Review: Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini

Main Screen + Global Menu
Upon the advice of a commenter in one of my previous posts, I am reviewing Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini today. That commenter asked that I test Pinguy OS 11.04, and mentioned the existence of a Mini edition, so I became intrigued, because Pinguy OS is more known for being an "everything-and-the-kitchen-sink" distribution than anything else, so I thought it would be cool to see what the Mini edition would have in store.

For those who don't know, Pinguy OS is, it's an Ubuntu derivative that tries to improve upon the user interface and bring in as many useful applications as possible. Then again, the Mini edition seems to eschew that last goal.

I tested Pinguy OS using a live USB made with UnetBootin. I didn't test the installation because, well, it's yet another Ubuntu derivative, and I don't think there's going to be any huge surprises. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a slick gray Plymouth boot splash, featuring the Pinguy OS logo and a small spinner below it. That quickly led right into the desktop.

YouTube on Mozilla Firefox
Aside from the wallpaper, which is now a pretty bland dark-gray affair featuring the Pinguy OS logo, the desktop is virtually unchanged from version 10.10, which I tested before. I will say that the desktop feels less cluttered than before, both due to the more pleasant wallpaper and due to what appears to be fewer applets on both the top panel and the bottom dock, and that's a very good thing.

Mozilla Firefox, at version 4, is the default browser. It seems to come with most multimedia codecs installed out-of-the-box, which is only to be expected now of Pinguy OS; this also let me confirm that my sound card, wireless card, and volume keyboard shortcuts worked properly. As before, it comes with a bunch of extensions and a somewhat customized theme, but I think now it blends in with the rest of the desktop much better than before and it doesn't look as garish, which is great. Plus, the buttons to access extensions feel better placed than before.

Nautilus Elementary + Gloobus Preview
In an effort to keep the Mini edition ISO file under 700 MB, several programs have been stripped from the live ISO file, including OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice, Cheese Webcam Booth, Ailurus, and several others, The live session is now quite barebones; the only major programs included are, aside from Mozilla Firefox, a few typical GNOME utilities, GNOME MPlayer, a Conky modifier, BleachBit, Ubuntu Software Center, and Ubuntu Tweak. That's a whole lot more lightweight than before, so it's a good thing that it's ridiculously easy to install new programs with Ubuntu Software Center (and only slightly harder with the also-included Synaptic Package Manager). In fact, there's no screenshot utility like Shutter included, so I had to get it myself to take screenshots of the desktop. I also got programs like Cheese Webcam Booth and Skype, and they both recognized my webcam and mic correctly.

Linux Mint Menu + Synaptic Package Manager
Nautilus is of course the default file manager, and it has all the nice Elementary tweaks present, which makes it a whole lot easier to use. Gloobus Preview is also present, which is nice.
Compiz desktop effects worked great out-of-the-box, and they felt a lot faster than in other distributions.
Speaking of speed, although Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini requires no less than 380 MB of RAM at idle, the whole thing feels fast. It feels a lot faster than version 10.10, than Linux Mint 11 "Julia", and than a whole lot of other GNOME distributions that I've tried out. I don't know what the developer has done, but it has surely worked, and I like it a lot.

That's basically where my time with Pinguy OS ended. To summarize, the Mini edition has way fewer applications than before, but it also feels way faster, and the applications present are of course newer. In my comparison of Pinguy OS 10.10 and Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME, I gave victory to Pinguy OS mostly due to its larger feature set out-of-the-box. That said, I did feel that it was more sluggish and not quite as snappy as Linux Mint; since then, I've been thinking that really, Linux Mint should have won that one, and I kind of regret writing that outcome. This time, though, given my gripes with Linux Mint 11 "Katya" GNOME and the blazing speed and polish of Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini, I would probably pick Pinguy OS over Linux Mint without regret; I say this even though Linux Mint has more stuff included than Pinguy OS, because on both distributions it's so easy to install new programs that such things aren't a huge factor anymore. And I think that says something, coming from an unabashed fan of Linux Mint.


  1. Hi Prashanth,

    You make some good points about the different software options that come with Pinguy vs. Mint, but as you point out, either distro is easy to configure in terms of adding software.

    What I would like to see is a reviewer who is willing to take the devs for Pinguy, Mint, and even Ubuntu to task for failing to actually develop tools that would help users configure their distribution. For example, openSUSE has the YaST2 control panel, Mandriva and Mageia are using the Mandrake Control Center, and even Windows has a Control Center, but for all the Ubuntu clones and derivatives, you still don't have access to adequate tools to control the distribution. Instead, if you want to change something, you've got to wade through hundreds of thousands of pieces of very questionable advice from the Ubuntu user forums or other user forums.

    I would like to see all these "devs" actually "develop" something - namely, an intuitive way to interact with and configure their distros, backed up by rock-solid documentation. Until then, I don't consider any of them anything more than window-dressing on top of Debian.

