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Feature: Elive

Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

By Mark Scheck on February 05, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

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The Elive Linux distribution combines beauty with ease of use. Elive is based on Debian and uses Enlightenment as its windows manager, which gives the distribution a Mac OS X look and feel. Elive comes with dozens of easy-to-use desktop applications that just work.

Elive started as a live CD, but now at version 1.0 it works well as a standard hard drive installation. The latest unstable ISO, 1.5, should be released shortly.

I starting booting an Elive CD a couple of months ago so I could show off Enlightenment to a few co-workers. Then my wife got a new laptop and I inherited her old Hewlett-Packard Pavilion N5290, with a 750MHz Pentium III processor, 30GB hard drive, and a paltry 256MB of memory. At first I tried installing Solaris 10 on it, but I could never get the network interface working. Then I tried the latest version of Ubuntu, but it kept freezing in the middle of the install. I finally gave up and installed Elive in less than 15 minutes. The installation has language support for 58 languages. The old laptop now boots faster than my wife's new one running Windows Vista Home, which has a 1.6GHz Celeron M processor and 1.5GB of memory; in other words, it's twice as fast and has six times the memory of the Elive hardware.

Elive comes with many applications. Iceweasel, the unbranded version of Firefox, is the default browser, MPlayer is the video player, Oxine plays DVDs, Streamtuner lets you find Internet radio stations, and XMMS plays audio. Also included are video editors Kino and Cinelerra; sound editors ReZound, ZynAddSubFx, and Hydrogen; office programs Abiword, Xpdf, and Gnumeric;, and graphics editors the GIMP and Blender.

Since it's based on Debian there's no shortage of additional available software titles, which you can install via the Synaptic package manager. Currently there are more than 19,000 packages available.

You can manage Elive by using the Elive Panel to change display and audio settings, add users, set up printers, and change themes, which control the look and feel of the desktop. Using the panel is a breeze even for newbies. If you hover over an icon in the panel, scrolling text on the bottom tells you what the icon represents. The panel is custom to Elive, and is one of the nice things in the distribution that makes it stand out.

Elive does a great job with hardware support. I plugged in my Canon digital camera and within minutes I had Gtkam working. All I had to do to get my network card working was go into the Elive panel and activate the wireless connection. By contrast it took an hour and a half to wrestle with my wife's Vista wireless network connection.

Still, Elive has some rough edges, notably in its applications. Iceweasel kept crashing unexpectedly; every time I clicked Send in Yahoo! Mail the browser caused a segmentation fault and crash. After searching on the Debian forums, I found that I had to disable a TrueType font setting. Another small problem came when I tried to use the Elive Essence audio streamer under the audio menu; it didn't connect to the server. Getting themes to work also was a bit of a challenge. From the Elive panel you have to go to Look n' Feel, which I looked for in the main panel with the other settings, but instead it's off alone by itself. Then the menu shows you the Enlightenment 16 and Enlightenment 17 icons, but I had no clue which one I was using. When I chose E16 and went to background selector, it would go back to the start of the Elive Panel. Also I couldn't move the Elive Panel around the desktop, which seems like a small annoyance but is painful when you're trying to see what's behind it.

Since Elive has a small core team and only one main developer, Samuel Baggen, who works on the distribution as his full-time job, the project asks for a PayPal donation before you download it.

The Elive forums are highly trafficked, and the distribution also has a lively IRC channel where 20-30 people may be asking and answering questions at any given time.

Despite some minor problems, Elive is a solid distribution that can compete in the Ubuntu/Knoppix space.

Mark Scheck is a Unix systems administrator for IPC Information Systems. He has been using Unix since SunOS days and Linux since Red Hat came on diskettes.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.167.149.1] on February 05, 2008 08:07 PM
"Another small problem came when I tried to use the Elive Essence audio streamer under the audio menu; it didn't connect to the server. Getting themes to work also was a bit of a challenge. From the Elive panel you have to go to Look n' Feel, which I looked for in the main panel with the other settings, but instead it's off alone by itself. Then the menu shows you the Enlightenment 16 and Enlightenment 17 icons, but I had no clue which one I was using. When I chose E16 and went to background selector, it would go back to the start of the Elive Panel. Also I couldn't move the Elive Panel around the desktop, which seems like a small annoyance but is painful when you're trying to see what's behind it."

