Saturday, October 12, 2013

Point Linux 2.2 Review: Beautiful Debian spin with Mate desktop

Honestly, for quite sometime I stopped reviewing Mate distros as they were not appealing enough. Mate seemed to be a poor cousin of GNOME 3 and not as appealing as GNOME 2, still my favorite distro. Though Mate is forked from GNOME 2 but it didn't come across compelling enough for me to adopt it. I was happy with XFCE and KDE, as better alternatives. However, last week I came across a really awesome distro - Point Linux 2.2 which changed my mind. Point Linux 2.2 is based on Debian Wheezy and a marginal improvement over Point Linux 13.04.1. I missed the first release but was pleasantly surprised by the second update.


From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Point Linux is a Russian distro based on Debian Stable and comes with Mate desktop only. The present update has Mate 1.4.2 (and not 1.6, the latest one) and like Debian Wheezy, has Linux kernel 3.2.0. I downloaded the 32 bit ISO (~984 MB) for this test. I created a live USB using Unetbootin and booted it up on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics. Once satisfied that everything is working properly, I installed it on an 10 GB partition.


Aesthetics
On live boot, I was greeted with an aesthetically pleasing Point Linux with an interface reminding me of GNOME Classic with upper and lower panels. The default wallpaper is Mac-ish and it gels well with the overall theme.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Unfortunately there are very few options pre-installed in the distro as far as wallpapers and themes are concerned. Point Linux Mate comes with Clearlooks-Phaenza theme as default and it looks very elegant. It gave a nice look to the default file manager - Caja 1.4.0. The other option, Clearlooks-Phenix is not that elegant. I searched online for Mate themes and got very limited options. Definitely Mate is lagging behind Cinnamon in this regard.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
So, I decided to create my own using conkies (no Mac OS X clone this time with docky). One handicap I faced was lack of compositing manager in Mate. Once I installed Point Linux on my laptop, I installed xcompmgr and conky manager, to create the desktop below. As you can understand, without compositing enabled, there is hardly any effect/animation in the distro.

Compositing in Mate
I installed xcompmgr running the following command in terminal:
sudo apt-get install xcompmgr

Now to enable compositing right from the start, I went to Preferences -> Startup Applications and added Compositing with xcompmgr -n as command. On reboot, I could see compositing working and the dark shadows behind conkies are gone.

13-Oct-2013: As Peter Ryzhenkov, the developer of Point Linux, mentioned in the comments section, Point Linux has a pointlinux-compiz or a compiz-config-settings manager specially suited to the Mate 1.4.2 DE. I downloaded it from Point Linux repos and post installation & restart, I could create subtle animations.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Conky-Manager
I tried adding a ppa of conky-manager repository, unfortunately it didn't work with me. It won't update. Hence, I downloaded the installation file of conky-manager from launchpad and installed it using gdebi package manager. Post installation, I could easily create nice looking conkies using the conky manager.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Installation
Installation is a lot easier than Debian Wheezy and is similar to Linux Mint Debian. Steps are pretty simple and choosing the default option works for Point Linux. It took me about 15 minutes to get it running on my laptop. Questions are the usual ones: language, timezone, keyboard layout and language, user information, partitioning (I went for whole disk), advanced options (location of GRUB). While installing, it did send anonymous information and I could see my location and installation time registered on the Point Linux website. As long as it is anonymous, I don't worry and users can uncheck the option during installation to preserve privacy.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Hardware recognition
Point Linux detected screen resolution (1366x768 for my laptop), sound card, Wifi, LAN and touch pad correctly. However, the touch pad functions were not automatically enabled and I had to manually set vertical and horizontal scrolls, single and double tap functions from Applications -> System tools -> Configuration Editor. You can also enable the touch pad options from System -> Preferences -> Mouse.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Otherwise, Point Linux recognition of hardware is top class and it gave me very good battery life during my usage.

