SuSE Linux 7.0
Manufacturer: SuSE Inc.
Price: $69.99 US
Reviewer: Stew Benedict
If you like to measure your Linux distributions by the pound, SuSE Linux Professional 7.0 wins hands down. With 1,500 applications on 6 CDs and a DVD, you'll be hard pressed to come up with something that is not included.
In addition to the above media, SuSE 7.0 comes with two floppies, a boot disk and a modules disk and four books, Quick Install Manual; The Handbook, a technical guide; Configuration, which covers KDE, hardware installations and general Linux command-line usage; and Applications which covers StarOffice, Netscape, Acrobat Reader, the the GIMP, Sane and other multimedia applications.
The SuSE Linux 7.0 Package is the “other” OS for my CAD work. I had a 6GB drive available, so I pulled the other drive and dropped this one in. This is just being overly cautious, I never know when I'll get a call and need to run that “other” OS, and I need to be able to get back up ASAP. I did another install before this one, and the installer does recognize and offer to setup LILO for other OSes. The machine is a Pentium 166 with 80MB RAM. I went into the BIOS set up, re-scanned for the new HD and set the boot options to boot from CD.
This brought me to a text-based screen that said “Have a Lot of Fun!” and then proceeded into a normal kernel boot, scanning for devices, etc. One addition I noticed was the kernel scanning for braille devices—a nice touch. In fact, the box says SuSE Linux is entirely suitable for use by the blind. I also noticed that software RAID support is included in the provided kernel. I recently implemented this at a client's site, and it has worked out quite nicely, with two drives in a RAID 1 array for a redundant, mirrored system.
From the initial boot, the screen went blank, the speaker emitted a beep and that was it! At this point, according to the install, I should have been in YaST2, the SuSE graphical installer. Apparently I have issues with my video card, an ATI Mach64-based card. The notes in the CD folder mention typing “manual” at the LILO prompt for expert installation with YaST1, so I reboot and try this route, and the install goes into YaST1. This time I get to a “dialog”, text-based install that asks my preferred language and proceeds to the option of a text-based YaST (see Figure 1), or graphical YaST2 (see Figure 2). I decide to live dangerously and try YaST2. This time I do get to the graphical interface, a little grainy at 800x600, but functional. So far, no mouse, but I can tab through the options, and it gets me to a screen where I can select my mouse type and port. Now we are off and running. Next we get to the keyboard layout and time zone, after which I am asked whether I want to upgrade or do a fresh install. I choose the fresh install. Next we have a choice of installs:
Default with Office
I choose Default with Office so I can appraise what gets installed by default.
Next I'm asked where I would like LILO to be installed and go with the suggested /dev/hda.... Then I personalize the installation with my first name, last name, login and password, and lastly, the root password I would like to use.
The default partitioning scheme sets up just three partitions: /boot, / and swap. I back up and opt for custom partitioning, which allows me to choose between ext2 and ReiserFS. I set up / and /boot, /usr and /home. The install gives you an option at this point to save your settings to floppy so, in case there is a problem, you can get back into where you left off.
While we're on partitioning, I should mention a little about ReiserFS. This is a relatively new journaling file system for Linux that boasts certain improvements over the standard ext2 file system. Journaling, if you're not familiar with database systems, implies that each file system transaction is written to a journal or log. It's possible to replay this journal in the event of a catastrophe and recover the lost transactions. The journal is flushed periodically once it is certain the transactions have actually taken place.
Here's the freshmeat.net entry on reiserfs:
reiserfs is a revolutionary new approach to file system design which stores not just file names but the files themselves in a B*-tree. It is a generation ahead of alternatives that use older, plain B-tree technology and that cannot store the files themselves in the tree.
Since I have some extra space on this drive, and don't quite know what to expect with ReiserFS at this point, I set up duplicate /home and /usr partitions, one with ext2 and one with ReiserFS. The chart below shows the layout I came up with:
/ 1GB ext2 /boot 7.8MB ext2/usr 1.5GB ReiserFS/usr2 1.5GB ext2/home 900MB ReiserFS/home2 900MB ext2swap 160MB
I'll cover more on ReiserFS later in the article, once we have things installed and set up.
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