posted by Eugenia Loli on Wed 22nd Oct 2003 17:42 UTC

"Problems, Conclusion"
First Impressions Do Count

Click for a larger version Unfortunately, in the beginning, I found that I couldn't connect to the net, despite the correct network configuration during the installation of the OS. Trying to load redhat-config-network would die out with python errors saying something like "wireless driver was compiled with blah-blah #14, but this application feature #12, so expect problems". Despite that incomprehensible error, it gave me clues that the Airport card inside the Cube is what YDL didn't like. Bringing eth1 down (that's the airport card) wouldn't solve the problem though, because the OS wouldn't put the eth0 (that's the NIC) as the default second interface, even if it was "up". Please note that I don't have my wireless router installed yet (just lazy...), so the Airport inside the Cube is actually serving as a base station when on OSX for our 3 laptops here; that's why I need it in there. But YDL should have defaulted to eth0 after bringing eth1 down, which it didn't. I had to edit /etc/modules.conf and edit out the airport module and reboot. After doing that, I could access the net via eth0 and redhat-config-network wouldn't die on load.

The actual version I installed was YDL 3.0, but 3.0.1 is available via online update. I tried to upgrade immediately after solving my ethernet problem described above. Unfortunately, YUM (the YDL updater) wouldn't download all the RPMs needed for the update and even after using other mirrors it would die out with an error ("ERROR: Url return no content-length - something is wrong") on random packages each time. And the instructed "yum clean headers" didn't do a thing to Yum (searching on the YDL mailing lists I saw that others had the same problem too). I found this version of the application included with YDL to be buggy at best.

To update the system I used APT which is installed by default, but thankfully without (the also buggy on PPC) Synaptic. Getting apt going was also fiddly, I had to edit /etc/apt/sources... file and enter new mirrors there, because it couldn't see YDL's own ftp site either (the site was up, mind you), and I had to comment out the "base" URLs because it was looking for some files that were available on neither the YDL ftp site nor on the mirror one. So, after having only the "update" packages allowed to be used by APT, APT did finally download and upgrade my system to 3.0.1.

There is no 3D support for my GeForce2-MX due to the closed nature of the Nvidia drivers, so some of the installed games (e.g. TuxRacer, Chromium) wouldn't run on acceptable software GL speed. The only other hardware I tried that was not supported on my installation is the iSight Firewire web camera.

My biggest complaint is rapid performance degradation when doing some "simple" things. While the OS and the apps load very fast, performance when moving windows around (especially under Gnome, on KDE the problem was not big), or when playing simple 2D games like LTris (which I have run very comfortably on slower machines than this Cube), or when doing other very simple tasks, take 100% of the CPU time. The Cube might not be the fastest machine around, but it is still considered an absolutely usable *Mac* machine. It even beats many if not all G3-based iBooks at 800 Mhz and is close to the performance of an iBook G3 900 Mhz, which are machines still sold by Apple until yesterday (Here's my XBench, but personal usage experience also confirms this).

"Hardware Browser" dies on start up, every time. As for OOo, it would also die if I tell it to import my address book from (the non-existent) Netscape (the YDL people just told me that the bug was fixed recently on their CVS). Many KDE apps didn't have a Title when launched under Gnome (known Metacity bug many months ago). KSnapshot will die if you try to save a .png from inside Gnome (works under KDE, same bug I saw on my FreeBSD). And finally, I can't browse my WinXP samba share, the same bug as in Red Hat/Fedora (works fine with all other OSes and other Linuxes, it seems to be a Red Hat-specific bug).

Conclusion

Yellow Dog Linux needs some more PPC-specific engineering, bug clean up, optimization and caring, from my point of view. There may be some Apple hardware that runs YDL a bit more effortlessly, but simply porting over Red Hat Linux just doesn't cut it, I require some innovation and differentiation from the OSes I run. I know that the YDL guys are trying hard with limited engineering resources to support all this new Apple hardware that comes out once in a while, but that's not enough to make Mac OS X switchers happy. Mac users are used to the "just works" philosophy and YDL doesn't offer that right now. With fiddling, I am sure you can make this OS do what you need it to do, but I don't see the point of leaving a Unix that runs most of the same apps and just works (Mac OS X) to dual boot with another one that requires fiddling (YDL). I also want to see active changes on the default Gnome and/or KDE that differentiates their product from their competition's, even if just some cosmetic flourishes. I want to see something more exciting than "a Red Hat Linux with more bugs than the original, but on a PPC".

Don't get me wrong, I quite like YDL and it will absolutely stay on my Mac, it is still the easier to install and find support for online (and it has a freely downloadble version). I have a Mac (actually I have two), because I want things to work out of the box, as advertised. YDL has the easiest installation and support of any of these alternative OS systems and so is in the unique position to get more Mac users. But for these users to stay locked on YDL or at least to dual-boot, they need to have this "wow" that they get out of their Mac OS X every now and then. They need a good reason to do so, a reason that I haven't found yet (except running some pre-installed/pre-configured server software that saves installation time compared to OSX Client, and satisfying their OS curiosity).

Unfortunately for any alternative OS in the Mac platform, the standard's bar is too high, set by Mac OS X, no matter if YDL is after a niche market or not and not competing head to head with OSX. OSX for PPCs and Windows on x86 are the "demons" that all alternative commercial OSes will have to face and compete with in one way or another. And in my opinion, YDL has the best potential of them all.

Installation: 9/10
Hardware Support: 8/10
Ease of use: 7/10
Features: 7/10
Credibility: 6.5/10 (stability, bugs, security)
Speed: 7/10 (throughput, UI responsiveness, latency)

Overall: 7.41

Related reading: "Why I Ditched MacOSX for Linux - A Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 Review"

Table of contents
  1. "Installation, Benefits"
  2. "Problems, Conclusion"
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