Applications
Point Linux comes pre-installed with a lot of utility applications, like:
  • Office: LibreOffice 4.1.0.4 Base, Calc, Impress, Draw, Writer, Math, Dictionary, Document viewer
  • Internet: Firefox 24, Pidgin IM, Remmina Desktop Sharing, Thunderbird, Transmission
  • Graphics: Eye of Mate Image Viewer, Simple Scan
  • Multimedia: Brasero, VLC 2.0.3
  • Accessories: Archive Manager, Calculator, Pluma text Editor, Root terminal, File Search, Screenshot, Terminal, Gdebi package installer

Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin 11 comes pre-installed in the distro. I could watch my favorite YouTube videos in Firefox right after installation without any issue.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
The distro doesn't ship with any pre-installed music player. However, VLC more than makes up for it. I watched movies and listened to music in VLC 2.0.3. By the by, VLC 2.1.0 is already out and is pretty stable- when it is going to ship in Debian Wheezy based distros?

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Graphics section is pretty weak without any photo editor and a GIMP, pre-installed, would have helped.

Office and Internet sections are quite strong with complete LibreOffice 4.1 suite and Firefox, a torrent manager, desktop sharing option and Pidgin internet messenger. I would have loved to see a download manager here as well but never the less downloaded it from Debian repositories.

There is no easy to use integrated settings manager yet in Mate. Mostly the settings items are scattered across the Preferences option. I found a configuration editor in Applications -> System Tools, but it can hardly be termed as easy. This improvement is not there even in Mate 1.6. I hope in future releases the Mate developers provide an integrated settings - even LXDE has got one now!

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
In overall, the application section has most of the essential applications and is judiciously chosen. Based on applications provided, it appears as an everyday use distro.

Repositories
Point Linux sources it's applications from Debian stable (Wheezy now) repositories along with some apps from Point Linux repos.


From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Synaptic Package Manager is the default GUI to download applications. It is, as always, quite fast in browsing, downloading and installing applications meeting all dependencies.

From PointLinux 2.2 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
However, Synaptic can be a bit overwhelming for new Linux converts. A Software Manager like in Debian would have really helped newbies here.

Using Synaptic Package Manager I downloaded and installed Multiget (a download manager and a very important application for me to download the latest Linux distros), GIMP 2.8.2 and Chromium.

Also, Gdebi package installer is available to install locally downloaded .deb files. I used it to install conky-manager and Skype among others.

Performance
Point Linux gave me a really impressive performance during my 4 days of usage. It performed as good as any XFCE or GNOME 2 distro I have used. At steady state, Point Linux consumed about 168 MB of RAM and 1-5% CPU usage on Asus K54C. The table below shows performance of other 32-bit Mate distros I checked over 2012-13, all recorded on the same machine and under almost identical conditions.



Operating System Size of ISO Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage Size of installation
Snowlinux 4 Mate 919 MB Ubuntu Mate 1.6.0 3.8.0 1-5% 120 MB 5 GB
Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate 980 MB Debian Mate 1.4 '3.5.0 1-5% 147 MB
PointLinux 2.2 984 MB Debian Mate 1.4.2 3.2.0 1-5% 168 MB 3.13 GB
Mint 15 Mate 1.1 GB Ubuntu Mate 1.6.0 3.8.0 1-5% 174 MB 4.9 GB
Sabayon 11 Mate 848 MB Gentoo Mate 1.4.1 3.7.0 1-5% 174 MB
Mint 201303 Mate 1.3 GB Debian Mate 1.4 3.2.0 1-5% 175 MB
Mint 2012 Debian Mate 1.3 GB Debian Mate 1.2 3.2.0 1-5% 190 MB
Mint 14 Mate 1 GB Ubuntu Mate 1.4 '3.5.0 1-5% 200 MB
Mint 13 Mate 942 MB Ubuntu Mate 1.2 3.2.0 1-5% 207 MB
Snowlinux 3 White Mate 827 MB Ubuntu Mate 1.4 '3.5.0 1-5% 240 MB


It performs better than Linux Mint Mate and takes a bit lower space on hard disk. Of course, Linux Mint comes with a lot of pre-installed features which I am not sure if PointLinux ships. However, on the machines (a P4 and a Core i7 machines along with the Core i3 machine I used for the review) I tried, Point Linux worked really well. The distro is pretty smooth to use and didn't give me any issue to resolve during my usage. It seems to be pretty stable and dependable for daily usage.

