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Distribution Watch Review: Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 Beta - page 2

The good: surprising progress for an early beta

  • March 29, 2001
  • By Scott Courtney

I'm used to installing Caldera OpenLinux Workstation and then immediately blowing away the included Java, Apache, and PHP packages in favor of newer ones downloaded from the Internet. In OpenLinux Workstation 3.1, though, this proved unnecessary. Java Standard Edition 1.3, with the Hotspot JIT compiler, is part of the standard installation. Apache 1.3.19 is also preinstalled and includes PHP 4.0.4 with patch level 1. The installed PHP includes support for OpenLDAP and MySQL (the latter being at version 3.23.33, again a very recent code drop). This is a ready-to-run web development environment, right out of the box.

There was no scrimping on Internet tools, either. Caldera has chosen to include Netscape Navigator 4.76 rather than the reportedly-unstable Netscape 6.0, but they have added RealPlayer 8.0 plugin preinstalled. Security mavens will be pleased to see that OpenSSH 2.5 is preloaded, with both client and server components. Caldera has also disabled FTP and Telnet daemons by default, a welcome move toward a more secure default configuration. By default, BIND server is missing entirely but BIND client utilities are at version 8.2.3. Samba 2.0.7 rounds out the network utility set. The new 2.4.x kernels, of course, use IPTABLES instead of IPCHAINS, and I was a little disappointed to see that Caldera didn't compile the ipchains.o module for the default kernel nor provide the IPCHAINS command set, for those who have existing firewall configurations and want to be up and running quickly. Perhaps this will be an option in the final release, or maybe the engineers at Caldera feel that it's important to make a clean break with the old kernel versions. The system configuration utility contains an option to enable "Load Firewall Rules" as a SysV init script, but there are no rules preconfigured.

Most of my applications Just Worked(tm) in spite of the leading-edge code base of this beta distro. Applixware Office 5.0 installed and ran perfectly, which frankly surprised me because I've had some problems with this product on XFree86 4.x in the past. Loki Games' port of Heroes of Might and Magic III worked flawlessly, and even had working audio music and effects -- a big surprise considering the audio problems that are documented later in this article. Netscape and all the included utilities seemed to work just fine, and Java 1.3 applets even worked correctly in the Konqueror browser.

The Bad

Considering its status as a first-public-beta code drop, Caldera 3.1 did surprisingly well in my testing, but there were definitely some six-legged arthropods to be found. My first installation, in which I decided to "go for the gold" and install all packages, appeared to work perfectly until the very end, at which time it issued an error message that "not all packages were successfully installed." It didn't tell me which one(s) had failed, though, and when I hit the "next" button to try to boot into the new kernel, the machine locked up, requiring a hard reset.

The second install, in which I chose the "recommended" package set, went almost perfectly, though. I still got the error message at the end, exactly the same, but this time the kernel booted perfectly. Caldera's README file documents several known bugs with installation, the most notable being that the video mode probe utility is badly broken. Fortunately, my test system's ATI Xpert98 card was perfectly auto-detected, so I didn't need the probe utility anyway.

The installation correctly detected the Ensoniq 1371 audio and loaded the requisite kernel modules for it. Surprisingly, though, the sound didn't work at all. I manually did a "modprobe" for mpu401.o (totally on a whim) and the sound started working as if by magic. Well, it almost works. System sounds in KDE are fine, and the "cat something.au > /dev/audio" test passes, but KDE's MediaPlayer plays only silence. MIDI Player crashes with a segfault, every time. After a reboot, the loading of mpu401.o isn't needed to get sound working, but the MIDI and Media players are still non functional. I'm still not sure exactly what is the cause of this problem.

There were some weird networking issues, too, though I suspect part of this may have been my own fault. During installation, I chose to enable PLIP (basically, use of the parallel port as an IP device) on the theory that I might someday need it. That, it turns out, was a mistake because somehow my default gateway (router) was set up to use PLIP instead of the two Ethernet cards that are also in the machine. I manually fixed this using the KDE Kontrol Panel, though this can also be done from the command shell. The only other problem I had was that, with two cards in the machine, the order of detection changed between the installation process and the first normal reboot. That means that the card which is normally eth0 for me became eth1, and vice-versa. Other than that, networking functioned perfectly under the beta.

My favorite game, SimCity 3000 Unlimited, installed perfectly but won't even run the splash screen. It was built on glibc 2.1 and it segfaults instantly on the glibc 2.2.1 that's included with the Caldera beta. I'm sure Loki Games will have a patch out for this, but in the meantime I am stuck doing useful work. (sigh)

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