The release of Linux Pardus 2009.2 is near so I wanted to give the Beta a run and see what's new before I actually get my hands on the final release a few days/weeks from now. Unfortunately, the link to the beta from DISTROWATCH was broken. In all fairness, that link is broken on the Pardus official WEBSITE as well. I kept looking and was lucky enough to find a link to the Release Candidate, which actually makes more sense for a fair preview article. In fact, this RC is so complete that this almost feels like a review!
For those interested, you can download the Pardus 2009.2 release candidate from HERE.
At 915MB, the ISO image is larger for 2009.2, no longer fitting a CD. I tested it on both Virtual and real machines. To be honest, I did very little testing on the virtual machine, for I liked Pardus 2009.2 so much I wanted to get Pardus installed on "proper" media straight away.
Let me start by saying that the Pardus installation is BY FAR the best I have seen in any Linux distro, probably even better than that of some OS you have to pay quite some money for. From the very first screen, it feels pleasant, interesting, informative and thoroughly well put together.
Nice GUI menu to start the installation of Pardus.
Note that this is not a LiveCD, so starting the OS from the installation media is not an option. This is unfortunate, because I very much like how LiveCDs provide a nice testing environment which give the end user invaluable information on how Linux deals with his/her hardware. Having said so, I think it is likely that Pardus will make some LiveCD media available as part of the main release.
Let's start by accepting the GPL License.
The installation starts by presenting us with a GPL acceptance screen. Not many Linux distros include this screen, at least not as clearly, but I think all should. Not only does it do justice to the GPL/GNU nature of Linux, but it also conveys a serious, professional vibe to it.
Did that ISO download work OK?.
One nice feature available before starting the installation is checking the MD5 sum. This is an interesting thing that is also not common. Usually, MD5 sums are provided so you can check before burning a CD that the ISO integrity was not compromised during download/copy. I am pretty sure lots of people don't bother doing that check, though, so I think this is a convenient feature.
YES! The MD5 sum check was successful.
Once the integrity of the installation media has been confirmed, it is time to start the installation. As usual, one of the first steps is to set up the keyboard distribution.
Select your keyboard distribution before the installation starts.
Next, it is time for the time zone configuration. Most Linux distros show a world map and allow you to choose your own time zone. Pardus has a slightly different approach which is also nice and simple.
Time Zone configuration is extremely simple as expected.
Note that the installation provides very simple yet effective navigation through its several screens. You can go back and forth at pretty much any moment. Should you choose to exit, that's also possible at any point in time by clicking the lower left button.
Time to set up a user to start sessions with.
The next step takes us into user administration. As expected, Pardus requires a standard user account to be used by default. Interestingly enough, Pardus provides some very welcome flexibility here, as we are able to set this default account up with or without admin privileges. On the next screen, we will be asked to set the superuser password.
A particularly simple and clear approach to partitioning.
Pardus also provides a simple yet effective screen for setting up/manipulating partitions. Once we complete that step, we get the usual report confirming our choices before the installation actually starts.
Are we happy with our choices?.
As I continued on, the installation wizard kept on surprising me with its top notch quality. I was particularly pleased to see nice informative dialogs, explaining what was being installed at each moment, with a brief description of that particular package. Needless to say, branding and Look&Feel remained consistent and tasty throughout. In fact, this was probably the first time I found an installation process interesting enough to keep my attention. Usually I leave it running as soon as the automatic installation piece starts, but I found this one so appealing I actually stuck around to see what was going on.
The installation process rocks...
Wait a minute, the installation process rocks hard...
All along the installation you get nice and interesting screens like this one.
I have included just a few screenshots here, hopefully enough to give you a feel of how good this installation wizard actually is. It is truly the best I have seen in Linux, an installation process that certainly doesn't get in the way but helps the end user instead. I believe all major Linux distros should make an effort to adopt such high standards in their installations. Not only do I consider it a must in 2010, but it would also open the doors to many people who are currently feeling intimidated by some complicated installation processes... After all, Linux should be about freedom, so why limit it to skilled users?
