More Information on the developer site.
Puppy Arcade – Have your Puppy Linux and Play Games too (with awesome speed)!
We’ve been singing the praises of Puppy Linux (Review) for some time now. We love to hear about applications and new ways to use this great and fast linux distribution.
Scott Jarvis sent us info on his just released Puppy Arcade 5, a Puppy Linux flavor with a retro video game emulation based on TurboPup Xtreme (arguably the fastest Puppy derivative). Thanks to Scott, you can now download the Puppy distro along with a ton of game emulators. These tiny game emulators, such as Amiga, Atari, Nintendo, and many others, are very suitable for a compact distro like Puppy. Many of the emulators were written over 20 years ago, but they still serve up a good time. This is an especially great experience for those of us who lived through the “Frogger” days.
Download & Installation
Ever need a quick and free tool for accessing a non-responsive computer? Have you wanted an easy way to partition multiple drives with a simple graphical tool? Do you like running Linux from RAM? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you’ll want to give this nifty tool a closer look.
Parted Magic has an extensive (but not exhaustive) collection of file system tools. The top features set on their website includes:
Format internal and external hard drives. Move, copy, create, delete, expand & shrink hard drive partitions. Clone your hard drive, to create a full backup. Test hard drives for impending failure. Test memory for bad sectors. Benchmark your computer for a performace rating. Securely erase your entire hard drive, wiping it clean from all data. Gives access to non-booting systems allowing you to rescue important data.
Parted Magic is available on Source Forge which is linked from their website Download Page.
This handy tool comes in several flavors and can be installed from a CD, USB drive, PXE, and as a Grub tool. We took the iso file and installed it on a Live CD. The filesize was ~72MB and downloaded very quickly (from Sourceforge).
Parted Magic booted without a hitch and almost instantly. The welcome screen offers several choices, including (our selected method) running the entire tool in RAM. The RAM load took about 20 seconds and the CD was ejected. Our Linux machine was now running in RAM and was super-de-duper fast. It felt like sitting in a Porsche. You know something good is going to happen.
The desktop is clean and spartan. There are no applications installed other than what you’ll need for file and disk management. The desktop does include a menu with quick access to all the available tools, and a terminal shell for command line queries.
We tested some disk management and format tasks, and even checked the installed memory on the host computer. Parted Magic was fast and worked flawlessly.
Parted Magic includes an assortment of tools to make your disk partitioning and file management go as painlessly as possible. Installed tools include the partitions editor, and a smart control utility that really takes out the guesswork in salvaging or partitioning drives. I liked the nice mounted devices display window for easy control of which drives should be mounted in any session. Check out the gallery of screenshots below for a recap of all the installed tools. The main menu includes these sub menu categories: graphics, internet, system tools, and accessories. Parted Magic also includes GPic View, for quick graphics and images viewing.
As we say for all our best distro reviews, unless you have the marketing muscle of RedHat or Novel, or the grass roots popularity of Ubuntu, if you want to stand out among the many dozens of available distros, you really need to have a niche. Parted Magic serves a niche, and it does it’s stated job marvelously. The installation and running of Parted Magic worked flawlessly, and super-fast. If you have disk formatting or testing tasks and you can’t accomplish them from your already installed OS, Parted Magic is the way to go.
An Instant Home Server
SLAMPP 2.0 is a “simple solution for home server” based on Zenwalk 6.0 and using the Slackware package repository. Slampp is released as a Live DVD that can also be installed on your hard drive. Slampp claims to enable users to install an ‘instant home server’. Slampp v.2.0 – (Kalinda) was released on July 28, 2009.
Slampp download mirrors – The 1.9 GB download went rather smoothly. Slampp currently has a handful of mirror sites, and I expect that will grow as the popularity of the distro increases.
The live DVD booted up but didn’t recognize my keyboard at first, and went to a default boot after 30 seconds. The installation is the same as Zenwalk, and if you are familiar with that distro, you will feel at home here. The installation asks you if you need to install any proprietary software drivers. I said No, and the computer hang. I then rebooted, got to that screen again, and said Yes, and the installation continued with the X11 session manager. After about 3 minutes, the Xfce desktop appeared.
