I was sitting at home writing future articles for Ghacks and I decided on a spur of the moment whim that I wanted to try out a distribution I had never touched before.
I’ve tried countless systems over the years, from the typical Ubuntu and Debian based systems, to Arch based systems like Manjaro, even Gentoo based systems like Sabayon.
However, I was thinking about it and OpenSUSE used to be one of my favourite distributions to use but I’ve never actually sat down and tried a respin of an OpenSUSE based system; so I started digging around into what some popular ones were...And Gecko Linux caught my eye.
Gecko Linux right away caught my attention due to some major changes to how things are done when compared to its parent system OpenSUSE. On the homepage of Gecko Linux, the developer lists some changes between it and OpenSUSE:
- “GeckoLinux comes as an offline installable live DVD / USB image for Static and Rolling editions, whereas openSUSE has a non-live DVD / USB installer, a net-installer image, or Tumbleweed live DVD / USB with net-installer options.
- GeckoLinux offers customized editions optimized for different desktop environments, whereas openSUSE requires the user to know how to install patterns and packages for different desktop environments.
- GeckoLinux comes pre-installed with common niceties such as proprietary media codecs, whereas openSUSE for legal reasons requires users to know how to add additional repositories and which packages to add.
- GeckoLinux prefers packages from the Packman repo when they are available, whereas some of openSUSE's default packages don't work with patent-restricted features even if the features are installed from other sources.
- GeckoLinux comes pre-configured with what many would consider to be good font rendering, whereas many users find openSUSE's default font configuration to be less than desirable.
- GeckoLinux does not force the installation of additional recommended packages after system installation, whereas openSUSE pre-installs patterns and automatically installs recommended package dependencies, thus causing many additional and possibly unwanted packages to be installed the first time the package manager is used.
- GeckoLinux's desktop programs can be uninstalled with all their dependencies, whereas openSUSE's patterns often cause uninstalled packages to be automatically re-installed.”
To anyone who has used OpenSUSE you know that it’s a very powerful system and has great features and customization potential, however there are certain aspects of the system that can be frustrating and downright annoying, such as patterns causing uninstalled packages to be re-installed. Seeing the above mentioned changes instantly piqued my interest, and I knew I had to give it a try.
I opted to install the Cinnamon flavour of Gecko Linux Static, which is based on the Leap form of OpenSUSE. The download of the ISO was quick and painless, and once I had my liveUSB made I booted into the environment. The installation software used is Calamares, which numerous other distributions also make use of, so I was already quite familiar with its usage.
One thing that I can say right away that I did not like about the Gecko Linux installation was that the option to encrypt my system fully did not complete; rather it faced an error and I was forced to restart the installation without encryption.
Looking a little deeper into it, I know that older versions of Calamares had issues with encryption, but seeing as version 3.1 was the version being used, the old issue was no longer relevant. I didn’t spend hours seeing if there was anything I could do; I just moved on.
Otherwise, the installation was smooth and painless; even on my 5400RPM Hard Disk, it was surprisingly fast and stable with an absolutely simple install. Once the installation was done, I booted into my main system.
Note: When using the live environment, the username AND the password are ‘linux’
A look at the system
If you’ve used OpenSUSE before in the past, then at least on the surface you won’t really notice a whole lot different. Having chosen the Cinnamon environment, everything was pretty well standard with other systems using Cinnamon. I will note that I did notice that animations had been turned off for things like clicking open your applications menu etc, and other minor eye-candy effects had been disabled. I didn’t mind, I tend to turn that sort of thing off myself anyways in favour of increasing performance.
However, I did notice that performance was slower than on other distributions such as Arch/Manjaro, and Linux Mint. OpenSUSE is known as a little ‘heavier’ of a distro, and this is no different on Gecko Linux from my experience. It wasn’t unbearable or anything, and likely would be less noticeable if my Hard Disk wasn’t 5400RPM; but I felt I should point this out at least.
Applications like Clementine, VLC, Thunderbird, Gparted, LibreOffice, Firefox, Pidgin, and Transmission are all included providing all the most common needs fulfilled with a great selection. As with the official OpenSUSE system, YaST2 is included as well, which I greatly support.
I actually think I’ll be keeping Gecko Linux on my system for a while. I’ve always enjoyed OpenSUSE, and the changes made behind the scenes will mitigate or avoid minor annoyances I used to have with the system. It seems well put together with the exception of the Calamares encryption issue, is not loaded with a bunch of bloat, and seems to be a well rounded distribution; well worth a look if you’re contemplating a change in distribution!
Now you: Do you use any respins of popular distributions? Why do you use/not use them, instead of the main distro?