posted by David Barker on Tue 11th Nov 2003 06:11 UTC
IconI'm always looking at different and new Linux distribution's now and then, trying to finally find one that is good enough to overthrow windows on my PC. But all the distributions seem to have a weakness, Mandrake is rpm based, Debian makes it hard to set some things up and Gentoo requires a lot of work and time compiling. And so I decided to try out Libranet.

Introduction

Click for a larger version I?'ve never failed to install a distribution before, I just always give up when fonts are ugly, plug-ins don't work and I can't get my soundcard to do anything. Apparently Libranet fixes this kind of thing, but I had to see it for myself.

These are the specs of my computer which it will be running on. 2.6ghz P4, Abit IC7 motherboard with onboard sound, a NVIDIA Geforce 4mx graphics card, a 80 gigabyte hard drive, a bog-standard network card and 512megs of ram.

Installation

The installer is really good. A nice change from all the graphical ones, which I don't think make installing easier anyway. Also it was all well thought out, it gave me enough choice to be happy it wasn't doing something stupid (I don't like the distribution 's that don't ask for anything but a password because they always do something wrong) but it was still very simple. It detected my quite old monitor perfectly, my graphics card, everything worked. It even installed the propriety NVIDIA drivers and setup duel booting and mounting for my windows partition, Brilliant!

Post- install

Well I prefer Lilo to Grub personally, but it seems to work and I guess choices between the two would just confuse a lot of people that are new to Linux. The install left me with a nice login manager. I was pleased with it because it let me do things like shutting down without needing a root password, which just annoys everyone. If someone can get to the login manager of a computer, they can just switch it off at the mains anyway!

All the window managers work nicely and look like they should, except the menus are very messy. Granted, the fact that Debian puts menu items in stupid places and in separate folders isn't really Libranet's fault and they are trying to stay compatible with Debian, but it would be nice if Libranet could get around it somehow because its pretty pointless. Although it seems quite a small thing to complain about, it really annoys me because I use the menus quite frequently.

Click for a larger version Now, the main thing Libranet is famous for is the admin menu. It's a program, which lets you do a lot of common things like installing nice fonts, installing flash player etc at the click of a button. I really like this because, instead of searching and finding out how to get fonts nice and other basic things, you can do it through the admin menu very easily. I don't think I'll use the admin menu again after its set things up for me though, because I know my way around Linux (just about), but beginners will find it very useful.

The only things I really needed to do myself was to make a desktop icon to take me to smb://workgroup and one to link to the /windows mount that's been setup automatically. I think that it would have been better if Libranet made a windows icon automatically because it asks you earlier if you want it mounted and most people who want it mounted would like a icon.

I also decided to do an apt-get upgrade to unstable, as I like the new gnome etc. Often I find this kills an install, but it worked brilliantly, except it seems to have nerfed the admin menu a little. Now when I click on a button in it, it takes me to the text-based version of the admin menu. It doesn't really matter though, it still does the job.

I really like the way that Libranet tries to make Linux easier to understand and use, rather than trying to emulate windows. I prefer window managers that look roughly like windows (as in a bar at the bottom with a start like button etc) but I hate it when people start trying to copy every last detail of looks instead of focusing on more important things.

Conclusion

Libranet needs some work in a few little ways to make it more obvious to people new to Linux, but in a way I think it's good that they have to figure some things out for themselves, it helps them learn. I tried distributions like Redhat and Mandrake when I started with Linux and I learned very little. Also Libranet provides a lot of support and documentation to their customers so I think it is worth the money for beginners.

For people like me who have dabbled and tried a lot of different distributions but are not Linux gods, this is a great distribution. It gives you a nice clean Debian install with a lot less hassle, but doesn?t customize things too much or break apt-get.

I think Libranet have done a great job. I'm going to carry on using it, and I would recommend it to a friend as well.

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