Auxtral Linux is a small one man distribution from the Latin side of Down Under, Argentina. It’s a heavily themed Cinnamon desktop sitting on top of Debian Buster. While looks are a matter of taste, I personally quite like it. It’s a flat theme and overall quite dark with green accents and monochrome icons. I also appreciate that it doesn’t come with a ton of apps by default, leaving it to the user to decide what should be installed. Let’s have a closer look together.
The second and latest version 2.5 is called Antares and comes with either Cinnamon or XFCE as a desktop. Cinnamon is the distro’s main focus and since I’m growing more and more fond of it, I chose it for this review. It’s a 1.8 GB download. A bit too much for a bare bone system if you ask me.
I first fired it up in a virtual box. Two things stood out immediately: First: It’s completely in Spanish. No problem for me and a nice surprise. Others might struggle a bit! Second: It complained there was no hardware acceleration and that CPU usage would be high because of that. Fair enough I thought and it really did feel more sluggish than many others I have tested in this environment. Another indication for why it was a bit unresponsive was it’s resource usage. I installed htop and checked the numbers:
- RAM: 1.16 GB
- Tasks: 90
- Threads: 196
These figures are quite high. I was expecting 750-850 MB RAM for the Cinnamon version. Since it might be due to the virtual environment, I put it on a USB stick and checked it in a live environment. Sadly, that didn’t work. The computer couldn’t see the USB drive. Secure boot is turned off and normally I have no issues booting other distros on my system. I remade the USB drive with another program in case something was corrupted but again it refused to appear in the boot options.
The system comes with kernel 4.19 and Cinnamon version 3.8.8 which is quite old. Current version is 4.6.6. That’s always the trade off for using Debian Stable.
Auxtral Linux sets it’s focus on privacy. According to the website instructions, the user is supposed to choose his/her software sources after a fresh installation. One can choose between “main” repositories and “non-free” ones that will include codecs and improve multimedia support. This is done through a command in the terminal and explained in detail on the website. Afterwards, the system automatically performs an update and is then ready for use.
As mentioned, Auxtral comes with few software choices out of the box. Here again, the website explains the various ways to install additional software:
- Mint Install – Mint’s software center and out of all the options the easiest for beginners to use
- Synaptic Package Manager. Installs anything from the enabled software repositories
- Gdebi: For installing user downloaded Debian compatible .debi files
- Appimage: Support is enabled by default and the website offers detailed instructions on how to add those to the menu tree once installed. Nice touch!
Auxtral comes with a small selection of apps. As it is privacy focused, the Brave browser is the default and only one installed out of the box. Auxtral prides itself for being the first distro to ship Brave as the default browser.
Other installed software include: File manager Nemo, image viewer Mirage, and Multimedia players Audacious, MPV and SMPlayer. Nothing at all under office, not even a document viewer.
I had no issues playing any of the video and audio files I tested. System usage, however, remained high throughout my testing.
As mentioned, the developer has heavily themed the system to his liking. All theme modules are called “Antares-” and I’m not sure what they are based off. I find the monochrome icons quite nice. They are usually found in system trays but here they apply to the whole system. The flat spacious layout of all the elements make it also very touch friendly which I appreciate. There are several color options to choose from as well as light and dark versions. I tried moving the Panel to the left but that didn’t look good. Icons got squashed. It’s clear it wasn’t meant to be used that way. Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix has a very nice implementation for a left hand side panel as can be seen in a previous review.
As I still lack the possibility to perform full installs I cannot really judge the system’s performance. In a virtual box it wasn’t very impressive. Putting this point aside, the system’s appearance and focus on privacy was very appealing. The restrained software choice was also appreciated. It is certainly not for beginners but anyone with a bit of Linux experience should be comfortable with it. The fact that the live session was completely in Spanish will narrow the potential user base but in return strengthen it’s own niche. We wish them all the best and look forward to properly testing version 3.0.