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MoonOS 4 Neak - Something is STILL amiss, big time

MoonOS is a Ubuntu-based distro, designed to be simple and friendly, just like seven thousand other systems with the same agenda. However, despair not, there could yet be a deciding differentiating factor that might make MoonOS better or smarter. If you read this article, you may learn what it is, if any.

My first encounter with the distribution was MoonOS 3, which I found to be YAUF - Yet another Ubuntu fork, fairly standard and riddled with a handful of issues that cropped in during remastering. Nothing special either way. It did not have the critical WOW factor to make me switch, although it could appeal to people who like Enlightenment desktops.

Now, a new version is avaliable, called Neak. Perhaps, this is the one?


A confusing start

Getting MoonOS is not trivial. The homepage says that the main edition of MoonOS uses the Enlightenment DR17 desktop. There's also the LXDE desktop. Whichever you choose, you are redirected to mirror sites. But the download is one and the same. Weirdonics.

I could not find anything that specified I was downloading either this or that version. Furthermore, it took me four attempts to download the distribution, as some of the sources were broken, offering a truncated image. In the past, there was the expired domain thingie, now this.

And it's a Gnome, ladies and gentlefolks!

Not Enlightenment or LXDE, I'm afraid. Gnome! You get Gnome. Boot the system into a live session, and you have a perfectly standard Gnome session, adorned with some pretty colors. Just to be on the safe side, I logged out, to make sure if there were other desktop sessions available, but no. There was only Gnome. Now, I'm officially confused.


So either I'm a moron or something else - I prefer the latter:


But never mind that, let's discuss MoonOS as if we expected Gnome.

Look and feel

MoonOS 4 is pretty. Much prettier than the predecessor. Neak uses smart colors. The top panel is dark gray, the desktop is serene green, and you have big, happy icons on a popup dock ribbon at the botton. Lovely.



Nautilus is also made to look fly, with the file menu hidden by default.



Everything worked out of the box, no problems here.



Microsoft Media Service (MMS) also worked, including visualization.


Compiz effects

Even on the elderly T60p with a crippozoid card, the desktop effects worked smoothly. This is a very nice touch. I liked it, considering the fact you don't get these in Maverick out of the box.

Compiz 1

Compiz 2

Compiz 3

However, after playing with Compiz, I had a crash! The program gnome-panel closed unexpectedly, although I have not seen anything transpire on the screen. You also get an alarming application problem alert, which places the Uncertainty Principle in the hands of the user, asking them to submit a report of the problem while taking into account the subtle issue of privacy. How very helpful. But this is not MoonOS's fault. The crash is, though.

Panel crash


MoonOS has a rich array of programs. It's a blend of stock Ubuntu and Linux Mint, peppered and spiced with some original content. You get Pidgin, Banshee, OpenOffice, GIMP, Firefox, and a few more. Nothing too radical, fairly serene. Overall the choice is quite decent, a polished version of what you get in Ubuntu, but then, there's also the extra 200MB of data in the download.


Synapse search


So far, Neak was a pleasant surprise and an improvement over the last version. The fact I was running Gnome made its legitimacy questionable, given the fact you get pretty much the same in stock Ubuntu, but it made up for any doubts with a dazzling array of colors and effects and a reasonable bunch of programs.

Installation - does not compute

Pleased and armed with beauty, I set to committing Neak onto a disk, previously occupied by a PCLinuxOS installation alongside Windows 7. The first few steps in the installer were identical to what you see in any modern Ubuntu installation. Fairly boring, I must say.

Begin installation

However, after configuring the partitions, the installer crashed! Tried again, same results. I even rebooted and tried anew, without any success. The crash was consistent three times in a row, preventing me from installing the system.

Installer crash

Worse yet, it also screwed up the existing installation, as the partitioner did start, leaving the machine in an inconsistent state. GRUB was messed up, because the root partition was messed up, so I could not boot either of the two systems on the disk.

And so my review ends, without the ability to install Neak.


The installation failure leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It also reminds me why I'm usually wary of small distributions, since they are plagued with expontential complexity problems that stem from adding and removing components, without the ability to thoroughly check the consequences of these changes.

Starting with the false promise of a lightweight desktop, which turn out to be a Gnome, pimped up and polished, followed by an application crash and ending in a big fiasco, Neak failed the test of usability. MoonOS 3 was not the prettiest, but at least it worked fully. MoonOS 4 does not even install. Worse, it killed my PCLinuxOS installation. Luckily, Windows survived intact. This is a test box, so no worries there, but still.

