I tested Stella 6.3 as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. (I tested the 32-bit edition because I happily have a new installed system, so I’m not looking for anything anymore so I don’t really need the 64-bit edition. This also means that as before, from now on all reviews are of the 32-bit edition unless I specify otherwise.) Follow the jump to see how Stanley reacts. (Yes, I did that pun again.)
After the boot sequence came a few error messages, which concerned me. Those error messages stayed there for a few seconds without giving way to any sort of boot splash, so I thought the system got hung up there in the boot process, which concerned me even more. Thankfully, these concerns didn’t pan out in the end because a few seconds later, I came upon the GDM login screen (which in time automatically logged me in). Right away, I saw that Stella doesn’t shy away from its CentOS roots, because the computer hostname is something like “livecd.centoslive”. After that came the desktop.
|Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice|
Writer + Desktop Cube
The desktop is pretty much standard GNOME 2, which is to be expected of something that comes from CentOS. There are two panels; the top panel has, from left to right, the standard 3-pane GNOME 2 application menu, shortcuts to a few applications, and a system tray, while the bottom panel has, from left to right, a window switcher, a workspace switcher, and a shortcut to the trash directory. The wallpaper looks like the one from RHEL/CentOS but has the Stella branding; interestingly, just below the logo is the website of the distribution written in the same font as the logo. The “Mist” icon theme and “Slider” GTK+ theme are the same as in CentOS, but while CentOS uses the “Slider” Metacity theme as well, Stella uses the “Bluecurve” Metacity theme which is the precursor to the ubiquitous “Clearlooks” theme. I have to say that “Slider” has a nice understated elegance, while “Clearlooks” is functional but looks soft and pleasing, but “Bluecurve”, which is the default in Stella and which used to be the default in RHEL/CentOS long ago, just looks ugly. The herringbone pattern in the titlebar looks cheap, and even that is thrown off by the window buttons which contrast with the titlebar color instead of blending in nicely. I guess the Stella developers wanted a different Metacity theme to differentiate Stella slightly from its parent, but they really could have picked a nicer theme, because this is just utterly awful and could potentially turn off the new users that Stella may be courting. Also, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten so used to the benefit of maximizing vertical screen space by having only one panel that the effect of two panels on vertical screen space is now quite noticeable. Those are minor fixes, though, and otherwise, the desktop works quite well.
Mozilla Firefox is the default browser and is at version 10. I wonder if Stella uses a repository that has the ESR (extended support release) version of Mozilla Firefox, because I feel like it and its parent could benefit from not having to update Mozilla Firefox more than once every 9.5 months while still keeping a release that is generally up-to-date. Anyway, that aside, Stella lives up to its promise by providing proprietary codecs, as YouTube and Hulu worked just fine, along with my laptop‘s volume keyboard shortcuts.
LibreOffice is included as well, which is good. The other applications, like Shutter for screenshots, GIMP, Gthumb for image viewing, Mozilla Thunderbird for email, Pidgin for instant messaging, FileZilla for file transfers, and Cheese Webcam Booth all befit the idea that Stella is meant to be more user-friendly.
Nautilus is the default file browser as usual. One quirk of RHEL/CentOS is that if a directory is opened from the desktop or if Nautilus is opened from the “Applications” menu, Nautilus appears in full form and displays new directories in the same window while displaying breadcrumbs for the location. However, if a directory or drive is opened from the “Places” menu, what appears is a stripped-down Nautilus that shows nothing but the titlebar and the contents of the directory and opens other directories in new windows (akin to older versions of Microsoft Windows Explorer). This has always seemed a bit annoying to me, so I’m thankful that Stella not only removes this inconsistency but makes sure that the full version of Nautilus opens in both cases (as opposed to the alternative, being that the stripped-down version of Nautilus could open in both cases).
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