Saline Linux Review

This is my first attempt at reviewing a Linux distribution. I’m excited, and I hope you’ll find it useful. I would definitely appreciate any feedback! I’m a user, not a developer, so I’ll be approaching this from a not-too-technical angle, focusing on asthetics and usability. Here goes.

I first became aware of Saline Linux when Anthony Nordquist posted a comment on one of my previous blog posts, Why I Use Linux. Toward the end of his comment he mentioned that he was working on a distribution of his own, and I said I would give it a try. I was excited to learn via Twitter that as of 1/16/2011, version 1.0 of Saline Linux is now available.

Saline Linux is built on Debian and features Xfce for its desktop environment. According to the About page on Saline’s website, “Saline OS includes many things that most people using a Debian GNU/Linux based system would most likely want or need, but are not included or not setup on a default Debian install for various reasons. This includes sgfxi for installing proprietary graphics drivers, Debian repositories that include software that does not conform to Debian’s strict free software guidelines, WINE repositories, Remastersys backup utility, binary firmware for common wireless network cards, the Debian backports repository and a script to install potentially patent encumbered multimedia codecs with one command.”

I torrented the iso file of the live dvd and set about to install it under Virtual Box. It booted up quickly, and I began the installation process. The installer was pretty straight forward and not atypical of many other Linux distributions. I did have an opportunity to stretch myself during the installaAtion though. Never before have I allocated any space to swap, but Saline required me to for installation. It wasn’t tough, but I’d never done it before, even though Fedora, or Ubuntu, or whatever always asks me to. That extremely minor challenge surmounted, the installation proceeded quickly.

Live DVD Desktop

Nautical Themed Login Screen

Neat Launcher Bar at the Bottom that Auto Hides Itself

Auto Update Command

Clean - Remove Browser History

User Manual

Automatic Update

The user manual, which is available on the desktop of both the live dvd and the installed system contains a lot of good information such as included software and an installation walkthrough.

Included in the manual is a script to add restricted multimedia codecs. This is extremely useful for someone who wants to use Linux as a Windows or Mac replacement. The codecs installed for me without any difficulties, allowing me to fully enjoy a wide variety of media formats.

Finally, the manual contains several pages of useful POSIX commands

I was pleased to see that Chromium is included as the default browser. I find that when I want a fast light system, especially for a netbook with limited screen space, that Chromium is the right browser for the job.

Another software choice was Gedit, rather than Mousepad which is what I’m used to seeing with Xfce installations. I like Gedit, so I was happy to see it among the software.

I find Saline Linux to be a very pleasant distribution to use, and I could definitely see it as my primary OS of choice. It is built on the rock solid Debian foundation, but includes some nice theme-ing that you won’t get with Debian Xfce. I think as its usership and community grow, Saline Linux has the potential to be every bit as wonderful and vibrant as Linux Mint, which is currently my distro of choice. For now I’m going to continue running it as a virtual machine and see how it continues to progress.

One thing I really enjoyed just on a personal level is that the desktop background by default seems to be some sort of large aquarium. This is a nice change of pace from the abstract shapes, random colors, and logos included as the default background in many other distributions.

Congratulations on a great release, Anthony. To my readers, I hope you found this review useful on some level, and I definitely encourage you to give Saline Linux a try if you’re in the mood for something new.

13 Comments

  1. Also of note is that, Saline OS 1.0 will follow Squeeze’s stable branch, but instead of keeping the same version of all applications the AutoUpdate script configures apt to pull in backported packages direct from the official Debian archive. All packages that will be passed onto Saline OS stable will undergo a freeze period in testing for as long as it takes to get relevant bugs fixed upstream. Running backports can be risky business and take some technical knowledge and patience in troubleshooting. The goal of this setup is to alleviate that from the end user and push it to the Saline OS developers and anyone brave enough and nice enough to run AutoUpdateTesting instead of AutoUpdate. I cannot think of a better operating system to base off of than Debian, but after using Linux for almost 10 years now I am convinced that this setup is a better balance of stability and staying up to date than trying to go rolling release using the testing branch.

  2. This article is now available on LXer.com

  3. More info on Saline from Distrowatch

    http://distrowatch.com/?newsid=06468

  4. I’ve installed Saline yesterday before reading your post, and I must say and agree: Saline feels very good and I like it much. The only thing I missed in the installer is an option for /boot, but thats it. Now I’m trying to install (compiling) the latest qbittorrent on my system, after that OpenVas 3, if everything goes fine I will install Saline at my workplace. Great job and thanks to Anthony Nordquist.

