I am always up for a challenge and upon waking up I figured I would dive into a new Linux Distro and see how things operate from my newly minted Ubuntu Linux install and through a VirtualBox Install on a smallerish SSD. I will be able to build out a relatively stable environment despite only having 60GB to work with but unfortunately, long term testing of more than one week is now out of the question.
Bridge Linux is a derivative of Arch Linux and while I have tried Arch a few times in the past I was never really satisfied with how it would let me do what I wanted to do…but that being said…it has been a while since I really gave Arch a chance. In going to the Bridge Linux site, the team there decided to build 4 separate tweaked and focused distros instead of one super distro that included all of the options. In reality I like that concept a lot. I will be installing the Gnome 64 version but there is also an Xfce, KDE and a Lite version. Each has slightly different sizes (XFCE=658MB, Gnome=805MB, KDE=905MB and Lite=500MB).
The download itself was very fast, there is no Torrent version but the builders leverage the Sourceforge bandwidth so that took no time at all. I configured my VirtualBox with 4GB of RAM and 20 GB of HDD space and off I went.
In going through the Install…I can’ help but remember why I really did not like Arch Linux in the past…it all stems from the lack of a graphical installer with the system. I am actually looking forward to taking a look at the recently released beta of the new Debian installer. But despite being archaic, the installer is functional…but better documentation is not currently available for first time Linux Users to help to navigate the potential hazards…like wiping hard drives! The install process while appearing fast…is more than just an optical illusion because you can see the items being installed instead of reading interesting facts about the OS and its development path…or in the case of Ubuntu…reading their Canonical Twitter feed in real time!!!
Upon completion of the install…the Terminal Window sat idle for 10 minutes and when I closed it out (assuming that I needed to move something along)…the entire install canceled. So off to the drawing board and restart the install, this time all went very smoothly.
The first boot was less than 20 seconds which is solid and for those that lack patience with boot times (the 9 minute login process at work is still a source of major frustration)…this was a big plus.
The Gnome 64 version of Bridge Linux comes with:
- The Gimp for Image Editing
- Chrome for the Browser
- Evolution for Email
- Libre Office (but to my surprise the default language is Dutch)
- Banshee for Music
My first thoughts and feelings are that Bridge Linux is a nice basic OS without a lot of bells and whistles, which is not a bad thing at all. Keeping things light and airy is refreshing but there was something very glaring missing in this install…the ability to install any alternative software beyond the Terminal and even that is overly complicated.
I might be spoiled by the likes of user experience when it comes to using Ubuntu or even openSUSE and Fedora but this is a glaring oversight on the part of the developers.
A quick check of the forums revealed a work around to install a package manager through the Arch Wiki and this is actually by design??? Pacman is how you install new packages and keep the OS updated but there is not a GUI for Pacman available. The “Arch Way” is meant to keep things simple…but with 1000’s of packages out their in the Linux ecosystem…not having a way to effectively manage and configure a system…does not make things simple…it is a major frustration and makes a major dent in the opportunity for Arch and Bridge Linux to gain a mainstream following.
That being said…Bridge Linux appears to be stable, but limited OS, that if you get past the ugly installer…will be a fairly solid Web Surfing machine and light productivity system…but unfortunately…nothing much more without extreme tweaking and fiddling which my patience level will not tolerate. This will not become a daily driver for me!
So as for the overall review…taking into account the ugly installer and lack of simple package management:
I just can’t get past the lack of changes like installing Firefox or Thunderbird instead of the defaults. I like the look and feel but with the Gnome 2 version…I can not in good conscience recommend even the bandwidth of just 805MB for the download. Heck…even Windows lets you install other software!!!
Chris J Powell