Ubuntu 11.04

Ubuntu’s latest release (code named Natty Narwhal) is finally out and I grabbed a copy of it to check it out. Canonical has gotten some flack for this release since it uses Unity as the default desktop instead of the usual GNOME interface. Some users seem to love it and others have vowed to switch away from Ubuntu and find some other distribution as their main desktop Linux.

Only time will tell if Unity brings in more Ubuntu users than it drives away. The jury is still out on that one and will be for quite some time, but I shared some of my thoughts a while back in a column on EOL called “Unity: Ubuntu’s Descent Into Madness!

Desktop

The Ubuntu 11.04 Unity Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Unity interface
Launcher
Dash
Workspaces
Banshee replaces Rhythmbox
LibreOffice replaces OpenOffice
Ubuntu Software Centers contains user ratings & reviews
Kernel 2.6.38
Firefox 4.0

The Unity interface is Canonical’s attempt to bring a more netbook-like look and feel to Ubuntu. The classic GNOME interface is still available via the login screen though, so you can opt out of Unity any time you like.

The launcher lets you access such things as your home folder, Firefox, LibreOffice, the Ubuntu Software Center, Ubuntu One, updates, workspaces and applications.

Launcher

Launcher

Click the Ubuntu logo in the top-left to access the dash. The dash lets you access applications, search, email and other frequently used features.

Dash

Dash

Workspaces is reminiscent of Mac OSX’s “Spaces” feature and lets you easily access multiple desktops.

Workspaces

Workspaces

I’m quite happy to see that LibreOffice has replaced OpenOffice. I’ve been waiting for this and kudos for Canonical for finally getting it done. It’s the best thing that they could do for those who need an office suite. I’m rather neutral on Banshee replacing Rythymbox though, but I’m sure there are some who will appreciate it.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice Writer

I’m also very happy indeed that the Software Center now contains user reviews and ratings. It’s always helpful to see what other users think of an application before I bother downloading and installing it. Sometimes it can help you avoid stinker applications that aren’t worth installing on your system.

Software Center Reviews

Software Center Reviews

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

A Pentium 4, 1GHz system is the minimum recommended for a desktop system.

Table 3.2. Recommended Minimum System Requirements

Install Type RAM (minimal) RAM (recommended) Hard Drive
No desktop 64 megabytes 256 megabytes 1 gigabyte
With Desktop 64 megabytes 512 megabytes 5 gigabytes

Installation
The installation routine is as easy as ever with Ubuntu 11.04. You shouldn’t have a problem even if you’ve never installed Ubuntu before. Ubuntu 11.04 is a Live CD distro so you can check it out without having to actually install it and you can even upgrade your earlier version of Ubuntu to 11.04 from the Live CD.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

One thing to bear in mind is that Unity requires a certain level of hardware access to run. If try to install it in VirtualBox it will default to the classic GNOME desktop instead. You’ll need to install the Guest Additions in order for Unity to run properly. This is very easy and just takes a couple of minutes.

Guest Additions Install

VirtualBox Guest Additions Install

Login
Here’s what the login screen looks like:

Login

Login

The Desktop
As noted at the beginning of the review, this release comes with the new Unity desktop interface. Unity is significantly different than the GNOME interface and it takes some getting used to if you haven’t used it before. I share my thoughts about the Unity interface in the Final Thoughts section of the review so I’ll hold off on that now. Suffice to say that it’s probably best described as a “love it or hate it” kind of thing. If you aren’t familiar with it, you might want to browse Ubuntu’s Unity guide to learn more about how it works.

If you prefer you can opt to use the “classic” GNOME interface by choosing it while on the login screen.

As I mentioned earlier (I’ll reiterate for those of you who skipped right to this section of the review) when you first boot into Unity you’ll notice that there’s a dock-like bar called the launcher to the left of the screen. From here, you can access your home folder, Firefox, LibreOffice applications, the Ubuntu Software Center, Ubuntu One, Update Manager, the Workspace Switcher, Applications, files and folders, and the trash. The desktop itself is totally uncluttered and free of annoying icons.

Desktop

Desktop

To browse applications, click the Applications icon and you’ll see a menu pop up with the Most Frequently Used, Installed and Apps Available for Download. Clicking the All Applications drop down menu will let you browse applications via category. This is quite different than the GNOME interface and some users might find it somewhat annoying to have an extra step to access a list of applications. Beauty though is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder.

And don’t forget that you can also just right-click the applications icon on the launcher to pull up a complete list of application categories.

Browse Applications

Browse Applications

Application Icon

Application Icon

Themes

Ambiance is the default theme in Ubuntu 11.04 but you can choose from seven other themes or get more online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper

There are 21 different backgrounds available, and some of them are quite cool. More are available online if nothing floats your boat in the default selection.

Backgrounds

Backgrounds

Bundled Software

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

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
Shotwell Photo Manager
LibreOffice Draw
Simple Scan

Internet
Empathy IM
Firefox
Gwibber
Remote Desktop Viewer

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Brasero
Movie Player
Pitivi

Office
LibreOffice
Evolution Mail and Calendar

Software Management
The Ubuntu Software Center contains more than 33,000 applications split into categories. You can also search for applications or browse the Featured and What’s New sections.

Software Center

Software Center

 

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the application in the Ubuntu Software Center and click the Install or Remove button. You can also click the More Info button to get more information about an application before installing it. This includes helpful ratings & comments by other users so if you aren’t sure if an application is worth bothering with, read what others have to say about it.

Add Software 1

Add Software 1

Add Software 2

Add Software 2

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Flash is not installed by default unless you choose to have third party software added during the 2nd install step (see the Install 2 image on the install page or the image gallery page). I opted not to since I wanted to see the default selection of software without anything being added to it. If you are going to be viewing flash videos then it makes sense to just have the third party stuff added when you install Ubuntu 11.04.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications

Ubuntu 11.04 comes with a very modest selection of multimedia software including Banshee, Brasero Disc Burner, Movie Player and the Pitivi Video Editor. However, there are about 315 multimedia applications available in the Ubuntu Software Center. So chances are you will be able to find what you are looking for there even if the default selection is rather sparse.

Multimedia Category

Multimedia Category

Banshee

Banshee

Problems & Headaches
One of the annoying things about the launcher is that it’s not very configurable right now. Beginners might not notice or even care about that, but more advanced users could find it very annoying. I hope that Canonical builds in some customization options for the launcher in the next release of Ubuntu.

My experience with Ubuntu 11.04 was quite good in terms of performance and problems. I didn’t run into any noticeable instability, slowdown or other burps while using it.

The only thing that slowed me down briefly was adding the Guest Additions to get Unity to run in VirtualBox. Beyond that, my experience was very positive. This isn’t surprising though, Ubuntu has usually run well for me so I didn’t expect to run into much in the way of headaches with this release. Your mileage may vary, however, so please take a moment to share any problems (and fixes) you might have encountered so that others can benefit from your experience.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as 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 Ubuntu support page for documentation, answers, training courses and free community support.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Ubuntu 11.04 is probably best described as a “love it or leave it” type of distro. If you like Unity then chances are you will really love Ubuntu 11.04. However, if you are one of those who dislikes Unity then it might be time to leave Ubuntu and find another distribution for your desktop use.

I’m in the latter category as I find Unity to be suffocating and unnecessary. For me it adds little value and seems to be in the way most of the time; so I would definitely not use Ubuntu 11.04 as one of my regular distros. I tried to like it but I just couldn’t warm up to it. Some have called it very “Mac-like” but, oddly, Mac OS X’s interface doesn’t seem to annoy me as much as Unity’s. Say what you will about Apple (and there’s plenty to say, pro and con) but they don’t seem to have made Mac OS X into an annoying experience the way that Unity feels to me.

Perhaps I’m just a dinosaur? Maybe netbook type interfaces will be the wave of the future in all desktop operating systems. If so then I suspect I’ll be one of the luddites booting into “classic” interfaces or simply opting to use a distro with a slimmed down desktop environment instead. Eye candy and “coolness” can sometimes be more trouble than they are worth so if feeling that way makes me a fossil then so be it. If I wanted a netbook interface, I’d buy a netbook instead of using a desktop computer.

Your mileage may vary, however, so I urge you to keep an open mind and give Ubuntu 11.04 a shot and see if you like it. I did not penalize Ubuntu 11.04 for Unity in the scoring below. Despite my own dislike of it, I know that there are some folks out there who might really like it and more power to them if they do. It’s just not my cup of tea.

If you need an alternative then I’d consider Linux Mint, Bodhi or one of the many other Ubuntu derivatives that don’t use Unity as their desktop environment. Of course you could also stick with Ubuntu 11.04 and simply use the classic GNOME interface instead. You can choose that on the login screen if you like.

Ubuntu 11.04 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users. Beginners should be aware that Unity is significantly different than previous Ubuntu desktops and should bear that in mind accordingly if they decide to try out Ubuntu 11.04.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu 11.04
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Price: Free
Pros: New Unity interface; user ratings and reviews in the Software Center; easy install routine that includes the ability to upgrade from the Live CD.
Cons: Unity interface is a “love it or hate it” affair that will either bring people to Ubuntu or drive them away, the jury is still out on that and we won’t know for a while which way things will go.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5

 



Bodhi 1.0

Ubuntu has many different derivative distros and now there’s a new one called Bodhi Linux. Bodhi derives from the Buddhist term for enlightenment and, not surprisingly, it uses the Enlightenment desktop environment. The leaf logo used throughout this distribution takes meaning from its name since the word “bodhi” also denotes a sacred tree in Buddhism.

I know that some folks will roll their eyes and probably think “do we need yet another freaking Ubuntu derivative?” Well yes, I think we do. There’s always room for another good distro and Bodhi Linux is definitely a good distro.

Bodhi Linux is the exact opposite of Ultimate Edition. UE throws in everything including the kitchen sink while Bodhi Linux goes in the opposite direction. Bodhi installs a minimal number of applications and lets the user make his or her choices as to which apps they want installed on their system.

While this won’t appeal to some people, it works very well for what it is as you’ll see in this review.

Preinstall Boot Menu

Preinstall Boot Menu

Live Desktop

Live Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Since this is a 1.0 release, there’s no “what’s new” to include. However, here are a few more details about what Bodhi Linux is based on and what it includes.

Based on Ubuntu 10.04
Enlightenment .16
Kernel 2.6.35

Since some folks reading this review may not be familiar with Enlightenment, here are a few details about it from the Enlightenment site:

Enlightenment is the flagship and original name bearer for this project. Once it was just a humble window manager for X11 that wanted to do things differently. To do them better, but it has expanded. This can be confusing so when we refer to Enlightenment, we may mean the project as a whole or just the window manager proper. The libraries behind Enlightenment are referred to as EFL collectively, each with a specific name and purpose.

The window manager is a lean, fast, modular and very extensible window manager for X11 and Linux. It is classed as a “desktop shell” providing the things you need to operate your desktop (or laptop), but is not a whole application suite. This covered launching applications, managing their windows and doing other system tasks like suspending, reboots, managing files etc.

Enlightenment libraries already power millions of systems, from mobile phones to set top boxes, desktops, laptops, game systems and more. It is only now being recognized for its forward-thinking approaches, as products and designers want to do more than the boring functional user experiences of the past. This is where EFL excels.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

300mhz i386 Processor
128megs of RAM
1.5g HD space

Installation
Bodhi Linux is a live distro so you don’t need to install it to check it out. You can just pop the DVD into your system and boot off of it to try Bodhi Linux.

If you do decide to install it, you will find it’s quite easy since Bodhi uses the Ubuntu installer. You can watch a slideshow during the install as well. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login menus look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop

When you first boot into Bodhi you’ll need to choose the profile for the kind of environment you want. I opted for the “desktop” option but there are others including a compiz enabled environment, a bare bones (geared toward advanced users) as well as a few other options.

After you pick the desktop, you can choose the theme, wallpaper and a selection of applications. Note that the applications are utilities and that sort of thing, not desktop applications. You’ll need to get those separately (see the software section).

Selection Menu

Environment Selection Menu

Theme Choice Menu

Theme Choice Menu

Application Selection Menu

Application Selection Menu

One of the things I always notice when booting into a desktop is how attractive it looks. Many distributions can be rather…er…ugly looking when it comes to desktop wallpaper and the overall look and feel. That’s not the case with Bodhi; it’s a fine looking desktop environment. The colors are bright and uplifting, unlike some of the dreary and depressing themes I’ve seen over the years in certain distributions.

Many of the things you need to use your Bodhi system are included on the desktop panel. If you need to access other things just click the desktop and a menu will popup, or simply click the Bodhi button on the panel to access additional items that way instead.

The Enlightenment desktop is a joy to use; it’s fast and quite beautiful to look at. It’s definitely one of Bodhi’s big selling points and will be appreciated by anybody that wants a fast desktop environment that also looks good. If you aren’t already a fan of Enlightenment, you probably will be after using Bodhi Linux.

Desktop

Desktop

Menu

Menu

Panel

Panel

Themes & Wallpaper
If you want additional themes and wallpaper, you can download them from the Bodhi Linux art page. There’s quite a lot to choose from so I think most people will be happy with the selection of goodies for their Bodhi Linux system.

Art

Art

Bundled Software

Remember that Bodhi is a very minimalistic distribution that lets you pick the applications you want to run rather than picking them for you. So after booting into Bodhi you will find that there is very little desktop software available.

Here’s what you’ll find installed by default:

Midori Web Browser
LeafPad Text Editor

Software Management
Synaptic is the default software management tool but you can also download software from the Bodhi Linux site (see below).

Synaptic

Synaptic

Adding & Removing Software

If you want to add software, you can find it directly in Synaptic or you can download it from the Bodhi Linux site. If you click the Bodhi button on the panel then choose Bodhi Linux then Add Software, you can choose from a list of packages on the Bodhi site.

Add Software

Add Software

There are two large package sets:

Nikihila Application Set
Pratibha Application Set

The Nikihila set provides full-featured software while the Pratibha set offers lightweight packages that retain high levels of functionality.

There are also categories of applications such as:

Graphics
Internet
Multimedia
Office
Extra

Email Applications Category

Email Applications Category

Evolution

Evolution

You can choose individual applications in each category then opt to click Install Now or Download.

It’s safe to say that the way Bodhi handles application installs and software in general is somewhat unique among Linux distros. I give the developers credit for going in a completely different direction than most distros.

Which way is better? That’s totally up to you. I suggest at least browsing the stuff that’s on the Bodhi Linux site before using Synaptic. You may find what you need without having to bother with Synaptic.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Flash is not installed by default in the Midori browser so you’ll need to add it yourself. Not to worry though, you can get Java and Flash from the browser plugins page on the Bodhi Linux site.

YouTube

YouTube

Flash Plugin

Flash Plugin

Multimedia Applications
Bodhi Linux does not come with multimedia applications but there are about 29 applications available on the Bodhi Linux site that should meet the needs of most users. Here’s some of what you’ll find there:

Banshee
Clementine
VLC
Rhythmbox
Boxee
XBMC
Acidrip
Handbrake
Non Free Codecs
Cheese
PiTiVi
OpenShot
Audacity
Rosegarden

Problems & Headaches
Some folks might be irritated that the Ubuntu Software Center is not included in Bodhi Linux. That wasn’t a problem for me but it’s something to be aware of if you are expecting all Ubuntu derivatives to contain it.

It might also be helpful to add the Nikihila and Pratibha software bundles to the software selection menu when you first boot into Bodhi. While that goes against the mission of this distro, some people might appreciate being able to install them right off the bat.

Beyond that, I don’t have much to complain about. Bodhi Linux performed very well for me. It was fairly zippy and I didn’t see any application crashes or system hangs up while I was using it.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as 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 Bodhi Linux community/support page. There are links there to the Bodhi Linux forum, IRC and other helpful resources.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I really enjoyed using Bodhi Linux; I will be keeping it available as one of my regular virtual machine distros. Its mission is to provide a minimalist distro for those who want to choose their applications and it very much succeeds at that mission.

Bodhi Linux is definitely not for those who want tons of applications installed by default though. Those folks would be much better served by installing Ultimate Edition instead. Bodhi is perfect though for those looking for a minimalist distro; it’s especially good for those who can appreciate what the Enlightenment desktop has to offer.

Distrohoppers would also do well to check it out and give it a test drive in VirtualBox.

Bodhi Linux is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users. Beginners should take heed of what I covered in the software section of the review though so they know how to get additional software from the Bodhi site.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Bodhi Linux 1.0
Web Site: http://www.bodhilinux.com
Price: Free
Pros: Enlightenment desktop environment; minimalistic distro that doesn’t overload the user with unnecessary software; based on Ubuntu; easy to install; attractive desktop wallpaper & theme.
Cons: Installing software takes the user to the Bodhi Linux site or requires use of Synaptic; the Ubuntu Software Center is not included in this distribution.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5

 

Fusion 14 Thorium

Fedora is one of the best-known desktop Linux distros, but not many derivative distros are based on it. Fusion 14 is a new distro that uses Fedora 14 as its base. Don’t be fooled though, Fusion is not your father’s Fedora at all. There’s more to it than meet’s the eye and it stands a good chance of replacing generic Fedora for users who crave value-added features that take it to another level.

