Bitcoin exchanges in return for Bitcoins.
Bitcoin was launched in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, a person whose true identity is still unknown. However, ever since its launch, Bitcoin’s value has steadily risen from less than a dollar to more than $100 today, where it seems to be relatively stable for the time being. This value is determined by the price at which the Bitcoin is sold at major exchanges like Mt Gox. This has, however, obviously drawn a lot of attention and many of the countries are now trying to find a way to introduce rules and regulations around such innovative technology. The rising value has resulted in day to day Bitcoin transactions being carried out on a much lower numerical scale than normal currency. Divisibility is one of the inherent properties of Bitcoin which, as opposed to normal currency, can be divided up to eight decimal places and can be used in denominations such as uBTC and mBTC.
box--1Figure-3Figure-4Using Bitcoin
Bitcoin can be used from mobile devices as well as desktops. There are clients available for Android, iOS, etc, on mobile devices and for Windows, OS X and Linux on desktop computing platforms. While there are online Web clients also available, these are generally not considered trustworthy or secure despite all security measures, as your Bitcoins are hosted on someone else’s server. Modern day mobile devices now offer innovative ways of using Bitcoin to initiate a transaction between two devices with methods such as a QR code or an NFC tap.
Basically, when you install a Bitcoin client, a wallet is created for you. This wallet is associated with your Bitcoin address which looks like a long string of numbers and letters, for example:
1PC9aZC4hNX2rmmrt7uHTfYAS3hRbph4UN
This address is used to send or receive Bitcoins from another person. Each wallet can be associated with as many addresses as possible. Actually, you should use each address for only one transaction. When this wallet is created, the Bitcoin client will ask you to encrypt it and create an associated password and a private key for accessing the wallet. This private key will allow you to spend Bitcoins from your wallet but anyone can monitor the balance in your wallet.
How it works
One might wonder what it is that gives value to a Bitcoin as opposed to normal currency. Why can it not be simply copied and spent multiple times? Whenever a Bitcoin transaction is intended between two parties, the transaction is broadcast to everyone on the network by the person who is responsible for sending the money to the recipient. This transaction is then verified and validated over the next couple of hours. This process thus avoids double spending, as each verified transaction is then processed and included in the block-chain by the miners (the people who process all this information in return for transaction fees that are allocated to a miner, which may or may not be included).
The block-chain thus acts like a public ledger of all the Bitcoins that have been spent over time and keeps increasing in size.
Bitcoin clients
The table below gives some popular Bitcoin clients available on various platforms. Some of these are quite heavy due to the large size of the block-chain, while others like Electrum, Mycelium and online clients are relatively easy to use.
Bitcoin-Qt, for example, is the full featured thick client which downloads the whole block-chain using the official Bitcoin code. It requires significant network bandwidth and is quite heavy on system resources. Other third party clients, which keep the private keys on your local machine but use the block-chain that is hosted on a server, provide a relatively manageable compromise between security and speed. While the full featured clients are the most secure, it is not possible for everyone to have the patience and speed to run them on their machines. Each of these clients provides a simple set of instructions for installation on your machine and some of them are quite easy to use, even for those who are non-technical. Installation is similar to any other software. However, detailed instructions can be obtained from the websites of these clients. The official Bitcoin website list links to the websites of these clients.
How can Bitcoins be used?
