In today’s article we review a fresh version of Dreamlinux, a linux distribution that promises to be good-looking, lightweight yet fully featured, with useful extras available out of the box – making it an attractive package for new users.
The default desktop is quite good-looking – considering it is a RC release and based on XFCE.
My first contact with Dreamlinux was on their oficial website – which isn’t a design marvel – but does a good job convincing the visitor to give Dreamlinux a try. You’re greeted with a series of pretty good-looking screenshots, and a everything you need to know about the OS before jumping in:
Dreamlinux 3.5 RC4 can be run from either LiveCD, DVD, USB Stick or installed to the hard drive.The DVD version includes all the codecs necessary for playing popular music and video formats.A neat feature for the more ‘nerdy’ crowd, MkDistro LiveRemaster allows to custom build the OS to suit your specific needs:Its main goal is to make it possible for any user, when running Dreamlinux as a LiveCD, to customize the distro and then regenerate a new iso image mirroring the customizations made.
One of the screenshots posted on Dreamlinux official website, showcasing a Mac OS X Leopard themed Avant Window Navigator Dock and Google Gadgets for Linux.
You’ve got to give credit to their full-on approach, from the bootloader-to the desktop, everything has the same clean ‘feel’, except for the verbose-mode being enabled by default at boot-up, which is most certainly just an RC ‘feature’.
The interface is clearly inspired by Mac OS X Aqua, with the translucent dock, shiny icons and windows borders. But the team behind Dreamlinux is working on more than just the surface – touching stuff like the control panel and making it look and work like its Mac counterpart – making it very easy and straightforward to change settings even for non-technical persons.
Admittedly its current implementation is far from perfect and it breaks down at the second step, opening a new window instead of allowing you to make the changes from inside the Control Panel app. This will be probably one of the kinks which will be ironed out before the final release.
Another thing worth mentioning is window environment: XFCE. It’s a lightweight engine which provides most of the functionality of Gnome or KDE, while cutting down on the bells and whistles. The developers said:
In this release candidate, Dreamlinux returns to its origin and comes with the XFCE Desktop only, since we are still aiming to produce a CD-sized ISO image.
Altough their goal is understandable – I really wonder why they didn’t include Gnome, a better, more refined window manager – after all Ubuntu fits on a single CD and Dreamlinux doesn’t include a lot of extra apps that would take that much space.
Overall I would say their approach to UI is a good idea, while it is currently rough at the edges.
Performance and Hardware
Dreamlinux boots up a little faster than Ubuntu with our timer stopping at 48 seconds from boot-up to desktop.
Like most linux distributions it has quite a few misunderstandings with WiFi cards – neither one of the integrated Atheros 5007EG or the external SMC stick was recognized, prompting for a 5 minute trip to the terminal and custom madwifi drivers. On the other hand, we have the ndiswrapper tool installed by default – which makes it a breeze to install wifi drivers for most cards.
No luck with the integrated Bison webcam either, something that Ubuntu 8.04 got out of the box using video4lin driver.
We couldn’t convince ALSA to work with the with the ATI chipset for audio in – but most of these problems are strictly related to our test hardware, an Acer laptop with some weirder components.
If you bought your computer with Ubuntu in mind, choosing compatible hardware, or have Ubuntu working perfectly out of the box you’ll be okay with Dreamlinux. Remember you can always use tutorials written with Ubuntu in mind because you’re using the same base: Debian.
Apart from a few useful addtions to the usual suspects, Dreamlinux doesn’t bring anything ground-breaking:
Multimedia: Rhythmbox, Mplayer, Gxine, SoundJuicer, SoundConverter, Avidemux.Internet: Pidgin Instant Messenger, Gftp, Thunderbird Mail Client, Iceweasel (Firefox)FlashPlayer, Java.Graphics: Inkscape, Gimpshop, Gthumb, Xsane.Open Office, Evince and SciTe.It’s based on Debian Lenny, which means you get the APT package manager (and the graphical interface to it, Synaptic Package Manager), .deb compatibility allows you to install a wealth of apps easily. It’s an easy switch for anyone used to working on Ubuntu – which is also based on Debian.
Dreamlinux is a linux distribution which promises a lot for future versions – especially on the user interface side, as developers have more time to tweak the details – for that perfect user experience.
Right now, I wouldn’t recommend installing Dreamlinux – because it just about halfway to becoming a really different, good linux distribution.
For someone looking for eye-candy and user-friendliness I would recommend gOS3 and Linux Mint, the former which I use as my primary operating system. Visit the official website here.