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Fast Times With Nelum OS

By Jack M. Germain
Jan 26, 2016 3:15 PM PT

Fast Times With Nelum OS

Nelum OS is a light and fast live-installable Linux distribution family offering three separate releases.

"Nelum" means "lotus" in Sinhalese, the language of Sri Lanka, according to developer Ostro Leka.

The distro is a brand-new entry to the land of Linux, with its initial release posted earlier this month. It is an unusual twist on what you usually see with a Linux release.

For example, the virtual desktops can be changed simply by scrolling the mouse wheel or finger scrolling the touchpad.

All three flavors of Nelum Linux rely on Openbox as the window manager. Each version is based on a different Ubuntu version.

Openbox is a very speedy windows manager that doubles as a desktop environment. It lacks a convenient setup panel. Instead, you have to edit a config file. Out of the box, Openbox is quick and simple to use.

Nelum Openbox 32-bit is based on Debian Sid. Future releases will be rolling based on standard mainstream Linux operating systems. Nelum OS 16.04-64 is based on Ubuntu 16.04. Nelum-Bang is a minimalist distro based on Debian Jessie.

Acting on an Idea

"All three distros had been lying in my hard disk for a long time. I had uploaded some distros to SourceForge and Linuxtracker few years ago," Leka told LinuxInsider.

Those three distros may be considered new. The common denominator is the Openbox window manager, which is highly configurable, he noted.

"Openbox could be a very nice looking interface. I find SourceForge an easy place to upload distros. It is pretty easy to create the now-defunct CrunchBang look," Leka said.

3 Versions, One Distro

Openbox is the common thread that ties the three versions together, but that doesn't mean the editions are identical.

One difference is the range of installed programs. The Nelum Openbox edition has a Control Panel to hold a unified placement of system settings. Nelum OS-16.04-64 edition has a Google Docs entry in the menu. It loads access to all Google Docs apps and spreadsheets from a separate Web browser tab.

Common Ties

The three versions share similarities as well. For instance, all three editions have Conky and Tint2 applets on the desktop, as well as the LibreOffice suite.

Another unifying element is the use of the Synaptic Package Manager rather than a distro repository. This is a fine alternative, except that it forces you to do the upgrade package option manually for all but one edition.

Normally, when a Linux developer releases 32-bit and 64-bit versions, the releases are otherwise identical. Nelum is different.

I looked at all three editions and found that I could not discuss the distro without detailing each one.

Nelum OS 16.04-64

This version of the Nelum distro requires a username -- the word "live" -- to load the installation DVD. This seems like a useless step.

Nelum Openbox
64-bit
The Nelum OS edition is a 64-bit rendition that favors the look and feel veteran Linux users will recognize, with its top-of-the-screen panel bar and launch dock on the bottom.

I had trouble loading this version in several test units. It did not boot in some computers, and in my newest computer, it balked at loading unless I used the UEFI version on the same installation disk.

A second problem I had was that this version failed to recognize the wireless hardware. It only let me connect using a cable.

Another problem was not recognizing USB or external optical drives I plugged into the computer.

The desktop has a panel bar across the top of the screen and a dock panel at the bottom of the screen.

Default programs in the dock stay there until you right-click and unselect the Keep in Dock label. You add an open application by right-clicking the icon and selecting Keep in Dock.

Nelum-Bang Edition

Nelum-Bang has a stark gray background and white lettering on the screen. System information and shortcut keys display in the upper right of the screen.

Nelum Bang
Nelum-Bang defies the experience of the typical minimalist Linux distro. Except for its stark background image and minimum software inventory, Nelum gives you considerable bang for your download.

A Panel bar sits on the bottom of the screen. The far left of the bar shows menu button and launchers for Iceweasel, terminal, Thunar File Manager and Geany IDE editor.

The far-right notification area shows speaker control, battery information and network connection status.

You can add any number of virtual desktops to Nelum-Bang. You also can change the number of desktops in rc.xml line 73. This file is in ~/.config/openbox.

Nelum Openbox 32-Bit Edition

Nelum Openbox has the potential to be a popular choice for regular Linux users looking for something a bit unusual. It is well-suited for Linux newcomers.

Nelum Openbox
32-bit
More color and a more modern desktop appearance give the Nelum Openbox 32-bit edition a distinct view of its own among the Nelum distro line.

It has an auto-updating menu, a Control Center and an Update Center that can be accessed from the menu. Hot corners are at the top left, top right and bottom left.

Bottom Line

The Nelum distro isn't your run-of-the-mill Linux offering. It's a no-nonsense distro that forgoes animation and graphical gimmickry.

Instead, all three editions are based on different lineage bases built around Openbox as a desktop environment. All three are fast.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you'd like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I'll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

Use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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