2011-03-08

A Disappointing Review of Bodhi Linux 0.1.6

A little under a year ago, Jim Lynch of Desktop Linux Reviews posted a highly critical review of Kubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx"; I found many of his criticisms to be either easily fixed or extremely petty, especially the inscrutable emphasis on the lack of Canonical branding. Well, I'm back to say that I've come across another poor review of another Ubuntu-based distribution: this time it's Dedoimedo reviewing Bodhi Linux 0.1.6, which I have also checked out before. I like reading Dedoimedo a lot, but this review has really dampened my trust of the author (whose name I do not know and who refers to himself as Dedoimedo on the website) regarding Linux distribution reviews. Follow the jump to see why.



Let's start from the top. One key point in all of this is that Dedoimedo did not actually consider reviewing Bodhi Linux; lead developer Jeff Hoogland asked him to do so, and he courteously complied. I hesitate to say this, but that makes the rest of the review seem a bit "forced".
He does praise Bodhi for presenting the choice of different user styles before logging into the live session, but that seems to be where the praise ends.

Then the problems start. First of all, when were metallic decorations cheap? Dedoimedo's own reviews of Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME and gOS 3.1 praise them for their metallic themes, and the theme in Bodhi isn't that much different. It even has a bit of the glassiness Dedoimedo praised in PC-BSD 7.1 and gOS 3.1. So what gives?
Next, I agree that it's a little weird to not have any screenshot tool at all. I had to find the Scrot CLI screenshot tool myself, which took a little time.
Next comes Samba issues. Dedoimedo has reviewed many other distributions which didn't do Samba quite right, yet he's never knocked those distributions as hard as he seems to have knocked this one just for Samba. Why? Also, he seems to imply that Mozilla Firefox 4 being included in beta stage is a bad thing, even though he has tried an even earlier beta with highly favorable results. It seems like a whole lot more pointless hate.

Next comes an issue with Mozilla Firefox 4 when first opened that's an artifact of the remastering process. Jeff Hoogland has acknowledged the problem and promised a fix with the next release.
After that comes multimedia. Dedoimedo has tested plenty of distributions where multimedia programs and codecs were not present out-of-the-box, yet those were never compared to toilet bowls. It seems like needless hate and more insults to add to injuries. Admittedly, the distribution could have done a better job pointing users to the right place (either Synaptic Package Manager or the Bodhi online repositories) to install such software, considering that other distributions do in fact point users to the package manager, but Dedoimedo claiming to not know how to install a multimedia package in Ubuntu sounds a lot like Greta Van Susteren of FOX dumbing herself down to her viewers despite her having played an extremely complicated violin piece (among other things) in a beauty pageant. Puh-lease. Could you at least try to figure out how things like package management might work if they don't show themselves? I would be much happier reading something like, "As it turns out, Bodhi Linux has its own repositories online, and installing packages from here is a snap. Unfortunately, getting here took a bit of searching and time, and it won't be obvious to new users how new packages are installed. Advice to the developers: when packages are missing, make it clear how they can be installed."
Next comes an additional theme complaint, which I won't dwell upon any further.
After that comes another package management complaint, which I just mentioned above.

He then complains about the stripped-down nature of the installer compared to the standard Ubuntu installer. That's because the installer is Ubiquity as modified by Remastersys (which I think is what Jeff Hoogland used to make Bodhi Linux), so it doesn't have some of the newer features of the latest Ubuntu installer. Considering that Dedoimedo has recently tested other new distributions that also use Remastersys which, as far as I know, also are missing those features, why is he hating on Bodhi even more?

Next come a couple post-installation rants, starting with the size of the ISO file compared with the dearth of programs installed. Consider that a barebones Ubuntu installation is itself around 350 MB, so this isn't really a surprise. Also consider that other Ubuntu-based distributions Dedoimedo has tested all start at least around 600 MB, even the lightweight ones like #!. The fact that Bodhi Linux is as small as it is and is still based on Ubuntu is all the more amazing. Also, Puppy Linux is a totally different distribution branch, which is why it can be so small. Finally, the unsigned key issue happens even in Ubuntu and Linux Mint with third-party software that does have signing keys, so why he's harping about it here is beyond me.
Next comes audio issues. I didn't install Bodhi Linux, so I can't speak about audio post-installation, but I will say that it worked fine for me during the live session.

Next comes other issues. Supposedly ALT+TAB window switching didn't work; I'm pretty sure it worked for me when I tried Bodhi Linux.
After that comes the lack of focus on the active window when it is clicked. As far as I remember, that wasn't an issue for me either during the live session, though I could be mistaken.
Next comes the issue of maximized windows covering the top panel. I had this issue too, but hovering the cursor at the top of the screen brings the top panel out again, though I'm sure this would be another complaint area for Dedoimedo.
Finally, he touches upon the issue of odd disk notation. Huh. I never noticed that before.

