There are not that many mainstream Linux distributions that come with Enlightenment E17 as their default
desktop environment. There's Elive
(we looked at its 2.0 release
last year), which is a Debian derivative with Enlightenment, but users have
to pay to install it to a hard drive and it's already rather
dated. OpenGEU, another
Enlightenment-based distribution, seems to have stalled. But in the last
few months, two new Enlightenment-based Linux distributions have appeared:
the Ubuntu-based Bodhi Linux and the
openSUSE derivative Petite Linux. We'll
take a look at both distributions and their contrasting approaches to bring
an Enlightenment desktop to users.
Bodhi Linux: enlightened Ubuntu
Bodhi Linux ("bodhi" is the Buddhist term for "enlightenment") claims to
be "a minimalistic, enlightened, Linux desktop". The system
requirements are modest: a 300 MHz x86 processor with 128 MB RAM and 1.5 GB
disk space should suffice. Bodhi Linux, which published its 1.0.0
release on March 25, is built on top of Ubuntu 10.04 with some packages backported from Ubuntu 10.10, such as the 2.6.35 kernel and the newer Ubiquity installer. For now, there's only a 32-bit release.
The developers promise that Bodhi Linux will follow the release cycle of
Ubuntu LTS, which means that there will be a new main release every two
years. So the 2.0.0 release will be based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and is aimed
at mid-late 2012. There will also be minor point releases roughly every three months with current software packages. For instance, Bodhi Linux 1.1.0 will have a 2.6.38 kernel and is expected toward the end of May. Because Enlightenment is still under heavy development, new Enlightenment updates are pushed out to the Bodhi repository at least once a week.
This all sounds very professional for such a small distribution, but there's an important security issue in the way Bodhi Linux uses its repository: the packages in the Bodhi repository are not signed (apt-get warns you about this when you're on the verge of installing such a package), so its users are vulnerable to a man in the middle attack. For now, the main developer Jeff Hoogland doesn't seem to think this is a serious issue, as his reaction to a question from a user shows:
I really need to find time to write my rant on this topic SIGNING PACKAGES DOES NOT MAKE THEM ANY MORE SECURE. /rant (For now)
After starting the live CD (which is only 380 MB), it gives you the
choice from six different profiles: Bare, Desktop, Ecomorph, Fancy, Laptop,
and Tablet/Netbook. If you click on a profile, Bodhi gives you some
information about the use cases it is meant for. For instance, Bare is for
advanced users that want to create their own customized Enlightenment
configuration. Most users will want to install the Desktop or Laptop
profile, or the Ecomorph if they want Compiz effects enabled (which may
require proprietary graphics drivers). The Desktop profile will get you
something KDE-like, to try to make those coming from KDE feel at home, by
moving the default shelf (actually, a panel) to the bottom for example. In
the next step, users can choose a desktop theme. If you click on one of
these themes, Bodhi shows you a preview. After this, the live environment
starts up with your chosen profile and theme, so that you can give Bodhi
Linux a try.
To install, just click on the install icon in the quick launcher at the
bottom of the screen. This will fire up Ubuntu's familiar Ubiquity
installer. After the installation, a reboot is required. It's immediately
clear that Bodhi Linux starts up fast, and the user's session starts up
blazingly fast after login as well. The first time, you have to choose the profile and theme you want for your session. After this, you can choose which applications to add to the quick launcher at the bottom, but this can also be done later.
Your author didn't undertake an extensive benchmark, but his gut feel says
that even applications start up significantly faster than on plain Ubuntu
(with GNOME). In his review
at TechRepublic, Jack Wallen experienced the same and did some
measurements on two different but equally equipped machines: on the machine
with Bodhi Linux, GIMP started two times faster than on a standard Ubuntu
10.10 machine. Exactly why this is happening is uncertain, but the cause
could be that E17 just uses much less resources than GNOME and that Bodhi
Linux is running fewer services in the background than a stock Ubuntu
While the first focus of Bodhi Linux is creating a minimalistic
Enlightenment desktop, its second core idea is that user choice is
paramount. The only pre-installed applications are the web browser Midori
(a lightweight Webkit-based browser), the editor Leafpad, LXTerminal, the
file browser PCManFM, Synaptic, and, of course, some system configuration
tools. So after installing Bodhi Linux, your system is not cluttered with
applications that you'll never use, and you can make your own decisions
about which software you want to install.
Installing software can be done with apt-get or with the Bodhi Software Center. The latter is a web site that lists some popular packages and lets you install them directly from the browser. Furthermore, if you click on the download button of an application, you get a package that includes the application and all of its dependencies, so you can install it easily on another machine without an internet connection.
On a side note: the developers are really serious about user choice. They are even considering an RPM-based Bodhi version. At this moment, they have been working on a Fedora disc using the Enlightenment desktop as a side project, and they even plan a version based on Arch Linux. It will probably take some time, but Hoogland has already assembled a small but growing team, with, for example, Chris Bolton who will build an Arch Linux based Bodhi.
