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.

8 comments

  1. Should anyone decide to follow these instructions . . . Step 1. BACKUP YOUR DATA FIRST. installing this or ANY distribution using the “Entire Disk” option will overwrite your existing operating system and data files.

    Just thought I should mention that since this article and the distribution itself is aimed at the Linux novice. :-)

  2. Sounds like this distro is a PITA. There are better Linux distros for the Mac.
    My personal favorite is Knoppix, a distro originally for recovery purposes, which quite user friendly with no learning curve (learning being an added pain when recovering from a hosed system.) Designed for live CD/DVD. Install includes Virtual Box which allows free (no donations) Virtualization.
    Used BSD386 and Linux .9 kernels in 1993; I have a soft spot for Slackware which is based on the first Linux distribution, SLS. And of course the reason that Apple’s OS (Darwin) is so much faster than Linux is that it is based on BSD/Mach. Mac icons in Linux is “lipstick on the pig”.
    . For newbies and IT folk, I’d recommend SUSE as it is used in SLED and IBM supported; SUSE is also one of the most common commercial and embedded Linux variant (e.g. POS).

  3. my wife is running 7.6.2 and needs to use the popular RootsMagic 6. Can you make that available on Robo or can you tell me how to access Wine to try to make it work?

  4. When I first learned about Robolinux, I was thrilled and was intially welcomed (for making a donation) and the whole idea of supporting a distro that was truely trying to make a difference and improve useability for the masses. They offered many unbelievable services – long story short, I installed Robolinux on my Sisters PC (previously XP) and had all kinds of issues some frustrating as I was 4000klm from my home PC – and had to make anther donation to get what I originally paid for – I was only there for a week and the service was too slow to sort my sisters PC mess. I had to leave it broken – I might get back there again in a month or so – and will have anther go, but on closer inspection Robolinux is a closed shop – there are no public forums, and this could be by design – in short – looks fantastic, but could be an ecosystem that will frustrate legit users (even me with a super altruistic philosopy :) )

  5. David and Peter are correct. Robolinux tries to charge you for EVERYTHING. Please show me another Linux Distro that charges you 5 dollars for sending a support question to the Tech Support guys?
    I am very unhappy with their support or lack of it.

  6. The developer requires you to pay before download. I had severe issues with the tech, the most unprofessional tech I have ever dealt with in over 30 years in the industry.

    My connection was less than reliable where I am now and I asked if they had a torrent available where I could download, that way when my connection dropped the download could start where It left off.

    Sometimes they didn’t reply until 2am, they then got upset when I didn’t reply back to them within a few minutes (AT 2 or 3 am).And called called me disrespectful when I told them I had a bad connection repeatedly, and apologized for the country where I am currently. The tech told me he had lived in the country and the internet connections weren’t that bad. I guess he lived in a big city, not rural or in provinces. I mean seriously, he knows where I am, and what my internet connection is like? Then told me I was disrespectful for not replying to his email because I was doing things elsewhere during the day, I said I wasnt being disrespectful I was out doing things. His reply was you can check your email by smart phone!!!!!!

    Seriously he wrote that, I informed him I don’t use smart-phones, but its non of his business, and I wasn’t obligated to reply to him in a certain time period. I am the customer, even if I only paid 2 dollars.

    He said he spent hours building the torrent for me, costing hundreds of dollars, that is either a lie, or he needs to find a new career. It only takes a few minutes to make a torrent but he claimed hours, if it actually took him that long hes not smart enough to write anything, and hes just a front man for a government agency like the NSA trying to spy on people.

    All in All the guy either works for the government and the software is a honey pot, or hes completely crazy and has no idea of customer service procedures. No one has customer skills this bad, without trying to. This is what happened to me, and causes me worries so I wont try it again. Id stay away from it now no matter what! Ill find other distros to work with where you can get community support and they dont make you pay for everything. .

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