siduction 2018.1.0siduction was the last distribution to have a release announcement appear on DistroWatch in the 2017 calendar year. siduction is a rolling release Linux distribution based on Debian's Unstable (Sid) branch. siduction's latest snapshot, version 2018.1.0, ships with the graphical Calamares system installer. siduction supports booting on UEFI-enabled hardware and ships with some non-free firmware and drivers. These non-free extras can be removed post-installation using a simple set of instructions on the distribution's website. The project's release announcement warns us that the distribution does not support installs with disk encryption at this time.
The latest release of siduction is available in many editions with the project providing Cinnamon, LXDE, LXQt, KDE, GNOME, MATE and Xfce editions. There is also one edition which ships without any graphical software and another with the X display software, but no desktop environment. I decided to download a few different flavours while focusing on the LXQt edition which is a 1.6GB download.
siduction 2018.1.0 -- Launching Calamares from the Cinnamon edition (full image size: 468kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The siduction live disc boots to the LXQt desktop. The desktop is presented with a quick-launch panel at the top of the screen. A second panel containing the application menu, system tray and task switcher sits at the bottom of the display. Most of the time the quick-launch panel (called Plank) hides behind open application windows, but sometimes it popped up to cover the tops of windows. Because of this distraction I disabled the Plank panel and used a one-panel layout.
On the LXQt desktop we find three icons. One icon launches the graphical Calamares system installer. The second icon opens the Firefox web browser and displays the project's manual. The third icon opens the HexChat IRC client and connects us with the siduction chat room.
The icon which opens the manual is unusual, not in its purpose as lots of distributions have desktop icons which open a PDF or HTML user guide, but in how it displays the documentation. When clicked, the manual icon launches a local web server on our computer. It then opens the Firefox browser and tells it to connect to a host called "sidu-manual" which has an entry in our /etc/hosts file that directs the browser to the new web service running on our own computer. Usually Firefox would just open a HTML file directly or connect to a remote web server. Starting a web server to display locally stored documentation may be the most roundabout method I have ever encountered for displaying a collection of HTML pages.
Another surprise I ran into while still exploring the live desktop environment was the network icon in the system tray cannot be used to adjust network settings. The network icon indicates whether data is being transmitted over the network, but clicking on it does not help us set up new connections. There is a separate tool for connecting to networks called Connman.
siduction uses the Calamares system installer. We start off by selecting our preferred language from a list and then the installer shows us the project's release notes. We are walked through the usual steps of selecting our time zone from a map, confirming our keyboard's layout and creating a username and password combination for ourselves. Calamares offers both guided and manual disk partitioning. I went with the manual option and liked the simple, streamlined approach the partitioning screen uses. I also like that we can select where we want to install the distribution's boot loader. The whole installer is pretty straight forward to use and offers reasonable defaults. Once the installer has copied its files to our hard drive, it offers to reboot the computer.
Our new copy of siduction boots to a graphical login screen. Signing into our account brings us back to the LXQt desktop. The desktop still has a two panel layout, but the manual and installer icons have been removed from the desktop. A launcher for accessing the siduction IRC chat room remains on the desktop.
The desktop uses a dark theme for the application menu and window borders. I noticed no distractions, no pop-ups and no notifications. The LXQt desktop is pleasantly responsive and seems designed to stay out of our way as much as possible.
Digging into siduction's application menu we find some common open source programs such as the Firefox web browser, the Thunderbird e-mail client, the HexChat IRC client and LibreOffice. The Calibre e-book manager is featured along with the GNU Image Manipulation Program and Inkscape for working with images. There are some less common items too such as the qBittorrent software, the qpdfview document viewer, an e-book editor, the LXImage viewer and the Nomacs image manipulation application.
While most distributions use Network Manager to help users get on-line, siduction ships with Connman to provide easy point-n-click network configuration. We can also find the Ceni network interface manager in the application menu. There are also menu short-cuts for launching and deactivating the OpenSSH service. By default, OpenSSH is disabled.
On the multimedia front, siduction ships with the Audacious audio player along with mpv and SMPlayer for displaying videos, Xfburn for burning discs and a desktop application for browsing YouTube videos. The distribution provides media codecs for most audio and video formats. Rounding out the selection we find the Zim Desktop Wiki and note taking program, three text editors (Vim, FeatherPad and JuffEd), an archive manager and an e-book viewer. Behind the scenes we find siduction uses systemd for its init system and version 4.14.10 of the Linux kernel. siduction is a rolling release and new kernels become available frequently.
Generally speaking, siduction's applications worked well. The distribution's software may be on the bleeding edge, but I was able to get work done without any unpleasant surprises. I found the provided applications often duplicated effort and it was curious how much focus was placed on e-books. There are applications for managing e-books, editing them and reading them. There are three text editors in the menu and two of them are virtually identical in features and layout.
