2012-06-19

Review: Zorin OS 6 Core

Main Screen + "Zorin OS" GnoMenu
I've looked at Zorin OS before, and I liked what I saw then. That was based on Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", and now the new Zorin OS version 6 is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin", so I'm checking it out.

I haven't paid much attention to Zorin OS until recently because when GNOME 2 was still around, it seemed easy enough to create a Microsoft Windows-lookalike. Now, with GNOME 3, though, that is much more difficult. I saw on DistroWatch a bit about Zorin OS 6 RC, and the release announcement discussed using GNOME 3 and the Avant Window Navigator (AWN) dock with Compiz to recreate the old look. That really piqued my curiosity; that's why I'm doing this review, and because this looks like a possible candidate for long-term residence on my laptop's hard drive, I tried out the 64-bit version and did the more extensive round of tests.

I tried Zorin OS 6 Core 64-bit using a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by the boot splash. Interestingly, the first time that the system booted, I saw a nice, blue, Zorin OS-branded splash screen, but on the second attempt, I was shown a blank screen. Anyway, after that came the desktop.

The desktop looks and operates shockingly like how it did in GNOME 2. AWN forms the bottom panel with, from left to right, GnoMenu as the main menu, DockBarX for icon-only task switching, a notification area that functions almost identically to the sliding indicator applets in recent versions of Ubuntu, a clock, and a system session button. The icon, GTK+, and window decoration themes are identical to before. Notifications are still done with Notify-OSD, although I would have preferred a simple black background for the notifications instead of the weird, garish blue that is used.
Google Chrome + LibreOffice Writer + Desktop Cube
There are a few niggles that I have with the desktop. The biggest of these is that no matter what GnoMenu theme is selected (and the "Lancelot" theme, which is as expected quite close to the KDE Lancelot menu, is included in this), it is not possible to access an application category's contents without clicking. There does appear to be a Linux Mint Menu applet for AWN, but it is said to be quite buggy, and I don't even know how that would work because GNOME 2 and its applets are not supported anymore yet AWN requires the normal Linux Mint Menu for GNOME 2 to be present for it to work in AWN itself.  Other minor issues include the misalignment of some desktop icons as well as the fact that AWN may cover some of the bottom-most icons. Also, clicking on various buttons produces a rather tinny sound effect. I would prefer something a bit softer/smoother or, better yet, no sound effects at all. I realize the sound effects are meant to make the Microsoft Windows users feel a little more at home, but the overall effect of the sounds is that of cheapness.

Google Chrome (not Chromium) is the default browser, and it works pretty well. Most proprietary codecs appear to be included, as YouTube and Hulu worked, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts. Other installed applications include LibreOffice, some GNOME games, GIMP, OpenShot, VLC, and other utilities.


The package manager is the Ubuntu Software Center, though its branding is removed, yielding just "Software Center". Synaptic Package Manager is included as well and can be started by searching for it in GnoMenu, yet it appears to not exist under any particular menu category, which is quite weird.
Skype, Google Talk, Mupen64Plus 1.5, and Redshift all installed and worked properly, which is good, though expected for a distribution based on Ubuntu. I also installed Sushi for file previewing through Nautilus, and that worked well too.

Compiz is the WM used with GNOME 3 here, and all the same effects from before (except for maybe the one where closed windows explode, because now they simple tilt and fade away) are enabled. This also means that the desktop cube is used for switching workspaces. That is bad because the version of Compiz included is the standard one present in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin", and that has the bad bug of momentarily flickering windows from the previous workspace on the new workspace when switching. It would have been nice if the Zorin OS developers could have used a different effect by default to animate the switching of workspaces, because this as it stands creates a bad impression on new users (who very clearly comprise the target audience of Zorin OS).
"Lancelot" GnoMenu
I tried two different solutions. One was to use the PPA for Compiz 0.8.6 that I have talked about before. The other was to use the PPA for upcoming changes to Compiz 0.9.7 made by Daniel Van Vugt; I found this many weeks ago when searching for a solution to the desktop cube flicker issue in Compiz 0.9.7 in Ubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" and its derivatives. Unfortunately, both solutions caused even more error messages in Zorin OS, though they both fixed all issues with Compiz itself.
(For the record, I also tried the pre-proposed Compiz 0.9.7 PPA in Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" MATE. While that did not cause any stability issues, it was apparently incompatible with the latest versions of Emerald and the GTK-Window-Decorator, so in that session none of the windows had decorations. It appears that upcoming version of Compiz has some issues overall, despite fixing other problems with the current stable version of Compiz.)