  2. @Andy Prough: You're right that although Linux Mint has its eponymous tools, they aren't exactly for system configuration. Now that you mention it, I too would like to see a unified control tool that's a little better than the GNOME Control Center. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I think Ubuntu Control Center is on it's way! Check out OMGUbuntu, they've a full post dedicated to it along with PPA.

  4. Andy, As a user of Red Hat, SUSE, and Mandrake from the beginning of last decade, I'd have to say that Ubuntu, Mint, and Pinguy have the same things that these older distros have, though the tools lie in a menu instead of one giant tool.

  5. @Anonymous: I think I saw that post too. There are also Ailurus and Ubuntu Tweak as third-party alternatives.
    @Daeng Bo: But if you look at it, Mandriva and openSUSE have further and somewhat different customization options consolidated into a single tool, in addition to the standard GNOME control tools.
    @Linux: True that!
    Thanks for the comments!

  6. Nice review. A good take on Pinguy OS mini.

    In reference to the full version of Pinguy OS I do feel like pointing out something people often seem to miss: installation of apps and tweaking Ubuntu is very time consuming, whereas uninstalling apps takes much less time.

    The thing about Pinguy OS that really sets it apart from other Ubuntu-based distros is that Pinguy takes the time to install everything any particular user might need, and pre-configure everything so it works fresh out of the box. That way the user is free to choose what stays and works best for them. I do realize the desktop upon install can be rather cluttered feeling to some. But what Pinguy has done is give the user an idea what can be done with linux, and ideas on how a desktop can be. All this without all the research and terminal it takes to achieve on one's own. Each user is then free to explore, use and discard whatever. But the options are all there, pre-installed and working upon first boot.

    Also I would like to point out that Pinguy has made a very handy little collection of common Conky commands wrapped in a nice gui. It's great for the Conky non-initiates, because it has answers to all the common problems. Check it out in main menu/applications/Conky.

  7. @yugnip: I do agree that uninstalling is more time-consuming than installing, but I think it's important to strike a good balance, and I think the Mini edition falls very slightly under that balance; there should be enough applications that it feels workable and not bare-bones, but there shouldn't be so many that the choice just feels overwhelming (as I feel is the case in the main edition of Pinguy OS). Furthermore, while I can see how the clutter of Pinguy OS actually lends itself to showing all the different options for desktop customization, I still feel like it's overwhelming. I think a better thing to do would be to include a "Help" file with screenshots of some of these different setups and detailed instructions on how to achieve each, but keep the default setup a little more minimal. Also, I did see that menu entry for something relating to Conky, but I unfortunately didn't have either the time or the patience to further explore it; I think it's really cool that a tool like that exists, so kudos to the Pinguy OS developers on that one. Finally, I see what you did there with your display name ("yugnip") — hehheh. Thanks for the comment!

  8. "Anonymous said... I think Ubuntu Control Center is on it's way! Check out OMGUbuntu, they've a full post dedicated to it along with PPA."

    @Anonymous - I couldn't find anything on the OMG site (as usual). Did a couple of searches and looked through the past couple of months of posts. I did find some other websites that are talking about the "Ubuntu Control Center", which has some nice screen shots up, and would supposedly be a Mandriva Control Center clone for Ubuntu. Unfortunately, its just a Google code project, and the Google website for the project is down right now. I don't know if its made it into the repositories yet and is available for installation via apt or the Software manager.

    However, from the screen shots, it looks overly simplistic, and would still have a vast number of options to add in order to compete with the Mandriva Control Center or YaST2.

    Also, the fact that it is a Google code project instead of a Canonical project fails my first assertion - the Distro's own devs are not handing the necessary tools to the users with the necessary documentation to get the job done. Having to wade through the gazillions of incorrect posts on the Ubuntu forums for an answer to a question is getting nearly as difficult as finding a correct answer to a Windows problem with a Google search.

    Mandriva and openSUSE, on the other hand, have given one consistent set of tools for over a decade with clear documentation on how to configure their distro. I've been using YaST for over a dozen years, and many of the techniques I learned with YaST on openSUSE 7.3 still work today on openSUSE 11.4.

    Once again, without consistent, centralized configuration tools and rock solid documentation on how to use them, I still don't see how Ubuntu, Pinguy, Mint, et al are anything more than window dressing on Debian. The window managers and desktop programs change, but the underlying system of control is still a maddening search for answers that is far too reminiscent of the way that Microsoft flings its problems to the masses and lets them fend for themselves.

  9. @Andy Prough: Well, you're basically right. As Linux Mint moves farther away from Ubuntu and closer to Debian, it's becoming more like niceties on top of an essentially unchanged base system, which is what Ubuntu certainly was in its early days. That said, I do believe certain things about Debian and Ubuntu packages management make it such that packages for one distribution won't necessarily work on the other, and vice versa. Thanks for the comment!

