Thursday, February 24, 2011

Zorin OS 4 Review

Recently I have reviewed a number of interesting Ubuntu derivatives. Linux Mint is probably the most popular one, but other more obscure picks like MoonOS and PinguyOS also proved to be very interesting options. In future articles I also plan to review Bodhi Linux, but this time I want to talk about Zorin 4 OS, which is based off of Ubuntu 10.10.

WINUSERS COME AND HELP YOURSELVES

An interesting twist on your typical GNOME desktop, Zorin intentionally resembles a Windows 7 desktop visually. The panel positioning, the main menu Look&Feel, the launchers on the panel and even the wallpapers, all convey a Windows vibe to them. I personally don't think there is anything wrong with that. I like Windows 7 Look&Feel myself and it's not like Zorin is a verbatim copy (they could have got a lot closer using certain control, icon and window decoration themes). The idea is to make new users who know Windows feel right at home, and I must say Zorin succeeds.

Zorin OS 4 was released in 4 different flavours, three of which are not free. Core is the free flavor and the one I will be reviewing below. Multimedia, Gaming and Ultimate are the options available for purchase.

To provide a brief visual introduction for those who don't know Zorin, I recorded a short video (with audio for a change!). As usual, the video quality is quite good (can't say the same for audio, sorry), so I recommend watching it full screen under 720p resolution.



FEATURES AND INSTALLATION

In my few years using Linux, I have tested many distros and come to the conclusion that the only significant differences among them is mostly linked to the amount of own software they contain. In other words, a standard user sitting in front of two different machines, one running GNOME Fedora 14 and the other Ubuntu 10.10 will notice some obvious Look&Feel differences, but not a lot more past that point. Applications are the same (i.e., Evolution, Firefox or Shotwell, to name a few, run identically on both), so the most significant differences have to do with what is unique to each distro. The Ubuntu Software Center, its social menu or Fedora's Presto and Deja Dup are examples of things that may tilt the balance one way or the other.

Zorin has many unique elements to it that set it appart from other Ubuntu derivatives, even other Linux distros. There are Zorin specific applications, like Look Changer or the Splash Screen Manager but also very rich customization that certainly provides Zorin with a character of its own. Of all Ubuntu derivatives I have tried, Zorin is probably the one that feels most unique (not that that is better nor worse).

For a full feature description for Zorin OS 4, refer to the official RELEASE NOTES.

As is usually the case with Ubuntu derivatives, the installation process is very resemblant to the original, its just a case of how much deviation from it there is. Zorin is quite faithful to the Ubuntu original, but there are obvious branding changes.

BOOT UP AND DESKTOP EXPERIENCE

One of the sweet surprises Zorin users will enjoy is that it is one of the few, if not the only Ubuntu derivative whose Plymouth theme works out of the box, even on Intel video cards. In fact, not only does it work, it is one the best looking themes I have seen to date. Along the same lines, the whole booting process is very smooth and quiet, void of command line screens. The GDM screen is somewhat standard, portraying a spacey vibe thanks to its wallpaper.


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As can be seen from the screenshot above, the default desktop is consistent with the GDM screen in its spaceyness. The panel, main menu, window decoration and controls, as well as the icon theme are custom Zorin. Like it or not (I personally don't), it is one consistent shiny environment, and that is certainly welcome. All too often I find Linux distros which don't pay attention to detail, sporting themes that are incomplete or inconsistent, with missing bits here and there, but that's certainly not the experience I got with Zorin 4.



As I mentioned on the video, the main menu and the DockBarX customization for the panel certainly help providing Zorin its Windows 7 resemblance. The GnoMenu theme looks gorgeous and the functionality is very similar to the Windows 7 main menu, perhaps even more fluid and less cluttered. Zorin provides plenty of themes for GnoMenu, DockBarX, but also in terms of GTK themes and controls. Consistency is once again the word that comes to mind, one feels like nothing is missing, no need to download and/or install anything extra.


