The DistRogue

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Review: Pardus Linux 2007.2

I'm having some issues with Wolvix's HD installer crashing when it hits 86%, so I might not be able to review it. I'll try a USB install- assuming I can get my corrupted 512MB key formatted. If it's hardware-level, I'm fscked. If it's block-level, it's fscked. (You have no appreciation for geek humor...) For now, it's on to Pardus.
Wait... Par-what?
-Pardus is a rising distribution.
-Pardus is made in Turkey.
-Pardus has superb hardware detection. Right off the Live CD, it detected my native 1280x800 screen resolution and wireless networking card, a feat that only ELive 1.0 has matched.
-Pardus uses KDE.
Should give you a good idea of what to expect.
Pardus comes in two varieties, "Calisan" and "Kurulan" images. The "Calisan" image is a live CD, while the "Kurulan" disk installs almost 3 gigabytes of software. (I did a "df" after the install.) The "Calisan" disk worked flawlessly, with the exception that I wasn't close enough to get any Wifi signals. It even, as I said, detected my native screen resolution. W00t.
Once I was done with that, I moved on to the Kurulan disk. I read somewhere that a Pardus install takes up about 3.4 gigabytes of disk space, yet fits onto a single CD. The install itself recommended 4 gigs, but in reality, it only needed 3 for me. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that my /home folder was on a separate partition.
The install was simple enough, easier than Ubuntu's, but it had 3 major flaws. Despite it taking up 3 gigabytes of disk space, there wasn't a package selection option. Second, it's impossible to install from a "Calisan" disk, which means that you'll need two disks in all. Finally, the install took a whopping 35 minutes- which could have been reduced by package selection.
With 3 gigabytes of disk space to use, the install was more than complete. I didn't see Blender on the menu anywhere, but it included some of the more common add-ons, such as MPlayer, OpenOffice, SuperKaramba, Java, Flash, and a ton of games.
But there's more. Pardus comes with some programs of its own. PiSi is the default package manager, with features such as searching, automatic updates, and dependency tracking. Mudur is the init system replacement, and because of it, the system boots noticeably faster. Configuration is handled by Kaptan, a first-run configuration system, and Tasma, a somewhat-expanded control center that looks suspiciously like KDE's control center. It also came with a custom icon theme. It also comes with a proprietary installer and firewall. Package numbers were limited, but I found everything I wanted except for XFCE. That was annoying.
Performance was another matter. KDE runs slowly, and without XFCE at my disposal, Tremulous was only slightly faster than on Ubuntu, and was left in the dust by Elive. GLXGears said otherwise, but since when was it reliable? Still, Pardus with KDE is faster than Ubuntu with GNOME, and that's saying something.
Pardus is a distribution worth watching. It's friendly, relatively fast, and complete. There are some issues, like the limited repository size, but that's just because it's in its nascent stages.
-Easy to install and use
-Install includes a ton of programs
-Faster than most distributions, including you-know-whobuntu
-Installer and packaging need work
Friendliness: 4/5- The team clearly put some effort into usability.
Performance: 4/5- KDE slows it down, but just a bit.
Features: 5/5- Uber-complete single-CD install.
Packaging: 3.5/5- Interesting proprietary installer. It would work well with a bigger repository.
Artwork: 2.5/2.5- Custom icons look good, and Kaptan allows you to get the desktop set up exactly the way you want it.
Community: 1.5/2.5- It's a Turkish distribution, and the English community isn't all that big. Yet.
Overall: 4.1/5- A distribution worth watching.
From Pardus 2007.2,
The DistRogue.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Review: ELive 1.0

