Welcome to linuxreviewsandguides.blogspot.com

Having been a user of Linux for a while now, I know there are plenty of sites for technical information, but sometimes I have struggled to find a site that offers just general reviews, guides and help. Hopefully, over the coming months this blog will build up a great collection of all things Linux to help new and old users alike.

Although I am concentrating on Ubuntu variants, I'm sure there will be something here for everyone. It's early days yet, and I am more than willing to add any contributions! Please follow the blog and keep up with all things Linux.

Here is a list of output you will find on the site:
* General Linux software reviews.
* Various Linux distribution reviews.
* Tips on installing various software.
* Weekly news round-up (On Sundays).
* Linux game reviews.
* Guides

And so much more!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Linux Game Review - Frozen Bubble

Since the dawn of the video game, game designers have been struggling to make the perfect puzzle-come-action video game. Of course one of the biggest success stories is Tetris, a game which I'm sure everyone has played. However, there is another game out there which I believe is just as addictive... Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move! In the original you controlled a character (of which you could choose among others, Bud or Bob from the original Bubble Bobble games) who had to aim a cannon at a set-piece pattern of balloons and by matching the colours, wipe-out the set-piece pattern when two or more colours of the same colour matched.

Frozen Bubble then takes everything from Puzzle Bobble. Its a complete clone in every sense of the word. Your objective is the same, the graphics are similar and the whole game is almost identical. The great thing is, this is not a bad thing as Frozen Bubble is a brilliant game!

Game modes include One Player Mode, Two Player Mode, LAN Game and NET Game. Each game has you doing the same thing, trying to destroy all the bubbles before your opponent or before they reach the bottom of the screen. Its simple but effective and most importantly its addictive!

Graphically the game looks cute and the sprites and graphics are all well drawn. The sound is simply superb with great arcade-like sound effects and a brilliant tune playing. The game can be played in window mode and full-screen and you have complete control on the amount of detail on show. The screen-shot to the right says everything you need to know about the game, which shows just how simple the game play is whilst playing.

So, to conclude, Frozen Puzzle is everything good about Bust-A-Move/Puzzle Bobble, only its free! Its a time waster, and sometimes minutes can turn into hours, so be warned in advance!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Easiest Way To Experience Linux

Many people are afraid to take the step to try out a Linux variant on their PCS. To many it seems daunting and they think there is going to be a huge learning curve. However, there are two simple techniques that allow you to try out most of the benefits of a Linux distribution without having to install over their current OS.

The first method is the easiest and the best way to experience Linux, and that is with what is known as a Live CD. You simply go to the website of the Linux variant you want to try (such as the Pinguy OS website) and download the Operating Systems disc image which is available in the download section (this will usually be a .iso file). All you need to do then is burn the .iso as an image using your favourite burning software. It is highly recommended that you burn at the lowest possible speed to make sure that the copy is 100% accurate. Once copied, place in your CD drive, turn off your PC and then turn your PC back on again.

Once your PC re-starts, you will notice it running before your Operating System kicks-in. Do not panic at this point, as it is not installing anything onto your hard-drive. Usually, the disc will then bring up a menu which allows you to try the Live CD or install the Operating System plus a few other options. Simply select to try out the OS as a Live CD and let the program do its thing. Moments later you will be have a working version of your Linux distribution of choice! Feel free to play with it to your hearts content! Remember though, that it will be slightly slower due to it accessing the CD, however, it will give you a good idea of how the Linux distro works.

The second method is to download the .iso file and run it in a virtual machine. This seems to be some peoples main choice of playing with Linux distro's, however, I have rarely got it to be as reliable as using a Live CD. You will have the speed, and most of the time the general look, however I find this method of experiencing Linux to be the least reliable.

Once you have tried out your Linux distro of choice, you may not want a complete re-install and want to run it side-by-side with Windows... just in case. This is also possible, and all Ubuntu variants offer a side-by-side install. This is how I first experienced the wonders of Linux, however I soon found Linux was taking more and more of my computer time and now I solely use Pinguy OS on all my PCs and Laptops.

One final word. Whichever way you decide to try out Linux, just play around with it and have fun!

Mark Adams
19 August 2011

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Using A USB Memory Stick In Linux

This is only a small article for those of you who may have noticed that a USB stick when plugged into your Linux system acts slightly different to when you used to use it in your Windows system.

