Review: Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME

It has been a while since I have done a review (almost 3 months, in fact). It has been significantly longer since I have looked at Scientific Linux (over 3 years, in fact). Given that, I figured it might be worthwhile to make this review about Scientific Linux 7.0. I'm just glad that I did it before the time elapsed for something else to come up (around 3 minutes, in fact — OK, I just made that one up to match the other statements).

Main Screen
For those who aren't familiar or don't remember, Scientific Linux is a derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is meant to make installation of scientific computing software easier (though such software may not necessarily be included right away). That said, a lot has changed in the last 3 years. Most notably, CentOS, the "community version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux" (I realize there may be some technical distinctions but I won't go into them), has now come under the purview of Red Hat. This means Scientific Linux's role could have the potential to shift a bit in the near future (or it might not, who knows). Even with that aside, there are 3 years of software changes to look at in Scientific Linux, so I'm doing that now. I tried it by writing the live DVD ISO file to my USB drive using UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


A Month into Graduate School

I realized I haven't posted anything here for this month, so the least I could do would be to provide a quick update. I've settled into my apartment nicely. Classes are going decently: I'm taking ELE 511 — Quantum Mechanics with Applications, PHY 504/514 — Electromagnetism/Statistical Physics, respectively, and ELE 568 — Implementations of Quantum Information. More exciting though has been attending seminars that professors have given about their research, and being able to talk to those professors one-on-one as well. I even have a small side-project that could lead into full-time research with one of the professors with whom I'm interested in working! All in all, this is shaping up to be an exciting semester, and I can't wait to find out more about the research opportunities in the department and ultimately pick an advisor.


Reflection: 2014 Summer

This summer, by design, I was able to relax basically the whole time. I was able to attend graduation parties, visit relatives in India, attend a wedding in New York, spend time with family & friends, and not worry about work a whole lot. Of course I was able to get a bit of work for my old UROP done too, especially as I'd like to turn it into a paper, but I didn't really feel pressure to be working on it all the time. In fact, working on that and a few other projects was mainly how I filled my downtime, but I never let those things get in the way of relaxing and having fun. Anyway, this summer is about to end, and that would make it my last formal summer break ever. In two days, I will be moving to Princeton to start a PhD program in the Electrical Engineering department; it'll likely be about photonics, quantum optics, or Casimir physics, but I have a semester to figure out the details. I'm really excited to be starting that, and I hope the journey will be a good one overall (though I have no doubt that there will be both ups and downs). If you're starting school, college, graduate school, a new job, or any other sort of new venture, good luck!


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 August 10

There was one post this past week that got two comments, so I'll repost parts of both of those together, as they are both long and from the same commenter.

