Review: Aptosid (Install and First Impressions)

I’ve installed Debian here and there on different computers in the last seven or so years that I’ve been using Linux.  I almost ended up being a Debian person, but the Fedora book at the bookstore was more comprehensive, so I was set along the Red Hat path.  On the one hand, I’ve often envied Debian both for its ease up upgrades and for its stability.  On the other hand, I like having the latest stuff.  KDE 4.8 is about to come out and I’ll be restless for the next few months before it makes its way into Fedora.  So Debian’s never quite been for me.  I’ve heard a lot about Aptosid (formerly Sidux) which turns Sid (the unstable repo) into a usable distro.  Of course, Ubuntu does this along with a little extra polish, so I figured I’d see what Aptosid’s up to.

Aptosid Grub Menu
Aptosid Grub Menu

As usual for my reviews, I ran Aptosid in a virtual machine, virt-manager.  To my delight, Aptosid uses KDE, my preferred desktop environment.  They’ve set it up to where the folder view is the whole desktop so it behaves like the desktops more people are used to.

Aptosid default desktop
Aptosid default desktop

Interestingly, they also have not chosen to have the activities button that’s default on the Fedora and other KDE distros.  It also has the old-style cashew, but maybe that will change once I update the system.  The installer is pretty weak.

Aptosid installer
Aptosid installer

I guess anyone who would be trying out Aptosid is pretty deep into Linux.  But given that even Debian has a pretty sweet installer nowadays, I don’t know why the Aptosid went with this type of installer.  The partitioning is a LOT more complicated than any Linux distro I’ve installed in the past 4 years.  And it seriously lacks in the visual design.  But it gets the job done well enough.

Aptosid installing
Aptosid installing

Eventually I ended up at KDM.

Aptosid KDM
Aptosid KDM

So, time to log in!  After letting it run for a while, it didn’t come up with any GUI notifications that there were updates.  Maybe there weren’t any?  I went into Konsole and did an apt-get update followed by an apt-get upgrade.  Lots of updates.  So I let those run.  Surprisingly, given Sid’s reputation, KDE was at 4.6.5, not 4.7.4 as in Fedora.  So it seems that running Aptosid would not be better for me (from a bleeding edge point of view) than Fedora.  Bummer on that one.

When it comes to the default installed programs, Aptosid is no slouch.  For graphics it has SANE, digiKam, DNGConverter, Gwenview.  For internet it has all the usual KDE standards as well as Ice Weasel (Debian’s unbranded Firefox).  Strangely, it did not have Amarok installed by default for audio.  But it did have Libre Office for the Office stuff.  And, of course, since it’s Debian, you more or less have access to every Linux program ever within the repositories.

The strange lack of polish leaves me wondering just who would actually use Aptosid.  It doesn’t have a way to tell you in the GUI that you have updates to install.  It has a really complex installer.  And it doesn’t even have the latest software.  To me I’d rather use Fedora which is more polished AND has newer software.  Perhaps if you’re a Debian-style user it’s your only choice?  But if I wanted to give up the polish, I’d go with Arch and have even NEWER programs for all the work involved.  Although, since Arch makes you configure all the daemons and stuff – with how many KDE has running I don’t know if that’d be more daunting of a task than I’d care for.  I guess I was expecting to be impressed with the latest and greatest being in Aptosid – maybe even KDE 4.8 and that’s why I was left disappointed.

A final note – when I’ve done these first impression distro reviews some people have commented that it might take more time to get to know a distro.  In some cases I agree with them.  In this case, it’s pretty much just Debian, but a little newer and I’ve seen Debian.  So I was mostly just looking for how new/unstable aptosid really was.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

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