Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category.

Google, tech support, and your parents

Google has entered the tech support arena: The short help videos are slick, and they’re appealing, at least to the target audience: a younger generation that is very tech savvy with parents or grandparents who are not.  One of my sons came across them and asked if I thought they would be helpful for his grandparents, who are in their 80’s.  I went to investigate.

The Tech Support care package is a set of quick videos intended to make using Google products easier.  It makes sense.  You have a product.  You do a market analysis.  Where can you expand? In technology, an obvious place to expand your market is the older adult population, which is the fastest growing segment of the population.  But there are problems with that market segment (see my Connecting the Disconnected series of posts, as well as the Computers, Older Adults, and Libraries page).  So Google, in a style very reminiscent of Apple, has created some help videos for basic computer tasks as well as for using Google products.  They are short (good idea), to the point (good idea), and friendly (good idea).  Some are good, some are fails.

The first issue is: how basic is “Basic”?  On the assumption that this is intended for someone who at least uses email (after all, the front page of the site is an invitation to email these helpful videos to the one you think needs them), how much existing knowledge does that presume?  Looking at the set of 6 basic videos, the following knowledge and skills are expected:

  • How to use the mouse, including the right and left buttons (or right and left side of the mouse).
  • How to click and drag
  • What the various special function keys are (such as the Control Key or Command Key) and where they are .
  • How to browse a computer’s file structure.
  • What a computer file is, and what the different types of computer files are (such as jpg, pdf, docx)
  • How to use email, including attaching files.

How reasonable are these expectations?  I fall back on the standard evasive answer:  That depends. 🙂  I have developed a lot of computer training and taught a lot of people how to use computers.  They have ranged in age from thirties to nineties.  They have had varying levels of computer skills across all ages (although, in general, the older they are, the less computer skills they have).  For those who had no experience with computers, my goal was to teach them how to use the internet, and how to use email.  Once they reached that level, I could teach them more advanced things like bookmarking web sites, basic computer skills and file structure, and sharing photos.  Some of these videos presume more skills than I did even for the next step beyond the new user level.  For example, files and file structure, and email attachments were elements in our more advanced user classes.

As an aside, Gmail was one of the email services we tested on the new user groups.  It did not work out well, because (1) Google kept changing the service and interface, and (2) it was too confusing for a typical older user to figure out.  I tried to contact Google about creating a user interface that would work for older adults.  Obviously, I didn’t get their attention.

So the videos really aren’t all that basic, except to technologists who find the featured tasks unbelievably mundane.  But how useful are they to their intended audience (the older adult who already has some computer skills)?  Again, it depends:

  • How old is the recipient of the “Care” package?  The older the person is (generally, 55+), the more they need explicit instructions, using discete steps. The visuals are nice, but sometimes they move too fast and skip over steps.  Also, the language is often not explicit enough for an older adult.
  • How experienced is that person with computers?  This question is actually tied to the next one.  Older adults do not tend to keep up with changes in technology as much as their children/grandchildren.  But generally, the more experience they have, the less difficulty they have learning new, related skills.
  • What operating system, and what version of the operating system, is that person using?  Because older adults tend to not update their skills (learn why here), they are usually using an old computer and operating system (it was not uncommon to have students in my classes who were using Windows 98).  The changes from Windows 98/2000/xp to Win7 or OSX Snow Leopard are intimidating to an older adult (again, generally, 55+).  These videos assume the recipient will be comfortable using one of those operating systems.  That is a big assumption.

Bottom line: If the intended recipient of these cute care packages is under 55, and has some experience using a recent operating system, the videos will likely be both handy and useful. If the recipient is over 55 and/or is not using a recent operating system, a few of the videos would be useful:  How to Create a Strong Password, How to Know if an Email is Real, and most of the Search Information videos.  Also note, there are a lot more Mac-centric videos than Windows.

Would it work for my parents, in their 80’s, who have been using computers since the first Apples came out, and currently have Snow Leopard?  Actually, no.  They would have difficulty following most of them, and for the rest, they wouldn’t see the point.

