So, it’s been pretty much a year since my last post. I’m not active, but I’m still alive!
This time, we take a look at Q4OS, a Debian-based distro that seems to replicate what Windows XP looks like in every way possible. Keep in mind this is a distro in 2015, and they’re using Trinity Desktop Environment, a fork of KDE 3!
Note: some of these screenshots are for a slightly older version of Q4OS (1.2.2, which is about a month old as of writing), though I don’t believe too much has changed since then. That said, I did run updates via APT to keep the system’s core up to date.
The Q4OS boot screen.
The installation screen is pretty similar to a regular Debian system, so there’s not much to see here. I’ll skip to the desktop setup, which is the most interesting.
Booting up into a new install…
Similar to older Windows releases, post-installation scripts take place after the first login!
TADA! On first run, we get a nice popup that fills up half the screen stating that we are running in a Virtualbox VM! Excuse the spelling mistakes.
You know this distro is REALLY mimicking Windows XP when a Windows Installer-like dialog pops up to install these “Q4OS optimized Virtualbox guest additions”.
…Though it turns out this is just a fancy wrapper for Debian’s apt package manager.
…WHICH actually just pulls in Debian Jessie’s stock Virtualbox additions package! How do I know? The version formats match. So much for optimized!
It works fine though, which is fantastic.
I resized the VM window here so I can fit more apps on the screen. As you can see, the default menu is very reminiscent of Windows 2000, with everything neatly piled into menus and submenus. Today, though I’m no longer really a fan of this setup, I can understand this style choice because Q4OS is geared towards businesses (according to their website), where people who are used to this kind of UI. Also, the wallpaper did not seem to resize itself to the rest of the screen, which is a shame… (I’ve been getting this issue even with KDE Plasma 5 in Virtualbox, ugh!)
The welcome screen gives you an option to switch to KDE’s Kickoff menu. I prefer this more than classic, personally, mainly because I’m used to having a search bar for apps.
This works fine, except it seems to mess up the panel’s colouring for some bizarre reason. (The previous screenshot also has this because I switched from Kickoff to the default menu in order to, well, take a screenshot of it.)
Before I look at installing apps via Q4OS’s software center, here are some of the preinstalled apps that come with a basic Q4OS install. Note that I didn’t choose the heaviest Q4OS setup, which would include an office suite too.
Most of these are basic KDE 3 apps. Some have rebranded to Trinity (TDE), but not all. The control panel is a folder, with many categorized subfolders, similar to Windows.
Man, Krusader looks old…
Next up is the Software Centre. There’s not that much selection here, with only 19 apps (and counting!) available. There are only 3 buttons to install an application, start the package manager (in this case, Synaptic), and start the desktop profiler. There is no search button or anything, and double-clicking/right-clicking an app in the list does nothing.
The desktop profiler basically lets you pick what application suites you want, though it doesn’t say what exactly gets installed. I’m pretty sure I picked a Basic install.
Firefox installation. Again, very similar to Windows Installer.
They’re getting this from Linux Mint’s repository?!?
Strangely, software center apps show up in their own category in the menu…
It even has its own Uninstaller!
Customization and Alternative desktop environments
One thing I found really interesting as I tried Q4OS was its different customization. Here, nestled deep in the Control Panel, is a look switcher that allows you to change the theme to what looks ridiculously similar to Windows Classic. This requires a logout, though you are logged back in automatically.
But that’s not all! According to the Q4OS blog, there are even command scripts to install KDE 4 and LXQt. Why this is implemented as a post-installation script, and not as a separate download like most distros really baffles me, but it shows you how unique this OS is!
It goes ahead and starts pulling in things from Siduction and Debian Testing’s repos. Keep in mind that this is a distro based on Debian Stable, and there is absolutely no way this could go horribly, horribly wrong!
Aw it didn’t work. 🙁
I guess that’s what happens when you hard code package names from a third party repo you don’t even run!
(I might try installing KDE 4 in a future review, but this is already getting too long.)
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
To conclude, Q4OS is a bit of a gem in how unique and strange it is. Not often do you see a distro based on Debian Stable that offers Trinity Desktop Environment, LXQt, and KDE 4 as installable desktops. In fact, the first two aren’t even available in stock Debian as of writing!
What baffles me the most is the choice of package management: Q4OS’s software center is a selection screen built upon a wrapper around APT, with only a measly 19 packages available. That’s fewer than what PC-BSD has to offer, and the software manager screen is severely limited! With Debian having such a large repository, it’s a shame that the official software center doesn’t integrate better with what’s otherwise easily available on the system (package search, etc.).
BONUS: I had the liberty of manually downloading one of these software center packages and opening it up with a text editor. .esh files?! Shell scripts with the binary blob embedded inside? Crazy!
Also, I have to note – everything about KDE 3 and TDE is OLD! It’s not just the design that looks old, but it’s the code itself. Konqueror, for example, is still the default web browser, but it’s radically behind on web standards. This is what Acid3 looks like in Konqueror 3.x. On IE8 (released in 2009), you can at least see how bad your browser is!
Q4OS is a mixed bag, but it just doesn’t seem complete to me. While it’s goal is to mimic a Windows 2000-XP style desktop, there are no doubt other solutions that can do this in a much more stable and modern fashion: Cinnamon, LXDE, MATE, and Xfce (the latter two with some configuration) are all examples.