“Italian Design” is synonymous with good taste when used as a qualifier for clothing or cars. How about Linux distros? I’m afraid the things can be very, very different in such a case.

Ever since I first tried the Gentoo-based Sabayon, I hoped to find a Linux distro “Designed in Italy”–one that would have fewer issues than Sabayon, mind you. Now, there isn’t anything terribly wrong with Sabayon, except that it’s never quite “production-ready” (so to speak). Here’s Dedoimedo loving Sabayon 3.5, still loving Sabayon 4.1, less thrilled by Sabayon 5.4 (because of KDE4), forgetting about it for a long while, then not finding Sabayon 8.0 sexy enough back in 2012, and having a last attempt at Sabayon 11 (this time with Xfce).

I tried myself Sabayon in the past, and I always found it too buggy and, in some cases, too slow. But hey, here’s his maintainer in 2007, and one of his blog posts from 2011 I fully agree with. He stopped blogging in 2014, the official blog is a joke, their website still links to a defunct Google+ account, and the last release is 19.03, meaning March 2019. The forums are moderately active, but the distro seems on life support rather than vivacious.

But why would the Italians succeed there where the French have failed? Mandrake Linux is dead. Mandriva Linux is dead. OpenMandriva Lx is a bastard of the Russian ROSA (which is not in the best shape itself). Mageia is well alive, but very few people are using it. Zenwalk Linux, once famous, is now hosted on Blogspot, and after mid-2016 it only issues “current ISOs” on occasion. Oh, as for Ulteo…

Sure thing, this is consistent with the sad Linux landscape: so many distros have died or only barely survive (to some extent). If anyone uses Linux, chances are they’re on *buntu. Or Debian on Raspberry Pi. Sigh.

So I just explored the Waiting List on Distrowatch, and somehow I ran over this: Functional OS (submitted on 2020-06-01).

Hosted on a free Italian hosting site, Functional OS looks like a single-page blog. “Functional O.S. – Linux Italiano per le imprese / The universal operating system for offices and home.” No contact info, no forum. Instead, a contact form that reads: “Technical assistance on the operating system is offered only to project supporters.” The donation link doesn’t specify any amount!

Functional O.S. uses Budgie for a desktop environment, and it comes with 21 black wallpapers that are all variations of the default one, with the same logo in the center:

The base on which Functional O.S. is built Debian testing + Ubuntu LTS. By combining these two bases we have obtained stability, security and a vast number of available software.” That’s a bit of a crap. They’re Ubuntu 20.04 LTS with a few added packages and customizations. And it works… like Ubuntu 20.04! You can find the ISO here.

The same logo with the strange mention “MODICIA COMPANY”, the same presence of Conky, and a certain je ne sais quoi, in another waiting distro: MODICIA OS (submitted on 2018-05-24).

Here’s their website, also on Altervista. They seem to be based in Monza, near Milano. “The latest MODICIA O.S. 20.144 is based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.” It certainly looks like Functional OS is the non-kitchy evolution of Modicia OS!

The three dozen wallpapers in backdrops have the following embedded copyright notice: “Tutti i diritti riservati – All rights reserved – Tous droits réservés – Todos los Derechos Reservados – Alle Rechte vorbehalten MARIANI-PHOTO di Mariani Marco.” Va bene, va bene…

Does it help much to change the wallpaper?

Not that much. Let’s try again:

Meh. Let’s link to a few reviews of this colorful distro à la MacOS, as they claim, so you can admire… the colors: from 2018 (IT); from 2018 (EN); two 5-star reviews from 2018, both by Jack M. Germain, who must be over 70: here and here; from 2019 (IT); from 2020 (EN); from 2020 (IT).

Xfce with a twist, huh? Well, you can download the 3.67 GB ISO here. Or donate here. Here’s what “MODICIA O.S. Technical Support” means: “Annual subscription for assistance and technical support. Assistance will be provided exclusively to the e-mail address with which the payment was made. This includes 25 technical support incidents by e-mail.” The price is still unclear.

This thing comes with a lot of preinstalled apps (Microsoft means Office on the web):

And I mean a lot of them!

Have you noticed things like Adobe Flash, Any Desk? Yeah. Only the kitchen sink is missing. Some are commercial programs, included without a license. Examples: BlueGriffon, Master PDF Editor.

This one was a Windows one, right? Here’s one more Windows thing: RocketCake website editor:

A lot of the software Modicia O.S. comes with is selected from what a multimedia/web/advertising agency would use under MacOS or Windows. And, MacOS-like, when a program is in the foreground, its menus replace the top panel menus; the min/max/close buttons go the the left side, which is something I’d never get used to, because they’re in mirror, meaning I’d always risk closing the app! (I’d probably be unable to use a Mac either.)

Speaking of Windows, I was just trying to test gImageReader (which, BTW, works), when WINE popped suddenly in my face:

That’s a very… Windows-ish feeling. I did nothing!

Actually, this distro loves to launch things at login time:

Basically, it uses the scripts /opt/modicia/.system/1startup.sh to 5startup.sh to launch Conky, Plank, Albert, Brightside, Compton, and not much more. 0Clean.sh is used to clean APT, 6startup.sh to launch Skippy-XD, 7startup.sh to lauch the Shotcut video editor, 8Update.sh to perform a full update, 9Update.sh to perform an upgrade to the next version of the distro.

And yet, despite the bloat, the Live ISO comes with less than 2900 packages!

Which Linux distro “Designed in Italy” should I try next? 🙂