Sparky Linux just released a June snapshot of their semi rolling line based on Debian Testing “Bullseye”. I decided to downloaded the LXQt version and give it a quick review.
The ISO is a 1.4GB download and boots up fairly quickly into the live session. Being LXQt, everything is a bit spartan but very snappy. At idle, RAM usage stood at 415MB and after playing around for an hour with many apps and a Firefox tab open, usage reached only 1.1GB. Less than what most modern Gnome distros like Ubuntu use after a fresh boot.
You are greeted with the usual LXQt desktop setup. A bottom panel with a system tray on the right and the menu on the left. You also have two virtual desktops configured by default.
If you’re used to Gnome, the menu can be a bit overwhelming at first. For example, under “Preferences” there are separate entries for various settings which are repeated again under LXQt Settings and yet again in the Configuration Center. I didn’t care much for the alt+F1 combination to access the Menu. I would have preferred the super key but then again this can be easily modified in Menu->Preferences->LXQt Setting->Shortcut Keys. I would add a keyboard driven app launcher like Synapse for a quicker work flow.
By default Sparky uses a light theme with lot’s of grey which gets a bit confusing when windows overlap as there are no borders. The borders are also too thin for comfortable grabbing and resizing by mouse. You can change the overall theme by modifying two settings: “Appearance” which controls the dock & menu and Openbox Settings which control the windows with a few preset themes to select from. Software wise, you get recent versions of Libre Office, the whole suit, Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC and many other smaller programs and utilities that should cover most of your day to day activities.
For the file manager, you get PCMan FM-Qt. I also found two little neat programs I will probably start using in the future: Sparky Tube: This let’s you save videos from the internet for offline watching – Better than using untrustworthy browser add-ons. Then there is RadioStation, a little app that sits in the system tray and connects to online radio stations. It seems you cannot easily modify the existing stations but need to send requests to their github page to get them added. It could probably also be modified through it’s configuration file if you have the patience. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it playing in the background – has been years since I’ve listened to live radio! As a laptop user primarily, I was surprised there was no battery indicator in the system tray! I am sure there is a way to add one but I didn’t bother for this quick review.
To add software you have the GDebi Package installer, the Synaptics Package Manager and APTus, a sort of Sparky software center that is simply a front end for apt-get and dpkg – neat! . Sparky comes with it’s own upgrade and backup tools reminding us that they have been around for quite some time. The oldest entries on their news blog and on Distrowatch date back to 2012. This shows stability and long term commitment from the developers.
Sparky has a wide variety of versions to choose from in both their “rolling” and “stable” sections. There are similar versions for MATE and Xfce desktops plus minimal GUI and CLI versions. Slightly older snapshots also exist for a few more specialized versions: GameOver and Multimedia which come bundled with more software out of the box.
For further reading, I suggest to check-out Jack Germain’s in depth review on LinuxInsider. He has detailed instructions on how to install Sparky onto an 8GB USB drive and use it as a portable OS across several systems without any issues.
So, if you’re into light-weight, Debian based distros, Sparky has you covered. You have options for both “stable” and “rolling” releases and can choose from minimal installs up to specialized versions for gaming or multimedia production. By virtue of being quite spartan by default and boasting a theme most users would want to tweak right from the start, I’d say Sparky appeals more to the intermediate or advanced user who prefers a basic system to start with and then personalize from there.
If Sparky lit your interest, head to their download page and fire one of their ISOs up for a test.