Which is the Best Linux Distribution for your Desktop?


Linux today comes in several different flavors or distros as they are known in Linux circles.

Some Linux distributions are light-weight (they’ll run just fine on your old laptop), some are targeted at people who just want to try out Linux without replacing their main OS while other desktop distros (say Ubuntu) include a more comprehensive collection of software applications and also support a wide variety of hardware devices.

Choose the Right Linux Distro for your Desktop
Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Xandros, Knoppix, Fedora, openSUSE etc. are just some of the popular Linux distros but you’ll be surprised to know that there exists over 650 active distros in the world according to DistroWatch, a site that tracks the popularity of various Linux distributions.
Determining the perfect Linux distribution that will meet your requirements can therefore be a difficult task so here’s a handy guide that lists different scenarios and the Linux distros that will be the most appropriate for each of them.

1. For people who just want to try Linux out

Live CD distributions like Knoppix boot directly from the CD-ROM so you can try out Linux without you having to install anything on your computer. The user can run many different software applications and he may also save documents / files created during a Live CD session to persistent storage like a hard disk or a flash drive.
A Linux Live CD can also be used in situations when your windows has crashed and you want to save your existing data on another media before reinstalling windows. The only problem is that such distributions tend to run slower than fully installed Linux distributions.
If you aren’t too happy with the speed of a Live CD, you can use a Wubi to install the Ubuntu Linux distro on your Windows desktop. Wubi allows you to install and uninstall Ubuntu on your computer just like any Windows application. As compared to other Linux distributions, Ubuntu has got a fixed release cycle and support period and a wealth of both official and user contributed online documentation.
There’s another interesting option as well – you may install Linux in a virtual environment and run it alongside other Windows /Mac applications. Virtualization software like Virtual PC (Microsoft), Virtual Box (Sun) or VMare can be easily used for this purpose. Just download the Linux ISO (or use the Linux installer CD if you have one) and follow the wizard to set up your new Linux virtual machine.

2. For people who are new to Linux

Among the GNU/Linux desktop distributions, Linux Mint provides an ease of use and elegance not seen in other distributions. Linux Mint is is based on Ubuntu (which itself is based on Debian) so users have a large collection of software programs and packages to choose from. If something works for Ubuntu or Debian, it’ll probably work on Linux Mint as well.
Linux Mint CD comes with a utility called mint4win that will let you install Linux on your Windows computer on other partition without touching any of your existing setup. The performance won’t be that great but you can easily uninstall Linux from your Windows PC using the Add/Remove applications tool within Windows.
Ubuntu (Desktop edition) is also a great choice for Linux users who are beginners. It supports a wide-variety of hardware devices, has a standard release cycle (every six months) and, if you don’t have a great Internet connection, you can ask Ubuntu to ship you installation DVDs for free anywhere in the world.
OpenSUSE (Novell) and Fedora (Red Hat) are other popular Linux distros for the desktop that are both free and user-friendly.
Among the commercial distros, Xandros Home Edition is perhaps the most useful Linux desktop operating system for newbies. Xandros includes CodeWeavers CrossOver so you can easily run Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and many other Windows applications inside Xandros.

3. For installing Linux on old computers

Puppy Linux is a Live CD distribution that has a small installer and will run just fine on computers with RAM as little as 64 MB. Puppy Linux can boot from several media including USB flash drives, CD or a zip drive. Puppy Linux will run totally in RAM so make sure you save the modified personal files to a disk else you’ll lose the changes when the system shuts down.
Xubuntu, a variant of Ubuntu is also a possibility. Xubuntu uses xfce, a desktop environment that uses less system resources than GNOME that comes with the Ubuntu distribution. Xubuntu versions are released twice a year, coinciding with Ubuntu releases.
antiX is another good choice for old computers – it should run on systems that were considered slow when Windows 98 was released (like the Pentium II series). Damn Small Linux and Zenwalk are other variations that have minimal hardware requirements.

