Caldera Systems likes to
market OpenLinux as “Linux for Business.” While that might be accurate,
a more fitting description for their 2.2 release is “Linux for Dummies”
(I mean that in the most complimentary way).
As a Linux newbie, I was spoiled by the fact that MS Windows is
basically passive. You put in the disks (or CDs) and let the computer
take care of itself: partitioning, installation, configuration.
Unfortunately, a side effect of that “convenience” is that I have
virtually no idea how the OS and my hardware interact with each other.
Linux, I read in the Red Hat installation manual, was not that easy.
So having recently experienced the installation of Red Hat 5.2, I
expected to have to compile a list of hardware devices and to plan out
my partitions before I even looked at the copy of OpenLinux I received
from my editor. But being impatient, I decided to simply load up the
installation and see if I could just wing it.
Boy was I surprised! It was a good thing that I didn’t go through
all that trouble, because after inserting the bootable CD-ROM of
OpenLinux 2.2, the installation is basically a walk in the park: after
running LILO, the Lizard (Caldera’s Linux Wizard) kicks in, and a
graphical user interface comes up allowing you to just point and click
your way through the install! The program loads a default mouse driver
and probes your hardware for the proper keyboard and graphic
configuration. You can select the drivers chosen by the probe or select
What about the partitions? Well, Caldera uses “PartitionMagic” to
allow you to select the drive (or partition) you wish to install the
operating system onto. You select the drive or partition and
PartitionMagic does the rest; it determines the size of your mount
points and formats the appropriate drive. Linux beginners will
appreciate the ease with which they can install the system. Advanced
users can choose the “Expert” mode in PartitionMagic, allowing them to
specify the exact size of their mount points, if they wish.
After formatting your drive, the Lizard asks you which packages you
wish to install. There are several options: All packages, all recommended packages, minimum packages, and custom. I decided
that I would just install the recommended packages, since I am not
confident enough to tailor my system.
Now comes the neatest part of the installation. Although I
previously mentioned the hardware configuration, that phase actually
occurs after you select the packages to install. Also after you select
packages, the Lizard lets you assign a root password and set up user
accounts. All of this occurs while the program is loading the packages
you selected. This saves time and shows off the multi-tasking
capabilities of the operating system.
After you have configured your hardware, the packages continue to
load and the Lizard starts up a game of Tetris so you can entertain
yourself. I admit that I am a Tetris junkie and wound up playing for
almost two hours before I noticed that the installation had finished. It
was neat that the Lizard allows you to play until you get bored, but I
have no idea how long the installation actually took;
I was preoccupied (those lines build up fast, you know).
After clicking on the “Finish” button, the Lizard loads the kernel
and starts up the K Desktop Environment (included in the OpenLinux 2.2
distribution).The KDE wizard launches and the user is then guided
through a KDE configuration. The user can now create icons for floppy
drives, CD-ROM drives, and the printer. This makes the process of
mounting devices relatively simple (more experienced users might argue
that this is simple anyway, but those of us that are used to MS Windows
will be very appreciative).
So what does this distribution include along with the Linux 2.2
kernel? Well, I’ve already mentioned that it comes with KDE 1.1, but it
also features Corel WordPerfect 8, StarOffice 5.0, Netscape
Communicator, DR-DOS 7.02, BRU (Backup and Restore Utility), a “Getting
Started Guide,” and of course the Source Code for all of Linux.
I don’t know that Linux is quite ready (read user-friendly enough)
for the average Joe who has a home computer. But I can say that in my
limited experience with Linux, I have not seen a distribution easier to
install, configure, and use than Caldera System’s OpenLinux 2.2.
Pete Comas, a recent Linux convert, is a Senior Editor of Linux Magazine.
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