DreamLinux 5 review

When there are a lot of Linux distros around, most distros are unfortunately very similar in features to each other. However, DreamLinux is quite special, this Debian-based distro is one of the few distros that use Xcfe as the desktop environment and it also has a very unique set of preinstalled applications.

DreamLinux currently supports only 32 bit architecture. The ISO image is around 1GB and you can choose to download it directly or torrent it. After downloading the ISO, I created a bootable USB and test it on my Vaio E laptop.

DreamLinux review - first impression with the live USB

I got no problem with booting up DreamLinux using the USB. From my experience, Unetbootin is always the best tool to create a bootable USB for all Debian-based distros.

Click here to download DreamLinux 5

Unlike other popular distros, on which you can go directly to the live desktop; the first thing I saw when booting up with the live USB is a login screen where you have to enter a username and password. Fortunately, there is a hint right on the login dialog box so I just needed to enter "dreamer" for both the username and password to enter the live desktop.

On the live desktop, all the other partitions of my laptop are displayed. However, to mount these partition, you will have to enter the "dreamer" password again.

DreamLinux review
The live desktop of DreamLinux
One thing that I like about the live desktop of DreamLinux is that there is an installation guide on it. When you click on the icon, it will open Chromium browser and direct to the installation guide of DreamLinux. You dont need internet connection to view the guide since it is stored in the ISO image. And this is a very helpful feature since the installer of DreamLinux is different from that of other distros.

Installation process.

When you click on the Dream Installer icon on the desktop, you will be asked to choose the hard drive device to install DreamLinux.

review for DreamLinux

You just need to click on the dropdown menu to choose the device

DreamLinux 5 review

After that you will be asked to select some options to install DreamLinux. The first choice you should make is whether to install to full disk or not. I of course picked the "no" option so I dont know what it will do if I picked "yes". As a rule, you should never choose to install to full disk unless you want to lose everything on your hard drive. After you choose not to install to full disk, you will be asked to partition the disk or not. If you choose yes, you will be presented to the GParted window to do the partitioning. If you choose no, you will be asked to select the root partition for DreamLinux. Then you will need to choose if you want a separate partition for the home folder. There is no options for other common partitions like /boot or /etc in the Installer of DreamLinux. The last question is about where you want to put the Grub bootloader on, I selected the "mbr" option and hit the Execute button:

Dream Linux review

After that, the installation process will start to run:

DreamLinux distro review

The installation process took around 15 minutes and after that, you will see this message:

DreamLinux 5 distro review

However, this is not the end of the installation process. After you clicked the Exit button to restart the computer, in the next login, you will be asked to set your username and password and the root password. After all these things are done, you will have to reboot again to finish the installation process.

Over all, it is not difficult to install DreamLinux but I still recommend everybody, especially Linux beginners, to read the installation guide to avoid any confusion.

Xcfe desktop of DreamLinux

Unlike the live desktop, there are no installation guide icon nor partition icons on the true desktop of DreamLinux. At the top of the desktop is one panel, on which you can see the Dream Menu and the logout dialog on the left and the workspace switcher and notification applet on the right.

DreamLinux desktop review

The DreamMenu is somehow similar to the default Menu of Gnome2. When you click on the button, you will see the menu with various categories, click on each category and it will expand to other dropdown menu. However, except the application finder tool in the utilities menu, the Dream Menu doesnt have the search option for files and folders.

DreamLinux Menu

The logout dialog has all the basic features. There is also an option to save the current session for the next login. If you choose this option, all the currently running programs will automatically start in the next login.

Logout dialog
At the bottom of the desktop is a dock with many different icons. The icon theme of DreamLinux is very unique but the application icons look very different from the default ones. I had  to launch all the applications on the dock to know what they are since there is no tooltips when you hover the mouse over the application icons on the dock. The compass icon is for Chromium web browser, the stamp with a pic of a toucan is to launch Gmail from Chromium, the first icon from the left is for launching the run program dialog. Some other icons are easier to recognize like the Text editor, the terminal icon or the Ink pot of Inkscape.


DreamLinux also comes with some other icon themes but it seems that the DreamLinux team forgot to double-check these icon themes. When I selected another icon theme, it made most of the applications on the dock unrecognizable so I had to switch back to the Dreamer icon theme eventually.

After switching to another icon theme, its impossible to distinguish the applications on the dock
To change the appearance of the desktop of DreamLinux, you click on the Dream Menu button on the top panel and go to Settings > Appearance and the Appearance preferences window will appear, on which you can choose the theme and icons.


The dock at the bottom of the desktop is called "plank", it is transparent and auto-hide by default. You can pin or unpin the applications on the dock by right-clicking on the application icons. Comparing to AWN or Docky, its harder to customize Plank since there is no GUI tool. To change the settings of plank, you will have to edit the file ~/:config/plank/theme/dock.theme. To help users learn how to customize the Plank dock, DreamLinux has a very thorough guide for Plank Dock Settings.