4. For using Linux at work

Redhat Enterprise Linux and and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (formerly known as Novell Linux Desktop) are the front runners in the business category of Linux distros. Traditionally though, Redhat has concentrated more on the server market than the desktop market. Xandros Desktop is another choice except that Xandros is a small company and most business organizations would prefer to deal with large stable vendors.
Red Hat Enterprise ServerSUSE Enterprise and Ubuntu Server are possible contenders for deploying Linux on server machines. Some factors that go in favor of Red Hat are extensive security updates schedule (7 years), large number of new packages included in the distro and a strong training and certification program which is very useful for organizations that do not have in house skills.

5. Linux for Netbook computers

Netbooks are like your regular notebook computers but with small screens, they consume less power but also have less powerful hardware. Linux distros that are suitable for running on netbooks include Ubuntu Netbook, Moblin and Jolicloud.
Ubuntu Netbook requires an Intel Atom processor. If you already have a Ubuntu installer, you can install the desktop version of Ubuntu on your netbook, change the default repository to point to Ubuntu Network Editor repository and then install the relevant packages.
Jolicloud is suitable for running on low-powered computers that don’t have enough memory or storage space. The interface of Jolicloud is gorgeous and different from all other Linux distros. It is based on Ubuntu so any app that works with Ubuntu will run on Jolicloud as well. You may install Jolicloud alongside your Windows OS or download the ISO to install Jolicloud on a separate partition.
Moblin, another Linux distro from netbooks, was initially a project of Intel but is now part of the Linux Foundation. You can run Mobile from a live USB image or you install the OS on to the netbook. Going forward, Moblin and Maemo* will merge into MeeGo and will be available for download in Q2  ’10.
[*] Maemo is Debian Linux based software platform from Nokia.

6. For power users who want control

Arch Linux is a recommended distro for power (experienced) users as it allows them to create a customized Linux installation built from the ground up. It does not have a graphical install interface.
Once the Arch Linux installation is done, there is no post-install account creation or login manager screen. Instead, there is a screen full of configuration files that have to be tweaked to suit the network and system configuration. This allows the user to tailor the system from the ground up as compared to a ‘user-friendly’ distro where one would get a standard set of packages and will have to remove the ones that are not needed
Slackware is another distro that deserves mention in this context. As compared to Arch Linux, Slackware Linux provides more stable packages and is thus more conservative. However, Arch Linux provides a more usable package management system that takes care of dependencies.
Slackware third party packagers on the other hand, have to ensure that everything is included in the package or available for download from the same web page. It is the oldest surviving Linux distribution. Since Slackware philosophy is to use vanilla packages, it tends to run faster than other distros.

References and Resources:
  • List of Linux distributions – We only touch a dozen Linux distros but this Wikipedia article will provide you detailed information (including screenshot images) of all popular Linux distributions.
  • Netbook Distros – Detailed comparison of netbook oriented Linux distributions.
  • Linux Distribution Chooser – This is a web based wizard that will help you find the right Linux distribution for your needs.
  • Comparison of Linux distributions – You can compare the various Linux distros from a technical point of view like what processors they support, what is the base distribution, etc.
  • Linux Releases – This page tracks the upcoming releases of various Linux distros.
  • Linux Gaming – If you use Linux for playing games, this article has a list of popular video games that are currently available for Linux.

    Top 15 Ways to Extend Your Laptop’s Battery Life

    Laptops tend to lose their charm quickly when you’re constantly looking for the nearest power outlet to charge up.  How do you keep your battery going for as long as possible?  Here are 15 easy ways to do so.

    1. Defrag regularly -  The faster your hard drive does its work – less demand you are going to put on the hard drive and your battery.  Make your hard drive as efficient as possible by defragging it regularly. (but not while it’s on battery of course!) Mac OSX is better built to handle fragmentation so it may not be very applicable for Apple systems.

