Linux Mint 8

The recent release of a major new version of Ubuntu means that it’s time for new versions of various remastered distros. This time around it’s Linux Mint 8. Linux Mint, as you may already know from previous releases, takes Ubuntu to another level by slicking it up with tools, multimedia codecs and more.

Before I get into the meat of this review, please note that I’ve expanded the review template to incorporate additional details and changed the structure slightly.

Please let me know what you think of the new format and if you’d like to see other things added to the reviews. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

What’s New In This Release

As usual, there’s quite a bit of new stuff in this release and here’s some of what you’ll find. Be sure to review the What’s New page on the Linux Mint 8 site for more info and screenshots.

Linux Kernel 2.6.31
Gnome 2.28
Ubuntu 9.10 Improvements (boot sequence, notifications, etc.)

Menu Improvements
Software Manager Improvements
Update Manager Improvements
Two New Applications: Upload Manager and File Uploader

Menu Improvements
Your Places are now configurable. You can now add additional choices and they will appear in the Places menu. You can also disable or enable any button in the System or Places menus. And you now have a “lock screen” button on the System menu.

I’m sure that some users will appreciate the ability to add more choices to the Places menu and will use it; it didn’t do much for me though as I’ve never felt the need to add any choices to the defaults. But it’s nice that the option is there for those who want it.

Software Manager Improvements
Software Manager now has screenshots in the bottom left corner of the application. It’s also now possible to see more reviews and information about an application.

There’s no need to refresh Software Manager now, as you’ll be notified when stuff is available via Update Manager. Software Manager is also now aware of the APT status of applications. And you can now mark multiple applications for installation or removal.

I like the screenshots a lot and it’s always interesting to see what other people have to say about an application. Helpful information and constructive feedback from other users can help save users from wasting their time downloading a lame application.

And I definitely enjoyed not having to manually refresh Software Manager. Anything that automates updates, installation/removal, etc. is a big plus to me. The less time I have to spend keeping track of software, the better.

Update Manager Improvements
You can change the columns shown in the list of updates and you can resize Update Manager. You’ll also see download progress information since Update Manager uses Synaptic to track updates. You can also add other repositories in Software Sources.

Two New Applications: Upload Manager and File Uploader
The tool formerly called mintUpload has been split into two applications: Upload Manager and File Uploader. The Upload Manager lets you add services using FTP, SFTP and SCP.

Once you’ve added your services you can then launch the File Uploader and your upload services will appear in your system tray. Click the ones you want and you can then upload files by dragging and dropping files.

The Live CD version of the Linux Mint 8 desktop.

The Live CD version of the Linux Mint 8 desktop.

Hardware Requirements & Installation
As always, Linux Mint is a Live CD, so you don’t have to install it to run it. You can simply boot into it and use it since it will run right off the CD (albeit a bit slower than if you had it installed). I booted into the Live CD desktop to do the install and had no problems using the Live CD desktop.

 

Hardware Requirements
Before I get into the install, here are the hardware requirements for running Linux Mint 8:

A minimum of 512MB of RAM is recommended. Once installed the system works fine with as low as 256MB RAM. The installation process deals with 2.5GB of data compressed on a 700MB CD and it can hang or fail on systems with less than 512MB RAM. If you have between 256MB and 512MB RAM you may have to try to install several times.

Installation Steps
Step 1: Welcome

Step 2: Choose Location
Step 3: Keyboard Layout
Step 4: Partitioning
Step 5: Who Are You?
Step 6: Ready To Install
Step 7: Installation
Step 8: Conclusion & Reboot

As you might expect, given that Linux Mint 8 is based on Ubuntu, the install was easy and quick. I had no problems getting Linux Mint 8 installed. During the install interesting factoids about Linux Mint 8 and its applications appeared.

Setting up your hard disk for Linux Mint 8 is easy and fast.
Setting up your hard disk for Linux Mint 8 is easy and fast.

Installing Linux Mint 8

Booting & Login
Bootsplash
The bootsplash screen simply shows the Linux Mint logo. It’s attractive, floating in a sea of black. But that’s about it.

Login Screen
The login screen lets you login using the name and password that you picked during the install. You can also click Other to choose another ID and password if you set one up later on.

The login screen also contains a Universal Access Preferences button (the blue one with the stick figure in it on the panel at the bottom of the screen). If you click that you have the following options:

Use On-Screen Keyboard
Use Screen Magnifier
Enhance Color Contrast
Make Text Larger
Sticky Keys
Bounce Keys
Slow Keys

You also have the option of clicking the quit button to put your computer into hibernation, shut it down or restart it.

When you click the name you want to login with, you can type in your password. Note though that there are options that appear on the panel below including language, keyboard and session options. You can change these if you wish.

You can change the language, keyboard and session settings on the login screen.
You can change the language, keyboard and session settings on the login screen.

The Desktop
As always the first thing I notice when the desktop loads is the sound. It’s just a quick tone or whatever that happens when you first login. I like it because it lets me know that sound is working fine.

The second thing I noticed was the Welcome to Linux Mint menu. This menu is great because it lets you discover the distro, get help, or contribute to Linux Mint. There’s a list of new features button (handy for reviewers like me), release notes and also a user guide in PDF format that you can download.

Since it uses GNOME as its desktop environment, Linux Mint 8 will be immediately familiar to anybody who’s used GNOME before. The panel at the bottom of the desktop contains the Linux Mint Menu button (similar to the Start button in Windows), a notes app icon, a show-the-desktop icon, and the usual updates, network, sound and date/calendar icons and links.

Controls
To make changes to your desktop, the easiest way is to click the Menu icon on the panel and then choose Control Center. The Control Center incorporates all the usual stuff including:

Personal
Look and Feel
Internet and Network
Hardware
System
Other

 

Themes
Linux Mint 8 comes with a number of themes including the following:

AuroraMint
Carbon
Cassandra
Clearlooks
Felicia
Lightning
Peppermint
Shiki-Wise
WildMint

You can also click a link to get more themes online.

Wallpaper
For some reason the new default Linux Mint 8 wallpaper leaves me cold. It seemed warmer and classier in Linux Mint 7 than it does in this release. I don’t like the bubbles and the color gradient.

Your mileage may vary, however, so take my comments with a grain of salt. And, of course, it takes two seconds to change the wallpaper so it’s really not that big of a deal.

I was pleased to note that the old wallpaper is available if you right-click the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background. And there are a few other choices as well. Plus you can get more wallpaper online too.

If you prefer to have a cleaner desktop, you can use the Desktop Configuration tool in the Control Center to get rid of the default icons that appear. You can remove Computer, Home, Network, Trash and Mounted Volumes.

The Linux Mint 8 welcome menu greets you after you login.
The Linux Mint 8 welcome menu greets you after you login.

Bundled Software
Here’s a sampling of some of the software included in this release:

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Scanner Utility

Internet
Firefox
Giver
Mozilla Thunderbird
Pidgin IM
Sun Java 6 Web Start
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Brasero
Gnome MPlayer
Totem Movie Player
Rhythmbox
Sound Recorder

Office
OpenOffice.org Database
OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet
OpenOffice.org Word Processor
OpenOffice.org Presentation

Linux Mint comes with a good selection of software. Most of your computing needs will probably be met without needing to add much software but if you need to, it shouldn’t be a problem (see the managing software section).

One of the first things I did was to check Software Manager for Google’s Chrome browser. I was disappointed but not really surprised to see it wasn’t available. I downloaded it from Google’s Chrome page instead and added it to my Linux Mint 8 system.

So far I’m extremely impressed with Chrome in Linux (and on Mac OS X and Windows). It is much faster than Firefox and I think it’s a good candidate for inclusion in all distros at this point. Until Firefox begins to match its performance, Chrome will be my default browser. I hope to see Chrome included by default in the next release of Linux Mint.

Managing Software
Adding & Removing Software
Managing software in Linux Mint is very easy. Just click the Linux Mint menu button on the panel at the bottom of your desktop and choose Software Manager. I noted some of the changes to Software Manager above in the earlier part of the review.

Suffice to say that using Software Manager is very easy and even newbies to Linux Mint 8 shouldn’t have problems adding or removing software as it’s a very comfortable tool to use.

 

Software Repositories
Linux Mint 8 makes it easy to add additional software repositories. Click the Linux Mint menu button then Administration then Software Sources; then choose Other Software and click the Add button; then type in the apt line to add your repository to Software Sources.

The default repositories include Linux Mint’s own (listed under the Linux Mint Software tab) and other repositories (including Canonical’s) are listed under the Other Software tab.

Browse the Linux Mint 8 software manager to add more applications.
Browse the Linux Mint 8 software manager to add more applications.

Sound and Multimedia
One of Linux Mint’s biggest strengths has always been that it comes bundled with codecs that make it work beautifully for multimedia. This is one of the reasons why I usually recommend it over generic Ubuntu for desktop use. Why bother downloading additional stuff to get multimedia working properly? Linux Mint makes it about as easy as it gets in Linux.

YouTube & Flash
I fired up Chrome and headed to YouTube. This time around I searched for Led Zeppelin – one of my all time favorite bands – and blasted the Immigrant song. Sound and video quality were good. I had no problems enjoying Zeppelin on YouTube.

DVDs
I decided to keep going with the Zeppelin thing so I pulled out my Led Zeppelin video DVD and popped it in. I used Totem Movie Player to play the disc. I was pleased to note that the opening screen had sound and the video played fine. But when I clicked to watch a particular section all I got was video. The sound didn’t work right. Here and there I got what seemed to be a blurb of sound but then it stopped.

Thinking that the Zeppelin DVD might be the problem, I grabbed another DVD to check it out. This time around I picked Spinal Tap. It started fine though the screen was black for a moment as the actors goofed on their “black” album. I saw the menu load and I clicked “play” to start the movie. The movie played fine.

I’m not sure what the problem was with the Zeppelin DVD. But that DVD has a crappy menu structure and I don’t know if that had something to do with it or not but I’ve never liked how it is organized or how a viewer is forced to navigate it.

Problems & Headaches
Beyond the multimedia burps, I didn’t encounter any really significant problems to note in this section of the review.

I have seen feedback from some folks who thought that Linux Mint 8’s boot time could be faster but I didn’t see much to complain about there. It seemed acceptable to me.

If you ran into any problems installing or using Linux Mint 8, please note them in the comments below so others may benefit from knowing about them and there might even be a comment or two posted that could be of use to you in solving your problems.

The Immigrant Song playing on YouTube.
The Immigrant Song playing on YouTube.

You are always welcome to post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. For additional information be sure to check out the Linux Mint forumblog, wiki and professional support.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Linux Mint 8 works well for pretty much any desktop Linux user. Since it’s based on Ubuntu 9.10, it has all of the advantages of that release but with the additional value of the Linux Mint tools, multimedia codecs and other goodies.

Newcomers should definitely consider Linux Mint; it’s a great distro to get started with though it might spoil a newbie. Experienced Linux users can also appreciate what Linux Mint has to offer though it might be a bit too easy for a “roll your own” kind of advanced user.

Product: Linux Mint 8
Web Site: http://www.linuxmint.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Software Manager & Update Manager upgrades, configurable places, Upload Manager & File Uploader added.
Cons: Slightly less attractive default wallpaper, no bundled games, Chrome browser not available in software repositories.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced desktop Linux users.
Summary: Linux Mint 8 brings Linux Mint up to speed with Ubuntu 9.10 and adds some custom upgrades of its own. An excellent desktop distribution that any Linux user should consider using.
Rating: 4/5


Fedora Linux 12

Some desktop Linux distributions are perennial favorites and Fedora is definitely one of them. Fedora’s slogan is “freedom, friends, features, first” and, while some may consider it rather cheesy, it’s a nice sentiment.

The latest release of Fedora is version 12 and it includes some nifty new features. I downloaded the Live CD version of Fedora 12 that features the Gnome desktop environment.

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

Updated version of Grub with ext4 support
Faster boot time
Spanning desktop across dual monitors
Better webcam support
ABRT (automatic bug reporting tool)
Gnome 2.28
KDE 4.3
Empathy replaces Pidgin for IM
Epiphany uses WebKit instead of Gecko
Ogg Theora 1.1
NetworkManager enhancements
PackageKit command line software install enhancements
RPMs use XZ for compression instead of gzip (smaller downloads)

For most desktop users the faster boot time, better software compression, Gnome 2.28 and KDE 4.3 will probably be the main reasons to upgrade to this release. Some of the other new features may come in handy though, depending on your individual needs.

I don’t run multiple monitors nor do I do much with webcams so neither of those features is useful to me. Nor do I install software from the command line so the enhancements to PackageKit don’t hold much appeal for me. Still, there’s nothing to really complain about as far as new features go. There’s probably more than enough here to make it worthwhile to upgrade.

fedoradesktop

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of hardware requirements necessary to install Fedora:

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 12 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: 128 MiB
  • Minimum RAM for graphical: 192 MiB
  • Recommended RAM for graphical: 256 MiB
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the type os release being installed and the packages selected during installation.

The Fedora 12 installer was fast. Very, very fast! It took about 4 minutes for it to install from the Live CD desktop. I think it’s probably the fastest installer I’ve seen recently on any Linux distro.

The install itself was easy and I had no problems with it. Kudos to the Fedora folks for speeding up the install in such a big way. I had expected a much slower and rather chunky experience from Fedora 12 but I was pleasantly surprised to note how fast the install went.

If you opt to install Fedora 12 be sure to post in the comments and let me know how quickly it installs on your system. I’m curious to know if my experience will be typical for most Fedora 12 users. Thanks in advance to all who share their install times.

Desktop & Apps
The Fedora desktop is somewhat bland looking in comparison to distros like moonOS. It has the usual blue wallpaper, etc. You aren’t going to be dazzled by how the Fedora desktop looks but that can always be changed. Functionality and features matter far more than aesthetics to most people and Fedora’s desktop is easy to navigate. The default set of icons consists of the usual:

Computer
Jim’s Home Folder
Trash

So you don’t have to worry about a zillion icons scattered everywhere. Fedora doesn’t have a cluttered default desktop.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mines
Same GNOME
Sudoku
lagno

Graphics
gThumb Image Viewer

Internet
Firefox
Empathy IM Client
Transmission
Remote Desktop Viewer

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

Office
Abiword
Evolution Mail and Calendar

Adding & Removing Software
Fedora 12 comes with a good tool for adding and removing software. However, I had an initial issue with the time it took to refresh the package list (more about this in the problems section) after I started it.

