Saturday, April 9, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Saline OS 1.3

Iiiii've been working at the saaaline aaaall the live looong daaaay. Actually, that's a lie, as this Debian-based operating system is quite easy to install, setup and, once that is done, it lets you run about your daily computing routine.

But first of all, you will need a blank DVD or an USB stick with at least 1 GB of space, as the ~900 MBs of data won't fit on a trusty old CD. Well, at least we're still far from BluRay-size distros. :D

As pretty much the de facto nowadays, Saline comes with a live environment with which you can play around and see if you like it and if it likes you and your machine. Just like a blind date; no obligation to meet for a second time.

Everything went well, so I invited Saline OS into my hard drive. I did that by double clicking "Remastersys Installer" on the desktop. I think renaming it to "Installer" would've been a good idea, since Xfce only shows the first 8 letters of each shortcut, leading to a confusing "Remaster..." title, which can be a bit newbie unfriendly. Sure enough, once the user gets curious enough and highlights the icon, it will all be revealed. Moreover, there is also a link to the installer inside the "System" category within the Applications menu.

On the ease of use scale, I would rate the installation process at about 3.5 out of 5. But, if you are ready to step on your pride and actually open the UserManual.pdf, (come on, no one's looking) the process will go on much more smoothly and less trial-and-error-ish. Don't worry, there are no terminal thingies involved. :D

The installation didn't take too long and off I went to test out the now "resident" distro. The booting stage gets you to the desktop in about 20 seconds, which is quite fast in my experience.




A bunch of fishies (the wallpaper) give you a warm, happy feeling, until you realize they are actually in a fishtank and start pondering about whether true freedom exists or we are all surrounded by invisible walls we cannot pass through. Come on, you can cry, I won't tell.

Adding to the eye-candyness, this Xfce version comes with its own desktop compositor, allowing for smooth, real transparency effects when moving windows, without having to install a proprietary graphics card driver.

Xfce + Saline like their fonts to be big and bold, be they on the desktop or inside various menus. At the top, a panel gives access to the Applications menu, the app switcher, notification area and clock. The bottom looks empty, but, as Dr. House might have taught you, everybody (and everything) lies. Hovering the mouse pointer over that area reveals another dock-like panel filled with all sorts of applications and the trash at the far right. Sadly, if you use the trash a lot, you will find out that, while dragging a file, hovering over the bottom won't make the panel show, thus leaving you unable to recycle whatever you're holding. To be fair, it is pretty realistic. What trashcan in your house lifts its cover automatically when you pass your hand above it? Eh, I'm sure there's already a patent on that idea.

Obviously, you can make the panel not autohide, or you can create a Trash desktop icon, or you can simply delete the file using the right click menu. BUUUT! And I'm not sure if this is an Xfce or Saline bug, the files that you delete do get to the trash, but they also leave a "ghost" that can't be deleted and disappear only after a restart of the session (login-logout) UPDATE: As "bohu" said in the comments section, there is a much simpler solution: just press F5 - the universal "refresh" key. Thanks!

Though not visible on a paneled workspace switcher, there are two desktops through which you can switch either by dragging a window to either side of the screen, or by scrolling up or down using your mouse wheel (the scrolling has to be done while hovering the desktop). Surely, a very useful feature.


Saline OS comes with a bunch of applications that will ensure a rather complete workstation. What's suspiciously missing is the flash player plugin in the Chromium browser, but that's easily solved by downloading and installing the .deb file from Adobe's website.

The file and folder handling is done by Thunar 1.0.2, a featureful, but still lightweight alternative to Nautilus. There is also a "Open terminal here" option in the contextual menu, so you won't 'cd' as much.

If you have other OSes in your computer, you will probably want to access their partitions from inside Saline. Sadly, they won't show up inside Thunar and thus you will wind up hunting for a solution inside the Applications menu and you probably won't guess that an app called "Gigolo" will provide the entryway to those other partitions, especially when there are no tooltips popping out to give usage hints for each program. But, surprise, surprise, it does! Hohoho.


The GIMP and fotoxx take the spotlight inside the Graphics category. I would've also liked to see Simple Scan instead of Xsane, but hey, once you have used it a couple of times, you will be scanning like a pro. Oh and by the way, my Canon Pixma MP250's scanner works out of the box, no problem.