Dedoimedo concludes by calling Bodhi Linux "pointless". Sure, there are a lot of Ubuntu-based distributions out there, but not one is based on a current Ubuntu release and uses the Enlightenment E17 WM. How is that pointless?
Next comes the issue of included programs. Bodhi Linux has two package management options, neither of which Dedoimedo even bothered to touch upon. Mozilla Firefox 4 is included, which is a big plus. With a browser and a package manager, users can visit the websites they want and get the software they need. It's true that it's nice to see a whole bunch of programs available out-of-the-box, but the point of Bodhi Linux is minimalism: minimalism like Arch, not like #!.
And when did 300 MB have to get removed? Oh, did he mean 300 MB from the standard Ubuntu installation? Well, isn't that the point?
And finally, Bodhi Linux hasn't reached a 1.0 release yet, so yes, it technically is still a testbed.

To sum up, there were a couple of places where I agreed with Dedoimedo, but on the whole, the review seemed incredibly petty and had an almost "Oh noes! Linux isn't Windows! It sucks so much!" feel to it. I'm not going to say it's useless, because it is a reviewer's honest opinion of the distribution. That said, if Dedoimedo had spent half the time spent whining on figuring out how package management works and reading about the goals of the distribution, his time would probably have turned out much better. (And for the record, that's what plenty of commenters said about my review of Slackware 13.1. Yes, I agree. But I'm shocked that while I said those things about Slackware, which is still relatively unknown territory for me, Dedoimedo said these things about an Ubuntu-based distribution, with which he has much experience.)
Finally, as Dedoimedo said, bravo to Jeff Hoogland for allowing this article to be published and taking this criticism with relative equanimity.
I'll continue reading Dedoimedo for the foreseeable future, but if I see another article like this in the near future, that readership shall end.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the support mate.

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  2. @Jeff91: Anytime, good sir. I did see a lot of commenters on your blog, however, that needlessly piled hate on Dedoimedo much the same way that Dedoimedo needlessly hated on Bodhi Linux, so I figured I should at least attempt to analyze the situation in a somewhat more levelheaded manner. You've just read the conclusions of that. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I too read the review that Dedoimedo did of Bodhi Linux and I also noted that there seemed to be an awful lot of hate going it's way. I have used Bodhi, and I can see its principles, you want Thunderbird as your only e-mail client, go ahead. You want Clementine, fill your boots! It also got me thinking, has this guy reviewed the net install of Arch?! Man you don't even get X!! What would he have made of Ubuntu Warty Warthog?

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  4. @Emyr Bateman: Actually, he has reviewed older Ubuntu variants and he has created installation and configuration guides for more advanced distributions like Slackware. I think his focus has shifted drastically since then to reflect a newbie's view of Linux (which I do here, because I am one) even to the point of implying "Help! Linux isn't Windows!" (which I try not to do). Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Something about that review just didn't seem right. The unnecessary sarcasm and comments made it sound like propaganda so I had to check it out for myself.

    I could see a lot of work has gone into it. The only thing I didn't like was the learning curve, which I'm sure is just E-17. But that's not permanent, obviously. It becomes a non-issue once you've learned it. I suggest everyone try it for themselves before dismissing it as a pointless or broken OS.

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  6. @Juniper: I can also attest to the fact that Enlightenment E17 has a bit of a learning curve. That said, it seems like Dedoimedo has of late become averse to distributions that involve even the slightest bit of learning on the part of the user. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. Well the fuss that dedo's negative review of Bodhi kicked up has actually prompted me to:
    a) try it out - not terribly impressed, it has some potential but I'm edging towards a pointless rating.
    b) write it up as a review in the wordpress blog I'd almost forgotten I set up.
    https://tbeermonster.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/on-bodhi/

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  8. @T_Beermonster: I think the real issue was, more than his criticisms, the excessive and extreme snark and sarcasm. Also, a lot of the issues that you mentioned, including the presence of the "Install Bodhi" icon post-installation have to do with the remastering process using Remastersys. Hopefully Jeff Hoogland will eventually be able to manually remaster it such that artifacts like this aren't left over. Thanks for the comment!

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  9. I read the Dedoimedo's review, but can't see any hatred. Maybe you like very much Bodhi and feel that you should defend it? I know sometimes I do. The distro just didn't work for him or his taste. I tried it too but I still find e17 to be buggy and that's not Bodhi's fault. It completely froze on me twice (on a virtual machine and on a regular installation, different computer). E17 has some nice effetcs and I'm guessing cool technology underneath, but its gui design has its quirks (example: I still don't get the gigantic white menu and the tiny little icons/text where you choose the launcher icons for the dock when you first launch e17). I like Bodhi being minimal but I can have that with ubuntu-minimal-cd or even better with Arch, considering I won't install e17. Maybe e16 would be a more solid base (although less spectacular)? After all, isn't e17 still under heavy development (except for the EFL libs)?

    Anyway, sorry for my lousy English ;-)

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  10. @Dimitris: If you find E17 (or Bodhi) to be buggy and its GUI to be quirky, that's totally fine by me. My issue with that review was that Dedoimedo was essentially holding Bodhi to an artificially higher standard, so that he could excoriate it more when it did some things poorly but no worse than any other distribution that he had tested before; plus, the snarkiness when pointing out its flaws was just excessive when compared to how he has pointed out flaws in other distributions. Also, I'm pretty sure E16 is deprecated, and E17 is supposed to reach a final release pretty soon. Thanks for the comment!

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