While I was awaiting the final release of Linux Mint 17, I decided to start looking at several other distributions that I had not given much thought to before. The first one on my list was Pinguy Linux. Pinguy is based on Ubuntu, with a lot of customization. When I first installed Pinguy I was pretty impressed with what I saw. In fact, I was wondering whether it could possibly replace my beloved Linux Mint as my standard distribution. The short answer: not yet. Why not? Read on.
For some reason, the developers only term the LTS releases as Full, while ones released in between are called Beta (even when they are based upon a Ubuntu regular release). I used Pinguy 14.04 on my older Gateway M460 laptop that has 2 GB of RAM and an integrated video card.
Pinguy uses the Ubiquity installer from Ubuntu. Installation was quite easy, but I doubt you will need to check the box for 3rd party media, they get installed anyway much like Linux Mint. This is the most recent version of Ubiquity, including support for LVM and encryption should you desire. Your password does get a strength check, and you do not need to re-enter your wireless password when you first boot up.
Pinguy Linux uses a customized GNOME 3 desktop with added Docky, the whisker menu up at the top left, and Conky ready to go. The applications you find in Docky are Firefox, Thunderbird, Xchat, Clementine (music player), VLC (media player), Synaptic package manager, a tweak tool, and the Terminal. Along the top left are the main menu and the currently open program. Over to the right you find GNOME Do, Variety (wallpaper manager), the software updater, the calendar/clock, wireless and volume settings, and finally the control to log out or shutdown the system. Moving the mouse along the left edge of the screen reveals several folders, as seen here:
This is a very convenient way to get to the most used directories in your system, and it stays hidden when not needed. This seems to be a change from previous editions. Also, if you press the Windows/Tux key, the main GNOME grid of applications is accessible. Empathy, Shotwell, LibreOffice Writer, Gnome help, and Firefox are easily started with the left side dock.
Variety, a desktop background switcher, seems to be a very convenient method to really avoid boring wallpaper. It downloads a bunch every so often and changes them out every 10 minutes, or less frequently if you change a setting.
Conky is set up for you, and the control for it is found in the “Other” menu category.
However, much as I like many of the features that distinguish Pinguy from most other Ubuntu based distros, there are a few issues that I have, one being the dealbreaker. I don’t think that installing 15 extensions into Firefox is good at all. You can notice 4 of them right on the toolbar when Firefox opens.
There’s also a number of minor but puzzling questions I have – why is Synaptic on the Dock rather than Ubuntu Software Center? Why isn’t the Software Center listed in one of the main categories? What’s UNetbootin doing there – sure it’s useful, but really, how often does someone create bootable disks? Why is there a distinction between “Other” and “Sundry” and couldn’t some of the latter go into “Acessories” ? Why are there 2 different Tweak tools?
Most of the software installed is great for the typical user, even some less well known ones such as Calibre and Handbrake.
Here’s the menu list:
Accessories: Backups, Contacts, Files, Gedit, GNOME Do, Image Viewer, Shutter, Variety
Games: PlayOnLinux, Steam
Graphics: ebook viewer, image viewer, LO Draw, LRF viewer, Pinta, Rapid Photo Downloader, Shotwell, simple scan
Internet: Deluge, Dropbox, Empathy, Firefox, Remmina (remote desktop control), Skype, Steam, Teamviewer 9, Thunderbird, Xchat.
Office: Calibre, an ebook reader, Libre Office (full suite), wxBanker, Finance Manager
Other: Conky (controls), google2ubuntu, g2u manager, personal file sharing, Plex home theater, Plex manager
Science: LibreOffice Math
Sound/Video: Arista transcoder, Brasero, Clementine, DeVeDe, Filebot, gtkpod, Handbrake, Openshot, Spotify, Videos (a video player), and VLC
Sundry: dconf editor, icedtea controls, main menu
System settings: 20 different controls
The other thing which I wasn’t happy to see was the number of installed applications that don’t appear in any of the regular menu categories – if you don’t hit “all applications” or the GNOME grid, you might not realize just how many you have. Some examples are Onboard, Archive Manager, BleachBit, the calculator, Remastersys, and the Ubuntu Software Center, Also, some of the specialized programs have their own PPA added to the repositories – which some users might not appreciate, although it didn’t bother me as much as the numerous extensions in Firefox did.
Printer support seems excellent:
The default movie player, Videos, detected and auto-ran my DVD of Robocop with no issues. I am glad that VLC is also included as an alternative.
It is awesome that Pinguy comes with both Steam and PlayOnLinux ready to go right after installation. The lack of any other games, especially casual ones, is a little puzzling but not a dealbreaker. The music player Clementine comes pre-equipped with access to over 15 online music sources (as long as you have an account), such as Grooveshark, last.fm, Spotify, Jamendo, and Soundcloud.
Luckily this distro not only has the wealth of the Ubuntu repositories to draw on, it includes Playdeb as well, for extra gaming goodness.
Help and Support
Pinguy has a support forum where you can get questions answered. Also, the GNOME Help documentation is available from the menu.
– a very pretty and distinctive distribution. The wallpapers are unique and there’s even a utility (Variety) to help you manage them.
– Lots of useful programs installed for you out of the box
– my wireless printer was found and added easily
– the touchpad controls are simple and it is easy to turn off
– WAY too many extensions in Firefox
– I’m not totally comfortable with the number of PPAs added to repository sources by default
– quite a few programs that aren’t properly added into the appropriate menu categories
– wireless cut out a few times during a week of use (not sure if this is my laptop, but it’s never happened with any other distro)
At first, Pinguy looked like it might come close to replacing Linux Mint as my favorite Linux distribution. But after the initial pleasure of seeing how much stuff comes with it, I found a number of minor issues and one major problem. I could have overlooked 2 or 3 extensions installed in Firefox; at least one other distro does the same thing. But 15 is simply too much. They introduce too many 3rd party updates and possible bugs into the most-used application in the whole operating system.
The menu also seems incomplete – some entries ought to be in different sections, while several programs aren’t in the main menu at all.
Overall, I feel that this distribution, though very good, still needs some final polish.