Review of TmaxOS - Korean linux build (with my commentary and screenshots)

Here is my look at TmaxOS. TmaxOS is a Korean-made Linux-based operating system intended to replace Windows 7 and move Korea away from foreign (i.e. Microsoft) reliance. Already it is being utilized in some government departments, so I thought I would do my own review of the operating system.

I downloaded it, installed it in a virtual machine, and spent about an hour taking screenshots.

TmaxOS desktop screenshot

This will probably end up being a large post so I'll summarize my findings, then do a screenshot tour of the system and point out anything interesting (including browser ToGate and office suite ToOffice), then explain how you can download and try it yourself.



Summarized main takeaways (TL;DR)


  • TmaxOS is fully English supported. 
  • It runs smooth and responsive.
  • ToGate browser is Chromium based, though no Active X support
  • ToOffice needs a Tmax Cloud account to install, and does not support Hangul .hwp files
  • TmaxOS Software Center is limited to the Tmax repository offerings (but manual installs are possible)
  • Windows apps (some) are installable using some propitiatory method (not Wine)


On with the review.

Installing TmaxOS - screenshot tour




The installer begins with a language selection. Currently the options are Korean and English. I'll do the English option. 



Choose your location. Currently only Korea and USA are available. I assume this is to set the formats for dates/times/currency etc and/or keyboard layout. I'm in the virtual machine anyway so it doesn't really matter. 



Agree to the terms and conditions, which are all in English here!



Choose between installing and running utilities. I didn't try the utilities.



I didn't bother doing any custom install since it's in the VM anyway. But it looks like you could choose a custom option to install it alongside your current operating system too. Another option if you want to try it but not mess up your current computer. I noticed some Korean reviewers did this. You'll be given an option to dual-boot and when starting up your computer the TmaxOS bootloader will appear and let you choose which OS you want to boot into.



Choosing the disk to install to. If you partitioned your drive in the previous step, you could choose which hard drive to use here.



Waiting now for the installation to complete. This took me about 10 minutes.



All done. Time to restart.



TmaxOS booting up



A few more things to take care of. Chance to set up internet now. I skipped it.



Create your local user account for the system.



There we go. TmaxOS is ready to go. Just need to login now with the user/pass I created during setup. This will be your starting screen from now on when booting Tmax.



Entering password


TmaxOS desktop, windows, apps



And here's the TmaxOS default desktop. The traditional Windows "Start" menu is in the top-left, and the bottom-left is the Application Launcher (identical to the full-screen way normal Ubuntu does, or even Android on tablets). A Windows-style taskbar at the bottom, with the notification/applets panel moved to the top-right. So a bit of a mix between Ubuntu's modern style and more classic desktops. The top-center is the workspace switcher (to switch between multiple desktops, if that workflow is your style).



The main menu bar with options for Control Panel, Applications, and basic shutdown etc functions.



The "About" box. You can see I'm using the "Home" version of TmaxOS which is freely available. The business version requires a paid license though I've not seen it available for public download anywhere. I used build 3.11.2 for this look through.




Notification pop-up alerting me that a newer version is available for download.



Here's a basic desktop window. Looks like they tried to keep it stylized as close to Windows as possible.



The Control Panel settings. Most basic functions are here. The TmaxOS updater checks for system updates only. Other updates are handled through the Apps manager program. I got a notification from the little bell in the upper-right that a new version (3.11.4) was available, even though I had downloaded the most recently available .iso just an hour before.




The App Center, a list of what's installed. Makes it pretty easy to uninstall anything.



System language selection, in case you want to revert your Korean or English settings.



Nice looking version of the Linux "Disk" manager. I have to say most of their visuals are nice and professional looking.



The TmaxOS system updater settings.




The system update waiting to be installed. This is the "Software Updater" where all your installed software (well, installed via the Software Center) will be updated.

TmaxOS Software Center




The TmaxOS Software Center.

Now that I'm logged in with my cloud account, I can download any of these programs.

You may notice something different from other Linux software repositories. This is it. KakaoTalk, GIMP, a couple others. Those 7 apps are the only things in it. No searching for other apps from the Canonical respoisotires. If you're a Ubuntu or Linux Mint user, you may expect a place to search/install Chromium, Telegram, Skype, Blender, Steam, etc. No such luck here.

You can install other apps (more on that later) but they won't appear or update via the TmaxOS Software Center. You can only install from here what TmaxSoft has chosen to make available. Good from a security standpoint I guess, and that's what they are going for targeting government agencies and businesses. Although this is pretty easily bypassed via terminal so perhaps the "Business" focused version will close that loophole.

ToGate browser



Here's the TmaxOS browser, called ToGate. Looks nice. It comes installed by default and looks like a Chromium build. Pretty amazing how Google, Microsoft, Opera, Brave, Naver, now Tmaxsoft have all gone with Chromium versions for their browsers. Poor Firefox is on the verge these days.



