Monday, March 22, 2010

Elive 2.0 - Distro Review


This is Elive's slogan. As I am sure you can guess, it is a Debian based distribution that uses the Enlightenment window manager. I always like to jump in with both feet when it comes to playing with technology, so to get the best feel for what Elive is and how it works I downloaded the LiveCD and installed it as the primary operating system on my Sager Laptop.

First Impressions:
Booting the LiveCD for the first time gave me one of those "wow" moments. This was the first time I had ever used a distro that used the Enlightenment window manager. It is stunning, to say the least. (minus my function+mute, all of my hardware worked OOTB).
Taking a step back a moment, I'd like to mention the start process for the live environment. I like the way Elive boots up. It asks a few simple questions about your system at start up that help things to run smoothly. By asking for resolution, it allows Elive to have a seamless X loading (no black flickering or things of that sort like most distributions). The live system also loaded the appropriate closed source driver for my nVidia card on its own (I know this is a turn off for some FOSS people, but I like to use my hardware to its full extent).

Booting from a flash drive using the live system is smooth and flawless and the UI is easy to use. Located at the bottom of the screen is a dock bar for loading commonly used applications. Just to the right of this is a dock bar for battery, wifi, and audio controls. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, you can switch quickly between your multiple work spaces. (additionally, alt+fX keys switch between each of the twelve desktops).

Installation:
Located on that handy dock bar is the installer button. Before I go any further, I feel I should mention something that sets Elive apart from many other distributions (and keeps it from making the top ten on DistroWatch IMO). It is, that in order to install Elive on your system you have to acquire an online "installer" module. How does one obtain one of these modules? By making a donation to the project of course.

That is right: You have to pay to install Elive.

It's not a large cost. For a minimum of 15 dollars (USD - payed via paypal) you can receive the installer module. I logged into paypal, sent the funds, and was on my way. Other than a brief system hang at one point in the installer (which only took a moment to recover from) the install went flawlessly. Again, I would just like to mention the unique feel the installer has (like the rest of the system). A particular feature that is kind of small, but worth mentioning, is the descriptions the installer has for each of the file-systems before formatting. Like I said, small feature, but useful, I feel, none the less.

Using the System:
Elive only offers a 32bit image. My system has 4gigs of RAM. As such, one of the first things I do when installing a 32bit distribution on it is obtain a kernel that supports my memory in the 32bit environment. Enter another feature that is unique to Elive (and almost worth the donation all in itself):

Nurse Mode


Equatable to Window's system recovery mode, "Nurse Mode" allows the user to perform a number of recovery/restore options on the system. Among these is a one click install for different system kernels, among which include a "highmem" kernel to allow up to 64gb of RAM on the 32bit operating system.

After a restart, I was quickly loaded into my Elive system. Using enlightenment as a window manager took some getting used to at first, but after a couple of hours I had grown accustomed to it, and I must say, I like how enlightenment handles itself as a whole. There are only two issues I had with Elive. The first was some stability issues (Elive uses a mix of e16 and e17, the latter of which is the testing branch of enlightenment), and the second was purely visual - there was no way I could easily find what appeared in my applications menu (all the guides I found online were for e16 and the files they referenced did not exist on my Elive system). Beyond this, I also experienced this bug, which was rather annoying.

Two final notes about the system. I'm a gamer off and on and I run Steam through CXGames on my Linux system. Under all other window managers I have used thus far, the Steam GUI has this pesky habit of "jumping" from workspace to workspace so it is always visible in your active one (regardless of its settings). Under enlightenment all my Steam windows stayed where I left them. And lastly, while it is an easy fix: by default there are no source repos enabled under Elive. Meaning apt-get build-dep does not work OOTB.

Software:
The default software configuration on Elive is strange, to say the least. For starters, there is "demo" software installed on the system. Very "Windows Like" IMO. No open office. Abiword is installed, however I prefer the former of the two. There is no pidgin or multi-messenger client by default, but there is a Linux "amsn messenger". A fun idea is that solitaire is installed by default and it auto-loads it for you to play when you begin the system install.

Lastly, I use Google's Chrome browser on all my systems. Chrome did not play friendly with enlightenment. It did not want to add itself to my application launcher at the bottom of the screen and it had no idea what to do with any of the files it downloaded by default (.deb files didn't open with gdebi and "open containing folder" out-right failed).