Zorin OS 6 Core used 620 MB of RAM at idle. While this is a lot, it is important to remember that this is a GNOME 3 environment with Compiz as the WM and AWN as the panel, so there are a lot of resource-intensive processes being run. Thankfully, Zorin OS never felt slow for any reason.
Zorin OS was a little buggy, though. For no apparent reason at all, even when I had made no modification to the running version of Compiz, strange error messages would pop up momentarily. There were no crashes, but I couldn't help but question the stability of Zorin OS running on a hard drive and staying there for many months. Also, when changing the GnoMenu theme, GnoMenu would crash and require a click and a few seconds to reload itself.

That is where my time with Zorin OS ended. The Compiz and stability issues mean that I will, unfortunately, not be making it my next OS. I realize that the Zorin OS website recommends doing a full installation, because it does specifically say that the live session can be less stable, but I don't want to go through my usual song-and-dance again. I do think that this is a great system for newbies, and I can give it a fairly high recommendation (though I would like more stability overall). I should say though that there may be an uncanny valley for Zorin OS, in that it is obviously trying so hard to mimic the look of Microsoft Windows that any hint of negativity stemming from differences from Microsoft Windows will be magnified. It's one thing to have a panel on the bottom with, from left to right, a menu, a task switcher, and a notification area. It is quite another for that menu and task switcher to mimic that of Microsoft Windows 7 to a high degree. In any case, it may be a good idea for users with at least some small level of experience to sit down with a newbie and explain that despite how similar Zorin OS looks to Microsoft Windows, the two are different and there is often nothing that can be done to resolve those differences but to accept and appreciate them.
You can get Zorin OS here.

37 comments:

  1. I have done a quick screenshot preview of Zorin OS 6 Core, and my system used much less memory.

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  2. On another note, PV... most of your text has white highlighting on general grey-ish background. Check the HTML code for this.

    You can delete this message afterwards. :)

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    1. @DarkDuck: I saw your article as well, and I think it's fair to say that between you and me, most Linux distributions use an amount of RAM proportional to what is available. Also, I don't see any issues regarding the text/background on this site, so could you link me to a screenshot of what you are talking about so that I may be able to diagnose the issue better? Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I see the white highlighting on the text too. I can't take a screenshot though because Mint's screenshot ability is all screwed up. I tried to find it in the source code but came up empty handed.

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  4. http://www.filedropper.com/screenshotfrom2012-06-20231933

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  5. Good writeup. I like what they're trying to do with Zorin, and I've tried them last release, and I'll give it another look soon.

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  6. @Jonquil McDaniel, Anonymous: Strangely, I am now seeing it for the first time too. Yesterday, it looked fine. Plus, even now, all the other posts except for this one look fine. For now, I'm just going to hope that the issue goes away after this.

    @Kryten451: I appreciate the support!

    Thanks for the comments!

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  7. I installed it and it works really well. I like it. I'll d/l the paid version to give them a little support $$. Good job guys...

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  8. I'm currently running Zorin 5 on my laptop and despite previous concerns I had about it I really do like it.

    Version 5 is very stable and the compiz effects are excellent without being too much. (A wee bit of jazz).

    I might give version 6 a go over the weekend.

    PS: can anyone provide a link to a good tutorial on the following

    I have a laptop with 2 partitions. One is running zorin the other mint. How do I overwrite just one of the partitions? (For example with another version of zorin).

