Friday, January 11, 2013

Snowlinux 4 "Glacier" Mate Review: Fast, light and customizable

I have been a fan of Snowlinux for quite sometime and their Debian spins have always been exceptional - Lightweight, fast and very customizable. The new year release of Snowlinux 4, codenamed "Glacier" is no exception. Based on Debian Wheezy, it has Mate 1.4 as the default desktop environment and uses Linux kernel 3.5.


From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4

I downloaded the 32-bit ISO, about 980 MB, in size and did a live boot on my Asus K54C, 2.2 Ghz Core i3 with 2 GB RAM. Post live boot I installed Snowlinux on an 8 GB drive dedicated for Linux OS testing. My assessments shared below are based on its performance post installation.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4

Snowlinux Glacier has a changed wallpaper from all 2012 releases, with white background and a tag "Push to Start" - looks nice. But, it doesn't gel with the white themed Mate. On selecting a darker background, actually the desktop look elegant. I added a nice looking Conky (Conky Lua) to glamorize it further.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
Long story short, Snowlinux desktop, as always, looks professional and elegant. Caja 1.4.0 is the default file manager and is fast to use. Sound and Wifi work out of the box - hardware detection is good, except for touchpad. The touchpad settings require to be manually configured and post manual intervention, toucpad works as expected.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4

Applications
Though Snowlinux has applications by default to cover most of the basic needs but the app section left me bit disappointed. I'll tell you why later. The list below sums up the essential apps present in Snowlinux 4, and it is not much different from Crystal or White releases, namely:
  • Office: LibreOffice 3.5 Suite with suitable alternatives for MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access and Math, Dictionary, Document viewer
  • Internet: Firefox 17, Pidgin, Transmission, Thunderbird 17
  • Graphics: Eye of Mate Image Viewer, Shotwell Photo Manager, Simple Scan    Brasero, Movie Player, Rhythmbox
  • Accessories: Archive Manager, Calculator, Pluma, Root terminal, Terminal, Screenshot
In overall, it is a healthy list. Of course, like previous release, Adobe flashplugin is not out of the box and requires to be installed from the repository. But, multimedia codecs are in the distro by default and I could straight-away start watching movies on live-boot itself. All the applications work as expected and I didn't face any issue with any of the applications.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4

Installation
Installation is like Ubuntu and it takes about 30 minutes of time, if updates are selected for downloading. Steps are pretty simple: Language, time-zone, Keyboard language and type, preferred username and password and finally selection of the location to install. That's it - pretty simple!


From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
Repository
Snowlinux sources applications from Debian Wheezy repo and uses Synaptic package manager as the GUI. Synaptic works well and fast, as expected. However, I was a bit disappointed on the repo contents. Already LibreOffice 3.6 suite is out for quite sometime and almost every other distro is offering it as the basic office application. I checked the repo, even there LibreOffice 3.5 is the most updated version! Same with GIMP - entire world is playing with 2.8 and the Debian repo has 2.6 to offer! Seems like quite a bit of backdated apps in the repo.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
How to update with the latest Linux softwares?
Now here I came up with my own way of installing GIMP 2.8, LibreOffice 3.6 and Skype 4. I added Ubuntu Precise and Mint Nadia ppa's to the repository list in Synaptic! You can add Quantal as well. Doing it is pretty simple, as you can see from the pictures below.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4

Once added I just refreshed the repo and I could see the latest versions of GIMP, Skype and LibreOffice. For LibreOffice, I uninstalled 3.5 and then installed 3.6 from the Ubuntu repository. Installing GIMP 2.8 wasn't a pain as there was no installed version of GIMP. Similarly, I installed Skype and checked that it was working fine with Snowlinux Mate.

From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4
From Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 1.4

Post installation of the required applications, I ran into a bit of issues as "apt-get update" reported of broken packages (possibly downloaded from Ubuntu repo while installing these applications). So, I unchecked all the extra Mint and Ubuntu repo I had added and then did an update. Now everything ran fine and I didn't see any instability in last 5 days.

Performance
Mate 1.4 is very low on resources and consumes 1-5% CPU and 147 MB RAM to load the desktop GUI, with task manager running. Now that is equivalent to using an XFCE desktop! If I compare it to other Mate distros, Snowlinux wins hands down - it consumes the least resources of the Mate distros I tested. All performance estimates below are from 32-bit versions and tested on the same machine, post installation, with task manager running.


Linux OS (32-bit) Desktop CPU Usage (post installation) RAM usage (post installation)
Mint 13 Debian Cinnamon/Mate Mate 1.2 1-5% 190 MB
Mint 13 Mate Mate 1.2 1-5% 207 MB
Mint 14 Mate Mate 1.4 1-5% 200 MB
Snowlinux 3 White Mate Mate 1.4 1-5% 240 MB
Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate Mate 1.4 1-5% 147 MB

Overall
I really like the Glacier release of Snowlinux. It works real smooth and is light on resources. The desktop looks a bit bland to start with but is user-friendly and supports customization. Applications are a bit old in the distro but, as I showed, it supports the Linux Mint and Ubuntu Quantal backports and latest applications can be installed in Snowlinux without any pain at all.

I absolutely recommend Snowlinux 4 for it's low resource consumption, customization options and compatibility with Linux Mint and Ubuntu repositories. If you are a Gnome fan and looking for something light in Gnome, Snowlinux 4 is the perfect distro for you.

You can download Snowlinux 4 from here. Both 32 and 64 bit versions are available.

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review, really interesting.

