Calculate Linux is a Gentoo based, business and desktop oriented distribution. It offers a server edition(CLS), a desktop edition(CLD), a media center edition (CMC), and a build from scratch edition(CDS). This review focuses on the desktop edition (referred as CLD hereafter), which comes preloaded either with KDE, GNOME or XFCE. I’ve downloaded the XFCE live DVD edition which is around 1.6GB.
Booting Live DVD:
The live DVD offers options to boot using the default settings, using only RAM, without GUI ( referred as ‘No-X’ rather than something like ‘No GUI ‘), and Live DVD builder. A help message for each of these options will enhance the user experience. I’ve tried ‘Live DVD Builder’ with curiosity but I could not find any difference between this and the regular live session. I’ve not referred the installation guide for live media builder, and hence, will not cover this feature.
The boot loader can also change the language, key map, time zone as well as video driver. You can choose from Intel, AMD, NVIDIA and fallback mesa drivers. This is a nice feature to have but the ‘No-X’ option also allows to change the video driver !.
The visual customizations such as boot themes, login screen, desktop theme, wallpaper, fonts are clean and consistent. The artists have done a great job in this area.
The installer in CLD is part of the ‘Calculate Utilities’ that are custom developed. After selecting the language & timezone, the distribution, which needs to be installed, must be selected. I’m guessing this feature is more related to business users.
The third step is to select the partition. The options for this step, are organized well and easy to use. One point to be noted is that when not using the ‘auto partition’ option, the sub-options for this can be disabled so that we do not need to see something like below.
The installer supports a wide range of file systems including NILFS (which I never heard before). The installer also supports installing it directly into USB and USB flash drives besides the hard drive. I’m not sure about the purpose for having an option to select a ‘I/O Scheduler’ in ‘Mount Points’ step .
The next step involves configurations related to Network which also has an option to select ‘Network Manager’ which is again more towards business community. The user configuration was the trickiest part as this step involved selecting the Groups the user belongs to. I was not sure if I need to select all the groups that were already available to the default ‘guest’ user, to have a successful desktop experience. I ignored to select the groups anyway, and I did not face any issues while using the system. The option to select user groups can be put under ‘advanced’, so that a normal user can proceed as he would do in any other distribution.
The next step involves configuring the video card. After this a summary of all the configuration selections were shown in a neat way and once confirmed the installation started. The progress of each step was shown and once all these were complete, I had to restart the system manually as there was no option to restart from the installer. One step in the installation was ‘Preparing system for reboot’ but it did not reboot the system :-).
As with all the distributions I’ve tried, the screen brightness control was not working. I was also not able to use the included ‘fglrx’ driver but I was able to change the display driver back to ‘Intel’ using the console setup utility. All the Calculate Linux specific tools start with ‘cl-‘ and for reference, below is the command I’ve used to restore the video drive from ‘fglrx’ to ‘intel’.
cl-setup-video –video intel
I’ve had no problem using the volume key controls as well as the wireless card. CLD hardware detection is inline with the other distributions but again I do not have a wide variety of hardware components/devices to add further on this.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the visual customizations were very good. I was able to play the mp3, avi and mkv/mp4 files. I was also able to watch videos(dailymotion) in full screen without any issues. The applications included covered all the common tasks associated with a regular desktop usage. The media player included was ‘smplayer’ which is not a common choice among other distributions but it had no issues in playing all the files I’ve thrown at it.
I’ve had no application crashes so far and the applications were opened relatively quick.
There were two issues while working with CLD. As per my understanding, first is mostly related to CLD and the other one related to ‘Thunar’ file manager.
- I was not able to sync time with internet servers
- While copying files, the option to rename so that overwriting of files with same name can be avoided, was not available.
CLD has ‘cl-console-gui’ ( a front end for Calculate Tools) as the place from where the system settings can be managed. The business oriented approach of CLD makes it necessary to get a security certificate to use this application. For an average desktop user, this will be new and difficult. The Calculate Tools Guide will help the user to get started. I had to spend some time to get the certificate to get the configuration tool working. Though the process is straight forward, this may not appeal the Linux beginners.
This control center like tool offers all the tools that are available in the installer as well as some other tools to configure environment variables and packages. The ‘configure a package’ option can be easily misunderstood for a package management tool as this option only allows to configure the properties of a package installed.
There are no GUI options provided to configure some of the important aspects of a system such as package management and printer management. The included options worked very well though.
Package management is one of the most important aspect which decides the usability of a distribution and CLD sticks with its parent’s proven ‘portage’ for package management. Users who are familiar with Gentoo package management will feel at home but for others like me, the available documentation covers all the activities related in this regard. You can follow this document to update your system and this to install applications. The following output of a system update from console will make a Linux beginner crazy :-).
The documentation provided was great considering the fact that this distribution is Russian based. The English forums have some good activity
but I’m still waiting for a response on this (Update: Got a reply within 10 hours which is good).
CLD offers a stable, good looking desktop distribution. The custom tools that are written for CLD works very well. This distribution may not be suited for Linux beginners ( lack of sophisticated GUI package manager, too many options that are business centered) but CLD is definitely a great place to start with for those who want to use a Gentoo based distribution. For users with good Linux experience, CLD provides a stable Linux desktop experience.