Slampp looks alot like Zenwalk, which makes sense, since it’s based upon it. The Xfce 4 desktop is clean and quite easy to navigate. Slampp is loaded with many installed packages (see gallery screenshots) which adds to the bulk of the download.
The quick launch menu bar at the bottom center is user-friendly and there are quick luanch icons on the left bottom for network settings and file manager. Slampp borrows much of its good looks from Zenwalk, and its power from Slackware – both of which are worthy bases from which to draw.
Who Needs This? New users or webmasters?
Slampp’s website says this distro is intended for first-time Linux users to experience a non-Windows OS from the Live DVD. However, the headline of the website is that Slampp is for an easy home server implementation.
Those two goals seem to collide. Most Windows users looking for a Linux joy-ride would not also want to implement a server from a live-DVD. It seems like they are trying to cater to two distinct user types.
I was initially turned on to the easy home server setup concept. I was somewhat dismayed to realize what that meant is there are server tools in the networking section. I did not see the expected quick-link icon on the desktop telling first-time users to click on this button to “Create a Home Server”.
Slampp is like Zenwalk on steroids. This is a 1.8GB download, and they’ve stuffed a whole bunch of packages into this distro that aren’t usually added due to size restrictions. The networking section is loaded with server tools, such as SSH server, NX Session Admin, DHCP server, etc… The application toolset it filled with goodies, including a full open office installation.
Gallery of Screenshots
CrunchBang – Fast Linux with Many Customization Options
CrunchBang Linux 9.04 is an Open-Box distro based on Ubuntu with Gnome packages. CrunchBang promises performance and ultimate customization options. Version 9.04.01 was released a couple weeks ago, and we decided to give it a test drive.
CrunchBang Standard vs. Lite
CrunchBang is offered in standard and lite packages for both 32 and 64 bit machines.
The CrunchBang Standard iso files are approximately 620 -675MB, and downloaded quickly from their download mirror pages. The Lite files are ~420MB in size. The major difference between these two versions is the number of packages installed. We tested the Standard version.
Installation and First Impressions
The Live CD loads rather quickly and the screen you are brought to is reminiscent of a warehouse or old hangar that needs a good coat of paint.
Who says looks are everything? We Linux users have become too accustomed to flashy backgrounds, 3-D and animated objects. At the end of the day, how much do we really need them, and don’t they sometimes just get in the way?
CrunchBang takes the minimalist approach to graphics. After a short period of adjustment (like walking into a dark room from the outdoors), things seem to fall in to place and CrunchBang shows just how efficient it really is. All your favorite programs are a keystroke or two away. Simplicity can be very efficient, especially when the desktop is in order. Your main menu is opened with a mouse click, where you’ll find the full assortment of menu items and important system functions. There’s even a handy ‘map’ of quick access functions on the right top side, which you can memorize before changing the desktop background to your favorite Penguin photo.
Super Key – Huh?
In case you are wondering what the heck is the ‘super key’ used for quick access to many programs and functions, they are referring to the “Windows” key found on most modern keyboards, usually next to the Ctrl button.
We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of packages included in the Standard version. Instead of Open Office, you get Gnumeric and Abi Word. You can always add Open Office later.
Sound and Video is fortified with VLC, Audactiy, and Rythym Box, all which are missing from the standard Ubuntu lineup, but are welcome additions. They’ve also included a bunch of video and sound editors, something for everyone.
For internet browsing and email, you get Firefox and Claws Mail (we’re seeing this lineup in more and more distros these days).
Graphics packages include Gimp and a host of other design tools.
The package selection is quite extensive for a live CD installation.
Speed and Performance
As promised, CrunchBang is fast. There’s little graphics to get in the way, and that’s fine for most people. You have quick access to your tools with the handy-dandy menu popup. The default desktop displays memory and CPU usage, so you can easily keep tabs on your PC’s performance.
