SimplyMEPIS 2004.04 after 2 days

I have to admit that I’m a bit biased toward SimplyMEPIS. I was a hardcore MEPIS enthusiast for most of the year last year…even had a site dedicated entirely to the Linux desktop and SimplyMEPIS. However, that was then and this is now. I will attempt to refrain from my bias toward MEPIS as much as possible.
MEPIS truly is a fantastic distribution. The hardware detection far surpasses even Knoppix. Hands down, this is the best distribution I’ve evern installed. Everything works right out of the box. I only have to to touch my sound. It installed itself to the network, detected my W2K fileserver, detected all my shares drives, detected my multimedia machine….detected EVERY single piece of hardware I’ve got installed in the computer…I was waiting for it to detect me and flash onto the screen, “Installing devnet, please wait…”
There’s not much this distro can’t do. It takes advantage of Debian repositories which means it can install anything Debian can. It’s a Live CD so it can be ‘test run’ before you actually install it. The cool thing about it is that you have 7 clicks of the mouse to a full on Debian install. Try that one with anaconda! 😛 I’m not going to spend much time on this one because I’ve used it soooo much. I’m going to retire this distro early and move on to ones I’m not used to using.
Remember, I’m just cycling through the 6 distros first for a quick look. My wife will be test driving the rest of these with detailed new user insite for an unbiased look at Linux. That’s right, 6. I’ve decided to add caOs Linux to the mix. Someone recommended it to me and I’ve determined I’d like to give it a go. Therefore, to end this silly entry…the distro list is up to 6 now and I will be pressing my quicklooks at these distros away from MEPIS and toward caOs Linux. Thus far, Mandrake and MEPIS are down, 4 more to go.

Solaris, Open Source, and the Schwartz…

Ran across a nice blog entry from Sun Microsystems’ main man Jonathan Schwartz…and find myself disagreeing whole-heartedly with him. Who am I? I am the customer he’s been touting is always right. With this being said, I’m telling him he’s wrong. Utilizing his logic, I’m 100% right about this point. 🙂

Mr. Schwartz,

You stated that “it’s increasingly evident the OS wars are down to three – Microsoft Windows, Sun’s Solaris, and Red Hat’s Linux.” Let’s talk a bit more about this. First, some background.

Solaris will soon release it’s version 10, which I will download when it is made available. I was pretty impressed with Solaris 9. However, I also understood that many people out there would not be too impressed with it…because the average customer doesn’t deploy large networks. The average person who drives the market checks email, surfs the web, and chats with an IM client. Mr. Schwartz, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that most open source users know and that few large CEO’s and companies don’t….he who wins the desktop will win the world. Microsoft realizes this and that’s why they are winning right now. It’s not how many servers you can sign up or how many contracts you fill. It is BRAND RECOGNITION that gets you the market…both servers AND desktops. I ask the question…where is JDS? It’s still choking itself on older versions of the gnome and KDE window managers (by the way, JDS= Java Desktop System…which runs on Linux? Maybe some clarification is in order). Until you achieve brand recognition on the desktop market, you’ll never rule the server market.

The only 2 vendors that can claim to even attempt to satisfy any niche of the market is Novell and Microsoft. Novell with it’s Dell Server Line AND HP Desktop and Microsoft with Server 2003 and XP/Longhorn. RedHat has decidedly enterered into this forray, albeit late, with their Redhat desktop. JDS lags behind even further. And yet Mr. Schwartz, you still claim to be in the top three. The top three without any brand recognition. Sure you have some, but not with common users. Allow me to ellaborate:

I took some classes at the local college lately to broaden my horizons. In this class, we talked about javascript, Java, applets, and ActiveX in relation to web browsers and operating systems. When told that Sun Microsystems is Java…most people didn’t even know who your company was or where it was based or what technology it was based on. They knew Java was something you needed during web browsing and that was it. Remember that these are CIS and MIS majors. Also remember that there are no mentionings of Solaris in the textbooks that these students are learning out of…but there are mentionings of Linux and Microsoft (less for linux of course). You’re losing the desktop market and subsequently setting yourself up to fail in the server market.

