PowerPlant Review

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PowerPlant Linux is a collection of various libraries and developer tools that aren't generally on a distribution CD or, if they are, are older than the latest, greatest and full-featured version you get here.
The Icing on the Cake

You may have noticed that I counted four CDs in the previous section, but I described only three of them. That is because the fourth CD, although targeted at Linux developers also, is a bit different; it is targeted at your spare time.

The fourth CD contains demos of the (in)famous Loki ports of some of the best games out there: Civilization—Call to Power, Myth II, Railroad Tycoon II, Quake III, Heroes III and Heretic II. You can evaluate them for hours and hours before you decide if you want to buy anything from Loki. Of course, all their released open-source software can be found on the other PowerPlant CDs, such as SDL and OpenAL, to name two.

To make the Loki CD more than a bunch of demos that you can pick up from any game magazine, they added the full version of one of their games, Eric's Ultimate Solitaire. It is a great tool when waiting for long compilations to finish; it doesn't take many CPU cycles, and game times tend to be short.

PowerPlant Developer Network: Auto-Update Feature

Of course, the KDE version included with PowerPlant Linux was already outdated when I bought the CD, and I was an early adopter. It is a sad fact, but you cannot avoid outdated versions no matter whose CD you buy. This is where PowerPlant Developer Network comes into the game with their auto-update feature. At the time I wrote this, Red Hat had announced their subscription service; The Kompany.com had one in place four months ago when their product launched.

The PowerPlant installation program, Magnum, is both an RPM front end and an auto-update tool; it automatically scans the company web site for updates and offers to download them to your computer automatically. This way, my KDE 1.9x, and everything else in PowerPlant, is always up to date—while I sleep.

This subscription service is called PowerPlant Developer Network and includes a yearly CD update besides the automatic download. It's been less than a year since The Kompany.com launched PowerPlant, but I promise to keep you updated on the next CD.

Conclusions

Note that PowerPlant is not a Linux distribution; you need to be already using Linux. Thanks to its developer-oriented content, this is not a problem. PowerPlant may also seem small due to its focused nature, but it has about 150 different applications and will continue to grow with time.

Questions to their support e-mail address are answered quickly: they were very responsive when I had a little problem with KDE: they provided me with a patch on their ftp site.

If you're doing even hobbyist development on Linux, this product is nice to have. Of course, if you have too much time on your hands you can always download all the software yourself, but assuming you have work to do, PowerPlant is a great help.

Pros and Cons

Jim Gilbert (jgilbert@hpjobs.com) has been in the IT industry for about 15 years. The core of his experience is with the HPe3000 platform but also includes Windows and web development. About a year ago, he decided to take the plunge and install Linux and has been a happy hacker since. Jim works as an independent IT consultant.

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