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FastComputer: Fussy but Fixable

By Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Jan 20, 2017 1:30 PM PT
fastcomputer-linux-distro-review

FastComputer Linux is a disappointing experience that almost fails.

It is poorly designed, has little community support, and lacks its own home base and identity, all of which contribute to an identity crisis. Its home -- on Sourceforge.com -- lacks much in attractiveness, as does the distro.

The Linux OS offers developers and users choice among desktop options and OS standards. Linux's greatest strength is its ability to provide customized distributions with a variety of features. Distros that offer users something new and more inviting are great finds. FastComputer is not one of them.

Linux distributions run the gamut -- from very specialized and finely tuned to garden variety. Some are very innovative. Others are little more than look-alikes that offer no distinguishing features or benefits to set them apart from other options.

FastComputer Linux falls into the latter category. In its present iteration, this distro offers users an ordinary OS experience that leaves much to be desired. What should make it especially inviting is its ties to legendary Suse Linux developers. It falls far short of delivering, however.

FastComputer Linux
FastComputer Linux is an openSuse-based distribution that ships with a solid collection of software.

Linux Heritage

FastComputer's developer, Andrei Ionel, who is based in Romania, represents it as a perfect privacy and security product that comes fully configured out-of-the-box. It is based on openSuse Leap 42.1 64-bit x86. It is a relative newcomer to the Linux distro scene.

The latest version is 2.2.1, but that is not solely the developer's choice. He apparently has been in a holding pattern for new builds until the Suse Studio staff solves the "Error retrieving status information" bug that is affecting all distros built on openSuse Leap.

As advertised, FastComputer offers four desktop environments: GNOME, GNOME Classic, IceWM and MATE. But only the GNOME desktop was provided in the download options.

Look and Feel

The GNOME desktop does not excite me on a well-oiled distro. GNOME can be rather plain Jane in its desktop integration -- or it can be tweaked by the developer to include additional settings to provide more user features.

GNOME on FastComputer falls into the former category. It is rather plain and ordinary. Still, GNOME 3.0 and GNOME classic (which is a distant relative of the forked MATE) are popular, because they are more traditional and easy to use.

I would have been more pleased with an opportunity to try the IceWM and MATE desktops running on FastComputer. The ICEWM could be a problem solver for some of my memory-challenged computers that still thrive on the likes of Puppy Linux.

Spoiler Alert: I am still curious about revisiting FastComputer running a planned Cinnamon desktop version once the Network Manager issue is fixed (see below). So I have hope that some promise exists for a happier computing experience with FastComputer.

"A Cinnamon version is on the way," FastComputer's Ionel told LinuxInsider.

Critical Fault

Included are three Web browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Iron and QupZilla. Normally, I would be singing the praises of these three options, but FastComputer issued an error message on every bootup stating that the Network Manager needed to be running and to contact the software vendor. So I was not able to access the Internet.

At first, I thought the error was caused by the Broadcom wireless in my test laptop. That is often the cause when there is a glitch during testing of Linux distros.

When that happens, my usual workaround is to plug in the cable and go hard wire -- but there was nothing for the hard-wired connection to grab without the Network Manager running.

The cause was a deep-down OS issue.

I had just about given up on doing any more testing of FastComputer Linux. Then I loaded it into a virtual machine. That was a Eureka moment! The connectivity issue went away.

My guess is FastComputer piggy-backed a connection from the host computer. I ran it from the same ISO file that I used to burn to the installation DVDs that produced the Network Manager error. At least Fast Computer remains viable with an Internet connection.

What You Get

The FastComputer ISO is packed with an impressive bundle of installed software. This is not a lightweight or stripped-down release.

FastComputer also comes with the antivirus package Comodo with a special Linux OS antispam component. That was a pleasant surprise. I like the GUI and operation of this package compared to ClamTK, my usual choice.

As a side note, Comodo is not available from the Synaptic Package Manger or any of the distro-based software repositories that I checked.

Another bit of hyped advertising is that FastComputer runs Windows programs courtesy of a WINE installation. WINE is not a distinguishing feature for a Linux distro, other than you do not often find WINE preinstalled.

FastComputer ships with Adobe Flash Player installed. Its default office suite is WPS Office (also known as "KingSoft Office") instead of LibreOffice.

Ignoring the connectivity problem, the software that comes preinstalled on FastComputer Linux is substantial:

  • torrent client: Deluge;
  • two IM apps: Skype and Pidgin;
  • mail app: Claws Mail;
  • remote controlling app: TeamViewer;
  • three graphics apps: GIMP, Pinta Paint and Shotwell;
  • three sound and video apps: VLC, Clementine and Cheese;
  • Leafpad;
  • four terminals: Terminator, GNOME Terminal, MATE Terminal and XTerm;
  • Oracle Virtualbox; and
  • four games: Nibbles, Winemine, SuperTuxKart and SuperTux.

The GNOME Desktop

The GNOME 3 panel bar sits at the top of the screen. Its only purpose is to display a few notification icons.

An activity button in the upper-left corner of the screen does sort of what a menu or start button does in other desktops. It exposes a thumbnail view of the virtual workplaces along the right edge of the screen and the favorites bar along the left screen edge.

The favorites bar has the menu button at the bottom of the icon row. GNOME uses a full-screen icon display of installed software rather than a pop-up two-column title index.

Bottom Line

Let's assume that the developer soon will issue an updated or fixed version so the Network Manager will work outside a Virtual Machine window. That will give FastComputerLinux a shot at being more useful to those who want a good out-of-the-box simple OS solution.

I am not sure that this distro's name is an indication of speedy performance. I tested it on several machines looking for speed.

As expected, the live session DVD was very sluggish. It was much peppier on the VM. I was expecting a little bit better speed performance on my test gear with a hard drive installation.

Other than the apparent malfunction of the Network Manager, my biggest disappointment is the lack of more than one virtual desktop. Unlike other GNOME 3 integrations, FastComputer offers no way to add additional virtual desktops, the developer confirmed. So if you rely on this flexibility, look elsewhere.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you'd like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I'll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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