12 Sept 2011

Russian Linux: Simply Works!

Different Linux distributions get their names different ways. Debian was named after its founder and his wife. Ubuntu got its name from African language. Fedora is a type of hat, which gives us a clue to its link to RedHat.
Developers of distribution which I will talk about today did not want to make the name of their product difficult to remember or something unusual. They called it... Simply Linux.
What is Simply Linux? This is distribution which is based on the core of Alt Linux. I wrote about Alt Linux couple of times, so you may wish to have a look at those posts. Alt Linux is commercial product which is marketed in Russia for use in schools and government organisation.
On another hand, Simply Linux is not commercial, but community project, which is also supported by the team of Alt Linux.
I honestly tried to write a review of Simply Linux earlier. But unfortunately up until recent version this operating system was not released in Live mode. Latest release of version 4.0, which happened on the 29th of August 2011, changed the situation. There is Live mode now.
There are 2 options available for download: 32-bit CD and 64-bit DVD. They are not much different in size actually, but 64-bit version weights more than 700 Mb. I decided to go for CD version.
As you may be aware, I currently don't have proper Linux-running laptop for my tests, and use Toshiba L500-19X which has Windows 7 installed. It means I could not test all the options for Live USB creation from the iso image. The only one which I tried was Unetbootin, but it did not help. That's why I decided to go via well known way of burning CD-RW.
So, image is burnt to the disk. Optical drive is ready. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!

Simple welcome

System initially boots into menu with 3 options: Install, Live CD and Boot from HDD. This menu is in Russian. Of course, you can change the language here: button F2 is for this. Unfortunately, even description of this option is in Russian. Same as it was for Alt Linux. English (US) is in the list of available languages, and I made this selection. Immediately after that boot screen got corrupted, although it did not stop me from selecting Live CD option.
Simply Linux boots from CD-RW relatively quickly, although I had not had much experience in booting Toshiba laptop from CD-RW up until now. I usually used DVD on it, which could be a different story.
Once booted, you got onto desktop with 3 icons on it: Home, Trash and Install. Last one bears Alt Linux logo. Probably because Simply Linux uses Alt Linux installer.
Screen itself has live spring-themed wallpaper, and very big selection of other wallpapers is available. There are 4 virtual desktops by default. Switch is on the taskbar which is located at the bottom. Other than that, there are buttons with SL text (kicks off menu), minimize all windows and Web browser on the taskbar panel. I'd like to note a little bug or defect here: pop-up balloons with tips for buttons are in Russian, even though system language was selected as English.
On the right side of the panel there are buttons for language indicator, update checker, network manager, clock and few other, more or less standard.
Simply Linux uses Desktop environment XFCE 4.8, very fresh release of light and popular DE.
What is interesting, below the XFCE you can choose from two window managers: xfwm4 and Compiz. There is a button on the taskbar which contains Compiz menu, and you can switch between managers right there. Of course, Compiz gives you much more desktop effects once activated. I can't say I like all of them (wobbly windows - why would I need this), but since Toshiba laptop is powerful enough to run all of those effects without any issue, I activated Compiz for my Live run.
When I wrote my review of Alt Linux I mentioned that my mouse cursor behaves itself wildly in most Linux distributions on Toshiba laptop. Alt Linux managed to curb the cursor. Simply Linux went even further: mouse moves extremely slow here, but what is more important it never jumps without my request. That's great!

Simply connecting

Network manager which sits in the taskbar immediately showed me my wireless network in the list of available. It means that Simply Linux contains firmware for Realtek 8191 WiFi card right in the box, which was quite rare case in my previous test. Few clicks, keystrokes and I am connected! This post was drafted right from Simply Linux.

Let's talk Russian

I have already mentioned language indicator. It is on the taskbar panel right from the start. Probably because Russian users always have to change their layouts during the work. That's why developers in Russia never forget about this necessary tool. Default language for keyboard layout on Live CD is US. But there are actually 2 options available: Russian layout is second one. Switch between languages is key combination Ctrl-Shift. How did Simply Linux developers know my preferred option? It matches perfectly! That's great! Although, I would replace US with GB, but that is little detail. I managed to do this myself in very easy way.

What is inside?

