I was quite distressed when I read the article in the July 2003 Consumer Reports about the Wal-Mart $300 Computer. I’ve been a big fan of Consumer Reports for years. But this time I didn’t feel that they really
did a fair comparison of the Wal-Mart Linux PC’s. So I decided to do one of my own.
Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of osnews.com
I feel that should have done more thorough testing of the Lindows OS machine they had, and more importantly, tested the other versions that were available. I felt like they dismissed Linux without even scratching the surface.
Then last week the WalMart.com $199 PC I had ordered arrived (with
Lycoris Linux on it). And much to my
chagrin, after I completed the setup, it wouldn’t even boot into the desktop.
I was quite disturbed by this.
And finally yesterday ExtremeTech tested the new Lindows OS 4.0 and gave it
a fairly glowing review. They went so far as to say it passed the “Mom” test.
This raised all sorts of doubts in my mind. I have been using Linux as my
main operating system* for over five years. In the beginning it was a little
rough around the edges. Installation was more difficult and the software was
hit and miss. But it really has steadily improved and now I do almost
everything I need to do with it. I do word processing, spreadsheets, digital
camera, scanner, mp3’s, audio processing, photo editing, e-mail, surfing the
web, and banking. Furthermore, my wife (a self-proclaimed techno-idiot) and
her daughters have been using Linux on their PC’s for years as well. And with
absolutely minimal coaching from me, I might add.
Is Linux usable as a desktop OS for the masses? I decided that since I
had this Wal-Mart PC right here, and all of the common Linux distributions,
I whould try out some common functions with each of the distributions and
see how they stack up.
* Assisted by Mac OS and BeOS when needed.
Since this is the distribution that came pre-installed on my WalMart.com PC, I of course
tested it first. I’m not sure specifically which version of Lycoris was installed.
When the PC arrived, I plugged it and powered it up. It booted ok and I was greeted with
a few dialog boxes for configuration (password, etc.). At the time I did not make any notes,
and now I can’t remember everything that I had to do. It seems like there were 4 or 5 things
that had to be done.
But after I logged in all I got was the Lycoris background and a undecorated (no window
controls) terminal window with a “noname:~$” command prompt. I tried logging out and back in
with the same result. I rebooted the machine, logged in again and still got nothing but a
white terminal window in the lower right corner of the screen. The mouse buttons did nothing.
There were no icons or anything anywhere to click on.
Well this isn’t very good. I wasn’t impressed. I was downright dismayed. What would your
regular consumer think of this? I would think “This Linux thing SUCKS!!”. I would probably
just box it up and ship it back!
So I looked in the manual to see what the support deal was. Lycoris only has online support
and my experiences to date with online support have been less than optimal. (I’ve found it’s
usually a day or two, if you get a responce at all.) But wait… Microtel has
an 800 number, maybe I’ll just give it a jingle and see how that goes. Will I have
to sit in a phone queue for 45 minutes? More than likely. But hey, my time isn’t that
But no, I got right through to a human. I didn’t care for the answer at all. I explained
the situation to him and he asked me how old my monitor was. ????What??? (Pause while my
brain tries to evaluate this question.)
I said “I have no idea”. He explained that Linux may not recognize a monitor that was more
than two years old. I said it was more than two years old, but I doubted that was the
problem, since it has worked fine with several other Linuxes. He persisted that the monitor
was the problem. I told him that I got a perfectly fine display to log in and I got a window,
it was just that it was a “terminal” window. He insisted that I must try it with a newer
monitor, so I gave up and said “Thanks, I’ll give it a try” and said goodbye.
I was willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, so I connected it to a completely different
monitor, one that has worked fine with every Linux distribution known to man… ok, well, the
dozen or two I’ve tried. Same thing. After logging in, all I got was the same dumb terminal
window with the “noname:~$” prompt.
Hmmmm, what to do now? There was a CD included with
the machine labeled “Lycoris Rescue CD”, I wonder what it does? Perhaps it will fix the problem?
I put it in and booted with it. Apparently it was just a Lycoris installation CD. I didn’t
want to trash the existing installation because I was curious what the problem was. But
I was also curious if maybe there was just something wrong with the install. I had another
unused hard drive sitting there, so I swapped it into the WalMart PC and tried installing from
the “Lycoris Rescue CD”.
This was a complete flop. I went through the installation just fine. It wasn’t too difficult.
It took a while to install all of the packages. Then I was instructed to remove the disk and
reboot. I did so and it appeared to be shutting down as I expected. But then it just stopped
there, with some pretty colored text on the screen. Was it done? There was no disk activity.
Seems kind of weird, just stopping. I would think that it would have turned off the machine,
rebooted it, or given me some sort of message about what to do. I waited a couple more minutes,
but there was still no activity. I guessed that it must be done, so I rebooted. Nada. Nothing.
No operating system found. Nice!
