Blue Collar Linux: Something Borrowed, Something New

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LINUX PICKS AND PANS
Blue Collar Linux: Something Borrowed, Something New

Sometimes it takes quite a lot of tweaks to show an old-style desktop design right into a recent new Linux distribution. That is the case with the general public launch of Blue Collar Linux.

“The guidance and design were shaped by real people — blue collar people,” Blue Collar developer Steven A. Auringer advised LinuxInsider. “Think useful and guided by Joe and Jane Whitebread in Suburbia.”

Blue Collar Linux has been below improvement for the final 4 years. Until its public launch this week, it has circulated solely by way of an invite for personal use by the developer’s household, buddies and associates in search of a substitute for the Windows nightmare.

Another giant a part of his person base is the University of Wisconsin, the place he engages with the maths and pc science departments.

This new launch is something however a just-out-of-beta version. It could be very polished and is consistently up to date and improved. A rising cadre of customers submit bug stories and contribute characteristic options primarily based on real-world person requests.

Auringer does as not hassle with versioning every launch, nonetheless. Average folks don’t care about these issues, he claims.

“You don’t hear them talking about Windows 10-1824-06b-build257. They use Windows 10,” he famous.

That view partially led Auringer to develop a Linux distro with a purpose that responded to typical customers who had little interest in studying pc know-how. The distro’s purpose is to be simple to make use of and be helpful for Joe and Jane Whitebread.

“There are Millions of home systems. Most are not powerful state-of-the-art office systems. There are a lot of older systems sitting on closet shelves waiting to be brought back to life. Some are hand-me-downs. Is Joe or Jane going to spend money to use Windows 10?” requested Auringer.

From Shell Script to OS

Auringer is a retired U.S. Marine with a doctoral diploma in utilized arithmetic and a grasp’s in pc science. He labored 10-plus years as a senior software program engineer.

He began growing Blue Collar Linux as a shell script that might add/delete and configure software program/fonts/colours/drivers, and many others. He used the scripts and shared them for simplifying automated set up routines. That led to growing his personal Linux various to the Microsoft Windows nightmare.

Auringer was decided to keep away from the frustrations nontechnical customers skilled with so many Linux distros — overwhelming software program packages and the daunting maze of desktops decisions. To take away these boundaries, Auringer chosen simple, but highly effective, Linux functions. He adopted a one-of-each method.

“I have looked at over 75 Distros. Most — even the supposed easy ones — assume some level of Linux geekiness. I spent a lot of time listening to my beta users. They want to point, click and go,” he stated. “They don’t want to search the Net comparing six programs, downloading and polluting their systems just to solve an easy problem.”

Auringer discovered from his beta customers that they did NOT need three music gamers, three video gamers, 4 textual content editors, two video editors, three picture editors, a big complicated workplace suite and Visual Studio IDE to develop software program.

Most common individuals are not going to burn a night attempting to get a program to work, he defined. They usually are not going to log into blogs, ask questions, strive six completely different solutions they do not perceive, and nonetheless have a damaged system.

For instance, they do not know why eradicating program A broke program B, or why reinstalling program A doesn’t repair program B. They have no idea that it additionally could have damaged program C, Auringer added.

Most common folks have no idea or care about Xfce, KDE, Gnome or Unity desktops. They have no idea or care about what a window supervisor is, he stated.

“They want to turn it on and use it to accomplish a goal without turning it into a hobby,” Auringer maintained.

That is exactly what Blue Collar Linux offers nontechnical customers. It is troublesome to not love Blue Collar Linux. It has all the usability bins checked. It does simply what the developer designed it to do: make computing simplified!

Blue Collar Overview

Blue Collar Linux presents each residence and small enterprise customers a perfect computing platform. They are the developer’s meant person base.

What makes Blue Collar splendid? Installation is uncomplicated. When the method is completed, no instruments or setup are required.

The desktop has a easy uncluttered look. You have loads of choices to vary the default settings. Personalizing the desktop is simple.


Blue Collar Linux's modified Xfce desktop design

Blue Collar Linux’s modified Xfce desktop design has a panel bar with a number of menu buttons, system icons, and a set of applets to show data on the bar.

Out of the field, every part works. Nothing is complicated. No time should be spent studying on-line how-to paperwork.

