September 27, 2007

Sam Linux - a Media Friendly, Well Made Distro

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Sam Linux 2007 - For the XFCE Lover

Created 03/23/2007 - 02:09

[0]Sam Linux [1] 2007 was released yesterday [2] and since it's been little over a year since my last test of Sam, I thought I might see what was new. The first Sam I tested [2] two years ago was very unstable, while last year's Sam [2] was so much improved. But this year finds Sam based on PCLOS 2007 and it is better than ever. It looks better, it performs better, it even smells better.

Ok, I couldn't actually smell anything, but it definitely looks better. From start to finish Sam Linux 2007 looks great, and I do love a pretty face. The boot screen is lovely in abstract blends of floral to peridot greens accented by the customized Sam logo. The Sam logo is inherited from PCLOS I believe as it's very similar. The logo is a green circle containing the XFCE mouse and the distribution name. The silent boot splash is the same background and logo, but adds a nice progress bar. The verbose boot splash is perfectly aligned and centered bringing one the login screen in which one will find a graphical login container and the same background and logo. After login one finds the matching background set as the wallpaper with the Sam Logo in the center. The icon text background color is also green, matching really well. The default windec is gray, even if focused, but a green one is available. The menu and various highlights are in nice shades of coordinating greens. The package in its entirety has a lot of curb appeal. It appears very polished and makes a great impression.

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The only wrinkle in the fabric was this black box around the wbar on my desktop machinemy laptop [3] using an NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150 under nv this didn't happen. The beryl/xgl 3D desktop [3] is available if one installs Sam onto their harddrive using the included PCLOS (mandriva) harddrive installer. [2]. As tested, I was using an NVIDIA 6800 chipset with Xorg nv drivers. On

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I tested Sam Linux 2007 in the livecd mode, but it's also possible to boot it from a USB stick (as well as saving and using a /home on usb). It was a 700mb download [4], but it came in fairly quickly. Once upon a time, Sam was mini-distro of 200mb, but has since grown to be a full blown system. As such, it comes with a plethora of software. In using XFCE4 4.4.0 as the desktop, there is room for lots of great apps, tools, and accessories.

It'd be such a long list to try and name all the software. Some applications include Gaim 2.0b6, Firefox, Opera 9.10, Abiword, 2.2rc, The Gimp 2.3.10, FLPhoto2, Xsane, MPlayer, Gxine, RealPlayer, Xmms, Skype, Chestnut, gtk-grutella, Liferea, Exaile, Gnomebaker, Tilda, Streamtuner, GnomeCommander, Frozenbubble, Sylpheed, and even minesweeper under wine. There were several apps listed in the menu that run under wine, including a wine package manager. This means that one might have a bit of luck trying to install and use other software requiring wine. Also included are Flash 9 and java. Under the hood we have a 2.6.18 kernel, Xorg 7.1.0, and gcc 4.1.1. There is just so much included it's impossible to list it all. Here's a Full RPM List [4].

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Sam comes with Synaptic/apt-get for package management set up to use the PCLOS 2007 repositories and the PCLinuxOS Control Center for system configuration. It also has the XFCE4 desktop settings panel full of those modules, as well as the Sam Desktop Configuration. In the Sam Desktop Configuration center one can access the XFCE4 Desktop Settings, add or remove adesklets, or reconfigure the WBar. The Wbar is that application launcher at the top of the screen with the 'exploding' icons. What a nice touch.


I was quite pleased with Sam on my laptop as well, or even moreso I believe. It seemed to take a bit longer to boot the livecd, but it did wonderfully. My touchpad responded accurately and immediately, a startup sound greeted me, and my resolution was set to the optimal 1280x800.

If you've booted Mandriva or PCLOS 2007, you might remember the start up configuration that appears before the login. Here one sets up their language, keyboard, timezone and net connection. On my laptop I chose the wireless option and clicked next. There it asked if I needed to use ndiswrapper and upon clicking ok, I got offered one included or the chance to install one from my windows partition. I chose to install new driver and clicked to its location. The driver was installed and my access point was detected. Next a dialog box appeared for me to input my wep key. Then it connected. Easy as pie.

At the desktop, one can add a battery monitor applet to the lower panel. Cpufreq and powersave are included as well.

Overall the performance of Sam was good. I did experience a bit of menu lag from time to time. Firefox popped right open, but took several seconds to open. Otherwise the other applications including the nicer 2d games performed very well. Xsane worked out of the box with my old epson scanner and removeable media such as a USB memory stick is automounted with an icon [4] placed on the desktop. This is another nice touch for an XFCE desktop. All applications performed their specific duties without complaint and MPlayer played all video types tested. The fonts were just gorgeous, which is a very important factor to me. In conclusion, I just really liked it. I think it's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.