Graphic, Advertising and Web Design. 
Symsys Inform Blog HomeAIX Systems and Linux Support Specialists

Nod Antivirus Official NZ Reseller International Association of Web Master and Designers Cisco Certified Engineers Golden Web Award Winners Linux Spacialists Thawte SSL VS Security Partner

Symsys Ltd Text logo in the banner area


Author:  Hollow
October 21, 2008



 

 

Debian (Lenny) Linux - Beta2

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Lenny) Installer - Screenshot.

Forget taking the Linux world or even the AIX systems world by storm, Lenny is revolutionary and is going to be (Yes that’s right I’m asserting that it WILL be, not saying I think it will be) one of the singular most important distribution releases of Linux as a whole, EVER!

Let’s start out with the improvements over Debians previous release, Debian 4.0 Etch. Well we now have a very clear menu once the Live CD boots up, it’s unbelievably easy for new users and power users alike to choose which installation procedure they would like to follow. If you’re a completely new user to Linux, you can take the Lenny CD, put it in your drive, select the Graphical Installer as opposed to the options for experts, or simply text based, Then follow a few very simple instructions, click a few buttons and presto, you’ve got a fully installed, totally usable and perfectly working system. It really has never been easier, and I’m talking easier than Ubuntu here, now that’s saying something.

There is also another fundamental difference in Lennys installer options, you can choose an expert installation, WITH a graphical interface, this is brilliant. Just because I’m a power user and an I.T. engineer doesn’t mean I want to spend my life looking at text based installers, just to prove I’m a power user. I can now choose the expert installer, giving me the options I need to configure my system, exactly the way I want it, whilst still feeling that I am choosing this option as a power user, and that I have control over how my system will be installed. An option you don’t get with some other distributions like Ubuntu, and yet I can look at a relatively attractive (Although slightly too pink for my liking) installer at the same time. The expert installer is almost as detailed as following a Gentoo Installation Document, identifying all the really intricate parts of the installation, right down to asking if it should look for PCMCIA devices or not (Pre-empting the possibility that you may be using a laptop). For a graphical installer, I think I can safely say this is the most in depth you could get it, without risking the users options screwing up the installation with conflicts. Which if memory serves me correctly, Gentoo once did back in 2005 and I fell out with their installer from that moment onwards.

During the expert installation we did, we had an option to use a mirror to supplement the software already on our CD, this is an option we usually choose, if it’s given, with all distros, because it allows us less problems (usually) once the installation is finished, because it’s using the absolute, most up to date software out there and requires a lot less effort to get a fully working system. The downside to this however, is that the installation does take a lot longer while it downloads the software required and is very dependent on your connection speed to the internet.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

On to the more important parts of the review. Debian Lenny comes with several installation CD options, a KDE CD, a Gnome CD or an XFCE CD. Since it’s our favorite desktop environment, we chose the KDE install CD, however I love the fact that you have the options available for those users who prefer Gnome or XFCE and want to install it from the first minute of installation, instead of having to install a Gnome desktop, then later once the system is up-to date enough, installing KDE or XFCE as well, which can cause clutter in the menus, excess baggage of programs you don’t want or need, etc. This again really shows how much effort and thought has gone into the Lenny release.

After the first reboot, I found a very much fully working operating system, there were still a few updates required, I had to manually upgrade the kernel so that I could install the VirtualBox drivers and enable seamless mode, but it’s not as if it’s as difficult as it used to be with having to completely re-compile the kernel, so no harm in that. Not great for new users but most new users won’t be using Virtualbox to install Lenny. Possibly the full release of Lenny (Remember this review is based on Beta2 and not a full release) may be a little more intuitive and automatically install the latest kernel during the inevitable apt-get update, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade, after an installation, which we all have to perform usually with every distro we install.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Lenny Control Center - Screenshot

A couple of updates, reboots and a virtualbox kernel module compilation later, (Not as difficult as that sounds in all honesty, some more apt-gets and a little research if needed into the packages available and how to issue the right commands if you’ve never done it before) and we’re up and running, but wait, installation of the VBox kernel module and drivers has caused an issue with the resolution, it’s defaulting to 1280×768. So I start looking for the control center, only to realize, Lenny still uses the default KDE one, just as etch did. Now although that’s fine for power users who know where everything is already, that’s not the case for new users. In this particular instance for example I wanted to change my screen resolution, so you start opening up the menus, as shown in the screenshot, and you eventually find the display settings under “Peripherals”. Now this hasn’t changed from Etch and there are other distributions that do this as well. But in terms of Lenny for new users this is a real let down to me. I would expect a distribution that is this polished everywhere else, and had this much development put into it, and is this easy to use for all the other things it includes, to have the control center side of things sorted out by now.

Kubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mandriva and several other distros, have a customised control center, which for new users is much much easier to navigate if they want to change simple settings like the resolution, or keyboard settings. Lenny is still lacking the “noob proof” setup here. However from a power user point of view it’s incredible, the control center has just about every setting you could want it to have, plus a few you don’t really need. Short of things which still require command line hacking in EVERY distribution out there, the abilities of the control center in Lenny FAR out weigh those of the distributions which have made it easier to navigate for newer users.

Unfortunately the display configuration is still quite limited as well with the VBox drivers and I had to go back to command line hacking to give my new system a resolution above 1280×768. This is no reflection on Lenny however, as I was in a VirtualBox VM and did not have the NVidia or ATi drivers installed that I inevitably would have, were it on a real system, giving me better configuration tools to configure my display with. This being a virtualbox installation is also the reason we didn’t get to play with any of Lennys really cool new toys on the wireless front.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

It’s worth a mention that Lenny, once installed, comes with a full compliment of programs, both fun, professional and functional. I honestly don’t think you could find a Linux distribution that came this well equipped out of the box.

Summary

I can definitely say that Lenny is a big step forward in terms of desktop computing, I haven’t tried out the server installation for Lenny just yet, but you can count on me doing so as I always use Debian for my servers :D. I’m exceptionally happy to see that the KDE release of Lenny is geared around KDE3.5.9 and not KDE4.1, I think choosing the more stable, better known and tried & tested Desktop Environment was the way to go. They’ve ended up with a better product than the distributions who are already incorporating KDE4.1 into their default setup. Don’t get me wrong here, KDE4.1 is a great product, and is getting better all the time, but I still don’t think it’s really all that ready for new users who are booting Linux for the first time. Mandriva did a good job with KDE4.1 in their 2009.0 release, but it was nowhere near as powerful as the Lenny installation is and if KDE4.1 is your default desktop you may well need another desktop installed as well, to configure things that KDE4.1 can’t handle yet, I think Debian made the right choice here.

Overall I think Debian have surpassed themselves with this release, I was extremely happy to see the much needed new features, such as the graphical installer, the option to install Grub2.0 (Which I did and was very impressed with) and overall just how well the system installs itself. Well done Debian, I can’t wait for the full release of Lenny. If I hadn’t JUST migrated everything from my Kubuntu 8.04 x86 installation to my Kubuntu 8.04 X64 installation, ready for the Intrepid Ibex (8.10) release, I’d be installing Lenny on my desktop right now instead of writing this review. As it is, I’ll have to resist the temptation for now in order to assure I have a fully working system and am not just “playing around with my system”. :D

For an Operating System release this would be amazing, for a Beta2 release, this is excellence!


Filed under: Linux Reviews ... Comments (1)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  

 





Author:  Hollow
October 18, 2008



 

 

Mandriva (One) Linux

The newer release of Mandriva has also been reviewed - please check our other Linux reviews for the Mandriva 2009.0

Mandriva (one) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Mandriva (one) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

This distribution is of French origin, but it is very much an international distribution. You can localize it’s installation very easily, and after this review we HIGHLY recommended for new Linux users. Mandriva comes fully loaded out of the box, it has the full Open Office Suite installed by default, it comes with Firefox web browser and Thunderbird mail client installed out of the box and in general it just feels professionally done and very very solid.

One of the first things that attracted our attention and put this distro in front of the others was it’s ability to interact immediately with it’s environment. Most Linux distributions require a fair bit of work to get up and running in a Virtualbox Virtual Machine, Mandriva however just worked, both the Live CD and the final installed versions just worked without any intervention. It required NO tweaking whatsoever to get seamless mode working and higher screen resolutions were available immediately.

