Lets get one thing straight. When it comes to Linux, I’m an almost militant user of Debian, and anything based off Debian. I prefer the way Debian does things with the apt-get package management system and after much kludging and fudging I get something that does its prescribed job pretty damn well. I guess it what comes about when the first distribution of Linux you cut your teeth on is Slackware.
When reading that Brynux (the subject of this blog posting and evident first look at) was a Fedora Remix, I won’t lie when I instantly thought “Oh god another one”.
Why would I think of such a thing? I’ve never once had a decent experience with these remixes. Every time I’ve tried one I’ve found them to be clunky, under-optimised RAM hogging piles of kack. Additionaly, a config file will usually be set incorrectly for my particular hardware and I need to go digging to sort it out. Not entirely fun.
Brynux on the other hand at first gaze (and after first use) is NOT such a thing and it’s a refreshing, if very orange, look at the remixed offerings of hat-wearing penguin OSes. It’s a simple download complete with tutorial to create your own USB stick (Instructions only exist for fedora but I’m told instructions for other operating systems are on the way), or for a nominal fee of $29.95 including shipping, you can get a pretty swanky looking 16GB USB stick that you can boot the Brynux remix from and have storage room that any PC/Mac/Linux and even android smartphones can see and use (The stick has a normal connector at one end and a micro at the other. Very clever). For a start, everything works! It comes with a raft of productivity applications from the LibreOffice productivity suite for all you office types out there, to creativity ones like the Blender 3D modelling software and the Audacity audio editor. Persistent overlay means any new programs you add are retained on the stick (provided you booted from the stick of course), as are any configurations and extra drivers you add along the way. It’s all cobbled together via the Gnome 3 GUI shell in such a way that it almost feels like Ubuntu’s Unity UI, only nowhere near as unbearably crap. Within a few minutes I was jumping around the system with ease, whereas after a few minutes with Unity I found myself removing it and loading in my trusty favourite MATE UI. The additions of Google’s Chrome browser and the Adobe Flash plugin are also added bonuses for someone who wants to be able to check on their Youtube subscriptions without using the existing operating system on that PC and buggering someone elses stuff up.
The best thing with Brynux is the usability. By far. Not only is it simple to just plug in, boot from and get running, the Brynux team (well, single person at the moment it seems) have been posting a raft of crazy-helpful video tutorials for the different applications that come with Brynux. This is a brilliant idea for the novice user who may not know another email program outside of that god-awful Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail rubbish. It could very well be the end of those annoying support calls from family members for free help whenever Grandad manages to get his laptop riddled with viruses from nasty spam emails.
All positive it seems but I did find a few quirks. I ran into an issue with the software centre from the Fedora distro itself trying to install things then suddenly crashing to desktop. After a poke at YUM (the Fedora/Redhat alternative to my trusty apt-get) it would appear that an issue from the Fedora Core 20 update has permeated into Brynux in the form of most of the GPG key files being renamed ever so slightly. Not a hard thing to fix (just had to re-import the keys manually from a command line, plenty of how-to’s on that thanks to a little Google-Fu) but it’s sad that the upstream Fedora hasn’t really fixed this. Hopefully and update further down the line will remedy this. I’d also like to see something similar to Ubuntu and Linux Mint’s proprietary hardware driver assistants, but there’s enough tutorials out there on the web that this is really just a gripe to get a “nice to have” and not a “need to have.”
Overall, I love it! If you need a new USB key, go pay the $29.95 and get this one. Not only do you get a USB key to store stuff on but a frankly brilliant first release of a Fedora Remix that can do just about everything the average internet user would use a computer for. If you’re adventurous like myself, go grab a spare USB key of at least 8GB and make your own. This remix proves that a Linux desktop can be simple, fun, easy to use and easy to navigate. Looking squarely at you here, Ubuntu. Watch yourself if this project gains the kind of traction you did before Unity. And I hope it does.