Report from the Front

The secratary of this volunteer group gives us the scoop on two Linux distributions.

The Linux Review Group is a group of Linux users willing to donate some of their spare time to testing Linux distributions. We have approximately forty testers, plus one secretary; me. Each time a distributor wants his product tested by us, five of our testers get a copy of it and review it according to a few criteria that we've chosen. This is all volunteer work, so now and then someone drops out and doesn't deliver his report. Therefore, I cannot guarantee that all the products we've looked at have been tested by as many as five people.

MCC Interim 1.0+

This is a free distribution, which we got by ftp from ftp.mcc.ac.uk in /pub/linux/mcc-interim/1.0+. It's available at nic.funet.fi, tsx-11.mit.edu, and sunsite.unc.edu

The best thing about MCC is the documentation: a 60+ page dvi document guides the user through the installation. There are also ASCII excerpts from this file.

The installation is menu-driven. The menus are not fancy (no color, scroll bars, etc.), but error conditions (i.e., no disk in drive) are caught.

There are couple of problems. The descriptions of the packages are a tad too short, and don't say whether each package is recommended or optional. Also, it displays the disk space use of each package after it has been installed. It would be nice to get that information before choosing whether to install a package.

Compared to Slackware, this is a pretty slim package. No soundcard support, no X-Windows, no TeX, etc. One tester complained that some of the “standard” utilities that he was used to from Slackware were missing. How-ever, instructions for getting these parts are included. MCC only takes about 30MB of disk space; ideal if you're a newcomer to Linux and would like to try it out. There is no UMSDOS support, however, so you'll have to repartition your disk.

Linux Quarterly—Spring 1994

This is a commercial CD-ROM distribution from Morse Telecommunications.

A very polished package, Linux Quarterly comes with an MS Windows installation program. One of our testers wasn't able to get this installation program to run, but that might have been due to some local misconfiguration. The documentation is well-written and fairly complete. Of course, like most Linux material, it's not intended for the computer novice, but if you have some previous DOS or Unix experience, it'll do fine.

The CD contains about everything you'll want or need, including MCC, Slackware, an image of the Linux area on tsx-11, etc. It can provide hours of fun for the inquisitive. Free tech support is included in the package.

Magnus Y Alvestad (magnus@ii.uib.no) is a student of computer science who is the current keeper of the world record for single-machine factoring (113 digits). He is also the secretary of the Linux Review Group.

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