The only serious quirk though revealed itself when I tried to play videos. If I opened a video file from the file manager, the SMPlayer application would open. Then a mpv window would open to play the video. The video would only be shown in the mpv window, but mpv's controls wouldn't work. I could only control playback and volume from the SMPlayer window. This issue was only magnified when I used the YouTube browser app. Clicking a video in YouTube Browser would open a new SMPlayer window, which loaded the video and then opened a mpv window to show the video. In short, I had three windows open whenever I wanted to see a YouTube video: one for searching, one for controlling playback and one for viewing.
siduction 2018.1.0 -- Finding and playing a YouTube video (full image size: 283kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
siduction ships with the Synaptic package manager. This venerable package manager can be used to find software by name, install, remove and upgrade packages. Synaptic can also be used to enable and disable software repositories. Synaptic doesn't have the modern look of GNOME Software or mintInstall, but it works quickly and I had no problems using it. One feature of Synaptic I especially appreciated was, when performing package upgrades, the package manager would let me know which services had been upgraded (or had dependencies which had been updated). A list of services would then be shown and I could check boxes next to services I wanted to restart. This helps us avoid running out of date (and possibly insecure) services and is a lot more convenient than rebooting to make sure all our running processes are up to date.
siduction 2018.1.0 -- Using Synaptic to check for software updates (full image size: 223kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
siduction is a rolling release distribution and gets a huge number of package upgrades. The first day I was running the distribution there were 100 new packages waiting to be upgraded, totaling 175MB in size. The next day there were 50 new updates, totaling 85MB in size. A few days later 66 new packages were available, resulting in a 157MB download. When running siduction we should be prepared for a steady stream of relatively large package upgrades.
The LXQt edition of siduction features a fairly simple settings panel. Most of the included modules are there to help us tweak the look of the desktop environment. We can also enable or disable start-up programs which run in the background when we login. Plus we can adjust keyboard short-cuts and locale/language options. One item I found odd was, by default, the preferred web browser is set to be QupZilla, which is not installed. This setting appears to be ignored as clicking a hyperlink opens the Firefox browser to display the desired page.
The settings panel includes some other modules for managing the underlying operating system. One module launches the Synaptic package manager, another is available for setting up printers and one module helps us create and manage user accounts. The module I used the most though was the one which opens the Connman graphical network manager. Connman has a different layout than Wicd or Network Manager, but performs in the same role: helping us set up wired and wi-fi connections. I found Connman worked well for me and I liked the simple, clean layout of the utility's tabs. There is probably more information presented in Connman than most people will need, but I think administrators will appreciate the level of detail offered.
I experimented with siduction in two environments. When I ran the distribution in a VirtualBox virtual machine, the distribution ran smoothly and without problems. Once the distribution was installed, it was able to integrate with VirtualBox and use my host computer's full screen resolution. I had a similarly good experience when running siduction on a desktop computer. My hardware was all properly detected, the LXQt desktop was very responsive and the system remained stable during my trial. In either test environment, siduction required about 5GB of hard drive space and 220MB of memory when logged into the LXQt desktop.
At one point I thought siduction had failed to detect my desktop computer's wireless card. It turned out my wireless interface had been detected, but had been deactivated by default. The Connman network configuration tool had an option for activating my wireless network interface with a button click.
Running siduction was a pretty good experience for me. The distribution is very easy to set up and the Calamares installer gets the user up and running with fewer steps than Debian's system installer. The LXQt edition of siduction works quickly and the desktop environment is pleasantly lightweight. I found LXQt generally provided me with all the features I wanted to use while staying out of my way, which was appreciated.
One of the few concerns I had was with the confusing way video playing worked on the distribution. I think it would have been easier if siduction simply shipped with VLC or Totem for playing videos. Otherwise, the applications which shipped with the distribution worked well and I found running siduction was generally pleasantly boring.
For people who like running cutting edge software and want to take advantage of Debian's massive supply of open source software, I think siduction is an excellent option. The user needs to be prepared to handle a lot of updates, dozens or (in my case) maybe even hundreds per week. But if you don't mind installing waves of updates, then siduction offers good performance, an easy to use installer and a wide range of desktop editions. I especially appreciate the Synaptic feature which allows us to restart services which have been updated and I suspect people running network services will really like having this ability.
siduction didn't really do anything which stood out as different or amazing, but on the other hand I didn't run into any serious problems. The distribution provided a solid, easy to use rolling release with a huge amount of software in the repositories and handled all my hardware beautifully. I think people who like running openSUSE Tumbleweed or Arch Linux may want to check out siduction as an alternative, especially since the distribution can be set up with little more than a few mouse clicks.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications: