Sidux is a desktop-oriented distribution and comes with as a live CD.Its based on the unstable branch of Debian GNU/Linux. It was originally created by a group of developers who split from the KANOTIX project and launched their own distribution. Sidux has a relatively speedy release cycle.
My workstation is a dual core 3.4 GHz intel processor, with 4 Gig RAM and 512 MB Nvidia 7950 graphics card. I have a dual 19" wide screen monitors which support 1440x900@75Hz.
Sidux comes with a live CD environment, and has couple of options for booting. The default option worked fine for me. The monitor resolution was set to 1280x1024, instead of native 1440x900. Only a few linux distributions can actually run the native 1440x900 resolution, and vista starts only with 1024x768. So in screen resolution I will say , its good .
Installation is as easy as it gets. Sidux has its own custom installer. There is a warning message on the installer application, stating that the installer is currently under heavy development and not completely stabilized yet. But the installer worked perfectly fine for me.
It has a good installer consisting of six screens in a tabbed wizard mode. First screen is the welcome and last is the actual installation screen. The second tab asks for hard drive partitioning. User can start a partitioning tool (if required), and select the root partition where the system is to be installed. Third tab asks for boot loader configuration and timezone. Next screen requires username and password. Fifth screen asks for network and service. The installer is still in early version and needs some refinements in terms of layout of fields.
The installation was really fast and took less then 10 minutes to finish.
Sidux comes with an earthly theme; plain and simple light brown colored. Definitely appealing to the eyes.
The best part was the inclusion of build tools and Linux headers. Even though Debian does not include these tools with its default install, Sidux does. In my opinion build tools and Linux headers are the two most important ambassadors of free software foundation. These are the tools every aspiring geek should know.
Graphics applications included are - gime gwenview, kpdf, digikam, kghostview. Couple of games are als0 present. For internet, firefox (iceweasel), KTorrent, KBluetooth, Kget, Kopete, Akregator, WengoPhone, Kvpnc, Kwifimanager exist. Multimedia applications included are kaffeine, amarok, k3b, kdetv, KMix. Open Office is present with all the applications.
Sidux is based on an unstable Debian and comes along with apt and a lot of applications; which are just a click/command away.
Sidux comes with a couple of utilities to configure different parts of the machine. But they are disconnected. A single control center would have been a better approach.
Neither Win32 codecs nor libdvdcss were installed by default and thus I was not able to watch dvd and play windows media files. Also there was no luck playing MP3 files. Sidux has acknowledged this fact and has provided a hot fix on its home page.
For a desktop oriented, bleeding edge distribution like Sidux, it is not at all acceptable to stay clear from multimedia support. Even if it meant delaying the release.
There is no eye candy application installed by default.
Sidux should concentrate more on an out of box experience, as this is really crucial for a live CD environment. The configuration applets are nice but they need to be unified under one application which does all the configurations. Its more important to give a steady and stable experience to the user than to just give away frequent releases.
Sidux is a nice distribution but requires a lot of work to get ready for the prime time.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Sidux is a desktop-oriented distribution and comes with as a live CD.Its based on the unstable branch of Debian GNU/Linux. It was originally created by a group of developers who split from the KANOTIX project and launched their own distribution. Sidux has a relatively speedy release cycle.
Monday, August 13, 2007
According to Absolute website "Assembled to make installation and maintenance of Slackware easier. Built for speed, stability, security, ease of use and development (if you are so inclined.) I am as confident in it's stability as a stock Slackware box -- and that is saying something"
The test machine that I am using is an AMD Athlon 2600+ XP, 1 Gig RAM, 64 Meg ATI 7200 with 15" LCD capable of 1024x768@75Hz
Absolute does not come with a live cd mechanism. You have to wait for full installation to complete in order to see what an absolute linux machine looks like.
The installation process is standard ncurses based installer created by Slackware. You can add a swap partition and root partition. The installer allows you to select amongst reiserfs, ext3 and xfs file systems. It also recognizes any NTFS/FAT partitions found on the machine and allows you to configure them. User is prompted for installation mechanisms; "Install from Absolute CD/DVD is the default option". One interesting point to note is that Absolute comes only with single CD install media but it lists DVD media as well.