For the most part it reminds me of the Ubuntu Software Center in some respects. The categories are well organized and it’s easy to find the packages you want to install onto your system. Overall, I give it a thumbs up.

addremovesoftware

Sound and Multimedia
I popped in my usual test DVD (the old Superman cartoons) and noticed that it didn’t play. I got an error message when I tried to open the movie player. Youtube videos also did not play by default as Flash was not installed in Firefox. If you do a search for Flash in the Add/Remove software tool you will find a number of different options for adding it to your Fedora 12 system.

Problems & Headaches
I was somewhat surprised not to find GIMP or OpenOffice.org available as part of the default installation. When I looked under the Office section of apps neither was present. Both are pretty much a must-have on a desktop version of Linux like Fedora 12 and their absence was glaring, to say the least.

When I started the Add/Remove software tool to find these apps and install them, it took about 15 seconds for tool to refresh the package lists. There was a visual cue that told me that it was starting but no progress bar or anything like that. I found this to be somewhat disconcerting as I expected to click on a category and see packages available without having to refresh the list or do anything else. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing some kind of bug or malfunction until packages finally started to appear in each category.

After the package list refreshed, I found OpenOffice.org and GIMP and installed both of them. I liked the fact that OpenOffice.org was broken down into each app, I opted to install the word processor part of it and skip the rest.

Beyond that and the multimedia issues I noted above, I didn’t find too much in the way of problems with Fedora 12. For the most part this seems to be a pretty polished release.

dvdproblem


Where To Get Help

You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Fedora forum, mailing list and documentation.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 12 is a nicely polished release and I put it at the top of my best desktop Linux distros. It provides a good alternative to Ubuntu and some of the other common desktop distributions. It’s definitely worth trying as a Live CD at the very least.

I feel comfortable recommending Fedora 12 for anybody looking for a good desktop distro, including newbies to Linux.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 12 Linux
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Fast install, better webcam support, KDE & Gnome updates, and a faster boot time.
Cons: Doesn’t include OpenOffice.org or GIMP by default.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced desktop Linux users.
Summary: This release includes a faster install, updates to KDE and Gnome, faster boot time, update to Grub with ext4 support, and better webcam support.
Rating: 4/5

 

Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free)

One of the distributions I almost always get calls for reviews of is Mandriva. Well I’m happy to say that Mandriva Linux 2010 was recently released and I decided to put it at the top of my review list. Mandriva comes in the following editions:

Mandriva Powerpack 2010
Mandriva One 2010
Mandriva Free 2010

For this review I picked the Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) version. This version contains 100% free software and weighs in at a chunky 4.3GB when you download it. Now please understand that I am not a “free software fanatic” type at all. I have no problem using distros that have some proprietary software blended into them but I like to use one that doesn’t have that stuff every once in a while.

And Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) was a good chance to do just that.

What’s New In This Release
This version of Mandriva has some new goodies and here’s a sample of what you’ll find when you install it:

Faster start up
Three themes
Gnome 2.28.1
KDE 4.3.2
Moblin (netbook desktop environment)
Firefox 3.5
Better parental controls
Moovida (new interface for Elisa)
Smaller install size
Ext4 default file system
RPMDrake search & interface improvements
X.org 7.4

I’m happy to see the updates to Gnome and KDE. The beefed up parental controls are also welcome. I don’t have kids but I’m sure there are some folks out there that do that might use Mandriva Linux. I’m also glad to see that Ext4 is the default file system in this release.

There’s quite a bit more in terms of new features so be sure to view the full list via the link above.

The desktop contains icons to join the Mandriva community or upgrade to the Powerpack edition.

The desktop contains icons to join the Mandriva community or upgrade to the Powerpack edition.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of system requirements:

Processor: Any Intel, AMD et VIA processor.

RAM: 512 MB minimum, 1 GB recommended.

Hard disk: 2 GB minimum, 6 GB recommended for a full setup.
Video card

nVidia, ATI, Intel, SiS, Matrox, VIA.

3D desktop support requires a 3D instructions set compatible card.
Sound card

Any Sound Blaster, AC97 or HDA compatible card.
Other

DVD drive required (but for One: CD drive required).

ATA, IDE, SCSI, SAS: most controllers are supported in non-RAID mode, and some are supported in RAID mode.

The Mandriva installer is very attractive and quite easy to deal with for the most part. It’s about on par with Ubuntu.

One thing that I particularly liked about Mandriva was that it gave me the option to choose additional desktops including LXDE, Gnome, KDE and some of the other desktops. Do I need to have all of these? Well no, of course not. But I’m a bit of a desktop environment whore so if I can have them all, I’ll surely take them.

I was also pleased to note that I could pick and choose individual packages within the overall categories I’d picked to install. Not enough distributions allow this these days. Perhaps it’s just my memory but I seem to remember being able to choose individual packages as a more widespread thing years ago. These days it seems like that option is available in fewer and fewer distros.

The install took about 25 minutes or so. I lost track of it for a few minutes though as I was making breakfast while it was happening. So it may have run a bit longer or shorter. And as I noted above, I opted to install a lot more desktops than most people probably would. So your install may run shorter than mine.

Note that if you like games be sure to choose the option to make your machine a gaming station as you’ll get quite a few games included with your install.

At the end of my install I was offered the option to update my packages. I ran the update and had no problems with it.

Install 1

Install 2

Install 3

install4

install5

Desktop & Apps
My system defaulted to a KDE 4.3 desktop. The first thing I noted when booting into my desktop was the Mandriva Galaxy popup menu. This menu provides more information about the various versions of Mandriva and also provides links to support options for Mandriva as well as a link that lets you contribute financially to help Mandriva’s development.

The Mandriva desktop isn’t too cluttered but you will notice that there are icons included encouraging you to join the Mandriva Community and also another one to Upgrade to Powerpack. Also included are a Welcome icon, home and a trash can.

Clicking the star icon on the Task Manager lets you access all of your applications. There are also icons for devices, configuring your desktop, configuring your system, one for Firefox and also smaller icons to access multiple desktops.

Navigating the Mandriva app launcher menus is easy since everything is broken down into the usual categories as I’ve listed below.

Be sure to check out the Mandriva Control Center. The control center lets you manage your software, hardware, network, security, etc. Click the Configure Your Computer icon on the taskmanager bar and the control center will open after you type in your root password. I really like the Mandriva Control Center, it’s probably one of the best desktop control panels I’ve seen. Everything is right there, at your fingertips, so you can easily control your Mandriva Linux system.

Here’s some of what you’ll find in terms of software:

Games
Crack Attack
Frozen Bubble
Kapman
Nibbles
Robots
SuperTux 2

Graphics
digiKam Photo Management
DNGConverter
GIMP
Gwenview Image Editor
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
KRuler
KSnapshot
F-Spot Photo Manager

Internet
Firefox
Akregator Feed Reader
Ekiga Softphone
FileZilla FTP
KMail
Kopete IM
KTorrent
Quassel IRC
KNode News Reader
Konqueror
Empathy
Epiphany
Evolution
Transmission

Multimedia
Amarok Audio Player
Codeina
Dragon Video Player
KMix
KsCD
Movie Player
Xine
Kino Video Editor
Cheese
Grip

Office
OpenOffice.org
KPlato Project Management
KThesaurus
Scribus
Okular Document Viewer
Abiword
Gnumeric
Planner Project Management

I have no complaints about the selection of software that comes with Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free). Everything I needed to do my usual stuff was included (with the exception of Flash and some DVD related software, more on that below).

Adding & Removing Software
Adding and removing software is easy. Simply click the star icon in the Task Manager and then choose Install & Remove Software. The Mandriva software management tool reminds me of the Ubuntu Software Center visually. Both are attractive and very easy to navigate.

If the default software included with Mandriva wasn’t enough for you then don’t worry. You’ll find lots more apps that you can download and install onto your Mandriva system. The Software Management tool is broken down into the usual categories so it’s pretty easy to find the software you want.

Software Management

The software management tool has an easy to use interface and provides lots of additional software.

Sound and Multimedia
One of the prices you pay for using this version (Free) is that you don’t get proprietary drivers or software. So flash-based Youtube videos and DVD stuff wouldn’t play. Not a big deal though as I knew what I was getting into when I downloaded it.

But bear it in mind when you pick which version of Mandriva Linux you want to download as other versions have Flash and additional software in them. If you don’t mind adding that stuff yourself then it probably won’t be a big deal but why bother when you can download Mandriva One or purchase Mandriva Powerpack instead?

 

Problems & Headaches
One thing I didn’t like was that Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) did not come with a Live CD version (though there is one available for Mandriva One). When I booted up the CD I got the option to boot from hard disk or to install Mandriva Linux. Now there’s nothing really wrong with that per se but a Live CD option that lets people get a taste of Mandriva Linux might be a good idea for future releases.

Beyond that I didn’t really encounter anything to complain about it. As I’ve noted before, I sort of hate it when that happens. It’s much more fun to run into tons of problems as it gives me a lot to talk about in this section. Oh well.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a Live CD version so you'll have to do a full install to check it out.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Live CD version so you’ll have to do a full install to check it out.

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 Mandriva support page, the Mandriva mailing lists and the Mandriva forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) is a great choice for intermediate and advanced users who prefer free software and are in the market for a desktop version of Linux. Beginners should probably go with Mandriva One or Mandriva Powerpack instead since they come with proprietary drivers and software that might make a beginner’s overall experience a bit more enjoyable and easy.

Regardless of which version you pick, the Mandriva Linux developers have done a very good job with this release. It’s well worth a download if you’re in the market for a good desktop distro. If you aren’t sure which version to pick then check out the “Which Version of Mandriva Linux Is Right For You” page. That will help you figure out exactly what you need.

Mandriva Galaxy is a popup menu that appears on your desktop with more information about Mandriva Linux.

Mandriva Galaxy is a popup menu that appears on your desktop with more information about Mandriva Linux.

Summary Table:

Product: Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free)
Web Site: http://www.mandriva.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Easy install, generous selection of software including various desktop environments. Great configuration control panel.
Cons: No Live CD version. This version (Free) also doesn’t come with Flash and certain other useful proprietary software and drivers and that may be a problem for some people.
Suitable For: Beginners might want to go with Mandriva One or the Powerpack edition which include some proprietary drivers and software that could make for an easier and more comfortable experience. Mandriva One also offers users the ability to try it without installing it. Intermediate and advanced users who prefer free software only should consider Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free).
Summary: Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) is a great desktop distro for certain Linux users who prefer a distro with only “free” software. Other folks should probably opt for Mandriva One or the Powerpack release which come bundled with Flash and other software.
Rating: 4/5

 

Kubuntu Linux 9.10

Last week I took a look at the latest release of Ubuntu. This week I thought it would be great to continue with Kubuntu Linux 9.10. For those who aren’t familiar with Kubuntu, it’s basically the KDE version of Ubuntu (Ubuntu uses Gnome as its desktop environment).

Before I get into this review, I wanted to note the ongoing server problems DLR has been having. Please accept my apologies if you’ve been trying to access DLR or the DLR forum. DLR is growing and the additional traffic has caused some server overloads. My hosting company will be moving DLR to a more robust server (hopefully this week) and that might help. I have also installed the WP Supercache plugin. I thank all of you for your patience while we get the server/bandwidth issues worked out.

Please note also that I have added another page navigation plugin that will let you easily move between pages. Each page has a title so you can skip the parts of the review that don’t interest you. Just look below the regular numbered page links at the top and bottom of each review and you’ll see a handy dropdown menu. I hope it provides some value and makes navigation easier and more comfortable.

I have also added the Sociable plugin to make sharing DLR content easier. You’ll see icons for Facebook, Digg and other social networking sites right at the bottom of each article. Hope that helps for those who wish to share content that the enjoy here on DLR.

Okay, with that said, onto to the rest of the review.

What’s New In This Release
There’s a lot of great new stuff in this release. Here’s a list of some of what you’ll find in this release:

KDE 4.3
Social Networking Features (Various Widgets)
OpenOffice.org Integration
Ayatana Integration
New Look for Installer
Amarok 2.2
KPackageKit
Userconfig Returns
Enhanced Network Manager
GTK+ Integration
Firefox Installer

Some folks might not enjoy the social networking features included in this release but I liked them a lot. I have a Facebook and Twitter account so I find apps that let me access those two services to be quite useful and I’m glad to see them in Kubuntu 9.10. Note that if you are on Facebook you can become a fan of Desktop Linux Reviews.

The latest version of Kubuntu comes with social networking desktop widgets.

The latest version of Kubuntu comes with social networking desktop widgets.

The OpenOffice.org integration is nice but really didn’t matter too much to me. I use OO relatively sparingly these days as I write my columns for ExtremeTech using Google Docs most of the time and I write these reviews in WordPress. But I always like to have OO available just in case and it’s nice that it’s better integrated with KDE this time around.

The slicked up installed looked good too though I didn’t notice any significant change in terms of speed or ease of the install.

Requirements & Installation
I was unable to find Kubuntu-specific system requirements on the Kubuntu site so here are the general Ubuntu system requirements:

Bare Minimum requirements
* 300 MHz x86 processor
* 64 MB of system memory (RAM)
* At least 4 GB of disk space (for full installation and swap space)
* VGA graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
* CD-ROM drive or network card

Recommended minimum requirements
* 700 MHz x86 processor
* 384 MB of system memory (RAM)
* 8 GB of disk space
* Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
* Sound card
* A network or Internet connection

Installing Kubuntu is as easy as installing Ubuntu. This release has a gussied up installer that is more pleasing to the eye.

Unfortunately, as I noted above, I can’t say I noticed any speed improvement. For some reason Kubuntu takes a bit longer to install than Ubuntu. I’m not sure why but I’d like to see parity in terms of the installation. Though I may be nitpicking here a bit because it’s not like there’s a huge difference between the two. Kubuntu just seems to consistently lag Ubuntu while being installed.

The Kubuntu installer has been gussied up for this release.

The Kubuntu installer has been gussied up for this release.

Installing Kubuntu is as easy as installing Ubuntu.

Installing Kubuntu is as easy as installing Ubuntu.

Desktop & Apps
When I first booted into my Kubuntu Linux 9.10 desktop, two things greeted me. One was the Desktop folder which was opened and empty. And the other was a microblogging service menu. If you like KDE 4.3 then you’re really going to enjoy Kubuntu 9.10.

