Progress Linux 1.04 (artax): Work in progress
Progress Linux is a relatively young distribution. The project started by late 2010 and the first stable release was produced roughly one year ago. It is a Debian derivative. It cached my eye due to its slightly different approach to package managing. More precisely, I quite agree with the policy of not installing recommended packages by default and I think that the distro approach to backports is a sensible one.
In addition, Progress comes as a Live CD/DVD/USB and therefore you can test it before installing it or just use it as a live system.
This far, I have tested only the amd64 version of Progress Linux 1.04 (artax) with the LXDE desktop environment. First I booted into the Live DVD to find out that the proprietary drivers required by my wireless card were not installed by default. Never mind. I proceeded to installation from the live session using the Ethernet connection. The installer is a simplified version of the Debian graphical installer.
Installation failed, tough. It progressed well until it was time to chose a network mirror. Even if the Ethernet connection had been configured correctly, and some point it must have went down, for I was not able to connect to any mirror. I went back to the network configuration step and then I was able to choose a mirror, but I was nevertheless unable to complete the installation.
At this point I rebooted and chose the install option without entering the live system. Everything worked fine then. However, scared from my previous experience, I decided not to choose a network mirror. This was probably a mistake. As a consequence, the standard Debian repositories were not added to my apt list and thus I had to do it by hand.
Apart from a few extra applications, a custom wallpaper, the aforementioned package manager configuration, the progress-specific repositories and, allegedly, a custom kernel, the Progress Linux LXDE install did not look very different from a plain Debian install. Except that Progress comes with OpenOffice, Miro, Gimp, Inkscape, FoxtrotGPS, Blender, Scribus, MyPaint, IceDove, Iceowl, Pidgin, Liferea, GnuCash, Pulse Audio Volume Control, Gnome Network Manager and its applet, and a couple of other goodies I am certainly forgetting pre-installed. I personally would remove or replace some of the stuff in order to make sure that the ISO images fit into one CD (the LXDE 64-bit version is just slightly larger right now).
Yet one Progress feature that, truth be told, I found to be quite annoying is the fast rebooting configuration. First of all, if I need to reboot, I normally prefer a proper reboot. Next, when I run the system upgrade I chose not to allow the daemon (I do not remember the name) to handle reboots. As a result, I ended up being unable to reboot until I uninstalled the thing entirely.
Do not expect any proprietary drivers to be pre-installed and pre-configured (in my case, just wireless). However, as with plain Debian, sound works out of the box and the screen resolution is correctly auto-configured with the Nouveau driver. The desktop fells very responsive.
In summary, Progress is a nice Debian live system and, once the issues with the Live DVD installer are fixed, a convenient way of installing Debian (with or without backports) for less experienced users.