13 Feb 2012

Dreamlinux 5.0: a leap to the dream

There are a lot of Linux distributions based on Debian. The most famous of them are Ubuntu, some flavours of Linux Mint and Aptosid. There are many more less known, for example, Kademar. Another Debian derivative which I have already written about is DreamLinux.

I cannot say that my previous attempt to run DreamLinux was successful. It was the version 3.5, and there were issues with font size which prevented me from running any tests at all.

Since then, DreamLinux team released another version of their distribution, version 5.0. As you can see, they skipped version 4. To be precise, they abandoned version 4 after several beta-releases, because of their own visage of the product. Anyway, the new version 5.0 is now based on Debian Testing branch and is fully compatible with it, the developers have announced.

DreamLinux 5.0 is only available to download as an ISO file with XFCE desktop environment. This is a small step backwards, because version 3.5 had a GNOME version, too. Maybe it's not that bad, because GNOME2 is no longer in active development, and GNOME3 is too far from perfection and total acceptance by all users yet.

The ISO file for DreamLinux 5.0 can be downloaded either from one of two mirrors, or via torrent. It is about 965 Mb in size, much larger than version 3.5.

I downloaded the ISO file from torrent and "burnt" it onto my 8Gb USB stick using the Unetbootin utility.

So, the preparations are over. USB stick in is the port of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

Booting up the dream

The boot time of DreamLinux 5.0 is rather short, although the boot process is not the most common in Live Linux distributions. You usually get some questions about timezone, keyboard layout and so on, but then you get straight to the desktop.

Instead, DreamLinix 5.0 operating system in Live mode boots into the login screen, where username and password should be entered. That's not an issue because both username and password are mentioned at the bottom of the login window: dreamer/dreamer. You need to remember the password, though, because some activities in Dreamlinux require administrative privileges, thus will ask for the password.

Technically speaking, DreamLinux 5.0 uses XFCE 4.8 on Linux kernel 3.1.1. These are pretty fresh releases of both kernel and desktop environment.
Freshly booted DreamLinux 5.0
The freshly booted system took only about 130 Mb of memory on my laptop. The screenshot which I show you here says 14% of laptop´s memory, which is 1Gb in my laptop. The result is about 140 Mb.The additional 1% was taken by the screenshot utility itself.

Even though 130 Mb is a pretty good result by itself, it is still more than what Debian XFCE uses.

Desktop dreams

The default desktop in DreamLinux 5.0 has wallpaper with a mesh of small black dots on a blue background, which reminded me of the era of small tiles as wallpapers in early versions of Windows. The Dreamlinux logo is at the centre. There are about a dozen other wallpapers, mostly with the XFCE theme on them.

There is a panel at the top of the screen. The blue button in the left-top corner calls up the menu. Next to it sits the strange button with a triangle - it calls up the Log Out dialogue. Taskbar is at the center of the top panel. The right part of the panel is taken by the switch for 4 virtual desktops, clocks and notification area. My laptop only had 1 item in that notification area initially: the network manager applet. Later, when I called up the Task Manager, it also put an icon in that area.There was no volume control applet on the panel.

A dock is at the bottom of the screen. This dock appears when you move the mouse close to it, or on a clear desktop. There are quite a few applications on the dock. An issue, though, is that applications only have icons, but not the pop-up balloons with the application names. You can only guess what application is going to be launched, especially because some icons for the applications were changed from the default ones. For example, the Chromium browser got an icon with compass, similar to the Safari browser. The dock actually works well in a non-intrusive manner. Even with my general dislike of pop-up panels and docks, I think I could leave this dock in my system if I was going to install DreamLinux 5.0.

The taskbar on the top panel is desktop-dependent. Each of four virtual desktops has its own set of taskbar elements, although the launched dock elements still remain highlighted on each virtual desktop.

There are some icons on the desktop. Apart from the links to Home folder, Trash and local HDD partitions, there is a DreamLinux Installer and an Installation Guide.

Desktop compositing is activated by default in DreamLinux 5.0. There are not many effects in XFCE actually, but the windows are shaded.

Sweet dreams of network

DreamLinux 5.0 was able to recognize and immediately configure my Intel 3945 ABG wireless card. This is unusual for a Debian-based system, so I was pleasantly suprised. Anyway, the message about the available wireless networks appeared immediately after the boot. When I made an attempt to connect to the wireless network, DreamLinux requested the user password (dreamer) entry. The few usual steps to configure security details followed, and I was connected.

Keyboard dreams

The default keyboard layout in DreamLinux 5.0 is English US, but in Alternative International mode. It means that sometimes it gave me symbols like Ä or |B instead of normal Latin characters.

Because it is XFCE, I had to configure the desktop applet first to enable the keyboard layout switch. Unfortunately, my first attempt to do it failed. Simply because there was no applet for keyboard layout in the list! I could change the default one to English UK, but I was not able to configure multiple layouts with the switch, because the necessary applet xfce4-xkb-plugin was missing in the system.

Adding dream components

The challenge with the keyboard applet was a good reason to check how Dreamlinux 5.0 deals with installation of additional components.

Synaptic is the default graphical package management tool in DreamLinux.

When I tried to launch Synaptic, system asked me for the password. But that was not a password for user dreamer. Instead, it was a password for user root, which is not mentioned anywhere. Thanks for my editor Darrel Johnston who discovered the password: it is root.

As an opposite to Synaptic, the command sudo apt-get install xfce4-xkb-plugin does not require the root password.

But the result of both Synaptic and manual command was the same: file was not found on the server, and returned an error 404.

