The Saga continues…PCLinuxOS 8

PCLinuxOS 8 was installed yesterday on my spare drive.  First impressions are…this is an excellent distro…but only once you get it installed.  They really messed up the install process.  Allow me to explain.
I booted up off the CD and found myself greeted to a plethora of options and programs to run.  I really dig the fact that it retains the Mandrake Control Center but has made it better.  I find the organization of the menu’s FANTASTIC…just as I found the Mandrake 10.1 menu’s well organized.  Thus far, only MEPIS has lacked in this area.  So, I decided to go for the installation to hard disk.  Much improved over version 7 is the shortcut link on the desktop that allows you to not have to search around in the menu’s.  This is a very solid distro…don’t get me wrong.  I’d say that this is actually the most well put together distro I’ve seen thus far.  There is a reason why THIS distro is the fastest moving on distrowatch.  It moved to where it is this year from #44 in 2003 to #9 in 2004.
So I click the install to disk icon and it brings up an interactive menu.  Now, for desktop distros…I choose automatically install for each one.  The main reason being, that is what a common user would do.  They won’t partition like you used to do with Linux.  However, with this interactive menu, it assumes you 1) know what a partition is 2) know what Linux is supposed to have.  I would really like to see if having a blank disk without swap and partitions would detect correctly for PCLinuxOS 8.  It detected my swap and first partition and assigned it with some drop down menu’s.  From there, you are supposed to find /home /usr /var yourself and/or make them yourself.  I immediately stopped the install and formatted the drive as a large ext3.
I called up a friend who knows nothing about partitions and had him attempt the install.  He gave up trying to partition the drive.  This needs to change!  MEPIS installs in 7 clicks from a LIVECD.  There is no reason that this should be any different.  I suggest that they have 2 different menu systems…one for common users and one for advanced.  Something needs to change…they tout this distro for new users.  I know about 2 new users that could even get this installed…and they’re windows guru’s.  Partition creation and management is something that most common users don’t even think about or address.
Overall though, this distro is solid.  Good upgradeability with synaptic.  Great programs installed.  Great organization.  Great menu’s and icons.  Everything is very nice looking.  This distro truly shows Linux in it’s splendor.  That’s it on first impressions.  We’ll press on in a few days with the next on the list.  After finishing all distros and first impressions, my wife will take front stage and give the new users’ perspective.

Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding

“It’s not the big that beats the small; it’s the fast that beats the slow.” Niklas Zennstrom

There was a time early in the dawn of computers where .edu’s and .orgs co-mingled ideas and thoughts via IRC and newsgroups in a conducive and non-proprietary way. The great ideas that were born from this still thrive today in the form of RFC’s, Internet Standards, Protocols, and other surges of genius that sprung from these beginnings.

Lately however, certain things have begun to become apparent. Proprietary software vendors have locked the advancement of technology. This is to be expected. The open source movement is in full swing to counteract that. The only problem with the open source movement is in trying to counteract this huge pendulum and swing it from closed source proprietary toward a multi-source, multi-national technological advancement (for the gain of mankind and not company kind). Instead, open source has begun to push the stone uphill on it’s own without assistance from the VERY companies that take from it.

The bottom line is that companies will take from open source without any inhibitions at all. But when it comes to defending that which they take, they shrivel into the shadows and hope no one notices them. Companies are not in symbiosis with open source…oh sure, some of them might be sympathetic to open source. As we’ve seen with the Linux Core Consortium, companies will pledge their favor but not their resources. But until ALL companies that take from open source give back through REAL support (financial or otherwise)…they’ll continue to be identified as an entity that takes from another without providing anything in return. The word for that is PARASITE.

Companies that take from open source without giving back are a parasite to open source; they are killing it from within. The bad part about this is that we are helping this parasite…even applauding what it is doing. Many of us cheer when company X converts 250 computers to Novell or RedHat…but that isn’t open source anymore! They’re companies who happen to use Linux…they’re just not pure open source no matter what their beginnings are or were. The support and recognition go to Novell and Redhat…the financial gain goes to those companies and not back into open source. Sure, they provide some packages and free-for-home-use downloads and other niceties to try and counteract things…but open source still loses. It loses because there are more takers than givers.

Open source advocates shouldn’t be cheering when company X converts 250 computers it has to Novell or Redhat because they’re just cheering for the company. Even when Linux becomes THE accepted alternative for business and enterprise applications we should refrain from cheering companies such as Redhat and Novell because the money they earn doens’t go back into open source…and the name they make for themselves…does nothing for open source. No matter how hard they try, they’ll always take more than they give.

Some of you might be saying, “But the simple fact is that when Company X converts to Linux, they are embracing Linux in general…not just the company that sells it. This means that they’ll open up more to open source programs such as OpenOffice and Firefox”. Perhaps. But I’d be more willing to believe that company X won’t do ANYTHING that the vendor who provided them with Linux advised against…especially if warranty and license prevent it. So if said Linux vendor who provided them with 250 Linux desktops decided they didn’t want Company X to use OpenOffice…that company wouldn’t use it. The power of choice has been removed.

Until companies aren’t afraid to offer FULL and unadulterated support for Linux (LSB 2.0 standard or the Linux Core Consortium) and free open source software, the open source movement will not succeed.

