failing like never before


Zenwalk, Elive, and Vector Linux

A little bit about Zenwalk 4.6, Elive 1.0, and Vector Linux 5.8 SOHO.

I took Zenwalk off my computer, it just wasn't for me. For the most part, it ran quite well, it was fast and responsive and configured nearly all my hardware for me. Netpkg is pretty cool, it removes the chore of building everything from source and it also has dependency checking. But I had one really stupid problem, aside from the monitor resolution detection. When I pressed control+alt+backspace, instead of rebooting X, Zenwalk simply locked up. At first, I thought that maybe Zenwalk was just slow to restart X, but after ten minutes it was still locked up and completely unresponsive. Anyways, I thought Zenwalk wasn't too bad, but it just didn't fit me.

I'm going to stick over Elive for a moment, and talk a bit about Vector Linux SOHO edition. Its also Slackware based, and is amazingly fast, just like they advertise it to be. I didn't check how long it took to install, but it seemed quite fast, and bootup times were really quite amazing, practically instantaneous. Of course, just like almost ever other distro on this planet, VL didn't detect my monitor or set the resolution correctly. But unlike Zenwalk which, set it to a fairly readable 1024x768, VL set my resolution to 640x480. And of course, my monitor stretched everything out to fit it on my 22 inch widescreen, and I couldn't see a thing. I managed to shut down X and get into a command line so I could start editing xorg.conf. (I have to say, that the "gtf" command is my hero, I don't know what I'd do without it.) After a few false starts, I managed to get my resolution all set up and was able to finally use the GUI parts of the distro. I was able to play music and watch videos without doing anything. Like I mentioned before, everything was responsive and blazingly fast. I wasn't a big fan of all the extra software included (do I really need three different web browsers?) but after all I did get the SOHO edition, there's a lighter weight edition that doesn't have all the redundant programs included. Vector also has its own package management system and dependency checking. Its called slapt-get (kinda like Debian's apt-get) and is as easy to use as Debian's. VL is a great distro, easy to use for linux noobs (as long as their monitor isn't too big) and runs great right out of the box without any configuration. Its also supposed to be able to run really old computers and restore some new life into that pentium pro in your garage.

I decided to install Enlightenment in Vector Linux (Enlightenment is amazing, I'll write a little more about it later). I'm not much of a KDE fan (VL comes with KDE) and I always end up installing GTK based apps to replace the QT based ones. Really, the only QT app that I like is KTorrent. I couldn't find Enlightenment in the repositories, so I had to download the libraries and build them by hand. Anyways, I experienced some problems with the installing proccess. Its been a while and I've removed VL from my computer since, so I can't quite remember what happened. Anyhoo, I kept VL for a bit, and then I decided to give Elive a test run just to see what it was like, and if I could use it to replace VL.

I'll write a review about Elive later, but for now, I'll just say that Elive is a pretty nifty distro, and it works perfectly for me.


Continued Review of Zenwalk 4.6

I tried reinstalling Zenwalk 4.6 again after I got home. Strangely enough, it installed and ran perfectly fine this time (my previous installation problem). I'm not quite sure what happened, or if I even did anything different. After installation, it prompted me with some rather simple questions to configure to hardware. I appreciated that it asked if I wanted to have numlock enabled on startup, a rather simple thing but a nice touch.

All the applications seemed to work very quickly and I did not experience any problems with any media codecs or Flash. I did have to configure my network connections myself but that was fairly easy to perform. Zenwalk is very speedy, especially when compared to distros like Ubuntu and Fedora, so it should have no problem working on a much older computer then my Pentium 4. I think I will be installing this on my old 400mhz AMD Duron just to see how it run

The creators of Zenwalk did a good job choosing programs to include by default. For each kind of task, there was ony one application, leading to a very slim distro. And the applications provided will do pretty much anything a basic user will require, watching videos and DVDs, listening to music, editing photos, browsing, the web, instant messanging, and much more. All full list of the applications included in the distro can be found at

After a few minutes of browsing the web, I noticed that images were strangely stretched out. It turned out that Zenwalk hadn't been able to configure my resolutiion properly. I have a Samsung Syncmaster 225bw (EDIT: 226bw, sorry) with a native resolution of 1680x1050 and Zenwalk was using 1024x768, so of course, everything looked a little funny. I went into the terminal and ran "vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf" while as root and added my resolution in. upon restarting X however, I got an error message and X wouldn't start. It turned out that Zenwalk had installed the vesa drivers for my Radeon X800 XL, so I installed Mesa, which seemed to fix everything out all right.

I was bit annoyed that Zenwalk had such a problem with setting my resolution up. Of course, I was using an ATI graphics card and my monitor had a pretty unusual resolution, but even still...

All in all, I found Zenwalk to be a rather wonderful little distro. I like the fact that its been streamlined and performs amazingly quickly, has a small install size, and is ready to perform pretty much all common tasks right after installation. However, I'm not really a Slackware type of person. I'd like to have a stronger package management system, and I'd prefer to have a little more "eye candy." Now granted, I could configure the system myself, but I'll be trying out another distro very soon.


