Pinguy OS 10.10.1

Pinguy OS 10.10.1

Summary: I have had mixed feelings about Pinguy OS since I first heard of it. I am really not interested in trying out "Yet Another Ubuntu Derivative" every time one comes along, so my tolerance level for ignoring what I consider "background noise" is set fairly high.

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TOPICS: Linux
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I have had mixed feelings about Pinguy OS since I first heard of it. I am really not interested in trying out "Yet Another Ubuntu Derivative" every time one comes along, so my tolerance level for ignoring what I consider "background noise" is set fairly high. Also, the stated purpose of Pinguy OS is to make a "more user friendly Ubuntu", and I feel like I already have one of those in Linux Mint - besides, there are a lot of very smart people working on that already. But despite all of that, Pinguy has seemed intriguing, the approach has been different from what others have done, and they have now survived at least a few months, and a couple of releases. With Ubuntu themselves wandering off in some rather strange directions, and some free time over the holidays, I decided to take a look at Pinguy.

The download is simple enough, from the Pinguy OS page on Sourceforge. With all of the extras that they have added to Ubuntu, this is strictly a LiveDVD distribution, they haven't attempted to shoehorn it into a CD image. But, how to turn that LiveDVD image into a LiveUSB stick? Perhaps I didn't look hard enough, but I didn't see any instructions, and I assumed because it is an Ubuntu derivative that the "Startup Disk Creator" on a running Ubuntu system would do the trick. Wrong, unfortunately, and in a rather confusing way. The ISO image is still close enough to Ubuntu that the utility recognises it and will in fact copy it to a bootable USB image. That USB stick will even boot, but it doesn't run properly, it produces lots of error messages while booting, and is of no use whatsoever. The correct way to create a bootable USB stick is to use unetbootin, which can also be downloaded from Sourceforge for Windows or Linux, or if you have a running Linux system most distributions will include it in their Repos, so you can get it through whatever Add/Remove software package utility they have. That creates a USB stick with a Live image that boots and runs very nicely on all of my desktop/laptop/netbook systems.

Installation is quite easy, and is essentially the same as the Ubuntu 10.10 installer. When the installation finishes and you boot the installed system, you get a desktop that looks like this:

Pinguy OS 10.10.1

Wow. That really IS different from the standard Ubuntu desktop! Well, a close looks shows that the top panel is still the same, although it has quite a few more icons and controls included. The left and bottom panels are from Docky, which is a relatively new shortcut/launcher/taskbar package. I have to take my hat off to Pinguy at this point, I seriously underestimated them. Making a few small tweaks to the Ubuntu distribution and packaging it as a derivative is one thing, but changing the desktop and user interface at this level is really something else altogether.

I could write an entire blog post just about Docky... several of them, actually, and I probably will sometime soon. But for now I will just say that Docky provides multiple bars which can be placed at the top, bottom or either side of the screen, they can be fixed in place or they have multiple interesting hiding modes, including "intelligent hiding" which happens only when they would obscure part of an active window, and are amazingly configurable. They have a sort of pseudo-Mac feel. If you are interested in new desktop/UI alternatives, this could really be worth trying. Here is a quick shot of the Docky configuration window:

Pinguy Docky

Getting back to Pinguy, one of the things you will quickly notice is that the traditional Gnome menus are missing from the top panel. Pinguy is already using Gnome-Do, which is another fairly brave leap. If you aren't familiar with Gnome-Do, it will take some getting used to, but this type of launcher is likely to be the way of the future, so you might as well get used to it. To start an application, click the icon in the top panel and you will get this search window:

Pinguy Gnome Do

Type any sort of text about what you want to run - the name, a description, a function, or something like that. Gnome-Do will bring up what it finds that matches that text, and in many cases that will be the right thing. If it is not, or if you typed a very general term such as "office" (when I want an OpenOffice program), then you can press the down arrow key and it will show you the text you typed, and the list of matching applications, like this:

Pinguy Do List

Choose the correct application from that list, or revise your search text to find what you want. There is a lot more to Gnome-Do than this simple kind of use, but my purpose here isn't to investigate that any more than it is Docky, so I'll just hope that is enough to get someone started on it.

