posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 18th Mar 2002 18:07 UTC
IconMany companies tried to create a truly easy-to-use Linux distribution, but as they say in Greece "they reached the well, but weren't able to drink water". Corel, Mandrake, Lindows, Xandros, Stormix and many other distros tried or are still trying to bring Linux closer to Windows' ease of use and the millions of the desktop-oriented users. One of the new distributions that has many people impressed so far, is Lycoris (formerly known as 'Redmond Linux'). OSNews tested the latest Lycoris Desktop/LX and here is what we experienced.


Lycoris employs a custom version of Caldera's Lizard application as the installation program. The version the Lycoris folks sent me for the review is the Desktop/LX version, which includes a single bootable CD in a DVD case with a 28-pages manual. Installation was easy and speedy. Installation on our dual PIII 450 Mhz seemed to go well and I could play a Solitaire game while waiting for the installation to complete in the background. Except for the usernames, geographic location and partitioning, there was not much more that I had to do for the installation, which was fairly quick and automatic. Lycoris currently uses ext3 as the file system of choice. However, I hope that future versions of Lycoris will use a file automatically for their swap space instead of a real partition - in addition to the / partition. This will greatly simplify the installation process for many users and won't fragment their hard drives.

After the installation is over, Lycoris does not reset (cold boot) the PC, but loads the distribution from the hard drive. Speaking from my experience on many OSes, this is not generally the right way of doing things, as a lot of devices failed to initialize correctly. My second CPU was not working and the audio baffled out completely after opening a second application that required access to the audio device. Rebooting "for real" fixed these issues for me. All my hardware (CD, CD-R, sound, video, TVCard, network card, peripherals) was correctly recognized and configured by the Lycoris installation routine.

Lycoris Experience, Part I

Booting could have been faster for Lycoris as there are no services loading with the system. No Apache, no mySQL or any other server software that you find on many distributions. Some traditional Unix commands, such as 'locate', are not present either. Lycoris is promoted as a desktop environment and no such software is is to be found either on the CD or on the booting sequence. While booting is pretty fast, for some reason the FAT32 mounting is very slow (the OS mounts every supported partition on boot by default). It took 2 minutes to mount two FAT32 partitions (9 and 18 GB respectively), while the rest of the OS loading did not take more than 40 seconds. A shame really - I hope this (inconvenience mostly) will be fixed or altered to a faster algorithm.

Lycoris, being a desktop-centric distribution, loads into graphical mode automatically. The KDE login manager will present you with a dialog asking you to insert your login and password as created previously in the installation phase. There is also a handy drop-down menu option to restart the X Server and another option to reboot or shutdown the computer.

Seconds later, KDE 2.2.2 is loaded and you are presented with a nice WindowsXP-like nature background image and some good looking XP-like desktop icons, as the screenshots show. This is basically a KDE installation with a bunch of good-looking icons and a lightly tweaked Konqueror to show the local and remote drives and networks in a friendly manner. Having everything mounted by default really helps the desktop user make immediate use of the machine, instead of battling with the 'mount' command on a Terminal (no, there is no 'linuxconf' included). The KDE menu is loaded with useful applications, but it is not as "bloated" as with many other distros which try to include everything under the sun. Everything has sensible software category names on the Kmenu and it is easy to navigate around it. Lycoris includes only one application for each type of application a desktop user needs. One spreadsheet application, one word processor (only some of the KOffice packages are included), one text editor (kedit), one mp3 player (XMMS), one scanner app (Kooka), one graphics app (GIMP), one graphics viewer etc. Among others, there is Java 1.3 included, KFax, Real Player 8, Flash, CD burning software, KMail etc. For DVD and mpeg, XINE is included. I found XINE to have problems though and be very unstable on my dual PC. Also, the other media player included, NotATun, did not work for me at all. GTK+ libraries are installed, so you can run GTK+ applications, but there is no GNOME or other window managers. There is only one of each kind, because a desktop OS should be easy to understand and administer. Simplicity is important, at all levels, so the inclusion only of KDE is a logical step and a well thought out decision.

For system configuration, Lycoris includes both the standard KDE Control Center (with additional modules to add/edit/remove users and the ability to load device drivers directly from the GUI and configure networking) and another panel called "kXconfig" where you can change your video card information, monitor, keyboard, mouse, screen res etc. On my PC, the only device that it did not have a visual way of configuring (/etc/modules.conf text editing was the last resort) was my TV Card. In fact, my PCI WinTV Hauppauge Bt878 was the way to go if I wanted to... lock my system. While the system detected and configured the TV Card correcly, if I loaded XawTV, the system would lock up. From what I understood of the kind of artifacts I got just before the crash, I think the tv card requested some kind of hardware acceleration or overlay and my Voodoo3 did not react well on that request (Lycoris ships with the fairly old XFree 4.01, which may be the culprit). It seems that I am not the only one with the exact same problems with a Bt8x8/Voodoo3 combination. Editing the /etc/modules.conf and taking out some Bt8x8 configuration listed there, I could launch the app, and it would still crash X, but at least it would not freeze the whole machine.

Lycoris uses Mozilla 0.9.7 as its main browser. I installed the latest Mozilla 0.9.9 binary and it worked fine too. Other Internet software included with Lycoris are ICQ and AIM clients, a (GTK+) FTP client, an IRC client etc. This setup seemed to work well for the every day needs of a desktop user.

Table of contents
  1. "Installation, Lycoris Experience Part I"
  2. "Lycoris Experience Part II, Conclusion"
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