My first action was to launch the browser - Mozilla Firefox 0.8, the perfect choice for a home desktop user. I changed the default fonts to the included Bitstream Vera fonts, and everything became instantly gorgeous. It launched quickly and easily and included the anti-aliasing that standard Linux Firefox packages don't always have by default. I followed it up by launched Thunderbird. Later, I closed Firefox and tried to launch it while Thunderbird was open. Met with an error, I found this nasty bug on the Cobind website. I had to create a custom launcher to get around it. Worse, the launcher instructions on the website didn't even work until I chmodded the new script file to be executable. I can chock this one up to be a 0.1 release also, but still, this one is particularly annoying. How did this one not get caught in testing?
The one thing missing from Cobind that make sit unuseable as a primary desktop for me was the lack of a video player. There is no totem or mplayer to watch any sort of video file or DVD. Without this core application, a desktop system is severely lacking. Other apps like gftp are present but unlabelled. I would highly recommend a new item is added to the launcher - some sort of "Additional Applications" drawer to contain links to other applications.
Cobind also appears to be developing new tools to manage their distribution. A glance of their website shows that they are developing "Yummy," a graphical front end to the popular yum (Yellowdog Updater), which is most comparable to apt-get. A software installation scheme seems to be another important step to Cobind, as they are not shipping 0.1 with a compiler, and Fedora RPMs, strangely perhaps, do not appear to always be 100% compatible with it. In fact, having downloaded RPMs of lynx and nmap, neither would install, even with a --force argument. As of now, there is no real way to manage your software without using YUM.
The good news is that yum does appear to work most of the time. The first time you type "yum" followed by any arguments into the terminal, it will retrieve updated headers. This process took over 20 minutes on my machine. After that, I was able to install OpenOffice.org with the simple "yum install openoffice.org." Yum is a nice tool, but really needs a synaptic like interface that allows you to browse apps more easily than with yum search.
Samba 3 is installed as well, however, I was unable to mount Samba shares on my network. I had gone to the command line and typed mount -t smbfs -o username=ascheinberg,password=password //SERVER/share /mnt/data. This failed everytime. There is no Samba browser readily available, so I opened up the file manager and typed smb:///. It didn't work - I was using Velocity. So I double clicked the Home icon on the desktop and tried it with Nautilus. This brought up my domain. I was able to finally browse to a server, and log in through the GUI. As I've seen on other distributions, with each folder click, I was forced to authenticate again. While I can connect, I won't.
I was happy to see that sshd starts by default. One of the huge advantages of Linux for me is that from any machine on my network, I can always connect via SSH either via puTTY, WinSCP, or the terminal. Since Cobind is essentially serverless - there's no Apache, MySQL, FTP - I worried that SSH would be unuseable. Luckily, it appears that sshd does start up by default, allowing secure connections.
Today, Cobind is not fully useable. It is missing some important apps, it has a number of bugs, and it is still suffering from "distribution definition syndrome," where the developers, it seems, haven't decided with certainty what Cobind Desktop will be. However, it is accurately labelled 0.1, and in that sense, it is an unwavering success. I have rarely seen a distribution that has excited me so much for its subsequent releases, and I've rarely seen a release so focused on true default useability for the desktop. In time, we'll want to see advanced video applications, a flawlessly integrated Samba interface, and perhaps some new tools like a mature Yummy to help administer the local system. For now, I will not be able to commit to Cobind full time. But I can promise you that I am more excited about Cobind than any other distribution out there. Although in its infancy, I believe Cobind Desktop has potential to take the Linux desktop world by storm.
Installation: 8/10 (dead simple, but text based)
Hardware Support: 9/10 (got everything on my system)
Ease of use: 8/10 (optimized by default, not much bloat to cause confusion)
Features: 9/10 (boasts the first real XFce4 desktop distro and useable apps)
Credibility: 8/10 (still alpha, but professional looking)
Speed: 9/10 (speed demon compared to larger, more robust Red Hat and SuSE offerings)
Overall: 8/10, based largely on promise of what's to come
Adam Scheinberg is an IT Manager in Orlando, FL. He is a regular contributor to OSNews.
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