Debian on Steroids: Libranet 2.7

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A plethora of applications, streamlined installation and increased performance make putting Debian on your desktop easier than ever.

“Debian on Steroids” is how a member of a Linux mail list I frequent responded to my description of the Libranet 2.7 beta. With the 2.4.19 kernel, KDE 3.0.3, Gnome 2.0.1, Open Office 1.0.1 and a well groomed selection of Debian applications, Libranet 2.7 is an easy-to-install, muscular distribution that should tempt anyone curious about Debian.

While classic Debian can be downloaded or obtained on inexpensive CDs, a commercial release like Libranet 2.7 justifies its cost by streamlining the installation and configuration of Debian, a process with an intimidating reputation. Libranet offers a straightforward installer, simplified partitioning, automatic detection and configuration of video and sound, system administration tools and a well organized selection of applications, all of which get a generously endowed Debian installation up and running in short order. And since Libranet is fully compatible with Debian, it offers fast and reliable system updates and upgrades.

On a system with an 850MHz Celeron processor, installation using the two provided CDs takes less than an hour. Partitioning can be either fully automatic, i.e. taking over the entire HD, or specified to available free space. Libranet 2.7 boasts a new partitioning tool that reminds me of the old SuSE YAST, but greatly simplified. The ReiserFS is the default, but ext2 or ext3 filesystems also may be selected. In addition, you can run GNU/parted from within the partitioning utility to resize a VFAT or ext2 partition to make room.

Figure 1. Screenshot of Partitioning Tool

The installer then makes the necessary initial installation, inquires if you want Libranet to handle booting duties with its GRUB, offers to make a boot floppy and then reboots.

Users of the previous Libranet release will be pleased to know that the CD swapping exercise is no more. After inserting CD #1 and selecting from a menu of package groups, Libranet now asks to have CD #2 inserted only one time, and that's it.

Sound and video set up follow. Libranet differs from classic Debian by autodetecting and configuring the sound card, mouse, video card and monitor. The Libranet installer had no problem with the onboard sound on my Celeron and Athlon systems. Not surprisingly, it could not detect the ancient ISA Sound Blaster 16 card on my P233 box, but after manually selecting the card from the list, the module loaded without complaint.

Next up is networking or dial-up configuration. You can set up a firewall after installation using Adminmenu, Libranet's system administration utility that further distinguishes it from classic Debian.

Figure 2. Screenshot of Adminmenu, the Firewall Tool

Libranet then offers to configure your IDE CD burner to emulate SCSI, essential if you intend to use one of the various burning applications provided. I happen to like XCDRoast, and for CD-to-CD copying, both CD drives need to be configured for SCSI emulation. Luckily, the installer provides an option to do this for you.

Next comes configuring X. Libranet now advises not to move the mouse while detecting. It had no problem correctly identifying and configuring the wheel rodents on my systems. Video card detection also is reliable for the cards currently supported by Xfree86 4.2. If you change your video card after installing Libranet 2.7, it will autodetect the new hardware and reconfigure X.

I found the generic monitor settings worked well. I have a label with scan frequencies on all of my monitors and usually enter the values manually, but I actually found the canned settings worked better. My manual settings sometimes resulted in off-center displays, while the generic settings were dead on at my preferred 800 x 600 resolution. YMMV, of course, so you can tinker and test settings either during the installation or by using the elegant Libranet Adminmenu utility after the installation has completed.

Libranet provides the desktop user with a multitude of word processing packages. Koffice is there, of course, as is OpenOffice, replacing Star Office 5.2 from the previous release. Libranet also includes the latest release of Abiword, 1.0.2, an endearing word processor that keeps getting better.

My favorite word processor is WordPerfect 8. Libranet thinks installing WP should not be a hassle, so, like SuSE, Libranet 2.7 includes a compatibility package group to support Linux WordPerfect. It's listed at the bottom of the package group menu, but it's not a problem if you overlooked it. Simply run Adminmenu and add it later. I installed all versions of WordPerfect 8 and 8.1 (the version included on my Corel Linux deluxe CD) without any difficulty. Instructions for doing this, as well as other useful tips, are listed in the Support Solutions Database on the Libranet web site.