Overall
If you are looking for a functional distro with good looks, possibly you should try out Point Linux. Especially those who want to use Debian but miss GNOME 2, Point Linux may be perfect for these "old-school" people. I myself was a big fan of GNOME 2 and I enjoyed the good old simple GNOME 2 days while using Point Linux. I never took Mate that seriously but with now I guess I should. Highly recommended from my side with 4/5 stars from my side (1 star deducted for no photo editor, less themes and no compositing). It came as a dependable distro for daily usage.

You can download the 32 and 64 bit editions from here.

16 comments:

  1. Hello, Arindam, it's Peter, Point Linux developer.

    First of all, I'd like to thank you for this wonderful review!
    Have two things to add though:
    1. You wrote Point Linux lacks compositing. Have you tried installing 'pointlinux-compiz' package?
    2. 'Less themes' (and wallpapers) is actually a feature. I've had lots of Linux/Windows installs on clients' PCs and I've noticed that they either use the default wallpaper or prefer setting their own. People rarely use the wallpaper collections shipped with distros.
    As for the themes, my choice for the Clearlooks-Phenix (The GTK3 Clearlooks mod) theme was made becuse despite its humble look I think it's the most polished theme Gnome2 ever had. Users willing to customize the default look can always find lots of GTK2/GTK3 themes online. And they'll not have the 'unwanted' themes/wallpapers in their theme list.
    It was not an easy decision not to include the additional themes/wallpapers, but I don't have many complains about it. Yet it helps keeping the image size smaller and matches with the 'functional things only' Point Linux concept.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Peter:

      Thanks for your valuable inputs. I must congratulate you on Point Linux - it is one of the best Mate distros I have used in last two years. I'll definitely try pointlinux-compiz today and update my blog. As I stated in my blog, I really like the "functional" features of Point Linux and I think, it is a distro tailor made for daily use. Thanks again for creating such an wonderful distro!

      Regards,
      Arindam

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    2. Peter is a good friend of mine and he worked very hard singlehandedly to make this wonderful distro. Thanks for reviewing it Arindam.

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    3. Hi Arup:

      My pleasure. It is truly a wonderful distro and Point Linux made me like Mate DE.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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  2. Hi, Arindam:

    I enjoyed your review since, as a coincidence, I just installed the same distro last week. Couple of comments here.

    1. You can add themes if you click on "Get more themes online" in the Appearance Preferences. The ones for Gnome 2 work very well with MATE.
    2. You can also add the repo source for MATE and upgrade to 1.6. In this version, there is a Control Center included.

    All in all, a great review for a great distro. Congrats!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mas:

      I'll try upgrading to Mate 1.6 - I guess it is more efficient than the Mate 1.4.2. And thanks for liking my review.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Arindam,
      Please keep in mind that Compiz doesn't work well with Mate 1.6.

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  3. Thank you for the wonderful review. I find them informative and it allows me to see other distro's that I have not heard of. I also enjoy your Conky (I am assuming that it is Conky) themes that are in your screenshots. Are they available somewhere or did you write them yourself? Thank you again for the review!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mark:
      The conky manager is freely available, please search for teejee800 conky manager on net. It is good and supports more than 70 conkies. It works for Debian, Ubuntu, Arch and Fedora.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Good review. I got into MATE desktop because I was curios as to see what it was all about, and I wanted to see how well it ran on my aging acer laptop. I tried out Linux Mint MATE, and though it was good but it wasn't what I really wanted. Then saw a posting about Point Linux on Reddit, and installed and though why couldn't I just check mark a box and enable Compositing. Saw that I was running MATE 1.4, so I added the MATE repos and installed MATE 1.6, and was happy. Also you can install PackageKit from the repos which will give a good nice user friendly front end to adding and removing software for average users who would/could get scared by Synaptic.

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  6. Very good distro! I've just installed it in a netbook. Amazing fast and very easy to manage. In its simplicity is maybe the best debian derivative I've ever seen (even better than LMDE). Thanks to Peter for creating this gem, and thanks to Arindam to review it.

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  7. I think my linux distro hopping ends here. I just wanted a simple working OS which is low on resources and easily managable.
    Earlier I tried out 2.2 and now using 2.3 of point linux and I am pleased with the responsiveness and simplicity.

    High Regards for the developer if he did this single handedly.

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    Replies
    1. It is a very good distro, as pointed out in my review. Lets hope the developer will continue releasing it for sometime.

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