12 Apr 2011

Moonstruck with...


From DarkDuck: 
This is the first post of new author of this blog: Diogones.
He is student at University of Colorado and also fan of Linux. I hope you'll like his posts. So, ladies and gentlemen, please applause! DIOGONES!

 One of the most admirable elements about Linux is, once the community has become comfortable with a distro, another one appears to disrupt the status quo. Mint arose out of a desire to create an improved version of Ubuntu; Salix was developed to make Slackware more user-friendly. While these distributions are often argued to be mere spin-offs, and not true distros, they deserve mention for their unique adaptation to an already established distro.
 MoonOS is one of these noteworthy distros. It may be an obscure distribution, and it might not be genuinely original, but Moon is too interesting to be ignored. Based upon Ubuntu/Debian, MoonOS takes the comfortability, ease of use, and user-friendly aspect of Linux's number one distro, and gives it a more distinctive feel, reminiscent of the Mac's OS X.

 According to MoonOS' official website, the focus of Moon is speed, low memory use, and attractive looks:
I decided to test this distro's statement and downloaded the latest release of Moon, Neak 4 - specifically, the Main Edition, which is powered by the GNOME desktop environment on Ubuntu 10.10. Test ran on USB stick created with  Unetbootin.
 The Main Edition is a huge improvement over the prior releases, and not just because the desktop environment was switched from Enlightenment to GNOME. Neak 4 also introduces a completely original File Hierarchy System, making files and folders much easier to navigate, organize, and find.
 The Appshell Framework, or applications framework, has also been introduced with the Neak release. Essentially, the Appshell works by allowing all users who share a MoonOS computer to be able to share a software package with each other over a Flash drive, thus reducing the need to download a package multiple times for every individual user. Just download the desired package once, and then share with with the Appshell Framework. However, the Framework is still a relatively new feature, so it hasn't been tested with much software yet, and this could lead to some frustrating compatibility issues. However, with further utilization from the MoonOS user base, combined with its automatic inclusion in Neak and future releases, it has the potential to eventually develop into a very mature feature.

 MoonOS' download is sizable, weighing in at 832MB, but the system requirements are fairly basic:
  • 700 MHz x86 processor
  • 384 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • 8 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 1024x768 resolution 
 Anyone with even a Stone Age computer should be able to run Moon without trouble, albeit more slowly on older machines (like those which K.Mandla likes). The actual download of Neak 4 is a live version - fully compatible with Unetbootin, a live USB creator - and it is this version that I tested for this review. But what if a user wanted a faster environment for a slower computer, or didn't want GNOME? Never fear - other choices include the E17 Edition, featuring the Enlightenment DR17 window manager, and the LXDE Edition. Regrettably, both of these editions are not current, so users wishing to use the most cutting edge version must choose the Main Edition, for now. Still, unlike Neak, the older editions offer 64-bit support; those who want to try Moon with their 64-bit software must use the non-GNOME versions.

 The download screen was somewhat confusing: while the About page of MoonOS lists the Main Edition with GNOME as the default environment, the actual download mirror at Linux Freedom mistakenly lists the Enlightenment manager as the Main Edition. It is a minor error, due to neglect for updating the web page, but it is worth mentioning. The actual download page is also difficult to find. There are multiple links to other websites, including Ubuntu and LXDE, but the actual link to the MoonOS download page is listed - curiously enough - under the LXDE edition. At the very end of the LXDE Edition description, in small print the link "Get it now!" finally leads the user to the MoonOS edition selector page, where the download links are provided. While this might not appear to be a terribly demanding issue, it is noteworthy because it denies potential MoonOS users an important luxury: convenience. When the download link is buried at the bottom of the page under heaps of other links, it only makes the otherwise simple task of downloading a distro more difficult, something the developers of MoonOS should remember when updating the Linux Freedom web page.

 After successfully booting from the USB into the live environment, I was greeted by a soft, pleasant green background. Like most distros, Moon has created its very own original artwork, and the artist, Chanrithy Thim, is also the distro's creator. This gives MoonOS several advantages - a focused sense of unity between the art and system among them. If a user ever became bored with the default green desktop, several intriguing pictures are available of a nightly city (or cities), filled with light. Interspersed with these are a few pleasant photographs of nature. MoonOS' theme is an eye-catching sea-green, giving MoonOS a refreshing visage.

 Appearances aside, the most striking feature of Moon is of course, the dock. The Linux version is called Docky, and it serves as your dock manager. With Docky, you can customize the dock any way you wish: change its appearance and color, whether or not it auto-starts, what programs you want on it, and so forth. There is even an auto-hide feature if you want more screen real estate, or merely want it out of the way. Unsurprisingly, it works very similarly to the Mac's dock. Dragging and dropping items from the Applications menu to the dock is simple and intuitive, and the items can be easily rearranged with just a few mouse clicks. Docky also includes what are called "Docklets," helpful apps that can enhance the utility of the dock, like Battery Monitor (for the laptop user), a Gmail checker, and even a shortcut to listen to NPR radio streaming. Most of the apps are also available for display on the panel, but the dock is much larger and easier to see, so a user would be less likely to overlook a critical alert, like a battery-low warning from their battery monitor for example.