For fans of Applix Office, installation is not a problem either. No, you don't have to convert every Applix RPM to Debian. Libranet provides onboard support for RPMs. All you need to do is create the directory /var/lib/rpm and run the command rpm -initdb. Libranet is then ready to install RPM packages, although converting them with Joey Hess' Alien utility is preferable.

On the down side, there are a few bugs to deal with. Libranet can detect a Windows partition and write the appropriate line in /etc/fstab. A mountpoint, /windows, also is listed, but unfortunately, Libranet did not actually create it. But that's easy enough to fix: simply create /windows. And while you're at it, you might as well create /burn or the like for XCDROAST to store its image files. You should check the CD-ROM lines in /etc/fstab. I typically set up both drives for SCSI emulation. With this configuration, Libranet had my CD-ROM mounted to /cdrom1 and the second drive, a CD burner, mounted to /cdrom. This will have no effect other than confusing the CUPS installer in Adminmenu. Either edit /etc/fstab or put the CD in the second drive when the CUPS installer asks for CD2. The Adminmenu utility also can rescan your CD drives and assign the default.

I found a very noticeable speed-up running Libranet 2.7 on my 900MHz Athlon system. Applications load noticeably faster than with Libranet 2 on my Athlon. One mail group correspondent reports that Libranet “blows the socks off” Red Hat 7.3.

Along with a collection of up-to-date applications, the latest kernel, video support, a choice of window managers (KDE, GNOME, Xfce, IceWM, etc.) and Adminmenu's comprehensive system tools, Libranet 2.7 provides a smooth ride to high-power Debian Linux for both the neophyte and the experienced user.

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OMG! Can people not be happy with other's success?!

Anonymous's picture

Man I've never seen so many like minded people jealous of others, almost as though you would want to see their downfall! You just can't be happy for your fellow developer can you? They have a system/distro/whatever you want to call it, put their blood sweat and tears into it, just as YOU could do if you were so inclined, and now you are poo-poo'ing their success! What is wrong with you folks?

If you think they are violating GPL/other laws/agreements/policy/etc why don't you rally and get some lawyers and SUE 'EM like everyone is so quick to do in this day and age?!

Or you know what, you can just refuse to spend any money on the support that they offer, hmm, how about using CHOICE as an action...I mean, they aren't pulling the wool over anyone's eyes here, they clearly state what they are offering....Jebuss Criminy folks!

If you took a little time an figured out that you could be doing the same thing, and making good money, helping folks who are more than willing to spend money on good service...

oh well, more power to Libranet I say, and to the naysayers and their ilk, pfffft!

heh heh heh

Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

This is just another sick example of some greedy wannaby .comer wanting to pretty up a distro and capitalize off everyones work. This shows the weakness of the protection you get from releasing into the GNU lately. I see software I wrote on these for sale only Linux distro's and it made me sick. I stayed up for months in a row making software for free so it would remain free, not be sold by someone who could afford to box it up and pawn it of on people who should stick to macs and windows anyways..

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

So do you work for free? How do you eat and pay for heat? Or do you live in the woods off the land? Libranet is offering something of value. When is the last time a car dealership offered cars for free? I'm glad there are people like you willing to work for months for nothing. But either figure a way out to make some cash off your time or shut up and do the programming for fun. I do see some of what you say but I don't think you have a strong enough case for me to jump on your side of the fence.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Simply as this, if you are so dirth cheap to pay for a great job, stop all your cry and go get the free stuff on Debians Website and have fun while installing.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

You have not clue whatsoever, do you? Do you know anything about the folks behind Libranet? They were doing Unix way before you had any idea what GNU/Linux is!

If you knew anything about Libranet 2.7, you would know that they've taken one of the best distributions, Debian, and added a lot of great tools and made it VERY easy to install, configure, and use. From now on, before you go off running your mouth, do some research!!!