Creating a Comparison Matrix

Charles Bailey has published a very helpful bibliography (Digital Curation and Preservation Bibliography, v.1), from which the resources below were gleaned.  In addition, I have been adding resources to Mendeley, a research management tool: Digital Curation, Digital Library Best Practices & Guidelines, Digital Library Systems, and Metadata.

I have added a few more open source items, and a lot of proprietary systems I discovered thanks to Mr. Bailey’s rich resource.  I am constructing a matrix of features for comparison, borrowing from the reports above and my initial chart, based mainly on features that are most important for our needs:

  • Product
  • URL
  • Owned by/Maintained by
  • License type
  • Runs on (OS)
  • Database
  • Server Software
  • Interoperability with Digital Repository Systems
  • Works with (what other software)
  • Programming Lang
  • Additional hardware or software required
  • Hosting available
  • OAI-PMH?
  • Rights management
  • Manage Restricted Materials
  • User submission
  • Set processing priorities
  • Manage processing status
  • Localization options
  • Formats supported
  • Image file import (TIFF, JPEG, etc.)
  • A/V file import
  • Text file import (TEI, PDF, etc.)
  • Image file management w/ associated metadata
  • A/V file management w/ associated metadata
  • Text file management w/ associated metadata
  • Batch edit
  • DC type
  • METS
  • MODS
  • MARC
  • Imports (MARC , EAD, Tab Delimited/CSV
  • Batch Import (MARC, EAD, CSV)
  • Exports (MARC, EAD, MADS, MODS, METS, Dublin Core, EAC, Tab Delimited)
  • Batch Exports (MARC, EAD, MADS, MODS, METS, Dublin Core, EAC, Tab Delimited)
  • Easy Data Entry
  • Spell Check
  • Other Schemas
  • Create description record from existing record and automatically populate fields
  • Item-level Description
  • Link accession and description records
  • Link accession record to multiple description records
  • Link description record to multiple accession records
  • Hierarchical – fonds, collection, sous-fonds, series, sub-series, files, items and link with its parts in the hierarchy.
  • Ability to reorganize hierarchies
  • Flexibility of Data Model
  • Templating/default fields
  • Controlled vocabularies
  • Authority Records
  • Link authority record to unlimited description records
  • Link description record to unlimited authority records
  • Compliance to Archival Standards
  • Data validation
  • Backup/Restore utility
  • Integrated Web Publication
  • Public search interface
  • Advanced search (by field)
  • Faceted Search
  • Browse levels
  • Search results clearly indicate hierarchical relationships of records
  • Records linked to other parts of hierarchy
  • User Access and Data Security Function
  • Control who can delete records
  • User permissions management
  • Control when record becomes publicly accessible
  • Feeds
  • Install Notes
  • Forum/List URL
  • Bug tracker URL
  • Feature Req URL
  • Trial/demo/sandbox
  • Training available
  • Technical support provided by developers
  • User Manuals (user, admin)
  • Context-specific help
  • Page turning
  • Developer customization available
  • User customization permitted
  • What reports
  • Customize reports
  • Repository statistics
  • Plugins
  • UTF

Too much marketing and not enough meat

A message to the SeniorServ list from Allan Kleiman alerted me to BigScreenLive. Since I’m always interested in what’s available for older adults, especially the ones with limited computer experience, I had to instantly check it out. Now, the upfront disclaimer here is that I haven’t actually tried it out yet, but I do see a few problems right off the bat.

The first problem, which instantly affects their credibility with me, is when they state, right on the front page:

Our goal is to make computing effortless and enjoyable. While our software runs on any PC, we also recommend hardware to make it easier.

but on the Software and Hardware page, they state,

To get started, you will need:

  • Access to a computer with Microsoft Windows XP or Vista. [emphasis mine]
  • A monitor resolution of at least 1280 x 800. The experience is optimized for a resolution of 1280 x 1024, which is most 17 inch or larger monitors.
  • A high-speed internet connection.

