The most recent addition to our family the Boxer Pup named Chelsea had been going through what I can only assume is the equivalent of her teenage years and is being a little more defiant than normal. With that being said, when I stumbled across SparkyLinux earlier this week I was intrigued by this Debian Based Distro.
The first thing that I noticed about SparkyLinux is its use of the Enlightenment Desktop. Normally I am not a real big fan of the big Launcher Bar but I figured that I would give it a try because of a few recent comments about the Desktop. Downloading the 1.5GB Torrent was quick and easy and the Live Media started up very fast when I set it up in a VirtualBox environment with 4GB of RAM and 20GB of HDD space. SparkyLinux does come with a Mate edition that is in Beta but I figured that using the E17 Desktop would be a nice change.
I found the installation a bit confusing mainly because it required me to include a Swap File, despite having ample available RAM but overall the 8 minute install went very smoothly. Rebooting the system after the install provided me with the surprisingly monochrome look in about 35 seconds on first boot which by any standards is pretty darn good.
Now that I had a full desktop setup though, it was time to take a dive into what I get with that 1.5GB bandwidth investment.
The Enlightenment Bar gives me access to IceWeasel and IceDove which are just rebranded versions of Firefox and Thunderbird for the Debian Project. Also found in that desk bar are XChat, Pidgin and Liferea to round out the Internet compatibility. On the Multimedia front Exaile, Brasero and VLC are included by default. The Gimp and a LibreOffice Starter are also included. The Synaptics Package Manager and LXTerminal Launcher round out the default options.
The look and feel of the Enlightenment environment was a little challenging at first, and I was not overly impressed with the decision to make things come across so monochrome. I went to www.e17-stuff.org to locate a new theme, found one or two that I liked but then ran into a situation that I was not able to install them because for what ever reason OpenBox had taken over the desktop environment and the .edj files would not open in the configuration manager.
Upon restarting I realized that the default desktop was not Enlightenment but LXDE and that was why I was unable to install the .edj files. Upon changing to this, I was able to really start to get a feel for why there are so many people who like this Desktop Environment. Where LXDE seemed to be a bit clunky, Enlightment really had a smooth flow to it and even the Desktop Bar came alive.
While I am still not completely sold on the loss of the Right Click and the very “Mac Like” feel to the iBar and iDock I can see why some people could get used to this style.
Overall I found Sparky to be a fairly complete OS. There are tons of options with a very well rounded default application mix that really does provide a pretty good user experience out of the box and does not require a lot of additional software to be downloaded but the Distro does feel to me to be under done, like going to a restaurant, ordering chicken and having it come back just a little pink on the inside. I can’t put my finger on what is really missing as it lacks the continuity that I am used to seeing in Ubuntu and maybe that is the problem. The reality is though that the purpose of OS Sunday is to find a Distro that can unseat Ubuntu as my primary desktop.
Overall SparkyLinux did not fair all to well, and while it will likely head back to the Pound…I do think that there is some promise for the future, it just needs to head off to obedience training and have some better documentation included (beyond the Readme.txt on the desktop).
Chris J Powell