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Caldera 2.2 Quick Review

By Sean Lamb

Yesterday I installed the Caldera 2.2 CD that I got at Comdex over my existing RH 5.2 install. The short review is "cool!" The longer review follows:

This distro is really aimed at the newbie. From the boot floppy, immediately after running LILO, the disk loads a graphical, although text-based, interface while it loads the modules and does some basic hardware probing. The interface is smart enough to load basic keyboard and mouse drivers for those, like me, who are migrating from MSWindows (it does go through a mouse test page so you can refine your rodential setup if you need to). It also autoprobes for the setup files and loads the appropriate modules to access them. The first thing it does that requires user-supplied answers is partitioning. Setup launches a custom version of Partition Magic to create/resize partitions for Linux. I didn't make any changes to my partition table, so I just acknowledged through it after determining that it could see all my partitions.

The next step is the only step of the setup that I didn't like so much; it forced me to reformat the Linux partition. For a newbie without a lot of data on the drive, this isn't that big of a problem. But experienced users are likely to have data that they still want/need to keep on those partitions. There is an Expert mode for setup that you can choose before partitioning that likely addresses this issue, but I didn't try that. If I really needed to, I could have canceled setup and backed up my important data at this time and then restarted setup. For my installation, I allowed it to reformat the drive and setup continued.

After the partition was formatted and ready to continue, setup asked me what packages I wanted to install. For my install, there wasn't an expert option, but there were a few choices here: minimum packages, all recommended packages, or all packages. I chose all recommended packages for this step. It installs all the core packages and almost everything that a basic user will need to get the machine going. However, there are a couple of interesting choices that the developers have made for us (this option installs Apache but not any of the Office suites). What impressed me here is that as soon as you told it which package option you wanted, it started copying those packages to the disk immediately, while it still prompted for user information. This setup really shows off the multitasking capabilities of the OS nicely.

I've probably got the next few options out of order, but while it's copying packages to the hard drive, setup asks for your basic ethernet configuration, assigns a root password and creates user accounts, sets up XFree86 to your hardware and resolution choices (prompts with an extensive list of monitors but allows you to customize the monitor choice; similar options with the video card, but autoprobe worked for me) and tests the X configuration that you selected. There are probably some other options in there that I forgot, but you get the idea.

Once setup has gathered all the information it needs, setup does something that we will probably never see from an MS install: it lets you play tetris while setup finishes copying files. When it finishes copying files, it turns on the Finish button at the bottom of the screen next to the progress indicator to indicate that it is done. It doesn't stop your game, but waits patiently until you are done (it also doesn't force you to stop playing when the game ends, if you really want to play another game right now).

After setup is done, it launches the kernel and packages that are installed on the hard drive and boots into KDE, where it prompts for the username and password. At this point it looks much like a WinNT install, except that the widgets are different shapes/sizes, it presents a list of users' accounts on the machine (login names only). The login window does give you the option of how you want to login (either directly into KDE or into "failsafe" mode that is just the command shell) as well as a shutdown/reboot button. I've already found that the reboot button is very handy here, because now I don't have to give out the root password to the rest of the family in case they don't catch LILO in time and really want to boot MSWin.

On each user's first login to the system, assuming they choose to login to KDE directly (which is the default option), they are presented with the KDE Desktop Setup Wizard. This wizard asks the user to setup a theme and asks what handy icons to put on the desktop. One neat thing that the wizard does is that it gives you the option of placing icons on the desktop for floppy and CD drives that automount the media. One problem that I found was that as myself, as soon as I setup the color scheme that I wanted, I got logged out. It took a while to find the Wizard again, but he is setup in the Utilities menu if you want to run it again (this didn't happen when I was root).

The only problem that I had with setup is that it didn't setup LILO for me. When I rebooted, it hung with LI. From all the reading that I did, I knew that this was a fairly common issue, so finding possible solutions wasn't that difficult (it helped that I had a second machine here that was untouched that had a modem connection). What I found to help here was to boot from the setup boot disk and type "boot root=/dev/hda4" at the LILO boot prompt (change the root param as appropriate for your system). This booted the kernel that I had installed on the hard drive so that I could make the necessary config changes. I found that I was able to setup LILO properly by using Lisa and following the prompts (while logged in as root, of course). The cool thing here is that the setup boot disk can be used as a sort of rescue disk in case there are problems.

For me, the next step will be to setup my PNP devices to get my sound, ethernet and modem connections working (yeah, booted in Win95 right now). I'll probably end up disabling PNP on those cards and setting their configs manually to what Win95 set them up to be, but that's for next weekend.

Copyright © 1999, Sean Lamb
Published in Issue 42 of Linux Gazette, June 1999