Monday, August 31, 2009
OpenGEU 8.10 Review
Since my switch from Windows to Linux I have settled on 1 distribution, OpenGEU 8.10. I'm not much of a distro hopper even though I do have Ubuntu Studio 9.04 installed on a different partition, it doesn't get much play. It's there because recently I wanted to see if I was missing out on anything. And so far I don't feel like I am.
You may be wondering, Why Enlightenment? Well part of it was familiarity, and quite frankly when I saw E16 back in the day I new that someday I had to have it. I did try Ubuntu 8.10\9.04 and Kubuntu 8.10 as well as Elive. Ubuntu is one nice distro, I really liked it... but I wanted no taskbars and a menu system by clicking anywhere on the desktop. Kubuntu must not have liked my hardware much, and I didn't like the feel of it. It is gorgeous to look at, though. But that wasn't enough to win me over. Elive is solid, but being only available in 32bit killed it for me.
Notice that all that was a matter of preference. I really have nothing negative to say about each of those. I just didn't like their desktop feel.
You may also be wondering why 8.10? Well the OpenGEU project while well in progress is not made up of a large group of developers, so they have the same individuals working on multiple aspects of the distribution. That said, while they would like nothing more than to keep up with Ubuntu's 6 month cycle, it is quite a task for them to meet the same release dates.
OpenGEU 9.04 is in the works and due out for release very soon.
I found OpenGEU in an effort to find Geubuntu (as it was renamed), and immediately after trying the liveCD it felt right. Well of coarse it did, my early days of Enlightenment use on an old Sparc box were coming back. And best of all it was available in 64bit flavor... gotta have my chocolate.
The install went as well as any of the others I tried. It was all done from the LiveCD desktop which was very nice. And I must say, quite fast. There where no initial hardware issues, everything worked right away. Upon 1st login, I am prompted for updates... a ton of them. I get them done 1 reboot and BAM!!! Done! WOW!!!
No freaking Service Packs, not 3 thousand more reboots or spybot search and destroy, Norton was sent packing... man this is as Cartman would say.... "kick ass!!!"
Since then, the installation has required an extra step due to the fact that the distribution had to change repositories after the liveCD was released. So the OpenGEU packages now reside in a different repository that needs to be updated after the initial install. Fortunately, the folks at OpenGEU have a simple .deb package to run on their website that will automatically do that for you.
Before I go on, I want to get the whole stability issue that looms over E17 out of the way. This is Enlightenment and as you probably already know it is inconstant development. So it did take some getting used to what worked and what didn't. HOWEVER, it has been my experience that everything that isn't quite working yet are a few features on E17 and nothing to do with the apps I frequently use, such as GIMP, Firefox, Pidging, OpenOffice and the many games I have installed. All that stuff is solid. So I feel pretty confident in saying that from that standpoint, the stability is as good if not better than my Windows experience has been.
So what doesn't work?
There are a few modules that understandably are still being worked on. One of them is the Bling module. It isn't stable yet and your milage may vary with it. For me it freezes the desktop unexpectedly, for others it runs fine.
The other is Dropshadow... now while this one works well, as you can tell in the screenshot above, it seems to only draw shadows on the desktop and not over windows beneath it yet. I'm being picky but hey... I'm trying to give some details.
Compiz (from here on out Ecomorph) isn't completely integrated yet, so there are a few features that are not working yet. But for the most part, most of the cool eye candy works, such as animations, some transparencies, cube, expo and many others.
Finally, going to Settings/Look/Colors in the Menu seems to not be implemented yet as it causes E17 to restart.
OpenGEU also requires that you install the nessesary codecs to save your personal music library to mp3 and play restricted DVD's. Not too hard to do, really. But for a Windows convert like myself, it left me wondering why. I soon found out and understand why now. Likewise, instead of Java & Flash, Icetea and gnash are preinstalled, but I didn't have much luck with those. And unfortunately, those restricted apps are a necessity for me for now.
Beyond that I haven't run into much else that doesn't work yet. And days\weeks go by without E17 restarting\crashing and when it does, it never affects the applications or cause loss of work. A testament to its reliability.
The OpenGEU team has done a great job integrating gnome apps (such as thunar) were E17 is lacking. This really gives a real sense of completion to E17 even though we know it isn't yet. So despite the warnings given, OpenGEU feels solid and complete.
One of the things I like the most about Linux (be it Gnome, KDE, Enlightement, etc...) is the ability to change the look to suit our tastes. And in this regard E17 really shines. There are entire themes that change the look of just about everything you see on your desktop. From wallpapers to window borders. And you can take it a step further and use parts of other themes to make individual changes and get a totally custom look and save them into a .gth file.
