I am not a “distro hopper” but it is good to experience some of the other Linux distributions out there. It gives you a good understanding of what you like and what you like less and keeps things colorful. This time it is NeptuneOS, a Debian based distro. Most of my Debian experience as of late has been with the Ubuntu and its variants. As far as I am concerned. Linux really is Linux and they are all, for the most part, good.
I am doing all my evaluations in a Virtual Machine. I am using my current favorite, for such things, VirtualBox. When I downloaded the ISO, I took quick attention to the system requirements for how very specific they are. I wanted to try them at their minimum.
1 Ghz Intel/AMD 64Bit CPU, 1.6 GB RAM, 8 GB HDD
I didn’t scale the CPU but I did set the RAM to down to 1.8 GB because I do have a machine like that and the HDD just a bit bigger to be realistic to what I would get form an older netbook or current, cheap, laptop in a dual boot scenario.
For starters, I must say, I am a bit confused as to why there isn’t a direct install option, that you have to use it as a “Live CD” to start. I am not sure why Live CDs are really a thing anymore. If I am going to try a Linux Distribution, you can’t get the full benefit out of it in a kind of Read Only environment, would rather just install directly.
When the Live CD version boots up, you are greeted with a fine looking desktop. Very pleasant and simple. A great way to start.
I am not going to be too critical of the choice for a Live CD being the only option but it does seem like a bit of a waste of time to have to go that route, just to install.
The installation process was straight forward. With only six steps required to get the install going, seven if you count the confirmation to perform the install and eight if you count rebooting as part of the install.
The first two steps are pretty easy… what language do you speak and about where do you live. If only most questions life were this simple…
The keyboard selector is the best I have ever seen. Although I do not have a Dvorak keyboard, nor have I ever seen one in the wild, it was great to not only see this as an option but to see that the keyboard layout is what you are expecting. Very nice!
This really inspires me to want to get a Dvorak keyboard. The practicality is still in question as I don’t need one and it would likely just be a novelty.
I left the default partitioning scheme in place. This is not going to be a regular machine else I would have set a separate /home partition. I like for those home things to be separate should I have a desire to “nuke and pave” my system (clean install). The user set up was also nice and clean although, I like to be able to specify my own user ID.
My only criticism to the installation process is that it is just a series of commercials, I suppose that is fine but I like to watch and see what is actually happening, such as packages being installed and the like.
Step Eight, reboot. Interesting that it would be a check mark option.
Upon reboot, I happen to like this Grub screen; Big Chunky Red Bar to boot Neptune OS. It boot rather quickly, especially since this is happening in a VM. Time to boot is not something I would score real heavy on unless it is painfully slow like pre-systemD era Linux.
There is something about a fresh smelling, clean, un-customized desktop in KDE Plasma. It is like a sand box waiting for your own personal creation to take form.
I am going to give NeptuneOS points on their default menu selection. It is not my personal preference but for a new user, this is a great, comfortable menu that is clear and gives you some great starting points. Well done!
Personally, I prefer the “Application Menu” Alternative but that is the simply awesome thing about KDE Plasma, if you don’t like the default or have a different preference, there is an option for you.
For a light theme, I think the default desktop theme is pretty great. It looks clean and simple and I do like the shadowing effect. The NeptuneOS dark theme is also very nicely done. So theming wise, this is a great distro out of the box. No reason to hunt for a new theme.
Discover is basically what you would expect on a KDE Plasma Desktop. I must say, I am not used to the light theme for this application and I maybe like it better than the dark theme.
I am not really sure why you have to enter your password for updates but again, not a big deal. Maybe you don’t want an unprivileged user to be able to perform updates.
I may have been living under a rock but I haven’t seen this application before. I haven’t taken the time to research it at all but wanted to see how intuitive it would be to use knowing nothing about it.
The one thing I don’t really understand is why they would include Encfs as an encryption system by default if it is knowingly less secure and easily compromised. I can see having it available for legacy reason but installed by default seems just a bit silly.
After choosing your encryption system, you are prompted for your password to which it tells you how “secure” it is, a location for the vault, the mount point, and finally the type of cipher you wish to use. I chose the “default”.
Another nice feature was the option to limit the vault to specific activities. Plasma will close that vault if you goo to an activity to which it is not permitted.
To try it out, I created a text file in the vault to experience the process of interacting with mounting and un-mounting vaults.
When mounted, the vault acts like any other directory on the file tree. When you un-mount the vault, the contents of that vault disappears in much the same way you would expect from un-mounting a drive.
When mounting the drive, you are prompted for your password and the vault auto-magically becomes available once again.
On a side note I liked this so much, and to shoe-horn in my preferred distribution in this review, I installed it in openSUSE to play with it some more.
sudo zypper install plasma-vault plasma-vault-backend-cryfs plasma-vault-lang
What I Like
The general feel of NeptuneOS is great, from the Installation process to the menu selection and default theme selections, it was all quite fantastic. If I had to use NeptuneOS as a daily driver, I would be quite comfortable here. NeptuneOS is based on Debian 9.0 (Stretch), I could probably add a PPA or download the tarball or some other deb package of Telegram to get going with it. The same goes for Discord or any other application I regularly use. I am already familiar with the Debian way of doing things so living in the terminal here is not much different elsewhere.
I used my directions for installing the Smart Card system for Ubuntu and derivatives and it all worked just as expected. I was a bit surprised that they worked. I did have to set it up for Chromium, which worked just fine. This tells me I need to make some adjustments to my page to spell out what I have tested. Something to think about…
The system requirements specified on the Download page are accurate. They are not just theoretical. For everything I tested, it all just worked.
What I Don’t Like
Telegram, Discord and Firefox was not available in the repository. Iceweasel was available, which I know is a re-branded Firefox but to a new-ish user that doesn’t know what Iceweasel is, that could be confusing. I am sure I could find Telegram and Discord but I wasn’t particularly inspired to do so.
I haven’t tested memory usage between Chromium and Firefox but based on my Chrome experiences, it seems like Firefox might be a better solution to meet that low system memory requirement or better yet, have Falkon available even though that is not a full featured browser.
It doesn’t have Zypper, the openSUSE package manager… but I wasn’t expecting that. I just happen to prefer it over Apt*.
NeptuneOS is a very clean KDE Plasma distribution. It looks good out of the box and since it is based on Debian 9.0, it has potential to have quite the extensive software library available to it. The experience is clean and well thought out with sensible defaults. Not all the defaults are my preference but that can be fairly easily adjusted to suit my needs. There are some applications that are not available by default which can be a bit frustrating but there are not many distributions that have everything you want upon install.
Over all, NeptuneOS is a winner, from an openSUSE user’s perspective.