2011-11-13

A Disappointing Review of #! 10 "Statler"

Before I say anything else, I'd just like to say that the reason why I haven't posted anything in 2 weeks has been due to me being quite busy with classes, my UROP, and other related stuff. I will definitely have another post out this week (and it'll actually be a bit like this one), but I can't really promise much more. After all, I did say that I couldn't count on posting stuff regularly during the semester.

Anyway, I haven't done a post like this in a while; in fact, it's been half a year, when I criticized Dedoimedo's review of Bodhi Linux 0.1.6. There, I criticized the author for holding Bodhi Linux to an artificially higher standard and then trashing it from there. Well, this time around, it's another Dedoimedo review that's caused me to write this: this time, it's the review of #! 10 "Statler". Follow the jump to read my issues with the review.



"If you're used to having shortcuts or some kind of menu, you will feel rather frustrated using this distro. Pretty much all of the settings consists of editing configuration files and reading man pages. Geeky stuff, but I don't enjoy that."

Really now? Nothing has changed in this regard since version 9.04.01. Then again, the author does make clear that over the years, he has become more and more averse to this sort of low-level configuration and would prefer something as point-and-click-y as possible. I'm willing to partially forgive that.

"Among the some annoyances that I encountered: no easy way to disable Touchpad, no easy way to create shortcuts or desktop items, no easy way to configure startup applications. Even adding a non-default wallpaper took a while, as you must add directories before the content will be displayed."

Once again, nothing has changed from version 9.04.01 (except for maybe the trackpad thing, but I'm not sure about that either). The review as a whole says that #! 10 "Statler" has regressed in terms of usability from #! 9.04.01, but even comparing this to the previous review on Dedoimedo, I'm not convinced of that being the case.

But really, the main problem I have with this review came with the description of the installation.

"I was dismayed to learn that you cannot install the system from within the live session. Or perhaps it is possible, but since I could not find the option, the failure level is equal. I had to reboot and choose the text installer, very Debian, very unfriendly.
Now, one of the stages in the installer is checking the CD media. The problem is, if you boot from a USB drive, the installer will not be able to detect it as CD media and this will cause the setup to fail. At this point, Dedoimedo decided he had better things to do, like watching Star Trek TNG, so he quit."

As far as I know, it is true that one must reboot and select the proper menu option upon booting to start the installation process. I don't remember there being an installation option within the live session. Granted, it could be made a bit more clear that a reboot is necessary if one wants to proceed to installing the system. But is it really such a dealbreaker that there's no option in the live session? How much time does such a reboot take — one minute? Is that really such a travesty?

I agree that being forced to use a text installer is pretty user-unfriendly. That said, I recently installed #! on a friend's computer, and I found no such issue; I was able to select the boot option to use the graphical installer, which is basically a rebranded and slightly modified Debian Live GUI installer. That's not so bad now, is it? Maybe the ISO file wasn't written to the USB drive correctly, but there definitely should have been an option to use the graphical installer. Speaking of which, what method did he use to write the ISO file to the USB drive? UnetBootin, MultiSystem, and "dd" should all work correctly, but maybe he tried to use some alternative method, and maybe that's why things didn't work out. In any case, I'd like to see the method used.

It may be the case that the text installer tries and fails to look for a CD, causing the installation to abort. But I think it's safe to say that the author missed the graphical installation option (i.e. it's not that it was missing entirely). The only CD-related issue I had when recently installing #! on that friend's computer (from a live USB made with MultiSystem — I may write about this later in the week, but the story isn't quite finished yet) was near the end: there was a point when the installation kept looking for a CD. I just had to click "cancel" and "back" a few times for it to go away, and the rest of it went smoothly. Maybe if the author tried that, this problem wouldn't have happened.

And overall, my problem is that even when I do try installing distributions in VMs, I usually try to finish the job unless there is a serious roadblock. And even when that happens, I don't let that mar my whole opinion; I also give the distribution whatever credit it deserves for its quality as a live distribution. Here, it seems like the author of that review tried one thing, saw it failed, and never touched it again. I too am guilty of doing that sometimes, but I'd like to think I've gotten better at avoiding such pitfalls; regardless, this is Dedoimedo we're talking about, and Dedoimedo is a pretty well-known and trusted site for Linux reviews. It looks like this time, though, the author went into whiny mode and threw quite a bit of that trust out the window. And that's why I'm disappointed with that review.

14 comments:

  1. The Debian installer is not that to use. It's true on Debian live cd images you have to look a little, no big deal. Crunchbang is designed to be light on resources so you shouldn't expect "point and click." I thought the Dedoimedo review came up short.He should not have done this review unless he was willing to do it right.
    Paul Sams

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Anonymous: Really, my main issue was that he basically stopped halfway through the installation process and called it a day, rather than either trying to finish the job or not worrying about it and just focusing on the live session. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "If you're used to having shortcuts or some kind of menu, you will feel rather frustrated using this distro."
    ...Isn't Openbox known for its use of keyboard shortcuts above all? And what are obmenu, obconf, obkey; except paths to less configuration files editing?
    Igor Ljubuncic's review was utterly biased!