I've always found the Enlightenment desktop fascinating. Maybe it has something to do with all the shiny. It's a great balance of eye-candy and performance, and with a little tweaking, can be turned into an awesome desktop system. That's what ELive is. It's a live CD (installable) based on Debian 4.0 and using the Enlightenment desktop- both E16 and E17.
The boot process went smoothly (despite being interrupted occasionally by some dialog boxes), and the install icon was easy to find. The fact that it was animated helped a fair amount. Hardware detection was incredible; my native 1280x800 screen resolution and dual-core processor were detected out of the box, and my Intel PRO/Wireless card only needed a package to be installed.
The desktop theme was also great. Since I'd already tasted E17's default "Bling" theme (the one with all the shiny), I went for a faster E16 desktop and tried the new "Night" theme, which was too subdued for me. IceWeasel (a completely FOSS fork of Firefox, aka "The browser, renamed") included the iFox theme, giving it a nice OSX look. Engage wasn't turned on by default in E17, but it was a nice touch.
ELive also included a ton of programs. It came with Blender for 3D modelling, Kino and Cinelerra for DV editing, The Gimp for image editing, and both Thunar and Midnight Commander for file management. Its default app selection was far better than Ubuntu's.
Speaking of Ubuntu, performance was incredible. ELive ran GLXGears at about 50% faster than Ubuntu, and Tremulous ran at a solid 75FPS floor in the test area (I use the spot just outside the tower on ATCS). Ubuntu can dip below 60.
Despite all the great things about Enlightenment, some parts of it felt cheaply made. The screen where themes and such are selected was built using the text-mode NCurses interface, rather than a more pleasant-looking graphical screen. The Fedora people understand this- most of their graphical config utilities were made with PyGTK, even the X configuration screen and interactive boot splash, which use Framebuffer instead of X! And for some twisted reason, the developers didn't think it would be a good idea to put a "Log Out" button in plain sight. Clicking on the desktop brought up ANOTHER menu (in addition to the right-click) which did the trick.
I also ran into issues with sound. To test the sound, I loaded a song into MPlayer, hit "Play", and threw off my headphones just before the guitars came in. Yeah, sound works fine in ELive, but the default volume is turned all the way up. Just a caution. Learn from me, and don't use a song by Marilyn Manson to test speaker volume.
But don't let the little things bother you. ELive, as of version 1.0, is a solid, fast distribution for desktop use.
Friendliness: 4/5-
I found ELive pretty easy to use. There's a reason they call it "Luxury Linux". But work on the little things for v1.1, aight?
Performance: 4.5/5-
Clobbered Ubuntu. Enlightenment is a fast desktop, and Debian is a fast distribution.
Features: 4.5/5-
Included a lot of programs that went beyond the standard feature set.
Packaging: 4.5/5-
Don't worry, it uses Synaptic, just like Debian.
Artwork: 2/2.5-
If you don't like one theme, try the other.
Community: 1.5/2.5-
A bit skimpy on documentation, but the forums are still there...
Overall: 4.2/5- Give it a try. The downloads page asks you for a donation, and the non-donation download link is broken, but there are plenty of torrents.
Up next: Wolvix. But that might not be for a while. I'm moving to Spain for a year, and I might have to post the review through the WiFi access at the airports I'll be at.
From ELive 1.0,
The DistRogue.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

