Saturday, December 15, 2012

Comfusion 4.1 Review: Lightweight, attractive and feature packed Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS spin

I heard of Comfusion as the Spanish version of Ubuntu earlier but have never used it before last week. Essentially it combines Ubuntu core with LXDE, Openbox & Mate desktops and some cool 3D effects using compiz. The latest version is Compiz 4.1, based on Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS with Linux kernel 3.2.0.

From Comfusion 4.1

The 32-bit ISO DVD I downloaded is about 882 MB, which, I would say, is a moderate sized ISO considering most of the Ubuntu spins these days shell out ISOs exceeding 1 GB in size. Post download, I had to unzip the ISO to make it work. It's release note came on 8th December 2012.

Post downloading the ISO, I didn't go for a live-boot test this time but straight away installed it on the 8 GB partition I have for Linux testing on my Asus K54C 2.4 Ghz Core i3 with 2 GB RAM laptop. Comfusion offers three desktop GUI options, Openbox only, Openbox with LXDE and Mate 1.4.2. Openbox and LXDE have PCManFM 0.9.10 as file manager and Mate option has Caja 1.4.0. PCManFM is lightweight and blazing fast whereas Caja offers more functionalities.

From Comfusion 4.1
From Comfusion 4.1 with Mate 1.4.2


From Comfusion 4.1with minimalistic Openbox desktop
Installation
Installation is pretty similar to Ubuntu 12.04.1 and as simple as it can be. It just took me half an hour to install it with the latest updates and third party softwares like Adobe flash plugin, multimedia codecs, etc. Comfusion was up and running once I rebooted and without any hiccups. There is a post installer script to update the repositories and download additional updates without hitting the terminal. Unfortunately it is written in Spanish whereas the entire distro, incl. package manager GUI are in English, in the ISO I booted up. 

From Comfusion 4.1

Applications
Comfusion offers an interesting choice of applications. More or less the applications provided by default cover most of the basic needs, except office. A default list is provided below:
  • Internet: Firefox 17 with Adobe flashplugin 11, Pidgin, TeamViewer 7 running on Wine, Thunderbird 17 and Tor secure browser (essentially Firefox 10 ESR)
  • Graphics: Image Viewer, Simple Scan
  • Office: Dictionary, Document viewer, Gnumeric spreadsheets
  • Multimedia: Audacious for music, Gnome MPlayer to play videos, guvcview webcam, Record my desktop, TV on Linux
  • Accessories: Archive manager, Compiz & Emerald on off icons, leafpad, screenshot, terminal emulator, calculator, etc.
From Comfusion 4.1
There are a couple of other entries in the internet menu, namely Airdoid and Bump, which I hesitate to call as applications. Essentially these are links which open on Firefox or any other default browser. Functionality offered by these applicatons is really good if you own an Android device or iPhone. In case of Airdroid, I successfully browsed and edited the contents of my Android phone from my computer by just plugging both the devices to the same Wifi network. Same with bump, if you want to save the pictures taken by your smartphone to your computer without having to plug in. Good options indeed but it can be done on any OS with a browser and capable of connecting to a Wifi network.

From Comfusion 4.1
From Comfusion 4.1
From Comfusion 4.1

Tor browser bundle is the secure browsing option but it is tad bit slow for my taste. Otherwise, it can help in anonymous browsing, if you prefer to do so. Even the default Google page is encrypted on the Tor browser.


From Comfusion 4.1
One of the glaring misses I noted is a missing document editor. Another is PlayonLinux and some gaming softwares.The release note talks of Angry bots but I didn't any such game in the ISO itself. I imagine people who would like to see cool effects on their desktop would be interested in playing some cool games as well. Otherwise, Comfusion offers a decent set of basic applications.

Repository
Comfusion4 Software Center is the Lubuntu Software Center GUI, modified and is compatible to the rich Ubuntu Precise repository. Further, synaptic package manager is also provided for users preferring synaptic. And it has some good news for users like me who prefer terminal to download applications. Comfusion offers a "apt-fast install" option for quicker download of applications. I tested it to download quite a few apps and it is at least 20% faster. And it is not available in Ubuntu or Linux Mint, I checked it! Essentially apt-fast, instead of apt-get, splits the package file into smaller pieces and then downloads them, thereby saving a lot of time.