If we were face to face right now Mr. Schwartz, I’d offer you a cup of coffee and a bundle of roses. That way you would either wake up and smell the roses…or take time to smell the coffee 🙂 Good luck with that Solaris thing…I’ve been a loyal user since Solaris 2.0. I’ll hate to see it go.

The Point is Click Linux; a managed theme…

I’ve decided to adapt a central theme for the distros category in this blog. I’m going to cycle through the 5 biggest ‘Point and Click’ distros and am going to do a quick 2 day assessment on each. After I get through all the distros, I am going to do a fresh install starting with the first one (whatever that may be) and I am going to have my wife, who is new to Linux, check out what she can do with each and which distro she feels is truly the most ‘Point and Click’ distro out there. Remember that it doesn’t matter what distro of Linux is used to most new users…they just want something that WORKS. They want to be able to browse the web, listen to music, and check email and if something is broke from the get go…they abandon it and go back to something that does work. So…we’ll be looking specifically at distros that work out of the box on a standard hardware and hard disk setup.

Here’s the list of distros I’ll be posting w/ screens on:

  1. Mandrake 10.1
  2. Libranet 2.8.1
  3. PCLinuxOS Preview 7
  4. SimplyMEPIS 2004.04
  5. Fedora Core 3

Some of you might be wondering why I don’t have ‘X’ distro listed in there. The reason is that I’m looking for the following criteria: 1. Full version is free 2. Noted by the Linux as very new user friendly 3. the distro’s not Ubuntu (REVISED: Ubuntu is now in the mix due to reader response).

As a past user of Ubuntu, I can tell you that it doesn’t hold a candle overall to any of the distros I’ll be investigating and will therefore NOT be included into this group. If you need Ubuntu snapshots and reviews…go google it and you’ll come up with at least 500 misguided ones. I suppose if there is any feedback about Ubuntu here I can probably give my two cents on it.

As I posted earlier, I recently installed Mandrake Linux 10.1. I was quite impressed with the default install and how it appeared. Now that I’ve had about a week to analyze it I can share some observations.

First and foremost, this OS is eyecandy. Everything looks and feels organized and soft. There aren’t any hard, right angled fonts, icons, or windows. You look at the desktop and get a sense of completeness. Â I can’t explain it any more than that. For appearance, Mandrake is hands down the most eye pleasing free distro available.

The second most noticeable thing is the organization of the menus. Everything has its place and there isn’t a ton of confusing menus to mess things up. For instance, with most KDE default installs on distros that don’t preconfigure them for you (i.e., slackware) you find ALL of the KDE menus intact. This means that when you go to the more applications link in the K-Menu, you find EVERY SINGLE APPLICATION INSTALLED. This makes the menu branch out and get quite confusing and frustrating. If one knows how to tweak this, it isn’t a problem. But for those that are just starting out in Linux, it’s very confusing.

I like the fact that it is very easy to configure the various aspects of your desktop and the settings. They have the menu organization down to a tee. I really think this is the way a Linux distribution should be after it is installed. It is simply KDE done right. You’d think with all of this going for it, Mandrake would rate high on my list…but remember, I’m thinking more along the lines of this distro being ready set go right out of the box. So it fell short on a few points.

The first place it falls short is package management. I realize that Mandrake is trying very hard to have a ‘package warehouse’ like that of Linspire and Xandros…but it falls very short. I tried to upgrade for any security holes numerous times without any success. Also, requiring the user to ‘register’ in order to receive said updates put me off somewhat. If I’m just installing an operating system…I want to accomplish my goals ASAP without adding my email address anywhere in order to accomplish them. So, I was a bit annoyed by this little detail. Perhaps they should make it so it asks on the 2nd update try.

The second place Mandrake falls short is configurability. I know many of you are going to hop all over me for saying this touting “It’s totally up to the individual to configure it” and you’re right…it is up to the individual. But what new user is going to know how to do this out of the box? If I were a new user, I’d be going to the Mandrake Control center for everything I needed…kinda like the Control Panel in WinDozeXP and I wouldn’t want to snoop around to find anything else. I know that this could be a ‘KDE’ or ‘Gnome’ thing depending on the OS…but you’d think that a distro that has developed as many custom menus and such for Linux would go the extra step and take ‘Y’ out of the equation…i.e. making it just one step easier to configure the look, feel, and styles of the desktop.

