Another uninspiring Ubuntu derivative
Neowin.net is a technology news website that actively focuses on critising Windows Vista, and supporting Mac and Linux. Neowin runs under the slogan, "Where amateurish journalism looks better.". Shift Linux is a project that was created by the Neowin community. Neowin's Shift Linux is designed to give the user an experience of being part of the Neowin community and to have a simple, easy-to-use live CD that can be installed to a hard drive.
According to the project website: "Shift Linux is based on Debian and Morphix, therefore it has access to all of the software and applications as other Debian distributions.". And this is definitely not true, as Shift is clearly an Ubuntu derivative.
Shift Linux comes on three flavors; fluxbox, gnome and KDE. I used gnome edition for this review. Shift Linux is currently ranked # 58 at distrowatch
AMD Athlon 64 3200+, with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 5300GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor.
The booting was extremely similar to Ubuntu 7.10, discussed in one of my previous posts.
The first thing that I noticed about Shift Linux was eye-straining theme. I was reminded of energy saving efforts by Blacke Google; but even Blacke was not much irritating to eye as Shift Linux was.
The installation is again similar to Ubuntu 7.10 discussed in my previous post
I have to say the look and feel was just horrible. I am sure that if I have this theme on my desktop; I will have more frequent visits to my Ophthalmologist. My eyes felt the pressure even after a small exposure, that I had for this review.
Secondly, the theme is greatly disconnected. The initial splash screen has the original Ubuntu light brown screen. And I was never able to see the grub splash screen because of irrelevant errors at boot time.
Applications are the same as Ubuntu 7.10.No custom application. There was one notable exception though; Firefox 3 alpha 8. This exception made me think "Who, in his able senses, includes an alpha software in its release?". First answer was definitely M$, but second was Shift...
Out of box multimedia support is missing from the default installation.
Downgraded Compiz is present to provide basic eye-candy.
One does not require a howitzer to kill ants/bees/rabbits/dogs. When one wants to "give the user an experience of being part of the Neowin community" what one needs is a theme not a Linux derivative.
I did not seen any reasoning or logic for creating Shift Linux. What the project website describes as need is the need for gnome/KDE/fluxbox theme, not an Ubuntu derivative. I tried really hard to find at least some other difference but failed. Shift Linux just provides an additional theme, and as a matter of fact, an ugly theme.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Wonderful Zen Experience.
Couple of months ago, Zenwalk 4.8 was reviewed here. Since the review, Zenwalk has climbed Distrowatch ranking to #14. Zenwalk aims to be a multi-purpose Linux distribution by focusing on Internet applications, multimedia and programming tools.
According to the project website; Zenwalk is a GNU/Linux operating system, designed to provide the following characteristics: Modern and user-friendly (latest stable software, selected applications), Fast (optimized for performance capabilities), Rational (one mainstream application for each task), Complete (full development/desktop/multimedia environment) and Evolutionary (simple network package management tool - netpkg)
AMD Athlon 64 3200+, with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 5300GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor. Though some argue that its not appropriate to review a "lightweight" Linux distribution, like Zenwalk, on fairly modern hardware, but I have my own considerations. Firstly, I do not aim to benchmark the distributions, I want to see their desktop viability. Secondly, I do not have the luxury to arrange an outdated hardware mentioned by other reviewers.
Zenwalk comes with a Live CD edition, but the Standard edition that I used to review does not support Live environment. The install CD still comes with ncurses based text installer. After installation the desktop came at 1280x1024 and proprietary nvidia drivers were not installed by default. GCC and kernel-headers were installed by default that allowed me to install nvidia drivers.
There is no reason to be intimidated with the text based installer; it's really easy. Its asks the standard questions: root partition, swap partition and begins installation.
Once the installation is finished, user can configure the system. Last time I had problems with automatic loading of network module, but this time the network module was properly loaded. It might be because of my machine change or because of proper hardware detection. But I will give benefit of doubt to Zenwalk and say "good job in network detection". Wireless card installation was also a breeze. The wireless network was not shown by default in WiCD manager; user has to click on "hidden" menu item and type in ESSID to connect.
This time Zenwalk also shows a couple of Licenses, even when you are not using the driver covered under the license. It is a minor issue and I hope to see, in future release, license agreements that are applicable to my machine only. It was nice to see GPL though.
Simple, beautiful and pleasing, are the words that describe look and feel: flaunted by Zenwalk. The theme is unified, and the login-manager bug mentioned in the last release is gone. Furthermore, Zenwalk retains the true spirit of XFCE; does not try to imitate other desktop environments as done by default installation of some other distributions.
Zenwalk has a rational choice; one mainstream application for each task. And it is really nice. It means ease of use for a newbie. I still say Open Office would have been a better choice, but things are way they are.
