19 Mar 2012

Simply improves and polishes

There are a lot of Russians in the Linux world. Not only in Russia, but also in other parts of the world. The examples? Eugeni Dodonov lives in Brazil, Artyom Zorin lives in Ireland.

Of course, many more Russians live in Russia and ex-USSR countries.

Some of them organize their own companies that work in the Linux community. ALT Linux is one of those companies. ALT Linux has two major products on the market, and I have already written about both of them. ALT Linux is the main, commercial one, and Simply Linux is more community-based, but still supported by the ALT Linux team.

Simply Linux 6.0.1 is a minor release of Simply Linux 6.0, which I reviewed before. Version 6.0.1 was released on the 13th of February 2012.

There were some issues in version 6.0, which I wrote about in my review. Are they fixed now? That was the question I asked myself.

Image size of Simply Linux 6.0.1 distribution is rather small, less than usual CD size. By the way, if you want to get your own disk with Simply Linux, why not order it from Buy Linux CDs site?

Because of my working schedule, I decided to make this test on the go, while being on a business trip. To ensure I have proper media for the test, I decided not to experiment with USB. Instead, I burnt the ISO image to the DVD-RW disk.

The guinea pig this time is HP Compaq 6710b laptop.

So, disk is in the drive. Reboot. Choose to boot from optical media. Let's go!

Getting Simply booted

First screen in Simply Linux 6.0.1 is not different from what I've seen in version Simply Linux 6.0. It still has Alt Linux Platform 6 logo in the top left corner, some nice background images and three menu items. The menu is initially in Russian. You need to press F2 key to change the language. Options here are English US, Spanish, Brazilian, Ukrainian and Tatar. I think you can guess that my selection was English US. Once I selected the language, the screen became absolutely corrupt. I could barely see most of the text elements on the screen: English and Russian texts were on top of each other. It is still the same issue which I saw in the version 6.0. Luckily, the menu option that I was interested in, Live CD, was still clearly visible and highlighted. So, let's skip to the next step.

Other than the boot menu, there were no other stopping points all the way to the desktop.

Freshly booted system took just over 160Mb of memory, which is a pretty good result.

Simply Linux 6.0.1 runs XFCE 4.8 on top of Linux kernel 3.0.20. Although the official page says that Linux kernel should be from 3.0.3 branch, my uname –r command gave me a different result.

Not so simple desktop

The default desktop wallpaper is the same or very similar image to what I had as a background on the boot menu. Apart from this image, there is a very good selection of wallpapers, specifically created for Simply Linux. Most of them are nice children-style drawings, but there are some photos of nature, too. Some of the wallpaper images are XFCE-themed, for the XFCE fans. I think the set of pictures is not significantly different from version 6.0, but this fact does not change a lot. These pictures really bring some bright fun into Simply. You can add individuality into your system by a few simple clicks.

There are 3 items on the default desktop: Simply Linux installer, Trash and Home folders.

The panel is at its usual place at the bottom of the screen.

The menu button with the Simply Linux logo on it is in the bottom left corner. Next to it, you can find "Show desktop" button, browser launcher and the switch between four virtual desktops (2*2 square in default system, or 4*1 strip with Compiz).

The main, middle part of the panel is dedicated to the taskbar. Each virtual desktop has its own set of application on the taskbar.

The right side of the panel, the notification area, contains the usual suspects: power indicator, network manager, volume control, clocks and a bluetooth manager. Apart from them, there are "Log out" button, Compiz fusion icon, Shortcut to some folders in the user's home folder and keyboard layout indicator.

If you remember from the review of version 6.0, there were some issues with Russian language appearing here and there in the Simply Linux 6.0. The version 6.0.1 has only one place where I noticed it: the Home folder link is called "Переход", which I would translate into English as "Go To". Web browser shortcut has also comment in Russian, but you still have an English name in the balloon too, so that’s not a problem.

Simply Linux 6.0.1 includes Compiz Fusion. It is not active by default. Of course, you can configure some of your visual effects using the XFCE built-in Compositor. It worked well for me.

But the Compiz effects are the real eye candy. In order to get them enabled, you need to click on the Compiz Fusion icon and switch the window manager from Xfwm4 to Compiz. Then, configure what you need in CompizConfig Settings Manager in the Settings section of the menu. I checked few different effects, and all of them worked fine for me on Intel 965 video card.

