Can a Red Hat Guru Survive on a Lindows Laptop?
I opened the browser, a branded version of Mozilla, and discovered that Lindows had found and configured the integrated Ethernet adapter to use DHCP. Fortunately, I have a DHCP server configured on my home network, so I was able to communicate immediately with the outside world.
Because this is Mozilla, I tried to copy the .mozilla directory from my home directory to my desktop. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that SSH is not included in the basic installation. I used the Lindows Click-N-Run to install SSH with a single-click installation, after locating the appropriate package. This single click installed both the client and the server side of SSH, and automatically configured them so that SSH was operational for both inbound and outbound connections.
With SSH installed, I was able to copy the .mozilla directory. On restarting Mozilla, I had all of my bookmarks, and the Mozilla e-mail client was configured properly to allow me to get to all of my many accounts.
Because I need this laptop for connectivity on the road, I tried the built-in modem. Lindows was able to detect a modem, but I have not been able to make it open the modem for communication. Of course, I have never used a Dell laptop on which Linux could use the modem. After considerable effort, I resorted to a U.S. Robotics PCMCIA 56KB Modem that worked flawlessly.
At this point I explored the system to try to find out which tools were available. The short answer is, "not very many." I ended up using Click-N-Run to download common tools, such as mtr.
I also downloaded sendmail, because on the road it is much easier to have my own MTA than to try to configure different SMTP servers at various ISPs for the many kinds of situations I might encounter. The installation procedure took me through a series of questions and used my answer to configure sendmail. Once installed it worked as expected, but the configuration procedure asks questions that an average user, or even many above average users, would not know how to answer. This is the nature of sendmail, but I cannot imagine many people of the type who would purchase Lindows being able to answer those questions. On the other hand, they might not even know that using sendmail might be a good idea in some circumstances.
Also missing from the basic installation are the man pages, which are indispensable. So I used Click-N-Run to download and install those as well.
I also tried to use a wireless PCMCIA adapter with this laptop. Wireless is not yet a big priority for me, but I am interested in exploring it.
I purchased a new Proxim Gold ComboCard with 802.11a/b/g compatibility and a LinkSys wireless Router. Unfortunately, I purchased the most recent latest Proxim card. Proxim uses the ORiNOCO drivers for Linux, and these generally are regarded as among the best Linux wireless drivers around. It appears that the current set of drivers work only with older cards, however. I checked SourceForge, which is where the Proxim Web site directed me, but SourceForge has not released any files yet for this project. This means the Proxim Gold wireless card will not work under any distribution for the foreseeable future.
I found Lindows 4.5 Laptop Edition to be a mixed bag for experienced users. It installs easily, barring download issues and getting into the BIOS to change the boot sequence. But beyond the basic install, it took a lot of work to get everything else installed and configured the way I wanted it.
By the end, I spent more time downloading the tools and programs that I needed with Lindows than it took for me to install and configure Fedora Core 1. I ultimately reinstalled Fedora and managed to get everything working, except wireless and the ACPI power functions. If I recompile the kernel I can get the ACPI power functions working as well, but I have not had time yet to go that route.
Although Lindows is a good choice for many users inexperienced with Linux, I would not recommend it for power users or sysadmins. This is not because Lindows cannot be configured to meet the needs of advanced user, but because it takes so much less time to accomplish the same thing using a distribution that provides the required tools on the ISO images.
David Both is a Linux geek who resides in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Alice, and cat, Squeaky. He has been in the IT industry for nearly 30 years and taught RHCE courses for Red Hat for a time. He currently works for the State of North Carolina and manages the state's e-mail system. David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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