Sunday, August 25, 2013

OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 Review: With KDE 4.11 and the most efficient KDE I have used!

I have been testing out OS4 for quite sometime, primarily their XFCE spins with BeeOS theme (in 13.6 release, of course, they changed it for better!). Mostly, they bring out user-friendly spins with all available multimedia codecs and plugins to make OS4 a good option for Linux novices as well as experienced users. For this review, I take up the latest update of OS4 KDE spin. OS4 OpenLinux 13 series is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and is supported till April 2017. The OS4 developers are moving towards KDE in their Enterprise Edition and possibly, KDE is right now in their center of things rather than XFCE. 

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

The OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 release note states of the "fastest KDE live image" showcasing the best of KDE, namely:

Today we are pleased to announce the release of OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 and OS4 Enterprise Linux 4.1.4. OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 is our updated KDE release that we provide for users. With OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 we have created a best of breed KDE desktop based system and the fastest KDE live image available. With that we also updated the OS4 OpenLinux core system with all applicable kernel bug fixes and updated kernel with new drivers and speed improvements. OS4 Enterprise Linux has undergone some major changes here. OS4 Enterprise Linux will be KDE-based for the rest of its life cycle. Xfce is still available via the custom image service. The DWM tiling window manager is still installed via default.

Naturally I was intrigued to test it out. I have used KDE 4.11 in Kubuntu 12.04 LTS earlier. I wanted to check what incremental benefits OS4 offers over Kubuntu.

The 32-bit ISO with pae kernel is about 1.6 GB in size. Even for 64 bit machines I prefer 32-bit ISOs with pae kernel as they are faster than the 64-bit ones and certain apps work better on 32-bit structure (like Skype). Anyway, the heavy ISO indicated that OS4 would be loaded with applications, and it didn't disappoint.

I created a live USB with unetbootin in a 4 GB pendrive. A live boot was followed by installation on Asus K54C with 2.2 Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. I removed all previous Linux installations from the laptop by using gparted live USB before the installation.

The Oxygen themed desktop is simply ok in terms of looks. I have seen and used a lot of better looking KDE distros. Even the default OS4 wallpaper is not that appealing. However, there there are other attractive wallpapers pre-installed in the distro, as a saving grace.

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7
As a whole OS4 is average in looks but conveys a more professional appeal. The developers have retained more of retained typical KDE looks with a simple menu. But, the applications (like GIMP and LibreOffice) could have been integrated more to the default theme (like the way Neptune and Sabayon do). One good thing about not tweaking is that distro is extremely light and offers blazing speed to users.

All typical KDE 4 and KWin goodies are there in the distro. In fact, now it supports OpenGL 3.1 in addition to OpenGL 2.0 and 1.2. I could create desktop cube and cone easily and render good subtle effects. However, desktop effects are not activated by default in the distro, intentionally, for users who have systems without 3D video cards. You can enable them through System Settings -> Desktop Effects.

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7
Hardware recognition
Hardware recognition is as good as any other Kubuntu / Ubuntu spin. It could recognize wifi, lan, touchpad and sound card immediately and I didn't face any issues there.

During live-boot, I faced a bit of issue with OS4. First, it would take me to the terminal and when I ran the command startx, it would boot the KDE desktop but not allow to connect to the wifi. Later I realized my mistake and ran sudo startx as root to finally get privileges to connect to wifi and other services. However, I couldn't run chromium as root on live boot. Post installation, however, these complications were not there, thankfully!

OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 KDE includes majority of the applications that I require/use on a daily basis, like
  • Office: LibreOffice  Math, Calc, Impress, Draw, & Writer, Ktimetracker, Okular document viewer
  • Internet: Chromium, Dropbox, BlueDevil, Kopete IM, KPPP, Ktorrent, Firefox installer, Quassel IRC, Skype 4.1, Thunderbird 17
  • Graphics: Acquireimages, digiKam, DNG Image Converter, ExpoBlending, GIMP 2.8.4, GWenview, Hugin Batch Processor, Hugin Callibrate Lens, Hugin Panorama Creator, Ksnapsot, Panorama, Photo layout editor
  • Multimedia: Amarok music player, AMZ Downloader, Audacity, Audio Recorder, Dragon Player, K3b, Openshot video editor
  • Accessories: Ark, backup, Kate, Kcalc, Klipper, Kmag, Krusader file manager, Kvkbd virtual keyboard, SuperKaramba desktop widgets, synaptiks, GDebi package installer, Konsole, Neopmuk cleaner, Remastersys, startup disk creator
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin are pre-installed and I could right away play my favorite movies and music. There is no VLC but it doesn't harm as Dragon player plays most of the known video formats because the right codecs are there.
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

Chromium is the default browser and it has a Firefox installer as well. I installed Google Chrome as well as it supports the latest Adobe flash plugin (11.8, not available to other Linux browsers). Internet section is very rich, except for a download manager like multiget or uget.

