Home | FAQs | Articles | Archive | Documentation | Useful Links | Guestbook | Recommend Us

Articles Archive

Mandrake Linux 9.0 (Download Edition) review

By Panagiotis Galatis

Mandrake logoMandrake Linux carries the reputation of one of the most "easy to install and administer" Linux distros. Fortunately, that is not just a rumor as I discovered last week when I installed Mandrake Linux 9.0 (Download Edition) on my Toshiba Satellite 1730 CDT old laptop. The specific laptop has proven to be quite Linux friendly since it has patiently endured about 25 (or more) Linux installations, for the purposes of testing, without a single complaint.

This time, I decided to go with the Mandrake Linux Download Edition which I took from a local computer magazine. I burned the ISOs on 3 CDs and carried on with the installation. I first booted the Toshiba from the CD-ROM by pressing the C key during startup and was greeted by a friendly, graphical screen which presented me with the options of pressing Enter to install or F1 for more options. Those options include, booting without the framebuffer, installing in text-only mode etc. I decided to go with the default install, so I pressed and went on.

After choosing my preferred languages, I chose to go with the Recommended Install scheme, although the Expert one would give you more flexibility, provided that you are a somewhat experienced Linux user. From then on, everything went really smoothly, since the installation is an absolute no brainer. If you want to keep a Windows partition though, keep in mind that the re-sizing of NTFS partitions is not yet supported in Mandrake 9.0, eventhough that is expected to change in the upcoming 9.1 version. Hence if you want to use Mandrake Linux alongside Windows 2000 or XP and use the NTFS make sure you first resize your NTFS partition and create some free space using a third-party commercial tool like Partition Magic by PowerQuest or fdisk (for the more experienced). Whatever you do, Mandrake will install the boot manager (GRUB by default) and will give you the option to boot whichever OS you like during startup.

Mandrake Linux comes with just about every piece of software a computer user might want to use, including OpenOffice, GIMP (an open-source Image editing program), KDE 3.0.3, GNOME 2 and much much more. Mandrake Linux however, will not disappoint the more demanding user since it comes with MySQL database, Apache and much more server software.

My only complaints so far are limited to the amateur-like appearance of KDE, since Mandrakesoft have decided for some odd reasons to exclude themes and icons from the default KDE. These however can be downloaded from the KDE themes page later on, so don't worry.

What really makes Mandrake Linux stand out though, is its ease of use and maintenance through the Mandrake control center. The latter offers unparalleled ease of use even for total newbies. Everything is right were it is supposed to be and works flawlessly. That said, we must also note that Mandrake Linux will not disappoint the power user as well, since it doesn't hide (like other Linux distros) tools like the shell etc.

In conclusion, Mandrake Linux is an excellent distribution that balances between ease of installation, use and maintenance without altering, camouflaging or hiding more advanced tools. Excellent job, very few bugs and all in all a really decent distro!

My Rating: 8/10

This article is copyrighted by Panagiotis Galatis, 2003, under the GNU Free Documentation License. As such, the article may be reproduced free of charge so long as this notice is preserved and the author, Panagiotis Galatis, is notified.

SuSE Linux 8.1 Professional Edition Review

By Panagiotis Galatis

SuSE logoRecently I was given the chance to test SuSE Linux 8.1 Professional, the latest -so far- distribution from the German company SuSE. SuSE Linux has been around for something more than ten years and has managed to become a point of reference in the Linux world for its ease of use and user-friendliness.

SuSE's latest Linux distribution ships in two editions: the personal and professional one as was the case with the previous ones from version 7.3 to 8.0 which I also had the chance to test. Now, the beautiful part about the professional edition is that it comes packed in a DVD-ROM as well as 7 CDs and really Extensive documentation!

My Toshiba Satellite 1400 played the part of the test machine in this case. At the beginning I was very worried about the outcome since Toshiba are known for their not so Linux-friendly laptops, eventhough others would claim the opposite.

After opening the massive box, I opened the CD and DVD case and popped the latter into the DVD-ROM of the Tosh. I rebooted, pressed the C key and I was immediately greeted by a friendly screen featuring the SUSE logo and some options. I chose my resolution of choice and pressed the install button.

What also makes SuSE really user-friendly is YaST2 (Yet another Setup Tool) which gives you enormous flexibility during the installation, since the user at any point can go back and change the partition or other settings. Unfortunately YaST cannot resize NTFS partitions, a feature which will be propably introduced in the future release.

Back to the installation procedure. SuSE defaults to ReiserFS as the choice of filesystems so I went along with the default partition scheme. I also chose a respectable amount of software, almost 3 gigs, including GNOME, KOffice and much much more which are not in the default options. To my amazement I also discovered that kppp will not be installed by default in SuSE Linux 8.1. A shame really!

Fortunately everything worked like a charm after the installation, with the exception of my network adapter. I was aware of the problem though and fixed it. On the other hand what made me really mad was that the ACPI would not work. You see, SuSE decided to implement ACPI support in the 2.4.19 kernel and did a poor job on that.

As a result of that, I could not see my battery status, use suspend mode, hibernation etc. Really frustrating! The solution to the problem was, as I later found out, to pass the parameter "acpi=off" to the kernel before the actual installation. That said, I can move on.

KDE 3 looks beautiful in suSE 8.1 but I wish I could say the same for GNOME 2 which seems to have been greatly neglected by the SuSE team. A shame once more :( .

I also could not figure out the usefulness of the OpenOffice.org icon on the desktop. Strangely enough, whenever you pressed on the shortcut, instead of seeing the actual program launched, you were confronted with the installation screen! Strange!

Finally, my last complaint has to do with SuSE's font server, which despite its flawless operation when it comes English characters, displays Greek characters horribly.

Everything else worked fine, though I'd love to see some improvements in the speed. All in all SuSE Linux 8.1 Professional is an exceptional distro for newbies who don't want to find themeselves in the deep but would instead follow the "easy" way for their transition into the world of Linux!

My Rating: 9/10

This article is copyrighted by Panagiotis Galatis, 2003, under the GNU Free Documentation License. As such, the article may be reproduced free of charge so long as this notice is preserved and the author, Panagiotis Galatis, is notified.

Is Lindows bad for the Linux community?

By Panagiotis Galatis

Lindows is relatively new in the Linux distributions world but it has already gained the reputation of being very easy to install and configure. Where does it stand though from an ethical point of view?

To begin with, it's a common fact that GNU/Linux as an Operating System is based on an "open-source" model. That, in a few words, means that the source code of the applications that form it are distributed with the Operating System and consequently those who wish can modify it as long as they publish those changes back to the community. Fortunately, this is the case with every major Linux distribution out there until today.

Lindows on the other hand is a whole different story. Not only is it an insecure Linux distribution, since it doesn't require a root account which is elementary to Linux users, it violates the GPL (General Public License) over and over as well! The worst though has yet to come! Michael Robertson, Lindows' head and former CEO of mp3.com has used marketing strategies similar to those of Micro$oft in order to promote "his" Operating System, a thing unheard of in the Linux community in the past!

So, from an "Ethics" point of view Lindows is bad for the Open-Source community as was proven above but how about those former Windows users that have switched to Lindows and hence discovered Linux in a sense? You see from another standpoint Lindows has benefited the Linux community by getting more people involved with Linux, one way or the other.

Hence, despite Robertson's unacceptable marketing practices, the Linux community has benefited from those users that have started recently to use Lindows. However it is still early for them to start exploring other Linux flavors but we don't see how this will not be the case in the years to come!

In conclusion, let's not rush things into saying that Lindows should burn in hell. There are certainly much better and cheaper distros out there although Lindows is not a bad OS. All I'm saying is that Lindows might benefit the Linux community in the long-term despite its imperfections.

This article is copyrighted by Panagiotis Galatis, 2003, under the GNU Free Documentation License. As such, the article may be reproduced free of charge so long as this notice is preserved and the author, Panagiotis Galatis, is notified.

Is Linux really ready for the desktop?

By Panagiotis Galatis

If you were to ask me this question, and believe me I was asked several times, I would sincerely say (apart from something like "you are being overly simplistic with your question"), that it also depends on your whole approach to Linux.

To begin with, it is true that Linux, or more correctly GNU/Linux, has progressed tremendously over the past 10+ years since its first appearance as a small kernel in newsgroups on the web. The reason this happened is clearly the flexibility and freedom it offers towards its further development by either major companies like RedHat or SuSE or from individual programmers around the world.

Wait a minute though! Could this be a reason for mighty Microsoft to feel threatened on a market they've been dominating in the past 10 years approximately? Well, the answer is definitely NO! And this is also the reason why applications closer to what people REALLY need in their day to day life have started emerging for Linux as well.

Let's step back a little though and see what a person really needs in his everyday life. He/she would definitely need a word processor, or better an office suite, an Internet browser as well as tabbed browsing, an e-mail client and on top of all that, a desktop environment. Let's face it. There aren't many people out there nowadays who would rather use the shell nowadays ;)

And now to the big question. Can Linux offer these? The answer to that is that it definitely CAN! For example OpenOffice works flawlessly with almost all *.doc files or *.ppt files, Mozilla is for some the best browser around and KDE or GNOME can look Windows desktops straight in the eyes.

By now you'll be asking something like "so why doesn't everyone dump Linux and use Windows instead?". The answer to that is simple as well. Most of those people who give Linux a try, think of Linux as a version of Windows in disguise. They think of it as the Messiah of Operating Systems and they couldn't be more wrong!

Linux is far from perfect and people need to approach it by using a different philosophy. Yes, it is really stable, yes it is virtually immune to viruses, yes it comes with loads of free apps, yes it has really cool desktop environments or window managers but no it is nothing like Windows!

To conclude, try Linux ONLY if you have some prior information on how to install a version on your computer. Dual-boot (really important) in the beginning with Windows (both OSes work flawlessly together especially when the Windows partition uses the FAT file system) until you get used to Linux and last but not least EXPERIMENT(!!!) with your new OS!

If you want to install Linux however, keep in mind that we will offer you as much help as we possibly can. Keep also in mind that we are everyday persons like you and have been already there!

Have fun!

This article is copyrighted by Panagiotis Galatis, 2003, under the GNU Free Documentation License. As such, the article may be reproduced free of charge so long as this notice is preserved and the author, Panagiotis Galatis, is notified.