The DistRogue

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Paldo GNU/Linux 1.2: Yet Another Generic Distro

If you've never heard of Paldo, you need to check DistroWatch more. This completely new hybrid distribution (source *and* binary backage management) has started to get some major attention, and one site even went so far as to call it "this year's Sabayon".
Paldo is a completely independent distribution, compiled using Linux From Scratch and with its own package management system, upkg, to manage programs. It works similarly to Gentoo's Portage, with one exception- it can also install binary packages. This makes installation much faster, but if you're after customizability (like Gentoo), then you might want to try compiling. Note that if you try to compile everything from source, you might want to have another working system, along with a few DVDs to watch while you wait.
Paldo's CD image weighs in at 650MB for x86 and 674MB for x86_64, surprisingly tiny. It has boot-time language selection and boots into a fully-functional live CD. I didn't try using it with Syslinux on my USB key.
Paldo's installer is completely new in version 1.12. Before that, it didn't even have an installer. But now, it does, and it works very well. The wizard looks similar to Ubuntu's Ubiquity installer, only going through a few steps before doing the install (language/time zone, partitioning, system setup, user setup, etc). After those screens, the install finished in a scant 10 minutes, complete with a cute progress bar. An important caveat, though: The bootloader setup does NOT detect other OSes!

Paldo doesn't ship with any custom artwork, opting for the default GNOME artwork. Not that this is a bad thing; it gives off an air of purity, as it should- Paldo is a completely independent distribution, and the packages haven't been modified at all. The default icon theme, though, is a tad ugly, and doesn't have any bragging rights over more polished icon sets (especially Ubuntu's "Human" theme).

Installed Software
Paldo's default package selection looks meticulously selected. It has GNOME as the default desktop, along with all the goodies (GIMP, OpenOffice, etc), but with some extra non-free plugins. My screen resolution and wireless card were detected immediately, and MP3 playback worked flawlessly. My main problem was that the developers opted for Epiphany over the far-superior Firefox as a Web browser. On the plus, Epiphany's homepage is set to Google, a smart move.
Upkg does not have a GUI front-end. You'll need to find the package names online via the repository search and install them over the command line. I hope there will be something like Synaptic in the near future, it shouldn't be too hard to write.
Paldo includes a bizarre number of development tools. I know it's supposed to be source-based, but Gentoo doesn't have most of the tools Paldo does. Among the programs were Anjuta, Glade, MonoDevelop, a hex editor, and a diff viewer. Hmm... With MonoDevelop and Glade, maybe the developers want you to code a front-end for upkg!
For media, there's the lightweight Brasero CD burning tool (which absolutely rocks), Totem for movie playback, the ugly, bloated Rhythmbox for music management (Exaile gets my vote), and Sound Juicer for CD ripping. Putting Exaile in should solve the problems here. I'm starting to see a pattern, though: A lot of these apps are GNOME projects (like Rhythmbox and Epiphany). The Paldo devs need to learn that when it comes to GNOME projects, it would be a wise idea to not blindly stick to them, but to look for replacements that can do the job better.
As far as how current it is, there's Linux, the stable until the flurry of updates on Friday, and GIMP 2.4.0, along with the latest GNOME at the time of writing. The latest Firefox is available in the repository (although it should have been on the CD), as is Compiz 0.6.2 (latest, again).
Hardware Support
Like I said, my native 1280x800 screen resolution was detected flawlessly, as was my wireless card (an ipw3945). However, I had two major issues when I tried playing Tremulous. The biggest one was with my mouse. I use both a touchpad and a wireless, optical 3-button mouse (from Logitech). The touchpad worked flawlessly, but the mouse never left the bottom-right-hand corner of my screen in-game- but worked fine on the desktop. Huh...
The second was performance. Tremulous on Paldo plays like Ubuntu, minus swap, and after a week of intense uptime. Nasty. The FPS rates were about 30% lower. GLXGears confirmed this. But this isn't really a hardware issue so much as a software issue- but still, with CFS and heavy optimizaton, where is all this lag coming from?
Upkg is seriously the best package manager I've seen so far. The pre-configuration steps took about 5 seconds, and packages installed quickly from binaries. The source-building process was astoundingly fast. I installed openal and audiofile (a dependency) in order to play OpenArena, and here were the results:
time upkg-build openal
real 0m16.236s
user 0m5.779s
sys 0m0.987s
16 seconds to build two packages. It makes one wonder- is it really compiling them, or just installing them? According to the appropriate wiki page, the upkg-build command I used does, in fact, compile. Wow. That was just amazing.
-Upkg shows promise
-Customizable and flexible
-A clean, basic system
-Slow and bloated
-No front-end to upkg
-Software selection needs tweakage
Friendliness: 4/5
- The lack of a GUI frontend to upkg drags it down a bit.
Performance: 2/5- Seriously, it's almost as bad as Fedora. Not what you'd expect from an x86-optimized distro with CFS.
Features: 3.5/5- Meh, it's a complete desktop, but not much else. And besides, Firefox? Hello?
Packaging: 4/5- Upkg is a great piece of software; it would be even better if someone coded a GUI for it like Portato.
Artwork: 1.5/2.5- Kind of ugly... The developers should at least browse for a bit.
Hardware detection: 2/2.5- Mouse issues, but otherwise, fine. NOTE: This score was originally for "Community", but since Paldo's new, there isn't one, so N/A.

Overall: 3.4/5- Could be a solid distribution with some more programs and a frontend to upkg.
My sights are aimed at Fedora 8 and PC-BSD 1.4.1. PC-BSD is what I'm looking forward to the most, having tried it before back at version 1.11 and not really hated it that much.
From Paldo 1.12,
The DistRogue.

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