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Anonymous: I think you may have misinterpreted that. "Shortcuts" refer to desktop shortcuts, not keyboard shortcuts, and it is true that Openbox does not natively support desktop shortcuts — one would need to use something like ROX File Manager to enable desktop shortcuts. Also, to be fair, Obmenu, Obconf, and Obkey could be a little better in terms of usability, but I didn't hear a peep out of the author when they were in version 9.04.01, and nothing has really changed since then. I sincerely hope the author gives it a second chance and chooses to review the Xfce edition; that'll probably ameliorate most of the issues, though I also hope he takes the time to actually look for the graphical installation option and try to finish the job. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  5. At first I hated the no shortcuts on the desktop issue. Now I realize that with a key or a right click I have everything I need without browsing through 20 or so desktop shortcuts. 99% of the things I do come up on the right click menu at the top and they never move. Yeah they are text but I'm not using the computer to look at fancy icons. My setup took around 10 min or so and included a dual monitor configuration.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Anonymous: Yeah, even with Linux Mint, the only desktop icons I have are for places like my home folder and the "Computer" (to easily show connected drives); even then, I prefer to use either GNOME-Do or the Linux Mint Menu to reach such items, because those are faster than having to drag the cursor all the way to the top and then double-click. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Actually, I`m a little "disappointed" in you. I`m trying to think of the nicest way to say this, but...who gave you the right to call a fellow blogger out? Maybe he had a bad day or something, I seem to recall you being a little snarky at times in reviews. Come on now, you`re better than this. The Crunchbang fans won`t listen anyway, and Linux newbies sure won`t be checking it out to start with.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Like Neuromancer, same here.

    prashant just cuts the other distro rev'er down w basically NO detailed review of his or her own!!
    Bad form and a failure on prashant's part....just ignore him/her and maybe some quality comments on how to install & use will come back ANOTHER day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Neuromancer: Well why not? I'm simply stating that given the expectations and the past favorable review of #! 9.04.01, and considering that not much of it has regressed since then (in that although the author tries to make it seem like some issues were regressions, they really weren't), the review was a bit disappointing to read. Is there really anything wrong with that? And could you please clarify which reviews of mine were particularly snarky? I usually don't try to be snarky for its own sake; I just give my honest opinions about distributions as I see them, and if they come out snarky, then so be it. Dedoimedo on the other hand has a reputation for snarky writing, and that's actually one of the reasons why I enjoy reading it regularly; I just felt that this review was a bit biased and half-baked.

    @Anonymous: If you took even a little time to look through, you'd see that I have done multiple reviews of #! 10 "Statler", all of them quite favorable. I have also proceeded through the entire installation in a VM, and I am in the process of writing about how I installed it on the computer of a newbie who happily uses it now.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Considering how very long Statler has been out, no one probably gave any weight to his review; I know I didn`t. Never mind. He wrote a pissy article and you wrote a pissy response to it. It happens. It`s the internet. I`ve already forgotten about it. In 10 minutes, so will everyone else, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Neuromancer: In the end, that's probably true. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  12. PV,

    Thank you for your critique of Dedoimedo's review. I distro hopped for years before landing solidly on Crunchbang, and I won't be leaving any time soon. Needless to say, I love it, and I don't think it deserved this review.
    Now, I do understand that any Linux user in their right mind would instantly dismiss his review, but still, bad press is bad press.
    It wasn't so much that his review was negative. I don't mind that at all, his opinion is his, and he has the right to share it. What stung about it was that he didn't give it a fair chance. This isn't a replacement for Fedora, OpenSuse, Mint, or Ubuntu. It's a fun, enjoyable distro for those of us who enjoy playing with Linux, not necessarily expecting it to work the first time, every time. As the motto goes on the Crunchbang website:

    "CrunchBang Linux is not recommended for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. CrunchBang Linux could possibly make your computer go CRUNCH! BANG!..."

    What further put a sour taste in my mouth is that Dedoimedo admitted to not wanting to configure things and expected the distro to "Just Work", and yet he chose to download the openbox version of Crunchbang. The XFCE version is far more user friendly, and is recommended for those users who want the Crunchbang experience without having to edit all of the fun config files.

    @Neuromancer
    As for your your comment, Neuromancer-
    Really? A blogger on the internet doesn't have the right to question another blogger? Dedoimedo posted his review publicly, fully knowing that his review was critical and negative. By your logic, what gave HIM the right to do that to Crunchbang?

    As an adult, with a public profile and with public posts, Dedoimedo is just as entitled to receive criticism as he is to give it.

    I'm sure that if he read your post he would do a literal face->palm. I'm sure he doesn't need you senselessly and needlessly defending his honor.

    -Matt

    ReplyDelete
  13. i use #!CB for a long time, uninterrupted since it's been Debian based and i have never had to configure any file, maybe because i use the xfce version, i don't know!

    it's clean, fast and easy to use, my girlfriend use it and she hates computers.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Matt: You've hit the nail on the head, though I might add that #! Xfce is actually quite easy to use and requires almost no low-level tinkering to get it to run well, and it is a great substitute for other distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and Linux Mint.

    @rikhard: Yup. The friend I mentioned earlier in the comments also is very, very newbish when it comes to computers, yet that friend is using #! fine right now.

    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete