Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – No it is not a strange Flesh Eating Disease

Distrowatch.com is a wonderful repository of many of the wonders of Linux and the plethora of Distributions that are available.  It is a great starting point for me to dive into the lesser known attempts at building a distro and this week, instead of cruising through the top 1000 list…I decided to narrow the focus down and look for a Fedora based Distro that I had not seen or heard of before.  Because I am not a big fan of Fedora and .RPMs most of what appeared was foreign to me…but there was one that stood out.  Open Xange!

Open Xange uses an interesting take on the KDE Desktop and while the site that sponsors the Distro does a less than perfect job in highlighting the work they have put into this Linux Distro, I was suitably impressed as I fired up the Virtual Machine and started the install of it.  One issue that I had been that the Installer was labeled “Install Desktop” and the icon was mixed in with several other “installers” for the Live CD but the Installer was very intuitive and easy enough to follow.  The OpenBox Virtual Machine was as always built with 4GB of RAM and 20GB of HDD.  The Download and Install took a grand total of less than 15 minutes which is very impressive and coming in at CD sized Open Xange was looking very impressive at this stage.  The first boot though established the User Profile and the Hardware Profile so I quickly gave it a quick reboot and was quite impressed with its quick response time and fast boot (under 25 seconds).

The one strange thing that did occur is the desktop panel that I used to install the Distro…was still present on first boot, but none of the links worked so the quick install Office and other options were now hidden deep within the Software Management Solution, which in my opinion has always been the biggest downfall of RPM based Distros.

To look at what comes with this 690+ MB download though, I was fairly impressed:

  • Internet – Firefox (15.0.1) and Konqueror
  • Graphics – KolourPaint, KSnapshot
  • Multimedia – VLC

So to properly give this Distro a test I would need to install several additional packages and that would mean heading off to Apper (the Distro’s Software Management solution) and to my surprise…it would not connect to anything.  It would not show the Installed Packages, allow me to force an Update and most importantly dive into the repositories to make the Distro fully Usable as a Desktop Machine.  After backing out and trying again…I found under the settings of Apper that there were no repositories included for it to scan…which is a bit of a problem…and the reality is…the option to add Repos was grayed out and I could not add anything in.

From solid beginnings this challenge was not one that I could easily overcome.  The online documentation for the distro is, to say the least…poor.  I jumped over to the Fedora Documentation and did a quick refresher on YUM and was able to manually install LibreOffice and TheGimp but in 2013 there is no reason why there should not be a graphical interface that makes it easier to do than to leverage the Console every time you want to make any changes to the system.

Amazingly using the YUM command revealed a required update of over 300 MB…which likely would cover off several Security Patches and important updates for both the OS and the pre-installed apps but not being able to leverage a normal update or install manager…it makes Open Xange not very user-friendly for new or moderate Linux Users.  For all the goodness and hope that I had for this Distro…I am starting to rethink the Title…but then again…maybe not!

As for a rating…the good start is far offset by the lack of thought on usability of the distro beyond a LiveCD and for that reason, I can not recommend the use, download or continuation of this distro.

Cheers and Happy Sunday

Chris J Powell

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