Once the installation method is selected, the installation starts. It takes approximately 15 minutes to install Absolute on my machine. Thereafter the modem configuration screen is displayed. The user can configure LILO as the boot loader. I prefer Grub though, but there is no such option.
The next screen allows the user to configure the mouse which is followed by the Network configuration. Then the user can select which services to start when the system boots. Console font configuration, timezone configuration follow. The last step is to set a root password.
There is no initial user configuration allowed by the installer, so the user has to login as root on first startup. During this Absolute tries to configure XServer. The resultant xorg.conf was completely screwed up; it did dot detect the frequencies correctly.Moreover, there is no DefaultDepth specified and for the Depths specified, Modes configuration is missing.
The default run level is 3; thus you land onto command prompt. I don't get this; what's the point of configuring X if you are not providing it as default login. Also, Absolute is supposed to be a desktop oriented distribution, they why the default run level 3 instead of 4.
In this department I will say that Absolute is just bad taste. The look and feel resembles that of windows 95. I can see some of user interface blunders. There are two panels configured by default, both are having the same size and almost the same color.The second one floats over the first one; confusing the user. (In the screen shots I have placed one of the panels on the top)
The applications found in absolute are limited and suited for a single person only. There are two different file browsers, Rox and Alt. There are a couple of educational applications and some dedicated to configuration tools.
Internet applications are limited to Firefox, gFTP, sylpheed. ktorrent, pidgin and putty. Some games are also thrown in. Graphics applications include gimp, screenshot, monitor calibration, color selector etc. There is a video player, an audio player and a sound controller. Nedit, Abiword, vim editors are available. pAgenda Calendar is also available as calendar application. QtCrust, HTML Page and pyCrust are availbale for development.
Absolute linux uses XPKGTOOL as a front end for installing applications.
I was able to play MP3 and windows media files with absolute linux.
Absolute linux is meant to be installed on low end older machines, thus ruling out the possiblity of eye candy.
Absolute needs to evolve, it needs to have a community and thus become less specific and more generic.
I seriously do not understand the need or vision for Absolute linux. It does not provide anything extra over Slackware. Slackware offers icewm, fluxbox, kde and some other window managers to be selected during installation process.
Absolute is based on slackware and thus started with version 12; highest version number existing for any distribution. But wait a second, where are version 1 to 11?
Making a distribution is really easy now-a-days, pick a package manger, pick up a list of open source applications to install, create custom packages and burn them on a disk. But the soul of any distribution is the vision. What do you want to acomplish with your distribution. And in my opinion absolute linux is absolutely missing the soul.
Friday, August 10, 2007
This distribution comes with 5 CD installation media, and there is no DVD iso image available on the download site. All the five CDs are required for installation and changing CDs during installation is a real pain; they also slow down the installation process. The logo used by Asian resembles adobe's logo in blue color.
According to the poject website "AsianLinux is one of the complete Linux Distributions developed in India. It has a lot of additional Entertainment & Development tools as compared with other Linux Distributions. It consists of Mozilla Firefox Browser with Flash Plugins & Java Runtime which makes it fully compatible for Internet Applications"
The test machine that I am using is pretty old; it is an AMD Athlon 2600+ XP, 1 Gig RAM, 64 Meg ATI 7200 with 15" LCD capable of 1024x768@75Hz
AsianLinux does not come with a live CD mode. So you have to install the distribution before you can check it. I think it is pretty outdated, and some users will be petrified by the fact that they have to install the distribution first. Anyways this is a personal opinion, and the standard installation method was the norm before MEPIS changed the whole landscape.
The installer application gives you an option to check the validity of the installation media. This is a really long process and I recommend users to just give it a pass.
The installation asks for user language, keyboard, and partitioning. In the partitioning application there is no option to resize an existing windows partition. It picks up any existing swap partition, and the user is left to just select the root partition.
Then the user has the option to select networking options, timezone and boot loader. The options are reasonably defaulted and should not be a concern for a newbie. Then comes the software package selection.
Redhat based, anoconda package selection is one of the best; its simple and yet provides you with full flexibility. I advise that users give a complete thought to what they want to install, as using yum/pirut at a later stage can be a unpleasant experience.
Thereafter the installation process starts, and its a really lengthy process, it took more than an hour to finish.