Please note that if you prefer KDE 3.5, a remix is available. I’m not going to do a review of it but wanted to note it here for those who are still not ready to make the leap to KDE 4.3.

Personally I find myself liking KDE 4.3 more now than I have in the past. I don’t know if I’ve just gotten used to it or what. But it’s easy on the eyes for sure and it’s a nice break from Gnome and some of the light-weight desktops. Even the sliding menus didn’t annoy me too much this time around.

Here’s a sample of some of the software that comes with Kubuntu 9.10.

Graphics
DNG Image Converter
Document Viewer
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Gwenview Image Viewer
KSnapshot

Internet
KTorrent
Krfb Desktop Sharing
Kopete IM
Quassel IRC
KMail
Firefox (Comes with Firefox Installer)
Konqueror

Multimedia
Amarok Audio Player
K3b CD & DVD Burning
KMix Sound Mixer
Dragon Video Player

Office
KAddressBook
Okular Document Viewer
KOrganizer
OpenOffice.org
KTimeTracker

Adding & Removing Software
Kubuntu uses KPackageKit as its software add/remove tool. I’ll have much more to say about it in the problems section but suffice to say I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. I was able to add some software using it but the experience left much to be desired.

The Kubuntu Desktop

Sound and Multimedia
I had no problems with sound after booting into my Kubuntu desktop.

In order to play YouTube videos in Konqueror, I had to install a Flash plugin. I went into the KPackageKit software tool and found the plugin. I loaded it and then restarted Konqueror. When I first loaded a YouTube video there was no video on the page. The message about the plugin was gone so I knew it wasn’t that that was causing a problem. Looking through the Konqueror settings, I realized that Adblock was turned on by default. I turned it off and reloaded the page and then the video loaded. I have a lot more to say below about Adblock being on by default.

One Adblock was turned off, I had no problems loading YouTube videos. The videos looked great and the sound was flawless.

I was not able to get my DVD to play in Dragon Video Player. The DVD was listed there but didn’t load or otherwise play.

When I started Dragon Video Player it told me I should install additional packages for better multimedia functionality. However, it didn’t specify which ones and the popup message disappeared in a few seconds. This is not exactly a great way to let a user know about these kinds of things. A popup with a link to additional packages or some other clue might be a good idea.

What I Liked Most
I found myself liking this release of Kubuntu a lot better than the last one. I particularly liked the social media networking widgets I was able to run on my KDE desktop. I like to keep track of what’s going on and those two widgets came in handy.

I also liked the fact that KDE is finally moving toward including Firefox by default, hopefully in the next release it will be installed and will eventually be the default browser for KDE.

Problems & Headaches
One of the things I liked least about Kubuntu was the default blockage of advertising in Konqueror. I don’t know who made this decision but for sites like DLR it has the potential to hurt a lot financially. Default blocking of ads in a browser is a great way to insure that the only sites who survive are the ones that charge a subscription fee or who force you to pay to read each article via micro-transactions (charging 99 cents per article or whatever).

Having Adblocker on by default also screwed up the YouTube videos I was trying to play as nothing loaded in Konqueror with it on. I figured it out but it might cause some serious frustration to newbies to KDE based distros and those folks might not have any idea what the problem is on their system.

Come on Konqueror developers or whoever made the decision to have Konqi block ads by default. Wake up and understand the consequences of your decision. It’s bad for the web economy and it’s quite stupid to block YouTube videos from loading in people’s browsers. It’s no wonder that Konqueror has such a small base of users compared to Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc.

And speaking of browsers, another thing I didn’t like was that Firefox wasn’t installed by default. There is a Firefox installer present in the Kubuntu menu but why make the user install it at all? If you’re going to stick the Firefix installer in then why not just have the browser itself already included? I don’t know if this is a KDE thing or what but it makes no sense to me.

Another issue with Kubuntu is the lack of the Ubuntu Software Center. If you download regular Ubuntu you get a very nice software app included that’s easy to use and that provides a nice range of software. Kubuntu lacks this and has an add/remove software tool (KPackageKit) that strikes me as ugly, non-intuitive and just generally disappointing. When trying to view “All Packages,” for example, nothing was displayed. I could view individual categories and it would refresh appropriately but nothing happened when I tried to view all packages.

KPackageKit left a lot to be desired when it came to managing software.

KPackageKit left a lot to be desired when it came to managing software.

I know that the Ubuntu developers put most of their effort into the Gnome-based version of Ubuntu but if you are going to release Kubuntu then why not include the Ubuntu Software Center in it too? KDE users certainly deserve the same attractive interface and ease of use that Gnome users get.

Finally, one glaring omission from Kubuntu is Ubuntu One. Despite some problems I had with it while reviewing Ubuntu 9.10, I generally viewed it as a positive addition to Ubuntu. And yet there seems to be no link to it in any of the Kubuntu menus. Ubuntu One is prominently displayed in the Places menu in Ubuntu 9.10 but no such link exists anywhere in Kubuntu 9.10 that I could find.

Why wasn’t Ubuntu One included in Kubuntu? Since it appears to be accessible in any browser then why not include overt links to it in Kubuntu? It appears to be yet another glaring example of Canonical’s double standard for KDE users. Perhaps the company simply expects KDE users to sit down, shut up and accept second class citizen status? If so, that’s a bad attitude to have and I say that as someone who doesn’t really use KDE all that much. I’d like to see some parity when it comes to Gnome and KDE by the Canonical developers.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Kubuntu Wiki, the Kubuntu FAQ, and the Kubuntu Support Page (forums, IRC, mailing list, commercial support).

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m please to (mostly) give this release of Kubuntu a thumbs up. Yes, there were some things I didn’t like but overall I think this is a step up from the last release and it’s quite usable. I’d like to see a better software management tool but it is functional as it is (though it leaves much to be desired in some ways) and I don’t think it’s a show-stopper.

Kubuntu can be used by beginners and more experienced users alike. However, beginners might want to opt for the KDE version of Linux Mint after it is updated to incorporate the latest version of Ubuntu (9.10). It’s not that Kubuntu isn’t worth using, it’s just that Linux Mint is a bit more elegant and includes additional software that makes using it easier and more comfortable right from the start.

Still, I think that Kubuntu is worth a download and well worth considering if you’re a KDE fan.

Summary Table:

Product: Kubuntu Linux 9.10
Web Site: http://www.kubuntu.org/
Price: Free
Pros: KDE 4.3, social media desktop widgets, Firefox installer, OpenOffice.org integration.
Cons: Poor software management tool. Does not include Flash by default for playing YouTube videos, etc. Adblock is on by default and may potentially impact multimedia experience on the Web.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux user.
Summary: Kubuntu Linux 9.10 updates the KDE desktop to version 4.3 and provides some additional goodies for KDE users. Well worth upgrading to if you are currently running an earlier version of Kubuntu.
Rating: 3.5/5

Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)

Since the launch of Desktop Linux Reviews, I’ve covered a number of different remastered versions of Ubuntu Linux. But I haven’t done a review of Ubuntu itself. I wanted to wait until there was a significant enough release as I’d done a review for ExtremeTech back when I was a full-time employee there.

I’m happy to note that Ubuntu Linux has hit version 9.10 and has some nifty new features that make it worth reviewing here.

Please note that for this review I used Release Candidate 1. I recommend waiting for the final release to come out before you download Ubuntu Linux and install it to your system or before you upgrade any existing Ubuntu Linux computers. The final release should be out soon.

What’s New In This Release
There’s some juicy stuff in this upgrade and here’s some of what you’ll find:

Gnome 2.28
Upstart (Faster Booting)
Empathy IM (Replaces Pidgin)
New Login Manager
Quickly (Easier Application Development)
Ubuntu One (Cloud Based Sharing & Storage)
Linux Kernel 2.6.31
Changes to Power Management
New Intel Video Driver Architecture
Ext4 File System Default
Grub 2 Default

That’s just a sample of the new features in this release. Be sure to check out the full list of new stuff.

Ubuntu 9.10's desktop is clean and clutter-free.

Ubuntu 9.10’s desktop is clean and clutter-free.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what’s required to run Ubuntu:

Minimum System Requirements:
300 MHz x86 processor
64 MB of system memory (RAM)
At least 4 GB of disk space (for full installation and swap space)
VGA graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
CD-ROM drive or network card

Recommended Requirements:
700 MHz x86 processor
384 MB of system memory (RAM)
8 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
Sound card
A network or Internet connection

Ubuntu Linux 9.10 is a Live CD release so you don’t need to install it to check it out. Just download it and then boot into the CD and you can experience it on your system.

The installation took about 20 minutes or so. Since this is Ubuntu the install was very easy and I had no problems completing it. Even if you’ve never seen the Ubuntu installer before, you shouldn’t have much in the way of problems installing it on your computer.

During the install a slideshow played telling me about some of Ubuntu 9.10’s features and provided some information about the bundled software such as Evolution, etc.

Ubuntu 9.10's install is as easy as ever.

Ubuntu 9.10’s install is as easy as ever.

While installing Ubuntu you can watch a slideshow for more info about its features and software.

While installing Ubuntu you can watch a slideshow for more info about its features and software.

Desktop & Apps
Ubuntu Linux 9.10 uses Gnome as its desktop environment (if you prefer a different desktop you can download another version such as Kubuntu, Mythbuntu, Ubuntu Studio or Edubuntu). The desktop is clutter-free when you boot into it. The usual Ubuntu color scheme is there and, as always, it’s easy to find your way around by clicking the Applications, Places or System menus at the top of the screen.

Applications are broken down into easily navigable categories. The Places menu is where you’ll find your home folder, desktop folder, pictures, etc. The System menu lets you customize and manage all of your Ubuntu system settings.

Here’s a sample of some of the software that comes with Ubuntu Linux 9.10:

Games
Blackjack
Chess
Nibbles
Gnometris
Mahjongg

Graphics
F-Spot Photo Manager
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
XSane

Internet
Empathy IM
Evolution Mail
Firefox
Transmission
Ubuntu One

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burner
Rhythmbox Music Player
Movie Player

Office
OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet
OpenOffice.org Presentation
OpenOffice.or Writer

Adding & Removing Software
While the default selection of software is adequate for most computing purposes, there is more to be had via the Ubuntu Software Center. To access the Software Center click the Applications menu then click Ubuntu  Software Center. You can browse via the following categories:

Accessories
Education
Graphics
Internet
Science
Sound & Video
Universal Access
Programming
Games
Office
System Tools
Other

You can also search to find new apps for your Ubuntu system.

The Ubuntu Software Center has an excellent selection of software. Even if you feel that your computing needs are fine with the default software included with Ubuntu 9.10, it’s still worth browsing around the Software Center to check out some additional stuff.

Frankly, after browsing around, I experienced a serious blast of software greed. Although I didn’t need to I felt like adding tons of apps to my Ubuntu 9.10 system. Hey, why not right? It’s all free and it’s there for the taking so help yourself and enjoy!

Use the Ubuntu Software Center to get more software for your system.

The Software Center lets you easily see the applications you have currently installed on your system.

The Software Center makes it easy to add more software to your Ubuntu system.

The Software Center makes it easy to add more software to your Ubuntu system.

Networking, Sound and Multimedia
When I booted into my Ubuntu Linux 9.10 desktop, I heard the Ubuntu theme play. So sound worked fine right from the start. No need to fiddle with any settings to get it working. Ditto with networking.

However, when I went to play a YouTube video I found that Flash wasn’t installed. I pulled up the Ubuntu Software Center, typed in the word “flash” into the search box and up came a list of goodies to install on my system. The first thing on the list was Ubuntu Restricted Extras. Wow, with a name like that I just HAD to install it and I did!

The Ubuntu Restricted Extras pulls in support for the following:

MP3 playback and decoding
Support for other audio formats (GStreamer plugins)
Microsoft fonts
Java runtime environment
Flash plugin
LAME (to create compressed audio files)
DVD playback

Note that, according to the notes included with it, Ubuntu Restricted Extras does not include libDVDcss2 and thus will not allow you to play encrypted DVDs. Not that it really matters since it doesn’t take a freaking genius to do a Google search to find the information and install it.

Downloading the Ubuntu Restricted Extras seemed to take quite a while. I’m not sure what the problem was, maybe the server was just slow? But they say that good things come to those who wait. So I waited…and waited…and waited…

Finally the download finished and I closed Firefox then restarted it. I pulled up Youtube and the video & sound worked perfectly.

Playing YouTube videos requires the install of Flash.

Playing YouTube videos requires the install of Flash.

What I Liked Most
Without a doubt one of my favorite features is the Ubuntu Software Center. I like the layout, navigation and selection of software in the Software Center. It’s a great addition to Ubuntu and a good reason to upgrade.

Another thing I liked was the login manager which strikes me as more attractive and functional than the one I remember using before.

Ubuntu One is also very cool. Hey, who doesn’t want 2GB of free online backup storage that can be shared with other Ubuntu One users right? All I had to do to get started using it was to click the Applications menu then go to Ubuntu One. After that I signed up and then I was good to go. Well almost good to go, see the problems section for more details.

Problems & Headaches
After I signed up for Ubuntu One, I got a blank page and an “Internal Server Error” message. I reloaded the page and got a message that my computer now had access and that I could add it to my Ubuntu One account and then sync.

I tried to upload an HTML file to Ubuntu One from my Ubuntu system via Firefox and got a Page Not Found (404) error message. I tried it again and got an “Internal Server Error” message.

I also signed into Ubuntu One via Firefox on one of my Macs using Mac OS X and tried to upload a TIFF file. I got the same internal server error message.

So it seems that Ubuntu One has some bugs that need to be worked out. I love the idea though and I hope they get these problems fixed soon and that the system proves to be stable for users. It’s sort of like MobileMe for Linux users (minus the Apple tax).

Ubuntu One aside, I didn’t have any other problems with Ubuntu Linux 9.10.

I had some problems signing up for Ubuntu One and uploading files.

I had some problems signing up for Ubuntu One and uploading files.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Ubuntu Forums, Mailing Lists, IRC Channels, or the Ubuntu Documentation site.  Or you can buy additional support for your Ubuntu system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Ubuntu Linux 9.10 is well worth upgrading to if you’re running an earlier version of Ubuntu. I look forward to seeing the various remastered versions of Ubuntu switch to it. There’s some great new desktop features in this release as well as some new stuff that isn’t readily apparent on the surface.

