Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fuduntu: Back to Fundamentals, Gets it Right

by Dietrich Schmitz

I have spent several months searching for a Linux Distro that meets my requirements.  My trusty Acer Aspire One Netbook is equipped with 2 GB ram and a 160GB HDD and has served me well since its purchase in 2010 for $279 US.

The changes to Ubuntu Unity and Gnome3 set me into motion in search of a replacement Distro.  Last year I tried many Distros looking yet something was missing.  I didn't realize what it was until I tried Fuduntu in its 2013.1 version released in January.

I tried it and truthfully, I didn't expect what I found.  That name just threw me because it's not a silly Distro.  Quite the opposite, in fact, I discovered a 'sleeper'.  This product, developed by +Andrew Wyatt,  has all the earmarkings of a thorough-bred commercial grade Distro, yet is community-based managed by a small dedicated collective team who understand the 'fundamentals'.

Fundamentals.  A good word, which is descriptive of what has been missing in the Linux Desktop world.  The basics, if you will, the entire enchalada was cast aside by Canonical in their 'vision' to chart a new course with Unity.

Despite their best intentions, Canonical chose to discard 'fundamentals' and threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Unity brought its own set of features but discarded a whole raft of features found in Gnome2.  That fits my definition of regression.  The side effect of Ubuntu with Unity is seen in a series of third-party utilities, i.e., TweakUI, which is now in the Ubuntu repository to fill those feature deficits.

Fuduntu, much to my pleasant surprise opened up to a beautifully asthetically minimalistic Gnome 2.34 GUI.  Get out of town!

Fuduntu Linux 2013.1


Immediately, I felt as sense of nostalgia, harkening back to pre-Unity versions of Ubuntu.

Now, I thought, this is exactly what I need.  The fundamentals hath returned.  I was happy.

Giggly happy in fact.  Anyone in their right mind will immediately find this Distro likeable.   I mean, what's not to like?  It's familiar, functionally complete, and intuitive, yet, it doesn't over-embellish.

Okay, so you get it.  I like Fuduntu.  Lets look at some of the salient features.

tmpfs

I was at first concerned by the use of tmpfs, but haven't encountered any issues.  Essentially, /var and /tmp are mounted to a tmpfs in ram to speed up operations.  You only have log files for your current bootstrap session.  On a Netbook, this is a plus and I haven't seen a need for log rotation or viewing older logs.  To the average user, this is going to go unnoticed but does yield a performance improvement and is particularly well-suited for Atom based machines with hard disk drives (HDD vs. solid state drives SSD).

Swappiness


Swappiness is set aggressively to 10 and should yield a performance improvement in reducing the need to swap to disk, the slowest operation with any HDD equipped machine.

Jupiter


Andrew Wyatt is the author of the original and exceedingly popular Jupiter power management utility.   Users of Netbooks and Laptops alike will appreciate that Andrew chose to merge key features of Jupiter into Fuduntu--specifically power management will help keep your battery running optimally during your unplugged sessions.

Look and Feel


Fuduntu in its default configuration is minimalistic.  I like minimalism and appreciate the aesthetic chosen by the Fuduntu Team.  The default icon set is Faenza Cupertino.  I'll go out on a limb here.  It's gorgeous.


File Manager


Again Fuduntu scores high with its choice of Nautilus Elementary, a patched simplified, most-elegant version of standard bearer Nautilus File Manager component in Gnome 2.34.  Coupled with the Faenza Icon set, the result is an exceptional file manager.

VLC Media Player

Today, VLC Media Player has taken over the reigns from one-time King MPlayer and distinguishes itself as the exemplar.  A facile and most capable media player fluid in all respects, VLC comes with Fluendo's own codecs and GStreamer enhanced ongoing development support resulting in a superior multi-media experience.

Cairo Dock


I wasn't sure how I would feel about Cairo Dock, recalling its use in prior years, but I have to give this product an enthusiastic thumbs up.  Reviewing the product, I would say that it is functional, overall much improved and there when needed.  At this point, I think were I to switch to another Distro without it, I would miss it.  The integration of Compiz effects is a big plus in the aesthetic department and in the default start-up, the Desktop dock is minimally populated with just the basic applications, not over done.