It looks like some of these problems are related to a lack of familiarity with the Enlightenment WM.
Essence is an Enlightenment app (built on EFL), so I'm not surprised that it doesn't function 100% (everything Enlightenment/EFL is under constant development, with occasional semi-stable releases).

As for themes, there are two ways to take care of that in Elive: The Elive way is to use the ELPanel as you described. The failure was that Elive defaults to E17 (the newer, fancier, but still under heavy development WM) unless you select E16 (the tried-and-true WM) when logging in.
The Enlightenment way is to open a menu (left-click on the desktop) -> configuration -> Theme (I believe this is the same, or at least similar under E16).

As for moving the ELPanel around, I believe that you can drag it from any of its grey/white border. If not, you can always alt+left click-and-drag (pretty much standard shortcut for move window in most window managers).

Besides that, nice article. I've always been intrigued by Enlightenment, and look forward to when(if) they finally release (declare stable) EFL and E17, because when they do, there will definitely be major adoption due to its high eye-candy/low resource nature.
I'm also a fan o Elive, since it is probably the nicest and cleanest way to get E17 up and running on a system, not to mention it makes for a really nice liveCD, besides. ELPanel is really nice, though sometimes confusing as to which options to select to get to what I'm looking for, like you found with trying to change the background. I look forward to better things to come from Thanatermesis, and those that are working on Elive.

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Re: Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.120.185.249] on February 16, 2008 11:18 PM
I actually went through all your suggestions, I really appreciate it. The only thing I'm still having problems with is the theme selector. Regards Mark

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.181.205.21] on February 05, 2008 09:30 PM
I'll never know. I don't like the idea of having to pay for a distro before trying it. Also, they've been very disingenous in the past in regards to download servers ;-) If they were more upfront, I'd be glad to try it, and pay for it if it was worth it.

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Debian + Enlightenment = PAY ONLY DISTRO... what the ^&*$%???

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.104.130.47] on February 05, 2008 09:44 PM
"the project asks for a PayPal donation before you download it."
Let's be clear: They REQUIRE a donation to download it. Why on earth, with the plethora of amazing distros out there, would somebody PAY for Debian with enlightenment? One core developer? You gotta be kidding me. I'm all for people/organizations trying to better OSS by repacking and providing pay for service/value to customers, but I do not see how elive does any of this, especially after this review. I'm asking a serious question here: What does this provide over any modern distro + adding enlightenment WM yourself. I'm puzzled, and yes: I get frustrated when people try and play the same ol' " I'm a starving developer working off the back of thousands of other OSS developers..give ME money!" Would welcome some straightforward responses.

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Re: Debian + Enlightenment = PAY ONLY DISTRO... what the ^&*$%???

Posted by: rootenoch on February 13, 2008 02:07 AM
The way I see it Red Hat, Suse (Novell), charge a arm and a leg, giving the guy 5, 10, 20 bucks isn't that bad. You're paying for the ease of use. I got elive working on a old laptop. Was definitely worth it for me.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.248.89.66] on February 05, 2008 09:53 PM
I'm wicked happy that Linux.com has started including screen shots.. but for me they are coming up fairly tiny and I really can't get a good impression of it.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.205.104.87] on February 05, 2008 11:06 PM
Agreed on the payment for the distro. For all the extra attention from this article you think that they would at least open up to take advantage of the potential new userbase. Linux marketing wins again.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.199.123.126] on February 06, 2008 12:22 AM
I gave $5 and downloaded it but I can't get it to actually install correctly. As a live cd it's awesome! It doesn't automatically partion or offer suggestions for partitioning and no matter what scheme I use it always fails at 1st boot saying it can't find root.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.121.57.191] on February 06, 2008 12:46 AM
That was $5.00 wasted, that guy needs a real job.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.104.130.47] on February 06, 2008 01:38 AM
Isn't it a requirement of the GPL to release the source code? How can he modify GPL'd software, then demand a payment?

