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The Linux Project X
Lunar Linux and Gentoo Linux-The Lipton cup-o-soup Linux distributions.
NOTE!This was supposed to be article eleven, and the previous article about Fedora was supposed to be article ten (X). All I can say is, "oops!" Once again, I am proved to be less than perfect. Hope you like the article even with the number change and seeming lack of continuity.
"Is it Linux yet?" This is the question you will be asking yourself if you gain the courage to consider setting up either Lunar Linux or Gentoo Linux on anything less than a bleeding edge system. Even if you have such as system, you will still be left with the unending struggle of trying to get either one of these simply horrendous operating systems on your machine. Let me begin with Lunar Linux, the absolute worst Linux Distribution I have ever experienced. Yes, I said absolute worst. While Gentoo is no prize, at least all of its stuff TRIED to install properly. It didn't get the job done, but more about that later.
The test machine is going on hour fifteen of setting up the bare essentials of Lunar Linux's basic X Windows desktop, and there's no end in sight. Well, maybe there is an end in sight, it's just at the present moment, I can't really tell. The reason for this is Lunar Linux, unlike every other distribution tested to date, doesn't simply install compressed but functional programs ready to run with an hour or three of sucking said programs down from the Internet or off the distribution CD.
No, Lunar Linux, obviously built with the total ultra geek in mind, takes the time eating step of compiling EVERY PROGRAM IT INSTALLS ON YOUR SYSTEM. That means it downloads the source code for those programs, then turns that code into executable files on your machine The theory behind this, according to the Lunar Linux web site, is by compiling each program on your machine, they will run as quickly as possible, and supposedly as bug free as possible, too.
For the uninitiated, there are two states in which computer software exists: source code and executable code. Source code is the written by a human, text-based stuff that ostensibly tells the computer what you want it to do. In order for source code to actually make the computer operate, it has to be translated into executable code. This deed is accomplished by the use of a compiler. Through the use of extensive compilation libraries, the source code is translated into executable code. The translation process, as one might well expect, is a time consuming process. A slower machine means a slower compilation process. Considering the age and speed of the test computer, and the amount of files to be created, fifteen hours could become twenty-four before I see an end to the compilation process.
In an ideal world, it makes sense that compiling software in a custom-made fashion would speed up the final operation of the computer. Custom made executables would be free of extraneous stuff that doesn't need to be there. Those executable files would be tailor made to your system (CPU, speed, memory, BIOS, peripherals, etc.). When the object of running an operating system that's as lean and mean as possible, it makes a lot of sense to compile everything according to what hardware exists on the machine on which the operating system is to run. However, this begs the question of who really needs that kind of balls to the wall speed in an operating system? On older systems, yeah, I could see the need. However, with all the super adrenalin dipped PC's on the market today, compiling the entirety of your operating system seems a huge waste of time.
One might think, in consideration of the speed of my test system, I would be all for having it run like the proverbial raped ape. However, in consideration of how long my system has been crunching on this distribution installation, is the speed I am supposed to gain worth the hours and hours that have been spent compiling the operating system? I am simply not impressed.
At this time, the above question remains to be answered. I will say one thing, though. In consideration of the time that has been eaten by this process up to now, this machine better run like it has custom-built software running it, or I am going to crucify Lunar Linux on it's much deserved old rugged digital cross.
I can say that as far as the first criterion is concerned, Lunar Linux gets no stars at all. First of all, the initial installation CD requires the "ide=nodma" command to be entered at the boot prompt. While I am willing to accept this with installation CD's that take less time to install the basic system already pre-compiled, in a system that forces the user to put up with the compilation of the entire operating system, it's as close to inexcusable as can be. For the time you have to devote after you get the machine booted in order to just get to square one, you'd think they'd make it so all one has to do at install CD boot time is hit the enter key or wait. Nope, they can't be bothered to make it that easy. I guess they are just trying to find out who is willing to go that extra mile, and who isn't. How arrogant can one get?
Update, the initial compilation process just ended a few seconds ago. X Windows failed to start. It failed because either I didn't choose, or the compiler didn't set up the video libraries to make things run. This is not good, and it makes me even happier that I didn't give Lunar Linux any stars for installation. Well, I have to go get the required modules to make it run. I'll continue as soon as I get everything set to run. Don't look for any high marks for Lunar Linux though. Is it Linux yet? Not on your life!
It is now officially the twenty-four hour mark, and it's still not Linux. Therefore, Lunar Linux is getting a complete goose egg from me. If the assumption of The Linux Project was being able to install a console-based operating system, and nothing more, then I suppose Lunar Linux might get high marks. If the installation setup worked to a point that one could expect a functional GUI after almost twenty-four hours of set up time, Lunar Linux might not have wound up on the Pappy scrap heap. If I had a faster machine that could compile Lunar Linux in less time than it takes to go from here to Toledo, Ohio, I might recommend it to y'all. If the modules weren't screwed up on their web site, and they at least attempted to install, I might consider that Lunar Linux is worth the time and effort required to turn those files from megs of source code to megs of workable software. But none of these things are even close to true.
The Linux project is about telling the newcomer how to install a UNIX based operating system with a GUI. The Linux project is built on the assumption that the average newbie has no idea how to work in the console environment. Therefore, I cannot even consider recommending it to the new user. Even if you do have some experience in operating inside the console environment like myself, Lunar Linux still falls flat on it's face before it even gets a chance to stand up.
I'll grant Gentoo one big plus over Lunar Linux. While they are both "cup-o-soup" flavors of Linux, at least Gentoo's website is set up to properly access all the required files to get Gentoo close to functional. Unlike Lunar Linux, which had numerous important files off line at compile time, everything was there at the Gentoo Linux site for your cup-o-soup experience.
There are times in life when one should consider quitting when ahead. Such is the case with Gentoo Linux. A Gentoo is a kind of penguin. It seems that Linux and the penguin are intimately linked because Linus Torvalds, the originator of the Linux Kernel, the thing which gave rise to every flavor of Linux, likes penguins. According to urban legend, it was a practice of his to send penguins to Bill Gates. I don't know if this is true, but if it is, all I can say is how amusing is that?
Frankly, I think they should call Gentoo Linux, "Sets-Up-Slow" Linux. That would be much more apropos than naming it after a bird that can probably move like greased lightning through the waters of the Antarctic. Gentoo Linux can't do that. It doesn't even come close.
I am actually revisiting Gentoo because I attempted to install several times in the past. Without fail, each attempt ended badly. Due to the age of the CD ROM drives and the way that Gentoo, and some other Linux distributions operate, they have a tendency to cause these older CD ROM drives to stall in mid installation. Thus ended my numerous previous attempts to install Gentoo. Since I recently updated the test system with a new DVD ROM drive, I decided to retry Gentoo and some other distributions, which were previously problematic. I figured that I owed it to the people who took the time to create these various distributions to give them a truly fair shake. Ergo, I am revisiting Gentoo and a few other previously faulted distributions that have yet to be published.
In the case of Gentoo, perhaps I should have rethought that idea. However, fair is fair. I say that for the simple reason that not unlike Lunar Linux, Gentoo Linux is another Lipton cup-o-soup Linux distribution. In other words, it is compiled on your system at set up time. It is configured to run in as streamlined a fashion as possible to make your system run as quickly and efficiently as possible. It exists as source code until such time as the installation program compiles it specifically for your system.
My last experience with this method of system set up ended miserably. Lunar Linux failed to set up its GUI. While it did set up the "base" system, due to some web page glitches, it couldn't build the GUI. Even after this problem and my numerous attempts to bring it into line, Lunar Linux left me without a functional GUI. It remains to be seen what will happen with Gentoo. I say that because at the moment, the test system is still in the midst of compiling Gentoo. I am typing this as an email using Mozilla Firefox on my other machine.
This present attempt at installation began at approximately 6:00 PM CST. It is now 12:24 AM CST, and according to the installation program, I am at file 346 of 714 remaining files to be compiled. My thought is it should be finished doing it's thing about 4:00 AM ST or so. Oh yes, much to my chagrin, I have sunk my teeth into yet another slow moving, make it custom for the machine, Lipton cup-o-soup Linux distribution.
The installation finally finished. I acted very conservatively on this test. I only had it do the base system, the required libraries for X Windows, and the KDE desktop. After almost twenty-six hours, finally, the hard drive light flickered one last time, and the screen indicated that Gentoo Linux had finished setting up.
At last, I have finally succeeded in setting up a cup-o-soup Linux distribution. Much to my chagrin, all was not well. Instead of loading the KDE desktop, it loaded Flux Box instead. Flux Box is a very old X Windows desktop scheme. Really, it doesn't qualify as a desktop. It's more of a window that shows three X-terminal windows. You start programs by typing their command. KDE simply refuses to start, even after about two hours of fiddling after compilation officially finished.
Yes, I should have quit while I was ahead. Gentoo Linux gets a full zero! Perhaps there are Linux purists out there who would tell me I am a p*ssy or not a real Linux guru because I couldn't get either one of the cup-o-soup distributions to work. Fine, I'm a p*ssy. I'm not a Linux guru. Big deal.
I am also not recommending that anyone with Linux knowledge at the level of mine or below try to set up either Lunar Linux or Gentoo Linux. For the amount of time your machine is tied up, to have to end that process by troubleshooting reasons as to why your system still doesn't work is completely ludicrous. When there are so many incredibly friendly distributions that set up in an hour, and can work for even the completely uninitiated, why on earth would anyone want to mess with such annoyances?
Is it Linux Yet? No, and it's not going to be. I threw the pan in the trash!