Vector Linux 6.0 Gold – Review and Screenshots

Vector Linux is a popular Linux Distro whose motto is “speed, performance, stability”.

Version 6.0 was released in February 2009.  Their stated goal is to “Keep it simple, keep it small and let the end user decide.”  Having said that, this end user decided to see what was cooking at Vector.

Xfce Desktop – GNOME packages

The modest but pleasant Xfce Desktop is complemented with a nice array of GNOME packages.

Download

The 700 MB ISO download directly from their website http://vectorlinux.com/downloads was fast and without incident.

Vector also offers a deluxe version, which includes installation support and costs $22.99, available for purchase online at their website  (Note: We are not associated with Vector in any way).

Vector also comes in a KDE version.  The Xfce version reviewed here is targeted at the power user and at users with older hardware looking for a fast Linux that will work without bells and whistles.

Tricky Installation

There is no live CD, so you’ll have to install Vector Linux to begin testing its capabilities.  The installation screens are pretty straight forward for active linux users.  First-timers and users new to Linux may find the installation a bit daunting.  Vector has been around for about 10 years, and the process is polished, however, it’s roots are in Slackware (A Linux distro for advanced users), and it sometimes shows.

Install 3

Most of the questions should be familiar to users who have installed Windows, such as configuring your time zone and language.  You will have to configure a Linux partition on which to install the OS.  There is an automatic configuration option for those who find it too confusing to configure it manually.

Pleasant Desktop, Nice Selection of Installed Apps

Desktop
Desktop

Installed internet browsers include Sea Monkey, Opera, and Firefox.

Open Office is not installed on the basic version (it is included in the Deluxe edition). Instead you’ll have Gnumeric Spreadsheet, Abiword, and Calendar.

Multimedia includes the great VLC player, Mplayer, Xine, XMMS, and others.

Configure your system with the VASM Control Center.

Gallery of Screenshots

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Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux – Review and Screenshots

Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux is the newest release (June 30) from the popular Gentoo-based Linux distro.

Sabayon aims to be a beginner-friendly distribution.   Their motto -“as easy as an abacus, as fast as a segway” offers a lot of promise.    Sabayon is also available in a KDE 4.1 version.

The 1.8 GB file can be downloaded from their website or from approved mirrors, and a fast torrent.  I chose the 64 bit torrent and had completed the download in just over 1 hour.

What’s with the Rock Concert?

We booted the Live DVD and had Sabayon up and running in a couple minutes (the DVD drive did spin endlessly for another few minutes).  The desktop launched, and a rock song started playing.  I can assume the name was “Hall of Fame”, since that refrain was repeated over and over again.  I don’t mind rock music, in fact, I’m a big fan, but I don’t understand why a OS should start with a full song?  I’m assuming this is only for the Live DVD – maybe regular users can comment here with specifics.

The desktop is beautiful.  They employ user-friendly Entropy graphical interface.  You almost forget that you are in Gnome.  Put differently, this is not the Gnome that your father used to drive.

Desktop
Desktop

Sabayon is one of the most popular Linux distros, in 9th place at  http://distrowatch.com. Their 117,000 Alexa rating shows that they have decent traffic to their website.  You can see why when  you pop open the hood.  The website is gorgeous.

World of Goo Fiasco

I tried to run the Goo demo and evidently my graphics card didn’t support it.  After a minute of wobbly screens, I managed to ctrl-alt-bksp  and get to a prompt to return to the X desktop.   Of course, I had to do some sleuth work to figure out the the username was sabayonuser and the password is the same (small letters).    Meanwhile, the music of the Goo demo, reminiscent of the Spiderman movies, was still playing in the background.  I pulled up a status monitor and saw that the Goo demo was still taking over 50% cpu.  After killing that item, everything went back to normal.

Fabulous XBMC Media Center

The Sabayon folks really hit it on the nail with this one.  The media center, which figures prominently on your desktop, is simply wonderful.  XBMC Media Center gets a full thumbs up and reminds me a bit of the new Windows 7 Media Player.  Essentially, it puts all your media needs in one place.  It organizes and plays videos, music, pictures, and also displays weather for your location, and more.

