ROSA Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

ROSA Linux review title.png

ROSA Linux is an RPM based Linux distribution that was forked from Mandriva Linux. ROSA is a Russian company that is developing a multiple Linux-based solutions of which ROSA Desktop is its flagship product. For their latest version ROSA Fresh R10, they offer Plasma 5, LXQt and curiously, Plasma 4. It is also this weeks challenge for BigDaddyLinux Live Show.

My first Linux distribution I put any time into was Mandrake Linux, initially in 2002 and it became my full time desktop by late 2003. There were some features about Mandrake that were uniquely Mandrake. Those features made Linux in 2002 / 2003 very approachable and made it easy to set things up and be operational. As time went on, some of those tools became somewhat dated and some did get refreshed from time to time.

This is my incredibly biased view of ROSA Linux from an openSUSE User’s perspective. Although I don’t believe any Linux distribution is perfect, I currently believe openSUSE is perfect for me. I will be objectively biased in this review but keep in mind that these are my opinions as a reasonably technical user.

Installation

I can’t say that in the last several years I have come across a terrible installer in Linux. Now, I haven’t tried a lot of distributions and what constitutes as “terrible” from my perspective would be different than others. ROSA Fresh R10, not terrible. I like it very much. Even from the Grub bootloader screen. I was happy about it.

rosa r10-01-grub

There is something delightfully early 2000s about this bootloader screen. Thankfully, it has the option to install ROSA directly but still gives you the option to just kick the tires. It is also worth noting, if you do nothing and let the loader time out, it will just boot whatever is on your local drive.

The steps on the installer are pretty straight forward, Language selection first, then you have to agree with their terms. It’s a short read and nothing stuck out as being bothersome.

Next your keyboard and Timezone selection

Here you specify how you want the hardware clock set and if you go into the advanced tab, the NTP (Network Time Protocol) Server preferences, if at all.

This is where it got weird; I specified to use the free space, which was all of the drive and it forced me to reboot before it could continue the installation but I had to repeat all the previous steps.

I don’t recall such a bump back on the Mandrake / Mandriva days but perhaps there was a technical reason for this. Another note: When installing on hardware that I used existing partitions, I didn’t have to do this. I only specified to format the root (/) partition.

When I got back to the partition screen, I selected to use the existing partitions. Then I had to specify what was root and /home. 

Presumably it could figure out Swap on its own.

It doesn’t take long to install ROSA, you get a typical corporate feeling set of commercials, then you set your bootloader options.

I am sure this would be a lot more handy for multi boot systems but for me, the default was just fine.

Seemingly the opposite of other installers, in ROSA you set the root password first, then the User Information.

If you go to the advanced settings, you are given the opportunity to set User and Group ID numbers. I wish this was a more common feature among Linux Distributions.

The last steps before you reboot into your Freshly installed ROSA Fresh R10, you are prompted for the Hostname and what services you would like to activate upon startup.

That is it for the installation. Very straight forward, outside of that odd partitioning reboot.

First Run

The initial Grub screen is the typical layout with the expected options. No complaints there. What I found rather remarkable was how quickly I went from the Grub screen to the login screen.

rosa r10-23-installed grub

The login screen appeared so quickly I had to take a double-take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I did also note that this was the older style login but it really isn’t a big deal fro my perspective. KDE Plasma booted up quite quickly as well; no complaints there either.

The desktop is very Mandrake feeling. The Home icon in particular. The desktop just feels very 2007 to me (I guess that would be Mandriva time not Mandrake).

It should be noted that immediately after installation, you have KDE Plasma version 5.10.5 but after performing the many updates, you have an even more fresh KDE Plasma 5.14.4, effectively the latest version of Plasma 5 and after initial boot and settling, uses 439MiBytes of RAM.

rosa r10-28-menu

The default menu itself is just the standard “Application Menu with cascading popup menus, the traditional style of which I prefer.

If you are not happy with that style of menu, there is also the Application Launcher that breaks the applications down into sections or the Application Dashboard that I don’t care for at all because it takes over the entire screen, akin to Windows 8.1 or perhaps Gnome if my memory serves me correctly. Either way, the menu that takes over the screen doesn’t work well for me at all, so the default, which I’m sure is too, “old-man-river” is absolutely perfect for me.