I enthusiastically recommend Ubuntu Linux 9.10 for beginners as well as more experienced Linux users. It remains one of the best desktop Linux distributions around and it’s the basis for so many fun remasters.

It’s definitely worth a download.

Use the Update Manager to keep your system up to date.

Use the Update Manager to keep your system up to date.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu Linux 9.10
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Ubuntu Software Center, new version of Gnome, new login screen, updated Linux kernel, Ubuntu One online storage and sharing.
Cons: Ubuntu One is buggy and needs some bug fixes. Downloading from the Ubuntu Software Center seemed rather slow at times.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Ubuntu Linux 9.10 features a new Software Center, updated versions of Gnome and the Linux kernel, ext4 file system and some other goodies. Existing Ubuntu users should seriously consider an upgrade and those interested in switching to Linux should give it a download and use the Live CD to try it on their systems.
Rating: 4/5

Easy Peasy Linux 1.5

I don’t own a netbook but I’ve always been fascinated by the operating systems that run on them. Whether it’s a version of Windows, Linux or something else it intrigues me to know what folks are running on their netbooks. So when I ran into Easy Peasy Linux, I just could not resist doing a review of it here for DLR.

Just what the heck is Easy Peasy? And why should you care? Well it’s essentially a modified version of Ubuntu geared toward netbook users. The interface has been redesigned to work better for netbook users that might not need or want a more traditional desktop interface.

Before you read any further please take note that Easy Peasy should not be considered a desktop version of Linux. It’s designed for netbooks so if you don’t have any interest in that you should stop reading now and skip the rest of this review. If you’re bored and looking for something to read, head over to my opinion column site instead. That will keep you busy for a while as there are quite a few things to read there.

For those of you looking for an offbeat version of Linux to play with, read on!

Easy Peasy has a unique netbook-oriented interface.

Easy Peasy has a unique netbook-oriented interface.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a list of what’s new in the 1.5 release of Easy Peasy:

# New visual look by Lasse Sætre and Mark Basset
# Awesome Linux kernel (2.6.30) optimized for netbooks with faster startup built by Martin Bammer
# Support for more netbooks
# Hybrid image (both .img and .iso at the same time) by Phil Howard

* This makes it possible to move the image to the usb stick with unetbootin or dd etc. Which means it’s now possible to intall from a Mac

# Many bug fixes [1]
# Upgraded software (Picasa, OpenOffice 3.1 etc.)
# Built off Ubuntu 9.04
# Smaller harddrive footprint
# Uses the new ext4 filesystem as default
# UXA by default

* The first distro to deliver real composite desktop which means it’s possible to run 3D in 3D (ie. the netbook interface and desktop effects)

# Banshee as default music player instead of Songbird
# Lots of clever solutions when it comes to upgrades through repositories

* Ubuntu security upgrades are available to easypeasy users as fast as they’re released, while easypeasy isn’t overwritten by Ubuntu

Requirements & Installation

The closest thing I could find to a list of hardware requirements for Easy Peasy comes from this page:

AsusEeePC12G (900) – installed on second partition of about 10GB on Transcend 16GB SD card, using HP dv6120 having removed, first, HDs (internal and external) in order to create a standalone installation on SD card and avoid changing original boot manager of both computers; after inserting SD into USB 2.0 slot of AsusEeePC12G, Easy Peasy booted properly (of course, on turning on the netbook, one has to press Esc key and choose the boot device); small difficulties to configure sound play and capture for use with Skype, and to stop the recurrent launching of installation screen after each boot/login (Ubiquity entry was disabled in SessionsTrash without having to navigate through directories, so some time was spent in order to “revert to Regular Desktop“, clean Trash, and revert back to “Remix interface“, by installing and using Desktop-Switcher (see “PPA for Ubuntu Netbook Remix Team[1]) – March, 19 2009 – Lesseps. application).

As far as the install itself goes, if you’ve installed Ubuntu then Easy Peasy will be very familiar to you.

Now that does not mean that it will definitely install on your hardware. It may or it may not. Remember that I installed it via Parallels so just because it worked fine for me in Parallels does not mean it’s going to work on your desktop system.

If you've installed Ubuntu, you'll be right at home installing Easy Peasy.

If you’ve installed Ubuntu, you’ll be right at home installing Easy Peasy.

Desktop & Apps
The default mode for Easy Peasy is the Netbook interface and it’s quite different than a regular Ubuntu interface. On the left side you have app categories, favorites and system links as follows:

Favorites
Accessories
Games
Graphics
Internet
Office
Sound & Video
Preferences
Administration

When you click Preferences, for example, a set of icons for those settings will appear in the middle and you can choose what you want. Same for app categories such as Office, etc. When you click to open an app or other window you will notice that you move between windows via tabs at the top of the interface. This might seem odd at first but you quickly get used to it.

On the right side you can navigate to other places on your system or you can quit:

Home
Desktop
Network
DVD/CD
Documents
Music
Pictures
Videos
Quit

It’s quite easy to navigate around using Easy Peasy. I suspect that some people will actually prefer this interface to the traditional Ubuntu desktop interface. But then again it may also annoy the hell out of some people. I found it quite comfortable after I got used to it but your mileage may definitely vary.

If you prefer a traditional desktop interface you can follow the instructions on the Easy Peasy Wiki. Personally I liked the netbook interface as it’s really what sets Easy Peasy apart from regular Ubuntu and other desktop distros. But your mileage may vary.

Here’s a sample of the software that you get with Easy Peasy:

Games
Nibbles
Chess
Blackjack
Mines
Mahjongg

Graphics
Picasa
Cheese Webcam
XSane Image Scanning
OpenOffice.org Drawing

Internet
Pidgin IM
Skype
Firefox
Transmission BitTorrent

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Totem Movie Player
Sound Recorder

Office
OpenOffice.org
Evolution
Dictionary

Adding & Removing Software
If you’ve ever added or removed software from your system on Ubuntu then you’ll feel right at home. Just click Adminstration then Synaptic Package Manager. Type in your password and you can add or remove software from your system.

I had no problems updating my system. To update your system simply click Administration then Update Manager. After my update was finished I rebooted and was back into Easy Peasy.

Use Synaptic to add or remove software.

Use Synaptic to add or remove software.

System updates worked fine in Easy Peasy.

System updates worked fine in Easy Peasy.

Sound and Multimedia
I had a bad time trying to get my Superman DVD to play in Easy Peasy. It may have been a Parallels issue but I also tried it in VirtualBox and it wouldn’t play there either. And upping the video RAM did nothing to help the problem. I eventually gave up. The video would play but it was all choppy and screwed up. The sound worked but the video simply would not.

YouTube videos worked perfectly, however. The sound and video were both great and I had no problems at all viewing them in Firefox.

What I Liked Most
Without a doubt the different interface was what appealed to me the most. I always like surprises and generally enjoy things that are different as I see quite a lot of the same thing over and over writing these reviews. The Easy Peasy interface isn’t groundbreaking but it’s different enough that I found myself enjoying using it a lot more than I expected.

And the fact that it is Ubuntu underneath just made it even better. You get the power, reliability and comfort of Ubuntu with a cute netbook interface.

YouTube videos played very well in Easy Peasy.

YouTube videos played very well in Easy Peasy.

Problems & Headaches
The install did seem a bit slower than I’ve seen with other versions of Ubuntu. I’m not sure why but I’d like to see it sped up a bit in future releases.

I also noticed a “Information Available” pop up that came up when I booted into Easy Peasy. The pop up noted an apt authentication issue said that the package list update failed. I clicked Run This Action and Easy Peasy tried to download some files. I then got a message saying that the repository was not updated and that it would efault back to the previous index files.

Beyond that, Easy Peasy ran pretty well for me. I can’t say it was a speed demon, mind you but it was quite usable for the most part.

The Easy Peasy login screen.

The Easy Peasy login screen.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Easy Peasy Wiki, the Easy Peasy Forum and the Easy Peasy Blog.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I had a lot of fun with Easy Peasy. The netbook interface took me a few minutes to get used to but I got used to it quickly enough and found myself enjoying using it. It’s refreshing to have a very different interface than what we usually see available for Linux even if it’s geared toward netbooks.

From what I can see it’s quite possible to enjoy Easy Peasy as a quirky desktop alternative if you find that you enjoy it (and you can get it installed on your machine). Would I recommend it for ongoing desktop use? No, it’s not designed for that. It’s designed for netbooks.

But darn it, it’s fun to play with. Everything from the name to the interface itself is cute and enjoyable to use. If I had a netbook I’d definitely give Easy Peasy a shot on it as my main operating system.

If you’re a distro-hopper then you should definitely download it and have some fun playing with it. Non-distro hoppers will probably want to take a pass and might want to flame me for reviewing if they’ve actually made it this far into the review.

:whistle:

Summary Table:

Product: Easy Peasy Linux
Web Site: http://www.geteasypeasy.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Unique, cool looking netbook interface. Ubuntu in a netbook package.
Cons: Netbook interface might not be for everybody. Slow install.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users who want a distro that offers a netbook interface but that retains the ease of use and comfort of standard Ubuntu.
Summary: Easy Peasy is a cute, highly usable version of Ubuntu for netbooks that might also be run on the desktop of adventurous users.
Rating: 4/5

 

Parsix Linux 3.0

The very first review I wrote for Desktop Linux Reviews was Parsix Linux 2.0. Well I’m pleased to note that Parsix Linux 3.0 has just been released and I couldn’t resist doing a review of this update.

When I first launched DLR I had no idea how well the blog would be received or if it would really amount to anything. Well 30 reviews later here we are and I’m happy to see how things turned out and it’s fun to be able to take a look at another version of the first DLR review.

If you missed the first review, here’s a snippet that explains what Parsix Linux is:

Parsix Linux is a Gnome-centric distribution created in Iran and based on KANOTIX and Debian. I downloaded it a while back but never quite had time to get a review done for ExtremeTech while I was working there. Distrowatch had a good interview with him recently where he talks about why and how Parsix Linux was born and how it differs from KANOTIX. The developer of Parsix is Alan Baghumian, a native Iranian.

For more information about Iran, see this list of books.

What’s New In This Release
There’s some good stuff in this release and here’s some of what you’ll find:

GNOME 2.26.3
Brand new kernel based on Linux 2.6.29.6 with extra patches and drivers
Updated installer system that supports separate /home partition
ext4 file system
GRUB 2
NetworkManager is finally default networking stack
AuFS and UnionFS support
SquashFS+Lzma compression for live-CD
GNU Iceweasel 3.5.3
GParted 0.4.6
Pidgin 2.6.2
OpenOffice.org 3.1.1
Compiz-Fusion 0.8.2

Parsix Linux features a somewhat bland but very functional Gnome desktop.

Parsix Linux features a somewhat bland but very functional Gnome desktop.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of hardware requirements from the Parsix Linux install guide:

The minimum required hardware is a 500MHz processor and at least 512MB of RAM. For better performance, 1GB of RAM is recommended. At least a root partition with 5 GB free space and a swap partition is required for the installation. Swap partition’s capacity should be about twice as your RAM’s. Since Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0r0, its officialy possible to use an extra partition as /home.

One of the problems I had last time with Parsix was that I could not get the install to finish. I’m happy to note that I had no problems with it this time around, I was able to get it successfully installed.

Please note that Parsix Linux is a Live CD distro so you can simply boot into the CD and play with it without having to do an actual install. I recommend that particularly for Linux beginners that might not be comfortable with the Parsix Linux install (more on that in the problems section).

The install took about 12 minutes. The install itself is not particularly difficult if you’re an experienced Linux user and can be done via the Live CD desktop. Note that there is some partitioning required via GParted.

The Parsix Linux 3 install menu.

The Parsix Linux 3 install menu.

Use GParted to partition your hard disk as part of the Parsix Linux install.

Use GParted to partition your hard disk as part of the Parsix Linux install.


Virtual Machine Configuration
I’ve gotten a bit of flak from some folks for using virtual machines to do my Linux reviews. While I intend to continue doing that I thought it might also be interesting to include some information here about the virtual machine product I’m using and how I have the virtual machine configured. At some point I think I will write an FAQ that explains why I use virtual machines and that should help educate folks on how useful virtualization can be.

In this case I’m using VirtualBox and the configuration is below. I hope that this proves somewhat interesting or helpful to everybody. If not please let me know in the comments and I’ll skip doing it in future reviews.

Desktop & Apps

The Parsix Linux desktop is reasonably attractive and quite reminiscent of Ubuntu. That’s not particularly surprising given that it uses Gnome for its desktop environment.

Here’s some of what you’ll find in terms of default software:

Games
Mahjongg
Mines
Nibbles
Robots
Sudoku
Chess
Blackjack

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb Image Viewer
OpenOffice.org Draw
XSane

Internet
Gnome FTP Client
Balsa Email
Iceweasel Web Browser
Liferea Feed Reader
Pidgin IM
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam
TV Viewer
VLC Media Player

Office
OpenOffice.org
Grisbi Accounting
Fax Manager


The default installation provides a pretty good range of software. I didn’t find it lacking much as far as doing most of my basic computing tasks.

Adding & Removing Software
To update your system simply click System then Administration then choose Update Manager. You’ll need to type in your password and then the update manager will load. There were three updates available and I had no problem installing them to upgrade my system.

To install additional software or manage installed packages simply click System then Administration then Synaptic Package Manager. There’s quite a bit of additional software available via Synaptic so I urge you to check it out and see if there’s stuff there that you might want to keep on your system. I had no problems installing additional packages or removing ones that were already installed.

Use the Update Manager to update your system.

Use the Update Manager to update your system.

Use Synaptic to add or remove softare on your system.

Use Synaptic to add or remove softare on your system.


Sound and Multimedia
The only app appropriate for DVDs was VLC but it crashed each time I tried to play my Superman test DVD. I generally don’t use VLC for playing DVDs so I’m not sure how reliable it is for that. Note that the Parsix Linux documentation includes instructions on how to download additional multimedia codecs.

I had no problem with sound as the default desktop sounds loaded when I booted into my Parsix Linux desktop and I had no problem with sound while playing YouTube videos.

Networking worked fine and I didn’t need to do anything to configure my system to connect to the Internet.

What I Liked Most
I love the idea that this distro comes from Iran. Given all of the negative media coverage of that country recently, I think it’s nice that there’s something positive being done by Iranians that puts their nation in a more positive light internationally.

I also liked the additional software available via Synaptic in Parsix Linux.

