While Ubuntu Linux continues to grow -- in both popularity and new advancements for the Linux ecosystem -- and dance in the limelight, it isn't the choice for everybody. For those that may still be searching for their right Linux mate, Zenwalk 5.0 is a distribution worth trying out. Previously we have referred to Zenwalk as an unsung hero among Linux distributions and with the forthcoming 5.0 release it asserts a very well rounded Xfce desktop.
The latest stable release of Zenwalk Linux is version 4.8 while being released this past Thursday is Zenwalk 5.0 Beta. With this 5.0 release, Zenwalk has turned to using the FreeDesktop.org HAL system, which replaces Zenwalk's own hardware hot-plugging system. This release has been updated against X.Org 7.3 packages and the latest Linux 2.6.23 kernel. The default desktop environment, Xfce, has also been upgraded to version 4.4.2.
Aside from the fundamental changes to Zenwalk 5.0, this release features brand new artwork, which is a very nice improvement and we are very fond of this look and feel. The Zenwalk 5.0 Beta ISO is less than 500MB in size, while including a number of full-featured desktop applications. In place of OpenOffice.org, AbiWord and Gnumeric are employed for word processing and spreadsheet needs. IceWeasel and IceDove are used in place of Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, respectively. For multimedia needs, Zenwalk ships with both G-MPlayer and Mplayer while also included is streamtuner (a steam directory browser) and asunder (though not as nice as GNOME's Sound Juicer) for ripping audio CDs.
Also fitting onto the 475MB distribution is GIMP 2.4.3, Pidgin 2.3.1, and other popular free software packages. For Zenwalk mobile users, the Wicd WiFi browser replaces WiFi radar and this is the first release to ship with Intel's non-free Wireless Firmware.
After using Zenwalk 5.0 Beta quite a bit since its release, we haven't hit any show-stopping bugs and have found these improvements to be quite modest. If you are new to Linux or just looking to try out a different distribution, we feel that Zenwalk 5.0 is a great lightweight Linux desktop worth trying out.