If you aren’t familiar with Fedora 14 itself, please see the earlier review I wrote of it for DLR. KDE users may want to refer to the review of the KDE version of Fedora 14.

Here’s the official description of Fusion from the Fusion site:

Fusion Linux is a Fedora Remix that uses a combination of free and open-source, non-free and non-open-source firmware and software, to bring the user the most advanced experience on the Linux platform.

Fusion Linux includes an outstanding theme, multimedia functionality out of the box and added desktop tweaks for better usability.

And finally, Fusion Linux is 100% compatible with Fedora.

Live DVD Desktop

Live DVD Desktop

What’s New In This Release

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Custom theme
Post install welcome wizard
Multimedia support
More games
Skype removed
Better hardware compatibility
Mint menu
DockbarX
GNOME Do

The post install welcome script is a really nice touch in this distro. Once your install is finished and you reboot, a terminal window will open and you can configure your system. The script lets you update your system, install Skype, setup sudo, use Redshift, install Dropbox, or change your wallpaper. While it would be nice if it didn’t run in a terminal window, it’s still a useful tool for those who want to tweak things a bit before using Fusion. The desktop section of the review has images of the entire configuration process.

Enhanced multimedia support is always a welcome thing in any distro, as far as I’m concerned. Fusion gives you flash, MP3 and DivX support by default.

The removal of Skype was done to facilitate free distribution of Fusion Linux. I don’t regard it as a big deal at all since the welcome script lets you put it back in with ease in seconds.

The inclusion of Linux Mint’s menu is welcome indeed. I know that some people don’t like it but I always have, so I never mind seeing it borrowed by other distros. It adds some extra value to any distro that uses it. I hope more distro developers will consider adding it to their offerings at some point.

Mint Menu

Mint Menu

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
I was not able to find a list of hardware requirements on the Fusion site, I hope the developers will put on in an FAQ or other prominent place at some point. It’s always a good idea to let people know what is required to run a distro.

I think it’s safe to assume that you should at least meet the minimum requirements to run generic Fedora 14 if you want to run Fusion 14.

Installation
Fusion uses the same installer as Fedora and it’s just as easy. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Install Boot Menu

Install Boot Menu

Login

Login

Welcome Configuration Script
As I noted at the beginning of the review, one neat thing about Fusion is the welcome configuration script. When you boot into your desktop, the first thing you see is a terminal window that lets you configure your system.

The screenshots below walk you through the configuration process.

Configuration 1

Configuration 1

Configuration 2

Configuration 2

Configuration 3

Configuration 3

Configuration 4

Configuration 4

Configuration 5

Configuration 5

Configuration 6

Configuration 6

Configuration 7

Configuration 7

The Desktop
When I first booted into the desktop, it had the icky default Fedora 14 wallpaper. I really dislike that wallpaper, so I was happy to be able to change it with the welcome configuration script. I ended up with the neat, spacey Fusion wallpaper in the image below.

As you can see in the image, the desktop has a few icons on it but it’s not cluttered up with too many things.

Clicking the Menu button in the panel displays the Mint Menu. As I noted earlier, I really like the Mint Menu so I’m glad it’s included in Fusion. You can opt to see a list of favorite applications or application categories if you prefer. The menu also shows Places, System, Search, and the usual logout/quit/lock screen options.

There are icons on the panel for showing the desktop, Chromium, opening a terminal window, updating Fusion, clipboard, networking, volume, date and multiple desktops.

Overall, I find the Fusion desktop a pleasure to use and I like it much better than generic Fedora 14.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
Fusion 14 uses a custom theme that is based on Faenza icons and the Alliance GTK theme. I find it quite attractive. However, if you don’t like it you can easily change to a different one that is included or get more online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
I really like the cool Fusion wallpaper that I ended up with after running the welcome config script. If you don’t like it there are a few other common selections available and more are available online.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools
Here’s what the Control Center looks like. You can also access system tools and preferences from the applications menu in the Mint Menu.

Control Center

Control Center

System Tools in the Mint Menu

System Tools in the Mint Menu

Bundled Software

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

Games
Abe
Alien Blaster
Blob Wars
Chromium BSU
Critical Mass
FooBillard
Freeciv
Freeciv Server
Frozen Bubble
Glaxium
Kobo Deluxe
Maelstrom
Numpty Physics
PlayOnLinux
Teeworlds
WineMine

Graphics
Blender
F-Spot
Fotowall
GIMP
Inkscape
MyPaint
PhotoPrint
PosteRazor
Scribus
Simple Scan
Viewnior

Internet
aMule
Chromium
Dropbox
Empathy
Firefox
ggz-gtk
Giver
Gwibber
Net Activity Viewer
Pan Newsreader
Remote Desktop Viewer
TeamViewer 6
Thunderbird
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
AcetoneISO2
Arista Transcoder
Audacious
Audacity
Audio CD Extractor
Avidemux Video Editor
Banshee
Cheese
GNOME MPlayer
gtk-recordMyDesktop
HandBrake
K3b
Miro Internet TV
Movie Player
MusicBrainz Picard
Pitivi Video Editor
VLC

Office
OpenOffice.org

Others
Marble
Stellarium Night Sky Viewer
Wine

I’m not much of a gamer these days, but the game selection is a nice touch in this distro. There’s enough stuff there to keep casual desktop gamers busy when they need a break from work.

There’s also plenty of other software to meet the needs of just about any average desktop user. Fusion’s default software selection is quite good, indeed.

Software Management
If you find that you need more software, you can click the Menu button and select Package Manager. Software is broken down into the appropriate categories and it’s easy to browse around or search if you prefer. After finding an application, click the check box next to it then click the Apply button. You can see a description about the package as well.

The software management tool in Fusion is not quite as nice as Linux Mint’s or the Ubuntu Software Center. But let’s not forget that Fusion is based on Fedora so this is to be expected. Overall, it’s a fairly good experience though I would like to see user reviews and ratings added to the package manager at some point. It’s always nice to see what other people think of an application before installing it.

Software Management

Software Management

Software Updates

Software Updates

It’s also easy to update your system. Just click the updates icon on the panel and you can begin the process of updating your Fusion system.

Sound and Multimedia
As I noted at the beginning of the review, Fusion has support by default for flash, MP3 and DivX playback. So there’s no need for you to install anything to enjoy video on the web. I had no problems running YouTube videos on my Fusion system. They all looked and sounded great.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Well pardon me while I gush for a moment. I was very happy indeed to see the default selection of multimedia applications in Fusion. There are about 17 applications included by default including some of my favorites: VLC, Pitivi Video Editor, Cheese, GNOME MPlayer, HandBrake, etc. My guess is that multimedia mavens will be quite happy with all of the apps included in Fusion. Of course if you need more you can get them from the multimedia section of the Package Manager.

Miro Internet TV

Miro Internet TV

Problems & Headaches
As I noted earlier, you see the nasty Fedora 14 wallpaper at times when logging in or seeing the desktop for the first time. I’d like to see that gone completely and the pretty black/space Fusion themed wallpaper replace it. Fusion needs its own brand identity. So I hope the developers get rid of the weird Fedora wallpaper altogether, it just looks out of place.

I was disappointed to see OpenOffice.org included as the default office suite rather than LibreOffice. Hopefully the Fusion developers will fix this in the next release and consign OpenOffice to oblivion.

Beyond that, I saw no overt problems with Fusion. It was quite reliable and seemed fairly speedy for me. None of my applications crashed and my system seemed quite stable. There’s not a whole lot to complain about with Fusion.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as 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 Fusion blog, forum, and mailing list.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m very happy that Fusion 14 has been released; it’s pretty much what I had always hoped Fedora could become. It adds significant value to the Fedora base and makes it much more in tune with the needs of a desktop user rather than a developer. I highly recommend that current Fedora users give Fusion a try. My guess is that a significant percentage of them will at least consider switching to Fusion.

Fusion is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Fusion 14
Web Site: http://fusionlinux.org
Price: Free
Pros: Takes Fedora to another level; multimedia ready; includes Mint Menu; great selection of software including desktop games; customized theme; welcome configuration script.
Cons: OpenOffice.org is still the default office suite; ugly default Fedora wallpaper appears in certain places.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced users.
Rating: 4/5

 

Zorin OS 4

Many people coming from Windows try Ubuntu Linux as their first Linux distribution. But Ubuntu itself, while very good, may not always be the best choice. There are many Ubuntu derivatives and it’s possible that one of those can sometimes be a better bet for those seeking to ease their way into a comfortable Linux niche. Zorin OS is an Ubuntu derivative designed to help make the transition from Windows to Linux as easy as possible.

Zorin OS 4 is the latest release. Zorin OS comes in a number of flavors including:

Zorin OS Core
Zorin OS Lite
Zorin OS Gaming
Zorin OS Multimedia
Zorin OS Ultimate

Zorin OS Core is one of the free versions and that’s the version I downloaded for this review. The other two free versions are Lite and Educational Full and Lite. The Lite version offers the LXDE desktop environment and the educational version is…well…educational.

You can buy the other versions in the Zorin OS store for 10 or 15 euros. I know that some people frown on distro developers selling a particular version of their distro rather than giving it away free. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it since people always have the choice to use a totally free distro if they don’t want to pay. But, for some people, it might be worth a few bucks to get a particular version of their preferred distribution. Each individual has to make that choice for himself or herself.

Zorin OS Core comes in 32 or 64 bit versions. Zorin OS Lite and Educational come in 32 bit versions only.

Install Boot

Install Boot Menu

What’s New In This Release
Zorin OS 4 has a number of new features. Please be aware though that some only apply to the premium or light versions of this distro. Please see the release notes for clarification on what features are available in each version of Zorin OS.

Here’s a sample of the new features:

Lite version
New desktop theme
Background plus
Redesigned splash screen
Internet browser manager
Splash screen manager
Better sound menu
Improved file manager
File preview
Updated software center
Better installer

Splash Screen Manager

Splash Screen Manager

Browser Manager

Browser Manager

The splash screen manager is a nice touch, though it’s probably not something I’d use a lot. I also liked the Internet Browser Manager. It gives Linux newbies a chance to experiment with different browsers rather than just sticking with the default choice.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • 700 MHz x86 processor
  • 3GB of Hard Drive space
  • 256 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • Graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
  • Sound card

Installation
Zorin OS 4 uses the Ubuntu installer and it’s a piece of cake, even if you’ve never installed Linux before. Windows users should have no problem with it. The install takes about ten minutes and you can watch a helpful slideshow while it completes.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
Zorin OS 4 uses GNOME for its desktop environment. The panel at the bottom of the screen has a “Z” as a start button and contains icons for Chrome, etc. Newbies to GNOME should not have a problem using the Zorin OS 4 desktop. Everything is where you expect it to be in the application menus, etc. The look and feel of Zorin OS 4 is quite good. It’s a fairly attractive looking desktop.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
Zorin OS 4 uses a customized theme, but all the usual ones are available in the Appearance Preferences menu. More are available online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
The Zorin OS 4 wallpaper has a sort of bluish hippy, space theme. It’s attractive but not particularly distinct. There are some other good wallpaper choices available in the Background tab in the Appearance Preferences menu. More are available online.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools
Here’s an image of what you’ll find on the control center, admin & system preferences menus:

Administration

Administration

Preferences

Preferences

 

Control Center

Control Center

Bundled Software

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

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
Quadrapassel
Sudoku

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Scribus
Shotwell
Simple Scan

Internet
Empathy
Giver
Google Chrome
Gwibber
Internet Browser Manager
Remote Desktop Viewer
Sun Java 6 Web Start
Terminal Server Client
Transmission

Multimedia
Brasero
Cheese
Movie Player
OpenShot
Rhythymbox
VLC

Office
OpenOffice.org
Evolution
Dictionary

Others
Wine

The inclusion of Wine is probably a good idea, considering who this distro was mainly designed to serve. However, I am not generally a big fan of running Windows programs on Linux at this point. I generally like to see people find equivalent Linux applications rather than remain dependent on Windows applications.

I recognize though that some people simply must have certain Windows applications available so Wine can sometimes be a very useful tool. If you are one of those folks, I encourage you to first browse around the Software Center and see if there’s a Linux application that will meet your needs before becoming dependent on Wine to run your old Windows applications.

Wine Menu

Wine Menu

Software Management
You can use Synaptic or the Software Center to manage your applications. I recommend that folks coming from Windows skip Synaptic and use the Software Center instead. Synaptic works fine, but it’s less attractive and intuitive than the Software Center. So it’s probably best to stick with the Software Center initially if you are new to Linux and coming to it from Windows.

Software Center

Software Center

 

Synaptic

Synaptic

Adding & Removing Software
It’s quite easy to add or remove software. Just find the application you want in the Software Center and click the Install or Remove buttons. You can also click a More Info button if you aren’t sure if about installing an application.

Software Center Browser List

Software Center Browser List

Installing Software

Installing Software

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
I tried my usual tests on YouTube and Amazon Prime. I had no problems running videos or hearing sound. Both of the videos I tried look great running on Zorin OS 4. Flash is included by default so you don’t have to install anything to view videos on the web. This is something that should definitely work by default in a distro geared toward newbies, so I’m glad that it did.

YouTube

YouTube

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime

Multimedia Applications
The default selection of multimedia software is good and should cover the needs of most users coming from Windows. Brasero, VLC, Movie Player and the other typical applications are all available after you install Zorin OS 4. If you need more there are about 305 multimedia applications available in the Software Center.

VLC

VLC

Problems & Headaches
I’m pleased to report that I didn’t encounter any noticeable problems running Zorin OS 4. Everything seemed pretty fast and stable while using it. I had no problems updating my system, or adding or removing applications. Zorin OS 4 was a pretty enjoyable experience overall.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as 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 Zorin OS forums, help and FAQ pages.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Zorin OS 4 largely achieves its goal of providing an easy to use distro for those coming to Linux from Windows. This distro has been set up very well and provides a better overall experience than generic Ubuntu. While some might dismiss Zorin OS 4 as being unnecessary, I think it definitely has its place among the distros best suited to welcome new Linux users.

Although Zorin OS 4 is geared toward beginners, I suspect that some intermediate and even advanced users might enjoy using it. It’s certainly worth a download for distrohoppers that might be curious about yet another Ubuntu derivative.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Zorin OS 4
Web Site: http://zorin-os.webs.com
Price: Free
Pros: Based on Ubuntu; geared toward Linux newbies; good selection of software; comes with Wine installed to run Windows applications.
Cons: Those who don’t run Windows applications might not want Wine installed by default. Gaming, Multimedia & Ultimate versions require a small purchase fee.
Suitable For: Beginners (and intermediate or advanced Linux users who might appreciate what it has to offer).
Rating: 4/5

 

Frugalware 1.4 Nexon

I’ve gotten a fair number of requests to look at Frugalware in the past so I decided to take a peek at Frugalware 1.4 (Nexon). Frugalware has always had a reputation for not being very accessible to newer Linux users or those who simply wanted an easy to use desktop version of Linux. This release goes at least partway to making this distro accessible to more users, but more work definitely needs to be done on the Frugalware installer (more on that later).

Frugalware is not as well known as other distros like Ubuntu, etc. So I’ve included some background information below to get you up to speed if this is the first time you’ve heard of Frugalware. Yes, we do get some folks here on DLR coming from other platforms that sometimes aren’t familiar with various distros. So I like to include a bit of background links & information to help give them an overview of what the distro is all about. If you’re a Frugalware veteran you can skip down to the What’s New section of this page.

Frugalware is based on Slackware. Here’s a brief snippet from the Frugalware Wikipedia page:

Frugalware was founded in 2004 by Miklós Vajna. He considered Slackware’s package manager pkgtools too slow, and wanted to rewrite it in C. He was told that it would never be accepted by Slackware, so Vajna started to think about founding a separate Linux distribution. He replaced Slackware’s original package manager, init scripts and build system. As a result, Frugalware was born.

For more background on Frugalware and a list of commonly asked questions please see the Frugalware summary page.

Question:  What branches does Frugalware have?
Answer:  We have a current and a stable branch. The current branch is updated daily, and we update our stable branch around every 6 months.

Question:  What is “The Frugalware Philosophy” about?
Answer:  Briefly: simplicity, multimedia, design. We try to make Frugalware as simple as possible while not forgetting to keep it comfortable for the user. We try to ship fresh and stable software, as close to the original source as possible, because in our opinion most software is the best as is, and doesn’t need patching.