    When you install a ubuntu based distro it gives options for side by side or over the top but if I already have side by side and just want to overwrite one of the sides (partitions) then it is not clear to me how to do this.

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  9. @Glenn: It is certainly a nice idea to support your favorite distribution, even if the paid version doesn't offer (as far as I've heard) much more than the standard free version.

    @Manic Miner: Zorin OS 5 has nice Compiz effects because it is based on Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", which had a more stable version of Compiz. Compiz appears to have regressed a bit since then, which is rather unfortunate. Also, regarding your question about partitions, I think you may want to specify partitions manually and make your new OS overwrite a single specific target partition.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  10. That white text background problem is caused by "span style="background-color: white;" haven't paid much attention to Zorin OS until recently..." at line 767 if you view the page source. It happens throughout your document for some reason. It's not a highlight, but rather a text background. Hope that helps.

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    1. @Anonymous: That actually helped a lot. I think it should be gone now, and thankfully none of the other articles have that issue. Thanks for the tip!

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  11. First, my hat is off to the programmers who obviously spend a lot of time doing something that so many of us can’t or won’t do, trying to devise a usable operating system alternative to Microsoft products.
    I would like to submit some feedback, though, from the perspective of the end user. I was a long time user of Zorin 5. For the most part I was very pleased with Zorin 5. I really like the desktop effects, especially the ability to easily modify the mouse pointer. As some one with eyesight issues,that was very important to me and Zorin 5 was the only Linux based distribution that I found that allowed this functionality.
    There was one issue that continually bugged me, though with the Zorin 5 environment, the message pane list in Evolution was double spaced. I searched the web for a resolution to this, but never found one.
    So, I was very eager to try the Zorin 6 distribution. However, I was very disappointed in Zorin 6. The ability to manipulate the mouse pointer was withdrawn and the double spaced mail list issue Evolution was not addressed.
    Furthermore, I was forced to search for a fix that would allow me to use my USB devices with the new Zorin 6 distribution.
    I’m sure there must have been a number of things improved in the “upgrade,’ but the ones things that really mattered to me were not. In fact the user experience for me was worse than with Zorin 5. I was left with no choice but to downgrade back to Zorin 5 or look for another alternative. I was very disappointed.

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    1. @Robert Smith: It's unfortunate that Zorin OS 6 didn't work out for you. If you have the time and a little patience, and if you know that Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" works for you, it may be in your best interest to install that, install the GNOME 3/Classic session, replace the panels with AWN and GnoMenu, and set up Compiz to be the WM. If Ubuntu in general does not recognize your USB devices, then you'll probably have to look elsewhere. Thanks for the comment!

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  12. I finally got Zorin OS 6 installed but cannot get into it! It keep's telling me my user name and password are invalid. What a disappointment. I have no idea how to fix that. Any suggestion's would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. @Cheryl Ryning: Does anyone else have any suggestions? What I would suggest is to manually change your username and password/set up a new user. If that doesn't work, then I don't know what else to tell you other than the fact that I'm sorry to hear that it hasn't worked out for you. Thanks for the comment!

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  13. Thank's for your suggestion. That was my thought too, but I can't get into to it at all. Not even as a guest user :( But thank's so much anyway Prashanth.

    Best Regard's
    Cheryl

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    1. @Cheryl Ryning: That's not quite what I meant. What I meant was that you may need to use a different boot option in GRUB that allows you to change even the root username and password. Or better yet, do it from a live CD/DVD/USB system, because I think there should be plenty of tutorials online on how to do that. Thanks for the comment!

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  14. Before you try Zorin OS 6, would you like to try Black Opal 64, which the developers call as a Ubuntu remix. All the eye candy and the blings are there, and it is free. Very rarely someone complains in their forums. By the way, Prashanth, would you do a review of Black Opal 64?

    Cheers!

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    1. @Ariya: I'll check it out at some point. Thanks for the tip!

