After a long delay due to illness I’m finally back with another review for you. I’m still not feeling too good but I’ve decided to plough on and I hope to have some more new reviews for you ASAP. This is the 3rd part or my trip through Slackware-based distros and today’s candidate is Wolvix 1.1.0 Hunter, I was intrigued to see how it would compare to Zenwalk and Vector which I tested recently. So here’s how I got on…
Distro base – Slackware
Packaging – tar.gz (managed by Slapt-Get)
Linux Kernel – 126.96.36.199
Default Desktop – XFCE 4.4.1
I downloaded the Wolvix CD and fired it up. I was greeted by the Wolvix boot menu, which was a familiar sight having seen the Slackware installer so much lately. I just clicked the enter key to boot and after a minute or two I was greeted with the Wolvix login screen. There was one slight problem though, I couldn’t see any username or password listed to login with. It just wasn’t there anywhere on the screen. I had to reboot the machine and then choose F1 for help from the boot menu. I quickly found in the help text some instructions to use the username “root” and the password “toor”, armed with this information I was able to boot the system again and crucially, log in this time. Now you could say that it’s my fault for not reading the instructions before diving in but as I’ve said previously in this series it’s always been my way and I can’t see what would be so hard about putting the login information somewhere on login screen, just for the Live CD log in I mean.
Anyway, I got there in the end and my next challenge was finding out how to actually install the system. I couldn’t find any install shortcuts on the desktop or on the main menu. After a quick look on the Wolvix web site I read that it’s primerily designed to be a live distribution and installation is still experimental. Having said that it did tell my that the installer could be found under the Wolvix Contol Panel on the System menu. It seems to be quite well hidden away and maybe this is because of the experimental status of the installer, it could be made a lot easier to find though I think. I ran the installer which gave me a warning the software was in development but worked flawlessly I must say. Setting up the partitions was easy, the installer was very simple to use and completed in under 10mins.
VIEW THE INSTALLATION SLIDESHOW
Configuring The System:
One major thing that wasn’t taken care of during the install process was setting up a user account and changing the root password which seems like quite an oversight to me. I suppose if you take the Slackware approach then you expect to do everything yourself but I found both Zenwalk and Vector took care of this. This is probably a result of the fact that Wolvix is designed to be a live CD and they do say up front the installer is still in development. I hope this will be improved in the future as the installer is refined.
I found a guide on the Wolvix website for setting up the system after install so I followed through the steps and logged into the system as root, after that I opened up a terminal and used the “passwd” command to reset the root password. I then used the “newuser” command and followed through the steps to set up an account for general use. It was easy enough to do following the guide from the website but I would’ve been a little lost if I hadn’t had another computer to surf the web for instructions during set up. This is not a criticism of Wolvix particularly as it’s happened with other distros, it’s a learning curve I suppose and now that I’ve done it once I could do it a lot quicker a second time. I say that but in truth next time I will l have forgotten all of this and have to look it up again doh!
One of my main problems with the initial setup was the screen resolution which was set at 1600×1200 and my monitor needs 1440×900, I decided to install the Nvidia drivers for my video card and then I could fix the resolution. I found the Nvidia driver was easy to install using Slapt-Get the package manager which comes with Wolvix. The GUI front end for Slapt is Gslapt and as I’ve mentioned in my Vector and Zenwalk reviews, it’s very similar to Synaptic in Debian and intuitive to use. I rebooted the X server with CRTL-ALT-BACKSPACE and logged into the system again. The new driver was working well but the screen resolution was still wrong. I had to follow the process I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of loading the Nvidia Settings tool as the root user and then setting the resolution I want, finally saving it to the Xorg.conf file. This worked fine and my next step was to look at installing Compiz Fusion.
I searched in vain for guides on how to install Compiz under Wolvix and I discovered after some digging in forums that while it was possible, it required upgrading the version of Xorg and a few other things. I decided to leave it as I can live without 3D desktop effects.
One thing I noticed about Wolvix pretty quickly is there really is an amazing amount of software installed by default, almost everything I normally use was already there. Did they read my mind? For such a small distro it really is well stocked. The usual suspects are there like OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, The GIMP and so on but also things I would normally add later like Gpodder, Inkscape, Comix, gLabels and more. The amount of stuff on the Multimedia menu alone could have kept me happy for a few hours.
The default music manager and player is Exaile which has grown on me a lot lately but it’s still not quite Rhythmbox, that’s a personal preference. Most other media is handled by Mplayer which is not one of my favourite applications but definitely handles it’s job well. I also found Flash, Java and all the plugins I required were already installed in Firefox. This included Mplayer-plugin which is another personal favourite of mine for plaining Quicktime videos and the like.
I got my desktop setup with pretty much everything I needed but I did have a couple of problems with it. A minor one in that I couldn’t work out how to install my printer and a slightly bigger one in that I couldn’t get Skype to work even with the static archive from the Skype site. I probably could have got Skype up and running with a bit more battling and maybe some research though.
Ease Of Installation & Use: 3/5
Community & Documentation: 4/5
Overall I think almost everything you could want is here in Wolvix but there are a few rough edges I think they will iron out in time. It’s not a distro I would really recommend to Linux novices who want an easy introduction to the platform but it does have many stengths. Like all Slackware derivatives it’s stability and security are formidable, it can be challenging at times and as I’ve said before if you want to really learn about Linux it’s probably for you.
In comparison to Vector and Zenwalk I would say Wolvix was the most complete system out of the box for me. The choice of software included in a small disk image is really amazing. Maybe it just suited my tastes but I found it a really good cross-section of applications. Each of these 3 distros has strengths and weaknesses and while that might seem like a cop out I don’t think you can put any one above the others. I think all of them could do better and if you could only take the strengths of all 3 you would have one killer lightweight distro. I’m very demanding though and always think everything can be improved… except maybe Chuck Norris but that goes without saying.
I think Wolvix is developing really nicely and it’s very versatile I have to say, you can use it as a plain LiveCD, you can even embed some data on your disk and save stuff while still using it as a live CD, this works in a similar way to Puppy or Damn Small Linux. Finally, you can do a full hard drive install and I think this is the area where it will expand in the future. The installer is clearly marked as a work in progress and I can’t wait to see where they go with this. At the moment I think Wolvix is a little behind the more established Vector and Zenwalk in it’s development but of the 3 I like it’s direction the best. I’ll be keeping any eye on it for sure. If you want to check it out for yourself follow the link below, you know you want to really.
DOWNLOAD WOLVIX HERE
I should mention the fact that Zenwalk 5.0 came out recently and I reviewed 4.8 over Christmas. I will come back and look at 5.0 when I get chance. To sum up, any one of these distributions would excel on a low spec machine and they can all give you a good introduction to Slackware. It’s not something to take on lightly but if you put in the work you will recieve the rewards. Like all adventures you only get out what you put in.
Where to go next?
I’m not exactly sure which distro I’ll try out next. The health problems lately have thrown a spanner in the works but I will continue that’s for sure. I’ve still got some distributions on CD that I haven’t tried yet, notably Foresight Linux which I’m keen to try out. I also have a copy of Sidux which looks interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for new releases too. If you have any suggestions for distriutions I should try please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best. The adventure goes on… honest 😉