Caldera OpenLinux 2.2
Manufacturer: Caldera Systems
Price: $49.95 US
Reviewer: Jason Kroll
OpenLinux 2.2 is Caldera's latest “Linux for Business” distribution, a professional, productivity-oriented package that is highly functional, stable, secure, and especially easy to install and administer. OpenLinux comes with a number of productivity packages including Corel's WordPerfect 8 and StarOffice v.5, along with the typical Linux utilities and applications (even games) which are all incorporated into the menuing system of the K Desktop Environment. Also included is the Caldera Open Administration System (COAS), which is an easy-to-use graphical interface for dealing with configuration and administration issues (similar to a Control Panel on the Macintosh, but aimed at network administration).
OpenLinux 2.2 is installed from an autobooting CD-ROM by way of Caldera's graphical installation program Lizard (Linux Wizard, that is). Provided your computer has a CD-ROM drive, autobooting from the CD-ROM is achieved by pressing delete during startup and selecting the CD-ROM drive as the first boot device, or you can start up the installation program from within the particular OS which comes by default on most PCs (MS Windows). OpenLinux's installation CD boots immediately to the graphical interface, which is actually easy to use. Once the Caldera graphic comes up (dancing people on part of a globe, presumably happy because Linux installation is so easy), Lizard will present a boot prompt, and if nothing is typed, will begin probing the hardware. Lizard's probing techniques are fairly thorough and if they do cause the computer to hang (with the diversity of hardware available, problems are bound to come up on some systems), typing install er=cautious at the boot prompt will tune down the probing and the installation should continue smoothly.
The graphical installation process, once begun, is extremely simple and consists of a few questions and answers. The first question is which language you would like your installation instructions in; the choices are English, German, French and Italian. Strangely, Lizard will not let you change your mind on this subject, so one is advised to be truthful. Once the language is chosen, Lizard configures the mouse; the mouse should work with the settings derived from Lizard's probe, and changes to the configuration could cause a malfunctioning pointer.
Lizard presents several partition options: entire hard disk, prepared partitions and custom. The first option simply prepares the entire hard disk for use with Linux; the second is used for situations in which one has already partitioned a drive for Linux. The final partition option is for “experts only” and is what the typical Linux user is used to: manual editing of partition information (gasp). All of this is quite simple. The only problem I noticed was that Lizard would sometimes ignore my swap partition, and I would have to go back and declare my swap partition again (just a simple back-and-forth clicking, like on a web browser). According to the documentation if you boot from Windows, PartitionMagic is invoked automatically to build the partitions for you. Once the partitions are formatted, selection of installation packages is made.
Unlike many Linux distributions, Caldera OpenLinux does not require a user to spend time picking and choosing particular packages. Four installation options are offered: minimal (server), recommended, recommended plus commercial (including WordPerfect and Star Office) and complete install (over one gigabyte of Linux software). I tried all four sizes, and I recommend one of the latter two, preferably the complete install if you have the space.
A clever technique of Lizard is that installation of packages proceeds while the user is still answering questions and configuring the system. Right after package selection has begun, the questions on keyboard layout, video card, monitor and networking are raised. Keyboard layout is just a typical straightforward selection (although “Finnish” is misspelled as “Finish”). The video card selection offers a probe function, which I recommend. On the test machine, Lizard correctly diagnosed the video card, while the probe discovered the correct amount of video memory. Monitor selection consists of choosing among over 1,700 monitors from a database. Obviously, some monitors may be missing from the list, but any monitor which is agreeable to VESA standards should be easily configured.
After the monitor has been selected, Lizard shows possible resolutions for running the X Window System and KDE. To test a particular resolution, simply select the resolution and click the test button. One difficulty I had is that Lizard showed a KDE screen instead of the standard X test pattern, which made it difficult to tell if I had a perfect setting. Still, it is quite an easy procedure: point and click until the test screen looks right.
Finally, just set the root password, add a few users, perhaps configure networking, and then all is ready to go!
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
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One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
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