People are aware today (yes, even the Seniors) that PC does not necessarily mean a Windows machine. Let’s have a little truth in advertising here, please.

But even larger problems loom. Who, exactly, is the site for? Children of older adults? Retirement communities? Older adults themselves? Older adults themselves range from very computer savvy to totally clueless (and generally content to stay that way). The computer savvy ones, of course, wouldn’t even look at the site; neither would the totally clueless. That still leaves a wide range of computer users, some who are already doing the things BigScreenLive wants to introduce them to, some that are struggling to learn even the basics just to be able to do the things on BigScreenLive, and some who are frustrated by the very things BigScreenLive offers to help with.

I suspect the target audience is children of older adults: the ones who call me about signing up their parent(s) for computer classes. For this group, the site looks the most inviting and promising, because this is a group that is already fairly comfortable on computers, and that wants their parents online also, but without the frustrating computer problems older novices face. The marketing makes it look like the perfect solution. Will its marketing be successful? Probably so, with enough money. I keep thinking of how many people continue to use AOL.

Whether it is a good product is another question, however. From looking through the site, and watching its tutorial, it is evident that older novices would need training just to use the program (for example, they have to know how to enlarge the text themselves). The e-mail program, while fairly basic, will definitely be confusing to novices. It boasts “Easily upload digital photos to the Family Album” (emphasis theirs). Easy, maybe, for the adult children, but not for the older novice, without some training (which is the whole problem to begin with). I think the product would be really useful for about 2% of Seniors wanting to use the computer. But I think far more will be “given” a subscription, with little hope of actually using it.

DeLi redux

I wrote about this six months ago (here). I took out the modem on the old machine I had installed Deli on, and put in an Ethernet card. Since a new version of Deli had come out I decided to try it out again from scratch.

The install went pretty much the same as the last time, but this time I tried to configure the local network during the delisetup part (after installation). The delisetup command (at the command prompt after logging in) goes to a text-based setup. (Note: if you try to go straight to a gui interface (by typing startx) without doing the setup, it gives a group of white terminals on an icewm interface; but closing the terminals closes the gui interface). The setup categories are:

  • Keyboard
  • Language
  • Setup LILO – the Linux Loader
  • Setup PPP – Needs data from your Internet Service Provider
  • Setup local Network
  • Printer Setup
  • Setup Tiny X Server
  • Setup Window Manager
  • Install additional software packages
  • Set up your Mail system (with masqmail)
  • Select servicesto run at boot

I went through the Setup for local Network. The first screen says you can always go back and make changes by typing netconfig (it says that, but it lies: typing netconfig gets an error message that there is no such command). Then it wants a hostname and domain name. There are instructions with screenshots at the wiki on the Deli site. After the hostname and domain name, you choose between using a static IP, DHCP, or loopback. I tried both static IP and DHCP, but somehow ultimately ended up with loopback. Choosing DHCP will take you through a probe for an Ethernet card. The message I got was “A networking card using com20020.o module has been detected.” Great, but it wouldn’t connect to the network.

I tried “ifconfig” instead of “netconfig” and it showed, despite the Network configuration done in delisetup:

Link encap:Local Loopback

inet addr: Mask:


After looking at a bunch of config files, going through delisetup several times, and editing the /etc/rc.d/net file, I checked the ethernet card and put it in another slot. But the browser is still giving the error: “dns can’t find” I think it’s stuck in loopback purgatory, and I don’t have the right incantations to get it out.

On the other hand, it is still a nice, fast distro, even on this old dinosaur, and not that difficult to install, as long as you’re not trying to connect to the Internet.

Flock browser for Macs

I have been slogging through applications, plug-ins, extensions, and widgets for anything related to blogs and blog posting on Macintosh (OS X). Since I download anything that looks like a possibility as I come across it, I invariably end up with a lot of stuff sitting around waiting for my attention. Sometimes it may be weeks before I actually get to a downloaded file, and have no idea what it is or why it’s there until I install it and try to use it. Such was the case with Flock, a browser for quick picture uploading. But it had mentioned something about blog posting (which is why I downloaded it).