    2. Dim your screen – Most laptops come with the ability to dim your laptop screen.  Some even come with ways to modify CPU and cooling performance.  Cut them down to the lowest level you can tolerate to squeeze out some extra battery juice.

    3. Cut down on programs running in the background.  Itunes, Desktop Search, etc.  All these add to the CPU load and cut down battery life.  Shut down everything that isn’t crucial when you’re on battery.

    4. Cut down external devices – USB devices (including your mouse) & WiFi drain down your laptop battery.  Remove or shut them down when not in use.  It goes without saying that charging other devices (like your iPod) with your laptop when on battery is a surefire way of quickly wiping out the charge on your laptop  battery.

    5. Add more RAM - This will allow you to process more with the memory your laptop has, rather than relying on virtual memory.  Virtual memory results in hard drive use, and is much less power efficient. Note that adding more RAM will consume more energy, so this is most applicable if you do need to run memory intensive programs which actually require heavy usage of virtual memory.

    6. Run off a hard drive rather than CD/DVD - As power consuming as hard drives are, CD and DVD drives are worse.  Even having one in the drive can be power consuming.  They spin, taking power, even when they?re not actively being used.  Wherever possible, try to run on virtual drives using programs like Alcohol 120% rather than optical ones.

    7.  Keep the battery contacts clean:  Clean your battery’s metal contacts every couple of months with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol.  This keeps the transfer of power from your battery more efficient.

    8. Take care of your battery – Exercise the Battery.  Do not leave a charged battery dormant for long periods of time.  Once charged, you should at least use the battery at least once every two to three weeks. Also, do not let a Li-On battery completely discharge. (Discharing is only for older batteries with memory effects)

    9. Hibernate not standby – Although placing a laptop in standby mode saves some power and you can instantly resume where you left off, it doesn’t save anywhere as much power as the hibernate function does.  Hibernating a PC will actually save your PC’s state as it is, and completely shut itself down.

    10. Keep operating temperature down - Your laptop operates more efficiently when it’s cooler.  Clean out your air vents with a cloth or keyboard cleaner, or refer to some extra tips by LapTopMag.com.

    11. Set up and optimize your power options – Go to ‘Power Options’ in your windows control panel and set it up so that power usage is optimized (Select the ‘max battery’ for maximum effect).

    12. Don’t multitask – Do one thing at a time when you’re on battery.  Rather than working on a spreadsheet, letting your email client run in the background and listening to your latest set of MP3's, set your mind to one thing only.  If you don’t you’ll only drain out your batteries before anything gets completed!

    13. Go easy on the PC demands – The more you demand from your PC.  Passive activities like email and word processing consume much less power than gaming or playing a DVD.  If you’ve got a single battery charge – pick your priorities wisely.

    14. Get yourself a more efficient laptop -  Laptops are getting more and more efficient in nature to the point where some manufacturers are talking about all day long batteries.  Picking up a newer more efficient laptop to replace an aging one is usually a quick fix.

    15. Prevent the Memory Effect - If you’re using a very old laptop, you’ll want to prevent the ‘memory effect’ – Keep the battery healthy by fully charging and then fully discharging it at least once every two to three weeks. Exceptions to the rule are Li-Ion batteries (which most laptops have) which do not suffer from the memory effect.

    Bonus Tip #1: Turn off the autosave function.  MS-Word’s and Excel’s autosave functions are great but because they keep saving regular intervals, they work your hard driver harder than it may have to. If you plan to do this, you may want to turn it back on as the battery runs low. While it saves battery life in the beginning,  you will want to make sure your work is saved when your battery dies.

    Bonus Tip #2: Lower the graphics use. You can do this by changing the screen resolution and shutting off fancy graphic drivers. Graphics cards (video cards) use as much or more power today as hard disk.

    Linux logout user or logoff user commands

    Q. How do I logout Linux user?

    A. root or admin user can logout any user forcefully. If you are logged in as vivek and just wanted to logout or logoff, type logout command or hit CTRL+D:


    $ logout

    You will be logout of a login shell session or secure shell session.

