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Testdriving Sidux 2007

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I've been busy testing away at distros lately. I know I haven't produced too many reviews lately, but that's because since receiving my laptop this passed Christmas, distros now have a higher hurdle to clear. I've been testing, but not many are up to the challenge of a commercially available off-the-rack laptop. One "almost there" was VectorLinux which I reviewed for this week's DistroWatch Weekly. Another is the subject of this article: sidux 2007-01.

I say Vector was almost there because I still had one important issue with it. Although I was able to work through most of the problems with it on my laptop, I couldn't get the suspend to ram or suspend to disk to work. Honestly, I quit working on it as soon as the article on it was published, but otherwise I liked it quite a bit. Never underestimate the value of a nice looking system. Even geeks like eye candy too.

Things went a bit easier with Sidux than experienced with Vector and most laptop specific areas went really well. Sidux comes in the livecd format, so one can test it on their machines before installing it their harddrives. When one first boots Sidux, they can instantly spot the knoppix family genes. The familar knoppix output continues until one reaches the KDE login splash. It's a customzied Sidux graphic using what looks like Marble icons for the progress indicators.

At the desktop one finds a customized background proudly signifying the system running. The panel is neat and tidy, and the desktop has a few useful icons. My initial resolution was set at 1024x768 using the nv driver. Since my desired resolution wasn't available in the xrandr/screen adjust tool, I edited the xorg file by hand. All that was required was listing the desired 1200x800 at the designated default depth and restarting X.

Next was wireless. I attempted to use the ndiswrapper installation tool found in the menu, but that didn't seem to go very well. I got errors about not being able to install my needed windows drivers. I had already rmmod the bcm43xx et al modules and even uninstalled the bcml5 that I've discovered usually ships with distros these days. However, a few quick entries at the commandline and I could connect to my router or my neighbor's.

    


There was a battery monitor and system power profile/cpufreq applet already enabled in the system tray upon boot/install. It is kpowersave, a downloadable upgrade/replacement for KDE's klaptop. I like kpowersave a bit better, so that was a nice surprise. It works as it should, no problems to report.

Usually on the laptop, if I can get those three things working, I'll test the harddrive installer. Sidux includes a fairly nice and new-user friendly installer. It only asks a minimum of configuration questions and the layout is in tab form, so it's easy to go back and double check things. GParted is included during the install if any partition work is required. I used GParted this test and it did as I requested. I deleted on larger partition I had at the end of the disk and made two smaller ones. Other options include choice of bootload, setting up a user, and passwords. The only glitch was when choosing grub to be installed onto the partition, the system grub became unbootable.

        


The next thing I test for is suspend to ram and suspend to disk. This is a bit iffy with Sidux on my machine. It seems suspend to disk works as it should, but my usb mouse is gone from then on. Nothing, including restarting X, will bring it back. Suspend to ram is a big no-no. It'll go on to sleep, but it won't wake back up again. As stated in the article on Vector, this works in openSUSE and PCLOS, so I know it's possible. As with Vector, I've about given up on this function for now.

After install and getting the hardware to work as desired, there is the system. Sidux is primarily a KDE distro, but XFCE4 (4.4 rc2), Fluxbox, and a couple more are available during the system install. Fluxbox comes with the Sidux wallpaper using the default meta theme. There is a nice complete menu ready. XFCE4 looks pretty much default except for icons on the desktop being enabled.

    


Sidux ships with a 2.6.20 kernel, Xorg 7.1.1, gcc 4.1.2, and KDE 3.5.5. Iceweasel 2.0.0.1 appears to be the default browser and OpenOffice.org is only at version 2.0.4. Besides what appears to be most of the KDE apps, other apps include The Gimp, Amarok, K3B, Kaffine, Scribus, XFMedia player, and Inkscape. There are a few system configuration tools, but not a lot. Ksensors is available through apt-get.

    


Most all software functioned well here, but some of the system utilities didn't. Klik for example, didn't do as it was intended. I got errors each package I tried to install with it. There is a meta-package installer present as well, but anything you want in that, you'll probably already have installed when it's offered during system install. apt-get at the commandline works well though. The ndiswrapper graphical configuration couldn't work as described above. The KDE printer configuration worked really well setting up my samba printer.

    


There are no browser plugins or media codec included in Sidux, but Iceweasel (and Firefox) will install Flash for you. Java is still a manual install.

So, all in all, Sidux did fairly okay on the hardware aspect, and the software included worked well too. I was disapppointed OOo was version 2.0.4 and KDE was 3.5.5. It's kinda a drag these days to have to mess with browser plugins and multimedia codecs yourself. I haven't read the site all that closely, but I think they have this "only free software" philosophy going on. So, if you're into that there ya go. I was quite excited when X was so easy to adjust and ndiswrapper worked so quickly for me at the commandline, but the excitement died down a bit after the harddrive install. It's a nice enough system and it looks pretty good, but the difficulties with grub, suspend, and non-free software make it another "almost there." It wouldn't be a chore to have to live with it, but for now, I think I'll still be selecting PCLOS at the grub screen.

About this "only free software" philosophy

"It's kinda a drag these days to have to mess with browser plugins and multimedia codecs yourself. I haven't read the site all that closely, but I think they have this "only free software" philosophy going on. So, if you're into that there ya go."

Well, Sidux is based on Debian GNU/Linux and Debian actively supports Free Software, so there should be no surprises there. They believe that it's important that the source code for all the software they distribute is made available because this is the only way to guarantee the quality. Also, they don't want to distribute any patent-encumbered software. (See what recently happened to Microsoft for distributing the MP3 decoder.)

That said, Debian makes some non-free stuff (like java, flashplugin, and nvidia driver) available from their package repositories -- this has angered the FSF people. And there's an unofficial repo for the illegal codecs: http://www.debian-multimedia.org/

So Debian takes the practical road and gives users what they want but it doesn't install any non-free stuff by default. Now, Sidux is not an official part of Debian GNU/Linux, even though they use the official Debian Sid package repositories, and Sidux may have a different policy concerning non-free software. (I really don't know.)

The Sidux web site seems to have a lot of useful documentation and a forum where users can turn to if they have problems. Debian Wiki (http://wiki.debian.org/ ) is another useful resource for solving multimedia-related problems.

Sidux is a young distro and it seems to me that this review fairly points out areas where Sidux already succeeds and where it can improve in the future. Well done. Smile

It's their interpretation of German law

Like Kanotix before it, Sidux seems to actively discourage any discussion of certain multimedia software anywhere except for its IRC channel. (Since IRC can be logged, I don't know why they feel "safe" discussing it there either.) The Kanotix forum would even automatically replace the names of certain programs with the word "censored."

See this thread and this thread on the Kanotix forum, and this thread on the Sidux forum, for more.

It seems that Germany's laws are more stringent than the laws in the US, as far as copyright goes, and certain German lawyers would watch for mention of software that could be used to infringe copyright, and then turn the offender in, and collect a part of the fine that was levied. As a non-profit organization, Kanotix couldn't afford to expose itself to that risk. At least that's the sense I got from reading numerous Kanotix posts on the topic.

The frustrating part is that it was never clearly spelled out what was "verboten" to discuss and why. You were expected to just know. Forum discussions about it on the Kanotix board often degenerated into chest-thumping and pissing matches.

Whatever.

A little respect for the only free software philosophy, please.

"It's kinda a drag these days to have to mess with browser plugins and multimedia codecs yourself. I haven't read the site all that closely, but I think they have this "only free software" philosophy going on. So, if you're into that there ya go."

This is a rather disappointing comment. While it's fashionable now on some forums to bash Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, I think it's important to remember that all of us who use Linux and other free software are living in the house that RMS built. There wouldn't be a PCLinuxOS or a Mandriva or a Debian or a Ubuntu or a openSuse or a Red Hat or any other Linux distro without him and his creations-- the FSF and GPL. That "only free software" philosophy has made all of this possible.

re: A little respect

Oh, pla-lease. It is a big drag these days. We've gotten spoiled by distros including them now I'm not all that crazy about having to hunt them up and install them anymore. I ain't bashing anyone or anything, just stating the facts. If a person is into using only all free software, then there they go, here's an alternative for them. I guess I should have used more 'professional wording' to state it.

how about a little less respect and a little more results

Darkman wrote:

I think it's important to remember that all of us who use Linux and other free software are living in the house that RMS built.

What utter dribble. That's like saying if Hitler was never born we'd all be drinking a coke and living in perfect harmony.

The GPL and the Free Software Foundation

vonskippy wrote:
What utter dribble.

Really? Would you please explain why?

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