Review of 2.0.0 Beta 2 - Slackware based Linux distro.
Review of 2.0.0 Beta 2 - Slackware based Linux distro.

This distro was brought to my attention in the BN IRC room, and whilst my distro hopping machine had difficulties with it (its a little anti social at the moment) I gave it a run on one of the many machines dotted around my house and found myself very surprised (pleasantly) by the results.  Its a Slackware based distro, and in these days of MONO uncertainty and the ever growing popularity of about 4 or 5 of the “big name” distro’s, its nice to break out of the mold and take a look at a lesser known option (sans MONO I hasten to add).

INSTALLATION/LIVE CD

I hope this is not taken the wrong way when I say that the installation process is very Ubuntu’ish, meaning very simple and straight forward.  There’s a rather off putting message (for any users who may not have much experience with Linux) although I can see where they are coming from.  As I will explain, I don’t think Wolvix is for the brand new user, and in my opinion these users are always better catered for with Mint, Ubuntu, Mandriva, et al.  The Live CD comes in at around a 680mb ISO which can be downloaded via bit torrent (which personally I would recommend, firstly because the d/l speeds of the other options were poor and secondly because I am helping seed it at the moment!)

Wolvix in action.  The default backdrop has been replaced with a more colourful one to reflect my mood today.  A great distro if you have been using Linux for a while and are comfortable with the command line.
Wolvix in action. The default backdrop has been replaced with a more colourful one to reflect my mood today. A great distro if you have been using Linux for a while and are comfortable with the command line.

FEATURES

The default DE for Wolvix is Xfce 4.6.0 and what a great choice that is, I am rapidly becoming a fan.  For fear of starting a series of angry emails, I can’t warm to KDE.  Whilst KDE does everything it says on the tin and is pleasant to look at, its just far too Vistaesque for my liking and for that and a reason I cannot put my finger on, I just don’t feel fully in control of my distro under KDE.  Thats going off topic though since Xfce 4.6.0 is whats being talked about here, is very similar to Gnome in looks, with a reduced dock at the bottom and is far faster operation.

Whilst I always state that I’m not a fan of flashy visuals and “bling”, it had to be said that the default desktop theme(s) are very attractive.  Simple, bold and clean I especially like the Wolf howling at the moon backdrop.  These backdrops are not the usual ultra high resolution. memory sucking images that we see with some of the bigger name distros, so it appears that even in looks, the ethos of providing you with as fast a system as possible is at the forefront of what Wolvix hopes to achieve.

Out of the box compat was very good and although Nvidia drivers needed to be installed as first port of call, this is par for the course on most distro’s anyway.

Wolvix again, simple clean and a great distro!
Wolvix again, simple clean and a great distro!

SOFTWARE

Personally, its nice to see AbiWord included as default.  Whilst I like OpenOffice and believe its a great piece of software, I have no need for any of the other supporting packages.  My distro installation always involves the removal of OpenOffice to replace with Abiword, so that to the creators of Wolvix, thats one less job.  The version included is the latest (2.6.8) and the new features of which can be found on the Abiword homepage.  To give an example of the speed of this distro, the LiveCD barely even gave you a chance to read the logo window of Abiword prior to the program loading that’s forgetting the speed once the distro is installed to your HD.

Web browsing is via Firefox 3.0.8 which was released 27th March 2009.  Whilst this is not the current version, its certainly stable and offers the same Firefox experience that I am sure I do not need to describe to you for the purposes of this review.

Other packages of note include Python 2.5.2 (hooray no 3!), Gnumeric, GIMP and quite a comprehensive out of the box collection that should cover your main tasks.  Thunderbird is in control of email duties here, running a 2009 version (2.0.0.21), its a great all in one (RSS/email/Newsgroups) and really removes the need for any other mail package.  I have heard from others that RSS is slow within Thunderbird compared to that of Claws, but personally I have had no issues and have yet to test Claws as an alternative.

Software is handled by the package manager slapt-get in terminal or by a GUI (gslap) on the DE

CONCLUSIONS

With every distro I have installed, there always follows a removing of software (for differing reasons, mainly duplication and personal choice)  There are some more guilty than others.   I always remark that the worst offender in my opinion would be #!CBL (Crunchbang Linux)  A few things strike me as strange (although this is probably due to trying to please everyone) Liferea and Thunderbird?  Is Liferea just duplication? Great package but I’m not sure of its value in addition to Thunderbird.  Xchat and IRSSI? obviously one provides a GUI the other runs from the command line, but I would suggest that the Wolvix creators choose a path and stick with it to avoid duplication (Personally I think IRSSI is far better)

My big issue was no Binaries newsgroup grabber, the absense of Transmission (although I will give Deluge a run).

With Wolvix being a Slackware derived product and the absence of the Ubuntu “hand holding” I cannot recommend it for a Linux user with only a small amount of experience (contrary to the implication on the site that it can be)  However, for the seasoned Linux user it excels and I’ve been looking for a reason to switch my main Gentoo distro.  Wolvix is such a reason and I think I will be very happy with it.  The packages on offer are a mish mash of experienced and new user although I’d suggest that if this distro is aimed towards the more experienced, some of these packages are really not required.

*Note – There is no issue with Gentoo, merely that I enjoy distro hopping and have to have a good reason to do it on my main rig.

I don’t think Wolvix would stand up as a newcomers distro (nor does it seek to be) when you hold it up to products such as Ubuntu/Fedora/Mandriva et al and I don’t think Xfce DE will be an attractive enough option for people when they are coming from Windows and looking towards KDE.  Thats no bad thing by the way, and Wolvix for me sits very comfortably in a more seasoned Linux users hands.

It is very obvious that much work has gone into Wolvix, my expectations of a perfectly packaged distro are not unreasonable but a little selfish and since this was the only issue I had with the distro, its of no matter since removal of unused packages takes no time at all.

As with any new installation there are a few teething troubles that need to be ironed out, that for me is half the fun of a Slackware distro and the issues I came across were very minor.

The first problem I found was with the mouse wheel, which although recognised refused to work as a scroll.  This issue is now resolved.  Next issue I had was that the master volume was not found on the dock (its in the multimedia menu) due to its default setting being low (and my speakers being set on low for fear of nieghbour complaints) I spent around 1/2 hour trying to work out why the sound wasnt working.  Too much to ask to put it on the dock?  The only other issue of note was Wolvix’s refusal to allow me to set the keyboard to UK permanently, and it insisted on switching back to US.

Those issues caused very little trouble.

When talking about the speed of this distro, “Punchy” is the best way to describe it.  Its these type of distro’s that people should be supporting in any way they can.  Aesthetically, what with its fancy site and logos, Ubuntu is about 10 years ahead and Wolvix is no competition, however “under the hood” where it matters and I’d say on my test machine Wolvix outperforms any of the mainstream distros noticeably.  Projects like Wolvix are where the exciting things are happening and I wholly recommend anyone who is familiar with Linux to give this speedy, tight and highly functional distro a try.

You can visit the Wolvix homepage here: http://wolvix.org/ although the beta 2 is available on LinuxTracker here.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com