Bitcoins are accepted in much fewer places than normal currency and conventional payment methods. Online hosting and other digital goods are some of the limited things that you can buy with Bitcoins. In the US, hotels and restaurants have started accepting Bitcoins; however, such popularity is yet to reach India. A few days back, Silk Road, the secret online market place was taken down by the FBI. It was one of those places which allowed you to buy and sell anything with Bitcoin. It was literally a place where people could sell anything, including drugs and weapons.
It is estimated that Silk Road had done an estimated business of more than 9.5 million Bitcoins out of the total 11 million Bitcoins in circulation today. What is surprising is that the closure did not have any significant effect on Bitcoin’s price. This obviously means that people consider it seriously and it is more than just a medium for black marketeers or a method for money laundering. A lot of online merchants today do not even allow you to buy Bitcoins without extensive verification of your documents and identity. They also have an upper limit beyond which you cannot buy any more Bitcoins. Today, Bitcoin is mainly used by many people for trading and investment purposes as they expect its value to only rise over the next few years.
Bitcoin mining
Bitcoin mining is a resource intensive process and is done only on high performance machines with significant GPU and CPU processing power. Some of the methods of mining Bitcoins are CPU mining, GPU mining, FPGA mining and ASIC mining. The last one is the latest and most efficient technology to mine Bitcoins with the least amount of processing power. Mining takes up so much of resources that it is done by many people in a single pool or group, which works towards a common goal of producing a block that fetches them a total reward of around 50 Bitcoins for their efforts. This reward is to be reduced over time to 25 Bitcoins, then to 12.5 Bitcoins, and so on. Eventually, the miners are expected to be rewarded for their efforts with the small transaction fees that is attached to each transaction. This results in the creation of more Bitcoins, which is why it is known as ‘mining’ as it resembles the production of similar limited resources like gold and currency.
Explaining the actual processing that happens during mining requires a more detailed understanding of cryptography and hashing. But, in simple words, it is a process that is intentionally made difficult so that blocks are produced at a rate of around one block every ten minutes for all the miners, which is a total of six blocks per hour.
What actually happens during mining is that miners try to produce the next block by using the hash value of the current block, along with the representation of the next set of transactions shown as a Merkle root, which is added along with a nonce value. The nonce value keeps increasing until the correct solution is produced, which is lower than the target value. Whichever miner solves the problem in the fastest time gets the reward of the Bitcoins, and this process keeps repeating.
Buying Bitcoin in India
While mining Bitcoin is definitely not for everyone, there are some places where you can buy Bitcoins at a value pegged to the US dollar in the popular Bitcoin exchanges like Mt Gox, etc. Some of the places you can buy Bitcoin in India are:
  • BuySellBitco.in
  • Mt Gox
  • LocalBitcoins.com
Of these, BuySellBitco.in is the only exchange in India which accepts payments through Net banking, IMPS and cheques on ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and SBI. Localbitcoins.com is a website that lists traders who are ready to sell Bitcoins in your local area at a specified price. Mt Gox is an American exchange that allows you to specify bids at a specific price, provided you are able to fund your account through international wire transfer, which would prove to be quite expensive and is recommended only if you intend to trade in very large denominations.
I have not covered too many technical aspects of Bitcoin, since this article only aims to provide you with an introduction to it. This is something which is bound to be a part of your future. While the future of Bitcoin is still not secure, one thing is for sure—the idea itself has changed the way we think about money and even if it fails to be as popular as we expect it to be, peer to peer cryptographic currency is bound to be a part of the future economy.
References
[1]    https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Main_Page
[2]    http://bitcoin.org/en/getting-started
[3]    www.trybtc.com
[4]    Bitcoin White paper – http://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

