Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Elive 0.5 Revolution - Bringing Fun and Excitement to Linux

Updated 11/7/06 - Recently, ELive announced that they have an unstable test for 0.5.2, which if you wish to know, has mostly bug fixes and very little in the way of a change to the install process or look and feel. Therefore, we will just update the one screen we noticed to be different and state that the system does seem to run faster on our test platforms. However, it didn't run on an older HP desktop with AMD chip.

Good luck and best wishes - KLG

I always am looking for the latest and greatest new Linux distro out there, and typically do my hunting on like most of you. Well, since there are over 500 distros in the database, it can be tough to decide which one to play with next. I typically try to go with the most popular, but Fedora and Mandriva just bother me. Then in feedback to my Dreamlinux review, one reader suggested that if I like Dream I would love Elive, a Belgium based distro.

Now, there are many of these small distros out there touting cool and function over fluff like Elive, Zenwalk comes to mind right off the top of my head, but Elive is one that is very open and honest about what they are all about. From their website;

"Elive is not made for newbies. Elive is not made for experienced people. Elive is not made for enterprises or personal use... Elive is art, Elive is simply for the people who appreciate it and want it. Feel free to try Elive, because only you decide what you want on this world!"

Let's head to Europe and see what is happening, shall we?


Download Here
Kernel - Kernel 2.6.15
Desktop - Enlightenment E16 Stable and E17 selected parts
FAQs -
Cost - FREE!!! But they do offer faster download servers for a donations of any amount
Special Features - Live installer, excellent icons/graphics, full media support including DVD creation

Nitty Gritty:
Installation ()

Elive comes in my favorite package: a Live CD with an installer function. When you boot up from the CD, first you get to choose a language, but be quick. There seems to be a bug in the countdown and you don't get the full 20 seconds. If you don't want English you better be quick.

Next, one needs to choose the system run type. Here, unless you have had issues in the past, you will need to select the 'default' option, or choose what you need from what you know. Unless you know what you are doing here, you may just want to stick to default. Laptop users may need to use 'noapic noapci' options if they needed that in the past, and you will likely know who you are.

A pretty little splash screen to watch while everything loads...

Here you get to choose the deafult theme for the Live CD. Now this sticks around after install, but we will show you how to modify. I went with Night version because it says it is better for the eyes. Remember, Elive is Art, so we want to see what Art is.

Here you tell the system the type of monitor you have. I know I have an LCD monitor so I stick with that. I didn't test the other options, but I assume these will probe your monitor and likely come back with something close. If you know the data, of course I would suggest entering the actual data in, but most people have no idea on their refresh rate or sync.

Now, when installing this on my laptop, I got a message around here stating that I could choose to select the 'ati' module or the 'fglrx' module, which they of course being the open source fans they are speak not so highly about. Basically the 'ati' is open source and 'fglrx' is proprietary. Because of that, you never know how well it will work with the system. So they provide you the option which I like because I really don't concern myself over open and proprietary rather works and don't work. Since the screen shots come form a VMWare install, this didn't present itself.

Next you get to choose your monitor settings, which stay with you upon install, so make sure you choose wisely. Of course you can modify if needed, but might as well stick with what brought you right?

After a few moments and some text at the bottom telling you a little bit of what is happening, the next screen pops up and now you see why they call Elive Art. Wow. This thing is right out of Myst meets Tomb Raider. I have to admit, this is starting to peak my interests. What I really like is that it is cool and organized. You see clearly on the screen what the user name and password is for the Live CD, you have the option in the bottom left shown clearly with a flashing arrow to select E16 or E17 version of Enlightenment and a monster power button. Now, I couldn't ever see how to reboot, just power off so that I miss, but other than that BLAM!!!!!

Not to be outdone simply by the login screen the desktop comes up quick for a Live CD. I didn't put a clock on it, but I would have to say only Puppy or DSL comes up quicker. And the Night Theme is definitely better on the eyes. I like the dark colors but some who prefer bright things should choose the Elive version, which we will show later.

I ran the typical programs, which include many of your favorites right in the Live CD, like Open Office, Mplayer, Firefox, and Thunderbird. Everything worked and worked amazingly fast. This is one of the key goals of Elive according to their fact page
fastFast: Work fast, this is one of the most important Elive goal's, no only with the fast and light work of the system but you can use your mouse normally or you have the possibility of work in a diferent way, for example with only press one key, your desired program are opened or a action launched, programs resized, iconized or moved, desktop switch, etc. and all ready to use for feel to fly fast how a ray
And Fast is the word that works. Everything works and you can't find much that doesn't scream open. Now, the IO Temp and IO Bat never have worked for me and for the life of me I can't get them off the screen, so that kind of bothers me, but with everything else being so amazing I am willing to look past it.

