Q4OS with the Trinity Desktop

Valery Kachaev,123RF

Dial 'Q' for Quality

With its new Trinity desktop, Q4OS 1.8.2 will appeal both to users of older PCs, Linux newbies and fans of KDE 3.

The letter "Q" in Q4OS stands for quality. The first hallmark of this is that the developers have chosen to base it on Debian 8.6 "Jessie". As such, it'll benefit from the long term support provided for Debian until at least 2020. The desktop is a well outfitted iteration of KDE 3.5 in the form of version 14.0.4 of the Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE) [1].

A stable, maintenance release of Q4OS (version 1.6.3) was released at the beginning of October 2016. An experimental image with Q4OS 2.2 'Scorpion' was released one month prior on September 20 2016. This image is based on Debian "Testing" and offers the LXQT desktop in addition to Trinity (Figure 1). This leads us to believe that the next stable release will offer both of these desktops. The next release is scheduled to come out sometime this year after the release of Debian 9 "Stretch".

Figure 1: Trinity is a full-featured desktop built on KDE3.

Q4OS runs extremely well on current hardware, but it is also suitable for older machines. The project states that minimum requirements are a Pentium CPU with 300 MHz clock rate, 128 MByte RAM and a hard drive with at least 3 GByte of available space.

This also means that Q4OS will run well on the Raspberry Pi and other ARM-based boards. There are ISOs and installation scripts for these computers on the Q4OS download page [2]. The image sizes are quite manageable: around 350 Mbytes for the Pi version or around 500 MBytes for the live CD. The website offers 32 and 64 bit versions too.

The live version comes with an installer so that you can immediately install the system if you wish. If you can do without a test run you can save 200 MByte of download space by simultaneously downloading the installation image. The explanation for the limited size of the images is that Q4OS does not pre-install any software except for the Chrome browser and system tools. There is more on this topic below.


Even beginners will have no problem installing this system: download the Zip archive from [2], uncompress it and copy it to your SD card as you would a copy of Raspbian. When you're done, insert the MicroSD into your Pi and power up.

Once the system boots the first time, it will ask you for the language of your system and to change the password for the pi user. Then it will ask you if you want to expand the root filsyste, to fill the entire SD card. This is is a good idea, so click Yes.

With the installation complete, you will be greeted by the Desktop Profiler (Figure 1). The profiler offers three choices for installation. There are no pre-installed applications except for the browser.

The project recommends the Basic Desktop or the Full Desktop variety for ordinary users. Here the system downloads around 150 or 500 MByte of applications and installs them. The Basic Desktop is a somewhat thinner system. It comes without an Office suite and has a smaller selection of applications. The developers created the third install option as a more complete solution.

Figure 2: The Desktop Profiler offers three installation modes.

Notice that in our experience, running the profiler for the Full Desktop took a very, very long time. We're talking hours here. However, the number of applications the system installs and configures for you makes the wait worthwhile.

Q4OS offers another approach to package installation in the form of so-called one click packages. Go to the Software Downloads heading on the website to view these. You can install packages with one click after they've been downloaded. In addition to a web browser and mail client, you will also find packages such as a terminal server and developer software.


Unlike Debian 8.6, Q4OS is based on the Linux kernel 4.4 and Systemd 215 (Figure 3). After successful installation and expansion with a Full Desktop, the system will take up 280 MBytes RAM and 3.1 GBytes space on the card once booted. The Basic Desktop variation takes up only 150 MBytes main memory and around 2 GBytes on the card.

Figure 3: The fundamental system components of Q4OS are a bit more modern than those of the current Debian "Jessie".

The Q4OS system carefully guides users through selection and installation of a suitable set of packages and through some of the standard tasks as well. The welcome screen has even more surprises, offering to install proprietary codecs for playing MP3 audio and DVDs, as well as the option to enable desktop effects and download popular applications (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The extremely useful Q4OS welcome screen has some nifty features.

With just one click you can install the Firefox browser, Google Chrome, the Thunderbird mail client, the Synaptic package manager , the LibreOffice office suite and the media player VLC. Other packages include Dropbox, Teamviewer, WINE and proprietary codecs for audio and video (Figure 5). You can also use Synaptic and apt to access the entire collection of packages available in Debian.

Figure 5: Q4OS makes installing proprietary codecs a doddle.

The menu also enhances the desktop with a search function that lets you immediately enter search terms. The last button on the welcome screen activates automatic login.

Q4OS 1.6.3 is one of the few distributions that can handle the Trinity Desktop. The Trinity project continues to maintain KDE 3 which is currently at version 3.5.10. The project takes pains to develop the desktop carefully. The first Trinity users were those who were skeptical of the supposed 'improvements' to KDE SC 4 such as Akonadi and Nepomuk. Others were disappointed in the instability of earlier versions of KDE 4.

Trinity has been keeping KDE 3 alive for six years. The desktop works well with Q4OS since it uses minimal resources, working smoothly on older and less powerful hardware. If you prefer a different desktop, you can simply install something suitable via the Debian package administration and select it when you log in to the next session.

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