More on Libranet 2.7

by Phil Hughes

After reading the product review of Libranet on this web site, I decided to give it a try. $100 and two weeks later I feel I have something more to say.

I was about to leave on a trip to the Caribbean and had decided not to try the install until I returned. I intended to take my Fujitsu laptop with SuSE 8.0 on the trip and be done with it.

But I had a few hours to kill the night before the I left, and I was frustrated by SuSE 8.1 not dealing correctly with APM on my IBM Thinkpad. This surprised me because 7.3 had worked fine. As SuSE 8.1 wasn't working, I hadn't loaded any user files on the Thinkpad--so I decided to see what Libranet 2.7 would do.

About an hour later I had the answer. It loaded flawlessly and recognized the video, sound and APM. So the Fujitsu came out of my bag and the Thinkpad went in.

We already did a product review, so that isn't my focus. Rather, I want to talk about the future of Linux on the desktop and how Libranet fits in.

I have been living in Costa Rica since January of this year. Besides a cultural change, there is a difference in which Linux distributions are popular. In the US, I saw more Red Hat and SuSE boxes than anything else. SSC, the parent company of Linux Journal, runs on Debian and seemed to be the exception. When I got here I saw servers running Debian, Slackware and Mandrake. Desktops were primarily Mandrake.

I wondered why there was this difference. Now I see two reasons for it, and the first is money. With a lot less disposable income, people are more likely to go for what is available for free. The second thing is marketing. With Linux vendors spending virtually no marketing dollars here, adoption depends a lot on word of mouth. Once someone picks something, they will spread the word. This fact, to me, is good. It doesn't make us any advertising revenue, but it does mean people talk to each other as in the early days of Linux.

Now, on to my personal prejudice--I like Debian. I have always liked it for a number of reasons. The sense of community is a big one. That is, there is a lot of overlap between the Debian developer and the Debian user communities. Thus, changes tend to address users' needs.

In addition, I have watched the RPM-based distributions add things that existed in Debian a long time ago. Real dependencies and on-line updates come to mind. I described Debian as "easy to install" in an LJ article about five years ago, and although it has remained at that same level of easiness, other distributions have raised the easiness bar.

When Corel Linux came out a few years ago, I had high hopes that it could be "desktop Debian". For a number of reasons, many of them political, it didn't happen. Thus, Debian has remained the first choice for many of the hard-core users, but it didn't make a serious dent in the desktop market.

Enter Libranet. It doesn't have all the glitz of, for example, a SuSE system, but it installs very easily. It reminds me of Mandrake--less fancy but very functional.

Where would I recommend Libranet? Well, if my neighbor wanted a desktop Linux distribution, I would be comfortable recommending it. Or if a company had Debian servers, Libranet could be just the ticket for moving desktops to Linux.

The future? I had thought the RPM vs. Deb war was over. Now I must reconsider. There are a lot of Deb packages out there, and with Libranet making it easy for a novice to get to them, I see a future. I see this as a chance for the hard-core Debian geeks to embrace new users without having to learn about that which they don't use.

Go Libranet. You might be "community Linux" for the desktop.

Phil Hughes is publisher of Linux Journal.


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