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Dreamlinux 5 - a Debian-based distro

Dreamlinux is an interesting Linux distro for many reasons. While many are available with KDE and Gnome desktops, Dreamlinux uses Xfce instead. It can be installed on a portable USB disk drive and run on any computer, it comes with Softmaker Office instead of the usual OpenOffice/LibreOffice, it's ready to play video and audio, and it is based on Debian.

It must be popular because the website was down due to its bandwidth being exceeded, so try here or here for download links. It's just under a gigabyte, so a DVD-R is required to burn it. It can be installed to the hard disk drive in the usual way by booting up to the live desktop and then running the installer. It is also possible to install it to a USB disk drive or flash memory drive. I didn't try this option, but it sounds useful. You can carry it around and then plug it into any PC and boot up your Dreamlinux distro. The developers say it is designed to cope with the changing hardware environment it finds itself it.

The previous version of Deeamlinux was 3.5 and work was started on version 4. However, it wasn't right, so it was avandoned and the project was restarted. The result is Dreamlinux 5. There doesn't appear to be an option for KDE and Gmone, so why use Xfce? Not everyone likes where Gnome and KDE are heading - Linux Torvalds has spoken out against Gnome 3 - and Xfce is a lightweight alternative that some people prefer. I don't know about the relative sizes of the different desktops, but Xfce is certainly simpler and more straightforward. It lets you get your work done without any fancy extras getting in the way.

The Dreamlinux desktop looks good and at the top is a Gnome-like panel. At the left is a menu button that enables you to browse the list of tools and applications that are installed. At the right are four workspaces (virtual desktops), a network icon and date. Other items can be added to the top panel.

Dreamlinux

Down at the bottom is the Plank, which is similar to the Dock on the Apple Mac. Icons represent your favourite applications to make them quick and easy to start and running programs are displayed as icons too. There are no names on the icons in the Plank, which is a bit irritating until you have learnt what each one is for, then it is fine. There is also an Application Finder, which opens a window that lists all the software, utilities and system tools installed and has a search facility. The fact that there is a menu, Plank and Application Finder surely means that none is perfect on its own. Windows has the Start menu and that's it. Here there are three systems, but it is easy to get to grips with and it's not a problem. The file manager is Thunar and it works well enough. The desktop theme can be modified, so you can have different colour schemes and window designs.

Many Linux distros bundle LibreOffice (the new OpenOffice) these days, but not dreamlinux. Instead you get SoftMaker Office, which consists of a word processor, spreadsheet and presentations. It is actually the old 2008 Standard edition and not the latest 2012 edition that is currently on sale ($99). However, It is still a good suite of office applications despite being a few years old. Of course, you can always download and install LibreOffice using the Synaptic Package Manager.

The web browser is Chrome and Firefox is not supplied. I like both and don't mind which is bundled providing it is up to date. Foxit Reader for viewing PDFs is bundled, there is SMPlayer for music and video (it played MP3 and WMA files straight away with no codecs or downloads required). Graphics editing is by GIMP and Inkscape, there's Ristretto Image Viewer and Shotwell Photo Manager, and SimpleBurn CD/DVD burner and ripper, and Imagination DVD slide show maker. It has good multimedia support with Music Player Daemon and MiniDLNA media server.

Whether you will like Dreamlinux is probably dependent on liking Xfce. It's not like KDE or Gnome, but if you've had enough of those two desktops then Dreamlinux is a good Debian-based alternative. It's one that you can immediately start using without having to configure it, download extras to get media playing and so on. It just works. It's well worth trying.


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