Linpus Lite is a desktop distribution published by Linpus Technologies, Inc., a Linux software solutions provider headquartered in Taiwan. It is based on Fedora, but with a focus towards modern hardware and mobile computing.
The latest edition, Linpus Lite 1.9, was released back in early February of this year, and was updated in the first week of this month. The last edition before this latest round of releases, was Linpus Lite 1.7, which was released in March of 2012, and reviewed here. This article presents a detailed review of this latest release, based on test installations on real hardware and in a virtual environment.
Method(s) of Installation: The distribution’s installation program is a fork of Anaconda, the graphical installation program of Fedora. So, it’s very easy to use, with both automated and manual disk partitioning options. The partitioning options are shown in the image below. With one of the automated partitioning options, the installer will create four partitions, mounted at /boot, /, Swap, and /home. Other the /home, which is a logical partition, the others are primary partitions.
For a new user, provided he or she is familiar with the basics of disks and disk partitioning in Linux, it is very easy to create a custom set of partitions using the installer’s manual partitioning tool. This screen shot shows the file system options available on the manual disk partition setup window. The default file system on all the partitions created by the installer is ext4, even on the boot partition.
Aside from a core selection of software to power the graphical desktop, the installer gives you the option to install other software packages. However, for the average user, those extra packages are not necessary, because they are mostly development tools.
What features are missing from the installer? The Linpus Lite installer is a very watered-down fork of Anaconda, lacking some of Anaconda’s better features. So LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, disk encryption, boot loader password protection, three features that make Anaconda one of the best installation programs available, are missing from Linpus Lite’s version. Also missing is the option to choose the location of the boot loader, which makes dual-booting this distribution with any other operating system a little bit more involved than is necessary.
How can the developers make the installer better? The installer is missing a whole bunch of features that every modern installer should have, especially when those features have been available on other graphical installers for more than a decade. The obvious features I’m referring to are LVM, disk encryption, password protection of the boot loader, and the option to choose where to install the boot loader. It doesn’t even allow you to set the hostname. Once these features are implemented, then the installer can have the “full-featured” label. Right now, it just a pretty-face installer.
The Desktop: The desktop is powered by GNOME 3 (GNOME 3.4), and features a highly modified GNOME Shell. It has two modes – Simple Mode and Desktop Mode. The former is the default mode. The image below shows the “home” screen of the Simple Mode. Smack in the middle of the bottom of the “home” screen are three buttons – Search, Home and Category (that small, gray button). By default, the transition from one screen to the other takes place using the carousel effect. But there are five other effects to choose from, if you don’t like the default.
On the Home screen and on anywhere else in Simple Mode, you can reorder the application icons simply by a drag-and-drop action. And you can group two or more application icons by dragging one into the other. Members of a group can be removed from the group simply by opening the group and dragging the application you wish to remove out of it. A group is destroyed when the last member is removed.
This is the Search screen. By default, search results are returned from local sources.
As shown here.
This image shows the application Category screen. As on the Home screen, you can reorder the Category icons by drag-and-drop.
Clicking on a Category’s button reveals the applications under it. You can remove an application from a Category by drag-and-drop. For the record, a default installation of Linpus Lite 1.9 comes with a whole bunch of apps and Web applications. More on apps and Web applications further down.
By itself, the Simple Mode is a pleasant graphical interface for desktop computing. I like it much better than Unity and the default GNOME Shell. But what if the Simple Mode is not to your liking? Well, you can always switch to the Desktop mode, which is accomplished by “flipping a switch” in the User Indicator. Notice that Daily Widget is turned off. That is the default setting. Widgets are an accessory in Desktop or Simple Mode.
You see, whether in Desktop or Simple Mode, my impression is that the system is fun to use, especially for the type of computing that I do. I don’t feel that the desktop is in my way. In other words, the desktop is helping me to get stuff done, which is the way it should be.
What desktop features don’t work or don’t work as intended? Like everything else, the system is not perfect. I found a few problems with it. The first one I found has to do with changing the screen resolution. In GNOME 3, that is accomplished with the Display module of the System Settings. In Linpus Lite, the Display module has been removed from System Settings. Changing the screen resolution falls under the domain of the Resolution module of a configuration Indicator in the (top) panel, which is represented by that icon to the left of the Volume Indicator. Unfortunately, in all my test installations, whether on real hardware (with built-in Intel graphics) or in a virtual environment (VirtualBox), all I see when I click on the Resolution icon is a blank cylindrical space. So far, I’ve not been able to change the screen resolution on the test installations.
The second problem I encountered concerns the network interface when the system is coming out of hibernation or suspension. On every other distribution that I’ve used, the network interface is activated as soon as the system “wakes up.” On Linpus Lite 1.9, the network interface has to be reactivated manually. It’s a minor issues, but one that should not happen.
The third problem I observed with the desktop has to do with the search feature. The results returned when searching for some applications seem to depend on whether you are in Simple or Desktop Mode. For example, when searching for “firewall” in Simple Mode, the indication is that no firewall application is installed.
However, in Desktop Mode, the same search string returns a result. Not sure why, but that’s what I observed.
And finally, when it comes to removable media, the default configuration is unable to tell whether an audio CD, DVD video or a USB Flash drive is inserted. You’ll always get the notification shown in this image. Worse yet is that the module that handles removable media configuration is missing from System Settings, so I could not find a way to modify the default configuration. The end result is that when it comes to playing an audio CD or DVD video, you insert it, launch the audio or video player, and proceed from there. That’s not user-friendly.