2010-10-02

Review: wattOS R2

Main Screen and Main Menu
The only review of a lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution I've done before this is of #! 9.04.01. I was looking around to see if there are any others, and I came across wattOS.
wattOS R2 is based on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" and uses LXDE. From other reviews of this distribution that I have read, the thing that sets it apart is its comprehensive set of power management tools (hence the name).
The other reason I wanted to test this is because I wanted to try to make a "light" version of my Fresh OS respin. Yeah, I know this is based on Ubuntu while the regular version is based on Debian, but I've heard murmurs in the wattOS forums of the next wattOS version being based on Debian anyway. Anyway, this means that I will also be testing the installation procedure as well as a few other things post-installation.
I tested this in VirtualBox with 256 MB of RAM, as I wanted to test the performance of this lightweight distribution under a lower resource environment. Follow the jump to see how all of this goes.
Boot Menu
The boot and startup time is quite fast even with just 256 MB of RAM, and the nice boot menu theme is an added bonus. The boot splash engine is Plymouth, as in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx", but for some reason it doesn't display an image but it displays 3 differently-colored progress bars at the bottom much like Fedora 12 does (if the graphics rendering isn't quite right; if it is, the boot splash animation is of the outline of the Fedora logo filling up with the Fedora logo). I don't know if this is intentional in keeping with the lightweight nature of the distribution or if this is a glitch. The login manager is SLiM (with a pretty-looking background) probably for the aforementioned reasons.
The desktop looks to be standard-issue LXDE, with an icon linking to the home folder (called "My Documents", which I assume is to make Microsoft Windows users feel more at home, which is fine), as well as icons linking Mozilla Firefox, Claws Mail, Rhythmbox, and Empathy (an instant messaging program).
Mozilla Firefox
A quick spin of Mozilla Firefox showed that most proprietary codecs seem to be included out of the box; however, loading media-intensive sites caused it to crash and close without a warning of any kind, and I assume that's because of the (intentional) dearth of RAM. In terms of other applications, AbiWord and Gnumeric are also included, which is nice. The default file manager is PCManFM. Strangely, F-Spot is the default photo manager, considering there are many other lightweight photo managers (e.g. Shotwell, Fotoxx) that would better fit the character of this distribution.
It is at this point that I go looking for those awesome power management tools, and I find out that they aren't there. Are they added during the installation procedure and available post-installation? More on that later.
AbiWord with Gnumeric rolled up
The installation is standard Ubuntu. There isn't a whole lot to say here about that, though the pretty slideshow is replaced by a small window with a progress bar, which is fine.
The desktop post-installation looks the same, and another look around the application menu shows that there are no power management tools of any kind present. What the...? Am I blind? Am I missing something here? It seems like though the name "wattOS" has stuck, the focus of this distribution has changed. While it's certainly a very fine and capable LXDE distribution, it has lost its identity by dropping the power management program. Or maybe it's called "wattOS" because it generally consumes less power...? I don't know, but I feel a little disappointed and cheated.
PCManFM and Installer
It is at this point that I started tweaking the desktop to have a more "Elementary" feel. The LXPanel is already themed out-of-the-box in that way, which is nice. I downloaded the icon and GTK+ themes and installed them using the Appearance and Openbox Configuration utilities. I also installed the DMZ cursor themes (the default in Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and many other distributions) because the default X cursors look really old and ugly. After this, I decided to use Remastersys (which, interestingly enough, is included out-of-the-box) to make the respin, but halfway into the process, I realized that I had forgotten to move the important configuration files and folders from the home folder to /etc/skel/, which is required for Remastersys to incorporate changes to the desktop in the respin. It was too late to cancel the operation, so I let it finish and then I deleted the ISO file and moved the necessary files and folders from the home folder to /etc/skel/; after this, I tried again. This time, while the process went smoothly, the ISO file was nowhere to be found. It seems that after the first run, Remastersys needs the ISO file to remain in the original folder for it to create future ISO files properly. Even changing the working directory and reinstalling Remastersys don't help. This is a problem I encountered when respinning Linux Mint "Debian" into Fresh OS. As it's not especially tedious, I just reinstalled wattOS and redid all of my desktop tweaks, and this time I moved all of the necessary files and folders to /etc/skel/ before using Remastersys. However, it didn't work even this time, so instead of using the Dist option, I used the Dist-ISO option, and this successfully created an ISO file. Using VirtualBox's shared folder functionality, I copied that ISO onto my host Linux Mint partition and tested it in VirtualBox.
Main Screen, Customized
The ISO file seems to work fine, though the Dist-ISO option seems to leave out some files here and there, and this seems to have resulted in some applications' and places' icons going MIA. Also, the username is either "guest" or "live", and the password is either "password" or blank. Finally, for some reason, although I replaced F-Spot with Shotwell and Empathy with Pidgin, the Empathy icon is still present (but non-functional) on the desktop. Other than that, it works. Yay! (Hopefully I can get these issues sorted out in the future.) I have put it on SourceForge under the original Fresh OS page as Fresh OS Light.
PCManFM and Mozilla Firefox, Customized
Overall, I think wattOS is a great distribution that is highly customizable and is a great way to revive an old computer with modern software. I do still feel slightly cheated by the absence of the power management tools. I highly recommend anyone to try it out. (See? I did include the download link this time!)

5 comments:

  1. I wrote the power management gui originally for wattos, but haven't really had time to work on it in the last year or so. It needs to be updated to support ext4 and I need to rework it so it can be packaged as a deb. I'm assuming that's why biff left it out of this release. Hopefully I'll have time soon to get it back up to date.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I must try this one out. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @iggy_koopa: Thanks for the information. I look forward to reviewing the next version of wattOS, when the power management tool returns!
    @Barista Uno: Definitely do try it out!
    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi all..I am the maintainer of wattOS....the tool is included in the release reviewed. In the wattOS R2 release notes on the forum in the web site it outlines how to add your user to the "powermanagers" group and logout and log back in and it will be a lighting bolt in the panel at the bottom.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @biff: I should probably read the release notes before using. Thanks for the tip!

    ReplyDelete