THE PARDUS DESKTOP
After booting up our fresh Pardus installation, we continue to get tasty and beatiful splash and login screens. The KDE implementation is tightly integrated with the Pardus branding, which is apparent throughout the boot up and shutdown processes. This results in a nice solid and professional feel to the whole experience.
The Login screen in Pardus.
After such a pleasant installation, I was curious to see if the same quality levels would be maintained on an actual desktop session. Let's find out.
As we start a session for the first time, we are welcome by a very nice introductory tool called "Kaptan". This application concentrates most of the basic desktop configuration in one spot, making it extremely simple, even for Linux/KDE first timers.
The Kaptan gives us a warm welcome to Pardus!.
The Kaptan is awesome, a tool that should be an example of how to introduce a user to a new operating system or window manager.
Mouse basic settings.
Set up the menu layout.
Choose your favorite wallpaper!
Set up your network connections here.
Package management introduction.
Let's have fun now!
As you can see, Kaptan is a thorough yet easy. Like the wonderful installation wizard, it provides an extremely simple and accessible introduction that should make learning enjoyable.
Pardus KDE Integration and implementation
Consistent with what we have seen so far, the KDE implementation of Pardus is one of the best I have seen. I'd say both Pardus and PCLinuxOS are right up there as the best customizations of the KDE desktop I have tried.
KDE is tightly integrated from the get go.
The panel, the main menu and the overall look&feel are unique compared to other distros. The effort put in place by the Pardus developers definitely paid off.
Like PCLinuxOS 2010, Pardus also provides custom splash screens to all its applications, once again making it all feel tight and consistent.
Most applications sport custom splash screens that convey a consistent branding feel.
The OpenOffice splash screen.
All in all, I personally love the Pardus KDE desktop. I did find some areas that are not 100% polished, but nothing worth discussing.
As you can probably imagine given the size of the Pardus ISO image, the application catalog included is abundant, but I also find it interesting and filled with many great choices.
Pardus includes a rich and powerful set of preinstalled applications.
OpenOffice 3.2, Firefox 3.6.3, Amarok 2.30, Mplayer, GIMP, DigiKam, Blogilo, Ktorrent, Google Gadgets and a long etcetera make up the rich application selection in Pardus. I personally miss Dropbox, which is a bit of a pain to install under KDE, so I very much appreciate when it comes preinstalled. That should not take anything away from the many and great applications preinstalled in Pardus though.
Amarok 2.30 on top of KDE SC 4.4.3.
One element worth mentioning is the extremely simple Firewall GUI interface, which makes it easy and quick to get it up and running.
Can firewall configuration get any easier?.
Most of the system settings can be set up through the KDE system preferences, but I found some other applications which may confuse first timers. For example, there was an application apparently designed for system configuration, but I found that changing the system language with it had no effect, so I had to revert back to the KDE system preferences. Once again, nothing too concerning, I just found it odd.
Nice GUI for lshw command, perfect for those not too command line inclined.
Among other tools, I found a cool graphical interface for the lshw command. It's nothing too fancy, but definitely good for those who may feel intimidated by the command line. The KDE partition tool was also included.
Easily manage your partitions with this powerful tool.
So there you have it, hope this preview provided a nice introduction for what's to come when the final release goes live. When that happens, I will post an update and take more of a review point of view, discussing performance, functionality, hardware compatibility, media support, "bugginess" or lack of it, etc.
Some time ago I compared Ubuntu 10.04 and Windows 7. Back then I stated that Windows 7 made things very simple at the expense of diversity and choice. In other words, everything was intuitive because options were very limited and mostly predefined by developers. I was essentially justifying that Ubuntu's arguably more complicated interface was the result of its great flexibility and freedom. PCLinuxOS 2010, Linux Mint 9 and specially Pardus 2009.2 have demonstrated that a much better job can be done in making the Linux desktop accessible to anyone without compromising its power.
I personally am thoroughly impressed by this release candidate... Can't wait to get my hands on the Final release!
I very much recommend giving Pardus 2009.2 a try when it comes out.
Thanks for reading and have fun!