Dreamlinux 3.5: Back to the Roots

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.

First Impressions

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.
User Interface
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.
Applications

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.

Conclusion

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.

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26 comments
  1. I'm interested in what you folks are using: Fedora, Ubuntu, … ? Like I said in the article, I mostly use Linux Mint since I wrote that review about it a few weeks back.

  2. Daniel said:

    I'm just getting to know Ubuntu for the moment, but nice review!

  3. Vadim P. said:

    Ubuntu here.

    If this distro is aimed at new Linux users, are they doing anything other than pre-installing some programs? Because all distros are doing that, it's nothing novel.

    • Alexis said:

      Yes they are doing a lot! They are making lightwweight operating system full of eyecandy which is also their own work, lots of customization, many scripts to ease the maintenance and everyday use,they offer many propietary applications that can be installed with just 1 click and the ability easily customize your live cd with the configurations and applications you want to finally be able to create a new live cd, its amazing

  4. Yes, they are emulating OS X style of doing things, such as the control panel. It will be a long process but the results could be amazing.

  5. @ opensas: come on over to the dreamlinuxforums.org … I know I was amazed by the help this team offers. They've helped me immensely as a newbie who'se "unlearning" Windows.

    • Thank you for your kind comments, The Doctor :)

  6. jessie said:

    @ opensas, if you want some help using Dreamlinux, you should come to the forums and not ask for help in here, because is more likelly that you won't get any help. the forum is located at. http://www.dreamlinuxforums.org , come and post your issues with or Dreamlinux.

  7. MrChilly said:

    using sidux here…wouldnt mind seeing a 64 bit dreamlinux….

  8. opensas said:

    sorry my ignorance… could you pleeeease give me detailed instructions to configure the atheros 5007EG… I would really thank you a lot… I tried with several others distros, but the only ones recognizing it out of the box are fedora, mandriva and… elive!

  9. GNOME desktop is available for Dreamlinux 3.5RC4. At this point in time, a script is available to generate a gnome .iso from the stock Xfce .iso and this can be done straight from the desktop.
    We did this to keep download size down to a single CD.

  10. Dreamlinux caters for newbs and advanced linuxers. In our evolution, we are aiming to make it even simpler for the uninitiated.

    This translates to what we're doing with our already well-praised installer. In fact, to cater to different levels and categories of users, we're developing several new and different installer routines.

    As Dreamlinux is Debian-based (but not affiliated to Ubuntu and derivatives in any way) the complete Debian repositories are there at users' disposal to install any program they require.

    Our strength lies in being lightweight and fast, with a lot of customization in the userspace. No bloat.
    Even running GNOME desktop on older machines does not seem like a drag.

  11. gman said:

    I'm surprised Easy Install wasn't mentioned in the article. Easy install makes it easy to install several packages useful for everyday things. I've tried Ubuntu and the derivatives and have yet to get DVD's working. Very easy using DL.

    Some other nice touches for DL are the ability to open a network browsing folder and a root folder directly without opening a standard folder and going the next step. These two subtle features have saved me considerable time working in DL.

    As for wireless, DL all my wireless devices work in DL out of the box.

    I think Gnome AlsaMixer should be default for audio control versus aumix. My experience so far is that after upgrades aumix quits working while AlsaMizer continues to work.

    But overall I am very happy with the state of DL.

  12. Thanks for replying with these clarification. I appreciate it. :-)

  13. Thanks for replying with these clarifications. I appreciate it. :-)

  14. MacLone said:

    Good Review
    I hope Dreamlinux keep the support for the customized gnome install you did in 3.0. Not everyone are big fans of lightweight featureless xfce.

  15. You're welcome. Anytime. :)

  16. I'd just like to add, that although this review is titled Dreamlinux 3.5, it is actually the unfinished RC 4 (Release Candidate) which has been reviewed. The Final Release won't be available until the end of this year. To be honest there are a lot of distro reviews which talk about standard Xfce and Gnome apps as if they are part of the distro, they are not.

    Mint Linux and Dreamlinux both have their own custom scripts and applications which their parent distros do not. These extras are the material for reviews, not standard desktop apps. Add to this the custom kernel with extra modules added, then you have a lot more going on under the hood than the average user will notice, or review ;-)

    Also:
    "Remember you can always use tutorials written with Ubuntu in mind because you’re using the same base: Debian."

    This is NOT true at all. Dreamlinux is a Debian Derivative, Ubuntu is a Debian Fork. Although they come from the same line, there are many many differences on top of the standard Bash commandline and the directory tree which separates them. Users should use DEBIAN guides, not Ubuntu.

    And:
    "except for the verbose-mode being enabled by default at boot-up, which is most certainly just an RC ‘feature."
    Lol! Verbose mode is most certainly not a "feature". and you are correct, it is because you have tested an unfinished RC. No bootsplash yet. We get the base sorted, then add the pretty stuff.

    Things to look out for on the final release are the new installer, Live and Persistent pendrive, Eeepc installer, Mkdistro Live remaster and Easy remaster and possibly a few other hidden extras added to Easy-Install and the DCP.

    Nice review.

    richs-lxh

  17. Alexis said:

    Great thats amazing. I know that there are already two docks available but it would be great if one could also have access to cairo dock and wbar, in the case of cairo dock I believe it offers a better experience overall and resembles way better the OS X dock. Anyway, amazing job, I really love the customization you have done, the artwork and all the extra features. I have read many times about other distros constantly working on their artwork athey could never get close to you guys.

    Greetings from Argentina

  18. Alexis said:

    You are welcome, interesting review, thanks for the link.
    I already have cairo-dock installed from SVN :) I was just suggesting that program because i thought it is way better than the other options and will proide a better option to emulate the OS X dock. Keep up the good work!

  19. I'm not a big fan of GNOME, that is after I tried XFCE. I don't think I will ever even consider going back to GNOME. This seems like a good option for the more-powerful netbooks.

  20. barry said:

    Why oh why do people want to knock Dreamlinux, Its a great product. Yes it does have its flaws and slight niggles , But so do most distros . These guys who build dream are just regular guys like you and me who have jobs and work on this in there own time and at there own expense, so dont have the money or resources of the big distros to throw about as they wish. So come on give them a break they have a great product thats full of eye candy and very fast . And DL 3.5 is out soon and that rocks.

  21. fdjngjkbfd said:

    ITS BASED ON DEBAIN SID!!

  22. Stephen said:

    I would give DL 3.5 stars. Firstly, using DL installer suggests an "add-to" existing grub boot loader, this does not work. Second, it did not partition my drive (ntfs), and in fact installed all the files amongst windows files. I had to manually repartition from another os, and select install to mbr for the boot loader. Once installed, it runs great, typical of xforce desktop, real snappy. Ive chosen this distro because its Debian-Lenny and will offer a good robust system.
    I agree with the author though, this distro has good potential (real good) with some more polish and further development. I compliment Nelson for the work done!

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