Question:  What is the license of Frugalware?
Answer:  That’s two questions. Most software included in Frugalware have a GPL or BSD compatible license, for more information about a license of a specific package, refer to the LICENSE or COPYRIGHT file in the source tarball of the package. On the other hand, the part written by our team (FrugalBuild scripts, setup, homepage, etc) is released under GPL license. To make it even more complicated, some parts of the setup and init scripts are written by Patrick J. Volkerding. We GPL our additions, but Patrick J. Volkerding’s code is still under the BSD license. For more information, refer to the COPYRIGHT file in the root directory of the FST (Frugalware Source Tree).

Frugalware Site

The Frugalware Site

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

  • Updated packages: Linux kernel 2.6.37, Xorg server 1.9, GNOME 2.32, KDE SC 4.5, Drupal 7, Python 2.7 to name a few major components.
  • Missing koffice localization packages are back (they were missing since the integration of KDE4).
  • New LCD font rendering available in GNOME. If you use digital video output, this will improve font appearance.
  • OSSv4 has been added. Feel free to try it out if you have issues with ALSA.
  • systemd is now available as an alternative of sysvinit (see its wiki page for more info).
  • netconfig now supports mobile 3g connections though wvdial
  • Booting from virtio devices is now supported, as long as you use a separate /boot partition. (see here for details)
  • The GUI installer is now part of the default net/cd/dvd installer images, you don’t have to download a separate image to use it.

For a larger list of changes you can view the changelog page on the Frugalware site.

I think that the most interesting thing for average desktop users is the default inclusion of a GUI installer. In the past you would have had to download a particular image to get that in Frugalware but now it’s available to anybody who wants to use it. Most desktop users obviously would probably prefer to avoid a command line installer. So it’s nice to see this added to Frugalware across the board.

Does it mean that Frugalware is shifting from its intent to support intermediate to advanced Linux users as its main focus? I don’t know but I always like the idea of making a distro accessible to more people. As a desktop platform it’s important for Linux to broaden its base so I’m pleased whenever I see distro developers move in the direction of potentially making their offering more appealing.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
I could not find a coherent list of requirements on the Frugalware site. There’s a lot of documentation available, but I could not find a simple list of requirements. If you want to try to dig it up, here’s a link to the documentation page. Perhaps you’ll have better luck than I did. I may have missed it as I have little patience these days for spending time hunting around for something as basic as the hardware requirements.

The DVD install ISO file for Frugalware weighed in at a chunky 4.6 GB. You get quite a bit of software though (see the software section for more details) so don’t let the download size discourage you.

Installation
If Frugalware has an Achilles heel, it’s the installer. It’s very primitive compared to other distros and desperately needs an overhaul to modernize it and make it more attractive and easier to use. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install Boot Menu

Install Boot Menu

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Install 14

Install 14

Install 15

Install 15

Install 16

Install 16

Install 17

Install 17

Install 18

Install 18

Install 19

Install 19

Install 20

Install 20

Install 21

Install 21

Install 22

Install 22

Install 23

Install 23

Install 24

Install 24

Install 25

Install 25

Install 26

Install 26

Install 27

Install 27

Install 28

Install 28

Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot and login menus look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Frugalware desktop has three icons on it (Home, Computer and the Trash). I don’t count the Install CD. As I noted at the beginning of the review, I opted for the GNOME desktop since I prefer it to others.

The interface is pretty much what you’d expect in a GNOME desktop environment. The top panel has Applications, Places and System menus, along with the date a few other things. Applications are divided into the appropriate categories and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for to actually use your system.

Desktop

Desktop

Applications

Applications

Themes
All the usual themes are included though there’s nothing special to wow you. And there’s no link in the themes menu to go online to get more of them, so you’ll have to find sites yourself if you want to download more.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
The default Frugalware wallpaper is rather bland and doesn’t really give this distro any kind of a brand identity beyond the Frugalware log. The other wallpaper that is included is standard stuff so you’ll have to forage on your own to find some cool stuff.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s what you’ll find to control your system:

System

System

Settings

Settings

Bundled Software

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

Games
Bomber
Granatier
Kapman
Kollision
KSnake
KTron

There are actually quite a few games that come with Frugalware; I’ve just listed a few here. The games are broken down into the following categories:

Arcade
Board Games
Card Games
Games for Kids
Logic Games
Tactics & Strategy

Graphics
Geegie
GIMP
Gtkam
Gwenview
KolourPaint
KSnapshot
Okular
Ristretto
KColorChooser
KRuler

Internet
DBPedia References
Ekiga Softphone
Firefox
gFTP
KGet
KNemo
KNetAttach
Konqueror
Kopete
KPP
KRDC
Krfb
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Brasero
Dragon Player
juK
K3b
Kaffeine
KsCD
Mixer
Movie Player
MPlayer
Rhythmbox
Sound Recorder
Volume Control

Office
Dictionary
Evolution
LibreOffice 3.3
Okular
Xgnokii

Software Management
Frugalware uses the pacman package manager which is labeled in Frugalware as Gfpm (graphical frugalware package manager). Gfpm is most definitely less attractive than the Software Center in Ubuntu or the Software Manager in Linux Mint. You can’t rate or review packages either. However, given that Frugalware is aimed at intermediate Linux users, this is probably not much of a concern to them. Gfpm is quite functional.

You can easily search, see details about a package, files and view a changelog. You can also tweak your preferences to adjust how Gfpm works. So although it won’t win any awards for slickness, Gfpm definitely gets the job done.

Gfpm

Gfpm

Gfpm Preferences

Gfpm Preferences

Adding & Removing Software
It’s easy to manage your software in Gfpm. Just find the package and click on it. Then click the Install This Package or Remove This Package button. A menu will popup that offers you the option to skip dependency checks and/or to download only without actually installing the package. I had no problems installing or removing software.

 

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
I had no problems running YouTube videos in Firefox. I also tried Amazon’s Instant Video and it worked perfectly in HD. Sound and video looked great in Frugalware.

Amazon does not seem to note or acknowledge that its Instant Video product seems to work fine in Linux (as long as flash is installed). So I’m happy to note it here since I recently signed up for Amazon Prime and it includes unlimited access to tons of movies and TV shows for $79 per year. I am glad to support products and services that work in Linux and I hope others will consider doing so too.

Amazon Instant Video

Amazon Instant Video in Linux

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Frugalware doesn’t lack when it comes to multimedia applications. Brasero Disc Burner, Dragon Player, various K apps, Rhythmbox and others should meet the needs of most desktop users. There are also additional packages available in the multimedia section of Frugalware’s package manager. The multimedia applications in the package manager are split into two categories: multimedia and multimedia-extras. So check the extras category on the odd chance you can’t find something you’re looking for in the main section.

Multimedia

Multimedia

Multimedia Extras

Multimedia Extras

Problems & Headaches
Overall, there’s not much to complain about in Frugalware 1.4. My system was stable and fairly quick, there wasn’t noticeable lag or instability.

The biggest problem I see with Frugalware is that its installer still lags behind. It’s ugly and comes across as primitive compared to other distributions. I suspect it’s a big turnoff to some desktop users.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as 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 Frugalware documentation, discussion forums, community page and bug tracker.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
According to its site, Frugalware’s is “…designed for intermediate users (who are not afraid of text mode).” In that sense, Frugalware has very much succeeded in its mission and I really can’t argue with it being geared toward intermediate users. The distro’s site is very up front and honest about it so you should not download Frugalware expecting it to be as slick or easy to install as Linux Mint or other distros.

However, since the developers have taken the time to create a pretty good distribution, I’d like to appeal to the Frugalware developers to take the next step and come up with a better installer. Making the install easier and more comfortable will help expand the reach of Frugalware. This may not be something the developers are interested in, but it’s definitely something I’d like to see.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced user, Frugalware is definitely worth checking out. If you’re a bold & curious beginner and you want to take it for a test spin in a VM, go for it. At the very least you’ll learn some things you didn’t know before and you’ll get a taste of a distro that’s a bit different than of the other desktop distros you might have encountered. If you’re a beginner that is just looking for an easy installer, it’s best if you avoid Frugalware.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Frugalware 1.4 Nexon
Web Site: http://frugalware.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Good software selection; includes LibreOffice 3.3 as its office suite.
Cons: Ugly and primitive installer.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced users.
Rating: 3/5

 

Debian 6 Squeeze

It wasn’t too long ago that I did a very late review of Debian 5. I’m happy to say that it didn’t take me nearly as long to get around to the latest release, Debian 6 Squeeze. If you aren’t familiar with Debian then this release is a great chance to learn about a distro that is the foundation for a lot of other distributions including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and others.

Debian has three main branches:

Stable
Testing
Unstable

Debian 6 is the latest stable release. For more background on Debian in general, please see the Wikipedia overview article.

The Debian Project is governed by the Debian Constitution and the Social Contract which set out the governance structure of the project as well as explicitly stating that the goal of the project is the development of a free operating system.[8][9] Debian is developed by over three thousand volunteers[10] from around the world and supported by donations through several non-profit organizations around the world. Most important of these is Software in the Public Interest,[11] the owner of the Debian trademark and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.[12]

Thus, the Debian Project is an independent decentralized organization; it is not backed by a company like some other GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 4.0 etch (283 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, has been estimated to be close to US$13 billion.[13] As of April 2, 2009, Ohloh estimates that the codebase of the Debian GNU/Linux project (45 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost about US$819 million to develop.[14]

There’s some very informative and interesting background there about the entire Debian project, so be sure to read it after you finish this review of Debian 6.

Install Boot Menu

Install Boot Menu

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new stuff in this release:

  • KDE Plasma Workspaces and KDE Applications 4.4.5
  • an updated version of the GNOME desktop environment 2.30
  • the Xfce 4.6 desktop environment
  • LXDE 0.5.0
  • X.Org 7.5
  • OpenOffice.org 3.2.1
  • GIMP 2.6.11
  • Iceweasel 3.5.16 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox)
  • Icedove 3.0.11 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird)
  • PostgreSQL 8.4.6
  • MySQL 5.1.49
  • GNU Compiler Collection 4.4.5
  • Linux 2.6.32
  • Apache 2.2.16
  • Samba 3.5.6
  • Python 2.6.6, 2.5.5 and 3.1.3
  • Perl 5.10.1
  • PHP 5.3.3
  • Asterisk 1.6.2.9
  • Nagios 3.2.3
  • Xen Hypervisor 4.0.1 (dom0 as well as domU support)
  • OpenJDK 6b18
  • Tomcat 6.0.18
  • more than 29,000 other ready-to-use software packages, built from nearly 15,000 source packages.

I used the GNOME desktop environment for this review.

One of the neat things about this release is that it contains a truly free kernel. Non-free firmware files have been removed, but are still available to those who wish to use them. This makes Debian 6 perfect for Linux purists who do not want their desktop distros corrupted by non-free files. This release also promises faster start-up times due to changes to the boot scripts and dependency tracking.

Debian 6 also provides 10,000 new packages including Chromium and many other useful applications, and an overall total number of packages of around 29,000. I’ll have more to say about software in that section of the review. Suffice to say though that there are gobs of software available in Debian 6 and you should not lack for anything to run on your Debian-based system.

The Debian 6 installer has been improved with easier choice of language and keyboard settings, as well as better partitioning tools. The installer also supports ext4 and Btrfs file systems, and is available in 70 different languages. I’ll have more to say about the installer in that section of the review and the screenshots on that page will walk you through the entire install, from beginning to end.

Since this is a stable release, the emphasis was clearly on releasing Debian 6 in as rock-solid a form as possible rather than trying to pack it full of bloated features or cutting-edge software that could adversely affect that goal. My experience with Debian 6 indicates that the developers have pretty much accomplished what they set out to do in this release.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Since Debian 6 is available for so many different architectures, I’m not going to try to list all of the system requirements here. Please see the installation information for your particular architecture. You’ll find a list of supported computer architectures here. You should also look at the release notes for each architecture; they contain upgrade instructions if you are running a previous release of Debian.

Installation
The ISO file I downloaded was the 32-bit PC version and weighed in at about 4.69 GB. There are many other versions available, depending on your system. So check the installer page for download links. You can also buy Debian 6 on disc.

There was no Live DVD/CD available when I downloaded Debian 6. So this review is based on the non-live version, meaning that I couldn’t boot into a live desktop environment to use Debian 6 without installing it first. I didn’t mind that at all though; it saved me the bother of booting into the Live desktop first to start my install.

I decided to use the graphical install listed on the boot menu. The installer is pretty painless and relatively quick. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end. The install took about 15 minutes or so. I opted to include a network mirror during the install and I recommend that you do the same.

Don’t let the number of steps throw you; I found that installing Debian 6 is pretty much as painless as installing one of its derivatives such as Ubuntu. The Debian 6 installer is the best version yet and promises to make Debian accessible to those who are new to desktop Linux and who may never have heard of Debian before. That’s a significant accomplishment and the Debian developers deserve a pat on the back for it.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Install 14

Install 14

Install 15

Install 15

Install 16

Install 16

Install 17

Install 17

Install 18

Install 18

Install 19

Install 19

Install 20

Install 20

Install 21

Install 21

Install 22

Install 22

Install 23

Install 23

Install 24

Install 24

Install 25

Install 25

Install 26

Install 26

Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot menu and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Debian 6 Squeeze desktop has the neat Debian wallpaper. It’s quite spacey and gives this distro a little bit more personality. I like the fact that the Debian developers haven’t lost sight with the fact that Linux should be fun as well as useful and the wallpaper reflects that.

The desktop itself is not cluttered up with icons, there are three included:

Computer
Home
Trash

Desktop

Desktop

Navigating the desktop menus and panel is easy and comfortable. It’s GNOME so if you’ve used it before you’ll be right at home in Debian 6 Squeeze. Applications are broken down into the usual categories:

Application Menu

Application Menu

The panel also has a Places & System menu as well as icons for various other things across it including your network, date and open applications & menus.

Panel

Panel

Administration

Administration

Preferences

Preferences

Themes
There are 21 different themes, with the default theme being Clearlooks. More are available online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
There are 20 different wallpapers included, though none of the other ones is quite as fun or spacey as the default Debian wallpaper. You can get more online.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Bundled Software

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

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Chess
Five or More
Four-in-a-Row
FreeCell Solitaire
lagno
Klotski
Mahjongg
Mines
Nibbles
Quadrapassel
Robots
Sudoku
Tali
Tetravex

Graphics
GIMP
Inkscape
OpenOffice.org Draw
Shotwell
Simple Scan
XSane

Internet
Ekiga
Empathy
Epiphany
Evolution Mail
Iceweasel
Liferea Feed Reader
Remmina
Transmission

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

Office
Dictionary
OpenOffice.org

As you can tell from the list, Debian 6 Squeeze comes with a pretty robust default selection of software that should meet the needs of most desktop users.

Software Management
If you find yourself needing more software, just click the System menu on the panel then click Administration to access the Software Center. The Software Center is very easy to use, applications are broken down into categories and you can search as well.

There’s a ton of applications available for you to download, far more than most desktop users will probably ever need. But that’s okay because sometimes it’s just fun to browse the Software Center and poke around to see what’s available.

As I noted earlier, there are about 29,000 applications available. Software junkies should be careful; if they aren’t careful they could go overboard installing software on their systems.

Software Center Menu

Software Center Menu

Featured Applications

Featured Applications

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to install or remove software. Find the application you want to install and click the install button (or the remove button if it’s already installed. The screenshots below walk you through a Chromium download and install.

Please note that when I went to install Chromium, Debian 6 defaulted to the CD rather than downloading it. I had to go into the software sources menu and uncheck the CD box so that Debian 6 would download it from the repository instead. This is a pretty minor thing but might throw people off who install Debian 6 in a virtual machine via an ISO file.

Chromium

Chromium

Chromium Download

Chromium Download

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Installed

Chromium Installed

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
I had no problem running most YouTube videos in Debian 6. The Gnash SWF Viewer comes installed by default.

GNU Gnash is the GNU Flash movie player — Flash is an animation file format pioneered by Macromedia which continues to be supported by their successor company, Adobe. Flash has been extended to include audio and video content, and programs written in ActionScript, an ECMAScript-compatible language. Gnash is based on GameSWF, and supports most SWF v7 features and some SWF v8 and v9.

SWF v10 is not supported by GNU Gnash.

YouTube

YouTube

Gnash

Gnash

Multimedia Applications
The default selection of multimedia applications includes Audio CD Extractor, Brasero Disc Burner, Cheese Webcam Booth, Movie Player and Rhythymbox. There’s certainly enough to get you started and to perform many of the multimedia functions you might need.

I recommend checking the Software Center for more though. There are about 249 multimedia packages available there that might be useful if the default selection doesn’t cut it for you. VLC should definitely be on your list of installed multimedia applications; it’s incredibly useful to have on your system.