The installer does not give an option for creating default user. So on first login you have to log in as root and create a new user by using KUser application. It should not allow root to login.
Asian Linux reminded me of my first encounters with linux. The look and feel is similar to what Redhat had around 10 years ago. There is nothing good for this section.
Xorg configuration was completely screwed up. I was getting 800x600 @60Hz and the color depth was only 16. The driver was correctly loaded to radeon though.
Being a 5 CD install, Asian Linux provides you with lot of software. But the majority of the application software provided is outdated; open office 2.0, firefox 220.127.116.11. And so on.
Win32 codecs and libdvdcss were installed by default. So the user can easily watch movies. But when I tried to play MP3 songs, the only thing that i got was static noise. The sound card was properly configured and auto test produced correct sound.
Fedora 6 was one of the early adopters of compiz, still there was no eye candy provided by default in Asian Linux.
I would recommend to stay away and clear from Asian Linux, until you are feeling too much nostalgic. If you feel good about Redhat 7/8 and want to relive the same experience over again, then you should check Asian Linux. In one word, it is simply outdated.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distribution whose goal is to provide a more complete out-of-the-box experience by including browser plugins, media codecs, support for DVD playback, Java and other components. It is compatible with Ubuntu software repositories. The 3.0 Xfce edition was released on August 7, 2007. Some snapshots for Linux Mint can be found here, but these snapshots are not specific for Xfce.
The test machine that I am using is pretty old and well suited for lightweight distributions like this. It is an AMD Athlon 2600+ XP, 1 Gig RAM, 64 Meg ATI 7200 with 15" LCD capable of 1024x768@75Hz
On the boot screen, user is given three choices. Default one is to open a live session with Linux Mint Xfce. The booting takes a little time as it configures all the hardware. It correctly identified the screen resolution of 1024x768@75Hz. The system seems similar to the gnome version.
The installation is the same seven step installation used by Ubuntu. It asks you about the language, time zone and key board. The worst part is the hard disk partitioning.
The partitioner takes too much time to identify all the partitions. Then whenever user changes something, it requires to rescan the whole partition table again. Why does one need to rescan the whole partition table with every single edit; this could be done at once when the user selects to write the changed partition table to disk. Anyway this rant should not be applicable to Mint as they are using the standard *buntu installer.
Then it provides you with an option to migrate your user settings from any existing operating system. It shows you the final configuration and you can go ahead with the installation. The installation was relatively fast; it took approximately 10 minutes to finish.
Now this is one of the most awful aspect of *buntu family. Three years in making and nobody could ever come up with a good grub menu. Why are users offered an outdated black & white boot loader with no image. Some distributions have advanced to gfxgrub, but if that seems a huge effort then at least provide a nice image for the grub. Again this rant is not something specific to Mint.
A lot of times, I see people referring to Xfce as "tasteless mimicking of Gnome". This is because distributions like Xubuntu and Linux Mint Xfce actually make them believe that. Come on, Xfce has its own identity, there is no difference in desktop context menu and start menu. Distributions like Zenwalk and Vector actually keep the original Xfce feel and look great.
Linux Mint shares the wallpaper and icons across all the versions; Gnome, KDE and Xfce. Other editions of Mint include specialized launchers, and I was expecting something on similar terms for Xfce edition, but there was none.
I feel that the set of applications included is very limited as compared to other Xfce based distributions. User gets standard accessories with catfish, mousepad, thunar and tomboy notes. For graphics you have gimp. For Multimedia you have mplayer, xfmedia, gnormalize, exaile, brasero. Internet applications contain, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Java 6, Deluge. For office, you have open office.
User gets a lot of configuration options via system settings. Linux Mint XFce edition also has its own control center. XServer-Xorg application really requires an applause, it is a really nice front end for editing xorg.conf and its does its work very well. One key application missing is the one for taking screenshots. I was unable to find any pre-installed screenshot application and thus this review lacks screenshots :(
On the plus point all the Ubuntu repositories are compatible with Mint and thus you can install any application you want from the repositories.
