Semplice 2.0-rc vs Siduction LXDE 11.1-rc

When it comes to evaluating an operating system, the features I care the most about are stability, reliability and performance. However, today I am going to stay at the surface for this comparison between the release candidates of Semplice 2.0 and Siduction11.1 LXDE and I am going to talk mostly about user-friendliness. The main reason for the limited scope of this review is that I tested both systems within a virtual machine. In both cases, I tested the 64-bit version.

Semplice and Siduction have in common the fact of being derivatives of the unstable branch of Debian GNU/Linux, codenamed Sid. They therefore target people who like/need to live at the edge and to use the very latest version of code at the price of certain instability and occasional breakages. This also implies that the user needs to have or is willing to acquire a certain knowledge on the insides of the system. That said, today we are going to compare, in a rather shallow manner, how easy these two distros make the life of the user in terms of installing the system and starting to work and/or to have fun with it:

1.- Live CD. Both distros are made available in the form of a Live-CD so that they can be tested without installing them or otherwise modifying the computer. Semplice’s iso image is just 556 MB, whereas Siduction LXDE is a bit larger, with 674 MB. This is due to the fact that Siduction includes kernel headers and development tools  such as build-essential and also a full LXDE Desktop Environment. Semplice brings no development tools and comes just with the OpenBox window manager enhanced with some ROX and Gnome stuff. Both live-CDs boot quite fast and run smoothly with as little as 512 MB of RAM memory (maybe even less, but I have did not check). Network connectivity  is available in both cases.

2.- Installation. Semplice comes with a console-based text installer with few options. It is not hard to use for someone who knows what he is doing. Siduction uses a html front-end, option-wise is not very different from the Aptosid installer. In both cases, the tricky part is partitioning the hard drives. Even if the Siduction GUI is more user-friendly, Semplice offers the possibility of automatic partitioning the drives, an option which is absent in Siduction. Once the configuration is complete (an advanced user should be able to do it in a couple of minutes), copying the system to the HD takes just 4 minutes and 20 seconds for Siduction and not much longer for Semplice. We are now ready to reboot in our new systems.

3.- Semplice welcomes the user with a minimalistic but elegant OpenBox window manager with a Tint2 panel containing a few applets. No menu is available in the panel but the main menu is accessible by right-clicking anywhere in the desktop area. Siduction displays the plain (ugly) default LXDE Desktop Environment except for the custom wallpaper.

4. Semplice comes with a carefully chosen collection of relatively light-weight applets, configuration tools and applications. The software selection does not intend to be comprehensive but covers the most usual tasks an average user may wish to carry out. Siduction LXDE provides, on the other hand, an inconsistent and not very useful set of tools.

5.- Semplice includes the main, contrib and non-free repositories as well as the Adobe Flash Player, thus allowing the user to enjoy a reasonable multi-media experience right out of the box. Siduction includes only the main repository and the user can forget about playing any proprietary audio or video formats out of the box.

6.- Restricted hardware drivers are not available in Siduction, but they are in Semplice.

7.- Siduction seems to be more current than Semplice (even after distribution upgrade). This also may mean that Siduction is closer to plain Sid than Semplice is.

8.- Both feel fast and responsive and use little RAM memory and CPU. Maybe Siduction is a bit less resource hungry and more responsive, but a fair comparison would require adding the applets that Semplice brings by default such as the network applet.

As a conclusion, the current Siduction LXDE release candidate delivers a user experience similar to installing plain Debian. It sticks quite strictly to the  Free Software Foundation rules and expects the user to be able to configure the system prior to using it. Apart front the html installer GUI and the availability of the LXDE environment, at this stage, it is hard to tell the difference between Siduction and Aptosid. Both provide a convenient way to installing a “stabilised” plain Debian Sid system. Maybe the situation is different for the KDE or XFCE flavours.

Semplice, in turn, appears to aim to providing a reasonably pre-configured system. In spite of it light-weight and minimalistic approach, I found the collection of configuration tools, applets and applications to be wisely chosen. The trade-off between usability and respect for the free-software philosophy also seems reasonable. Some enhancements I may dare to suggest to Semplice’s developers in order to make the distro even simpler:

1.- A more verbose and intuitive installer’s GUI.

2.- A main menu in the panel.

3.- Replace Google Chrome with SRWare Iron (an open-source,  spyware-free and more respectful with user’s privacy fork of Chrome).

4.- If possible, include Debian Multimedia repositories (or an easy way to add them).

5.- If possible, VLC as multi-media player.