Sidux 2009-02 (KDE)

The excellent distribution suggestions keep coming from Brian Masinick and here’s yet another one, Sidux 2009-2. Sidux is based on Debian and you can download a version that uses the XFCE or KDE desktop environments. You can also opt to download the lite version that weighs in at about 600MB or the full version that weighs in at around 2.1GB. Being the greedy app pig that I am, I opted to download the full KDE version.

Requirements & What’s New In This Release
Here’s some of what’s new in this release:

  • Debian sid, as of 2009-07-14.
  • kernel 2.6.30 (smp, hard preemption).
  • X.org 7.4 (xserver-xorg-core 1.6.2).
  • KDE 4.2.4 (en + de).
  • new, SVG based, art theme created by the sidux art team.
  • offline manual for en + de directly on the disc, online manuals for more languages online at http://manual.sidux.com/ and available via apt; a big thank you goes to the documentation and translation teams!
    Please note that the offline manual is only available on the running live CD or the installed system.
  • many changes for the manual.
  • iwl3945 support (Intel Pro Wireless 3945 chipsets).
  • iwlagn support for IPW 4965 and the IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n part of the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 1000/ 5xxxAGN/ 6000/ 6050 family.
  • at76c50x-usb support for 11 MBit/s Atmel wlan cards (at76c503a, at76c505 and at76c505a).
  • ath5k support for 54/ “108” MBit/s Atheros wlan cards (AR2425, AR5210, AR5211, AR5212, AR5213 and AR5414).
  • ath9k support for 802.11 draft-n Atheros wlan cards (AR5418+AR5133, AR5416+AR5133, AR5416+AR2133, AR9160, AR9280 and AR9281).

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In order to use Sidux on your system you’ll need to meet these requirements:

    • amd64:

      • CPU requirements:
        • AMD64
        • Intel Core2
        • Intel Atom 330
        • any x86-64/ EM64T capable CPU or newer

         

      • RAM requirements:
        • KDE: 512 MB RAM (?768 MB RAM recommended), 1 GB RAM for liveapt.
        • XFCE: 256 MB RAM.
      • 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

         

      • RAM requirements:
        • KDE: 384 MB RAM (768 MB RAM recommended), 1 GB RAM for liveapt.
        • XFCE: 192 MB RAM.
      • VGA graphics card capable of at least 640×480 pixel resolution.
      • optical disk drive or USB media.
      • 3 GB HDD space, 10 GB recommended.

Boot Up & Installation
Sidux is a Live CD distribution so you can test it without having to install it. Just pop the CD in and boot up your computer. The first thing I noticed was that Sidux has a very fast boot time when using the Live CD. Before I knew it the desktop had loaded and I was ready to use it. Much faster than certain other distributions.

To get started doing the installation just click the Sidux Installer icon on the desktop and follow the on-screen prompts. At the beginning you will also get the option to install Sidux onto a USB key.

The install is broken into 6 steps (each represented by a tab in the install menu):

Welcome
Partitioning
Grub/Timezone
User
Network
Install

Just click the Back and Forward buttons to proceed through the install.

The installation is mostly very easy but at one point you must use gparted, cfdisk or fdisk to setup a partition on your hard disk. While I don’t think this would throw experienced Linux users off one bit, it might rattle some newbies that aren’t used to dealing with partitions or who might not notice that they need to set up a partition in the first place. The way that it’s set up, it’s easy to miss the fact that you need to push the Execute button to start the partitioning process. That aside, the rest of the install is pretty self-explanatory.

I had no problems whatsoever with my installation. It took about 15 minutes or so for my installation to fully complete. After it was complete, I had no problems booting into my newly installed Sidux system.

Image_Picture 2Desktop & Apps
One thing that struck me about Sidux is how polished it looks when you are looking at the Sidux desktop. This doesn’t look like something that was haphazardly thrown together. There’s a very attractive Sidux logo with what looks like a tick or spider or whatever on the desktop and also a handy Sidux Manual, Release Notes, IRC link and the Sidux Installer (which appears on the Live CD desktop).

The other thing I noticed was that it wasn’t just the boot up speed that was fast, the Live CD desktop performance was quite snappy too. Some Live CD distros can be a bit slow when you’re using them as a Live CD versus having installed them but Sidux definitely isn’t one of those. I found using it as a Live CD to be quite enjoyable in and of itself and I can see the value in using it as such without even doing an install.

