Different operating systems give you different degrees of freedom, different degrees of access to knowledge of “what is inside”. And, what is more important for a non-technical user, they give you different user interfaces.
Windows users are used to having a panel at the bottom of the screen, window control elements at the right side of the window, the Windows Start button and so on. If you see something like the modern design of the Unity interface, nothing is the same as Windows. It’s a steep learning curve, isn’t it?
To ease the transition from Windows to Linux, there are different interfaces available “on the market”. KDE is usually considered as the most “ex-Windows-user-friendly”. But there is a team which decided to give users another choice. This is the Zorin Team.
Their most recent product, Zorin OS 6, was released in the middle of June 2012, just a few days ago. I have already given you a quick screenshot tour. It is now the time to look at the system in more details. Let’s see what it has to offer.
Zorin OS 6 comes with different variants: Lite, Core and Ultimate. I have already written about Zorin OS 6 Lite, which uses LXDE desktop environment. This is a system for low-spec computers.
I will tell you about Zorin OS 6 Core today. This operating system is based on Ubuntu 12.04. But, as I said, with a different user interface.
The ISO image of Zorin OS 6 Core is about 1.3 Gb. You can download it for free from one of several mirrors.
As usual, I wanted to try Zorin OS 6 from the Live USB. First, I tried to dd the image to a USB stick. Not much success, unfortunately. This was predictable since I know the issue with the BIOS of my laptop Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505. The second attempt was made with Unetbootin tool. This time I was more lucky.
So, Live USB is in the port of my laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let’s go!
The initial menu, which I saw on the screen, was from Unetbootin. It had the usual options, like to boot Zorin OS 6 Live system, Live with simple graphics, go directly to installation, check memory and boot from HDD. My choice was for Live system run.
Boot time for Zorin OS 6 Core was rather quick. I'd say that it was faster than Ubuntu itself. There were no additional questions during the boot.
The splash screen of Zorin OS has the blue-themed image with Zorin OS logo and two rotating circles. In other words, nothing’s different in Core compared to Lite at this stage.
Once booted, I saw the desktop with a panel at the bottom. There were 4 icons on the desktop: Computer, Home, Trash and Install Zorin OS.
The wallpaper is in a deep-blue tone, with stripes across the screen. It's the same one I saw on the splash screen. Whereas Zorin OS 6 Lite comes without any additional wallpapers, the Core version includes a choice from about 2 dozen of alternative images. Some of them are Zorin specific.
Apart from the choice of wallpapers, the Appearance section of System Settings panel offers you a choice of themes. They are more or less Ubuntu-standard: Ambiance, Radiance and two high-contrast ones. What I have noticed is that the default Zorin OS theme is not listed amongst the Ubuntu themes. It means you can't revert back to it once you start playing with your desktop theme. At least, not using the standard configuration application.
The middle part of the panel is the taskbar. It has the Windows 7 style in the default Zorin OS 6 Core distribution, where each application only has the icon without any text beneath. You can easily "pin" applications directly from the panel. The right-click menu, apart from the "pin" function, has application-specific items, like in Ubuntu's Launcher.
The default distribution only has 3 items "pinned" in the taskbar: Google Chrome, Nautilus file manager, and Rhythmbox media player.
What you will probably have noticed already is that two usual elements are missing from the pane in Zorin OS 6 Core: “Show desktop” icon and a virtual desktop switcher. The second missing element can be explained by the fact that Zorin OS is targeted to ex-Windows users who can be confused by the concept of a multi-desktop environment. Although, the absence of “Show Desktop” icon is definitely a miss.
There are lots of desktop effects available from the very start. Windows maximize and minimize, appear and close with visual effects. It may be OK for some, but I can do with less of those effects.
The freshly booted system uses about 290 Mb of memory.
There were no issues with the wireless network card Intel 3945 ABG in Zorin OS 6 Core. Everything was recognized and configured automatically. I only had to select my home network from the list of available ones, and type in the security key.
GnoMenu is the menu in the Zorin OS. It is in the Windows 7 style, where applications and their groups are shown in the left column, and some technical items like folders, System Settings, etc, are in the right column. I'd say that it is somehow similar to the famous Mint menu, although GnoMenu is less tangled, from my point of view.
An issue, which I noticed from the very beginning, is that application groups and applications themselves are not distinguished from each other in the menu. For example, the item called “Wine”: is it a group or an application? The correct answer is below.
What is in the menu, anyway?
Google Chrome is the only browser in the Zorin OS. Apart from Chrome, there is a Zorin Browser Manager tool, which gives you an option to install Firefox, Midori and Opera. Honestly, I am happy with the default option here: Chrome has been my favorite for a long time.
Thunderbird, Gwibbler and Empathy are other communication tools in Zorin OS 6. They are also grouped together into the communication status icon at the bottom right part of the panel, which I mentioned before. The same icon also gives you the access to Ubuntu One cloud storage, which is not accessible via GnoMenu.
