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Distribution Watch Review: Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 Beta - page 3

The good: surprising progress for an early beta

  • March 29, 2001
  • By Scott Courtney

As you would expect with any beta, there are quite a few things that are functional but have cosmetic problems or other annoyances. The boot process is, well, just plain ugly. Caldera's normal boot screen is a user-friendly graphical affair with nifty little progress reports at each step, but devoid of the detailed console messages. Personally, I like to see the console messages, and I have been known to recompile the kernel without frame buffer support just to achieve that (and to shrink the kernel a bit). In OpenLinux Workstation 3.1's beta, you don't have a choice -- the graphical boot screen appears but it is quickly trashed with a plethora of console messages. Several times during boot it reappears only to be once again zapped by more messages. It's purely cosmetic, but if you install the beta for a new user to play with, be sure to warn them not to be alarmed at this. Or just set up the boot options to disable the graphical mode altogether.

Passwords can't be changed from the KDE account management screen. This is a known and documented beta bug, according to the Caldera README, and the "passwd" shell command works just fine. And for some reason, at least on my test machine, pressing the big "K" menu activator has a habit of trying to log out the session, requiring a "cancel" at the confirmation dialog. The first time this happened I thought I had accidentally dragged the mouse rather than clicking it, but the problem has repeated often enough that I don't think it's my fault any more. No harm done -- just a minor annoyance.

There are also some included applications in KDE itself that seem not- quite-ready at this point. The Quanta HTML editor looks really nice, but it segfaults if you try to preview the page. And we all know that KOffice, while showing great promise, is still an evolving product. I mean no disrespect to the KDE team -- in fact, I am amazed at how good KDE is and how fast it's getting even better -- but there are still some imperfections to be overcome, and these are naturally reflected in the Caldera distribution.

During installation, I was unable to configure a remote printer using LPD services, because the requisite menu options were entirely missing. After installation, though, remote printing can be configured from Caldera's COAS tool or from the shell. This release uses the new CUPS printing protocol, by the way.

Speaking as a person who thinks the GNOME/KDE wars are an idiotic waste of resources, I would be happier if Caldera also included the latest GNOME version and let the user choose between GNOME and KDE. My personal preference is KDE, but Linux is all about choice and I tend to feel that commercial distributions should offer choice to the user whenever possible. GNOME can certainly be installed after-the-fact on Caldera, but novice users shouldn't have to attempt this on their own. On the other hand, I can understand how Caldera might want to focus their support resources on a single desktop. Each customer will have to decide for himself or herself whether lack of GNOME is a serious problem.

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