Updated: July 29, 2015
It survived. It survived! Back in 2012, I tested this little distro and wasn't too impressed with the result. I also thought it might come and go as some other brave players. But it marched on, and now, it's a whole family of Ubuntu and Debian derivatives.
I would like to take Voyager for another spin. Choosing the right version wasn't too easy, so I decided to go with the Xfce-flavored X8, a Jessie-based edition, with some extra modifications designed to make it simple, elegant and accessible. We will be testing on my EFI-powered G50 laptop, and use a lot of pseudo-French words in the process. Follow me.
Le session de liveux
X8 did not complain about UEFI, Secure Boot or aught. However, GRUB is set to boot into the French language version first, so you will need to press the down key once to use the USA version, so to speak. The live desktop is painted jarring, eye-hurting red, with no less than three panels, and it's a busy little bee.
Aesthetique e wossname
The look and feel are definitely interesting, but there's some inconsistency with the icons design. Furthermore, the top panel and the hidden right one use a generic, symbolic gray and white theming, whereas the bottom one does not. Moreover, tooltips partially cover the icons, which can be ugly. Moreover still, most of the text actually reads in non-English. For instance, the rocket-shaped icon, which powers some kind of a full screen menu, go figure, is actually called Slingscold Lanzador de aplicaciones.
However, overall, the design is quite pretty. You get Mac-like windows decorations, and a very neat abstract theme in the file manager. But the problem is, the entire system uses several different styles, which can feel somewhat disconnected. Last but not the least, the installation icon on the desktop is labeled Debian sid, so there's a lot more work to be done on the branding side.
The context menu is colorful and interesting, but also troubling. What is Voyager Box, for instance, and why is it mostly in French, even though I chose English as my language of choice? I wasn't really sure what it's supposed to do, and if it somehow doubles the activity of the system settings menu.
Then, some more French happened, making me worry. It's not that I don't like the language, but making critical system choices in a language you do not fully understand can be intimidating.
I encountered more confusion when I clicked the generic icons in the top right corner. One of them calls itself Personal, and it changed my desktop by launching a bunch of applications and altering the wallpaper, but only 2 out of three times. Then, for each attempt, there would be another padlock icon in the panel, allowing me to create encrypted containers. What for and why, we shall never know. Confusing, yup.
Last but not the least, the file manager changes its icon based on the sub-folder. So if you're inside a music folder, you get one icon in the top panel area, and if you're inside a pictures folder, another. Or home. Or whatnot. This is a little tricky.
Connectiveaux du Spidermanne (network connectivity)
Well, I have to say that everything worked. Samba sharing using WINS as well as Samba printing. Bluetooth, Wireless, all the usual culprits. Quite well done, and this early in the testing, nice.
Hardware compatibility & smartphone stuff
Well, I was able to connect all four phone types that I currently pimp, including Windows Phone, Android (S5), Ubuntu Phone, as well as iPhone. That's good, no. Webcam also worked, as did all the Fn buttons. Suspend & resume, plus UEFI as we've seen earlier, this is lovely. Voyager X8 was behaving well at this point, and I was so pleased I forgot to create an appropriate title for this little sub-section. The only issue was that the system fired three or four notifications for a camera when connecting the iPhone.
Musique e cinematographique
Multimedia also worked well, with some small glitches. Parole wouldn't play MP3 files, or rather it would, but with roughly a 20-sec delay. The first 20 seconds would be muted, and then the music would continue fine. VLC did not have those issues. Flash also worked well.
You also have SMtube, which streams Youtube clips into VLC. This is a curious arrangement, and I'm wondering why the tool might be necessary, but it worked fine, and caused no issues, so I guess it's not a bad addition to the arsenal, if somewhat unusual.
My first real problem came about when I tried the installation. Instead of getting a modern and stylish wizard, I was faced with a 1000-step old-school Debian ordeal, which is too long, too boring, and buggy. The thing actually asked me to setup my Wireless, completely ignoring the system setup. Of course, not only did it not work, it also killed the network on the host, outside the installer, and I was not able to regain connection to my access point. The system would just keep prompting for password, as if it was wrong.
Later on, this meant I did not have network to setup mirrors, so basically my system would not have any repo sources after the installation, which means no packages, no updates, nothing. Furthermore, after using US English as my language, it also wanted to force me to use US timezones, or go back and select a different regional language. No thank you. Do not tell me what languages to use, and don't limit my options. This is so 1999 and completely and utterly bollocks. I reminded myself why I don't like Debian.
Then suddenly, just as quickly as the nonsense started, the system was installed after a quick partitioning setup. No slideshow, nothing. Moreover, it reads Debian, and I was under an impression that the distro was actually called Voyager. Hmm.
Consumeur de Voyager
The installation completed fine, but in the boot menu, now controlled by X8, I did not have all my distros listed for some reason. I don't know why, but I will definitely explore this at greater length. Anyhow, the desktop booted fine and luckily without any damage.
Package management (package management)
I translated it, just so you don't wonder which one is French. This one includes a very rudimentary Synaptic package manager, unable to do much as the network wasn't available during the setup. You do not get the basic security updates, but not much more than that really.
The collection is colorful and without any form of identity. You get a bunch of useful stuff, plus some weird stuff, and two terminal implementations, both with too much transparency and not enough contrast. Another problem suffering from the same issue is Slingscold, which really serves no higher purpose.
The usual stuff includes Iceweasel, Pidgin, Birdie, GIMP, full LibreOffice, Clementine in addition to VLC and Parole, a whole lot of utilities, and even Kodi, the cool and mighty media center, which seems to be an overkill really. In this regard, Xubuntu does a better job of offering a more refined selection.
Le system resources, stability, performance
No errors, except the abundance of weird behavior by design. The system is fast, but not fast enough, and it's not as responsive as Xubuntu. Even though CPU utilization is quite low, it's never lithe and sprightly like some other Xfce desktops. Memory usage was moderate at about 480 MB.
Some small customization (customeaux petite)
You do get a huge collection of lovely art. This is one piece that the developers and their associated team sure can handle well, even though they sometimes go too wild. But you sure won't lament over this one piece. The Conky contrast can be better.
Well, I have to say that at the end of this review, my head was starting to hurt. Must be too much red, but also the experience was hectic, unfocused. Voyager X8 Debian is a very nice distro with some brilliant moments, but then it's trying too much for its own good and it loses itself in the sea of color, options, bad translations, and neglect.
Leaving too much Debian legacy is its biggest undoing, especially the dreadful installation part. There are also a lot of small problems and inconsistencies that prevent it from offering a smooth, happy experience. You are forced to battle lingo, tiny but sharp QA glitches and weird stuff without any expectations, and your mood swings from elated to dejected within seconds. It works, but then so does Trabant. I am pleased that Voyager is still around with its unique style and charm, but ultimately, there are better options out there, and it has a long, hard road ahead of it before it can catch up with the best in the league. Overall, something like 6.5/10.