Libre Office


This if not present would be a glaring omission and it has become the standard to be included in most every Distro, Libre Office.  It gets the job done.

System Tools

I was surprised at what I found on the System Tools menu.  First off, Ailurus will help you with a wide range of system settings and really is a nice utility to quickly get to some of the customizations that might otherwise require the user to get 'under the hood', as in, going to a terminal and doing some command-line wizardry.  Also found on the System Tools menu, is Deja Dup Backup, GParted, and Disk Utility, a nice graphical utility to diagnose the health of your hard drive with Smartmon.

Graphics


Not too surprising is the presence of GIMP, but also found is Shotwell Photo Manager.  I would mention that too often in other Distros, they overload the menus with redundant programs, many of which I'll never use.  I like that GIMP is included by default as I seem to recall that Ubuntu does not.

Internet

Again, Fuduntu strikes a nice minimalistic application mix, including Google's open source Chromium, Pidgin, Mozilla's Thunderbird email client, DropBox, and Remmina Remote Desktop Client.  These by themselves should cover most users' needs.  Not over done.  As for myself, I chose to download Google's Chrome web browser and XChat to stay in touch with the IRC channels.

Accessories

To my surprise, I discovered when pressing the print screen button that Fuduntu binds the key to running perhaps the best screen shot utility out there, Shutter.  Pressing PrtSc takes a shot with Shutter and opens up the application to the just taken shot.  Nicely done.  Gedit is also included and is the standard Gnome GUI programmer's editor.  Included also for terminal sessions are the popular vim and Nano text editors.

Summary


As mentioned before, I am giddy.  This modest Distro with the funny name fits the bill.  It does the job and it does it well.  The installation was clean and intuitive and more importantly easy to use.  As updates occur, you'll find a system tray update icon appear.  Fuduntu having a Fedora lineage uses rpm package management with yum.  You may opt to use the graphical package manager front end found on the System->Administration->Add/Remove Software, or, for those who prefer, drop out to a terminal and fire off a yum command which has its own accompanying man page documentation.

So, what makes this understated Distro so great?  I think that the return to fundamentals is the most sensible thing about it.  Concerns regarding the ongoing support for Gnome 2.34 are valid but Red Hat will continue to perform code maintenance through end of year 2014.  I trust well before then, Andrew Wyatt and Fuduntu Team will have set into motion a replacement GUI.  Rumor has it that he and +Ikey Doherty co-Founder of SolusOS, are collaboratively working on the soon-to-be released SolusOS 2.0 which will run with their newest fork of Gnome3, Consort.  Also rumor has it that Andrew Wyatt is planning inclusion of KDE in the Fuduntu repository.

All in all, Fuduntu strikes the right balance for me: professional, sleek, minimal, nimble.  It has the fundamentals 'down pat'.  Give Fuduntu your serious evaluation.  I promise, you won't be disappointed.

-- Dietrich







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32 comments:

  1. Gonzalo Velasco C.March 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    What about updating and upgrading? Does it approaches the rolling ot the static release system?

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  2. I had a path similar to this: I was dissatisfied by Ubuntu Unity so I looked for another distro. Since finding Fuduntu, I haven't looked back. Great distro!

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  3. You'll find many questions answered here:

    http://www.fuduntu.org/wiki/index.php/Getting_Started



    Fuduntu is a rolling release.

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  4. The key is 'fundamentals'. Fuduntu has that covered, unlike Ubuntu.

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  5. Great writeup! Fuduntu has been extraordinary for me.

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  6. Super! Thanks for your feedback.

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  7. I'll give Fuduntu a try. Have you tried bodhi?

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  8. I have. Bodhi is remarkable in having a graphical user interface which has such a small memory footprint.

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  9. Your website doesn't seem to be available.

