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DistributionWatch Review: Libranet 1.2.2 - page 2

Introducing Linux by Libranet

  • May 30, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

Libranet is a purely commercial form of Linux, available only on by purchase from its Web site. You can't download it, either. Once ordered, it comes in the mail a few days later. Normally the product costs $39 (U.S.), plus $5 shipping and handling, but its price was recently lowered to $10, plus S&H.

This inability to download the distribution in any form is a big hurdle, considering other distributions let you pull down at least a minimal installation. The exclusive use of postal shipments is a really slow channel to take and it's odd that Libra does not take advantage of third-party commercial distribution sites on the Web.

Once you receive your order in the mail, the package is pretty basic: the CD itself and an 11-page installation guide are the sole contents.

If Libranet wants to position itself as an easy-to-use distribution, then the installation guide will need quite bit of work. It presents the user with a bare minimum of information on how to prep your machine for a Linux installation. For those not interested in a lot of theoretical fluff, this may be appealing. But less experienced Linux users are going to find these instructions confusing and more than a little daunting. For example, the user is asked to gather basic information about his or her computer, but there is no hint as to where this information is found. Sure, many of us know where the network card info is found--but many other PC users do not.

The actual installation of Libranet in this review was performed on an AMD K6 processor PC with 96MB RAM with a 6.1 GB partition. This falls well within the lines of Libranet's minimum installation guidelines of a 486 PC with 16MB RAM and 700 MB of hard drive space, and the recommended guidelines of a Pentium box with 32MB RAM and 2.0 GB of disk space.

When you boot up the Libranet CD, you get the first clue that something is odd: the caption of the text-based installation application identifies it as a Debian/GNU Linux 2.2 installation. And that is basically what this installation was: a souped-up Debian install.

Unfortunately, there were some problems along the way. After configuring the keyboard, the user is asked to create a swap partition and a root partition and does present the option of using existing Linux partitions. Despite what the program says about reformatting, it did not format existing partitions but rather installed Libranet atop whatever you have there to begin with. This was a confusing mess, to be sure. The best option is to use the partition option and re-write the partition tables on your hard drive. This definitely wipes the slate clean.

Once the partitions are sorted out, the OS, kernel and modules are loaded. The user is then asked to configure the device drivers, but Libranet recommends you skip this step until later.

Network configuration was straightforward: host name, domain name, etc. No serious curves here, though the installation did not offer the option of using DHCP, as other distributions do.

After network configuration came the installation of the base system, which takes a good chunk of time. You are then asked to configure the base system, which is nothing more than choosing time zone and then method of booting Linux. Choosing the boot from hard disk option seems the most logical, but dual-OS users should beware: the LILO installer will not automatically make an entry for your other OS. You need to go into /etc/lilo.conf and configure this yourself later.

After making your first version of the boot floppy and a reboot, you can now select from one of several package installation options. There are, to put it mildly, a lot of packages that can be installed, which is one of Libranet's true strengths. The selection process was a bit tedious, but easy to follow. Once the packages are selected, the installer unpacks and installs the packages without a hitch.

After the packages are installed, the mouse is detected and configured, and them you can reconfigure the kernel. This is where to enter sound card information, at the very least. My sound card was in the list, as was my network card, so no alarms went off there. Another version of the boot floppy is made, and the recompile is complete.

After kernel recompilation, X Window is configured using the XF86config application. The installer did a good job recognizing my video card, which I could then use to plug in the Card settings in XF86config.

When XF86config was finished, this was pretty much the end of the interactive section of the installation. A few automatic steps and a reboot later, and Linux by Libranet is ready to go.

This was not an exceptionally bad install (I have seen a lot worse), but in terms of sequence and time, it was not very good, either. It falls way short of an "easy" install, which is going to really throw new users. I would urge beginners to follow the installation guide carefully. Though it lacks detail, it does step users thought the process accurately and succinctly.

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