VLC

VLC

Problems & Headaches
One thing I didn’t like about Debian 6 is that it still comes with OpenOffice.org instead of LibreOffice. Given that this is Debian stable, it’s not surprising. However, I would like to see LibreOffice eventually succeed OpenOffice.org as soon as possible.

I noted earlier how Debian 6 defaults to the CD when you try to install a new piece of software. This is a very minor potential problem though and can be easily fixed by accessing the software sources menu and unchecking the cdrom box. You can access the software sources menu by clicking on the Edit menu link in the Software Center.

Beyond that, I don’t have much to note or complain about in Debian 6 Squeeze. My experience with it has been quite good. I did not notice any instability or application crashes while using Debian 6.

Please note that you can find a list of known Debian 6 problems on the Debian site. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot there yet though as I write this review.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as 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 Debian support page for links to documentation, known problems, wiki, mailing lists, newsgroups and other resources.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m very happy to recommend Debian 6 for most desktop users, particularly those who want a truly free distribution. Debian has come a long, long way from its earliest days and this release shines as a desktop option.

Even those totally new to Linux should give it a shot; I think they will be very surprised and pleased by Debian 6. I was very happy while using it and it will remain one of my regular desktop distributions. Give it a download and see what you think of it.

For more information about Debian in general, check out the Debian System, Learning Debian, and the Debian Bible.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and quick looks, and visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Debian 6 Squeeze
Web Site: http://www.debian.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Installer enhancements; updated software packages; non-free firmware files have been removed to a separate archive.
Cons: The installer has a lot of steps; additional software installation defaults to the CD.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Debian 6 Squeeze is a great step forward for the Debian project.
Rating: 5/5

 

Pardus 2011

It’s been a while since I last took a look at Pardus and much has changed since then. The distro has been upgraded to Pardus 2011. Pardus is a KDE distribution created in Turkey by the National Research Institute of Electronics and Cryptology (UEKAE). The word “pardus” is actually derived from the Latin name for a leopard that lives in Turkey. This is why you’ll see leopard/kitty graphics in the distribution at times.

Pardus is not as well known as some other distributions and that’s a real shame because it has much to offer desktop Linux users. Even if you’re a die-hard GNOME user, you might find yourself very impressed with Pardus 2011. It’s one of the best KDE-based distros available right now.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

YALI (Yet Another Linux Installer) updates
Kaptan (desktop configuration tool) updates
Package Manager updates
Linux Kernel 2.6.37
Plymouth now included
Perl 5.12.2
X.org 1.9.4 RC1
KDE SC 4.5.5
GTK applications rendered with Oxygen style
GNOME Network Manager default networking backend
Improved KDE network management tool
Firefox 4.0 Beta 9
Panda (driver change tool)
Bluetooth, tablets and touchpads can now be setup via System Settings
LibreOffice is the new default office suite
Board and logic games included

YALI now features LVM/RAID and UUID support. YALI also has an improved user interface and you can choose between open source and proprietary drivers. See the install section of the review for a complete visual walk-through of the Pardus 2011 install routine. I was quite pleased with it, with one small exception.

Kaptan can now optionally take your picture to use as your avatar in KIDE. You can also select your icon theme for KDE, and Kaptan also has a better interface. I’ll have more to stay about Kaptan in the desktop section of the review. Suffice to say that it’s a great tool for configuring your Pardus 2011 desktop the way that you want it.

The package manager now lets you vote for packages and you can also see screenshots of some applications. The interface has also been tweaked and speed has been enhanced. While I was glad to see the star ratings included, I’d like to see user reviews of applications available as well at some point.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice

I was very happy to see the inclusion of LibreOffice in this release. The sooner OpenOffice is retired in all distros, the better (given Oracle’s involvement in it). Pardus seems to be out ahead of some other distros on this issue. Kudos to the developers for getting LibreOffice available ASAP.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

System memory (RAM)
System memory (RAM) requirements of Pardus 2011 depends heavily on your daily workflow so it is very hard to define upper and lower bounds, but we recommend at least 1GB of memory for a smooth desktop experience.

Hard disk space requirements
Minimum requirements
Pardus 2011 requires at least 4GB of free hard disk space for a successful installation. As we don’t offer custom package selection during the installation, this minimum size constraint applies to all installations.

Recommended requirements
In order to effectively use Pardus 2011 on your system without running low on disk space during your daily workflow, we recommend at least 10GB of free hard disk space.
Note on Swap space
Swap space is used whenever your operating system runs out of physical memory. If you think that your physical memory is big enough for your daily usage, you may skip creating a swap space during installation.
Note that a disk partition reserved for swap space is required if you want to hibernate (Suspend to disk) Pardus. Otherwise the functionality will be disabled.

Installation
I love the Pardus 2011 installer YALI (Yet Another Linux Installer). It’s very slick and makes it easy to install Pardus. I wish certain other distributions would take a clue from Pardus and use YALI since it’s great for those new to Linux.

The install is quick and you can view a slideshow while the install completes. The slideshow will show you some of the features Pardus has to offer.

Note though that after the install finishes, you’ll still need to set up your user and admin accounts. I actually dislike this since setting these things up should really happen during the install process itself. However, some distros don’t function that way so just bear in mind that you’ll have to do a couple of additional things after the install is complete.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end, and show you the user/admin setup screens that appear after the install.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Booting & Login
Here’s a look at the boot menu and login screens.

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The first thing you’ll see when you go to boot into your desktop is Kaptan. Kaptan lets you customize your desktop settings including your wallpaper, theme, mouse behavior and other things. You can even have Kaptan take your picture to use as your KDE avatar.

I think Kaptan is a terrific tool. I loved booting into a desktop that looked the way I wanted it to look, rather than just getting some blase default desktop created by the developers. I particularly enjoyed being able to choose my menu style rather than simply have it default to the usual sliding KDE menus.

The screenshots below show you each step of the Kaptan’s customization process. Please note that the screenshot labeled “configure 4” was a duplicate so I’ve removed it.

Configure 1

Configure 1

Configure 2

Configure 2

Configure 3

Configure 3

Configure 5

Configure 5

Configure 6

Configure 6

Configure 7

Configure 7

Configure 8

Configure 8

Configure 9

Configure 9

Configure 10

Configure 10

Configure 11

Configure 11

Here’s what my configured desktop ended up looking like. I used the Pardus icons and a different default wallpaper.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
You’ll find 6 different themes available by default, and you can get more by clicking the Get New Themes button.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
There are about 18 different wallpapers available by default. You can get more by clicking the Get More Wallpaper button on the wallpaper menu.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Bundled Software

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

Games
Bovo
Kajongg
KBlackbox
KFourInLine
Kigo
Kiriki
KMahjongg
Knights
Logic Games
Toys

Graphics
digiKam
DjView
DNGConverter
ExpoBlending
GIMP
Gwenview
KFax
KolourPaint
KSnapshot
Okular
showFoto
Skanlite

Internet
Akregator
Blogilo
bluedevil
Choqok
Chromium
Firefox
KGet
KMail
KNode
Konqueror
Konversation
Kopete
KTorrent

Multimedia
GNOME MPlayer
K3b
KAudioCreator
Kdenlive
KMix
KsCD
paprefs
pavucontrol
SMPLayer

Office
KAddressBook
KOrganizer
KTimeTracker
LibreOffice
Okular

Others
Akonadi Console
D-Feet
Marble

Software Management
Pardus’ package manager is pretty decent and should be easy to use for all users. It lags a bit behind the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager, but it’s still pretty good. As I noted earlier, I’d like to see user reviews of applications available in the package manager. It’s nice to see what other people think if an application before taking the time to download and install it.

Package Manager

Package Manager

Package List Update

Package List Update

Downloading Chromium

Downloading Chromium

Start Chromium

Start Chromium

Adding & Removing Software
To install or remove a piece of software, first find it in the package manager then click the check box. After that click the Select Operation button at the bottom of the package manager and choose Install Packages or Remove Packages. This isn’t quite as intuitive as some other software management tools but it works well. Experienced Linux users obviously won’t have a problem with this, but some newer folks might be looking for a quick “install” button instead of the Select Operation button.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is installed by default so I had no problems doing the usual YouTube video tests.

Multimedia

Multimedia

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
There’s a pretty good default selection of multimedia software in Pardus 2011 including various KDE applications, GNOME MPlayer, Clementine and a few other things. The package manager has a total of 268 packages in the multimedia section. So there’s plenty to choose from if you find the default selection lacking.

Clementine

Clementine

Problems & Headaches
Live DVD Versus the Install DVD?
One thing that confused me when I first downloaded Pardus is that the Live DVD version doesn’t seem to have an installer (or at least one I could find). So I ended up downloading the installable version after futzing around with the Live DVD version. I am not sure why you can’t do an install from the Live DVD version, or perhaps I just didn’t notice the installer somewhere? Anyway, this has the potential to confuse some users. So if you want to do an install of Pardus, be sure to get the installable version rather than the Live DVD version.

Beyond that, I didn’t run into any noticeable issues while running Pardus 2011. Applications opened quickly and the distro itself seemed quite stable. I didn’t encounter any noticeable burps or headaches while running it, even when I had quite a lot of applications opening and running at the same time. It seemed quite solid and reliable to me while using it.

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 Pardus support page, including the forum, mailing list, bug tracker and encyclopedia.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
My experience with Pardus 2011 was quite positive. It’s a distro that really deserves to get more attention than it has in the past, and hopefully this release will help it catch the eye of desktop users that might not have been aware of it before. The improvements to YALI and the Package Manager plus the inclusion of Kaptan & LibreOffice have all helped make the Pardus desktop experience excellent.

Pardus 2011 is slick, it’s very polished and it’s definitely worth a download; especially if KDE is your preferred desktop environment. It’s undoubtedly one of the best KDE distributions available right now so check it out if you are a KDE user or if you’re somebody thinking about switching to KDE.

I feel comfortable recommending Pardus 2011 to beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

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: Pardus 2011
Web Site: http://www.pardus.org.tr/eng/
Price: Free
Pros: YALI updated with better interface & other updates; Kaptan desktop customization tool; package manager now includes screenshots & application ratings; LibreOffice is now the default office suite.
Cons: Package manager still doesn’t include user reviews of applications; Live DVD and Install DVD are separate downloads.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4.5/5

 

MoonOS 4 Neake

It’s been quite a while since I last looked at MoonOS. The last review covered version 3.0, this time around it’s MoonOS 4.0. MoonOS is another Ubuntu-based derivative, so if Ubuntu appeals to you then MoonOS 4 might be right up your alley.

Live CD Desktop

Live CD Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

GNOME
New File System
Software Updates
Appshell Framework
Docky
Synapse

The default environment for MoonOS used to be Enlightenment; that has obviously changed in this release. Don’t worry though; there will be an Enlightment (and LXDE) version released later. Until then you’ll have to get by with GNOME. As somebody that really likes GNOME, I have no problem whatsoever with this change. But your mileage may vary. The developers are smart to offer an Enlightenment version for their devoted users; it’ll help soothe any ruffled feathers for sure.

There is also a new, unique file system. The developers think it’s more user friendly and modern. You will have to make up your own mind about it. I personally don’t mind it, but I can see how it might annoy some of the more experienced MoonOS 4 users who were used to the old file system. Still, I give the developers props for trying to make things easier for less experienced users.

File System

File System

The Appshell Framework lets you download and install applications in a way that is similar to Mac OS X. Everything needed to run the application is included with the download file. In the short term this probably isn’t going to matter a whole lot to typical desktop users, but as more apps are available it has the potential to add value for some users.

I’ll cover Docky in the desktop section of the review.

Docky

Docky

Synapse is a search tool that lets you search all files or particular kinds of files (images, documents, audio files, etc.). I did a little searching with it and it seems quite fast to me. Granted, I am running MoonOS 4 without having a ton of files on it since this is just for a review. But Synapse still seemed to work well for me and I think most users will be pleased with it. To access it click the Applications drop down menu in the panel, then choose Accessories.

Synapse

Synapse

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

700 MHz x86 processor
384 MB of system memory (RAM)
8 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
A network or Internet connection is neededif you want to download extra software

Installation
The ISO file weighs in at 872 MB, so it’s not the most petite distro download. The install itself is very easy since MoonOS 4 users the Ubuntu installer. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot menu and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The MoonOS 4 desktop is not cluttered at all. The only thing that appeared on mine was the link to the install CD. Navigating the desktop is easy, especially if you’ve used Ubuntu before. The panel at the top contains the usual links to applications, places, system management, etc. There are also icons on the left to access networking, multiple desktops, volume, email/social media, date/time, and the start up/shut down menu.

Places

Places

Application Categories

Application Categories

Desktop

Desktop

Beyond that the first thing you notice is Docky at the bottom of the screen. If you have used Mac OS X’s Dock then you’ll be familiar with Docky, it’s quite similar. When you put your cursor over an icon on Docky, the icon magnifies and you can click it (you can easily turn this off by clicking the anchor icon to open Docky’s preferences menu).

Docky is the kind of thing that most people will either love or hate; it’s hard to have a middle ground with it. I’ve used Macs a lot so it doesn’t bother me at all, but I suspect that some will dislike it intensely. Just remember that you can still use the panel at the top to open applications, etc. So Docky is more or less an extra feature that you don’t need to use if you don’t like it.

Docky Config

Docky Config

Themes
The default theme is MoonOS (duh), but there are others available including Clearlooks, Dust, Dust Sand, and New Wave. I think the default theme is quite attractive, so I had no desire to change it to anything else.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
I actually preferred the old wallpaper from version 3 (in the screenshot below) to the new wallpaper in version 4. The new wallpaper is just rather bland and doesn’t add anything unique to this distro. Yes, I know you can change the wallpaper in a second but the default wallpaper should always be unique and inviting for each distro. It’s just a small thing that helps set a distro apart aesthetically from other distros.

MoonOS 3 Wallpaper

MoonOS 3 Wallpaper

Oddly, the old wallpaper isn’t available in the Appearance Preferences menu either. Many distros will let you use the older versions of their wallpaper if you want, but not MoonOS.

Background

Background

Admin Tools

System Management & Preferences
MoonOS 4 comes with the usual array of tools to manage your system and to change it to your liking. The screenshots below illustrate what you’ll find available in the system menus.

System Preferences

System Preferences

System Administration

System Administration

Bundled Software

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

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
Quadrapassel
Sudoku

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet
Evolution Mail
Firefox
Gwibber
Pidgin IM
Transmission

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Sound Recorder

Office
OpenOffice.org
Dictionary

Software Management
MoonOS 4 uses the Ubuntu Software Center, thus it’s quite easy to use and you should have no problem finding applications when you need them. The default software selection covers most of the basics that you’ll need on your desktop, but it doesn’t hurt to spend a little time browsing the Software Center. Be sure to check out the Featured Applications page, there are some apps there.

Software Center Categories

Software Center Categories

Featured Software

Featured Software

Adding & Removing Software
It’s quite easy to add or remove software. Simply find the application you want in the Software Center and then click the Install or Remove button.

GIMP

GIMP

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
I was very pleased to note that MoonOS4, unlike generic Ubuntu, comes bundled with multimedia codecs. So you can watch videos and other multimedia content without having to take the time to install additional software.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
MoonOS 4 comes with some good multimedia software including Totem Movie Player, Banshee, Brasero and the imitable Cheese Webcam Booth. It’s enough to get you started and there’s plenty more in the Software Center if you find yourself lacking for some reason. MoonOS 4 does not include cloud-based multimedia links like Hulu in its menu, however (unlike Peppermint OS, another Ubuntu derivative).

Movie Player

Movie Player

Problems & Headaches
I didn’t run into any noticeable problems with MoonOS 4. The install went well and it ran perfectly fine for me. I didn’t see any overt burps, application crashes or other issues with it. That’s not really surprising though since it’s an Ubuntu derivative and most of them run fairly well for the most part.

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 MoonOS discussion forum to connect with other users.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
MoonOS is an interesting alternative to generic Ubuntu, and to other Ubuntu derivatives such as Linux Mint. This release has some positive things for existing MoonOS users. However, I don’t see anything here that’s likely to grab users from other distros. There is not real standout feature that might possibly attract people and get them to switch to MoonOS 4.

I think it probably appeals most to those who are looking to remain in the Ubuntu family, but in an offbeat niche. If you’re one of those folks then you might want to give MoonOS 4 a download. It’s a Live CD so you can play with it without having to actually install it on your system.

Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users can use MoonOS 4.

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: MoonOS 4 Neake
Web Site: http://moonos.org/
Price: Free
Pros: New file system; GNOME desktop; appshell framework.
Cons: Docky and the new file system could be turnoff for experienced users.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: MoonOS 4 is a viable, offbeat alternative for Ubuntu Linux users.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Fedora 14 KDE

In my last look at Fedora 14, I covered the GNOME version. Fedora comes in other flavors though, including a KDE version. Since there are many KDE users out there, I thought it wise to cover the KDE release. Please note that I’ve skipped doing a video review for this release, but you can watch the review for the GNOME version though.

