Zorin OS 16 Review Verdict: an excellent media workstation

This is a review of the desktop Linux distribution Zorin OS 16. I have installed it to nvme running on AMD Ryzen with 32 GB of ram:

Linux putin 5.11.0-34-generic #36~20.04.1-Ubuntu SMP Fri Aug 27 08:06:32 UTC 2021 x86_64 x8
6_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

As stated on their about page, Zorin OS was started in 2008 with the goal to bring the most advanced technology into the hands of everyone. Maintaining a clear focus on simplicity to create a powerful computing experience. I think they succeeded in that goal. Perhaps the fact that they sell supported and enhanced versions is the thing that makes a difference. Having paying customers asking for certain features and reporting certain bugs clearly has been a godsend in terms of the flow of information and the setting of priorities like having audio and video that just works.

First the good news

After installing way too many distros this year, I finally found a good one: Zorin OS 16.

The makers should be proud of themselves that I still have this running as my "daily driver". Actually it's on three machines now including a server, which I know, seems odd, but it's a media server with the occasional requirement to run GUI apps over remote access.

Solid Sound

Zorin OS 16 just works great. Very stable reliable sound. LMMS and Ardour work. The desktop and fonts render beautifully. It's quite opinionated with it's fully white terminals, but this is very slick. They have crafted a highly customised Gnome desktop environment.

I have an ASUS ROG Strig motherboard. Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Starship/Matisse HD Audio Controller

I need the sound to work reliably. I tried Kubuntu but the jack server seemed to crash after login. Ubuntu server was not user friendly in the slightest (the installer doesn't show anything about your existing disks), Ubuntu Studio, MX Linux, AV Linux, IO Linux, OpenMediaVault, AntiX (an anti-fascist version of Linux - who would have thought?!). AV and MX was really really lovely, but it does not have systemd, which, although it sucks, is industry standard now. Also I could not get OBS Studio 27 installed - only v25. And MX didn't support virtualisation: I want to run VirtualBox, qemu, docker etc..

Solid Display

Something about the font rendering is just awesome. Most noticeable after booting into Kubuntu and running for a bit. Can't quite place it. Sub-pixel anti-alias is my guess.

Also, Kubuntu struggled with my monitor setup, which is pretty awful. I have an awful AOC 4k monitor with terrible sound, and the worst on-screen menus I have ever used, and a Dell 1280x1024 which can and now does run at 75 hz thanks to Zorin. I have to write my own xrandx script to set the resolution on Kubuntu, the config is or was:

xrandr --output DisplayPort-0 --primary --mode 2560x1440 --rate 60 --output DVI-D-0 --mode 1280x1024 --rate 75 --right-of DisplayPort-0 --rotate left
on the macOS:
cscreen -d 32 -x 2560 -y 1440 -r 60 -i 78ca19c6

But with Zorin, I can just use the built-in Displays control panel. And it remembers my setting (not on login screen but all good). To be fair, my monitor sucks. It has problems with all OS.

Fractional scaling for high-resolution displays

1. resizing windows. Much prefer how in KDE Plasma / Kubuntu I can use [alt] right click drag to resize from the internal panel + [alt] middle click (I set it to lower the window clicked), 3. [alt] left click drag to move a window from it's internal pane. Spent weeks trying to suss this. Even installed I think Cinnamon over it, which got messy, so I re-installed the OS from scratch. Still not solved, but I use [alt][f8] as a weak substitute (it does not work on *all* windows, dialogs and works funny).

I Love Fast Key Repeat A Lot

Zorin lets me set a nice fast keyboard key repeat rate. Like in the default control panel. I don't have to hack my system with dconf-editor or put Gnome Tweaks on. It is currently set to 11ms pause between chars. Yes really. That gets me 90 chars per second when I hold down my cursor, so scrolling is insane fast on my rig. But I'm a drummer. I have good timing. I'm mentally prepared for that machine-gun action that awaits. I usually surprise myself but I can sometimes let go of the cursor just 2 chars before the spot I'm aiming for at 90 chars / second, although mostly I end with tapping the cursors to get in position - doesn't everyone though?

