Review: Bridge Linux 2012.2 Xfce + KDE + GNOME

On my recent review of KahelOS, Dr.Saleem Khan, a regular commenter on reviews here, suggested that I try out Bridge Linux, as it is supposed to be even better and easier to use than KahelOS. That piqued my interest, so I am trying it out now.

Xfce: Main Screen + Xfce Right-Click Menu
Bridge Linux seems to be a fairly new player on the field. Its website is quite sparse; there is not even an "About" section describing the purpose of this distribution. But it has editions with GNOME, KDE, and Xfce, so I am trying each of those now.

I tested each of the three editions using a multiboot live USB made with MultiSystem. Only one of the editions will get the full barrage of testing; the other two will get basically an overview of what is included, what works, and what does not work. I tested the installation of one of the editions in a VirtualBox VM in a Xubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" host with 1024 MB of RAM, 128 MB of video memory, and 3D graphics acceleration allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see whether Bridge Linux can bridge the divide between new users and Arch Linux, as it claims.


MultiSystem did not distinguish between the three editions in the boot menu, so I chose the first one, and that happened to be the Xfce edition. After the boot menu came a scrolling wall of text, and after a reasonably short amount of time I was taken to the desktop.

The desktop is fairly standard for Xfce, although it is made to look a bit more like GNOME 2 like what Xubuntu does. There are two panels. The top contains, from left to right, the Xfce menu, shortcuts to applications, a workspace switcher, a clock, and a system tray. The bottom panel contains, from left to right, a button to show the desktop and hide all windows, a window switcher, and a shortcut to the trash folder. There is a README file on the desktop containing tips about using the distribution, but I think those will make more sense to more experienced users. (I mean, they made sense to me, but I don't think they will make sense to a new Linux user.) The GTK+ and Xfwm themes are Orta, and the icon theme is Awoken, so the whole desktop has a dark, grayscale look. Overall, the desktop is quite polished, and is certainly among the better implementations of Xfce that I have seen.

Xfce: Chromium + AbiWord
Chromium is the default browser, and it worked quite well. Multimedia codecs seemed to be included, as YouTube and Hulu worked well. Ironically, after I signed into my Google account to write this, YouTube also signed me in, and because I have signed up for the YouTube HTML 5 trial, YouTube would not recognize the specific codec in Chromium associated with rendering HTML 5 and thus would not play videos until I signed out again. Surprisingly, both for an Arch-based distribution and an Xfce distribution, my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts were properly recognized.

The default productivity software consists of AbiWord and Gnumeric. This makes sense for light weight in terms of both RAM and disk usage. Also, I can't help but notice how much nicer AbiWord looks following the GTK+ and icon themes than LibreOffice Writer.
Other installed applications include the typical Xfce utilities, some Qt development tools, GIMP, Shotwell, Mozilla Thunderbird, and VLC. I am surprised Mozilla Thunderbird was picked rather than something lighter like Claws Mail, but that is not really of any concern to me.

There is no GUI package manager installed, so I had to use the standard Arch CLI program Pacman to install packages. I was able to use it to install Skype from the default repositories. Skype did crash a couple times after starting it, but by the third attempt it had settled down. It was able to recognize my laptop's webcam and speakers fine, but not its mic, so I had to install the GStreamer plugin package as well (which was not too difficult), and after also manually removing and replacing the volume mixer applet in the top panel, it worked after that.

Installing the Google Talk plugin was much the same process as in KahelOS. I had to get the TAR package from the AUR, unpack it, compile it, and install it, and to successfully complete the installation I had to manually satisfy a few dependencies on the side. Unfortunately, the results were the same too: in the Gmail settings tab, the mic but not the webcam was recognized, whereas in an actual call, the reverse was true. (UPDATE: In KahelOS, Google Talk worked fine, but that is not true here. Sorry about that!)

Xfce in Bridge Linux used 180 MB of RAM at idle, which is quite good! Also, Bridge Linux enabled the minimal compositing effects in Xfce, which is nice.


This section is quite short, because the KDE edition worked much like the Xfce edition, and it included many of the same/similar applications. I guess the only major change in terms of included applications is LibreOffice instead of AbiWord/Gnumeric. That said, no browser appeared to work correctly in the KDE edition; Chromium didn't work, and I tried installing Mozilla Firefox and that did not work either. That is quite disappointing, and in my eyes it pretty much makes the KDE edition unusable.


This section is short too. I really wanted to try out GNOME 3/Cinnamon, but it was completely inaccessible because the root account appears to be disabled in the live session (at least in terms of logging in) so I was not able to prevent the default live user from automatically logging in before I could change the session type. Thus, I was stuck with GNOME 3/Shell.

At this point, I decided to start the installation process. The installation was pretty bare-bones and had a pseudo-graphical command-line interface. First came the localization, which was fairly straightforward. Then came the disk partitioning; I opted for the easy way, and all I had to do was enter a bunch of numbers for partition sizes — that worked fine. Then came the actual installation, which only took a little over 5 minutes. Then came the post-installation configuration, which was fairly straightforward and minimal as well. Finally came the installation of GRUB. Through it all, I basically just had to press 'ENTER' a bunch of times, and that was that.

GNOME: Installer
After rebooting, I was able to log in properly. However, despite turning on 3D graphics acceleration and allocating 128 MB of video memory to the VM, GNOME 3/Cinnamon refused to work; I kept getting sent to GNOME 3/Fallback. While this is of course quite usable, I really wanted to try out GNOME 3/Cinnamon, and I was a bit disappointed that I could not do so despite it being advertised as working well on the website.

That's where my time with Bridge Linux ended. Clearly, the Xfce edition is the most workable one, especially in the live session. But the point was that this distribution is supposedly even better than KahelOS, yet I just didn't see that here. I mean, the Xfce edition was quite good, and I would recommend it not to total newbies to Linux but to relatively newer Linux users who may be getting comfortable with the command line. But putting aside my dislike of GNOME 3/Shell, KahelOS has a graphical package manager (PackageKit) and a GUI installer, while Bridge Linux has neither of things, and KahelOS can do all the same great things that Bridge Linux can without giving up anything else. Given all that, I'm not sure I can justify the comment on the KahelOS review from Dr.Saleem Khan saying that Bridge Linux is even better than KahelOS. That said, KahelOS has been around for a few years now, whereas Bridge Linux is just getting started, so the fact that it is this good already is quite promising. I will be keeping an eye on this distribution for a while.
You can get it here.