Debian on Steroids III: Libranet 3.0

Libranet Debian Linux is back in the ring, this time as a heavyweight desktop contender.
Round Two: The Desktop

Upon rebooting, the user is presented with a login screen. Libranet's default windows manager is a modified IceWM. It opens with basic functions configured; Firefox and Thunderbird are on the task bar. GNOME icons for file browsing, using Nautilus, and devices--Computer--already are configured. Clicking on Computer makes the CD/DVD drive(s), other mounted partitions and floppy available. Plugging in a USB memory stick makes an icon appear after a few seconds; no tinkering with configuration files is required. All in all, this is a very functional desktop for slower systems.

For KDE 3.3.2 users some housekeeping is necessary at this point. First, a few edits must be made in /etc/fstab. Your USB memory stick can be mounted by adding this line:

/dev/sda1 /usbstick auto defaults,noauto,user,noatime 0 0

Of course, you need to create the mount point. For this example, use the command mkdir /usbstick .

If you have a Windows XP partition and want to access it, you will need to add something like:

/dev/hda1 /windows ntfs defaults,ro,gid=windows,umask=002 0 0 .

Then, create the mount point in a terminal with mkdir /windows. Run the command mount -a to reread the /etc/fstab.

Next, to populate the desktop with device icons, open Control Center -> Desktop -> Behavior -> Device Icons. You have to clear all of the checked boxes and click Apply. Then, check the devices you want displayed, both mounted and unmounted, and click Apply again. It's a bit of KDE goofiness to have devices checked off here by default and not have them appear without going through this little procedure.

If you don't like desktop clutter, you can add Kdiskfree to the task bar and set its properties to open a browser upon mounting. When you need to use a drive, click on the Kdiskfree button, right-click the desired device and then select Open in File Manager.

There is a bug in KDE that prevents ejecting a disc from a CD-ROM or DVD as a user. This appears to be related to a KDE process, namely, kio_audiocd. It affects only those drives connected to system sound with an audio cable. There are a couple of workarounds, however. As root, check setuid in the permissions of /usr/bin/eject. If you don't want to use setuid, you simply can kill the errant process, either with Ksystemguard or with a script like this:

#! /bin/bash
killall kio_audiocd
eject /dev/hdc (or /dev/hdd as appropriate)

Save as or in /usr/bin and give it the proper user permissions with chmod 755. I like this script; set up an icon to run it, use a red X from the actions list, and you can eject a disc with one mouse action instead of three.

The above faults I found in KDE 3.3.2 are mitigated by the ease of using a USB scanner. I simply plugged in my Epson 1650, started Xsane without any of the file tinkering of yore and scanned. Of course, your scanner must be one supported by SANE.

Libranet 3.0 also installs GNOME 2.8. I am not a GNOME fan, but this version is good enough to tempt me away from KDE. It loads fast and everything works out of the box. I just don't like double-clicking. Other windows managers include Xfce, Afterstep, Blackbox, Openbox and Fvwm.

Round Three: Adminmenu

Next, set up the printer. For this, you need to use Libranet's Adminmenu, which gives you an opportunity to explore Adminmenu and its functions.

A detailed description of Libranet's new Adminmenu would justify a separate report. One feature, however, warrants particular notice. Libranet is the only Linux distribution I know of that makes compiling a kernel safe and easy. The entire process is point and click. If for some reason the recompiled kernel does not boot, the original kernel still is available and listed in the boot menu and will start Libranet up for another try if needed. By itself Adminmenu, with its unique kernel tool, gives Libranet its knockout punch.

The Decision

Libranet 3.0's KDE 3.3.2 is a bit out of shape. The previously mentioned CD/DVD ejection bug and the lack of plug-n-play USB flash memory device recognition are more annoying than crippling, but they do detract from the usual polished Libranet feel. Offsetting this, USB scanners are now truly plug-n-play, and GNOME 2.8 is a commendable choice for first-time user.

For Windows users, Libranet's default kernel comes prepatched and configured for Win4Lin 9x. You simply install Win4Lin; no kernel recompiling is needed. The install media also includes a trial version of CrossOver Office.

This distribution provides a huge selection of applications, a generous choice of desktop windows managers, convenient system management with Adminmenu and good performance even on older systems. The desktop user should find plenty of capabilities in Libranet 3.0 without needing either the fastest CPU available or advanced hacking skills. I'd call it a Debian technical knockout.



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Old hardware support has some gaps

Jack Carroll's picture

As good as LN 3.0 is on up-to-date hardware, as well-chosen as its mixed tree of packages is, and as strong a tool as Adminmenu is, the Libranet team's finite resources do show up in some areas. I concentrated on testing it with older hardware, and found some problems that I hope will be cleaned up in a later update.
First of all, there are no boot floppies, not even supplied as images on the CDs. Nor is there a network installation or cross-installation procedure. This makes 3.0 impossible to install on any computer that can't boot from a CD. Second, the new installer is totally dependent on getting X Windows working early in the process. This excludes another large category of older hardware, where the graphics hardware may be difficult to get working without the resources of an installed system, or where there isn't enough disk space to support X.
The good news with X is, the problems with setting up Nvidia and Radeon cards got pretty well ironed out during the last part of the beta period. The menu screens can be a little tricky to figure out, but all the necessary hooks are there.
I also hit some problems with older network boards. I had to do considerable hacking to get a couple of ISA boards recognized and configured.
For newcomers with machines built in the last 3 years or so, and no unusual hardware combinations (in other words, stock desktop PCs), Libranet 3.0 makes solid sense as a primary choice. For others, Debian Sarge is a good candidate to consider. Because LN is built on top of Debian, skills learned on one are mostly applicable to the other. Debian can install on just about anything, and its new installer is much easier to use than the fearsome utility of a few years ago. Still, there's no equivalent to Adminmenu, so you'll spend more time with the reference manual and the text editor setting up your configuration files. Libranet and stock Debian can complement each other well in a site with a wide assortment of equipment.


