The Russians Are Coming: A First Look At Rosa 2012 Marathon

Last year Mandriva partnered with Moscow based ROSA Labs to create a new look for their once popular and user friendly distribution. The result was the attractive but seriously flawed Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen release and a rebranded version called ROSA Desktop 2011. Since then ROSA Labs and Mandriva appear to have parted company. ROSA Labs has forked the Mandriva distribution, creating a distribution that, while still resembling Mandriva 2011 at first glance, actually has gone its own way in many important respects. The first post-Mandriva release, ROSA 2012 Marathon, was officially unveiled last Monday. This is also the first ROSA LTS (long term support) release, offering security and software updates for five years. The release notes state that ROSA 2012 Marathon is intended for enterprise and small business use and is intended to provide stability, not “bleeding edge technology.”

Following the Mandriva model, ROSA 2012 Marathon is available in two editions: a Free version offering only Free software and an Extended Edition (EE), which includes proprietary and “restricted” packages. Restricted in this case means possibly patent encumbered, such as multimedia codecs. The release notes make clear that “the laws of some countries may forbid the use of some of these components!” It should be noted that the ROSA definition of Free does not match the Free Software Foundation distribution guidelines. Nothing has been removed from the kernel and some firmware is included in a Free installation. This is very comparable to a Fedora installation, but, much like Debian, a “non-free” repository is easily enabled. Regardless of the version chosen the available software repositories may be adjusted after installation from the package manager. Both the Free and Extended Edition are offered as freely downloadable 1.4GB live DVDs for both i586 and x86_64 architecture. Builds for non-Intel architectures, such as ARM, are not available.

At this point the only desktop offered by default is a highly customized build of KDE 4.8.2. A lightweight LXDE based beta was released and appeared to be an official build at the time. The release notes now make clear that this is a community supported version with a final release to be offered at a later date along with a GNOME based version. The only officially supported desktop environment is KDE. This review will focus entirely on the officially supported KDE releases, both 32- and 64-bit…