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DistributionWatch Review: Progeny Linux beta 2 - page 4

Another move into services

  • January 24, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

Once the installation is out of the way there's not a lot at this stage in the game to differentiate between the two distributions in terms of how they function from day to day. Once basic configuration tasks are out of the way, the two behave about the same.

Progeny is built, for the most part, on the "testing" (Woody) branch of Debian. The testing branch is a recent introduction to the Debian development process, which previously had "stable" and "development" branches only. Testing represents a slightly less dangerous option for tracking the latest in Debian development without risking the sort of severe breakages that occasionally plague the development/unstable branch. Progeny adds some extra quality assurance into the mix at an accelerated level. Things can still go wrong (and anyone tracking the distribution since the first beta can attest that they have), but there's still a sense that few truly disruptive bugs will make it through the process.

As an upgrade to Potato, Progeny's a nice choice. Among the things it features are the 2.2.18 kernel (sometimes referred to as "2.4 lite" since it incorporated some of 2.4's more anticipated features like USB support), XFree86 4.02 (which puts Progeny a little ahead of even the testing branch of Debian development at the moment), and KDE 2 (which, in all fairness, is available to all but the most corruptly lazy Potato user). Exim has been removed as the default MTA in favor of Postfix, which has a configuration tool so similar to the script provided with Exim that Potato users will have no problem changing between the two. We also caught sight of glibc 2.2 and Mozilla 0.7.

Though it utilizes a non-Ximian release of the GNOME desktop, the distribution has been designed around adding the Ximian repository to sources.list without incurring any errant dependencies.

Progeny also includes a GTK+-based front-end to the package set management system, allowing users to easily add and remove the same broad groupings that were offered during the installation, and there's another GTK+ app that handles configuration of some elements of the distribution in a graphical manner. In addition, printer configuration has been eased quite a bit via both the foomatic database and a port of Red Hat's printtool to work in the Debian environment.

These tools are more likely to be stumbled upon by a user who sticks to the X desktop most of the time, and to that extent, they raise Debian's ease of use among newer users quite a bit. While a "stock" Debian distribution is very configurable, sometimes the tools to perform those tasks are less obvious.

Finally, Progeny does some hardware autodetection and it picked up our NIC and SoundBlaster 128 with no hassles.

Underneath these updates and enhancements, though, Progeny is still largely Debian, and falls closest to the Debian tree of the other Debian-derived distros we've encountered such as Stormix and Corel. We can't think of a better recommendation for it.

Progeny has taken great care to provide a distribution that preserves much of the underlying sense of solidity Debian is known for, but they've added a few incentives to users who may prefer to have some of the latest enhancements to Linux, since Potato was declared stable last year at least, provided in binary packages. We were pleasantly surprised, for instance, to have USB support for a digital camera and Handspring Visor working out of the box, and XFree86 4.02 months ahead of when it will be part of the next stable release is welcome. The 2.4 kernel is also expected to be available as a package option with the official final release, which is slated for later next month.

These enhancements come at a small price: there are a few bugs and glitches, though these didn't manifest themselves very often, and hardly enough to be counted considering the distribution's status as a beta release. The worst thing we encountered during a few days of use of the stand-alone install was a failed dependency for Enlightenment that we corrected by reinserting the Potato archives into our sources.list. Progeny is maintaining an open bug tracking database, though, so any gotchas users may encounter and possible workarounds may well already be documented.

For existing Debian users who don't mind the risk of a few glitches here and there, Progeny's a good choice now, and should prove to be an outstanding choice when it goes gold. For people interested in getting their feet wet with "The Debian Way" who've been put off by the installer, Progeny is also a reasonable call, especially for the more experienced user. For the new Linux user, we believe it will probably be a good choice when it's finished, if only because the relaxed installation and GUI-enhanced configuration tools will leave the neophyte with enough energy to tackle learning the rest of the OS more easily.

The long-term focus of Progeny may be its LinuxNOW product, but that doesn't at all diminish the strengths it brings to the table with its distribution.

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