The first time I ever deleted things from my USB stick and then tried to put new items onto it I was quite perplexed by the fact that I didn’t seem to have much memory on my card as I should. In one instance I deleted 4GB worth of music and films off a 4GB USB memory stick and then tried to drag and drop new contents onto it and it kept telling me I had no room on the memory stick!

At first, my solution was to format the USB stick and try again. However, this is of course not practical in any way. And then I discovered something so simple that it was staring me in the face all the time…

So, when you delete items from your USB memory stick in Linux, make sure you do not remove it! Before you unplug the memory stick, simply click on your wastebasket and delete all the contents in that. Yes, this simple thing then makes sure that you can use your USB memory stick with ease.

Its sometimes the little things that make Linux different enough to put people off using Linux Operating Systems. Hopefully this tip will make you realise that its not always that much different, just slightly different.

Mark Adams
August 16th 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Linux Weekly Roundup Sunday 14th August 2011

Welcome to the weekly Linux round-up for Sunday August 14th 2011. We'll start off with Distrowatch news, and I've been following Pinguy on the weekly rankings which climbed to number 18 and presently sits at number 20. I'm quite shocked it has not risen  any higher, but its still early day for the distro yet. Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, Gentoo and Debian take up the top 5 spots, interestingly I have not tried Gentoo yet and will make sure I try it out for the site as soon as possible. There is a distro called dyne:bolic which is at 15, which is apparently a CD based OS able to manipulate audio and visual broadcasts. Based on Ubuntu it'd be interesting to hear more about this distro.

In other news, both Puppy OS and Ultimate Edition have new releases out this week and although they are a different end of the Linux scale in terms of content and usability, both are well worth trying out if you are looking for something different in the Linux World. Puppy is a super light-weight OS with great stability and Ultimate Edition is yet another Ubuntu based package with some very sexy tweaks.

Adobe has released Flash 11Beta 2 which is said to be more stable and faster than previous versions. However, if you're a Linux user experiencing difficulties with Flash websites I advise you to use Pinguy OS as it handles Flash with no problems at all. Both 32 and 64 bit versions are available and can be downloaded from Adobes website.

Finally, there have been even more changes to the up and coming Ubuntu 11.10. Its going to be slicker, sexier, quicker, more stable and more fun than ever before and I for one am really excited about trying it out. A review for the new OS will be on the site within a few days of its release.

Mark Adams
August 14th 2011

Using An iPod In Linux with Banshee

Many people are afraid you use Linux because they think that their beloved iPod may not work on the Operating System. This however could not be further from the truth, and from the oldest iPods to the newest iPads, Linux as an Operating System will handle them.

This guide is based on using your Apple machine along side Pinguy/Ubuntu/Mint and variants, and should be almost identical for any other version of Linux that you may use. The version of Banshee that we will be looking at will be 2.0 and above, and it is recommended that you are using the newest version of your Operating System.

Think of Banshee as iTunes for Linux and you can’t go wrong. The first thing that many of you will want to do is put the songs from your existing iPod onto your PC, thus also backing up all your music.

Before you plug in your iPod, make sure you go into the options in Banshee and select Edit>Preferences>General and tick all the options in “File Policies”. Plug in your iPod and let Banshee do its job. Depending on how much music you have on the iPod, and how fast your disk-drives work will depend on how long the transfer takes. For me, 40GB of music took around 40 minutes to transfer. As I said, it could be different for you when you first sync your music.

During the initial sync operation, you may think that Banshee has stopped responding. It hasn’t, it is still doing its job, so just leave it do its own thing. If for any reason that you stop Banshee from working, you can re-start Banshee and just do a re-scan and it will continue from where it left off. Once you have synced everything into Banshee, all your music will be nicely labelled in new folders and will be easy for you maintain in the future.

Ripping or downloading music and putting it into Banshee, and then putting it straight onto your iPod is a similar affair. The easiest method I find is to go into the “Media menu”, then select Media>Import Media>Folders and let Banshee add the music that way. Banshee will add the album to your Banshee music folder and it will again be nicely organised.

Make sure your iPod is plugged in and let it do its initial sync. The easiest method then is to simply drag the album you want to your iPods “Music” folder. It’s simple and very effective. Don’t forget before you do this though to add the albums cover-art if it has already not done that automatically. If Banshee fails to add cover-art, or it is the wrong cover-art, simply choose the album you want the cover-art for, and then on the bottom left hand corner where the cover-art is displayed, right click on this and choose “Choose New Cover Art”. I find Google is my friend and it has never let me down on album covers.

