ROSA R7 Desktop Fresh review - Thorny fun


Updated: April 17, 2016

ROSA is a distro with little love for Dedoimedo. Back in 2012, I was unable to achieve a happy ending while testing ROSA Marathon, as it flaked in the hardware detection space, precluding any further testing. This sort of does not come as a surprise, because Mandriva slash Mageia and subsequently ROSA stopped liking my laptops roughly five years ago.

If you recall my distro tests back in the T61 days, at some point, Mandriva, OpenMandriva, Mageia, PCLinuxOS, and a few other related distros, all stopped booting on my boxen. ROSA was a refreshing change, but it failed the Wireless test. I hit the hardware compatibility problem yet again with my new Lenovo IdeaPad. Today? Let's see.

Teaser

Getting ready

Alas, no redemption. Even after some rigorous firmware tweaking, G50 remains inaccessible to ROSA, and this meant I had to conduct the test using VirtualBox. I hate doing that, as it does not really represent in any meaningful way what the distro can really muster. I almost thought about giving up, but continuous nudges and pleases from my readers convince me to at least produce a partial review.

We won't have the full plethora of hardware games, smartphone connectivity and such. Instead, we will focus on day-to-day use, media codecs, apps, and similar. Not a full review then, but still better than none. Because I care.

Live session

ROSA is a pretty distro, with a combination of both new and old features. On one hand, it's a modern, stylish KDE distro. Then, it also hasn't changed much in the last few years, and it comes with several clunkily implemented bits and pieces.

The system menu, for instance, always open with the Welcome tab, which showcases recent apps. If you want to switch to the apps tab, you need to actually lift your fingers off the keyboard and use the mouse, and this is an unnecessary distraction.

Live desktop

Menu, welcome & recent

Menu, apps

The system is pretty enough, but it has that slightly archaic overdose of detail, gradient, color, and extra bling, all of which work to make ROSA stand out, but sometimes less is more. In a way, it's 2006 meets 2016, and the distro has not yet fully reconciled with its identity.

Dolphin

Speaking of identities, there are three tabs in the system menu. Recent stuff, applications, and TimeFrame. This is an interesting feature, showing your personal documents and stuff on a time slider. Embarrassing if you have some NSFW stuff in your collection. Plus it parses the content of documents, which can also be somewhat revealing.

TimeFrame

Why does the slider show Nov Sep Feb? What?

Side-by-side with the Timeframe, you also get Social Networking Sites. You can login into Facebook or vKontakti. You're wondering what the letter B stands for. Wrong! It's the Cyrillic letter V. Anyhow, I tried the Facebook login using my bullshit test account, and it failed miserably.

Social sites

Social network login did not work

Network connectivity

I couldn't test all of it, but at least Samba sharing and printing worked loyally. This does not tell us how the system would behave if it liked my hardware, but I'm guessing the Wireless piece and Bluetooth would not be all too pretty, given the previous record and the recent autumn crop distro results. We'd most likely face a network hiccup, and there'd be no happy Viking hero protocol pairing happening.

Samba printing, good

Multimedia playback

You get the needed bunch. HD video played fine, and so did MP3 songs, with Clementine being both pretty and functional, as we've seen in the MX-15 review. I didn't get to test Flash, but it's there. In fact, Firefox comes with a bunch of interesting plugins.

Mixer, contextual menu

MP3 playback

Firefox plugins

Other details

For some reason, the system prompted for an update, but I was mostly focusing on the fact the Install updates button text was cropped in the system popup notification. I literally had to lie down for 30 minutes to calm myself down. The rest is quite all right.

Updates prompt

Notifications, pretty

The distro wiki was down during my test. This does not inspire, because I needed some answers on how to use the package manager from the command line, as I had forgotten my way around Mandriva-based family.

Server down

Installation

If you've seen one Drake-based install, you've seen them all. Simple enough, but with too many individual steps. Nothing wrong there, except the whole flow hasn't really changed in about a decade. There are ways to streamline the process. However, it's nothing cardinal, and far from being the highlight or lowlight of the distro. Just another installer well rooted into the past, with its own idiosyncrasies, its own stack of pretty, and a way of doing things that lags behind the more popular distros.

Begin installation

Partitioning

Installing

Bootloader

Hostname

Services

What happened to the bottom window border?

Starting Fresh

The installed system did not retain the live session data, which used to be a nice bonus in this or that Mandriva-based solution in the past. Anyhow, ROSA R7 was up and running, and everything worked well, and pretty fast to be honest. But it is really difficult to judge performance and usability in a virtual machine. True, ROSA packs its own VirtualBox drivers, and I had allocated plenty of resources, but it doesn't mean anything compared to physical hardware. At the very least, KDE was sailing smoothly, there were no visual glitches, mouse problems, stutters, or any indication this was a world of ethereal flimsiness.

Desktop

Package management & updates

Slightly weird, but ultimate good. You get what you need, and the throughput was really good. So perhaps this is another 2006-2017 tool, but it delivers the necessary results. Lots of nice, useful stuff behind the scenes, too.

Updates

Updates, more

Steam, package manager

Applications

The default set is decent. It comes with an interesting combo of practical and fun. You have Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, Kopete, a few unique ROSA tools, and then some. There are also a few odd entries like ROSA Freeze, which I guess is some kind of remastering tool. Skype and Steam are available in the repos.

Apps

Freeze, what does it do

Resource usage

We discussed performance, no issue there. Stable, fast all that. ROSA R7 tolled some 800 MB worth of RAM, even as a virtual machine. That's a hefty figure. Again, apologies for not giving you a more real-life figure. Such is life, baby don't hurt me.

Resource usage

Problems

A few extra niggles, in addition to all that we've discussed. Anyhow, I struggled with the command line package manager. The system menu never got better, and I wondered how I can replace it. I tried pulling some wallpapers using the built-in KDE functionality, but there were no previews available. So ugly, I won't even share a screenshot.

TimeFrame got a little more elegant with use, but it's still not the right way of doing it. I don't want anyone to be able to read the contents of my files if I'm casually showcasing the distro. And I figured where the issues with Nov Sep Feb stem from. Different years. But that's misleading, because the HD video file may have been created back in 2013, but I've added it to the system only today. The same goes for the Welcome.pdf file from 2012. Wait, what? Why would there be a four-year-old file included in a 2016 system? Why not fix the timestamps?

TimeFrame, more

Customization

My traditional flash over substance moment:

Nice desktop

Steam, Skype, nice desktop

Conclusion

ROSA R7 Desktop Fresh is an interesting project. It has a unique spin, its own flair and identity, and it blends the old, proven - and not so proven - concepts from Mandriva with modern technology and looks. The end result is quite polar, or rather bi-polar. You will either love it or hate it. Functionality wise, most if not everything I tried worked.

While the virtual machine testing doesn't really provide the necessary confidence needed to ascertain the value of a distro, I think R7 is worth testing, provided it agrees with your hardware. I'm an unlucky one in that regard. There are lots of things that can be improved, including some real, actual functionality bugs, a more modern and streamlined installer, more intuitive package manager and system menu, and such. But then, you get classic good looks, KDE style, multimedia playback, a rich repertoire of programs out of the box, and a robust design. Perhaps one day I will be able to experience all these outside the Matrix. 6.5/10. See you around.

Cheers.

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