XBMC Media Center Screen
XBMC Media Center Screen

Package Selection

The installed pacakges are more or less what you’d expect.  Open office, graphics, email, Firefox, etc…  They’ve included Bluefish in the programming section, and I think that’s a great selection.

Desktop Features

I clicked on the lock user button on the bottom toolbar and after a few tries, figured out that the password is the same as the user  (sabayonuser).

Lock Screen
Lock Screen

Gnome Do – this nifty tool helps you to select and open your installed apps very quickly.  I’ve noticed that most of the newer distros are including this app.  Strange that Ubuntu omitted it from 9.x.

Mounting a drive was never easier with the helpful drive mount buttons on the bottom of the screen.

Mount Drive
Mount Drive

Sabayon Shines on Graphics and Themes

One of the nice diffrentiating factors that Sabayon has Compix Fusion Icon integrated nicely to the desktop, which offers a whole boatload of screen and theme effects.

Compiz Fusion Icon
Compiz Fusion Icon

Screenshot Gallery

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Puppy Linux 4.2 – Super Fast Linux – Quick Review and Screenshots

The Fastest Linux Ever?

Puppy Linux is a popular Linux distribution that runs on less than 128MB of Ram.

We reviewed the June 2009 release v.4.2 of Puppy Linux, which comes in a 110 MB file download from their website, or from accepted mirrors.   The iso file is then burnt to CD and runs as a Live CD.  After installing the Live CD into RAM, I experienced my HP Laptop (2GB RAM) run faster than I’ve ever seen with any other OS or Linux Distro.

Bootup is fast and intelligent

The bootup sequence asks a few questions, such as if it has detected your mouse and keyboard correctly. It also gives you a chance to select, and preview, a suitable display for your monitor.  Lastly, you are given the choice of which X Server to load – bare-bones,Xvesa (Standard Graphics), or the recommended default Xorg (Advanced Graphics). The desktop environment is JWM, which is intuitive and well-organized.

Feel the Speed of RAM

Once you have reached the desktop screen, your entire session has been loaded into less than 128MB of RAM on your computer.  Your hard drive and CD ROM drives are not touched (unless you save files to them).  If you haven’t experienced it yet, you must feel the power of a computer running on RAM.  There’s no delays.  No skipped beats.  The nerve center of your computer asks almost human-like, action – response –  Scary!

Desktop Layout

Everything is very nicely placed on your desktop.  A lot of thought must have gone into where to put what elements.  The left top side of the screen has quick link icons, with a gadget that makes it easy to drag additional icons to the desktop.  The right side of the screen is for widgets, and has a gadget to choose and add from dozens of available widgets.

Puppy Linux Initial Desktop
Puppy Linux Initial Desktop

Wireless Network Support

I ran Puppy Linux on my HP Laptop and was able to connect, after several minutes of tinkering, to a secure wireless network.  This was one of the few kinks in the Puppy Distro.  I clicked on the Connect icon on the desktop and had to repeat the steps of scanning for and connecting to a wireless network several times until I got it to work.  The average user may have given up after a couple tries.

Repository

Like every great Linux Distro, Puppy Linux has its own repository PET. When you want to add new packages, you can do so through the package manager, or just GET PET  – what an infectious phrase.  The thin-client targeted default installation comes with hundreds of very useful apps.  The repository gives you access to much of everything else.  Tough decisions on which packages to include (or exclude) in order to keep away from product bloat are discussed on the Puppy Linux website.  For example, Sea Monkey is the default browser, and the Sea Monkey email package comes installed.   The website FAQ explains the difference between Sea Monkey (by Mozilla) and Firefox means a savings of over 40 MB, which is required to get everything in to the target RAM budget.

Great for Network Clients

Puppy Linux is suitable for thin-clients, and can be booted from a network, USB Flash key or hard drive (buy why?).  There’s a nifty setup menu that gives you step by step instructions on how to install Puppy Linux on to your USB Flash drive.

