Monday, 16 November 2009

Simplicity Linux

Simplicity Linux (not to be confused with the recent arrival, SimplicITy Project) is a Puppy based distro.

A recent appearance in Distrowatch's "Distributions on the Waiting List" caught my eye, probably because of the hype surrounding SimplicITy Project (in a subliminal advertising kind of way), and a download ensued at once.

The creator claims that it came about "to make one laptop accessible for my father who was recovering from a hip operation".

Which was nice.

The download was called Simplicity Netbook 9.10 (after the Ubuntu release name), it's 175mb and uses the kernel. The next release is due in January 2010 which, according to the site, will have the (or later) kernel.

And it's creator is a mad Englishman working out of his conservatory (possibly a shed), somewhere in rural England.

I'm thinking Caractacus Potts.

What's in the bag?

So, one download later, I created a live USB (4GB partitioned as 2gb Fat32 and 2gb Ext2) using Unetbootin on my Ubuntu install, rebooted and after selecting my mouse, keyboard and display type, a rather nice splash screen appeared (shame I haven't got a screenshot, it is very nice indeed) followed by the desktop.

First, I want to connect to my wireless, wep encrypted network.  After all, what's a netbook with a netbook distro without internet?  Now, I went through this a couple of times before I wrote this and ended up using the following solution.

This is what the desktop looks like:

Note the widgets on the right of the screen. What's really needed is a wireless widget.  I know this because having connected previously, there was no indication that I was connected leaving me in a state of doubt as to whether I was or not.  So, double click on the Widgets shortcut to bring up this screen:

Then, highlight Wireless on the left and hit the green + icon to add it. Then highlight the Weather and Tasks on the right and hit the red - icon to remove them, otherwise you won't be able to see the new Wireless widget on the desktop. And then hit Apply and close the window.

Your desktop should now look like this:

See the Internet icon?  If you double click on it a window with some shortcuts appears, one of them being Network Manager.  I tried using this to connect to my network, but for all it's configuration windows and boxes, there wasn't a connect button and I ended up closing it, a bit baffled as to how to connect.  I then opened the menu, found, pWirlessNow and connected with that.  To make sure of it, I rebooted without saving anything and just went straight to pWirless, which worked.

So, my advice is to got to the Menu and find the pWireless Wireless Scanner...

Choose your network and hit the Connect button, enter your encryption key (again) and a small window showing your ip address should appear. Close and quit the wireless scanner.

And there we are.  The wireless widget now indicates a working connection.

The desktop, despite the very nice background, is a little too busy for me.  The desktop shortcuts get a little lost.  Making them bigger, having a plainer background would help.  I'm going to use this one, move the icons over a bit and switched the Xfce style from Vista-ish to Xfce Dusk.  

It may be a little dark for some, but I like it.  I'd like to lose the widgets, too, and have a calender and battery and wireless indicators in the tray, but there you go.

So, what else is in the bag?

You get Opera (lightning quick!), quick access to the Meebo online chat client (which opens in it's own window, like a Prism application), Transmission, VLC, Abiword and Gnumeric.  There is also a button for Google Docs, but it's broken.

Then there is all the stuff you'd get with a regular puppy install, much of which I have never, ever used.  It's all a bit overkill for me.  For instance, under the Multimedia menu entry, there are two CD rippers, two audio mixers, two audio players and two multimedia players and then another seven apps.

If Simplistic Linux is going to live up to it's name, much of this is going to have to go.  I see nothing simplistic in having menu entry for a floppy disk formatter in this day and age.

Is there anything in the bag for the 900?

Well, Of the hotkeys, only Fn+F3/F4 (brightness) work.  Wireless works well (I haven't tested wired but I'm pretty sure there won't be any problems with it).  Sound and video (tested with full screen YouTube) are both fine, but I couldn't see any webcam apps, so that remains untested.

So, it's not for Eee users who want sleep/suspend/monitor switching, leaving it for users who want something that runs quickly and has working wireless.

Do I really want this bag?  Is it me?

I really wanted to like this and have lots of good things to say about it.  But, in it's current state, it's just not doing it for me.  I like the thinking behind it, "keep it simple", but it just isn't anywhere simple enough.  This isn't entirely the fault of the creator.  Puppy has always been too much for me, it's menus are horrible with far too much unwanted stuff and it feels disjointed.  Many Puplets work well, Pupeee (Puppy for the Eee) and BrowserLinux (Puppy with Firefox and very little else) are good examples of well thought out distros which hit their targets time and time again.

Simplistic Linux needs to slim right down, simplify the desktop and decide whether or not it's going to go down the cloud computing route.  I'm sure this is what's going on in the mind of this shed-based maniac's mind, but time will tell.

That said, I'll hold on to Simplicity and I'll eagerly await the next release.


  1. Thanks for the review. The new netbook edition should be about 50mb smaller, and I take your point over the menus. Actually, Windows Edition (not on the site yet) does have a lot of menu stuff removed.

    Oh, and loved the Caracatus Potts reference. Sadly, you hit the nail on the head! But it is a conservatory. Shed is too full of junk...

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