So here’s the first post from Flock! The blogging part isn’t as obvious as the photo-uploading features. In fact, it looks like the blog part is really supposed to be an enhancement to the photo-uploading feature (you can drag and drop a photo you find on the web into a web-snippet bar to “hold” it, then drag it from the snippet bar into your post). But it’s findable through the menus, or the customizable toolbar. It pops up a blog editor which operates in editor mode or source code mode (for those who like to have total control).

The browser itself is like Safari and Firefox in the look and feel. It supports tabbed browsing, and will import your bookmarks from Safari or Firefox when it is installed. It even has extensions, like Firefox. In fact, on the site, there’s an interesting promise and caveat (snipped via the Flock websnippet tool):

Very soon you will be able to add your favorite extensions and we’ll convert them on the fly for you. Extensions written for other platforms can still be used in the Flock browser, but there is no guarantee that they will work correctly.

So for Mac bloggers, here’s the site:

[addendum: the tagging tool is for technorati tags only, so I had to edit the post here to add my own tags ]

[addendum #2:  once I had posted, my categories showed up in Flock.  Unfortunately, I can’t add categories, but it does show the ones I have already used on the blog.]

technorati tags:Review, blogs, blogging, Macintosh, Mac, OSX, browser

Testing and more testing

Somehow I have ended up with a copy of ViaVoice for Mac OS X. It appears to be the newest version, although I recall hearing something about it not being updated in the last couple years. This could be a problem for a new macbook. I decided to give it a try anyway.

The package comes with an instruction book and CD, a headphone/microphone combination attached to a USB adapter, and an audio plug to connect the USB adapter box to the audio output port on the computer. There are also a few other things I haven’t figured out yet.

I inserted the CD into the macbook slot, decided to actually read the instructions in the book and try tp follow them, and found the first minor glitch. The book assumes the CD will start on its own. I helped out and opened the CD. From there it is pretty much a no brainer, going step by step through plugging all the devices in and positioning the headphone/microphone, then going through an initial test to see if all the parts are working. Audio: check. Microphone: problem. It suggested I close the setup assistant and start over. Same thing. It suggested I restart the computer after plugging in the USB. O.K. Once again, the message: “It appears that your microphone may not be connected. Check your connections, close SetUpAssistant, and repeat this setup test again. You may need to restart your compuer after plugging in the mic.” Hmmmm. Back to the book: Getting Help; Obtaining Technical Support: “A solution to your problem might already exist! Before contacting technical support, check the Frequently Asked Questions database and the Tested Systems list. The Internet address is Click the support link in the left panel on the web page. Then, select your speech product.”

I typed in the url and ended up at IBM software through a redirect. Clicking on the support link took me to their websphere section. Backing up and trying the support & download link at the top and searching through their software by name and category got me nowhere. There is no more viavoice on their site. There is a Websphere Voice, however. But there is no Macintosh version (I should have paid more attention to the discussion about ViaVoice a couple months ago). Nothing, nada, nowhere.

So I made a trip to friend Google and found: Nuance – IBM ViaVoice Release 10 Mac OS X Edition. Hey! The picture looks just like the box I have here! O.K., so after navigating through the site, I found this knowledgebase article: “Error message: ‘The microphone does not appear to be connected’ when using OS 10.2.” It actually has some very good information there, like turning ON the speech and microphone recognition in System Preferences. In OS 10.4 that turns on the native speech recognition, but ViaVoice still couldn’t get through. So, the next step was to reboot and try it again. Next: Remove the ViaVoice folder from the Applications folder, and the ViaVoice login from the users folder. But there is no ViaVoice login in the users folder. Sooo, Spotlight! then trash all the ViaVoice files (about 20 of them!), and empty the trash. Reboot, re-install, reboot, download and install the update, reboot, and try again.

