14 Jun 2012

Zorin OS 6 Lite: Windows replacement for low-end computers

Zorin OS is an operating system targeted to new converts from Windows to Linux. It eases up the transition, because gives the user a familiar interface.
As I wrote before, Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu and, until version 6, on GNOME 2 functionality. It means system resource requirements are quite high.

But what if your computer is not the newest one? Does it mean Zorin OS is not available for you? Not at all! The Zorin team releases a special edition for people like you: this is the Lite version. This operating system uses the LXDE desktop environment, not the GNOME one.

Zorin OS 6 Lite was released earlier than other members of the Zorin OS 6 family, in March 2012. Because of that, Zorin OS 6 Lite is based on Ubuntu 11.10, not 12.04.

I repeat explicitly: this article is about Zorin OS 6 Lite, and not Zorin OS 6 Core/Ultimate.

The ISO image size of Zorin OS 6 Lite is less than the “core” version and fits one CD. It is only 685 Mb.

This time round I decided to run my Live run of OS from the CD. The reason is that Zorin OS 6 Lite was the choice of the Zorin OS 6 contest winner. Before dispatching the disk to the winner, I decided to try this OS myself.

So, the CD is ready and is in the CD-ROM drive of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505. Reboot the laptop. Select to boot from the optical drive. Let’s go!

Booting the system

The initial menu of Zorin OS 6 Lite lists a few options: normal Live boot, Live boot with simplified graphics, Live boot without splash screen, installation, boot from HDD and so on.

My choice was for the Live run without the splash screen. Strangely enough, the splash screen appeared after some time anyway . This is a blue-themed image with the Zorin logo on it, plus two rotating circles.

The boot time of Zorin OS 6 Lite was average. It is definitely less than the booting time of Ubuntu itself, but not the shortest I've ever seen.

First glance

Once booted, you get to the screen with only one element on the desktop: an "Install Zorin OS" icon.

There is a panel at the bottom of the screen. The left part of the panel contains buttons: menu, Chromium browser, file manager and audio player. Next to these shortcuts, there is a switch between two virtual desktops. The right part of the screen contains a minimal set of the usual suspects: time, network manager, power indicator, volume control and the Shutdown button.

Clocks showed my local (London) time minus 5 hours, which moved me to the US East Coast time, I believe.

The default desktop wallpaper is an image of blue diagonal stripes. There are no alternative wallpapers in the default distribution. So, if you don't like the default wallpaper, you need to take images from outside the OS.

Freshly booted Zorin OS 6 Lite
A freshly booted system takes about 160 Mb of memory in Live mode, which is OK in general, but maybe a little bit too much for the LXDE-based system. Although, it is still less than Fedora 16 LXDE uses.

Zorin OS 6 Lite runs on Linux kernel 3.0.0-16.

The default system appearance is similar to Windows 2000. Zorin OS 6 Lite also allows you to switch to a Mac-styled interface, using the Zorin Look Changer tool. Unfortunately, there are no other style options, apart for these two.

Network

The message about the available wireless networks appeared immediately after the boot. Zorin OS found and configured my WiFi network card Intel 3945 ABG. It was a question of seconds to select my network among the listed and to enter the security key. I was immediately connected.

Looking inside

There are not many applications in the default Zorin OS 6 Lite distribution, I must admit.
The default and the only available browser is Chromium 17. Apart from Chromium, Zorin OS 6 Lite includes one of the Zorin signature applications: Internet Browser Manager, which allows you to install Firefox, Opera and Midori.

From my perspective, Midori would be the better choice for the low-resource-oriented operating system, even though Chrome(-ium) is my usual preference.

Apart from the browser and the browser manager, the Internet tools include Pidgin internet messenger and Postler Mail, which is a very fast, but very basic e-mail client.

Office tools include AbiWord, Contact Manager (Dexter) and Osmo Organizer. There are no spreadsheet or presentation applications in the default Zorin OS 6 Lite distribution.

There are two audio players in Zorin OS 6 Lite: GNOME MPlayer and Audacious. The Sound and Video section of the menu also includes XFburn disk burning software.

