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Pyrolinux 1.0 Gives Off Little Heat


January 7, 2008

It's not every day you see the launch of a brand new Linux distribution, so when I heard that Pyrolinux 1.0 was released over Christmas, I thought I'd take a look. Pyrolinux is based on Linux Mint, which is itself a modified version of Ubuntu, so I suppose the term "new distribution" only loosely applies here.

Here's the vital statistics:
Disto base--Ubuntu/Linux Mint
Packaging--.deb (managed with Apt)
Linux Kernel--2.6.22-14-generic
Default Desktop--Gnome 2.22

I downloaded the LiveCD from the Pyrolinux web site and despite having only one available download mirror I found it was very fast; the full 700mb image was retrieved in 20 minutes.

Placing the disk into the machine, I booted it up and was greeted by the white splash screen (see Figure 1). I chose the default start pyrolinux from the menu and quickly hit a familiar error on my system. I was left with a black screen and the output of a kernel panic as the APIC timer failed. I've had this on all the Ubuntu-based systems I've tried; it's something to do with my motherboard. Interestingly, it was fine with Debian Etch.

This is not a problem, normally, as I just boot with the noapic option during the install and everything's fine. I rebooted the machine and pressed F6 to add extra boot parameters at the prompt. I usually see a text box where I can append the noapic flag but this time I saw nothing.

I quickly realized this was because the the boot menu has a white background and the developers obviously never changed the text color from its default white. White text on a white background doesn't really work. I took a pragmatic approach and blindly typed the command in anyway hoping to strike it lucky. It failed the first time but I succeeded at the second attempt. It felt like some kind of unnecessary logic puzzle and wasn't the best start for Pyro. I can only assume the developers never tested this functionality and didn't expected anyone to use it but it's still a major oversight.

I was then greeted by the warning Buffer I/O error on device fd0, a message that was repeated on the screen a few times for about a minute. I thought I wasn't going to get any further, but I waited patiently. Thankfully, it did continue to boot the system after a slight delay and despite the screen resolution being set to 1400x1024 instead of the 1440x900 my screen required, everything was fine.

I had to move the mouse to the top or bottom of the screen to scroll the display and reach the menu bar, another problem I've seen in Ubuntu and Mint installs, so I wasn't surprised. I was able to install without further incident. I didn't see any changes in Pyrolinux from the default Ubuntu installer though. Every screen was the same, so you'd expect it to work.

The system installed in just over 9 mins, including the reformatting of a 200-Gb drive, which was impressive though I've come to expect that from the Ubuntu installer.

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