As a last resort, I went to the Debian site and downloaded the .deb file for the applet from there. Unfortunately, neither file from Squeeze, nor from Wheezy branch were good enough. Both returned unresolved dependency issues when I tried to install the .deb files with sudo dpkg -i command.

I dropped the attempts to configure the keyboard layouts at this stage. We'll come back to the keyboard configuration later, but for the moment I was frustrated.

To add more frustration, touchpad clicks did not work in DreamLinux 5.0 either. Scrolling worked with two-finger gesture, but not on the edges of the touchpad. I found no place in the Mouse configuration to configure the behaviour of touchpad.

Menu of dreams

The menu in DreamLinux 5.0 has quite a strange structure.

The sections are not the more familiar "Office", "Multimedia" or "Graphics".

Instead, there are only 5 sections:

  1. Settings. Obviously, this section lists all the possible configuration utilities for DreamLinux. Desktop, Keyboard, Mouse and so on. Also, the Synaptic Package Manager is listed here. GParted is in this section too, which looks quite odd to me. The funny part is that neither Synaptics nor GParted can be started without the root password, which is not mentioned anywhere, as I have alread stated.
  2. Applications. This is the place where most of the applications are listed. This is a flat list, where Shotwell photo manager sits between SMPlayer and Simple Burn disk burning utility. That's quite a dubious decision, from my point of view, to place all the applications in one place.
    Of the most noticable applications, I would like to mention GIMP, Chromium 15 browser, Inkscape and Geany.
    Speaking of GIMP, this is not 100% correct, because DreamLinux 5.0 features GIMP with GIMP Paint Studio.The version of GIMP is 2.6.11, and it has... a single window! Yes, there are no additional items on the panel for Tools and Palettes. There is only one item here, called "GNU Image Manipulation Program". I like this approach!
    The productivity suite in the DreamLinux 5.0 is represented by SoftMaker package: TextMaker, SoftMaker Presentations and PlanMaker. This is a freeware application, but not open source. Also, this office suite asks for an optional free registration during each start. Rather annoying. I found no spreadsheet processor in the package, although the DreamLinux official announcement says that a spreadsheet processor is included. And my last nail in the SoftMaker´s coffin is the fact that TextMaker is not associated with .odt files!
  3. System. Here you can find system utilities like Terminal, Task Manager, File Manager, HTop and some others. An application, which I would like to mention separately, is BleachBit. It allows you to analyze and get rid of unused files, both for normal and root users. Of course, it should be used with care!
  4. Utilities. This section includes small but helpful tools like Caculator, Archive manager, Midnight Commander and alike. Nothing unusual.
  5. DreamLinux. This part of the menu lists DreamLinux-specific applications, like Distro upgrade, Conky Manager and so on. It also has something called Distro Maker. This items opens up a Terminal window which soon disappears. I did not understand the purpose of this trick.
    The Distro Upgrade item is basically a terminal window which updates repositories from the Debian server, and also does upgrade, if necessary. I did this step, although it took some time. The run of Distro Upgrade had a positive side-effect on my system. It fixed the issue with xfce4-xkb-plugin. Thus, I was able to come back to the step of keyboard configuration and activate dual layouts: English UK + Russian.

Video and audio dreams

Flash player is included in the DreamLinux 5.0 distribution. At least, it worked in Chromium browser immediately. YouTube and other flash-enabled sites worked without any additional requests.
Flash videos play in DreamLinux
out of the box
Unfortunately, the situation with audio and video files was not that good. Neither MP3, nor video files could be played back by the default player SMPlayer. To fix this, I tried to install VLC. As a result, VLC appeared in the menu of DreamLinux. But... it did not start. I believe this is an issue of running the live CD. It should work in an installed system.

External dreams

The mounting of local partitions in DreamLinux 5.0 requires the user's password. It is still the same dreamer. It worked fine - I could save files on an NTFS partition, for example.

Mounting the partition on my external network drive was not that simple. The command sudo mount -t cifs told me that filesystem CIFS is not known by DreamLinux 5.0. The command sudo apt-get install smbfs fixed this issue, and the partition was mounted OK after that, although I got a kernel panic trying to browse the partition. It was very similar to my experience with Fedora 16 LXDE. I was able to return to the system by pressing Ctrl-Alt-F7.

Is it good to dream?

DreamLinux 5.0 is definitely a giant leap forward in the development of this distribution since DreamLinux 3.5.

It is quick, responsive and relatively stable. I even liked the Dock, which is a rare case for me.

There are, however, some aspects which are not so obvious and positive, from my point of view.

  • The menu structure with a flat list of applications does not help with finding the desired one.
  • Inclusion of the SoftMaker productivity suite is questionable.
  • Some applications require a root password in the Live mode, and it should be stated somewhere in the documentation or on the screen.

These all are minor issues, which should not stop you from trying DreamLinux 5.0 yourself. Still, they are issues for the developers to work on. I hope the next version of this distribution will be even more polished and shiny.

Enjoy the video from the screenshot above

This post was edited by djohnston.


  1. Hello,

    I tried to install DL 5.0 to my hard disk from the ISO. The installation went apparently smoothly, but on re-boot it prevented the computer from booting as well as not getting to the CMOS itself. Result: unuseable 20GIB HDD. Analysing the DVD ISO with anti malware programs did not reveal any problems. So I think the install writing the GRUB loader "killed" the hard disk completely. Resetting the CMOS by removing the battery, swithing the drive from master to slave did not work either.

    1. Sorry to hear that.
      Have you tried to install a different distro to fix the GRUB issue? Have you tried to access HDD from Live run of DL or any other distribution? Hope the HDD is not lost forever.