The last place Mandrake fell short for me was sound. I had no sound at the first boot. No probs I thought….I ran ‘alsaconf’ and pumped up the sound volume making sure it wasn’t muted. I tried the sound again with no go. So…no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the sound going without having to jump farther into the command line that I should have to with a distro such as this. Eventually I did get the sound going. It seems Mandrake detected my onboard sound as active even though it was deactivated in BIOS. Odd, because it is the only distro that has done so. However, I couldn’t ignore the fact that sound wasn’t good to go after a few intervening actions on my part.

Overall, I’d give Mandrake a thumbs up though. This is a pretty solid distro. I can’t wait to see how it fares with my wife. She is really good about checking into what programs can and can’t do and will really put these distros to the ‘new user’ test. As promised, I’ll cycle through each distro myself during the next couple of weeks and post my thoughts on it. Then at the end of this period, I’ll install one of the five listed at the beginning of this post and I’ll have a true new user come and check out each. I think sticking with a distro a week for her to test will be a good idea. That should give her enough time to truly ‘feel’ what it is like and decide for herself if it will get her stamp of approval. I consider this type of test MUCH more unbiased than one you’d read on some large new site…mainly because new users don’t do the reviews…and I’m sure you’d agree that having someone new to Linux take a look at a distro would provide some really interesting feedback.

Thanks for reading and stick with us…it looks to be very interesting.

PS: On the horizon…I’m uninstalling Mandrake 10.1 right now to look at SimplyMEPIS 2004.04. I should have initial reports back sometime in the next few days.

Linux, Open Source, and the Great Schism.

I’m relatively low key. I don’t get excited and shout alot. I don’t get worked up on politics. I’m not too exciteable. I REALLY don’t like ranting and raving about nonsense. I also hate the fact that when someone has a blog, that ranting is the most common thing done. I feel somewhat bad that this will be only my third entry, yet my second ‘rant’. But in the first case, I ranted in a way to defend open source, in this entry I could be seen as attacking it. If you’re still interested, please read on.

I can hear a Scorpions song in the back of my head…that silly whistling sound that permeates pores and seeps into the jellied slab of the mind. The winds of change (cliche I know) have begun to blow in open source. I noticed this quickly on a very specific day. It was November 5th, 2004 and Linux…not Linux worldwide…but one distro…got the ball rolling. Allow me to impart the specifics to you.

MEPIS Linux, a very solid and good distribution of Linux, announced on 5 Nov 04 that it was supporting The U.S. Military with free downloads and support via a community website called Mepislovers. This in itself is ok to almost any American but I cringed at this notion. I waited patiently for things to develop and had fear that somewhere someone wouldn’t take this offering very well. Less than a week later, it happened. On MEPISLovers’ (MEPIS official community site) main site they expressed concern over the decision to support the troops citing, “why not give free support to Iraqi(s) [families] as well?” This person was silenced immediately, as was I when expressing concern about how this person was silenced. I was Someone who had been involved with MEPIS Linux since it’s first public offering and someone that had a website recieveing 400k site views per month; I was silenced on the ‘official community’ website for MEPIS. This is the change I took notice of. I was censored. Odd, I had never been censored since discovering the internet in 1993. Didn’t matter too much but the thing that really really got me thinking is the fact that Linux had been categorized!By announcing that MEPIS Linux offered free stuff for the military they opened themselves up to criticism from its foreign users who didn’t agree with this decision. They had officially alienated some of their userbase! I cringed again. This isn’t the way open source is supposed to operate. I looked on the net for examples of what I had just seen but couldn’t come across any. This seemed (there may be other previous instances I’m not aware of) to be a new concept. I hoped it wouldn’t repeat itself. Flash forward to a few days ago.

The headline reads, “Debian Women: Geek feminists in action.” Give it a read through and you might see what I’m getting at. I’m not an anti-feminist and I’m not against women’s lib. I don’t take political sides…I try to stay as neutral as possible until I see an injustice such as the censorship of ideas. However, on this instance, an exception MUST be made. Linux is becoming more divided than I ever thought would be possible. Not just divided in distros…that part is ok because each one offers something specific to a niche of people. The difference now is that Linux is being associated with political situations and ideas…which is alienating others.

