A visit to extensions.gnome.org shows that there are about a dozen extensions installed on Parsix 5, but I don’t see any evidence of that on the desktop. And I could not find the GNOME Tweak Tool (GTT), a graphical utility used to customize various aspects of the GNOME Shell, in the App Picker overview or in System Settings. So I made an attempt to install it, but the graphical package manager listed it as an installed application.
So GTT is installed, but it can only be started from the command line. Not very new user-friendly, but that’s the way it is on Lombardo. The screen shot below shows GTT with the list of installed extensions. And as you can see, almost all are disabled. So we have a default desktop that most people don’t like (that’s why Cinnamon, Pantheon and the Depth Desktop Environment came to be). It has about a dozen extensions that can be used to make it better installed, but most are disabled out of the box. And a graphical utility designed for enabling/disabling those extensions is installed, but can only be started from the command line, a place that traditionally tends to scare users new to Linux.
One aspect of the Parsix desktop that I like is that it comes with a full suite of applications that most users will need to get their daily computing tasks done. That includes a complete Office suite (LibreOffice 3.5.4), the usual Internet applications, and a few games. Adobe Flash plugin and libdvdcss2 are also installed. The latter is a library used for reading encrypted video DVDs. This screen shot shows one portion of the App Picker.
And the default applications for handling common application tasks are configured correctly.
For installation of additional software and also for managing those already installed, Parsix provides graphical application called the gpk-application. It is a PackageKit frontend. Shown below is a screen shot.
One software that failed to start from the App Picker overview no matter how many times I tried, is Software Settings. It is used to manage software repositories. The command used to start it is software-properties-gtk. When I attempted to start it from the command line, I get the error shown in this screen shot. On Fedora, a software crash of this sort automatically starts an automated but-reporting tool. Nothing like that on Parsix 5.
Security: I don’t give out ratings on anything, however, if I did, the security rating of Parsix 5 will in negative territory. And that will be due partly to the fact that the installer has no physical security feature, to the running system not having any network security application installed. I think this is the first distribution I have reviewed that does not have a firewall daemon under /etc/init.d.
A remote Nmap scan of the test system shows that there is one open port. That port is 111, for rpcbind (port mapper program). It might not mean anything to must of you, but an experienced person can use it to glean important information about a remote system. From a remote computer, I can pass the IP address of a box running Fedora 19 to the
rpcinfo -p command and get nothing but silence. And that’s because a default installation of Fedora 19 has a pretty good network security posture.
Pass the IP address of a box running a default installation of Parsix 5 to the same command and you get some output. Whether that information can be successfully used by somebody looking to mess with your computer is another matter. However, I’d rather have my computer not give out that type of information. That’s one reason to have a firewall enabled on any Internet-connected computer.
The interesting thing about Parsix is that it has a dedicated security repository that closely tracks Debian Security Advisories. This is used to keep the system secure. However, applying security and system updates does not help a whole lot if your front door or a side window is wide open, or even slightly open.
To sum, Parsix 5 is an example of a Linux distribution that has all the tools for make a desktop distribution that just works. And indeed, all Linux distribution have all the tools at their disposal to package such an operating system, but the developers either just don’t see the need to provide such a system or have taken the idea of freedom to an extreme. I think it’s a combination of both.
In general, Linux distributions have always been regarded as more secure operating systems than Windows. And that they are free of malware that plague that operating system. To a very large extent, that’s true. However, because of its very weak security posture, Parsix is not one of those distributions that I can confidently give to a Windows users and say, hey, use this distribution, it’s more secure than Windows. I couldn’t. At least not a default installation.
This is one major area that the developer(s) of this distribution need to work on. And it can’t be that difficult a task because all the tools they need to package a very secure system are readily available. In fact, they are in the distribution’s repository.
Screen shots: View more screen shots from my test installation of Parsix 5.
The App Picker overview.
The desktop showing the panel calendar.