4 Aug 2011

Aptosid 2011-02: is it any good?

Aptosid is Debian-based Linux distribution aiming desktops of users wishing to live on cutting edge of technology. It is based on Debian Sid, which is unstable branch. Sid is kind of sandbox where developers can test their ideas before they are moved to Testing and eventually to Stable releases. It means that while Debian as whole is considered by many as rock-solid system, Sid should never be considered as such. And this is a platform for Aptosid.
I have looked at Aptosid already, that was Aptosid version 2011-01. I was quite impressed that time, even though there were some issues which were show-stoppers for me.
July saw release of new Aptosid version, this time 2011-02. It was released on 13th of July. Even though it was not Friday, but still 13th. Was it bad day for Aptosid? Let's have a look.
Aptosid allows you to choose several options: XFCE, KDE-full and KDE-lite. My choice, as in previous time, was for KDE-lite version which fits CD. Eventually CD-RW disk was burnt and Compaq C300 laptop prepared for a test.
By the way... If you want to get your own CD with Aptosid (or many other distributions), why not order them at Buy Linux CDs site?
Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!


First and the only question which Aptosid asked me during the boot was about boot options: whether I really want to boot Live Aptosid or continue to boot from Hard Disk. Of course, choice was clear. At the same time, Aptosid allowed me to change system language. My choice was for English (UK), not for default English (US). Interesting, Russian was also in the list, but I did not try this option.
Boot process is basically wall of white text on black screen. Not very interesting. Eventually it changes to Aptosid wallpaper with scorpions appearing one after another. These scorpions are basically replacing standard KDE icons (Hard Disk, Globe, KDE logo).
Few seconds later system is ready for use.
Aptosid, as usual, meets you with Konqueror window showing release notes. What is interesting there?
I would mention 3 points:
  1. Aptosid is based on Debian Sid as of 13th of July. Very fresh! Same date as Aptosid release.
  2. KDE is version 4.6.4, which is not the latest version on the day of release (4.6.5 was released on 9th of July). It is quite understandable because Aptosid team targets to release stable system on top of unstable Sid. Adding new release of KDE would not help stability for sure.
  3. Finally, and what is more interesting, WiFi card Broadcom 4311 is now supported out of the box. This is first time for Debian derivative when I see it! Of course, I do not mean Ubuntu here, because Ubuntu bear too much differences from Debian to be considered as its derivative.
Let's try this new feature and how it works.


When booted, Broadcom 4311 WiFi card it is not activated by default. Blue light on the laptop was deadly black. Moreover, there is no icon on the taskbar for Network Manager or Wicd or any other application to configure network connections.
Instead, there is Ceni utility in Internet section of Aptosid menu. It is CLI interface based (i.e. not so shiny and nice looking) utility to connect to network. Once started, it showed me my network interfaces (lan0 and wlan0). Selection of wlan0 suggested me to scan for available networks. Once I accepted this sugestion, blue light on laptop fired up. Hoooorrray! Few seconds more - and I saw my network in the list of available. Several next steps are for configuration of interface: secutiry key and DHCP/IP address details. And I am connected! Bravo,  Aptosid!
As a result of this success, this post was drafted directly in Blogger from Aptosid itself!
I wonder if and when these changes eventually come to main Debian? Will next stable release of Debian support famous b43 chipset cards out of the box??? Only Debian developers can tell for sure. If you have any information about this, please share.
Interesting enough, even having WiFi connection up and running, I still did not get icon on the taskbar.


Default wallpaper in Aptosid is quite unusual. It is red-brown-black-blue tones. Honestly, I did not like it. If you are on the same page with me, then I can tell you that there is good selection of other wallpapers included, most of them are common in KDE distributions.
Aptosid has 4 virtual desktops by default. It's not unusual for KDE at all. But there are still couple of things with desktops which you usually don't have in KDE:
  • Each desktop has its own applications, i.e. taskbar is not shared between desktops. This is usual behaviour of GNOME, but not KDE.
  • 4 desktops are placed in one line, not in 2*2 matrix. Again, you are more likely to see this behaviour in GNOME, not in KDE.
Desktop effects are not activated by default in Aptosid. But once activated, they work without any issues. Desktop cube switches the desktops, Sheet pulls down the windows like sheets of paper, Switch preview displays application previews in Alt-Tab dialog. In other words... it just works!