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

So whats your point? The fact that Tal and Jon were doing the Unix thing before means sweet hut all. Unix under a very different license. This person is commenting on the fact that Libranet is taking gnu packages and profitting off of them. that is not to say that you cannot sell GNU software but you do have to meet certain requirements to do so none of which i see Libranet doing.

before you go off on me i do know what i am saying, i have used libranet, and i doo know of tal and jon's history. Libranet is leaching off all sorts of other people's hard work .... no metter which way you cut it.

Perhaps they should change their moniker to Libranet MS Linux.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

"before you go off on me i do know what i am saying, i have used libranet, and i doo know of tal and jon's

history. Libranet is leaching off all sorts of other people's hard work .... no metter which way you cut it.

Perhaps they should change their moniker to Libranet MS Linux."

Storm, Corel Linux, Progeny, Xandros?

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

can't speak to corel an xandros but both storm and progeny have packages they built that are distributed for the whole community on the debian servers. as i recall most libranet folks are big on synaptic (a much better apt frontend than adminmenu) which was contributed by progeny. the app stormpackage (or something like that) was contributed by, duh, storm. i believe there are more from both of those distros floating around the debian trees. not surprisingly i see nothing that Libranet has contributed. Nor have i heard of them donating cash to the debian effort.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

With libranet you are getting better support, a much easier installation and configuration program, and more recent software than you would in debian. You pay for these extras, you aren't paying for the actual software. If you want more protection, use a different license structure.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

It's still free, just copy it from someone who has a copy.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Libernet put a unique package together using mostly free parts and they should get paid for their efforts.

Try to get a free OS download from M$. Did you get all your productivity software free too. I thought not.

I have the 2.0 essentials I got for free and I'll just have to hunt down any extra free apps myself.

As a student I might just spring for the 2.7 compilation. Or not.

Free software doesn't always mean cost free but freedom to use as you see fit.

Read M$ XP's EULA and see how free you are to reconfigure it much less its obscene U$300 price.

I rest my case.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Switch to decaf. The Libranet team provide a service. They charge a reasonable price. I have produced software for free and for sale. I like having access to free software, and try to support the people that write it. Since you have not used Libranet, you are in no position to judge the distro. You seem to have no problem judging people you don't know anything though, so don't let a little ignorance let you off the hook. Judge away, and have some more salt and nicotine while you're at it.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

I do have a right to judge if you don't think this person does. Tal and Jon do not deserve the money. Someday you should try criticising them and see where it gets you. It got me publically chased from the distro.

They way i have seen it for a very long long time Tal and Jon both provide some service and some interesting scripts such as adminmenu and their reworked installer. But the vast majority of their "distro" is free (as in beer) software which they neither provide the source or the credit for. That is very much against the GPL from my understanding. In fact because all of the apps and stuff are convieniently wrapped in debian packages who is to know who madethe software at all.

as for help.....depends on how you look at it. I made a very large large effort to help as many folks in the libranet community as possible. i even started a forum board before i managed to piss tal and jon off somehow and they started the official one. after getting over that disappointment i joined their forum and spent hours trying to help and when i expressed some opinions that tal and jon did not like they chased me away.

i liked libranet at one time but now that i have found a new distro (Arch Linux) and look back on my Libranet times i realize that Libranet is nothing but a leach. They leach off of debian, they leach off of peoples laziness, and the leach off of their users, who definitely provide the bulk of the technical aide and promotion.I would bet that the mailing list and forum board handle and answer more questions then Tal and Jon do in a day.

You also spoke of ignorance...well i read all sorts of claims by libranet's users that libranet is sooo much better than this distro or that distro. One of the funniest ones was one usr claiming that, by far, the developers and community were the most helpful and that he gets his dollar worth just from the technical aide. I laughed for hours. at Arch Linux answers, if we have them, are free. The distro is free. You are free to contribute in many ways to its growth...and so forth.