Final Thoughts:
Also worth mentioning is that the Elive community as a whole is rather small(which is a shame, it's a wonderful distro). The two threads I posted are still unanswered some three days later, so if you do run into an issue with the system, best of luck finding help solving it!) Had enlightenment been a bit more stable as a window manager Elive would have stayed as the staple distro on my Sager for some time, but as of now my Sager is moving back to Debian Squeeze.

All in all, if you have never personally used the enlightenment window manager, I highly recommend you, at the very least, download the Elive LiveCD and give it a test drive. Once e17 fully matures, Elive will easily be one of the best distros out there.

~Jeff Hoogland

32 comments:

  1. can you give us any details on memory usage and 'lightness'? I've heard some astounding claims that it only uses ~30 MB idling -- is that so?

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  2. Hey its better then Ubuntu! run by dicks.. er uhmm i mean dictators!

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  3. You wrote "'Elive: Where Debian mights Enlightenment'This is Elive's slogan."

    Actually, Elive's slogan is "Elive: Where Debian Meets Enlightenment."

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  4. Elive does a good Enlightenment Desktop dark theme, but that's about it. Still along way to go for me to pay for it, sorry Elive Dev Team. You have to do better than the other Distro's seeing your asking money for it. Once you do that you'd better provide a better Product than your doing now! Think hard about who your end User is....? Is it ex Windows Users who have no idea about the inner workings of Windows little know Linux or is it aimed at Linux Users who are a little bit smarter tech wise. Don't see this as a put down more a wake up to what and where you want to be in the future!

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  5. Sorry, but I couldn't see myself making a "donation" until I had installed it and given it a thorough testing. Too often I've tried distros which look glossy on the surface but have serious shortcomings for any extended use.

    Somehow it seems..."wrong"... to pay money for any distro that then uses open source software.

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  6. Gue$$ I won't be trying it anytime soon...I'm not a gambler. No wonder the forum doesn't get much play.

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  7. 1986 wants its crippleware back

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  8. Sorry, the work done on Elive is appreciable but the method adopted by Mr.Samuel 'Thanatermesis' F for the reward of his work is against the spirit of opensource world and smells of malacious and treacherous intents. Let the Elive be best still it`s not worth purchasing when there are far better alternatives available with regards for opensource ethics.

    regards,

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  9. I paid the $15 and am happy with the result, at last a distro light enough to run fast without swapping, and looking beautifully at the same time

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  10. I paid for Samuel's work because he put a lot of effort into doing what I was unable/unwilling to do myself.

    For all you college grads out there, that's what we used to call "capitalism," an economic system too often vilified by those who adhere to the principle of coercive social justice.

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  11. e17 has been in beta for years. It looks nice but too buggy for me.. there are other more stable light desktops such as lxde and fluxbox. I don't mind that he is looking for some money to support the project..but i think a simple donate button or selling merchandise like everyone else would make more people download it.

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  12. Excellent comment Scott Moore! Finally, someone who understands and apparently believes in capitalism/freedom.

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  13. Can someone please explain me what all that hype is about ? Debian based distro featuring Enlightenment ? Wow,what a rarity ! I'm using Sidux which is based on Debian Sid- that means always the latest up-to-date bleeding edge software and newest kernel, all it takes to install Enlightenment is to edit your etc/apt/sources.lst to include unstable branch, and no, they don't ask you to pay for that ! Elive's developer asked for money in all previous development versions promising that the stable one will be free of charge, what a joke of a distribution !

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  14. @Last Anonymous

    Did you ever read the full posting? I'm betting you didn't from your comment. Think before you speak (or post) and be informed on the topic at hand.

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  15. Definitely worth 15$ of my donation.Bravo !! for Thanatermesis. I spent hundreds for cutting edge fedoras and ubuntus, burning countless cd's. My nexus phone cost me 170$ with open source OS and i have this filing that Google make some money on theirs OS too. May bee no directly but still.

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  16. @Jeff91
    You've just lost you bet. I have read your 'posting' in its all entirety. My first experience with *Unix based OS goes back in time to the point when you have had your first experience with the pacifier .I follow all the recent developments in the Linux world and I also remember times when people who would dare to write reviews actually possessed some knowledge

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  17. Have you guys tried the Zeitgeist branch of it?

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  18. "Enter another feature that is unique to Elive (and almost worth the donation all in itself):

    Nurse Mode

    Equatable to Window's system recovery mode, "Nurse Mode" allows the user to perform a number of recovery/restore options on the system. "

    Show me Debian with this feature that is done as elegantly as Elive has done it. Thats a new feature.

