Updated: November 19, 2014
Apart from CentOS, another distro I have really been waiting to explore is Scientific Linux. With its solid RedHat base plus extra software, it could be an excellent contender for the ultimate desktop distro. And so our quest continues.
What will amaze you even more is my decision to try the Gnome edition. Yup, after some three years of ignoring Gnome due to its stupidity, I decided to give it another try, just for fun, to see what gives. Maybe it can redeem itself, or be redeemed by Scientific Linux. Either way, it's an interesting test.
The visual appeal of Scientific Linux 7 with the Gnome desktop is average. It's clean and airy, but the font contrast is quite bad, and your eyes will start hurting within minutes of using the distribution. While I can appreciate the IKEA approach to aesthetics, it does neglect real functionality, and it hides away critical components from the users.
Yes, Gnome 3 framework is still utterly useless. You will see examples of this travesty throughout the review, but in general, it still gives you no way to place shortcuts on the desktop, and you must go through the extra click to reveal either the menu or the Activities page. This almost equals the Metro moronity that even Microsoft finally gave up on after a bunch of unsuccessful years of forcefeeding its users. Not Gnome. It marches on boldly. It won't let you create text files in its file manager, won't let you change the wallpaper without an extra utility, you need an extension to manage extensions and themes, and it gets more and more complicated. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Wireless and Bluetooth worked fine, the former across the GHz range. I was not able to do any Samba in the live session, which could be a combination of firewall and other fails. We will see if this is resolved after the installation.
You are supposed to be able to enjoy this distro out of the box, they said. Join the academy, they said. Well, not really. If Youtube videos support non-Flash codecs, then yes. But you definitely don't get any MP3 playback. Plus the video player opens with a dark gray theme that has nothing to do with the rest of the desktop.
The process of committing Scientific Linux to disk was stupid. As stupid as it is in all recent Fedoras and CentOS, even since they invented the new non-linear installer that tries to suckle on monkey balls for hobby. Here, you go through the usual ordeal of figuring out your partitions and such, making sure you do not screw up with the bootloader and similar woes.
I placed SL7 in a partition that used to belong to openSUSE. After about 20 minutes, the whole thing completed without errors. Soon enough, I had the distro usable, alongside its three siblings on this T61 machine. The joys of multibooting, yay.
The fact the distro now resided on my SSD did nothing to improve the overall Gnome usability. I tried lots of things to redeem the desktop, but it wasn't a very successful process. We shall soon find out why.
All right. Creating a text file to document your escapades. Nope. Won't work.
New themes. Fine. Grab them. Try to activate them. Uh, how exactly? OK, later perhaps. Let's try a new wallpaper. Wait, what is this beautiful, feature-rich program open before my eyes? Is that the fabulous Gnome utility that lets you change wallpapers? Sort of, except there's no way to add new pictures. That's it. A 2014 system that won't let you select new images for your wallpaper collection. Monkey balls have just expanded to primate proportions.
I'm not joking - this shit is the Gnome desktop background utility.
Gnome Tweak Tool, which is included in the default app set, does let you do this in a sane manner. It also lets you change themes. Except none of the themes I found and downloaded worked. None. The tool's drop down menus only showed the defaults.
Finally, for one of the downloaded themes, there was an extra utility included, called color changer, but when I ran it, a popup at the bottom of my desktop screen informed me that I needed to go to extensions.gnome.org and download an extension that would actually let me use the theme. For some reason. At the destination website, the page complained about not being able to detect Gnome on my system, and that's where it all ended.
Well, maybe Gnome 3 was not meant to be. How about KDE? Well, no. It's not available in the repositories. The transitional package kde-desktop, which does show in the graphical interface of the package management is actually a fake entry, and it does not resolve to any packages. The repositories are broken, and there's critical content missing. So, you're screwed. You're doomed. It's total failure. And so, I gave up trying to pimp up the distro. It just wasn't meant to be. None of it. All of it. Everything.
I tried again - and failed. It turns out the firewall flags the existing network as public and blocks both Samba and Samba client. You will need to be skilled enough to figure this out and change the firewall zone, or tick the right services for the existing one. Then, you will finally have Samba sharing.
Don't be ridiculous. The printing service is missing. It's not there.
Flash is there, finally. But MP3? No. And there's nothing in the repositories, either. So you will have to manually add new sources. This is not a friendly way of doing it, and I wonder why would anyone care for Scientific Linux if it offers exactly zero advantage over CentOS. So you need to install everything on your own. Why call this a separate distro exactly? What makes it different from CentOS? Pointless.
Firefox, terminal, Cheese, and that's it. Really. There's nothing useful here. No office stuff, no mail stuff, no multimedia stuff, no scientific, development or educational tools. Bare metal. Horrible. And nothing useful in the repos, too.
At least the system was stable, if utterly pointless and missing all the fun and value. But it did not crash, and the utilization was reasonable, with a modest 370MB of RAM and a somewhat quiet CPU. Bot not stellar or fantastic. Nor was it responsive in a way that would blow your mind. Just average, plain and boring. All because Gnome 3 is crap.
So the most exciting thing about Scientific Linux 7 is that I managed to change the desktop wallpaper with a low-res image of the Star Wars thingie, by itself an overrated and pointless item.
Last but not the least, the Power Off option actually lets you either reboot or power off the system. So it's mildly confusing, but at this point, my eyes were hurting so much, I was so annoyed, I could not possibly care less.
Well, well, Scientific Linux 7 is a flop. One, this particular edition with Gnome 3 is completely useless. The desktop simply sucks. It must be eradicated with acid, so if you have to, choose wisely, go for KDE. If possible. Which brings us to the second part of this suckfest.
Scientific Linux 7 has been badly stitched together, and it lacks the fundamental components to be a useful distro. Or even call itself by a different name, because there's nothing at all, I repeat, nothing at all that distinguishes it from any generic distro, let alone Fedora, CentOS or the rest of the pack. Gnome 3 plus missing functionality plus no apps. Wow. Amazing. This warrants a beautiful score of 1.7/10.
Most of the bad points go to horrible repo management and the dreadful desktop environment. We shall test again in the future, once my ire levels go down, and I can lay my hands on a KDE edition. The worst part is, Gnome 3 remains a terrible terrible choice, and as long as it exists, it will continue crippling Linux. Today's effort, a waste of time. Pointless. Bye bye.