Review: ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012

ROSA Desktop Fresh is the latest addition to the line of Linux distributions published by ROSA Laboratory, a Linux software solutions provider based in Moscow, Russia. The first stable edition is ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012, released on December 19 2012.

Before its release, ROSA Desktop Enterprise was the only other stable desktop line from ROSA Laboratory. The difference between Desktop Fresh and Desktop Enterprise is that the former will feature the latest and greatest (read: bleeding-edge) Linux kernel and applications, while the later will always ship with more stable (Debian-style) applications.

While the K Desktop Environment (KDE) is the primary desktop environment of ROSA Linux, the LXDE and GNOME 2 desktop environments are officially supported. The GNOME 3 desktop is unofficially supported by ROSA developers. Besides the enterprise and end-user desktop editions, there is also an enterprise server edition. The image below shows

I’ve been running ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012 beta 1 on a test system since it was released on October 20 2012. When the stable edition was made available for download, I didn’t need to reinstall, just updated the system. This review is based on that system, with screen shots from it and a couple of test installations in a virtual environment.

Installation: ROSA Desktop’s DVD-sized installation image is available for both 32- and 64-bit architectures. They are Live DVDs, which gives you the choice of testing the system before installing it. The boot menu is shown below.
ROSA Desktop Fresh Boot Menu

As a Mandriva-derived distribution, ROSA Desktop’s installation program is the same as that of its parent distribution, which means you get a very good graphical installer, with support for all known file systems, LVM (the Linux Logical Volume Manager), RAID, and disk encryption. The main complaint I’ve always had about the installer is that it does not allow for the encryption of the root partition (also partitions mounted at /usr and /var). It’s a long-known issue and nobody (whether from ROSA, Mageia or Mandriva) has even bothered to address it. Other than that, the installer is a pretty good application. The image below shows its disk partitioning step.
ROSA Linux Installer

And this one shows what happens when a new partition is mounted at /, the root file system; the installer will not allow the encryption of the root partition, which means that true, full disk encryption is not possible.
ROSA Linux Encryption

During the boot loader setup step in Mageia, the installer offers a choice of three boot loaders – GRUB Legacy, GRUB 2, and LILO. In ROSA Desktop’s version of the installer, however, there is no choice of boot loaders. GRUB 2 is the default. And also in Mageia, there’s the option to password-protect the boot loader at that step. But in ROSA Desktop’s installer, that option, as shown in this screen shot, has been removed. Knowing what boot loader password-protection does, I can’t think of any good reason why that option was removed in ROSA Desktop’s installer.

Attempting to dual-boot ROSA Desktop and another operating system (OS) like Windows or even other Linux distributions will require an understanding of disk partitioning in Linux. That’s because the installer does not have an automated disk partitioning option that will auto-resize an existing partition with another OS on it. This screen shot shows the partitioning methods on a test installation with a Linux distribution on it. Notice that the installer gives no indication that the hard drive already has another OS on it.

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