Blue Collar is Gnome 3.10/GTK-based and runs the Xfce 4.10-based desktop. However, the modifications Auringer inbuilt particularly for his distro are chargeable for the large distinction in how Xfce works and appears.

For instance, the functions and controls/buttons appear to be they belong collectively. Unlike different desktop designs, every utility’s look reinforces the design and provides customers the sensation that it’s a part of a whole system.

Older Code Base vs. New

Blue Collar has one slight draw back that may solely be a priority for extra tech-savvy customers. This distro is predicated on Ubuntu 14.04.5 LTS, the Trusty Tahr collection launched in August 2016. Its long-term assist ends this April. That means the developer will likely be issuing an up to date launch on a more moderen code base ultimately.

In truth, Auringer is engaged on utilizing Ubuntu 16.04 as a alternative base for Blue Collar Linux. Ubuntu helps 16.04, dubbed “Xenial Xerus,” till April 2021.

Still, he’s proud of the continued efficiency of 14.04.5 and isn’t dashing to swap it out. Trusty Tahr code works properly right this moment and isn’t going to drop useless on any sure date within the close to future, in response to the developer. He plans to assist essential points himself if any develop when the long-term assist from Ubuntu runs out, relatively than dashing to vary the code base.

A serious benefit of 14.04.5 is the stable assist by third-party drivers. Manufacturers and builders of printers, scanners, wi-fi and different programs have well-developed and examined drivers. Maintaining current stability counts greater than change.

“That is more of a concern to my user base than bleeding edge. They generally don’t know and don’t care what the base version is. All they know is that it never crashes — or worse, locks their box and loses their work,” Auringer stated.

He prefers the Xenial Xerus code base to the present 18.04 LTS, AKA Bionic Beaver, launched final 12 months and supported to April 2023. The 18.04 code base is “squirrelly, unfinished and generally not recommended, or recommended [only] to experienced users.”

Only skilled customers will put up with Bionic Beaver, simply to be bleeding edge, he stated.

The code base was spectacular when it was launched. It included an up to date kernel and X stack for brand spanking new installations to assist new {hardware}. Since it has been an integral a part of Blue Collar from the beginning, stability and reliability are of no concern.

Why Xfce Instead of Other Desktops?

There are a number of solutions to the “Why Xfce?” query, famous Auringer, however all of them should do with Xfce having higher desktop performance and flexibility. Since Blue Collar should run on a variety of legacy computer systems, a light-weight however highly effective desktop setting is crucial.

For instance, newer choices akin to LXDE and LXLE are mild, however the menus are sparse. Plus, their configuration is restricted. Auringer sees the Cinnamon desktop as bloated, gradual, buggy, and troublesome to configure.

The Mate desktop lacks feedback within the menu for brand spanking new/starting customers — one thing Xfce’s Whisker Menu offers. Plus, the Whisker menu in Blue Collar Linux permits you to add, delete or rearrange your favourite functions in the principle menu. You can also resize the principle menu.

MenuLibre, a menu-editing software included in Xfce, makes it simple for Blue Collar customers to rearrange menu content material their manner. Xfce is mature; it runs properly on minimal {hardware} and is quick.

Plankless and Dockless

Another main person profit with the Xfce desktop is the flexibility so as to add or take away utility launchers on the panel or the desktop itself. An even nicer characteristic that you’ll not discover in different Xfce programs is the flexibility to unlock the panel and transfer it to the highest or aspect in the event you want.

Some Linux distros use each panel bars and a Cairo-style dock or plank-style utility launcher. You is not going to discover modifications in Blue Collar Linux constructed round docks or planks.

They don’t work properly on the whole, in response to Auringer. Some distros tried Awn or Plank after which dropped it. The Cairo dock has a lot of bells and whistles, however nothing so as to add when it comes to performance or ease of use.

“I have also found that depending on the version and settings, Cairo can be a little unpredictable,” he stated.

One extra nice characteristic with Blue Collar’s modified Xfce desktop is the triple menu system. Finding and launching functions is quick, because of an utility search subject constructed into every menu.

The menus stay at both finish of the panel bar. On the far left is the Whisker menu. At the far proper finish of the panel is a GNOME-style full-screen show of utility icons. With both menu, hover the mouse over an icon to see a quick clarification of what the applying does.

