LINUX PICKS AND PANS

MakuluLinux LinDoz Offers Windows Comfort Zone, but It’s All Linux Under the Hood

After a long delay, a new MakuluLinux LinDoz release is pending last-minute finishing touches and is a week — if not days — away, according to developer Jacque Montague Raymer.

Over the last few months, I have been testing what is now the final build of a new upgrade designed to make using Linux easier than ever. I have reviewed a variety of different desktop versions of MakuluLinux since this Linux newcomer debuted a few years ago.

Recently, I discussed with Raymer the trials and tribulations he faced in maintaining and advancing his Linux line of distros. He revealed a process that no doubt is similar to what confronts many software developers who step into the crowded and financially challenging field of Linux operating system creation. Woven into our conversation is a preview of the next Linux thing.

MakuluLinux is a partial rolling-release operating system that debuted in 2015 with a different approach to implementing Linux OS features. The last few years have brought considerable change and new development to this Linux family.Family HistoryThe LinDoz distro uses Microsoft Windows themes integrated with superior Linux functionality. It provides a comfortable, familiar computing platform for those looking for an easy-to-use alternative to the Windows OS platform. It runs a heavily tweaked version of the Cinnamon desktop.

MakuluLinux Theme Manager

The MakuluLinux Theme Manager offers a choice of Microsoft Windows-style layouts along with other configuration options. The Desktop Clock Color Scheme lets you switch between light or dark clock applet displays with a single click to match the selected background image.
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The LinDoz and Flash distros have been solid performers since MakuluLinux arrived in 2015. Along the way, Raymer rebuilt them. He completely reworked the distros. Flash runs a strongly tweaked iteration of the Xfce desktop. Core is an innovative distro he introduced early last year.

The Core distro has a totally radical desktop design built on a homegrown user interface centered around a spin-wheel style circular menu display. MakuluLinux Core was something entirely new.

All three distros blended Microsoft Windows traits and Linux functionality into one solid Linux OS. They are not Microsoft Windows clones. LinDoz is designed to make Windows users feel comfortable transitioning to a Linux operating system, according to Raymer. Longtime Linux users also praise MakuluLinux’s different approach.

“There is just enough Windows in LinDoz for them to feel comfortable, but it is all Linux under the hood, Raymer told LinuxInsider.

Planning to Re-Plan

Previous versions of MakuluLinux LinDoz were based on the Debian Testing branch. Raymer, who previously lived in South Africa and relocated to Da Nang, Viet Nam, decided to retool LinDoz to be based on Ubuntu Linux.

That process slowed down the new build. So did discussions by his team about the future directional path. Up for discussion was potentially dropping one or more of the distros.

The release schedule delays were in part the result of deciding to first rebuild the in-house Constructor Tool packaged with the distros. Another cause was the need to resolve changes to the Calamares graphic interface installer that open source community members made to the installer in December.

The last-minute change was crucial because MakuluLinux uses the Calamares installer. Until the rebuild of LinDoz on a Ubuntu base and a port to a Debian base was completed, new releases for the Flash and Core distros would remain on hold as well.

The Linux development world is made up of many small software communities dedicated to specific distributions. Most are not larger business organizations the likes of Canonical, RedHat or Linux Mint. Limited time and money often impede progress.

Maintaining and upgrading releases is often a time-consuming and thankless job that never ends. Raymer found himself at such a crossroads. He had the potential to pursue a spinoff software creation at the expense of continuing his diversified operating systems.

Factoring in Changing Pace

The team met to discuss potentially putting more work into turning the Constructor Tool into some sort of kit for other developers to build their own modified distros. The existing Constructor Tool bundled in MakuluLinux lets users clone the configurations and installed applications to duplicate exact installation copies of their MakuluLinux systems.

With this tool expanded and redesigned, Linux developers then could compile all of the coded components to build their own distros easily, with virtually no knowledge or any coding experience needed, and put out a very professional distro with no effort at all, explained Raymer.

“We were going to start working on the Constructor Tool, build the kit, and start putting all effort into that. After all, with distros we have plenty of competition, and the workload is massive. Whereas if we become the builder of the builders — we build the tools that builders use — we have no competition, at least nothing near as nice as this tool we created. So, this was the plan. This is what we discussed,” he said.

The MakuluLinux team at first planned to phase out the MakuluLinux distros and focus on making “community” builds. The team would release a distro but would not work on it around the clock, Raymer disclosed. Instead, a support community could assume the tasks of editing and maintaining the selected distro with background assistance from the team as needed.

