Updated: July 15, 2013
SuperX is a Linux-based distribution that does not like to advertise its Linux roots. Hence, the official website, which only speaks about the ultimate computer operating system and superior alternative solutions. Moreover, it boasts an enterprise like approach, with heavy emphasis on support. Somewhat slightly intrigued, and bolstered by a warm recommendation by a friend, I gave it a chance.
We will be doing the review on my usual test guinea pig laptop, a T61 with Intel graphics and two internal SSD. The machine already hosts three other, usual players, and we will remove the fourth instance, in favor of SuperX 2.0 Darwin. Now, as you may notice, I have not yet mentioned who the papa of this distro is, but as you have guessed right, it's Ubuntu. Let's explore.
Live session and suchlike
Darwin boots with a rather elaborate music note, splashing your screen with the installation window right away, where you are asked to accept a license agreement and proceed, decline, or postpone the installation for later. This is somewhat counterintuitive, as you would expect a user to get a chance to try the live session first, hence the name live session.
If you close the installer window, which happens to be fully maximized, and you can't yet really see your desktop, then you will find yourself logged into a classic, very pleasant, blue-and-silver dominated KDE session.
Wireless connectivity & Samba sharing
Wireless worked fine, but you get that bug, where the connection supposedly fails before you can authenticate against the access point. KDEWallet did not pester me. Samba sharing was available, but it was rather slow, for some reason.
Look & feel
Darwin is a decent beast, altogether, but I did find a number of annoying visual glitches that kind of spoiled it for me. The system menu is a very interesting element. It shows all the icons as one big dash, but it is transparent, and you can see the desktop wallpaper as well as the desktop items peeking through, creating a colorful confusion. In the left top corner, you can see a bunch of icons fighting one another for dominance.
I could not find a way to customize this. This feels somewhat like Dash in Unity thingie. Then, you have horizontally tabbed items, including Misc and Power, with the last allowing you to turn your box off, reboot and alike, however the arrangement did not quite do it for me, for some reason. Then, back to the desktop underneath, for example, the installation icon breaks the distro version number over two lines. Ugly. This really upsets the OCD demons in me. Lastly, after you've done using a program, a pale outline will remain around the most recent icon, and you really can't get rid of it, even if you refresh your desktop.
Flash and MP3 worked fine, although Chromium complained it was not the default browser, which would make its placement as the desktop icon dubious. VLC was also smart enough to download and display music art.
A typical KDE, and then - not. It wasn't the splendid experience that I expected, mostly because of an attempt to blend something quite SUSE with something quite Ubuntu. The installer launched in full mode and hid the bottom panel. However, you can alt+tab your way out back to the desktop, to learn the system has disabled desktop effects, and it would do this every time you switch back. So it is not the most pleasant transition. Furthermore, subsequent switches to the installer window would background it rather than foreground it, so you end up with an overall inconsistent presentation layer during the entire process.
After that, it's a very standard installation thingie, just like Kubuntu, really. You get a nice slideshow, which even tells us that hardcore gamers might want Steam. In the quiet words of one Turkish, I fail to see a correlation between hardcore gamers and Steam. Did you get that? Yes, before ze Germans come. Indeed.
However, there was one big issue during the installation. At some point, I started smelling burnt plastic and metal. I assumed the laptop might be close to dying, and true, it was blistering hot when touched. Honestly. Friggin' hot. I do not ever recall any other distro imposing so much heat on this quite generic box. It was rather astonishing. Luckily, the laptop survived the ordeal.
Use it, don't lose it
Time to see how SuperX 2.0 Darwin behaveth after being installed alongside friends and family in a nice quad-boot setup. There were no problems with the GRUB2 configuration and such like. The desktop remains as it was, blue and silver and nice.
SuperX sports an interesting assortment of programs. Somewhat weird, though. You get Firefox, Chromium, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, VLC as the default set. You also get Kamerka, KTorrent, KolourPaint, and some other programs. The big issue is, they have different names, compared to what you see in the system menu, so this can be confusing. And there's Blender too, which makes me wonder why. How many people would really use it.
The usual, familiar stuff, except for a rebranded name. Now, remember how that slideshow promised Steam? Well, Steam is nowhere to be had. So something is fishy here, and it's called, a herring!
Worked just fine, as you'd expect.
Here's the big deal. As you recall, Darwin almost melted the box while installing. Even during normal use, it was quite hot and noisy, with the fans spinning like mad. The responsiveness was moderate, not as sharp as you might want. However, I was quite surprised by the memory usage, as well as CPU activity. The system was always doing something in the background, and it would take 700MB RAM on a machine with just Intel graphics. This is easily 50-60% more than most other distros, if not double. Even my Kubuntu instance on a much more powerful machine, and with Nvidia graphics takes less than that, by approx. 100MB. Mint with Cinnamon easily takes half this much memory.
There were a bunch of other issues that cropped up during the testing. In addition to all of those other listed, here's a brief summary of some other glitches and niggles that annoyed me. For one, the apps would take a long while loading. Two, notice that Chromium remains as the desktop icon of choice, even though Firefox is the default application. Then, it sports both a Google icon and a misleading name, Google Chromium. That ain't so.
Another thing that bothered me was the sort of MOTD in the konsole windows. Every time you launch a terminal window, switch to another user, including root, and alike, you get the splash telling you what distro you're using, taking half your terminal screen. Thank you, we get it. Then, on default width, one of the lines is broken over to the next, so it does not look quite as appealing as one might expect.
The search functionality is also flawed. Search for Print or Printer anywhere in the system menu, and you won't find it. You will have to fire up a special Control Center to find the content you want, and this goes against the standard KDE conventions.
SuperX 2.0 Darwin is a curious and somewhat disappointing project, especially since it places the bar so high from the start. However, having a word premium written somewhere on a website does not translate into having a premium product. A typical distro, with the word Linux stripped, some rebranding, a few semi-unique apps, all based on Ubuntu, and you have a new operating system. Methinks not. Forking and spinning is just fine, but there must be an added value to the new idea.
Darwin had some nice qualities and decent behavior and functionality out of the box, but almost as always as with any uniquely forked distro, it introduces more problems that it tries to resolve. You get Flash and MP3 and some new programs. OK. So what. You get slow Samba performance, weird naming and a system menu that does not search properly, no Steam as promised, and almost awful system performance, with excessive heat due to CPU activity, plus ravenous memory usage. On top of all this, there's nothing that would truly constitute as a premium or maybe enterprise product. No special applications that cater to businesses or professional users, no feel you're about to embark on a lovely office adventure.
Anyhow, SuperX 2.0 Darwin is an interesting concept, but it fails short of its mark. It surely does not possess the premium qualities that it tries to offer to the user, and the QA could benefit from a lot of extra work. Networking and system resources are the weakest points, and I wonder how they got borked. Overall, 6/10, and surely not something to take your breath away.