Zenwalk Linux is one of the other Slackware based distributions I’m taking for a test drive. Zenwalk 7.0 came out back in March, with a Gnome edition two months later. It is available in 5 editions – Standard (Xfce), Live, Core, Gnome, and Openbox. For this review, I have been using the Standard edition.
It installs with a curses based installer, which is a straightforward affair. I chose to use my whole hard drive for the install, so I didn’t really get a sense of how the partitioning would seem to a new user.
Zenwalk is one of the “one application per task” distributions. Among the included applications that get installed are Libreoffice 3.3.1, GIMP 2.6.1, Pidgin, Brasero, Geany, gThumb, xSane, Transmission, Icecat (Firefox), and Icedove (Thunderbird). Some of these will be updated by the usual process.
Zenwalk uses “netpkg” to install, remove, and update applications, which although it does feature categories, doesn’t really distinguish among security updates, bug fixes, and just regular updates. The term on the package manager is “Modified”. To get the most out of the repository, enable “extra packages”.
The Zenwalk wiki has a helpful, albeit slightly out of date, webpage on using the netpkg program – check it out here.
Although the netpkg program has less features than Synaptic, it works well enough. Applications are listed by category, and there is a search feature.
The repository is small, yet still includes a fair number of games (and emulators), as well as serious applications. Zenwalk’s wiki has a Games section that lists all of the ones that you can get. There is also a Games subsection in the Zenwalk forums.
I didn’t see Blender or Codeblocks in the repositories, but did find Lyx (LaTex word processor), Ardour, Audacity, Hydrogen, Avidemux, and the Compiz libraries (although I didn’t try to set that up). KDE is available, at version 4.5.5, which isn’t too far behind.
The root account features an extra set of controls not available to users:
Also, notice the warning about being root:
Things I like:
- Like Salix OS does, Zenwalk includes the great roguelike game “Ancient Domains of Mystery” in its repositories.
- Youtube videos and Apple movie trailers run just fine out of the box.
- The root account gets a visual reminder when working in the file manager (see the screenshot above).
- there were a decent amount of games and emulators in the repositories.
- Icecat features a Google main page that uses https: – secure encrypted – by default. I didn’t even realize Google was trying this out (for searches only). Also by default, Icecat displays the cookies each site is sending so you can choose which to block. This can be turned off if it becomes annoying, but it’s a nice wake-up to get you aware just how many cookies get sent to your browser!
Things I didn’t like:
- The version of Icecat remained in the 3.6 range, which meant that Pandora Radio refused to play, and Yahoo mail wouldn’t use their newer interface. I also had to use Opera to add pictures to this review, because WordPress gave me an IO error using Icecat. I could install a newer version manually, of course. I just wish the repositories were more up to date.
- A few games and applications didn’t want to run after installation, even though they were in the menu. There weren’t many, but trying to run from the command line revealed missing dependencies.
- I attempted to install the Wine software several times and it never succeeded. Salix was better in this respect.
- Setting up a printer is not nearly as simple as it is in the more well known versions of Linux. I got an error message stating that the printing service wasn’t available, even though the control center showed that it was running. I did install the HP Device Manager utility (hplip), and that simplified most of the task, but failed with a question abut whether the user was part of the “sys” group.
- The documentation seems a little old. Their main manual doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2008, and they don’t have one for the newest edition. The webpage featuring the Zenwalk User Repository also seems to have some outdated information.
In the end, Zenwalk Linux may be quite good for some people, but I found a number of minor issues that just demonstrate a lack of the polish and ease of use that I’m used to in some of the more well known versions of Linux like Fedora, Linux Mint, or Mandriva.
I’m going to look at Vector Linux for a few days next, and then spend several weeks using Fedora Linux 16.