KDE has been updated to version 4.5 in this release. See the KDE 4.5 release announcement. If you aren’t familiar with what it has to offer desktop users.

Here’s a brief sample of what KDE 4.5 has to offer on the desktop:

Notification area cleanup
KWin upgrade
Plasma Activity Manager
Better Workspace controls

Live CD Desktop

Live CD Desktop

Utilities

Utilities

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Spice – Spice aims to provide a complete open source solution for interaction with virtualized desktops and provides high-quality remote access to QEMU virtual machines.

Mobility options – This release includes software from the MeeGo™ project which is designed to support platforms such as netbooks, nettops, and various embedded devices.

Amazon EC2 – For the first time since Fedora 8, Fedora will release on the EC2 cloud.

D Compiler – Support for D, a systems programming language. Its focus is on combining the power and high performance of C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python.

Some other features include:
Updating Perl to version 5.12, Python to version 2.7, Boost to version 1.44, Netbeans to version 6.9, KDE to version 4.5, Eclipse to the Helios Release, and Sugar to version 0.90.

As with the GNOME version, most of this stuff is geared toward administrators or programmers rather than average desktop users.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Processor and memory requirements for x86 Architectures

The following CPU specifications are stated in terms of Intel processors. Other processors, such as those from AMD, Cyrix, and VIA that are compatible with and equivalent to the following Intel processors, may also be used with Fedora. Fedora 14 requires an Intel Pentium Pro or better processor, and is optimized for i686 and later processors.

Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better

Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Processor and memory requirements for x86_64 architectures
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Hard disk space requirements for all architectures
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the installing spin and the packages selected during installation. Additional disk space is required during installation to support the installation environment. This additional disk space corresponds to the size of /Fedora/base/stage2.img (on Installation Disc 1) plus the size of the files in /var/lib/rpm on the installed system.

In practical terms, additional space requirements may range from as little as 90 MiB for a minimal installation to as much as an additional 175 MiB for a larger installation.

Additional space is also required for any user data, and at least 5% free space should be maintained for proper system operation.

Installation
The Fedora installer is the same for the KDE version as it is for the GNOME version. It’s easy and it doesn’t take long.

The thing that irritates me about is that the actual install doesn’t include setting up the user account, so there are a few more screens to go through after the install finishes and you reboot. This is a minor thing but it would be nice if the installer had all of the steps included in it.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Booting & Login
Here’s what the login screen looks like. It has the same weird looking wallpaper as the desktop.

Login

Login

The Desktop
Here’s a screenshot of the Fedora 14 KDE desktop. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, a KDE 4.5 desktop with Fedora customizations.

Desktop

Desktop

It uses the default KDE sliding menus. If you don’t like those menus, just right click the F (kicker) button on the panel and you can switch them to Classic easily enough. I generally use the classic mode since the sliding menus annoy me.

KDE Menu

KDE Menu

 

Classic KDE Menu

Themes
If you don’t like the default theme, go into System Settings and choose Workspace Appearance then Desktop Theme. Click the Get New Themes button to browse through a large selection of alternative desktop themes.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
The Fedora 14 KDE desktop has the same odd-looking wallpaper as the GNOME version. I really don’t know what to make of it; it sort of reminds me of Krypton for some reason (the home planet of Superman). I’m not sure why but it has that kryptonian space type thing going for it.

If you don’t like it just right click your desktop and choose Desktop Settings then click on Wallpaper then Get New Wallpapers. There are plenty of cool ones to choose from and most are much better than the odd default wallpaper.

Desktop Settings

Desktop Settings

Admin Tools

Here’s a peek at the system settings menu, which gives you everything you need to manage your system.

Admin

Admin

Bundled Software

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

Games
KMahjongg
KPatience
KMines

Graphics
KSnapshot
Gwenview
KolourPaint
Okular

Internet
Akregator
Blogilo
KMail
KNode
Konqueror
Konversation
Kopete

Multimedia
Dragon Player
JuK
KMix
KsCD

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KPresenter
KSpread
KTimeTracker
KWord

As you can tell, this distro is definitely KDE all the way in terms of its software. You won’t find OpenOffice.org, for example in the office applications menu. But you can still add it and lots of other software via Fedora 14’s software manager.

Software Management
Fedora 14 KDE uses KPackageKit as its software manager. KPackageKit has gotten a lot better recently; it’s not too far behind the Ubuntu Software Center or even Linux Mint’s Software Manager.

Applications are broken down into categories, and you can search as well. There’s plenty of software available in KPackageKit, you shouldn’t have trouble finding applications to cover most desktop needs. You can also get your software updates through KPackageKit.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Software Updates

Software Updates

KPackageKit Settings

KPackageKit Settings

Installed Software

Installed Software

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the package you want to add and click the Install button then Apply. If you want to remove an application, click the Installed Packages tab and find it. Then click the Remove button then the Apply button.

You can also opt to have KPackageKit check for updates (daily, hourly, weekly, monthly or not at all) and install them automatically if you want.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is not included by default, so you’ll have to install it yourself in Konqueror if you want to run YouTube videos, etc.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
As I noted earlier, you get four multimedia applications with this release: Dragon Player, JuK, KMix and KsCD. That’s not exactly an overwhelming selection, but you can find 268 more packages available in KPackagKit. So chances are that you’ll find additional applications that will fill all of your multimedia needs.

Dragon

Dragon

Problems & Headaches
My experience with Fedora 14 KDE was very positive. I didn’t run into performance issues or application crashes while running it.

The most irritating thing to me is that it defaults to Konqueror as its browser instead of Firefox or Chromium. This is a very subjective thing, obviously, but it seems to me that the days of Konqueror being used as the default browser in any distro are pretty much over and done with. It just doesn’t make sense to default to it when there are clearly better choices available. I don’t want to harp on this too much though since it’s very easy to grab Firefox from KPackageKit and use it instead of Konqueror.

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 Fedora community page and the Fedora help page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 14 KDE is well suited for experienced users who prefer the KDE desktop environment. The Fedora developers have done a good job blending Fedora’s tools and features with KDE. So there’s a lot of value here if you are a KDE user.

However, as with the GNOME version of Fedora, this distro is probably not well suited for beginners or casual desktop users. If you aren’t sure about whether or not Fedora 14 KDE is for you, I’d say give it a download and check it out. It never hurts to experiment with a new distro to see what it’s all about and if it matches your desktop computing needs. My experience with Fedora 14 KDE was pretty good, all things considered.

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: Fedora 14 KDE
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Comes with KDE 4.5; good selection of software.
Cons: Install routine is a bit odd and could use a tweak or two; software management is good but not quite as good as Linux Mint’s or the Ubuntu Software Center.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users, particularly those who prefer or require the KDE desktop.
Summary: Fedora 14 KDE is a good choice for experienced Linux users that prefer the KDE desktop environment.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Linux Mint 10

Whenever a new version of Ubuntu is released, you can be sure a new version of Linux Mint will soon follow. This time around it’s Linux Mint 10. Linux Mint, as you may already know, is one of the most popular Ubuntu remasters. It’s known for its excellent tools, great selection of software and bundled multimedia codecs.

Linux Mint 10 is based on Ubuntu 10.10. If you aren’t already familiar with the changes to Ubuntu 10.10, please read the original Ubuntu 10.10 review then hop back over here to continue reading about Linux Mint. I don’t want to regurgitate all of the stuff about Ubuntu 10.10 in this review.

Linux Mint 10 uses the GNOME desktop environment. It is available in CD or DVD versions (32 or 64 bit). For this review I downloaded the 32-bit DVD release. The file weighed in at about 872 MB.

Live Desktop

Live Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Ubuntu 10.10
Linux 2.6.35
GNOME 2.32
Xorg 7.5

Welcome screen
Install codecs and upgrade to the DVD edition from the welcome screen

Menu
Highlights newly installed applications
Finds and installs software from the repositories
Search engines
GTK bookmarks support
GTK themes support

Software manager
Application icons
Better categorization

Update manager
Ignore updates
Download size

Upload manager
UI, speed, ETA
Connection test
Cancel / Run in background

New look and feel

System improvements

Welcome Menu Improvements
I downloaded the DVD version, so there was no need to upgrade to it via the new Welcome menu. However, I must say that I was very glad that the LM developers added this in Linux Mint 10. I think there are quite a few folks who will appreciate being able to snag the DVD version and the multimedia codecs with just a couple of clicks. It’s little things like this that make Linux Mint such a great distribution. The developers are always fine-tuning what they offer and continually trying to make a better experience for the user.

Welcome Menu

Welcome Menu

Mint Menu Improvements
The Mint Menu is usually either one of the things people love or hate, there’s not usually much middle ground. I lean toward the love perspective so I was very happy to see some of the new improvements. It’s great having newly installed applications automatically highlighted, especially when you already have a zillion applications installed.

It’s also nice to be able to search for applications via the Mint Menu. Sometimes it just sucks having to bother opening the Software Manager to find or install an application.

Mint Menu Application Search

Mint Menu Application Search

I also enjoyed being able to search the web from the Mint Menu. I’m not sure how often I’ll use that feature though, since I’m usually already browsing in a browser window when the need to search for something occurs to me. However, it’s helpful to have the option to use Mint Menu if I’m not already in a browser window.

Mint Menu Web Search

Mint Menu Web Search

The Mint Menu also now supports GTK Bookmarks and GTK Themes. Both features will no doubt add some real value to for some users, but I probably won’t bother much with either of them. You can also configure icon sizes for the Mint Menu.

Mint Menu Preferences

Mint Menu Preferences

Software Manager & Update Manager Improvements
I’ll cover these in the software part of the review.

Upload Manager Improvements
I don’t use the upload manager, so it’s not a big priority for me. Those who do will no doubt appreciate the ability to test a connection, cancel/run an upload in the background, see a new UI, and see the speed of an upload.

Look and Feel
I’ll cover this in the desktop section of the review.

Other Improvements

There are a few other additions to this release and these include:

Adobe Flash Square Included (32 and 64 bit)
Oracle VirtualBox (Metapackage points to non-free version of VirtualBox that includes USB support)
Signed Repositories (no warning for usage of signed repositories)
Highlight (highlight command is faster and more reliable)
Meta Packages (codecs now tracked by “mint-meta-codecs”)
Adjustment System (now LSB compliant

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • 4 GB of disk space for installation
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD-ROM drive or USB port

Installation
As always, the Linux Mint install routine is about as easy as it gets. You can view a slide show while it finishes. If you’re new to Linux Mint, you’ll probably find the slide show very helpful.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot and login screens look like:

Boot

Boot

Login

Login

The Desktop
As noted at the beginning of the review, there have been some changes to the look and feel of Linux Mint. There are some new backgrounds that have been included by various artists, including a new default background that you can see in the screenshot below. The welcome screen and desktop menu have a brushed metal look to them now and Mint-X is the new theme. There are also new Mint-X icons to help emphasize the new look and feel of Linux Mint 10.

Desktop

Desktop

Overall, I think the aesthetic changes to Linux Mint 10 are mostly attractive. It does have a darker feel to it though, I noticed it when booting into the desktop. I had expected a bright green wallpaper but the new one is far more subdued. I know that some folks may not like this, but I think it mostly works. The icons are attractive and it all seems to gel very well into one cohesive whole in terms of looks.

Themes
If you decide that you dislike the default theme, just right-click the desktop and opt to change your background. There are 10 other themes available, and you can get more online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
The same goes for the wallpaper. If you hate the default, there are about 34 other wallpapers you can choose from in the Appearance Preferences menu. So you definitely are not stuck with the new wallpaper.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Bundled Software

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

Games
Games Available in the Software Manager

Graphics
F-Spot
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
Giver
Gwibber
Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News
Pidgin IM
Sun Java 6
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Brasero
GNOME MPlayer
Movie Player
PulseAudio Device Chooser
PulseAudio Volume Control
Rhythmbox
Sound Recorder
VLC Media Player

Office
Dictionary
OpenOffice.org

Overall, I don’t have anything to complain about in terms of software selection. Linux Mint 10 covers pretty much all of the bases while not overloading the user with too much software. If you find you need something more, just load up the Software Manager and you should be able to find it.

Software Management
Linux Mint has had one of the better software managers for a long time. This release makes it even better by including a better categorization of software and application icons. Given that it also displays ratings and reviews, the Linux Mint developers have just made a great software manager even better. I’d like to see more distros including the same sorts of features in their software managers.

Software Manager

Software Manager Categories

Internet Applications

Internet Applications

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the application you want and click the green Install or Remove button. The software manager will add it or remove it from your system, as shown in the screenshots below of Chromium. You can also read reviews and see ratings before you decide to actually install the application.

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Reviews

Chromium Reviews

Update Manager Changes
Update Manager has also been tweaked in this release. You can now right click a package and tell Update Manager to ignore it. You will no longer receive updates for it. This is a nice little tweak that puts more control in the hands of the user.

You can also now see the size of your selected updates, so you’ll know how much you need to download to update a package.

Updates

Updates

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is installed by default, I had no problems running YouTube videos. As always Linux Mint comes with a bunch of multimedia codecs installed by default, so you should have no problem running DVDs, etc. If you look in the Software Manager you can find the mint-meta-codecs package if – for some strange reason – you want to remove them from your system.

Codecs Package

Codecs Package

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
You get the always-excellent VLC media player, Rhythmbox, Brasero, GNOME MPlayer and a few other multimedia applications bundled with Linux Mint 10. If you need more be sure to hit the Software Manager. There are a total of 75 packages available there, probably far more than anybody will ever really need on their system. But if you want to install them all, have at it.

Multimedia Applications

Multimedia Applications available in Software Manager.

Problems & Headaches
I’m very happy to report that I didn’t run into any noticeable problems with Linux Mint 10. It ran very well for me. I didn’t see slowdowns, application crashes or any noticeable bugs. However, there were a few known problems listed on the Linux Mint site that you might want to be aware of:

Splash screen resolution
If the boot sequence only shows dots and no logo, you can make it look better by following these instructions.

Moonlight
Moonlight was removed from Linux Mint because of a bug that made Firefox crash. The bug was fixed upstream and you can install the Moonlight plugin from the project’s website.

Upstream issues
Linux Mint 10 is based on Maverick Merkaat. Make sure to read the known issues related to this release.

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 Linux Mint Forums and Community Site.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Once again, the Linux Mint developers take an already great distro and added a few more things that make it even better. One of the things I always hate when writing about Linux Mint is that I hardly ever find things to complain about, and so it is again with this release.

Linux Mint 10 renews Linux Mint’s place at the very top of the desktop distro heap. To put it bluntly, it doesn’t get much better than this if you want to run Linux as your desktop OS.

If you haven’t tried Linux Mint before, then you’re in for a real treat. If you’re a current Linux Mint user, I recommend that you consider upgrading to Linux Mint 10. You can find upgrade instructions here.

Linux Mint 10 is well suited for beginners, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

Click to the next page to view the full gallery of Linux Mint 10 screenshots.

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: Linux Mint 10
Web Site: http://www.linuxmint.com
Price: Free
Pros: Update to DVD version and install codecs from the Welcome menu; menu improvements let you search for applications, search the web, highlight new applications; software manager includes application icons and better categorization. Desktop look and feel has been improved.
Cons: Not much to complain about, frankly. It’s still based on Ubuntu though, so if you don’t like Ubuntu then consider Linux Mint Debian Edition instead.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Linux Mint 10 adds some helpful tweaks and improvements to an already great distro.
Rating: 5/5

 

Debian 5

I’ve written a lot of reviews of distros based on Debian, but never a review of Debian itself. So this time around I decided to look at Debian 5 (Lenny). Debian, if you aren’t familiar with it, is the rock upon which popular distributions like Ubuntu and MEPIS are built. Sometimes folks who use a Debian-based distribution aren’t even aware of what it is based on, and that’s a shame because Debian itself has so much to offer.

If you want a really good overview of Debian, be sure to read the Wikipedia article about it.

