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Episode 184: Fresh Looks – ApricityOS

Posted by Tony on March 13, 2016 in Show-mp3 |
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Un-edited Live session –

Recording from the Podcast Detroit Studios: http://www.podcastdetroit.com/event/sunday-morning-linux-review/

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Summary

Fresh Looks
Time:


Intro:

Tony Bemus, Tom Lawrence, and Mary Tomich

Sound bites by Mike Tanner


Fresh Looks – ApricityOS

Time:

I am always on the lookout for new and interesting distros. Sometimes I find them; and sometimes I end up reviewing an Ubuntu derivative. 🙂 This fresh looks episode takes a look at ApricityOS, a distro whose name sounds close to April—and we all are looking forward to spring. Just a small caveat, however– this distro is a beta release.

The Vitals:
Name: Apricity OS
Maintainer: Alex Gajewski
Distro Latest Birthday: February 27, 2016 (Most recent beta release- 02.2016)
Derivative: Arch Linux
Kernel: 4.4.1-2
Review Desktop: Gnome 3.18.4 (customized)

Live Environment:

Running Apricity OS live starts off by opening the installer after the desktop loads—and a polished installer it is: Calamares. This version of Calamares is the latest—2.0 which was released on February 24. I decided to cancel the install process for now because I wanted to take Apricity OS for a test drive first. Apricity boots to an attractive Gnome desktop (See…I can say ‘attractive’ and ‘Gnome’ in the same sentence.) The standard Gnome panel spans the top of the display. Only two icons are on the desktop: Home and Trash. It is evident that Gnome Extensions have been installed/enabled because Dash to Doc is displayed across the bottom of the screen. It’s been customized to use Apricity’s own icon set which display as circles on a transparent background. It really looks nice but you can select Adwaita, Oxygen, or a few others if that is your preference. The dock is stocked with the tools you’d typically find: LibreOffice, Gnome Tweek, Browser, etc. plus one I did not expect to see: Ice, the SSB manager. SSB is an abbreviation for site specific browser. This tool allows you to integrate web apps or pages right into the application launcher or menu.

The Defaults
Browser: Chrome
Office Suite: LibreOffice 5.1.0.3
Mail Client: None that I could see.
File Manager: Files (Nautilus is hiding in there somewhere….)

The Install Process:

In addition to the install intro screen viewable when booting to the live environment, Apricity also has an install icon in its launcher menu and it was from there that I kicked off the install. If you’ve used Arch Linux, you will know that you have a lot of control over how your system works. You also know that installing Arch takes some effort. Consequently it is not a distro recommended for beginners. That position doesn’t hold true as far as Apricity is concerned, I was impressed by the fact that installing it was just as easy as installing Ubuntu. In other words, the Apricity team has hidden the Arch-iness behind the curtain.

Apricity uses the Calamares installer which, if you’re familiar with Clamares, you’ll know that a solid, well-thought-out install experience awaits. But would partitioning leave me feeling divided or split on the process? I was about to find out.

The partition phase offered me four options:
>    Install alongside (Installer will shrink a partition to make room for Apricity)
>    Replace a partition
>    Erase Disk
>    Manual Partitioning

As is typical, I opted to manually partition the disk and, in less than a minute, I had deleted existing partitions and created three new ones: root, home, and swap. After finishing the next step (i.e. user, password, etc.), I was ready to begin the install. Before it actually kicks off, Calamares will summarize and display the install decisions. They are presented in an easy-to-understand new. I clicked “Next” and began the install. As it progressed, Calamares presented helpful screens/slides that described the various applications that would be installed on the system.

The install finished without a problem so I checked the reboot box then hit close to reboot the system.

Installed Environment:

Up to this point, I had not seen anything mentioning networking or wireless. Nor had I checked whether wireless was there—there was no icon in the upper panel so I assumed—and you know what they say about assuming—wireless networking was a no-go for me. (I forgot that Gnome apparently hides the configuration icon in a menu in the top panel ) When I finally checked the network setup utility, my wireless network was listed—as well as a few others that were close by. I connected to my network and within a few seconds I had a list of updates. Speaking of upgrades, let’s take a quick look at the package management in Apricity.

Since Apricity is based on Arch Linux, it should be no surprise that it uses Pacman as its behind-the-scenes package manager. To make things easy for new users, Pamac (the UI for Pacman) has been included. Pamac really makes life easy for anyone wanting their package management system not only to just work but to look good in the process. You can search for packages and applications, view package groups, check on the state of installed apps, or see what pages are in the repositories. Apricity includes five repositories by default:
>    Apricity-core
>    Core
>    Extra
>    Multilib
>    Community
>    Local (if you want to maintain a package locally. It was empty on my system.)

I encountered what was an existing bug with the Gnome tweak tool when I attempted to make a small change: namely d reduce the number of desktop workspaces from the default four to one. The system froze—actually it looked like Gnome shell had crashed and I had to reboot the system. It appeared also to take down my wireless connection because after I triggered the bug, the wireless connection was as present as Donald Trump’s modesty. Zip, nada, no, nothing…

I reinstalled Apricity and wireless was back. I found it odd that it did not persist. I reconnected, performed my updates again and crashed the desktop again—this time on purpose to confirm the bug. However I opened a terminal and confirmed that I still had wifi. So I rebooted and it was gone again. Also, all the nice customization that I mentioned earlier were gone and I had the stock Gnome desktop Arrggh!! Definitely an issue to work out.

Speaking of terminals, Apricity uses zsh as its default shell. Zsh allows for a great degree of visual customization and Apricity has nicely pimped out the prompt. If you want to use Bash for a session, you can simply type bash and the boring Bash prompt appears. Or you can configure the system to use Bash as the default shell. Another interesting aspect to the terminal and users is that I was automatically became root when I typed in ‘su’. During the install, I recall selecting the option to have the admin password be the same as the user password. Apparently the result is automatic elevation to root when typing su. Yes, I sacrificed security for efficiency… 🙂

Another anomaly: Despite having automatic login selected, Apricity still prompts for a login. According to the support forums, this is a known issue and should be fixed for the January beta….wait, it’s March and it’s still there…

Other interesting Programs:

In addition to having the full LibreOffice suite, Apricity impressed me by the types of programs that came installed out of the box.

Cheese (the webcam utility)—it worked and I was face with an early-morning, disheveled selfie video. I turned that thing off!!
FileZilla – the ubiquitous FTP programs
Gufw Firewall – a front-end to ufw firewall.
GIMP – Image editor
Inkscape – Graphics Editor and drawing tool
Ice—which was mentioned earlier.
PlayOnLinux – Graphical front end for the Wine software compatibility layer (Wikipedia)
Simplebackup Suite – I decided to test this program. I created a test folder on the desktop and added a document to it. I then kicked off a full backup. The plan was to back the system up, delete the test folder I had created, then restore it. The test sounded simple enough… I am happy to report that the test completed without a hitch.
Steam– gaming platform
SyncThing – open source file sync tool

Rating:

The bottom Line–if you leave your desktops at four and don’t mind logging in each time you rev up your laptop, I think you’ll find ApricityOS an interesting Linux distro to follow. It’s still rough around a couple of edges, but other edges are very polished. It’s a promising distro, provided it fixes the issues I noted earlier.

 

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