Judging from traffic that recent articles about Pear Linux has been generating, it looks like the community is still searching for a user-friendly desktop distribution that uses the GNOME 3 desktop environment. For those not familiar with the discussion surrounding GNOME 3, a “user-friendly” GNOME 3 desktop is one that has been heavily modified to make it more like a traditional graphical interface for desktop computing.
If you have not heard about Pear Linux, it is a relatively new community project that publishes several versions of Linux desktop distributions. The projects first “stable” release, Pear Linux Panther 3, was a horde of bugs, and was soon put back in beta mode.
During that time, the distribution was renamed to Comice OS, and the first stable edition, Pear Linux Comice OS 4, was released on March 23. There was a standard desktop edition, a netbook edition, and a KDE edition. The KDE edition is in first beta. This article presents a review of the standard desktop edition. An installation image is available for 32- and 64-bit architectures, each weighing in at about 1.1 GB. Shown below is the boot menu. While the installation image comes as a LiveDVD image, the installation process cannot be initiated from the Live environment. That is designed solely for testing the system. Installation has to be initiated by selecting the second option on the boot menu – Install Comice OS 4 install.
When the installation starts, the installer lets you know the minimum disk space required for installation. Keep in mind that a new installation of Comice OS 4 takes up about 3.5 GB of disk space. If the screen shot of the installer looks familiar, that is because Pear Linux Comice OS 4 is based on Ubuntu Desktop, so it uses the same installation program as its parent distribution.
While the installer is based on Ubuntu’s, the version on Comice OS 4 is slightly buggy. For example, while the test system from which this screen shot was taken from had an existing installation of Comice OS 4 Netbook edition on it, the installer did not detect it.
Even from the Advanced disk partitioning tool, there is no indication, other than correct detection of a Linux file system (ext4), that there is a Linux distribution installed on the target hard drive. Other than this, the installer works pretty much like its counterpart on the parent distribution.
Though Comice OS 4 is based on Ubuntu, it does not use the Unity shell, but a heavily modified GNOME 3 desktop, with ideas liberally borrowed from Apple’s Mac OS X. Shown here is the default desktop. The Dock, visible by default, is powered by Docky, and it can be enhanced with Docklets, one of which provides virtual workspace capabilities. However, the Workspace Switcher docklet can only provide two virtual workspaces.
For easy access to installed applications, Comice OS 4 makes use of a Mac OS X-like “menu” called Launchpad. On the Linux side, it is similar to K Desktop Environment’s Takeoff Launcher, which I actually prefer to Comice’s Launchpad. (See Takeoff with the K Desktop Environment’s best menu style for some screen shots of Takeoff Launcher. The first page of Launchpad is shown in the image below.
Aside from the Mac OS X-like interface, the rest of the system functions just like any other Ubuntu-based desktop distribution. For example, a connected printer with a compatible entry in the printer database is automatically configured. The firewall is enabled out of the box (in Stateful mode), but a graphical interface to manage it is not installed. You might want to read How to install and configure a graphical firewall client on Comice OS 4.
One aspect that does not function like other desktop distributions derived from Ubuntu is removable media detection or more correctly, response to insertion of removable media. Though Totem is the installed video player and Clementine, the default music player, nothing happens when an audio CD or a video DVD is placed in the optical drive. And the reason is because of the default removable media setting shown in the image below. Or at lest that was what I thought, because simply disabling Never prompt or start programs on media insertion did not change anything, which tells me that there is more to this than meets the eye.
A list of major applications installed by default on Comice OS 4 counts the following as members:
- Firefox 10
- Clementine music player
- LibreOffice 3.4.4
- Shotwell photo manager
- Empathy IM client
- Evolution mail and calendar
- Cheese webcam
- Totem movie player