AriOS Review - Yet Another Ubuntu Derived Linux Distro

Recently, the distribution AriOS made it to DistroWatch's database. I had read Dedoimedo's review of AriOS earlier, where he said that it is a user-friendly and very pleasant distribution to use, and it is much better than its predecessor mFatOS. Intrigued, I decided to try it out.

AriOS Review 
So what is AriOS? According to its well-done and nice-looking website, it is a Persian distribution that aims to combine a whole lot of extra stuff with an Ubuntu base to make an OS that is instantly usable out-of-the-box. But doesn't that sound an awful lot like other distributions such as Pinguy OS? Well, that's why I'm trying it out! I tried AriOS on a live USB made with UnetBootin. I didn't install it because, well, an Ubuntu installation is an Ubuntu installation, so I saw no need to do it once more. Please continue reading to see what it's like.

After changing the BIOS to boot from my USB drive and getting past the UnetBootin boot menu, I was greeted by a Plymouth boot splash with the same background and dot style as that of Ubuntu but with the AriOS logo. The boot process happened fairly quickly, and I was then led into the desktop.

The desktop looks relatively sparse at first glance. The background is a soothing blue AriOS-branded wallpaper. On the top-left is a dock-like half-panel. From the top, it has a menu denoted by the AriOS logo, an icon to show the desktop, an icon showing shortcuts to frequently-used folders and drives, and an icon-only task manager with some pinned applications like Mozilla Firefox and the terminal thanks to DockBarX. On the top-right is a small, clean system tray. As it turns out, both the dock and the system tray are powered by Avant Window Navigator.

Maximized windows cannot overlap with the left dock, but because the titlebars of open windows have the control buttons on the left, the right sides of the titlebars are free, meaning the system tray sits nicely on top of the maximized window titlebar. This makes the dock seem a bit like the Unity dock and the system tray like the Elementary Wingpanel; the two together work really well. (Disclosure: I have not tried Unity yet.) One annoying thing about maximized windows is that there's a little sliver of space not used between the left edge of the window and the right edge of the left-side dock. That aside, the GTK+ and Metacity themes are Ambiance with blue buttons replacing orange buttons made for AriOS, while the blue icon theme seems custom-made for AriOS. Overall, the desktop looks extremely elegant.

Mozilla Firefox 3.6 is the default browser, and it seems to come with most proprietary codecs included out-of-the-box. Interestingly, Chromium is offered as well. 3.2 is included, but along with it, Google Docs and Google Calendar are available thanks to Mozilla Prism. This means that users can also create their own web application containments.

There are a whole host of other applications available in the live session, including but not limited to Ailurus, Ubuntu Tweak, Shutter, VirtualBox, Remastersys, Furius ISO Mount, Blender, GIMP, gThumb, Inkscape, Pinta, Pidgin, Empathy, Geany, Cheese Webcam Booth, Clementine, DeaDBeeF, Minitube, UnetBootin, Y PPA Manager, and WINE. Whew! I'm really not sure why there's a lot of redundancy in applications, evident even in this relatively small list I have given here. [Recommended: 18 Useful applications to install in Ubuntu]

Nautilus is the primary file browser and is present with the Elementary mod. Additionally, Gloobus Preview is present for quick and nice-looking previews, and Synapse is present for searching for files and applications quickly.

Ubuntu Software Center is the default package manager, though of course Synaptic Package Manager is available as well. It worked well installing different packages. That said, the fact that "Ubuntu" is still part of the name gives away the fact that AriOS is an Ubuntu derivative. With the next release, I hope the developers brand it as either "AriOS Software Center" or just "Software Center" (or something along those lines).

As this is Ubuntu-based, AriOS unsurprisingly correctly detected my laptop's integrated webcam, shortcut Fn keys, and graphics card. Desktop effects worked smoothly and without a hitch. As with other Ubuntu remixes I have tried, AriOS used 450 MB of RAM at idle, though this was with Shutter and nicer Compiz effects in the background. This is fairly hefty, so AriOS is definitely not for older computers. That said, AriOS felt a lot lighter and less cluttered than Pinguy OS, which I have tested before as well.

As I copied this file over from the live session to my hard drive, I saw a document about how to get the GNOME panel back instead of the AWN docks. That's a nice little touch for new users.

Well, that basically ended my time with AriOS. As I continued using it, I couldn't help but get the feeling that it was basically just Ubuntu with a whole bunch of applications thrown in. Undoubtedly the two docks give the distribution its own personality. It is extremely easy to use, and I would certainly recommend it to newbies. But for me, I don't think AriOS makes a compelling enough case for itself to get me to switch from Linux Mint, which is my current primary Linux distribution.

This article was contributed by Prashanth Venkataram, who writes at Das U-Blog by Prashanth discussing topics related to open-source software and people's freedoms relating to technology. You can read his previous contributed articles here.