Flexible Configuration – OpenBox
Here’s where CrunchBang shines. OpenBox is like taking an easel and paint and being given carte blanche to define your desktop configuration. OpenBox is not for folks who want an easy configuration tool. If you do want complete control and options to change just about how everything looks and functions on your desktop, then OpenBox is for you.
CrunchBang was wise to use Ubuntu’s repository. There’s (just about) everything you need under the sun waiting to be installed from the handy package manager.
Gallery of Screenshots
Linpus Linux is a Fedora based distro that was designed to support the Asian market with Unicode support. However, Linpus is available in English, as well as several other languages, from their website. The Linpus Linux Lite version reviewed here is designed to be a simple to use and low memory usage for the Netbook and light-computer user community. Some Acer Netbooks come pre-installed with Linpus Lite.
The version reviewed here, Linpus Lite 9.4, was released in December 2007. Many of the installed packages are outdated, however once you’ve installed the OS, you can easily update any required application by accessing the RPM Repository.
Linpus Lite came as a 700 MB download from their website. We had to jump through a few pages to get to the actual download file. The download itself was quick and the bootup for the Live CD installation was quick and painless. After the OS loaded, the initial desktop display is in simple-mode. After the initial loading, we did not experience any CD churning including during heavier memory tasks, such as loading Open Office and Firefox.
Linpus Lite is actually two Linux OS in one. There’s simple mode, which is easy enough for children and total computer newbies to navigate, and the more standard Fedora desktop which is fine for most users. We liked the choices provided, and the simplicity of the setup in both environments.
The Simple mode is super-intuitive. There are five menu tabs on top, each opening a new screen of applications represented by big icons in squares. The layout is not only pretty, but also very functional. I did not see a way to add or edit the icons or paths to the quick links. That would further add to the usefullness of this menu structure.
The Full mode is actually a full-power Fedora Desktop. If you never knew that the simple mode existed, Linpus would exist in its own right as a capable Fedora-based distro.
There’s a little icon on the bottom left corner toggles between the simple and full modes.
This section is a bit dated since this distro version was launched in late 2007. The aging Open Office 2.2 and Firefox 2.0 are shining examples of packages that require immediate updating once you’ve got the OS running. The good news is that with Synaptics Package Manager, you can select the afore-mentioned RPMs and easily update, as well as install everything Fedora has to offer.
Gallery of Screenshots
Zenwalk 6.01 is a Linux Distro that aims to modern, user-friendly, and fast.
They offer four versions for download on their website:
- Standard desktop OS
- Core version – for minimal installation. This can be used as a server, or as a starting point for desktop users to then install whatever packages they need rather than going with a standard installation.
- Live Edition (reviewed here) – Try out Zenwalk Linux from your CD drive without installing to your hard drive. Includes a full complement of programming tools, disk and partitioning management, and more.
- Gnome Edition – Gnome Desktop installation.
Download and Install
Developers love Zenwalk. It’s fast but has frills too. We downloaded the Live CD iso file, which was approx 687MB, one of the larger Live CD distro downloads we’ve seen thusfar. The download was quick and painless.
The live CD boots quickly and without problems. The default Xfce desktop is clean and easy on the eyes. There’s a handy menu bar at the bottom for quick links to most used items. The menu tree expands from a start button on the top left of the screen. We instinctively knew where all elements and items were to be found since everything was placed exactly where you’d expect.
It Ain’t Fancy, But It Works Well
Zenwalk follows the Mies Vander Roe school of thought that “Less is More.” There are few gadgets and widgets to get in your way here. Lack of fancy does not equal a reduction in usefullness. Zenwalk Live CD comes installed with a full aray of your favorite Linux apps, with a nice and well fortified repository for you to add more programs after installation.
Zenwalk focuses on a modular approach to application processing, while allowing only one application per task. This modular processing approach makes things work fast! Many users have configured Zenwalk in its minimal state (core download) and use it as a thin client or fast server for gaming or application handling.
