Revisited: Fuduntu 14.10.1

Main Screen + GNOME Main Menu
It has been almost exactly 6 months since I looked at Fuduntu. Since then, it has had one new minor release (version 14.9 became version 14.10) and an update to that release (version 14.10 became version 14.10.1). You would think that not much would have changed between then and now, so what's making me test this?
Before that, I apologize for the recent dearth of posts here (aside from the very recent one). First, I've been busy, second, I've been sick, and third, I haven't really thought of anything to write about. That's part of the reason why I'm writing this. Also, I can promise you that there will be a new review soon after this, and it will actually be two reviews in one (but not a comparison per se). With that, let's get on with answering that question.

So aside from the fact that I wanted to write about something here, I'm testing this because the Fuduntu lead developer made a pretty big two-in-one announcement yesterday: (1) Fuduntu is becoming a rolling-release distribution, meaning that users don't have to reinstall the latest version of Fuduntu every six months just to stay up-to-date, and (2) Fuduntu will stick with GNOME 2.X for as long as possible. These two really piqued my curiosity, so I gave it a spin.

I tested the live session using a live USB made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation procedure because I did that before, and I haven't read about any major changes to Anaconda since then. Finally, I don't usually mention details like this, but do note that the ISO file has decreased in size from about 1.1 GB to a bit less than 950 MB; the consequences of this will become evident later. Follow the jump to see what's the same, what's different, and whether I still like Fuduntu as much as I did 6 months ago (and I will make frequent reference to that review).

After getting past the boot menu, I saw the boot splash, which seems to have been updated from before. Now, all the cloverleaves in the logo are initially in grayscale, and they individually grow and shrink in a pattern that I can't make out; they then randomly disappear one by one before reappearing altogether in the familiar colored Fuduntu logo. After that came the login screen; although Fuduntu provides an automatic login feature for the live session, GDM still shows itself for at least a few seconds. I would have preferred that GDM not show at all, and that the boot splash give way directly to the desktop, as is the case in many other distributions; to be sure, this behavior hasn't changed from before, though I overlooked it then because I was more interested in directly comparing its behavior to that of Fusion 14 "Thorium" at that time. I get the feeling that this automatic login thing is an issue with Fedora remixes, but not with other distributions that use GNOME 2.X. After that came the desktop.

The desktop is essentially identical to what it was in version 14.9; the wallpaper and themes are all identical, though the Metacity window border theme seems to have a little more of a shiny gradient to it than before. The layout is unchanged, with a panel on top and a dock on the bottom. Overall, it's still very easy to use and quite classy.

Chromium + Google Docs
Mozilla Firefox has been replaced by Chromium, at version 12 (though technically, and this should be broadcast to browser developers worldwide, Google Chrome/Chromium versions X are really versions 0.X). I wonder why this replacement was made, but I can live with Chromium, I guess. Otherwise, all the multimedia codecs are present as before; in addition, my laptop's sound card and volume keyboard shortcuts were recognized as before, and YouTube and Hulu worked fine. One of the selling points specifically mentioned in the blog post talking about Fuduntu's move to a rolling-release model was that Chromium would always be the latest edition, and that certainly is a great selling point. That said, I have to wonder if software like Mozilla Firefox that isn't included out-of-the-box but can be installed from the Fuduntu/Fedora repositories would be kept similarly up-to-date all the time. (UPDATE: FEWT, the creator of Fuduntu and a commenter on this post, has said that even non-default applications will be updated in a rolling-release fashion. Thanks for the clarification!)

I said before that the size of the ISO file has decreased by 150 MB. How did the developers manage that? Well, two very heavy applications, OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Thunderbird, have been replaced by Google Docs and Gmail, respectively. Wait, what? I wonder how those cloud applications are being offered when Mozilla no longer develops Prism (its Firefox-based site-specific browser application), and Google has no similar application (as far as I know, though please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong) for Chrome/Chromium. I guess the developers used the Ice application included in Peppermint OS alongside the Chromium browser there too. (UPDATE: Apparently Ice is no longer necessary; Google Chrome/Chromium has built-in functionality across all platforms to create site-specific browsers. Thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing this out!) While I think it's a neat idea in that it helps introduce the notion of the cloud to more users and keeps space requirements down, I feel that in terms of my own usage, Google Docs is not an adequate substitute for LibreOffice, and I already keep Gmail as another tab pinned in my browser. Plus, given that Chromium already makes every tab a separate running process, what's the point of separating those sites further into separate applications?

Gmail + Nautilus Elementary + Desktop Cube
Many things are unchanged, such as the presence of Dropbox, Empathy, Shotwell, GIMP, Ailurus, PackageKit, and Nautilus Elementary, the desktop effects (and the fact that hovering over the top-right corner of the screen brings into focus all present windows), the stability, and the installation of software. Installing and using Skype and Google Talk worked as well as before.
According to the GNOME System Monitor (and from now on, when I quote these figures, I'll also try to include the source like I just did), Fuduntu uses 225 MB of RAM at idle, which I think is about par or maybe just a little under (better than) par for a GNOME 2.X distribution.

I do feel that the 3-category GNOME Main Menu could be eschewed in favor of the more user-friendly Linux Mint Menu, and I know that it can be done in a Fedora remix because it's present in Fusion Linux. Given that the developers of both distributions do collaborate and that Fusion uses some Fuduntu repositories, I think it would be the neighborly thing to reciprocate in that sense. I mean, if I were to install and use Fuduntu on a regular basis, it would be easy enough for me to manually add the repository, install the package, and use it, but it would be nice if it were present out-of-the-box for new users.
Speaking of which, this is the first time that I have noticed that Fedora and its remixes do not have a GUI method of adding repositories, which I find rather strange. I guess I'm just really used to seeing that functionality in pretty much all other modern GUI package managers and I've started taking it for granted now. I don't know if it's the fault of Fedora and its quirks or the fault of PackageKit for lacking functionality that is present in basically every other modern GUI package manager, but it would really help if that functionality were present. I do know that it isn't the fault of the Fuduntu developers, but it's unfortunate that such a quirk slightly mars an otherwise highly user-friendly distribution.

That's where my time with Fuduntu ended. I feel a little mixed about the replacement of traditional desktop applications with cloud applications just to save space, given that it will still take a DVD to hold the live session. Plus, you just saw my two small nits to pick in the last two paragraphs. Other than that, it's the same Fuduntu that I really liked 6 months ago, and it now has a rolling-release schedule; while my testing won't test the consequences of that, the announcement is a huge  plus in my book. Overall, I would highly recommend it to new users, and I would say the most appropriate thing to call this is "the resulting distribution if Debian-based Linux Mint moved to Fedora"; to be sure, that is a very, very good thing. In fact, if I installed and used it regularly, I would be happy with 99% of it, which means this could be among the distributions I would seriously consider installing on my laptop's hard drive, along with Linux Mint, #!, and Chakra (and maybe Pardus).
You can get Fuduntu here.