While the live session was decent, it is rather unnecessary. Ubuntu does all this with a bit of extra work, so why bother. And if you're extra lazy, try Linux Mint Julia. Then, there's the matter of support. Critical crashes with collateral damage are a big no-no. And finally, you expect newer versions of a system to be better, safer, smarter. Regressions are horrible.

MoonOS 4 Neak is a badly assembled work of beautiful art, with dangerous pitfalls somewhere in its code. Shadowed by limited resources and the practical question of YAUF, this distribution is probably left alone until its issues are resolved. Be careful when testing on production machines, as you may end with a ruined partition table.

MoonOS 4, something is STILL amiss, the end.



About the author:
Igor Ljubuncic aka Dedoimedo is the guy behind He makes a living out of his very hobby - Linux, and holds a bunch of certifications that make a nice pile in the bottom drawer.

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by David McCann (not verified) on 8. September 2011 - 13:22  (79220)

This reviewer had no problems:
It looks as if Dedoimedo just got a very bad download.

by Col. Panek (not verified) on 13. April 2011 - 23:16  (70121)

You saved me some grief! Well, I tried Bodhi, after some good reviews, and it's Yet Another Ubuntu Fork With Enlightenment. Nice that it fits on a CD, cuz there's hardly any apps with it. And their repository is pretty sparse. But, it's fast. Now I have to learn where everything is all over again. (I may end up with Puppy yet.)

by Imhoteps (not verified) on 6. April 2011 - 4:43  (69558)

Very informative review. As always from dedoimedo. I like his critical style, and it`s good in this bloated world of Linux derivatives. Keep goin`, man!

by wdhpr on 12. March 2011 - 20:56  (67840)

There are just so many distro's to choose form these days I mean there are forks off of forks off of forks. Thats why Reviews are of particular help to me because I assume the reviewer has the experience and good working knowledge of Linux. They also do the dirty work of installing the distro and trying it out to see if it performs in a way that the gives the average user the chance of having a positive experience with Linux. So my hats goes off to those the spend the time and effort to do this important work.

With that said I don't think MoonOS will be a good fit for me even if it fixes the install problem.

Thanks Dedoimedo

by NoloContendere (not verified) on 12. March 2011 - 7:08  (67821)

Either the fellows over at MoonOS quickly updated their website, or you miss-read, because on the about page, it quite clearly states that The Main Edition is Gnome base, and then there are the Enlightenment and LXDE editions.

Strange this one, not the usual genre of review from Gizmos. Why would I want to waste my time reading a review of a software that is not worth my time in the first place?

by MidnightCowboy on 12. March 2011 - 7:57  (67824)

A review is a review is the opinion of the person who produced it. Undoubtedly this might not be the same experience that others will have. That said, a quick look around the forums suggests more than one issue with the install process so this information alone will be of value to the developers as well as potential users.

IMO time is only wasted if you choose to take nothing from what you've just read :)

by NoloContendere (not verified) on 12. March 2011 - 8:31  (67825)

Fare enough. When I come to this site I generally am looking for software I can use. He/she could have at least made a suggestion about a good alternative or something. I don't suppose a negative review of a software product is that big of a deal, and I have to admit that by the title I was duly warned that it was such. I guess I'm am just not used to finding this type of review here on Gizmo's that is all.

by MidnightCowboy on 12. March 2011 - 9:42  (67826)

I've tried so many Linux distros, the pile of CD's was threatening to overwhelm my workspace :D

In general I found selecting one not unlike choosing security programs for Windows. Some folks have absolutely no issues with a particular product which for others either doesn't meet their expectations or in some way adversely effects their system. ThreatFire would be a good example.

Dedoimedo has only just joined us as a contributor for which we are grateful considering he has his own site and other commitments. If you check out the link at the bottom of this review you will find articles about other Linux distros, some of which are very positive. Again, his experiences may not reflect your own but taken in conjunction with reviews from other sources, should enable users to form a more balanced opinion about what might be right for their own use.

by 1002richard (not verified) on 12. March 2011 - 6:56  (67820)

Thanks for this review. I tried MoonOS a couple of years ago but now seeing the install problems and the phantom Gnome I think I 'll wait a while.