    What's is inside?

    I have written about default applications of Aptosid in my previous review. It did not change at all. At least, I could not find any differences. That's why I won't describe what you can and cannot find in Aptosid Live KDE-lite version. Instead, I give you the link.
    But I still want to talk about some applications included into Aptosid distribution.
    Konqueror is default browser in Aptosid. But it is not alone. Alternative is elinks. I had an issue in Konqueror actually: it crashed all the times when I tried to open Blogger editor and my blog itself in 2 tabs. I have a fix for this: to install Chromium. Read on, I'll come to this point later.
    As you might expect, Dolphin is default browser in Aptosid. It listed all partitions of my HDD in the left column. But it could not mount NTFS partition at all. Message was about access right. Ext3 partitions though were mounted OK, but in read-only access without any message indicated. At the same time, Ext4 partition was mounted with read-write access.
    Manual mounting of NTFS partition (sudo mount -t ntfs-3g...) worked without any issues. Parition was automatically mounted  in read-write mode.
    To be honest, I was absolutely confused with this inconsistency.
    If I continue about partitions mounting, I'd like to speak about Samba and external network drive. Aptosid includes utility KNetAttach, which is also built into Dolphin. It is widely so in KDE-based Linux distributions. I was very successful in mounting my network drive with it. Moreover! I have complained several times that this functions does not allow to play files from remote drive without copying them to local storage. I am not sure whether this is Aptosid configuration or Kaffeine feature, but I was able to play MP3 files directly from smb:// device! Cool!
    I also tried to mount my network drive manually in CLI, and it worked OK with only -o guest,nolinux parameters. Russian characters were recognised just fine. Although, permissions were not OK. I had similar issue in Kubuntu - mounted partition is read-only for everyone, except for root. Basically, cure is known. But this time I decided not to go this way, but to copy files to external drive from command line: sudo cp... What is also veryAnd yes, it means that Samba client is included into Aptosid by default. Curious, using the smb:// function mentioned above, I was able to cut file to paste it to Desktop. But I was not able to paste file back.
    Strange enough, KDE in Aptosid bears GParted in menu, and GParted is GNOME-native tool. I was very much puzzled by this fact. But anyway GParted did not start for me. No errors. No messages in dmesg. Just nothing happened when I clicked that menu item.
    Another surprise, and again not very pleasant this time, waited for me when I decided to install something new in my Live run of Aptosid. The only method I found was old good apt-get command. There is no graphical package manager tool in Aptosid. Even Synaptic is not included. Of course, it can be cured quickly...

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install synaptic

    But why did developers exclude such an useful application from the distribution?
    In order to test if apt-get works at all, I installed Chromium which is included into the repository. Guess? It worked like magic. All the issues with instability of Konqueror did not exist in Chromium.
    Kaffeine played MP3 files out of the box in Aptosid. That is quite a surprise because Debian is usually very strict in proprietary software usage. Obviously, MP3 decoder was brought into Aptosid by developers' team. Although I could hear music in Kaffeine, but I could not see the titles if they were in Russian. Is that a bug or feature? I think that is normal for Linux-based players not to support non-Unicode tags in MP3 files. And my files are likely to contain tags in Windows-1251 codepage.
    Unfortunately, different story was for another popular multimedia tool. YouTube did not play videos in Aptosid out of the box. It  required installation of Flash player. I decided not to go through this step, because there is nothing interesting about another installation of Flash Player on top of Debian.

    To kill or not to kill?