Oooookay, first there’s the warning on the update download page, saying this is only for OS 10.2. But I download, reboot, install, and reboot anyway. It says to start the setup assistant from a specified path in the Finder menu, but it’s not there. Spotlight! again. This time it acted like it was recognizing the microphone, but not me. After a couple tries, and taking off the headphone, I tried one last time, fairly shouting the passage. Amazingly, that worked. So I put the headphone back on, and shouted into the microphone. Finally past that hurdle, I got to the testing voice quality. I spoke slightly louder than normal, and it said the quality was good. I tried again in a normal voice and the quality dropped to poor. After getting it back up to fair quality, I moved to the next section, which is to read passages as they are displayed.

I don’t think it’s supposed to be this hard. It’s beginning to dawn on me why I ended up with this: last one to arrive, having missed out on the previous conversation about how bad it is? But giving in to a masochistic streak, I finished the setup, and now have no idea what to do with it, especially since I’m now hoarse from reading aloud. On the upside, the reading passages were interesting.

Book Review: Learning Javascript

Learning Javascript, by Shelley Powers, O’Reilly, 2006.

This is not a book for beginners. Let me repeat: this is not a book for beginners. Although the Preface states, “Readers of this book should be familiar with web page technology, including CSS and HTML/XHTML … [p]revious programming experience isn’t required, though some sections may require extra review if you have no previous exposure to programming,” there is a strong assumption from the start that the reader at least (a) has some experience with current programming concepts and practices, (b) has some experience with web page coding and practices, or (c) has a lot of time to learn (a) and (b) while working through the book. That said, however, this really is an excellent resource.

I fall into categories (a) and (b) above, but I’m rusty when it comes to javascript, and wanted something of a refresher. Instead, the book had the effect of dropping me into a working laboratory where everything, though nicely explained, remained confusing for quite a way into the book. But by the time the author got to the complex stuff, it all made sense and fell together perfectly, rather like finally understanding how all the tools in that laboratory make everything work so smoothly.

The book seems fast paced, and often left me wishing there were more detailed explanations of some of the examples. But the concepts and examples are interwoven, so just working through the book brought some understanding. The end of each chapter has review questions, with the answers at the end of the book, for those who find that helpful. But what impressed me was that the errata sheet is already available at O’Reilly. There are a few errata, and they’ll be handy to know if you’re trying the examples given in the book. Additional resources are also sprinkled throughout the book which all appear to still be working.

The author’s practical bias comes through very strongly in the book. In the introduction, and throughout the book, there are frequent “best practices.” Paramount to her philosophy of best practices is the admonition, “whatever JavaScript functionality you create, it must not come between your site and your site’s visitors.” Consequently, she often recommends solutions other than javascript to ensure accessibility by all types of browsers and users. There are also good discussions of the issues surrounding using javascript, especially the cross platform issues and what is on the horizon. Because of the browser compatibility issues, the author covers work-arounds each step of the way, with different options and a discussion of what works best and why.

If book titles are supposed to be descriptive of the content, I’m not so sure “Learning Javascript” is the best title for this book, although it fits well if one thinks of it as learning another programming language. You’ll find this book a lot more helpful if your familiarity with web technology includes using CSS and XHTML, or if you have some experience with another programming language.

Book Review: Test Driving Linux

Test Driving Linux: From Windows to Linux in 60 Seconds, by David Brickner. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2005. Available from Amazon and O’Reilly.

This is definitely the book to start with if you are new to Linux. It comes with a live CD: Move, a version of Mandrake Linux that runs entirely from the CD, with no installation required. It is written in a personable, informal style which makes it not only interesting but often fun to read.

The intended audience is “Windows users who have heard of Linux and want to find out what all the fuss is about without committing a lot of time or hard-drive space,” and assumes no prior knowledge of Linux. But not wanting to exclude people like me, the book also claims it “can turn existing linux users into more effective Linux users.” But it really is for people who are currently using Windows, at whatever level. There are many references to Windows features and layouts for comparison. There are also many references to Windows problems as a reason to switch to Linux. The author is an unabashed Linux apologist.

