Alright, so I’m back to continue my series of reviews about very lightweight, yet feature complete Distributions for those of you that have limited hardware but just don’t want to resign to comfort.
Here, you can read about SparkyLinux, a polish distribution based on Debian’s testing branch with a variety of lightweight Desktops.
Keep in mind, that English is NOT my first language, so there might be a lot grammar/spelling mistakes. Feel free though to drag my attention to it so I can correct it
In case I forgot to mention anything or if you want me to explain/talk about something specific, just let me know and I'll get to it.
As I already mentioned, Sparky is based on Debian’s testing branch (currently: Jessie), which has two major advantages:
- It is a rolling release
- It is up-to-date, but not bleeding edge
Other than that, Sparky comes in many (lightweight) flavors:
- LXDE (will probably be replaced by LXQt soon)
- Razor-Qt (see: LXDE)
- GAMEOVER (LXDE)
I’ll keep this review very general, but will explain the JWM-version in particular, since this WindowManager is quite rare in modern Distributions.
So many choices, A look at JWM.
Sparky’s versions are categorized into 4 main groups:
The Main Edition currently is LXDE, which however might be replaced in the near future, by its successor LXQt (which is a combination of LXQt and Razor-Qt). It promises a fast and powerful experience, even on limited hardware.
The Enlightenment-Edition is told to deliver a lightweight, yet very beautiful Desktop with very much eye-candy for such lightweightness.
The Ultra-Light-Base-Edition is for all those that like to keep it clean and simple. The Openbox and the JWM version both don’t come with a lot of software, but just enough to get you started. They look very basic, but are ridiculously lightweight.
The last category, that I’d like to call simply Other includes the XFCE- and MATE-versions, that come with a full set of application and offer a lot of features, known from modern OS’s, the Razor-Qt version which is a very basic Desktop Environment, that uses Qt, rather than GTK for it’s application. However it’ll be obsolete soon, when LXQt goes stable. The GameOver Edition features the LXDE Desktop and comes with a huge bundle of opensource games and emulation software. Last, but not least, we have the option to install a CLI-version without Xorg or any Desktop at all. It simply includes some command-line tools and the SparkyLinux base. So a very nice system to build on top of.
As I mentioned earlier, this review will focus on the JWM-version of SparkyLinux, that just came out a few weeks ago. As you can see on the screenshot below, it looks really basic indeed. We got a classic toolbar at the bottom of the screen, with a little pop-up menu on the left (it’ll also appear if you click your desktop), a button to collapse all windows, your window-list, a system-tray and a clock. On the right side of the screen is a conky, that is included in every version of Sparky, except for the Razor-Qt, Enlightenment and obviously the CLI-version.
It certainly isn’t very pretty to look at but it isn’t awful either. The best word to describe it would be “basic, but functional”.
The interesting part about the screenshot is the RAM-usage displayed in the terminal. This Distribution runs at unbelievable 86MB of RAM (and 125MB cached). So this distribution is certainly suitable for extremely old hardware and a nice replacement for your WindowsXP Computer.
When it comes to pre-installed applications, the two base-editions cannot shine either. However, that is the whole purpose of them: giving you a very barebone out-of-the-box experience with just enough applications to get you started.
- Texteditor (Leafpad)
- Filemanager (PCManFM)
- IRC Client (XChat)
- Webbrowser (Iceweasel)
- Terminal (LXTerminal)
- some CLI-Applications
This doesn’t mean though, that you cannot install applications yourself. It offers all the goodies from the Debian-Testing, Multimedia, SparkyLinux and some other small repositories, so you are free to download whatever your heart desires.
Just as a comparison, I added a screenshot of the MATE-version that comes with A LOT more software and features. Most of them can obviously added to the JWM version as well.
What makes it different?
Well, when ignoring the very nice layouts and pre-setup Desktops you’ll get when using Sparky, you also have the benefits of the SParky-Tools like the ConkyManager and SparkyAPTus. Last of them is very useful and makes maintaining the Debian-base so much easier. APTus allows you to easily Update/Upgrade your system, install languages/packages from different sources, remove older kernels and software, remove all non-free and tainted packages, fix and clean up your installed packages and edit your repositories. All in all, APTus can help you with all tasks needed to maintain a rolling-release Distribution based on Debian.
While I still wish it would come with some cool themes and cooler icons by default, it certainly is a very good and usable system. I tried every current version of SparkyLinux and I gotta say: I’m actually very impressed with it. On a side-note, I find the installer to be very user-friendly and far away from the unnecessarily confusing Debian-Installer. Also SparkyAPTus proved to be a very useful tool, made by the Sparky-Devs.
Surely, there are alternatives to SparkyLinux that are comparatively good, such as:
So, if I got you interested into Sparky, make sure to give it a shot. You can get more information about ON THEIR WEBSITE
, where you can also download it.