As far as iPods and other media players go, I have tried a couple of different versions of iPod, generic MP3 players and Android devices which all seem to work with no problems. As I said earlier, make sure that you are using the latest edition of your Operating System and the latest version of Banshee to ensure that your iPod is compatible.

Mark Adams
August 14th 2011

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Bodhi Linux Review

What first strikes you about Bodhi Linux 1.1.0 Stable is how beautiful it looks. From the outset it is well crafted and pleasing on the eyes. The loading screen is nice and bright with leaves floating from the left to the right of the screen in a very calming manner. And that seems to be the focus of Bodhi, a pleasant looking, pleasant feeling distribution that uses Enlightenment to ensure even on the oldest hardware things run smoothly.

Upon loading (Bodhi, by the way is one of the fastest loading Linux distributions I have used) everything is very minimal. There is a status bar at the top of the screen which is rather huge compared to others. This includes power management, network settings, workspaces and some a couple of other items. The default items look rather large compared to what I am used to, but I'm sure that with a bit of tweaking things can be toned down a bit. At the bottom of the screen is a dock with just Midori Browser ready to use, again this can be added to at will.

The first thing I wanted to do is see what is installed, and as a Pinguy OS user I was shocked... no... stunned at the lack of included applications. This really is a bare-minimal Linux OS, so if you want a blank canvas to start with, this could be a good thing. Adding software confused me to start with, I found no Ubuntu Software Centre or similar and instead the Software link opened up a page with Midori Browser. This page presented a selection of software that you can install through the browser. It is simple enough, just click on the install button and everything is downloaded and installs. The choice of software was adequate if you don't expect too much from your Operating System, although maybe it might be because I always spoilt for choice with other Ubuntu variants and Ubuntu itself.

As I've mentioned, everything looks brilliant, and great thought has gone into the icon and theme designs. The wallpapers are all very nice and I actually prefer them to a lot of wallpapers found in Ubuntu, Mint and Pinguy. Changing the preferences and using the whole menu system is a simple affair also, which adds to the overall beauty of Bodhi.

Because of the Enlightenment environment, the whole operating system is very light on resources and is ultra-fast even on my ancient AMD PC. I came across a strange problem when using Bodhi on my laptop that made me stop using it, each time I opened up a menu (by left clicking on the desktop) I could not click on another option within the menu unless I swapped workspace and then went back to the original workspace. I have never experienced this before, and maybe it was just a one-off problem.

So, who is Bodhi aimed at? Due to the lack of included software and the ultra-lightweight feel to the whole Operating System I believe it would be more suited to users on very low-spec or very old PCs. I also think, due to the way it is structured and the way you add software etc, it would probably be best to avoid Bodhi as your main Operating System, especially if you are new to Linux, as there are many more user-friendly systems out there. I can see it being used on netbooks, and by people who just enjoy playing with Linux distributions, and as this is an early release, I'm sure it is only a matter of time before they take into account peoples feedback and improve on what is already a stable back-bone.

I have only spent a week or so with Bodhi, and in all honesty there is nothing seriously wrong with the distribution. It loaded and worked on all my tested PCs (except the one noted which had a strange glitch) and I believe for the purpose it has been made, it serves it very well. The Bodhi website is well laid-out and there is plenty of help on the wiki should you need it. I'm sure if I had more time with it I would have more to say, but it is not a flavour of Linux that I will be using as I feel it pales in the shadow of the mighty Pinguy 11.04 OS which I believe offers the average user a lot more bang for buck.

Find out more at their very pretty Homepage.

Mark Adams
August 11th 2011.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Top 10 audio programs for Linux Users

We all know that the ability to play and/or manipulate sound while using a PC is very important to most of us on a daily basis.  Sometimes you just want to listen to a CD that you've put in your machine, sometimes you want to rip that CD, sometimes you want to listen to the radio and sometimes you want to cut up songs and make your own mixes or ring-tones. What this article sets out to do is give you a list of the ten best programs to use for a multiple of tasks in your Linux Operating System (these examples are based on Ubuntu/Mint/Pinguy and variants).

01. Audacity - Best for sound manipulation
Audacity is available for a every conceivable Operating System, and the Linux version is as much of a beast as the rest of them. Simply put, Audacity lets you add effects to your audio files, lets you cut and paste within them and generally does everything you ever need.