Problems & Headaches
I’d like to see a more original theme used in future releases. Something that would set Parsix Linux apart. The wallpaper is attractive but it’s not really enough. It would be ideal if perhaps some sort of theme highlighting Iranian culture in a non-political, non-religious way might add some additional aesthetic value to this distro.

I know that harping about aesthetics probably doesn’t matter to a lot of people but it is one of the things I always notice when I first boot into a distro. I’m always hoping to see some breathtaking new theme or wallpaper that I haven’t seen before.

While I had no problem with installing Parsix Linux this time around, I view the install routine with a dubious eye for newbies because it requires using GParted to partition the hard disk before the actual install. Experienced Linux users won’t bat an eyelash at having to do this but somebody brand new who has never partitioned a hard disk or used GParted might be very confused. I’d like to see a more automated install routine that is easier for potential newcomers to Parsix Linux.

Sound and video worked perfectly while playing YouTube videos.

Sound and video worked perfectly while playing YouTube videos.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Parsix Linux Install Guide, Wiki and User Guide. You might also want to check out the Parsix Linux Forum. Don’t worry if you don’t read Persian as there is an English section as well.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Parsix Linux is definitely worth taking a look at if you’re an intermediate or advanced Linux user.

Beginners are certainly welcome to check out the Live CD but the partitioning required to install Parsix Linux might be a bit much depending on the person’s experience with such things.

I enjoyed using Parsix Linux. While some might consider it a bit on the obscure side, I found it to be a pretty good desktop distro. The developers have done a good job with the documentation and seem to provide some good support in their forum and on the rest of their site.

I think it’s well worth a download.


Summary Table:

Product: Parsix Linux 3.0
Web Site: http://www.parsix.org
Price: Free
Pros: Live CD, slightly better install. Good selection of software.
Cons: While the install has gotten a bit better, it’s still cumbersome and could be difficult for newer Linux users.
Suitable For: Intermediate to advanced Linux users. Beginners are encouraged to try the Live CD but may find the installation confusing or difficult if they don’t have disk partitioning experience.
Summary: Parsix Linux is an attractive desktop distro that works pretty well for the most part. It’s worth taking a look at if you’re an intermediate or advanced Linux user.
Rating: 3/5

Kahel OS Linux

Once again another interesting suggestion was recently made on the Request A Review page by a reader so I thought I’d follow up and do a review. This time around it’s Kahel OS. My thanks to reader Molen for the suggestion to review this distro.

Kahel OS is a remastered version of Arch Linux. Arch Linux has a bit of a reputation as not being particularly friendly to average desktop users. Kahel OS is an effort to change that perception and make it easier for people to use Arch Linux.

Kahel OS uses a “rolling release” model which essentially means that you never really have to upgrade it in the traditional sense. You simply update your packages and when you do that you have the latest release automatically. There is no grand jump from one version to the next as there is with other distributions.

Note that there was some controversy in the Arch Linux forums about Kahel OS. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from the thread itself.

What’s New In This Release
Given that Kahel OS operates on the rolling release model, there isn’t a list of “what’s new” along the lines of what you’d find for Ubuntu or one of the other distributions. I poked around the Kahel OS site just in case to see if there was anything useful to include in this section but I didn’t come across anything.

The login screen has the familiar orange coloring of the desktop.

The login screen has the familiar orange coloring of the desktop.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to install Kahel OS:

  • Kahel OS Enterprise Linux (desktop Edition) Installation Media
    An i686-based or x86-64 computer
    At least Intel Pentium Pro, Intel Pentium 3 or AMD Athlon/Duron.

Note that AMD K6, Transmeta Crusoe, CyrixIII, and VIA-C3 are NOT supported.

  • ATI, Nvidia or Intel graphics cards recommended for desktop effects
  • At least 256 MB RAM
  • 5 GB Free Disk Space

The install ran for about 20 minutes or so. Note that the installer is text-based so you won’t have the slickness of Ubuntu or some of the other distros.

Also at one point you have to use the editor nano to review a config file at the end. I absolutely positively dislike that part of the install process. I got through it fine but a total newbie to Linux would not know what the hell to do. That part of the install process needs to be removed entirely or otherwise automated.

You will also need to do a bit of partitioning, installing Grub and some other stuff that might throw off a newbie to Linux.

You'll need to first login at the command prompt to begin your install.

You’ll need to first login at the command prompt to begin your install.

You'll need to partition your hard disk as part of the install process.

You’ll need to partition your hard disk as part of the install process.

You'll need to pick your file system as part of the install process.

You’ll need to pick your file system as part of the install process.

Desktop & Apps
Kahel OS uses Gnome so if you’re a Gnome lover you’ll feel right at home. If KDE or one of the lighter-weight desktops is your preference then you might be a bit disappointed. I like Gnome so I was quite comfortable with the Kahel OS desktop. The wallpaper is bright and colorful. And the desktop itself isn’t cluttered with too many icons.

The selection of software is fair but contains some glaring omissions as I’ll note in the problems section. Here’s a sample of some of what you’ll find:

Games
Chess
Blackjack
Gnometris
Sudoku
Nibbles

Graphics
GIMP
F-Spot Photo Manager

Internet
Epiphany Browser
Pidgin IM
Ekiga Softphone

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Jokosher Audio Editor
Moovia Media Center
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor

Office
AbiWord
Evolution Mail and Calendar
Evolution Tasks
Glom Database Designer
Gnumeric Spreadsheet
Project Management
gLabels Label Designer

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing software in Kahel OS should be simpler than it is right now. It uses Pacman and Package Kit as the basis for its software management.

If you want to try adding or removing software then just click System then Administration then Add/Remove Software in the menu at the top of your desktop.  If you don’t see an app listed that you want be sure to do a search and you’ll probably find it.

However, I ran into some problems as I’ve noted below in the problems section. Suffice to say that the problems I encountered lead me to think that some real work needs to be done on Kahel OS’s package management.

The Kahel OS desktop is bright, colorful and uncluttered.

The Kahel OS desktop is bright, colorful and uncluttered.

Networking, Sound and Multimedia
When I tried to play my Superman cartoon test DVD, I crashed the movie player app. Oops! I got the app opened but just got an error message when it tried to play it. It’s possible that certain codecs need to be installed to get DVDs to play. There was no option that I could find to download and install any additional codecs in the package manager.

YouTube videos played fine and the video looked great but I was not able to get sound. This may have been a virtual machine problem since I ran Kahel OS in VirtualBox. I’ll give it a pass because of that on the sound issue.

I had no problem with networking. When I booted into my Kahel OS desktop I was able to connect to the Internet without a problem.

What I Liked Most
I liked the colorful wallpaper and cuteness of the Kahel OS desktop.

Problems & Headaches
One thing I noticed when I went to download Kahel OS is that it’s easy to accidentally download the server version by mistake. The Kahel OS download page at SourceForge defaults to the server edition not the desktop edition.

In order to download the desktop edition you have to click View All Files then scroll down to the September 2009 then click on the .iso file link. I’ll save you the trouble by giving you the desktop download link right now.

One potential problem for KDE users is that Kahel OS uses Gnome as its desktop environment. I personally don’t mind this at all but there is no option to use KDE and I want to note it here in case some of the KDE users are considering Kahel OS.

Note my comments above about the installation. It really isn’t geared toward complete Linux novices at all so bear that in mind. The install needs to be more automated and it needs to move beyond text based menus.

OpenOffice.org and Firefox both weren’t installed by default. I found OpenOffice.org by searching in the Add/Remove Software tool but was not able to find Firefox. I found some plugins listed for Firefox but the actual app did not seem to be available. This is both perplexing and flat out annoying. Epiphany is what it is and perhaps some like it but I prefer Firefox.

When I tried to install OpenOffice.org, I got a message saying that I couldn’t lock the database. I checked the Kahel OS forum and found this thread about it. Managing apps at the command line is no fun at all and not something I would spend any time doing in any desktop distro.

I was also not able to update my system as I got the same “unable to lock database” error.

I was not able to successfully update my system.

I was not able to successfully update my system.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Kahel OS Wiki or the Kahel OS Forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I like Kahel OS in some ways but it has some serious problems that make it ill-suited for most desktop users with the exception of very experienced Linux users.

I do not recommend it to new users at all because of the installation routine and the software management/system update problems I noted above. Newbies are far better served with one of the Ubuntus than with Kahel OS.

I hope that Kahel OS changes over time and that a more automated, slicker install routine is added and that the software management bugs are all worked out. At that time I’ll be happy to take another look at it but as it is right now I really cannot recommend it to anybody for a regular desktop distro.

Kahel OS does have promise though and I think that with some more work it may eventually become a great way to get Arch Linux on your desktop. I’ll be watching to see how it develops in the future.

Summary Table:

Product: Kahel OS Linux
Web Site: http://www.kahelos.org
Price: Free
Pros: Attractive, colorful wallpaper and Gnome desktop. Reasonable software selection. Clean, uncluttered desktop.
Cons: Potentially difficult install routine for some users. Also has software management bugs. Lacks OpenOffice.org and Firefox in default install.
Suitable For: Very experienced Linux users that simply want to play with it and check it out.
Summary: Kahel OS is a good start on making Arch Linux accessible to regular desktop users. It has some serious drawbacks right now though that make it mostly unsuitable for desktop users who aren’t Linux gurus. Hopefully the developers will fix some of these issues in future releases.
Rating: 2.5/5

Absolute Linux 13.0.2

I always admire the effort made by developers to take a version of Linux that isn’t particularly friendly to desktop users and tame it a bit thus making it available to a wider audience. Absolute Linux is one such distro as it is based on Slackware. Slackware isn’t exactly known as a “newbie-friendly” version of Linux but Absolute Linux has gone a long way toward changing that perception.

Absolute Linux can be considered a more light-weight version of Linux since you won’t find the beautiful but bloated KDE or Gnome desktop environments on it. Instead you’ll find IceWM, a very fast and light-weight window manager. If you’ve never used IceWM before please keep an open mind about it. It may not be as pretty as KDE or Gnome but it more than makes up for it by keeping the distros that offer it very fast (even on older hardware).

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a list of what’s new in this release:

Gtk themes in, K3B and KDE libs out:

Brasero has replaced K3B and kdelibs, kdemultimedia and arts have all been removed. Gtk themes have been implimented and are changeable via customized gtk-chtheme utility. While we are staying away from the heavy integrated environments, we can still get our lightweight apps to look good and coordinate with each other… changing Gtk theme also changes icewm theme, desktop background (in pcmanfm) and window background for ROX-Filer.

So far there are themes of clearlooks, warm, gray and black. Any contribs most welcome. For background info, check out the /usr/local/bin/settheme script. It is called from gtk-chtheme and the script lets you know exactly what files are being used.

For a more in-depth list of what’s new in this release, see the forum announcement thread.

Absolute Linux features a well organized but rather bland looking desktop.

Absolute Linux features a well organized but rather bland looking desktop.

Requirements & Installation
I looked around on the Absolute Linux site for install requirements but was not able to find a list. Given that Absolute Linux is based on Slackware and uses IceWM as its desktop environment, I think it’s safe to conclude that the hardware requirements are fairly modest and that it should run well on most machines including older ones. However, if you are uncertain and want to confirm that it will run on your machine then you might want to post a note on the Installation section of the Absolute Linux forum.

The install took about 20 minutes or so and uses a a text based installer. Don’t let this frighten you away from trying Absolute Linux though as I didn’t find the install particularly difficult. At one point I had to do a bit of partitioning though and that might throw off some folks that are new to Linux and who aren’t familiar with disk partitioning.

Overall I was comfortable with the install and had no problems booting into my Absolute Linux desktop after it was complete. I would like to see a new, graphical installer used for Absolute Linux though. Text based installers get the job done but they do it in an ugly and primitive looking way. It’s 2009 and I think that desktop users have been spoiled to a degree and probably expect more when they go to install a distro to check it out.

install1

install2

install3

Desktop & Apps
The Absolute Linux desktop is well organized but a bit bland with a light-blue color and no noteworthy wallpaper. I hate nit-picking about the appearance of desktops as each user can obviously customize it to his or her heart’s content.

But first impressions are lasting ones most of the time and I’d like to see Absolute Linux get some kind of definitive brand identity reflected in its default desktop theme similar to what Linux Mint and some of the other distros have.

Take note of the Getting Started folder on your desktop. That folder contains links to information about configuring and using your Absolute Linux system. The default page will load the first time you start Firefox but if you close Firefox you’ll need to go into the folder and load it using Firefox or some other app.

The Getting Started page contains information that covers the following:

The Control Panel
Things To Do Right Away
Set Default Browser
Multimedia Files
Screen Size, Refresh Rate and Fonts
Printer Setup
Software Install & Configuration
Creating User Accounts
Add Software From CD2

Absolute Linux comes with a respectable amount of software, here’s a sample of what you’ll get:

Games
Checkers
Chess
Sudoku Savant
BreakOut
5ball
Anagramarama
IceBreaker
Concentration

Graphics
GIMP
gEXIF
GQView
Screenshots

Internet
gFTP
Firefox
qTwitter
Deluge
Pidgin
Putty
xChat
Mozilla Thunderbird Mail

Multimedia
XMMS Audio Player
SMPlayer Video Player
RecordMyDesktop
Q Video Converter
CD Ripper
Acidrip DVD Ripper
Gcstar Collection Manager

Office
OpenOffice
AbiWord
Geany
Nedit

Adding & Removing Software
In one of my last reviews I got some helpful feedback from a reader who wanted to know about software installation methods. So I’ve added a brief section to the DLR review template so I can cover it.

I used Gslapt to update my system and had no problems downloading packages or running the update.

Unfortunately the tool to add or remove software in Absolute Linux pretty much stinks. It’s very primitive and seems to only list what you have on the system already with no easy way to add additional software other than downloading it separately and then clicking the Install A Package button to install it.

So don’t expect to open the package management app and then start easily adding software to your system. You’ll have to make a bit more of an effort than that and I suspect that that might annoy some folks that simply want to open a package manager and find additional software at their finger tips.

You can use Gslapt to update your Absolute Linux system.

You can use Gslapt to update your Absolute Linux system.

Sound and Multimedia
When I inserted my Superman test DVD I got a popup menu asking me if I wanted to Play, Rip or Cancel. I opted to choose to play it but then got a message saying the following:

“DVD playback is not enbabled” and also “libdvdcss and other multimedia packages may need to be installed.”

So don’t count on being able to simply pop your DVD into your Absolute Linux system and play it without having to download and install some other software and codecs.

