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Distro reviews

Zenwalk 6 – Gnome

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Zenwalk has always had the reputation as being a distro for the more seasoned Linux user, with the release of Zenwalk 6 Gnome, has this changed? Has this Slackware based distro taken the route of Ubuntu?  Short answer – not really, but then why should it?

Dont expect an Ubuntu or Fedora style installation process, who needs that anyway?

Dont expect an Ubuntu or Fedora style installation process, who needs that anyway?

Installation

If you are expecting an Ubuntu type experience here forget it and anyone with a phobia of the command line will panic the second they boot the ISO (although all that is needed is a harmless return key press)  That being said the basic menu system does offer the feature of automatic install, which is great for those who just want to dedicate their entire harddisk to Zenwalk and don’t want to “fiddle”

The ISO itself is around the 680meg mark, so it wont take long to download and there are plenty of available options for the source of the download.

The installation was smooth, taking around 10 minutes to complete and during this time most console messages are hidden (maybe to avoid the blind panic of some users when met with a comment they cannot comprehend)

Transparent console window!  This is not the default Zenwalk Wallpaper, but it is lovely...

Transparent console window! This is not the default Zenwalk Wallpaper, but it is lovely...

Software

Lets start with some basics.  Zenwalk 6 is running off Linux Kernel 2.6.28.7 and using Gnome 2.26.0 DE.  This immediately creates some nice features, the first one is that Zenwalk is quick on the bootup and the second is that you are up to date with Gnome DE. The default file system is XFS.

Netpkg handles your software requirements here and the GUI makes it very simple to search for the packages/files that you require.  A nice feature of Netpkg is that it allows you to find Orphan files and remove them.

Iceweasel is the pre-packaged browser here (3.0.8) and Icedove for your mail requirements.  Python is running 2.6.2 and other packages of note include:  Transmission 1.51 (now currently at 1.73) and Openoffice 3.0.  Pidgin is included as part of the default installation and thank fully there is no duplication.

There is out of the box compatibility for BBCI Player and most of your media requirements, which is one less job to think of – although you will need libdvdcss to enable the playback of encrypted DVD disks.

It is also worth noting that you will have to install proprietary graphics drivers yourself (unlike Ubuntu which automates the process)  this will involve you getting your hands dirty with the command line.

Conclusions

I get tired of giving the “great distro” badge out, but here is another distro that has performed exactly how I expected.   Whilst some users will say that a weakness of Linux is the amount of distro’s, I see that as a strength, afterall you can run the latest Firefox release on Zenwalk, Mepis, Ubuntu, Wolvix etc etc.  I look at Linux like petrol, there may be different brands but they all make your car move.  Linux is in a good position IMO, because unlike Windows where one size has to pretty much fit all, with Linux you can have a distro aimed solely at the advanced user or soley at the new one.  I would suggest Zenwalk is more towards the former rather than the latter, but having said that its hardly difficult to follow some online tutorials if you are unsure.

Pidgin for me is a bad choice.  How many people still use ICQ? and for me the others (with the exception of IRC) have no worth.  I don’t like the IRC support of Pidgin and always favor the IRSSI or the X-chat route.

I am pleased to see there is no major duplication in the pre-installed packages and Zenwalk really has (IMO) taken time to consider the apps included.

I would like to see future versions of Zenwalk moving away from Iceweasel and/or Firefox.  I personally have seen (on my hardware) how slugish Firefox and derivatives can be compared to Chromium which whilst still in beta is leaping in front of Firefox in terms of execution, rendering and even the simple Java input box.   Since Zenwalk seems to pride itself on being fast and bloat free, a new direction in browsers may echo that ethos (IMO).

Theres no silly games that you will play only once out of curiousity, although as default, Zenwalk was VERY guilty of defaulting to “one click executing” which causes for an oldtimer like myself who is used to clicking once for focus, twice for execution alot of heart ache.  I just cannot get used to the “hover focus” so that was one of the first things that had to be changed.  I’ve noticed in the past many KDE distro’s are defaulted to this.  Am I behind the times? or simply stuck in my ways?