The Live CD comes with a fine assortment of installed applications. Development tools included are Heany and Hex editor. For graphics, Gimp is installed along with Evince. Multimedia tools include Brasero for CD/DVD burning, Exaile, Media Player, and others. The full Open Office 3.0 package is installed (which you’d expect with a nearly 700 MB download). Zenwalk shines with a nice list of network tools, including SSH and VNC browsers, Icedove, Iceweasel, Pidgin, Bittorent, and more. See screenshots for the Live CD menus.
Gallery of Screenshots
Zenwalk 6.01 Live CD is a worthy distro for users looking for a straightforward and fast OS with access to a full range of apps, particularly for the developer community. Zenwalk is on version 6, which attests to its longevity, and for good reason. Zenwalk (formerly minislack) has a dedicated community who actively participates in the forums on their website. The fast Xfce desktop coupled with a good smattering of installed apps and an full repository makes Zenwalk a good choice for many Linux users. There’s always room for a distro that just works.
Xubuntu is Ubuntu’s official “Lite” version. Their tagline “Linux for human beings” sort of makes me chuckle – as if the other flavors of unix are for monkees and aliens? Xubuntu has set out to do what a number of comparable distros are also vying for, ‘the minimalist’ side of Linux. They claim that Xubuntu is “that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, document and spreadsheet editing software, instant messaging and much more.” We set out to see for ourselves.
Being that Ubuntu is a big organization, the download mirrors for Xubuntu are quite vast. Xubuntu 9.04 is a ~600 MB file and downloads rather quickly assuming you choose a nearby mirror.
For a lite distro, I was hoping for a much faster installation. From start to finish, the install took nearly 45 minutes. There may have been specific hardware factors that slowed it down, but the installer never complained, it just took a lot of time.
Our reviews of other “lite” distros have proven to be much quicker to install. The amount of install screens and questions to be answered is the same for Xubuntu than for example, Mepis, and Vector, yet both of those distros installed in a fraction of the time that Xubuntu required.
The Xfce desktop is neat and clean. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but the things you need are readily available. Xubuntu is meant to be a “lite” version of Linux, and on that promise they deliver.
You’re a click away from the Firefox browser and your file manager. The folks at Xubuntu settled on Mozilla’s Thunderbird for your email client. This is an interesting selection since although Thunderbird is quick and competent, and there are plenty of plug-ins to choose from, it is lacking the off-the-shelf integration with calendar and other desktop tools.
Xubuntu has a sparce smattering of installed apps. The heavy tools like Open Office and Gimp are missing, but what you are left with is just enough to get your work (and some play) done. By comparison, other lite-linux versions, like Puppy Linux, have foregone Firefox prefering the less-memory hogging Sea. Xubuntu lacks a comprehensive multi-media app, such as VLC Player, which is included with Vector Linux.
Vector Linux is a fair comparison to Xubuntu since it is targeting a similar user audience, and both distros have chosen the Xfce desktop. We liked the speed and power of Vector very much. Vector is built on the Slackware frame, whereas Xubuntu takes its roots from Debian. Vector’s installation went quicker, but it was bit less fool-proof than Xubuntu. Vector includes the useful VASM, for powerful configuration options in an easy format. The Vector landscape is filled with useful tools, while Xubuntu has only a few.
Puppy Linux is also a good distro to compare with Xubuntu. The Puppy runs exceptionally fast as the entire OS is loaded into the computer’s RAM at bootup. Puppy Linux manages to get everything done in only a 100MB download. The installation from a live CD is a cynch that any non-techie could easily accomplish. First-time Puppy users may get spoiled with the speed of their OS and never want to try another lite distro.
It boils down to user preference. There are many flavors of ice cream at the shop too, and they all seem to get eaten. There is a whole sub-category now of Linux distros for older machines and lite installations. Xubuntu is less of an invention in its own right, and more of an adaptation of Ubuntu.
Xubuntu Screenshots Gallery
Mepis 8.0 Linux is a Linux distro designed for ease of use and suitable even for beginners.
