Six years after its last R10 release, the lightweight Linux distribution wattOS 12 arrived rebased to the stable Debian 11 branch.
Users choose lightweight Linux distributions because they can bring aging hardware back to life or simply because they offer a lightning-fast desktop environment.
There is a wide range of options in this niche, and users have a lot of choices, such as MX Linux, Sparky Linux, Linux Lite, Lubuntu, antiX, GeckoLinux, and so on.
This list also includes wattOS, although if you’ve only recently started working with Linux, it is quite normal not to have heard of it. Why? There has been no development activity in the last six years, and the project was widely assumed to be abandoned.
Until a few days ago, that is. But before we go any further, let’s give our readers a quick overview of this distribution.
wattOS is a lightweight Linux distribution that saw its first stable release in June 2010. Following the release of nine consecutive stable versions, Ubuntu-based mostly, the latest recent R10 in September 2016, wattOS has seen no development in the last six years and has predictably fallen out of sight for Linux users.
We can only guess the reasons for the lack of development over the last six years, but the fact that wattOS was mainly built and supported by a single person answers the question to a large extent.
Unfortunately, it is common in the Linux world for distributions that began with great enthusiasm but built their existence around a single person to lack regular maintenance and, more importantly, predictability for their future.
But let’s get back to the topic. wattOS is an excellent choice for bringing your old PC back to life by including a minimal set of pre-installed apps and using the lightweight LXDE desktop environment.
And now, six years after its last R10 release, wattOS has pleasantly surprised everyone by returning with a brand new R12 release. So, without further ado, let’s look at what’s changed.
What’s New in wattOS 12
The important news in this release is that the new wattOS 12 is now entirely based on the Debian 11 (Bullseye) stable branch rather than Ubuntu. This move adds to the distribution’s lightweight and greater stability.
The installation of wattOS 12 is done entirely in graphical mode, using the well-known Calamares installer. Because of this, installation straightforward, even for novice Linux users.
Software & Apps
wattOS 12 continues to adhere to the philosophy it has followed since its start – minimum inclusion of pre-installed software, allowing users to install what they deem necessary.
As a result, the Firefox 102.5.0esr browser, the Mousepad 0.5.2 text editor, the Transmission 3.0 torrent client, and the VLC 3.0.17 media player are present. So, that’s all there is to client-side applications.
In addition, users get the lightweight LXDE 11 desktop environment and the PCManFM 1.3.2 file manager.
This implies that if you need other browsers, an office suite, a mail client, video and audio editing software, development tools, and so on, you will have to install them yourself.
Under the hood, wattOS 12 is powered by Linux kernel 5.10. In addition, the Synaptic Package Manager is provided for users who prefer to use a graphical tool instead of the APT command directly to install, remove, and update the software.
Moreover, Gdebi, a tiny little app that helps you install DEB files while handling dependencies, is also available.
The distribution does not have its software repository. Instead, all available software is installed from official Debian 11 stable ones. However, for users’ convenience, Debian backports, contrib, and non-free repos are included and enabled by default.
As a result, users have access to newer versions of packages and firmware and a more comprehensive range of software for installation.
Lastly, wattOS 12 has Flatpak support by default, so in addition to the packages available in the Debian repositories, users can also take advantage of the vast software available on Flathub.
Bringing wattOS back to life is a good thing that only benefits the Linux community. Because of its minimalist approach to included software and lightweight LXDE desktop environment, wattOS is fast. I mean, extremely fast.
In other words, wattOS can transform any old computer into a smoothly functional working desktop station.
Is it suitable for new Linux users? Well, the answer is instead, no. Its minimalist approach assumes some knowledge of software management.
However, thanks to the solid Debian basis on which it is built, wattOS is expected to work long and smoothly once loaded with all necessary software without causing any issues for the user.
Now that wattOS 12 is a fact, we can only hope that the distribution continues to evolve upwards, with fewer multi-year gaps in its release sequence.