Well this is curious! I wondered if I had gotten too impatient and stopped it before it was
ready? So I did the whole install thing all over again. But this time, I let it sit there for
15 minutes after it appeared to be finished. Just in case it was still doing something (although
I couldn’t imagine what could be taking so long). I waited a few more minutes, still no activity.
Reboot. Same deal… nothing. This was an excersize in futility 🙁
I decided what the hell. Maybe I’ll give the Lycoris online support a go. It was late Friday
evening by this point, but I might get really lucky and get a response on Monday. So I went to the
Lycoris website and dug around a bit before I figured out
where I had to go for WalMart / Microtel support. I had to register using the code included with
the “Rescue” CD include with the machine. Then I submitted a support request.
A few minutes later I checked my e-mail just to make sure I got a confirmation of my request.
Sure enough there was a confirmation and lo and behold immediately following it (no spam e-mail
in between) was a RESPONSE. I was astounded! Never before have I gotten online support that fast.
Amazing! And on a Friday night no less. (Where would they ever find a geek to work on Friday
And better yet… they had the solution to my problem. They pointed me to instructions on how
to delete a file called “.wmrc” and sure enough. I logged in again and I got a normal desktop.
Nice! But I was still a bit dismayed. The instructions said that for some unknown reason this
“.wmrc” file was put there by a clean install. Maybe it’s just me, but I would think maybe
somebody would want to look into why this happens.
I played with it a bit after that just to find out how well it worked. There was a flash
presentation that explained how to use everything and that was cool. I liked the menu layout
and desktop. But overall I have to say that I was not impressed.
I tried to play an audio CD, and it appeared to be playing, but no sound would come out.
Tried to play an MP3 file, and it would start to play when I clicked on the file, but then
the XMMS file dialog would pop up and it would stop. If I selected the MP3 file in the XMMS
dialog it didn’t do anything.
It had Xine installed to play DVD’s, even though the machine only came with a CD-ROM drive.
I swapped in a DVD-ROM drive, but when I tried to play a DVD it gave me an error that it didn’t
have some decoder thing installed or something or other.
It had CD burning software installed, even though the CD-ROM drive that came in the machine
was not capable of burning a CD. I swapped in a CD burner, but when I tried to burn a CD it
complained that it couldn’t find “/usr/bin/cdrecord”. I checked and “/usr/bin/cdrecord” was
there. I don’t know what it’s problem was.
I tried to listen to my internet radio station but XMMS
didn’t do anything. No error messages, or anything. It just sat there. I fiddled around a
bit, but never got it to do anything.
I plugged in my digital camera and it appeared like something was happening, but then nothing
happened. I messed with the “Use Digital Camera” application, but couldn’t get it to work.
So, I give Lycoris the thumbs down. In my opinion it was really bad that it didn’t work
correctly when I took it out of the box. Then most of the stuff (beyond playing CD’s and surfing
the web) I tried to do didn’t work and gave me either no error messages or really cryptic
messages. I’m afraid that I have to agree with Consumer Reports on this one.
|Version||Lycoris Linux (specific version unknown)|
|Installation||Pre-installed but did not work (see text above).|
|Change Screen Resolution||Easy but had to log out and back in.|
|Word Processing||KWord worked. I could not find OpenOffice so I’m assuming it was
|Mount Data CD||Didn’t work at first, messed around with CD automount utility and
automounts ok now.
|Play Audio CD||No, appeared to be playing but no audio came out.|
|Play MP3’s||No, tried to play, but stopped after a second or so.|
|Play DVD||No, missing some decoder or something.|
|Play Internet Radio Station||No, I could not get this to work.|
|Rip and Encode MP3’s|
|Burn CD||No, could not find “cdrecord”.|
|Printer||No, it couldn’t find any printer attached.|
|Digital Camera||No. When I plugged in the camera there was disk activity and then
a chime. But when I tried to use the “Use Digital Camera” application
it couldn’t find the camera.
|Scanner||No. it couldn’t find my scanner.|
|Additonal Software Installation||I couldn’t figure it out.|
|ssh and scp||Yes.|
|emacs||No, some emacs files are present, but no executable.|
Lindows OS 3.0 was on the previous WalMart $199 PC I purchased. Unlike
Lycoris it worked perfectly the first time
I plugged it in. I fooled around with it a little but could not get the
MySQL to work so I used an alternative
on that machine.
For anyone unfamiliar with Lindows, their business model is different
than the other Linux distributors. Lindows sells a subscription to the
Click-N-Run warehouse. The price now is down to $49 a year or $4.95 a
month. So their distribution is does not come with as many packages
installed as other distibutions. Instead you can download the packages
from the Click-N-Run warehouse as you need them. (On the bright side it
installs much faster than the other distributions 🙂
As I mentioned in the introduction I
Mom Meets Linux article on
Extreme Tech website and they gave Lindows 4.0 a fairly decent review,
so I decided to give it another look.