So now, lets get this Art on my machine. Again, I am installing this on VMWare for screen shots but also ran this for about 6 weeks on my laptop, first in Beta and then the last week or so on Revolution.

The icon to the right of the iBar is the installer. Once you click you get a nice little welcome to the install program window. Now, two things right away that I don't like. First, there is no status letting me know where I am and where I am going in the install process. I like these so I can see how much I have done and how much is left so I know to plan enough time. Simple, but really nice in my humble opinion. Second would be that there is no back or cancel install options along the way. Now there are cancel options in some choices, but these are really "no's" and not cancel.

Once we click pass the hello screen, the next screen gives you the chance to check out your disc to see if the install will likely happen. Now, if you have a few extra minutes go ahead. I did this once and it took about 3-5 minutes but if your CD is fresh, you likely won't have any issues. Your choice, but I selected Cancel (which means no).

Next, you need to select how you are going to set up your partitions. You get the standard fare of options here with Gparted (graphical) and CFDisk (command line), so which ever you prefer go ahead. Now I did have problems with gparted working with using an exisiting partition that I wanted to use, so command line was used in my laptop, but for most people gparted will likely be your best option. Note you cannot go back with this install, so if you want to start over you will likely have to reboot or kill the process. If you already have the system partitioned the way you like, you can choose the last option and skip down to the partition selection.

A nice window of gparted opens up here and you get to set up your partitions. I set up a basic one here of about 3 Gig and then a Swap of 516 MB. The next couple of screens are self explanitory.

Select Add and choose the format type. Remember to leave room for Swap on fresh drives or other partitions for other distros.

Remember that Swaps are their own filesystem type.

Almost there...Click Apply and see it take off and create your partitions.

Now, once they are done simply close your gparted session and then the next dialog box will pop up and ask where you want to install. Likely you will know this from what you just did, but if your drive was already partitioned just make sure to select the right one. Many times I have wiped out the wrong partitions, so be extra careful here.

The extra step I love making sure you just did the right thing.

Now that you verified your not going crazy, you get another goofy one. Here you need to select the format of the partition you wish to make it, even though when you used gparted you had to select the type as well. Now I like that you have to format, as when you don't odd things can happen, but to not remember that you just did this, is kind of silly. I guess it is more for those who might have skipped the partition tool, but hey, know that....I am a reiser fan. Just know that if you select XFS you need to have a seperate Boot folder in a seperate drive on a non XFS partition (I think anyway from previous attempts).

Here is a step you might have needed to know about before you partitioned your drive. Hopefully if you read this whole thing you will know that you can use the extra partitions to create ones for home, usr, etc...but since your partitioner was 5 steps ago, not much help now. If you select Cancel you are saying shove it all in the one we created.

Finally data is being copied. This process is pretty painless and worked well, just not very intuitive and with little safety net, minus kill and start over. I am not saying this was the worst installer every seen, but there are many out there better structured and easier. I do like that they give you a game to play with, similar to Ark does with tetris, but the pop up doesn't open the game right away so it could confuse you until you realize it is a solitare game.

The data transfer didn't take too long and then you are quickly prompted for the Root password, with a repeat that please window.

Follow that up with a single user name option, but you can add more later from the cool control panel.

Followed by the user name password and repeat like the admin. I didn't show that screen as it looks amazingly like the root password one. The hostname is next, which unless you are part of a network really doesn't matter, so the Elive default will work fine.

Now I missed the screen here for where to install your bootloader, so you should know that most likely that would be in the MBR, unless you have another distro you want to keep booting for now and add Elive as an option to there. You can always change that in either case, but for me I typically go with adding to the MBR so that I can see if there are any default boot options that they distro people suggest in theirs that I then copy over to the primary one.

There is an option next for a frame buffer line in the boot, but you will need to remember if your splash screen was present during boot or not to select yes. It won't hurt anything really either way, so go ahead and select Yes.

The next step really isn't one, it just lets you know that somethings are happening but not to worrry.

Wallah, you now have Elive on your system. Now, you cannot simply reboot from Elive, you need to exit Enlightenment and then shutdown from the login splash screen. Congratulations on your fine new distro, let's get out of this Live CD and really see if this is as fast as people claim it to be.

Starting (

Now, unlike Dreamlinux which runs on XFce, Elive is based on Enlightenment, but they don't offer in the E17 system, but someone told me they do in the E16, which provides the Apple OS X look and feel. I am not saying this is a bad approach, but ok in my book.

To run Enlightenment you really need to know the hotkeys and keyboard shortcuts, otherwise you are running in half cocked. You can find that data here so check those out first.

