Robolinux Install Guide and Hands-on Review

Robolinux is a Linux distro which caters, in part, to those who want to migrate away from Windows. It is based on the latest stable release of Debian GNU/Linux, and according to its creator, the distro is designed for those who need support for Windows but want a virus and malware free environment.

To try Robolinux, go to the Downloads page and scroll to the bottom until you find the link to the Robolinux SourceForge downloads area. Download the .iso file and burn it onto a disc. Then boot your PC or laptop from the disc.

RoboLinux-bootmenu

The boot menu will offer one of two choices, either “Run Robolinux Live” or “Install Robolinux.” To install it on your machine, select the second choice. The first few steps of the installation are simple. Just choose your installation language, your location and keyboard. After a bit of processing, the installer will ask you to enter the hostname of your new Robolinux machine. Next is account creation. Enter your full name, the username, and then the password for the account (twice).

The next step is to partition the disk. There are several options, the easiest of which is to let the installer guide you through the partitioning process. If you have other data or operating systems on the disk, you will need to opt for manual partitioning.

RoboLinux-partitioning

Pick the installation disk and accept the default partition layout (which is just two partitions, a root partition and some swap).

The installer will now copy the files onto your hard disk. After several minutes of file transfers, you will be asked to configure the package manager. Accept the default setting (which is to use a network mirror). Next the installer will ask about installing GRUB. If you are using an empty hard disk, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you are making a dual-boot system, then you need to proceed with caution. However, ultimately you just need to trust that the installer will get it right.

Once the installation has finished and the system rebooted, you will be presented with a login prompt. Enter the username and password you set during the installation process.

RoboLinux-desktop2

Although the desktop is based on GNOME, it has been tweaked to resemble OS X. The theme seems to use several icon’s from OS X, and although this is a blatant copyright infringement, it seems that Apple hasn’t sent the Robolinux project a cease and desist letter yet (that might come only if Robolinux becomes popular)!

At the bottom is the dock (like in OS X), and the application menu is found at the top. The top bar also has different applets running like a clock, volume control and so on. There is also support for virtual desktops (or Spaces as Apple calls them). Instant messaging services are also integrated into the desktop and the control panel allows you to add accounts for Windows Live, Facebook and Google.

One problem with the design of the desktop is that it is very hard to get access to applications that you have minimized. When you minimize a window, it disappears to the “Window Selector” which is a small icon on the right-hand side of the dock. Clicking on the “Windows Selector” brings up a scrollable list of the minimized windows, but the list is only 2 items high. This means you need to scroll through the list to find your minimized app. The scrolling is very fast and it is almost impossible to get to the application you want on the first attempt. This alone would drive me crazy if I had to use Robolinux daily!

The default install seems quite comprehensive and includes packages like Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, GIMP, and LibreOffice. Something that Robolinux pushes quite heavily (in terms of links on the desktop and adverts on its website) is its “Stealth VM Software” and its “C: Drive to VM” package. Both of these solutions are aimed at helping users migrate away from Windows and and to use virtualization to run their old desktop OS inside Robolinux. To get full access to these solutions, you need to make a donation on the Robolinux website.

Robolinux-stealthvm

To add more software, use the “Add/Remove Software” application which can be accessed from the “System Tools” menu. The repository seems quite comprehensive with access to packages like Wine, VLC and OpenOffice, as well as alternative desktops like GNOME and KDE.

Robolinux is certainly trying to cater to a specific market, and the website claims it is a popular distro because it enables users to migrate away from Windows without too much pain.

If you have any questions regarding Robolinux, there is a support center which offers free tech support for one PC. If you have tried Robolinux, why not leave a comment below and let us know what you think about it.