Updated: February 9, 2011
Technically, there has never been AriOS 1.0. This distribution is the successor to mFatOS, a Ubuntu-based operating system, which I've reviewed several months ago. Now, if you have not read that one, you should, it will make today's article more complete.
Anyhow, mFatOS was an average release, with quite a few teething problems. There were some inconsistencies with the packaging, leftovers from remastering, mixed English and Persian language applications, too many duplicate programs, and so forth. Not a bad effort for the first release, but definitely not something you would consider for your production machines. AriOS comes to rectify all of that. Or does it?
Therefore, we will examine AriOS 2.0 from two perspectives today, that of an unsettled score from the previous edition, as well as an individual distribution fighting for its place in the charts, with the heavy legacy of not-another-Ubuntu-spin weighing on its shoulders. But maybe AriOS can be unique and interesting, even if it shares DNA with another distribution.
Getting the distribution
AriOS website is a work in progress. The main page is just a placeholder. You want to go into the news section and look for the download there. Unlike the previous time, AriOS is available in the 32-bit architecture, making it usable on all platforms. It's a good start.
Live session - Very smooth and polished
The distro developer has taken his time chiseling the gem out of the rock, carefully replacing almost all of Ubuntu branding with his own. There's no longer the somewhat cheap feel of slapwork patching and remastering, more sort of a fully fledged and independent work.
Look and feel
While mFatOS was dark and crowded, AriOS sports a clean, fresh, airy look, with a simple blue background, a dock bar in the top left side and a tiny system area in the right top corner, leaving lots of real-estate for programs.
There's no escaping the feeling the dock looks and behaves like Unity, even though it is not, just a smart use of some polish and plugins. You can pin programs onto the bar, just like in Windows 7, and you get the peek preview. Overall, the combined effect is pleasant and non-intrusive.
However, you still have full control of both your left and right mouse buttons, with none of the issues seen in UNR Maverick. Now, this is an innovative use of technology.
The system tray is also quite useful, with quick links for a range of common applications and tasks. You have Thunderbird, Pidgin and Gmail at the tip of your fingers.
Weighing some half a GB less than mFatOS, it is obvious some of the extras have been removed, leaving the distribution leaner and smarter. I must admit some of the programs names are completely new to me, but most of the arsenal makes sense.
Granola and Synapse look like interesting concepts and possibly worth extra exploring in separate reviews. You also get TrueCrypt and VirtualBox, for instance. You can develop code in Geany, backup your personal data with Grsync, and there's also Remastersys.
For multimedia work, there's Handbrake, SMPlayer, Arista Transcoder, DeaDBeeF, and several more applications. Clementine, which we've see in the Sabayon 5.4 review, is also included, but more about that later.
Personally, I find this collection far more useful and reasonable than the last time, although there's still quite a bit of fat. But then, let's not forget that the distro is meant for people with slow Internet connection, who cannot afford to download tons of data every minute.
One still remains, alas, and that is the terminal. But we can forgive that.
Other than the small fault with the Ubuntu branding, there were no problems in the live session. Everything worked well, including multimedia, which I'll show you a while later. All of the hardware was properly recognized and initialized, including an el-cheapo Bluetooth mouse. The theme is very sensible. The distro feels smooth and elegant. You also get a bunch of useful programs, well chosen and balanced. I was quite pleased.
No worries here, plus another surprise. Ubuntu branding has been replaced with AriOS, giving the distro a more professional feel. One little problem that AriOS suffers from is the same issue that plagued Super OS. The installation wizard offers to install third-party codecs, whereas these are already packaged. Removing this function would make sense in this case.
Some of the slideshow images remain from the original installation, but then, there's also the simple fact that AriOS does not try to deny its roots. The combined slideshow featuring snippets from both Ubuntu and AriOS is arranged well, without being confusing.
The first boot threw the first error. The desktop came up with a plain theme, which normally shows when a modern window manager fails to load. Logging out and in solved the problem, and it has not re-emerged since. Behold AriOS:
Now, let's examine a few more things.
Multimedia - Perfect
You'd expect things to be as trivial as with any other modern desktop. Well, AriOS manages the same old like all the rest, but it also plays MMS with full controls and visualizations, which is the first for me. Good one, even if it may have been specifically tweaked to please Dedoimedo.
Here we go on our own again, hihihi:
Now, Clementine also behaved, another treat. It played songs well and true and unlike the KDE experience from several weeks ago, it offered lyrics and author's bio and a whole lot more.
System performance, stability, resource usage
All of those, in one word: ok. There were no crashes, save the one glitch on first use. Suspend and resume worked well, including all of Fn buttons. The system was quick and responsive, despite lots of extras. The one thing that did take a toll is the memory footprint, which is approx. 400MB, higher than most Gnome desktops.
If you don't like the dock, you can get your panel back. In fact, there's a whole section of help stuff in the user's directory, including details videos showing how to navigate your way through the desktop, tips and other useful information packaged as PDF.
Printing via Wireless to a printer connected to a Windows machine also worked without any problems, but this has now become as trivial as using your Wireless on Linux.
And I'm guess we're done here, no?
AriOS is a tremendous improvement over mFatOS. It looks better, sharper and smarter, it contains a more meaningful set of programs, it feels more mature and professional. The one question remaining is: can the developer keep momentum?
What happens if he gets tired of AriOS and quits? What then? This is my only concern with the distribution now, as the technical stuff seems to have been polished. AriOS is a Ubuntu fork, but it has its own unique streak that makes it cuddly and lovable, almost like a puppy Mint. This warrants using AriOS as your daily distro, but beware the one-man team failure mode.
If we put the intellectual property ownership aside, AriOS is a very good product. Normally, I'm quite leery of Ubuntu spinoffs, as they tend to be half-baked concepts, pretty much what mFatOS was. But AriOS takes it seriously. The next logical step would be to get proper financing and extend the development team so that the elan does not wear down, to make sure there's a critical core of innovation to keep things going, excluding the individual factor from the equation.
AriOS is a pleasant and unexpected surprise, showing a lot of careful attention to details and hard dedication. Well executed, on all levels, including a surprising touch for aesthetics, which typical geeks are not graced with. We can only hope the project will flourish.
AriOS gets 9/10. Party on!