Hands-On with Tanglu 2.0 Bartholomea annulata

A new release from this Debian-Testing derived distribution: I'm trying it out.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

Tanglu GNU/Linux is a distribution based on Debian Testing. When I wrote recently about the future of Linux Mint Debian Edition and other distributions based on Debian Testing, what I was concerned about was the fact that they will be changing their base to Debian Stable in the near future. Tanglu has not given any indication that they intend to change, so this could be a good alternative for the future.

Their new release is available from the Tanglu downloads page in three versions, built with either the KDE Plasma or Gnome 3 desktop or a Core distribution with no GUI. Oh, and it also mentions that there is a Docker image of Tanglu available. The GUI versions are about 1.3GB each, while the Core distribution is only about 550MB. All three are hybrid-ISO images which can be copied (dd) directly to a USB stick to create bootable Live USB media, or of course can be burned to DVD (or CD for the Core version).

The release notes mention that this release includes a "highly experimental UEFI support" for early adopters. My experience is that this is a pretty significant understatement, as I was not able to get the Live image to boot with UEFI boot enabled, either Secure or not, on any of my laptops. It does boot with no problems, though, on MBR systems and on UEFI systems with Legacy Boot enabled.

The release announcement mentions that this release includes two different installers. I found the description to be a bit vague, so I'll add a few comments about my own experience with it. First, the installers are the standard Debian Installer and a Live Installer which looks to me like it is the Linux Mint Debian Edition installer (variations of this are used by SolydXK and Makulu). The two installers are started in two different ways, from two different places. To use the Debian installer, you have to select it directly from the Live Boot menu, rather than booting Tanglu; to use the Live Installer, you boot Tanglu Live and then start it from the KDE or Gnome desktop menus.

The release announcement and release notes both say that the Debian Installer is more tested and stable, and thus should be the better choice. My own experience with this release has been that both installers work just fine. I have installed this release on three systems so far:

  • Lenovo T400 (Gnome 3)
  • Acer Aspire One 522, UEFI in Legacy Boot Mode (KDE Desktop)
  • Samsung N150 Plus (KDE Netbook)

As I mentioned above, I tried installing with EFI Boot enabled, but got nothing but a boot (configuration) failure, regardless of whether Secure Boot was enabled or disabled. So I enabled Legacy Boot Support, and installed it that way. After the installation I switched back to UEFI boot, and I added Tanglu to the openSuSE grub.cfg file.

Oh, one other comment about this while I am thinking about it. If you happen to leave the screen idle for long enough while the Live Installer is running, the screen lock can come on. If that happens, you will need the 'liveuser' password - live.

I also installed it on my new Acer Aspire E11, but I couldn't get the Broadcom 43142 driver to work. I don't hold this against Tanglu, though, because I already know from various other distributions that this Broadcom adapter is a pain in the rear.

Tanglu KDE
Tanglu GNU/Linux KDE Desktop

The standard KDE desktop, shown here on the Acer Aspire One 522. The display is 11.6" and 1366x768 resolution.

The KDM display manager has been replaced in this release with the SDDM session manager.

Tanglu has a very minimalist initial desktop, with nothing but 'Home' and 'Trash' in the desktop workspace. Here I have added the utilities and applications which I most commonly use.

Tanglu GNU/Linux KDE Netbook

The KDE Netbook desktop came up automatically on booting the Samsung N150+ which has a 10" display and 1024x600 resolution.

I am getting the feeling that this distribution is pushing the limits of what can be run on this Atom N450 dual-core system with 1GB memory and an Intel graphic controller. Login takes so long that I honestly thought it had hung, or something else was wrong. But once logged in and with the netbook desktop running, it was still comfortable to use.

Tanglu GNU/Linux Gnome 3 Desktop

The Gnome 3 desktop, on my Lenovo T400 with a 14" display and 1280x800 resolution. This version of Tanglu uses the GDM3 session manager, and doesn't seem to struggle with the login process nearly as much as the KDE version with SDDM.

Here's a quick overview of what is included in this release:

  • Linux Kernel: 3.16.5
  • X.Org version: 1.16.2
  • Desktop: KDE 4.14.2 / Gnome 3.14.1
  • Firefox: 33.0
  • LibreOffice:
  • PhotoManager: digiKam 4.4.0 / Shotwell 0.18.1
  • Audio Player: Amarok 2.8.0 / Rhythmbox 3.1
  • Video Player: Dragon Player 2.0 & VLC 2.2.0 / Totem 3.14

Summary. Hmmm. If you're looking for a distribution that is derived from Debian Testing, and you want to move away from LMDE, SolydXK and such, then this could be a good option. There is a valid question as to why one would want a derivative at all, since Debian now includes most of what used to be added by such derivatives, but I think there is still at least one good reason in that it adds a layer of stability to the update process. It is a relatively conservative distribution, as evidenced by the comparatively small set of applications and such that are included in the base distribution.

However, if you have a system with UEFI firmware, you need to be careful. The "very experimental" UEFI support included in this release doesn't actually work in any useful way for me. If you're willing to enable Legacy Boot support, and leave it that way, or if you are using something else as a boot manager (such as rEFInd), then that could work well.

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