Virtual Sky Linux Solutions – Compact 2.3 Review

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ALT Linux Compact 2.3
*REVIEW* of ALT Linux Compact 2.3

About a year ago I was introduced to the Linux distribution called ALT Linux Junior 2.2. Since then, both me and my family have been basking in the benefits that comes with using this very well constructed operating system.
It is now February, 2004, and the ALT Linux team is about ready to release their new masterpiece, Compact 2.3.

I’ve been testing this new contribution to the Linux desktop, and I’d have to say that the ALT Linux team have not disappointed me. Back in October, I was a bit concerned with some of the choices ALT Linux made for this new distribution. However, over the past five months, I’ve seen the beta releases make wonderful progress. Besides a few minor bugs, I believe that Compact 2.3 is ready for the computing public.

Compact has been designed with the PC builder (or OEM) in mind. However, I’ve found Compact to be simple enough for just about anyone to install and use. If you can rip songs from a CD into MP3s and burn them back to a CD, you should be able to install Compact 2.3 without any difficulties.

Compact install screenAs with Junior 2.2, Compact uses the familiar “Mandrake“ style GUI during installation. Installing Compact on my 1.2 Ghz desktop PC took less than 15 minutes. Within 20 minutes I was installing the latest OS updates through Synaptic and configuring my preferred desktop settings.

It is relatively “light“ in the number of installation packages on the single CD, but has all of the basics to get the new owner up and running on their PC quick and easily. Out of the box, Compact’s default desktop manager is KDE, although,Windowmaker and IceWm are included (the ALT Linux team still hold the prize for best Windowmaker maintainers in my books) as alternate desktops or window managers.

To include other applications and desktop managers is very simple, with the help of the no-fuss no-muss Synaptic package handler. ALT Linux has a repository of thousands of helpful and entertaining Linux applications ready for installation. Although, at the time of writing this review, Compact does not have a repository listing of its own, other ALT Linux distro. repositories work just fine with it.

The beta that I tested of Compact did not include the latest version of Synaptic (0.47), but an update was available when I upgraded the rest of the system files from the ALT Sisyphus Classic repository. I’m hoping that this version of Synaptic makes it into the official release.

What I did notice was the new ALT Update – v 0.0.2, which is new to the ALT Linux distributions. This is a small app. that sits in your KDE toolbar and notifies you if there are any system updates available in the Synaptic repositories. A blue check-mark indicates that you have all of the latest versions of your system files, while a red exclamation point indicates that updates are available. I like this new feature and think it’s invaluable to those who sometimes forget to check in on such things themselves.
ALT Update toolbar
Other applications in this distribution include:

Linux Kernel 2.4.22
XFree86 4.3.0
KDE 3.1.4
Mozilla 1.4
OpenOffice.org does come as part of the installation, but it is version 1.0.1 (some menus being in Russian). I have read in one of the e-mails that I’ve received from the ALT community mailing list that OpenOffice.org 1.1 will be included in the official release.

One of the key points that impressed me so much with Junior 2.2 was its ability to detect and configure hardware settings properly. Once again, Compact 2.3 proved to me that the ALT Linux team really have done their homework in this regard.

Nvidia splash screenUnlike some other, more popular, commercially available Linux distributions, Compact found and configured my Nvidia 3D accelerated graphics card without a hitch. Optical mouse, printer, CD-ROM, USB, network and sound card were all functioning perfectly when I logged in for the first time. Some Linux distributors charge for this kind of “out of the box“ experience.

The only problem I had was with my Zip Drive, connected to the parallel port. For some reason, SCSI support did not install properly. If this is a bug, and not a result of my own ignorance of Linux, it would be great if this got fixed before the official release.

Unlike Junior 2.2, I was unable to successfully install Compact 2.3 on anything less than a 200MHz PC. Although KDE was a bit sluggish on our older PC, everything still worked and the hardware detection was right on the money. Our 133MHz laptop (which doubles as a doorstop in our home) could not cope with Compact’s demands. Although few people would consider using such an older piece of computer hardware, it was still a test that Junior 2.2 passed (as well as Libranet 2.0 and Mandrake 8.2).

All-in-all, I’d have to say that the ALT Linux team have kept me as one of their dedicated OS users for another year. For this small team of open source software developers, they certainly put allot of work and effort into every product they produce. Keep up the great work, guys and gals!