posted by Kane on Thu 16th Sep 2004 20:38 UTC
IconSome weeks ago, I heard of a new german distribution of Linux especially for older hardware, which is called 'DeLi Linux'. I own an rather old Notebook with a Pentium 90, so I ordered a CD of DeLi for use on my old Notebook. After some days, I hold the CD in my hands.

Installation

First, I inserted the CD into my Winblows box to create the two necessary boot disks, since my Notebook isn't able to directly boot from a cd. This wasn't a problem at all, because there are many different kinds of boot disks to choose from. Of course, there is also the popular Rawrite to create boot floppys from images under Dos/Windows. I chose the standard IDE boot disk, which should be the right choice for most systems.

Actually, also a network install bootdisk is available on the CD. With this boot disk you're also able to do an install of DeLi via a serial cable. DeLi claims to be the first distro supporting an installation over a serial cable. The whole network installation, no matter if either over a serial cable or a 'real' network, has one weak point: Both the client and the server (which is more a problem) have to boot off the DeLi network bootdisk. Since DeLi uses the 2.2.26 version of the Linux Kernel, it's a problem to get most modern (typically onboard) network controllers, which may work in the server, to work with it. Of course, you can also install the whole thing from ftp (DeLi uses netcat for the file transfers in its network bootdisk), but this isn't automated in any way yet.

But basically, the installation is quite o.k. for such a beta product. After you booted from the two disks, you have to log in as root and manually start the installer, deliinstall. Deliinstall sets up your basic system, sets up root password, boot loader (an old version of lilo), and reboots your system. Now you can perform your first hard disk boot of DeLi.


Configuration

Now, as your basic system is running, we can go on with the configuration. DeLi comes with a package tool named delipkg, which offers a small range of programs that come with DeLi. Of course the selection of the programs is trimmed to low-end, there is for example XFree86 3.6, Sylpheed, fluxbox, icewm, dillo, ...

DeLi is intended for using the IceWM window manager with it; only IceWM has all correct menu shortcuts to the installed programs.

From my view, the inclusion of such an old Version of XFree86 wasn't a good idea; I used XFree86 4.0.1 on the Notebook before, also with IceWM, and it was noticeably faster than the older version. Maybe the new drivers for my Trident 9835 graphics chip are better. Besides from that, the selection of included software is quite o.k. when you keep in mind that it is intended for use on old hardware.

Sylpheed is an excellent mail client, and Siag Office does its job quite well. The only thing that I was missing is an alternatibe graphical web browser to dillo. Dillo is just very beta at the time; it has no support for ssl encryption and doesn't render most we pages too well. I would recommend to include another old web browser as an alternative; probably Netscape 4.8.

The other configuration tool used in DeLi is delisetup. It handles many aspects of general system configuration, such as setting up your network or other basic configuration tasks. Both tools are very much self-explanatory and have a nice ncurses frontend. Setting up X wasn't a problem at all, just the usual xf86config. What is kind of negative for notebook users is, that DeLi doesn't set up PCMCIA automatically. You have to insert the right modules on your own in /etc/rc.d/rc.modules.


Using DeLi Linux for everyday work

DeLi is generally meant as a complete desktop distribution, and therefore comes with enough low-end software to do your everyday work.

-Dillo
Dillo is the only web browser included in DeLi. It's very much a beta version at this time, e.g. SSL is missing, there is no bookmarks system and it renders many pages not very nice. But it uses less resources than any other browser out there. as I mentioned before, I would recommend to include an alternative browser to dillo.

-Sylpheed
What should I say, Sylpheed is simply one of the two best mail clients in the world (of which Thunderbird is the second one :))! It supports multiple mail accounts, PGP,...

-Tkftp
Tkftp is DeLi's graphical ftp client. Nothing revolutionary, but better than using the command-line ftp ;)

-Siag Office
Siag Office is named after its spreadsheet, which is also called Siag. Siag Office is a complete office environment, with spreadsheet (as mentioned before), word processor (called 'Pathetic Writer') and some little other tools, like a text editor. Siag Office tries its best to imitate MS Office/OpenOffice, which results in the fact that it's very easy to use and relatively feature-rich.

-Gtksee
Gtksee is DeLi's image viewer, which didn't use at all.

-Emelfm
Emelfm is a classical two-pane file manager, in the style of Norton/Midnight Commander. As its ancestors it's quite easy to use and makes life without Konqueror/Nautilus a bit easier ;)


Conclusion

I think, DeLi Linux is a good attempt to create a Linux distro specialised to older hardware. What it currently lacks of, is the amount of software included. I understand that the developer wants to keep it small in size, but I think this should only be appliable to the software you have installed on your hard disk; on the CD or in the ISO, some more software should be included, mainly alternatives to already available types of software (to mention it again, the Dillo/Netscape thing...;)). Also the using of a 2.2 series kernel was a wise choice; to mention an example, the PCMCIA controller of my Notebook is only supported by kernels up to 2.2 - it was dropped in 2.4. The installation system is yet quite o.k. for such a young distro. Maybe the amount of system settings supported by delisetup will grow in the future.

About the Author:
Kane is a student in Germany and currently playing around with some unknown Linux distros on his old Notebook. Besides, he likes playing First-Person-Shooters a lot ;). Oh, apart from computers, he likes reading Tom Clancy-Books a lot.


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