Saturday, September 29, 2007

Foresight Linux 1.4 Review

A nice green appliance
According to the project website "Foresight Linux is a Distribution which showcases the latest and greatest version of the GNOME Desktop Environment and Foresight includes some of the more innovative and new software being built for Linux today, including Beagle , F-Spot , Avahi , and the latest HAL".

Foresight Linux 1.4 features the latest GNOME 2.20, which includes updates to Evolution Email and Calendar, Tomboy Notes, Power Manager, Epiphany Web Browser the GNOME Image Viewer, Eye of GNOME and more. It also features the latest Conary package manager and an updated GTK theme.

Foresight is currently ranked #32 at Distrowatch.
Test Machine
I have switched to another Machine. Now I am having a Pendtium D 2.8 GHz with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 7300GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor.

The whole point of specifying a test machine, is to give an idea about what I am using. It shall not be taken as minimum requirements.
In general, a processor that is more that 1GHz, a RAM more than 1GB and a separate graphics cards (preferably Nvidia) should be fine for majority of the distributions. A separate graphics card is required if you want to enjoy the eye candy, or if you have a wide screen monitor.

Foresight Linux does not come with a Live CD environment and you have to actually install foresight in order to see how it looks. After installation, the new user account is created via a dialog.

Foresight came up with 1280x1024@60Hz instead of native 1440x900@75Hz. The xorg.conf had mode lines for almost all the resolutions except 1440x900; closest was 1400x1050@75Hz. Also the resolution section was messed up. I was seeing resolutions like 1440x1440, 1280x1280 etc. On the brighter side, nv module was loaded (in earlier releases, vesa was loaded).

I commented out unnecessary mode lines and specified 1440x900 as the only resolution. After restarting X Server, it came up with a nice 1440x900@75Hz.

Foresight uses the Anaconda installer. It would be right to call it minimalistic anaconda, as some steps are removed. Installation was more or less same except for the fact that my wireless card was not detected.

Anaconda asks for the language, keyboard and allows you to configure partitions. It then asks for time zone, root password etc and starts the installation process. The installation process lasted for approximately 15 minutes.

I am fond of the color green, and the bright green used by Foresight is just fabulous and soothing. The theme is disconnected at some places, like the gnome splash screen in blue and no splash screen while booting. But overall, foresight scores high in this area.

Foresight comes with the latest and the greatest of almost all the stuff. The DVD image being 1.3 gig, allows a lot of applications to be installed by default. Foresight's user guide is also accessible from the main menu.

Standard accessories with search and tomboy notes are included. All gnome games are bundled as well. Gimp, Desktop Drapes and SVG vector illustrator are installed as part of the graphics package. Epiphany is the default browser along with Thunderbird, Firefox, Ekiga, Liferea, pidgin, openVPN and XChat. Latest OpenOffice 2.3 and evolution are installed for office applications. Banshree, Brasero, Totem and Last Exit are available under multimedia.

Foresight is having mono installed but the build tools(gcc g++ etc) are missing. Foresight uses a web interface for system administration. This requires more work, as some settings are duplicated, some are missing and some don't take effect before a reboot.

Foresight comes with conary package manager. It is supposed to be an evolutionary package manager from rPath, but I did not have too much luck with it. I wanted to install proprietary nvidia drivers and thus issued "sudo conary nvidia". Conary downloaded around 6 meg of binary file and then failed while installing it. The error message clearly stated that it was a bug in conary and I should file a bug report. I wanted to give conary a second try and fired the same command again. Conary started to download 6 meg again! Come on, I just downloaded the non-corrupt package, why can't an advanced package manager identify that?

Foresight has an out of box support for almost all types of media. I was able to play WMV and MP3 files. I also enjoyed watching DVDs.

Eye Candy
Foresight comes with latest compiz fusion. A system tray icon is included for the same. All the beryl configurations are available. But because of the lack of proprietary nvidia drivers I was unable to test it.