If you want to add these additional items be sure to go into your Control Center and click on the Multimedia section. From there click on Multimedia Installer and follow the menu prompts.

I was able to play YouTube videos without a problem. The sound and video worked well and required no configuration effort on my part.

dvdplay1
dvdplay2 What I Liked Most

The attraction to Absolute Linux for me is simply that it’s Slackware geared toward desktop users. I also appreciated the minimalistic desktop environment and the selection of software (which was reasonable but not overpowering).

Problems & Headaches
One problem I had was that it was necessary for me to do a bit of manual configuration to connect to my network. This was a very minor thing as it took me all of about 20 seconds to do it but folks that are unfamiliar with setting up networking might be discouraged.

For some strange reason, the CD Ripper would not start. I had no problems whatsoever with the DVD Ripper but I was not able to get the CD Ripper application to load at all.

One other thing that some might find really annoying is that you must first log in as root to begin using Absolute Linux. After that you can set up your other login ID and password. This didn’t bother me too much personally as I was only using Absolute Linux for this review but forcing people to login as root might bother some folks. It would probably make more sense to be able to set up your regular user ID as part of the installation process rather than after logging in as root.

I’d like to see a much better tool for adding & removing software that contains additional packages that can easily be added to the Absolute Linux desktop. Right now this distro woefully lags behind the ease of use found in the Ubuntus and various other distros in terms of finding & managing desktop software.

The Absolute Linux package manager is ugly and quite primitive.

The Absolute Linux package manager is ugly and quite primitive.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Absolute Linux Install Guide and also the Absolute Linux forum. You may also want to view the configuration help page and the partitioning help page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
My experience with Absolute Linux was mostly positive. I like the idea of making Slackware relatively easy to get running on the desktop and I think Absolute Linux provides a pretty good amount of value for desktop users. It’s not as slick as some of the other desktop distros but that’s okay because slick isn’t necessarily what everybody is looking for all of the time.

On the whole though I’d recommend this more for experienced Linux users as the install might be a little bit challenging. I encourage adventurous Linux newbies to explore and experiment with it but they should understand ahead of time that installing & configuring it could be a bit challenging for them if they run into a problem.

Summary Table:

Product: Absolute Linux 13.0.2
Web Site: http://www.absolutelinux.org
Price: Free
Pros: Good selection of software, uses IceWM to provide a light-weight desktop environment.
Cons: Install is text based and looks primitive compared to other desktop distributions. Software management needs serious work as some desktop users might want a wider range of software that is available directly from the package management tool.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users. Beginners are encouraged to explore but may encounter difficulties installing & configuring Absolute Linux.
Summary: Absolute Linux provides a relatively easy path to getting Slackware onto your desktop.
Rating: 3/5

Sabayon Linux 5

Sabayon Linux is a remastered version of Gentoo Linux. I first took a look at it when I was writing for ExtremeTech, back when Sabayon Linux was in version 4.1. This latest release is version 5.0.

Gentoo, as you may already be aware, has long had a reputation for not being particularly friendly to folks new to it. Although it has shined as a distribution for Linux power users, it has sometimes scared away less tech-savvy users that might have found it somewhat intimidating to deal with.

Sabayon Linux aims to tame Gentoo and make it more accessible to non-power users and it largely succeeds at this goal in this release.

Note that Sabayon Linux is available in Gnome or KDE. For this review I went with the Gnome version.

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

Less than 2GB size (1.6GB for Sabayon5 GNOME x86)
Based on new GCC 4.4.1 and Glibc 2.10
Shipped with Desktop-optimized Linux kernel 2.6.31
Providing extra Server-optimized and OpenVZ-enabled kernels in repositories
Installer now available in multiple languages
Complete Ext4 filesystem support (used by default)
Complete Encrypted filesystems support (via dmcrypt, available in the Installer)
Featuring X.Org 7.5 and up-to-date FLOSS, NVIDIA, AMD video drivers
Containing GNOME 2.26 (2.28 ready) and KDE 4.3.1
Outstanding 3D Desktop applications (Compiz, Compiz Fusion and KWin) working out of the box
Bringing Entropy Framework (Package Manager) 0.99.3
Shipped with OpenOffice 3.1 productivity suite, Multimedia applications
Transform Sabayon into an full-featured HTPC Operating System (Media Center) using XBMC
Shipped with World of Goo Demo – best 2D game ever!
Sexiest Skin ever! (Ian Whyman rocks)

Black is beautiful and the Sabayon Linux desktop is bathed in black.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Sabayon Linux:

Minimum requirements:
– an i686-compatible Processor (Intel Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Celeron, AMD K6-2, Athlon)
– 512Mb RAM
– 9 GB of free space
– A X.Org supported 2D GPU
– a DVD reader

Optimal requirements:
– a Dual Core Processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or better, AMD Athlon 64 X2 or better)
– 1024Mb RAM
– 20 GB of free space
– A X.Org supported 3D GPU (Intel, AMD, NVIDIA) (esp. for XBMC)
– a DVD reader

The Sabayon Linux install is pretty easy, I’d rate it about on par with Ubuntu’s for the most part.

When you first start the installer you get the option of installing the regular Gnome desktop or Sabayon Media Center or Sabayaon Linux Fluxbox Desktop. I did not test the media center as I have very little use for it but you may want to give it a shot. The Fluxbox desktop environment provides a more minimalistic experience than Gnome or KDE and might be suited for those who are using older computers.

At one point during the install you will be able to pick which categories of apps you want to install and you can view the details of each category before installing. You can choose to install Office Applications, Internet Applications, Multimedia Applications as well as some Basic Free Games. Note, however, that you cannot pick and choose individual apps to install. You are limited to installing the entire category or not.

You can choose between Gnome, Media Center or a Fluxbox install.

You can choose between Gnome, Media Center or a Fluxbox install.

Desktop & Apps
When you first boot into the Sabayon Linux Live CD you’ll note that there is a song being played in the background. I think it’s “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” or something like that. I found this amusing but it did get old after a few minutes. Note that when you first boot into the Sabayon Linux menu you do have the option of loading the Live CD desktop without the rock music playing.

The Sabayon Linux desktop is black. Very, very black. You are either going to like this for its simplicity or you’ll probably change your wallpaper and otherwise customize it to suit your tastes. I personally found it a bit drab and I’d like to see a better default theme released for Sabayon Linux that has more energy and that gives this distro its own unique brand. Something similar to how Linux Mint has its own unique look and feel.

Note the Sabayon link in the Applications drop down menu. That link provides some great resources such as links to places to get help, downloads, documentation and even a Sabayon Shop.

You get a good selection of software with Sabayon Linux and here’s a sample of what you’ll find:

Games
Blackjack
Chess
Gnometris
Mines
Nibbles
Robots
Sudoku
World of Goo (Demo)

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Draw
F-Spot Photo Manager

Internet
Firefox
OpenOffice.org Writer/Web
Pidgin IM
XChat IRC
Deluge BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Audacious 2
Brasero Disc Burner
Movie Player
Pulse
XBMC Media Center
DVD::RIP

Office
OpenOffice.org
Dictionary
Evolution Mail and Calendar

Use Sulfur to update your Sabayon Linux system.

Sound and Multimedia
When I tried to play my Superman test DVD, I got a message saying that the Totem Movie Player did not have the right plugins and I apparently had to download them. I tried to find the missing plugins in Sulfur to get my test DVD to play but was not able to do so.

I had no problem playing YouTube videos, however. The sound and video worked fine without me having to do anything.

When I tried to play my test DVD I got a plugin error message in Totem Movie Player.

When I tried to play my test DVD I got a plugin error message in Totem Movie Player.

Problems & Headaches
I first booted into Sabayon Linux 5 using VMWare. When I tried the install it hung on the disk partitioning and I was not able to get it to continue. So I switched over to Parallels and found that Sabayon Linux 5 booted faster and seemed to run much better in Parallels than in VMWare. The install completed successfully in Parallels but I was not able to boot into Sabayon Linux. The system hung after I restarted it.

So I did another install in VirtualBox. Thrice pays for all they say and the third time was indeed the charm as I was able to boot into Sabayon Linux without any problems. I had no problems running Sabayon Linux at all in VirtualBox.

Note that the install seems significantly slower than installing any of the versions of Ubuntu. I’d like to see it speeded up in future releases. If you decide to install Sabayon Linux make sure you have something else to do while the install proceeds.

I was also irritated that I couldn’t choose individual apps to install rather than entire categories of apps during the initial install. It seems to me that if the developers have gone so far as to let users choose categories of apps then it makes sense for them to take even further and allow each user to choose the applications to be installed within each category. I’d like to see this in a future release.

Pick the application categories you want installed on your Sabayon Linux system.

Pick the application categories you want installed on your Sabayon Linux system.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Sabayon Linux Wiki and also the Sabayon Linux discussion forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Sabayon Linux is a good way for folks to get a taste of Gentoo without having to actually install or configure it. Just boot into the Live CD and you can play around until your heart’s content.

However, having said that, I think that Sabayon Linux is a slightly better choice for experienced Linux users rather than newbies. Newbies can and should play with the Live CD if they want to but it might prove better for them to go with Linux Mint or one of the other Ubuntus rather than try to use Sabayon Linux as their main desktop distro.

Summary Table:

Product: Sabayon Linux 5
Web Site: http://www.sabayonlinux.org/
Price: Free
Pros: A good way to experience Gentoo Linux via Live CD. Lets you choose categories of applications. Provides a good range of software. Also allows for Fluxbox, KDE, Media Center or Gnome installs.
Cons: Install is slow and Sabayon Linux didn’t work well in VMWare or Parallels. Only lets you choose categories of apps, doesn’t let you choose individual apps during your first install.
Suitable For: Intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: Sabayon Linux provides an easy way for the curious to experience Gentoo Linux without requiring an install.
Rating: 3/5

Puppy Linux 4.3

One of the nicest things about Linux is its sheer versatility. There are so many different versions of Linux that serve different purposes including being able to take it with you wherever you go. No, I’m not talking about on a laptop or even on a netbook. I’m talking about being able to stick it on a USB device and stick it in your pocket.

Puppy Linux is one of the better known distributions when it comes to Linux portability. Puppy has been around for a long time and version 4.3 was recently released. Compared to some of the desktop distributions, Puppy is incredibly lightweight and weighs in at a tiny 105MB when you go to download it. Yep, that’s it. 105MB.

But don’t let the file size of the Puppy Linux download fool you. There’s a lot of value packed into Puppy Linux as you’ll find out in this review.

What’s New In This Release
There’s quite a bit of new stuff in this version of Puppy Linux including a new system for building Puppy called Woof and a new package manager called, appropriately enough, Puppy Package Manager.

Here’s a sample of some of the other stuff that’s new in this release.

2.6.30.4 Linux Kernel
Dialup Modem Drivers
Pstreamvid
CPU Scaling
JWM Theme Maker
Psync
Mscw
pCD
QUISP
SQLiteManager
Hiawatha
Linux-dvb-apps
Screenshot Utility
Aqualung
Crop Background for Widescreen
NicoEdit
Ext4 Support

There’s quite a bit more so be sure to review the full list at the release announcement link above.

Puppy Linux has a cute (albeit a bit bland) desktop wallpaper.

Puppy Linux has a cute (albeit a bit bland) desktop wallpaper.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of requirements to use Puppy Linux:

CPU : Pentium 166MMX
RAM : 128 MB physical RAM for releases since version 1.0.2 or failing that a Linux swap file and/or swap partition is required for all included applications to run; 64 MB for releases previous to 1.0.2
Hard Drive : None
CDROM : 20x and up

Puppy was really designed to run in RAM not as an installed distribution. There is an installer included but it’s geared more toward USB devices and that sort of thing then for a hard disk. Just for the heck of it I tried an install but it didn’t work in VMWare which doesn’t surprise or bother me.

I’d meant to stick Puppy Linux on a USB keychain I had laying around but it disappeared and I was not able to find the darn thing. I suspect it’s floating around in the living room somewhere but I have a brown head parrot that lives in that room and that has a knack for finding and chewing plastic objects. He may have dispensed with my USB keychain and hidden the evidence somewhere in the room. He’s quite cunning when he wants to chew something and get away with it.

You can install Puppy Linux to different devices including USB flash drives.

You can install Puppy Linux to different devices including USB flash drives.

Version 4.3 features the new Puppy Package Manager.

Version 4.3 features the new Puppy Package Manager.

Desktop & Apps
Chances are that you’ll either love or hate Puppy’s desktop. The wallpaper isn’t anything to rave about as it’s a bit bland though somewhat cute.

But the thing that might annoy people is the number of icons on the desktop when you boot into it. There are 22 icons that appear on the Puppy Linux desktop. I personally don’t mind this much but I know that some people would regard it as cluttered and potentially poorly organized. I suppose that – like beauty – it will be in the eye of the beholder.

Puppy Linux comes with a good selection of software but don’t count on seeing OpenOffice, GIMP or any of the larger programs. The software that comes with Puppy Linux more or less provides mostly similar functionality but in smaller and lighter packages. Abiword, for example, is the word processor of choice rather than OpenOffice.org.

Overall I was pleased with the software that was available with Puppy Linux. If you need to install more you can simply click the PET install icon on your desktop and then run the Puppy Package Manager.

Games
PicPuz Jigsaw Puzzle
Rubix Cube
Xsoldier Space War
XEmeraldia Drop Blocks
GLightOff

Graphics
mtPaint Screen Capture
Gtkam Camera Manager
InkLite Vector Editor
mtPaint Image Editor
Pictureviewer Drag and Drop Images
Gcolor2 Color Chooser

Internet
SeaMonkey Mail and News
SeaMonkey Browser
gFTP
You2pup YouTube Downloader
PuppyBrowser
Psip VOIP + IM Client
Axel Download Accelerator

Multimedia
Aqualung Audio Player and Ripper
Gxine Media Player
Pcdripper CD Ripper
Pburn CD/DVD/Blu-ray Writer
Pstreamvid Streaming Video
mhWaveEdit Audio Recorder/Editor
ISOMaster ISO File Editor

Office
Abiword
SeaMonkey Composer HTML Editor
Geany Text Editor
MP Console Editor
Gnumeric Spreadsheet Editor
HomeBank
Calcoo Scientific Calculator

Others
PureFTPd FTP Server
Pwireless Wireless Scanner
Xautoconnect Wireless Network
Superscan Network Scanner

Did this fiend have something to do with the missing USB keychain?