Fortune is installed by default and displays humorous quotes every time you open a terminal. Fortune cookies are great fun, but not many distributions include them by default (the only other distribution which I know is Slackware)
As part of Mint mission statement, it is supposed to provide better out of box experience to the user and it does the same to some extent. I was able to play windows media file, MP3 file and DVDs. Flash was also enabled for web surfing. Only missing point was that my sound card was not configured properly.
Beryl is installed, which you can easily configure. For me the default driver loaded was ati and not radeon and thus I had initial problems with beryl. Once the driver was changed to radeon beryl worked great. Beryl came up with default red window borders which was inconsistent with the generic green theme.
Linux Mint Xfce requires some polishing, and in doing so it should stop mimicking gnome. It also requires lot more applications out of the box.
Linux Mint is a good distribution but I was really disappointed by the Xfce edition. There are a lot other Xfce based distributions which are far more superior to Mint. I would like to just wait and see Linux Mint Xfce edition getting polished.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
A bright red star at open horizon
Sabayon is the new name for earlier RR4 distribution. It is based on Gentoo and modified according to the needs of users. It comes in two version; one full DVD version and another in single CD mini-edition. Recently they have also launched a Business Edition for Sabayon.
This is what the project has to say on its website "Get rid of Microsoft Windows. Install the Sabayon Linux Operating System and unleash the full potential of your Computer. Sabayon Linux features the most advanced Industry Open Source technologies: no hassles."
You can visit the project homepage read about it more and see some more screenshots.
This is one distro that has been occupying one partion on my personal workstation. Its a dual core 3.4 GHz intel processor, with 4 Gig RAM and 512 MB Nvidia 7950 graphics card. I have a dual 19" wide screen monitors which support 1440x900@75Hz.
Sabayon gives you a lot of options for booting. The default option is full fledged live CD environment. Sabayon has supported accelerated graphics even in live CD environment for a long time (with the help of proprietary drivers). When you boot in the live CD user is given an option to select the acceleration package to be used; namely AIGLX or XGL or no acceleration. This is one unique configuration that is not available with other distributions.
The live CD could not start my Xserver at desired resolution of 1440x900, instead it was just able to have 1024x768 even with required nvidia drivers loaded. I think it has to do something with the accelerated graphics. But any way the resolution was enough for installing my system.
When you log in to live environment, you see a really nice blend of red and black. This makes sabayon a lot different from standard blue style, found in other distros. On the desktop you see nvidia driver configuration icon. Also there are lots of games ready to be tested.
The installation icon is placed on the desktop. Sabayon uses a modified version of Anaconda (well known redhat installer) for installation. The installation is lengthy but complete with all configuration. Installer detects your wireless network card and allows you to configure it during the installation.
Anaconda ask for language, keyboard and allows you to configure partitions. It asks which desktop environment you want to have; namely gnome, kde or fluxbox. KDE is the default desktop and fluxbox if for users who have power restrained systems.
Installer then asks for different group of applications that you want to install. There are lot of games to be installed and played on linux, and sabayon proves this point very well. For the blogger who says that linux is not ready for gaming, i say "go check Sabayon".
The installation process is lengthy, processor intensive and time consuming. For my machine it took approximately one hour to finish. For a system that is more that 2 years old, it can very well take four or more hours.
The theme adopted by sabayon is different at the best. I feel that the theme aspect is half cooked in sabayon. If doesn't feel like one continuous theme. At some places the theme puts extra strain on eyes. If you try to run any GTK based applications the menu entries are completely unreadable. The console starts with prompt color light green with white background, a color combination that is hard to differentiate.
Being a DVD based installation there is a really huge set of applications. Sabayon uses Portage as application manager. Thus the applications installed are really fast and optimized to the tastes for the user. There is a front-end for Portage with the name protato which helps in finding and installing applications.
Google Earth, Google Picasa, skype and virtual box are some of the applications installed by default in sabayon that you will not find in an other distribution.
Qt, bean shell and glade are installed by default for application development. With all other unique applications, I was expecting eclipse to be installed by default but I think I was expecting too much.
For games all the standard gnome and kde games are installed by default. And along with that there are a lot of 3D games to try out; Danger from the deep, Savage, Nezuiz, sauerbraten, Second life, Battle for Wesnoth and many more.