The Debian Womens group even went so far as to submit a BUG to the debain buglist on something they considered SEXIST LANGUAGE in documentation and instructions! A Bug! What kind of “bug” would this be?? It’s ridiculous to think that this would have been a ‘bug’ of any kind. But alas, some developers and maintainers even accepted this. What in the world is happening to Linux and open source if we are dividing ourselves in this manner? We’ve gone over 10 years without having these subdivisions…why start now? Remember that together, rope strands make a strong coil…but unstrung from the original cord, they are weak and will snap under small amounts of stress. I sure hope open source remains together as a strong rope.

The simple fact of the matter is that when open source started out…there were only handles…nicknames…with which people were known as. No one cared if you were a female or a male unless you were in an IRC chatroom (shout out to efnet! 😉 ). What have we begun to do to ourselves? I’m sure there are others that have seen similar situations like these two happen across the web…if so, please let it be known here. Something has to be done before we fork ourselves into having “Gay/Bisexual Linux” or some sort of racial Linux that only certain people should ascribe to? This is a problem that has begun to seep into the very foundation of open source…and the fact that it is printed on newsforge means that people are accepting it.

Think about it everyone. If changes like this happens, Linux will suffer a huge setback. As an open source user it shouldn’t matter what sex you are or if you prefer apples to oranges. What should matter is that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of your spare time to further along whatever program or distro you support.

“A House divided against itself cannot stand” Abraham Lincoln, 1858

Information Week Slams the Kernel…Finger Lickin Good.

Information Week, who strive to be at the forefront of business innovation through technology, have recently lashed out (subtly mind you) at Linux…specifically the Linux Kernel.

The article is entitled, “The Linux Kernel’s Fuzzy Future” and they are oh so careful not to directly bash anyone or anything. However, it is obvious that they are trying to show that the kernel “ain’t no Microsoft” (thank God for that…we’d all be broke). These types of articles are normally known as FUD when directly attacking different parties. They are spread across the internet through syndication and other means to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (Hence, FUD). In this case…the FUD is only a thin coating and you barely notice it…but it’s there.

Here’s the problem with ebusiness sites and corporate news portals critiquing Linux and open source in general…Linux is not Micro$oft, and Micro$oft isn’t Linux. End of story. So should Linux be viable for business? Who cares? Linux is free and designed for the community…not for the business.

My reasoning comes from this notion…how can you compare something designed to be free for all developing at the leisure and pace of thousands of developers worldwide…to something designed to be closed source developing on the backs of some choice employees…it really is apples and oranges. Micro$oft needs deadlines and roadmaps to live…because without it…we’re left wondering when the next patch for this or next security pack for that will be out.

With Open Source…there is no NEED for roadmaps. The next patch to a security flaw…the next update…will be out within a few hours in most cases. Why? Because worldwide there are hundreds of thousands of developers communicating simultaneously toward a common goal. I don’t think there is a single company that can actively compete against that. I also highly doubt if any major business has seen the speed at which a project can develop when it is open sourced.

So this article strikes a nerve, albeit very craftily and indirectly, with me. Take it or leave it, my two cents on the matter.

Sources

http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=54800186

My Current Distro….

I’ve just installed Mandrake 10.1 Community…just to take it for a test drive. I’m coming off of testing Progeny Linux RC1 (very nice) and decided I wanted to take a look at what 1000+ people each day find so interesting (a stat supported by distrowatch.com). I’ll probably post back within the week about what are some good and bad points about it…then I’ll shuffle on to another distro. So far though, Mandrake has been the most eye pleasing distribution I’ve tried (installer anyways) with Progeny and Fedora Core 3’s anaconda installer a very close second.

A quick look of the Mandrake desktop impressed me…simply due to the fact that it is the most well organized default KDE desktop I’ve ever seen in a distribution. It also has the custom Mandrake control panel which is very choice for controlling all your system settings such as network, file sharing, etc. So far so good. As previous, I’ll get back to this one later…afterall, it is finals week and I’ve got some work cut out for me.