One thing I must complaint about is the fact that the folks developing Enlightenment have not seen the need to make a theme editor that is more user friendly. Currently, theming in Enlightenment requires that you know how to code in .edj, and quite frankly it is not easy or easy to learn quickly. It requires some determination and time to learn. They do have an .edj editor, but for someone with little to no coding experience like myself it is useless. This is not the fault of the OpenGEU developers though, as this is something the Enlightenment camp should address at some point to allow more people to unleash their creativity without having to contemplate learning to code .edj.
Fortunately, there are users out there that are trying to theme, and are uploading themes for others to download at e17-stuff.org
There are some features being worked on for the next release of OpenGEU (Quarto Di Luna, Ubuntu 9.04 based) that will enable users to save and share changes made to base themes. This is one feature I am really looking forward to. I am also hoping that Ecomorph (Compiz) is fully implemented in the next release or in the very least moved further along.
One of the things most e fans like is its small footprint. e is very light on resources and you can see exactly that in OpenGEU. Upon login you can start experiencing its speed. And a quick look at CPU & Mem use on mine hovers at 0-1% CPU use and less than 350mb ram use at idle with Ecomorph enabled. Without Ecomorph it hovers around less than 300mb at idle.
Windows XP in contrast needed nearly 1g of RAM at idle after all the protection tools needed were running on my system. Kind of pathetic when you think about it. And I hear Vista is even worse, thus the rush for Windows 7 to come out. But I'll not go into that here. However, if you ended up here and you are running Windows still... take note!
Having Ubuntu 9.04 on a different partition I've been able to do a few comparisons such as the speed in which applications launch. IMO, OpenGEU is just as fast if not faster launching apps. And I may have to give OpenGEU the benefit of the doubt since I have quite a few fonts loaded and just the basic fonts in Ubuntu 9.04 that come with a fresh install.
Ubutnu 9.04 does have full implementation of Compiz and that paired with Emerald for window decorations is absolutely stunning. I probably would be quite happy with Ubuntu if I knew how to get rid of the task bars and be able to access the menu clicking on the desktop. It's one of the things that keeps me coming back to OpenGEU. That and iTask-NG.
AWN and Cairo in Ubuntu, in my honest opinion pale in comparison to iTask-NG in OpenGEU. The iTask-NG dock in its current state is very reliable and I use it 24x7 without any problems. Some of the issues I had with AWN like loosing icons in between login sessions or reboots have yet to happen with iTask-NG in OpenGEU. iTask-NG is also themeable, but I think that at the moment that aspect of the dock is not fully implemented yet as I have not been able to get it to work. I've also noticed that Icons do not show with certain downloaded themes, but that may be a bug in the Theme code... I guess not all is perfect as already mentioned E17 is still in development, Nonetheless, transparency works on it and that is how I use it most as you can see on most of the screenshots.
I did have high hopes for Cairo when I test drove it as it does a heck of alot more than AWN and iTask-NG, but I didn't like the look and feel upon 1st impressions. And quite frankly, fans of Cairo can rest assured that yes I probably should give it another shot, and I probably will on Ubuntu at a later date. All that said, I am more than extremely pleased with the functionality and look that iTask-NG offers at this stage in development. It is quite useful.
OpenGEU also offers what they call shelves. In essence they hold a bit more than docks and are also highly configurable and best of all they do not need any compositioning to run.
In the screenshots above of OpenGEU running on my Acer 6530 laptop, I have a shelf on the left with some modules loaded on it for the local weather, moon phase, system temp, CPU speed, date & time and system menu shortcut. Below center is another shelf with an app launcher and trash can module. Notice they look different and that is because of the control they offer. Very nice and also very light on resources.
I feel that Enlightenment gets a bit of a bad rep sometimes. But who can blame them when even I as a long time fan feel that indeed a bit of effort needs to be put on a stable release already. E16 took a long time to reach a stable release and that always comes up in discussions as being the same fate E17 will meet.
The Enlightenment folks are making an effort nonetheless, as evidenced here in their Release Schedule
So I am grasping on to that little bit of hope.
All that said, OpenGEU 8.10 is not only fast and beautiful, but despite the use of E17 is very stable as well. My goal was to be as detailed as possible in reviewing it as to expose as many hidden surprises as possible as there often is when using code still in development. All in an effort to facilitate those that have been putting off trying E17 again due to growing pains early on, make the decision weather or not is worth trying again.
So if you are concerned in OpenGEU's stability and reliability due to its implementation of E17, rest assured that it is indeed stable and reliable. I wouldn't be using it if it wasn't and I even donated to the project since I have installed it on all 5 of my systems at home. 5? Well yes... besides me using it on my Desktop and travel laptop, all 3 of my kids use it on their computers too. And those guys hammer it pretty good with Flash & Java based web games, WINE and a bunch of other games, from Wow to Unreal tournament 2004. Those guys don't hold back, and would have told me if OpenGEU sucked. And so far they love it as much as their Dad.
If you give OpenGEU a try, be sure to visit the forums...
I'll definitely see you there :)