A lot of applications are also installed for graphics; DjVu, gimp, picasa, digikam, fspot, kooka etc. Same goes with interenet applications; azureus, google earth, filezilla, wireshark, amule, firefox, thunderbird, skype, NX, wlan manager. Coming to multimedia application you see the same trend; mplayer, real player, kaffeine, dvd::rip, elisa, lightscribe labeler, tvtime and so on. Open Office 2.2. is installed for office productivity suite.
I wanted to see a specialized control center for sabayon to make it more user friendly, but it was missing. Except that, I think i was very much impressed by what sabayon has to offer to a new user.
Sabayon is the only distribution to include the new compiz fusion 3D accelration manager to provide great eye candy to the user. Compiz fans have a reason to rejoice, compiz now works with xinerama.
Configuration options for compiz, are enourmous, there are lots of plug ins to add extra effect. Its just plain fun game to configure and use different effects.
Sabayon comes pre-loaded with all the required codecs. I was able to view DVD, listen mp3 files, watch windows media files.
Sabayon is one distribution that can give all major distributions a run for their money and it is almost there as well. The power of open source can not be felt with binary distribution packages, the real power comes with custom compilation, and an environment that provides an easy way to do the same. Sabayon is the kind of environment that one should be looking at if s/he wants to harness the true power.
Hope that sabayon mantains its right track and iron out the rough corners so that we can rely on a really briliant star.
Freespire - a new step towards freedom
Freespire is a comunity version for commercial Linspire. The latest alpha 2U was released on 22nd March, 2007. You can visit freespire site here. Some of extra screenshots are also available here.
Generally I avoid reviewing distributions that as in beta phase. It seems like commenting on half cooked solution, when everyone knows that it is not finished yet. But I would like to make an excetpion in case of Freespire.
So my test machine is a bit old; five years to be precise. It is having AMD Athlon XP 2200+ (overclocked), 1 Gig RAM, 64 Meg ATI 7200 graphics card. It has enough meat for trying out an average desktop distribution.
Freespire CD gives you option to boot in Live CD and install the distribution directly. Oddly the option for live CD is not the default one. The default option is to install the distro. Anyway this is a matter of personal preference.
The booting process is similar to what is seen in ubuntu. The default color scheme is blue and I really liked the kind of blue used by freespire. Freespire correctly identified 1280x1024@75Hz for my 19" monitor, and started KDE.
Once you are on the desktop you will surely notice the marvelous icons bolsted by Freespire. Its just great. On the desktop you see NTFS drives automatically mounted. Gnome partition editor (gnome partition editor is much powerful than Qtparted and its a good decision of include it here). You have icon for CNR (Click and Run) stating 'coming soon'.
On the desktop you see an icon to install freespire link on the desktop. It opens a full screen application. The installation application ask for keyboard layout and installation method. There are two installation methods "Take over an entire hard disk" and "Advanced install".I prefer the latter as I have several operating systems installed on the single hard drive.
In advanced installation method you select root partition and whether you want to write boot loader in Master Boot Record. Then it asks for computer name, User name and administrator password. Actually, its misleading to say administrator password, it is the user password used for sudo. This can lead to some confusions.
With all these steps you are ready to install the operation system. It displays the final configuration screen asking for your confirmation. The installation takes just under 5 minutes. The installer displays time elapsed and approximate time remaining.
As mentioned earlier the blue in blue blend is awesome. The specialized icons are really great. The earlier versions of freespire that I saw were more or less morphing windows; they had menu button renamed as start but now that is gone. The new menu buttons have really good Freespire icons. The default menu bar also looks more like KDE then XP. The automatic login is not configured by default. In my opinion, for a single user desktop , user should have a installation option where s/he can choose to have auto login or not (something I really like about mandriva).
On first login user is prompted for a license agreement. I think lot of people out there who really don't bother about the license agreement, and so I just agreed to it. Then you are given screen to configure different aspects of your system, like sound settings, Time zone, screen resolution, etc. But all settings applets have to switch to administrator mode to change, i.e. you have to enter your password. Otherwise its really great and all the aspects of configuration are covered.
One thing that I did not like is that by default, the fonts are really big, anti-aliasing is not turned on and the font families are mixed a lot. Any ways, these are just configurations and should not be a big problem.
