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DistributionWatch Review: PhatLinux - page 4

Is PhatLinux All That and a Bag of Chips?

  • February 1, 2000
  • By Andrew Chen

In a short while, the Linux login screen appeared. After glancing over the vital system statistics, I logged in with the root account. Obviously geared to the first-time Linux user, the system presented me with a list of options, rather than the ubiquitous shell prompt. I wanted to both configure my system's TCP/IP options and confirm X settings before doing anything else, so I selected to load System Setup. The familiar Red Hat Linux setup loaded, giving me access to the standard system options, such as keyboard and time zone.

Since I was using a standard run-of-the-mill no-name-brand graphics card, I decided to load X with a standard VGA setting. After some probing of my monitor and graphics card, the system managed to bring up the X system at 640x480 to display a confirmation message. An interesting quirk about the configuration is that although the mouse cursor was visible on the screen, it was not usable in the program, likely to lead to some confusion for the average user coming over from Windows.

After being dropped back to a root shell prompt, we ran startx (as prompted) to launch X , along with the KDE desktop with a customized PhatLinux background. PhatLinux obviously created this distribution with the focus on users migrating over from Windows. Included on the desktop was Gaim (AOL Instant Messenger clone), Netscape, Licq (ICQ clone), Kppp (KDE's PPP dialer), and Gimp (Graphics program).

One major feature I didn't see was an easy way to set my TCP/IP settings. The default of PhatLinux.PhatBox wasn't exactly what I wanted. Both in the text setup menu and the X KDE interface, there was no obvious way to change the TCP/IP settings to match what I needed for my Ethernet card. At this point, my choices were limited to editing rc.d files manually or running linuxconf, which I knew of only because of my previous Red Hat Linux experience.

Since this distribution of Linux was already pre-installed into a drive image, there was no step-by-step install routing to automatically detect my AMD PCNET PCI adapter. After looking around in the "System Settings" menu, I decided to manually set up TCP/IP networking. I fired up linuxconf and configured the host name, domain, etc.

Unfortunately, the Help menu did not display a list of drivers available to me for Ethernet cards. I was only able to load networking only after searching through modprobe –l for my Ethernet card. After activating the changes, all went well, with /sbin/ifconfig showing the Ethernet card configured and up.

Curious about the system, I ran dmesg at the command prompt. It looks like PhatLinux 3.2 is based on a stock Linux-Mandrake distribution, running the 2.2.9-19mdk kernel from May 19, 1999. This is consistent with Red Hat Linux's system configuration tool showing up at the main menu after login. (Remember that Linux-Mandrake is derived from Red Hat Linux.) Another interesting quirk that showed up at boot time was the kernel's constant complaints about modules being the wrong version. They seem to be left-over modules from the 2.2.5-14BOOT kernel.

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