CD has a limit of 700 meg. Once a distribution has crossed this limit and has moved on to a DVD format, the distribution can go on a wild package hunting. And Foresight should look around and see some more useful packages to include by default. Build tools, drivers, IDEs are a few recommendations.

Foresight is really great for seeing the latest gnome; one can show off the bleeding edge desktop. Foresight also has a great out of box experience. Foresight is having a great theme and is quite user friendly. I would recommend it to every one, coming to me, asking for which Linux to start with.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Linux Mint 3.1 Review

Great Vision, Great prospects, but losing some it somewhere in the crowd.
Mint Linux is a buntu derivative. According to the project website; "Linux Mint's purpose is to produce an elegant, up to date and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution". Mint Linux is currently ranked #6, on distrowatch. Celena (codename for Linux Mint 3.1) boasts about mintAssistant, mintUpload, proprietary drivers, plug-ins, stability, performance and usability.

Test Machine
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 19" wide screen monitors which supports 1440x900@75Hz.

Like Ubuntu, mint offers a live CD environment where you can see how the distribution works on your computer before actually installing it. On my machine live CD booted at 1280x1024@60Hz instead of native 1440x900@75Hz. The live CD environment seemed too slow to me. The new artwork introduced with Celena was with black theme and looked nice.

One point I would like to mention is about the drivers. Mint boasts about proprietary drivers but nvidia graphics drivers are missing from the selection. Module nv was configured for my nvidia graphics card and thus native 3D support was missing. I tried to manually change the driver in xorg.conf, but xorg refused to start because nvidia module was not installed. Finally I have to manually install proprietary drivers for nvidia. This is somethings that needs to be looked at by the distribution developers

The installer is the same 6 step installer used by Ubuntu. And I personally feel that the installer is bloatted and does unnecessary operation that seem to make you feel that your computer is slow and outdated. But this is rant is directed to Ubuntu instead of Mint.

The installation process is fast took around 15 minutes to finish and comparatively fast. On first boot user is shown mintAssistant.

I was really exited about it but was greatly disappointed . The number of configurations for a new machine are enormous but only three options are provided by mintAssistant, namely root password, disk configuration and fortune. I feel that all these options are extremely irrelevant. sudo is far better, nobody cares how the disks are managed (as long as they see the contents) and fortune is stress reliever.

I really liked the earlier blue theme found in Mint. But now with new black wallpaper and green logo, I feel really bad about the looks. Its good to stick to two colors at max, otherwise the theme feels disconnected.

The first thing to notice is custom application launcher. The launcher is well organized and easy to use.

Being a single CD installation distribution, the application set is limited and oriented to a desktop user. Tomboy notes is a noticeable addition to Accessories. Gimp is present for image manipulation. The latest version of firefox, thunderbird, sunbird, pidgin, java runtime are installed by default. Open Office version installed is the outdated 2.2.0. instead of 2.2.1 or latest 2.3.0.

Multimedia I was able to watch videos, DVDs. and listen to music.

Eye Candy
Both Beryl and Compiz are installed be default, leading for more confusion for a novice. come on guys even beryl and compiz agreed to merge back why are we still having them differently in Mint?

The default configuration for xorg crashes beryl and you have to manually edit xorg.conf to add special parameters in order to make beryl work. I think it will be long time before we actually see a distribution with runs beryl/compiz out of box.

Version 3.1 is supposed to be minor update over 3.0, but even the kernel remains the same. With gibbon around the corner users would have been more happy with a new version based on gutsy. The changes made in Celena do no warrant a new version. Why does mint need to frequent releases? Have a better release plan for Mint. Mint needs more focused efforts.

I have to admit that Mint is one of the most beginner friendly distribution out there. It is the only distribution that I installed on my dad's machine and he is really happy with it.

But with the current release I feel that Mint is getting derailed. It is emphasizing on frivolous decorations instead on usability. Mint has a great vision and have fulfilled it so far; it reached the distrowatch top ten. It just need to make sure that good work continues.

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