What doesn't work is the USB connection between my Canon A550 camera and the computer. The solution, in my case, was to pop the memory card inside one of those nifty dirt-cheap card readers and poof, I got my pictures. Still, Saline gets a minus in the hardware recognition area.

Eh, if we're here, why not also tell you about printing with the aforementioned Pixma. Saline does see it, but warns that it can't find drivers. A quick trip to the Canon website led me to the driver and I was able to install it using the terminal. Though the company's effort is appreciated, you should know that there aren't as many printing options compared to the Windows driver - for one, there's only one quality setting - normal. Yes, you can search the Internet for custom PPDs, but seriously Canon, if you do make a Linux driver, at least do it right.

The Multimedia section is pretty well covered with Cheese, Parole Media Player, Rhythmbox, Sound Recorder, VLC and Xfburn. Avi files, MP3 files, all played just fine and dandy. Jumping down to the Network category, I was delighted to see Pidgin as the bundled IMing app.


As more and more distros these days, Saline opts for Chromium as the default web browser, which guarantees great speeds, lightweightness and also a handful of crashes! Yay crashes!! Mostly related to flash, obviously.

Torrenting is handled by Transmission, and XChat is there to guide you through the Forgotten Realm of IRC - FRoIRC. Finally, you can unload your email and RSS worries in Icedove's hands.


The Office area looks crowded, but don't panic, it's only Oracle's Open Office suite for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, etc. Of course, we also have a Dictionary and two calendars: Osmo - the full-featured one and Orage, the less-but-plenty-featured one.


Keeping the OS up to date is easy as pie, though not as pretty as in other distros. Just click the "AutoUpdate" icon (the two blue arrows sniffing eachothers tails) in the top right corner, panic when the terminal comes up, unpanic when it asks you a simple YES and NO question, accept the deal and watch the updates flow through Saline's veins. Yoohoo!



Salt is yummy! Unless you are hypertensive, in which case salt is yucky!

Yep, yep, I really loved spending some time with Saline OS and I think this could be a keeper. Super fast boot time, a lot of applications installed and another gazillion waiting in Synaptic plus a responsive, light desktop can win a lot of users. Obviously, it's not perfect. A tad friendlier installer, Thunar auto-integration of other filesystems and fixing the unimportant, but annoying "ghost" bug, plus better communication with USB devices could make Saline even more likeable.

Oh, heck, just download it and see if you two can work! :D

6 comments:

  1. Thanks,
    Saline has a nice look to it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. To kill the ghost images, click the desktop and then press F5 to refresh. This bug is supposedly fixed in XFCE 4.8 which is in Debian Experimental now and should be coming down to Debian Testing soon.

    I use Saline with Debian testing repos. I will share my sources.list if you like.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, man. :)) Well, thanks a lot and yes, I would like your sources.list.

    ReplyDelete
  4. ############################
    # Testing US mirror:
    deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ testing main contrib non-free
    # deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ testing main contrib non-free

    # Testing Security Updates
    deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free

    #Testing Proposed Updates
    deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian/ testing-proposed-updates main contrib non-free
    ############################


    ## Debian Unstable ##
    ## (rarely used, sometimes I enable it just to see what is new,###
    ## but I'm never brave enough to install anything from it) ###
    # deb http://http.us.debian.org/debian/ unstable main contrib non-free
    ############################


    ## Experimental ##
    ## (never used. don't know why I even keep this in the list ##
    # Debian experimental http://wiki.debian.org/DebianExperimental
    # deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian/ experimental main contrib non-free
    ############################


    ## Multimedia ##
    # Marillat For info visit http://www.debian-multimedia.org
    deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org testing main non-free
    ############################


    ### Frostwire ###
    # Frostwire http://apt.debianchile.org/frostwire/
    deb http://apt.debianchile.org/frostwire testing main
    ############################

    ### Wine ###
    # deb http://www.lamaresh.net/apt squeeze main
    ############################

    ### Linux Mint Debian Edition ####
    ### I get firefox from here and nothing else ###
    deb http://packages.linuxmint.com/ debian main upstream import
    ############################

    ReplyDelete
  5. for the Multimedia, Frostwire and Mint repos you need the keyring. Multimedia and Mint the key is in the repo. For frostwire go to the website to get it. http://apt.debianchile.org/frostwire/

    ReplyDelete
  6. To kill the ghost images, if you are tired of F5, simply install gamin (no setup needed). This does the trick.

    ReplyDelete