New distribution making Debian easier for beginners

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SpiralLinux is a newcomer to the world of desktop-focused Linux distributions.

It is based on Debian Linux and created by the anonymous developer of GeckoLinux.

Geko what? GeckoLinux is a derivative of openSUSE and focuses on providing out-of-the-box usability for desktop users.

The goal for Spiral Linux is also the same. Provide a usable, out-of-the-box Debian experience for desktop users.

Is Debian really that complex? While Debian is considered the most stable distribution, vanilla Debian often overwhelms new users with multiple download options. The focus on default-only FOSS software also makes it difficult for beginners. It requires various adjustments after the first start to make it useful.

And these are the areas where SpiralLinux shines!

Through this article, I will introduce you to the features of SpiralLinux and share my experience, so that you can get a better idea of ​​what to expect from SpiralLinux.

SpiralLinux: Debian Simplified

The first question that will come to your mind is why another Debian-based distro? The basic idea behind SpiralLinux is to provide you with a well-tuned Debian that can be used out of the box.

If you try to install Debian, you’ll notice a number of download options, but they don’t include the proprietary drivers and codecs that are needed for modern hardware (including mine). Getting the ISO right itself is the first fight.

Remember that you will still need to tweak your vanilla Debian system to make it work with your hardware.

SpiralLinux aims to address these issues by providing several pre-installed software, performance tweaks, and support for proprietary drivers and codecs.

Some key highlighting features are:

  • Comes with a wide range of drivers to support a variety of hardware
  • zRAM is enabled by default for better performance
  • It can be upgraded to Debian testing unstable branches with a few clicks
  • It uses the Linux kernel 5.18 out of the box to support the latest hardware
  • Proprietary media codecs are pre-installed
  • Third-party Debian repositories are enabled by default
  • ISOs available for Cinnamon, Xfce, GNOME, KDE, MATE, Budgie, and LXQt desktop environments
  • An experimental “constructor” ISO for experts
Offers SpiralLinux DE

Required configuration

There is no mention of 32-bit or ARM support in the official documentation. You only get one download option for a 64-bit system.

As SpiralLinux is entirely based on Debian stable, here are the standard system requirements for 64-bit machines:

  • RAM: 2 GB or more (depends on the desktop environment you choose)
  • Processor: Dual-core or better
  • Disk: 15 GB or more

Facility

Calamares Installer for SpiralLinux
Calamares Installer for SpiralLinux

As you’d expect from any easy-to-use Linux distribution, SpiralLinux provides a graphical installer. Avid distrohoppers can easily see that it uses the Calamares installer.

The installer has all the necessary features you would expect such as manual/automatic partitioning, disk encryption, change bootloader location, etc.

You can choose Btrfs as the default filesystem when installing SpiralLinux.

My experience with SpiralLinux

Live. This is what really matters in the end because adding tons of features can only reduce the steps after the first start.

Like anything else in the world, SpiralLinux has good points and bad points. I will cover the pros and cons so you can get a better idea.

Good points

Let’s start this review with the positives, which include the parts I enjoyed.

Hardware support

My system is equipped with modern hardware and requires a modern kernel. From a distance, I never thought I could boot into Debian 11, but this changed my mind.

By default you get Linux Kernel 5.18 which is newer than what you get on vanilla Debian (5.10 series) and runs fine on my 12th Gen Intel CPU.

Linux kernel version in SpiralLinux
Linux kernel 5.18

Non-free deposits

non-free repositories are enabled in SpiralLinux
Non-free deposits

From time to time, we all have to install proprietary packages that aren’t available in the default repositories.

These non-free repositories include closed-source firmware and drivers, which will help install proprietary firmware and other software not available in the default repository.

Switch from Stable to Sid and test

use Debian Sid with SpiralLinux
Using Debian Sid

This is my favorite feature of the entire catalog. Imagine, you can switch between stable, unstable and testing branches without using a single command.

The best part is that users are given easy instructions on how they can switch between branches. You can access it from here.

Performance

SpiralLinux is well optimized in terms of RAM consumption and makes it an ideal choice for low-end hardware if you choose the right desktop environment.

I’ll show you what you can expect from different desktop environments. So, if you are someone with decent hardware, you can go for Cinnamon as it only consumes around 900MB of RAM in idle use.

Idle RAM consumption on cinnamon DE in Spiral Linux
idle ram consumption on cinnamon from

But what if you’re looking for something lighter? change your current DE to Xfce and as we already know it is one of the lightest DE; standby RAM consumption will only be around 600MB.

idle ram consumption on xfce
Idle RAM consumption on Xfce of

Anyway, I didn’t experience any performance issues and everything worked fine.

negatives

SpiralLinux shines in various scenarios but I have also encountered a few hiccups. Allow me to share them with you.

Hardware acceleration issue in VM

Once you have booted into a virtual machine without any hardware acceleration, you will be advised to enable it, as you may experience poor performance and high CPU usage.

requires hardware acceleration for best performance
Requires hardware acceleration for best performance

And once you enable hardware acceleration, you will find that your virtual machine often crashes while booting. It’s not a minor crash and makes your VM unstable.

vm 3d acceleration problem
VM hardware acceleration issue

You can easily use SpiralLinux without enabling any hardware acceleration. I found no issues when using it without any acceleration enabled.

Snap issues

Although Snaps aren’t my preferred choice, I use them when I want to get away from building packages from source. But it was a below average experience with snaps in SpiralLinux.

I had two problems. The first is that many snap packages didn’t even work. I even tried switching between other branches.

That was the problem with the fresh install, without even changing a single config file. I noticed that many of my favorite apps like Spotify and Slack weren’t working as Snap.

Some packages did work though. I use Shutter for screenshots and when I installed it using snaps I discovered a pretty outdated UI.

shutter
Shutter

The second problem was that any installed snap-in is not listed in the system menu by default. You can easily solve this problem using the given command:

sudo cp /var/lib/snapd/desktop/applications/*.desktop ~/.local/share/applications/

But that was only with Snap packages. The Flatpaks worked quite well and none of the issues I mentioned above were encountered with the Flatpaks.

Final Thoughts

I love the developer’s imagination. GeckoLinux is based on openSUSE. Since openSUSE’s logo/mascot is a chameleon, the developer named it Gecko (a type of lizard).

Since the Debian logo is a whirlwind, the developer named the Debian variant SpiralLinux.

Both intend to simplify the experience of their popular parent distribution.

Many other Debian based distributions serve the same purpose as SpiralLinux. Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) is an example.

Personally, I would prefer to use the main distribution rather than its derivative. But I understand that some users may find it more convenient to use these derivatives.

I’ll leave the comments open for you now. Do you think SpiralLinux has the potential to carve out a niche or is it one of those distros that will be forgotten?


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