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.8.86.44] on February 06, 2008 02:15 AM
I think its wrong that someone takes all the hard work of so many developers (debian, Enlightenment, etc) and packages their work together and demands money for it. Im not against people making money, but when you are taking others mostly donated work and trying to sell it, it shouldnt be allowed. Its fine to ask for donations but not require payment.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.8.86.44] on February 06, 2008 02:22 AM
Ive tried Elive a few times in the past and find it mediocre at best. In addition he demands payment for something that noone really needs.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 125.31.50.116] on February 06, 2008 02:37 AM
The unenlightened Elive distro illustrates selfishness, no beauty of Enlightenment. Hi, guys, if you do want an out of box distro with Enlightenment as its default WM, wait the coming Maryan Linux patiently and let Elive shout for payment in the corner!!!

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.121.57.191] on February 06, 2008 03:12 AM
Then we have the scum at yellerhound (yellowdog) they want $50 for code they shagged from fedora etc..., where does it end. Of course they are all cozy with sony. Thats a company I'd want to have linked to me, can you say Rootkit, I'm sure you can. Don't buy this crap, if the won't release it for free & accept donations, then let them suck eggs. I don't trust reviews much any more. Too damn many schills.

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Re: Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.120.185.249] on February 13, 2008 02:13 AM
Hi this is Mark, how was I a shill? I told you what I did to get an old laptop working. Elive isn't my primary distro, hell Linux isn't even my primary OS. I run Solaris Express Developers edition on my work laptop.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.36.141.104] on February 06, 2008 03:51 AM
You don't have to pay. You just have to ask Thana and he'll get you access to the iso. No GPL problem with elive.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.54.191.38] on February 06, 2008 04:33 AM
I guess some of you out there have never read the gnu license when you install an operating system/theme/application.
Basiclly, it's all about freedom and even says you can charge money for it, if you so desire, blah...blah...blah...
Anyway, distrowatch.com has hundreds of Linux and BSD OS's with reviews, free downloads, etc. And also links to buy the already burned distro's for about two bucks a copy with free shipping if you order $20.00 worth.
I have stopped downloading
and switched to buying, saving download and bandwith, not to mention blank $ CD's/ DVD's. Less agravation!

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.91.67.14] on February 06, 2008 06:49 AM
Hey Mark: Wanna share some of your thirty invitation codes? ;)

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.165.183.49] on February 06, 2008 07:57 AM
? What a bunch of crying? If you don't like it, go post somewhere else. Thats where it ends. Go to a CD shop and buy a few to try cheap. If thats not cheap enough, go buy you some underwear instead. I have the last 2 versions and it works for me, and it looks different than the rest. I like that. And so i am watching it. I'm not much for farting around under the hood, I'm just a user. Mikey likes it!! mike

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.181.204.106] on February 06, 2008 07:58 AM
He complained and moaned in the past that he just couldn't get decent servers for the downloads, and needed some money for it, so distrowatch linked up to a couple, and he went nuclear. Sort of exposed his scheme. Skip Elive, spend the 30 minutes it takes to slap on Enlightenment and AWN in debian, choose some fruity colors, and let this cretin rot.

For the record - no, he's not breaking any F/OSS rules, but he still smells like a whiney skunk.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 160.218.23.179] on February 06, 2008 08:47 AM
It seems that Samuel tries to offer polished Linux distro with enlightenment.org software on top of it. Debian is a good choice. I would suggest offering paid apt source where latest version of Enlightenment is prepared for install and use. Source code must be available though because of the GNU GPL. Want it free? Compile. Want it ready? Prepay the service for few bucks per year. Is there anything wrong with that?

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Re: Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: rootenoch on February 13, 2008 02:16 AM
My point exactly.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 172.159.149.235] on February 06, 2008 10:06 AM
What a load of children you are? If it was not for Elive there probably would be no E17. All the work on E17 has been done by very few people I do not see any other E17 distro trying to solve problems with E17 compatibility like Elive. Elbuntu has dragged to a halt , There are a lot of distros out their that have E17 slapt on did I hear that right slapt on. yes I did and they look as if its slapt on? E17 is worth much more than that and Elive, Is worth more praise than a load rubbish from a bunch of hypocrites some that can't even work out how to do a simple task like install a distro on a computer!