It is only just on the edge of what my eye and brain can make sense of, and way too fast for a lot of stuff. I like to live just beyond that limit. Kinda freaky when you hold down the delete / backspace key on a text file! Undo is your friend. On a laggy terminal link, I do often delete too much stuff (mosh works better than ssh for this) but that is the price I pay for the benefits of 90 fps repeats. I use this insane speed mostly for horizontal scrolling in text files. I don't need to use [Page-Down] for vertical scrolling: I never found an app that supports [Page Down] but does not support [Cursor Down], but sometimes find apps that don't support page down, for them, the fast cursor down is great.

I could only ever get 50 or 60 keys per second on Kubuntu or macOS. Just not fast enough. Thank you Zorin. Don't ever go changing that upper limit. Let this article be your proof of the existence of people like me and your signal.

Now The Bad News

My issues with the native window manager are *almost* enough to drive me back to KDE Plasma. For now, the reason I will stick with this install and it's default gnome-shell config is that... it actually performs very very well. Bootup and shutdown are much faster than Kubuntu, although I will admit it is not entirely fair comparison as it is a fresh Zorin install compared to a 6 month old Kubuntu install with messed up Jack and some desktop environment conflicts I think after trying to put xfce on. I actually messed up a Zorin install by trying to pu9t Cinnamon in, bad enough to wipe and re-install Zorin in fact, so hence why I am planning to be more careful with this install window managers / desktop environments. The take out is that desktop environments are not as safe to install casually like say window managers can be.

Reliability is more important than speed, and my issues with audio, then CUPS, and more than anything it was the fact my Kubuntu install has a misbehaving BTRFS setup I feel I need to format my way out of, I'd possibly be still on Kubuntu.

Window Resizing

Resizing windows. Much prefer how in KDE Plasma / Kubuntu I can use [alt] right click drag to resize from the internal panel + [alt] middle click (I set it to lower the window clicked), 3. [alt] left click drag to move a window from it's internal pane. Spent weeks trying to suss this. Even installed I think Cinnamon over it, which got messy, so I re-installed the os from scratch. Still not solved, but I use [alt][f8] as a weak substitute (it does not work on *all* windows, dialogs and works funny).

I couldn't find a way to make the edges bigger to make that window resize job easier. Normally I would rather not use the mouse to do this so is quite frustrating. On Mac I use Spectacle to arrange my windows without a mouse and Kubuntu let me use the same shortcuts: [alt][windows][left] for example. oh and [ctrl][shfit][alt][right] to put it into a lower right quarter.

Can't Remove Certain Desktop Background Images

One time, maybe it was late at night, peering at the cold blue image of the mountain was a bit much to handle. I decided to try to remove it but failed. Sure enough I can use my own images OK, but they split time time with the defaults. Also, in layouts 1 and 2 the control panel for Appearance does not appear under settings because it is a top-level item. I feel a link should be in Settings app as many times I have hunted around for Appearance. In layouts 3 and 4, you just hit Windows key and type Appea.... and there it is.

Layouts 1 and 2 - Windows clone style

I dig distros that pop up a menu when I hit the Windows key. I reckon all users prefer this.

3. I can't seem to delete the desktop background images. Or put a graphics shader on desktop like Kubuntu.

4. Prefer desktop icons to show volumes, disks, network, trash etc. Personal preference.

I love it how a menu appears when I press the Windows key. I don't love it how if I then type any system setting such as "sound" it does not appear. Granted it does appear on layouts 3 and 4, one of which is the default layout/

Layout 4

This layout the windows do not have any minimise / maximise gadgets. What the heck? Was just using it now for this review, but.... well this is the moment that I switch back to my preferred one: layout 1 or 2.

This sound output bug/feature also haunts those running macOS

Odd that.

So macOS has this bug/feature: plug in an HDMI monitor and it switches the sound-output to it. Probably what most people want. I have professional audio interfaces and speakers though. I always finding myself switching away from HDMI sound output (a shitty thin weak mono-sounding AOC monitor speaker with no volume controls at full volume!) back to my proper output with volume control (Built-in or MOTU Audio), and on Zorin, just simply logging into my workstation every time does it. I dont have to trigger it by plugging in, a reboot with do it:

Although I have never ever selected Digital Output (S/PDIF) every single time I login / plug in a monitor I need to switch the sound out from digital back over to HD Front Analogue Headphone. It's fricken driving me nuts!!

