Friday 27th January 2006
So, what is FoX Desktop Lite? It is based upon Fedora Core 4, with KDE 3.5. After a quick e-mail fired off to FoX themselves, and an equally quick reply, I found out that is aimed at users that are not neccessarily an expert at computing. So, does it work?
Getting FoX proved to be harder than most distributions. There is only the one CD, which will be a bonus to some people, especially those with slow connections. Sadly, the link on the FoX website didn't work - I had to get it from Bittorrent, with the torrent itself not on the Fox website - instead, I got it from linuxtracker.org. As you might expect, you put the CD in the drive, and it whizzes off. The first choice is between a text mode and graphical mode, both of which were perfectly capable of installation. Unsurprisingly, the installation will be extremely familiar if you've ever used Fedora Core 4.
The good points? I got to select the packages I wanted, and it kept the secure arrangement of a root user, and an ordinary user. A firewall is installed by default, and you can choose what services to allow (SSH, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SMTP). Networking is set up well, with the choice between DHCP or a manual setup. This gives you a greater degree of control over the settings, which I found useful. The other usual suspects popped up: language, keyboard, partitioning (using Disk Druid), timezone, and so on. All of them were competent and perfectly fine to use, if nothing spectacular.
You also get the package selection screen, which, as in Fedora, gives you a list of headings, such as Desktop or Applications, and groups of applications below them, such as Editors and Graphics. You can select these groups as you wish, and, by clicking on 'Details', you can select the individual programs to install.
At the start of the installation, I choose a 'Custom' installation, rather than 'Personal Desktop'. This is a nice arrangement since it allows people to configure their systems to a degree, while the Personal Desktop selection cuts out some of the choices that some users, such as 'beginners', might not want.
However, there are also some bad points. There is the media check at the start, which doesn't work (apparently, there is no checksum on disk to use - note that it works fine on Fedora Core 4); the GRUB installation didn't detect my Debian system; and, worst of all, the installation doesn't always work perfectly.
The first time I used the installation, I got to the logon screen without a problem, and got into KDE without trouble. However, I had chosen to install GNOME when selecting packages, yet there was no GNOME choice in the sessions list - the closest was Metacity. Trying that resulted in a blue background, and not much else. It is a bit misleading to have GNOME as a selection for Desktops, but not to actually install GNOME itself. I tried reinstalling Fox, in case I'd accidentally hit one of the wrong options.
This is where the major problems started. The first re-installation went fine until it started installing packages, at which point it told me that there was a problem with OpenOffice.org, without really telling me why. It then rebooted.
The next time, it told me it couldn't copy the install image over to the hard drive, for a reason I couldn't fathom. The time after that, the installer just crashed half way through. I then tried text mode, which went fine for a while, but eventually just turned into a screen of scattered writing, the bottom if which read that I could now reboot the computer.
Finally, I remembered something from Fedora Core 4. There was a problem with reading CDs in Fedora, which manifested itself first in the media check (which is why it is a shame this doesn't work in FoX). This was solved by using the option on the very first command line:
linux ide=nodma. I tried this on Fox, and, hoorah, it worked!
Unfortunately, still no GNOME desktop. I wouldn't mind if the installation didn't make it seem as though you could have a GNOME desktop.
Overall, the installation is relatively good. It is generally simple to use, and gives users a good balance between control and ease of use. However, the problems of crashing if you don't use
linux ide=nodma, not finding my Debian system, the fact that the media check doesn't work, and the misleading GNOME entry somewhat negate the positive points. Ultimately, it is extremely similar to Fedora Core 4's installation, only with a couple of extra problems.