I had much better results than I did with
Lycoris. I had to download some software from the Click-N-Run warehouse,
which was pretty simple.
Most of the stuff I tried actually worked. I had trouble with Ripping
and Encoding MP3’s from a CD. I downloaded Grip from Click-N-Run and it
installed without any apparent trouble. But when I tried to run it, it
complained that it could not find the oggenc encoder. Which I thought was
strange, because there shouldn’t be any grief over licensing with
Ogg Vorbis. So just for grins I tried
changing Grip to use Lame with the same
result. This isn’t a surprise because MP3’s DO have a
One of the things I don’t like about Lindows is that it runs as root
(administrator). When I tried to run XSane it warned against running it
One thing I thought was kind of strange was that it only allowed screen
resolutions of 640×480 and 1024×768. I would have expected to at least get
800×600. Just to test it I changed to 640×480 and restarted it. It changed
but it moved all of the icons that were lined up neatly along the left side
and spread them out all over the place and some seemed overlapped. Then when
I changed back to 1024×768 of course the icons were still screwed up.
Lindows OS is based upon Debian Linux
and I have heard that you can use Debian’s “apt-get” program to install
software in Lindows. Just for grins I tried to use “apt-get” to install the
“emacs” editor. It didn’t work and I suspect that it wasn’t configured
correctly. If one took the time to set it up (and learn how to use it) I
believe you could use that to install any of the Debian software packages.
Overall I was fairly pleased with Lindows OS 4.0. I feel that a Linux
newbie could probably use it and accomplish many tasks without a lot of grief.
I give it the thumbs up. I hope Consumer Reports retests.
|Version||Lindows OS 4.0|
|Installation||Very simple. I would say this is the easiest installation of all
the Linuxes I have tried.
|Change Screen Resolution||Yes, but the only choices were 640×480 and 1024×768 and had to
|Word Processing||Yes, installed OpenOffice from Click-N-Run, there were many others
available as well.
|Mount Data CD||Auto mounted when I inserted the disc and unmounted when I pressed
the eject button on the drive.
|Play Audio CD||Yes, auto played when I inserted the CD.|
|Play DVD||Yes, had to download player from Click-N-Run Warehouse.|
|Play Internet Radio Station||Yes. This is the first Linux I’ve used which automatically brought
up XMMS and played.
|Rip and Encode MP3’s||No, downloaded Grip from Click-N-Run, but the encoders were apparently
|Printer||Yes. The set-up had some complicated questions, but it
set up the printer and it worked.
Yes, I just plugged in the camera and a folder opened on the screen.
|Scanner||No, installed XSane with Click-N-Run, but it couldn’t find my scanner
|Additonal Software Installation||Click-N-Run. Very easy to use.|
|ssh and scp||No.|
|emacs||No, but Xemacs is available for download from Click-N-Run.|
It should be noted that I did NOT buy the WalMart PC with SuSE installed
from the factory. There is a PC availabe from WalMart.com with SuSE Linux
pre-installed, but it is more than $199. I bought the $199 PC with
Lycoris pre-installed and I installed
SuSE Linux 8.2 from a box set.
It would have been nicer if the icon for the camera was a camera and/or
the icon name was camera or something more obvious than “sda1”.
Grip installed and worked fine encoding
Ogg Vorbis files, but because the Lame MP3 encoder was not present it
could not encode MP3 files. This is due to a legal issue with the proprietary
MP3 format and I believe that no one is allowed to distribute executable copies
of Lame. I normally build Lame from the source files which can be downloaded
Although, it isn’t terribly difficult, it would be extra work because the
default installation does not include developer tools.
I encountered the same problem with playing a DVD with Xine. When I brought
it up there was a message on the screen that it may not be able to play all
formats due to legal restrictions. This is a major bummer.
And finally I couldn’t get it to burn a CD. It thought the burner was
reader only and I could not figure out how to change it. Perhaps it would
have done better if I had the burner installed during installation. But then
people do add burners to their systems afterwards.
One thing I thought was bad about SuSE was the menus, as far as a newcomer
to Linux goes, was they were pretty cryptic. Would a newcomer know that he/she
needed to select “YaST2” to do system configuration? And having multiple
“Control Centers” is confusing to me, none the less to a newbie.
I feel like SuSE Linux is a good system, but for the more expienced user.
