Posted on Sunday 6th of May 2007 at 13:35 in Linux

Review of SAM Linux 2007

Sam Linux 2007 is another one of those distros that clearly has a lot going for it because numerous people have told me to look in it's direction. On further investigation it seems odd that I've not heard of this release before.

An inconspicuous release sitting at a lowly #42 on Distrowatch's "page hit rankings" so it's forgivable if you've not heard of this increasingly popular distro. Especially when you consider this German system is based on PCLinuxOS.

Let's throw Sam 2007 into the normal review system

If you're unfamiliar with the way reviews are handled on; I have a few short tests that I consider absolutely fundamental for 'normal' use and I always evaluate things from a new user's point of view. For further exemplification please see my reviews of PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4, Linux Mint KDE edition and Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. They should give you sufficient indication of how these reviews normally pan out.

Interface, aesthetics and general feel
It does inherit a lot of it's look and feel from PCLinuxOS which is a good move. Crucially SAM uses XCFE as it's environment of choice which means that you get a fast and clean interface - quite different from the "heavy" KDE that PCLOS uses. Don't mistake a light environment to be synonymous with light functionality or out of the box experience because that's something SAM2007 has by the kilo.

sam linux desktop

All the familiar faces are here application wise (GIMP, OpenOffice, FireFox, GFTP etc) but there's more than that; there's Skype, 12 games, 9 Media applications and many many others that I've not ever used before. SAM clearly is a distro aimed at out of the box functionality because there's just so much on offer here.

Network to my current setup
Before I'm able to test the media-playback functionality I first need to sort out my networking. SAM found my Internet connection without any woes but didn't offer any clear way of connecting to my Windows Samba shares (like PCLOS did) so either I'm being slightly slow today, the functionality is well hidden or it is indeed missing. On the plus side the PCLinuxOS Control Centre is present in SAM.

sam linux control centre

Unfortunate but not a deal-breaker because I can also connect to my network via FTP. So I was able to grab the video file this way but I was really hoping that there would be an obvious way to connect to my Windows network.

Playing the video file
After GFTP'ing my Family Guy Episode to the desktop it was time to see how painlessly SAM2007 handles videos. Selecting to play the video file resulted in a player called "Gxine" loading (one I've not seen before) but the video played without delay. Can't argue with that.

Using applications, using the release...
Writing and editing this review was never going to be an issue given the number of applications that SAM gives you post-install. Unfortunately I found myself sitting with a blank expression on my face while I pondered the functionality of each of these apps that I'd never heard of before. I feel that "normal" users would be equally perplexed. I couldn't have told you before that "Gxine" was a video player.

I guess it's a case of double standards; you need sufficient optionality on what applications are installed. It comes down to personal preference but I think there's just too much choice here. For example, why offer both Firefox and Opera as web browsers directly post install? Surely offering Firefox is sufficient and should the user have other ideas - they can install it themselves. It's very much like that - I'm not sure how many media players are necessary...


Conclusions of SAM2007

It's a nice release and the XCFE interface serves it well but I couldn't say I noticed any real performance gains over PCLOS' KDE window manager. I do quite like the look and feel of this release and it's not hard to understand why people love it but I couldn't put my hand on my heart and say it's a rival for PCLOS, Ubuntu and co.

It feels a lot like when I reviewed Linux Mint which felt like less than the sum of it's parts. SAM2007 has a lot going for it on paper - being a blood relative of PCLOS, XCFE etc yet I would reach for PCLOS 99 times out of 100 decisions.

It's a good release but I don't see it offering anything that PCLOS doesn't besides a lot more software that managed to confuse me. I recommend you try it but it's not as good as PCLOS unfortunately.

Someone once told me that SAM2007 is to PCLinuxOS what Mint was to Ubuntu and I agree; but probably not for the right reasons.


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