Some random guy's blog loaded in ToGate. Response was speedy. The whole system was nicely responsive despite being run in a VM with 3GB memory. Of course there's not much overhead here.



Visiting this websites shows that yup it's a version of Chromium. It's still on version 72 while apparently 79 is available. I noticed this issue with Naver Whale a few years ago, though they've gotten much faster at applying engine version updates. It's not necessarily a ToGate problem since many Chromium builds are a few versions behind what Google releases.



Finally something worth noting. ToGate was claimed to support Active X (see the promo material way down below this post), but it doesn't look like it does. Whale had a built-in compatibility mode for awhile before removing it as Active X reliance has been slowing but surely fading away. It seems like they gave up, probably because a Frankenstein browser with such support bolted on was never going to function well anyway. Luckily for us this won't be an issue much longer.



Menu for ToGate. Look familiar? It's definitely got that Chrome look.



Just to do a little test to be sure, I thought I'd try to install the security software from my bank (KEB). But I was surprised to discover that they too already have specific Linux packages available. Neat.

ToOffice suite




Here's another important thing: ToOffice. Their promotional material suggested that ToOffice will handle Microsoft .doc/.docx files and Hangul .hwp files. Will it? Let's see. First you need to install it from the very limited Software Center that ships with TmaxOS. More on that in a bit.



Annoyingly, to download ToOffice, you need to have a Tmax Cloud Account. Looks like I'll have to go make one.



Need to convert my local account to a cloud account. I guess this is expected behavior in Windows too now. I held out for a long time with just a local Windows account, but finally gave in and made a Microsoft account. Might as well for this too.



Need to accept all the conditions. Notice these are all in Korean. Actually this is the first point in using TmaxOS where I've encountered Korean. Just choose them all and move on. Whatever.

The next page had me enter my desired account username, password, birth date, and email address. No e-mail verification code was needed. I forgot to do a screenshot of that screen. Oops.



And I'm now a member of Tmax Cloud. Of course most Linux software repositories don't require you to have an online account, so this was a bit annoying. But then again TmaxOS doesn't exactly claim to be free and open. Just built on top. This is a company after all.



Now my Cloud account is ready and I can download away.



And now a new set of Terms and Conditions to agree to, but notice this time in English.




Finally I can begin installing ToOffice.



Even ToOffice is available in English.



More T&C to agree to, but somehow invisible. Because they haven't translated them into English yet?



Installing ToOffice.



I now have 4 new apps available: ToWord, ToCell, ToPoint, ToMail. Standard office suite.



Oh boy. Apparently to use ToOffice I need to login with my Tmax Cloud account again to sync. OK fine.



ToOffice settings menu.





Here it is. Looks very nice. Most of the functions suggest this may have been built on top of LibreOffice (oops). But it looks great, and they've maintained most of the MS Office style. It lets me save files in a .toc file format but interestingly defaults to the .docx format. I don't doubt full MS Word compatibility, but what about HWP files?

HWP support? No.


Hangul file (.hwp) support is something that was teased for awhile, and even still appears on their current promotional material.

TmaxOS features, including .DOC and .HWP compatibility, and Active X. Image: Tmax

But does it really work?


To test, I download two random Hangul .hwp files I found online. Browsing them in the desktop window doesn't look good. Other documents show a preview icon, but these look unknown. Can I open them?



Nope. Nothing installed can read them. Bummer.



I tried opening the .hwp files manually via "Open..." from ToOffice. A direct answer was waiting. HWP is not supported. That's disappointing.

Apparently other reviewers have come to the same conclusion.

Image: Clien

Considering Hancom themselves last released supported for Linux in 2008 the native app options for working with hangul files on Linux are pretty much nonexistent. Luckily a number of cloud-based alternatives exist.

Tmax CloudSpace



You will notice there's a launcher on the desktop for CloudSpace. This is Tmax's online office suite, like Google Docs, that offers collaboration and cloud syncing, and even webmeetings.

I didn't bother logging in and verifying but other reviewers did and it looks like ToOffice may even be a container for a web-app (is that why I had to login to my Tmax Cloud to use it?). Anyway you can create/manage all your documents there etc. There's a whole nother post for this maybe but I'll skip it for now.



 Installing other apps


With the Software Center so limited, I wondered if I could still install other Linux apps. With no GUI terminal application, it would be difficult for an average user to run command lines, though it is there.

But there are always .deb packages, so I used ToGate to download the .deb package for official Google Chrome. I ran it, and got this response.


I guess Chrome is now installed?



Yes. Here it is running in a smaller window after I launched it from the "Applications" window which it did appear in.

So apparently I can install from .deb, but this begs the question. Did it actually add Google to my list of repositories? Will it autoupdate in the background, even though it doesn't appear in the TmaxOS Software Center list of installed applications?