I really like the organization of the book. It starts with the obligatory introduction to Linux, but in this case the beginning introduction is brief. Introduction is what the whole book is about, so “introductory” explanations and comments are throughout the book. The first chapter goes through starting up the CD, using the KDE desktop, and a “typical” application (KWrite). Chapter Two goes into web surfing, and Chapter Three covers file management. While there is a chapter at the back with “Solutions to Common Problems,” a lot of what you’ll encounter is included in the main material. For example, after the CD loaded, my screen went blank. Sure enough, there in the last paragraph of the booting section, I found, “One minor problem I have found on a few computers is that the screen will go blank and won’t come back up. If this happens, just press any key on the keyboard and the screen should come back up.” Yep, that worked. Oddly enough, the section on “Customizing the Desktop,” with all the great configuration details and tips, is stuck in between the chapters on applications. I suppose it fits there if one thinks of the chapters progressing along the virtual path most would take in trying out a new operating system.

Brickner is honest, but optimistic, about shortcomings in Linux, such as games and video. An obvious gamer himself, he devotes a lot of space to discussing the games that are available, and resources for finding them. He spends a lot less time on video, which is very briefly covered in the audio section. He also does not ignore other common programs and features available with Linux that are not on the CD, and even offers frank assessments of Linux distros to install after trying out the Move CD.

The application programs covered are the KDE suite of e-mail, organizer and Instant Messaging, Open Office Write and Calc, the GIMP, and GnuCash. Although very little time is spent on the GIMP, the necessary basics are covered: scaling, resizing, and cropping. It’s just enough to get one started. He includes a detailed explanation of how to remove red-eye, but only succeeds in making it look harder than it needs to be. A lot more space is given to the other programs, especially GnuCash. Brickner gives a great explanation of how double-entry accounting works by way of explaining how to use GnuCash.

There are plenty of screenshots. Some of the screenshot images produced text that was too small to be of much use, but I found that much of the text generally didn’t need the screenshots anyway. The only problem I had was trying to get an internet connection on one of the computers I tried it out on. I couldn’t figure out how to get a working connection over the local netwok, and the book gave no clues.

Despite the shortcomings, which are minor, this is an excellent book. It is the book to give (or recommend) to the skeptic or clueless person who asks what Linux is. It presents Linux as a friendly, usable alternative, with a manual that is anything but dry. We need more books like this.

Book Review: Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.1

Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.1 (Starter Guide: Mandrakelinux 10.1), by MandrakeSoft, Inc, 2004, ISBN 284798085-7.

Another “dated” book, but the only one I could find for Mandrake, which is now Mandriva. The book, which comes with an install CD, does promise a free update to the next version, however. I was anxious to see just how easy or difficult the install would be. Like many Linux users, I’ve had a few nightmare installs, but Mandrake has a reputation for being one of the easiest installs. Like Yellow Dog Linux, it also happens to be one of the distributions that is “sold.” The price of the book, with CD, roughly corresponds to the cost of purchasing Mandrake (or Mandriva) with one month of support (I suppose that’s considered enough to get you up and running).

So, book in hand, I popped the CD into an available PC. Since the hard disk had been wiped, there were no dicey issues related to preserving Windows during partitioning. Chapter One in the book is one page long, titled, Installation Warning, with the almost required caveats about defragging Windows and backing up data. Chapter Two is Before Installation, and Chapter Three gives the step by step details of going through an install. I was amazed. I had never seen Install instructions so perfectly matched to what I was seeing on the screen, with really good explanations of the options for each screen. It was a breeze.

In fact, it was deceptively easy. From there, the book proceeds to sections on “Migrating to Linux from Windows and Mac OS X,” and “Linux for Beginners.” It starts out with good use of images and screenshots. But beyond these introductory sections, the book begins showing some holes.