I’m not sure it would be a good system for a Linux newcomer.
|Version||SuSE Linux 8.2|
|Installation||Pro-active. The installation gives you a menu of what it’s going to
do and you have to select the things you want to change. It’s easy if
you want the default selections, if not you need to know what
you want to change.
|Change Screen Resolution||Yes, then had to log out and back in. Did not have to restart.|
|Word Processing||Yes, OpenOffice was already installed.|
|Mount Data CD||Auto mounted when I clicked on the CD-ROM icon. Could not just eject
the disc, but had to right click on CD-ROM and unmount first.
|Play Audio CD||Yes.|
|Play DVD||No, I installed Xine with YaST2 but when I tried to play a DVD it
came up with an error message that I didn’t have the correct decoder.
|Play Internet Radio Station||Yes. Automatically brought up XMMS and played.
|Rip and Encode MP3’s||
No, I installed Grip with YaST2 and it could rip and encode to
Ogg Vorbis format. But since
lame was not installed (no doubt due to licensing issues) it could
not encode to MP3 format.
|Burn CD||No, K3B could thought the CD-Writer was a CD-Reader only.|
|Printer||Yes, setup was very simple it found the printer and I clicked on OK.|
|Digital Camera||Yes, a new “disk drive” icon appeared when I plugged in the camera.
|Scanner||No, I configured the scanner in YaST2 and ran XScanImage and it
behaved like it was working. But the output files just had a little
tiny square in them.
|Additonal Software Installation||YaST2, pretty easy.|
|ssh and scp||Yes.|
It should be noted that I did NOT buy the WalMart PC with Mandrake Linux
installed from the factory. There was a PC availabe from WalMart.com with
Mandrake Linux pre-installed, but I could not find it last time I looked.
I don’t know if it is still available or not. I bought the $199 PC with
Lycoris pre-installed and I installed
Mandrake Linux 9.1 from a box set.
Mandrake Linux is the only Linux I have tested so far, where I could get
my scanner to work. I simply plugged it in and clicking on the XSane icon
on the desktop worked. I was able to scan in a picture and save it as a .jpeg
file. I also tried the “Kooka” application found under the menu and it worked
When I tried to play MP3’s with XMMS no sound came out. It appeared to be
playing, but no sound. The volume control on XMMS was set to zero, so I
thought that was the problem, but when I turned it up there was still no
sound. Finally, I brought up aumix from the Multimedia->Sound menu and it
was set to zero as well. Then I got fooled again when playing a CD and
once again had to bring up aumix to set the volume up on the CD player.
When I plugged in the camera a hard disc icon appeared on the screen
(not mounted) and an icon for GTKam. I tried to use the GTKam first but it
said it couldn’t access my camera. Finally, I clicked on the Hard Disc
icon and was able to access the photos through it.
I was happy to see that Mandrake had added explanations for many programs
in parenthesis next to the name of the program. For example: “Kooka (Scan
& OCR Program)”. I think this is really helpful, especially for the
There is one thing that has caused me grief with Mandrake in the past is
their convention of adding “mdk” to the names of all their
RPM package names. This makes all of their
packages incompatible with RedHat and all the other RPM distributions.
In theory RPM’s allow you to find a software package on the internet and
with one command install it. But since that package is likely dependant upon
other packages, they will also need to be present on your system. Since
Mandrake adds “mdk” to all of their packages, a package made for a
non-Mandrake system won’t install on Mandrake because it won’t be able to find
the other packages (even if they are present) because the names all have “mdk”
in them. I should note however that this may sound worse than it is. I must
say that I haven’t ever had very good luck installing some random RPM even on
RedHat or SuSE. The only time I’ve had success with installing RPM’s is if I
the exact RPM for the version of operating system I’m running.
I feel like Mandrake is an excellent Linux distribution. Although it’s
still has a few rough edges, I have had very good success with things working
without any grief.
|Version||Mandrake Linux 9.1|
|Installation||The installation was pretty simple. The first part you simply
answer a few questions and verify that your mouse works. The second
part is similar to the SuSE installation where it presents the status
of various things (Time Zone, Graphics Hardware, etc.). You must
configure the Graphics Hardware.
|Change Screen Resolution||Yes, had to log out and back in to change.|
|Word Processing||Yes, OpenOffice was already installed.|
|Mount Data CD||Auto mounted when I clicked on the CD-ROM icon. Disc was unmounted
by pushing on the eject button.
|Play Audio CD||Yes.|
|Play DVD||No, Xine was installed but was not set up to play DVD’s.|
|Play Internet Radio Station||Yes. Did not automatically connect to XMMS, I had to save the .pls
file and load it into XMMS.
|Rip and Encode MP3’s||
No, Grip was already installed and set up to rip and encode
Ogg Vorbis files, but no MP3
encoder was present.
|Burn CD||Yes, there were 3 burning programs installed: GCombust, Gnome Toaster,
and K3B. I couldn’t figure out GCombust or Gnome Toaster (quickly)
so I used K3B to burn an ISO image.
|Printer||Yes, setup was very simple it found the printer and I clicked on OK.
It installed more software from the CD’s and it took several minutes,
but that was all it took to get the printer working.
