ChaletOS 14.04.2 review - Digital white chocolate


Updated: July 3, 2015

ChaletOS is a Xubuntu-derived distribution, with very little to no publicity surrounding it. Even its official domain, a humble, unassuming Google sites page, does not offer too much information. I came across ChaletOS while reading Gizmo's Freeware forums, and I was hooked by its rather stylish, colorful looks.

Since I really liked the last few incarnations of Xubuntu, I thought it could be a cool idea to try this little derivative. The motivation is similar to what Fuduntu did with Fedora; take a solid baseline and perfect it. Maybe. My test box will be the new G50 machine with its plethora of obstacles, including UEFI, Secure Boot, GPT, and such. Follow me.

Teaser

First impressions

At first, ChaletOS 14.04.2, which I assume makes it comparable to the LTS release, did not want to boot on the laptop. The reason was UEFI. After switching to legacy mode, it booted fine into a very lovely and colorful session.

Live session

Live desktop, no notifications

The interesting this is, it looks nothing like a typical Xfce session, and it comes with a Windows-like theme, with a prominent flat look. Not bad, although there were a few quirks. The language support prompt is unnecessary. The clock widget was showing a wrong time, different from the little digital readout in the system area until NTP kicked in and synced the system.

Language support

Look & feel

There is a very strong focus on aesthetics. This distro tries to be different, and offer a unique visual experience, almost to the point of not being recognizable as an Xfce desktop. But it is, which shows how extensible the framework really is.

Some of the icons are a little weird and too abstract, like the volume and Wireless symbols in the system area, the menu is a bit too transparent, and one of the desktop shortcuts uses the same icon as GIMP.

Menu

Volume control

You also get the ChaletOS Style Changer, which is similar to the theme utility in Zorin, with a similar purpose, and when you think about, a very similar way of doing this. The latter also tries to appeal to Windows users by giving them a familiar work setup and lots of bling bling. Notice the left alignment of icon text with the White theme.

Style changer

Windows look

Square icons

Network connectivity & Samba

Good news, all of it works fine. Wireless, Bluetooth, Samba sharing with WINS, although it's a bit slow, and Samba printing, too, the main reason why all of us wake up in the morning and go to work. The meaning of life. For real.

Printing works

Multimedia playback

You get all the necessary trimmings and bardings for your media horse. I tried all sorts of formats and codecs, and they all played, so I guess you're all sorted on that front. At the very least, HD video, MP3 and Flash as your usual suspects. The only thing that baffles me is the choice of the media player. Much like Netrunner, it ships with Audacious skinned as something from mid-90s, again possibly in an attempt to appeal to Windowsers.

Flash

HD video

MP3 playback

Smartphone support

All of the brands, including iPhone. Neat.

iPhone shows up

iPhone mounted

Installation

Nothing remarkable or surprising in any way. Identical to a dozen other Ubuntu-based installations, with the same expected outcome. The only difference is in the presentation layer. ChaletOS 14.04.2 uses a weird, pale white font for the wizard titles, and there's no slideshow, just a simple progress bar, which is a shame. And of course, the GPT versus MBR thingie, when using the Legacy mode, but that's something we've discussed in the past. Solve the one, you solve the other, too.

Partitions

Installer

Chaletting around

The installed system auto-detected my Wireless, but it also stalled after a while on that annoying Realtek bug, which is, luckily, easily solvable. The language support prompt is there, too. You also get a weather applet, but this one shows NYC as the default location for some reason, even though I'm nowhere near. Plus I used a different timezone, so why not default to the same locale?

Desktop

Weather applet is wrong

Applications

The available set is weird and disappointing. For its footprint of 1.3 GB, ChaletOS 14.04.2 does not carry much. You don't get any nice office tools, and the interesting things are maybe Pidgin, GIMP, which could be sacrificed in favor of some other software, Cheese, which proves the webcam piece works, Great Little Radio Player streamer, PlayOnLinux, and that's about it really. You also get the highly addictive game called 2048. I never thought a game of numbers could be so dope, but this one is.

Apps

Apps, more

Game: 2048

This collection also makes no sense when you look at the contextual menu in the file manager, which lets you create DOC files no less. What for? You don't have any office program, let alone something that can open proprietary formats.

Why doc format

Package management

This one disappoints, too. First, it started with some errors, and never quite really prompted for any graceful upgrades and such. Then, the frontend is Synaptic, which is a cool tool, but there are better, more modern, more efficient alternatives around. It works, but it is not in line with this distro's image.

Package manager errors

Synaptic

Resource usage

ChaletOS is a lightweight player, as it promises - and delivers. Much like Xubuntu, it flies and chirps like Phoenix. The average memory usage is about 4% of my 8 Gigs, which translates into about 360 MB, a very fair figure, plus 0-1% CPU utilization. Majestic.

Resource usage

Hardware support

Apart from the bits and pieces we discussed earlier, mainly UEFI, good. Good. Everything worked, and there were no hiccups. Suspend & resume, Fn buttons and goodies, and all the other tricks and peripherals. Camera, phones, you saw them already.

Last bit

Just one fine image before we part ways:

Desktop, final

Conclusion

ChaletOS 14.04.2 is a very interesting distribution with some super-cool and super-lame elements. It nails the visual piece hands down, no doubt about it. You also get excellent hardware support, and your daily stuff will all work, including your gadgets, media, network, everything. That's really great.

The deterioration of the amazing first experience starts with package management and applications. This part has been overlooked, and it does not work as it should. The available arsenal of programs is mediocre at best, and there must be no errors and bugs when it comes to system management and updates. Really. If that one piece is broken, then you won't get anywhere really.

I find ChaletOS 14.04.2 to be a very good candidate for desktop games, but I am worried about the lack of its visibility, first and foremost. Is this a one-man show? I want it to be more than that. Then, there should be more effort invested in making the less glamorous pieces shine. And that goes into the possibly boring piece of applications and updates, but they are critical to success. As my witty title implies statement, quite tasty but ultimately not as refined as the real thing. We're done here. This is a brave, bold and beautiful newcomer and you might want to give it a try. Overall, something like 7/10. Peace.

Cheers.

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