Monday, July 16, 2007

Pardus Linux 2007.2 Review

A good vision, lots of promises, but not fully there yet
The Anatolian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) is a subspecies of leopard native to Asia Minor, Turkey. It is unknown whether any of these leopards still exist in the wild. Pardus linux is a Turkish distribution named after the Anatolian leopard. Installation screenshots are available here

This is one really good themed distribution. I like the fact that distributions bring just more than technology to user, they bring an experience with them. It just takes a small amount of time to, change the wallpaper, choose a good icon set, customize menu a little bit, its just awesome.

Now I have a 19" LCD for my test machine (AMD 2 GHz processor & 1 GB RAM). Pardus installation CD booted with 1920x1200 @ 75 Hz, whereas my monitor only supports 1280x1024 @ 75 Hz. So I was unable to see the complete screen, I was just seeing a part of it. The experience was horrible. It made me seriously feel that my 19" LCD is small. I just can't understand "why would anyone require installer running on 1920x1200?" This is just insane, installer running at 800x600 would have been equally good. This is something that needs a good look from Pardus developers.

I was unable to see the full screen but still somehow I managed to install the system. A really cool minimalistic installer. Just few simple and straight questions. root partition, root password and initial user account. and you are through with the installation questions. This is as good as it gets. Simple no fuss, straight to the point installer. The installation process is really slow, it took approximately 45 minutes on my machine to finish the installation.

I have to admit that Pardus splash screen is the most pathetic splash screen I have ever seen. When you are making a splash screen you should put in some effort for actually placing a progress bar. There is no progress bar on the splash screen and the user has no notification what-so-ever about what is happening.

The login screen is continuation of "sea theme" from the splash screen. I would like to point out that this sea theme is totally disconnected from the feline theme you see once inside the desktop. It would have been a lot better if there was only one theme instead of two disconnected themes.

On initial login you can configure your menu layout, network (both wired and wireless) and mouse. It feels good to see the wizard configuration as it is really helpfull But timezone is one serious thing missing from the configuration wizard.

For me the desktop booted at 1920x1200 again! I was amazed. I tried searching for control panel like stuff. And I find Tamsa configuration center. I launch tamsa and to my shock it is rebranded "KDE Control Center". To me it looks like plain theft. People know kcontrol what it is used for and who made it.

Anyway I looked at the current Monitor configuration and it showed 1920x1200 @ 373 Hz, it simply made me laugh. come on 373Hz will fry my monitor :). I tried to change the frequency and the only other frequency option available was 379Hz LOL. I though its time for good old "vim /etc/X11/xorg.conf" Now again another surprize, xorg.conf was having maximum resolution for "1280x1024", I seriously do not understand how can XServer run on a resolution that is not mentioned in the configuration file.

And the surprizes were not over with xorg.conf; the default color depth configured by Pardus was 16 bit. come on if I have a monitor that can run 1920x1200 @ 373 Hz why would I be running it on 16 bit colors and not 24 bit?

I changed the xorg.conf to suit my needs. To test the new settings, I wanted to log-off and log in again, and thats when I saw my first system freeze. The system just stopped responding. I have to do a hard reset of the machine.

Pardus includes kicker menu and allows you to choose between the traditional menu or kicker menu. One thing I would like to say is "Stop emulating windows" in terms of layout. The desktop context menu is ripped off functionality just to resemble windows desktop context menu. This also goes with the main menu as you see everything under "Program" menu.

All standard applications are installed with their latest version. Open Office 2.2.1 Firefox standard KDE games etc. Yuake is installed by default, this should be plesant surprize for good old command line interface affictionados. Package manager used by pardus is PiSi In terms of multimedia applications, both win32 codecs and libdvdcss are installed by default. So one will not have any problem with not playing any audio/video file. But when i tried running a WMV file i got the sound and a blank screen, not sure what went wrong.

One CD KDE systems like Kubuntu made me think that KDE is not good enough for one CD as almost all of them just dropped games section, some even dropped open office as well. But Pardus is especially good in terms of default package selection.

