aptosid 2010-02

I recently reviewed Linux Mint Debian, a very user-friendly version of Linux Mint based on Debian. This time I looked at another distro based on Debian, called aptosid.

Aptosid, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is actually made by the same developers that created the popular distro Sidux. There was apparently some conflict and controversy within the Sidux e.V association that resulted in Sidux morphing into Aptosid. Here’s a brief note that explains the situation:

Important News: sidux is dead, long live aptosid

Contributed by bfree on Sep 09, 2010 – 05:21 PM

As I am sure you are all aware, there have been interesting times for sidux recently.   The bad news is that the sidux project is dead.   The good news is that aptosid has been aptly born like a phoenix from the ashes and will provide a smooth upgrade for sidux systems.   In many ways nothing has changed but our name.

Having declared the last attempt at an election for the e.V. board void while it was happening, the election of a new board is now overdue by more than a year.   The e.V. has also had no official public financial reports and until recently the treasurer was refusing to correspond with the other board members.   There is now also even an internal e.V. challenge to the decision of their last meeting..

Each person you ask will provide a different story of what happened and they are not all lying.   Most of the problems which occurred seem to come back to communication issues, from language problems to personality clashes.   Two entities evolved which could not communicate.   Over time this communication breakdown caused an ever expanding range of problems.

The reality now is that the sidux e.V. seems to believe it owns at least the European registration of the TM for sidux and we have been unable to reach a position where the developers of sidux are able to feel in any way comfortable about carrying on under that name.

So aptosid is born.   Those of you who dist-upgrade will be asked by debconf to change your sources.list files.   Despite what some may have said, we do care about everyone who uses our software, so your system will still be supported there.   You may even find other changes you like.

What has not changed is the primary team behind the development of sidux and we hope that everyone who enjoyed our work and used that system will come join us at aptosid.

sidux is dead, long live aptosid.

Aptosid is available with KDE as its desktop environment or Xfce. Being more of a fan of Xfce than KDE, I decided to go with the Xfce version of Aptosid for this review. Aptosid is available in 32 bit or 64 bit versions.

What’s New In This Release
Aptosid comes with Linux kernel 2.6.35.4 and KDE SC 4.4.5. The new kernel features support for power-conserving AMD and Intel video cards, as well as improved support for wireless networking cards.

Beyond that, there isn’t much to report that’s new in Aptosid. That’s fine though, the real news here isn’t new features, it’s the rebirth of Sidux as Aptosid. It would have been truly awful if, for some reason, Sidux had really died and Aptosid had not been born at all. No worries though, Aptosid is here and we can all let Sidux rest in peace.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of system requirements from the aptosid manual:

AMD64

  • CPU requirements:
    • AMD64
    • Intel Core2
    • Intel Atom 330
    • any x86-64/ EM64T capable CPU or newer
    • newer 64 bit capable AMD Sempron and Intel Pentium 4 CPUs (watch for the “lm” flag in /proc/cpuinfo or use infobash -v3).
  • RAM requirements:
    • KDE: ?512 MB RAM (?768 MB RAM recommended), ?1 GB RAM for liveapt.
    • XFCE: ?256 MB RAM, ?512 MB RAM for liveapt.
  • VGA graphics card capable of at least 640×480 pixel resolution.
  • Optical disk drive or USB media.
  • ?3 GB HDD space, ?10+ GB recommended.

i686

  • CPU requirements:
    • Intel Pentium pro/ Pentium II
    • AMD K7 Athlon (not K5/ K6)
    • Intel Atom N-270/ 230
    • VIA C3-2 (Nehemiah, not C3 Samuel or Ezra)/ C7
    • any x86-64/ EM64T capable CPU or newer
    • the full i686 command set is required.
  • RAM requirements:
    • KDE: ?384 MB RAM (?768 MB RAM recommended), ?512 MB RAM for liveapt.
    • XFCE: ?192 MB RAM, ?512 MB RAM for liveapt.
  • VGA graphics card capable of at least 640×480 pixel resolution.
  • Optical disk drive or USB media.
  • ?3 GB HDD space, ?10+ GB recommended.

Installation
The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end. I downloaded the 32 bit Xfce ISO file, which weighed in at about 500MB. Please note that aptosid is a Live CD distro, which means you don’t have to install it to check it out. You can boot into the CD/DVD and try it out without doing an install.

Booting & Login
The boot menu featured a typical GRUB screen after being installed, but the login screen has a nice aptosid theme to it.