From Comfusion 4.1
From Comfusion 4.1

3D Effects and Attractiveness of the distro
The main USP of Comfusion, over other Ubuntu derivatives, is the oomph factor it renders to Ubuntu. I know Ultimate OS also does the same but it is too ugly to look at. Whereas Comfusion looks clean, bright and professional. Plus, you can switch on and off the effects very easily. Accessories -> Compiz & Emerald, switches on the special effects with a transparent lower panel, transparent terminal, wobbly windows and you can make desktop cubes rotate with Ctrl+Alt+Right or Left key. Again, Accessories -> Compiz & Emerald switch off stops it. Very easy even for Linux newbies.

From Comfusion 4.1

These 3D effects work on all the three desktop options provided. The default desktop is LXDE and it looks best of the lot. Openbox is as usual minimalistic and would certainly save some RAM & CPU for you over LXDE/Mate. Mate 1.4 on the other hand, looks, exactly like Gnome 2 and it gels well with compiz effects.

Emerald themer too didn't work good for me and I could make use of it well. TV on Linux was also not of much interest to me, there are quite a few better live stream options available online.


From Comfusion 4.1
Wbar with shaded icons actually looks good on the desktop but a docky is a more preferred option for me. Wbar has limitation in the number of apps you can put, plus if you are to add there any new app that you downloaded, you would need a suitable icon image for it. Difficult considering if you put a different icon from the blackish theme, it will look real funny and ugly. Docky or cairo dock doesn't have such limitations and has a lot of themes available to choose from.

These apart, a lot of theme and look n feel customization options are available in compiz, I experimented with quite a few, some worked but others didn't. Still, I don't mind as already what is in plate is quite awesome.

CPU and RAM Usage
Another USP of Comfusion, apart from the special effects, is very low RAM and CPU usage. Openbox and LXDE took about 110 MB RAM to load desktop with 1-5% CPU usage. Both LXDE with openbox / Openbox are actually lighter than Lubuntu 12.10 or ROSA 2012 LXDE. Mate 1.4 desktop took slightly higher at 180 MB RAM and about 1-10% CPU. Still quite decent, I would reckon. However, CPU and RAM usage are considerably higher once the desktop effects are switched on. Preferably I would keep them off to save resources, unless I want to impress someone with "the power of Linux"!

Overall
Comfusion offers an unique proposition among the Ubuntu derivatives with a clean and elegant interface and lots of special effects. Added incentive is it's really low resource consumption, much lower than Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS with Unity. Stability wise, without effects there are no issues and things run smoothly. But, with effects on, at times, the system just froze and I had to hard reset. Look and feel is very refined with boot up and login screens really looking good. Further, Comfusion provides users a lot of options to manipulate settings and desktop as per individual taste. Apt-fast is a real good addon on Compiz and I wish it was there in every Ubuntu derivate!

Bottomline, Comfusion is lightweight and packs a punch above its weight. The developers have done a great job in packing three desktop options in a less than 900 MB ISO. Comfusion looks cool, is great to use and feature packed. Definitely recommended and worth giving a shot.

You can download the ISO from here.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for your review of this Distro. Started out using the LXDE environment on my netbook and it has now jumped to my main household pc with Mate. Very light weight yet still very pretty and already pre-tweaked. The only downside is I have no logical reason to distro hop anymore.

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    1. Thanks for reading my blog. Comfusion is really good - no "confusion" about it. It is lightweight, looks pretty and as you said, pre-tweaked, saving a lot of effort.

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  2. I tried this one earlier but, seeing as I don't speak Spanish and can only make out a little of what it was telling me it was doing, I got a bit frustrated. This is an awesome distro, is there any way at all to get a version that is completely English. I spent a better of the day trying to tweak the language settings and key maps to get them to a more "normal" configuration but I failed on the latter and unfortunately I could only make about half of it fully English. Am I gonna have to learn Spanish in order to use this badassary or is there, by any chance, an English counterpart.

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, even I faced the same problem but a little working knowledge of Spanish helped me along with google translate :). I am not sure there is any English version for Comfusion. Language apart, the distro is real good.

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