Yes, clicking on the XSane icon on the desktop worked fine as well
as using Kooka from the Multimedia->Graphics menu.
|Additonal Software Installation||Yes, pretty easy with RPM Drake.|
|ssh and scp||Yes.|
I was going to run the same tests on RedHat Linux just for completeness, even though I don’t believe that RedHat is available on any of the WalMart PC’s. However, RedHat 9 does not want to install on this machine. The
installation disc 1 boots up fine and I get to the step where the hard disk needs to be partitioned and claimed the partition on hda was unreadable. I’ve had really bad luck with installing RedHat 9 on these WalMart PC’s.
I tried to install it on the previous machine I had and it would just crash. It turned out that they added some test in RedHat 9 that did not work on the VIA CPU that was in that machine. RedHat said they would send me an updated
installation CD to fix that problem. That was over a month ago and I still have not received the disk. And now there is this little problem. Hmmm…
|Version||RedHat Linux 9|
|Installation||Failed, said the partition table on hda was unreadable and would
not continue unless I gave it carte-blanche to take over the disk.
|Change Screen Resolution|
|Mount Data CD|
|Play Audio CD|
|Play Internet Radio Station|
|Rip and Encode MP3’s|
|Additonal Software Installation|
|ssh and scp|
I thought the Lycoris system had the best, cleanest menu system of any of
the Linuxes I tested. However, since most of the tasks I tried didn’t work
I really cannot recommend it. If they get to the point where all of the
stuff works it will be a great system for a Linux newcomer.
I completely disagree with Consumer Reports on this one. I was able to
accomplish almost all of the tasks I tried.
It was very easy to install the software.
This was the only Linux that
was able to play a DVD (I am guessing that was because I downloaded it from
Click-N-Run, and so Lindows could license it?).
I thought the menu was a little more confusing than Lycoris’. It
appeared to me that they tried to copy the menu layout of Windows, but some
things were in a different place, so I had to look around. The one thing
that I thought was harder than it should have been, was the printer set up.
The printer set up on both the SuSE and Mandrake was basically one or two
clicks and it was done.
But all in all,
I feel that even a newcomer to Linux would be able to accomplish
all of the tasks one would expect from an under $300 PC.
I like SuSE Linux quite a bit. I use it on my machine at work and I
prefer doing software development on it instead of Mandrake. But I don’t
feel that it would make as good a system for a first-timer. The names in
the menu in many cases are not obvious and on several tasks it was not
easy to figure out how to make it work.
In Mandrake I was able to accomplish every task except for playing a
DVD and encoding MP3’s. Both of which are no doubt due to licensing issues.
It is an excellent distribution and I feel that both newcomers and more
advanced users could use it successfully. I replaced
Gentoo Linux on one of my machines at
home with Mandrake because sometimes it’s more important to be able to plug
in a printer, scanner or camera and have it just work. (As opposed to
recompiling the kernel 😉
Since I couldn’t get it to install without a lot of grief, I can’t say
much about it. I know it won’t play MP3’s because RedHat has an issue with
them. From my past experiences, I would say it is not good for a Linux
newcomer. I don’t know if they have improved the software installation
process since I last tried it, but last time I did it (about 8.something),
it was a horrible nightmare. I finally gave up and installed
Debian on that machine.
My opinion is that a Linux newcomer would do well with either Lindows OS
or Mandrake. I don’t recommend they try Lycoris, SuSE, or RedHat.
|Distribution:||Lycoris||Lindows OS 4.0||SuSE 8.2||Mandrake 9.1||RedHat 9|
|Installation||Failed||Simple||Pro-active||Pretty Simple, Mostly passive||Failed|
|Change Screen Resolution||Yes||Yes, but limited choices||Yes||Yes|
|Word Processing||KWord||OpenOffice, Click-N-Run||OpenOffice||OpenOffice|
|Mount Data CD||Automount||Automount||Automount, Manual Unmount||Automount|
|Play Audio CD||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Play DVD||No (missing decoder)||Yes, Click-N-Run||No (missing decoder)||No (missing decoder)|
|Play Internet Radio Station||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Rip and Encode MP3’s||No||No||No MP3, Yes Ogg Vorbis|
|Printer||No||Yes, complicated||Yes, simple||Yes, simple|
|Additonal Software Installation||Confusing||Click-N-Run, Simple, Easy||YaST2, Fairly Easy||RPM Drake, Fairly Easy|
|ssh and scp||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
- Walmart Computers & Peripherals
Please e-mail any questions, comments, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org – © Copyright 2003 – J. Scott Edwards, QRW Software
“being the inquisitive Alpha Geeks they are, they’re trying find out which bit of code is responsible so they can rewrite it instead of the much more expedient approach of wiping the damn drive and restoring from a back up.”
Translation: There are no backups.
First, I’d like to reply to those who think Consumer Reports was being biased. I do not agree. As someone who works with folks who used to work for testing and benchmarking corps., it is commonly stated by them that if CR started a full-on PC/Mac testing lab, the benchmark companies would look like the snake oil companies they are.
