GeckoLinux is a stripped-down version of OpenSuSE with only one desktop environment (at a time), and with a Live run enabled. You can download GeckoLinux versions with Plasma, GNOME, Xfce, Cinnamon, Mate, Budgie, LXQt or barebones. All of them are available as Static or Rolling editions. All these versions are based on OpenSuSE Stable release, 42.2 at the moment. There is also GeckoLinux Plasma NEXT, which includes some non-stable repositories. Only 64-bit versions available as it is the only architecture supported by OpenSuSE now.
You can download the ISOs for any of the version via the Sourceforge's content delivery network.
I downloaded the GeckoLinux Plasma Static release from the 28th of December 2016. It may not be the freshest release for the date when this review goes live, because the release team issues them monthly. The ISO size is about 1 GB in size. I "burnt" it to the USB stick using the dd command.
The USB drive is in the port of my Toshiba laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!
Booting upThe boot process of GeckoLinux starts with a choice between a normal Live and a Safe mode, booting from Hard Drive and memory check. You can also choose a language for your system and specify some boot parameters.
I started the usual Live run of GeckoLinux Plasma and after about a minute a login screen appeared. GeckoLinux asks you to enter the password. There is no hint anywhere, except for the GeckoLinux download page. The password for the default user linux is also linux. Once I entered the password, the system froze for some time. There was no visible reaction on the screen. But half a minute later the default desktop appeared.
First impressionsGeckoLinux Plasma boots into a standard KDE5 / Plasma desktop. There are two items on it: Calamares (What is it? An installer, a game, a Spanish dictionary or a HDD destructor? Any hints?) and Language. Both icons have only one word in the name, but it is ugly spread across two lines. Why so?
|GeckoLinux welcome screen|
The default wallpaper is a picture of raindrops on the glass, and all that is in OpenSuSE's green tones. There is a choice of 3 alternative images, one of them being the same picture, but with a "made with suse studio" stamp in the corner.
The panel is at the bottom of the screen. The bottom-left corner is taken by a menu button that has a KDE (not SuSE) logo. Next to it you can find shortcuts to the Dolphin File manager and the Firefox browser. The right part of the panel is the notification area. It has clocks (set to 9 hours behind my actual time, am I somewhere in Hawaii?) and date with day of the week and month in full words. That is simply a waste of space on the panel, isn't it? Why wouldn't you remove or shorten day of the week and month? The panel also contains the usual suspects like clipboard monitor, network and volume indicators and USB tool. Battery, printer and notification indicators are hidden behind a drop-down menu triangle. The "Show desktop" icon is also in the right part of the panel.
|GeckoLinux resource usage|
The freshly booted system takes about 480 MB of memory, which is much more than Kubuntu 16.10 and ROSA Desktop Fresh R8, but less than Debian 8 KDE, though the latter runs on KDE4.
Network connectionGeckoLinux Plasma had no problems with recognition and configuration of my wireless network card Realtek 8191 SEvB.
Click on the network indicator on the panel, select my home network, type in the password, and I am connected to the Internet in few moments.
GeckoLinux did not ask for any passwords at this stage, like some other distributions do.
Network driveDolphin file manager in GeckoLinux Plasma Live allowed me to find the shared network drive using the Samba Shares search tool. I was able to browse the drive and play files from it.
At the same time, Dolphin asked me about the root password when I tried to mount the local HDD partition. The same password linux was sufficient.
Keyboard layoutI selected English UK as a language for my system at the boot screen. However, the system booted with the English US layout.
If you want to change the layout, or add another one, you need to go through the steps described in my separate article. Not a big deal.
ApplicationsGeckoLinux comes with a rather small set of applications available out of the box. You can probably tell from the ISO image size, which is smaller than most other distributions.
Firefox 50.1 is the default and the only browser. Other Internet tools include KTorrent, KNetAttach, Pidgin internet messenger and Thunderbird email client.
There are some Development tools in the menu, namely several Qt 5-centric applications.
Graphic tools in GeckoLinux include LibreOffice Draw, Gwenview and Skanlite scanning utility. There is no GIMP or any other image editor. LibreOffice Draw isn’t really an editor, is it?
The Office section of the menu includes LibreOffice applications, including Draw, Calc, Writer and Impress. Okular document viewer is also included.
Clementine and VLC players are the only elements in the Multimedia part of the menu. There are no disk burning utility and audio control tools.
The system and configuration utilities are distributed across three (yes, three!) sections of the menu: System, Settings and Utilities. The line between these sections is so fine that I always struggle to find the reason behind splitting tools into two categories like most distributions do. GeckoLinux has three. Of course, you can find many tools in these three sections. Just to name a few: Konsole terminal, Ark archive manager, Kate text editor, KCalc, GParted, YaST.
YaST is the GeckoLinux's, and OpenSuSE's in general, system control panel. You need to enter the root password to open it. YaST includes system hardware and software configuration, firewall, kernel and network settings and many others. Software management is also a part of YaST functionality. Just to see YaST software management in action, I tried to install K3B and Chromium applications. Both these packages were found in the YaST software tool. Unfortunately, after K3B installation, which went first, the panel froze. I could no longer click the items on the panel, and even menu button and desktop right-click stopped working. The installation of Chromium browser failed in general. The error message said there was not enough space on the drive. Could this be calculated prior to downloading the package and its dependencies to save time and bandwidth?
MultimediaGeckoLinux was able to play video and audio files from local machine and from the attached network drive without any issue. That is not a big deal once you have VLC installed.
YouTube and Vimeo videos also played well in the Firefox browser. However, 1tv.ru did not work due to the absence of Adobe Flash installation.
I am not able to attach any screenshot of the multimedia playback in GeckoLinux, because the above-mentioned issue after the software installation also affected the screenshot utility. I hope you will trust me here.
ConclusionGeckoLinux is a difficult thingie to understand. It was created to ease the life of people who want to explore OpenSuSE. Neither OpenSuSE nor GeckoLinux are actually easy distributions to deal with. Maybe I am just very subjective towards OpenSuSE, but that's my position.
GeckoLinux failed in many aspects in my eyes.
- First, the lack of essential software like disk burning utility or image editor.
- Second, the glitch in software installation that affected the general system usability.
- Third, there were performance issues even on simple things like minimizing and restoring of the windows: I was able to see separate frames rather than the smooth animation.
- Fourth, the reason behind splitting utilities into three menu categories is unclear or uncertain.
- Fifth, simple logic should not allow downloading applications that would not be installable due to system disk space restrictions. This logic failed in YaST.
Summarizing all that, I would not recommend GeckoLinux to anyone who seriously looks towards OpenSuSE, unless you are a die-hard OpenSuSE fan. You will not get much fun here, but you risk getting a lot of frustration. The same is true about OpenSuSE though, but then you will not have anybody between yourself and the core operating system.