Even though size of Simply Linux is not very big, it includes quite good selection of software available straight away.
Let's start with Internet tools. Default browser in Simply Linux is Firefox 5.0. It is not the latest release, but quite fresh one. It is accompanied by Thunderbird mail reader, Pidgin messenger, Transmission torrent client, and few other network tools. Most interesting here is presence of Chestnut dialer. Russian reality... you may still need a dialler to get connected!
There are about a dozen of different games included in Simply Linux. They are mostly simple ones like Mines, Mahjongg and Sudoku. But you can also enjoy Chess right out of the box.
Graphics section includes GIMP, Document viewer, XSane scanning tool and gThumb.
Multimedia tools include Audacious and GNOME MPlayer as multimedia players, Brasero CD burning tool, Mixer and EasyTAG. Last one is for quick editing of tags in multimedia files. I've never seen any distribution so far which includes this tool by default, but I find it very useful when you need to manage your music library with files obtained from different sources.
Office part of Simply Linux menu includes full LibreOffice suite with Math, Draw and Base applications. I was slightly disappointed when no one of LibreOffice applications started for me. Instead, there was an error asking for installation of Java Runtime Environment. Other office tools also include YAGF (image recognition) and StarDict (dictionary). Both could be quite useful, especially for users with limited knowledge of English or Russian.
System section of main menu in Simply Linux contains quite a lot of applications, but you would find most of them in other distributions too: Terminal, Disk utility, Task manager, System monitor, File manager (Thunar in this case). Most interesting here is Synaptic. Let's mark it here, we'll come back to this tool later.
And finally, Tools section include simple but needed tools: Calculator, Medit (not usual gedit or leafpad), Notes, Screenshot.
Simply Linux developers also listed Wine as available in the default distribution, but I did not find it in my Live CD. Maybe I was looking in wrong direction...
What I noticed while looking through the menu items was speed of Simply Linux. Not only the speed of work, but also applications start time. Most applications launch without referring to CD at all!

Adding more software

Synaptic is graphical tool to manage packages in Simply Linux. Packages themselves are in RPM format, as I could understand from RPM install menu item in Settings section.
Synaptic itself is of version 0.57.3. It's not the latest, I believe. What is definitely missing here is search bar right on the menu panel. There is search button, of course, but it is quite common now to have search function enabled by default, so I was missing this bit of functionality
Synaptic lists different mirrors for AltLinux repositories. But none of them is activated by default. What could be found in Synaptic in this case? My attempts to fine Skype, Chrome and Chromium gave me zero result. I decided to activate the repositories in altlinux.ru domain (4 at the top) and then reload the list. This process took Synaptic significant time. After approximately 5 minutes it reported some errors in the downloading and finally showed the result.
While Synaptic was processing the repositories, I tried downloading and installation of Fedora (RPM) version of Chrome from Google official site. Unfortunately, it did not work.
At last, list of packages is here. Did it bring me any good news? Yes, but partially! Chromium is here (although v.12, not the latest). Chrome is not. I did not find Skype, but there is Skype call recorder.
I tried to get Skype for Fedora from official site, but unfortunately was not lucky in installation of it in Live run either. Probably installed system would behave itself differently.
Just a quick search for other tools in Synaptic: leafpad is OK, GNOME Office is OK, KOffice is OK, GNOME Baker is not OK. I think if you're interested in more details, you can check yourself with more details.

Getting out of the box

Simply Linux automatically mounted local partitions (they are in NTFS) on my laptop and placed them in Thunar left panel. Of course, Russian characters in the filenames were recognised absolutely without any issue.
Unfortunately, Thunar  network browsing tool did not find my external network drive, so I had to mount it manually. Simple command  sudo mount -t cifs //fnd/*** /mnt/net -o guest,nolinux did all I wanted. Yes, there is ready-to-use folder for mounting network locations. And no, I did not specify iocharset parameter. Even without it Simply Linux correctly showed me all the Russian filenames both in Thunar and Midnight Commander.

Get me entertained!

I have tried to play different types of multimedia files from my Live CD run of Simply Linux. Result?
Files played without any request for additional codecs! Even video file recorded by iPhone4 (I guess it is Quick Time format, but not 100% sure) played straight away. There were no issues with YouTube videos either: they simply played.
Small issue worth mentioning here though... Unfortunately, neither MPlayer nor Audacious managed to play MP3 files from remote network drive. Same file played fine after copying to local computer. Is it an issue with my way of mounting or something is wrong in Samba file system configuration in Simply Linux?

Simply works

What is my opinion about Simply Linux? This is very nice Operating system. It is quick in response, rich in pre-packaged software and even more listed as available in package manager tool. It supports English and some other languages (Spanish, Portuguese and of course Russian).
There are few issues though which I mentioned above. None of them is critical and some of them I hope are just pains of Live run.
Although, I would add here one more issue for non-Russian speaking users, which could be a show-stopper actually. There is not much support in foreign languages I am afraid. Whole site and forum are in Russian.
Because of that, you may need some help in navigation through the Simply Linux web page. If you want to download the version I wrote about here, please go to download page and press big green button for 32-bit version. Link to 64-bit version is few lines below.
And, by the way... you can get CD with 32-bit version Simply Linux via BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk site!

Do you use Simply Linux on your computer? Or maybe you plan to try it after reading this post? Please share your opinion.

1 comment:

  1. I've been using Ubuntu for a while now but I'll probably consider that one. I think it's better in some ways.

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