You gotta LOVE Micro$oft

[sarcasm]You absolutely have to love M$ for their fantastic business sense and fair tactics they use to accomplish their business objectives.[/sarcasm] There was this guy I went to college with who never did any original work. I mean, we used to go into the library and he’d pull up 15 articles on the subject his paper was and he’d pull 15 different paragraphs out of each of them. Then he’d ever-so-slightly change the words around a bit. Then he’d re-arrange the paragraphs so that it was harder to track down and he’d pass it off as his original paper. I would have to say, he must have graduated and gotten a job at Microsoft…because that is what they’re trying to do now.

According to eWeek,”Microsoft is claiming some form of IP rights over ‘a total of 130 protocols which Microsoft is offering for license.’ ”  The stupid part about it is that these IP Rights are IETF RFC (request for comment) documents. Microsoft cannot show patent support for these claims, but on the other hand, no one can show that they don’t have rights to these claims either.

One thing is certain, if things get down and dirty…M$ will have the financial and legal means to prosecute or bully anyone they feel they need to in order to make a point or an example.  Perhaps something should be done in the open source community to counteract this.  I would say that a large number of open source supportive companies banding together to offer support for each other and the movement would suffice…but of course this won’t happen.  They’re trying currently without much success…just do a search using your favorite search engine on “Linux Core Consortium” and look at the list of names that are absent from full support….among them are Redhat, Novell, and Sun Microsystems.

cAos Linux is out…

Tonight, I gave cAos Linux a try.  I was really interested in it because it had a gnome default desktop with an Xfce backup…it had a nice bootsplash and really looked nifty via screenshots.  It also had a really interesting custom written installer called cinch.  However, after the install, it failed to boot.  So I tried just about every boot option I could possibly try during the install without success.  So…I’ll be forced to trim cAos from the list at this time.  For this experiment, desktop Linux MUST work out of the box.  CAos fell short (unfortunately).

On a positive note, PCLinuxOS 8 came out recently…so I’ll be downloading that and giving it a go here shortly.  I’m kinda bummed that cAos didn’t want to play nice…I was really looking forward to it.  Oh well.  So, up next will be PCLinuxOS and I’ll have a post about my initial impression within the next couple of days.

SELinux…the future of Linux?

Many of you may have heard recently that Fedora Core 3 contains “SELinux” or Security Enhanced Linux.  Then you may just say, “ bout that” and move on.  Most of us don’t realize what SELinux actually is and where it came from.  Recently there is a new book entitled, “SELinux NSA’s Open Source Security Enhanced Linux” that has been published by Bill McCarty for the O’Reilly Network.

I first noticed and downloaded SELinux about 2 years ago when there was no documentation supporting anything with it.  I installed it, configured it, and had a server set up in about a day.  I’ll have to say that it is just as easy to work on as a slackware box and most of my documentation issues were solved in slackware forums.  Does this mean it utilizes packages from slack?  No…everything is from source but there isn’t any cool portage or emerge system to manage things.  You simply have to know what you’re doing.  But recently, Distributions are now packaging the secure functions of SELinux into their respected distros.

From the LinuxInsider article, “In December 2000, researchers at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) working with Network Associates and MITRE released a B1 Class operating system to the public known as SELinux. Although many Linux professionals have heard of SELinux, few recognize that its heritage reaches back to the work of David Bell and Leonard LaPadula, work begun in 1973. Bell and LaPadula’s work helped define the criteria that make up the U.S. Government’s Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria (TCSEC).”

There is much attention focused by some of the more cutting edge distributions like Fedora Core, Gentoo and the beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. The question becomes, will other distros follow? Should they follow? I think the answer is a definitive yes on this issue.? But if all distros flock to this standard will it lessen its importance?  Perhaps.  Perhaps it will become ‘run of the mill’ and assumed until the next big thing comes along.  And perhaps it won’t.


2 down, 4 to go

Thus far, I’ve taken a quicklook at two distributions of Linux and provided limited feedback on them. I’m just running through the installations for these distributions so that I don’t hit any snags later on when I’m installing them for this blogs’ featured article…where I will have my wife who has no Linux experience work with one distribution per week and report back her feelings/thoughts on that distro.

I’ve decided that the order I’m currently going in is the order that I should keep when I kick things off. I’ll start with Mandrake, shift to MEPIS, follow on with PCLinuxOS, switch to cAos Linux, then to Libranet, then to Fedora C3. Why have FC3 last?? Ask a FC3 user and they’ll tell you it is the best distro out there. So, I’m going to ‘save the best for last’ (their opinion…not mine…yet).

So this entry serves as an update as to what I’m actually doing. All commentary from my wife and her Linux experience will be in the ‘reviews’ category. All commentary from myself will be in the ‘distros’ category. As I stated previously, if you want an unbiased comparison between the top ‘point and click’ Linux desktops…stay tuned. This truly will be a unique ride.

Update: I forgot to mention that I will be soon posting the review criterion that my wife will be using to compare the distros. This should be fairly straightforward but will be based entirely on the point of view of someone who has NO Linux experience…so things such as connectivity, sound, and graphics that aren’t operational out of the box will be something she will be looking at. If things are golden, she’ll give kudos where kudos are due. If not, she’ll be fair in her critique. It’s going to be really, really interesting. At the end of things, we’ll summarize both my critiques and hers. From there, we’ll draw a conclusion on what the best ‘out of the box’ ‘point and click’ Linux desktop is.