Getting ready to review a Linux distribution is usually pretty straightforward. After some background research into the distribution's history, you download the latest ISO and beseech the head of IT to lend you a netbook or scrounge up some moth-infested, aging desktop PC.
In the case of Ubuntu Linux Satanic Edition ("Linux for the Damned"), however, I had wondered whether I would require some kind of spiritual preparation: Perhaps a confession of my sins to the nearest religious authority. Deadline pressure meant that there was no time for me to unburden myself of my frequent and extensive contraventions of the moral codes of many major religions (and quite a few minor ones). My atheist soul would have to face the distribution unshriven.
For this review I used version 666.9 of Ubuntu Linux SE — based on Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) instead of the latest Natty Narwhal release. (I invite the reader to come up with his or her own Canonical/Unity/Beelzebub joke and insert it here.) Appropriately enough, Satanic Edition is downloadable as an "undead CD" rather than a "live CD". Naturally the difference is purely terminological, and it functions as a standard live Linux distro does — burn the ISO image to optical media, which you can then use to boot your computer into the OS. As usual, you have the option to install the system to your hard drive once it has booted.
While the system is starting up the snazzy-looking Satanic Edition logo is displayed, but, disappointingly, the bongo-drum Ubuntu log-in screen sound remains. Logging in offers a more disturbing aural experience, however, thanks to an unsettling start-up sound.
And here is where it gets interesting. Ubuntu Linux Satanic Edition is, as you would expect, pretty much just a reskinned version of Maverick Meerkat. It comes with a number of sinister-looking GNOME themes and a selection of delightfully devilish Satanic Edition wallpaper. In addition, each version of Satanic Edition ships with a handful of Creative Commons-licensed metal tracks (for this review I chose to rummage through my own music collection and listen to Carcass instead). Beyond that, there isn't much more to this distro than what you get in stock Ubuntu (the more attractive default GNOME theme of Satanic Edition shouldn't be sneezed at, however).
However, there are two points of significance raised by Ubuntu Linux Satanic Edition. The first is just how far Linux has come. I encountered no installation issues — anyone with a modicum of computer know-how should be able to install it and in no time at all have a modern desktop operating system complete with the usual cornucopia of open source applications.
This is still sometimes mind blowing when you look back at an early desktop distro like Red Hat 3.03. Looking back at the days when the ELF format was yet to become adopted as a standard for Unix-like operating systems and getting X Windows working could be a challenge, desktop Linux has advanced in leaps and bounds. Declarations of the 'year of desktop Linux' are less frequent these days (Satan be praised), but there is no denying that distributions like Ubuntu (and derivatives like Satanic Edition) are incredibly powerful and user-friendly operating systems.
The second point is that distributions like Ubuntu Linux Satanic Edition serve to highlight the "free as in freedom" aspect of open source software. Yes, there is no doubt that this distro is a little tongue in cheek and a jab at the Christian Edition of Ubuntu Linux. But, along with the Christian Edition distro, this is an example of taking the powerful open source tools collaboratively developed over the decades and tailoring them to suit a niche market. Why not have a Satanic Edition of Linux? Or a cat fanciers' edition, for that matter? The freedoms to innovate, customise and build upon are an essential part of the open source experience, delivered to users by the GPL and other free software licences.
All up, if you prefer your walls black, your music loud and your hair long (and don't care about Narwhal), then Ubuntu Linux Satanic Edition may be right up your alley. It is, as you would expect, a modern, easy to use operating system that is probably more profound than its creators realise.
Hail Tux, our dark lord and master.
Rohan Pearce no longer has long hair but still likes loud music. Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p
Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @techworld_au
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