Cobind Linux Desktop

Joe Klemmer

With the release of Fedora Linux into the wild by Red Hat the proliferation of distributions based on it has been growing. This is a good thing. Even with Fedora Core Linux being more community based, no distribution can be all things to all people. This is a review of one of these new distributions, Cobind Linux.

According to their website -

Cobind Desktop merges the reliability of Fedora Core Linux, the speed of a lightweight desktop environment, and the usability of a best-of-breed application suite into a basic, high-performance Linux platform designed with the average user in mind.

Great market speak, but what does it mean? Cobind is built on Fedora Core 1 but striped down to fit on one CD. They did this by leaving out the big and complex software. No OpenOffice. No Evolution. No GNOME or KDE. No development tools. Just a light weight yet functional desktop OS. But lest you think that they skimped on the available tools and apps, the default install still consists of 537 RPM packages.

What you do get is the wonderful Xfce4 Desktop Environment and what Cobind refers to as the "best-of-breed" applications. These include Firefox for web browsing, Thunderbird for news and email, gaim for all your IM needs and a productivity suite made up of AbiWord, Gnumeric, the GIMP, XMMS & GnuCash. It does include the three main file managers in Konquerer, Nautilus and XFFM but otherwise keeps the duplication of programs to a minimum. There are no servers in this distribution as it is well focused on the desktop. But enough of the talking, let's get to the test drive.

Anyone who's ever installed any of the Red Hat or Fedora Linux versions will be right at home here. Cobind uses Anaconda for installation and configuration. There's no section in the install for selecting packages but that is to be expected with a distribution focused on simple and easy. Just a few clicks and the occasional input screen.

After the install and the normal "firstboot" screen you get the Cobind login screen. It's a clean and pleasant configuration of GDM (seen here running under VMware). The login is a very simple configuration of GDM. Once logged in, you see a simple desktop with a panel at the bottom, a bar at the top and the familiar desktop icons of Nautilus. It doesn't have many menus, just the applications. The apps are, from left to right, Terminal, File Manager (xffm), FireFox, ThunderBird, gaim, AbiWord, Gedit, Gnumeric, GnuCash, Mplayer, XMMS and k3b. The desktop is managed by Nautilus instead of the xfdesktop4 (part of xfce4). If you kill off Nautilus you get xfdesktop4, which is quite good in it's own right. Next on the panel comes the configuration menu followed by the Software Manager (more in this later), Help/Documentation, Lock, Log out and the clock.

While the layout and available/clickable programs may seem quite sparse, the distribution comes with everything a home user might need. And it's all configured so that very little user intervention is ever needed. Should any configuration be needed all of the config tools from Fedora are also available.

The most significant part of Cobind Linux is the Software Manager. Cobind has made a GUI front end to the command line RPM management tool yum. This program makes using yum very intuitive and easy. You can update, add or remove RPMS from any repository you want. Adding new repositories is as easy as clicking an Add button. The program gives you three tabs at the top half of the window where you can see RPMS to Install, Remove and Update, if there are any available updates. There's also a Settings tab from where you manage the repositories. The bottom half is divided again into two with the left side giving you a description of the RPM that is selected (from any of the above tabs). On the right is the output of the actual yum command so you can see what is actually being shown "under the hood". These last two features make this tool better than Red Hat's up2date, in this writers opinion. With this Software Manager you can easily install any of the programs that you might want, like OpenOffice for example. Just select it from the Install tab and off you go.

Cobind Linux might feel a bit restrictive to some seasoned Linux users, especially with it's lack of any development tools, but it does make for a very nice home desktop system. Fast, light but with plenty of capabilities, Cobind has some interesting potential as a Linux distribution.