Graphic tools include Document and Image viewers and the Simple Scan application. There is no GIMP or any other graphic editor. There is even no screenshot tool in Zorin OS 6 Lite! That’s why I had to revert to command line functions here and use command scrot for the screenshots you see in this post.

There is a usual set of applications in the Accessories section of the menu: Terminal, File Manager (PCManFM), Archive Manager, Calculator, Character Map and so on.

System tools in Zorin OS 6 Lite also contain a more or less standard set of applications: User Manager, Update Manager, GDebi package installer, Synaptic, and Lubuntu Software Centre. Apart from those standard applications, I'd like to mention the Firewall configuration utility and some Zorin OS specific tools. Yes, even the Lite version of Zorin OS 6 comes with Firewall installed, although it is OFF by default.

There are also some Zorin specific utilities. I have mentioned two of them already: Look Changer and Browser Manager. Also, you will find Extra Software installer. This is a place where you can easily install frequently used applications, which are not in the default distribution: VLC, Wine, Gnumeric spreadsheets, mtPaint. Of course, these are not all the applications available in the Zorin OS, because the whole Ubuntu repository is available via Software Centre or Synaptic. But this is a good place to start anyway.

Keyboard layout

The Lite version of Zorin OS is based on the LXDE desktop environment. I've never seen a distribution with LXDE which works out of the box with multiple layouts of keyboard the usual way: with a hotkey switch and a panel indicator. Unfortunately, Zorin OS 6 Lite is not an exception.

The default keyboard layout here is US English. I could easily switch the layout to UK English or Russian, but only using the mouse in the Lxkeymap application. It's not the easiest and the quickest way to switch, when you type in different languages.

The touchpad on my laptop worked perfectly: taps and edge scrolling were available by default.

External partition

Zorin OS 6 Lite does not include a tool to connect to external network drives, like, for example, Gigolo. It does not even include a Samba client for manual connection.

That's why I tried to install Samba client (smbfs package) using the Software Centre. First, I was not able to find the smbfs package, until I switched on the "Expert mode". But even after that I could not install the package in my Live run. Although I added it to the "basket", the basket itself looked empty.

Finally, old friend Synaptic helped me to get the package installed.

Once smbfs was there, I could mount the external disk and browse it. All the folders and files were shown OK in the file manager, even those named with Russian characters.

Multimedia

Zorin OS comes with all the necessary multimedia "equipment": plugins for MP3 and Flash are included. Lite version is not an exception here.
Zorin OS comes with Flash player enabled
However, I had issues with playing MP3 files from a remote drive. Neither Audacious nor MPLayer could properly buffer the file.

Conclusion

I had no particular issues running Zorin OS 6 Lite in Live session. The system felt quick and responsive, at least when no disk operations were involved.

Although you may feel little bit "underpowered" with lack of default applications, they are easily accessible from the Ubuntu repository.

Another negative moment of the Lite version of Zorin OS, as is usual for an LXDE distribution, is the lack of a keyboard layout switch functionality.

On the positive side, as usual for Zorin OS, is an interface familiar to most people who have worked with Windows applications. You will find the system interface easily understandable and easy to learn.
How does Zorin OS 6 Lite sit among other LXDE distributions? I’d say that I liked it more than Debian LXDE, and little bit more or maybe on par with Fedora LXDE.

Do you want to try Zorin OS yourself? Don't hesitate to order your own CD from the site Buy Linux CDs! The disk will be delivered into your postbox anywhere in the world. If you want a Lite version, please mention this in the payment comments.

Video used in this review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in5EPHVgcXg

Also to read: Low-spec computer: Alt Linux vs Windows 7 Ultimate

7 comments:

  1. Awesome article. I love the idea of *nix systems that make it easy for Windows users to transition. I'll be recommending this to a lot of people I know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can also use it for yourself!

      Delete
  2. can i install windows's software(EXE,MSI,..) in zorin os6?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As long as there is Wine, and Play on Linux, you can try to install Windows Software.

      But!
      1) Try to find replacement software in repositories.
      2) Not all the Windows applications run well in either Wine of PoL.

      Delete
  3. one more! is there any os like windows?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have tied Reactos and it works well enough. It does not install onto SATA drives though.

    ReplyDelete