Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
Sam is an installable livecd based on Mandriva Cooker and uses xfce4 as its desktop. I tested Sam about a year ago back when it was still a mini distro of approximately 200mb. At that time it wouldn't stay running long enough to allow us to get some screenshots. They released a full 700 mb preview of their upcoming 2006 release and we at Tuxmachines thought we'd check it out. How did Sam do this time?
The livecd boots to a text screen offering some prelimary information in English and German, mainly consisting of passwords and instructions for obtaining further help. The F1 and F2 screens offer some "cheat codes" and booting options. In the end we ended up booting with xres=1280x1024. Since it couldn't detect my monitor correctly, it turns out we achieved 1152x768. No real reflection on Sam, as not many distros detect that monitor correctly.
The silent boot splash is of an olive greenish color embossed with the Sam linux desktop logo and a darker green progress bar. It's a very good, if not almost exact, match to the desktop backdrop used in xfce4. OD green sounds repulsive in print, but in use is quite refreshingly different and surprisingly attractive.
Xfce4 is your only choice, so at the graphical login screen, log in as sam with the password sam. At that point a pretty xfce4 4.2.2 desktop is presented. The windows XP/plastic looking windec isn't my favorite, but the lovely widget style more than makes up for it. And of course, there are many themes and styles from which to choose. Xfce4 is really a great little desktop.
Sam includes the Mandriva Control Center for some of those more pesky hardware and system configuration chores and it utilizes the hard drive installer from PCLinuxOS. I found the mcc to work wonderfully, but I had some difficulties with the harddrive installer. Started with "livecd-install" at the commandline, it went thru the first few steps without issue, but then the progress screen goes blank. This is due to some perl threading support now unavailable in Mandriva. However, the installer was still functioning at that point. We could see from the output in the terminal it was continuing to work. ...until it locks the system up. I tried a half dozen times to install Sam onto my hard drive and I can not report success. I tried different cdrom drives, disconnecting extraneous hardware, disabling dma in varying combinations, and even tried different filesystems. Each attempt would get so far then freeze the computer solid. Whereas this isn't a definitive "it don't work" statement, I can say that it didn't work for me. It may work for you.
In addition to the system tools, there are plenty of applications. There are office applications, games and emulators, multimedia and graphic tools, as well as internet and networking programs. The menu is full of software - from Abiword to Zsnes.
Some of the applications include:
Under the hood we find:
And so much more. Full Rpmlist here.
The multimedia applications were no disappointment overall. The cd players did their jobs and the tv app worked as well. Xsane and my scanner worked out of the box. Mplayer did just fine with basic mpegs, avis, and bins, but did not fair so well with encrypted dvds. Extra libs are required for that probably. Browser plugins were 2 for 3 as tested here. Java worked, flash was included, and the mplayer plugin tried to work - and sound did, but the video never came through. I've seen this before, but I can't recall where. I'm not real sure we can attribute this bug to Sam.
The developers stated in their announcement that this is a pre-release and almost guaranteed bugs. Tuxmachines found this release fairly stable and the only real bug we found was in the installer. The performance of Sam was adequate from the livecd with only the occasional lag/delay. The included applications are abundant and can fill most regular user's needs. The look and feel was pretty, as well as the fonts. Hardware detection was good. Overall Sam is really coming along nicely. Perhaps when final is released, you might want to look at this bleeding edge Mandriva derivative.