I get it how macOS wants to do that as it is a freshly plugged in device. But Linux? Only reason I can think of is that maybe this is a late initialising output, and it wants to switch to the most recently connected output. I suggest a count is kept of how many times a certain output is chosen. When the system sees that I have switched to analog 1,000 times, and only ever switched to digital, say 5 times in the life of the machine, it could maybe stop doing that and make my life a lot easier.

I have switched layouts just so I can be closer to the Sound control panel as a counter-measure. Bad computer.

Both macOS and Linux should take my advice: begin lifetime counts of the most switched to audio output and maybe consider a user-set threshold to always use the output that was the subject of the majority of the last 10 or so switches should fix it. This way, after a user has purchased a new TV and switched to it 10 times the system finally gets it and always does this.

Cease Hiding Complexity From Me

I'm running Linux I love complex shit. Don't hide it.

As the saying goes "If it is broken, and you can't or won't fix it, put a warning sign on it."

Why do some OS appear to want to hide complex issues instead of fixing them? I mean I know why, the answer is in the question but... providing advanced user the way to understand the true issues is beset. For example, recently I found a folder full of app shortcuts using F-Search (by far the best file search tool I've found so far). the location of say... /var/lib/flatpak/exports/share/applications ? It is super not obvious how to track down an app which appears in the menu. For example, the Sound panel so I can open the pref and switch to analogue would be a good start. But typing `sounds` at the terminal does not bring up whatever this window is:

I mean how do I start this from the terminal?

And why do I see:

menu://applications/

Every path should start with / this sucks.

 

Open Source Software Support NZ

I wonder what the demand is for paid software support contracts in NZ?

I can help you setup all of the following solutions listed below

That is Free Open Source Software running on linux machines on premise or in the cloud.
FOSS logo - Free open source software support Auckland

Auckland based FOSS support company

On subscription so you have someone who has your back. To bounce ideas off. Someone to help fix GRUB / Refind bootloader in the middle of the night. Starting with web apps Apache, Nginx, WordPress, databases like mySQL, postgres, mongodb, Linux admin, bash shell scripts, Node, CMS, CRMs, Calendaring, File sharing, automated regular expressions for batch file processing.
Multimedia
Audio / video with apps Audacity, Ardour, OBS Studio, ffmpeg, Handbrake, Clementine, Strawberry, RuneAudio, Libretime radio automation, Icecast streaming, MusicBrainz meta data enrichment it goes on forever the powr of open source!
The GIMP is a passable Photoshop stand-in, sadly, GIMP is not so enjoyable like Photoshop but for the basic compositing can be manipulated to greatness like Arial versus Helvetica), and Inkscape is not Indesign. I guess Unreal / Unity although there aren't open source they are mostly free. Tasty apps. So I've realised I have ninja skills in this area, plus I know a few power-nerds I could maybe integrate in this... You'd pick a retainer, and I'd set it up via direct debit, credit card, or paypal subscription only. After that, you can create tickets, phone the helpdesk whenever (open 24 hours a week 7 weeks a year just kidding), and expect a response to your emails about how you broke your computer. We can then call you and tell you to turn it off and on. Sound good? I was inspired listening to the guy from MusicBrainz recently.

Review: Libre Office is your new and free alternative to MS Office for macOS

Libre Office in 2020 is by now I would say the best (and free) alternative to Microsoft Office software like Word and is able to read, edit and save to all these old formats like .doc and .docx as well as the new .odf. It is good enough for full-time use now in 2020.

This View... menu has shortcuts enabled but still no zoom shortcuts showing.

BRAVO to The Document Foundation and Impressum for this is amazing quality free product. At this point in history very stable mature product!

It's organic... clean and free of backdoors and ads. Because it's open source software; runs on Mac/Linux/Windows; and is available free of charge today and forever under the Mozilla Public License v2.0 via a good wholesome sounding German foundation. The public can and does make changes to the core software as and when needed, via the github. This review is in fact my first attempt to inspire people to sort out the UI (user interface) to my satisfaction, focussing on just one particular area: the UI for the display magnification Zoom In/Out keyboard shortcuts - that was enough for me to actually file an official bug report on it.

This review will be purely about the View... menu and Zoom. Time for that bug report...

 

 

Keyboard shortcuts for Zoom In / Zoom Out out are either missing, wrongly set at Print Preview Zoom, and the effect is there is no way to setup zoom without using the mouse hands-free.