Conversely a nice feature was that as default the terminal has a transparent backdrop (which is one of my few vices in relation to screen visual effects)

Zenwalk is fast, stable and well supported.  From what I’ve seen of the Zenwalk community it appears friendly and helpful.

Zenwalk isn’t going to hold your hand in the way Ubuntu does, but for those that take the time with it, will be rewarded with yet another snappy distro that doesn’t see asthetics and hand holding as a priority over performance.  As with all distro’s it will be unlikely that you find one that exactly meets your requirements and a little fiddling/fine tuning is always required.

So how does it compare with my distro of choice (Wolvix)? Very well, although on my hardware Wolvix Wine performance is better than Zenwalk as is many of the emulation projects I am running.  The memory footprint for running Zenwalk and a few basic operations was a respectable 120mb…very impressive, infact even running a rather large document in OO didn’t take it much above 150mb.   Compare that to Ubuntu which has a footprint in similar conditions of 255mb.

A great distro and one of many that offers a tight and stable experience. It is also available as a live CD.  Visit the homepage:  http://www.zenwalk.org/ for download options!

I will still be sticking with my beloved Wolvix though!

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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About openbytes

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturalism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Zenwalk 6 – Gnome

  1. Might try it out, as I’m in my distro hopping period.

    Nice article.

    Posted by linuxowns | August 9, 2009, 10:51 pm
  2. Thanks!
    although, if you haven’t already, give Wolvix a try… Ive been championing it since I first downloaded beta2. Its probably the punchiest distro I have ever used.

    Regards.
    Goblin.

    Posted by openbytes | August 9, 2009, 11:31 pm
  3. Goblin says:
    “So how does it compare with my distro of choice (Wolvix)? Very well, although on my hardware Wolvix Wine performance is better than Zenwalk as is many of the emulation projects I am running. The memory footprint for running Zenwalk and a few basic operations was a respectable 120mb…very impressive, infact even running a rather large document in OO didn’t take it much above 150mb. Compare that to Ubuntu which has a footprint in similar conditions of 255mb.”
    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    Well, I going say some things here you probably already know, but some reading your reviews might not. Remember the guy that said that 640K ought to be enough for anyone? It sort of applies here, as well. When you get that much of a difference in memory usage, we should wonder where its going. Especially when both Zenwalk and Wolvix are slackware based, and use mostly the same Slack software. The big difference is that Zen is using Gnome, which has the largest memory footprint of any window manager. Gnome has even a slightly bigger footprint than KDE 3x, but not sure about 4x. A little trick for newbies reading this is to install other window managers as extra ones. ICEWM, Fluxbox, Afterstep, all use far less resources, and those programs like Virtualbox, Wine, and others, will greatly speed up by using them. Most Linux distros have a means to select the window manager at the log in screen.

    Also, having more resources with the other Windows managers is great, but Windows Managers Gnome and KDE, are mostly necessary for new users who are not going be doing a lot of command line stuff and want something more friendly. Some features just will not be in the smaller Windows Managers.

    Personally, if I am going run Virtualbox, or a wine game, on a laptop with limited power, I use IceWM. Forget Gnome and KDE if your machine is not a fast one.

    There are so many Distro’s out there. I did check Zenwalk back a couple of years ago, and it was a nice one. But for me, I need distro’s that make it very easy (a gui like synaptic) to install additional programs (post install) for new users. Not because I don’t know how to install a tar.gz file, its because I work with Newbies, that need easy to learn GNU/Linux, in order to help them. But I do understand, that not everyone needs this feature, and as such, there are so many different distro’s available. Of the Slackware based, Slax has always been my favorite. Because of the small size to download (200mb), the selection, and the speed that seems to run on a lot of older hardware well.