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Nautilus elementary is, as seems to be the case in most GNOME-based distros lately, the file manager of choice. I personally liked how it looks in combination with Zorin's icon theme... I guess I am so used to use it along with Faenza that this icon theme felt refreshing!


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On the Sound&Video department I was pleased to see VLC and OpenShot (not the latest version, though). Audio playing duties are handled by Rhythmbox while Cheese provides some webcam functionality.


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Most Linux distributions like to include Chromium instead of Google Chrome, perhaps in an attempt to stay truer to open source standards. Not Zorin, which makes a bold choice here including Google Chrome as the one and only browser.


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Flash, audio and video codecs are correctly set up for in Zorin. The screenshot above shows a video from Apple trailers working out of the box, a piece of configuration that is often overlooked in Linux distros. Unfortunately, that's as far as things go, for Zorin still suffers from the few several shortcomings Google Chrome has as part of its faulty Linux system integration. I discussed these issues in some detail on a previous ARTICLE, but basically Google Chrome failed to run Java and did not trigger the right applications when required.



As I mentioned already, I think a distro makes its mark mainly thanks to its own software. Zorin incorporates a couple interesting applications, nothing too fancy, but still welcome additions. The Zorin Splash Manager (screenshot above) is a simple tool with a pretty self explanatory name. Additionally, the Zorin Look Changer is an interesting application that allows users to switch between different Windows inspired outfits. The amount of options offered depends on the version of Zorin OS 4 in use, Ultimate being the one with the most, including Windows 7, Vista, XP and even Windows 2000.

STILL LINUX?

If you are a hardcore Linux user, you may not like Zorin's (perhaps exaggerated) Windows influences. Make no mistake, though, Zorin is still very much Linux. All of the features you know and love are there, along with a powerful and rich application catalog.

I personally enjoyed using Zorin quite a bit. Leaving the Windows resemblance aside, I have to admit I liked the default GnoMenu and DockBarX configuration and themes. I think the level of customization is considerable, but designed with standard users in mind, which makes anything from Compiz effects to the application catalog highly usable and convenient. Unlike PinguyOS, Zorin does not sport strange customizations that feel like quirky developer preferences. Everything feels like it makes sense and like it was designed with satisfactory user experience as the ultimate end goal.


Click on image to enlarge.

Being a customization freak myself, I couldn't resist and it didn't take long before I ditched the Windows inspired Look&Feel in favor of something more Linux, as you can see in the screenshot above. A little Conky magic, different menu icon and icon theme and some Debian love... What's not to like?

IN THE NAME OF ZORIN!!

Whether you find it sacrilegious that an Ubuntu fork offers different versions of Windows "skins" or not is ultimately your call, but I would definitely encourage everybody to leave any kind of prejudices behind and give Zorin (a name that sounds like a God from Norse mythology) a spin. As a matter of fact, I would recommend Zorin to any kind of Linux user, but specially for those who are taking their first steps in the Penguin Universe.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Openshot 1.3.0 is a major step forward

Linux users probably know of Openshot, a python-coded non-linear video editor. When Openshot was first released, its ambitious list of features put a smile on the face of GNOME users, for they would at last get a worthy video editor, capable of taking it up with Kdenlive. Unfortunately, early versions of Openshot failed to live up to the expectations they were raising. Many thought Openshot 1.0 and some of the following releases were examples of rushed, untested and unreliable software, not worthy of the v1.x label. I have to admit I agreed to a certain extent and it would have probably made more sense to start with OpenShot v0.1, perhaps clarifying that the application was still under development.

In my experience, earlier OpenShot versions were somewhat unreliable, but most of the functionality was there. Effects worked as expected for the most part, and while the interface was a bit awkward to work with at times, most of what the application was offering was there to be used. Having said so, my main problem with OpenShot was performance. Even when working with videos well below HD quality, the application would choke on them. Simply trying to add a single audio track to a single video track was a nightmare, for the preview render would be useless, thus leaving me editing blind.