All the applications are in there latest packages(at the time of Zenwalk release). For windows network browsing you have fusesmb tool (I missed it in the last review). To view your network shares, create a directory (probably ~/smb), launch the fusesmbtool under network applications, specify the folder where you want to mount the network shares, specify the windows username & password, and hit connect. User will see the windows network under the directory specified.
Zenwalk comes with a simple control-panel called aptly called Zenpanel. It contains almost every aspect of computer customization, that an average desktop user will require. Zenwalk 5.0 comes with HAL (hardware abstraction layer) instead of its own custom hot-plug system. And it means better support for plug-and-play devices.
XFCE supports a list of images for the wallpaper, but does not allow user to choose when to change the wallpaper. There is a way around this; the command "killall -USR1 xfdesktop" changes the wallpaper on the desktop. So those of you who want automatic cycling of wallpaper can create a cron job, or create a desktop icon to do the same.
Zenwalk supports proprietary codecs out of box. I was able to play MP3 and WMV files. DVD playback was also supported.
Neither Beryl nor Compiz is installed by default. But XFCE has its own window compositor and gives really nice effects
Zenwalk is a really old distribution; one of the very few pre-2000 surviving distribution. I would really like to see a 64 it binary version of Zenwalk. Some better hardware detection(monitor) is also expected.
Zenwalk is a really great distribution for Linux newbies, just because of the fact that it chooses single mainstream application for each task. And this does not mean that Zenwalk will not appeal to Linux gurus. I will just say "Try the Zen computing" and see it yourself.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
VectorLinux is a Linux distribution for the x86 platform based on Slackware which aims to be user-friendly.Vector Linux is currently ranked at #21 on distrowatch. Screenshots are available here
According to the project website: Speed, performance, stability -- these are attributes that set Vector Linux apart in the crowded field of Linux distributions. Vector Linux is a lighter-weight, fast, Linux operating system for Intel-AMD x86 compatible systems and is based upon Slackware. Vector Linux has improved Slackware to produce a bloat free, easy to install, configure and maintain operating system that is second to none. We include automatic hardware configuration, unique administration tools and easy software package management via the Gslapt/slapt-get system. Vector Linux is considered to be the fastest, non-source Linux distribution on the planet!
Pentium D 3.4 GHz with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 7300GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor.
Vector Linux comes in a separate live CD, which is not released for version 5.9 yet. But the installation media does not have a live environment and you have to go the old fashioned way of first installing the distribution and then seeing/feeling it.
The installation is similar to Slackware installation: with the options named more realistically/humorously. It is really nice to see the kind of innovation in the installer option table.
The installation automatically selects the swap partition (if available) and prompts for root partition. The best part of installation is the graphics drivers: my machine has an nvidia card, which was correctly detected by the installer, and the required proprietary drives were installed during the installation. Vector Linux has really stepped forward in terms of usability.
In the later part of the installation, user can configure different aspects of the new Vector Linux machine.
Previous releases of Vector Linux had big icons and window borders; which some might consider distasteful. But with this release that has changed; brand new aesthetically pleasing & sleek icons and windows borders are here. The look and feel has greatly changed and it's impressive. Dejavu fonts are still missing from an otherwise great default theme.
One thing that I do not like is XFCE mimicking the look & feel of other desktop environments. Here the default settings make it look more like KDE than like XFCE
Vector Linux contains a lot of applications, specially targeted at low-end machines. Open Office is missing, which I think is a necessity for all Linux distribution. Open Office is not so much resource hungry, that it should be omitted from distributions targeted at low-end manchines. In place of Open Office, Abiword and Gnumeric are present as office applications.
The default browser is SeaMonkey(Mozilla re-incarnated), but still Firefox is available for ardent fans. Mousepad and MEdit are the editors of choice for Vector Linux. BlueFish editor is available for development. Couple of nice games, including chromium, are available.
Acrobat Reader & Flash Player are installed by default, making a great OOBE (out of box experience). Gsplat is available for additional package installation.
Vector Linux has its own control center in the form of VASM. Its short and sweet; contains wizards for almost all the regular chores.
Mplayer, Xine & XMMS, along with the required codecs, are installed by default. So the user can simply insert a DVD and start watching the same. WMV & MP3 files are played without a glitch.
Neither Beryl nor Compiz is installed by default. But XFCE has his own window compositor and gives really nice effects like shading and fading.
Vector Linux is a mature distribution, it is time for Vector Linux to think about the 64 bit version as well.
Vector Linux is a really great distribution, and with this release the rough edges have been removed. Its stable, fast, looks good and has an OOBE that is second to none in the arena. It is highly recommended for both newbies and experts alike.