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reviews

Detailed tests of search engines: Google, Startpage, Bing, DuckDuckGo, metaGer, Ecosia, Swisscows, Searx, Qwant, Yandex, and Mojeek

Since my last in-depth comparison review of alternative search engines in 2014, a lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. Google is appearing as a loan-verb in more and more languages due to its continued dominance in the search engine market. But at the same time, Google is being increasingly demonized by privacy focused users. An even more interesting development is the trend of complaints that Google’s algorithm is producing results that are less relevant and more indicative of artificial stupidity than artificial intelligence. I belong in this latter camp, as I am more of a pragmatist than a privacy pundit. I simply want the best search results with minimal effort and no nonsense. Back in my 2014 article, I was hopeful that DuckDuckGo was quickly becoming a viable and attractive alternative to Google. While DuckDuckGo continues to be the darling of privacy conscious users and is enjoying more popularity than ever, I am concerned that its core search infrastructure and algorithms have largely stagnated. Read more

Samba or slow waltz? Apparent SMB/CIFS slowness on Linux

I have spent a truly frustrating past couple of days debugging poor performance of Samba (SMB/CIFS) on Linux, but fortunately there’s a happy ending. It all started when I resurrected an old NAS I had lying around by installing Debian stable (Buster) and OpenMediaVault on top of that. From now on I’m going to be more serious about making regular automated on-site backups of my various laptops. To do so, the easiest albeit not so performant solution is to simply connect the laptops over the 802.11g network provided by my old-but-good Mikrotik router. And this is where the trouble began.

Review: DuckDuckGo (May 2014 redesign) Compared to Google, Bing, Yandex

If you are reading this article, you’ve probably already heard of DuckDuckGo. Internet users that stick with the status quo usually don’t look any farther than the first search option offered by their web browser. On the other hand, inquisitive users that depend on the Internet for statistics, comparisons, and hidden pearls of useful information are probably all too familiar with the perks and pitfalls of the current Internet search engines. DuckDuckGo was nothing more than a miniscule blip on the radar of demanding Internet searchers since its inception in 2008. However, the recent scandal of NSA monitoring resulted in a massive influx of users defecting to DuckDuckGo. And a major refresh of DuckDuckGo’s interface in May, 2014 also attracted the attention of many new users, including myself. So, how does DuckDuckGo compare to the big players in the Internet search engine field? Will users who prefer DuckDuckGo for privacy related issues find what they are searching for? Read more

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.9 (Cinnamon edition)

Arch Linux is highly respected throughout the Linux community as a cutting edge, well designed, rolling-release Linux distro with superb documentation. But at the same time, it is also discarded as a non-option by many Linux users, including experienced ones, for being time consuming to install and configure. I fall into this latter group. So, what’s a self-respecting Linux user supposed to do if (s)he wants to run Arch Linux but doesn’t want to a dedicate a whole weekend to it? Enter Manjaro, a Linux distro based on Arch. It is important to note that Manjaro is not just a re-branded Arch spin. In fact, it’s not truly an Arch system, and it does not use the Arch binary package repositories. But it’s dependent on Arch and it supposedly maintains all of the desirable features of Arch, while at the same time trying to mitigate or solve some of Arch’s less than desirable traits. Read more

In support of open source launchers

After many years of using traditional desktop environments like Gnome 2 and KDE and XFCE, I recently spent a few months with Ubuntu 13.04. Overall, my experience with the Unity desktop was fairly positive after I tweaked and configured it to my liking. Since then, I’m using a different non-Ubuntu based distribution, so I’m currently using Mate 1.6. Probably the feature that I most miss from Unity is the launcher. Frankly, I’m surprised that the Unity launcher was so useful and intuitive for me, since I have never been particularly fond of keyboard navigation. Although I still don’t use the keyboard much for window management or within the applications, now that I’m back on Mate I find myself really missing the convenience of searching and launching both apps and files from one unified interface with just a few keywords. With the online results all disabled, Unity’s launcher learns from the user’s habits and quickly becomes uncannily accurate at suggesting relevant local files and applications based on a few letters of input. Read more

Why I use and prefer Drupal

A user once asked me, “If you did it all over again, what CMS would you use?” That’s a good question. I honestly don’t consider myself to be an authority on the subject, but I’d like to share my experience with Drupal 6 as my CMS for a forum site during the past few years. Background In terms of time and experience, to say nothing of my sites, I’m pretty heavily invested in Drupal. I had an initial false start about six years ago with Joomla and a bridge to make SMF forums run inside Joomla. The Joomla part of the site was hacked multiple times, although SMF was never hacked. But I hated having two separate CMS running in tandem, and I grew to hate Joomla’s interface. As for SMF forums, it was fairly capable as a forum, but ugly as sin, not very extensible, and not easy to modify. Read more