I would really applaud pardus for making Dejavu Sans as the default font for all the standard applications. Dejavu is really good font and i haven't seen a single distro that makes them default. I have to manually change the fonts in other distro but that was plesantly not the case with Pardus.

The Icon theme is really nice, the feline desktop is really cool. If you want to say you can say that it is more or less the standard KDE system, but with Pardus it just doesn't feel like one.

The last time I tried Pardus (around 6 months ago) there were frequent freezes, and I mean a lot; to such an extent that it did not allow me to do anything usefull to it. But I can see the effect of consistent hard work from pardus developors. Pardus is far from being complete but it is on the right track, may be one year from now, it will be shine amongst rest of distros.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dream Linux 2.2 Review

Truely a linux dream
So today I downloaded the latest edition of DreamLinux. The last time I played with DreamLinux was around 8 months back and was really disappointed as it failed even to boot on my machine.

DreamLinux 2.2 Multimedia edition was released on 29th June (same day iPhone was released) . And if you are interested its currently ranked at #17 at DistroWatch.

DreamLinux comes as a live CD with installation option. The live CD booted straight to XFCE desktop with 1024x764 @ 75Hz. It was not the optimal 1440x800 @ 75 that my monitor supported, but it is fair enough to get you started.

So coming on the installation part. There is a really nice installation help available as default page in firefox. So if you are not sure about something, open firefox and see the help.

The Installation application, in my opinion, best in the bread, It shows you a couple of options, namely "Root Password" "Username/Password" "Root Partition" "Grub Location" on a single screen. Even Ubuntu is having seven screens for installation and a lot of time is wasted in screen transitions. I filled in the desired details and the started the installation process. I did not time it, but it approximately took 10 minutes to do the complete installation. This is the fastest installation on my system.

XFCE is a really good option of desktops on diet, its fast and elegant yet functional. The only problem is that it does not a have a samba viewer and the way i see it XFCE developers are not interested in adding that support. Now on the home network I simply can't live without samba. My file server and proxy server are on windows :(. So inspite to my liking XFCE, I was not able to use any XFCE targeted distribution on my workstation. And to solve my worries Lin Neighborhood was installed by default.

I have a nvidia graphics card and need the proprietary drivers in order to make my dual monitor work. And for compiling nvidia graphics drivers from source you need to have build tools and kernel headers. And in the recent times many distributions have sacrificed these two packages from default installation. But Dream Linux, even being a multimedia edition, provided both by default, and thus I did not had any problem with driver installation.

One of the major factor in Linux adoption is "Control Center" concept. Ubuntu does not have it and Mandriva and open SUSE have the best in the breed. And seriously I was not expecting a control center form DreamLinux, it is an over expectation seeing the current trend of distributions. But I was amazed seeing on in DreamLinux. And the DCP Control Center is not one haphazardly put it is well thought over panel.

Now a days trend seems to eye-candy stuff – compiz / beryl and I was please to see them in DreamLinux. It has a special settings dialog where you can enable/disable the eye candy stuff.

Coming to multimedia stuff I was happily surprised by seeing lot of applications: gxine, xmms, MPlayer, dvd:rip, audacity, jack control, kino, grip, easy tag etc. One of the major criticizm for Linux is iPod; people say that they don't want to switch to Linux because they wont be able to manage there iPod. But hey, look at DreamLinux it comes with gtkpod pre-installed.

For office applications Open Office is installed by default. Though I was unhappy to see an older version 2.0 instead of the latest 2.2. Anyway 2.0 is still pretty good. For internet Firefox, Thunderbird, aMSN and Bittornado are installed by default. Flash player and PDF viewer are also installed by default for better web surfing experiece.

For CD/DVD burning Brasero is installed. Package management is handled by apt with a really nice front end in form of synaptic. So if you are not satisfied with the applications then just grab new applications from the web.

This is the distribution that gave me a WOW effect, if i remember correctly the last time I had this WOW effect was with PCLinuxOS 0.93a big daddy. The icon theme is really great. DreamLinux tries to mimic mac and it does it really well.

There are some minor glitches in the distribution, but overall DreamLinux is a really good distribution. I have burnt 10 CDs to distribute to friends and recommend to to grab your own iso from the site and enjoy linux. :)

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