    Task: Linux logout user

    If you would like to logout other users, you must login as root user. Next you need to use pkill command.

    pkill command syntax

    pkill -KILL -u {username}


    To see list of logged in user type who or w command:

    # who

    # w


    To logout user called raj, enter:

    # pkill -KILL -u sam


    $ sudo pkill -KILL -u sam


    Find a file by name in UNIX/Solaris/Linux

    Using the find command, locate a file by name

    To find a file such as filename.txt anywhere on the system:
    find / -name filename.txt -print
    Recent operating system versions do not require the print option because this is the default. To limit the search to a specific directory such as /usr:
    find /usr -name filename.txt -print

    Mount an ISO file in Linux

    It is convenient to mount an ISO file directly instead of burning it to a CD first. This recipe describes the command used to mount an ISO image on a Linux system.

    To mount the ISO image file.iso to the mount point /mnt/test use this command:
    ~ ~ ~ 
     #mount -o loop -t iso9660 file.iso /mnt/test

    ~ ~ ~

    Google Search from your mobile via sms, Now Available in India

    Power cuts are no big deal in India. If you ever fell victim of power cuts and wanted to do some google search in that time or just want a mobile Google Search Solution, Google India has launched the SMS search service. The sms costs you (Rs 2 or whatever is the rate for national sms for your provider). This is a big plus because you dont have to pay for premium sms as you would have to do if you used other shortcodes.
    So how do you perform a search? The number to remember (or to add to your contacts) for google search is:
    Send your query as sms to this number and you will get a reply containing the results. Here is a sample reply which you would get if you search for “weather delhi”. There are special searches for trains, cricket scores and similar stuff.You can find some example queries and other details here.
    Similar service existed in other countries like US, but has recently been launched in India. A welcome feature for the mobile phone crazy India! Way to go Google India!

    Windows 7: How to Enable Disk Quota Management

    By using Disk Quotas, administrators can limit how much disk space users can utilize on an NTFS formatted volume. This is essential in limiting the amount of personal data (music files, photos, videos, etc.) and also to help make the user practice better file management.

    1. Click the Orb (Start button) and select Computer.
    2. Right-click the volume you want to enable disk quotas on and select Properties.
    3. Select the Quota tab.
    4. Click the Show Quota Settings button.
    5. Continue through the UAC prompt.
    6. Click the Enable Quota Management checkbox. Also check the Deny disk space to users exceeding quota limit checkbox so that users will receive an insufficient disk space error when they exceed quota limits.Select the Limit disk space radio button and input the desired amount of space using the textbox and dropdown. Input the desired amount of space that you wish the user to receive a warning at.
    8. Click the OK button.

    Innovative Ways To Access Blocked Sites

    Is you school, college or office blocking you from getting on social network sites like Friendster, Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Hi5, Orkut, etc? Here’s few ways you can bypass the restrictions and surf like normal, but please check with your local authorities before using them. We will not held any responsibility if you’ve breach the regulations of any.

    Full list after jump.

    1. Using IP Instead of URL

      This depends on the software/application used. Sometimes blocked sites are stored as a list of URLs (eg. www.yahoo.com, www.donwload.com,etc) and typing the IP instead of the URL might sometimes work. In a local computer, doing a ping domain.com command in Command Prompt (Mac users use Terminal) will return you the IP address. You can also do it online via www.whatsmyip.org
    2. Redirection with Short URL service

      Sometimes the URL you intend to browse might be ban, but converting them to another a shorter URL with short URL services might just help you to bypass the settings.
      Here’s 2 Short URL service we’ve previously mentioned – MooURL, SnipURL
    3. Google Cache

