Friday, July 28, 2017

SparkyLinux 5: Great All-Purpose Distro for Confident Linux Users

When I first reviewed the Game Over edition ofSparkyLinux several years ago, I called it one of the best full-service Linux distros catering to game players you could find. That assessment extends to last month's release of the non-gaming edition of this distro.

The latest edition of SparkyLinux, version 5.0 "Nibiru," finds its true calling as a Linux distro that falls between those that are beginner-friendly and those that require some amount of Linux knowledge.
You can get a variety of editions with different desktop offerings, such as E19, LXDE and Openbox, from versions 4.5, 4.6 and 5.0. However, the best option now is the collection of upgraded features in the latest release.
SparkyLinux 5.0 is based on the testing branch of Debian. It features customized lightweight desktops that include LXDE, Enlightenment, JWM, KDE, LXQt, Openbox, MATE and Xfce. It comes with multimedia plugins, a selected sets of apps, and its own custom tools to ease different tasks.
Regardless of which lightweight desktop or window manager option you prefer, SparkyLinux gives you an operating system that is out-of-the-box ready for use. If you are a Linux purist with very particular distro demands, you can opt for one of the SparkyLinux minimalist releases.
For example, Sparky MinimalGUI gives you Openbox or JWM desktops under the hood and MinimalCLI provides a text-based interface. Both alternatives let you use the Sparky Advanced Installer to load the base system with a minimal set of applications.

Sparks Fly

SparkyLinux is not exactly a beginner-friendly distro, but Linux newcomers will find a much lower learning curve than many other Linux distros require.
The most satisfied user will have some working knowledge of how to set up a Linux system and use its core apps.
At first blush, you might get the idea that SparkyLinux is a Puppy Linux wanna-be distro. You can run it from a thumb drive. You also can supercharge its performance by loading it into your computer's RAM. The lightweight desktop offerings are intended to be fully hard-drive based, though. SparkyLInux does not use a frugal installation and special antics to provide persistent memory.
SparkyLinux is most attractive to two targeted user groups. One group wants an all-purpose home edition with all the tools, codecs, plugins and drivers preinstalled. The other group wants a distro either with everything ready and working from the first run with a minimal set of tools, or a base system waiting for them to set up their way.
Either way, SparkyLinux is a very functional Linux OS that can put a spark in your daily computing experience.

First Impressions

SparkyLinux uses Synaptic as the distro package manager. It gets its distro-specific packages from the Debian testing repository.
This release runs Linux kernel 4.11.6 as default. If you are more adventurous, you can opt to install Linux kernel 4.12.x from the Sparky Unstable repository.
SparkyLinux 5 has a clean and attractive main menu design. I selected the MATE desktop option because I have the least experience with it compared to the other desktop and window manager options.

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