Given how BLAG already provides MP3 and DVD playback out of the box, I was suprised that they did not include the Flash player by default in Firefox. After my battle installing the Nvidia drivers, I was scared that Flash would prove difficult as well. I was wrong. Simply allowing Firefox to install the Flash player when prompted worked wonders, so now I can enjoy sites like YouTube and Homestarrunner.
Speaking of videos, I liked that Istanbul was installed by default. I decided to try to make a quick screencast. My computer is far too weak to make a 1280 x 1024 screencast, so I just selected part of the screen. Click here to see the resulting screencast, showing the menu structure of BLAG. It’s not much, but I like that the software is installed and working out of the box. Try not to fear the “hippo-beast” snout in the video. [Tip: if you cannot view the video, try watching it with VLC, no matter your operating system. On BLAG, the video works with Firefox using the m-player plugin by default.]
Summary and Conclusions
I admit: I was prepared to dislike BLAG, given its lowly Distrowatch ranking and apparent lack of popularity. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by a number of features, such as the amount of multimedia support.
- One-CD install
- MP3 and DVD support without any tinkering
- Sane default choice of included software
- Vast repository of additional software
Not all is rosy in the land of BLAG, though.
- Just UGLY by default – down with the “hippo-beast!”
- Difficult to install Nvidia drivers
- Some of the software is outdated. For instance, Firefox (still codenamed “Deer Park” in BLAG) is stuck at 126.96.36.199, and Openoffice is lagging at version 2.0.4. It makes one wonder if the small size of the project makes for slow software updates in the repository.
Instead of ending here, allow me to comment on a few additional aspects. When reviewing a single-CD distro, one cannot help but make comparisons to other Linux distros, such as Ubuntu.
First of all, one area in which I feel that BLAG could improve is with the installer. Many distros (such as Mepis and Ubuntu) are moving toward merging the installer with the “live” CD, creating a hybrid CD that allows one to actually use the OS while installing it. I would like to see BLAG move in this direction while still keeping the “nuke and install” option at the default prompt.
Secondly, if BLAG wants to remain “free” by not including proprietary drivers (such as Nvidia), that is fine, but at least allow for an easier installation. Ubuntu “Feisty Fawn” has really set a good example in this regard, in that they allow for an easy installation by “enabling” access to restricted drivers, but cautioning about the potential risks and lack of official support beforehand.
Additionally, and this is a minor point, if BLAG wants to be taken seriously, they need to clean up certain aberrations on their web site, such as the purposeful alteration of the word “Windows” into “windoz.” Anarchy issues aside, it is an issue of professionalism, and you will not find such immaturities on the main pages of more mainstream distros.
In the end, would I recommend BLAG? Naturally, I am torn on this issue. For someone new to Linux, I do not recommend it, partly because of the Nvidia issue, and partly because of the lack of support in comparison to a more active distro community. Of course, this is not BLAG’s fault, but a newbie seeking help will simply get more help faster in a more populated community. Given time, perhaps this will change.
So, would I recommend BLAG at all? Yes, but only to those with some existing Linux experience. If you have tried many of the major distros and are looking for a distro contained on a single CD, then perhaps BLAG is worth your time. I came from a fair amount of Fedora experience, so BLAG feels comfortable to me. I doubt I will keep it as my default workstation for now, but I will keep my eye on future releases.
One thing is for certain: I will be sure to immediately banish the “hippo-beast” from my sight!
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