Unlike the majority of commercial distributors, Caldera Systems (www.calderasystems.com.au) has kept to its annual release schedule for its OpenLinux operating system with a public beta of 3.1, code named Sybil. This successor to OpenLinux 2.4 has much to offer in terms of software updates, operating system integration, and development tools. This release will be the first from Caldera to include a kernel from the new 2.4 series.
Caldera has always been at the forefront of making Linux easy to install for newcomers, and Sybil is no exception. The installation program, Lizard, is simple to follow and offers a range of choices for more experienced users.
Once you have selected your preferred language and keyboard type, Lizard will search for your mouse and video card. Each can be tested during the installation and the mouse detector will also recognise a scrolling wheel.
Partitioning is always the hardest part of a Linux installation, particularly if the installer wants to keep Windows. Sybil gives you the option of using the entire hard disk, the available free space, any prepared partitions, or a custom step. Even for new users, I would recommend selecting the custom option as it has a clear interface and you can see what is happening to your hard drive.
To share OpenLinux 3.1 with a pre-existing Windows partition, all that is required is to edit that partition by reducing the number of cylinders so that there is at least 2GB for Linux. Your new Linux partitions, formatted as ext2 or ReiserFS, can then easily be added.
The remainder of the installation involves a package selection of minimum, recommended and everything, as well as system configuration such as networking and the appropriate time zone. One false instruction given during the installation is not to install the boot loader, GRUB, on the Master Boot Record (MBR) if you are sharing OpenLinux with another operating system. This failed completely and when I re-installed GRUB to the MBR I was able to boot to either Windows or Linux.
Shift of focus
The recently released Kernel 2.4.2 is included in Sybil and offers plug-and-play USB support, a FireWire subsystem and an Ia64 port. None of these was present in OpenLinux 2.4.
In addition to the new kernel, Sybil comes with KDE 2.1 (a project partly funded by Caldera), XFree86 4.0.2 and a heap of development tools that are a result of the company wanting to shift its Linux focus from a consumer desktop operating system to a developer workstation. This is evident with the graphical development programs KDevelop and Qt Designer that are placed on your K Panel by default.
Other development tools included in the release are GCC 2.95.2, Perl 5.6 and Sun's Java 2 SDK version 1.3. Caldera says that some commercial development tools will be included with the final release. Unlike Red Hat, Caldera has not included the GNOME desktop environment or any of its development tools.
For people wanting to use basic Windows programs within Linux, WINE is installed and configured automatically. If a Windows partition is present on your computer, a shortcut to browse that partition with Konqueror is placed on your desktop. This makes it easy to navigate through your Windows files and execute programs.
Caldera's Linux business initiatives are also demonstrated in Sybil. The Volution console management client is included and integrates with OpenLinux and UnixWare servers.
Caldera OpenLinux 3.1 looks like being a dramatic shift for this previously consumer distribution. However, even with the inclusion of more GUI development tools, Sybil is still very user friendly and quite stable. The final release will ship as a two-CD set.