antiX-M8.2

Once again Brian has weighed in with a good distribution review request. Up this time is antiX, a light-weight version of Linux based on SimplyMEPIS. antiX is geared toward older systems but it’s also quite usable on more modern hardware. antiX is maintained by a guy who goes by the moniker “anticapitalista.”

What’s New In This Release
There’s quite a bit new in this release and here’s a sample of what you’ll find:

  • Increased localization, supports 10 languages right out of the box.
  • All MEPIS tools updated and adapted for antiX
  • MEPIS 2.6.27-25 kernel
  • Improved antiX-Control Centre, new scripts for screenshots, phonebook
  • Improved and extended themes and artwork for icewm and fluxbox
  • Much improved localisation
  • meta-installer to install kde4 (if wanted)
  • iceweasel 3.0.11 supporting 11 languages
  • X.org 7.4
  • Rox-filer 2.9
  • fluxbox 1.1.1
  • wicd 1.6.1

Requirements & Installation
antiXi is ideal for older computers and needs the following as a minimum requirement:

64MB old PII 266 systems with pre-configured 128MB RAM with 1.2GB hard disk size.

The antiX install is really, really fast and quite easy. Mine finished in just a few minutes and I had no problems with it. I’d classify it as probably one of the fastest installs I’ve seen and probably one of the easiest.

Here’s what you can expect to encounter during the installation:


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Desktop & Apps
You can use IceWM or Fluxbox for the desktop environments in antiX. Each of them is lightweight and fast, making them perfect for older hardware. You won’t find all of the KDE or Gnome bells and whistles but who cares? If that’s what you want then you shouldn’t be using antiX in the first place as there are other distributions out there who will give you all of the eye candy and desktop bloat you want. antiX is about being lean and mean and the IceWM and Fluxbox deskstop environments are just that.

IceWM was the default desktop for me and my preferred one. When you login you’ll note some interesting system stats running in the upper left corner of your desktop. And the desktop wallpaper is quite nice too, featuring pretty clouds floating over some water and land. It’s quite a…heavenly wallpaper for the most part.

To get started using IceWM just click the AntiX button (where the Windows start button is) or simply right-click your desktop and you’ll get a list of app menus. Navigating IceWM’s menus is easy even if you haven’t used them before. The desktop panel bar contains links to the control panel, exit, web browser, text editor, terminal, volume and home folder. You can also use multiple desktops if you want by clicking on the desktop number on the panel.

Note that you can easily switch from IceWM to Fluxbox by clicking the AntiX button then choosing Desktop then choosing Alternatives then clicking on Go Fluxbox. You can switch back to IceWM by right-clicking your desktop in Fluxbox and then choosing Desktop then Alternatives then IceWM.

Fluxbox is a neat desktop too. It’s a bit different than IceWM but quite usable so I suggest experimenting with both of them to see which one you like the best. Of the two I probably like IceWM a bit better but that’s because I’m more familiar with it. I spent some time with Fluxbox and found myself warming up to it though so I feel comfortable using either of them for the most part.

After using IceWM and Fluxbox for a while you may wonder why you bothered with the desktop bloat in KDE or Gnome in the first place. Everything is extremely fast in antiX and you quickly come to realize that you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to get the most out of your computer.

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Take note of the antiX Control Center. It lets you easily change your system, network, xwindow, disks, hardware and desktop settings. The control center is available on the desktop panel in IceWM.

Here’s a breakdown of what each tab lets you do:

Desktop
Choose Wallpaper
Edit Fluxbox Settings
Manage Icons
Change Gtk2 and Icon Themes
Edit IceWM Settings
Change Cursor Theme

System
Manage Packages
Configure System
Choose Startu Services
Manage Users
Edit Config Files
Edit System Monitor

Network
Manage Network Interfaces
Configure DSL Connection
Connect Wirelessly
Configure Network Interfaces
Configure Dialu Connection
Manage Firewall

XWindow
Configure X Server
Edit Login Options
Configure Slim
Change Keyboard Layout
Change Slim Background
Configure Mouse

Disks
Partition A Drive
Image A Partition
Mount Connected Devices
Backup Your System
Synch Directories
Restore Your System

Hardware
Manage Hardware
Setup A Printer
Set Screen Resolution
Set Date and Time
Adjust Mixer
Configure Sound System

The Control Center puts a tremendous amount of power right at your fingertips so be sure to take a few minutes to check it out after you boot into antiX.

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There’s quite a bit of software that comes with antiX and here’s a sample:

Games
Dosbox Emulator
Gweled
Breakout
Xmahjongg

Graphics
GQview
mtPaint

Internet
Dillo
Iceweasel
XChat
Pidgin IM
gFTP
rtorrent
Transmission
Claws Mail

Multimedia
XMMS
streamtuner
Gnome MPlayer
WinFF
AlsaPlayer

Office
Gnumeric
Abiword
Osmo Organizer
Phonebook

Others
PCManFM
ROX Filer
XArchive
GnomeBaker

You can install quite a bit more using Synaptic or the metapackage-installer. I installed OpenOffice and KOffice via the metapackage-installer as I like having the larger office suites available if I choose to use one of them.

I know that this is a bit of heresy on my part because, after all, the entire point of antiX is to have a lightweight distribution not to be slowed down by chunky office suites. But I like the idea of having the office suites available even if I don’t end up using them very often.

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Problems & Headaches
The menus are potentially confusing as there are categories of apps when you click the AntiX start button in IceWM but there is also another list of menus labeled Applications that will let you access everything that’s under the other categories. I’m not going to bark about this too much as it doesn’t bother me personally at all but it’s potentially confusing to newbies.

Beyond that, I don’t have much to complain about in this review. antiX was easy to install and everything pretty much worked for me without causing me any headaches. As I’ve said before, I hate it when this happens as it ruins this part of the review. Darn it.

Getting Help for antiX
You can always post in the DLR forum if you have problems. You should also visit the antiX Forum and be sure to browse the antiX site. Here are some quick tips from the antiX site that you might want to bear in mind before you use it:

  • Login as ‘demo’, password = ‘demo’.
  • For root access, password = ‘root’. Please do not login as root. It is totally unnecessary.
  • Use ‘sux’ rather than ‘su’ when opening GUI apps as root in a terminal.
  • Sudo is not configured by default. antiX is not Ubuntu!
  • To boot from floppy, I suggest SmartBootManager.
  • antiX can also boot from an .iso file on a hard-drive. Boot from iso on hard-disk This is very fast.
  • antiX can also be installed as a livecd to usb. Using a live-usb-cd is very fast.
  • This site is under construction. For questions, comments, please use the antiX forum or the antiX forum on MepisLovers
  • There is also a lot of information suitable for antiX in the MEPIS wiki.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
antiX is the perfect distribution for those running older hardware or for those who simply prefer a lightweight desktop environment. It also makes a good rescue CD should you end up needing one.

In these days of bloated desktops and unnecessary eye-candy, it’s nice to have distros like antiX available as reminders that we don’t really need all of that stuff and, in fact, we may be better off without it.

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Summary Table:

Product: antiX-M8.2
Web Site: http://antix.mepis.org
Price: Free
Pros: Lightweight, easy install, good selection of apps.
Cons: If you want to use OpenOffice.org you’ll need to use the metapackage-installer to add it to your system.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced users.
Summary: antiX is a great distro for those running older hardware or those who simply prefer a lightweight desktop environment without the bells and whistles of KDE or Gnome.
Rating: 4/5