Did this fiend have something to do with the missing USB keychain?

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube videos played without a problem but the sound was garbled and unrecognizable. I was not able to get my test DVD to run using Puppy Linux. Frankly though I do not regard either of these things as that big of a deal.

It may have been a VMWare burp but even if it wasn’t it I am not going to lose any sleep over not being able to run multimedia in Puppy. Frankly, it just isn’t one of the things I’d be using Puppy for anyway.

However, your mileage may vary. If you test Puppy please share your own multimedia experiences in the comments section below.

What I Liked Most
The thing I like most about Puppy is its portability. It provides a lot of value for such an extremely tiny version of Linux. You can take it anywhere with you and do most, if not all, of what you could do with a larger desktop Linux distribution. In that sense I also really appreciated the good selection of bundled software. Without the functionality that its software apps provide, Puppy wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is.

Problems & Headaches
When I first booted into Puppy Linux my network connection wasn’t working when I fired up my browser and tried to load a web page. I clicked on Menu then Setup then Network Wizard and soon had a live network connection.

Puppy’s configuration screens are ugly and outdated. Given the cuteness of the whole “puppy” theme it seems clear that the developers ought to put some time and effort into them to make them a bit more attractive and more welcoming to beginners.

As I noted above the wallpaper could use some sprucing up.

I was able to play YouTube videos but the sound, unfortunately, was garbled.

I was able to play YouTube videos but the sound, unfortunately, was garbled.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Puppy Linux Wiki, the Puppy Linux install instructions or the Puppy Linux Manual.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Sometimes it can be very helpful to have a distro like Puppy available for emergencies. I favor keeping it on a USB keychain or some other portable device so it’s handy for emergency use.

Puppy can be used by beginners or more experienced Linux users. It’s probably a  good idea for Linux newcomers who haven’t used a portable distribution like Puppy to spend some time playing with it. It’s a good way to discover the value in being able to take Linux with you wherever you go.

Summary Table:

Product: Puppy Linux 4.3
Web Site: http://puppylinux.org
Price: Free
Pros: Small, light-weight, fast distro. Comes with a great range of apps and only weighs in at about 100MB when you download it.
Cons: Ugly, dated configuration screens.
Suitable For: Anybody who needs a lightweight, portable version of Linux particularly for emergencies.
Summary: Puppy Linux fits the bill nicely for those who need a portable Linux to tote around with them and who want a full range of bundled applications without the bloat of a full desktop distro.
Rating: 3.5/5

Trisquel 3.0 STS Linux (Dwyn)

I came across another interesting Linux distribution today called Trisquel Linux. Trisquel is geared more toward Linux purists since it focuses on providing truly free software without any non-free stuff.

Here’s some background from Wikipedia about Trisquel Linux including an explanation of where its name comes from:

“Trisquel GNU/Linux is a version of the GNU operating system using the Linux kernel. The main goals of the project are the production of a fully free as in speech system that must be easy to use, complete, and with good language support including translations for for the English (default), Basque, Catalonian, Chinese, French, Galician, Hindi, Portuguese and Spanish languages.

Trisquel’s name comes from the Celtic symbol triskelion, or triskele in English, consisting of three interlocked spirals. The project’s logo depicts a triskelion made of the union of three Debian swirls as a sign of recognition to the project on which it is based.

The project hosts its own repositories which are derivatives of Ubuntu’s main and universe components, but with all proprietary software removed. The differences include the removal of all non-free packages, the substitution of the original Linux kernel with the blob-free version linux-libre, and the addition of several packages.

What’s New In This Release
This release of Trisquel has been split into two editions, the standard desktop and the lightweight version better suited for netbooks and old computers. For this review I downloaded the standard desktop version of Trisquel.

Here’s a sample of some of what’s new in this release of Trisquel Linux:

Linux-libre 2.6.28
Gnome 2.26
OpenOffice.org 3.0
GIMP 2.6
Trisquel Web Browser 3.0 (Based on Mozilla)

Trisquel features a clean but rather bland desktop.

Trisquel features a clean but rather bland desktop.

Requirements & Installation
Unfortunately, I was not able to locate specific system requirements for the 3.0 version of Trisquel on its site. Since it’s based on Ubuntu, however, I’ll use the standard Ubuntu requirements as I did in the last review:

The minimum system requirements for a desktop installation are a 300 MHz x86 processor, 256 MB of RAM, 4 GB of hard drive space,[62] and a video card which supports VGA at 640×480 resolution.

The recommended system requirements for the desktop installation are a 700 MHz x86 processor, 384 MB of RAM, 8 GB of hard drive space,[62] and a video card which supports VGA at 1024×768 resolution.

Installing Trisquel Linux is about the same as any other Ubuntu-based distribution. Note that Trisquel is a Live CD version so you can check it out without actually having to do an install.

My install took just a few minutes and I didn’t encounter any problems.

Trisquel is a Live CD distro so you can check it out without installing it.

Trisquel is a Live CD distro so you can check it out without installing it.

The Trisquel Linux install routine is very easy.

The Trisquel Linux install routine is very easy.

Desktop & Apps
After my last review of moonOS 3, Trisquel is a bit of a let down when it comes to the desktop theme. Frankly, it’s just really boring and blase to look at. Now I know I probably shouldn’t be too critical since moonOS is so unique and beautiful in how it looks but it’s pretty tough to stare at Trisquel’s desktop after experiencing the glory of moonOS 3.

I’d like to see the Trisquel developers give us something gorgeous to start at when we first boot into our Trisquel desktop. There’s nothing better for a distro-hopper like me then to be startled and impressed when first viewing a remastered distro’s theme and wallpaper the way that I was when I first looked at moonOS 3.

Trisquel comes with a respectable amount of software and here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

Games
Chess
Blackjack
Gnometris
Mines
Nibbles
Sodoku

Graphics
gThumb Image Viewer
GIMP
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
XSane Image Scanning
Cheese Webcam Booth

Internet
Web Browser
Evolution Email
Pidgin IM
XChat
Transmission

Multimedia
Audacious
Brasero Disc Burner
Elisa Media Center
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
TVtime Television Viewer

Office
OpenOffice.Org
Evolution Calendar
Dictionary

More software is available via the Add/Remove Applications tool. Just be sure to refresh it so you make sure you have the most up-to-date list of packages before you begin installing other applications. Additional software available includes Abiword, GBonds, KOffice, KOrganizer, Seamonkey and many other applications.

It's easy to add more software to your Trisquel system.

It’s easy to add more software to your Trisquel system.

Sound and Multimedia
When I first booted into my Trisquel desktop I was pleased to note that the sound was working fine and I was able to hear the desktop loading theme play. I also tested Trisquel’s ability to play DVDs and YouTube videos. My test “Classic Superman” DVD played just fine and I had no problems playing YouTube videos. I didn’t need to install any additional codecs or software.

What I Liked Most

There really isn’t any one thing that stood out for me using Trisquel. It’s pretty much a standard Ubuntu remaster geared toward free software purists. I’m not one of those, however, so I can’t say I found anything that really stood out for me while using Trisquel Linux.

Problems & Headaches
Trisquel performed pretty well for me during its install and I didn’t encounter any real problems using it. Unfortunately I don’t have much to complain about. I hate it when this happens as it doesn’t leave me much to talk about in this section of the view.

Hopefully future versions of Trisquel will have lots and lots of problems of a truly horrific nature so I can cover them in detail here.

Just kidding.

I had no problems playing DVDs or YouTube videos.

I had no problems playing DVDs or YouTube videos.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Trisquel Wiki and the Trisquel Forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Some remastered distros stand out quite a bit from the pack and others don’t. Trisquel worked well for me and did its job but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I’d like to say I have strong feelings about it one way or another but I really don’t.

It’s really geared toward those who have an ideological preference for truly free software. If you’re not one of those people then I suspect that there are other distros that will have more appeal to you for one reason or another. So I recommend Trisquel mostly for folks that insist on totally free software in their daily desktop distro.

Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users can all use Trisquel. If you’re a distro-hopper and you just want to check it out then I’d say go for it. It probably won’t last too long on your system but at least you can say you gave it a look.

Summary Table:

Product: Tisquel 3.0 STS Linux “Dwyn”
Web Site: http://trisquel.info/
Price: Free
Pros: Includes free software only. Easy install. Good selection of software.
Cons: Somewhat unattractive desktop theme and wallpaper.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: Trisquel Linux is best suited for those who prefer not to have non-free software included in their desktop distributions. Beyond that much of what it offers can already be found in other, better known distributions.
Rating: 3.5/5

moonOS 3 Linux (Makara)

There have been a lot of different remastered versions of Ubuntu created over the years. Occasionally though I find one that stands out from the pack and that offers an entirely unique experience. moonOS 3 is a remaster created in Cambodia by a Cambodian artist called Chanrithy Thim.

There are two versions of moonOS, the Main Edition and the LXDE Edition. The Main Edition uses Enlightenment DR17 and the LXDE Edition uses LXDE. The LXDE version is geared toward older, less powerful computers. For this review I downloaded the Main Edition.

moonOS 3 has one of the…er…most unique mottos I’ve seen. It’s motto is “Light of Free Operating System.” Hmmm…I’m not exactly sure what to think of it but it sort of fits in with the beauty of moonOS. Anyway, it sounds cool so I’ll go with it.

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

Based on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope
Linux Kernel 2.6.28-15
Firefox 3.5
Pidgin 2.6
Xorg 7.4
Security Updates
moonControl Improvements (new interface, change font sizes)
moonGrub Improvements (new interface, new theme creation feature)
moonSoftware (browse offline, view screenshots, sort by various criteria)
EFL Keys Added (Virtual Keyboard)
Firefox Comes With Moonlight Plugin and Silverlight Support
OpenOffice.org 3.1.1
XMPP Video and Voice for Pidgin
Enlightenment 0.16.999.60

As you can tell there’s quite a bit of good stuff in this upgrade of moonOS.

moonOS 3 features a stunningly beautiful desktop theme.

moonOS 3 features a stunningly beautiful desktop theme.

Requirements & Installation
Since moonOS 3 is based on Ubuntu 9.04 it’s appropriate to go by the system requirements for that version of Ubuntu:

The minimum system requirements for a desktop installation are a 300 MHz x86 processor, 256 MB of RAM, 4 GB of hard drive space,[62] and a video card which supports VGA at 640×480 resolution.

The recommended system requirements for the desktop installation are a 700 MHz x86 processor, 384 MB of RAM, 8 GB of hard drive space,[62] and a video card which supports VGA at 1024×768 resolution.

Even the login screen is gorgeous!

Even the login screen is gorgeous!

If you’ve installed generic Ubuntu then you should have no problems with moonOS 3. My install went fine though it took a long time in VMWare (more on that in the problems section) and I ended up doing it again in Parallels due to a login problem (again, see the problems section).

Desktop & Apps
What’s particularly unique about moonOS is its look and feel. The desktop icons, ibar and wallpaper don’t look like anything else I’ve seen in other distros. Quite frankly they are gorgeous! Aesthetically, I find moonOS 3 to be extremely appealing.

I recognize though that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder so your mileage may vary. But I have to give the developer props for coming up with something that is strikingly beautiful to look at and unique in the pantheon of Ubuntu remasters.

Just left-click your desktop to pull up a menu.

Just left-click your desktop to pull up a menu.

moonOS 3 uses Enlightenment as its desktop environment. If you haven’t used Enlightenment before you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Here’s a bit of background from Wikipedia about it:

Enlightenment, also known simply as E, is a window manager for the X Window System which can be used alone or in conjunction with a desktop environment such as GNOME or KDE. Enlightenment is often used as a substitute for a full desktop environment.

Don’t forget that when you are using moonOS you can right-click the desktop at any time to pull up a list of favorite apps or left-click it to pull up the desktop menu.

One thing that sets moonOS apart is its desktop tools. There are four of them:

moonAssistant
moonAssistant is a small menu that will popup when you first boot into your moonOS desktop. It’ll ask you a few questions to help you configure your system.

moonAssistant will ask you a few questions to help configure your system.

moonAssistant will ask you a few questions to help configure your system.

moonControl
moonControl lets you easily change your system’s setting. The menu choices are broken down into Look and Feel, Internet and Network, Hardware, System and Other. Just click the one you are interested in and you can tweak your system to get it the way you want.

The control center for your moonOS system.

moonGrub
You can add themes to Grub via moonGrub.

You can add themes to Grub.

You can add themes to Grub.

moonSoftware
moonSoftware lets you easily add, remove or search for applications.

Use moonSoftware to add or remove software applications.

Use moonSoftware to add or remove software applications.

Here’s a list of some of the software you’ll find after installing moonOS 3:

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.Org Drawing
Scanner Utility
Image Viewer

Internet
Firefox
Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News
Pidgin IM
pyNeighborhood
Transmission BitTorrent
XChat IRC
Sun Java 6 Web Start
OpenJDK Java 6 Web Start

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burner
Exaile Music Player
Movie Player

Office
Dictionary
OpenOffice.org  (Database)
OpenOffice.org (Presentation)
OpenOffice.org (Spreadsheet)
OpenOffice.org (Word Processor

Multimedia & Sound
I was pleased to note that I could watch my Superman cartoons DVD without having to install any other software. I was also able to watch YouTube videos. I had a problem with the sound but was able to fix it (see the problems section).

What I Liked Most
Well it’s no secret by this point in the review what I liked best about moonOS 3. It’s one of the best looking remastered distros I’ve seen in ages. But it’s not just that it’s pretty that matters. It’s pretty in a unique way that I haven’t seen anywhere else. There’s a flavor and feel to moonOS 3 that is distinct and that’s part of what sets it apart from other remasters.

I also liked moonSoftware and moonControl. Both add value to moonOS 3 and make it easy for people new to moonOS to do some of the usual stuff like configuring their system and adding or removing software.

I was able to play my Superman DVD without having to install any codecs.

I was able to play my Superman DVD without having to install any codecs.

Problems & Headaches
I ran into a problem with moonOS 3 in VMWare. I was able to get the install done but it took a very long time and when I went to login I was not able to type in the password field. I was not able to get this fixed so I switched to Parallels and did the install there.