Save configuration to your CD

One of the nice features of Puppy Linux is that you never have to touch a hard drive, and can even keep all your settings and added files to the original live CD.  The program writes the changes since your last session to a file that contains an EXT2 file format onto another session of your Multi-Session CD.

Or you can simply write your files to a USB or Hard Drive, and keep files the “old-fashioned” way.  As strange as it sounds, your Multi-Session CD is still probably the best archival system out of the three choices.

Look and Feel

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Ultimate Edition Linux 2.2 vs. Ubuntu – Quick Review and Screenshots

Ultimate Edition 2.2 was released on June 17. It’s the latest salvo from TheeMahn, creator of this popular distro of Linux. Ultimate Edition was originally released in late 2007 to be Ubuntu with a “better user experience and with improved usability.” In the releases since, they have broken from Ubuntu and actually have created their own repository .

Like Ubuntu, Ultimate Edition is Gnome based. TheeMahn also built Ubuntu Gamers Edition, and it shows in Ultimate Edition (UE). Ultimate Edition has software pre-installed and ready for use on a live DVD environment.

Slow to load, Gamer appearance
We reviewed the live DVD x64 version. The file was 1.1 GB and downloaded  quickly from one of their mirror sites.  They do recommend you seed this file as a torrent afterwards to help distribution and to enable UE to continue to be offered  for free.

The DVD loaded to the desltop environment after a couple minutes of considerable churning.
Here’s the default desktop

Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop
Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop

First impressions are that it’s a gamers distro.  I can’t imagine business users embracing a mouse cursor of a rotating fighter jet (at least that’s what I think it was).

Here’s a gallery of screenshots for all the menus and installed software

There is a healthy helping of installed programs.  There aren’t 2,500 programs as we saw in the “uber” linux version of ArtistX, but there is definitely a good mix, with emphasis on sound and video, and graphics.  UE also comes packaged with some non-licensed video tools,  such as Handbrake.  Although Ubuntu doesn’t offer some of these tools out of the box, and sometimes not in their official repositories, there is such a large Ubuntu user-community, that often you’re only a few clicks away from adding anything that you can’t find at first try.

UE comes with a large assortment of backgrounds and Gnome themes.  That may account for the bloat in the size of the file download, as the installed base of programs is not too different that what is available out of the box for Ubuntu.

UE backgrounds ultimate edition linux

Conclusion

Ultimate Edition has done a good job with deskop design, and offers a great number of themes and background to further tailor to your individual needs.  The initial default setup looks childish and is geared more towards a young adult gamer group.  The product set of installed programs was very good, but we didn’t see an amazing jump over what’s available out of the box from its mentor, Ubuntu.   The usability was good, but not a great diffrentiator to give up the comfort of the solid Ubuntu distro with the large installed user base.

For users looking for a “different distro”  than Ubuntu/Kubuntu, we recommend trying out Mandriva Dream Linux, ArtistX, and MintLinux (click for reviews).

ArtistX Linux 0.7 – An Ubuntu Alternative – Review & Screenshots

ArtistX 0.7 http://www.artistx.org/site2/

ArtistX is touted as a “free multimedia live Gnu/Linux distribution for audio, 2D and 3D graphics and video”.  It’s based on Ubuntu (Intrepid 8.10) with Gnome and KDE desktops and featured literally 2,500 software packages in the media, graphics, and video space.  In fact, ArtistX claims to have included all currently available Linux software in the multimedia space, and therefore can turn your computer into a full multimedia production studio.

When I read the blurb from their website, my initial reaction was, why not just stick with Ubuntu and toss in whatever apps from their distro looked interesting.  For starters,  how much time would it take you to carefully select and add 2,500 new apps (many that are not available on the Ubuntu repositories)?  There is an amazing number of useful tools all packaged up nicely here into one distro.  Have a look at the gallery below to see the screenshots of the menu categories.

Here’s the main desktop.

Artisitx Desktop

Pleasant, neat, very Gnome…  The desktop background is a bit too much in my opinion, but we get the idea of what they are trying to accomplish.   ArtistX has a KDE desktop as well, but the real action here is in the multimedia packages.

