The DistRogue

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Review: ELive 1.0

I've always found the Enlightenment desktop fascinating. Maybe it has something to do with all the shiny. It's a great balance of eye-candy and performance, and with a little tweaking, can be turned into an awesome desktop system. That's what ELive is. It's a live CD (installable) based on Debian 4.0 and using the Enlightenment desktop- both E16 and E17.
The boot process went smoothly (despite being interrupted occasionally by some dialog boxes), and the install icon was easy to find. The fact that it was animated helped a fair amount. Hardware detection was incredible; my native 1280x800 screen resolution and dual-core processor were detected out of the box, and my Intel PRO/Wireless card only needed a package to be installed.
The desktop theme was also great. Since I'd already tasted E17's default "Bling" theme (the one with all the shiny), I went for a faster E16 desktop and tried the new "Night" theme, which was too subdued for me. IceWeasel (a completely FOSS fork of Firefox, aka "The browser, renamed") included the iFox theme, giving it a nice OSX look. Engage wasn't turned on by default in E17, but it was a nice touch.
ELive also included a ton of programs. It came with Blender for 3D modelling, Kino and Cinelerra for DV editing, The Gimp for image editing, and both Thunar and Midnight Commander for file management. Its default app selection was far better than Ubuntu's.
Speaking of Ubuntu, performance was incredible. ELive ran GLXGears at about 50% faster than Ubuntu, and Tremulous ran at a solid 75FPS floor in the test area (I use the spot just outside the tower on ATCS). Ubuntu can dip below 60.
Despite all the great things about Enlightenment, some parts of it felt cheaply made. The screen where themes and such are selected was built using the text-mode NCurses interface, rather than a more pleasant-looking graphical screen. The Fedora people understand this- most of their graphical config utilities were made with PyGTK, even the X configuration screen and interactive boot splash, which use Framebuffer instead of X! And for some twisted reason, the developers didn't think it would be a good idea to put a "Log Out" button in plain sight. Clicking on the desktop brought up ANOTHER menu (in addition to the right-click) which did the trick.
I also ran into issues with sound. To test the sound, I loaded a song into MPlayer, hit "Play", and threw off my headphones just before the guitars came in. Yeah, sound works fine in ELive, but the default volume is turned all the way up. Just a caution. Learn from me, and don't use a song by Marilyn Manson to test speaker volume.
But don't let the little things bother you. ELive, as of version 1.0, is a solid, fast distribution for desktop use.
Friendliness: 4/5-
I found ELive pretty easy to use. There's a reason they call it "Luxury Linux". But work on the little things for v1.1, aight?
Performance: 4.5/5-
Clobbered Ubuntu. Enlightenment is a fast desktop, and Debian is a fast distribution.
Features: 4.5/5-
Included a lot of programs that went beyond the standard feature set.
Packaging: 4.5/5-
Don't worry, it uses Synaptic, just like Debian.
Artwork: 2/2.5-
If you don't like one theme, try the other.
Community: 1.5/2.5-
A bit skimpy on documentation, but the forums are still there...
Overall: 4.2/5- Give it a try. The downloads page asks you for a donation, and the non-donation download link is broken, but there are plenty of torrents.
Up next: Wolvix. But that might not be for a while. I'm moving to Spain for a year, and I might have to post the review through the WiFi access at the airports I'll be at.
From ELive 1.0,
The DistRogue.

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