Update:

I forgot to check this myself last night, but the terminal is accessible with keyboard shortcut.


Image: hcnam.tistory.com

We can see from another review that the repository list is limited to Tmax. Apparently this version is called Goyang-i (cat). I wonder if others will have pet names too.


Image: hcnam.tistory.com

However he shows that APT is still in there, so obviously other programs can be installed and maybe even other repos added, but that would all have to be done via command line. Root can be set too. So maybe it would be possible after all for a Home user to get full use of this. But you'd have to be comfortable using the terminal.


How to download TmaxOS


TmaxOS HE (Home edition) is available to download right from their website. The site is all Korean but as you saw the system can be all English.

 The .ISO is about 2.4GB and you can install it by first burning it to a USB stick with Rufus, just like any other Linux distro. They also have a Windows installer (similar to the old Ubuntu Wubi installer) if you want that route.

You can download both (the .iso and/or the .exe installer) from the TmaxOS page, though apparently we should call them Tmax A&C now:

Download page for TmaxOS

The direct link to the ISO as of this post is located at:
🔗 https://osdownload.tmaxos.com:55556/TmaxOS/Home/amd64/3.11.2/TmaxOS_3.11.2_64.iso


What makes Tmax OS different from other Linux distros


I tried to show some of the practical differences already. Here are a few more that they mention.

Custom graphics kernel

티맥스OS는 그래픽 커널을 자체적으로 구현하였습니다!
기존 X Window를 호환 하여 사용 시
그래픽 퍼포먼스 이슈 및 과거 드라이브 등의 제약 사항으로 인하여,
기능 개선 등에 적합하지 않았는데요.
TmaxOS는 자체적인 그래픽 커널을 구현하여
지속적으로 성능 개선 및 호환성을 높이고자 했습니다!
[출처] 티맥스OS, 일반 리눅스 배포판들과 무엇이 다를까?|작성자 티맥스에이앤씨

I hope they keep it updated since I can imagine a lot of conflicts with the Linux kernel leading to hardware not being recognized fully. But it doesn't sound bad that they've moved away from X Window since many modern distros (Kubuntu for example) already have.

Custom compatibility layer

윈도우 용 애플리케이션 사용 시, 일반 리눅스에서는 WINE이라는 별도의 솔루션을 설치해야만 가능한데요.
그러나 티맥스OS는 Tmax만의 호환 레이어(프레임워크)를 통해
윈도우, 리눅스, 안드로이드 애플리케이션 단독 설치/사용이 가능하답니다!
​현재 개인 사용자 용인 TmaxOS Home Edition의 윈도우 애플리케이션은
카카오톡이 가능하도록 제한되어 오픈 되어있습니다.
그러나 이후 점차적으로  추가될 예정입니다!
[출처] 티맥스OS, 일반 리눅스 배포판들과 무엇이 다를까?|작성자 티맥스에이앤씨

This is the most interesting since they seem to be doing something other than using WINE for installing Windows programs (and Android too?). The review I mentioned earlier looked deeply at the process for installing KakaoTalk so if you're more technically savvy than me take a look. Obviously getting Kakao functional was a key thing for them. Other reviewers noted that many .exe installations stalled. It will be interesting to see, if more people adopt this OS, how well Windows programs will function as they improve on this framework. If I were smarter... but I'm no programmer.

Custom security layer

기존 리눅스 OS보다 추가된 보안 요소 기술 및 관리 체계를 차용하였습니다.
그로 인하여 솔루션 설치 등에 대한 추가 제약 사항이 발생 할 수 있기도 합니다.
[출처] 티맥스OS, 일반 리눅스 배포판들과 무엇이 다를까?|작성자 티맥스에이앤씨
I wonder what kinds of installation restrictions (제약) they are implementing. I wouldn't be surprised if root access was disabled or something, or managed remotely by Tmax with your monthly subscription. Who knows.

Other tours


Here's a nice video from ZDnet Korea where the reviewer installs the desktop PC version of KakaoTalk which installs and works fine simply by double-clicking the .exe installer.

He also installs the security software from the Korean Hometax website, which is famously had been one of the big holdouts of ActiveX functionality.

Naver TV video link if you can't see the video below:
[티맥스 OS 사용기] 카카오톡 등 일부 외부프로그램 지원



This ease of install for KakaoTalk was repeated by some other amateur reviewers:

KakaoTalk desktop PC version, installed in Linux-based TmaxOS. Image: 밍마유

Final Thoughts


There's a lot I didn't touch on so just download it and play with it yourselves. TmaxOS has come a long way in the last 10 years or so and seems like it's really maturing. Will the end of Windows 7 give it the push it needs? I hope so because I'm hopeful that as these Korean open source options grow, the options for other FOSS users grows too. Naver Whale already works amazingly well on Linux. I don't plan to abandon L/Ubuntu any time soon but it's great to know another local option exists and one that so thoroughly supports English.

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