A complaint I’ve always had made Mandriva and its derivates is that the repositories are not enabled by default. This means that the first task or one of the first task you’ll perform on a new installation is to enable them. Usually, the system prompts you to enable or add them five minutes after first boot. On my test system, and on the ones I installed in a virtual environment, clicking on the Add media button when the notification pops up does nothing. I had to add them from Rpmdrake’s menu. Adding repositories is a task that every user will have to perform, so I think it is better that they be enabled out of the box.
The good thing about adding repositories in ROSA Desktop is that when that simple task is completed, you’ll have access to all applications from all available repositories, including community supported (contrib), non-free and restricted ones. And adding repositories is all done from a graphical interface. You can perform the task from the command line, but you are not required to.
Like almost all Linux distributions, ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012 has an automatic updates notification system. By default, it is configured to check for updates five minutes after booting and at 3-hour intervals thereafter. The only problem with the system is that on a new installation, clicking on the Install updates button when the notification window pops up does nothing, just as with the add media notification window. I had to click on the notification applet and select an option to launch the updates tool. The good news is that after that first instance, the notification tool worked as expected.
System Management Applications: In ROSA Desktop Enterprise and in Mandriva and other Mandriva-derived distributions, custom, graphical management applications are all part of a Control Center, separate from KDE’s System Settings. In ROSA Desktop Fresh, those applications have been incorporated into the KDE System Settings. So the system-wide and desktop-level graphical management applications are accessible from one location. The next two screen shots show all the applications in System Settings.
Aside from the familiar graphical applications in System Settings, there is an online Helpdesk agent or technical support system called Sphere. The problem with using Sphere is I could not figure out how to register, so I used an anonymous account to give it a try.
I set up a ticket for a very simple issue I encountered on my test systems. It’s being almost two weeks and I’m still waiting for a reply (the ticket is still in Assigned status). My impression of Sphere is that it’s not what you want to use if you need a quick response to an issue. Maybe they respond faster to registered users, but how do I register?
Like Canonical (sponsor of Ubuntu), ROSA Laboratory has a cloud storage service called ROSA 2Safe. Users get 5 GB of cloud storage free. To ease file transfer with users’ remote folder, there’s a Web interface and an application called ROSA Sync. It is installed by default, with its applet in the system tray. I set up an account early last year when the free cloud storage was just 2 GB. I’ve not used it much since then, so I can’t really rate the service, but ROSA Sync, like other ROSA Lab-developed applications, has a beautiful interface. The main interface is shown in this screen shot.
Network and Physical Security: I’ve already touched on the physical security features in the installation program. And my impression there is lukewarm. I’m especially disappointed that the boot loader password protection option has been removed in the boot loader setup step of the installer.
The out-of-the-box network security posture falls far short of what I expect from a distribution that inherited some of the best security tools available on any distribution. For one, the firewall is disabled (by default). The main interface of the firewall configuration utility is shown below. If you are running this distribution, just be sure to activate the firewall if you enable any service.
Aside from the firewall, Msec, the Mandriva Linux Security Package, is not even installed. Don’t know why, but that effectively robs the system of a tool that performs automated security audits. The good news here is that the Msec package is in the repository. Unless there’s a technical reason why Msec is not installed, that’s one package that I’ll install after I load this distribution on my main blogging PC.
For those that need a good parental control system, this distribution inherited one of the very best available. And like the firewall, it is disabled by default, though I did not expect it to be enabled.
Summary: Never mind some of the issues that I highlighted in this review, ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012 is about the most polished desktop distribution that I’ve seen in a while. It’s my favorite KDE desktop, but the default security posture is what I find very disappointing. With a new installation listening on the ports shown in this screen shot, the default network security profile could have been a lot better.
Resources: Installation images for 32- and 64-bit architectures are available. You may grab an image from here. If you run into any issues during installation or while using the system, be sure to read the errata page.
Screen Shots: View more screen shots from test installations of ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012.
ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012 boot menu
Second page of SimpleWelcome’s Applications tab.
Social tab of SimpleWelcome’s TimeFrame.