Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
I've been busy testing away at distros lately. I know I haven't produced too many reviews lately, but that's because since receiving my laptop this passed Christmas, distros now have a higher hurdle to clear. I've been testing, but not many are up to the challenge of a commercially available off-the-rack laptop. One "almost there" was VectorLinux which I reviewed for this week's DistroWatch Weekly. Another is the subject of this article: sidux 2007-01.
I say Vector was almost there because I still had one important issue with it. Although I was able to work through most of the problems with it on my laptop, I couldn't get the suspend to ram or suspend to disk to work. Honestly, I quit working on it as soon as the article on it was published, but otherwise I liked it quite a bit. Never underestimate the value of a nice looking system. Even geeks like eye candy too.
Things went a bit easier with Sidux than experienced with Vector and most laptop specific areas went really well. Sidux comes in the livecd format, so one can test it on their machines before installing it their harddrives. When one first boots Sidux, they can instantly spot the knoppix family genes. The familar knoppix output continues until one reaches the KDE login splash. It's a customzied Sidux graphic using what looks like Marble icons for the progress indicators.
At the desktop one finds a customized background proudly signifying the system running. The panel is neat and tidy, and the desktop has a few useful icons. My initial resolution was set at 1024x768 using the nv driver. Since my desired resolution wasn't available in the xrandr/screen adjust tool, I edited the xorg file by hand. All that was required was listing the desired 1200x800 at the designated default depth and restarting X.
Next was wireless. I attempted to use the ndiswrapper installation tool found in the menu, but that didn't seem to go very well. I got errors about not being able to install my needed windows drivers. I had already rmmod the bcm43xx et al modules and even uninstalled the bcml5 that I've discovered usually ships with distros these days. However, a few quick entries at the commandline and I could connect to my router or my neighbor's.
There was a battery monitor and system power profile/cpufreq applet already enabled in the system tray upon boot/install. It is kpowersave, a downloadable upgrade/replacement for KDE's klaptop. I like kpowersave a bit better, so that was a nice surprise. It works as it should, no problems to report.
Usually on the laptop, if I can get those three things working, I'll test the harddrive installer. Sidux includes a fairly nice and new-user friendly installer. It only asks a minimum of configuration questions and the layout is in tab form, so it's easy to go back and double check things. GParted is included during the install if any partition work is required. I used GParted this test and it did as I requested. I deleted on larger partition I had at the end of the disk and made two smaller ones. Other options include choice of bootload, setting up a user, and passwords. The only glitch was when choosing grub to be installed onto the partition, the system grub became unbootable.
The next thing I test for is suspend to ram and suspend to disk. This is a bit iffy with Sidux on my machine. It seems suspend to disk works as it should, but my usb mouse is gone from then on. Nothing, including restarting X, will bring it back. Suspend to ram is a big no-no. It'll go on to sleep, but it won't wake back up again. As stated in the article on Vector, this works in openSUSE and PCLOS, so I know it's possible. As with Vector, I've about given up on this function for now.
After install and getting the hardware to work as desired, there is the system. Sidux is primarily a KDE distro, but XFCE4 (4.4 rc2), Fluxbox, and a couple more are available during the system install. Fluxbox comes with the Sidux wallpaper using the default meta theme. There is a nice complete menu ready. XFCE4 looks pretty much default except for icons on the desktop being enabled.
Sidux ships with a 2.6.20 kernel, Xorg 7.1.1, gcc 4.1.2, and KDE 3.5.5. Iceweasel 220.127.116.11 appears to be the default browser and OpenOffice.org is only at version 2.0.4. Besides what appears to be most of the KDE apps, other apps include The Gimp, Amarok, K3B, Kaffine, Scribus, XFMedia player, and Inkscape. There are a few system configuration tools, but not a lot. Ksensors is available through apt-get.
Most all software functioned well here, but some of the system utilities didn't. Klik for example, didn't do as it was intended. I got errors each package I tried to install with it. There is a meta-package installer present as well, but anything you want in that, you'll probably already have installed when it's offered during system install. apt-get at the commandline works well though. The ndiswrapper graphical configuration couldn't work as described above. The KDE printer configuration worked really well setting up my samba printer.
There are no browser plugins or media codec included in Sidux, but Iceweasel (and Firefox) will install Flash for you. Java is still a manual install.
So, all in all, Sidux did fairly okay on the hardware aspect, and the software included worked well too. I was disapppointed OOo was version 2.0.4 and KDE was 3.5.5. It's kinda a drag these days to have to mess with browser plugins and multimedia codecs yourself. I haven't read the site all that closely, but I think they have this "only free software" philosophy going on. So, if you're into that there ya go. I was quite excited when X was so easy to adjust and ndiswrapper worked so quickly for me at the commandline, but the excitement died down a bit after the harddrive install. It's a nice enough system and it looks pretty good, but the difficulties with grub, suspend, and non-free software make it another "almost there." It wouldn't be a chore to have to live with it, but for now, I think I'll still be selecting PCLOS at the grub screen.