How-To: Use KWin in MATE

An anonymous reader said, "Just wanted to say that, coincidentally, I've also been toying with these things past week. Normally a KDE user, I tried to give Xfce a spin on my better machines. Of the two main desktops running Mageia KDE, one is able to use Compiz perfectly and on the other it just doesn't work. I seem to recall a problem with a gtkrc file, but I'm not really sure; maybe it has something to do with gconf (there's a lot of messages when I try compiz --replace), because I don't use Gnome. Anyway, an easy trick I found is to install and use the "Compiz Fusion Icon" which becomes an icon in Xfce's "Notification Area". I suppose Mate would work likewise. Right-clicking on that icon it's easy to switch among some WM options -- ate least in Mageia... toggling between Kwin or Xfwm4 becomes easy. Now, what I'd like to say is about a point on which I'd rather have XFwm4 than KDE. It's about automatic tiling, that action of dragging a window to the border and having the WM change its size. Normal Windows-like working is to maximize when dragged to the top of the screen and tile it to half-screen when moving sideways. Very well. Kde does better and has quarter-screen tiling when on drags the window to each one of the four corners (Kwin does that, as I understood). Even better, it allows one to drag the window to the next workspace after a delay. This is very convenient. Xfwm4 does 2 things: one good, one bad. The good one is tiling half-screen to the top (the window becomes half-screen in height and full-width). The same happens to the bottom of the screen. I've wishing that Kwin did that, but it maximises the window instead. A workaround would be using quarter-screen tiling and then right-clicking on the titlebar's maximise button. These things are important e.g. when comparing spreadsheets. And I can live with maximising windows by double-clicking in their titlebar. Xfwm4 doesn't do quarter-screen tiling but I'm betting this is rather an infrequent need. The bad thing is that Xfwm4 does not allow dragging windows to the next workspace if auto-tiling is activated. For the moment, I'm using the "workspace switcher"/pager to move windows among workspaces. It's not very easy because it's small. I'm using the linear workspace configuration instead of the traditional 2x2 matrix, but the idea of having a "B I G" pager has ocurred to me -- inside a second auto-hiding panel. Let us see. Good article as always, btw! Neko Nata PS: Mate was an option, too, but I found difficult to find some settings -- specially single-click (maybe it's a Mageia omission, I don't know). I found it in dconf-editor, but there were some warnings about how things would never work again in my life, so I got back to Xfce. 8-P", later adding, "Just want to add that: 1) after that pager idea (btw the second auto-hiding panel worked), I tried and saw Kwin "show all windows" function (usually Ctrl+F8) can be used to move windows, just as well and 2) there is an equivalent third-party utility for Xfce, it seems, called Skippy-XD. Must try some day. Also, Xfce is a little "whimsical"... if a maximised window is dragged off-border, it restores to normal size, but when dragged to top it fully maximises. To get half-screen zoom, it seems necessary to release the window for a brief moment. Finally, I realize you're after all the nifty desktop effects Kwin has; I agree it's beautiful, but I'm just trying the speed of things on my 2GB RAM machines. For the 64-bit versions, it seems Xfce really makes everything go faster. Surely, given more RAM, KDE would probably would be as fast... and more featureful. Neko Nata".

Thanks to that commenter for those long and detailed comments. I have a review coming up for this week, but I don't anticipate having much else. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


How-To: Use KWin in MATE

KWin in MATE
If you've read any of my reviews over the last several months, you'll know that I've bemoaned the effective death of Compiz. (I guess it's more like in a vegetative state: technically it still exists, but it doesn't actually work.) Since then, I've accepted the fact that for my next distribution upgrade, unless I come to the point of being comfortable with KDE and all of its applications, I will likely stick with MATE or Xfce in conjunction with Devilspie or a similar program for improved window management. That said, out of curiosity, I wanted to see if it would be possible to use KWin with MATE or Xfce, because KWin is even more powerful than Compiz in actual window management, and it comes with the same level of eye candy. Plus, KWin, being an integral part of KDE, is likely to be maintained and developed well for the foreseeable future. Indeed, I found several tutorials explaining how to combine Xfce with KWin. However, there were none for MATE, so that's what this article is. This was tested on a Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" MATE live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see how it's done (in this distribution — other distributions may name their packages differently).


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 July 27

This post is two days late because I was out of town until yesterday. There was one post last week that got a few comments, so I'll repost all of those.

Review: Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" MATE

Reader Etescartz said, "What is up with the screen turning black while I'm watching a movie in full screen?!!! It's killing me that such simple things are so damn annoying on linux. I had caffeine installed and configured as latest guides instruct.. I even had the screensaver removed . I tried scripts running on crontab to budge the mouse just so I cand get through a 30 min tv show without the screen blacking out... It's killing my mood to even boot linux. (I'm dualbooting with "that other OS" so I can play Borderlands 2 on it)"
An anonymous commenter had this response: "https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/mint-mate-first Linux Mint 17 Mate has some aggresive power-saving features enabled by default, such as a short suspend/hibernate time, also you could turn up, (or disable), the standby timeout on your display, disks, ... BTW, why would you remove the 'Screensaver'?, you should have just simply disabled it, in the the 'Control Center' settings These settings, and many more, are ALL in the 'Control Center' [...]"
Another anonymous reader had this bit of support: "Thanks Prashanth, (for the tip on Redshift).  A couple of my friends are recent XP refugee's. I spent a bit-o-time looking around for the best drop-in replacement for their home PC's, and this 'Mate' edition fits the bill perfectly for them. -as you mentioned: ALL the necessary codecs, extra lib32 libraies, are already there, just add skype, frostwire,.... The only caveat was AdobeReader, googletalk-plugin, and teamviewer which I installed for them, via the respective '.deb' sites. Now, all I hear is how much faster Mate is, than XP ever was.  -I luv a good ending. :)"