Remmina remote desktop and Desktop Sharing tools finish the list of the Internet section.
LibreOffice is the core part of the Office part of the Zorin OS 6 Core menu. There are standard LibreOffice tools like Calc, Presenter and Writer, plus Draw. You can also find Document Viewer and Dictionary in the Office part of the menu.
There are about half a dozen simple games in the Zorin OS: Mines, Mahjongg, two Solitaires, and so on.
The Sound and Video section of the menu is well stocked. You can find VLC, Movie Player and Rhythmbox there. There is also Brasero disk burning tool, OpenShot video editor, Sound recorder and Webcam booth.
There is a separate menu section called “Wine”, as I noted before. It actually lists several items, for both Wine and PlayOnLinux: install and uninstall applications, browse disk C: and so on.
The Graphics section of the Zorin OS 6 Core menu includes GIMP 2.8, Shotwell photo manager, Image Viewer, Simple Scan and the same Document Viewer and LibreOffice Draw, which I have mentioned earlier.
The System Tools part of the menu includes several standard applications, like Disk usage analyzer, System Monitor, System Settings and so on. Zorin Look Changer is also in the same section of the menu. Unfortunately, it does not work in a Live session, and requires the system to be installed.
In the System Settings, I'd like to point out that Zorin OS comes with a firewall installed, although it is inactive in the default system.
Ndiswrapper, the tool to install Windows drivers for hardware, is also available in Zorin OS 6 by default.
As you can see, Zorin OS comes well-equipped with applications in different areas. If you don't see something in the default distribution, then you probably need to install it from the repository. This is not a problem, since Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu. Hence, all the Ubuntu repositories are at your fingertips. Both Synaptic and Ubuntu Software Centre are available by default. The distribution's repository list includes all of Canonical's repositories, plus many PPAs for non-standard software.
There is a shortcut to System Settings panel in the right part of the GnoMenu.
One of panel’s items is Keyboard Layouts.
This configuration utility is in Ubuntu style, and it was not a hard task for me to switch from the default English US layout to the set of English UK plus Russian with Ctrl-Shift as a switch hotkey.
Zorin OS 6 Core had no issues with scrolling and tapping on the touchpad.
Nautilus file manager in Zorin OS 6 Core has an option to browse the network. Unfortunately, it did not work for me. The system could not see the fileserver in my home network.
At the same time, Zorin OS 6 Core distribution does not include smbfs package, necessary for manual mounting of remote Samba/Windows network partitions.
The problem was not solved by installing the above-mentioned smbfs. This time, I found another issue with Zorin OS 6: it did not recognize the DNS records for devices within the local network. Although I could ping external servers like google.com and darkduck.com, the local file server fnd was an "unknown host" for the system. Network Details showed the correct details for my wireless router, but the system still could not connect.
Xubuntu installation, where I can access local devices easily.
I could not connect to remote partitions even with IP address of the remote file server in sudo mount command: "Unable to find suitable address" was the system response.
That's why I can't tell you if Zorin OS 6 Core works well with the remote partitions.
The presence of VLC in the Sound & Video part of the menu removes all doubts about the ability of Zorin OS to play multimedia files. Yes, Zorin OS gives you all the multimedia features you need.
|Zorin OS comes with all the multimedia activated|
There were both positive and negative moments while using Zorin OS 6 Core, which I will highlight here.
To start with the positive ones, the system was absolutely stable and reliable. I had no issues with crashes during my Live run.
The system was extremely snappy when running from the Live USB. Even the usage of visual effects did not impact the performance. Running Zorin OS 6 with several Google Chrome tabs, YouTube, GIMP, LibreOffice Writer and a couple of minor applications at the same time? On one 1Gb of memory and a dual-core Centrino 1.7 GHz processor? Not a problem at all! The system just zipped along! I did not expect this from Ubuntu-based system with GNOME3-based interface. I would even say that Zorin OS 6 feels snappier than Xubuntu on the same laptop. But Xubuntu runs from HDD! Wow!
At the same time, I was disappointed by the network issue I described above. The DNS resolution problem for local devices is not something I'd expect.
Also, there are some dubious decisions in the user interface, for example the missing Show Desktop button or the absence of an option to restore the Zorin theme. But these are minor issues, aren’t they?
All in all, I think Zorin OS is a very decent system. If you dislike both Unity and GNOME3, but like the abundance of applications in the Ubuntu repository, then why not look at a solution provided by Zorin team?
You can easily download Zorin OS 6 Core here, or order a CD with this distribution from Buy Linux CDs site.
What's next? Apart from the Core version of Zorin OS 6 operating system, there is an Ultimate edition of this distribution. It is not "free as in beer", you need to pay for it. I got a chance to peek at this version of Zorin OS 6, too.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97hp3adHaEk (Cara Dillon is an Irish singer, and Zorin OS is the distribution from the Emerald Island)
|This post was edited by djohnston.|