Sunday, June 30, 2013

ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE Review: Another super cool LXDE spin with added integrated control center!

As I wrote in my last article about LXDE though being very efficient, is a bit tough for a Linux newbie to handle. I was very happy with the latest PCLinuxOS 2013.06 LXDE spin as it made LXDE relatively simpler by adding an integrated LXDE control center along with quite a few other customizations. This week I used another LXDE distro, ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE. Incidentally, both ROSA and PCLinuxOS are/were Mandriva based.

ROSA has been giving Mandriva based very attractive looking distros for quite sometime and their Desktop Fresh series was released last year in KDE, Gnome and LXDE spins (I am not sure whether they have any XFCE spin or not). My review is based on my experience with ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE for last 7 days.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

ROSA LXDE release announcement states of a lightweight simple to use distro:
ROSA is glad to announce a further expansion of ROSA Desktop Fresh R1 distribution series - an update of its distribution based on lightweight desktop environment, LXDE. This distribution uses the same code base as the recently-released ROSA Desktop Fresh R1. The main difference is a tendency to be minimalistic while preserving flexibility and usability. The new version includes only really necessary software and is built with the 'the easier the faster' principle in mind - high work speed is achieved at the expense of simple interface and absence of effects. The release is based on the time-proved GTK+ 2 framework, though some components are using the latest developments from GTK+ 3 and GNOME 3
ROSA LXDE ISO is around 670 MB and using Linux Mint Image Writer, I created a live USB of the same. I first did a live boot on my Asus K54C laptop with Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM followed by installation. 

ROSA's latest update comes with Linux kernel 3.8.12 and Openbox 3.5.0. PCManFM 1.1.0 is the default file manager. PCManFM is fast, lightweight and performs well in limited resources. Also, it provides majority of the functionalities expected from an advanced file manager.
ROSA LXDE desktop has the typical deep blue ROSA look with ROSA elementary themed icons and color combinations. The desktop looks really good but a bit empty. I like what they have done to PCManFM's interface. ROSA's PCManFM looks absolutely smashing!

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

Only rough edge that I found is that LibreOffice's starting splash is still green and it does not gel with the default ROSA theme. PCLinuxOS 2013.06 actually integrates programs better than ROSA LXDE.

Hardware recognition
Hardware recognition is absolutely impeccable and things like touchpad, wifi, LAN, screen resolution and sound, all worked well right out of the box.

ROSA provides a very healthy list of applications pre-installed, namely
  • Office: LibreOffice Writer and Calc, qpdfview
  • Internet: Firefox 21, Claws Mail, Filezilla, Pidgin IM, Steam 
  • Graphics: Image viewer
  • Multimedia: DeaDBeeF music player, VLC 2.0.6 video player
  • Accessories: Calculator, Leafpad, LXterminal, Parcelite, Xarchiver, VPN/L2TP connection, Grsync, Xterm, grub customizer
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

Adobe flashplugin and multimedia (free & non-free) are pre-installed and even the live boot works out of the box. A bit sad to see the ROSA multimedia player absent from the list.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

The application list is good but not typical of a distro aiming to be "lightweight". Possibly ROSA is not aiming adoption of LXDE spin to resource constrained computers. Otherwise, they won't have included Steam (a gaming program requiring NVidia graphic card as a must to run), Firefox (it is heavy and getting heavier with every update). Even Abiword and Gnumeric run faster than LibreOffice in limited resource systems. ROSA website recommends RAM size of 384 MB to run the LXDE spin but I doubt the applications provided pre-installed will run smoothly in so low a RAM size.

Installation of ROSA is almost similar to Ubuntu and I could get it installed within 15 minutes. I had to fill in my keyboard type, location to install and format my hard drive before installation. Post installation, I had to set the root password and create my user ID. It is fairly straight forward and users should not face any difficulty.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

The default language set is Russian and thankfully a form pops up post-installation asking for default keyboard language (again!) and default language. I changed it English (US). People intending to use ROSA in language other than Russian must take care to select their language of choice in this step.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

ROSA LXDE Control Center
ROSA LXDE's new addition of LXDE control center actually impressed me a lot more than the PCLinuxOS's LXDE control center. ROSA LXDE control center actually looks very professional and reminds me of the Windows 8 metro style! It looks good and provides all the options of setting changes to the user integrated under one roof.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

It offers options to change Appearance, network settings, install updates and add/remove programs, repository sources, user account settings, hardware and sound among other things. I could check the repository sources from Program -> Edit Software Sources and check a couple of extra repositories than I wanted to add without requiring me to browse through the long list of settings options in Menu -> Preferences.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

Further, LXDE control center gives options to change it's own look as well! Impressive! I found ROSA LXDE control center to be very good and worth emulating in other distros as well.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

Apart from the integrated control center, Preferences option in Menu has the usual list of settings entries as well. Further, I saw a Grub customizer as well! If you are fed up with the boring Grub2 entries, you can change the look and feel with it. Further, users can update grub by adding operating systems installed in other partitions as well. I didn't give it a shot this time as I didn't want to screw up the installation till my testing is over. But, I plan to give it a shot pretty soon and update the space here.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

ROSA sources it's applications from it's own repositories. The default interface to add/remove applications is RPMDrake 5.6.11. It is similar in look, feel and performance to Synaptic package manager. I downloaded GIMP 2.8.2, Chromium and Skype installer. All got downloaded pretty fast - faster than my experience with previous versions of ROSA. Now I am not sure if RPMDrake is faster or Synaptic is! Good work by the developers.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE
From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

Repository-wise, ROSA has a fairly rich one and I could locate all the common Linux applications in the repository.

