Salix, a slackware distro, is one I’ve looked at previously on Openbytes. It has a history with Zenwalk, but not in just the fact that they are two Slackware offerings, it was reported that a group of developers left the Zenwalk project and created the Salix project, lucky for us as Salix has matured into an accessable product and yet another option for those looking for a different distro.
So here is release candidate 1 of a distro which from previous experience offers a punchy performance (and is here in an LXDE flavour) Whilst the plethora of Ubuntu based distro’s continue with them ranging between unique and more of the same, its refreshing to have a chance to take a look at another Slackware distro (and especially one which I was pleased with before) The features listed by the developers on Salix’s homepage state:
- one application per task on the installation ISO
- fully backwards compatible with Slackware
- optimized for desktop usage
- high quality package repositories with dependency support
- incredibly fast package tools
- simple & fully localized system administration tools
- nice artwork
- installation ISO fits on a single CD
- supports 32-bit and 64-bit architectures
and they say:
Based on Slackware Linux 13.1, it features the lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, with a clean look and feel. The main applications that complete the LXDE experience are the lightweight and fast PCManFM file manager and the popular Openbox window manager. As with the standard Xfce edition, this CD image allows installation to be performed in three different modes – core, basic and full. The core mode is identical to the one you get from the Xfce edition. Basic will only install a minimal LXDE desktop with only Midori and gslapt installed as extra and full will install everything that is included on the CD image. That includes the lightweight Midori web browser, the Claws-mail e-mail client, the Transmission BitTorrent client and the Pidgin instant messaging client.
Compatibility wise, Salix had no problems detecting anything. The test machine for this review was an AMD Athon II x4 635, with 3gb of memory and an shared/integrated Nvidia 9200 graphics card. The liveCD booted far faster than my current distro of choice did when I was installing. The fresh, clean and aesthetically appealing wallpapers for Salix are a testament to the effort being put into it and the “little things”.
Installation was offers three options – Full, Basic and Core. You’re probably not going to opt for core unless you have a beard, so for many the option will be Basic or full.
The .iso clocks in at around 526mb which is hardly going to challenge anyone’s connection and as commented on by many, Salix LXDE has a blisteringly fast install time (around 10 minutes)
Whats packaged as default?
So lets look at some the packages you expect to find installed as default on this distro. For the complete list of whats packaged, you can check here. It’s refreshing to see none of the play once games included, if you really have a desire you can fill your boots in the repo’s and Ive long said that the “time is up” for the generic games of solitaire, snake et al on a distro.
Abiword is present here as default in version 2.8.6, which is the latest release. This for me is welcome since I don’t need an entire office suite packaged as default and I find AbiWord fits the bill for an all purpose word processor.
Theres plenty of help to be had on the liveCD and if you are coming to Salix from a more “nannied” distro such as Ubuntu, help is on hand should you require it. The liveCD has a desktop link to a web-based Freenode IRC client (and the Salix chat room) The installation of multimedia codecs is a case of merely clicking an icon.
I’m pleased to see Transmission included since I’ve not been convinced by Deluge and it’s “busier” GUI.
Midori is the browser packaged with Salix, which whilst I’ve always liked and found to be a very punchy, solid experience, I’ve never replaced Chromium with.
Gslapt handles package management and I think its a given that this is a rather user-friendly, simply way to handle your package needs.
As I say, Ive deployed Linux quite extensively, from friends and family to friends of friends and our local computer club. Most of these people have no clue what an operating system is or how to install one and merely want an escape from their Windows desktop. When looking at a distro for OpenBytes, I consider two things – would I want this on my main rig? and; How easy will this be to deploy and provide support for to a user who may not have any experience of Linux. In both cases Salix received a favorable answer. Little things like a package that installs the multimedia codecs is very welcome as if I am around a friend’s house installing it on their desktop, I want things handed on a plate, so that I spend as little time as possible.
The speedy install times, make this a very attractive distro for me to deploy to others too and with the one click installation of all the codecs I could wish for also appeals greatly to me (although is not unique to Salix and Sabayon 5.3 (currently on my main rig, offers the same feature at install time)
The installation itself was simple and I think shows just how far Linux on the desktop has come. Not so long ago, there were only a handful of distro’s that truly offered a user friendly installation, now it seems a “minimum standard” of any new release.
Salix (thanks to its LXDE flavour) is very fast. Whilst some will find LXDE too simple looking and would probably migrate towards KDE or Gnome, LXDE affords even the lowest of specs a very fast, functional performance and a great introduction to a Slackware distro. If you are after a Slack distro that spares a thought for the new or inexperienced user, give Salix a go. Either way, seasoned Linux expert or Linux newbie, Salix LXDE is a great release and very worthy of a look.
Salix has its Distrowatch entry here: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=salix
You can download (directly) from here: http://downloads.sourceforge.net/salix/salix-lxde-13.1.1.iso
Its been a long time. The last time I reported on Wolvix was in July 09 where the distro received praise (and became my distro of choice).
After that date I found myself praising the distro whenever I got the opportunity, there was so many great things about it – out of the box compat, its speed, its look. I could go on.
Over the months that followed it appeared that development had stopped and just as I was trying to settle on a new distro, a new build is released with the author saying the following:
It’s been quite a while since there was any development here, but things are finally getting back on track now. The last couple of weeks I’ve been picking up the slack and I’m in the process of making a new public development release. (Beta3) A lot of packages has already been updated and the development is on going.
And for me thats great news. Readers who have never heard of the Wolvix distro before may wish to familiarize themselves with the previous Openbytes review.
The latest build comes in at 665.39mb which is small when you consider the wealth of functionality it provides.
The bugs present on a fresh install of the last version are now gone and whilst there is an absence of those silly play once games, I did question the choice of packaging an FTP client and not even giving a thought to a binary newsgroup reader. This brings me onto my next point, whilst Liferea is a great product, what benefit does it give the user when Thunderbird is included by default? I would like to see Liferea replaced with Klibido (or similar) in order to accommodate any .nzb requirements and I certainly think that now in the year of the Digital Economy Bill and the likes of ACS: Law we are going to see a migration to the binaries. accommodating .NZB is in my opinion more critical that FTP in default packaging.
These are small issues and nothing that a little tinkering can’t sort out. I did question the need for both IRSSI and Xchat to be present in particular since IRSSI (my client of choice) is a command line util and not linked on the DE.
Everything I said originally for Wolvix stands for this latest build. The installation is flawless and quick and out of the box compat goes without saying. I really love this blisteringly fast distro. I am so pleased the project has found momentum again.
I will be keeping up to date with the progress of this distro.
You can visit the homepage of Wolvix here and Build 56 can be found on Linuxtracker where I hope you will help seed. You should also note that there are a variety of places to get Wolvix from which can be found on the homepage.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.
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?
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)
Lets start with some basics. Zenwalk 6 is running off Linux Kernel 18.104.22.168 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.
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 – email@example.com
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).
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!)
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.
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 (22.214.171.124), 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
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.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org