The Consumer Report article was very direct about what was wrong, you guys just chose to ignore it. They plugged in a compact flash memory card into the machine, and it didn’t detect it. Maybe its just me, but the biggest revolution recently seems to be flash based devices, mainly digital cameras. How the heck can a serious box ship and not recognize the most common consumer item available today, the compact flash module??? Answer me, damn it! Not possible, and everyone here knows it, except in the merry land of Linux where subpar is acceptable. On the other hand we have this glowing review of the PC setup here on OSNEWS by someone confessed to already using it. Where was the hotplug of a digital camcorder or a digital camera or compact flash into a stock install (or even a stock install + manufacturer’s driver)? That’s right, it won’t work, so it won’t get tested, but this is what real users want — they want to plug in their kit and have it work — or at least pop-up a dialogue and handoff smoothly to some app designed to handle their device. If it doesn’t at least, the instructions In The OS will direct them to a manufacturer’s website or MS’s website to grab the driver update. This is 2003, ya know??
Now for the solution which, mind you, will never be implemented or accepted into the kernel or dists, even if it was properly developed and supported, is a package type setup like OSX and a consistent kernel driver interface for simple drivers that can live in user space or more complex kernel drivers. OSX apps have their lib depends included in the package. This does not mean OSX is wasteful though — it is intelligent enough to figure out if the packaged DLL can be superseded by a system dll (as determined by the program’s author), and if it can’t or doesn’t exist, it will load the component in the package. The package is atomic in terms that the app is really the core bin, and all necessary DLLs that must accompany the program.
Finally, Linux offers no consistent kernel or userlevel to plug and play devices such as firewire devices or USB devices. They change within stable kernel roadmaps, and not just in minor ways. This is unacceptable to a manufacturer attempting to sell a device at CompUSA. Much is the worse, that even if they offer web download, they may have to offer as many as 30 some odd different builds just to support the varied distros that are available and the subsequent kernel updates that occur in each distro rev (and even kernel revs on a single distro rev).
Until Linux has these things, Linux will always be a technical OS. Ok for me and people like me, but I have no dreams of it being the OS of the common man. It just ain’t possible. The developers of Linux core technologies don’t even want these capabilities, so it is no doubt that it will be a very long time before these features are even hinted at being added to Linux. And as long as the status quo is maintained, Linux will suck on the common man’s desktop. Heck, I’ve already been lured away to OSX, I admit my adultery, OSX is alot better in every way I can imagine, even when running on ancient macs, which can be had for a song on ebay (in most cases cheaper than the WAL-PC).
For newbies LinuxInstall 3.0 works great with very easy install and is the only Linux distro that I have been able to play DVD’s on and Runescape which is a Java program. It also has Synaptic which makes it easy do download, install & update your system. Another thing its only $5.00 now thats a good value. I am waiting for the new Xandro 2.0 to come out as I like the ease of installation of software.
I have tried Mandrake, Lycoris, Xandros and Linuxinstall, I find Mandrake to difficult, Lycoris is plain outdated and getting older the longer it takes to get out a new stable version, Xandros has promise if they make the correct updates KDE 3.1, play DVD’s, update Java and keep updated drivers for Nvidia video cards.
The windows way:
1) Insert CD
2) Autorun pops up
3) Next > Next > Next > Install
Icon is on Desktop and in start menu.
may seam to be just as simple as the Linux 2 step process.
But you miss one thing. The ease of support. All these “Next” steps where the user perhaps unknowingly may enter some strange values means that the support person e.g needs to ask where a certain peace of software is installed.
In linux software installs itself into standard places, this makse support much simpler.
And as for unistalling software in Linux most distros comes with some form of graphical packagemanager where software can be installed just as easy as in windows. In fact even easier as many uninstallers in windows have a tendency to leave garbage in the windows registry that have to be removed manually.
You say there is dependency problems in Linux, well so far I have sean far more of them in windows than in Linux. In one case I was even bin forced to reinstall windows from scratch just because I happened install some packages in the wrong order.
The weird an unintuitive file system in Linux is designed to hide complexity. Users should not see hardware, this is something that only the admin have to deal with. Instead they should see how information and applications is structured.
This means that you e.g. can add a new harddrive wihtout changeing where users look for information, the only thing that happens is that they all of a sudden feel that they have more room for their data. I don’t have to send them a mail telling them that they now also can use E: for storing their files.
What’s the most intiutive C:WINNTPROFILESUsername for some user information, some other in the registry and some in C:SETINGS AND DATAusername compared to Linux where all informaion and settings for user usnername is collected in one single place: ~username.
The problem with long rebuild time in case of a system failure could easily be avoided by making backups.
But even so, you have a point, corporate users will probably avoid it due to long install times.
