AntiX MX-14 review - Antics and tantrums


Updated: April 14, 2014

Codename MX-14 sounds awfully like a US ICBM program from the 70s. But it is in truth the name of the latest version of antiX, based on Debian Wheezy and co-developed with the Mepis community. Hence the name Symbiosis.

Xfce desktop, mixed heritage, my past experience with Mepis, one laptop with two SSD and Intel graphics, already booting four operating systems. That's what's on our agenda for today, and you should take a look. The distro slayer hits the road again.

Live session - You're my ob-session

There's that song, Keep Feeling Fascination, they got a line like that. Now, MX-14 is not a pretty distro, I must admit. Upon first boot, you're presented with a desktop that has all the semi-gradiented beauty of a classic 2007 offering, with a rather controversial left-placed vertical panel, olden icons, and a slew of blue and grays that aren't that inviting. The analog clock is too small to read easily. Desktop icons text has a background color, for pity's sake.

Live desktop

More look & feel

Take a look at the menu - perfectly functional, but ugly. Notice the uneven margins in the left bottom corner. Notice the misaligned logout button, and then another such button inside the menu, fulfilling the same role twice. Most of all, notice the theme.

Menu

Then, look at those bland icons in the file manager. And what's with a single-click. When was the single-click mantra ever used in non-KDE desktops? This is oh-so-weird on so many levels.

Ugly icons

Network connectivity

Overall, it worked fine, and you have a tabbed file manager plus shortcuts for Samba shares, and Wireless was okay, both in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectra. So far so good in this regard.

Multimedia

I wanted to see if antiX could support good stuff out of the box. Well, it sort of can, with a disclaimer. QupZilla would often crash when trying to play Flash, and there's some kind of a flash blocker installed. MP3 support was just fine. The ugliness still abides in the default theme.

Youtube, Flash, buggy

MP3 playback

Installation

I really do not understand why some distros need to go with the difficult version of the Debian installer, when there's the perfectly sane seven-step one. Why use the less obvious, longer, more error-prone versions? Well, MX-14 does the same thing.

Installer

First, you need to select the partitioning type. Then, select the desired partitions. No indicator as to what belongs where, so if you have installed operating systems, you will have to manually mount and check. The home directory default is to format and not preserve data, so you will have to tick that one.

Partitioning

Select partitions

After you've done a bit of mucking about, for each selected partition, you will have to answer Yes or No to the formatting questions. Or no format in the case of the home directory, so make sure you answer correctly.

Format question

No format question

The actual installation is next. Quick and full of text, telling you how submitting vague problem is not helpful at all. Demands. After that, you will need to decide whether to setup the bootloader, then configure your user and root password and such.

Installing

Bootloader setup

Topping it all off, in case you wondered whom this distro is intended, there's the configuration of default services. Woe your mouse click if you do not know what RPC is and how it relates to your box. Why would anyone ask this thing? How does this make the distro better or friendlier? Spamassassin is a service? An actual daemon? Really?

Common services

After you're done, the installer loops back to the beginning. Eh?

Getting to know MX-14

Now comes the interesting part, actually using the distribution for a brief while to get the basic feel of what it can do. We've already seen that it is lacking on the aesthetics front and that the installation can be made much easier and less tragedy-prone.

Desktop

Applications

For a CD-size download, Symbiosis comes with a decent pack of programs. You have a few games, Transmission, VLC, Minitube, the full LibreOffice suite, and then some. The browser of choice is QupZilla, which is kind of controversial, if you ask me.

Apps

No less importantly, MX-14 also includes a whole lot of system utilities. You can install codecs, edit Flash settings, change the bootloader using a GUI tool, perform backups with an Rsync frontend, install Nvidia drivers, and more. The downside? The stuff that is supposed to make the distro pretty, like themes, icons, fonts, and such, is missing.

Utilities

Package management

AntiX sticks to the good ole Synaptic as its package manager. It is perfectly sane and works fine. For instance, I used it to install Steam.

Updating Steam

Multimedia again

Assuming the Flash issue with QupZilla in the live session was, well, a live-session glitch, I tried again. Same symptoms, same problems. It's terribly buggy and it crashes all the time. But at least Minitube is very decent and stable.

Minitube

System stability, hardware compatibility, suspend & resume

AntiX is a weird distro in this regard. It was stable and the suspend & resume functionality worked fine, but the issue is, Fn keys did not. Well some did, but it's really a botched kind of work.

System resources

At just 9% overall utilization, which translates into 180MB on a 2GB RAM machine, this has to be one of the leanest, meanest distros around. Very good, I have to admit, and the system did feel lean and fast. Rather nice.

Task manager

Printing

I tried to use a printer connected to a Windows box, over Samba. Nope, didn't work.

No Samba printing

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, I did not bother with making the distro pretty. Simply because I didn't feel like it was worth the effort. While I am normally enthused about adding new themes and icons, making Xfce rock, this time, it would have been pointless. Overall, antiX MX-14 Symbiosis did not really impress me. It's not that it's a bad package, but it sure is not designed for most people in mind. Maybe just the dev team really.

It's not very pretty, the installer is wonky, and the post-install experience is simply bland. Not exciting in any way. It's like, okay, whatever. You have your defaults, some programs, a mediocre QA, so take or leave it. For me, there are many superior Xfce alternatives, based on Debian or otherwise. This time, 5/10.

Cheers.

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