The Desktop
Since I picked Xfce instead of KDE, the aptosid desktop environment I experienced was a bit more light-weight. After booting into my desktop. I was greeted with a number of icons on the desktop including:

Home
File System
Trash
Floppy Drive
CD
aptosid IRC
aptosid Manual

The placement of the icons looks a bit messy and haphazard, but it’s not really that big of a deal. If you want to get rid of some of the icons, you can do so in the Xfce 4 Settings Manager (more on that below).

The IRC icon might of use to some users, but the really useful icon is the aptosid Manual. If this is your first time trying aptosid, I highly recommend browsing through the manual. There’s an enormous amount of helpful information available; the manual is broken down into topic sections and it should help you through any problems you have using or managing aptosid.


Controls
To adjust your desktop settings, click the X button on the panel and go to Settings then Xfce 4 Settings Manager. The Xfce 4 Settings Manager lets you change all the usual stuff, it’s broken down into categories including Desktop, Calendar, Keyboard, Panel, Display, etc. It’s very easy to use, you should have no problems being able to customize your desktop setup for your own comfort.

Wallpaper
The default wallpaper features an aptosid theme. The rest of the bundled wallpaper is mostly Xfce themed, with a few other ones thrown in.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Games Available Via Apt

Graphics
Image Viewer
Ristretto
XSane

Internet
aptosid-irc
Ceni
ELinks Browser
Iceweasel
Transmission
XChat IRC
xdg-browser

Multimedia
Brasero
gxine
Mixer
Xfburn

Office
AbiWord
Gnumeric
Orage

Given that I picked the lighter Xfce version of aptosid, I wasn’t bothered by the somewhat more limited software selection. I think the KDE version comes with more. That’s not really a problem though because there is plenty of software available…if you can figure out how to install it. More on that below.

Software Management
One of the worst or the best things (depending on your point of view) about aptosid is its lack of a GUI-based package manager. If you want to install or remove software, you need to use the command line to do it. You won’t find anything like the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager.

Rather than futz around with the command line, I logged in as root and then installed Synaptic. I prefer to use a GUI, for the most part, when adding or removing software. I guess I’m more of a visual person, I like to see applications listed and I like to be able to choose them using the mouse rather than typing commands at the command line. Perhaps I’m just lazy? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Flash was not installed in the Iceweasel browser; if you want to run flash-based content then you’ll need to install it yourself.

Multimedia Applications
Aptosid comes with Brasero,  gxine, Mixer and Xfburn as its default multimedia applications.

Problems & Headaches
One of the things I found annoying about aptosid is the lack of a GUI-based package manager. As I noted earlier, it was necessary for me to login as root and then install Synaptic from the command line. This is obviously not something a newcomer to Linux might know how to do. If you’re expecting the slickness of the Ubuntu or Linux Mint software managers, forget it.

You’re essentially on your own at the command line until you install Synaptic. This is fine for experienced Linux users, some of whom may actually prefer managing software via Apt at the command line, but it’s not good for newer folks or those who prefer the ease and comfort of some sort of GUI-based package manager.

Beyond that, my experience was mostly positive. I did not run into any stability problems, it ran well consistently for me. Aptosid did everything I needed it to do, and I didn’t see any noticeable bugs or burps.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Aptosid manual (available in a number of different languages), the Aptosid forum, and the Aptosid Wiki for more information.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Aptosid, alas, is not going to win any awards as newbie desktop distro of the year. It functions very well as a very desktop distro for command line junkies, but it is somewhat lacking in slickness when compared to Ubuntu, Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS or a number of others. aptosid could really use some of Linux Mint’s slickness and tools. The complete lack of a useful software manager really hits this distro hard for those who don’t like the command line. That, combined with its partitioning install routine, makes this distro unsuitable for beginners.

Aptosid is best suited for intermediate or advanced Linux users that are comfortable installing & managing software from the command line. If you’re one of those folks, then you’ll probably really like aptosid and you won’t miss not having a software manager.

Those who want a convenient software manager while still enjoying the benefits of Debian might be better served by checking out Linux Mint Debian Edition instead.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: aptosid 2010-02
Web Site: http://www.aptosid.com
Price: Free
Pros: Based on Debian; comes with KDE or the Xfce desktop environments.
Cons: Flash isn’t installed by default; lacks a GUI-based software management tool. Partitioning during install routine might throw off inexperienced users.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users only.
Summary: aptosid is a functional but not elegant option for desktop users. It’s best suited for those who wish to use the command line for software management.
Rating: 3.5/5