RoboLinux is a beginner’s friendly Linux distribution designed to be your main desktop, I decided to try it out because it was being advertised as VPN ready. RoboLinux Debian base is immune from the thousands of virus and malware that affect the Windows operating system, this distribution is superb for those running an old Windows version in need of a free upgrade to a better OS or for people who want to browse the Internet without worrying too much about malware.
There are various window managers available, I tested XFCE, the most lightweight, needing very little RAM. A GNOME version can be downloaded too and the developer says that KDE and LXDE are work in progress. If you are familiar with the Windows Start Menu interface it will be very easy for you to adatp to RoboLinux.
When booting up the DVD you will be prompted if you want to run it as a live system or install it in your hard drive. Once you kick off you will only see four shortcuts on the desktop, one that opens up RoboLinux contact page for support, another shortcut linking to a very cheap no logs USA VPN company called Private Internet Access, another shortcut labelled “FREE cloud service“, taking you to SpiderOak encrypted cloud service sign up page and a fourth shortcut to RoboLinux C drive to VM, an easy way to migrate your existing Windows operating system with all of its programs to a virtual machine inside Linux.
One of the many aspects that make this operating system attractive for newbies are the abundant drivers that will have modern hardware work out of the box with Linux, AMD ATI Radeon and multiple Wifi card drivers, two of the most common Linux problems, come with RoboLinux. You will not have to install plugins either, Java, Flash and a Silverlight emulator are all included, these are technologies that you need to watch online video in websites like NetFlix or NBC.
Common everyday software is embodied in this distribution so that users will not have to download anything extra, the idea is to make RoboLinux work straight away after installation. You can find Skype to make video calls, Thunderbird for email, Pidgin for instant messaging, Delux for torrents, the LibreOffice suite to draw and write documents, Amarok, VLC Media Player and many others. With the Synaptic Package manager able to install, remove or upgrade additional programs from the hundreds available in Debian repositories. Robotlinux itself has a dedicated button you can click for automatic updates just like you would do in Windows. You are able to launch the command line but there is no reason at all why you should use it if you don’t want to.
I found the choice of privacy services to be a good one, SpiderOak encrypts data in your computer with your own encryption keys before uploading it to their servers, this means that the company has no way of decrypting anything, and PIA VPN claims to keep no logs and it has a very good price with dozens of servers in multiple locations. The VPN set up takes less than 30 seconds, a help video in RoboLinux homepage shows you how to connect to PIA VPN step by step. You just have to download the digital certificates from PIA, right click the Network connection icon on the taskbar, select “VPN Connections>Configure VPN“, add your digital certificate, type in your username and password and you are done.
Notice that this a VPN ready distribution, not a free VPN provider, you need a valid subscription to PIA or another VPN company. Signing up with the link that RoboLinux provides to PIA VPN supports RoboLinux development but you can use any provider, what matters is that OpenVPN is already installed and configured.
Another unique feature of Robolinux is the Stealth VM software installer that allows you to build a Windows 7 clone running in a secure Linux partition. The system is protected from malware, anything you download will be contained within the virtual machine and it is intended for people who must have a specific Windows program with the convenience of being able to restore the operating system as new in just two clicks.
I have tried many Linux live systems and very few of them are OpenVPN ready, nearly always I was forced to download and install the OpenVPN package, not that it is hard to accomplish, but too time consuming having to do this every single time you boot a live DVD.
However, RoboLinux is not the best tool for paranoid security, it does not come with Tor or encryption tools, the included Java and Flash technologies are not privacy friendly but if you want to be able to watch Netflix and access certain email services, you need both. The worst part is Skype, a program that it is known to have a NSA backdoor listening in. The problem is that millions of people are using Skype in Windows, I confess I have a Skype account to be able to talk with a couple of my friends who refuse to use anything else, the typical “I have done nothing wrong” type of person and I can see why why RoboLinux had to include Skype to appeal to Windows users that love posting their personal photos in NSA monitored Facebook and Gmail scanned servers.
The most valuable use of this operating system will be achieved by those who can’t afford leaving traces on their hard drive, maybe their drive is not fully encrypted or they live in a country like the UK where it is a criminal offence not to reveal your password to law enforcement, a live DVD like RoboLinux gets around both problems, lawfully. People trying to avoid state surveillance should use the Tails live DVD as usual, but for low/medium security RoboLinux is fine, expressly suited for those frightened by Linux.
A few of the features mentioned, like the Stealth VM, are not free, RoboLinux tech support also requires a small donation, under $10, but you get help from the developer fixing your problem. Bill Gates or Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will never help you fix your paid for Windows OS, it doesn’t seem like RoboLinux developer asks for too much. And having to pay for the VPN, I think that it had to be expected, it is either free with advertisements, freemium or paid for.
RoboLinux is a tool, not a service, and it makes for an admirable Windows replacement that I would feel comfortable giving to my grandmother.