Further to ignorance, as far as i recall to use Debian as a base for another "distro" you have to give back to Debian somehow. As far as i know the defunct Storm and progeny both did give back (even if they were minor contributions) i have yet to see what Libranet has given Debian. Other than more workload on their servers. don't bother using the argue ment that it give Debian more users. well it does but where is the money going...not to Debian. it goes to Tal and Jon who then use that majority of it for themselves while the majority of the work on their distro comes from the hardworking maintainers of the debian trees. All tal and Jon are doing is working on integrating new code with free code and calling it their own and all that has resulted from that is Adminmenu and their installer. Who the hell cares? Installers are a scam as far as i am concerned. Anyone who judges the ease of installing as the best part of a distro probably should not be using linux. I am no expert at all but i have managed with little effort to instal quite a few distros to know that there is more benefit to having a sparse installer as opposed to having a libranet or mandrake like installer. you learn more and have a much better grasp of your own system. As for adminmenu....nice tool but as you learn how to do thing in linux this tool become useless. with linux you can stack commands in your terminal with "&&" and along with using aliases in your bash shell you can easily, and cheaply, do with one command what adminmenu does with several point and clicks and a whole lot more processes.

should i go on? You should learn that not everyone is gonna like your distro. Calm down and laugh at the criticism. Better yet go someplace else if you cannot handle a few angry words by someone who actually works to make the open source community better instead of someone who's comments only serve to contribute to the pocketbooks of those who would rather abuse the opensource community.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

You wrote your software for free and Libranet CANNOT change it! Your software is still for free. Libranet only prepared nice package of software. I tried a free Libranet 2.0 and I really like it, I think about buying 2.7. I tried a Debian 3.0 some time before and I failed to configure X-windows, Libranet did it well for me. It saved me a lot of time of boring configuration. I like the way that Libranet improved Debian for newbies like me. Good work, thanks!

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Actually all libranet has to do is make the source code available if requested, and to give appropriate credit to the program's developer, they are free to modify that software in whatever way they wish. They are free to sell it.

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Don't forget that Libranet is a gate that allows lots of new people to enter the free software world. Once they're inside, if they didn't know already, they'll figure out that this really is a global community and not a business. The alternative for these people isn't a free distro, it's either another commercial distro or Windows.

Libranet is different from the other commercial distros in that it doesn't lock you in. Past the gate, you're essentially in Debian, where people like you rule. Until Debian's new installer is ready and the threshold for newbies is lowered, this is a great solution.

You have all reason to feel proud to have contributed, and your achievement is in no way dimished by a few guys making a buck on packaging. Nobody thinks this bit of packaging is really the product. Imagine the revolution that would happen if millions of naive computer users really started using Linux. Now that's the real issue.

Cheers,
David Liontooth

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Please read Richard Stallman's Comments on Pricing at the link below.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

You're right about the abuse of GPL, but your comment slagging users who see a computer as a tool, not as a career, is not right. Debian rocks and having the best Linux distro being Debian is great. The more the merrier and the better for Linux. A revolution cannot afford to be an exclusive club.

Sadly, Libranet knows they are the only ones with a slick Debian package and they seem to be milking it. While I would not want to see Libranet quashed, they should make the downloaded 2.7 version free.

Redtwister

Re: Stealing the GPL like everyone else lately....

Anonymous's picture

Please read Richard Stallman's comments on pricing at the link below.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

Is it just me - or is this entire article and first few comments just a shameless plug to "buy" Libranet? I think LJ should include a disclaimer on the top of this article since it is a "commercial" product and only the previous version (2.0) is available for free download.

I wish the Libranet team the best of luck in becoming a profitable GNU/Linux business (thanks for including "GNU" on the Libranet webpage), but I can't help but feel like they are just taking something thats already there (debian, kde, gnome, ximian...) for free and wraping it up for sale at a profit. Though that's what you pay for I guess - the packaging and support. =)

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

Yes, I think you may be stuck in a commercial. At least Red Hat, SuSE and Mandrake offer downloadable current versions for free. Essentially, Libranet is doing nothing different than than they are except charging. Its not enough to attempt to justify the charge by creating a false distinction and calling Libranet a "system". It's a distro, believe me.