But this user choice doesn't mean that Bodhi Linux leaves its users in
the dark after installation: there's a wiki with installation
instructions, a quickstart
(which will be opened the first time you launch Midori), and some tips and
tricks. Because Bodhi Linux is quite minimalistic after installation,
these online documents are really helpful to make some things work that
other distributions already do by default or that they have a GUI
for. There are also some introductions to get up to speed with Enlightenment.
Petite Linux: enlightened openSUSE
Petite Linux takes a completely opposite approach, which is easy to see
when you start it up: it boots much slower than Bodhi. Petite Linux is
built with SUSE Studio, so the minimum hardware requirements are the same as openSUSE: a Pentium III 500 MHz processor with 512 MB RAM and 3 GB available disk space. Version 1.0.0, based on openSUSE 11.3, was released in February, and apparently can only be downloaded as a torrent (the ISO file is 651 MB). An openSUSE 11.4-based Petite Linux should be right around the corner.
While Bodhi Linux is all about choice, the idea behind Petite Linux is
to "just work". So it makes a lot of decisions for you, with the result
that it's not as minimal as Bodhi Linux is. For instance, it installs a lot
of applications, like GIMP, OpenOffice.org Base, Impress, Calc, Writer, and
Draw, the Eye of GNOME image viewer, the instant messenger Empathy, the
Transmission BitTorrent client, the Google Chrome web browser, the media player SMPlayer, the CD/DVD burning program TkDVD, GNOME Terminal, Wine, and some system configuration tools. However, that doesn't mean that Petite Linux is bloated. For instance, with respect to Enlightenment, it only includes the default modules, which are known to be stable, and for each type of work there's only one application installed. CUPS is not installed by default, nor are the proprietary graphics drivers for Nvidia and ATI.
Petite Linux installs Wine primarily for playing Windows games. The online HOWTO page about games even explains how to run Windows games in Wine and lists some games that are known to work. For more information about compatibility issues, the web page refers to the Wine Application Database. The HOWTO also lists some steps to install Steam in Wine, and even how to re-use the Steam games you have already downloaded in Windows on the same computer, so you don't have to download them again in Petite Linux. Of course there are also Linux games: Petite Linux refers to openSUSE's Games repository for this.
Although Petite Linux shows you a nice Enlightenment desktop, you should
take the idea that everything "just works" with a big grain of salt. This
begins on the live CD: there's not even an icon in the menu or on the
desktop to install the distribution. Users have to read the online HOWTO to
know that they should hit Alt+Esc for the "run command" window, then type
"live" and choose the live installer. This opens openSUSE's YaST2 live
installer. Users should also know that the live CD comes with a root
password "linux", which they will need to run the live installer.
But even after installation, the distribution shows a lot of quirks. The
first is that Petite Linux automatically logs in the user, although your
author explicitly unchecked that option in the installer. Moreover, it
didn't honor his settings for the user and the keyboard layout: Petite
Linux does an auto-login with the user "alfa" (the same user as the live CD
runs). The HOWTO page gives some
explanation about how you change the autologin user and copy the
Enlightenment configuration, but even this explanation is incomplete and
won't "just work" for the distribution's target users. In addition, if you
want to install extra Enlightenment modules, you need to check out the
module code from the Enlightenment Subversion repository and compile the
code yourself, which is not so user-friendly and certainly not very maintainable.
From enlightenment to nirvana
Enlightenment proves that users can have a nice looking desktop without
eating up all of their computer's resources. While there exist other lightweight desktop environments like LXDE and Xfce, Enlightenment does the same but with more style. So if you have an older computer or a slow netbook that you'll want to make use of as efficiently as possible, an Enlightenment distribution could be the way to go.
If you're an experienced user and want to have your own choice, Bodhi
Linux is currently the best candidate, but if you'd like an Enlightenment
distribution that makes decisions for you, have a look at Petite
Linux. Unfortunately, both distributions still have some issues: due to the
lack of package signing, Bodhi Linux will make security-conscious users wary, and Petite Linux is not polished enough to deserve the status of a "just works" distribution. As well-meant as both projects are, both 1.0 releases show that it takes much more than slapping a desktop environment on top of a base operating system to create a new distribution. Of the two, Bodhi Linux seems the most promising distribution: with some work on the package signing, it could find a niche and reach the nirvana of Enlightenment distributions.
Comments (4 posted)
It is a truly heady experience, after so many years of talking about the
need to properly support multiarch in Debian and Ubuntu, to see support for
cross-installation of packages come to fruition. If you've talked to me any
time in the past couple of weeks and noticed it's a little hard to get me
to change the subject, well, that's why.