Mepis is built on Debian 5.0 stable core with the 2.6.27 Linux kernel and comes in a 32bit and 64bit version.
You can download from the Mepis mirror sites here.
Their motto is “SimplyMEPIS just works!” We decided to give it a try.
The installation disk includes a Live CD so you can try out Mepis before installing it to your hard drive.
KDE 3.5 vs. 4.1
Mepis has chosen to stay with the KDE Desktop 3.5 instead of moving up to the plasma-based 4.x that is already available on many KDE distros. The differences between 3.5 and 4.1 are major enough in function that Linux really looks and acts differently with each of them. I have written about my disappointment with the current KDE 4.x desktop in earlier posts, but some of our viewers have commented that the plasma desktop is a major improvement.
The makers of Mepis have probably stuck with 3.5 since it is ostensibly easier to use than the newer version, and Mepis has stated that it is dedicated to ease of use and simplicity. I think it was a good decision.
Desktop – First Impressions
The desktop is standard KDE 3.5. The bottom bar has a nice assortment of quick links and system tray information. It has a clean and pleasant display of menus and easy access to most-used elements. Nothing shouted out to differentiate Mepis from other simple distros.
The menus show software items by function with the package name in parentheses. For example, Ksnapshot is “Screen Capture Program (Ksnapshot)”.
Internet browsers include Firefox & Konquerer. The KDE Kmail program is installed along with Kontakt and Korganizer. For multimedia, Amarok is installed, as you’d expect in a KDE distro. Mepis also includes the Open Office tools for spreadsheet, word processing, and presentation.
As you’d expect for a beginner user-friendly distro, Mepis comes with its very own user manual. It’s actually quite useful. Some may consider this a gimmick since popular distros like Ubuntu have so much written documentation online and user forums, that you’re never far from an answer to any question even without a ‘manual’.
Gallery of Screenshots
WattOS Beta 3 is a lightweight Linux Distro geared towards running on less energy and for recycled or low power computers without compromising on features or performance that you’d expect from a full power system.
Their motto “Light, Fast, Now” seeks to provide a low-energy full featured Linux distro.
Beta 3 released this week, which includes a live CD version. Download the ISO file, burn the image to a CD, and reboot your PC to try a live version of WattOS before fully installing. The Live CD Beta 3 file was 527 MB and downloaded rather quickly.
The default user for the Live CD is “guest” and the password is Blank.
Ubuntu Light With Customizations
WattOS is based on Ubuntu 8.10 with Gnome Desktop. They claim to have remastered the OS to run quicker than standard Ubuntu and to require less memory. Therefore, WattOS would be a good candidate for older machines that want the benefits of Ubuntu but without the bulk.
The Live CD boots rather quickly. The LXDE Desktop looks quite spartan on WattOS. True, the download was only 527 MB, but there are some peculiar package choices, and others are missing or replaced with lesser known ones.
When running this distro, you have to keep in mind that it is still in beta. The look and feel is fine, but there are some rough edges.
They’ve clumped together browser tools and email into a Network section which includes Firefox browser and Claws Mail. Where’s Evolution? You’ll find Pidgin for instant messaging and Bit Torrent. There’s also a lightweight XSMBrowser.
The graphics menu includes Gimp, the Photoshop like graphics tool. The audio and video menu includes Movie Player, Brasero, and Exaile. The office section has Gnumeric spreadsheet and Abiword. You can add Open Office later if you’d like, but I’ve always found Gnumeric to run faster on older machines.
Missing were some basics such as a Snapshot tool, Okular for PDF, and calculator.
WattOS vs. Xubuntu
If you are looking for a lighter Ubuntu why not try out Canonical’s official distro for lightweight machines, Xubuntu?
WattOS promises to run with lower energy requirements. There are no tools aparent on the desktop or on the live CD that would validate the wattage output of the machine so that it could be compared with the standard Ubuntu or other Linux distros.
Gallery of Screenshots