Keyboard layouts and touchpad

I have just mentioned that the keyboard layout indicator is on the panel in the default system configuration. You can usually configure keyboard layouts in XFCE systems by right-clicking on the indicator, and then calling up the Properties dialogue. This was the case for Simply Linux 6.0, although Simply Linux 6.0.1 is not that simple. You can configure the indicator to be a flag or text, or you can configure the keyboard layout switch to apply to a single window or globally. All the other configuration details are disabled. In order to get the layouts configured, you need to call up the System Management Centre tool, and then get to the Keyboard configuration.

This split between two parts of the configuration is slightly confusing. I don't know why developers decided to go that route.

Touchpad behaved itself very well in Simply Linux 6.0.1 - edge scrolling and tapping worked well without any external intervention from my side.


Simply Linux comes with Firefox 9.0.1 as the default browser. It is, although, enhanced with Yandex toolbar.

Yandex, for those who are not familiar with this company, is Google’s competitor in the Russian market, and a very successful competitor, at that. They also try to play in the global market.

I am not going to argue here about pros and cons of Yandex usage, but the Yandex toolbar is something you get even if you actually don't want it. Yes, you can later disable or even uninstall it. But some of the Yandex bar features are still even with disabled toolbar; like, for example, the automated English-Russian translation of the words when the mouse cursor hovers them. Otherwise, you get the fully functional Firefox browser.

Apart from Firefox, there are some other Internet applications in Simply Linux 6.0.1: Thunderbird, Pidgin, Chestnut Dialer, Transmission and so on. Some of the icons in this menu section are different from standard application items, namely Transmission and Pidgin. You can probably live with this, but the reasons for the change are not so clear.

LibreOffice makes up most of the Office part of the menu. It is the full version of the LibreOffice, including Base, Math and Draw. The version number is 3.4.3, which is quite fresh. Other than LibreOffice, you can find the YAGF scanning tool and the StarDict dictionary in the Office section of the menu.

There are about a dozen different games in the default Simply Linux 6.0.1 distribution, from Sudoku to Chess, from Solitaires to Mines.

The Multimedia tools in Simply Linux include Audacious and GNOME Mplayer players, Brasero disk burning tool, EasyTAG tag editor, Pulse audio volume control and Mixer.

The Graphics tools in Simply Linux 6.0.1 are GIMP, Graphical viewer, xSane scanning tool and gThumb. As you can notice see, neither LibreOffice Draw, nor screenshot utility are mentioned here.

The screenshot utility is actually in the Tools section of the menu, together with Calculator, Archive manager, Notes, medit and some other useful utilities.

System tools include Disk Utility, GParted, RPM install, Synaptic, Terminal, Thunar file manager and so on. I am not sure why you would need both Disk Utility and GParted in the system, but each of them started without any issue for me.

Even though Midnight Commander is not listed anywhere in the menu, it is already in the system – simply type mc in the Terminal window.

There is a separate part of the menu called Settings, which contains all the different configuration panels: Settings Manager, Settings Editor, System Management Centre, Bluetooth manager, screensaver, login photo and so on. Honestly, I was confused when I saw that many different places to configure the system. I think the better way to do this would be one big panel with all the different configurations, or maybe split into two: for system-critical and non-critical ones, like Mandriva and Mageia do.

Generally speaking, the set of components in Simply Linux 6.0.1 is more than you would expect from a distribution of that size. I wonder how developers could put that much functionality into that small of an image! GIMP, full LibreOffice, Compiz, Firefox - they all are not the smallest of applications in the world of open source.

Additional components

As you can see from the description of the System menu, Simply Linux 6.0.1, like any other ALT Linux distribution, uses the RPM packages. But you manage them with Synaptic package manager. The same approach is used in PCLinuxOS.

What is available in Simply Linux 6.0.1? Synaptic gives the answer to that question. Synaptic itself is version 0.58 and bears logos of Debian and Conectiva in the About section.

Simply Linux 6.0.1 uses the repositories of ALT Linux Platform 6. There are different mirrors available: Ireland, France, Russia, Ukraine. They are available via http, ftp and rsync protocols. I tried to load data from Irish and French repositories, and I should admit they are not very fast.