BIG STEP FORWARD

Fortunately, come OpenShot 1.3.0, things have IMPROVED. Yes, that's an improvement worth the uppercase. To begin with, there is a host of new features which make OpenShot an even stronger and more powerful editor (the latest Blender 2.5.6-powered 3D effects are truly something, specially fun is the world maps feature!). Granted, great features were already there in previous releases, but what good are they if the basics are not tight? The good news is that things are way tighter in this release, including a major performance improvement. In fact, I was able to do some video editing on old laptops with poor on-chip video cards... Impressive!

Here's an OpenShot 1.3.0 video introduction from Jonathan Thomas himself:



I recommend checking out the OpenShot 1.3.0 Vimeo PAGE for some more interesting videos, demos and information.

If you have never tried OpenShot or if earlier versions disappointed you, I definitely recommend giving 1.3.0 a try. It's still not what I would call a professional video editor, but it is a huge step in the right direction.

INSTALLATION ON UBUNTU

Ubuntu (and its derivatives) users have a dedicated OpenShot PPA from which they can easily download the latest releases and keep up to date. Simply follow the instructions below if you want to install OpenShot 1.3.0.

1.- Open a terminal, add the repository.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jonoomph/openshot-edge

2.- Update software sources.

sudo apt-get update

3.- Install OpenShot 1.3.0 and the accompanying documentation.

sudo apt-get install openshot openshot-doc

Happy video editing!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

PinguyOS Review

Currently one of the most popular forks available, PinguyOS is an interesting tweak over what Ubuntu users know and love. This armed-to-the-teeth distro is more than just Ubuntu on asteroids, but does all that customization and application feast truly cut it? Let's see.

RECENT RELEASES & INSTALLATION

Pinguy OS recently released version 10.10 (obviously based off Maverick Meerkat), but even more interesting is that they are also keeping up with LTS updates, giving users that decided to stick to the Lucid impersonation something else to cheer about. I have tried both releases and will review accordingly, but if there are comments that are specific to either one of them, I will try to clarify.

Installation is somewhat customized, enough to notice differences with the corresponding Ubuntu alter egos, but not as much as to make the Ubuntu footprint hard to recognize. For the most part, customizations seem to be aiming at simplifying the installation process, making it a bit more informal and less branding intensive while keeping all the great features that make Ubuntu installations as good as they are. I personally like the Ubuntu installations better, but the difference is not significant.

DID I HEAR CUSTOM?

Once installed, as soon as we get to the desktop, we start to get a feel of the level of customization that is so much a part of PinguyOS. In all honesty, the desktop is so full of icons, menus, widgets and docks that it feels a bit suffocating!


Click on image to enlarge

In fact, this over-the-top vibe is there pretty much everywhere in PinguyOS. The application catalog is anything but standard. It does include some of the usual suspects in Linux distros, such as Firefox (sporting a deeply customized theme), Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Shotwell, Nautilus Elementary, etc. It also includes tons of stuff that are not commonly found elsewhere, like Ailurus, Deluge or Calibre, to name a few. Then there are some downright strange picks (I mean, Torrent Episode Downloader... really?) and a fair share of software that doesn't even natively run on Linux, such as Frostwire or Teamviewer.


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Customization goes beyond the application catalog, impacting pretty much about anything you can think of. Look&Feel is definitely one of the most obvious areas, with custom controls, window borders and a load of icon themes, all working outside the box (Both Faenza and Faenza Dark are perfectly setup, as can be seen in the screenshot below). As a matter of fact, with the elements included, one can mix and match and come with some very interesting alternatives... No need to download anything extra. Wallpapers include items from the Ubuntu default wallpapers, as well as others from the PinguyOS developers/community.



If you think about it, customization of the kind I just mentioned is not that uncommon, but PinguyOS goes a step farther, including a fully working and heavily optimized Compiz setup, gorgeous Conky themes, the awesome Docky and custom gestures and behaviors all over the place. Talking about Compiz, this is by far the best default configuration I have seen to date, even enhancing performance on PCs which struggled with effects before.

