Lead Image © kaewkanya sompong, 123RF.com

Lead Image © kaewkanya sompong, 123RF.com

Arch Linux, packaged in style

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Article from ADMIN 36/2016
Apricity OS aims to make everyday life easier for mobile and cloud users, as well as beginners.

Apricity OS takes its name from an archaic term for the winter sun's warmth. However, the developers' approach does require some energy and sometimes feels like they are trying to square the circle. They are using Arch Linux, which was previously considered a distro for experts, as the basis for an operating system targeted at beginners and the generation of mobile online workers and cloud users. Its focus is also on a simple, modern style. The key objectives are therefore completely different from those of Arch Linux.

The first stable version of Apricity OS appeared in July 2016 after several beta versions, followed in September by Apricity OS 09.2016 [1] (code-named Aspen), which was used for this test. The project was based on Gnome only in its beta phase, although another GTK desktop, Cinnamon, was added at the start of the year. Both desktop variants [2] weigh in at just under 2GB.

Although other distributions are considering no longer publishing 32-bit images, Apricity's developers are doing the opposite and offering an image of that type, although they characterized it as experimental at this time. This step does not appear entirely plausible, and unfortunately, the developers did not answer a question to this effect in time for this article.

Elegant Looks

First up in the test was the 64-bit image as a Live medium with Gnome desktop. The desktop is elegant and well-arranged. The design creates a consistent look, in conjunction with the Numix Icon Theme [3] and well-considered fonts. You can hardly tell at a glance that this desktop is based on Gnome.

As long as you do not consult the list of sources, the Arch foundation does not shine through. The desktop's appearance is more reminiscent of Mac OS or a tidied-up Chrome OS, which the system emulates in terms of its intention. When it comes to design, it is clear that Apricity is one of the brightest stars in the present distro constellation, not only for the Gnome version but, to a lesser extent, for the Cinnamon version.

Only Under the Hood

As you would expect, the text-based installer of Arch Linux is not there to greet you when trying to install the system. Instead, the installer framework Calamares (Figure 1) is used in the current version 2.4.1, querying the necessary information and moving the image to the hard disk in approximately five minutes.

Figure 1: The Calamares installer framework guides you through the installation.

Even beginners will encounter no unsolvable problems using the installer. The Gnome edition needs approximately 6.6GB of disk space, whereas the Cinnamon variant gets by with a little less. The developers promise that the system will be able to be used in the basic configuration immediately after installation.

After starting, Apricity occupied a moderate 535MB of RAM, which allows a minimum of 2GB as a reasonable default. By way of comparison, Fedora 24 takes around 750MB of RAM at startup in the Gnome variant. Thus, it's no wonder that the Apricity desktop is somewhat more agile when you use it.

The current edition from September provides the latest core 4.7.4-1 and the system management Systemd 231-1 init system, which is no less up to date. Apricity offers the LibreOffice suite and Google Chrome browser preinstalled for office work.

Both Gimp and Inkscape are available for image editing, and Rhythmbox and Totem cover the field of music and video. You can add games to the system with the already prepared Steam client and install many Windows applications easily with premade formulas using PlayOnLinux.

Well Equipped

You can start applications used often from entries in the dock on the bottom area of the screen (Figure 2). It only becomes clear that Gnome is behind the desktop in version 3.20 when you click on the grid icon on the far right; then, the overview of applications recognizable as Gnome appears (Figure 3).

Figure 2: The Cinnamon desktop looks good.
Figure 3: The Gnome shell with the application grid.

If you rummage through the preinstalled software available there, all sections appear properly stocked, ranging from the applications already mentioned to the FTP client FileZilla to the BitTorrent client to Simple Backup to development tools for the Qt toolkit.

Developers have TLP tools [4] for notebooks to prolong battery life. You can keep encrypted data across multiple devices in sync without a cloud connection using Syncthing [5]. The program is available for Linux, Mac OS, Windows, and Android, so it manages to cover a broad spectrum of current operating systems.

The Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) from Ubuntu, based on the package filter iptables, is also just a mouse click away, together with a graphical front end (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Uncomplicated Firewall is true to its name and can be configured easily.

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