Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
Underground Desktop is a Debian "unstable" based Linux distribution consisting of apt-get/synaptic, kde 3.4.0, gcc 3.3.5, and kernel 18.104.22.168.. Their focus seems to be on the desktop user. The earliest release I could find was March 29 at beta version 012, with an upgrade patch being released on or about April 17. Distrowatch welcomed them as a new addition to their database last week as announced in the June 27 DistroWatch Weekly. I'd been trying to find a Debian that I could get excited about and have yet to have much success in that area - until today.
Its main features are:
The graphical installer will guide you through the installation in a simple and effective way.
Underground Desktop is based on Debian unstable, so you can install bleeding edge software easily.
The desktop environment, KDE, is compiled with optimizations for modern processors.
The linux kernel is optimized in order to improve desktop performance.
KDE is the most advanced desktop environment in the linux world.
We include a recent release of KDE.
One of my biggest problems I've had with most Debian based distros has been the antiquated versions of applications and the kernel. Underground Desktop is based on the unstable branch, allowing it to bring its users a more modern up-to-date distribution.
Another wonderful thing about Underground is its easy installation. It may not have an abundance of features, but it's easy and it works. Underground uses the Debian Anacoda installer. It walks you through partitioning if needed, or just naming your / if not. It asks a few config questions like which video driver and monitor setting you might want to use and where to put grup or lilo, then it precedes to just install its entire image. No package selection offered - or needed I guess. Then one can set up a root password and an user account.
Upon first boot, it runs some hardware detection and set up. It did a pretty good job detecting my hardware and loading the modules. It sets up a fstab based on the partitions it finds, but does not mount them automatically. Good on them for that! However, it boots straight into a graphical desktop as root. tsck tsck. But what a nice desktop it is! Log out and re-log in as user and go about your business. ...until next boot when it logs you in as root again. I'd have to fix that if I was gonna run it everyday.
Its only offering is KDE and that's alright with me. It's a nice default setup as you can see in the thumbnail above (click for closer look). Transparency is enabled in the menus and panel adding a nice touch. The desktop looks like they are almost trying to look like symphony, but as you can see below, all the configurations and applets are just regular kde applets. I'd never thought of doing that with the clock before. I thought it looked nice.
The kernel source is included and the nvidia graphic drivers built for me with no issues. The desktop looked great under vesa, but it looks even better under nvidia. The fonts were the most noticeable improvement and the greater resolution is always appreciated.
Your network connection isn't set up automagically, which is almost a standard feature these days, but after setting mine up at the commandline, I then noticed the network configuration in the menu. Yet there is a downside to that menu configuration method as well. You can set it up static or dhcp, and then it puts an Network Connection icon on root's desktop to connect or disconnect.
Another item found in the menu is the synaptic frontend to apt-get. Upon clicking and entering the root password, it opened and asked if I wanted to refresh the source list. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any updates or additional packages available to test that aspect. However, I have no reason to doubt it'd work just fine.
So, all and all I found Underground Desktop 012/013 to be a wonderful early effort. It looks nice and allows one an easy modern Debian installation. Included apps are a bit sparce, I really missed ksnapshot. It's mostly stable tho I did experience a few konqueror crashes. It's really nice to look at and speed is above average being optimized for i686. It has a few issues to work through, but I think Underground Desktop is another one to watch. Seems I'm not the only one that thinks so.