The first clue is that there is no author, other than the corporate author, Mandrakesoft, who apparently outsourced the bookwriting to Neodoc ( The book reads like a compilation of several contributors, with minimal editing. Consequently, occasional grammar and typographic errors pop up, which, thankfully, are little more than distractions. However, when it comes to the illustrations, the helpful balloon labeling was abandoned after the first sections, so labels are difficult to distinguish from the image itself. Definitely a drawback for novices. A few of the explanations will leave novices scratching their heads as well (for example, in explaining “Bcc” in e-mail messages it states simply, “No recipient will have access to the mail addresses to which this message was sent.” Huh??).

The second half of the book presumes a greater comfort level using Linux than the first half. The section on applications (Mozilla browser and email client, OpenOffice (writer and spreadsheet), Konqueror File Manager, XXMS for audio, Xine and MPlayer for video, and CD burning) is generally easy to follow. Most directions and explanations are detailed enough, especially with the screenshots and images, to be useful. There are some, however, which seem to have been inserted almost as an afterthought (the editing problem again?).

After the applications sections, however, the required level of expertise is extremely variable. I also wondered about the placement of some of the chapters. Lightly thrown in between hardware setup and setting up networks is “Parameterizing your Mount Points,” which goes into detail about partitioning, then talks about SMB Directories and, very briefly, NSF. The chapter is in stark contrast to the Hardware Setup and Network Setup sections. It looks more like Appendix material to me.

Also rather puzzling is the chapter on “Personalizing your System,” which is near the end of the book, even after the chapter on “Securing your Linux Box” (which runs through the steps with no explanation). Like the Hardware and Network setup sections, it is written well, and has meaty stuff like automating backups and configuring startup services. So why is it hidden at the back?

The cover states, “Your First Linux Desktop,” implying it is for those new to Linux, but not necessarily new to computers. With the beginner level aspects, such as installing, configuring, and applications, it does a fairly good job of introducing this version of Linux to computer users. Despite the shortcomings noted above, it is worth having if you’re thinking of trying out Mandrake/Mandriva. Better to have a manual in hand when you need one than have to rely on online forums for basic stuff. As to whether to choose Mandrake/Mandriva over some of the other distros, well, that’s a post for another day.

DeLi Linux!

Awright! Got it up and running ! (The DeLi homepage is here)

The install was pretty straightforward, text based. There is a nice installation instruction page on the DeLi wiki. It pretty much recognized everything (at least as far as I can see right now). At the bottom of the Instruction page, it says,

  • After the packages are installed remove the CD-ROM (the disk, not the drive itself) and press CRTL+ALT+DEL to boot into your new DeLi Linux system
  • Log in as root with the password you chose before. Now you can run delisetup to configure your system.

Uh huh, delisetup. Well, that’s where xconfig resides, which is what you need to get a graphical user interface. So I took a deep breath, and tried to gingerly step into the xconfig section of delisetup. It actually wasn’t that bad, even though I had very little information about the monitor and video card (other than the fact that it is not a separate card, and the system is circa 1997). I went back and forth a couple times, trying to make sure I got it right, held my breath again and finished the setup. It took me back to the command prompt.

I stared at it for awhile trying to remember the command to start Xwindows. Checked my cheatsheet card, looked for my pocket Linux book (which, now that I recall, my son borrowed, so it’s probably buried under a pile of God knows what), gave up and decided to go back to book reviews. As I was scanning the Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.1 book I was working on, I happened to spot an entry about entering a command if the graphical version was not displaying: “startx.” Good grief. How could I not remember that? Bingo, we’ve got graphics now!

I poked around a bit, but couldn’t find a utility to set up users, so I’m in there as “root” (normally not a good thing) until I change the settings via the command line interface.

Bottom line: Hey, it works on a 1997 Compaq with 32MB of memory: I don’t think I was really testing its limits! During the install process it asked about using the free space on the disk (which has Windows98 on it, and had over 1GB of free space). On reboot, it actually booted into Win98 because I wasn’t there to choose Linux from the bootloader at startup. Overall,

  • Ease of install = medium
  • Knowledge required = some knowledge, or a Linux reference, will be really helpful
  • Features = limited, but acceptable (this is for low memory machines, after all!)