Also, in the last review, I found fogger in the default application list. It is a lightweight application to create web based application and I find it very handy to access social networks. However, I could download fogger and create a few web apps easily. One cautionary note: fogger doesn't work that well without Firefox. Download the latest Firefox from the Firefox installer link provided or from the repositories.

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7
I like OS4's approach in creating the application list - it covers all bases but doesn't flood users with more than one application for the same function. Actually it should be like that to be sensible, rather than dumping on users the entire Ubuntu repository.

One of the beauties of KDE 4 is integrated settings manager. I didn't note much change from KDE 4.10.5 in KDE 4.11.00. It is the same and really functional one with all setting tweaks at the users fingertips. 
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

Installation is typical Kubuntu and no surprises there. Questions are usual like language, timezone, keyboard preferences, location to install and user ID creation. Entire process (incl. downloading updates) takes about 30 minutes. It is uncomplicated and should not pose
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7
any problem to anyone, unless there is any hardware incompatibility.

However, there is one problem with OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 that I noted. Normally, in most of the distros I have used, there would be an installation link on the desktop, clicking which the installation process starts. Here actually I had to search a bit to get the installation option in menu. Possibly, the developers would be better off putting a simple installation icon on the desktop.

Nomenclature of Dolphin seems to have changed a bit with the new KDE. Now no more Dolphin 2.1 or 2.2, it's name is similar to Files in GNOME3, mimicking the release number. KDE 4.11.00 has Dolphin 4.11.00.

OS4 sources applications primarily from Ubuntu Precise repositories along with some third party repos to provide latest versions of LibreOffice and GIMP among others. Of course, ppa of Kubuntu backports is there for KDE SC 4.11.00!
From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

However, it is surprising there is no Apper or Muon Software Center as GUI. Synaptic Package Manager is the default GUI to download applications. I accept Synaptic is possibly more efficient than Apper or Muon but for new users, software centers similar to Ubuntu or Kubuntu, actually helps. Possibly given that the developers have already installed almost all the essential applications a normal user requires, they have avoided a Software center here.

From OS4 OpenLinux 13.7

I downloaded Firefox 23.0 and Fogger using synaptic and both worked with OS4 without any issue.

To be honest, the main change that I see in the updated KDE is in performance rather than appearance. KDE 4.11 gave amazing performance in OS4 OpenLinux, in fact the best among all KDE 32-bit distros I have used! The only caveat is that this is the first distro I checked with KDE 4.11 and much of the performance improvement may be due to the updated KDE. All distros compared below are 32-bit versions recorded on the same machine (Asus K54C) under similar conditions, during 2012-13.

Operating System Size of ISO Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage Size of installation
OS4 Openlinux 13.7 1.6 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.11.00 3.2.0 1-5% 203 MB 4.73 GB
Mageia 3 KDE 1.4 GB Mandriva KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 1-10% 233 MB
PCLinuxOS 2013.02 KDE 1.4 GB PCLinuxOS KDE 4.9.5 3.2.18 1-10% 250 MB
Fedora 19 KDE 884 MB Fedora KDE 4.10.4 3.9.8 1-10% 251 MB 3.12 GB
Mint 14 KDE 1.1 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.9.2 3.5.0 1-5% 255 MB
Mint 15 KDE 1.4 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 1-10% 263 MB 6.09 GB
Mint 13 KDE 960 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.8.3 3.2.0 1-5% 270 MB
Kubuntu 13.04 1 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 1-10% 276 MB
Debian 7 KDE 680 MB Debian KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 1-10% 290 MB
Slackel 14 KDE 1 GB Slackware KDE 4.8.4 3.2.29 1-10% 300 MB
Kubuntu 12.04.1 LTS 738 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 1-10% 310 MB
Kubuntu 12.10 999.6 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.9.2 3.5.0 1-10% 314 MB
Sabayon 13.08 KDE 2.3 GB Gentoo KDE 4.10.5 3.10.0 1-10% 315 MB 6.11 GB
Sabayon 11 KDE 2.1 GB Gentoo KDE 4.9.5 3.7.0 1-10% 320 MB
Bridge KDE 1 GB Arch KDE 4.9.3 3.6.7 1-10% 330 MB
KWheezy 1.1 3.9 GB Debian KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 1-10% 335 MB 11.87GB
ROSA 2012 Marathon 1.5 GB Mandriva KDE 4.8.3 3.0.38 1-10% 340 MB
Neptune 3.2 2.1 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.5 3.10.5 1-10% 349 MB 6.20 GB
Slackel KDE 4.9.2 1.1 GB Slackware KDE 4.9.2 3.2.29 1-10% 355 MB
Manjaro 0.8.5 KDE 2.0 GB Arch KDE 4.10.2 3.8.8 1-10% 358 MB
OpenSUSE 12.2 KDE 704 MB OpenSUSE KDE 4.8.4 3.4.6 1-10% 366 MB
Sabayon 13.04 KDE 2.3 GB Gentoo KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 1-10% 380 MB