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  10. Rolling done the painless way if you go safe and only choose stabvle repositories.
    Honestly i have even pulled in some unstable aswell without a hitch

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  11. Yeah, our wiki cover most stuff needed :)

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  12. The GNOME (and KDE with KDE 4) developers had good reasons to move on... their code base was rather old... had matured into somewhat of a dead end... and starting from scratch with a more modern design was preferred... and breathed new life into the project giving it more longevity.

    No initial release is going to have everything. As an example, GNOME 2.34 is considerably more advanced than GNOME 2.0. GNOME 3 has been developing rather nicely since the initial release. KDE 4.0 was definitely NOT ready for consumption by end users (it wasn't the lacking of features but the crashing bugs) so I'd say GNOME 3.0 was in better shape... and had been in development for some time and was fairly stable... and you know one of the mottos of free software... release EARLY and OFTEN. I think the main problem people have with GNOME 3 is that they just don't like the fundamental (using your preferred word) design... with all of the changes... and the fact that it requires hardware acceleration or you get the fallback mode... which is being deprecated. The idea was that require it would force video driver providers to do a better job and push those forward. The end result is that there is just some hardware that will not work with GNOME 3 except for the fallback mode.



    I didn't like GNOME 3 at first but it has grown on me. I'm also a big KDE user... and I use XFCE, LXDE and a few others routinely under different conditions. They are all good.


    I can definitely understand people not liking something and wanting to stick with what they already use... if it isn't broken, don't fix it... but from a development point of view, it was clearly broken. Luckily the MATE project has sprung up to keep the ball rolling.


    My perception of new users is that they prefer the flashier desktops and GNOME 2 and KDE 3 look ancient... and that it was fairly impossible to do something new and keep the old timers (and I consider myself one) happy... so there was no way to win with everyone... but since they are the developers, they have to make themselves happy first before they can make anyone else happy... and the code rotted code bases just were not going to cut it.

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  13. Welcome to my world. Fuduntu has been the distro of choice for me sometime. . Glad to someone else feels the same way. It's a gem..

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  14. Similar for me. I was disgusted by Ubuntu, and having Slackware on a laptop seemed somewhat overdone. Then, in january, I landed at Fuduntu ( via a mention on Slashdot ). Haven't left it since. I have rebooted my ASUS laptop ( 2,2 GHz cpu, 8 Gb RAM, one slowish 500 Gb HDD, full HD screen ) once in these 3 months. A small GUI bug when running Netbeans - I am a developer - I could fix myself. I installed some utilities that are necessary for me, most notable are some gcc stuff, emacs and gkrellm. That went seamlessly & in a jiffy.

    I am more than enthusiastic, and smile every time I work with it. Fuduntu is, indeed, all Dietrich claims it to be: professional, sleek, minimal, nimble. Fuduntu kicks ass in its own humble way :-)

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  15. You should perhaps mention that this distro uses fedora as a base instead of ubuntu as the name would imply in the first paragraph rather than right at the end. I'm rather spend an 1+ hours uninstalling all the rubbish in Ubuntu and setting up another window manager than using a distro without the well-maintained PPAs ubuntu offers. I don't need a bleeding edge distro, but there's certain stuff like mplayer2 I want updates for ASAP without having to build from source.

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  16. Fuduntu looks great. I've been looking for something like this to run on an older laptop. Thanks for the writeup!

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  17. Genuine question: What are the fundamentals that everyone feels is missing from Gnome3 (shell) and Unity? I was personally very concerned with the way Ubuntu was taking their desktop environment, but since the dust settled I have found a lot to like, and have not run into any issues. I'm not looking to start a religious war but interested to know what has put people off so much?

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  18. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Fundamental:

    serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function



    Gnome 2.34 is fundamentally sound, complete and provides a structure and function which satisfies the purpose for which it was designed.


    Gnome3 and Unity are divergent and regressions with a loss of features which are basic and relied upon.


    Try adding icons to your Desktop. Just one of many limitations imposed by Gnome3. A raft of third-party utilities, e.g., TweakUI have sprouted up to fill the regression feature deficits--symptomatic? You betcha.


    --Dietrich

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  19. Ok so I suppose I am not a 'standard' user (whatever that means) as I have never missed having desktop icons.

