While our friends at DistroWatch only rate Zenwalk as the 19th most popular Linux distribution, we have been very impressed by their recent releases and have felt that it is a distribution worth trying as it is an unsung hero. With the Zenwalk 5.2 Beta having been released yesterday, we immediately took this new release for a quick test-drive.
This first test release of Zenwalk 5.2 delivers updated packages such as the Linux 2.6.25 kernel and the Xfce 4.4.2 desktop environment, but in addition, the package manager has been rewritten, there is now "out of the box" DVD menu support through dvdnav, CPU scaling and control support, improved suspend-and-resume, and also in place is new Zenwalk artwork. The CPU scaling improvements are coming through the use of the PowerThen Daemon. Zenwalk developers have also made available a web-based package database viewer and user repository, in conjunction with Zenwalk 5.2.
The package manager used by this desktop Linux distribution is netpkg, which is a Zenwalk innovation. With the 5.2 release, netpkg has been rewritten and is now powered by Perl-GTK. In addition to the new user-interface, netpkg 4.2 has also picked up other features.
On the media side of Zenwalk, included by default is mplayer, gnome-mplayer, and StreamTuner. An addition in Zenwalk 5.2 is now included dvdnav for mplayer, which provides DVD menus support.
If you're after Zenwalk Linux for office tasks, filling those needs are AbiWord 2.6 and Gnumeric, but additional office applications can be installed through the new-and-improved netpkg.
Some of the other applications shipping with Zenwalk 5.2 Beta include IceWeasel 2.0 (in place of Mozilla Firefox), IceDove 2.0 (in place of Mozilla Thunderbird), GIMP 2.4.5, Brasero 0.7.1, and Transmission 1.20. For helping new users especially, Zenwalk ships with ndiswrapper for using Windows wireless drivers on Linux as well as a graphical user-interface for facilitating the setup process.
Still present in Zenwalk 5.2 but it hasn't received any major improvements is Zenpanel, which is the system tools area for Zenwalk. Through Zenpanel there are options for the terminal, system time, keyboard layout, system language, netpkg, host and domain, startup services, users profiles, video configuration, network settings, kernel modules, network proxy, system date, and printing.
We have just been using Zenwalk 5.2 beta for a few hours now, but it continues to live on as a distribution we would certainly recommend at least trying out. Zenwalk is quite polished and has a nice theme/artwork and is full-featured for being on an Xfce desktop and the ISO coming in at just over 500MB. More information on this Linux distribution can be found at Zenwalk.org.
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