Right-click anyplace on the desktop not lined by a window to launch a 3rd fashion menu. The backside label cascades an inventory of put in functions. the remainder of the column lists varied system actions akin to creating folders, UL hyperlinks and utility launchers.

Massive Software Inventory

Auringer’s choice to bundle a single software program title for every computing process is a win-win. It really lets the developer bundle extra various functions with out creating bloat.

His purpose is to not make Blue Collar Linux minimalist when it comes to its software program stock. To the opposite, this distro comes with extra preinstalled titles than I see in most distros, whether or not they’re Xfce programs or not.

The included functions are stable decisions. They don’t require hours of studying the way to use them.

For instance, typical customers don’t want feature-heavy workplace suites with separate parts like spreadsheets and database managers they’ll by no means use, argues Auringer. So he consists of the Abiword phrase processor with plugins already enabled.

Preinstalled functions embrace Homebank for private finance administration; LibreCAD, a professional-strength drafting program; Diagram for creating and modifying designs; and PurpleNoteBook — a software for holding notes and each day journal entries and calendar.

Specialty Tools Included

This distro additionally has Wine, an emulator that permits you to run Microsoft Windows packages throughout the Linux setting. I’ve used Linux for therefore a few years that I now not depend on Wine.

However, having Wine preinstalled in Blue Collar Linux offers newcomers to the Linux OS an added consolation zone that lets them proceed utilizing acquainted packages till they discover higher Linux options.

It creates a pseudo C: Drive within the Blue Collar listing to indicate Wine-installed Windows packages. It comes with instruments to put in and uninstall home windows packages as in the event you have been operating them on an precise Windows pc

Another nice discover in Blue Collar Linux is the Parental Controls characteristic. I check and evaluate lots of of Linux distros. This is my first time seeing a parental management utility. What an excellent concept for serving to youngsters study accountable pc habits.

It is as easy to make use of as creating an alarm in a pc calendar. You can set the variety of hours per day a person can entry the pc. You can add a test for the accepted days of utilization on the whole, in addition to allotted occasions and days to make use of the Web browser, e-mail shopper and Instant Messaging functions.

Using It

One of the important options {that a} well-designed working system can present is entry to digital workspaces. This performance permits you to view completely different functions or units of open utility home windows on separate screens. Some distros make navigating amongst workspaces complicated and troublesome.

Not Blue collar Linux. The commonplace Xfce desktop does a pleasant job of dealing with digital workspaces. Blue Collar Linux goes properly past the traditional performance.

This distro consists of the Brightside Properties software, which boosts navigation choices for workspace switching.


Blue Collar Linux's Brightside Properties Tool

The Brightside Properties Tool could be very helpful for including new options to the Xfce desktop for controlling workspace navigation and scorching nook actions.

For occasion, rolling the wheel within the workspace switcher strikes to different workspaces. So does this keyboard shortcut: CTRL-ALT and left/proper or up/down arrow keys.

Other choices allow you to change workstations by transferring the mouse pointer off the left or proper display edges, or clicking the mouse wheel down or utilizing the center mouse button to show a switcher panel on the display.

With the Brightside software, you possibly can set a distinct wallpaper for every workspace. The software additionally permits you to activate scorching corners, which normally just isn’t a operate accessible with the Xfce desktop.

You can choose particular actions from a dropdown listing that prompts once you push the mouse pointer into a selected nook of the display. You can also create your personal motion command utilizing the customized choice within the dropdown listing.

One extra want trick is rolling the mouse wheel on the sound icon within the system tray to boost or decrease the amount.


Blue Collar Linux's workspace switcher panel

Click the mouse wheel down or use the center mouse button to show a switcher panel on the display.

Bottom Line

Blue Collar Linux is a seasoned working system that won’t disappoint you. It runs properly on older computer systems with less-than-modest assets. It runs fantastically on more moderen {hardware}.

Even in case you are not a fan of the Xfce desktop setting, give this modified iteration a strive. What you discover in Blue Collar Linux just isn’t the identical previous factor. This distro is feature-rich. It is simple to put in and simpler to make use of.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software program utility or distro you’d wish to recommend for evaluate? Something you’re keen on or wish to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I’ll take into account them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments characteristic under to offer your enter!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His predominant areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open supply applied sciences. He has written quite a few evaluations of Linux distros and different open supply software program. Email Jack.



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