Further, those who are more comfortable with terminal, LXterminal is there. Only thing Sudo doesn't work with ROSA as users don't get the admin rights. I had to first login in the terminal as root (by running su) and then download applications using urpmi like:
#urpmi conky xcompmgr

I had to download xcompmgr as I could not locate a compositing manager in the distro. PCLinuxOS provides compton by default. And without compositing on, conky would not be transparent!

Adding Conky and Compositing manager to autostart
To add both the conky and the compositing manager to the autostart, I ran the following commands as root on the terminal:
#leafpad /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart

The command is a bit different from Lubuntu/Peppermint and it would open the autostart options. I had to add the following commands below the default options given:
@xcompmgr -n
@conky -c ./.conky/conkyrc

Once rebooted, both conky and xcompmgr started automatically. Compositing manager is also essential to run docky without the black blackground.

From ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE

ROSA LXDE consumed slightly higher RAM on the system I used. Normally I see a bit lower RAM consumption from other LXDE distros. However, most of them (except PCLinuxOS) are plain vanilla and the customized desktop is expected to take marginally higher RAM to boot. All the numbers presented below are from 32-bit LXDE spins, post-installation on the same system (Asus K54C) and measured via task manager 5 min. after booting, at different point in time.
Operating System Size of ISO Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage
Bridge LXDE 547 MB Arch LXDE 3.6.7 1-5% 80 MB
Debian 7 LXDE 648 MB Debian LXDE 3.2.0 1-5% 80 MB
Lubuntu 13.04 720 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.8.0 1-5% 103 MB
Comfusion 4.1 LXDE 882 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.2.0-29 1-5% 110 MB
Peppermint OS 4 588 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.8.0-25 1-5% 110 MB
Lubuntu 12.04 722 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.2.0-29 1-5% 119 MB
Lubuntu 12.10 726 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.5.0-17 1-5% 123 MB
Fedora 18 LXDE 686 MB Fedora LXDE 3.7.2 1-5% 124 MB
Fedora 17 LXDE 619 MB Fedora LXDE '3.3.4-5 1-5% 127 MB
PCLInuxOS 2013.06 LXDE 642 MB PCLinuxOS LXDE 3.4.49 1-5% 129 MB
Peppermint 3 562 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.2.0 1-5% 130 MB
Zorin 6.1 Lite 672 MB Ubuntu LXDE 3.2.0 1-5% 130 MB
ROSA 2012 R1 Desktop Fresh LXDE 669 MB Mandriva LXDE 3.8.12 1-5% 145 MB

Otherwise, ROSA LXDE is buttery smooth to use. It is snappy to use and really fast. Of course, I didn't use Steam to test it's performance.

I didn't find ROSA a very bulky distro - both ROSA and PCLinuxOS took about 6 GB of space which is slightly higher than Lubuntu.

ROSA and PCLinuxOS released updated LXDE spins back-to-back in June and based on my experience, I would rate PCLinuxOS slightly ahead in attractiveness and performance. However, PCLinuxOS may not work on every system and I had issues with creating a live USB with unetbootin. ROSA, on the other hand, provides similar functionalities and is very smooth to use. The applications list is not bleeding edge, but ROSA combines updated applications keeping stability in mind. Addition of a LXDE control center and other required settings have made LXDE a viable desktop environment, even for Linux newbies. Further, ROSA website states that it now supports a lot more variety of graphic cards (which I could not test). The distro has it's glitches but undeniably, it is an attractive LXDE spin for production purposes. Highly recommended from my side with a rating of 4/5.

You can download both 32 and 64-bit versions of ROSA LXDE from here.


  1. Thank you very much for this review! I already use Rosa Fresh with KDE and looking for a decent lightweight distro as well. Now the choice is evident :)

    1. I found ROSA Fresh LXDE to be really good in both aesthetics and performance. I hope you too find it good. Thanks for liking my review :).

  2. I use rosa fresh kde and it is probably one of the best distros ive ever used, it is superbin almost every way

    1. Great to know. I tried it briefly and was very impressed by it. May be it should try it for a longer duration. Thanks for your comment.

  3. what is the best looking linux distro ?

    1. It depends. Some like minimalistic, some colorful & vibrant, some go for minimalistic, etc.etc. The beauty of Linux is that there is a distro for almost everyone! Just browse through my blog - I have reviewed quite a few and you may happen to like one of them :).

  4. Hi. Thanks for the review.

    Just install the distro, but found out no support for multilang. Any idea how to install other lang pack for it? Like the Mageia3 LiveCD, also no support for multilang, what component has been removed???

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for liking my review. I am not sure about ROSA but I know Mageia support Asian languages. Please visit this forum topic for multilang support for Mageia.

    2. Also this one: