[buug] Corel LinuxOS...
feedle at feedle.net
Fri Apr 7 00:31:46 PDT 2000
Well, I promised the group that I'd write up a brief dissertation on Corel
LinuxOS once I got it home and played with it a bit. Well, here goes.
First off, for those of you that didn't know, Corel LinuxOS is based on
Debian GNU/Linux. And if you dig around under the hood, it's pretty
obvious: they make no effort to hide that fact once you scratch the
surface. However, the surface is pretty enough to keep you distracted for
quite a while.
Installing was a mixed bag, to be frank. Corel prides themselves on a
"four question" install routine, and that was pretty straightforward.
However, the partitioning was a bit braindead. Since this was going on an
existing Linux box, I had hoped I could just keep my original Linux
partitioning scheme and just have Corel install over it. No dice: I
needed to delete the existing partitions and create new ones. Not bad,
but it could have been better.
The install routine was painless enough, but at some key points the
install script seemed to hang. It didn't, in reality, but it sat at "98%
completed" for an incredibly long time, making me wonder if it had
crashed. I'm going to assume that this delay was the result of them
probing around to see what hardware I had: their install routine is
supposed to automatically detect any PCI hardware you may have.
It finally rebooted, and instead of seeing the ugly text-mode Linux
bootup, I was greeted by a VGA screen and a boot menu for various Corel
LinuxOS options and... Microsoft Windows, which is still (in theory: see
below) installed on the box. Off I went into Corel LinuxOS-land.
To my amazement, after the usual Linux gyrations, up came an XDM login
prompt, complete in a reasonable video mode (1024x768 in 16-bit color).
Hey! Wait, no fiddling with xtune until 3AM? No rooting around in the
drawers for the monitor manual to find the scan rates? This is pretty
good. In went a root password, and up came KDE.
Out of the box, it seems that the "default" install of Corel LinuxOS has
just about anything you'd need to get started. They install Netscape as
part of the deal, and a bunch of other neat stuff like XMMS (a really cool
WinAMP clone for X).
Visually, the entire thing is very impressive. Corel's enhancements to
KDE are nothing short of beautiful. My #1 compaint with most Linux
distributions of Xfree is the miserable widget and font sets that seem to
be an inherant part of any X installation. But Corel's fonts are very
Microsoft-esque: it provides a very clean look right out of the box.
Their enhanced widgets are also a big plus. It provides a clean, polished
But visuals aren't everything. Time to get to work. First order of
business: getting the box on the network. Okay, so this is supposed to be
simple.. I fire up their control panel and try to get it to get an IP
address from the DHCP server, as (allegedly) it should autodetect my PCI
network card (an SMC 1211TX, a fairly common PCI ethernet card nowadays).
This, however, dosen't seem to work. A couple of reboots, and I kinda
give up on using their fancy control panels.
Fortunately, I know that my Ethernet card uses the RTL8139 drivers, but a
lot of people may not be so lucky. They were nice enough to include a
complete modules library, so it was as simple as setting up the
/etc/modules file, but... this is supposed to be Instant Linux! Hmm..
Once I got the right network driver module loaded, the networking worked
great. In fact, one reboot later, I was browsing my Windows network and
even (gasp) printing to my Windows printers! Pretty cool stuff, actually.
Configuring this stuff was very similar to setting up similar services on
a Windows machine. I could get used to this.
So, I fired up XMMS, and started browsing my LAN for MP3s. Loaded one up,
and (aaaack!) it froze. Ah poopie. Let me guess: something's not right
with the sound driver.
Sure enough, I had to manually configure the sound driver, like I had to
configure the Ethernet card. This kinda disturbs me, actually, because
one of the things that always sucked about Linux's sound system was the
fifty-million ways (okay, slight exaggeration) of configuring the sound
drivers. Again, my knowledge of Linux lead me down the right path, but a
novice Linux user would be challenged here.
Okay, fine. Time to go back into Windows and get some other work done.
Vulcan Nerve Pinch, select Microsoft Windows from their nice boot menu...
and gasp in horror as I see "I/O Error, please insert boot disk and press
any key" come up on my screen.
Uh oh. Oh piddle. Let me guess: their bootloader was rude and decided to
give Western Digital's EZ-DRIVE software on my disk drive the heave ho.
This is really bad here. Debian has no problems with the EZ-BIOS shim
that WD insists on sticking in your hard disk, so why does Corel muck this
up? Aaargh. So, guess what... I can't boot Windows. Oh well, back to
WD's site to re-download the EZ-BIOS crapola and start over.
I have a few other minor complaints. The lack of an SSH client, for
example, is a drag (but it's not like you can't connect to
non-us.debian.org and get it). The default fonts are a bit small, but the
fact that they are clean makes up for this.
On the plus side, I really like their front-end package manager. dselect
(the Debian default package handler) blows, so anything is an
improvement... but theirs actually does seem to work. Time will tell
after I've had the box up for a while (and have added packages and stuff)
to see if it suffers from dselect's bit rot problems, but it does put a
good foot forward. Also, the fact that it's an X-based tool helps lots.
Despite my problems, I'd have to give Corel a big round of applause for
taking this as far as they have. It's not perfect, but it IS functional.
Their enhancements really do make a difference, and not a small one,
either. If they can just fine tune the installation process a little
more, I think they may have the answer to the Windows problem. It needs a
little more fine tuning before it's the perfect novice environment, but
it's just the ticket for an intermediate/hobbyist user that dosen't know
much about Linux but has a friend he can call upon to help him through the
You can download a "circulation" copy (which lacks some of their
ultra-nifty toys) from their website. They also sell a commercial package
that includes a scaled down version of WordPerfect in the $50 range.
Lastly, they include a copy with their WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux
If there is interest, I'll post a follow-up in a couple of weeks with my
long-term view of the product.
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