Another week has gone by and with that, another kick at the can for a Linux Distribution that is worthy of unseating Ubuntu Linux from my desktop. So far there have been a few that could possibly make it beyond just a rotational change for me but none have been able to get me into the mood to make the leap. It is funny how leaving Windows behind was no problem…but the search for the perfect Distro…well that is darn hard. This week though things do look promising with the Russian build called the ROSA Desktop. I chose to leverage their Long Term Support (5 years according to their site) with the default desktop and see how things go.
Things did not start off all to well as the direct download from either the main site or the mirror listed would not initiate and the Torrent was moving at a Snail’s Pace that took more than 2 hours to complete (I guess this is another reason to start my downloads at night). But from what I had seen from the screen shots, the customized KDE interface may just be what I was looking for. ROSA is based on the popular Mandriva OS and the ISOs can be downloaded from the main site at www.rosalab.com.
As always, for this test I am putting together a Virtual Machine in Oracle’s VirtualBox software and assigning the VM 4GB of RAM and 20GB of HDD. My first impression after starting the VM was that there was a lot of effort put into making ROSA visually appealing. The icons are crisp, the dock that has a Launcher for applications and a “Start” menu that takes you directly into an environment reminicent of Ubuntu’s Unity Interface were well thought out.
The installation process from the Live DVD was both simple and well laid out, aligning nicely with the general desktop theme. The installation took just 10 minutes from start to finish. There was just the right amount of choices during the installation process to make it feel like you were part of the process and not just going through the motions of an install, and it was very logical in the way it was configured which is a nice change in comparison with some of the other installers that I have seen lately. One of the most interesting features of the Install is that the first boot actually had me create the User Profile and Root Password, this is something that I have not seen very often and I actually liked how it built the system without a user and then applied the user after the install.
With the User setup…a quick restart of the VM and I was into the full desktop. The initial full boot took just over 30 seconds and I have noticed that KDE desktops do tend to take a little longer to load than Gnome or other Desktop managers but not by a significant amount.
With the ROSA Desktop there is a pretty solid out of the box software lineup:
- Firefox for Web Browsing
- Mozilla Thunderbird for Email
- KTorrent for Downloads
- Kopete for Instant Messaging
Office / Productivity
- Libre Office 3.4.5
- Okular for PDFs
Sound and Video
- ROSA Media Player
My only issue with the default programs is the lack of real Graphics tools available. With the Distro being 1.4GB in size it would have been nice to see a bit more in this section but when it comes to any Linux Distribution, the strength really does come from the connected repositories and how easy is it to find and install new software.
From the Launcher screen I simply typed in “Install” and that took me direct to the Software Management Utility. The Software Management Tool that comes with ROSA does not come with any Repositories attached beyond what was the install Base from the DVD was so it had to head out to the ROSA file server to add new media and allow for new software to be found…not a huge issue but this could prove to be a challenge for new users. Once that was completed though…I was able to search through and find nearly all of my “go to” apps and was able to install. I did make sure that I went through and checked off that Dependancies needed to be installed automatically (that is an experience that I never want to go through again from way back in 2007 with an Ubuntu Gaff that I made.
Overall, the system is FAST. It lets the user configure many settings with a single click (the Configure my Computer and Configure my Desktop Utilities are rock solid) and the responsiveness and attention to detail score top marks with me.
If there was an area that I would like to see improvement it would be in the initialization of the Software Management Utility. My recommendation for any new user is to run through the Configure My Computer and Configure My Desktop to setup things the way you like as this fixes many headaches down the road.
The real problem with this distribution is its lack of documentation. With the Distribution there is only the standard KDE help files and on the main site, the Support link requires registration which is not that big of a deal…but there is little or no Support beyond the submission of a ticket. The Blog on the main site does give some insight into the “Community” but I was not really able to find a real connection their either. Going to the Wiki Link which is usually a wealth of information…spits out a custom Google Search that links me to Rosa Parks and eventually the actual Wiki Page.
Overall though…this is an amazing distribution worthy of more than just a casual glance. Because of the lack of documentation (and the frustration of every page needing to be reloaded into English), I can not give it a perfect Dozen…but:
It does earn a very solid 11 Donuts. Keep up the great work my друзья…you are so close but I will be back again. ROSA has earned a full install on my machine, not just a VM install.
Chris J Powell