27 Oct 2015

Xfce Smooth: the smooth variations

I, DarkDuck, am always interested in new, unusual, non-mainstream Linux distributions. That's why I was very happy when one of my old readers asked me to prepare him a disk with a Linux distribution that I've never heard of before. And the order came through BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk web site, which meant I had to prepare the disk with that distribution anyway.

You won't find this distribution's name in Distrowatch. They have no official web site. Does this distribution even exist? Once upon a time I asked this question about Zorin OS. Yes, this distribution exists and you can download it from the Sourceforge page. The name is Xfce Smooth.

The ISO image is about 1.7 Gb in size. I downloaded it and burnt onto the DVD-R disk that I was going to send out.

The DVD is in the drive of my Toshiba Satellite L500-19X laptop.

Reboot. Choose to boot from DVD. Let's go!


Boot process

Xfce Smooth greets you with a menu that gives you a choice of Live session, installation, media check and booting from the HDD-drive. I selected the Live session, and the boot process started.

You can see that Xfce Smooth is based on Ubuntu straight away, because the Ubuntu logo is on the screen while the system loads. Actually, I need to tell you that Xfce Smooth is not based on pure Ubuntu, but rather on Xubuntu 14.04. The version that I downloaded and booted was released on the 27th of July 2014. As you can imagine, the software it sports is not the most fresh.

To finish the boot process, you need to press Enter or click the mouse button to confirm the session password for Live user called Guest, which is actually empty.

First impressions

Once booted, you are presented with a default desktop of Xfce Smooth that has some icons on the left, Dock at the bottom and a panel at the top.

The panel has a menu button with a penguin in a yellow circle in the left corner. The right part of the panel is taken by the usual set of elements: clock with calendar, sound, battery and network indicators, as well as couple of shortcuts to screenshot and notes utilities. Panel itself is transparent, except for the application buttons.

There is no virtual desktop switch or "show desktop" button anywhere on the default desktop. You need to add them to the panel yourself.

There is a warning message in the centre of the screen right after booting. It tells you that no changes are saved in this Live session.
Xfce Smooth initial screen

Default desktop wallpaper is a photo in blue tones with a cloud in the centre.

There are several dozen alternative wallpapers in the distribution available straight out of the box.
Xfce Smooth uses unusual sets of default fonts, mouse pointers and icons. You need some time to get used to it. Actually the selected font TimeBurner is not a very good choice for me, because, for example, it was rather difficult for me to read the warning message mentioned above. Also, sometimes the letters of this font  run too close to one another, which makes the text unreadable.

The set of icons is inconsistent. Some of the icons in the notification area have square, some round, and some no background shape.

You can change the system theme, fonts and icons sets through the Appearance section of the system configuration panel. There is a big choice of all these items.

Once booted, the system took about 444 Mb of memory, which is quite a lot for the Xfce-based operating system.
Xfce Smooth resources


Network connection

Xfce Smooth is based on Xubuntu 14.04, which supports a lot of different hardware. That was not a problem for me to connect to my home wireless network. I only had to click the network indicator icon, select my home network and enter the password.

The connection was established quickly. Although, here I need to note that Xfce Smooth also asked me for the password to activate the Keyring. I had no idea about this password, and I had to press Cancel that time. The same Keyring activation prompt appeared again several times later.

Network drive

Xfce Smooth comes with the Thunar 1.6.3 file manager. This file manager has a "Browse network" section. I was able to navigate to my shared network drive and connect it through the smb protocol. All that was done using only the mouse.

Keyboard layout

Xfce Smooth comes with the English US keyboard layout by default.

I changed this using the standard Xfce approach, which you can find in my dedicated article.

Multimedia

Xfce Smooth comes with necessary codecs to play MP3 files from your local drive or watch videos from online resources, either embedded or on dedicated pages.

SMPlayer is the default music player for your local files.
Xfce Smooth multimedia


Applications

As I have mentioned, Xfce Smooth was released in July 2014. It means that many applications in the default distribution will need an update if you decide to install this Linux distribution.

There are two browsers in the default set: Chrome 36 and Firefox 31. Apart from these two browsers, the Internet menu section contains Pidgin messenger, Thunderbird mail client and Transmission torrent client, as well as XChat IRC.

When you launch the Chrome browser, you can tell the geographical "motherland" of the distribution: the default search engine in Xfce Smooth is set to Google Australia. Although, I must admit there are no other indicators of that geographical association.

You get "Microsoft Online Apps" in addition to AbiWord and Gnumeric productivity tools. These online apps are actually elements of office.live.com suite, a cloud-based solution from Microsoft.

There are two simple games in Xfce Smooth: Mines and Sudoku.

Graphical tools are represented by GIMP, Pinta, ImageMagick, SimpleScan, Document viewer, Ristretto Image Viewer and so on.

Xfce Smooth comes with several Multimedia applications. Apart from the Xfce-standard Xfburn utility, there are Clementine multimedia player, HandBrake video transcoder, SMPlayer and SMPlayer YouTube players and several other applications.

You have a lot of system utilities and accessories. Among them are Conky manager, Plank dock, Gigolo, Unetbootin, Archive manager, Calculator, Gedit and many other.

Of course, all the Ubuntu repositories and PPA are also available for you.

Conclusion

Xfce Smooth is an interesting distribution. It shows you what you can do yourself using the [very] good distribution as a start and playing with themes, icon sets and fonts. You can change your system's look very much to your own taste.

The question is still whether you need to download a distribution that someone has already created for you, or start it yourself from scratch. The benefit of using of Xfce Smooth in this case is that it already has a lot of icon sets, fonts, themes to choose from. You do not need to search, download and install them. Just start playing with your selection!

In terms of performance, I had almost no issues with Xfce Smooth at all. It felt very snappy, fast, responsive and... really smooth! The only small issue was with the Keyring password request that appeared several times.

Would I use this distribution myself? Probably not. I am not a fancier of different fonts, icon and mouse pointer styles to play with them. I would rather stick to something more classic.

But I still recommend you to look at this distribution and decide yourself.

Video used on the screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-0lV5qs1Qw

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