The latest in the BigDaddyLinux Community challenge is Makulu Linux. This distribution is very different from anything else I have used. It does use XFCE as the desktop but it is very customized. It some ways, it reminds me of Pantheon but without the top bar and less Mac OS-like.
Makulu Linux seems to have a lot going for it. Without having to fiddle around with the system, you can install from a large array of software from the Debian repositories, Flatpak and Snaps. As I used it, it is rather apparent that their target audience is not me and that is perfectly fine as this is my rather biased review as an openSUSE user.
As is common with a lot of distributions, Makulu boots to a live media session of the operating system. It’s a good way to “dip your toes” and see if your hardware is going to work well enough with the distribution.
While the system is booting up, I did notice, as the torrent of text is flying by the screen, a change in font. I think I’ve seen such a thing before, it just happened to catch my attention this time.
You are initially prompted to select your theme which is a first and quite appreciated. It only changes the window decoration style and color but still, very welcome. More on that later.
After I selected to install the operating system, I was prompted to select the kind of installation as well as a a few other options. I didn’t explore much here but one item on the list seemed just a bit out of place: Set Your Download Server Location (recommended). Everything else selected the type of install and it may have made more sense to put that option on another page of the setup. Also note, I didn’t actually do that. It only said “recommended” so…
I selected the Home Environment. I don’t have a slow internet connection so there was no concern in that area. Unfortunately, I was stuck for quite some time on the Home Environment Notice window. There weren’t any buttons to press so I waited… a long time. I had other things to do while setting up the install and since I like to multiplex my time I did so and let the system just sit. I was told to be patient so I decided to be patient.
After a while, I just gave up and closed the screen where the installer started. I felt a little stupid but I think for users that do actually read these dialogs, it would nice to either have a Next button or some sort of instruction to close that window.
Makulu Linux defaults to British English as opposed to American English. I would agree that British English is quite possibly more proper than American English but I still went with my native English version.
In a very familiar presentation, you are asked to set your Location and Keyboard. Just as a note, this is the first Distro where I had to set it to my timezone. Not a big deal as it was easy to do–point and click.
I selected to use the entire disk and have a Swap space with Hibernate. Not that I was going to use the feature, I just wanted to select it as it is also the first time I’ve seen that as an option. Usually, I calculate that in my head so bravo development team on that.
The User input is what you would expect. Nothing difficult here. It’s very nicely straight forward for pretty much anyone.
After you are given a very nice summary of changes. The installation will commence. There wasn’t a details option that I could nerd-out watching so I watched the obligatory distribution commercial slideshow instead.
After the installation was completed, I selected to reboot but it got hung up on the process of doing so. That could be as a result of how I set up Qemu. Let’s blame that one on me. Ultimately, I had to force the Virtual Machine off and start it again.
I really enjoyed the bootsplash screen of Makulu. It has a neat spinning effect and I would have included a screenshot of it but I just didn’t like how it turned out. You’ll just have to install it yourself to earn that smile.
Upon the first login, you are given a quick introduction to MakuluLinux and you will once again select your window boarder style and color. The first time was just a practice run, it seems.
In my time of clicking around and exploring, I was presented with these Web applets. Similar to what I experience on PeppermintOS except instead of being in the menu like a typical application, this is like a quick access toolbar on the top of the screen. It was nice and all until I opened up the browser, which happened to be Opera.
I of course had to visit one of my favorite web sites, certainly not my favorite but just a bit self-serving. After messing with the Web Applet bar for a while, seeing how you can easily set up other quick links, as it were, I ultimately turned it off because of how it covered up much of the screen.
The application menu on MakuluLinux is activated with a Right-Click on the mouse and a middle-click activates the Workspace selection. A nice feature of Makulu is the ability to dynamically add another virtual desktop.
I wanted to see if Makulu was using SystemD or not and it is so that is another plus. I started installing software to see how that experience went and that was also quite a seemless experience. You are given a few options on how you want to install software, which is fine, I guess, but I think I would stick with just the Synaptic Software Manager or Gnome Software. Personal preference would be Synaptic because I think that is just a better system over all but obviously less user friendly than Gnome Software.
The only real “issue” I ran into with Makulu was the this error I would get when the screen blanked out.
I don’t have anything Nvidia on this computer so I am not sure where this came from. Not a big deal, really, I am sure I could have tracked down the problem and at least made it not show up if I took the time.
Overall, MakuluLinux is a fine piece of engineering and I enjoyed the short time I worked with it.
What I Like
The desktop does look polished, not exactly the polish I like but does look very nice. It appears that it was well thought out and once I got used to the work flow, I could navigate my way around just fine.
The desktop appears to be snappy and the slight translucency of the boarder looks good. The desktop Conky is also a great edition to the background and the date format was also correct putting the date in the order day, month, year and using the 24 hour clock by default.
Snap and Flatpak applications install and work out of the box without having to fiddle with anything which is much appreciated. I do prefer pulling software right from the repositories but the option to use one of the universal packages is fantastic.
I liked this subdued right-side bar that is much like a system tray stacked on its head. It looked good and was very “modern” looking.
A booted and settled system with 4 GiB of RAM it used less than 600 MiB of RAM, which was great.
What I Don’t Like
There isn’t a virtual desktop pager on the bottom bar or on the side. Call me old fashioned but I prefer that over the middle-click interaction. I like seeing, just by a glance what desktop I am on and where my windows are cluttered.
There isn’t really a task manager, exactly. I could see all the applications by a middle click and on what virtual desktop they lived but this is not my preferred method.
The web Applets crowd the top of the desktop. I like the idea of web applets but this wasn’t my favorite way to execute it. Because it was distractingly at the top, I just shut them off which is unfortunate because I could see me using such a feature if it was perhaps in a pop up menu from a panel of some kind, much like I use on Plasma.
When trying to resize windows, it was challenging to grab the corners to resize the window. Maybe there is a better MakuluLinux way of dynamically changing the window sizes but it was evident to me.
When I thought I started the installation process, I didn’t get any active feedback or any kind of instruction to close the a window to get it started. I ended up sitting there for about 2 hours before “giving up” I closed the window to get the installer going. Some sort of instruction to close that window or a Next button would be good for numpties like myself.
MakuluLinux is a fine distribution of Linux that looks good, has a lot of unique features but also clearly not targeted towards me. I much prefer the work flow that is provided by KDE Plasma but I can see where the workflow here works for many. The desktop looks great, I don’t fully understand the gestures but it is something I could get used to if I took the time.
If you are jumping around Linux distributions I highly recommend you give this one a spin. The work flow and the unique features may be right for you. It looks good and feels real crisp. It’s just not the Linux distribution for me.