Originally Published: Wednesday, 9 February 2000 Author: Paul Gray
Published to: interact_articles_lugs/Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Cedar Valley LUG Review of Corel Linux

I was pretty happy the other day to receive a package in my mailbox from Corel. Inside of this package was a couple of Corel Linux distributions to try out. Having never dealt with Corel's Linux distribution before, I was eager to install a copy on a Gateway 2500 laptop in order to do some programming work on the road and at home. Unfortunately, instead of doing my work, I found myself working on lacking aspects of Corel's distribution.

A little background first: Corel is a Debian-based distribution. As such, the tools for manipulating the distribution are dpkg, apt-get, and Corel's get_it, which is wrapped by "Corel Update". Corel promotes three aspects of its distribution: an enhanced KDE Desktop, an innovative file manager, and being easy to install and upgrade.


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I was pretty happy the other day to receive a package in my mailbox from Corel. Inside of this package was a couple of Corel Linux distributions to try out. Having never dealt with Corel's Linux distribution before, I was eager to install a copy on a Gateway 2500 laptop in order to do some programming work on the road and at home. Unfortunately, instead of doing my work, I found myself working on lacking aspects of Corel's distribution.

A little background first: Corel is a Debian-based distribution. As such, the tools for manipulating the distribution are dpkg, apt-get, and Corel's get_it, which is wrapped by "Corel Update". Corel promotes three aspects of its distribution: an enhanced KDE Desktop, an innovative file manager, and being easy to install and upgrade.

I'll admit that Corel Linux is very easy to install. Only three things are needed for the installation process; a user account, a selection of the package categories, and the method for acquiring disk space. Each of these has more in depth selections. I chose a user account name for myself (no password is requested) and the set of development packages. In selecting the partition, to install Corel Linux on, I found the partitioning tool to be awkward and difficult to parse. I had free space and an in-tact linux partition, but it wasn't clear to me how Corel viewed these attributes of the disk in the partitioning tool. I gave up on trying to enter and select drive information and gave in to letting it assume all of the disk. With that, the installation proceeded without further interaction.

When Corel booted up for the first time, I logged in as root and was immediately greeted with a window asking me to supply a new password. KDE is the X Window manager, and has the usual look and feel with some amendments to the KPanel (there's no taskbar by default). So, I entered root password and proceeded to tweak the initial settings.

I was pleased to see that PCMCIA support was in-tact. I plugged in both my PCMCIA Ethernet card and my PCMCIA SCSI card for my external Jaz Drive. Both fired right up, however networking had yet to be configured. In configuring the network, I had to hunt around quite a bit to find where Corel put the network configuration. Corel's network configuration is found as an option in the Corel Control Center (a Corel-augmented KDE Control Center). The Corel Control Center opens with a Corel splash screen that shows the system's configuration.

One quirk that I noted right away was that the kernel installed per the default settings (2.2.12) was multiprocessor (SMP) enabled -- kind of a waste on my laptop. But this quirk was to be the first of many. Selecting "Network" from the Corel's Control Center allowed me to override the DHCP default setting to put in my own IP address, gateway, netmask, and DNS settings. A glaring omission was a place to put the default search domains, which I ended up manually adding to /etc/resolv.conf. With that, my networking was complete and my connection was solid.

Corel's standard distribution ships with libc-dpkg6-2.0.7. The work that I needed to do required one of the JDK1.2 pre-releases from blackdown.org. These JDK pre-releases require at least libc6-2.1.1 and work with libc6-2.1.2. Not a big problem though, I'd just install a new library. Furthermore, when I found myself needing to manually edit /etc/resolv.conf to specify the domainname search path, it became clear that my preferred editor, Emacs or more appropriately XEmacs, was not installed as one of the packages in the development suite. These missing packages gave me an excuse to fire up Corel's "Corel Update" and install new C libraries and Emacs. While you may not agree with my editor preferences, in trying to install something as common as libc libraries and Emacs I found quite a few obstacles to overcome associated with Corel's implementation of things.

Corel's "Corel Update" appears to be a nice graphical wrapper to Corel's get_it approach to package management. The default location to obtain packages pointed to Corel's ftp site and to the distribution CD. First off, I updated the database, hoping that Corel's version of the glibc and Emacs would be available through ftp. In the Corel "Corel Update", there's a search facility that is mapped to the usual control-f key map, where I entered "libc". No new release of libc was available from Corel. Entering "emacs" resulted in the same, which elicited my reaction of "you gotta be kidding!"

Barring updates from Corel, I pointed "Corel Update" to http.us.debian.org, and specified the "frozen" distribution (a.k.a. woody) for packages. I re-updated the package list and found both XEmacs and libc6-2.1.2-13. The installation and upgrade to libc6-2.1.2 went smoothly.

In trying to install xemacs-21, I selected the binary and the mule for installation, but when I hit the "install" button, an error message popped up that simply stated that the installation failed -- no reason was given, and there was no indication of what went wrong anywhere. So I abandoned "Corel Update" for the more familiar command-line utility "apt-get". I did an "apt-get -f install xemacs21-bin". A bunch of related packages were listed that needed to be installed or removed to accommodate the installation, and I gave it the nod to go ahead. After some time, the package kde-corel came up as one of the packages that needed to be removed. That's when all heck broke loose. Everything was absolutely broken afterwards, and trying to re-install kde-corel resulted in the missing dependency library, libapt-pkg 2.5. In the end, I started from scratch and re-installed.

While I was re-installing on the laptop, I turned to CorelCity on my workstation -- the default home page set in Corel's Netscape distribution. One would think that a company like Corel would provide top-notch support for their product. However, in searching their web space for Knowledge-Base information on upgrading libraries, I came across document #201532. The document was titled "How do I install or update librairies (sic) in Corel LINUX?" While it seemed to be appropriate, it was simply a very superficial description of how to use the "Corel Update" utility. I also noted that misspellings and grammatical errors in these Knowledge-base documents were ubiquitous -- in every document I pulled down, starting with #201532 through #201851. And this is the company that puts out WordPerfect? So in other words, the Knowledge base support currently lacks substantive information and the content needs some attention.

With a new installation on the laptop, I re-installed the new libc6 package and successfully installed emacs-20 (not xemacs-20, still won't go there). The jdk1.2 from blackdown unpacked fine and Java was up and running.

Glutton for punishment, it was time to install a network printer. The printer configuration is done through Corel's Control Center. Selecting "Printers->Add" brings up a window that walks you through a simple setup. I chose the Postscript network printer configuration and filled in the blanks for the IP address of the JetDirect card on the printer. Upon finishing the configuration, I noticed another bug in the Corel Control Center: if you highlight the printer and select "Properties", instead of showing the properties of the selected printer, the printer window goes away and is replaced by the Corel Control Center's original splash screen.

I'll close with a final criticism that I have of the Corel distribution in case anyone from Corel would read this far. The "Corel Update" program used to update and install debian packages often dumps core when I page-up quickly in the package lists. It's a reproducable phenomena.

In summary, I like the idea of a company like Corel going all out in supporting Linux, but this distribution just doesn't meet the level of professionalism that I would expect from Corel.

This review was written by Paul Gray if you or one of your LUG members received did a review of a product, book, or other item from a Linux vendor, and would like your LUG member's review posted on LUGs.linux.com, please contact Kara.





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