The default installation configuration also brings an original take on menus in a GNOME environment. Instead of the usual, three-column menu, we get the latest version of the Mint menu, which expands when one clicks on the PinguyOS icon. The menu to its right is very similar to the MacOS context menu, which sits on the panel, as opposed to sitting on the application window.


Click on image to enlarge

To make it easier for users to access popular places like the Home, Desktop, Downloads, Music, etc., PinguyOS developers decided to use Docky's great features and added a second panel on the left of the screen. The whole concept takes a while to get used to, but once one is familiar with it, it works great.

WHAT IS TOO MUCH?

PinguyOS is certainly an interesting distro, so heavily customized that it's even difficult to explain what the user experience is with words, one has to experiment it to truly understand it. In fact, there are so many layers of tweaks that it makes you wonder if you are sitting in front of someone else's computer.

Aside from the fact that some of the customizations in PinguyOS are hard to justify as something that may appeal to standard users, one has to wonder: Is it a good idea to customize so much? Not really, if you ask me.

I have already mentioned how the cloud is empowering online computing, providing hosts of applications and allowing web browsers to do things that were unthinkable not that long ago. One could argue that local applications still have an edge in terms of functionality and performance, but while that is something that continuously evolves and improves on the Cloud, local apps will never be able to offer anything even close to what their Cloud sisters offer in terms of resiliency, lack of redundancy and compatibility across platforms and devices. People quickly realized how Cloud apps can help them keep their data safe, accessible any time, from any device and without the need to learn anything other than the browser. As a result, it is not uncommon to see more and more Cloud applications used by hundreds of millions of users.

Looking at it from that perspective, is it necessary or even a good idea to add so much stuff to a PC installation? I personally like it simpler, need a lot less out of the box, but even if I liked to have a heavy client, PinguyOS takes it way too far. How many users will actually take the time to learn what so many apps they never heard about do? How many will be happy to have to undergo daily updates due to the size of the software sources list? How many will enjoy having their known-and-true keyboard shortcuts changed (Ctrl+Alt+Del brings the system monitor up)?


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In my experience, it took a while to tame PinguyOS. I uninstalled lots of applications, removing many entries from the software sources list and simplifying the desktop and overall customizations. The screenshot above shows my current desktop, which eliminates redundant information as much as possible.

WORTH THE EFFORT?

PinguyOS is certainly anything but standard. It incorporates many original concepts, tons of applications and customizations that make it an interesting distro. The customization is so extreme, though, that I feel PinguyOS will probably generate love/hate reactions, but not a lot in between. Personally, I enjoy some of the things that PinguyOS brings forward, so I decided to keep it, even if I had to do quite a lot of changes to make it fit my needs/preferences.

Is PinguyOS for you? If you are an experienced user, chances are you will probably like something more basic and balanced, but if you are new to Linux, PinguyOS will welcome you with everything there is and then some.

My opinion? I recommend trying it, regardless of your profile. Even if you decide to ditch it eventually, PinguyOS certainly is worth the try.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Canonical provides Ubuntu-supported hardware list

Just a brief entry to share with you a very interesting initiative by Canonical. The company recently released a list of supported hardware, or as they put it, a list of components which Canonical and hardware providers certify for Ubuntu.

In my opinion, this is a much needed reference for anybody interested in Ubuntu, from manufacturers to home users. Anybody can now review the list and find components that should ensure smooth performance, even without trying Ubuntu first (I still recommend using the LiveCD/LiveUSB features before installing in order to confirm that all hardware is supported and working correctly, though).

So there you go, make sure you bookmark this COMPONENT CATALOG so you can take a quick look before you buy your next computer or peripheral.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time to become an Android

Google-driven, Linux-based mobile OS Android must be one of the most amazing success stories in the history of computing. In just a little over two years, this open source project has turned the smart phone market upside down. Statistics now show Android is close to stealing the lead in market share from RIM, having surpassed Windows mobile, Symbiant and iOS in the process.

GROWING STRONGER

With the smartphone market under the belt, the idea was to expand the scope of the project and try to take over the tablet world, in which the iPad is the current reference. Come Android 3.0 (codenamed "Honeycomb") later this year, things could start to change very quickly. The following video is the official presentation from Google, which took place just a few weeks ago.



