Super OS - Do we really need it?


Updated: December 10, 2010

Super OS, formerly Super Ubuntu, is a remastered (modified) Ubuntu, a Ubuntu clone if you will, designed to make Ubuntu more usable out of the box. As such, Super OS joins a long line of Ubuntu derivatives, all of which try to extend, enhance and pimpify the basic Ubuntu release.

My personal experience shows that this benevolent and seemingly simple task is in fact a very complex and difficult project that very few can manage successfully and without lots of inconsistencies. For instance, Zorin, mFatOS and UberStudent are all Ubuntu modifications, but neither managed to quite beat the original. You gain a handful of improvements, in some cases, massive improvements, but each new layer of functionality adds problems and bugs that small teams with virtually no QA behind their projects cannot really manage that well.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Linux Mint. Overall, it's the best Ubuntu derivative out there. But there's been a growing row with Ubuntu over some of its hectic, almost alpha-quality decisions, which is why there's Linux Mint Debian. Eventually, Linux Mint might drop Ubuntu for good and switch to Debian.

Teaser

In between, lurks Super OS. It's neither a total conversion nor a massively rehacked base operating system with logo rebranding. It's Ubuntu, with a tad bit more. Now, the big question is, do we need this tad bit more? Today, you will find out.

Enter Super OS

What does Super OS bring to the table? First, it IS Ubuntu. Make no mistake. It is Ubuntu. Did I say, it is Ubuntu? So everything you've seen in my Maverick review applies here. This means, you get the same looks, the same basic behavior. All of the logos and brands are Ubuntu.

Booting into the live session, you will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the stock operating system and this upgrade. Personally, I think this is good, because since Lucid, Ubuntu sports the best or almost the best Gnome looks all around.

Live desktop

What's different?

You start noticing the subtle changes once you dig into the Applications menu. Super OS is designed to be user-friendly, building on the solid Ubuntu base and adding little things that most people take for granted, but which are not usually available.

The long list includes offline drivers for Nvidia and ATI cards and Broadcom network adapters, Oracle (Sun) Java rather than OpenJDK, extra programs and codecs, Ubuntu Tweak, and a few more items and gadgets. The distro also removes some of the less needed stuff, like Computer Janitor.

Apps 1

Apps 2

Some of the additions are welcome, like VLC, Chrome, Skype, or WINE, but I'm not really sure why anyone would want aMSN when they could have Pidgin, or what the need for RealPlayer really is.

Cools apps

Codecs

All there, no need to look for anything.

MP3 playback

Flash

To sum it up, Super OS is a very gentle modification of Ubuntu, so you lose none of the old quality and you gain some extras. However, again, the dreadful question looms, with third-party codecs and updates available in Ubuntu during the installation, do you really need the remastered product?

Well, let's examine the functionality some more, shall we?

Installation

During the installation, Super OS will offer the same things like Ubuntu Maverick. For example, you will have the option to install third-party software, including the MP3 plugin, but this is already installed! So, it's fairly redundant. While I like the idea of altering the base OS as little as possible, graying out this option or removing it from the installation wizard would be wise.

Side-by-side

Codecs

Super OS has all of Ubuntu's goods and bad, plus it adds it own layer of complexity that renders the installer a little more confusion. The hidden partitions message is not a good thing for new users. Likewise, if you try BTRFS, you will realize that you may need to alter your setup to get things going. Combined with the MP3 plugin thingie comes as a lovely confusion desert.

BTRFS error

Adding things makes operating systems better; but it also makes them more complex. You can't just bundle more programs and codecs and expect everything else to work smoothly. Proper integration is the key.

After the installation, it's Ubuntu. It stays Ubuntu and roughly an hour into the usage time, the practicality curve of Super OS and stock distro cross and match.

Conclusion

Super OS in an interesting concept. It does make Ubuntu a little friendlier than it is by default, but the need for this kind of project is becoming smaller each time a new edition of Ubuntu is released. A year or two ago, making Ubuntu usable was a more sinister task than it is today. In fact, it's a breeze today, with the updates and codecs already available during the installation.

In this reality, Super OS does not make too much sense. It's great for people with a slow Internet connection, who would like to focus on working online. It's also useful for people who really can't be bothered with any extra installs. But even average users will realize it is just a minor update of the basic operating system.

There's nothing wrong about Super OS, but it's like Australia; a second Britain. No offense there, my friendlies down under. Final verdict: none. You are good either way. Lastly, I will have to check Ultimate Edition once more and see how it fits here.

Fare well!

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