Friday, December 9, 2011

Distro Hoppin`: Semplice 2.0 Beta 1.1


Good day, people who visit my site! It is with great pleasure that I invite you to yet another pleasant reading break. The theme? As always, my latest visit into the open source awesomeness that is GNU/Linux. I discovered Semplice while reading Distrowatch's Weekly and I was drawn by its purple background. Yep, I am not ashamed to admit it! Staaaaart wearing purple, wearing purpleee. And it's not even Ubuntu's kind of purple, it's the cool purple, lilla, mauve even. Yes, I like mauve. Let's call it mauve. Mauve Linux. Mauve OS. Score!

Semplice is based on Debian and its main goal is to provide a....... try to guess...... simple environment! Well that's certainly a to-the-point naming. Well done! Also, they try to make it fast, lightweight and coooool. I think the latter is 50% accomplished by the mauve background alone and the rest by the Steve Jobs quote that appears when you power up the system: "Stay hungry, stay foolish".

With the help of any distro hopper's best friend, unetbootin, I managed to save yet another CD (actually I didn't, more on that later) and host the ISO onto an USB stick.

Like all modern distros, Semplice offers a live edition with which you can play around without getting the Heebie Jeebies related to messing with partitions. Sadly, the live edition is the only one I was able to test, as the installer gave an error right before starting the actual copying of the files. And yes, that equals a destroyed bootloader, as the partitions were already formatted. And here comes the reminder to not use this software on production machine, as it is still in Beta.

I did manage to go through all of the installation steps, and while they pose no challenge to a somewhat experienced Linux user, they might be a bit of a hassle for newbies. Still, there are a bunch of automatic partitioning schemes available, including using the free space and replacing other OSes.

I am sure that the final release will provide a solid installer, but until then let's focus on how Semplice handles the desktop experience. And yes, I did burn the ISO to a CD as well, just in case there was a problem with installing from USB.

The first time you boot Semplice, you will stare at the screen for at least 1 more minute and wait for it to finish loading, before realizing that it actually did finish loading. Why? Because there is only one thin, transparent bar at the bottom and nothing more. The rest is... mauve!

So, starting from the left, application switcher, Cairo Composite Manager (its icon is a bug), network manager, volume control, a handy clipboard manager and time/date.

The menus are gracefully hidden under a right click on the desktop. But what if you have a maximized window and you need to bring up the menu. Do you have to minimize it in order to get to what you need? Nope! You can just as well right click on the bottom panel (even on the minimized applications tabs) and the menu will appear.

So what does Semplice offer out of the box? At the top of the menu there are 2 entries for the ROXTerm terminal emulator and the lightweight Chromium web browser. The "Applications" menu is loaded with the usual bunch of accessories, GNU Paint for simple doodling (even though there are "people" who can create masterpieces with just the basic tools offered by such programs) and some cool effects, Claws mail client, Pidgin for awesome instant messaging, the gFTP client, Abiword and Gnumeric for "officing", Exaile for audio playback and that's pretty much it. Oh, there's a nifty little "Program manager" that lets you kill running applications.

PCManFM 0.9.9 provides a fast, but full-featured way to browse folders and mount Windows partitions or external drives. There is one problem though: you have to access them by way of the left-hand "places" pane; if you want to open them from inside the main "Computer" navigation window, Semplice won't know how to do that.

Semplice comes preloaded with Flash and MP3 support. Audio files in this format can be played back in GNOME Mplayer, but oddly enough, Exaile complains about the lack of a Gstreamer plugin and refuses to play them. Pity.

An interesting feature has been added to the menu: "Extensions", which currently hosts only one: Exaile. If the program is open, you can control the playback by going to this menu, rather then switching to the app itself. I would prefer to control my playlist by using the multimedia keys on my keyboard, but no such luck. While the option exists inside the volume control panel and is backed by two engines: Hal and Xlib, neither made my keys respond.

I like the default greyish theme, so I didn't feel the need to change anything, but the look and feel of the desktop can be customized in detail: colors, icon theme, mouse cursor, fonts, toolbar style/size, etc. You can also change the wallpaper, but who would really want to get rid of the mauve?

As this distro is based on Debian, installing extra software is a breeze with the included Synaptic Package Manager. I did experience some "host unreacheable" errors that didn't let me install everything I wanted, but I'm sure that is not a problem if the distro is installed on the HDD.


There's certainly a lot to iron out in Semplice if the team wants to have a successful stable release. Nevertheless, the direction they're going is a welcomed retreat from all the "revolutions" that are happening in the Linux desktop world. If you can't handle all those changes, take a vacation with Semplice or any other "simple" distro and wait for the dust to settle. But for now, goodbye Semplice, and thank you for all the mauve!

Go ahead, download it! 32-bit and 64-bit. Thank you for reading, folks and see you soon! Hopefully. If you have any suggestions/inquiries/additions/chit-chats, don't hesitate and contact me either through the comments box down below or at itlure at gmail dot com. Have a great day!

1 comment:

  1. Well another Debian re-spin. I haven't gotten much from this release either, mirroring your own experience though,
    I'll wait for the first 'alpha'...