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Three flavours of Open Source distros reviewed

First INQpressions Mild, medium, and with extra spice
Mon Aug 27 2007, 15:06
FROM THE FLAMES, some of you seem to be a bit interested in the new open sauce flavours floating around. One more go at the sauces, and we will see if you like it. Or not. You can flame, or ask for more. Here goes.

Again, the bog-standard hardware is an Intel Celeron 2.8 Ghz CPU, 512MB RAM, 160GB Hitachi SATA HD, BenQ DVD/R. Sound, video, and 10/100 Ethernet on the MSI mainboard. All hardware known to work on the latest Fedora release.

The three victims for this round of testing are Arklinux 2007.1, Damn Small Linux 4.0, and Sabayon Linux 3.4.

Noah, it's raining. Get the Ark
Ark Linux 2007.1 has been released. From the Arkers: "The Ark Linux team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Ark Linux 2007.1, the latest version of its multi-purpose desktop operating system. Ark Linux can be used for office/school work, desktop publishing, graphics, multimedia entertainment, editing, gaming, software development, and more. There have been many changes since the 2006.1 release - all components have been updated to current versions. For example, Ark Linux 2007.1 includes the KDE 3.5.7 desktop, the 2.2.1 office suite and the Amarok music player 1.4.7. It also includes the latest underlying technologies such as Linux kernel, glibc 2.6.1, and has been built completely with GCC 4.2.1, resulting in a faster system and quicker response times."

If you click over to the Ark website, you can find the lowdown and specs for this Linux distro. Click over to download, and you have a choice between Ark Linux (an install disk iso) or Ark Linux Live... We chose to download both. The iso's are about the same size, but they each have the functions you could expect from the names.

We booted the test machine with the live CD first. It worked, in a live CD sort of way. Slow, but clean. All hardware detected and it worked OK. A crash warning is the first thing up with the live CD, says "KDE Daemon crashed and caused a signal 11." Ignore that, and soldier on. Not much excitement after that, though. KDE 3.5 and some bog-standard apps. If you need a live rescue CD, better to get something with some rescue tools, or a special-purpose live CD for the kidlettes.

Fair enough. Ark Linux is a distro that seems to not be based on another. We decided to have a go at install, and see if it lived up to the press release claims.

The install for Ark is about as unexciting as the whole distro. A couple of surprises, but not in the good way that you might want your surprises packaged. Install found most of the hardware, and went on in its uneventful way.

Here is a shot of the desktop after install. alt='ark-desktop'

Ark Linux uses something called Kynaptic. It has a strange similarity to the Synaptic frontend for Apt, except it is not as smooth. Ark uses a KDE desktop, but with a twist. Instead of a KDE control panel, Ark has Mission Control.


Mission Control is a generally hard to navigate re-write of the KDE control panel with hidden network configuration. Trouble is, you have to find the hidden network control to get Ark on the Interweb. As for the games claim, it works fine for games if you want to play tetras, solitaire, or mah-jong.


The Good
Bog standard. That's good, in a way.

The Bad
Even with DHCP and a detected network card, we had to hunt for the network settings to get it online.

The Ugly
Has no features that are really worth the time to download, burn, and install. There are many other distros that offer a better live CD.

It's Damn Small...
DSL - Damn Small Linux 4.0 is based on Debian, this is touted as a Biz card OS. It has some relation to Knoppix, and it works. A live CD-ette, taking up less than 49MB, it does present a lovely little desktop and fair number of features.

It can be instaled on a USB drive, or on your hard drive, but is is not damn small if you do the latter. You can download the DSL iso from their website, burn it to a CD, pop it in the drive, and boot it up. It is keen, considering.

Think small here. It is an interesting distro, and is fully functional for it's size. The sort of thing you might want to give grams on an older system, but you could use it for everyday things on minimal systems. Have a look here for some questions to your answers.

DSL uses the JWM window manager. It loads with 4 useable desktops, and for your Interweb viewing pleasure you get a Firefox browser, a patched version of Dillo, and the Netrik graphical browser. It even comes with an assortment of Games. Crikey!

This is a cool little distro. Less than 50MB, but still full of Linux goodness. When you boot it up from a CD or a pen drive, DSL finds the network connection, and it is ready to go.

The Good
Like the name says, it is damn small, but still has a lot of features.

The Bad
Does not play CD's or DVD's when you load it from live CD or pen drive.

The Ugly
You cannot do everything with this distro, but it might shock you with what you get for the size.

Sabayon Linux 3.4
Sabayon is touted as a gamers Linux distro, and it wins the award for "hardest to read website," hands-down. From the release notes, this distribution contains libdvdcss, which may not be legal for USian geeks. Check the Sabayon site for details. This distribution contains proprietary and non-GPL softwares too (like from NVIDIA, ATI, and Google). Before running them, be sure to read their license and agree with that, otherwise, just remove those applications. To run SabayonLinux without Proprietary drivers, just use "noproprietary" boot flag.

Whatever. Mostly Sabayon just blows all the way around. It has a crappy installer, and most of the games do not work. If you click on a game, the system lets you know that games are still in development. If they are not in development, they are online games. No joy here.

It takes ages to install, and gives you little in the way of rewards. The distro does include the Linux flight simulator, and some other 3D things, but it has little for the common user.

Best to describe the interface as kludgy. Maybe klunky. It just overall bites. All of the games have some big issues. Only one problem, really. They do not work.

If you want to try this one, make sure you have some hot new hardware. Then do not expect too much.

The Good
Get back to us. We are still trying to think of nice things to say about this distro.

The Bad
From end-to-end, the distro seems to have major suckage.

The Ugly
See above

And the winner is...
DSL gets this round, hands down. Ark Linux has nothing special to recommend, and Sabayon Linux is something for some special folks somewhere, maybe. ?


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