    As for your stab at my age, age by no means equates to Wisdom/Intelligence.

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  19. I couldn't say it better myself, that is why Einstein would never reply 'think before you speak ' to his opponents who disagree with his concepts and ideas even at his earliest age. That is why he will be remembered by generations to come . You made me laugh so hard I almost spilled my morning coffee reading what you have wrote about your age and wisdom. You really think your incoherent mumbling transpires into wisdom with a capital W - slash-intelligence ? Anyone with half of a brain and minimal knowledge in compiling Linux kernel can put together a "distrolet" like Elive , there's plethora of applications one can rename to Nurse Mode or anything else to perform recovery. Elive is aimed to extort a few bucks from those unfamiliar with Open Source software

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  20. No one is making you use or pay for Elive... I never said it wasn't possible to replicate what Elive has done on another distro - it simply has not been done as well up until this point.

    Using your logic I suppose you also think Crossover is just someone exploiting the FOSS Wine project? (They are actually selling it not just taking donations)

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  21. www.pclinuxos.com

    links to isos for all major desktop evironments including pclinuxos-e17-beta1.iso It is a livecd and it is installable. Choose a mirror close to your location.

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  22. @Jeff I have no intentions to argue with you,this is all about Linux, right ? For me,too many unanswered questions. What branch of Debian is it based on ? Do they maintain their own repository ? What kernel version is used? Is it a custom distribution-specific kernel ? They describe Elive as a rolling release, with the option to update kernel using Nurse Mode, will the new kernel include the proprietary video drivers compatible with that particular kernel, or they need to be compiled from nvidia-kernel-source? What are the provision for dist-upgrade ? Unless all of these issues are addressed Elive for me is just another fly-by-night distribution (so to say )

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  23. Jeff has an Elive Night Light and Teddy Bear.

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  24. Jeff91
    I take note of your comments I like many others bought and used Elive Gem, I like many others helped test and develop the latest Elive 2. Then I was told that I would have to pay for it I like many others decided to decline the offer as the testing versions were free. But to my amazement elive has decided that I have to pay for a 6 month old testing version. That to my mind Is outright robbery and deceit also the post that the man himself declared "Developement versions will always be free" has been deleted. So perhaps now you can see why people do not like the developer of Elive as he can't be trusted

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  25. I did finally get around to trying the PCOS Linux e17 live disc, it does not come even close to the "wow" Elive provides by default... There is alot to be said for a proper configuration.

    Elive is based off of Debian Stable, they maintain some of their own packages but most of their software is straight from the Debian repositories. They also pre-compile all the nVidia modules for the kernels in their repositories so you will not have to compile them from source.

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  26. I sent them some dough a few years ago. It was worth it then: it is /was a gorgeous system. Wanted to support the English-as-a-second-language dudes. Never used it. Too unstable. I think that I have a downloaded install version of 2. Haven't gotten to it. Mint Linux is quite slick and saucy to the eyes - and, too, on Debian. Still like FreeBSD better overall. But Turnkey Linux had lead me to look at Linux again for work, real work. If I was a real programmer rather than a hacker, I would be working on Gnumeric. I use Excel everyday, all day. When Gnumeric smokes Excel with Python or Lua as the "VBA" it will be a different world. (I once compiled OpenOffice on an old PIII 500Mhz - took all weekend!) BTW, if you are not using TeX, you might as well write on a MSWindows system.

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  27. their installer module is a joke. any core Linux user can bypass it w/o much of effort. lousy effort on elive part.
    I'm not supporting piracy, but I hate Microsoft tactics. You have to contact vendor to activate it every time you change something. Even after paying, I can't try it in virtual machine before installing to actual.
    **Snow Leopard is only $24.99**

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  28. give a try on opengeu. I use it on my acer aspire 4730z for 2 years until today

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  29. I've tried OpenGEU... I found it MUCH less stable than Elive :-/

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  30. This is a great distro with a beautiful desktop and many packages to install, I hope this will be my last try to my Asus!

    Greetings for this job!

    Thanks!

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  31. The elive crew are short-changing their efforts and the payback. Elive should not be priced more than a US $1. like the $19.95 offers on the TV, $1 is an established cost/price for software/music. the economics of this are well established - except for the fact that at $1 server load might far outstrip what is available.
    I only wish the elive crew would release the code (so to speak) so that their work could trump all the Macintolerant whacks out there.
    elive runs under/on FreeBSD too. (I suspect that Apple programmers have been filching from it for years.)

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  32. nice blog

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