Mandriva Cascading Menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Mandriva Cascading Menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

So most of our customers won’t care about a Virtualbox environment, they want to know how it’s going to perform on their own hardware, well let’s put it this way, Virtualbox imitates actual hardware, although some of the hardware your virtual machine uses is the actual hardware on your computer the majority of it is Virtualbox specific, for Mandriva to be able to install all of that hardware itself out of the box, as well as the drivers required to operate in seamless mode, is HIGHLY impressive and it shouldn’t have much of a problem installing normal every day hardware.

On to the good stuff, Mandriva has an excellent layout and design, it just feels like a corporate, yet fun, well put together, professionally designed operating system. I honestly think a Windows user could pick up this operating system in half an hour and be doing almost everything they were doing on their Windows installation in no time flat.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing System Tab - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing System Tab - Screenshot.

Now then all apart from the standard stuff that everyone needs to use a computer effectively Mandriva also has all that really fun stuff you’ve heard Linux can do installed “off the shelf”. It isn’t configured and you will have to play around with the settings yourself to get it up and running in a way you’re happy with, but everything you need to configure your graphical settings is in the main menu, and very easy to understand.

We have to give down sides to our reviews as well, we can’t just have everyone thinking that we only write the good stuff about the things we review now can we.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing Network SharingTab - Screenshot.

Mandriva Linux Control Center viewing Network SharingTab - Screenshot.

Unfortunately Mandriva has chosen to use Konqueror for it’s default file system browser. To the un-initiated or unfamiliar this will mean nothing until I explain further. One of the things about Linux that makes it so good, is that you have a choice about everything. Not just which distribution you use but once you have your distribution installed, you can choose from an abundance of programs, to carry out almost every task possible. With the KDE (K Desktop Environment) interface (The interface we’ve used in all of our reviews here) there are several possible programs that you can use to view your file system. Many hard core Linux users will tell you that their preferred program for this purpose is Konquerer (A lot of hard core users also prefer Gnome as a desktop environment but for someone migrating from Windows I think KDE is far more intuitive), this I believe is more through force of habit than actual ease of use and practicality. The other main option for a file system browser in KDE is Dolphin (sometimes known as D3lphin). This is a newer program and hasn’t been available for that long, but in my personal opinion it is a far better program for the purpose of browsing a file system and it’s certainly much easier to use and come to grips with when transitioning from a Windows environment and it is far more self explanitory than Konqueror.

Mandriva Linux showing screen resolution menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Mandriva Linux showing screen resolution menu - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Something that a lot of Linux distributions suffer from is that the installation media is not usually the most up to date release of all software, now this is something that can’t really be gotten around, making the installation media is a relatively long process and the amount of software that comes pre-installed on Linux by default is so large that with the regular release schedule of most Open Source Software, keeping every single piece of software at it’s most up to date state would be a mammoth task. Mandriva however suffers quite heavily here. After the installation we found over 200 updates were required, this takes a long time and requires a lot of bandwidth, in addition we also found there were quite a few programs that errored during the update and I think new users would find this very worrying. As it turns out the errors were nothing to worry about at all, another update run corrected the errors and installed the required programs perfectly. This is still a very bad point for new users to have to deal with.

The only other real downside to Mandriva for a new user from our point of view is the installation procedure, although being very straight forward and easy to use, has some lengthy surveys for both personal information and useage. Now if a customer is having the installation done by Symsys or another similar company then that’s not an issue, but for some new users who’ve chosen to do the installation themselves this could be quite a put off for them.

Summary

So in summary then Symsys highly recommends Mandriva Linux to new users, it’s extremely easy to install, very easy to use and it really does have an extremely well put together and thought out feel to it. You don’t feel like you’re using a piece of software that has bugs in it or isn’t all that well put together. When you install other operating systems (No manufacturers mentioned) you usually find that a lot of your hardware isn’t installed or doesn’t work out of the box and you have to go off hunting for the drivers and/or installation software you need from the manufacturers site. Worse yet if your network device doesn’t install then you can’t even do that online from the machine you’re trying to install, Mandriva doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem at all. Try downloading Mandriva for yourself or give us a call to have your system installed for you, whether it be a new machine you want or you just want to use it on your existing machine we’ll get it sorted for you.


