Robolinux 10.5 Review

Robolinux 10.5

Mayank Sharma isn’t too gullible in real life, but has an uncanny tendency to fall for distros that then don’t deliver on the claims they make.

IN brief

A customised Ubuntu-based distro that ships with multiple desktop environments. It pitches itself to users who want to migrate away from Windows by helping them roll their existing Windows XP, 7 and 10 installations into a virtual machine. Another highlight is its one-click installers for popular apps, to help shield the app installation process from new Linux users.

Never one to judge a book by its cover, we let slide the fact that Robolinux’s website is very messy and a nightmare to navigate. Sure, we appreciate the fact that donations are key to sustaining the open source ecosystem, but we think this project goes a little overboard. Its developer’s heart is in the right place; he isn’t just seeking donations for himself, but that’s no excuse for the poorly designed website.

Robolinux has three active branches: Raptor 8, based on Debian; Raptor 9, based on Ubuntu LTS; and Raptor 10, based on Ubuntu. Each branch has a bunch of releases for different desktop environments, including Cinnamon, GNOME, Xfce, MATE and LXDE, for a total of 15 ISO images. Once you do manage to navigate your way to the downloads page, you find that they’re actually hosted on SourceForge.

The ISOs are hefty compared to other distros, ranging between 2-4GB. There’s obviously no shortage of pre-installed apps and you can get more using the distro’s unique one-click installers. When we last looked at the distro in LXF227, the project was charging $10 (about £8) for them. Unless you shelled out the money, you couldn’t install any of these apps. That’s changed now and you can grab the installers from the project’s website. The apps are essentially just shell scripts that use apt to get the apps.

We have two issues with Robolinux’s approach. The first is that while they do just take a single click to install, it takes dozens to grab the scripts from the project’s website. Secondly, the project does a disservice to the open source community by claiming the scripts will help save users several hours spent resolving dependencies if they were installing the apps manually. They don’t make any mention of dependency-resolution binary package management tools like apt, which is what they themselves use in the scripts.

Then there’s the other highlighted feature of the Robolinux project, dubbed Stealth VM. Together with another script descriptively named C-Drive-to-VM, this helps you move your physical Windows installation into a virtual machine. Again, both scripts were available only after the payment of a small fee, but are now available for no cost. Peer under the covers and the process is pretty much the standard affair. C-Drive-to-VM gives you a couple of freeware utilities to resize your Windows partition and fold it into a VHD file. After moving the VHD file to your Linux installation, use Stealth VM to first convert it into VDI and then import into a VirtualBox VM.

The project’s poor taste in user interface design extends from the website to the desktop, with gaudy wallpaper and silly desktop icons.

We aren’t fans of the project shielding this information from its users and projecting it as a novel approach.

The distro also appeals to privacy-conscious users by inviting them to use a script to route all its traffic via a VPN, which is also Robolinux’s third distinguishing feature. This too is a disappointment as the service it relies on requires users to have a paid account, which is a fact that is conveniently missing from Robolinux’s website. Once again, we aren’t against paying for a service, but it’s the project’s lack of clarity that upsets us.

Lastly, for a distro that targets new users Robolinux doesn’t have a public forum board. Instead guaranteed support is doled out by the developer himself – for a fee. There is an option to email your tech support queries for free, but that’s no excuse for not hosting public forum boards. The amount of documentation on the project’s website is also negligible and isn’t properly arranged inside a dedicated menu, which make it hard to access.

Sure, projects need to sustain themselves – but the tactics employed by Robolinux not only make it look shady but also reflect poorly on the larger open source community as a whole.

DEVELOPER: John Martinson

WEB: https://robolinux.org

LICENCE: GPL and others

features 5/10 ease of use 4/10
performance 4/10 documentation 4/10
4 Total Score
Robolinux 10.5 Review

Robolinux is one of the shadiest distros we've seen in a while. There really isn't anything to see here..

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3 Comments
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  1. Pretty strong words. I have been using Robolinux flawlessly since version 6 and I have shared it with a number of my colleagues, many who have trashed their Windows environment to make Robolinux their base for running Windows. Read the number of other qualified reviewers who had the opposite conclusion as yours. We all have our opinions, but yours is marked as angry and personal rather than a review.