Steps to reproduce

On macOS 10.14.6 I'm running LibreOffice version 6.3.6.2 last modified 23rd April 2020. This open bug appears first in 2012 and is still open.

  • open either Writer, Spreadsheet etc but not Draw
  • try to Zoom In/Zoom Out without touching your mouse. Only Draw works, but it uses the wrong native macOS combo.

Jarring First Time User Experience

if i can only submit one image with this bud report this is it

Someone new to Libre Office Spreadsheet program would find it pretty in-your-face jarring to get this result, as I just did:

[screenshot] shows a Zoomed up capture of Spreadsheets. cells 2, 3, and 4 have been blown away when I try all the usual suspects:

[command][=], [command][=],[control][=], [control][=]  one of the combos I mashed it actually causes the "Insert Cells" modal dialog to appear. Luckily I am big and tough and don't mind reading the manual, but in this instance I realised it was going to be more complex. I figured if I wait a few years..... well it's 8 years later and I'm still waiting.  Hence this extreme review / bug report.

Hands Free Zoom

I wish to be be able to literally turf my mouse into the next room, and still be able to zoom in / zoom out the display using only keyboard shortcuts. This likely affects macOS version as last time I checked Control-+ was working fine to zoom in on my Linuxbox. The terms "zoom in" and "zoom out" do appear in the app at various places, and it is these two actions that I would like keyboard shortcuts for.

This hasn't been fixed since 2012 because if you check Google you see...

Google must get this a lot of traffic on this term because it has a classifier that punches out a box to say: "To quickly perform Zoom In and Zoom out, you can hold the CTRL key and use mouse wheel to arrive at a desired Zoom level."

There would have been a riot already if it wasn't for that! (jokes)

Menu Items Greyed Out After "Customize"

Another reason the user is not satisfied after adding Zoom In and Zoom Out to their View Menu vis the Customize preference: Those are Print Preview controls that won't apply most of the time. By this time the user has face-planted their desk and gave into the Hold Control and Scroll-Wheel Kludge.

I thought I had it made when I found this preference panel - but eventually I figure out NO I can add Zoom In to the menu but I just can't click it.

Even with my mouse still plugged in, when I peruse the View... menu down to Zoom... Zoom In <---- the option in menu appears greyed out! This is why I noted the title of this bug report as potentially missing in action (MIA). Same goes for Zoom Out menu.

It's actually Print Preview Zoom?!

After searching on Google hard about this, I find a weird forum (actually its the bug reporter!) where people have figured out the bug also: that Zoom In has been mis-attributed to the "Print Preview Zoom In" action. If you look at the bottom of the Google screenshot you can see a hint of it... and is mentioned in bug report 45708

  • Relabel (or delete) Zoom In -->  Print Preview Zoom In
  • Relabel (or delete) Zoom Out  --> Print Preview Zoom Out
  • Introduce new Zoom In / Zoom Out action feature
  • Create macOS friendly keyboard shortcuts
  • Change default behaviour to always 'Show Shortcuts in Menus' (set in Preferences... View)

Screenshot shows the glimmering promise: Shortcuts in context menus [Show] this needs to be on as a default. Microsoft can do some things good, but definitely UI is not one. Don't copy Microsoft. Copy what works great for many many years: pull-down menus, keyboard shortcuts! I've never met anybody who didn't want shortcuts showing in context menus. This should be an install default. Drop-down menus are pure genius. This is why you see them still on many websites.

Introduce keyboard shortcuts for Zoom In / Zoom Out

 

2012: Bug Reported First Time ?id=45705

So there is this bug report / feature request from 2012 pointing it out for the first time: bugs.documentfoundation.org/show_bug.cgi?id=45705 @Florian the OP (original poster) points it out, and mentions Control-+ etc. I would use = sign as well though on macOS so I don't have to use shift to access [Command][+] since Zoom Out [Command][-] does not need a shift either on US keyboards. While @sasha somewhat helpfully mentions: I have written Basic Macro which allows Zoom In, Zoom Out, Zoom 100% and some another. Something just don't seem right. Zoom In / Zoom Out = these things should not be macros, and this should not be the solution to turfing my mouse into another dimension already.