Derek's picture


I recently paid for 3.0 after trying a number of distros and not finding the "perfect one" (if one even exists).

While I agree with much said here I have to say that the first looks impression of Libranet were not good at all. The menues look terrible and have duplication all over the place. The default screen looks even worse.

Technically I think you have gotten it quite right, but what about the look of the system when it is sitting there in front of you? I really hoped after spending the money that I would have a system that looked professional out of the box. I didn't expect that I would have to make numerous changes to get things looking as they should from a commercial product.

Libranet has much to be congratulated for. Admin is wonderful. But they need to make an effort to centralize on perhaps two or three windows managers and make each look as they should...professional.

Just my two cents.



Anonymous's picture

Just get used on Debian. It really makes everything and once used to it it's wonderfull and perfect, nothing is missing ...

New to me

Baz's picture

I must admit i never heard of this distro before. It sounds really good. I was considering upgrading my SuSE 9.1 box to 9.3 but now I'm going to try Libranet first.

Thanks for the heads-up!

Second that of MEPIS

devnet's picture

I'll have to agree. SimplyMEPIS 3.3 has my vote as best and easiest to use distro available. It's far to simple to use and detects everything you throw at it. Good luck with that Libranet thing.

Truth, Justice and the Secure way!

Consultant's picture

You know, I don't see anything that would pull me away from Mepis, pros and cons accepted but I just have to say this review is done so well, and even so nice looking, I hope more are to come.

Have you done Mepis lately? I'll search.

Oh, and don't bother so much with things that are easy user preference changes. No offence, but like single click. I prefer KDE but enjoy my found "MacOSX" gtk2 theme for those Gnome apps that I run in KDE. See "Switcher2" I think it's called.

Oh and you poor Windows users out there, STOP running to the store to buy anti-virus and anti-spyware. They're free(Zonealarm non-pro, AVG anit-virus, Ad-aware SE) but Windows still eats your time updating it all; unlike new easy open software. Things have indeed changed.

And another thing! The bigest advantage of open software is the easy package managment. You may never run old software (and for free) again. THIS is why Bill wants to "talk."

I'm glad to say, if you have a computer bone in your body; even the tip of your little finger, then it's time.

It may have more programs, bu

Anonymous's picture

It may have more programs, but everything Debian is just an apt-get away. If you check their forums, a lot of long time users have had problems with the new install (written from scratch, instead of basing it on Sarge's install, like Ubuntu did, or basing it on their old installer that was so good). This was rushed out the door, costs a LOT, and uses the same packages as Ubuntu.

Let's face it: They included a ton of packages to cover up that they charge $90 for a copy, but really don't give much more than Ubuntu or Mepis.

I think you are being a littl

Anonymous's picture

I think you are being a little dishonest. I am on the forums and I have seen very few problems with the installer (there have been a notable few). It does cost $90 for new users (discounts for students, seniors, and disabled in addition for existing users), of course, this covers all the installs you might make (including one user on the forums who administers 100s of computers).

Also, I can't stress enough, it does give you something different than sarge, etc. XAdminmenu is awesome, yes there are other tools out there that 1 by 1 does some of those things, but nothing even comes close to XAdminmenu's completelness, and you don't have to hunt for the utilities to boot!

As a last note, 3.0 was not "rushed out the door" as you would know if you'd been around the forums at all. It's been in beta testing since late last year! The team took their time and it shows.

This was a libranet article

synacl_god's picture

so why the post about mepis? mepis sucks, even knoppix uit better than mepis and *it* doth not suffer from the makers, 'we'll give it to u but the extra apps are ours' mentality

Mepis sucks big time my

Anonymous's picture

Mepis sucks big time my friends :)

linux is too hard compared

Anonymous's picture

linux is too hard compared to ms

re:This was a libranet article

Humphrey Jiller's picture

As you mention Knoppix - hey this was the only Linux-Distri. that ever worked fine without ANY changes from me 8-))))

You obviously have not tried

Anonymous's picture

You obviously have not tried mepis 3.3. it is the most user friendly distro that I've come across... period. Everything just works, and all of the debian packages work with it also.

Are you joking?

Anonymous's picture

This is debian on steroids? If you say so, but steroids aren't regarded so kindly these days. The author may like the product but that doesn't mean it's universally great. How does it compare to Xandros, Linspire or Ubuntu?

I don't know what warrants Libranet getting a review on LJ.

Libranet GNU/Linux 3.0 Screenshots by

Anonymous's picture

here ->