“We will assist as much as we can, to put it bluntly. We would still make distros, but not commit to full-time patches and maintenance unless there was an issue that really required us to step in,” he said.

Raymer and his team got caught up in a whole cycle of releasing distros. Many on the diverse, remotely operating team seemed to force staying on that path because they did not see the potential or Raymer’s vision of things that could be.

“So here we are nearly three years later, and I find myself reflecting, looking both back and looking forward,” he admitted.

Moving Forward, Cautiously

Raymer has weathered the near breakup decision and is ready to advance the growth and development of all three MakuluLinux distros. However, he is not yet committing to any specific dates. That said, he is firm about releasing new editions this year.

The first upgrade is the pending LinDoz release. It is nearly ready to go. It definitely will be based on Ubuntu with a Debian-based release to follow. You can expect the Ubuntu-based version of LinDoz between now and the end of February.

Upgrades for Flash and Core still need quite a bit of work. A last-minute breakthrough on revamping the Constructor Tool this week led to Raymer pushing out the first Flash upgrade build for testing. He still has no clear release date for the Flash distro upgrade. The team will begin working on the Core distro upgrade once LinDoz and Flash are released.

LinDoz First Look

LinDoz is not a Windows 7 or a Windows 10 clone, but users coming from those operating systems will feel right at home as a result of the Windows-style themes.

Combining that look and feel with the inclusion of Q4Wine, a GUI app to manage Wine, lets you bring your essential Microsoft programs to this Linux OS more easily than with other Linux options. Q4Wine enhances the functionality of the WINE Windows emulator.

However, users already familiar with Linux who have no need for Wine can just ignore or remove the emulator. They can change the theme choice to make the desktop view less like Windows. LinDoz is highly configurable beyond the look and feel of the themes.

MakuluLinux  LinDoz desktop

The LinDoz desktop displays all the essentials for Windows or Linux users. It has the bottom panel, an attractive choice of backgrounds, an updated menu, and top-caliber applications.
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For instance, LinDoz has vivid backgrounds, a classic bottom panel, and a preconfigured workspace switcher applet with a nice collection of desktop desklets. It also uses a nicely tweaked version of the Cinnamon desktop with a unique menu.

The new menu blends both Windows and Linux functionality into one OS. The tweaks to the menu layouts make using menus much neater and more complete to provide a smoother user experience.

The tweaking that the Cinnamon desktop provides lets you substitute menu styles, place a variety of applets on the panel, add more panels, and position them wherever you like. Similarly, you can enhance the desktop’s functionality with desklet displays.

Upgrade Highlights

If you have used earlier versions of LinDoz, you will not see much in the way of new looks and major new features. Overall, this latest upgrade contains a tremendous amount of tweaking throughout the distro.

One of the key improvements is centered around changing the base code to Ubuntu, which also is based on Debian. To follow soon is a version based entirely on Debian Linux. The difference rests on Ubuntu being regarded as being highly stable with more current updates.

A new introductory video pops up only in Live mode. This is handy for new users, nice and neat and functional.

A new set-up manager is present in the Ubuntu-based version that is not the same as the intro manager in the existing Debian LinDoz version. It is laid out to go through a step-by-step process to set up things like WiFi, system updates, drivers and more.

You will find a new entry added to the right-click context menu on the desktop. This lets you right-click to open system settings.

This change makes up for removing the system settings launcher from the panel. Other improvements include an update manager shortcut added to the panel, and more Wine entries added to the right-click menu.

It has been years since I used Wine to load Microsoft Windows programs in any Linux distro. It was nice to discover that the configuration hassles and usability frustrations I recall when I did use Wine are not present in the new LinDoz release.

Windows Apps work out-of-the-box more reliably by simply double-clicking on EXE, MSI or COM files. The Windows programs loaded automatically open in the Wine environment.

Also present in this upgrade is a better selection of productivity software and games. The redesigned menus have new categories and content. For instance, apps include a system monitor and the Gnome software center.

Bottom Line

Overall, I am very impressed with the new LinDoz release. It is essentially designed as an easy-to-use operating system that feels comfortable for both Windows and Linux users.

In fact, it even makes using Linux easier for those with disabilities. LinDoz fully supports accessible options to cater for disabled or the elderly that may not see well. It now has a built in Screen Reader, Magnifier and On Screen keyboard. These features are neatly laid out with easy access.

I do not expect an automatic update from the still current version, however. Way too many changes are built into this LinDoz release. So grab the new ISO and experience an effortless fresh installation.

