A review of InfoMagic's December 1994 Release

The three CD-ROMs are packed full of up-to-date Linux distributions, documentation, source code and even a “live” file system you can run your system from.
It's Not BOGUS

Having read a bit about the BOGUS Linux distribution when it was announced, I decided to try it out next. The BOGUS distribution is maintained by Rik Faith, Doug Hoffman, and Kevin Martin and is billed as hacker-centric system for experienced Linux users. The BOGUS installation process requires more of a hands-on approach than does the Slackware one, but the extra work involved is not difficult and should come easily to anyone familiar with administering Unix or Linux systems. The handy little QuickStart guide is also a good tutorial for this sort of thing.

The README file for the BOGUS 1.0 distribution (additional files and docs to upgrade from 1.0 to 1.0.1 are also on this disc) is pretty short and doesn't do much hand holding. You're instructed to partition your drive for root, swap, user, and some optional partitions but not told how to do so. This might frighten away the casual user but will have the hacker licking his or her chops. You might also refer to the QuickStart guide as it provides an excellent tutorial on the process. I would try it with my large root partition and my pre-existing swap and see what happen.

After rebooting, I found the design of Kevin Martin's boot floppies intriguing. As with most distributions, the boot disk loads into a RAM disk so that it runs quickly and doesn't wear out your floppy drive. The contents of the second floppy are also loaded into the 4 MB RAM disk by typing get_files once the system has finished booting. Once the second disk has been loaded, you've got everything you need to set up and install your new system (or recover from a crash) and you're free to use the floppy drive for other things. This isn't for low-end systems, though, as the documentation says that 12 to 16 MB RAM are required.

BOGUS relies heavily on a utility called pms , Rik Faith's excellent Package Management System, to do most of the installation work for the rest of the distribution. A script called /usr/src/install.all is used to install the BOGUS packages on your system. This is simply a shell script with a bunch of calls to pms in it.

The pms program looks for its package files in a directory called /usr/src/DIST . Seeing as I was working with limited disk space, I decided to fool BOGUS by pointing a symbolic link at the directory on the CD containing the 1.0 distribution files and let the install script chug away. It worked like a charm. The process ran to completion but somewhere in one of the last couple of packages I had run out of disk space. It turns out that the 185 MB I had budgeted is not enough for a complete BOGUS distribution. Had I read all of the documentation beforehand, I would have found that it requires about 205 MB in toto.

The packages which hadn't been installed were completely non-essential (some X-based games as it turned out) so I wasn't too worried. I did a bit of snooping around and found that pms keeps a log of all of the packages which have been installed in the directory /var/adm/pms . For each package there is a time stamp file with information about when that package was installed. For the packages being installed when my disk ran out of space, the timestamp files were empty. When I figured this out, it was a simple matter of using pms -d to remove all traces of the semi-installed packages. I made even more room by deleting more stuff I knew I wouldn't be using (TeX-related, mostly).

The 1.0.1 release of BOGUS requires you either to install it on top of an existing BOGUS-1.0 distribution or to overwrite outdated package files in the distribution directory with their newer counterparts before running install.all . I realized I'd wasted time installing some of the packages from 1.0, but this was only after the installation was complete and I'd done the cleanup described above.

Changing my symlink to point to the new packages in the ADDITIONS directory, I set about upgrading my new BOGUS-1.0 system to 1.0.1. This was also done by means of a pms wrapper script and some direction from the README file. I had freed up enough disk space earlier to allow the upgrade to go smoothly without filling up my disk.

I now rebooted and was greeted with the BOGUS boot sequence. For those keeping score at home, BOGUS seems to give a nod to the BSD camp, particularly where the boot procedure is concerned. The system start-up scripts are called /etc/rc.* instead of the /etc/rc.d/* you'll find most other places. The messages reminded me of Sun's messages.

I found a minor bug: /bin/passwd wasn't setuid root. This meant that a normal user couldn't change his or her password. BOGUS also seems to lack any batch commands for adding users. I couldn't find any, but I might not have looked in the right places. The pms tool is, in my opinion, excellent. It is used to build the system binaries from the 95 MB of sources and patches, all of which are available on the disc, and to install the resulting packages on your system when it is done. A very impressive piece of work.

Despite the Spartan nature of the installation instructions and the lack of a nifty user interface, BOGUS is an extremely full-featured and well-rounded distribution. The emphasis is definitely on the software developer who has a powerful system and not the casual user. Inasmuch as InfoMagic calls this a “Developer's Resource”, I think there should be a wide audience for BOGUS.

Caleb Epstein (epstein_caleb@jpmorgan.com) lives in Brooklyn and works at J.P. Morgan in New York City. He has been using Linux at home for over two years, and is looking for other Linux users in the area to join him for a not-so-virtual beer at the local micro.


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