Filed under: Linux Reviews, Reviews ... Comments (0)

Tags: , , ,
  

 








 

 

Debian (Etch) Linux

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot.

Debian is one of the mainstream and most popular distributions out there. It’s main target market is corporate desktops and Servers and it does very well in both fields. There are rumours out there, which do not do it justice, such as “Debian is very hard to install”, it isn’t at all. The installer isn’t very pretty, it’s mostly text based, however it’s functional and it finishes with a very good system installation, not leaving much to update or have to mess around with to get it working.

This is one of our favourite distributions here at Symsys, because it’s extremely functional, quite easy to learn and use and in general is an all-round good operating system. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for new users though.

Debian (Etch) Linux K Menu Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian (Etch) Linux K Menu Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

The layout and design of Debian, although fairly straight forward isn’t really designed for ease of use with new users in mind. Sometimes knowing how to use something, or where you might find something, requires some technical knowledge and in some cases it requires a general knowledge of Linux in general. If you don’t have either then please don’t try this one at home just yet.

On to the good stuff, Debian is an extremely good distribution of Linux, it covers all the bases for both Desktop and Server and can be easily used as either. The distribution doesn’t spend much time making things all that pretty in either it’s KDE or it’s Gnome implementations, so you might end up spending a fair amount of time tweaking and configuring your desktop once it’s installed, just so that you can bare to look at it every day. It does however have a lot of features that allow you to easily modify the desktop, whether it be installing a theme, a font, a new splash screen etc, all of it is relatively straight forward and easy to accomplish in Debian.

Debian using Konqueror as a file explorer - Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian using Konqueror as a file explorer - Screenshot.

If you’re after a fun environment, lots of graphical effects, wobbling windows and things that fade in and out like a genies lamp, Debian is probably going to take a fair bit of work to get setup that way, we haven’t tried it but it just isn’t that kind of distribution. Although you’ll be able to do it and the Aptitude package manager is still pretty self explanitory etc this is much easier in a distribution like Ubuntu (Which is based on Debian anyway, it has most of Debians good points and less of it’s bad points) or Mandriva Linux.

Dissapointingly Debian has chosen to use Konqueror for it’s default file system browser, now to the un-initiated or unfamiliar this will mean nothing until I explain further. One of the things about Linux that makes it so good is that you have a choice about everything. Not just which distribution you use, but once you have your distribution installed, you can choose from an abundance of programs to carry out almost every task possible. With the KDE (K Desktop Environment) interface (The interface we’ve used in all of our reviews here) there are several possible programs that you can use to view your filesystem, now many hard core Linux users will tell you that their preferred program for this purpose is Konquerer, this I believe is more through force of habit than actual ease of use and practicallity.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

The other main option for a file system browser in KDE is Dolphin (sometimes known as D3lphin). This is a newer program and hasn’t been available for that long, but in my personal opinion it is a far better program for the purpose of browsing a file system and it’s certainly much easier to use and come to grips with when transitioning from a Windows environment and it is far more self explanitory than Konqueror. This is also the case with many other very good distributions, Mandriva Linux also uses Konqueror as it’s default and to save re-writing the same thing most of this paragraph is from that review.

Unfortunately most Linux distributions have an issue with out of date software being on the installation CD, Debian is much better than some others I can think of and the unavoidable systemwide update, which must be run after a fresh install, is not all that big of a list and nor does it take all that much time to finish in Debian.

For those who might be installing Debian into a Virtual Machine such as Virtualbox you will find that you DO need to run the update FIRST, then install GCC, Linux-Headers-x.x.x-x (where x is your kernel version number) and then run the VboxLinuxAdditions.run file manually from the command line. This can be quite confusing at times if you forget to run the apt-get update apt-get uprgade first.

Debian (Etch) Control Center Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Debian (Etch) Control Center Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Those coming to Debian from Ubuntu will find although Ubuntu is based on Debian it is actually quite different. If you try to issue a Sudo command without manually adding yourself to the Sudo list you will find that it doesn’t work and you’ll get a message threatening to report you to the system administrator. Also the root user IS enabled by default where it is disabled in Ubuntu so the su command does work and will allow you to change to the root user in the command line.