Live DVD

The download is about 3.3 GB, which I decided to take from the Torrent listed on their website.  The iso file download is then burned to a DVD, and voila, you have a Live DVD to either run ArtistX or install to your USB drive without ever touching your hard drive.

Is ArtistX the Uber Linux?

The menu structure is very pleasant, and well organized.  It’s actually easier to use than Ubuntu.  Considering the large number of applications to choose from, you can see that they gave a lot of thought as to how to display them and make it easy to access all your favorite (and never seen before) tools.

This distro really has a lot of good things going on.  ArtistX is based on Ubuntu (which itself is based on Debian), so you know you’re starting with a solid base.  The polish of the site is evident.  Likewise, they have compiled an enormous amount of software tools into one flavor of Linux.  It would take many days (and weeks) to go through all of the thousands of tools included in ArtistX.

Despite their ‘calling card’, ArtistX is not just about an enormous number of graphical and multimedia tools.  Have a look at the Games and Education section.  It looks like they tossed in Edubuntu as well.  There’s also about 50 internet tools, 30 office tools, 40 programming tools, and needless to say, a seemingly unending number of graphics, sound, and media tools.

Conclusion

ArtistX is still in the early stages and may not be your workhorse desktop distro just yet (they are still on v.0.70), but there’s a great potential here.  If you are interested in using Linux as your multimedia workstation, then you’ll definitely want to give it a try.  The only question that I have is, what can they add for the next release, since everything is already included!

Mint Linux 7 Quick Review and Screenshots

Mint Linux 7 (Gloria) http://www.linuxmint.com/

Mint Linux promises to be an elegant and easily updateable distro.  Originating from Ireland, it was launched as a variant to Ubuntu (which is based on Debian) and has quickly become one of the most popular flavors of Linux available.  The two great assets of Mint Linux are that everything works out of the box, and that it’s simply gorgeous.

Let’s have a look…

Mint Linux - Login Screen

The intro screen offers a nice clean look and easy to understand access to login and session management.

mint2

The welcome screen features quick links to version information and a PDF user guide.

mint3

I like the Menu, Gnome based, but much easier to navigate.  You have all your favorite applications neatly arranged to select.

mint4

Or page through all your installed applications with a brief description of what each one does.

Package inclusion

The installed application is more or less what you’d expect.  Aside from the Ubuntu/Debian ‘usuals’,
they have included Gimp and Thunderbird.  You are always just an install away from adding any other package, so we won’t dwell on what’s missing.

Conclusion

Mint Linux is a clean and very usable Linux Distro.  Knowing that it’s based on Ubuntu means that you should have no problems with package support and sustainability going forward.  The layout and interface is clean and easy, and the menu structure is particularly straightforward.

Samurai Linux – Review Screenshots – Web Testing Framework

Samurai Linux – Testing for security, penetration, and reconnaissance

The Samurai distro is available as a Live CD and it comes with the a gob of testing tools for security and applications.  Samurai is Gnome-based and has a pleasant, yet simple, interface.  The real wealth of this distro is in the number of security and testing related apps pre-installed.

Reconnaissance Tools Fierce domain scanner and Maltego.

Mapping Tools WebScarab and ratproxy.

Discovery Tools w3af and burp.

Exploitation BeEF, AJAXShell, etc…

Th Live CD comes with a pre-configured wiki that you can set up to be the central information store during your pen-test.

The Gnome Menu creation tool is installed, so you can rearrange the menus to your own liking.

Wine is also pre-installed with none other than the venerable Windows Notepad.  Interesting.

Conclusion

If you are doing extensive app security testing, or like to hack in your spare time, this distro is what dreams are made of.  If you are look for eye-popping graphics and nifty graphics, try a different flavor of Linux.

Gallery of Samurai Linux Screen Shots

samurai1

samurai2

samurai3

samurai4

samurai5

samurai6

Dreamlinux 3.5 Quick Review and Screenshots

Dreamlinux 3.5 is a Debian (Lenny 5.0) based popular Linux distro from Brazil.