Review: Zenwalk 4.6

I had some pretty high hopes for Zenwalk 4.6, but I experienced one very strange problem.

Installation was fine. There weren't any fancy animations or graphics like Ubuntu, just a simple text-based installer. It was a pretty basic and simple installation.

After installing the OS, I rebooted the computer and was presented with a little menu of which OS I would like to boot into. Unfortuently, there were only two options, Windows and Zenwalk. So apparently the automatic bootloader installation option I had choosen while installing Zenwalk didn't work so great, because it didn't find my Fedora partition. This wasn't too big of a deal since I figured it would be pretty easy to fix later on, but it was a bit irksome. I selected Zenwalk, and it procceeded to boot.

I got some lines of text scrolling by, and then the screen went black and stayed that way for the next ten minutes and refused to respond to any keystrokes. I tried a hard reboot and got the same problem twice, whereupon I decided to reinstall the OS which didn't help either. This was the real problem. It wasn't like X crashed and then Zenwalk reverted back to a command line, I can handle that. Zenwalk died. It didn't give me any error messages or any way of fixing the problem.

Granted, I don't know everything there is to know about linux but I'm quite sure I didn't screw up the installation, after all, there wasn't much to screw up. I'm going to try reinstalling it again later on today and see if I can do anything to make it work.

If I cannot get Zenwalk to run, then I'm going to try to use Elive


Picking a Linux Distro

I don't consider myself to be a linux expert, but I've using various linux distros for a couple years now and I can find my way around the command line fairly well.

I started off my foray into linux with Mandriva, which gave me some amazing horrid problems. I couldn't get the drivers for my ATI Radeon X800 XL to work so I never got to see a GUI. So I wiped Mandriva off my hard drive and installed Fedora Core 5, which worked beautifully. FC5 quickly became my default operating system and since then, I rarely boot into Windows XP. During my time with FC5, I also experimented with XFCE and KDE. XFCE gave me a noticeable boost in performance over GNOME and KDE, however I continued to run GNOME as my default manager because I was so used to it.

From FC5, I upgraded to FC6 and then started experimenting with Damn Small Linux. Mind you, I never ran DSL as my primary OS, it was always just something for me to play with whenever I wanted to run linux on another person's computer.

I had heard alot of hype about Ubuntu so I decided to try it out. I installed Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on an extra partition and found it to be very user friendly and easy to use. A couple months after I installed Feisty, I heard about a distro called Mint. Mint is essentially Ubuntu with all the proprietary codecs and licensed materials added in (alot of distros choose not to include these because of legal issues. Nonetheless, its quite easy to add support for these things in Ubuntu). Deciding that it could be worth a shot, I wiped Ubuntu off and installed Mint. Really, there wasn't much reason for me to install Mint, but I think it would be a very nice distro for the linux newbie. After all, the first thing I did after installing FC5, was to install all the media codecs (mp3, avi, wma, etc.) and other stuff like Flash.

I attempted to install Xubuntu Feisty Fawn on my dad's old 400mhz AMD Duron a few months back, but found that it ran far too slowly. Instead I installed Damn Small Linux-Not, which is essentially a beefed up version of DSL. DSL-Not runs fine on the old Duron, but I'm thinking about trying out Puppy instead.

I reccently upgraded to the KDE version Fedora 7. In version 7, it became simply Fedora, and not Fedora Core. The KDE version of Fedora 7 is very pretty and nicely configured. However, it runs quite slow. I've also had a few weird experiences where performance of the operating system drops in the crapper and opening another tab in firefox ends up taking 5-10 seconds. Granted this may be because I'm running KDE which, because of the way it was written, will naturally run slower then GNOME.

Speed has reccently become a bit of an issue for me. One of the reasons that I first switched to Linux was because I wanted better performance because I was tired of the bloatwareness of Windows. But Ubuntu and Fedora are quickly becoming bloatware and I'm pretty sure that modern linux distros are going to exceed my computer's capabilities very soon (I have a 3ghz Pentium 4 with 1 gig of ram, and an Intel 925 motherboard). Thus, I'm thinking of shifting to a lighter weight distro.

Generally speaking, what I want, is a distro that runs XFCE by default, is reliable, has good hardware support, and isn't too difficult to get around with.

I've taken a look at DreamLinux, which has a really pretty Mac OSX-like interface and runs on XFCE. However, it too looks to be heading down the path of bloatware. Also, I've heard some issues about its stability.

OpenSuse and PCLinuxOS looked pretty interesting, but they aren't as slim as I would like.

Finally, after reading through pages of reviews lists of distros, I've settled on Zenwalk. I like Zenwalk because it defaults to XFCE, has all the media codecs already installed, includes neccessary programs but doesn't include multiple programs that all do the same thing, has a decent package system, and best of all, its very slim with an ISO image of around 420mbs.

So I'm downloading Zenwalk 4.6 now and will hopefully be posting a review of it very soon.