    I would like to point out two things:

    The snowlinux/Debian wheezy repos are outdated because Debian Wheezy is frozen at the moment(Debian team freezes the testing repos during six - eight months before the release of a new version of Debian stable). During this time, they just debug the packages and don't add new versions of the packages til the new stable version is released. Debian wheezy stable is due to be released in February 2013, that's why Debian wheezy testing was frozen in June 2012 (that is why you can't find LibreOffice 3.6, or the latest kernel in the testing repos). When Debian wheezy stable is released, Debian testing will unfreeze and you will find the latest versions of GIMP, Libre office... in the repos.

    It is not a good idea to mix Ubuntu/Linux Mint repos and debian repos in your sources.list; you will end up breaking your system. If you want a newer version of a program, you can add the Debian sid repos, or the experimental repo (this might be dangerous for newbies, but it is always much safer than adding Ubuntu repos). if you add sid/experimental repos, make sure you configure your preferences file properly (you should know how pinning works), or make sure you uncomment these repos when you finish downloading the program you want to get.

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    1. Thanks for pointing it out. You are absolutely correct on saying the ppa's added need to be uncommented after installation of the desired applications. I did the same thing and my article points out the same. Actually, I didn't have the Debian Sid repos readily available with me. Hence, I used the Mint and Ubuntu precise repos.

      I am waiting for the Debain 7 release eagerly as well and it seems February will be a busy month for me testing out all the Debian releases.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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  2. It is hard for me to understand the obsession of so many reviewers with 'low resource consumption'. They load software on machines with newer multicore processors and plenty of memory... then are triumphant when the OS doesn't use it. You bought the stuff... put it to work for you.

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    1. If I get the same work by spending less, I guess, it is prudent to choose the distro with less resource consumption. Further, there are many low specs machines like netbook, old computers and laptops, who would have been discarded by now if there was no Linux. So, one of my evaluation criteria is resource usage. I normally prefer distros which are economical as it helps me to run some resource intensive specialized programs with ease and without putting undue stress on the machine. Otherwise, I won't have been using and reviewing Linux - I would have stayed happy with Windows which would have "put to work" the entire RAM and CPU of my machine with simple internet explorer running :).

      Thanks,
      Arindam

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    2. The OS should allways use less resources, because that leaves more for intensive applications. So it's not about hardware, you can have the fastest machine but if your OS, like Windows, takes all your resources, your intensive software does not benefit from the hardware.

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  3. Low resource consumption means that you can use this distro very well on older computers and there are plenty of those around. Of course, for machines that have 2GB or more available it really doesn't matter, whether one distro uses 50-100 MB more when compared to another.

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    1. Very rightly said. But, as an user, even on machines with decent specs, I prefer distros which are economical as it helps me to run resource intensive programs and jobs more efficiently. Simply put, why would someone spend more to get the same work done, if someone can do it cheap?

      Regards,
      Arindam

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  4. was looking forward to this distribution release but it didn't detect my broadcom wifi - deleted...

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    1. For me, it detected my Netgear N150 modem and WPA/WPA2 wifi immediately. I am not sure what issue you faced. Normally Snowlinux is great in detecting hardware configurations.

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  5. I'm currently testing this to write my review. It does have the codecs installed and Totem works perfectly, unlike in the current Mint. And the installation disk is bug-free, unlike Ubuntu. Some documentation would be nice for the beginner, but otherwise I think that Snowlinux has got it right with Glacier: I'm giving it 8/10.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for pointing it out. My mistake! Did again a live-boot to correct it in my article. And I agree with your rating - 8/10 for me as well. Had it had the latest softwares, I would have given it a 10/10 as it performed better than Linux Mint 14 Mate on my system.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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  6. I have Glacier MATE installed on an AMD single core, 2.2 Ghz, with 768M RAM. It performs as if it were XFCE, plenty fast. System Monitor shows only 152M RAM and 3% CPU in use with only System Monitor running.
    The only version of SnowLinux that detects my Broadcom B43 Wifi is the E17 version. Synaptic shows that it includes the B43 driver. Neither MATE nor XFCE do. So, I remastered an XFCE that includes the driver with RemasterSys. Works fine.
    I agree that Snow Spins are exceptional. This one is my Production OS and will be for a looooong time. It's the best Deb Based Distro yet.



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  7. Off-put by SnowLinux's use of white fonts on a dazzling white background.

    Ok if everything is dazzling white, but generally, it is overall plain-grey. If I reset the background to plain-grey, then the lettering is not as clear as Black-on-Grey.

    Some users like to have a glossy-black background on the desktop, so that they can admire their room-lit face in the mirrored reflection against a black background. My problem is an ugly face :-{ , so I have yet to work out the Black-on-Grey lettering that I need.

    Chief Information Officer (retired 1984), Australian Capital Territory

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  8. It works almost perfect on my MacBook Air, but the touchpad cannot using two fingers scrolling. I try to google the solution about this issue, but no solution at all. Does anyone provide some hint to help me?

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    1. Hi Tzeng:

      You can enable touch pad & two finger scrolling from settings. Go to mouse and touch pad settings and enable two finger scroll & horizontal scroll from there. Please let me know if you need further details.

      Thanks,
      Arindam

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    2. The image of mouse & touch pad settings is given just above the Application section.

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  9. Hi, what´s the way to upgrade Sonwlinux without reinstalling?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Joaquin,

      I am not sure if snowlinux is upgradable.

      Regards,
      Arindam

      Delete
  10. work you do .. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.Thank you,The information you shared is very informative. keep it up..
    Netgear Router Tehnical Support

    ReplyDelete