  10. I tried installing a dozen Linux distros on my 5 yr old PC. None of them worked flawlessly, except for Pinguy. I now have a dual boot with XP and Pinguy, but really never use XP any more! Penguy is exactly what I was hoping for.

  11. @Anonymous: I find it interesting that only Pinguy OS, which is just an Ubuntu derivative with a modified interface and application list, was the only one that worked. Anyway, it's great that you've been essentially able to fully transition from Microsoft Windows XP to Pinguy OS. Thanks for the comment!

  12. tried pinguy,..too full of rubbish programs
    Quietly surfing the web,..then I get various photos dropped on my desktop by webbilder program,..unannounced,..and unwanted

    it should be renamed almost everything bar the kitchen sink thrown in,..

    returned to Salix XFCE for some speed.
    what is the purpose of Pinguy anyway? an exercise in bloat software?

  13. "....This OS is for people that have never used Linux before or for people that just want an out-of-the-box working OS without doing all the tweaks and enhancements that everyone seems to do ...." from the OS website

    just nonsense what they write ,..i had to install other codecs flashplayer.
    Mint is far superior,.. or PCLinuxOS...
    of all the hundreds of Linux distro's a handful are worth installing. Most of the time there are bits missing

    One does not buy a Cadillac or mini,..or Ferrari,.and have to install the engine and wheels yourself afterwards.
    If the disto,/iso is not fully 100% ready,..then do not bother to release it

  14. @Anonymous 1: That's actually kind of the point of Pinguy OS, though if you read the review, you'll see I reviewed the Mini edition, which is actually quite sparse (it only has Mozilla Firefox and a few basic GNOME utilities, really). Yes, the main edition has a lot of stuff that users like me and you could do without, but it's important to remember that not everyone has a consistent Internet connection to download and install programs on-the-fly, so that's why distributions like Pinguy OS, AriOS, and others are useful.
    @Anonymous 2: I'm sorry, but I can't see this as much more than trolling. I love Linux Mint, for sure, but I've never had to install codecs on Pinguy OS; they all work out-of-the-box, so unless you've been using some really exotic hardware that has precluded you from being able to experience Pinguy OS as it was meant to be, I'm suspicious of your claims.

  15. Pinguy OS 11.10 simply rocked for me. And I am an archbang user. Speed-wise was very adequate and great given what it came with.

    I definitly recommend this distro for new users. It is up there with Mint. I personally prefer the look, speed and feel of it to Linux Mint or other Ubuntu or Debian derivatives.

    Right now, it is giving my archbang install a run for the money in terms of longevity on my laptop. Not an easy feat.

  16. @Anonymous: It's great that it's worked out for you so far. Thanks for the comment!

  17. I use linux for some eight years and I was doing quite a bit of distro-hopping until Linux Mint 5 came and I was happy to stick with it until 11. With Mint 12's decision to move to Gnome 3 which I dislike only little less than Unity I tried and used LMDE for some time and then I was distro-hopping again...
    I guess I am bit boring, but with Pinguy 11.04 I feel like I do not need to switch to another distro again and I do not think (first time in my life) I will want to upgrade to newer version, if it looks different or misses functionality of Gnome 2.
    Do not get me wrong, I like to play around with terminal and I would not consider myself a newbie user. What makes the trick in this case is easy-to-configure system with not too much hassle (like Arch for example) which is !more responsive! than clean whatever LXDE Ubuntu-based distro installation.
    Another plus for Pinguy is that very most of the things comes out-of-the-box-!sic! working, unlike Mint I had to tweak quite a bit to get into stage it fits my requirements. Now the only problem with Pinguy I have are auto-start of my custom scripts (samba share for my NAS and Bluetooth Audio Headset), but it is not a big deal.
    One thing I would like to add is some Control Centre like in Mandriva (as mentioned above), but I am afraid if it will be developed, it will be only for Gnome 3. Although I do not need it personally, it looks nicer when I install linux to my friends' computers;-) My point could be again similar to one of the above: 'Pinguy OS shows the potentional user more possibilities of what you can do with linux'. And Mac OSX look? Well, if it does not look nice why would people want it? And if they don't, they can go for Mint instead and install some extra apps, the result will be almost the same.
    Although the most credits should go to developers of Debian and then Ubuntu and Mint, I really do like Pinguy and will support that distro.
    Thanks for reading if you got your eyes all the way here;-)

    1. @Anonymous: I would suggest trying out Linux Mint 13 LTS "M[...]a" whenever that comes out. It will use GNOME 3, but it will not come with the GNOME 3/Shell that you mentioned that you don't like, and it will not use a half-baked solution like the MGSE. Instead, it will ship with Cinnamon, which is an alternative shell for GNOME 3 that is really supposed to mimic the look and feel of GNOME 2 as Linux Mint used to ship it. If Cinnamon does not work for you, you can still use MATE, which is a fork of GNOME 2 and does exactly the same things. Thanks for the comment!