As can be seen, Android 3.0 will bring many interesting concepts and features, certainly impressive for a first go at the whole tablet ordeal.

TRY ANDROID!

Unfortunately, in order to try Android and enjoy its features, one needs to buy one of the devices that have it preinstalled... or not? Well, as it turns out, the great people behind the ANDROID-X86 project keep busy compiling Android ISO images that are compatible with x86 architecture.

What does that mean? Well, mainly that Android can successfully run on the TESTED PLATFORMS, but most importantly, that you can download an ISO image, install it on a USB drive and give Android a go on your PC. I have tried myself, and although not all of my PCs enjoyed proper hardware support, it did work in one of them. In case you are interested, you can see some (lots!) SCREENSHOTS that the project members have put together.

INSTALLATION

Installation on a LiveCD or LiveUSB is quick and simple, just DOWNLOAD the ISO and complete the usual steps for this procedure. Installation on the main hard drive is also possible following the INSTRUCTIONS provided.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

KDE SC 4.6.1 to incorporate many bug fixes

Aaron Seigo, one of the leading minds behind KDE, recently published an interesting ENTRY on his blog about KDE SC 4.6.0 and how bug reporting and fixing is coming along nicely.

"I'm really happy with how the number of bug reports coming in is not a massive deluge of different bugs, but mostly just endless repetition of the same handful", Seigo commented about an already apparent pattern in the bugs that are being filed for KDE SC 4.6.0. It´s good news that diversity in bugs is not overwhelming, for it will allow developers to concentrate on those few ones and make sure that fixes are properly tested before they go live. The target is for that most critical portion of bugs to completely go before KDE SC 4.6.1, allowing spring releases to go live with a nice and solid version of the K desktop. In Aaron words: "... we're smacking the bugs down as fast as we can so that next month's 4.6.1 release will be beautifully solid."

Perhaps even more interesting than bug fixing, which is to be expected after any major release like 4.6.0, is news about work already taking place for 4.7.0.

"I've put together an activities runner so that in 4.7 you can type thing like "activity" in KRunner to get a list of activities or follow that up with the name of (or start of the name of!) an activity to switch to it. Marco's been working on some Plasma application dashboard love and more QML goodies. We have "Apply" buttons in the Plasmoid config dialogs (shock! shock!). (...) One thing we already know is that we feel we're on the "right" track with activities now and will spend a significant investment of our resources in 4.7 to fleshing them out further."

If you are one of the many who doesn´t understand activities, or who (like me) doesn´t see what the big deal is to invest so much time and resources on them (specially when more basic areas of functionality are begging for some developer love), perhaps you are not that excited about this piece of news.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pardus 2011 Review

Just a few weeks back the fabulous Turkish distro Pardus released its latest creation, Pardus 2011. It's been quite a while since the last release went live (You may want to check out my review of Pardus 2009 HERE) and the list of upcoming features/enhancements was long and exciting, so I was eager to give Pardus 2011 a spin.

Before I go on with my review, here's a summary of the most important new features/enhancements for this release (an extract from the Official Pardus 2011 Release ANNOUNCEMENT)

Kernel - The latest Linux kernel 2.6.37 provides an up-to-date hardware
support together with a thousand of bug fixes.

Plymouth - The bootsplash technology used in Pardus 2009.2 is completely
dropped and replaced by the new Plymouth engine.

YALI - YALI, the installer of Pardus, gained LVM/RAID and UUID support.

KDE SC - Pardus 2011 comes with the latest KDE Software Compilation, KDE SC
4.5.5. The base packages also contains numerous backports and fixes which will
improve the stability of your desktop experience significantly.

Kaptan - Kaptan, the desktop customization tool of Pardus, now optionally
captures your picture and sets it as your avatar in KDE.

NetworkManager - GNOME NetworkManager 0.8.2 is now the default networking
backend in Pardus 2011. Users are now able to set up their HSPA/CDMA/VPN
networks together with the already supported Ethernet and 802.11 WLAN
networks.

GTK Oxygen style - All GTK applications are now rendered with Oxygen style
thanks to the oxygen-gtk project. This brings a huge improvement to the user
interface consistency.

LibreOffice - LibreOffice, an Open Source personal productivity suite
sponsored by the Document Foundation, is now the default Office Suite in
Pardus 2011.

Firefox - Pardus 2011 comes with Mozilla Firefox 4.0 Beta9 as the default web
browser application. New features of this Firefox release include Firefox
Panorama, application tabs, a redesigned extension manager, Jetpack extensions
support, integration with Firefox Sync, and support for multitouch displays.


An impressive list of features it is, no doubt, but how do they do in practical terms? As far as I am concerned, I like that Pardus developers chose to stick with KDE 4.5 series, specially with its latest patch, as opposed to choosing KDE 4.6 RC. The latter would have probably got more attention from people wanting to get the latest from the K Desktop, but it would have certainly brought lots of instability with it as well. Including the GNOME network manager is a master move, much needed because the network manager in previous releases of Pardus simply didn't cut it. Its integration within the KDE environment is as smooth as it gets, which is also appreciated. Talking about integration, including the fabulous work from the Oxygen-GTK project is also a great thing: Finally a KDE distro that looks consistent regardless of whether the application is native KDE or not. Last but not least, I like to see Pardus embracing LibreOffice, a wise move that others distros (including Ubuntu) are following as well.

INSTALLATION

When I first used Pardus back several months ago, the installation process was one of the things that impressed me the most. I thought it was beautifully put together, good looking, consistent in branding and very easy and intuitive. This time around I was expecting that same quality, but perhaps with a few exciting new features. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed because there was not much to be excited about. Don't get me wrong, YALI is still one of the best installers I have seen in Linux, specially for a KDE distro, but I guess I was expecting better. (By the way, totally subjective, but I think Pardus 2009 Look&Feel and branding was more attractive.)

An interesting (mis)behavior I found when installing Pardus is that it won't install on a USB drive. I tried several times with different devices and under different versions (Beta, RC and Final Release), but it always failed. I am not sure what exactly was not working, because error messages were inconsistent or not even happening. Some may not find this a problem, but with all the testing I do for reviews, having to install a distro on an internal hard drive is a pain. In fact, if it wasn't because I loved Pardus 2009 so much, I probably wouldn't have installed it at all. On a similar note, I don't like how Pardus offers installation media separately from the LiveCD, I find it quite inconvenient.

THE PARDUS DESKTOP

Pardus 2011 is a good customization of the KDE desktop, including own branding, wallpapers, splash screens, KDM themes, even its own set of icons. The latter is a bit incomplete, unfortunately, so users will see applications inside menus that use default Oxygen icons instead of Pardus ones. Considering Pardus developers customized the application catalog, I find this a bit disappointing. Don't get me wrong, I like the Pardus icon set, it adds a bold, original twist to how KDE looks, but I believe consistency is very important.


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PISI is the package installer, this time around including new features and a lot more packages available for download than the previous version. Activating extra repositories is not required this time around, so users will get most of their favorite apps available for download out of the box.


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I have to admit I was expecting better from PISI, at least on the GUI department. We are seeing amazing stuff coming from Ubuntu and Linux Mint, installers that include screenshots, long and informative package descriptions, ratings and some other great ideas inspired on other famous application stores out there. PISI still follows more of an old scholl approach in that sense, offering an interface that looks cluttered at a glance. On the bright side, they introduced ratings on this release, but considering the size of Pardus user community and the fact that ratings are merely informational (it's not a field you can order by, for example), I doubt they will add much value.


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The left column includes package categories, but there are perhaps
too many to make sense out of it. I think this menu would benefit from some restructuring, limiting the top categories to just a handful, then adding subcategories behind them. For example, new Pardus users will probably have a hard time understanding what is inside categories like "Other", "Other Desktops" or "Electronics", to name just a few. I think top categories like "Productivity" or "Entertainment & Games" would probably prove more meaningful and make browsing simpler. Along the same lines, it would help if icons were application related, instead of showing the same package image time and again.