I am not terribly fond of the default theme of ROSA. I also didn’t want to switch to the “Breeze Dark” and just make it a generic KDE Plasma desktop, so I decided to change up the color scheme and make it more to my liking.

Immediately, I was not tickled with the window buttons but since I don’t plan on staying here, I decided to just leave it there.

Interstingly, ROSA comes preinstalled with Firefox and Chromium. I don’t recall if I have seen more than one browser as default on any other install before but that is not a big deal. The icon theme in ROSA, also very Mandrake feeling. I still find it appealing.

Curiously, the panel has LibreOffice Writer as one of the applications pinned to it. I am curious as to why that as one of the items as opposed to Konsole, the default Plasma terminal emulator. I would think that to be preferred. Since it was there, I decided to open it up and see how it looked with the dark theme I selected activated. It too required a tweak in the options to use the Breeze Dark Icon style.

After tweaking the icons, it got me thinking. The current trend in icons is almost monochromatic and clean looking which in a way clashes with the Mandrake high-color shaded icons. It’s clear that overall aesthetic isn’t a driving force in the design of ROSA, a large contrast to what you see with Pop!_OS or ElementaryOS in their emphasis of visuals.

When the notification popped up in the corner that there are updates, I decided to install them and go through that experience. On a positive note, I didn’t have to enter my credentials to begin the updates unlike all the Debian based distributions I have tried. Not that one is better, really, I just happen to prefer to not enter my user credentials for a user level task.

The experience from there was very Mandrake like which brought back fantastic memories. It is also worth noting that the icon sets haven’t been changed since at least 2008.

After the first round of installations, it required another round of installations. I didn’t dig into why but but after 1436 more packages, it upgraded nearly everything, as noted earlier, all of KDE Plasma was upgraded.

I didn’t go through all the applications but I found this gem a little interesting to see installed by default. I haven’t used a modem in Linux for well over a decade. I was almost inspired to try it out but I don’t have a land line to test it on.

rosa r10-43-kppp

None the less, I thought it was pretty interesting to see this installed. Perhaps there are old GSM modems that are still being in use in Eastern Europe or Russia.

Since this is a fork of Mandrake I was expecting some spin on the Mandrake Control Center but alas, there was no such thing. All the System Administrator tools are in the KDE System settings… which is fine, I was just hopping to see that old friend MCC that I used so many years back.

rosa r10-44-system administration settings

 

What I Like

ROSA does have surprisingly fast boot times. Although, I would say that most distributions today have fast boot times, thanks to SystemD.

The legacy Mandrake tools was a blast from my Linux past with which I enjoyed working so many years ago. The “Drake” tools are easy to use but the drawback has been that they are very “Wizard Like” which makes editing settings a bit cumbersome. Those tools got me using powerful tools in Linux more than 16 years ago which made it easier for me to understand how to manipulate the settings of those powerful tools in terminal when I had to tweak them further.

The default Application Menu choice is by far my favorite. I do like the cascading popups for the application categories. That has been my favorite, I’ve seen and used others but I am just not a fan.

What I Don’t Like

The installer was great until the partition option for using the entire disk was selected. The fact I had to reboot and go back through the installer made my head hurt just a bit. It seems like that could be cleaned up a bit.

The general theme of the KDE Plasma version of ROSA was disjointed. I can be forgiving of this mostly but it doesn’t seem like the designers even made an attempt to make it a consistent experience.

ISO was pretty far out of date which required a lot of updates. Not a huge issue if it was not for the slow rate the updates came down. Thankfully the updates came down without any problems, a tribute to the URPMI underpinnings.

Final Thoughts

ROSA Linux is a decent distribution. It works well but has a few theme issues. The system tools that originated on Mandrake so many years ago has not had any artwork updates. Although it was nice to see that old artwork, I do think it would have been better for a cohesive experience had the artwork all been updated to the same general appearance.

Would I give up openSUSE for ROSA? No, I would not. I think ROSA is good for someone but it is not the best choice for me and what I want out of a Linux Distribution.

Further Reading

ROSA Linux Downloads

Pop!_OS | Review from an openSUSE User

BigDaddyLinux Live Show

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