    Aptosid is based on unstable branch of Debian. Even though developers try to make Aptosid as stable as possible, there are still some issues happening.
    The one happened to me... I decided to detach Chromium tab from main window to make is separate application on taskbar. What happened? I got preview image of this tab floating somewhere in the middle of desktop. It could not be moved, minimized or closed. The only way to get rid of this image which I thought of was to kill X server. First of all, of course, I had to activate keyboard sequence (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace) in Keyboard configuration.
    Kill it!
    Sure, X server was automatically restarted after that.
    What did I see? I saw an icon in the notification area. It was KNemo icon for the network connection. Why it did not appear right after WiFi activation - I don't know. It would be logical indeed. Of course, KNemo is not the best network management tool (it is not management tool at all), but it is still better than nothing...
    That's why I would say that killing X server could be sometimes useful for Aptosid.
    By the way... same "tab detachment" worked OK after X server restart.

    Is it any good?

    balance in all things
    Image by woodleywonderworks
    What is my overall impression of Aptosid?
    It works very quick, unless when CD-ROM operations are not involved.
    It brings you a mix of Debian and some features which you're unlikely see in Debian itself, like MP3 support out of the box.
    On the negative side, though, I would say that Aptosid 2011-02 looks less stable than its predecessor 2011-01. At least, in Live (not installed) mode. Are these consequences of release date (the thirteenth)? Who knows...
    Would I recommend Aptosid 2011-02 to anyone? Yes, I would recommend to look at this Operating System to people who are not new to Linux, but would like to see something new and cutting-edge, but still stable enough and easily-manageable.


    1. I think a lot of people still get confused over the meaning of "Stable" as used in reference to Debian releases. In this case, it has little to do with the operational stability of the software and everything to do with an arbitrary snapshot in time taken by the Debian team and frozen until the next major release. "Stable" just means that it isn't changing at a rapid pace as do the "Testing" and "Unstable" or Sid releases.
      True, Sid can be a wild ride at times but the object of the aptosid team has been to smooth out the worst of the bumps and provide a true rolling release of Debian's cutting edge. I don't currently use aptosid, more for the reason that my ISP's bandwidth cap makes it difficult to keep updated than for any problems with its operational stability. aptosid is fairly high maintenance in that you really need to keep it freshly updated or risk having stuff break when you add a new package. On the strong plus side is one of the best Debian manuals going, detailed and comprehensive with code examples that can be cut and pasted into your terminal as needed.

    2. Clarification on above: aptosid's requirement for frequent updating is not a fault of aptosid but is a basic reality of Debian sid. It is changing so rapidly that if you add new software without updating first, the stuff it pulls in to support the new may break the old. This is the cutting edge and the faint of heart need not apply.

    3. AptoSID major problem is that by default WiFi networking won't work on many laptops due to missing firmware.

      Some folk conveniently remasters AptoSID to fix this problem: http://linuxfonts.narod.ru/

    4. @Anonymous: debian sid is a place where developers upload their work. It can be unstable.
      Not literally, but taken from http://www.debian.org/releases/sid/

    5. The achievement of aptosid/sidux has been the civilization of sid to the point that it can be used by real humans who don't eat and sleep Linux. It does require a modicum of Linux knowledge and experience and the ability to use the command line routinely.

      If WiFi hardware manufacturers would open source their code, WiFi networking would work well on sid without the need to utilize proprietary windoze drivers. If you can't live with/work around that issue, then this distro isn't for you.

    6. @Anonymous:
      >The achievement of aptosid/sidux has been the civilization of sid
      Absolutely agree. The team does great job!

    7. aptosid is aq great distro, that make availeble sid for more people, finding some solutions to avoid the dark edges of sid. also mint debian try to do so, and also this distro has his own good and evil thing.
      but i can remark that many of hte problems you encountered using this distro live related, i've installed aptosid and in my netbook it's more stable that you think.and has oner of the fastest installer ì've ever seen. problems came out when you try toupdate, but is the nature of sid itself, and every distro based on it search for a solution... mint is going toward service-packs, and aptosid also makes warnings in hteyr forum about some packages, but problems still presist.

    8. @Anonymous:
      I agree... Lots of issues in Live run disappear in installed. But I prefer Live run reviews...

    9. hi

      review missing a lot of infos

      aptosid is presenting a unique advantage for the one who is'nt afraid to put the hands in a console :

      hd instal in less than 5 minutes
      very clean path through regular updates within sid,
      and however once totally installed and configured you can stay where you like it
      xfce edition not mentionned here very stable
      kde full edition for those who want a complete live system


      usb key installation for the modern human being

      (lots more to mention though...)