Dreamlinux can be run directly from a CD/DVD/USBStick or to a Hard drive. Dreamlinux comes with a selection of the best applications designed to meet most of your daily needs.  Dreamlinux ships with the XFCE desktop, which is pleasant and easy to navigate.

This distro is really suited for a USB disk on key install, and the installation disk offers several easy step installations depending on your intended media (USB, CD, Hard drive, etc…).

In pursuit of the perfect Linux Distro

The folks at Dreamlinux have a goal, to make a distro where ‘dreams can come true’.  The idea is to take a solid core Linux distro, Debian, make it look pretty, add the coolest and most-needed apps, then make it easy to install to just about anything.

The distro lives up to the magic of easy to distribute and pretty looks.  As for the most-needed or best apps, I guess that’s a matter of personal preference.  I for one would have liked to see Gimp, for example.  But then again, with Linux, you are always just an install away from your favorites that may have been left out from the start.

Bottom line

Dreamlinux is a good distro and looks great.  Do they have the stamina for udpates and consistency of the larger distros?  Maybe users with more experience on this distro can chime in here.

Let’s take a walk through the OS with screenshots.

Dreamlinux 3.5 login screen
Dreamlinux 3.5 login screen

Nothing fancy here, but wait, the good stuff is soon to come.

I’m running this in a virtual machine (VMWare) so you can see the VMware menus straddling some of these snapshots.

Dream Linux 3.5

Nice looking desktop with easy to navigate menus.  Here’s the Office menu.  No suprises here.

Dream Linux 3.5

A matter of personal taste.  Many users like the menu bar with the Mac look.  As you mouse over the icon enlarges to give the 3d effect.

Gallery of Screenshots

Here’s a gallery of screenshots, including the nifty compass that appears as the default homepage on the internet browser.


Slax 3.5 Minimal Linux KDE – Live CD – Quick Review & Snapshots

Continuing on my search for a Kubuntu replacement as I wrote about in my earlier post.

Slax 3.5 Minimal Live CD
Here’s a nice KDE 3.5 Linux distro with a minimal set of applications and only a 180 MB download. The Live CD took about 5 minutes to fully load and the CD was constantly churning throughout the entire time I demoed the product.

Since it’s a minimal distro, there’s no Gimp, no Firefox, no Open Office. Instead, you have Kplayer, Kopete, K3B, Konquerer, ,Konsole, Kword, Kspread, and Kpresent. Everything worked fine (except for the excessive CD churning).

The desktop is aesthetically pleasing with the tux background spread over the continents.  The menus are set pleasingly to the eyes.  The folks at Slax have decided not to jump to KDE 4 yet, and I think that’s a great move, until the kinks have been ironed out on the plasma desktop.

Although Slax was pleasing, it didn’t tickle my Linux bone enough to give up Ubuntu in my search for a Kubuntu replacement. The search continues…

Slax Live CD Screenshots


Open Suse KDE Live CD Quick Review – Snapshots

Looking for a KDE replacement for Kubuntu…

Open Suse KDE with Live CD

Novell has got this baby hopping and it’s a serious contender for the Kubuntu replacement that I’ve been searching. Although it’s running on KDE 4.1, they seem to have put the pieces together nicely.

Plasma Desktop – like it or not
The plasma desktop, which is the new interface for KDE 4, is one of the ‘like it or not’ kind of things.  I personally do not like it one bit.  The tab menus are confusing.  The lack of a simple “desktop” metaphor that we’ve become accustomed to, and the hokey clicking on arrows to get to sub menus, just doesn’t ‘do it’ for me.

Loading took a long time

Loading of the live CD took about 3 minutes, which seemed like forever.  The CD was quiet once the loading stopped.

Beautiful Desktop

The default desktop is a very pleasing green with nice menu colors.  The tools are all there as you’d expect.  No surprises.  You will have to install Gimp on your own.

Screenshots

Open Suse KDE 4 Screenshot
Open Suse KDE 4 Screenshot
Open Suse KDE 4 Tab Menus
Open Suse KDE 4 Tab Menus