Claiming that the CentOS dev team does not need help building and that
the build process has not become more complicated would appear to be
untrue. But those of us on the outside have to guess at this because
there is absolutely no transparency about the build process. All we've
been told about the 5.6 delays are that there were "niggles". That's
great -- exactly what niggles? What's blown up? Why is none of this
public? THAT is what people are becoming increasingly discontent about
-- a Community project that does not have any real interaction with
the community. Too much is happening behind closed doors, and while I
don't expect anything to change for 5.6 or 6.0 (or 6.1 at this point),
there needs to be work done toward rectifying this when everyone is
not busy as hell with new releases.
-- Tom Sorensen
Comments (1 posted)
The Foresight project has announced the release of Foresight 2.5.0.
"Foresight is a Linux distribution for your desktop that features a
rolling release schedule that always keeps your desktop up to date; a
revolutionary package manager, Conary; the latest GNOME, KDE and Xfce
desktop environment and an innovative set of excellent, up to date software
Full Story (comments: 9)
The openSUSE Education team has announced the release of openSUSE-Edu
Li-f-e (Linux for Education) based on openSUSE 11.4. "This release
includes the latest carefully selected softwares for students, educators as
well as parents. The software selection encompasses everything required to
make computers productive for either home or educational use without having
to install anything additional.
Full Story (comments: none)
Slackware rc 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716 was announced in
March 27, 2011 changelog entry (x86
"There have been quite a few changes so we will have one more release
candidate: Slackware 13.37 RC 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716.
Very close now! But we'll likely hold out for 126.96.36.199.
Comments (none posted)
Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) will reach its end-of-life on April 30, 2011.
"Ubuntu announced its 9.10 release almost 18 months ago, on October
29, 2009. As with the earlier releases, Ubuntu committed to ongoing
security and critical fixes for a period of 18 months. The support period
is now nearing its end and Ubuntu 9.10 will reach end of life on Friday,
April 29, 2011. At that time, Ubuntu Security Notices will no longer
include information or updated packages for Ubuntu 9.10.
Full Story (comments: none)
Lennart Poettering has sent out a note warning Fedora users that they will
see a new top-level /run
directory soon. "In the past weeks
key people from the Debian, Suse, Ubuntu and Fedora camps (and others, too)
discussed the whole issue forth and back, to find a solution to stop the
misuse of /dev before it becomes even more widespread. Various solutions
have been suggested, but in the end it all boiled down to the fact that
/var/run does not belong beneath /var and what we really want is a
top-level directory /run, and that that is the only really clean
solution. The only reason why nobody dared to actually implement such a
directory was unwillingness to deal with the political backlash, especially
messy discussions on mailing lists like this one.
" The ensuing
discussion has not entirely disappointed, but it looks like /run
will carry the day.
Full Story (comments: 188)
The Debian release team presents a few bits about the next release, dubbed
"Wheezy". Topics include a retrospective of the squeeze release, time
based freezes, transitions, release goals, a release team sprint, and 0-day
NMU policy. "As we are at the beginning of the wheezy cycle, there
are a number of changes which have been pending for some time as they were
unable to be considered during the squeeze freeze and the period leading up
to it. The combination of toolchain changes and some larger transitions
which have become entangled are at times making the day-to-day work of
updating packages in unstable more complicated than we would prefer and an
overview of upcoming changes allows us to better manage those
Full Story (comments: none)
DebConf12 will take place in Managua, Nicaragua in 2012. "In a
two-and-a-half hour meeting on Tuesday evening, the Managua bid narrowly
won over the bid from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Teams had been preparing
their bids since mid-2010, seeking venues and local sponsors in their
respective cities and countries.
Full Story (comments: none)
Jared K. Smith reports a slip in the Fedora 15 release schedule. "The
Fedora 15 development cycle is well under way, and making good progress.
Yesterday I met with Release Engineering, QA, the Fedora Program Manager,
and we decided that in order to accommodate some late-breaking changes,
we're going to need to slip the Fedora 15 release schedule by a week in
order to have adequate time to do proper testing of the candidate images
before the Beta.
Full Story (comments: none)
The short report from the March 24 meeting of the Ubuntu Technical Board
carries this conclusion: "The Technical Board voted unanimously against
(0 for, 5 against) including non-free software in the distribution,
agreeing that checking a box in the installer by default is equivalent to
simply including the software in the default installation. This would have
gone against Ubuntu's long standing policy that the only concession is for
" The issue at hand was this bug report
Flash be installed by default.
Full Story (comments: 22)
Newsletters and articles of interest
Comments (none posted)
Jamie Watson takes
Zenwalk 7.0 for a test drive
. "Zenwalk includes a good selection of utilities and applications. It uses the GNU IceCat browser, which the Help box explains "was made by making small changes in Mozilla Firefox". The changes are primarily in the areas of branding and licensing. It also includes IceDove, which is similarly derived from Mozilla Thunderbird. It has LibreOffice 3.3, including Writer, Calc, Draw and Impress, and it also has Orage Calendar and Globaltime. If you haven't tried those last two, they are worth a look, I find them quite handy.
Comments (none posted)
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