    10. @apogarte:
      This was review of Live version, so your remarks about HD install and updates are absolutely irrelevant.
      XFCE and KDE-full versions are mentioned. Please look at the 4th paragraph from the top.

      I would advise you to read carefully before posting comments like this.

    11. I want to like KDE again (aka KDE 3.5+), but for me, KDE4+ has been more "bloated" , and a resource pig, than I ever needed.
      But what's interested here is that "kde-lite" is slowly coming back from the dead on other distro's as well as, of course, aptosid's offering.
      I think I'll give aptosid kde-lite a spin.
      Thanks for the honest review here, even though it was just a "live" review test.

    12. -thx again DarkDuck,
      and btw: for anyone looking at an aptosid/OpenBox spin (actually you'll have to spin it yourself), then take a look at
      It includes some very detailed OpenBox setups, as well as of course a quick look at aptosid-XFCE

    13. Anonymous:
      Unfortunately there are not so many distributions now based on Trinity. I have reviews of them here, please look for "kde3" tag in the right column.
      Thanks for cheering me up. I was very upset by this Aprosid forum thread... Don't understand why... Review says that Aptosid is not bad at all...

    14. @DarkDuck:
      Well it's because your review was ignorant of some important aspects of the distro. In the manual you're strictly warned against using synaptic. As it is a rolling release there are some necessary steps for upgrades.
      You can't treat every distro as those you use normally. You're doing the same mistake as users of one operating system switching to another.
      Otherwise, I am glad you gave aptosid a try.

    15. @Petr:
      Thanks for pointing the reason of Synaptic comments. But unfortunately this is not the only... My feelings is that Aptosid community is not warm in welcome at all... :-?

    16. I have been running aptosid for about 1 year now. I was previously a Ubuntu user. I can tell you that for the most part the Aptosid community is very warm and welcoming and the forums exceptionally helpful. I can also say that although I am not a linux guru I found it to be the simplest, most stable and easiest distro I have ever used. The biggest plus to me is that it allows me to only install the things I want, the core install is lean and mean, my issue with the Ubuntu and most others is all the garbage you get with it. I do run the XFCE version and never had any issues with live cd's but that may be a KDE thing.

      Appreciate your taking the time to look at it. The lack of synaptic and the runlevel 3 installing takes some time to get used to but now when I use a distro that is synaptic or graphically based it drives me crazy. The biggest point that I think should be raised is one that you probably would not get from a live release view. The aptosid team has focused and succeeded in putting together a very secure release and the manual is extremely well written.

      I have put some friends on aptosid who were virtually non-linux users but who wanted more control and they quickly adapted. I highly recommend this distro to anyone regardless of their proficiency level and hope you will get the opportunity to give it a more indepth look. Try the XFCE version, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Hard to kick about a 3 minute install that gives you a networked usable system.

    17. @Statmonkey:
      Thanks for so long comment!
      I maybe come back to Aptosid in near future. I currently have a partition where I can play with different distributions installed. So, why not put Aptosid there for some time? Keep in touch!

    18. 'But anyway GParted did not start for me. No errors. No messages in dmesg. Just nothing happened when I clicked that menu item.'

      The way to launch GParted in aptosid is something like this (type in terminal):


      'Typing "sux" in a terminal will take you to root with Xapp privileges.', from the aptosid manual.

      Aptosid is quite nice distro, I have switched to it from Fedora (just after upgrading Fedora from 15 to 16 which spoiled my KDE), and thus far I have no problems with it. Aptosid is also much faster and responsible than Fedora, maybe because it's Debian, maybe because it doesn't install any managers and services that I don't need by default (e.g. lack of synaptics is rather advantage for me); while it still recognizes my hardware perfectly out of the box (for comparison: Debian Testing based Mint does not).

    19. @Anonymous:
      Thanks for information. It would be nice though if application gave any indication of what's required when it doesn't start. Silence kills.
      I appreciate that "sux" is somewhere in manual. But how many people do read those manuals? How many actually remember what's in the manual?