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Simplicity Does More Than Simplify Linux

By Jack M. Germain
Feb 14, 2020 11:34 AM PT
new simplicity linux releases include a gaming edition


If you want a new Linux distro catering to gaming, check out the Simplicity Linux Gaming release. If you prefer a general-purpose computing platform without a gaming focus, try Simplicity's revamped release. Either way, you will experience a no-nonsense Linux OS that requires no assembly.

Simplicity Linux, originating in the UK, is a Devuan-based distribution with Cinnamon as the default window manager desktop environment. Devuan is a fork of Debian Linux that replaces the systemd initialization processes.

Disgruntled Debian community members rejected a Linux-wide trend to replace older init processes such as Upstart and System V with systemd. Initialization is a background process that starts when the computer boots and runs until the computer shuts down.

Init oversees all other running processes. Debian developers in 2014 mandated the adoption of systemd as the init process. Simplicity uses a special init method borrowed from AntiX Linux that replaces systemd with the elogind session management daemon.

This latest Simplicity Linux release, version 20.1, is a major change for this distro since I last reviewed it in May 2016. Prior to this Feb. 5 release, Simplicity was based on Puppy Linux and the Xfce desktop.

Now Simplicity is based on the Debian Buster branch without systemd. BusterDog is an offshoot of Debian 10, codenamed "Buster." Buster Dog is a small Debian-based live system designed to look and act like Puppy Linux.

Simplicity Linux root screen
Simplicity Linux has a limited collection of background images to reinforce its simple style.
- click image to enlarge -

A New Dog Pound

The transition from Puppy Linux with the Xfce desktop makes Simplicity Linux a major change for users of earlier Simplicity versions. However, Linux users already familiar with Cinnamon, as well as newcomers to Simplicity Linux, will enjoy an easy-to-use computing environment.

The previous pairing of Puppy Linux innards and the Xfce desktop firmly put Simplicity with the collection of Linux lightweight distributions. One big advantage to that structure meant the distro consumed less system resources and thus ran well on older hardware.

Simplicity Linux's retooling with a Devuan base and the Cinnamon desktop brings a more modern appearance and different computing tools. Cinnamon, while more resource-heavy, brings more features to the desktop environments.

For instance, Cinnamon is loaded with configuration options that let you adjust how the desktop looks and works. The ability to add applets to the panel and desklets to the desktop screen makes the Simplicity OS much more feature-rich.

Family Affair

In this release cycle, developer David Purse set aside the usual X Edition in favor of a surprise newcomer, the Gaming Edition. The X Edition served as a showcase of features that might show up in future editions. It initially was designed to appeal more to Windows users looking to cross over to the Linux side of computing. The goal was to make Linux a little less scary for new users

This Gaming Edition comes with Blacknut Cloud Gaming. The developer initially planned to include Vortex Cloud Gaming, but Blacknut offers a more suitable performance.

The Gaming Edition also comes with Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for streaming and recording. A third component is the Steam Launcher, which downloads and installs the latest version of Steam Client from Valve on the first run.

Beyond the Steam and cloud gaming entries, the new Gaming Edition does not come with any Linux games. The Mini and Desktop editions also are devoid of a Game category in the main menu.

General Purpose Appeal

The Simplicity Linux family also includes Mini and Desktop editions. All three editions in the 20.1 release run the Cinnamon desktop.

The Mini Edition is more of a lightweight Linux distro in terms of its software base. It features minimal preinstalled software and supplements with cloud-based software.

The Mini Edition uses Google Chrome as the main portal to software. It has shortcuts to commonly used cloud-based tools.

The Desktop Edition offers a broader collection of general-purpose software. It comes preinstalled with Chrome, LibreOffice, Claws Mail, GIMP and VLC.

More software is available via the Synaptic Package Manager. Also included is Catfish to find any files on your system.

The Desktop Edition features PulseAudio preinstalled rather than the usual ALSA. ALSA was causing problems with a few modern apps, according to the developer.

Appearance Matters

This latest release of Simplicity Linux comes with a much different look and feel. Unless you are old-school Linux and prefer to dwell in the Terminal window, the desktop appearance is often a make-it-or-break-it encounter, especially for new users.

This is where Simplicity Linux really delivers. I am impressed with its new look and feel.

If you prefer things to look plain and simple, then you do not have to venture far beyond the default black desktop view. Simplicity's Cinnamon layout does not provide a right-click menu option.

Simplicity Linux desktop
Simplicity Linux starts with a stark, simple desktop view.
- click image to enlarge -

Click on the settings icon on the bottom dock or in the main menu up top on the panel to access the Background control. There you can change the background image.

With the Settings Control Panel display you can click on numerous icons to change the color, desktop effects, themes and window behavior options. The Cinnamon desktop provides a wealth of personalization choices.

Have It Your Way

I was very pleased with Simplicity Linux's new capabilities with the Cinnamon desktop. The combination maintains, maybe even expands, this distro's ease-of-use potential.

My first encounter with the Linux OS years ago got me used to a panel bar across the top of the screen. Using the new Simplicity returns me to that desktop layout.

My current Cinnamon distro has the panel bar on the bottom. Simplicity provides both options by placing a dock bar at the bottom as a favorites app launcher and an anchor spot for pinning quick access to essential system controls.

Simplicity Linux Cinnamon panel and dock
Simplicity alters the Cinnamon panel placement and adds a dock.
- click image to enlarge -

I also like the flexibility to add special effects and other tools, such as Scale and Expo views, to the desktop display options. That type of animation is missing from the otherwise very capable Xfce performance of earlier Simplicity Linux releases.

Of course, using the Gaming Edition may make such display features of secondary importance to full-screen gaming windows. Not being a heavy game player, I am more than happy to have this enhanced feature set available.

Dog-Gone Missing

Simplicity Linux can be a good computing platform whether your needs are gaming-specific or more general purpose. Still, I can not help but confess to a measure of disappointment in using this latest release.

I have used a variety of Puppy Linux variants over the years. These Puppy-based distros bring a distinctive look and feel to the screen. The Puppy computing world includes a unique set of apps and tools that set Puppy Linux a step apart from other Linux options.

This latest Simplicity Linux release, at least for me, seems to have put a muzzle on that doggy Linux style. The change to a more powerful and more modern desktop is no doubt the culprit. Some of the dog distro-specific computing apps and tools are scattered in the Debian-stuffed menus, but the Puppy-style architecture is much less prevalent. I miss it.

Bottom Line

Simplicity Linux, even with its more modern retooling, maintains the distro's earlier goals of providing a simpler way to run a fully powered Linux desktop. The addition of the Gaming Edition makes it easy to get started with computer gaming.

This new offering no doubt could be merged with the Desktop Edition for a more compact selection. That might allow the developer to release a new X Edition offering in the next release cycle.

I am not sure if the Mini Edition needs a full-function heavyweight desktop the likes of Cinnamon. I would like to see a return to the Xfce desktop there.

Either way, I look forward to the next release of Simplicity Linux. This distro holds considerable promise.

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.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software. Email Jack.


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