I noticed that the install was much faster in Parallels and I had no problems typing in my password. I was able to login as usual. This login problem may or may not have been a VMWare burp so I’m not going to hold it against moonOS. But it is something to be aware of if you try to install moonOS on your system.

moonOS 3 does not seem to come with any of the usual desktop games that you might expect to be included. This isn’t a big deal for me because I don’t play them anyway. However, you will find a decent selection of games in the moonSoftware menu.

I also noticed the occasional misspelling or typo in some of the menus in moonOS 3. No doubt it’s probably because English might not be the first language of the developer. No big deal though. Given the prettiness of moonOS, I can handle a typo here or there.

I also had a problem getting sound to work. When running YouTube videos I had no problem getting the video to run but I could not get any sound. In order to get sound to work I had to go into the Pulse Audio Volume Control (under the Multimedia menu) and turn on the sound and then turn up the volume. This is a bit of a…er…non-intuitive thing to say the least. Anyway, after that the sound was perfect.

I had to use the Pulse Audio Volume Control to get sound to work.

I had to use the Pulse Audio Volume Control to get sound to work.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the moonOS discussion forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
moonOS 3 was a very pleasant surprise, indeed. I’d never used it before and wasn’t aware of what it looked like either. I’ve become somewhat jaded by all the Ubuntu remasters but moonOS 3 was a breath of fresh air in an aesthetic sense. It has to be one of the best looking themes I’ve seen in any remastered distro.

I feel comfortable recommending moonOS 3 for anybody who wants to use a better-looking Ubuntu on their desktop.

Beginners should consider it for their primary Linux desktop alongside Linux Mint and some of the other usual distros. Intermediate and advanced Linux users should also consider it and, needless to say, distro-hoppers should surely give it a download as they’ll have fun checking it out and playing with it.

moonOS 3 is well worth a download. Check it out.

Summary Table:

Product: moonOS 3 Linux (Makara)
Web Site: http://www.moonos.co.cc
Price: Free
Pros: Absolutely gorgeous remastered version of Ubuntu. Unique aesthetics, good selection of software, easy install. Features customized moonControl, moonGrub and moonSoftware tools.
Cons: Install ran very slow in VMWare and I was unable to login after it was complete. It was necessary for me to switch to Parallels and install moonOS 3 again in order to login.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: A fantastically beautiful alternative to generic Ubuntu. One of the best remasters I’ve seen to date. Well worth a download just to experience the aesthetic appeal.
Rating: 4/5

DesktopBSD 1.7

Although the official name of this blog is Desktop Linux Reviews, we will occasionally be looking at non-Linux operating systems too. Such is the case with DesktopBSD 1.7 which is a version of the FreeBSD operating system. DesktopBSD is, as you can tell from its name, geared toward desktop users.

Here’s some background on FreeBSD from Wikipedia:

FreeBSD is a free Unix-like operating system descended from AT&T UNIX via the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). FreeBSD currently has more than 200 active developers and thousands of contributors.

FreeBSD has been characterized as “the unknown giant among free operating systems.” It is not a clone of UNIX, but works like UNIX, with UNIX-compliant internals and system APIs. FreeBSD is generally regarded as reliable and robust.

FreeBSD is a complete operating system. The kernel, device drivers and all of the userland utilities, such as the shell, are held in the same source code revision tracking tree, whereas with Linux distributions, the kernel, userland utilities and applications are developed separately, then packaged together in various ways by others.

Unfortunately, according to the DesktopBSD site this will be the last and final release of DesktopBSD.

This is the last and final release of the DesktopBSD project. I find myself having less and less time to spare lately and no longer desire to keep developing and maintaining this project. However, because DesktopBSD is based entirely on FreeBSD, further support for the operating system and availability of up-to-date software for DesktopBSD 1.7 is ensured.

Thanks to everyone who helped prepare this release!

While I’m very sorry to hear that, I think it’s worth looking at DesktopBSD if for no other reason then to give the DesktopBSD developer a pat on the back and a thank you for making the effort to create it in the first place.

So with that said, read on…

DesktopBSD is a nice alternative to the usual desktop Linux distros.

DesktopBSD is a nice alternative to the usual desktop Linux distros.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a list of some of what’s new in this release of DesktopBSD 1.7:

FreeBSD 7.2 as stable and secure base system
KDE 3.5.10 as mature and easy-to-use desktop environment
OpenOffice.org 3.1.1 as feature-rich office suite
Pre-installed Java SE 6 environment
X.Org release 7.4 with extensive graphics support
Large number of enhancements and fixes

Requirements & Installation
In order to use DesktopBSD, here’s what is recommended on the DesktopBSD site:

We recommend a computer with at least a 1.5 GHz CPU, 1024 MB of memory and 20 GB of disk space. Less is possible, but will result in lower overall performance.


Access to a broad-band internet connection is recommended for installing additional software over the internet.


For more information about supported hardware, please read the FreeBSD 7.2 hardware notes.

I booted into the LiveCD version of DesktopBSD. The Live CD DesktopBSD experience compares favorably with that of most Linux distros. You’ll be able to get a good taste of what DesktopBSD has to offer by using the Live CD.

I had no problems installing DesktopBSD in VMWare. It’s about as difficult as installing any version of Ubuntu though it seemed a bit slower.

The DesktopBSD installer is actually fairly elegant and looks pretty slick. Just follow the prompts on each screen and you shouldn’t have any problems getting DesktopBSD installed even if you’ve never used it before.

desktopbsdinstall2

desktopbsdinstall3Desktop & Apps
Since DesktopBSD comes with KDE you’ll feel right at home if you’ve used KDE on Linux distros at some point. The overall look and feel of generic KDE is mostly preserved in DesktopBSD so you won’t encounter any wild customizations that mar the KDE experience.

DesktopBSD comes with quite a lot of software, I was very pleased when I first noticed it after the Live CD version finished loading. The installed version is just as good in terms of software.

Here’s some of what you’ll find available after you install DesktopBSD:

Games
KASteroids
KBounce
KSnakeRace
KTron
Atlantik
KMahjongg
KPoker

Graphics
GIMP
KSnapshot
digiKam
showFoto
KPDF
KolourPaint

Internet
FileZilla
Firefox
KMail
Knode (News Reader)
Konqueror
Kontact PIM
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Krfb (Desktop Sharing)
Konversation

Multimedia
Amarok
K3B CD & DVD Burning
KAudioCreator
VLC Media Player
Noatun Media Player
Krec

Office
OpenOffice.org (Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Drawing, Presentation, Database)
KNotes
KOrganizer
KArm
KAlarm
KAddressBook

There’s quite a bit to choose from and most everything you’ll need is there and ready to go after you install DesktopBSD. I ran into some problems with the DesktopBSD package manager (more on that later) so I wasn’t able to add more software or update my system.

DesktopBSD uses KDE 3.5 as its desktop environment.

DesktopBSD uses KDE 3.5 as its desktop environment.

What I Liked Most
I think my favorite thing about DesktopBSD is that it’s not Linux. Now hear me out before you get ready to flame me in the comments section, okay? I love Linux and I enjoy reviewing Linux distros (obviously or this blog wouldn’t even exist) but it’s refreshing to take a look at something different.

I also liked the bundled selection of software. DesktopBSD pretty much hit all the right marks.

Problems & Headaches
Bear in mind that if you’re the type that has to have the latest & greatest version of KDE then DesktopBSD might disappoint you since it’s using KDE 3.5. Frankly, I don’t mind it at all as there are some things about KDE 4.3 that I don’t care for but your mileage may vary.

As I noted earlier in this review, the developer has decided to call it quits so using DesktopBSD over the long run might not be a good idea. However, he has addressed the issue of updates with this comment:

“…because DesktopBSD is based entirely on FreeBSD, further support for the operating system and availability of up-to-date software for DesktopBSD 1.7 is ensured.”

So that should provide some comfort for those who might fall in love with DesktopBSD and decide to keep it on their computers as their main operating system.

I also encountered some kind of bug when trying to start the software applications app (package manager). It asked me for the root password so I typed it in but the app didn’t start. So I was not able to update my DesktopBSD system or install more software. I’m not sure what the problem is here but that’s a pretty bad bug to have in a desktop system.

I logged out and tried to log in directly as root but DesktopBSD does not allow direct root logins apparently.

DesktopBSD comes with a pretty good selection of desktop applications.

DesktopBSD comes with a pretty good selection of desktop applications.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the DesktopBSD Wiki or the DesktopBSD forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
As I noted earlier, it’s a shame that the developer of DesktopBSD has decided to call it quits. I had a mostly positive experience with it and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for an interesting alternative to the usual array of Linux distros.

Intermediate and advanced Linux users should have no problems with DesktopBSD. Beginners can still play with it but I do not recommend that DesktopBSD be used by beginners as their main desktop operating system.

So I give DesktopBSD a thumbs up. Perhaps the developer will change his mind and simply take a break for a while instead of hanging it up altogether.

Summary Table:

Product: DesktopBSD 1.7
Web Site: http://desktopbsd.net/
Price: Free
Pros: Great selection of software, very easy install.
Cons: This, apparently, is the last release of DesktopBSD. The developer is retiring. Note also that it uses an older version of KDE (3.5) not the latest version (4.3). Package manager did not start so I could not update my system or add more software.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced users.
Summary: Great selection of bundled software and an easy install. A potential alternative to the usual array of desktop Linux distros. Package manager bug needs to be fixed ASAP though.
Rating: 3/5

Lin-X Linux 1.1

In my last review I took a look at a distro that looked like Windows Vista. This week I got an interesting suggestion on the Request A Review page from Jai Ho about a distro called Lin-X. Lin-X is a remastered version of Ubuntu designed to look and feel like Mac OS X. Lin-X has turned the cool Apple logo on its head a bit by putting in a skull and crossed swords. Surely an act of blatant defiance of Steve Jobs and his lawyers. We’ll see if anybody at Apple notices this amusing act of rebellion.

What’s New In This Release
I looked around for details on what was new in this release but since the developer site is offline at this point, this brief bit of text was all I could uncover.

· Boot and system sounds do not work with the sounds window disabled
· This will be fixed (hopefully ;p) with the next release. However we apoligize for the inconvienence.

If you know more details about what was updated please post them in the comments.

Requirements & Installation
Since the Lin-X site is not available I could not find exact install requirements. But since it’s based on Ubuntu you should simply bear the Ubuntu install requirements in mind. I had a few problems with the install which I’ve detailed in the problems section. Suffice to say that once you actually get the install going it’s about the same as installing any other Ubuntu-based distribution which means that it’s not difficult.

The Lin-X login screen features an apple logo complete with a skull and crossed swords.

The Lin-X login screen features an apple logo complete with a skull and crossed swords.

Since it's based on Ubuntu, it's pretty easy to install Lin-X once you get the installer started.

Since it’s based on Ubuntu, it’s pretty easy to install Lin-X once you get the installer started.

Desktop & Apps
Obviously the big attraction in Lin-X is the Mac-like look and feel. When you boot into the Lin-X desktop you notice the Mac OS X Leopard-like wallpaper and the Dock-like panel at the bottom of the desktop. It’s about as close as we are probably going to get in terms of having Linux look like the Mac. I know that some Linux purists will gag at the very thought of this but I found it mostly amusing and attractive in its own right. It was a little weird to see Linux dressed up like a Mac but after a few minutes I got used to it and just did the usual stuff I do with my computer.

Lin-X comes with a respectable amount of software and here’s some of what you’ll find in terms of apps:

Games
Mahjongg
Mines
Robots
Sudoku
Tali
Gnometris
Chess
Blackjack

Graphics
F-Spot Photo Manager
GIMP
XSane IMage Scanner

Internet
aMSN
Evolution Mail
Firefox
Firestarter Firewall
Pidgin IM
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burning
Movie Player
MPlayer Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player

Office
OpenOffice.org

Hmmm...remind you of anything? Such pretty wallpaper...

Hmmm…remind you of anything? Such pretty wallpaper…

What I Liked Most
The clear attraction to Lin-X is its resemblance to Mac OS X. Otherwise it would just be another version of Ubuntu. The single thing I liked the most about Lin-X is the cool Apple logo with a pirate skull and crossed swords in it. It’s a way of taking Apple’s marketing slickness and turning it upside down. If I were a marketing droid at Apple I’d be outraged by this bastardization of one of the most well known corporate logos on the planet. I suppose that that’s one of the reasons why I like the Lin-X logo so much.

Problems & Headaches
This distro was a pain in the ass to deal with initially, to put it bluntly. The developer’s site seems to have been closed so I had to get the .iso file from Softpedia. But when I booted into the Live CD desktop I got a screen asking me to login with absolutely no information about the login ID and password were. I tried to find it on the developer’s site by using the cached Google version of it but still couldn’t locate it. I tried using “root” for the ID and password but that didn’t work either.

So I opted to go right to the install instead. However, that stalled out in VMWare so I had to use Parallels instead. If you try to use Lin-X in a virtual machine I recommend that you try to have more than one kind available in case you run into problems. I usually start with VMWare but I’m glad I have Parallels and VirtualBox on my machine for situations like this.

Certainly not the usual kind of apple...

Certainly not the usual kind of apple…

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. As of the writing of this review the official Lin-X site and forum are not available so I can’t refer you there for assistance.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
This is definitely one for the distro-hoppers to play with and enjoy for a while. It’s cool to see and use a Mac-like version of Linux. But it remains to be seen if the developers will actually continue on with this since their site is down and little or no information exists as to what their intentions are with Lin-X.

I do not recommend that anybody really consider Lin-X as their main distro until there is some kind of confirmation from the developers that they intend to continue on with it. And getting their site hosting bill paid up might be a good start.

Beginners should definitely not bother with Lin-X.

It appears that the Lin-X team has not paid their hosting bill.

It appears that the Lin-X team has not paid their hosting bill.

Summary Table:

Product: Lin-X Linux 1.1
Web Site: http://lin-x.info/ (Official Site) and also try the Lin-X Softpedia Page.
Price: Free
Pros: Comes with a very well done Mac OS X look and feel. As close to making Linux look and feel like Mac OS X as we’re likely to come.
Cons: Developer site is unavailable as of the time I wrote this review so there’s really no support for this distro or information about whether or not it will continue to be developed. Live CD requires login but no ID or password is provided.
Suitable For: Definitely one for the distro-hoppers that want to play around and check it out. Non-distro-hoppers should probably avoid this and stick with regular Ubuntu or one of it’s other remastered versions.
Summary: Once you get it installed it’s fun to use a Mac-like version of Linux. But after you get over the coolness it’s just another remaster of Ubuntu.
Rating: 2.5/5