If dependency problems using SQL server somehow should be an exception how about upgrade your encryption level to 128 bits in IE on winnt4
This is impossible to do if you had installed the latest servicepacks that was available when the encryption upgrade was released on net. The solution was uninstall previously installed servicepacks, that is if you installed checked the option of backing them out when you installed your servicepacks in the first place. If you didn’t your only option is a complete reinstall.
Hoops and loops to avoid dependency problems in Linux?
Sorry, but most distros contain installers that automatically resolves dependency problems and even downloads missing software. E.g. urpmi, aptget, even the most hated plain rpm system usually tells you what packaage is missing, and does not only like window say that xyz.dll is missing whithout telling you what application it belongs to.
One other thing in windows, dlls are often replaced without the user being asked. If US-english software is installed on international versions of windows this often results in dialog boxes and errormessages in mixed languages. This can be avoided by manually reinstall the old dll if you manage to identify what dll is the offender that is. Speeking of hoops and loops.
“Let’s take for example kSmoothDock and ObjectDock. In Red Hat 9 I had to download kSmoothDock, resolve some dependancies, compile and install. In Windows XP I downloaded ObjectDock to the desktop, double clicked and it installed. 99% of things that most people will want to install on Windows is not going to have you running around trying to find DLL files. ”
Your example is somewhat flawed. When was the last time you downloaded source code for windows XP and actually compiled it . If the program wasn’t available in binary form you would not even try to install on XP. In Linux on the other hand you actually managed to do it even if it was a bit harder than just get it from your distribution vender.
“One other thing in windows, dlls are often replaced without the user being asked. If US-english software is installed on international versions of windows this often results in dialog boxes and errormessages in mixed languages. This can be avoided by manually reinstall the old dll if you manage to identify what dll is the offender that is. Speeking of hoops and loops.”
On winxp, any software can install their preferred DLLs and XP will save them in Windows WinSxS (side by side) directory with a sort of checksum for each unique DLL – the result is that every app will be happy with their own DLLs, as at app startup time, windows xp will load the proper DLL for each app.
GLIBC definitely needs this sort of features.
The author of cdrecord has this to say about linux
“Linux is the most self incompatible OS I know …”
To be fair, it shouldn’t be linux the kernel, but linux distros – but it is an integrated jungle out there 😎
i dont know which world you live in but since win xp i havent seen any dll issues , ever again…doesnt xp store all the different versions of dlls to avoid problems??? of course i have had crashes, etc, but they were due to hardware problems and not the Os. All this linux hype as being ready for the desktop is out of controll, as if people are going to throw away their current windows setups and software to move to linux to learn the command line. If they are going to move, they will move to something substantially better and at this point, as a desktop linux, is not substantially better than windows xp or osx.
This is still heavily flawed, and the outcome is that sharing of object data can seriously break down between apps, because no one really designs with the capablity that you detail in mind. Also, its so weak, it can cause overuse of RAM by loading in libraries unnecessarily — there must be a complete subsystem for making the process more flexible for library selection. MS is pretty much attempting to resolve a complex issue with a very big and stupid hammer.
it is a single platform – maybe 99% of time 😎
The rest of the world can hardly deal with one single binary, sanes Mac
BTW, MS basically confirmed the flaws, I believe its been redesigned yet-again in .NET based systems that use the new .NET methodology for handling versioning of libraries.
Another person wit XPerience thinking his is the THE XPerience, I see…
1) Install Office 2000 on Windows XP locally (not a network install)
2) Now install the service pack for Office 2K
3) Now start exchange and setup up a corporate server
If you strictly follow that sequence, your Exchange client will be forever fubar until you uninstall the entire mess and reverse steps 2 and 3. I never bothered tracking down the libs that cause it — it happens in Win2K as well — both platforms support side-by-side in one form or another, plus DLL protection, and yet this simple sequence can render Exchange pretty much useless.
I’m sure win-vets here can recount a hundred or so stories just like that one. I am happy that you seem to have had good luck so far though.
This has always? bin possible in Linux/Unix, each application can have it’s own LD_LIBRARY_PATH
“This is still heavily flawed …”
It is a much better CURRENT solution than say compile form source code – what if you need 20 libs for one app, what if you can’t find the rpm, due to a temp net outage ?
“Also, its so weak, it can cause overuse of RAM by loading in libraries unnecessarily”
Yeah, true, yet it is still better than a broken setup
Linux distro has to care memory usage, since the state of art apps are so bloated, even with shared libraries.
I just check my XP/WinSxS dir – there are two dir for common control, two for C++ runtime, two for GDI+, the rest are single entry for each sort of DLL – not bad
Not sure why, but I used Exchange for Outlook. Step 3 requires that you configure Outlook to use a Exchange corporate server. Basically, when you do this it sucks file off the O2K CD, and screws up the nice new DLLs sent over by the O2K service pack. This is so brain dead as to be ridiculous.