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Re: Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.60.122.94] on February 06, 2008 11:11 AM
Oh and THAT would be a shame. This screenshot takes me back to '95 instantly.

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Re: Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.181.205.21] on February 09, 2008 02:40 AM
You should at least change your posting style with each post to sound like a different person ;-)

Oh, and yeah. I'm using Gentoo stable at the moment, so the odds are I couldn't figure out how to install Elive or pop Enlighten and AWN onto Etch.

*ahem* Yeah. Difficult stuff, there.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.79.10.117] on February 06, 2008 03:25 PM
I got it on a disc in one of the mags and can honestly say it was nice, but I didn't really like it. It looks great and has some really novel GUI touches, like the main nav console. I just didn't care for its sheer mass. I kinda thought that the minimalist conept was to create a lightweight, attractive desktop that sat on a nimble base distro.

I was intrigued because I use E17 on Puppy3.01 (a Slackware-based distro) and it looks cool, takes no resources, is screamingly fast and responsive. I have to confess to using KDE on my larger machines over.....something (Ubuntu and Fedora), but Elive does create some interesting posibilities.

Voodoo101

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.104.130.47] on February 07, 2008 01:39 AM
Wow.... I see the elive fanboys (probably just the one developer making multiple posts) are out in force "beating the drum" with their stop being a baby posts. Well I should have read the comments about the required donation before I wasted my time trying to find the damn iso. What a crock, what a sham, and what a disgusting way to treat the open source community you leech off of. Happily sticking with my Debian + AEWM.
-Joe

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.171.69.123] on February 07, 2008 02:48 AM
Wow, looks like ass (from 1995 no less) AND I get to pay for it, sign me up.

E17 has been in-development for nearly the last decade hasn't it? A fairly luck-lustre result for that amount of time.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.234.193.181] on February 07, 2008 11:07 PM
No thanks. I'm not going to plunk my money, even if it is a measly $5, on a distro centered around a beta (E17). There are plenty of other distros out there that use it. A quick search on Distrowatch for active distros using Enlightenment pulls up 16, and most of those don't charge.

Sure, Elive makes E17 one of it's primary focus, but don't think for a minute that a distro such as JackLab are just going to slap E17 in it's distro and not make sure it works well. I chose JackLab as an example because it's made to be a professional audio workstation distro, and people are using it in professional studios. The last thing you want is an unstable distro when your in the middle of a recording project. Yes, JackLab is planning a paid-for version, but the paid version adds commercial apps, samples, and support to the distro, while at the same time keeping the basic free version they develop now. That is definitely a much better arrangement, especially if you don't want/need the commercial ad-ons.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.170.179.220] on February 08, 2008 09:27 AM
If you don't like Elive, try Maryan Linux when its out. The beta will be available on the 11th of February. Just do a google search for Maryan Linux and go to the Maryan Linux website, which uses wordpress. There are still many other E17 distros though, OZOS, gOS, OpenGEU and some others.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.120.185.249] on February 13, 2008 12:23 PM
Here's a pretty good youtube video of the capabilities of Elive.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=nCJ8QDfA95U

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.107.96.214] on February 24, 2008 12:34 AM
Meh, I'm not even gonna TRY a distro that demands a monetary contribution.

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Elive distro illustrates power, beauty of Enlightenment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.40.202.156] on March 08, 2008 07:39 AM
The way I look at it -
I've given up on IT as a way to make a living. I'm sick and tired of being laid off because 12 Indians in Bangalore can poorly semi do my job at one tenth my salary. So, back to grad school - again.
For me to install Enlightenment or spend my time tuning a distro, I am better off paying a few dollars to download
a distro. I like Elive. It's stable and plays any multimedia files I throw its way. It is well worth a donation. Heck, I'd donate more if it wasn't demanded up front.
It's all about freedom of choice. Use it while you can.

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