Thanks to all those who commented on that post. This week, I may have a review out and maybe one other post, but depending on what work I need to get done, those may have to wait until next week. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" MATE

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
I've been out of the country for 2.5 weeks, explaining the lack of posts in that time. Before that, I was busy trying to finish a rough draft of a paper outlining the work I did at my UROP before graduation. Now that I'm back and tired from jetlag, I have a little more time to do a review like this, which I wanted to do in June itself.

I'm skipping most further introduction because none is needed for Linux Mint here. All I'll say is that there is no "LTS" label on this post because now all Ubuntu-based Linux Mint releases are based on the LTS releases, starting with this one; this is a move that I support because it should give more credence to the idea that Linux Mint is a stable system that newbies can comfortably use. I reviewed this as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 June 29

This post is a day late because I was out of town and didn't return until yesterday. The previous week had one post with one comment that I will repost.

Trying out Julia

An anonymous reader had this funny trollish comment: "The matrix has you, unplug now or you will be forever lost in its grip. An mature mind cannot be freed from the matrix, it has trouble letting go."

Thanks to that reader for that comment. This coming week, I don't have anything planned, and I'll be out of town for a few weeks after that. Following that, I should have a review or two out; I've been procrastinating on reviewing the latest release of Linux Mint so that I can continue wrapping up my UROP work, so that'll have to wait until August. Anyway, if you like what I write, please keep subscribing and commenting!


Trying out Julia

This is a fairly quick post, though I previously considered making it longer and more trollish. A handful of my friends have told me about Julia, the amazing programming language made for numerical computations and other scientific computing uses. For the 14.15 — Networks final project this past semester, one of my group partners used Julia to simulate large ensembles of 10000-node random networks, and it worked far quicker than MATLAB. I vowed to get a bit more familiar with Julia (the programming language, not a woman [yet]) this summer. It was actually pretty quick to get used to, considering its syntactical similarities to MATLAB, to which I am more accustomed. I was even able to use it to port over the MATLAB code used for data analysis in 8.13/8.14 — Experimental Physics I/II to Julia. The only issue that I have consistently run into has been plotting. For some reason, the plotting packages that interface with Julia do not work in the ways that I want: Winston is too basic, Gadfly doesn't work at all (which is unfortunate because it has all the features I need and more), and Gaston being a frontend for Gnuplot while having to deal with the quirks of Julia's plot execution order means that I might as well use Gnuplot itself. Indeed, that is what I've done: I've been able to write Gnuplot scripts to plot processed data that Julia outputs into a file. Although Gnuplot's syntax is a little arcane, it is so powerful that I'm OK with using it from a script of commands and changing only a few things here and there as needed. Other than that, Julia works like a charm; its speed is fantastic, and I really like how much structure it brings compared to MATLAB (including things like types and indexing). Plus, it combines the great features of both procedural and functional programming. Given that course 18 has largely switched over to Julia, I wonder when course 8 will do the same....


Review: Pinguy OS 14.04 LTS "Papercut"

Main Screen + GnoMenu
I have now graduated college, so I am back home for 2.5 months this summer. In that time, I have many more opportunities to do reviews that I couldn't do during the same semester. This was originally supposed to be a comparison test against Antergos, which is another distribution that ships GNOME 3/Shell and aims for new users to Linux. Unfortunately, Antergos refused to boot. Therefore, what is left is a typical review of Pinguy OS, albeit with some more critical remarks than usual about how well it really caters to newbies (left over from when this article was a comparison test). Follow the jump to see what it is like.