You may have downloaded an MP3 file and want to cut the best part out to make a ring-tone. With Audacity it is simple. Just load in the audio file (can be one of many formats that Audacity supports), highlight the part(s) you want to cut out and then delete them. Add a fade-in or fade-out by again simply highlighting the relevant part of the audio, and then save in your favourite audio format! There are endless possibilities with Audacity, and you have unlimited tracks to play with, so you can seamlessly mix tracks, remix tracks and do what-ever your creativeness allows.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

02. UMPlayer - Best for general music player
I have already reviewed UMPlayer and I stick to the notion that it has surpassed VLC as the best overall music and video player around. UMPlayer is simple to use, super-quick to load up and will play anything you throw at it, even if the file is damaged. It has recently been updated so anyone who may have had problems in the past should have no problems with UMPlayer now. The player is highly customisable, and will play your music collection on favourite radio stations quickly and simply.

Download>>> Visit the UMPlayer review for step-by-step instructions to download

03. CD Player - Best for simple CD playing
CD Player is a simple... erm... CD player for you to quickly enjoy your music from any CD that you insert into your machine. Its ultra lightweight and does the job it is set-out to do. It can also record the CD tracks but only has a limited amount of formats that you can choose from. This program is ideal for those of you who don't want to run heavy resource hungry programs such as Banshee and simular do-all programs.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

04. Banshee - Best for iPod and Music Management
Think  of Banshee 2 as iTunes for Linux users and you can not go far wrong. It looks and acts in almost every way like Apples piece of software. Banshee is best used for Music Management between your devices, and has some great features including Amazon Store for downloading music.

I have tried Banshee with numerous iPods and it has worked flawlessly with everyone of them. You just plug in your iPod and the program recognises which iPod or other audio device you have. It works on a simple drag and drop interface when interacting with your iPod, and once you get used to it it is a pretty impressive piece of software. There will be a guide up soon with regards to getting the best from Banshee.

Amazon Music Store is a brilliant idea, and you can buy music and put it straight onto your PC or iPod etc. The selection of music is very good, and the overall experience is quite seamless. Again, it looks and acts like iTunes, so most people should be happy using this software.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

05. Asunder CD Ripper - Best for ripping your CD collection
There are other programs out there that can rip your CDs, however Asunder feels the most professional and easiest to use. You can record tracks in various audio formats, and you can easily customise your settings with little or no problem. Asunder can be connected to online database's and will name the tracks for you on your CD before ripping. The quality of the ripped music is generally very impressive, and pretty quick.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

06. Audio Recorder - Best for recording off sound-card
Once again I have reviewed Audio Recorder in quite a bit of depth on this site, and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to record radio stations or sound off DVDs or other sources through your sound-card. Its one of those programs that once you've used once you don't realise how you lived without it.

Download>>> Visit the Audio Recorder review for step-by-step instructions to download

07. VLC Player
Many people swear by VLC. Its a nice little video and music player that plays almost everything you throw at it. Its logo is a road-cone that gives the impression that its a work in progress, and to some extent it does feel like that. VLC is not pretty, but it gets the job done and those familiar with it may be happy to know that it works perfectly in its Linux incarnation.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

08. Clementine
Another great music player, it does everything that VLC and UMPlayer does and is one of the new players on the block. You can listen to internet radio via Last.FM, SomaFM, Magnatude, Jamendoa and Icecast. You can also use it for simple iPod management. Its well worth a look if you are after something different to play around with.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

09. Brasero - Best for recording your MP3s to CD
Even in this day and age people want to record their music to CD. Brasero is a brilliant program that lets you record CDs and DVDS. Most importantly it allows you to choose between Audio CD or DATA CD so you can record a bog-standard music CD or a CD of music filled with MP3s.

Brasero is simple to use, which is the most important thing about any software. Its easy to drag and drop the music to your CDs and everything is done with efficiency. For many Linux distributions, Brasero is the default recording software, and to be fair there is a reason for that... it does the job perfectly.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre

10. Amarok
For those who may not get-on with Banshee 2 there is Amarok. It is very similar it what it does to Banshee, however its not as pretty to look at or easy to use. It feels less resource hungry, so may suite those with lower spec systems.

Amarok is however a powerful Music Management program that should not be dismissed. It offers a lot of features for the even the most feverish music fan and computer buff. Amaroks appeal is to those who just want something different and that does the job. I can only fault it because I believe Banshee does a better job overall.

Download>>> From Ubuntu/Mint Software Centre 

If you have found this top 10 review helpful or have alternative software that you would like to highlight, then please leave comments or get in touch. Call back soon for a full guide to using Banshee 2 with an iPod.

Mark Adams
August 10th 2011