The performance after the install was also quite good. Sidux isn’t laggy or slow and doesn’t have a bloated feel to it when you’re using it. It’s quite zippy with apps opening quickly and everything happening without a lot of delay.

Here’s a sample of the apps you’ll get when you install this version of Sidux:

Games
Various KDE Games

Graphics
XSane Image Scanning
Gwenview Image Viewer
Okular Document Viewer
KSnapshot
digiKam Photo Management

Internet
Akregator Feed Reader
Iceweasel Web Browser
KGet Download Manager
KMail
KNemo
Konqueror
Kopete IM
Konversation IRC
KTorrent
Sidux Browser

Emulators
Virtual Box OSE

Multimedia
Dragon Player Video Player
K3b CD & DVD Burning
Kaffeine Media Player
KMix Sound Mixer

TVtime TV Viewer

Office
OpenOffice.org
Fax Address Book

Others
KMouth Speech Synthesizer Frontend
Krusader File Manager
KWrite
KGpg Encryption
Klipper Clipboard Tool
Dolphin File Manager

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Problems & Headaches
If Sidux has a weakness for a desktop distribution, it’s in the install routine. It simply isn’t as intuitive as it should be for new users. Experienced users won’t mind it a bit and will have it installed relatively quickly. But newer folks might not understand how to partition their drive and could be confused when trying to install Sidux.

The part where you need to click the Execute button to start gparted (or whatever tool you choose) should be a separate step as some users might go right by it only to find at the end that the install won’t proceed because no partition has been created.

I’d like to see the Sidux developers move quickly to improve the install routine. They might need to step back away from looking at Sidux through their very experienced eyes and then place themselves into the role of complete newbie to Linux. This might help them improve the install routine and make it less potentially confusing to newbies.

Another potentially confusing thing is that there is an entire Debian section available in the app menus when you click on the K button on your desktop panel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that those apps are all available. However, it is potentially confusing to newer people as some might not understand why those apps are listed under the Debian folder label instead of being categorized under the regular app categories or why some appear in both places. I’m not going to nitpick this too much but it’s something for the Sidux developers to be aware of and perhaps tweak a bit in future releases. It might be better to eliminate that separate Debian app list and blend all of the apps together in the appropriate categories.

Note that if you want media codecs, flash player or other non-free software then you will have to find and install them yourself. The developers of Sidux are all about free software so you won’t find non-free software available right after you install Sidux. However, the Sidux Manual contains instructions on how to update your apt sources so you can install non-free software easily enough.

One other very minor nitpick. While there is a link to the Sidux Manual on the desktop there is no link to the forum or the wiki. I’d like to see both links placed on the desktop. They might not matter to experienced Sidux users but they can make a big difference to newer folks who haven’t used Sidux before and who might want to ask a question or two in the forum or otherwise browse some helpful information.

Getting Help With Sidux
As always if you run into problems you can always post a question in the DLR forum. I can’t guarantee that we’ll have an answer for you but we’ll do our best. And you should most definitely also visit the Sidux forum, read the Sidux Manual and check out the Sidux Wiki. There’s an immense amount of information out there about Sidux waiting for you to find it. So be sure to check it out when you have a chance.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I found myself quickly becoming a fan of Sidux. It offers a tremendous amount of value in an attractive and mostly easy to use distribution.

However, I don’t quite feel comfortable right now recommending it to folks that are very new to Linux. For them I recommend Linux Mint as a better alternative. If you’re new to Linux and you just want a taste of Sidux, feel free to download it and use it as a Live CD. You’ll be able to enjoy it without needing to do an install on your system. And if you’re feeling more adventurous go ahead and try to install it but know ahead of time that you’ll need to do a bit of partitioning during the install.

But I heartily recommend Sidux for intermediate to advanced Linux users. For you folks installing Sidux will be a piece of cake and you’ll get a heck of a lot out of your Sidux based system. It’s a great desktop distribution.

Summary Table:

Product: Sidux 2009-2
Web Site: http://sidux.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Very polished distribution for the most part. Provides a good range of software wrapped up in an attractive desktop package. Fast install.
Cons: Install routine might possibly throw off some of those who are completely new to Linux and who aren’t used to using tools like gparted to partition their hard disks. Separate Debian app category listing might confuse new users.
Summary: A very good desktop Linux distribution that provides a lot of value and makes a great alternative distro for intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5