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

I would have made the commercial if someone else did not do so. I absolutely love using Debian based distributions, but until I got my first copy of Libranet, I just couldn't seem to get things working right. I even tried out two other commercial Debian-based distros, Corel Linux and Progeny Linux, and I was looking at others. But a friend gave me a copy of Libranet, and I've been a Debian user ever since.

Libranet is more than just a Debian packaging, however, it is a complete system, ready to go from the moment everything is installed. As shipped by Libranet, the software doesn't exaclty equal Woody, Sarge, or any particular distro, it is a mix of Debian packages that work. To me, it's a more workable thing that you can get until you play around with Debian a lot.

Could I do it, too? Sure. I have. But this software is very well laid out, and it is worth every penny of the packaging cost, certainly at least as much so as any commercial Linux distro based on any packaging scheme. Aren't the others commercial, too? I appreciate these guys, and even though I could have continued to upgrade and update my Debian distro without them, I thought enough of Jon and Tal to send them a check for the latest version, 2.7, and I wasn't disappointed. I highly recommend it, and this IS a marketing plug for Libranet (and no, I'm not on their payroll, but it'd be an honor as far as I'm concerned if I was associated with them in any way!)

I don't see Libranet as taking anything. They're giving - making great software managable and easy to install, ready to run. For that, I think they deserve to have a business, and make good money in it.

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

I agree 100%. I have NEVER seen GLP'd software requiring a payment before you could even download it! Never!

Mutant

- Peace -

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

I guess you've been under quite a pile of rocks lately. Lindows requires you to be a "partner" for $99 before you can get all of their Lindows goodies...

Rob McClure

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

Excuse me, but if the lastest version (2.7) is not available for free (as in beer, less bottling charges) download (only version 2.0 is), then isn't the GNU GPL being violated?

Zilde

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

It is only being violated if libranet were to deny a customer's request for the GPL'd software in the distribution. They don't have to provide a free download or any of the sort.

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

Not really true, but almost:

>It is only being violated if libranet were to deny a customer's

>request for the GPL'd software

's _sourcecode_

>in the distribution. They don't have to provide a free download or

>any of the sort.

You can charge for GPLd software as much as you like, and you don't even have to provide it (it is up to your freedom), but you can't restrict other's freedom by taking the source from them or charge anything but a reasonable fee for it.

/O

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

How are the people who go to the trouble of finding and fixing all the problems so you will have a lot fewer problems supposed to feed themselves, pay the costs of maintaining the servers, provide support. Totally free is wonderful; but as the internet is slowly proving, it's only free until the venture capital funding or the personal energy run out.

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

No. You can read more about this at

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

As far as this review's putatively being a "commerical" for Libranet, I am not a Libra Computer Systems employee, nor have I any interest in Libra Computer Systems, other than being a Libranet user since release 1.9.0.

My interest in Libranet evolves from my search for a Linux distribution I could recommend to people who wanted a Linux distribution that is easy to install and supports Word Perfect 8/8.1 for Linux.

My systems presently run Caldera eDesk 2.4 and WS 3.1.1, SuSE 8, and Libranet 1.9.1 and 2.7.

Caldera is no more, and SuSE 8 has been more than adequately reviewed.

That is why I wrote this review.

Leon A. Goldstein

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

Please reread the second paragraph of the review.

Libranet is a commercial Debian release. It provides certain features not available with "free" Debian, and that is what you pay for if you elect to purchase it.

Previous attempts at "simplified" Debian installation - Corel, Progeny, Storm - have come and gone. Libranet is still here. One possible reason is because it manages to provide some automated installation tools without isolating itself in a proprietary niche from which there is no upgrade path.

Re: Am I stuck in a commercial?

Anonymous's picture

I understand your point - all components of Libranet are freely available. What you pay for is the convenience of numerous knowledgeable people sorting out the headaches for you. To someone like myself who wants to be using Linux, but is still not experienced enough to solve configuration/ installation problems quickly, this makes the difference between getting to work and hitting a brick wall (often for days). Libranet is possibly the best distribution I've tried (and I've tried them all).

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