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  15. AS someone brand new to linux (sort of) i was overjoyed at how pretty and easy zorin seemed .. until i installed and rebooted for the first time.
    I am running into the ubiquitous black/flickering screen and have zero desire to deal with the whole vesa/vga=792 result for the fix i am seeing all over the net. I read up and it seemed it was introduced when ubuntu 10.04? was ..
    Mint has reacted exactly the same, with a flickering greyish screen on reboot.
    Although mint updated all of its packages flawlessly, while zorin crashed about halfway through. Can boot and run perfectly from each versions live cd, and it is very very nice, enough for me to finally make the switch ..
    IF it weren't for that one little problem with graphics display.
    It's a little irritating that linux has come to so far and is now so easily accessible to the general public (like me) and a simple graphic error will ruin the entire experience. I understand the idea of a learning curve, jumped in prepared .. but i draw the line at basic functionality.
    Since i come from all the way back to DOS i was able to edit the "quiet splash" to nomodeset, but still problems remained and i am not about to get into editting and tweaking a brand new os, i shouldn't have to.
    Guess this is a cry for help, or if anyone feels like recommending a stable semi graphical ui distro w/o this black screen issue.

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    1. @Unknown: It's possible that this is just an issue with Ubuntu and its derivatives. Have you tried out a distribution from another family, like Debian, Fedora, or openSUSE? All of those are reasonably user-friendly as well, and given your awareness of a potential technical fix for this issue, I'm sure you won't have trouble with those. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Thanks, i got openSuse today and when i'm calmed down enough i will try it out. It's rather large in comparison to zorin and mint, but as i said i'm a newb to linux. However i am old enough to remember it is actually unix :p Spent half a day messing around with two different distros and had enough for a day or two. Ordinarily i would be halfway to learning an os by then, or at least having one up and running stable. I must say that the one benefit is full functionality from a live cd/dvd with 99% hardware detection from the get go.
      I like that. A lot. No reboots, it just works. I didn't even need to supply hardware specific drivers .. and i am also halfway tempted to run off a flavor of live cd of my choice .. forever.

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    3. @spadeinfull: It's great that openSUSE has worked out for you thus far. I wouldn't recommend running it off a live CD forever, though, because that tends to be a bit more resource-intensive, meaning your computer parts may not last as long if you do that all the time. That's just my guess, though, and it's probably way off-base. Thanks for the comment!

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  16. How a Look of the Respin of Zorin 06

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3mzt3bAIjM

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    1. @Jesse: It's an interesting-looking desktop, but right now it basically looks like Zorin OS with everything and the kitchen sink. That said, if in the video you say that you use Cinnamon, I am very curious as to how you managed to get that to work with Compiz (unless those are separate). Also, I'd like to know how you managed to get the Compiz desktop cube working without the flickering window artifact (or if the video didn't capture that). Thanks for the comment!

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  17. "That is where my time with Zorin OS ended. The Compiz and stability issues mean that I will, unfortunately, not be making it my next OS."

    That's what you wrote and that's good. Zorin 6 is not at all a outstanding remix of Ubuntu 12.04 and would not go even there, if not for Ubuntu 12.04.

    What does Zorin 6 has, core or ultimate? Only 2 things-the look changer and the web browser manager, two very insignificant applications.

    What else it has, other than Ubuntu 12.04? Few codecs, some proprietary drivers, tweaked Compiz and blocked Awn dock. Yes, Prasanth, the Awn dock is blocked. What a shame!

    Awn dock is one of most beautiful docks and a highly configurable one, but here in Zorin 6, it is blocked. You can't change anything, and Zorin says it is for Window's refugees...Which Windows user hadn't changed the panel, and other things in Win 7 or XP?

    Gnomenu is also blocked.

    The Zorin forum administrator says DON'T install Gnome Tweak Tool. Why? Because, the scam comes out.

    Zorin sells the ultimate with 3 more "looks." MacOs and Unity look, but the are just skins.

    What happens when you install Gnome Tweak Tool? Only a fool won't install that. Gnome comes out from underneath. What happens, when you reinstall Awn dock? Unity come out. Now, you have a fully fledged Awn with effects, and Gnome 3, Gnome classic, Unity, Unity2 etc.

