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Distribution Watch Review: Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 Beta
The good: surprising progress for an early beta
March 29, 2001
On March 22, Caldera Systems announced the first public beta of their flagship OpenLinux Workstation distribution. They've skipped a few version numbers this time, leaping from 2.4 to 3.1 in one jump. As a long-time Caldera user, I was eager to download the beta and see if I could help them find a few bugs and also get a peek at what's coming in the next release. I did find bugs, some of them pretty nasty, but I also found a lot of things that worked surprisingly well for an early beta. This "first look" is a summary of my beta-testing experience so far.
Getting Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 Beta
Caldera, while making the beta open, requires an "application" from potential testers. According to the beta page, testers may be required to agree to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The company has, however, made a trio of CD's with the distribution's source RPM's available for download.
Caldera has a well-deserved reputation for not being on the cutting edge with new releases. They have always considered themselves to be a "business" Linux, one that takes a more conservative approach to upgrades in the interest of stability. Most readers will know of someone who's still running kernel 2.0.x, or even earlier, because it's still working and doing the job that it was built to do. If it works, don't fix it. This has been Caldera's mantra for years, so I was surprised to see just how current the 3.1 beta distro is.
The kernel is 2.4.2, as you might expect. With a *.*.0 kernel, just about anything that changes that last digit is likely to make it more stable rather than less, so Caldera probably felt they didn't have to choose between up-to-date and stable. I was pleased to find that Reiserfs support is built right in, not only to the kernel but also to the LIZARD installation process. This, of course, is something that other distros are also adding or have recently added, so Caldera isn't unique in this feature. Still, it was quite nice to be able to build the root filesystem directly in Reiserfs format, without undertaking the complex process of migrating an existing system to Reiserfs.
The levels of the desktop-related packages are very recent: XFree86 is at 4.0.2, KDE is at 2.1.0, and Qt versions 1.45 and 2.2.4 are both preinstalled. Freetype version 1.3 and Freetype2 version 2.0 are installed co-existing (don't ask me how this works), though there were no preloaded TrueType fonts.
At the core services level, the beta includes glibc 2.2.1 and gcc 2.95. PCMCIA support, at version 3.1.24, is standard as well. The biggest surprise, in my opinion, was the inclusion in the "recommended" package set of two major-league development tools: Qt Designer version 1.1.0 and KDevelop 1.4. By the way, if you haven't yet played with KDevelop 1.4, take a good look. My C++ prowess is very rusty and I've never written a line of KDE code, but I had a working "hello, world" KDE application in KDevelop in under fifteen minutes. KDevelop looks a lot like IBM's VisualAge, or Microsoft's Visual C++. I will definitely be spending more time with this IDE in the future, having at last found that long-sought excuse to dust off my Stroustrop book.