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DistributionWatch Review: Elfstone Linux - page 2

A Distribution Geared Toward Programmers and Network Administrators

  • April 19, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

Elfstone Linux is also distinguished by its commitment to OSF/Motif, including a set of Elfstone RTX Runtime Libraries based on OSF/Motif 2.1. This commitment to OSF/Motif is unusual in the Linux space: usually you need to add OSF/Motf on your own. There's a lot of OSF/Motif-based software out there of interest to programmers, engineers, and network administrators, and the ability to run it on a Linux platform is definitely a plus. I hate to say it, but OSF/Motif applications are dangerously close to existing as legacy software (I feel so old when saying so, because I was writing programming books before OSF/Motif was officially released). But there's one big disadvantage to Elfstone Linux's inclusion of OSF/Motif technology: because OSF/Motif is a commercial product released under a commercial license from The Open Group (in other words, it is not Open Source software), Elfstone Linux must also be commercial software. It also means that Elfstone Linux must also be considered commercial software: part of the rationale for a $59.95 list price is that OSF/Motif licensing fees are part of the financial equation.

However, you don't actually need to be using Elfstone Linux to take advantage of the Elfstone RTX runtime libraries: they are available separately and are known to run under all the major Linux distributions (Slackware Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, SuSE, Calera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux). Running OSF/Motif applications is one of the prime reasons to go with Elfstone Linux, however. The OSF/Motif support in Elfstone Linux is based on OSF/Motif 2.1.10 and includes widget print support, thread-safe libraries, Motif header files, demo applications (along with their source code), 64-bit support, and binary compatibility with Motif 1.2, CDE 1.0, and Motif 2.0.

I also have to admit that I feel really old when running Elfstone Linux, as it sports a hybrid OSF/Motif graphical interface that also borrows from X and the Athena widget set. Basically, it's an adaptation of fvwm; even through OSF/Motif is a centerpiece of Elfstone Linux, the Motif window manager (mwm) and UIL compiler are not part of this distribution.

The interface is somewhat incomplete: in our review copy, GIMP came configured on the menus but Netscape Navigator did not. You'll need to spend some time configuring the desktop for your own use.

In the end, Elfstone Linux is a niche Linux distribution, to be sure. Consumers won�t want to mess with it, as it doesn�t contain many tools that make mainstream distributions like Red Hat Linux and Linux-Mandrake easy to use. But for network professionals and programmers, Elfstone Linux could be an important tool: it is definitely streamlined for server usage, and the inclusion of the OSF/Motif tools and libraries are convenient for anyone needing to develop or maintain OSF/Motif applications.

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