So the first distribution review of 2014 turns out to be that of a Linux distribution that I’ve never published any article about, one that I’ve never actually used.
And that distribution is Siduction, a desktop distribution based on Debian Unstable branch. The latest release – Siduction 2013.2, features 32- and 64-bit variants of five desktop distributions – GNOME 3, KDE, LXDE, Razor-Qt and Xfce. To see what it has to offer, I wanted to install all five editions, but after a bad experience with the installer, I stopped after managing to install the KDE and GNOME 3 editions.
So the focus of this review will the KDE and GNOME desktop editions, and, of course, the installer. And since the installer is a new application and I had a tough time with it, the bulk of this review will be devoted to it. Most users are already familiar with the KDE and GNOME 3 desktop environments, but the installer, that’s going to be a new experience for most people.
According to the Release Notes, the installation images are “enhanced with some useful packages and scripts, our own installer and a custom patched version of the linux-kernel 3.12.” Since I tend to attach a lot of importance to the installer, let’s see what it looks like and what it has to offer.
The Installer: Like all Linux distributions, the installation images are Live images. After booting into the Live desktop and looking around for a while, installation to the target hard disk drive (HDD) started when the installer’s icon (named sidu-installer), which was on the desktop, was clicked.
To my surprise, the installer opened in IceWeasel, the Web browser. That’s new to me. Of all the distributions I’ve used or reviewed, I’ve not come across one with this type of installation program. The address on the address bar shows that it’s actually an application listening on port 8086.
Like I wrote earlier, this was new to me. An Nmap scan of the machine showed these open ports. So there you have it, a graphical installer for a Linux distribution that runs from a Web browser, and listening on port 8086. But how good is it? From my experience, not very. The series of screen shots that follow show why.
The interface is a little bit on the confusing side. To a large extent, it’s not very intuitive. With so many buttons on the main page, it’s not exactly clear which one needs to be clicked first or last, or which one should be ignored. Beyond that, it has automated and a manual mode disk partitioning modes, which is always a good thing. In the automated mode, there is support for creating standard disk partitions and LVM volumes. LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, provides a method for dynamic management of disk space.
My test install environment was in a virtual environment with about 50 GB of disk space available to it. When attempting to use an automated disk partition option, clicking on the Recommendation button after selecting the disk space to use, allows the installer to auto-allocate disk space to the default partitions that it creates. Those partitions are for root, /home and Swap. After I was satisfied that I had clicked on all the buttons required to complete the installation on this page, I clicked Next.
Sat back and watched the installer do its thing, or try to do its thing.
Not before long, it came back with an error message.
I went through the installation at least five times, alternating between the standard and LVM installation. The last thing I have time for is to jump to an IRC channel just so I can install a Linux distribution. Not in 2014.
Eventually, I gave up on the automated disk partitioning mode and chose to partition the disk manually.
For manual disk partitioning, the installer offers four tools – gparted, gdisk, fdisk, and cfdisk. Out of familiarity and point-and-click ease of use, I chose GParted.
This is a screen shot of GParted’s main interface. It shows the partitions created during an attempt to use the installer’s automated disk partitioning tool. All are extended partitions, which doesn’t really make any difference. Just something I think you should know. In any case, deleting those existing partitions from a previous attempt and creating new ones was not a problem.
Exiting GParted dropped me back to the installer’s main interface. Time to assign file systems to partitions. This screen shot shows the process of assigning file system to the root partition and the file system options.
Clicking Next on the previous step got me to the step shown in this screen shot. Since there was just one partition left, aside from the Swap partition, it gets assigned to /home. But the Device menu is empty. Maybe clicking on the Gerate and/or Freitext buttons will make something happen.
Clicking on the Gerate button did the trick. With the relevant partitions assigned file systems, I continued with the rest of the installation.
Actual package installation took just about 3 minutes.
Success! But the attempts to get there was frustrating. I don’t know what, if any, advantage a browser-based installer brings to the table, but whatever it is, the interface needs to be more intuitive. The one localization issue I encountered is minor, but the interface needs to be more polished.
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