As of this writing, the upgrade was not yet posted for download. But Raymer’s targeted date is between mid February and the end of the month.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Pleaseemail your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

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Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.Email Jack.

7 Comments

  • I will be curious to see if the screen reader works with the menu. As far as I know there is only one decent screen reader in the Linux world and that is Gnome’s Orca, created by a visually impaired employee of Sun MicroSystems. Earlier iterations of Lindoz and the screen reader worked once applications launched but incompatible with the Cinnamon DE Menu. How is a blind user going to find the application they want? Only one I have found that works is Zorin 12 and 15, and Debian distros armed with the ancient AWN Panel and YAMA (Yet Another Menu Application) which I succeeded to do in LinDoz 12 (or was it 10)

      • Downloaded & ran this update. Thanks for the care about old, frail people like myself. Found it hard to switch off the BLING BLING. Plain, non-distracting background please, as an option? Sending another donation to you. Pensioner, so it’s not much.
        Not sure why you also do the Debian version. Appreciate your small & busy team. It shows. Final release has the SOURCE CODE repositories being default access to end users like myself.
        You still do not know about GKRELLM (which PCLOS does best of all), GRUB CUSTOMIZER (which no distro can yet do properly).
        Love you System Replication program. It should be default for every Linux operating system. Your version of UNETBOOTIN-type should be highlighted more. There is perhaps more then one version of a YUMI-like program for Linux.
        Many of your icons & "mood" are lively & young. Refreshing, but a big shock to the serious business world. Young rebels love your use of anti-ergonomics, the dark-on-dark themes. Personally we aged frail types prefer a choice of eye-friendly & ear-friendly clarity. ACCESSIBILITY should always be an early default choice, as soon as possible, for every user or every system installer.
        Too old & frail myself. Did work with an ISO committee. Ergonomics for all operating systems should be compulsory. So many manufacturers do not yet understand the need for animal rights for humans. We humans want the right to deliberately designed error minimization. The search for novelty & "distinction" has created the opposite to ergonomics. Makulu productions needs more business respectability IMHO.

    • I have some considerable experience with Windows to Linux migrants and of those who stay with the latter the last thing they end up wanting is a system that looks like the former. Once anyone gets into Linux they appreciate the differences and aim to move as far away as possible from their past experiences. The other thing Makulu lacks is consistency with long drawn out gaps in development with next to no communication except a raft of excuses. The number of weekly downloads via SourceForge really says it all and this is just another bottom end distro sucking users away from more useful examples of the system.

      • I have to disagree, at least for the most part. I’ve been trying to get my wife on Linux for ages. She detest Windows 10 and now that Windows 7 is at eol, she still refused to get Linux. I showed her a lindoz live usb and booted it to my computer and let her play with it. Within 10 minutes, she asked me to install it on hers, as soon as she’s backed up her stuff. Now she loves Linux, with lindoz as her daily driver. I had to set up her printer on wifi and a few other minor things but she’s happy now and hasn’t complained about anything. She actually boots within a minute instead of about 7 minutes like it was with Windows.

      • While I really value everyone’s opinion ( good and bad ) and I realize that not everyone will like Makulu, I fully understand it may not be to your liking. However I have to address the falseness of your claim, While we may not communicate often with the outside world it does not mean we do not work or consistently release. I myself work between 8 and 15 hours every day on Makulu, 7 days a week, no break and I have a day job as well, I live and breath makulu day in and day out and i get paid nothing for it, not one cent. We have also consistently released updated iso’s to our distro’s every year, IE last year Feb we released Lindoz, Now its Feb again and a new build is ready, this consistency we have kept year on year.
        We would release sooner, but we are a small team and we dedicate a lot of time to testing and bug fixing and our releases aren’t just standard DE’s like most developers lean towards, We do a LOT of custom coding that requires a Lot of time to complete. We also have 10 releases scheduled this year ( it is a big reason why we have been so quiet, its been EXTREMELY hard work to make them ). Lastly, Just because we don’t communicate a lot with the outside world, it does not mean we don’t like talking, we have a chatroom that has members of the team and myself included online every day, you are always welcome to pop in and have a chat with us, we will gladly engage with you. I wish you luck with which ever distro you try, hopefully one of our distro’s in the future will be to your liking. Good day 🙂

        • I checked it out on my distro test comp. It is an older comp, an Asus T100. I was using a live USB and things were going well. I looked a while for a few minutes and returned to see that the computer froze.
          The Asus has a dual boot Win10 and Mint distro. WIn10 runs well and if it handles wWin10 it should be able to handle most distros.
          From what I did get to see the distro looks good and I liked what I saw!

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