Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
SymphonyOS is proud to announce the release of Alpha 4, as seen on Distrowatch and the Symphony website. Tuxmachines is proud to take a look! I first became aquainted with Symphony back in May with the release of Alpha 3 and was quite impressed at that time with Symphony's unique desktop. As we take a look at this newest release today, we will be concentrating on what's new and improved.
If you'll recall, Symphony is based highly on Knoppix and uses much of its underpinning as well as some tools developed to work on Knoppix. For example, with Alpha 3, hard drive installation was possible using "knoppix-install" on the commandline, but Alpha 4 brings the Kanotix hard drive installation gui tool. This capable tools brings with it a warning that it is still under development and releases itself from responsibility of any and all data loss incurred with using it. I found it to be fairly straighforward and suffered no adverse effects. It did install and complete the job without incident. Some problems encountered include the bootloader step(s). The first being no option to skip the bootloader which is something sorely needed, especially since grub is the only option. The second came when trying to make the boot floppies. This step failed, but no on-screen feedback or second chance was given. All in all a fairly minor complaint given the infancy of both the tool and the os projects. Otherwise the installer completed its task as configured. ...Or so I thought.
The configuration is an exercise in simplicity for the user. It walks the user through partitioning if needed or otherwise designating and formatting partitions, setting up root passwords and an user account with password, as well as where to install the bootloader. However, it took two installs before I was able to boot the system. The first time I chose reisefs as it's usually my favorite, but it wouldn't boot as I reckon the initrd was created using an ext3 system. Reinstalling on ext3 allowed a boot.
However, the desktop would not load. I only got a big white screen. Tried as I might I couldn't coax that desktop into starting. As a result (my story is really late posting and) I wasn't able to get any synaptic screenshots (it wouldn't open on the livecd for me), but I can say that apt-get from the commandline was working fine.
Which leads (or bowls right passed) the other major improvement to SymphonyOS - the addition of apt/synaptic package management. I think everyone at least likes synaptic. I've yet to read any bad press on it. No matter if you're a source based, rpm-based, or deb-based distro lover, everyone likes apt/synaptic. I think this was a good (if not obvious) choice for Symphony.
Another new addition is the use of Beagle for local searches. I didn't realize that's what it was when I was using it, I just noticed it was a nice looking seach window that matched the whole of the desktop experience quite well.
Other improvements include desktop links (icons) to sound and net configuration tools, freedesktop.org .desktop file support, and just an all over polish and spit shine. The theme is still an attractive blue and the corner icons/targets seem smaller and more discreet. Also new is this cool looking clock at the top center of screen. For a full list of improvements, one can visit SymphonyOS' Alpha 4 page.
Some of the links (icons) were still inoperative, but most did their job. The rox filemanagement was nice looking even if it couldn't open the jpeg thumbnails, instead giving the error kview not found. The fonts were gorgeous throughout even in firefox.
Overall Alpha 4 is an exciting development release. It shows wonderful improvement and future promise. Although a few problems were encountered, it performed very well for an alpha/development product. It just makes one even more anxious for a production quality release (no pressure, no pressure!)
Speaking of the future, Ryan has given fans a glimpse. One change planned for Beta 1 includes a componentized Linux, that he explains will allow "compatibility with Progeny, Linspire, and Xandros along with other members of the consortium as well as with the core Debian." Another is Dashboard Compatibility, which he says will "make Symphony's desklet system compatible with Apple's Dashboard system. This means that if we succeed, dashboard widgets will be able to run inside Symphony OS." And yet another will be Multimedia. Ryans states, "we want beta 1 to let you play movies, organize photos, listen to music and internet radio all without going through the kind of effort usually required on Linux."
I've put a few Screenshots up in the Gallery, and SymphonyOS has some on their site. Also, for reference is my original story on SymphonyOS, which gives a fairly good introduction to this wonderfully revolutionary Linux distribution.