The Debian Project is governed by the Debian Constitution and the Social Contract which set out the governance structure of the project as well as explicitly stating that the goal of the project is the development of a free operating system.[8][9] Debian is developed by over one thousand volunteers from around the world and supported by donations through several non-profit organizations around the world. Most important of these is Software in the Public Interest,[10] the owner of the Debian trademark and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.[11]

Thus, the Debian Project is an independent decentralized organization; it is not backed by a company like some other GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 4.0 etch (283 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, has been estimated to be close to US$13 billion.[12] As of April 2, 2009, Ohloh estimates that the codebase of the Debian GNU/Linux project (45 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost about US$819 million to develop.[13]
[edit] Features

Many distributions are based on Debian, including Ubuntu, MEPIS, Dreamlinux, Damn Small Linux, Xandros, Knoppix, BackTrack, Linspire, sidux, Kanotix, Parsix and LinEx, among others.[14]

Debian is known for an abundance of options. The current stable release includes over twenty five thousand software packages for twelve[15] computer architectures. These architectures range from the Intel/AMD 32-bit/64-bit architectures commonly found in personal computers to the ARM architecture commonly found in embedded systems and the IBM eServer zSeries mainframes.[16] Prominent features of Debian are the APT package management system, repositories with large numbers of packages, strict policies regarding packages, and the high quality of releases.[14] These practices allow easy upgrades between releases as well as automated installation and removal of packages.

The Debian standard install makes use of the GNOME desktop environment. It includes popular programs such as OpenOffice.org, Iceweasel (a rebranding of Firefox), Evolution mail, CD/DVD writing programs, music and video players, image viewers and editors, and PDF viewers. There are pre-built CD images for KDE Software Compilation, Xfce and LXDE as well.[17] The remaining discs, which span five DVDs or over thirty CDs, contain all packages currently available and are not necessary for a standard install. Another install method is via a net install CD which is much smaller than a normal install CD/DVD. It contains only the bare essentials needed to start the installer and downloads the packages selected during installation via APT.[18] These CD/DVD images can be freely obtained by web download, BitTorrent, jigdo or buying them from online retailers.[19]

Debian has three main branches:

Stable
Testing
Unstable

The distro I installed for this review was from the stable branch (which has the name Lenny).

Boot

Boot

Debian 5 is available in KDE, GNOME, Xfce, and LXDE versions. For this review, I went with the GNOME version.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Support for Marvell’s Orion Platform for storage devices
KDE 3.5.10
GNOME 2.22.2
Xfce 4.4.2
LXDE 0.3.2.1
X.Org 7.3
OpenOffice.org 2.4.1
GIMP 2.4.7
Java Support (OpenJDK, GNU Java compiler, GNU Java bytecode interpreter, Classpath)

You might notice here that Debian 5 is not exactly cutting edge when it comes to software. Please note that this is to be expected since Debian 5 is based on the stable branch, and not the testing branch. I’ll talk more about this in the problems section, and at the end of the review.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
It’s important to note here that Debian 5 runs on a lot of different architectures. The requirements listed here are for the i386 version and may differ depending on what sort of system you want to run Debian 5 on.

Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

A Pentium 4, 1GHz system is the minimum recommended for a desktop system.

Table 3.2. Recommended Minimum System Requirements
Install Type RAM (minimal) RAM (recommended) Hard Drive
No desktop 64 megabytes 256 megabytes 1 gigabyte
With Desktop 64 megabytes 512 megabytes 5 gigabytes

The actual minimum memory requirements are a lot less then the numbers listed in this table. Depending on the architecture, it is possible to install Debian with as little as 20MB (for s390) to 48MB (for i386 and amd64). The same goes for the disk space requirements, especially if you pick and choose which applications to install; see Section D.2, “Disk Space Needed for Tasks” for additional information on disk space requirements.

It is possible to run a graphical desktop environment on older or low-end systems, but in that case it is recommended to install a window manager that is less resource-hungry than those of the GNOME or KDE desktop environments; alternatives include xfce4, icewm and wmaker, but there are others to choose from.

Installation
Debian 5’s install routine has a lot more steps than Ubuntu’s, for example. This is to be expected and it should not deter you from trying Debian 5. Note also that Debian 5 also gives you a lot more control than other distros, so the extra steps serve an important purpose.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Install 14

Install 14

Install 15

Install 15

Install 16

Install 16

Install 17

Install 17

Install 18

Install 18

Install 19

Install 19

Install 20

Install 20

Install 21

Install 21

Install 22

Install 22

Install 23

Install 23

Install 24

Install 24

Install 25

Install 25

Install 26

Install 26

Install 27

Install 27

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting & login screens look like:

Boot After Install

Boot After Install

Login

Login

The Desktop
Since I picked the GNOME version of Debian 5, that’s what I booted into after doing my install. The wallpaper is a bit bland but you can change that easily enough. Debian 5’s GNOME desktop is very simple and does not contain, for example, the huge amount of bells and whistles that you’ll find in Ultimate Edition or PinguyOS. It’s essentially a basic GNOME desktop environment.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
The default theme is Clearlooks, but there are 12 altogether to choose from in the Appearance Preferences menu. Just click System in the top panel then Preferences to access the menu. I think SphereCrystal is a more attractive them so that’s what I ended up changing mine to after using Debian 5 for a while.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
As I noted above, the wallpaper is rather bland and uninspiring. The selection in the Appearance Preferences menu isn’t much better. Most of it is sort of generic colors or cheesy nature pictures. No problem, if you do a Google search you can find tons of cool wallpaper to use instead of what comes with Debian 5.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools
Here’s a look at what you’ll find in terms of admin tools in Debian 5.

System Management

Admin

Admin

User Management

Users

Users

Bundled Software

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

Games
Logic
AisleRiot Solitaire
Blackjack
Chess
FreeCell Solitaire
Gnometris
lagno
Mahjongg
Robots
Tali

Graphics
Cheese
GIMP
gThumb Image Viewer
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
OpenOffice.org Draw
XSane Image Scanning Program

Internet
Ekiga Softphone
Epiphany Browser
Evolution Mail
Iceweasel Browser
Liferea Feed Reader
Pidgin IM
Remote Desktop Viewer
Terminal Server Client
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Serpentine Audio Creator
Sound Recorder
Volume Control

Office
OpenOffice.org

Software Management
Debian 5’s software management tool is not as elegant or as sophisticated as the ones in Ubuntu or Linux Mint. However, it’s very functional and fairly attractive in its own right. While you cannot rate or review applications, you can see which applications are the most or least popular based on the number of stars in the popularity field.

Add or Remove Applications

Add or Remove Applications

Applications are categorized, as shown in the screenshot, and you can easily search for an application if you don’t want to spend time browsing for it. You can choose to show All Available Applications, All Open Source Applications or Installed Applications Only.

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing programs is very easy. Simply find the application you want and then click the checkbox next to its name and icon in the Add/Remove Applications tool. After that just click Apply Changes and you’re good to go.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Version 9 of flash comes already installed in the Iceweasel browser. Unfortunately it did not seem to work at all for YouTube videos. I did notice a message from YouTube encouraging me to upgrade to flash 10 though, when I went to play a video. I recommend upgrading to flash 10 before trying to play flash content on the web.

Flash

Flash

Also installed in Iceweasel are the iTunes Application Detector, QuickTime Plugin 7.2, Totem Web Browser Plugin 2.22.2, and the Windows Media Player Plugin 10. So it’s pretty safe to say that Iceweasel is locked, cocked and ready to rock when it comes to multimedia on the web.

You should note that you do not get the multimedia codecs available in Linux Mint Debian Edition or Ultimate Edition (for obvious legal reasons). So bear that in mind if that’s an issue for you.

Multimedia Applications
You also get a decent selection of desktop multimedia applications including Audio CD Extractor, Movie Player, Rhythmbox Music Player, and the Serpentine Audio CD Creator. If that doesn’t cut it for you, don’t worry. There’s a whole bunch of other multimedia applications (way too many to list here) that are available in the Add/Remove Applications tool.

Rhythmbox

Rhythmbox

Problems & Headaches
One of the drawbacks to Debian 5 is that you won’t necessarily have the most updated versions of applications. For example, it ships with OpenOffice.org 2.4 instead of 3.0. But it’s important to note that stability is very, very important to the Debian project. So shipping cutting-edge applications in Lenny is really not something to be expected. I note it here for those who care about having the latest & greatest of everything.

Beyond that, there’s not much to really note here in terms of problems. Debian 5 was rock-solid for me and seemed quite speedy as well. I did not see any application crashes, system hang-ups or other problems while running it. It performed extremely well for me and I was able to do all of my usual stuff while running.

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 excellent Debian support page. You’ll find links to documentation, a Wiki, mailing lists, bug tracking and a bunch of other stuff. I highly recommend browsing the support page if you are totally new to Debian. Bookmark it and refer back to it if you find you have issues using Debian 5.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Debian 5 is perfect for those who want a very stable system that provides a great deal of control to the user. It is not well suited for those looking for the latest & greatest of everything. If you bear that in mind and proceed accordingly, you might find Debian 5 to be a very useful desktop distro.

Those who want things to be a bit more up-to-date should really consider Linux Mint Debian instead. Bear in mind that LMDE is based on the testing branch (also known as Squeeze) rather than on the stable branch (Lenny). So you may not have the same sort of rock-solid stability that you get in Debian 5. It’s a bit of a trade-off, to a certain degree and it’s something you should know when you consider choosing between the two.

My experience with Debian 5 was overwhelmingly positive. I’ll be keeping it around to use regularly, though I suspect I will still lean a bit toward Linux Mint Debian a fair amount of the time.

Debian 5 is probably best suited to intermediate and advanced Linux users.

However, because I like it so much, I want to qualify that recommendation a bit by encouraging users new to Linux to check it out anyway; try running it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox on your existing system. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot in a VM if you’re new to Linux; you might find yourself having some fun with it.

The worst that can happen is that you newer folks might decide that you don’t like it and then delete it from VirtualBox. But by running it (and reading about it), they will gain some very helpful desktop Linux experience and will have a better understanding of how much the Debian project has contributed to the well being and popularity of desktop Linux overall.

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: Debian 5 (Lenny)
Web Site: http://www.debian.org
Price: Free
Pros: Rock-solid stability; decent selection of applications; fast; supportive community.
Cons: Applications may be older versions; the install routine has more steps but also provides greater control; software management tool does not allow for application reviews & user ratings.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced users; although beginners might want to consider trying it in a VM.
Summary: Debian 5 is the granddaddy of many of today’s desktop distros, but it’s also a fine desktop option in its own right.
Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

Fedora 14

With the release of Ubuntu 10.10 recently, it’s been Ubuntu overload recently in Linux land. Thankfully, another heavy weight distro has weighed in with an update: Fedora 14.

Fedora 14 has wisely decided to stick with GNOME, unlike the next version of Ubuntu (which promises to use the Unity interface on the desktop). Fedora 14 is also available in KDE, LXDE and XFCE versions. For this review, I used the GNOME version.

Live CD Desktop

Live CD Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Spice – Spice aims to provide a complete open source solution for interaction with virtualized desktops and provides high-quality remote access to QEMU virtual machines.

Mobility options – This release includes software from the MeeGo™ project which is designed to support platforms such as netbooks, nettops, and various embedded devices.

Amazon EC2 – For the first time since Fedora 8, Fedora will release on the EC2 cloud.

D Compiler – Support for D, a systems programming language. Its focus is on combining the power and high performance of C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python.

Some other features include:
Updating Perl to version 5.12, Python to version 2.7, Boost to version 1.44, Netbeans to version 6.9, KDE to version 4.5, Eclipse to the Helios Release, and Sugar to version 0.90.

As you can tell, there’s not much of significance here for desktop users. Most of these new features probably appeal to administrators or developers more than your average desktop user.

Fonts

Fonts

Updates

Updates

Hardware Requirements & Installation
Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Processor and memory requirements for x86 Architectures

The following CPU specifications are stated in terms of Intel processors. Other processors, such as those from AMD, Cyrix, and VIA that are compatible with and equivalent to the following Intel processors, may also be used with Fedora. Fedora 14 requires an Intel Pentium Pro or better processor, and is optimized for i686 and later processors.

Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better

Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Processor and memory requirements for x86_64 architectures
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Hard disk space requirements for all architectures
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the installing spin and the packages selected during installation. Additional disk space is required during installation to support the installation environment. This additional disk space corresponds to the size of /Fedora/base/stage2.img (on Installation Disc 1) plus the size of the files in /var/lib/rpm on the installed system.

In practical terms, additional space requirements may range from as little as 90 MiB for a minimal installation to as much as an additional 175 MiB for a larger installation.

Additional space is also required for any user data, and at least 5% free space should be maintained for proper system operation.

Installation
The ISO file I downloaded for this review weighed in at about 719 MB. Fedora 14 is a Live CD distro; so you can try it without having to install it. Just pop the CD in, boot into it and then begin using the Fedora 14 Live CD desktop.

The install is relatively easy though still not as slick as that of Ubuntu. One weird part of it is that you don’t set up your user ID until the second part of it. I’m not sure why it has been set up this way but it’s a bit strange to create the root password but then have to wait to create the actual user account. I would like to see the Fedora developers take a look at Ubuntu’s installer and steal ideas from it; it’s much simpler and intuitive.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot

Boot

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Fedora 14 desktop had four icons on it when I loaded it up: Computer, Jim’s Home, Trash and the Fedora 14 CD. Otherwise, the desktop is uncluttered.

The default wallpaper is the first thing I really noticed though, it’s rather weird. The wallpaper looks like you are staring down into some sort of blue chasm, with lightning flickering around it. I give it points for being creative, but it is a bit on the odd side. Were the Fedora developers sipping some beer or smoking something when it was developed? I’m not sure, and I doubt we’ll ever know the details of how it was created.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
If the default Fedora 14 theme doesn’t appeal to you, there are 7 other choices available. Right-click your desktop and choose the Theme tab to browse around. More themes are available online from the GNOME Art site.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
If the default wallpaper doesn’t float your boat, right click your desktop and you can easily change the wallpaper. As with themes, more choices are available online and in the wallpaper menu.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Overall, Fedora 14’s desktop is quite good. It’s solid and very easy to use, even if you’re a total newbie to the distro.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release. The selection is fair but not overwhelming; most common computing tasks are covered. However, I suspect that most folks will want to spend some time browsing Fedora’s software manager to find some additional options.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
lagno
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet
Empathy IM
Firefox
Remote Desktop Viewer
Transmission

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player

Office
Evolution
Project Management

Software Management
The software manager for Fedora still lags behind that of Ubuntu or Linux Mint, but it is usable and should meet the needs of most users.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Software Repositories
If you click the System menu, you can access the Software Sources menu. The Fedora 14 category is checked by default, as is the updates category. The third checkbox is for test updates and you probably should not bother checking it. It’s best to wait for final updates. There’s no other option in the Add/Remove Software tool to add other repositories.

Software Sources

Software Sources

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing software is quite easy. Find the application you want to install or remove, then click the checkbox then click the Apply button. Your software will then added or removed.

Add or Remove Software

Add or Remove Software

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is not installed by default, so you will have install it yourself if you want to play YouTube videos, etc. in Firefox.

YouTube

YouTube

Flash

Flash

Multimedia Applications
Fedora 14 comes with Brasero, Movie Player, Rhythymbox Music Player, Cheese Webcam and an Audio CD Extractor. The Pitivi Video Editor is not included nor are there any codecs for playing DVDs, etc. (for obvious legal reasons). So if you want to do certain multimedia functions, you will need to download some additional software either from the Add/Remove Software tool or from some other source.

Rythymbox

Rythymbox

Problems & Headaches
The lack of OpenOffice.org is somewhat shocking, there is no real office suite included at all. However, it is easy enough to download via the software manager. I’m not sure why a project management application was included rather than some sort of basic word processor or office suite. Abiword, at the very least, ought to have been included.

The software management tool itself needs a drastic overhaul. It comes across as somewhat primitive and ugly compared to the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s excellent Software Manager. Users should be able to see screenshots of applications, and should be able to rate and review applications.

It’s also disappointing that flash, for example, was not included in the Add/Remove software tool. I had to get it from Adobe’s site. This is a small thing, perhaps, but potentially annoying to some users. I’d like to see the software selection in Fedora 14’s Add/Remove Software tool to be a bit more desktop-friendly. Perhaps a “featured” category that focuses on desktop applications would be helpful in a future release.

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 Fedora help page, and the Fedora community page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 14 is a good, solid distro but it lags behind some other distros when it comes to the desktop. It comes across as something a bit more suited to programmers or other advanced users. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be used for a desktop OS by most users, but there’s less desktop polish and ease here than in some other distros. The software stuff I mentioned above is a good example of that.

I’d really like to see the Fedora developers concentrate on tweaking the install program and the software management in a future release. Fedora 14 gives me the feeling that it’s almost…but not quite…ready for general desktop users. The developers just need to press onward and make some additions and changes that will move this distro into the top heap of desktop distros. It’s almost there but a bit more remains to be done.

Despite that, I am a fan of Fedora 14. It’s certainly worth a download if you are curious about it.

I recommend Fedora 14 for intermediate and advanced Linux users. Beginners can certainly install it, but it’s just a tad bit less desktop-friendly for them than Linux Mint, generic Ubuntu and some of the other desktop distros out there.

