posted by Michael Katsevman on Thu 6th Nov 2003 19:33 UTC
IconDebian is widely considered the Linux distribution with the best package management tool, APT and one of the largest software bases (>13,000). However, the installation horror stories kept me away. Nevertheless, eager to try it out, I failed to install various other Debian GNU/Linux based distributions. Some failed to boot even after I tried to reinstall for the fourth time, and others just couldnít detect my hardware. While Knoppix is highly recommended, I decided to stick with hard-drive based distros (Although it is the distribution of choice for LiveCDs). Then came Libranet.

Libranet allows the great flexibility and easy package management of Debian with a smooth, painless installation. But, oh woe, it does not have a free downloadable version! Iím a proponent of free speech and free beer, so I decided to stay away from Libranet for a while.

My yearning for a trouble-free installation coupled with rock-solid Debian was finally fulfilled when the gentle folks at Libranet decided to release Libranet 2.7 Classic, essentially Libranet 2.8 with an older kernel (2.4.19 instead of 2.4.21 in Libranet 2.8.1) and a smaller selection of packages; but with APT the system can easily be extended and upgraded.

The ISO was downloaded, burned, and ready to go in no time thanks to a speedy broadband connection. I proceeded to my test machine; running Windows XP sprawled over the full capacity of the 80 GB drive.

As Libranet does not support NTFS partitioning, Partition Magic quickly and painlessly created a 256 MB Swap partition, using the good olí RAM x 2 rule of thumb, and a 25 GB ext3 partition.

Test System:
†††* AMD K7-2 750 MHz
†††* Asus K7-2 Mainboard
†††* IBM DeskStar 120 80GB HD
†††* SiS 6326 4MB AGP Video Card
†††* Creative Ensoniq Vibra 128 Sound Card
†††* AOpen 52x CD-ROM
†††* Linksys LEN100XT
†††* Gateway EV700 Monitor


Libranet booted off the CD without a hitch. I was greeted by a classic text-based (CURSES, not console) installation, which might scare some people, but the menus are very simple, and the explanations are excellent. I then proceeded to select my partitions, set the time zone, language and install the base system. Everything went smoothly and with the least amount of user intervention possible without throwing configurability to the wind. No choice of partition type is provided, ReiserFS is always used. It set up GRUB (There is no option to install LILO) flawlessly, detecting Windows, and asking me whether to add it to the boot menu. There was the option of putting GRUB in the Master Boot Record (overwriting any other boot managers I might have), in the first sector of the partition, or on a boot diskette. I chose to put it in the MBR and crossed my fingers that everything would work fine.

For stage two, I remove the CD and rebooted. It loaded smooth as butter. I set up the root account and any other users (only one in my case). Unlike 2.8.1 this Classic version of Libranet does not give automatic access to the Windows partitions (Later, you can mount FAT partitions manually).

Next I was prompted to insert the CD back into the drive, and proceeded with package selection. There were several categories such as Windows Managers, Samba, Internet, etc. I decided to choose everything except the PCMCIA drivers.

The scroll-fest began, displayed no warning messages for most packages, and even those that didnít install it just skipped and went on, as they were of no import. I suggest getting up, having a stretch and drinking a cup or six of your beverage of choice.

After the packages were installed it launched the sound configuration utility, which correctly detected my sound card, but failed to load the correct module, loading Ďdisabledí instead. I decided to fix that later so I continued to the network configuration which I chose to skip as well. I painlessly set up the X-Windows system the script having detected my video card, my monitor, and loaded the correct modules.

This is where the installation ended so I turned the machine off and went to sleep.

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  1. "Libranet review, Page 1"
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