posted by Peter Olsen on Tue 25th Mar 2003 00:41 UTC
IconThe new Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 brings recent Linux user interface improvements to the PowerPC architecture. Smooth, anti-aliased fonts and the clean, refined style of Red Hat's Blue Curve theme make this a beautiful creation to look at. There are screenshots here, though they aren't big enough to really do it justice.

Running on Apple's well-built laptops, YDL makes an outstanding portable Linux. My 500 MHz iBook was feeling left out since it can't run the latest Quartz Extreme graphics in Mac OS X. YDL 3.0 gives it a fresh life.

I'll offer some thoughts on YDL 3.0 after about a day of use, and give my reasons for giving Linux a place alongside the equally Unix-y Mac OS X.

Getting the software

I paid heavily for getting YDL 3.0 a couple of weeks before everyone else: it cost $60 for a YDL.net account, plus $30 for six months of "YDL.net Enhanced". YDL.net is a modest bonus for Yellow Dog Linux customers, providing a "lifetime" e-mail account with a qualifying purchase. You can also buy an account separately.

The enhanced version is a subscription arrangement with one key benefit: early access to YDL releases. It costs $5 a month for the subscription, with the money collected six months in advance.

YDL 3.0 won't ship until April, but YDL.net Enhanced customers get a username and password to private FTP and HTTP servers. I never did succeed in getting a good image off the FTP server, so stick with the HTTP version (look for instructions as one of the files on the FTP server). Access was slow, even drinking from a large pipe -- a couple of hours per disk -- but that will probably get better as the initial rush subsides.

I used the standard Mac OS X Disk Copy application to burn the images to CD. There's no need for any special software or command line fiddling.

Installation

Because YDL only runs on a limited range of machines, it is much more likely to come with the drivers you need. Linux is often troublesome on x86 laptops, but YDL 3.0 purrs on an Apple laptop. Close the lid and YDL goes to sleep, complete with pulsing light. Pop the lid open and YDL starts working just as fast as Mac OS X. Plug in a USB mouse and it works right away; I only wish I could get my x86 laptop to do the same when running Linux.

The only configuration problem so far is that I haven't been able to get the internal modem to work. I didn't expect it to work, though, since the iBook supposedly has a software modem. But the modem is recognized and does respond to some modem commands, so I have hopes of figuring out a solution.

YDL 3.0 is based on Red Hat 8.0, but with many Mac-specific enhancements and updated packages. The "Blue Curve" theme is renamed "Wonderland," but it's the same thing. Mozilla 1.2.1 is included, and it's the smooth-font version.

Installation looks like RH 8.0 and is based on the same installer program. The default desktop is KDE, so you have to customize the packages if you want GNOME.

And I do suggest using GNOME. The Blue Curve/Wonderland theme looks better under GNOME than KDE: there is something wrong with the gradient on the title bar under KDE. Plus GNOME is much faster to start up.

Table of contents
  1. "Intro, Getting the Software, Installation"
  2. "Appearance, Getting more software, Why run Yellow Dog Linux?"
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