Updated: October 4, 2013
Are you familiar with the ever-so-slightly Rednecky song Jolene? It goes Jolene, Jolene. Good. Now, instead of singing that, try Zorin, Zorin. Much better. Anyhow, we have gathered today to review Zorin OS 7, the latest edition of an Ubuntu-based distribution that prides itself at being friendly and newb-loving, which means Windows people.
The test box is a T61 laptop, not a virtual machine, so don't ever raise that topic again, with Intel graphics and two SSD, and we will be installing Zorin alongside the other resident players, three of them, making Zorin the fourth. Do follow me.
Live session - Thank you, Windows 8
Zorin comes with a pretty fancy default look. A lot of suicidal blue, which is nice, plus some sharp white to spice it all. The system features a sharper, more angular look this time, in a sort of a not so silent nod to the Windows Modern Interface, or whatever comes on top of Faildows 8 and its current beta upgrade.
The system menu is interesting, but not that exciting. And it has the same problems that Ubuntu, upon which it is based, does. For example, if you search using the word print, nothing good will come out of it.
Overall though, the look and feel are quite decent, even though I do not like the Star Wars cropped right bottom angle decoration. Now, Zorin 6 was really dandy, but they have taken the simple flat and white concepts too far. The contrast is really bad this time around, and that means your eyes be hurting. Mine, too.
The file manager, called Files, has also been redesigned, methinks. But while I did like it somewhat the last time, I am less inclined to give it a favorable mark in this review. First, you cannot create new files, only new folders. Second, the flatness is killing me. Third, I am not using a mobile application, so all the little color bars are annoying.
It's just too plasticky, too toyish. Between LEGO, IKEA and an Acid trip. And there's no real file menu, probably because it happens in the top panel in Ubuntu, which does not exist in Zorin. Or something. This is taking the abstract to the extreme. I'm no friggin' alien in another galaxy who must grasp the concepts of the human civilization from bloody icons.
Wireless & Samba
Worked without a hitch, for now. So wait for it.
Jolly fine. Alles Klar Der Kommissar.
Installation - Safe and boring
Blah, blah, blah, Ubuntu all the way, a different slideshow. Next please. Oh, noticeable differences include Zorin playing music while installing, and a whole slide dedicated telling how you can hook up Zorin into the Ubuntu One borg entity. LULZOR. Zorin is essentially Ubuntu, so this is kind of cheap. And I hate it how the non-resizable installer crops the list of available devices. I mean could you not design that window to match a certain number of lines, and not make me see some of them gently cropped at half-height?
Using Zorin, no country music this time
The setup worked fine. Ubuntu and Kubuntu Pangolins, as well as Maya remained untouched, and the GRUB2 configuration was swell. Anyhow, let us explore Zorin in some more depth and see what it can offers us, and whether it can heighten the excitement level beyond a barbital enema sensation.
Maybe I am grumpy today, as opposed to my usual optimism, but the application collection did not induce a boner. You get a very solid, very practical set, and there's nothing wrong with it, plus you get a bunch of Zorin-unique programs, like the Web browser manager. But after all the neutered happy padded walls feel I got so far, I am in a desperate need for some fun and spice, and there's none of it to be had. So you have Chrome, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, and a few others. Big deal.
The WINE framework is installed, and this includes PlayOnLinux. When I tried the program the first time, it launched its mandatory wizard, and you cannot close it. Oh really, I will decided what's gonna run, not you. Kill -9, thank you.
System resources, performance & responsiveness
Things were good, overall. Zorin is a fairly fast system. It did not stutter or stall on most of my operations, and the usage of the core resources was ok. Low CPU noise, memory consumption in the range of 350MB, which is fine for a 64-bit beast. The one thing that did annoy me was a double flicker of the desktop every time I took a screenshot, but it could be an application thingie, not a graphics card issue. Notice the gray icons for Memory and Swap, meant for an applet with a different background color. This ain't nice, fellows.
Horrible. Not only did it not work, which is kind of expected from the recent suckfest plaguing many a Ubuntu based system, the flatness here really pissed me off. It's impossible to really even know where you're supposed to be writing the printer address. On top of that, of course, it did not work at all.
There were not that many, but I did spot one little branding fail. In general, most Ubuntu-based distros try hard to make their own image as being independent and unique, and not just a quickly patched spin. Well, Zorin does not run Unity, so that's a start, but what about the privacy options? Oh, it says Dash. No Dash here. Failski.
Finally, Samba decided to stop working for a while. And then, it came back.
In general, there's nothing horribly wrong with Zorin OS 7, per se. It's a decent distro, it looks nice, it runs well, there are no apocalyptic exceptions in the application stack or the underlying system, you get all kinds of codecs, and whatnot. But it is not exciting. Oh, no.
There are a few other tiny problems, but they are almost a blessing, because they add character to a very bland implementation of a newbie-oriented concept. Now, if the idea was to best Windows 8 at its own game, it sort of did, and made itself equally boring as the proprietary rival. That is no compliment, I'm afraid.
So I think the Zorin team should focus on their original mission, which is making a great, friendly and beautiful Linux distribution, and keep their synapses free of stupid market bias, because the moment you introduce mobile + flatness to the desktop, you get a very wrong kind of result, and there's no way you can fix it. And so Zorin OS 7 gets a lower grade than its predecessor, about 8/10. Not bad, we've seen better.