Numbers aside, I got much smoother performance than any of the KDE distros I used in last couple of years. It feels amazingly lightweight, as if I am using an XFCE distro. KDE 4.11, undoubtedly, gives a more refined user experience with a lot of subtle improvements as highlighted here.

Further, OS4 OpenLinux KDE actually takes less space compared to Mint 15 KDE or Neptune 3.2. Around 4 GB of space for a KDE distro with so many applications is actually very good. Fedora 19 takes less space than OS4 as it barely has 50% of the applications offered by OS4.

OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 with KDE 4.11 is a good release with sensible applications selection, good stability and amazing performance. It is a really fast responsive and no-frills distro, perfect for production purposes. Also, it makes life of the users easy with pre-installed Adobe flash plugin and multimedia codecs. I can easily recommended OS4 for any Linux novice though it doesn't have a Software center, as most of the applications a general user needs, are already there in the distro. At overall, OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 KDE gets 4/5 from my side for the reasons mentioned above. I penalize 1 marks for average aesthetics - otherwise it is a 5/5 distro.

However, if you are already using Kubuntu, I recommend that you should install KDE 4.11 from Kubuntu backports. The prime reason is that KDE 4.11 offers incredible performance over it's predecessors, as evident from OS4. For other distros, where KDE SC 4.11 is not available yet, you can download OS4 13.7 KDE and give it a shot. You may like the overall simple and functional appeal of the distro.

You can download OS4 OpenLinux 13.7 32 and 64 bit versions from here.


  1. Awesome review. Downloading it now, and going to give it a try!

    1. Thanks for liking my review. Hope you'll have a good experience with OS4 13.7.

  2. Did audio work?

    I decided to download and test drive the latest 13.7 release, since I prefer KDE and it looks like this release would have most of the apps I'd use on a day to day basis anyway.

    But, when I started the live version of it in VirtualBox, I had no audio, with very few mixer settings available.

    I used the VB defaults (except for increasing memory) for an Ubuntu release, with the the Host Audio Driver set to ALSA, and the Audio Controller set to ICH AC97 (VirtualBox defaults).

    When it had no sound, I sent an e-mail asking about it to the contact e-mail address on the OS/4 web site, asking if that was a known problem with VirtualBox, if if a real installation to a virtual or physical drive would avoid it (versus starting the live .iso in VirtualBox using the VB defaults).

    But, I received no response to my query. So, rather than spend any time trying to install it to a physical or virtual drive, since the live distro had no audio using something as popular as the ICH97 audio with Alsa with VirtualBox, I haven't spent any more time troubleshooting the issue.

    After all, there are many distros around now, and I cannot recall when I've ever seen another KDE based distro using an Ubuntu base where audio didn't work when booting into it using VirtualBox.

    OS/4 13.7 does look promising, as I like it's default app selection, and I'm a fan of KDE, and it's using a proven Ubuntu base.

    But, when I get no response to queries about a problem, I'm not going to spend any more time on it, or suggest that anyone else try it.

    However, I would be curious if you had any issues with audio and how you resolved them.

    1. why dont you try it in live mode using live usb and test it problem persist or not then decide to install on real hard drive .

    2. Hi Jim:

      I checked again. The audio is working perfect with my Asus K54C. Possibly the drivers are not there. If you like OS4, then possibly searching for the specific drivers in Ubuntu repo will resolve it. Otherwise, you did the right thing - better to use a distro where everything works at the first time. Actually that's the beauty of Linux - you have so many options!

      OS4 worked for me the first time and didn't require to resolve anything. By the by, are you trying the 64 bit version or 32-bit version with pae kernel?


  3. This promisesto be a good OS. I have downloaded it and intend to use it on all computers in our College Library. Before that, I am installing it tommorrow and see how it works.

    But thanks very much for taking your time to write the review.

    1. Thanks for liking my review. I hope you'll like OS4 as well. It performed very good on my evaluation.

  4. Actually I like this in the Xfce spin, except a long-time install on my HD broke after the partition got almost full, but it is worth re-installing, and I am customizing that now. Easy to install and quite useful, compared to other distrosIt could easily be touted as a Windows XP replacement, or as a Linux OS for Windows converts. I hope it is active for a long time to come.