posted by Matt Lacey on Mon 3rd Nov 2003 02:56 UTC
IconVector Linux is a distribution based on the oldest Linux distribution available today - Slackware. It comes in two flavours - a freely downloadable ISO 'lite' version (which I used for this review) and a Deluxe CD edition which can be ordered from www.vectorlinux.com. The deluxe edition includes extras such as Gnome and KDE, as well as a whole pile of extra software.

Installation

Click for a larger version The installation of Vector was a relatively simple affair, using a non-graphical, but nevertheless easy-to-use, dialog driven installer. The kernel choice was simple (IDE or SCSI) and the installer even checks the base install file for errors, which is handy. One issue for a new Linux user would be the partitioning.

The user is given a choice of parted or cfdisk to sort out the partitioning. This could prove difficult for those without a knowledge of partitioning basics, although parted does allow partition resizing, which is a plus for those with one big Windows partition. For me, the process simply involved creating one partition in my unpartitioned space using cfdisk, as I already had a swap partition on the drive for Slackware.

Having selected ext3 for the file system type (the standard options were available : ext2, ext3 or ReiserFS), the installer proceeded to add the base package and then presented me with a simple yes/no dialog to see if I wanted X or not. I did; I clicked yes.

Once X had been installed, it asked if I wanted to perform some basic system configuration and I was amused by the dialog for this one - "select 'no' if you think this puppy will run ok without it (hint: it won't)."

It was at this point that I hit a problem - a Lilo configuration menu popped up (asking if I wanted to do automatic or expert installation of Lilo), but the keyboard stopped working. I tried unplugging and plugging in the USB connector again, but to no avail. Plugging in the PS/2 connector however, did work. I should point out this might not work on all machines - I have known some that need to be restarted to get them to register a PS/2 keyboard that wasn't there on boot up. Once the keyboard was functioning again, I installed Lilo to the super block of the root partition so that I could boot that from XOSL (a great boot loader).

Following Lilo, there were no other problems in the configuration - it's all pretty basic stuff, and it detected my sound card, mouse, DVD drive with no troubles. As well as detecting my Realtek NIC, it even detected my onboard LAN which I don't use as I can't be bothered to find Windows drivers for it!

The last stage of the install presented me with a simple menu to configure a modem, PPP connection, PCMCIA support, the system timezone, and a quick note to the effect that the system was installed, and all I had to do was reboot, login as root and use 'passwd' to set a root password. Job done. To get to this stage it took me a grand total of nineteen minutes!

Starting up...

The first time I booted Vector, it took a little longer to start that I was expecting but this was my own fault - I specified that the network card should use DHCP for configuration (forgetting that I disabled the DHCP server on my router the day before XO)

A quick 'netconfig' and a 'shutdown -r now' and I was impressed by the boot speed. I tried to ping my router, and it worked fine; tried to ping google and it didn't work. Then I remembered that I had also disabled the name server on my router, so used Nano (a nice easy to use text editor like Pico) to edit /etc/resolv.conf and put in my ISP's nameserver inplace of my router.

X (Version 4.3)

I realised at this stage that I should be able to start up X since it asked about some screen resolutions etc. during the installation process. 'startx' did the required trick and up popped a nice menu for me to start from. The only problem was the mouse didn't work. I moved down to quit using the cursor keys and was released back into the land of the console. A quick check of the XFree log revealed that it was attempting to use /dev/input/mice for the mouse device but the X log file said this device didn't exist. I noted that there was a /dev/mouse link, and tried to use readlink to find out where it pointed to only to find that readlink wasn't installed. Before I tried anything else I simply changed the mouse device to /dev/mouse in the X config file and it worked. I noticed however that upon rebooting the machine X would fail to open the mouse device again (this time using /dev/mouse) and hence it wouldn't work. This happened every time I booted vector and I usually spent a while trying different devices until one worked. I have realised since however that after a short period of time X will find the device when it starts and it works fine from then on. I'm not sure what the problem is but my guess is that it's something to do with USB hotplugging.

An interesting point to make here is that it did detect my graphics card and set it up with no troubles (GeForce FX 5800) - something that rarely seems to happen with this card.

Anyway, back to the menu - the following options are presented when you start up X:

- Fluxbox (ver. 0.1.14)
- IceWM (ver. 1.2.7)
- XFCE (ver. 3.8.18 - unfortunately not the new and much improved XFCE 4)
- XTerm
- Edit Menu
- Exit Stage Left
- Shutdown the System

Again I was pleased to find some humour involved - it always makes the OS more enjoyable to use (remember some of the classic moments in BeOS?). I was a little dissapointed that neither KDE or Gnome are installed but not surprised either - Vector aims to be a small distribution, and you can't be small with either of those around. What was more dissapointing for me was that WindowMaker was nowhere to be seen - by far my favourite of the 'lite' window managers.

Table of contents
  1. "Vector Linux Review, Page 1"
  2. "Vector Linux Review, Page 2"
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