A few checks on the available applications:
  • Available alternative desktop environments: KDE, GNOME.
  • Available applications: VLC, Qutim, Chromium, gedit, Amarok, Inkscape.
  • Not available: Chrome browser, GNOME Baker, Skype.
As I said, Skype is not available in the repositories. I downloaded different versions of RPM binaries of Skype from the official site, but none of them installed correctly in my Live run, although Simply Linux documentation (in Russian) says that everything is ready for Skype installation. I am baffled...

The search for smbfs did not give me any results in Synaptic, but search for samba-client showed that it is probably what I need. It is included in the default system.

Network partition

Because of the test "on the run", I was not able to test the mounting of network partitions in Simply 6.0.1. But I assume this would not be a problem, because Samba client is already listed in the system. And, if you remember, I was able to mount my external network drive in the version 6.0 with a mount command.


Audacious is the default audioplayer for MP3 files in Simply Linux 6.0.1. It opened an MP3 file, which I downloaded from the Internet, without any issues.

I was also able to see the video using the Flash player on my test page, dedicated to Flowplayer.
Simply Linux includes Flash plugin
YouTube videos also played without any issues for me.


I used Simply Linux 6.0.1 for a couple of evenings while staying in the hotel, and experienced no significant issues with performance or stability, apart from expected issues with speed, due to the fact that the system ran from Live DVD.

I was really impressed by the system. The only issues, which I noticed in my test, were minor ones - the absence of English translation to one of screen elements, and non-standard icons for some applications. They are not that important, are they?

The level of the distribution produced by ALT Linux team is impressive.

There might be some more issues, but they would require more thorough testing than I was able to do.

Although, there is still the same major show-stopper for most of international users: Simply Linux forum is only available in Russian at the moment.

However, if you're confident enough, you can try Simply Linux yourself. There is nothing wrong with doing so. Most likely, you will be able to find the answer yourself.

If you decide to try it, you can get the CD with the Simply Linux delivered straight into your mailbox if you order it from Buy Linux CDs site. Or, of course, you can download and burn the image yourself. The choice is yours.

Have you used Simply Linux? How did you feel about it? I am especially interested in the opinion of users outside of Russia, but every voice counts!

Video used in the screenshot:

This post was edited by djohnston.


  1. A funny thought struck me... You stated that the menu was initially Russian and that GoTo was also in Russian...

    But then you started talking about Yandax, YAGF, XFCE, Qutim, Amarok, smbfs...

    It just cracked me up... We Linux folks are so used to these Linux names - which sound alien to new users and then we launch them in a distro called "Simply Linux" - ;-)

    1. Thanks for the try to overreach yourself in an attempt to sound funny.

  2. This is a much more informative view then the shot you took at KDE.
    To bad you have to go on the defensive, right away after someone makes a comment. Here's an idea, just don't allow any comments at all. That way you will always be right (in your own mind, that is)
    I know, delete this. Enjoy! After all it is your blog...

    1. You probably confuse something. Simply Linux was always XFCE-based. Never KDE.

      I'll leave all the comments here. Because I am not always kind and forgiving. I can be aggressive too.

  3. I read your blog most weeks and I like the style in which you write.

    I enjoyed your interview last week.

    Most of your posts are about different distros and realistically I'm not likely to change distro that often as most of them are much of a muchness and once you have one or two tailored to your needs it is a hassle to change.

    For fast booting, get on the web in a few seconds to check something out, I use Puppy but elsewhere I use MINT when I'm working on development projects and a heavily customised UBUNTU for multimedia.

    I also have a games laptop connected to my tv with all the console emulators set up. I use puppy arcade for that which works brilliantly.

    Have you reviewed puppy arcade yet? It is really good for the purpose it has been created. Just plug in your xbox controller and plug your laptop into your tv. Could be great with the new Raspberry PI

    1. Unfortunately, I have not done review of Puppy Arcade yet. And I don't plan. Firstly, because I am not gamer at all, and it would be unfair to review system targeted to the area I am not good in. Second, and consecutive from the previous, I don't have any game controllers or other similar devices at home.

      Though, I would definitely accept your guest post if you wish to write about your own experience with Puppy Arcade.

    2. Also, and it should be the very first... shame on me!

      Thanks for the nice comment!