From time to time I have a look at DistroWatch.com to find about new Linux distributions. As the page hit ranking list at DistroWatch.com proofs, the Linux world is quite dynamic: distributions move up and down in the ranking all the time.
Time ago Ubuntu was at number one, it was then surpassed by Mint, and at the time of writing this we got Manjaro Linux at the top, followed by MX Linux.
I have been wanting to try MX Linux for a while now, and my curiosity was even greater after after reading this article about Linux distributions at Renard’s World; being a Debian user, I am quite curious about Debian based distributions.
I started by downloading the iso from the official site. Since it is a live CD, we can try the system before deciding to installing it.
MX Linux is a quite polished distro, with little nice details here and there that make life easier for the user.
As I started the system for the first time, I got the following welcome screen that besides providing links to multiple documentation and configuration tools, it also remembers us the demo user and password.
It may not seem a great deal, but more than once I have downloaded a live CD and started to test a system, only to realize – usually when I needed to install something – that I had no idea about the right credentials to use:in contrast MX gets off to an excellent start by providing right away in a clear and direct manner that information.
MX Linux uses a tastefully customized Xfce desktop: it looks good, and also keeps usability in mind. For example, some basic tools like the browser, file manager, and the system update tool are made ready available.
It is configured to show Conky on the Desktop: having the CPU and memory indicator visible on the screen proved to quite useful: I was testing MX Linux on a Virtual Machine, and the memory and CPU settings were quite low and not adequate for a midweight OS; Conky allowed me to quickly detect that issue, and I modified the settings of my VM accordingly.
MX Linux comes with a wide and thoughtfully chosen selection of software, that should satisfy the needs of most users without adding unnecessary bloat to the system. It has a bit of everything:
- Administrative software: Gparted, Disk manager, GDebi, Conky, Gnome-schedule, backup tools (luckyBackup), firewall configuration (Gufw), the Xfce Task Manager, Htop, and the MX tools menu (configure sound, keyboard, video drivers, language settings, etc). In short all the tools we need for system configuration and maintenance.
- Office tools: the LibreOffice suite, software for reading and manipulating pdfs (PDF-Shuffler, and qpdfview), and the FBReader e-book reader.
- Image, video and audio: music and video tools (VLC, SMTube, Clementine, ..), CD tools (Xfbrun, Asunder), and various audio tools. The Nomacs image viewer, and the Gimp.
- Internet: Firefox, Thunderbird, Hexchat, Transmission.
- Miscellania: notepad application (FeatherPad), a sticky notes application, live USB Maker, calculator, etc
In case you are missing some application, MX Linux comes with his own application installer, where you can browse different repositories.
Besides the Debian repositories -that already have a enormous selection of software – the MX Package Installer allows us to easily download packages from Debian Backports, and even to install Flatpaks.
If you prefer you can also use the Debian Synaptic Package manager; as it is the case with the MX Package installer, it has already been configured to include some extra repositories to the Debian defaults.
Installing MX Linux
The installation of MX Linux is fast and easy; it uses an intuitive graphic Wizard that makes a few questions and voilà: the operative system is installed in your computer.
Unlike some tech-oriented distributions the installer has apparently few customization options: it does not allow the user to select a desktop at installation, and there is no option to install a server – non graphical interface – setup. But still the installer has some interesting features.
For starters we can either use the default partition scheme: use the entire disk -no more questions asked – setup. Or you can use partition to your heart desire using GParted.
Notice also that every installation screen comes with a little help section at the left to guide you through the installation process, and to explain what the different settings do. A nice idea that I would welcome in other Linux distributions.
Another simple, but nice and helpful detail: the option to display passwords that allows you to visually verify that the entered passwords really match.
In this screen we can configure also the Autologin. The save live desktop changes came handy: I had changed the keyboard layout, since I am not using the English default.
As I hinted before, the simplicity of the MX Linux installer is more apparently than real: without reaching the depth of the Debian parent distribution it has still a reasonable set of tweaking options. Here we can enable or disable some of the services that commonly run at the system start up:
Like any other Linux distributions the installer allows you to configure how to install grub, set the local time, configure network, etc.
Finally we had nothing left to do as reboot the system, and there is it: MX Linux ready to use 🙂
All in all I find myself quite liking MX Linux. The system out of the box it is a bit heavier than what I could get with Debian, and it has been clearly tailored towards a desktop use – which means some extra work, if you want stray away from that path. I would describe MX Linux as mid-weight, desktop oriented Linux distribution.
For desktop users it is a perfect option: it has the good qualities of Debian, adding on top customization that makes it easier to use. The default installation provides a ready to use system that requires no extra work/configuration before the end user can start working.
Certainly a distribution to take into account to introduce non-tech-savvy friends or relatives to the Linux world. Debian power users should feel also quite comfortable working with MX Linux.