Summary

If you’re a hardened user then you’ll already know that Debian is good so I don’t need to tell you, if you have a good knowledge of Linux and you understand the file system and how it works, but just haven’t tried Debian yet then I highly recommend doing so. I started out years ago, using Red Hat based systems such as Fedora Core and since I tried Debian and it’s derivitives I now much prefer them. Debian is definitely on my recommended list but not to new users, purely because it assumes some if not a lot of knowledge about Linux in order to tweak it. If you’re a new user and you’re not too familiar with Linux in general don’t go trying Debian yet it might just put you off the whole idea of using Linux as your operating system. We use Debian for a lot of our in-house and customer servers but it’s also very good as a corporate desktop.


Filed under: Linux Reviews, Reviews ... Comments (11)

Tags: , , ,
  

 





Author:  Hollow
October 9, 2008



 

 

I asked myself this very same question about 3 weeks ago …..

…..and decided to install it in a VM (Virtual Machine). I told a colleague I was planning to do it and he got somewhat reminiscent of his days using the “non free” version of it. He also said “We used to call it “Slow-Aris”, a comment I simply dismissed as him being humerus about the much older version of the operating system he had used.

Well although he WAS indeed being humerus, it seems he was also very right. During the installation of Open Solaris (Please remember this was in a virtual machine so it did not have full resources like a full PC would have) things started well, a pretty installer, nice and graphical but also informative and it felt, well, good. I hate using the word good to describe things but that’s about as much as I can say, it just felt good.

The installation moved on a bit and things started to slow down, then it got to the part where it was actually doing the installation after I had provided the information the system needed and let’s put it this way, I not only went for several coffees I went for several smokes and helped a few customers while it finished.

About an hour and a half later I found the installation had finished and so rebooted the VM to explore the OS and see for myself what it was like. Once again, all started well, the login screen was pretty, the login itself didn’t take too long and I was greeted with the default Gnome desktop. I was happy at this point, unfortunately this was not to continue. After some digging I discovered, although it is possible to install the KDE Desktop on Open Solaris is just wasn’t worth the hassle unless you were very seriously wanting to keep this as your main OS.

Granted I am a Linux evangelist and although I don’t particularly have an issue using, working on or installing other AIX based systems like Open Solaris, this particular adventure reminded me of why I don’t like them as much. It’s like when I get on a Mac, I love the way it looks, I like all the effort that’s gone into the GUI and I start thinking about how usable everyone says it is, then I start using it. I remember that half my bash commands won’t work, I can’t just install a package by typing a command and dragging it down from a repository, and that stupid Finda bar just confuses the crap out of me once I’ve got more than 2 or 3 applications open, not to mention the fact that I can never find anything I want to use (Like console or connecting to another machine etc) and the Mac user behind me watching me fix his machine has to show me all the keyboard shortcuts he/she uses to open things. With Open Solaris I had similar issues, I found the package manager to be a bit sketchy and left a lot to be desired, the graphical interface just looked like Linux because it was running Gnome and I realized, all they’ve done is customized it a little from the way it would look in say a default “from scratch” installation and then I noticed the speed, it was apalling.

As I said at the begging of this post, you must remember this was in a VM so it had limited resources. But, I gave it the exact same resources as my Kubuntu VM, my FreeBSD VM and even my Windows 2003 Server VM, they all run perfectly (Strangely enough I’ve never seen Windows boot as quickly as it does when installed as a VM on Linux, but that’s another post), yet Open Solaris lagged behind them all in terms of, time to boot, time to login, time to open programs once booted and time to shut down when you’ve had enough. I can only assume from this, that either it is ALWAYS this slow or it is just VERY resource hungry, more so than Windows 2003 Server, and that’s saying something!

If you’ve got a spare machine or a Virtual Environment to install it in and you fancy it, I recommend giving Open Solaris a whirl, you might find you enjoy it more than me, I know a lot of these Mac fans like OSX, BECAUSE it isn’t so customizable (Therefore not as breakable) and it just does everything for you. Open Solaris just isn’t for me though I’m afraid, sorry Sun.


Filed under: Other AIX Reviews, Product Reviews ... Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  

 





Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner