Following on from my last post, here are the notes I made as I installed Ubuntu 12.04, Arch Linux and Stella 6.3. I haven’t polished them too much: they’re just what came to mind, as they came to mind. A “-” means I considered the comment to be a black mark against the distro in question; a “+” means I was impressed by something. Double-plusses or double-minuses mean, respectively, I was bowled over or really annoyed by something.
I don’t claim I assessed every distro equally thoroughly: I tested what I felt needed testing and gave up when it felt appropriate to do so!
Bear in mind as you read this that my assessment criteria were as I mentioned last time: highly personal and quite specialised in some respects. Just because I didn’t get on with a particular distro doesn’t mean someone else won’t find it wonderful!
- Says that for a best install, you have to be connected to the Internet.
- Says it’s almost finished copying files (all the way through the install and seconds after starting!)
- Unbelievably slow installation (over 1.75 hours, albeit with no Internet connection)
- Windows controls on the wrong side of the window banner (fixable, post-installation, but still…)
- Screen resolution completely screwed on first install (spread across my entire twin monitor setup, not the boundaries of the KVM machine it’s running in).
- Default fonts are chunky in an unattractive way. Can be changed, of course, but I shouldn’t have to. Forgiveable, I guess if everything else is good.
- Complains about incomplete language support (wasn’t allowed to download the relevant multilingual packs from the Internet, I expect). Trouble is, I’m English and I’m fine with what it’s got, so why should it complain?
- Gave up. This is not the distro you are looking for. It’s ugly, I don’t like Unity, I don’t like losing a strip of my screen for a giant set of launcher icons. Too much dependency on an Internet connection, not a great deal of software installed by default.
- Installer dumps you at a root command prompt with no indication of what to do next (would it have killed them to auto-open the install.txt file which is present if you know to look for it?)
- Very complex-looking installation, which appears to demand an Internet connection and also, practically, requires that you have access to the Internet on another machine so you can follow one of the million-and-one “howto build this distro” guides that are out there. But if you can’t access those articles via another PC, you’re going to get stuck really quickly.
- Gave up without taking it further: I simply don’t have the Internet bandwidth available to even get this thing started to a minimal graphic standard… nor the patience.
+ Boots live off the installation CD, which is handy: you can use the thing without actually having to install it to your hard drive
+ Lots of different video resolutions available from the start, so you’re not forced to run at crappy 1024×768, for example.
- – Twice crashed the VM and caused my keyboard to disappear from the *physical* host. Had to switch to using VMware, in which it was well-behaved
+ Quick installation, but that’s because….
- It’s a fairly minimal desktop installation, with very little software installed by default
+ Gnome 2, obviously
- Ghastly logo, though I realise this is trivial in the grand scheme of things
+ Arista Transcode… no idea what it is, does or how good it is (the KVM virtual machine hung when I launched it!), but interesting to know of a new (to me) media encoder!
+ LibreOffice (3.4.5, which is a bit on the old side)
+ Calc has 1 million rows
- Firefox 10.0.6 (which is ancient), and no Chrome/Chromium by default, though a suitable respository from which to obtain it *is* enabled by default, which is nice. No Opera, though.
- The font looks weird (a bit big, chunky, crayon-y). Turns out, the default font is Droid Sans, rather than just “Sans” as you’d get in standard Centos. I don’t like it
+ MKV Movies play first time of asking, no extra installs
+ Transmission is installed by default (torrent download software). Convenient.
- Gimp is only 2.6 (version 2.8 is the current version)
- – Rhythmbox hung importing a FLAC first time of asking, but did play it next time it was launched
- Movie player is offered as the default FLAC player (and *does* play FLAC first time of asking). But why a movie player to play audio?!
+ A couple of interesting extra programs that are not normally in Centos by default : Zenmap (GUI front-end to nmap), Shutter (taking screenshots), Filezilla (ftp client)
++ Flash player is installed by default: the BBC website plays back videos without fuss or bother, first time of asking.
- First post-install update asks to download a bazillion languages’-worth of “Auto-correction rules”, including Spanish, Finnish, Polish and Swedish. Ditto the Libre Office language packs for all those languages (plus some) at 10MB each. Very un-subtle regional awareness, basically
- Mostly underwhelming: I had hoped for a multi-media-ready, 3rd-party-program-festooned Dektop Enterprise Linux. Instead, I’ve got Enterprise Linux with not much added and quite a lot taken away (compared to my standard Centos build).
+ Gparted installed and ready to go
++ Stellarium 11.3 is available from the standard repositories (EPEL, basically). However, this is the same version that goes graphically beserk whenever I’ve installed it from EPEL repositories before, so my expectations of it actually working on my physical machine are somewhere near zero
- A delete command that bypasses trash is not enabled by default. That’s a Gnome “feature”, and also part of Centos, but I’d hoped a Centos respin would “correct” that feature.
Summing up this round of testing, then:
- Arch we won’t get into: it’s designed to be the way it is, and I’m not the right target demographic for it. I’ve used it in the past, and I liked that you can build it into being whatever distro you want it to be. But that all takes effort and downloads, neither of which I am, these days, prepared to invest in!
- Ubuntu I find just “odd”. I simply couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for testing it deeply because first impressions count, and my first impressions of it are: yuck. Controls in the wrong place, weird fonts, a horrible application launcher… it’s got all the ghastliness of Gnome Shell without actually being Gnome Shell, which is saying something!
- Stella is a valiant effort, but there simply aren’t enough extra goodies to make it truly distinguishable from plain old Centos (or Scientific Linux)… and quite a lot of apparent instability about it. Enough instability to force me to change my virtualisation software for one thing; and that’s more than enough to put me off installing it for real. An annoying choice of default font, for no apparent reason, rounds off a not-very-good user experience. A lot of the negative ratings I gave it are, admittedly, for things which are completely standard in Red Hat, Centos and Scientific Linux anyway (for example, the fact that there’s no default option to bypass the recycle bin and go straight for a proper delete is common to them all; the old versions of several applications are similarly a feature of any distro). I had merely hoped a Centos Respin might take the opportunity to “fix” some of these things… but Stella doesn’t. Certainly an interesting idea, though, and something I’ll definitely keep an eye on.