16 septembre 2014

Analysis of the Top 10 Linux Operating Systems

Introduction


The “Everyday Linux User” website is dedicated to the average, ordinary, everyday, computer user who has a basic working knowledge of computers and who uses their computer for common tasks such as listening to music, playing games, watching videos, writing documents and editing photos and video clips.

Quite a common question asked at sites such as Reddit and Yahoo answers is “Which distro should I use?” and it is usually followed up by a brief set of requirements and the names of distributions that the user has heard of.

Users are confused when they first come to Linux about which distribution they should be using and I have heard people say “I was thinking of Ubuntu or Arch” or “I was thinking about Gentoo and how hard is it to use Linux From Scratch”.

Quite often these same users are sent off to Distrowatch to check out the distributions listed on that site and I’m sure many of those users then look at the rankings down the right hand side.
The truth is though that out of the top 10 only a handful are really going to be useful for a beginner or everyday user.

This article lists the top 10 distributions according to Distrowatch for 2013 and gives a brief outline of the purpose of those distributions and whether they are the sort of operating systems a new user or average computer user should be using as their first port of call.

Linux Mint














Linux Mint is clearly one of the distributions that the readers of this blog should be checking out.
The order of the day for Linux Mint is evolution over revolution and if you are looking for a traditional desktop oriented operating system with taskbars, system trays and menus then Linux Mint is definitely worth a go.

Linux Mint is a  “straight out of the box” operating system and as soon as you install it you can easily do the sort of tasks you would normally do without having to install any extra software.
Setting up the internet is a breeze as is installing peripherals.

There are a number of different desktop environments available for Linux Mint including Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE and even KDE. Use the Cinnamon or KDE desktop environments on newer hardware and MATE, XFCE environments on older hardware.

Linux is really good at sticking to a theme and so it doesn’t matter which desktop environment you choose the general look and feel and behaviour of the operating system is the same.

Click here for a full review of Linux Mint

Ubuntu


Ubuntu is the distribution that most people have heard of and consequently it is the first Linux based operating system that they try.
The fact that Ubuntu is number 2 in the rankings might actually be down to the fact that because most people have heard of Ubuntu they go straight to the downloads page rather than to Distrowatch. This is of course opinion and not necessarily fact.

I believe that Ubuntu is delivering everything that Microsoft wanted Windows 8 to achieve. The Unity desktop once you get used to it is a slick desktop environment and it is easy to see how it could work on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.

Ubuntu isn’t for everyone though.  

The fine line between integration and intrusion is encroached upon by Ubuntu and if you aren’t comfortable with seeing adverts for products within your desktop experience then you might want to move on to another distribution or one of the other buntus such as Kubuntu, Lubuntu or Xubuntu.

Unlike Linux Mint the emphasis is about testing the boundaries. The desktop, although clearly not to some peoples tastes, is forward thinking and modern.
Add to the mix the integration of Steam for gaming and you have a really good operating system.

Ubuntu is definitely a Linux based operating system for the everyday user.

Click here for a review of Ubuntu

Debian


Debian has been around for what feels like forever and it provides the base for hundreds of other distributions including Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
Debian contains a set of repositories with an incredibly large number of applications available for users to install.

The versions of Debian available on their site only install free software and there are no third party or proprietary products included by default.

For new users, setting up Debian can be somewhat of a challenge compared to Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

The choice of which version of Debian to run is also quite tricky and depends on the person who will be using it. If you want the latest stuff today then you can install the unstable branch which has all the latest products but they may or may not work for you. At the other end of the scale you can choose the stable branch which has older versions of software that are pretty much guaranteed to work.

Debian is like Linux Lego. It is great for people who want to start from a base installation and build something from the ground up. It may not be suitable for people who have limited computer skills and it requires more of a learning curve than Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

I would suggest that Debian would be “The Next Step” when it comes to trying out Linux.

Click here for a review of Debian

Mageia


10 years ago the Linux landscape looked a lot different to how it looks today. Ubuntu was still in development.
At that time there were other Linux operating systems leading the way including Mandrake (Mandriva), openSUSE and PCLinuxOS. Mageia was originally a fork of the Mandriva codebase and it is a community driven distribution targeting the same sort of users as Ubuntu and Mint.

Mageia in theory is another operating system that new users to Linux should try out. 

Mageia is released for all the major desktop environments including Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE. 

My advice is to definitely give it a try because there are people out there who swear by this operating system and think it is the best there is. What I would say though is that if you don’t like it, don’t dismiss Linux based on your experience with Mageia.

Click here for a full review of Mageia

Fedora


At the beginning of the article I mentioned that people often mention distributions that they have heard of whilst asking for advice on which one to use. Fedora’s name quite often comes up.
Fedora is cutting edge. There is less reliance on stability and more reliance on trying out new things. If you want the latest stuff now then Fedora is definitely the way to go.