I have installed Pinguy OS 10.10.1 on all of my laptops and netbooks, and it seems to work well on all of them. I'm going to have to do some experimenting and adjusting on the netbooks, to reduce or optimise the screen use, but on the larger screens it looks very good. It will be interesting to see how well this distribution catches on. As I said, with Ubuntu wandering off in some very different directions, this might turn out to be the right thing at the right time.

jw 29/12/2010

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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12 comments
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  • You don't just have to use gnome-do to launch programs. In the top right hand corner where you can see a blue round button/icon, that is the start menu where you can find/see all the apps.
    pinguy
  • sorry top left.
    pinguy
  • Dear Mr. Watson:
    A question and a comment/question:
    Whenever I see your byline, I always read the article because I know it will be informative. I also read your material because you're one of--if not the only--source(s) of practical, working information on the 2133 mininote. I assume that you, like me, realized that H-P had built a diamond (hardware) in the rough (Suse ENTERPRISE operating system, and even less-workable OSs, if one dared)
    I bought two KR922UTs when the priced dropped to something rational, installed 2 GB of RAM, tried Ubuntu 9.04 (ran like a charm), and am now running Mint LXDE. Have you tried Pinguy on your 2133 (I don't know your mininote's configuration; mine is the 1.0 GHz C7-M with a 4 GB SSD and 2 GB of RAM; I plan on adding 16 GB of CF via the ExpressCard slot strictly for long-term storage). Just in case you're interested, the other KR922UT is still sealed in its box, awaiting what I think is the ideal configuration for me and/or my wife.
    Comment/question:
    Would you consider writing an article on your experiences and suggestions for those of us who, like you, have understood the merits of the 2133 mininote. Regarding the acquisition of knowledge, the worst thing which can possibly happen is that one acquires a body of useful knowledge, and then it gets lost.
    Would you please give this last your serious consideration? Many thanks, and
    Warmest regards,
    Jon Colt
    bakerdriver
  • I commented at length but lost it again. I'll try again tomorrow, if I have time.

    Tiresome!
    The Former Moley
  • Hi Moley -- sorry about that! Could you send the details of what happened when you lost your comment to uk.customersupport@zdnet.co.uk? We'll find out what's up. Thank you!
    Shannon Doubleday
  • @zdnetukuser - Thanks very much for the comment. It is always nice to hear that the things I am writing are helping someone else. I certainly do agree with you about the HP 2133 Mini-Note, mine has been a favorite system and a real workhorse despite all of the other netbooks which I have had over the past two years. I certainly will consider writing at more length about it in the future. I have tried Pinguy OS on a 2133, with mixed results. First, and most obvious, Docky requires video compositing to really work properly with all of its options and features, and of course the openchrome driver doesn't support that. Beyond that, however, the Live image does boot and run, and looks pretty good even without the flashy icon manipulation on the Docky bars. I was quite pleased and impressed to find that the Pinguy Live image includes not only the openchrome driver, but also the b43 driver for the Broadcom 4312 WiFi adapter! Neither Ubuntu nor Linux Mint include b43 in the Live image.

    Unfortunately, try as I might, I have not been able to install Pinguy on the 2133 yet. It always seems to hang during the installation. I can't tell if this is because of the flaky Broadcom drivers, or if there is something specific to the Pinguy installation that is causing it. But with Docky not working in all its glory anyway, I'm not all that determined to get it installed, I'll just keep running Mint on the 2133 and be happy with it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    jw
    j.a.watson@...
  • @Pinguy - Ah yes, there it is! It looks like the Mint Menu that is lurking under that blue disc at the top left of the screen.

    Thanks for reading and commenting - and thanks for producing a quite nice Linux distribution.

    jw
    j.a.watson@...
  • Hi Jamie

    Thanks for the post, another interesting distro to try, especially since I've jumped ship from Ubuntu and started using fedora and mint.

    I'm especially looking forward to reading your views on Docky and Gnome Do in more detail, considering its use of Mono!

    Thanks
    djflunk-24734705849945462478489202274377
  • @djflunk, I too have jumped ship from Ubuntu to Mint 10.My Ubuntu has done some strange things, in the last 6 months. It started out normal, now I have 8 Ubuntu kernel options in GRUB, my icons on the taskbar have moved from right to left, the clock icon is missing, the time and date icon is missing, and when I minimize a program to the taskbar, it doesn't show. I have Mint 10 installed since the first day it was released, and it has been flawless.
    ator1940
  • Thank you jw for yet another illuminating distro review :)

    I searched for "linux" on google and the first result? Yep, Ubuntu Linux! Looks like the other distros have their work cut out for them:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=linux
    Jake Rayson
  • Can I find that thing on the right in Mint 10?
    lifeischange
  • @lifeischange - Yes, just go to the Package Manager and install "conky". You can then set it up to autostart when you login, with whatever configuration and options you like. Enjoy!

    jw
    j.a.watson@...