      Search engines like Google and Yahoo cache webpages and these cached pages are stored in search engines themselves, which likely will be added to the blocked list. Click on the ‘cache’ will bring you to a cache version of the page, as updated as how Google caches it.
      google cache
    4. Internet Archive – Wayback Machine

      Wayback Machine is a internet service that periodically keeps a copy of almost all websites in the Internet way from the date they’re started. Clicking on the latest copy of what Wayback Machine have should be somewhat similar to the real site. Another way to access blocked sites via caches.
      wayback machine
    5. Anonymous Surfing

      Some site allows you to take advantage of their proxy or domain to surf other sites as anonymous. Here’s 90+ proxy websites we’ve previously mentioned.
      More anonymous surfing services:
      90+ Proxy Websites To Access Blocked Websites
    6. Use Proxy in Browsers

      There are tons of sites out there that distributes free proxies of almost any country. Here’s an example. Check out the following methods on how/where to insert proxies in your web browsers.
      Proxy Surfing – Firefox

      proxy firefox 9 Alternative Ways To Access Blocked Sites
      Under Advanced tab, select Network tab, then click inside Connection Settings. Select Manual proxy configuration, put proxy under HTTP proxy.
      Proxy Surfing – Internet Explorer

      proxy ie 9 Alternative Ways To Access Blocked Sites
      Go to Tools -> Internet Options. Select Connections tab. Click into LAN Settings, check Proxy Server. Insert your proxy URL inside Address.
    7. Bypass with Translations services

      Online translation services like AltaVista BabelFish, Google Translate allows you to translate a website from one language to another and display the translated results on their own page.The trick here is to enter the URL (website you’re blocked), retranslate it even if you don’t need to and let Google or AltaVista fetch you the content.
    8. Subscribe to RSS Feed

    9. This might not work for all sites, but if the site you intended to visit provides RSS feeds, you can subscribe and read it with a RSS reader, or have it regularly send the contents to your email
    10. Retrieve web pages via Email

    11. Web2Mail is a free service that sends websites you want to read right into your inbox. All you need to do is send an email to www@web2mail.com with the URL as subject title.

    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for Beginners

    These Photoshop beginner tips and shortcuts address some of the most common things you'll do in Photoshop, and learning them will save you lots of time down the road.

    Create Project-Specific Custom Workspaces
    Photoshop lets you create custom workspaces that display just the palettes you need for a specific project. For instance, if you're planning on working with text, you'll want to have the Paragraph and the Character palette open. But later you might be editing some Photos and want to close your text palettes to make room for photo editing palettes like color swatches and brushes. With custom workspaces you can switch quickly.
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersOnce you've arranged the palettes just the way you want them, choose Window> Workspace> Save Workspace. Name your workspace and then click Save. Here's another tip - plan ahead so your custom workspace names make sense. This will be another time-saver later on when you need to locate one from the Workspace submenu.

    Display The Same Image In Two Windows
    When doing detail work on an image you may need to zoom in to take a closer look at the pixels. But to make sure that any changes you're making in this magnified state will look realistic at a normal view you'll have to zoom out for a quick look. Here's a great tip - instead of zooming in and out you can have the same image open in two windows at the same time.
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersWith an open image selected choose Window> Arrange> New Window (the original file name will be listed). The same image will now appear in a new second window. 
    Keep one window set at 100% to see your effects, and work in the second window - either zoomed in or zoomed out. Sweet.

    Instant Grabber Hand
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for Beginners
    Ever been frustrated by having to switch tools to move your image around the canvas? Here's the solution — Press the Spacebar to temporarily activate the Hand Tool. Click to move an image freely inside a canvas area that is smaller than the image. Release the Spacebar and the hand tool will revert back to the current tool you have selected. 

    Getting Rid Of The Marching Ants
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersSelecting an object will activate a line of dashes that blink to show you the selection's edge (marching ants), but they can be a visual nuisance at times. To quickly hide the selection marquee, Press Command+H (PC: Control+H). To view them again just repeat the shortcut.