For new users though the installer itself is a bit of a tricky customer and you may find the odd issue as you go along.

You should also be aware that Fedora, along with Debian, only ships with free software and you have to jump through a couple of extra hoops to install proprietary software and drivers.

As with Debian, I would say that Fedora is “The Next Step”.

Click here for a review of Fedora

openSUSE



openSUSE is a community distribution with big backing.

As with Mageia and Mint there are a number of desktop environments to choose from including Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE.
openSUSE should definitely be tried by new users and users looking for an alternative to Mint, Mageia and Ubuntu.
The operating system is stable and it is relatively easy to set up and use.
openSUSE has been around for a long time as well so there is little danger of it disappearing in the near to medium term future.

Click here for a review of openSUSE

PCLinuxOS


A definite must try for new users to Linux. It always surprises me that PCLinuxOS languishes lower down in the top 10 rather than sitting up in 2nd or 3rd.
For new and inexperienced users, PCLinuxOS provides the closest experience to what they are probably used to than any of the aforementioned distributions (with the possible exception of Linux Mint).

There is great support and a great monthly magazine and the community is very friendly and supportive.

PCLinuxOS has the KDE, MATE and LXDE desktop environments available and therefore it caters to modern and older computers.

PCLinuxOS has a rolling release model which means that once you install it you will never have to upgrade.

Click here for a review of PCLinuxOS

Manjaro


The rise of Manjaro has been nothing short of amazing. Based on Arch Linux, Manjaro provides an instant entry point into the world of Arch Linux.
The setup of Manjaro is fairly straight forward and it performances very well on older and modern hardware.

The learning curve for Manjaro is potentially a little bit steeper than the likes of Mint, Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS.

This is not necessarily therefore a distribution that should be considered a first choice for the average computer user.

Click here for a review of Manjaro

Arch


It scares me the number of people who have never tried Linux before that ask the question “Should I try Ubuntu or Arch first?”
If you are new to Linux and your computer skills are limited then Arch is definitely not your first port of call.

Even if you are an experienced Linux user, Arch may not be your next port of call.

There is no doubt that Arch will provide you a great base to build and tailor your operating system the way you want it to be but to get there you have to want to invest time and you have to be willing to learn on your feet (sounds like a job specification, must be a self-starter).

If you can read and follow instructions and think about what you are doing as you are doing it then there is definitely merit in trying Arch out. Ultimately if you succeed then you will feel great satisfaction knowing that you have a stable, secure, reliable and highly responsive operating system.

The documentation for Arch is excellent. The support from the forums can be a little bit hit and miss depending on whether the questions you ask show that you have put in the effort to try and solve your issues first. For instance saying that you can’t do basic things without having followed the beginners guide will be answered in the standard way. Read the manual.

If you are an average user then Arch may not be for you.

Click here for a look at Arch

Puppy


Puppy is designed to run from a USB pen drive or from DVD. It is not designed to be installed to the hard drive although it can be.
The approach taken by Puppy is about minimalism where functionality trumps pretty graphics.

All the usual favourites can be installed including FireFox and VLC but there are a host of lightweight alternatives installed by default.

Puppy isn’t really an operating system therefore that I would advise inexperienced users to use as their main operating system but I can’t stress enough that you should give it a go by running it from a USB drive.

You can have great fun playing around with Puppy Linux and if you always carry a USB drive with you then you have a bootable version of Linux available wherever you go.

Click here for a series of reviews about different versions of Puppy

Summary

Hopefully this guide has shed some light on the operating systems currently occupying the top slots at Distrowatch.
You should now be able to choose from the distributions that are most relevant to your situation.

For the everyday Linux user I recommend one of Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Mageia, openSUSE and PCLinuxOS with the addition of Puppy on a pen drive.
Thankyou for reading.

About the Author
Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.
 
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