The mission statement of developers for the Linux-based SalineOS for desktops puts it this way:
“The primary goal of the SalineOS project is to deliver a fast, lightweight, clean, easy to use and well documented operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux.”
With a wide range and assortment of Linux-based desktop operating systems available for free, developers seeking to attract eyeballs to their software have a particular mission: Standout with something people will need or want real bad.
Sounds simple enough, and the mission to come up with a snappy, lightweight and straightforward OS is notable. The CRN Test Center gave Saline OS version 1.5 a try and came away with a mixed -- though mostly good -- result.
We wanted to take a look at three primary areas: Does it appear fast and lightweight, as developers say is their goal? How is driver and application support? Could it support a small office or workgroup?
For starters, the footprint of Saline OS is less than 1 GB -- which means a footprint that's more compact than not just Windows or Mac OS X, but also a number of competing Linux desktop distros. Installation took about 20 minutes on a notebook built with a quad core, Intel Core i7 processor with 4 GB of RAM -- which is about average. Boot time was about 30 seconds, which does lag other Linux distros particularly Ubuntu. The interface is clean if not elegant, and the layout of the desktop is more in line with versions of Ubuntu circa 2009. But SalineOS can make a credible argument that is lightweight and appears streamlined.
Most drivers worked on installation, including those that enabled Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless, on-board Webcam and USB. Some did not work, including audio -- even though other distros (including LinuxMint 12) have been smooth all the way around with driver support. But application support was fine, providing by default LibreOffice, GIMP, Rhythm Box (even without audio driver support) and more. We tested out the printer support, and SalineOS -- though lagging Ubuntu printer support by about two years -- provided serviceable synchronization with printers.
SalineOS will work in a small network scenario, and it would be fine for an enterprise or workgroup of about five users. (We did experience some unfriendly issues having SalineOS work in VirtualBox. The installation simply froze in the VM.) There are easier implementations of the Linux desktop like LinuxMint or Ubuntu. There are more powerful implementations, like Fedora. For testing or evaluation purposes, SalineOS is fine but may leave you feeling a tad bit thirsty for more.