It seems freespire chose to not let off all the XP style configuration. All the applications are still under programs menu. Seeing that it is a single CD installation, the applications select is almost complete.
For development we have Nvu, and a few games are also thrown in. You have a good set for internet applications; Java 6, Flash, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Ktorrent, Konqueror etc. For multimedia you have Real Player, Lsongs, KMix, K3b. Open office 2.2 is installed as office application.
MP3 played well out of the box. Real player 10 is configured as default player applications for audio files. For video files, you have KMPlayer with all the necessary codes installed by default. I did not have any problem watching DVDs and windows media files.
Freespire is an appealing distribution for new comers and once the CNR is fully implemented it will really be one of the easiest distributions to use. I will recommend it to all the newbies and KDE aficionados. For M$ users if you are thinking about the switch and don't want to go through the noisy ubuntu forum Freespire is there for you
Fast and elegant
Today I am trying Wolvix Hunder Live CD. Wolvix was a remastered SLAX CD, but currently they have changed there base to good old slackware. The live CD provides plenty of cheat codes, available here. Wolvix uses XFCE as its desktop environment.
So today I am using my old test machine, AMD athlon 2600+ XP, 1 Gig RAM, 64 Meg ATI 7200 with 15" LCD capable of 1024x768@75Hz
Booting is really fast and boasts of a grey theme. I likes the theme as it makes me remember the old days when computer monitors used to be black & while. The root password is toor and not mentioned anywhere on the login screen. I tried the password because I knew thats what slax uses.
The hard disk installer is currently in testing stage and can not be trusted much. It is located inside Wolvix control panel and there is no shortcut on the desktop. There are two installation methods, full and furgal. I tried out the full installation.
The installer is least intrusive and most helpful, it gives you an option to run gparted to make/resize partions on your hard drive. Six questions are asked by the installer; 1. Boot Device, 2. Root Partition, 3. (Optional) /home, 4. Swap, 5. Filesystem, 6. Install Grub, 7. Install. The installation process is really fast, it took approximately 5 mins to copy all the desired files to selected partion.
Once the installation is complete, it asks couple of questions. GUI Login or text login, Framebuffer required. Wolvix installer also identified other operating systems installed on the machine, but it could not successfully retreive their names. Also odly enough it gives an option by which user can skip the wolvix entry in grub. I think it is bad taste.
As mentioned earlier, the default theme is grey, and it is a nicely designed theme that does not extert strain on eyes. The menus are all colored and look really great. The whole wolvix theme is one continuous theme and everythings seems to be though over very well.
System utilization is shown on the desktop, blended with the wallpaper. This display can also be turned on an off selectively.
The applications are selected keeping a average desktop user in mind. For normal accessories, catfish, gnome commander, medit, Xpad are really good choices. XFCE does not have a samba viewer, but gnome commander acts as a really good samba viewer, I just wonder why did I not use it till now on XFCE based systems.
Bluefish editor, kompozer, meld diff viewer, scite are available to development realated activities. Some games are also included, along with couple of standard graphics applications. There is huge set of multimedia applications; dvd::rip, vlc media player, kino, mplayer, xine, gtkpod, gpodder podcast client and more.
For internet related applications; firefox, thunderbird, dillo, pidgin, phNeighbourhood, wifi radar are also included. Seeing all the mozilla related stuff I wonder why a lot of distributions leave out sunbird; its a calendar application from mozilla and really a good one. Open Office is installed for application with all the variants. I remember someone lately blogged that open office is not equivalent to M$ Office as it does not include an equivalent of M$ Access. But I feel its not his fault as a lot of distributions leave out Open Office Base; which is included in the default installation.
Wolvix comes preloaded with all the codecs. MPlayer is the default application used for MP3 and windows media files. DVD also played flawlessly.
Wolvix does not come with any eye candy. And I think it goes well with the distro priorities. In my opinion wolvix is meant for older computer to provide excelent user interface.
According to the project website "Wolvix is a LiveDistro built from Slackware and the Linux-Live scripts. It's a desktop and multimedia oriented Linux distribution designed to suit the needs of regular to advanced desktop users."
I am not sure how will it work out for advanced desktop users, as lot of them will have preferences regarding KDE and GNOME. But for an average desktop perspective it is really great distro which runs really well on older computer.