    Awn is a 3D dock, so MacOs look can be found immediately. Why block it and give some oldie look-changer, when the real stuff can with the Ubuntu 12.04 underneath?

    When you use the Live DVD/USB as soon it boots up, log out and check the Unity Greeter, and you'd find Gnome-classic and fall back. What's in the Gnome2 look?

    Zorin 6 core is just an Ubuntu 12.04 download, which had been tinkered a little, but not to help the users, but disturb them. It is blocked with a few words in text files.

    I am not a geek, a shrewd businessman, but a user. Now I can make Ubuntu 12.04 32 bit or 64 bit look like Zorin in few hours. I can make the Ubuntu 12.10 alpha look like Zorin 7 Core in few hours too.

    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2038103

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    1. @Ch: I'm really not sure what you mean by "blocked". Could you explain?

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  18. Awn Dock has a Awn settings, which is used by the users of Awn dock to configure it to their own tastes. In Zorin OS 6 Core, Zorin had blocked the Awn Settings, so no one can Do any changes. Just try to autohide the panel for example.

    Maybe Zorin thinks that the Windows users as fools, but they had enough time to play with Windows since W 95. They can autohide change positions, add more panels in Win 7, XP and even in W 95. In Zorin OS 6 Core you can't, but he gives pseudo looks, instead of giving the awn dock its full capabilities.

    I installed Ubuntu 12.10 and made it look like Zorin's remixes. Here is the screenshot. http://imageshack.us/f/827/slookchanger.jpg/
    I kept the Ubuntu wallpaper to show. The Zorin's panel is there but in hiding.

    I am not a geek, but a user of Ubuntu since 4.10. If I can do it, anyone can!

    Have a good day!

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  19. Gnomenu and its files give you Vista and XP menus, made by Whise and QB89Dragon, so here are the so-called Zorin's Win 7 and XP looks.

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  20. @Ch: I was able to configure AWN just fine. You may want to check the integrity of the live medium, because if it isn't written properly, funny things like that can happen. Thanks for the comment!

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  21. Well, Zorin OS 6 is buggy, because he (they?) had downloaded Ubuntu 12.04 and installed it in his (their?) computer without downloading the language packs, and when a user installs it, the apport keeps on nagging.

    Then all he (they?) did was place his files in relevant folders, and remastered it with Remastersys. I've noticed the same problems in Pinguy 12.04 too.

    It looks like, some people (devs?) are getting really worried about Ubuntu's changes and not in a position to completely take away Ubuntu's internals. I find Clem had gone his way, leaving the Gnome 3 inside and making Cinnamon, and that is a great success. His Mint is polished, but I can make an Ubuntu out of that, and the other way too - make a Mint 13 out of Ubuntu 12.04.

    And I am not a geek!

    Right now, I am making Pinguy, Zorin and even Mint with Ubuntu 12.10 Alpha. Zorin I have already made. http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2040069

    Have a good day!

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    1. @Ch: Well, it certainly is nice that Ubuntu is so easy to customize from the start. Thanks for the comment!

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  22. I just did a fresh install of zorin 6 ultimate and I was surprised that it needed 221 updates right off the bat. It seems to be very slow and laggy and that's probably due to the needed updates. Its going to take some getting used to.

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    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for the comment!

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  23. Zorin is full of bugs, even old bugs that should have been resolved a long time ago, so right there ou have a problem. I know the ultimate edition is less buggy, coincidence? thats says it all. $$. = ! so the being said, I d not endorse the way of doing of Zorin. I do not. These guys did had good ideas but they do not deserve any attention, they are not linux philosophy. No mater what people might think of my words here. I know what I am talking about. I mean, just the fact that there paid version is less buggy than the free versions, says a lot about it.

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    1. @Anonymous: It doesn't bother me that they are offering a paid version. It does however bother me that the paid version would be less buggy than the free version, and this is something I have seen online in various other places where I have looked for help for Zorin OS. Thanks for the comment!

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