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I love the look of that installation progress on top, informative and modern looking. Unfortunately, it feels a bit out of place compared to the rest of the interface.


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All in all, PISI works well and does what it is supposed to do. Coupled with the fact that Pardus repositories now include most popular apps out there, Pardus users will certainly welcome its new features. Personally, I have to admit I was expecting better, perhaps a more radical set of improvements over the previous version of PISI.

One of the most exciting (and much needed) new features in Pardus is the work that has been done around Network management and its corresponding applet. Pardus 2009 suffered from weak Network management, and given how important it is today to go online, that was a major miss. This time around, developers came up with a very ingenious solution: Use the best from GNOME Network Manager, including its support for HSPA/CDMA/VPN devices and networks, then seamlessly integrate it inside the KDE desktop. Fedora KDE implementations have used GNOME Network manager for years, but integration with KDE was horrible. Fortunately for them, Pardus users will not see anything alien on their desktop.


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LibreOffice makes its debut on Pardus 2011 as the productivity suite of choice, substituting OpenOffice. I believe this is the right move, not only because it guarantees less dependency on whatever ORACLE does with OpenOffice, but also because Pardus users will be able to benefit from the exciting features that will soon come to LibreOffice. For example, many different UI mockups have seen the light lately, giving us an idea of how LibreOffice will look like not long from now. Aside from potentially improving usability, these mockups hint at finally implementing features that have long been missing in OpenOffice, such as native integration with window, control and icon themes. Along with GTK Oxygen project efforts, we should probably enjoy LibreOffice looking like a native application inside KDE and consequently Pardus.


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Other interesting application changes include ShowFoto instead of the more typically available Gwenview. In this case, I am not sure I understand the driver behind this decision, as ShowFoto does not seem to include many relevant improvements over Gwenview.


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GIMP returns as the image manipulation application of choice, also showing a custom splash screen. I have to admit I love those custom splash screens, they convey a feeling of something consistent and carefully put together with attention to detail. Unfortunately, they only show up for a few applications.


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All in all, Pardus comes loaded with a number of attractive applications, quite extensive hardware support and an attractive Look&Feel, all of which translates into a high quality KDE distro release. If you ask me, this is the best release they have ever put together.

Nothing is perfect, though, and betting all your chips on a single hand, KDE in this case, has its low points. KDE is certainly improving lately, but as I mentioned on my recent KDE SC 4.6 REVIEW, it still has some basic areas that are not getting the attention they deserve. As an example, I checked if bluetooth was working fine (I have only seen it happen in Kubuntu 10.10 so far) and I got the good old failure when I was trying to browse my mobile.


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As you can see from the screenshot above, I wasn't able to browse my mobile contents using Bluetooth, something that has worked reliably in GNOME for ages.

FINAL WORDS

Pardus 2011 is an interesting release with many great things about it. Given the terrific work that was put in place for Pardus 2009, I must admit I was expecting even better. I guess I was expecting tighter branding integration, more modern features in PISI and YALI and a more solid and consistent customization of the KDE desktop.

That's just my opinion, of course, so don't be afraid to give Pardus 2011 a go, I am sure you will like what you see.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A single installation packaging system is cooking!

Yes, it seems Linux will finally get a single packaging format that should work on all major distros and their derivatives. That´s not exactly what it is technically speaking, but end users will experience it as such.

After a meeting recently held in Germany, relevant members from Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, Suse, and Mageia projects agreed on a number of interesting ideas. To quoute Richard Hughes: "The idea of the conference was to talk about defining some APIs we can share, to discuss interchange formats, and talking to the UI designers to make installing and removing software on Linux suck less." You can find more about this interesting meeting reading Richard´s own blog entry HERE.

In addition, if you are REALLY into this subject, they uploaded a video of the presentation, shown below (Gets pretty technical, consider yourself warned!).