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: Fedora 14
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org
Price: Free
Pros: Solid desktop; relatively easy to install; stable and reasonably fast.
Cons: Software manager needs to be updated to match the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager. Installer needs to be tweaked just a bit to be more intuitive.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Fedora 14 remains a solid choice for those with prior Linux experience. Newbies would be better off with a more consumer-oriented distribution.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Ultimate Edition 2.8

Earlier this week I wrote a quick look over on EOL about Super OS 10.10. Super OS…well…it didn’t exactly live up to its name, though it does have its place among the many Ubuntu remasters out there. I ran into another distro though that does a more credible job of living up to its name. Ultimate Edition 2.8 is the latest release of yet another Ubuntu-based distro.

As you can tell by the name, there’s very little about Ultimate Edition that’s subtle. It could rightfully be described as Ubuntu on steroids, lots and lots and lots of steroids. This distro is on so many steroids that this is the first time I’ve actually been scared to write a review of a distro, roid rage and all that. Heh.

The Live DVD Desktop

The Live DVD Desktop

Before I get into the review, let me do a little housekeeping. I’ve shrunk the screenshots a tad bit so they aren’t quite as overwhelming to the text, and I’ve added a breadcrumb trail to the images on the gallery page. So you can easily find your way back to the first page of the review if you happen to be browsing screenshots. Each screenshot now has a caption displayed within the review. So if you’re somebody that likes to hop to the image gallery page and browse around, you’ll be in good shape.

Okay, now on with the review.

What’s New In This Release
In the last review I wrote about Ultimate Edition, I decried the lack of a real What’s New page on the UE site. Well, I’m sorry to say that there still isn’t anything really helpful available to list all of the changes in this release. Here’s what I was able to dig up though, for whatever it’s worth.

What is Ultimate Edition 2.8?  Ultimate Edition was built off Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat.  All updates fully updated / upgraded.  The software you have came to love with previous editions of Ultimate Edition have been also pre-installed along with 12 new ones.  I must apologise at time of build Cinelerra & wine doors were currently broken and did not make the cut.

I also want to apologise for the delay and at the same time thank my admin for the delay of Ultimate Edition 2.8?s release.  Many issues have been squashed in 2.8 because of the delay.  I do want to give a shout out to JohnnyG. Many were cosmetic, he has a real eye for detail and breaking things down to a programmers level.  Thanks again JohnnyG.  Cowboy’s handiwork at the theme has won the poll and will be deemed “Cowboy Blue”.  This is not the end of the thanks that need to be dropped simply the tip of the iceberg.  I would be chatter boxing all day to give the kudos where they lie.  No, I do not do everything.  Don’t like the blue theme?  There are 107 themes to choose from, it does not have to be dark.

I have included a now enhanced, color and font selectable Conky script I wrote that will generate as per computer. The results of running the Conky script can be seen at the right. This script will be in your home folder when installed (your choice to run it or not). The script is commented if you wish to learn.

I urge the UE developers to take the time and do a page similar to the What’s New that Linux Mint puts out each time they do a release. It’s a big help to reviewers and users alike, since it makes it easy to know what has been changed or added since the last release.

If you aren’t familiar with the changes made to generic Ubuntu in 10.10, please see the Ubuntu 10.10 review. I don’t want to rehash all of that in this review.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
I was unable to find a list of hardware requirements on the UE site, so I’ll sub the generic Ubuntu ones:

700 MHz x86 processor
256 MB RAM
3 GB disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024 x 768 resolution
Sound card
Network or Internet connection

It would probably be better if you could beat these requirements since UE has a lot of software and eye-candy in it. These minimums might not cut it, you’ll have to give it a shot and see if it works. I’d recommend 512 MB of RAM and at least a 10 – 12 GB hard disk.

System requirements are another thing that UE developers should add to their site. The download page had no useful information other than suggesting that users have a 4GB USB device. So the hard disk requirement for generic Ubuntu is probably way off.

Installation
The Ultimate Edition 2.8 uses the same installer as generic Ubuntu, so it’s quite easy and fast. The installer has been customized to match the UE 2.8 desktop theme though, so it looks a bit different. It still functions the same though, and it even has a nicely customized slideshow you can watch that will let you know some of what UE 2.8 has to offer. I definitely recommend checking out the slideshow if you haven’t used UE before, it has some interesting information.

In order to do my install, I downloaded the 2.58 GB ISO file. Yes, it’s that large. Ultimate Edition 2.8 is also a Live DVD (there ain’t no way you are going to fit this sombitch onto a CD, don’t even think about it) so you can boot into it to check it out without doing an install.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install

Install

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Booting & Login
There’s no boot menu after you install Ultimate Edition 2.8, it goes right to the login screen. As you can tell, the login screen has been heavily customized with the Ultra Edition 2.8 theme and colors.

Login

Login

The Desktop
Subtlety is definitely not UE 2.8’s strong point and you’ll understand what I mean when you boot into your desktop for the first time. The theme, branding and colors are all over the top. This is not the Mac-like experience you get with generic Ubuntu. Everything from the wallpaper to the spinning 3D-ish cursor screams loudly for your attention. That’s fine though, it’s part of what this distro is all about.

Desktop

Desktop

The desktop, strangely enough, isn’t cluttered up with icons. In fact, there aren’t any icons. This sort of surprised given this distro’s image, but it works well and saves the user from having to clean them up.

The application menus contain the usual categories, including one for programmers and Wine.

Application Menus

Application Menus

Themes
I found the default theme relatively attractive, but I’m a guy so that’s not surprising. The ladies out there might think it’s a bit too masculine, with its dark blue colors. No worries, there’s a whole bunch of other themes available. Right click your desktop and choose Change Desktop Background, then pull up the theme menu. The other themes include older Ultimate Edition themes, as well as non-UE themes. Chances are that you’ll be able to find something that you like in there.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
The same goes for the wallpaper, with its UE logo floating over the ocean with lots of big rocks sticking up. Some might consider it a bit over the top, in a phallic sort of way. There are some nice wallpaper alternatives in the Appearance Preferences menu, so feel free to explore it if the default wallpaper doesn’t do it for you. There’s a lot of UE alternate wallpapers available, as well as non-UE stuff.

Admin Tools

System Management
There are a lot of system management tools included, and also a lot of options in system preferences. Rather than list them out, here’s a couple of screenshots that will give you an idea of what’s available.

System Preferences

System Preferences

System Administration

System Administration

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release. Ultimate Edition 2.8 comes with a lot of software installed by default, and it’s not just limited to GNOME software either. You’ll find many KDE applications installed by default as well.

There’s also a menu in this distro that includes a lot of programming tools, I’ve listed those below.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
PlayOnLinux
Quadrapassel
Sudoku

Graphics
AquireImages
Blender
DNGConverter
ExpoBlending
F-Spot
GIMP
Inkscape
Karbon14
kFlickr
KolourPaint
Krita
KSnapshot
Phatch
Shotwell
Simple Scan

Internet
aMSN
CheckGMail
Chromium
ELinks
Empathy
Firefox
Firestarter
Frostwire
gFTP
Giver
Google Gadgets
Gwibber
kasablanca
kFlickr
Konqueror
Kopete
KTorrent
KVlrc 4
Lanshark
Pidgin
Transmission
Tucan Manager
Vuze
WiFi Radar
Wireshark
Yarssr

Multimedia
Amarok
Audacious
Audacity
Banshee
Brasero
Cheese Webcam
DeVeDe DVD/CD Video Creator
Dragon Player
dvd:rip
DVD Styler
EasyTAG
Entagged
gtkpod iPod Manager
Hydrogen Drum Machine
Imagination
ISO Master
Istanbul Desktop Session Recorder
K3b
k9copy
Kdenlive
Kino
Lemon Rip
LiVES
ManDVD
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor
QDVDAuthor
Rhythmbox
RipOff
soundKonverter
tovid GUI
TVtime Television Viewer
VLC
X-CD-Roast
xine

Office
Abiword
Evolution
Gnumeric
Karbon14
Kexi
KMyMoney
KPlato
KPresenter
Krita
KSpread
KThesaurus
KWord
OpenOffice.org
xCHM

Programming
Anjuta IDE
Bluefish
Vervisia
Devhelp
Gambas2
Glade
Google Gadget Designer
gPHPEdit
KImageMapEditor
Kompare
Meld Diff Viewer
Qt 4 (Assistant, Designer, Linguist, Creator)
Quanta Plus

As you can tell, I’m not kidding when I say there’s a LOT of software installed by default in UE 2.8.

Software Management
There are two main ways to manage software in Ultimate Edition 2.8. You can use the regular Ubuntu Software Center or you can use Ultamatix.

Ultamatix comes with loads of software, some of it quite illegal if you are in the United States or other countries (DVD codecs, etc.). When you first start Ultamatix, a menu pops up and tells you how naughty you are if you install any of that stuff (it also absolves the UE developers from any legal liability for your naughtiness).

Ultamatix Warning

Ultamatix Warning

Ultamatix starts with all of the software selected, you just have to hit Start to get the install started. You can, however, deselect all and then install just the ones you want on your system. But this is a distro called Ultimate Edition, so it’s not like minimalists will be using it. My guess is that most people will just install everything and bask in the glow of all that extra software.

Ultamatix

Ultamatix

Here’s a sample of the extras you’ll find in Ultamatix. This is not a complete list but it will give you an idea of the extra stuff you can get:

Enlightenment
KDE
Ubuntu Studio
XFCE
Compiz Fusion
livdvdcss2 (naughty!)
Man DVD
W32/64 DVD Codecs (naughty!)
Ubuntu Restricted Extras & Codecs
Abiword
Blender, Yafray and Inkscape
KTorrent
Vuze
Google Earth
Google Picasa

As I said above, that’s just a bit of the extra stuff in Ultamatix. Software gluttons will have a field day playing with all the goodies in it.

The Ubuntu Software Center, of course, also comes with tons of software. Between Ultamatix and the USC, you have an ENORMOUS amount of software at your fingertips. It’s very easy to add or remove software in both programs. By now the USC is old hat to most Ubuntu users, and Ultamatix takes just a few minutes to get used to.

Wine is also included for you poor souls still desperately trying to run Windows software.

Wine

Wine

Sound and Multimedia
Sound, YouTube & Flash
I had no problems with sound in Ultimate Edition 2.8. As soon as I booted into the desktop, I knew the sound was working fine. There’s a neat (and loud) sound effect that plays when your desktop loads up. Don’t worry, it’s not death metal or anything like that.

Strangely enough, flash isn’t installed by default. But it is available easily enough in Ultamatix. It was kind of odd to find it not installed by default though. I had assumed, given its name, that something as basic as flash would be already installed for me. Go figure.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
I listed pretty much all of the multimedia applications that come with this distro in the software section, so I won’t list them all again here. Suffice to say, there’s a LOT of them! I can’t imagine anybody needing to download a whole lot else, given what comes with this distro by default.

I suspect that most multimedia mavens will really enjoy the hell out of Ultimate Edition 2.8. If you are into multimedia, this distro delivers!

Here’s a few screenshots of some of the included multimedia applications.

 

VLC

Banshee

Audacity

Man DVD

Problems & Headaches
Ultimate Edition 2.8 was not the speediest distro I’ve used. I noticed a tiny bit of lag sometimes when moving through the desktop menus, and also when applications would load. It wasn’t particularly bad or anything like that, but I did notice it. Your mileage may vary, depending on your hardware.

UE’s strength in software is also its weakness. As you may have noticed from the software page, Ultimate Edition 2.8 is sometimes redundant with the software it includes. Multiple programs for tag editing, word processing, etc. aren’t really necessary. So that may turn off some users.

However, it’s important to remember that the main selling point of this distro is that you get it all in one package pretty much. So having multiple applications that essentially accomplish the same tasks shouldn’t be held against it.

I did not notice any overt system instability or applications crashes while using Ultimate Edition 2.8. It seemed to perform reasonably well for me.

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 UE FAQ and discussion forum for additional assistance.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Ultimate Edition 2.8 is absolutely perfect for people who want tons of bells and whistles, along with gobs and gobs of software. Minimalists will want to avoid UE 2.8 at all costs, however. For them this distro is over the top, way over the top! Software gluttons will absolutely love it, however. More specifically, anybody who is into multimedia or programming will surely find that UE 2.8 has a lot to offer.

I had a fun time with UE 2.8. Sure, it’s bombastic and probably overkill for a lot of people; but it definitely has its place in the pantheon of Linux distributions. I’m glad it’s available and I definitely think it’s worth a download if you are an Ubuntu user who wants to have it all in one distro, or if you are somebody considering Ubuntu that wants more (much more) than what generic Ubuntu offers.

Ultimate Edition can be used by beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

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: Ultimate Edition 2.8
Web Site: http://ultimateedition.info/
Price: Free
Pros: Lots of bells and whistles; an absolutely enormous amount of bundled software; lots of extra goodies available via Ultamatix; unique desktop theme and branding.
Cons: The sheer amount of software might be overwhelming to some users; large download size; multimedia codecs available in Ultamatix are illegal in some countries.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: Ultimate Edition 2.8 is Ubuntu on steroids; lots and lots of steroids. You pretty much get it all with this badboy of a distro.
Rating: 4/5

Kubuntu 10.10

This week can definitely be summed up as Canonical Week, first with the release of Ubuntu 10.10 and then the release of its sister distros (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, etc.). This time around I took a look at Kubuntu 10.10.

My impression of the last release of Kubuntu wasn’t very positive. Well imagine my surprise when I finally got a chance to look at Kubuntu 10.10! It’s got some great changes in it that make it a definite upgrade for current Kubuntu users, and that also make it worth looking at by non-Kubuntu users.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Combined Desktop/Netbook ISO Image
Ubiquity Installer Changes
KPackageKit Improvements
New Browser – Rekonq
New Ubuntu Font

The combined ISO image is a nice touch that will save some downloading time for those who wish to use Kubuntu as a netbook OS, as well as a desktop OS.

The changes to the Ubiquity installer are quite good. I’ll have more to say about them in the installation part of the review.

I was thrilled to see that KPackageKit has finally come into its own as a software manager in most respects. See the software section of the review for my detailed comments. Suffice to say, it’s a huge improvement over previous versions of KPackageKit.

Rekonq is Kubuntu’s new browser, it sports a new interface that is designed to save space and minimize clutter. I spent some time using Rekonq and found it to be tolerable but nothing that would woo me away from Firefox or Chromium (the Firefox installer is also included with Kubuntu so you can install it from the Internet applications menu, and you can get Chromium from KPackageKit). I can’t see myself actually using Rekonq as my default browser, there’s just nothing in it that makes it better than Firefox or Chromium.

Konqueror is also available via KPackageKit if you prefer to use it instead of rekonq.

Another thing I don’t like about Rekonq is the bundled ad blocker. The Kubuntu developers have irresponsibly decided to bundle an ad blocker into Rekonq. This is a terrible thing to do and has the potential to adversely affect content producers since most web sites rely on advertising revenue to survive. It’s one thing for a user to decide to use an ad blocker, that is his or her choice (hopefully they will wisely white list the sites they really enjoy so that those content producers can survive financially). But it’s another thing entirely for a distro developer to do it.

Somebody at Canonical needs to have a few words with the Kubuntu development team and have the ad blocker either removed from Rekonq or turned off by default. I suspect that this has not caused Canonical any headaches because most people are probably unaware of it. Well the time for that is over. Canonical needs to make a decision about whether it wants to support the web economy or not. Bundling an ad blocker like this is pretty much a slap in the face to content producers, even if Rekonq isn’t used by very many people.

Shame on you Canonical. It’s time for you to reverse this awful decision.

The new Ubuntu font family looks as good in Kubuntu as it did in Ubuntu 10.10; kudos to Canonical for including it.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Kubuntu 10.10:

1 GHz x86 processor
512 MB of system memory (RAM)
5 GB of disk space
Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024×768
CD-ROM drive
Sound support
Internet access

Installation
Kubuntu uses the Ubiquity installer. When you first boot into it you’ll see a welcome screen that gives you the option of whether or not to install Kubuntu or try it as a Live desktop (see the booting section to see the screenshot of the welcome screen).

The first install screen gives you the option to install third party software and to download updates while the installer runs. I opted to do both during my install and I’m glad I did. It’s a very helpful time-saver to have the third party software and updates installed by default instead of having to do it after the installer finishes.

Once the install starts you can view a slideshow of Kubuntu features while the install completes.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.


Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot & login screens look like.

I love the new Welcome screen, as I did in Ubuntu. It’s slick and it makes it easy for newbies to understand that they can simply load the Live CD desktop and try Kubuntu without actually installing it. I think other distros should copy this welcome screen; Canonical did a great job with it.

The Desktop
The desktop itself seems pretty much unchanged, for the most part, in this release. Kubuntu’s Message Indicator Plasma Widget is now on by default though, for IRC and IM applications.