    Quick Revert - The Undo Command
    To undo your last image modification Press Control+Z (MAC: Command+Z), and repeat the shortcut to undo the undo. Toggling back and forth like this is a good technique to review the before and after effects of a one-step change to an image, like dodge or burn.

    For situations where you need to perform a multiple undo, go Edit> Step Backward or use Control-Alt-Z (MAC: Command-Option-Z. To go the other way (multiple redo) go Edit> Step Forward or use Control-Shift-Z (MAC: Command-Shift-Z). The number of steps available is the same as the number of History States, which can be changed in General Preferences.

    Control Your Color Squares
    Press D to reset your color squares to their default of black as the foreground color and white as the background color.
    Press X to switch your foreground color and your background color.
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersTo change the color of one of the color squares Click on a Color Square. This brings up the color picker, where you can select a new color.

    Selecting Colors From An Image Quickly
    Press I to activate the Eyedropper Tool and then click on any color in your image to turn that color into the foreground color. Press the ALT Key and click on any color in your image to turn that color into the background color.

    Change Brush Tip Sizes Quickly
    With a brush selected, simply Press the Right Bracket Key "]" to increase the size of your brush tip, or Press the Left Bracket Key "[" to decrease the size of your brush tip.

    The Move Tool & The Arrow Keys
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersGet in the habit of calling up the Move Tool with the keyboard shortcut, which is the letter V. Also, once the Move Tool is active you can use your Keyboard Arrow Keys to nudge a layer or selection in 1 pixel increments. To speed things up, Press Shift along with an arrow key to nudge in 10 pixel increments.

    Hide Your Palettes
    Press Tab once to hide all your palettes. Press Tab again to bring them back. Press Shift+Tab to hide all your palettes except the toolbar.

    Zooming In & Zooming Out
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersTo zoom in Press Command and the plus sign "+" (PC: Control and the plus sign). To zoom out Press Command and the minus sign "-" (PC: Control and the minus sign).

    Navigating In Magnified Images
    If you've zoomed in on a large image and have lost your bearings you can jump quickly to specific views using these shortcuts:
    Press the Home Key to set the view to the top left hand corner of your image.
    Press the End Key to set the view to the bottom right hand corner of your image.
    Press the Page Down Key to move the view one full screen down.
    Press Command+Page Down (PC: Control+Page Down) to move the view one full screen to the right.
    Press Command+Page Up (PC: Control+Page Up) to move the view one full screen to the left.

    Selecting Just The Pixels On A Layer
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersAn easy way to select an object that is on a transparent layer is to Press the Command Key (PC: Control key) and click on the layer with the object in the Layers Palette. This makes sure that only the opaque pixels (the pixels that are visible) will be selected with the marching ants, instead of the entire layer.

    Tile Images For Better Visibility
    When you open many files at once Photoshop has them cascade, and the overlapping files can make it difficult to select individual ones. To get around this choose Window> Arrange> Tile and all of your open files will rearrange themselves to be visible all at once. When you're ready to close them all don't spend time closing them individually, instead use the Close All shortcut Command+Alt+W (PC: Control+Option+W).

    Getting Rid Of The Welcome Screen - And Bringing It Back
    Photoshop Tips and Tricks for BeginnersWhen first launching Photoshop CS you'll see a Welcome Screen that has links to some Tutorials, some Tips and Tricks, and a set of Color Management Help Files. After a while you might want to get rid of this screen. There's a check box at the bottom you can select to hide the screen at startup. 
    If you change your mind later and decide you'd like to investigate the tutorials and other goodies, you can temporarily bring the screen back by going under the Help menu and choosing Welcome Screen.

    Cycle Through All Of Your Open Documents 
    Sometimes you'll want to find one of your open documents that is hidden, but navigating using the Window menu won't help because you can't recall the name of the file. Instead press Control-Tab repeatedly (MAC and PC) to cycle through all of your open documents.