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.