There is also a conky config in DreamLinux, although it is not enabled by default. To enable the conky, you go to Menu > System > Conky Monitor and a simple conky setup will appear on the right of the desktop. To control and switch to other modes of the conky, you can use the Conky Manager ( Menu > DreamLinux > Conky Manager)



To customize the Xcfe desktop, DreamLinux offer 2 tweaking tools, Window Manager and Window Manager Tweaks. To start this tool, you go to Menu > Settings and you will see these two applications. Open these two applications and you can see a lot of options to customize the Xcfe desktop of DreamLinux

Window Manager Tweaks
Window Manager

Pre-installed Applications in DreamLinux

With the size of the ISO around 1GB, we can expect that DreamLinux has many pre-installed stuffs. However most of the applications are pretty unusual.

There are still some familiar applications though. The file manager is Thunar, which is one of the most widely-used file managers together witl Dolphin and Nautilus. But besides Thunar, DreamLinux also includes Midnight Commander, a text-based file manager. To launch MC, you go to Menu > Utilities > Midnight Commander. It will take time to become accustomed to MC if you have never used it before.

Besides Thunar, you can use Midnight Commander file manager in DreamLinux
The web browser of DreamLinux is Chromium which is very familiar to all Linux users already. There are two icons on the Plank dock to launch Chromium, the compass icon is to launch Chromium with the homepage of DreamLinux, the stamp with the toucan bird icon is to launch Chromium with Google Gmail.

The text editor of DreamLinux is Geany which looks more complicated and richer in features than other text editors like Gedit or Leafpad. It even has the compiler option to compile scripts:


For office work, the applications that DreamLinux provides were totally unknown to me before and are products of SoftMaker. The word processor is called TextMaker, the power point equivalence is called SoftMaker presentation and there is another tool called PlanMaker. The only familiar office tool is Foxit reader, one of the most popular pdf readers.

TextMaker interface
For graphic work, DreamLinux offers a nice set of tools. Beside two image viewer tools, GIMP and Inkscape are also included.

The default media player of DreamLinux is SMPlayer, which is used for both audio and video files. I used SMPlayer to run some songs and some favorite videos of mine in all formats and had no problem at all.

SMPlayer interface
One good thing about DreamLinux is that there is a song in the Music folder (just like Windows).This song is Oslodum, sung by famous Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil. If you want to listen to the song without downloading the ISO file of DreamLinux, here is the youtube video for you:





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And since Adobe Flash is installed for Chromium out of the box, you can watch youtube videos right after installing DreamLinux.

The update manager of DreamLinux can be a challenge for some people since it is a text based program. When you click on the icon (the sphere with rainbow colors), a terminal will appear and start the updating. It will ask you many questions throughout the updating process so it can be quite annoying.


Other than the applications I just enumerated, there is nothing special about the rest of the pre-installed applications. You have Synaptic as the software manager, some system tools like GParted, BleachBit, Htop, and some accessories tools like Galculator.

Performance and some existing problems

When I started the conky after a cold boot, I was really surprised when seeing conky reported that over 600MB of RAM were being used, which is very unreasonable consider Xcfe is known for being very light-weight. However, I double-checked with Htop and it seemed it was just a problem with the conky config. Htop showed that less than 150MB of RAM were being used after a cold boot with only conky and htop running. This is pretty nice and means that you can run DreamLinux on old computers without any problem.

DreamLinux consumes less than 150MB of RAM at idle, according to htop (but over 600MB according to conky)
With NetworkManager and the built-in Bluetooth driver, all the network stuffs of my laptop work fine on DreamLinux. NetworkManager also recognizes my 3G USB very fast, which is a good thing.

However, only 3 function keys of my laptop work out of the box on DreamLinux. All the other Fn keys, including the printscreen key, dont work.

There are some other things that I believe DreamLinux is seriously lacking:

- A tool to scan additional devices and offer installing option for proprietary drivers: There is no such tool in DreamLinux so I had to install the ATI driver for my graphic card myself. Most popular Linux distros like Ubuntu or Linux Mint have this tool and it is really a very good thing to have. If the DreamLinux team has the ambition to make DreamLinux more popular, this tool must be included in future releases.

- A volume control icon on the desktop: By default, there is no volume control icon on both the top panel and the bottom Plank dock, that's why to change the sound volume, I had to run alsamixer in the terminal.

- Thunar doesnt display other partitions: This is not a big problem since I can find all the partitions on my hard drive in the /mnt folder. However, I still believe it would be nicer if Thunar is set to display other partitions by default.

Conclusion

DreamLinux is not a perfect distro in my opinion but I still really like it. It is really a unique distro of its own with the solid Debian base, the Xcfe desktop environment and the pre-installed applications. If the developing team keeps following the current route and fix all the existing problems, DreamLinux has the potential to be more popular and successful in the future.
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