    • Hey hipsauerkraut, thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting. I’m definitely loving Saline as a VM, and I think I’ll probably install it on an old laptop in place of LMDE. I’m getting on a big Xfce kick lately, and this is really a nice implementation of it.

  5. goossbears

    01/21/2011 at 14:00

    Thanks for this review!
    It’s nice that a Debian-based Xfce distro such as Saline Linux is coming out 🙂 IMHO, these days, way too many touted Linux distros seem to be directly based upon the higher-level Ubuntus than anything else!
    I actually went all the way to native Debian Squeeze on some older laptops, and this runs quite fast with and without some of the Saline help&hint steps mentioned above.
    You can probably even get the lightweight Window Managers fluxbox and IceWM to run on Saline just as you can on native Debian.
    If I didn’t have as much current time to spend on understanding and using native Debian, than I probably would’ve considered installing the CD version of Saline or else possibly CrunchBang Linux “Statler”.
    As an FYI, a Steven Rosenberg in Southern California (U.S.) is a vocal advocate of native Debian. You can find his current Debian-advocacy blog at http://www.insidesocal.com/click/2011/01/ , and many of his technical points might very well help out with those both using and developing Saline. Again, just mentioning this as an FYI.

    Best of Success for Saline!

    • Hey goossbears, thanks for reading and thank for commenting. I appreciate the link to Steven Rosenberg’s blog. I’m always looking for good sources of technical knowhow. I’m following him on twitter now.

      Thanks again.

      • goossbears

        01/21/2011 at 14:53

        Hey Russell,
        Thanks for your own reply 🙂
        Another FYI came to mind after I wrote.
        The website DistroWatch.com presents info and popularity of all the active Linux distributions and then some.
        I am just bringing up the DistroWatch.com 7-day data span http://distrowatch.com/index.php?dataspan=1 and see that news of the release of Saline 1.0 is prominently displayed there.
        This 7-day DistroWatch.com Hits-per-Day ranking there puts Saline 1.0 at number 15; not too shabby at all for one day after its release.
        Way to go Anthony N!!
        Ubuntu of course remains numero uno, but surprisingly native Debian is right behind there at number three.

        Here’s hoping that Saline Linux’s website and OS downloads will get even more popular as more people read and comment on your review!!
        -Go OSS Bears

  6. Adam C. Sieracki

    01/25/2011 at 17:07

    I tried the Saline live DVD on an old ‘Celery’ with less than a gig of memory, and it booted and ran pretty perkilly. Performance is comparable to aptosid, or straight Debian. By contrast, Xubuntu is a pig in muck. Why is that? Even some Gnome distros (e.g., Scientific Linux) run faster than Xubuntu.

  7. Sadly Xubuntu loads half of GNOME to get access to standard Ubuntu fluff (Like Jockey-gtk, the update manager, GDM, the Software Center). Half of GNOME + All of Xfce is more than just straight GNOME. SalineOS tries for nothing more than to be the best Xfce experience out of the box, with using as little GNOME as possible (And no QT) It includes everything someone using an Ubuntu based system would expect, just far different utilities for getting the same job done. SLiM replaces GDM, the update manager gets replaced by a button on the panel, jockey-gtk gets replaced by firmware and sgfxi, synaptic replaces the software center and then I include a user manual to learn to use the included tools. Things might not popup and tell you this and that, but it also won’t eat your machines resources left and right with GNOME libraries like Xubuntu does.

  8. This is an exceptional content, and I can agree with what was written here. I will be back to check out more of your articles soon. Thanks

  9. It definitely looks very good. I like the theme and branding. But why is the iso so huge? It’s almost 900mb while Zenlive for instance is 554mb.

  10. Robert W. Hayden

    12/27/2011 at 09:00

    Saline looks very nice run live but the installation screenshots above show no option as to where/if to install GRUB. Does Saline follow Debian in using GRUB2? My experience with GRUB2 is that the menu it automatically creates is mostly wrong in identifying OSs and seriously broken when it tries to boot them, and there is no menu.lst file to manually edit to fix the mess. So I then have to reinstall GRUB1 and then manually merge the resulting automatically generated menu.lst with the old one that actually worked;-( OSs that overwrite your MBR without asking should be illegal;-)

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