One of the things I hate about KDE in general is its sliding menus. You can easily change that by right-clicking on the Kicker (K) icon on the panel and choosing the classic menu. I did that and it made it a lot easier and faster to navigate the menus. I don’t know who thought sliding menus were a good idea in KDE, but it was an awful initial decision and it still is. Please change this, KDE developers. It just irritates the hell out of me when I see them still included.

You can see the difference between the default and classic menus in the screenshots below.

Admin Tools

System Management
To access the admin tools, click the K button on the panel and choose Settings then System Settings. The tools are broken down into the following categories:

Common Appearance & Behavior
Workspace Appearance and Behavior
Network and Connectivity
Hardware
System Administration

It’s quite easy to find your way around the tools, even if you’re a complete newbie to KDE and Kubuntu.

Bundled Software

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

Games
Games Available in KPackageKit

Graphics
Gwenview
KSnapshot
Okular
OpenOffice.org Drawing

Internet
Akregator
bluedevil
KMail
Kopete IM
KPPP
KRDC
Krfb
KTorrent
Firefox Installer
Quassel IRC
rekonq

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
K3b
Kmix

Office
OpenOffice.org
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KTimeTracker
Okular

One rather obvious omission from Kubuntu is the KOffice suite. KOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, graphics tools, etc. OpenOffice.org certainly is enough for most people, but let’s not forget that some folks might use Kubuntu because they prefer KDE applications. KOffice is available in KPackageKit though, so you can easily install it if you really want it.

Another glaring omission is the lack of GIMP or any other serious image-editing program. Ubuntu itself includes Shotwell to give folks a tool to manage and edit photos. Unfortunately, there doesn’t see to be any equivalent bundled into Kubuntu. This omission is rather puzzling, but there are plenty of image editing tools in KPackageKit. GIMP is there as is KolourPaint, Krita and many other helpful tools. Still, something of significance really should be included with Kubuntu in future releases.

Software Management
KPackageKit is Kubuntu’s software manager. Frankly, I have not liked KPackageKit at all…until this release. KPackageKit has finally come of age and come into its own as a software manager.

It has been changed to use aptcc on the backend and it is now possible to find individual packages by searching by name. You can also easily browse categories of applications. I remember hating KPackageKit each time I looked at Kubuntu, but with this release those days are finally over and it has made using Kubuntu much better. You can even see screenshots of applications before you install them.

These screenshots will give you a look at the new KPackageKit. What a difference one release can make in a software manager!

Adding & Removing Software
To add or remove software, just find it in KPackageKit and click the Install or Remove button. Then click Apply and your changes will be applied.

I found KPackageKit to be a pleasure to use in this release. It’s something I’ve been waiting to see in Kubuntu for a long time, and now that it’s here I couldn’t be more pleased with it. However, there’s always room for improvement even in the best software management tools. It would be nice in future releases to be able to rate and/or review software packages, similar to the Software Manager in Linux Mint, etc. I suspect we’ll probably see that kind of functionality at some point. Until then this release of KPackage Kit is still a tremendous improvement over prior release.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
When I did my install, I opted to have third party apps installed. Flash seemed to be included with that, so my test YouTube video worked fine.

Multimedia Applications
Kubuntu 10.10 comes with a number of multimedia programs including Amarok, Dragon Player, K3b and KMix. There’s also a ton more available in KPackageKit, so you should have no problem finding whatever you need.

When you first start Dragon Player, you’ll get popup message asking if you want to install video & MP3 encoding tools. It doesn’t take long to install them, so I recommend that you do if you find that you require that kind of functionality. See the screenshots below for details.

 

Problems & Headaches
One of the things I harped on last time (probably too much) was that Kubuntu is rather ugly looking compared to Ubuntu. That, unfortunately, has not changed in this release. You won’t find the same gorgeous desktop colors and finesse in Kubuntu that you see in Ubuntu. Kubuntu is still more of an afterthought in terms of desktop branding than Ubuntu. I’m not going to penalize Kubuntu for this, but I do want to point out that it’s still a shame that Kubuntu is rather drab and plain looking compared to Ubuntu.

The other big annoyance I encountered was Rekonq’s ad blocker, but I already covered that in the beginning of the review so I’ll skip ranting about it again.

GIMP or some other image editing program needs to be added by default to Kubuntu, and it would be nice if KOffice were also included.

As I noted earlier, I’d like to see user reviews and ratings included in a future release of KPackageKit. It would be the icing on an already sweet cake.

My overall experience with Kubuntu 10.10 was quite good. It seemed very stable and I did not see application crashes, bugs or other headaches while I was using it.

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 Kubuntu support page, which contains link to free documentation, community help, paid support and a technical answers system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m much happier with this release of Kubuntu than I was with the last one. It’s made some great strides in software management, installation and readability (thanks to the Ubuntu fonts). It’s a much more worthwhile distro and is catching up to Ubuntu itself (though it still lags in some things such as desktop theme, branding, etc.).

I definitely look forward to the day when Canonical starts to treat Kubuntu as equal to Ubuntu in every way. KDE users certainly deserve that and I think it will come to pass eventually.

This release is pretty much a no-brainer upgrade for existing Kubuntu users, there’s plenty here that will improve their overall desktop experience. Those who are interested in learning more about Kubuntu should also consider it; it’s definitely worth a download.

Kubuntu 10.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

Click to the next page to view this distro’s full image gallery.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit Eye On Linux for more Linux coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux
Web Site: http://www.kubuntu.org
Price: Free
Pros: New Ubuntu font; KPackage Kit improvements; installer changes; new Rekonq browser; combined desktop/notebook ISO.
Cons: Still rather ugly looking compared to Ubuntu; Rekonq browser includes an ad-blocker turned on by default.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Kubuntu 10.10 sets a new standard for this distro; it’s almost (but not quite) as polished as Ubuntu itself.
Rating: 4/5

 

Ubuntu 10.10

It seems like just yesterday that Ubuntu Linux 10.04 was released, but here we are and Ubuntu 10.10 has just been released. Wow! How time flies!

There has been some controversy over this release, with some folks saying that Canonical’s six-month release cycle is too often and that there aren’t enough things in this release to warrant an upgrade.

The Ubuntu 10.10 Live CD desktop.

The Ubuntu 10.10 Live CD desktop.

I politely disagree with that assessment, and I’ll show you why in this review. Ubuntu 10.10 is a worthwhile though not overwhelmingly impressive release; it’s worth considering as an upgrade if you are already running an earlier version of Ubuntu. It’s also certainly worth looking at if you are new to Ubuntu and are thinking about using it as your desktop operating system.

What’s New In This Release

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

The GNOME base platform has been updated to the current 2.32 versions. This particularly includes the new dconf and gsettings API.

Evolution was updated to the 2.30 version, which operates much faster compared to the version in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

The Sound Indicator has been enhanced to include music player controls.

The boot process is cleaner and faster.

New themes, new icons, and new wallpaper bring a dramatically updated look and feel to Ubuntu.

Shotwell has replaced F-Spot as the default photo manager.

Gwibber has been updated to support the recent change in Twitter’s authentication system, as well as changing the back end storage to improve performance.

The Sound Indicator has been enhanced to include music player controls.

The Ubuntu Software Center has an updated look and feel, including the new “Featured” and “What’s New” views for showcasing applications, an improved package description view, and a “For Purchase” software category has been added. You can also now easily access your package installation history too.

Ubuntu One: Polished desktop integration with new sign up and sign in process. Tighter integration with Ubuntu SSO. Nautilus enhancements for managing folder sync preferences. Faster file sync speed. Share links to music within the Ubuntu One Music Store.

The Ubuntu font has been officially released.

I’m happy to see the update to GNOME 2.32. It goes beyond the scope of this review to delve into changes to GNOME in 2.32, but here’s a link that will give you an overview of the goodies.

I’m glad that Gwibber has been changed to match Twitter’s new authentication system. If you use Gwibber you shouldn’t have a problem tweeting in this release.

The speed increase to Evolution is certainly a welcome development in this release of Ubuntu. These days I generally prefer webmail to local email, but I know a lot of people who still use Evolution. So it’s good to see a significant performance increase available for Evolution users.

Shotwell is arguably better than F-Spot as a photo manager. I can’t say that I’m wowed by either of them, but I don’t do a lot with photos so that’s probably why. I suspect we’ll hear some moaning and groaning from F-Spot fans about this decision though. Not to worry, you can get F-Spot in the Ubuntu Software Center so it’s still available.

I’ll cover the Software Center changes in the software section of the review, and I’ll also cover the boot process, installer tweaks and desktop stuff in those sections.

I’m happy to see that Ubuntu One has gotten some polish. I wasn’t overwhelmed by it when I first looked at it, but Canonical seems determined to get it right. Faster file sync speed is absolutely welcome and should make Ubuntu One users very happy indeed.


It’s also nice to see Ubuntu One better integrated with the desktop. If you right-click on a folder in your Home directory, you’ll see Ubuntu One on the menu selection. You can opt to have the folder synchronized via Ubuntu One. I think this is going to make Ubuntu One much more appealing to some users; it makes it very easy to pick and choose the folders you want to keep synchronized.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Ubuntu 10.10:

700 MHz x86 processor
256 MB RAM
3 GB disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024 x 768 resolution
Sound card
Network or Internet connection

Installation
The install routine has been tweaked in this release, and it’s very slick! You’ll notice it right from the beginning. This is really about as easy as it gets in terms of installing Linux.

After you choose your language, you’ll see a new menu that suggests that you have enough disk space, an internet connection and a power source. This menu also gives you the option of downloading updates during the install and also installing third party software. I loved being able to download updates during the install, it has the potential to speed things up considerably. Partitioning the disk is also quite easy in this release, and should help even total Linux newbies glide right through an install.

You can view a slideshow while the install completes. Moving through the slides can be done manually, so you can take your time and view each slide for as long as the install continues. I hope other distros steal this idea from Canonical; it’s a great way of doing it. The slideshows in other distros that just run automatically, with no way to navigate back or forward to a particular slide, might cheat a user out of learning about a neat feature in a distro.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.


Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting & login screens look like.

The first screen you see lets you decide if you want to do an install or boot into the Live CD desktop. This is a very, very slick way of handling it rather than the typical bootsplash menu. I’d like to see other distros do something similar.

The boot process is supposed to be faster but, frankly, I did not notice much of a difference. I’m somewhat jaded on this though, since I look at so many different distros. Unless a distro’s boot process is really slow, I don’t tend to even notice how long it takes to boot. Your mileage may vary considerably though, depending on your hardware.


The Desktop

The desktop has new wallpaper, a new font and new icons.

The Ubuntu font is attractive and adds to the appeal of this release. It’s not the kind of new feature that is going to get anybody to switch to Ubuntu from another distro, but it’s nice to have it. Canonical deserves a pat on the back for developing it in the first place.

Ambiance is still the default theme; you might remember it from Ubuntu 10.04. There have been a number of tweaks to this theme, with the end result making it even more attractive than it was in 10.04.

The wallpaper change is sort of okay; it looks similar enough to the last wallpaper that I can’t see a huge difference. It’s still very Mac-like.

If the Mac-ish wallpaper bothers you, right-click the desktop and you can switch it easily enough. There are a number of attractive alternatives available by default (about 19), and more can be had online. Most of these are new and should please most users, some of them are absolutely gorgeous!

Speaking of Ubuntu being Mac-like, the title bar buttons are still on the left. I know that this rankles people but there it is. I don’t see Canonical changing it any time soon. You can, of course, simply change the theme and that will shift the buttons, but that’s not helpful if you enjoy using the Ambiance theme. It would be nice if Canonical took a hint from Linux Mint and allowed folks to move the buttons to whichever side they want.

The desktop itself is thankfully uncluttered; you will not find a giant load of icons all over it. Navigating the application menus is as easy as it was in 10.04.

The sound control in the panel now features music player controls, so you can more easily control Rhthymbox, for example.

The installed Ubuntu 10.10 desktop.

Admin Tools
One thing I like about Ubuntu is how clearly Preferences are separate from Administration. Click the System menu link in the top panel and choose Administration. You can access the following tools:

Bundled Software

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

Games

AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
Quadrapassel

Graphics

OpenOffice.org Drawing
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet

Empathy IM
Evolution
Firefox
Gwibber
Remote Desktop Viewer
Terminal Server Client
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia

Brasero
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

Office

OpenOffice.org
Evolution
Dictionary

Software Management

As I noted at the beginning of the review, there are some notable changes to the Ubuntu Software Center including new Featured and What’s New lists on the front page of the Software Center. The Featured and What’s New menus will scroll through a list of software automatically (like a carousel). Or you can click the little dots under the current software selected and move to another page.

Note also that there is a link called For Purchase under the Get Software menu, where you can buy additional applications. There seemed to be only two applications listed there, Fluendo DVD Player and Rick’s Wallpapers. The Fluendo DVD Player sells for $24.95, not a cheap piece of software considering you can get free alternatives (see multimedia codecs link in the Multimedia & Problems section).

The screenshots below give you an overview of the Ubuntu Software Center.



Adding & Removing Software

Adding or removing software is very easy in the Software Center. Just find the application you want and click the Install or Remove buttons. You can also add additional software sources if you really want to, but I doubt most people will need to do that. There’s an enormous amount of software already available in the Ubuntu Software Center. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find what you wanted in there already.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash

Flash is not installed by default, but you can get it in the Software Center or install it via the Plugin Finder. My usual Lady Gaga test video did not play the first time I tried it.


Multimedia Applications

Ubuntu 10.10 comes with a good selection of multimedia applications. Brasero, Movie Player, Rhythmbox and the Pitivi Video editor are all included.

After using Peppermint Ice and Peppermint OS One, I found myself missing links to web based multimedia like Hulu, etc. It would be nice if Ubuntu were more cloud-friendly when it comes to multimedia. The days of relying solely on local apps are pretty much over so Canonical might want to take a hint from the Peppermint distros in future releases.

If you find that the default selection of multimedia applications doesn’t cut it, hit the Software Center. There’s a ton of stuff in there and you should find everything you need. If you need additional codecs, see the instructions on the Ubuntu help site on how to install them.

Problems & Headaches

One of the obvious things missing in the software selection is GIMP or a replacement for GIMP. Shotwell is fine for a photo manager, but some sort of basic (and separate) image editing program should be included. As I noted in an earlier review, it’s a shame that something like Seashore (a light-weight image editor available for the Mac) isn’t also available for Linux. Why nobody has taken GIMP and done a “GIMP Light” version, I don’t know. Just focus on basic image editing (outside of just photo management) and you’d have a real winner. As it stands now, something is still missing in the Graphics applications menu. I hope that vacancy is filled soon.

Strangely enough, the Ubuntu site actually says that the GIMP is included with this release but it’s not. Yes, it’s available in the Software Center but it is not installed by default. The folks at Canonical might want to tweak the wording on their site that talks about included features and software. See the screenshot below.


The new Features and What’s New menus in the Software Center leave more than a little to be desired. Am I the only one who doesn’t like automatically scrolling lists of software? Frankly, I would prefer a non-scrolling list of featured & new software. I’m sure that some people will think that the way this was done is cool, but I’m not one of them. This strikes me as a possible example of coolness taking priority over a user’s preferences. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off the scrolling, unfortunately.

Beyond those two relatively minor quibbles, I had a good experience with Ubuntu 10.10. The distro seemed very stable and I didn’t see any application crashes or other headaches. It was also very fast and quite enjoyable to use.

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 Ubuntu Documentation site, support page, and forums.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It

As I stated at the beginning of the review, I think Ubuntu 10.10 is a worthwhile update. It’s certainly worth upgrading if you are an existing Ubuntu user, and it’s worth considering if you haven’t tried Ubuntu yet. Remember that this is a Live CD distro, so if you aren’t familiar with Ubuntu then you can simply boot into the Live CD and try it without installing it.

If you aren’t satisfied with what Ubuntu 10.10 has to offer then you might want to sit tight and simply wait for Linux Mint 10. Linux Mint comes bundled with multimedia codecs and other goodies, so it’s worth waiting for if you want or need more in your desktop distro. This release, while it has its virtues, probably won’t convince users of other popular distros to switch to Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 10.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

Click to the next page to view the image gallery of Ubuntu 10.10 (33 screenshots).

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit Eye On Linux for additional Linux articles.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu Linux 10.10
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com
Price: Free
Pros: New Ubuntu font; updated software center; better desktop integration for Ubuntu One.
Cons: New “What’s New & Featured” software feature is annoying; Shotwell still isn’t a viable replacement for GIMP for image editing (beyond photos).
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: This release is a solid though not overwhelmingly impressive update to Ubuntu Linux. It’s worth an upgrade and it’s worth considering if are new to Ubuntu, but it probably won’t dazzle users of Linux Mint and other alternative distros.
Rating: 4/5