  2. I, too, have tried Robolinux a number of times through the years. In fact, I’ve tried hundreds (if not thousands) of Linux distributions since 1996. My conclusions were that Robolinux is basically a hobby distribution, bloated with software I don’t need and will never use, whhile the scripts that were supposed to make things easier, didn’t. In fact, they were somewhat confusing and basically time wasters. I would read on the website that something was free, yet when I went to apply it, I was asked to “Donate”, and nowhere was a link to do it for free. Moreover, as this article says, documentation was seriously lacking, and often not correct for the latest version, or maybe for the desktop I was using, I don’t know.

    That being said, I came here today thinking I was going to be reading about a new release, but I see Lee’s comment is about 11 months old, so I suppose the article is about Robolinux 10 or 11, while today I’m reading about version 12, the latest, greatest version. and I’ll try it again…

  3. I’ve used Robo but I’ve used Ubuntu Studio and Kubuntu as well… thing is all you need to do is download a minimal Ubuntu if you want to roll your own version..
    Not only is Martenson shady I’d go as far as to call him downright dishonest.
    That being said (and I do stand by that) you can get everything but the VPN and I think Proton
    VPN and ProtonMail is a better choice at least for myself as it does what a VPN is supposed to do, no logs, your PW is the encryption key and rather than the free user being the product they have a tier that;s paid that basically gives you more features and a bit more speed. I do fine wit the free version if you have a business or just want to support Proton the paid version isn’t very much to shell out…..
    But this review is about Robo. Robo, like all the other Ubuntu family is Ubuntu

    I want to make sure I’m clear, When I downloaded Robo Mate it was confusing as at first it did look like you would have to “donate” for a couple of things but when you looked deeper you can have them free of charge, other than the VPN which is probably worth it if you like that one. I don;t know where their servers are located if that is Switzerland or somewhere with equivalent privacy laws then it’s fine most likely.
    Odd thing with the Mate version, when you resize a window on it seems any app you have to be careful or it doesn’t “take” in that it often snaps back to where it was . Annoying and I can’t explain that.

    I disagree on the support…. there scads of support, Just go to the Ubuntu documentation. If you need someone on the phone with you then sure, you pay Martenson but you would do that with Ubuntu for personal support…. but you don’t need it if you just RTFM. With any Ubuntu you just Google the issue and usually you go right to it. Just like many things on the ‘net, you’ll often come upon older info but you need =to learn how to sift through to get the relevant stuff anyway if you aren’t doing that already.
    BTW, Martenson also gives away several of those extras for other Linux distros and if you want to dig a little you can likely use alien or one of the other package converters to port is to Slackware although I don’t think most ‘Slackware users would bother.

    If Martenson is holding down all the tech support himself he must be “all there” as we used to say on my turf. He’s providing a service and if someone pays him or Canonical for similar support if they make use of that and retain it , it’s likely worth it as they save some time teaching themselves.Doing it on your own is rewarding and you happen across a lot of things you’ll use later.

    Bottom line the difference between flavors Ubuntu is the particular choices of programs chosen. Some features are different of missing here and there throughout that group but the good thing is if you simply add Synaptic and GDebi (Which Robo does for you) you’re set to mix and match applications.
    IMO Ubuntu is just Debian, you can even use many of the programs interchangeably but be careful with that, you can get bit.
    Mr Martenson…. just show some class you look dishonest and you’re not really a bad guy. I bet you’d actually pull a few more donations if you would cut back on the runarounds.

    Actually in the Ubuntu flavors(I haven’t used Kyolin because I don;t speak Chinese although my daughter does and I’ll get her away from Windows soon) the only one that’s “different” is Ultimate Edition. I’ve downloaded several of those monsters, they’re huge, and I’ve only been able to get one of those to boot properly but you can add their repo to your Ubuntu of choice and you’re golden. Once you’ve tried out a couple of these you see how easy it really is and Synaptic is awesome, I don;t see a reason for all of them not to have that and you can install it if the one you’re using doesn’t come with it.

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