Now, some amazing things happened when I launched into Elive. First, my graphics card was working which always amazes me with ATI being such idiots on their Linux support. Next, everything else worked minus wireless. A quick brush with NDISWRAPPER and that too was working in short order. Last, media worked. All of it. And when I mean all of it, I mean they pack in all that any media people will ever want.

So how do you navigate within Elive. Basically you have no start button to click, but have an iBar full of programs that are defaulted in the system for you. To go beyond those you have two options: right click and left click on the desktop. Left click gives you a full menu of pretty much everything broken down like below.

Here one can go to Favorite Applications (which is the same as right clicking)

One of the most important option in the left click menu is the Configuration options with Configuration Panel options, shown below.

This is the place to come to configure the look and feel of your Elive system. However, this is not the control panel, as that is actually the far right icon now in the iBar, replacing your installer. That tool is called Elpanel and we will get to that in a second. This is more of the Enlightenment configuration tool here, setting up themes, backgrounds, icons and other basic functions. If you click on the theme selector, you can go to the other theme you didn't select during install called Elive, which is more bright and colorful.

If you need to do anything more, like setup more users, network configurations, or add applications one needs to select the Elpanel from either the right click> Utils> Elive Control Panel or the icon at the right of the iBar.

Once you select this, the following panel opens with three options; Look and feel, Users and Admin and System Configurations.

If you select configuration, this is where the meat and potatoes are. Primarily once you get going for the first time I would suggest opening synaptic and checking for any updated Debian packages. I really, really like the organization, the look and descriptions of this control panel from Elive. This thing makes like easy for newbies and also allows experienced Linux people a way to get eye candy without trying to look like windows or Mac. It is unique, it makes sense and is really functional.

Synaptic is pretty generic, with the same look and feel as every other version I have seen, so nothing new here.

Bonus Stuff ()

Elive isn't one of those massive distros full of crap you don't need, nor could ever want. It is a simple little package that is full of functionality, awesome looks, speed and productivity. Everyone from a typical user to a massive media nut will enjoy what they get out of the box with this tool. The coolest part for me is that they keep function in the package beyond open source, in media players that function without restrictions. Mplayer worked once I changed the video output type to x11, but I also installed Xine and that worked as well. So no need to go hunt and search for the lbdvdcss or w32codecs. They are there and they work. Now, legally speaking for people to have this is not illegal, but playing a movie on a non-licensed player is. So people in North America beware and know that you can, just don't play restricted files.

There is a really cool demo from Right Click> Demos > Multivideos that shows off some of the power of Mplayer with a pretty neat little commercial from IBM. I don't remember this one ever on TV but I wish it was out there. Pretty cool cameos if you ask me.

There is also an Enlightenment Demo there, but that doesn't seem to work.

In the Video section, you get the following packages:
  • Mplayer - A very power media player that once you have the right files loaded provides full functionality
  • Oxine - a lightweight pure OSD (on screen display) GUI for the famous xine engine. oxine is particularly suited for set-top boxes or home entertainment systems
  • Kino - Easy and reliable DV editing for the Linux desktop with export to many usable formats
  • Cinelerra - a non-linear video editor
  • Acidrip - Gtk2erl application for ripping and encoding DVD's
So if you are into video playing, editing, creating, well then there is nothing Elive won't do for you. This is one powerful media center and I don't think that was an intention of the developers, but amazing for a small, fast package, like this one.

Overall ()

So did Elive live up to the Art hype? Is it something worth your time and effort to get over a mediocre installation, or valuable partition space? I would have to say yes. Giving this a 4 Pennie review wasn't difficult, if by the media capabilities and eye candy alone. This is by far one of the fastest packages around. If you have an older piece of hardware and want to impress people with an amazing Linux distro, then this is by far the best at doing just that. What amazes me the most is the hardware requirements/recommendations. Quoting again from their website:

cloud Minimum Requeriments: The minimum hardware for run Elive is a 100 Mhz CPU machine and 64 MB of RAM, but the minimum recomended is 300 Mhz and 128 Mb of RAM, no special graphic card or 3d acceleration required

I am pretty sure that comes below even what DSL and Puppy state and they have no where near this type of performance and packaging. I am truly glad that reader of my Dreamlinux review told me about this package, and now the only things that really seperate the two are Engage (apple look and feel), XGL option (for Nvidia folks), NTFS write support (with DreamLinux Works 2.1), which honestly are very specific and not what other people might want or need. This is an excellent distro and I would expect with Revolution out now, this will be climbing the charts like DreamLinux is.

Oh and go ahead and make a donation of a buck or two when you download the package. We in the Linux world do this out of love of the community, but we do have needs along with that, so any little bit helps. And while you here don't forget to click on our sponsor links as well. It helps keep my wonderful wife happy and keeps the blank CDs and DVDs on my shelf.


KnoLinuxGuy (Kevin)

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