Maybe macros is what I want? Maybe I can write a script to..... nah wait up!

Dupes Show Up

Then in 2016 @Yousuf Philips (jay) (retired)  makes a push to get something done, like me was filling out a bug report when he discovered other duplicate bug reports similar to the original 45705 and maybe quit. @Maxim Monastirsky gets back with: They implemented only for print preview. !

In 2013 @brian puts its very succinctly indeed and I whole-hearted agree with Brians approach: In Mac OS X, CMD+ and CMD- are the standard keyboard commands for zooming across all applications, and it is quite disorienting to have otherwise in LibreOffice. As a special case for OS X, these shortcuts should be used (I believe they do not clash with anything else). (In particular, Draw currently counter-intuitively uses shift-+ and - to zoom).

Oh yeah I was using draw a lot and it was awesome that shift-= works. Whatever.

Then there is a stream of 12 duplicates over the years:

Date ID App Summary
2012-12-14 52503 UI Support Alt++ and Alt+- for zooming in/out
2014-06-08 68929 Writer EDITING: [Feature request] Change the zoom with Ctrl+ Plus(+) and Minus(-) Key shortcuts
2016-09-23 101867 Writer Zoom shortcuts don't work
2019-01-24 104653 LibreOff Zoom In and Zoom Out uno commands not functional in Writer and Calc
2017-07-02 108895 Writer Assigning custom zoom in and zoom out shortcuts do not work
2017-10-05 112896 Writer No keyboard shortcut for zoom in/out
2018-02-16 115217 Writer Zoom, Keyboard Shortcut Issue
2018-07-05 118552 LibreOff Add a Zoom In & Zoom Out option in the UI panel
2019-01-24 122391 Writer Custom Shortcut not working properly on OSX
2019-03-27 124331 UI Make Ctrl +/- hotkeys for zoom in/out
2014-06-08 48485 LibreOff VIEWING: Keyboard Zoom Controls (CTRL+, CTRL-) should be implemented
2014-06-08 59617 Writer VIEWING: De facto zoom shortcuts like CTRL++ and CTRL+- don't exits.
In 2018 @darrenllr makes a valiant effort with a nice detailed description of his vision for the feature request / bug fix.
I'm hoping this extended blog post will make the difference: like Ghandi.

Good News - High Priority Attained... in 2019

Thankfully in 2019 we see @Xisco Faulí (very cool name brother!) Changing priority to 'high' since the number of duplicates is 5 or higher. But this is done in December! 2019-12-02 11:09:15 UTC is definitely one of the worst times to ask a programmer to do anything, most of them have left for vacation in mid-November, myself included normally! Not this year, thanks to COVID-19 but I digress. Maybe if the bug is still there in January 2021 I will personally break out the XCode and try fix it myself.

Conclusion

  • If I had a faster more powerful computer I'd look into setting up my build env for some potentially contributions open source stylee\
  • But for now I prey to the gods of open-source!
  • I suggest if the people in with the right passwords consider:
    • update the website and documentation with "the plans" ahead of time
    • "under construction" labels can appear saying we are about to change this...
    • people digging about the docs can that sweet feel releif is coming
    • developers digging about the docs can realise the new way
    • maybe even add "we know this is jarring for new users, we have this in our bug tracker now etc"
    • 'bug bounty' on stack exchange to raise funds for the friendly programmer or team that fixes this one?
    • actually maybe even better would be someone on this list https://hackerone.com/bug-bounty-programs
    • make it a real thorough fix this was live for 9 years etc.
    • later we can all rejoice AND THROW OUR MICE INTO THE FIREPLACE!

Thanks! It's a great solid product otherwise!

It would be so very nice to be able to select this text for clipboard.


About LibreOffice

Many computer users today have digital content created years ago and stored in old, outdated and proprietary document formats. Frequently, these old files cannot be opened by any application on the user's current operating system. The users are, put simply, locked out of their own content. And this affects entire organizations too – so what happens when a government is unable to read or access digital data from past years? The consequences are huge.

The solution
The Document Liberation Project was created to empower individuals, organizations, and governments to recover their data from proprietary formats and provide a mechanism to transition that data into open and standardised file formats, returning effective control over the content from computer companies to the actual authors. To achieve this, the Document Liberation Project develops software libraries that applications can use to read data in proprietary formats.