A quick tour of the Linux filesystem for Windows users

I had the question asked again. You know the one: "Where's my C:\ drive?". So, to prevent it from happening again, I'm writing a guide to the Linux filesystem for Windows users.
The Linux filesystem is organized a bit differently than Windows's filesystem, but it still has the basics, such as folders and removable devices. Finding them is the issue. The root of the Linux filesystem (the equivalent of Windows's C:\) is /- just a forward slash. Instead of a backslash, a forward slash is also used to show directories- for instance, a Linux path could be "/usr/bin/X".
That should clear some things up. But obviously, that's not enough for most people. So, here are some summaries of what the top-level folders are, and what's in them:
/bin and /sbin
What's in it: Binary files (read: programs) that are part of the core system. /bin is for main programs, /sbin is for maintenance apps.
What it's equivalent to: C:\WINDOWS; C:\WINNT
Example of something in there: /bin/bash, /sbin/init
What's in it: Files vital to the system's boot process; stuff like the kernel and boot loader
What it's equivalent to: Nothing
Example of something found in there: /boot/vmlinuz, the Linux kernel.
What's in it: Configuration files
What it's equivalent to: C:\WINDOWS
Example of something found in there: /etc/X11/xorg.conf
What's in it: User files
What it's equivalent to: C:\Documents and Settings
Example of something found in there: /home/{user name here}/Desktop, the folder that stores the files you see on your desktop
What's in it: Libraries. Note that Linux libraries do the same thing as Windows .dll files, but they have a .o or .so extension.
What it's equivalent to: C:\WINDOWS
Example of something found in there: /lib/, a library that you don't want to see all that often...
/media or /mnt
What's in it: Mount points. Folders under /media or (on older distros) /mnt are where other media devices (and partitions) can be accessed.
What it's equivalent to: D:\, E:\, F:\, etc.
Example of something found in there: /media/hda2, which would be the second hard-disk partition.
What's in it: Not much. Some large programs can be installed there, for instance, Flash Player, Google Desktop and VirtualBox.
What it's equivalent to: Nothing
Example of something found in there: /opt/azureus
What's in it: Processes. /proc is used by the kernel to access processes. So don't be messing around in this folder! It also holds vital status info.
What it's equivalent to: Nothing
Example of something found in there: /proc/cpuinfo
Further reading on /proc on Linux can be found here.
What's in it: The Superuser's home folder. On Linux, root is so important he gets his own root directory!
What it's equivalent to: C:\Documents and Settings\administrator. Lap of luxury, huh?
Example of something found in there: /root/stayoutofmyfreakingbusiness
What's in it: Temporary files
What it's equivalent to: C:\temp, C:\WINDOWS\temp
Example of something found in there: /tmp/audacity1.2
What's in it: Files for non-core programs. Basically a duplicate of /, with its own /usr/bin, /usr/lib, and more.
What it's equivalent to: C:\Program Files- sort of
Example of something found in there: /usr/bin/nexuiz
What's in it: Variable files that change frequently, including logs. /var/log is the equivalent of the "Event Viewer" in Windows, and the best part? It's completely searchable.
What it's equivalent to: Nothing
Example of something found in there: /var/www/html. Didn't know you had a Web site, did ya?
I hope this helps you Windows users stumblefind your collective way around Linux's filesystem. Reviews for ELive 1.0 and Wolvix 1.1.0-rc2 still coming right up!
From Xubuntu 7.04,
The DistRogue.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Review: DreamLinux 2.2 Multimedia GL Edition

Ever have one of those dreams where everything seems to be going unnaturally well, and then all of the sudden, you wake up and you're late for work? Sure you have. DreamLinux, at least in my experience, was sort of like that, minus the work part (metaphorically, of course). It's a great distribution, with some great features, but it feels cheaply made.
First off, the obligatory background info. DreamLinux is a Brazilian distribution aimed at multimedia enthusiasts and former Mac OS users. Why OS X users? That's what it looks like. It sports a custom theme and Engage, a launcher from the Enlightenment project that looks and feels almost exactly like OS X's Dock.
DreamLinux is supposed to be an installed system, but it can easily be used as a live CD. It includes MkDistro, a tools for remastering the CD on-the-fly, a la SLAX. It can best be thought of as a cross between Knoppix (the behind-the-scenes underpinnings), dyne:bolic (multimedia app set), and SLAX (remasterability). Although a GNOME desktop would seem like the best choice for an OS X look-alike, DreamLinux uses XFCE, a lighter-weight choice with a smaller memory footprint.
However, if you don't like remastering your CD every day, DreamLinux does come with an install option. And what an option it is! DreamLinux is the first distro I've seen to use a one-screen installer rather than a wizard. Sections of the screen ask for a root password, user setup, partition layout, and GRUB preparation, and at the bottom is an "Install" button.
After the install, I tried out some of the programs. Included were Blender, a 3D modelling program, IceWeasel, a completely open-source version of Firefox included with Debian Etch, The GIMP, the ever-capable image-tweaker, Audacity, a powerful audio editor, Kino, a FOSS digital video editor (GASP!), and GTKPod, an iPod managing app. Blender, Gimp, and Audacity worked perfectly (and in Audacity, sound is normally a huge issue). GTKPod failed to recognize my 2nd-generation iPod Shuffle, but at least it's there.
There were, as I remarked earlier, some issues. My native 1280x800 screen resolution wasn't detected (but hey, not every distro comes with 915resolution installed), and reconfiguring the X server didn't help. My Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 card wasn't detected either. Installing firmware-ipw3945 didn't solve this problem. I understood the instructions to turn on Beryl, but they didn't work. (Maybe it was just my graphics chip...) And the forums were of limited use. The language gap between the Portugese-speaking Brazilians and English users was pretty huge.
I can't recommend DreamLinux to the average user, but only because the average user couldn't care less about multimedia production. DreamLinux is a great distro, with a rock-solid Debian base and a great app selection.
Behold, my new rating system! Artwork and Community are now worth half a point each in the final score.
Friendliness: 3.5/5- Wizards are everywhere. Except the installer, of course.
Performance: 4.5/5- Debian is fast. XFCE is fast. DreamLinux is REALLY fast.
Features: 4.5/5- If you're into multimedia editing, make yourself at home.
Packaging: 4.5/5- Synaptic. What more is there to say?
Artwork: 2.5/2.5- I've always liked OS X's artwork.
Community: 1/2.5- Yeah. It's that bad.
Overall: 4.1/5- If you need a fast, solid, good-looking system, try DreamLinux.
Next reviews: Elive 1.0 "Gem" and Wolvix 1.1.0-rc2 "Hunter" edition. You might recall Wolvix... Well, they're up to the second release candidate towards v1.1. I'll go over how far they've come eventually.
From DreamLinux 2.2,
The DistRogue.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Remember them?

