Deepin Linux 2014 - A Quick Look

Deepin is something a little different - a Chinese Linux distribution with it's own home-baked Desktop manager. It's not Mate, or Unity or Gnome 3; rather Deepin Desktop Environment, a sort of blend of Unity and Windows 8, built with HTML5. For the record, I never liked either interface although for some reason this makes more sense to me than either of those. The underpinnings are (surprise!) Ubuntu LTS, and the downloadable .ISO file is about 1.5GB, which seems to be the case for a lot of Linux distributions these days. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions available.

The installer is extremely straightforward and slick, but it's important to note that the default behavior is to overwrite your current installation (not a dual boot, which is more often the default choice). There is  an expert/advanced mode for other install options. The installer also does not give the option to use an Internet connection to install updates during the install - which is a good thing in this case (more on that later). The default file system is EXT4.

Once the install is finished you are greeted by an animated boot screen, and after logging in you have an empty Desktop with a starfield background and a dock at the bottom. The dock behaves like most docks, it has icons for commonly-used programs which can be added to as desired, and the dock itself can be hidden completely or set to auto-hide.

In addition to the dock, there are a couple of hot spots set up by default: top left and bottom right. Bottom right brings up a rather nice settings panel, which allows you access to things like the network settings and the like - think "Control Panel" in Window XP and 7. 

Top left brings up the launcher, which presents all the installed programs in categories, which can be expanded to show more - it initially shows only a few programs and other items (like the Deepin Store). Typing when the launcher is on the screen allows you to search for a program by name. Pressing the F4 key fades out the Desktop and brings up a full screen terminal, which is an interesting feature.

Deepin 2014 comes with most of what you would expect: Libre Office, Google Chrome browser and apps for CD burning and so on. A couple of the default apps are Deepin's own - Deepin Music and Deepin Movie being the most obvious.

My overall experience has been good for the 48 hours or so I have used the Distro, with one exception which I will explain shortly. The icons used are a little cartoon-y, but not obnoxious. The Chinese roots are seen here and there, with some Chinese characters present in the Deepin Store (the appstore). The descriptions are in English (if you chose the English language install, of course), but there is also Chinese text scattered throughout.

Importantly, if you are in the US (or probably anywhere outside China) you must change the default mirror for the appstore, otherwise downloads and software updates will be horribly slow, as it tries to reach the mainland China mirror. Do this from "Preferences-Mirrors" in the Deepin Store. I also noticed that I was not prompted for a password when I used the store to install Firefox.

Unfortunately, after I ran the pending updates, a couple of things broke: the dock item for the settings panel now does nothing, and the settings panel hotspot is also MIA. I have not figured out how to fix that yet, and it's kind of disappointing. I registered on their forum hoping to find a fix, but did not get my confirmation email yet (after several hours).

The performance is good, the interface is something different, but not too weird. My incident with the updates may be an isolated one - I may even reinstall this and try the updates again and see what happens.

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