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LinuxPlanet: .comment: A Tale of Two Packages

May 09, 2001, 14:04 (25 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)

One key difference between Linux and the Unixes that have come before it is its very real potential as a desktop operating system for everybody, and SuSE is a good example of a distribution doing the work to make that happen. So what to make of the fact that something like PCMCIA seems to work "out of the box" while XFree86 4, despite all its enhancements, continues to present daunting configuration challenges? Dennis Powell explains.

"Riddle: What do XFree86-4.x and early versions of Enlightenment have in common?

Answer: While tremendously powerful and feature rich, both are enragingly difficult to configure unless you happen to be the author.

This not-very-funny riddle occurred to me during about the fourth day of my installation of SuSE 7.1 on an IBM Thinkpad 760XL (P-166, 104 megs of memory, Trident Cyber 9385 video chip with a meg video ram, 800x600 TFT screen). The fact that I'm writing this in StarOffice 5.2 on that very machine using that very distribution might lead you to believe the install was a success; if so, you would be led astray.

I'm not one to jump promiscuously from distribution to distribution. My Linux life began with Caldera 1.1, and but for a brief and unsatisfying fling with Red Hat 5.2 as I awaited the arrival of an official glibc-2.x, I've been a Caldera user ever since. Alas, Caldera is heading off now in a different direction. It's concentrating on business, with its desktop distribution aimed at developers within businesses. I wish them well, but this has about as much to me as does an embedded system that keeps track of the amount of gasoline pumped by a filling station. The potential to be a desktop system is what separates Linux from all those other Unixes that have been merrily cooking along in the back shops for decades now. As an advocate of Linux on the desktop, I'm not all that interested in how a distribution might be made to work on the desktop. I want one that's there already."

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