Posted by: reformedmusings | March 12, 2010

MoonOS 3 Makara – Ubuntu reaches Enlightenment

I have been toying with different implementations of Enlightenment (also known as E17 in its current version). Enlightenment is designed to beautify 2D desktops and it does a great job. My favorite implementation so far is OpenGEU, largely because of darkmaster”s outstanding artwork. Unfortunately, OpenGEU is having issues with Ubuntu Karmic x86_64 edition. According to their news post, OpenGEU is migrating its LiveCD to Debian for code stability, but will support Ubuntu through its repositories. I will gladly try and post on their Debian LiveCD when it’s released – especially is someone gives me a head up when it’s available. 🙂

In a comment here, Robin directed me to MoonOS from Cambodia. He likened it to Mint finding Enlightenment. At Robin’s suggestion, I took MoonOS for a spin in a VMWare Workstation virtual machine (VM).

First I downloaded the MoonOS 3 Makara iso with the Enlightenment desktop, which is based on Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04. I then cranked up the LiveCD in the VM:

MoonOS 3 Makara LiveCD

Wow, it looks like a light garden! I’m not a big fan of green, but the artwork and basic desktop are very bright and attractive with good color balance. It grows on you (pun intended).


There’s no installation icon on the desktop or on the shelves, so I started the installation through the menu. Once started, the installer appears:

Installer first step

Note that the graphical installer keeps the attractive desktop as the background. Pick a language and click Forward:

Installer step 2 - where are you?

Pick your timezone, then click forward:

Step 3 - graphical partitioning

The graphical partitioner offers the opportunity to construct the disk as desired. For an operational setup, I would created about a 10-15 GB / root partition, the rest of the disk minus 1-2 GB for the /home partition, and the remaining 1-2 GB for the swap partition. That way, you can change/reinstall/replace/upgrade the system while preserving your data and most of your settings. Since this is just a quick test, I let the partitioner use the whole virtual disk as it sees fit. Forward:

Step 4 - who are you?

When you type in your username, the installer will suggest a computer name in the form of “username-desktop”, which is pretty standard in Linux. If you don’t like that, you can change it. If you type in a weak password, the installer will warn you and prompt you to chose a stronger one. You may do so or keep your weak one, though I do not recommend the latter. Next the installer will display a summary screen of your choices. If you are happy with them, just start the installation:

Installing Makara...

You still get to see the beautiful artwork during the installation. Unlike Microsoft Windows’ absurd time remaining jokes, the time estimates in Ubuntu’s installation appear pretty accurate. Upon finishing, reboot to the boot menu:

Makara's attractive boot menu

The artwork provides a pleasant background while displaying both your menu choices and the current boot options. Arrow to your menu choice, hit Enter and arrive at the login screen:

Makara's sharp login screen

Very attractive and functional screen appears that conveniently provides an area to list multiple user logins. Simply click on your entry then type your password in the box on the lower right which automatically gains the focus. Hit Enter:

MoonOS 3 setup assistant

To help new users, MoonOS 3 conveniently provides an assistant to help with your initial setup. Click Next:

Root account password - Just say NO!

MoonOS offers to create a root account password even though you don’t need one and shouldn’t create one. Having a root account simple creates a possible vulnerability that you don’t need. Like the screen says, whenever you as the installer use ‘sudo’ with your password, you are acting as root. There’s no need for a separate root account. Resist the temptation and just say NO! In other words, leave this screen blank and click Next:

A fortune for your day?

This is a cool feature that’s unique to MoonOS as far as I know and gives it a uniquely oriental flavor. The fortunes at the start of the Terminal are fun. Here’s an example:

Terminal startup with a pithy bonus

Fortunes come in a number of flavors. Pretty cool diversion that doesn’t take any significant nanos. I left them enabled in my test installation. And that’s it!


When you’re all done, the operational desktop appears:

MoonOS 3 Makara desktop in all its glory

We now arrive at the main user interface to MoonOS 3. It’s pretty much the same as the LiveCD, which you’d expect. The icons grow smoothly and dramatically when moused over and look outstanding. MoonOS 3 one of the nicest icon sets that I’ve seen. The tool in the upper left of the desktop tells you your disk status. Above it are shortcuts to the Home, Root, and Desktop folders from left to right.

Not immediately visible is that, like Mint, MoonOS installs proprietary/restricted viewers, codecs, etc. This saves the user the effort of hunting down third-party repositories and manually installing the needed codecs, etc. The supplied enablers may not be legal everywhere, so the onus is on the user to determine what’s within their local legal boundaries. (Sorry, I had to say that or the legal leaches would be all over us.)

I explained the shelf at the bottom of the desktop in this post. The difference here is that the earlier bugs are gone and the shelf seems to work as advertised. Also gone are the bugs that locked up E17 when accessing shelf settings too often.

Further, if you open a shelf menu that would appear past the edge of the screen, when you move the mouse over to its menus, it slides it and its parent menus so that all fit on the screen. There’s no end of the attention to detail. Very slick!

Mousing over menus highlights them:

Cascading menus

The menus cascade smoothly in a very slick implementation typical of E17. If you right click on the bottom shelf, you get a setting menu that allows a range of customization:

Self settings menu

By varying insets for window-like gadgets and allowing auto scrolling, you can maximize the utility of the space provided. Customization possibilities seem almost endless.

My previous tests with Enlightenment used a KDE desktop system. This time, I used the Gnome base from the LiveCD and everything dovetails nicely. E17 shines best on Gnome. The control boxes at the upper right of application windows blend into the title bar until you mouse over them. Then their icons come to life:

Blended title bar in Thunar file manager

Mouse over control icon on title bar

The entire theme makes creative use of shadowed windows, shading, and color blending to create a wonderful visual experience that at the same time enhances the user’s practical experience with the OS.

MoonOS 3 automatically installs Firefox 3.5.x, Thunderbird 2.x, Gimp, 3.1, Pigeon IM, Exaile 0.2.14 music player, and uses the Thunar file manager in addition to the pretty much standard Gnome application library.

In Control

A significant enhancement comes in the form of moonControl:

You are in control

Simply choose the feature set on the upper right (Look and Feel, etc.) and the list of settings appears on the left. This provides a nice, central location for the experienced and inexperienced user to customize and maintain their systems. Similar to KDE 3.5.x’s control panel, I find this approach generally superior to Gnome’s approach. I like the idea of all my settings being available in one control panel rather than scattered across menus.

Eye Candy

But that’s not all. The newest rendition of E17 offers 2D special effects which further enhance the user experience. Because they are 2D, they will work on low-end hardware and in virtual machines. To get there, go to Menu -> Applications -> System Tools -> moonControl:

As indicated above, moonControl offers a quick way of customizing the desktop interface, including backgrounds, icons, and…Desktop Effects:

2-D Desktop Effects?

Couldn’t resist this. I chose More Effects to get the full Monty. That proved to be an unfortunate choice as you’ll see below. The immediate result included windows fading in/out as apps executed and menus came and went, shadows, and it gained true transparency. Sweet!

In the following screenshot, I have 3 applications stacked on the desktop (Firefox, Exaile, and Terminal from back to front) with the mouse focus on the second window, Exaile:

Transparency with a Monopoly fortune in Terminal

Note that you can read the Exaile and Firefox windows through the Terminal, and you can see the wallpaper through the Terminal and Firefox windows. Alt-Tab produces a nice visual. Switching between multiple desktops uses a sharp, smooth sliding effect in the direction of the change. It all looked super.

Unfortunately, the desktop effects seem to be somewhat experimental. They locked up MoonOS after playing around for just a few minutes. Upon rebooting the VM, the screen resolution setting seemed confused:

Reboot result after lock up

I tried changing resolution to a smaller screen like 800×600, but that didn’t help at first. I then reset the resolution back to a larger screen of 1152×864 and things gained some measure of normal appearance. Then some applications seemed to load, but their windows were not visible – only their windows’ surrounding shadows appeared. However, all their control buttons worked. Hmmm.

Using the screenshot I took of moonControl with Desktop Effects on the screen, I correctly guessed the location of the Disabled radio button to shut off the effects. Although that should have worked, I had to use Menu -> Enlightenment -> Restart to restart the desktop manager. Everything worked fine from there and that Enlightenment restart became a staple for the remaining tests.

I repeated the procedure twice more and the MoonOS locked up again each time with the same symptoms. This time after restarting the VM and receiving the graphically-confused screen shown above, I left clicked on an empty spot on the top left of the desktop to get the menu, then went to Enlightenment -> Restart. The screen reset and looked fine again.

I tried the Simple Effects setting. This seemed more stable but when changing desktops, the apps slid off the screen as before but left a relic behind which only disappeared when the moving window completely left the screen. If you have stuff on every virtual desktop, then you may not notice the relics. However, even the fade in of the application windows showed graphic buffer relics before the application appeared. Although the system didn’t crash, Simple Effects didn’t shine either. I disabled all effects, reset Enlightenment, and everything worked fine.

So, it doesn’t look like the desktop effects are quite ready for prime time. Rumor has it that the E17 folks are working on a desktop cube-like effect for 2-D. I look forward to seeing that, as well as the stabilizing of the current desktop effects.


This Ubuntu-based E17 offering from Cambodia is as visually appealing as it is solid (apart from the Desktop Effects). Overall, the stability provides a major improvement from my earlier explorations of the E17-based distributions. It’s clear that E17 has come a long way in the last year and that more treats are in store for 2-D users and others with fine artistic tastes.

MoonOS 3 provides an excellent, free implementation of the Enlightenment libraries. The developers obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the distribution…and there was much rejoicing! Many kudos to the MoonOS 3 developers.



  1. i didn’t know e17 could be so beautiful. Thank you for your thorough review. 🙂

  2. You’re welcome. It was a lot of fun putting together. It’s great to see such tremendous talent at work around the world. That’s what makes Open Source great. I’ll do the new OpenGEU version when it comes out as well.

    E17 has tremendous potential. I’d really like to see it ported to a 3-D environment, but I don’t think that would be realistic given its underlying design scheme.

  3. I’ve been using Linux for about twelve years,
    and my favorite used to be AfterStep,
    but in recent years, I stick to xfce4.
    Nice write up though, you did a good job
    with it.

  4. Thank you for your kind words, Leroy. I’m working on an OpenGEU post as we speak. I don’t know if I’ll finish it tonight, though.

    You’ve been using Linux much longer than I have. I’ve only been at it for about 3 years. My hat’s off to you. My production system is a customized Gnome desktop with compiz-fusion. I like the 3-D effects and their utility.

  5. […] another step in my exploration of Enlightenment 0.17, henceforth known as E17, implementations. I posted on MoonOS 3 earlier. I played with OpenGEU on a Kubuntu 8.04.1 KDE 3.5.9 base about a year-and-a-half ago. This […]

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