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.