    Zenwalk the Gnome version, does it come with Mono already installed? To me that would make the distro less of one for me to try. Thinking it doesn’t, looking at the chart from Distrowatch as to what is installed. My reasons for not wanting Mono, are perhaps a little different than others. First, I use Linux to get away from Microsoft software, not because I hate MS, but its mine opinion that their software has lots of bugs and spyware. Second, Mono takes up space in a distro, that should be used for something else. Third, the other reason I can see legit, for MS to promote Mono is Moonlight, the Silverlight port so to speak. At this point in Time I do not want to touch Silverlight with a ten foot pole. Not because its a MS product, but because the vast amount of stuff out their that runs on Silverlight/Moonlight is online (similar to Flash) advertisements. At least in Firefox I can install the very good extenstion, Flashblock, and only play the Adobe Flash ones I want. My internet is limited, and these Flash advertisements (and silverlight/moonlight) use it up fast. Without an Flashblock for Moonlight in Firefox and other browsers, I would never allow it on my computer. Fourth, Moonlight the port, is the poor cousin to Silverlight. Silverlight just release Version 3, while Mono team struggles to release an alpha or beta of Moonlight v2 based on Silverlight v2. What this tells me is that MS wants Moonlight to play only the advertisements, and not the very small amount of Silverlight premium content that is online. And that is not even thinking about the patents issues etc. So Mono which Moonlight depends on, is also one issue for some of us if it comes pre-installed in a distro. I tend to outright avoid those.

    Posted by Chips B Malroy | August 10, 2009, 12:13 am
  4. I wanted the review to be a monoless one so I avoided mentioning, I think the biggest threat from Mono is the rift it could cause in the FOSS community, I take the line of avoid it/use it, it matters not. My objections to Mono come more from the angle of (IMO) deskilling of the next generation of coders with C#, however I said the same thing when I stumbled in Darkbasic Pro many years ago. However in answer to your question (and Ill stop waffling) : No, mono is not present within the Zenwalk distro.

    The comments you made about ease are spot on. I myself know many seasoned Linux users who choose one of the mainstream distro’s and really there is no reason not to, there are some of the Linux community who feel that using Ubuntu over a slackware distro somehow makes you a “LaMeR” but this is just rubbish. Some people have a vast knowledge of Linux and simply dont want to have to “tinker” with their distro.

    Your Moonlight points are very valid IMO and I briefly glanced (I will be going back shortly) at a COLA post that stated you could watch ITV online without it….I’ll have a read then maybe do an article on it.

    Posted by openbytes | August 10, 2009, 7:09 pm
    • @openbytes

      “there are some of the Linux community who feel that using Ubuntu over a slackware distro somehow makes you a “LaMeR”

      I’m a Slacker, and I think anybody who is, is definately able to respect the culture it has over every other existing distribution. It’s a nationalistic kind of thing: you are either a Slacker or aren’t, regardless of whether you run Slackware or not.

      Also, seeing the word “lamer” burns my eyes. I prefer to use the hacker term, “luser”.

      Posted by Adam Marchetti | July 17, 2010, 6:54 pm
      • I’m not sure if you are approaching 40 as rapidly as me, but in “my day” of coding “Lamer” was the word. It was used when us “l33t” coded in 68k asm only to have Amos make an appearance and a plethora of non-coders claiming that they could code merely because they could throw a horizontal bitmap font scroll text across the screen. Lamer was a scene term and it was also used to describe the eternally baffled or deluded.

        How times change……. I’ll stick with my “lamer”, vinyl , VHS tapes and memories of happier computing times! ;)

        Kind regards
        Tim (Goblin)

        Posted by openbytes | July 17, 2010, 7:00 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: s5h.net » Blog Archive » Review of Zenwalk 6 with GNOME Desktop - August 9, 2009

  2. Pingback: Lanzamiento de la distribución : Linux Zenwalk 6.4 « Gustavo Pimentel's GNU/Linux Blog - May 27, 2010

  3. Pingback: Zenwalk Linux 6.4 “GNOME” « Gustavo Pimentel's GNU/Linux blog - June 11, 2010

  4. Pingback: Zenwalk Linux 6.4 “Core” | Gustavo Pimentel's GNU/Linux Blog - June 20, 2010

  5. Pingback: Zenwalk Linux 6.4 “GNOME” | Gustavo Pimentel's GNU/Linux Blog - June 22, 2010

  6. Pingback: Zenwalk Linux - April 15, 2012

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about.me

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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