    I can appreciate people struggling when moving to a new environment that is missing certain structures and ideas - and if they decide they want something else, more power to them I say! The fact that such tools as tweakui have sprung up certainly shows that a large number of users were thrown by the transition, but I'm not sure that it follows that these features are fundamental to the desktop environment.

    To continue with your example of the desktop icons, I would say this feature *addresses* a fundamental requirement of a desktop environment, rather than *being* a fundamental itself. The fundamental requirement underlying it might be something like:

    "The user can quickly view and access a subset of her applications and files"

    The solution (and of course this is not to everyone's taste) that unity and gnome shell provides is that I can quickly bring up the hud and type a few letters to find what I am looking for, be it an application or a file.



    Anyway, just my opinion, obviously people use their tools in different ways!

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  20. Just wondering if anybody switched to this from Crunchbang? I'm using #! and love it but I miss being able to drag stuff to the desktop.

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  21. I used #! last Summer for about a month. It is a speed deamon. Unfortunately, it uses a Debian base which means the kernel was too old for my purposes. Chrome's sandboxing technology, seccomp-bpf relies upon a kernel of 3.5 or greater and #! was 3.2. I couldn't get the developer to agree to a backport of the seccomp-bpf patch, in spite of the fact that Canonical had already done so for 12.04, which was 3.2. Anyhow, the combination of OpenBox and Debian as I recall resulted in 13 second boot times and a nimbleness I have not seen in any other Distro. It's a good one.


    But being Debian, I find their software release policy unacceptable and too far behind.

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  22. OK, you convinced me to try this :)

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  23. I've been hearing nothing but good things about Fuduntu; I'll have to give it a whirl sometime this week.

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  24. Thanks for the feedback. I don't strongly disagree with any of your comments. I didn't think Fedora would be interested in collaborating too much... but as a Fedora user, I was disappointed that the vast majority of your work with Fuduntu doesn't make it upstream. I don't really blame anyone for that... it is just a sad reality.


    I didn't know you forked a lot of RPMfusion packages top... and yes forks happen... but THE WHOLE DISTRO? I guess if you do end up replacing a hundreds or thousands of packages... forking the whole thing does make much more sense... and is less painful. I just takes some getting used to.


    So, my real question would be, since you forked from Fedora 14, how close are you to Fedora 18 now? Or are you closer to Fedora 14 still? I'm not fond of the concept of a rolling release so that doesn't appeal to me but I know it does to many others.

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  25. "I was disappointed that the vast majority of your work with Fuduntu doesn't make it upstream."

    Fedora and any other distribution is welcome to pull from us. We do send upstream, another example .. I recently sent a patch to PackageKit after letting Korora know about it (jockey related). I don't understand this misconception that we don't work upstream. The ONLY reason we don't work with Fedora is because they told us in no uncertain terms to go away.

    "THE WHOLE DISTRO"

    heh, yes. It was easier than doing all of the work over again. :)

    "So, my real question would be, since you forked from Fedora 14, how close are you to Fedora 18 now?"



    We are binary compatible with Fedora 18, but in some cases our packages are newer than theirs. We have a lot of older Fedora 14 packages left, but they are being actively replaced, I think the team updated over 100 of them just this past week.

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  26. Well I tried all the options the installer has, but with no luck.
    There's nothing special about my laptop, unless being too old ;)
    And that's a shame because I really liked in the liveCD session

    I know that the community can be helpful but I'm short of time lately and Crunchbang performs well enough

    Thanks

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  27. I would suspect a corrupt iso. If you didn't do an md5 checksum (I am guilty of not doing that often), then the result would be just that type of message.

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  28. It could be that, since I didn't do the checking.

    Maybe I'll try again. I've heard a lot of good stuff about this distro

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  29. I can tweak Unity and GNOME 3 to work as I want. But I am clinging to the dream of widespread Linux adoption on desktops and laptops. I can't recommend to a Linux newbie something that needs heavy tweaking after install to work well.

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  30. You have distilled the issue I have down to its very essence.
    Thanks.

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