The site Show Us the Code, that challenged Microsoft to show us the code that they based their patent violations on, was shut down by the webmaster's employer. Bullying prevailed, and freedom of speech was destroyed by the very corporate format that the site railed against.
Someone needs to pick up the torch. Someone who is independent from corporations. Someone without a job. Someone who can crusade for Linux no matter what. Someone who is never afraid to speak their mind. Someone who can lead. If you want to free Linux from Microsoft's FUD campaign, be my guest. Be our guest. By all means, shout Microsoft down.
From Xubuntu 7.04,
The DistRogue.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Review queue

My next few reviews will be for Dreamlinux 2.2 MMGL and ELive 1.0. Dreamlinux is an OSX-like distro based on Knoppix and geared towards multimedia. It also has an ingenious 1-panel installer. You might recall a review I did for ELive 0.5.3 a while back. Now, they've reached v1.0- and it's installable! So I'll give it another look.
openSUSE 10.3 comes out on October 4. Given the improvements in 10.2, a new one-CD install architecture, and good experience with the current development release (alpha 5, which is nowhere near stable enough, but a good start), I'll definitely do a review of it.
From Xubuntu 7.04,
The DistRogue
Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Internet died 3 days ago.

Net neutrality is dead.
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could control how much bandwidth is allotted to each site. This could be used to censor dissidence or extort webmasters. Obviously, only major ISPs like Verizon would do this, but how many of you are signed to an indie ISP? Without freedom of bandwidth, we can kiss freedom of speech and freedom of the press buh-bye.
Save the Internet
[inspirational rant]
To all 12-year-old AOLers, to all teens with no social life save MySpace and World of Warcraft, to all bloggers who write about their bland, ordinary life that nobody cares about: In the words of some famous Greek philosopher or another (Aristotle? Plato? Socrates? Help me out!): "I disagree with what you have to say; at the same time, I will defend to the death your right to say it." The Internet's rich culture thrives on people like you. Without net neutrality, the flow of new content is cut off, leaving a stale wasteland of the past. The Internet is self-deprecating; without anything new to replace the layers of old, mildewed crap, it will destroy itself. Everyone has a stake in this; think, for a moment, what would happen if the Internet dissolved in a pool of monotony. What if all those webcomics you treasure were annihilated? What if User Friendly disappeared? If Penny Arcade disappeared? If PvP disappeared? If Sluggy Freelance disappeared? What would you do without all those social networking sites? What if Myspace disappeared? What if Facebook disappeared? What if Blogger disappeared? If Xanga disappeared? Where would your Internet radio come from without or Pandora or Shoutcast... Those sites aren't backed by millionaires; they run on donations! Wikipedia provides a place for the pooling of the complete knowledge of all mankind (in theory), not for the pooling of a few "experts" hired by some corporate juggernaut. What would happen to freedom of speech and press if every news site was run by Microsoft or Apple or, God forbid, the government? (ZDNet readers, move along, nothing new to see here...)
We are the people. We are the Internet. We are who we want to be, not what Verizon or Comcast wants us to be! For freedom! For Net Neutrality! For the world!
[/inspirational rant]

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