 While the dock is quite similar to the OS X version, it still possesses all the customization that Linux users have come to expect. This includes positioning the dock on the top, sides, and bottom; controlling the size of the icons' magnification when they are moused over; the color and appearance of the dock, such as 2-D or 3-D; and even creating more than one Docky. This could lead a user to create a very organized and compartmentalized desktop, with a dock on the left side for office apps, a dock on the bottom for media programs, and a dock on the right side for sound editing software, for example.

 Other than Docky, Linux users will be reminded that this distro is Ubuntu-based: the panel works the same, the Applications, Places, and System menus and their layouts are as familiar as ever, the MoonOS installer shares its layout with the Ubuntu version, and Moon's Software Center mimics the Add/Remove Programs application in Ubuntu perfectly.

 The software selection that is packaged with MoonOS is similar to Ubuntu's lineup, but a few differences exist - Rythmbox was dropped in favor of Banshee, F-Spot has been swapped out with Shotwell Photo Manager, and so forth. As always, users have the option to remove any default application in favor of a preferred replacement downloaded from the Software Center. Despite individual preferences, MoonOS contains all the utilities necessary to qualify it as a complete desktop or laptop solution, and since it shares its' repositories with Ubuntu, MoonOS users can enjoy the incredibly vast array of free software that the Ubuntu community provides.

 Should Linux users try Moon? Since it is more of a creative spin-off of Ubuntu, and not a completely self-made distro, it really is more a matter of taste, computing style, and personal preference than functionality or utility. Former and current Mac users looking for an easy to use, friendly distro with a familiar interface can find refuge in MoonOS to ease any transition pains they might experience in swapping to Linux. Of course, like Ubuntu, MoonOS is an excellent beginner's distro, and it will provide most of the tools a former Windows user may be looking for in Linux. Even those who are tired with Ubuntu and wish to try a different approach will discover Moon to be just as easy as - if not easier than - Ubuntu with its Docky alternative. MoonOS' default theme is arguably more attractive, although whether Moon's green is more likable than Ubuntu's brown is a purely subjective matter. Also, all Ubuntu users have to do is change their default appearance, and the argument ceases to exist.
 Finally, more experienced users could decide that Moon does not meet their advanced needs, and Ubuntu fans and Linux veterans may be annoyed by Docky and unimpressed with the original artwork. Nevertheless, with its alternative take on Ubuntu and its colorful, customizable Docky, MoonOS remains easy enough for anyone to use and interesting enough for even a dedicated Linux user to try.

More about MoonOS:
http://moonos.org/ - official site
http://desktoplinuxreviews.com/2011/01/17/moonos-4-neake/& - review by Desktop Linux Reviews
http://cristalinux.blogspot.com/2011/01/moonos-4-neake-review.html - review by The Linux Experience


  1. I find it hard to believe any distro that uses Gnome+Requires 384megs of RAM is really "light". I've fixed up a number of computers using LXDE/Enlightenment with lower specs than that - Gnome would run like a dog on them.

    In fact since MoonOS moved away from the E desktop it really has just faded into the group of countless other Ubuntu spins stacking in codecs and using the Gnome desktop.

    Also - I don't see it mentioned anywhere here, did you try their "appshell framework" or even install the distro to real hardware? What is the hardware support like?

    Also typo here - "Flash driver"

    ~Jeff Hoogland

  2. 2 Jeff:
    384 MB is really not that much these days. Also this is not because Gnome but rather because of all other Ubuntu stuff.

    MoonOS still provides E17.

    HW support is the same as in Ubuntu (it is Ubuntu based). I do not know why people still think different distribution provide different HW support. It is possible to compile kernel without some modules, but this is generally not the current working of most distros. No matter if you have Ubuntu, Fedora, or openSUSE your HW support will be 99,99% exactly the same with the same kernel version.

  3. I have a two year old 1K USD laptop that comes with 2 gigs of RAM. You'd have to look quite hard to buy a laptop from Dell with less than that today.

  4. Who ever said anything about "modern" or "current" hardware. There are piles of hardware out there that can still be used by using truly light desktops.

    @pedro - the MoonOS E17 is built on Ubuntu 9.04 - something that stopped getting updates almost six months ago. Plus the E desktop it ships with is just as old - piles of bugs have been fixed since then.

  5. I lost interest as soon as I seen "just another clone of ubumtu's garbage copy of debian".

    Enough bumtu crap already.

  6. @Jeff
    Thanks for typo! Fixed!

    I am almost agree about same kernel. But other than kernel, there is a topic of firmware. Bodhi Linux 1.0.0 has Ubuntu 10.04 underneath. At the same time Bodhi supports my WiFi card Broadcom 4311 OOtB while Ubuntu requires Internet connection to download the driver.

    My laptop is 4.5 years old. I have another one which is less than 1.5, but use it rarely for my tests.
    Linux is very good in this aspect because you can find system which fits ideally for your hardware, being it brand new laptop or something from last century. Old equipment even better because of drivers' availability.

    Thanks for visiting us and letting us know your position anyway!

  7. Good review...I ran moonOS Neak in VirtualBox and was unable to update the Ubuntu core stuff from 10.10 (maverick) to 11.04 (narwhal). I tried "sudo apt-get upgrade" but got an "insufficient space" error. Anyone have a suggestion for a n00b?

  8. @CoolFreeHardBop:
    Not sure I can help here. Maybe you can ask at support page.