LD_LIBRARY_PATH is not a real solution either. It still relies on some intelligence to figure out where things should be. It could be the pathway that some semi-intelligent program launcher could use to configure a program at runtime to the right library set though, I will give it that.
while, for linux, you just download openssh src to redhat linux and do a compile/install – and you will see ssh/sendmail etc break down miserably.
I guess exchange client breakdown would not bar you from loging on through RDP.
“This has always? bin possible in Linux/Unix, each application can have it’s own LD_LIBRARY_PATH”
That’s true, but it has only theoretical value
say app1 needs LD_LIBRARY_PATH1, app2 needs LD_LIBRARY_PATH2
now in unix land, it is not uncommon to see
app1 | app2
In a world that setting up an app shortcut hasn’t been easy, I don’t see the practical value of individualized LD_LIBRARY_PATH
It should be fixed by now 😎
I don’t understand why you guys don’t use URPMI and set up the sources ! It’s so freaking simple ! Not too mention you get access to all of the PLF and TexStar rpms ! It’s pretty hard not to find something with just those two urpmi sources !
I think that Linux will make it well before 5 years have passed. But I do think that the RPM based distros need alot of work. I agree with the guy that said: It looks good enough already. Now over to the usage of administration.
My hope lays with KDE. In my view, KDE has the chance of getting all the functionality of a distro like Mandrake, with hardware configuration etc. I think KDE has the chance of becoming an OS of it’s own, on top of the Linux kernel. Perhaps in the future, we will see that KDE distros emerge, that just install KDE on the computer, and has the library set to run KDE applications. Then the functionality of keeping packages up to date for the KDE apps. I already see a different community with KDE and Gnome, so perhaps, in the long run, these to operating environments will separate and become OSes of their own, with their own app portofolio. CheeseTracker, a soundtracking program, now was released with a QT gui. Thus, it integrates nicely with KDE’s UI. KOffice matures, perhaps mosfet Paint will emerge soon. With apps coming along for each OE, I think they will be more of their own operating systems than just environments.
I’m up for a Gentoo or Deb based KDistro
Those “reviews” are crap.
| Rip and Encode MP3’s:
| No, I installed Grip with YaST2 and it could rip and encode to
| Ogg Vorbis format. But since lame was not installed (no doubt
| due to licensing issues) it could not encode to MP3 format.
| Rip and Encode MP3’s
| Lindows: No
| Suse: No
| Mandrake: No MP3, Yes Ogg Vorbis
hey, didn’t he read his own review? Either: Suse and Mandrake: “No”, or both “No MP3, Yes Ogg Vorbis”.
Huh? Aren’t Emacs and Xemacs (both included) enough?
Did I mention that my enterprise manager problem also happens on XP? LOL
It seems he looked at what is possible with the default software selection. It has accidentally happened that Mandrake installs a ogg/vorbis encoder by default, and SuSE does not.
The same accounts for emacs: it is not installed in the default installation.
I can agree with the MP3 etc. A “dumb” user wants to do certain things with the default install, so it is good to look if a word processor, mp3 player and such is installed by default.
However, if you know what Emacs is, and if you know what encoding MP3’s is, then you will also probably be enough computer-literate to be able install the right packages using YaST or such.
I’m pretty new to using windows (4 years vs. 11 years of UNIX…at home I always had a mac). But hey… last year when I had some issues with DLL’s… I just set the
variable. In Windows land (mayber DOS too, I dunno) they use this to figure out where the DLL’s are, too.
Regardless, our application (java app + some MFC stuff communicating over a local socket) now sets the PATH to point to location of where I want our DLLs loaded.
so in lieu of export $LD_LIBRARY_PATH, there is always %PATH% in windows.
ps: using windows has been a fish out of water expirience… but the windows vetrans I work with love it. Its all about what you’re used to, I guess.
Had Apple allowed clones, and had a better business plan, we would all be using Macs. Damn you Apple!
I bought a $299 WalMart computer running LindowsOS for my wife and she absolutely loves it. She refuses to use any of the other comptuers in the house, including those running Winblows.
I have to admit, even I was very surprised at how well it ran and how easy they’ve made Linux. Click-N-Run is exceptional.
Well as Walmart is a US company – I cant buy their products and I wouldnt support them because they sell handgun ammo.
Well it may very well be that Lindows and Lycoris are not very good, I’ve never seen either. But reading the results you folk have had clearly you must have been shit out of luck with your hardware.
Since -95 I’ve been building Linux boxes using the big distributions with very few problems, at least nothing like what the earlier posters claim to have been through.
I’ve given Linux to kids and computer idiots and they prefer Linux over Windows by choice. With the last years GUI enhancements I find it’s hard to find a computer that does not run Linux just fine.
Usually I install RedHat or Mandrake for newbies.
If you buy a computer for $300 and you’re surpriced it does not work well, you must be pretty naive!