Review: ROSA 2012 "Marathon"

I have more time this week than usual to do reviews like this, because I am studying at my own pace for final exams next instead of frenetically finishing problem sets each night. Today, the subject of my review is ROSA.

You may have heard of ROSA before, but you may not be sure where. Almost 9 months ago, I reviewed Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen", and that version of Mandriva was developed in conjunction with ROSA Labs, a Russian Linux development group. Since then, Mandriva seen quite a roller-coaster ride and is now essentially on life support. It is all but certain that there will be no new releases of a distribution with the name "Mandriva" (or "Mandrake" for that matter). One fork appeared over a year ago, and that is called Mageia; that aimed to replicate and build upon the traditional KDE desktop that Mandriva used before the year 2011. The other fork is ROSA, and it is essentially a continuation of the novel desktop introduced in Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen". It seems like ROSA will become the haven for all Mandriva users that had not already gone to Mageia.

I tested ROSA on a live USB system made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like. (Unfortunately, at the time of typing that sentence, ROSA froze, and I had to manually restart the computer. This is also why there are no pictures this time around.)

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a gray, low-contrast ROSA-branded boot splash. After that came a bunch of questions about language and locale, followed by the desktop. I won't say much about the desktop, because it is identical to that of Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen". There is one somewhat unfortunate regression, and that is that while Mandriva correctly recognized and used the proper Intel and NVidia graphics drivers for my laptop, ROSA reverted to the generic graphics driver, leaving the resolution at 1024 by 768 instead of 1366 by 768.

Mozilla Firefox 10 is the default browser, and that worked well. Compared to Mandriva, ROSA includes proprietary codecs, as YouTube and Hulu worked well. My laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts also worked well.

The other installed applications have not changed much from Mandriva. Some of the Mandriva configuration tools have been rebranded with the ROSA name, but those have not changed much beyond that.

There are two tools unique to ROSA that are also not present in Mandriva. The first is the ROSA Media Player. Its interface seems reminiscent of VLC, which makes me wonder why that is not included by default. I tried to play some video files on my hard drive with it, but while the video worked, the audio did not, and that is an issue.
The second is KLook, and despite the 'K' at the beginning of the name, it seems to exist exclusively for ROSA [for now] as opposed to being a common KDE application. KLook is activated by pressing 'SPACE' on a file in Dolphin, and that combined with its very simple yet polished interface makes it essentially the closest thing I have seen to Gloobus-Preview for KDE. KLook had no problem playing video files, and unlike ROSA Media Player, it had no trouble playing back the audio as well. The only area where KLook lacks compared to Gloobus-Preview is that it cannot preview some file formats like PDF, but even then, it has an advantage in that it shows exactly which standard application (e.g. Okular, ROSA Media Player) can also be used to open the file, whereas Gloobus-Preview just has a single icon representing opening the file in the default application.

Installing Skype is easier than before, in that Skype is now included in the default repositories. Speaking of which, the packages from the repositories loaded in the package manager much faster than before. Anyway, Skype installed and ran well; Google Talk was installable in the same way as before, and it ran well too.

Desktop effects could be used to an extent, but due to ROSA using the generic graphics driver, I was not able to use certain effects like the desktop cube. That's not a huge deal, and I didn't expect anything else at this point.
ROSA 2012 "Marathon" used about 450 MB of RAM at idle. That is about what is expected and may be a little more than before.

The crash when typing this post is what ended my time with ROSA. It seems like in most ways, it is truly the continuation of Mandriva 2011 "Hydrogen", while in others, it is even better. In fact, even that telltale crash is carried over too. The only real regression is in the recognition of my laptop's graphics card, and that's a bit of a disappointment considering that the last version of Mandriva was the first to properly recognize my laptop's graphics settings out-of-the-box. I would say my overall opinion of ROSA is at about the same level as my overall opinion of Mandriva. If you used the last version of Mandriva and liked it, you should be happy with ROSA.
You can get it here.