July 22, 2005

My workstation OS: ELX Biz Desktop 4.0

Author: Mirko Perak

For years, I have been searching for a Linux distribution that would be functional immediately upon the installation, and include installed DivX and DVD support. Unexpectedly, I discovered such an operating system in India's ELX Biz Desktop.

A company called Everyone's Linux began developing Project ELX, based on Red Hat Linux, in 2000 in Hyderabad, India. The company also offers specialized and server versions (ELX Terminal Server 4, ELX Real Time OS 2.0, and ELX PowerISP 2.0 -- Internet Resource Management server).

When I installed ELX I was pleasantly surprised. All the applications functioned properly, the multimedia applications worked immediately upon installation, the interface was intuitive and easy to configure, and I could find almost no bugs. It appears to be a very mature product.

The installation procedure uses a graphical interface based on the Anaconda installer with the standard steps: choice of the peripheral devices, type of installation, partitioning, network and firewall configuration, etc. Every step was followed by instructions in basic English language, which was beneficial even for those of us for whom English is not their mother tongue.

The hardware recognition in ELX Linux worked well. It was the first distribution since SUSE to recognize my Acer AL1721 LCD monitor automatically. The network configuration was also simple; all I had to do was enter the network card IP address. I can't tell you how well ELX would do with a PCI modem because I don't use one.

ELX Linux still uses kernel 2.4.20, but this does not seam to be big a shortcoming. The system is as stable as rock, and the graphical interface is lively. ELX Linux is based on the stable KDE 3.1.4 desktop environment. Most of the included applications are final and stable versions. On the desktop I have everything I need for everyday work and entertainment, including OpenOffice.org 1.1.3, Firefox1.0 Pre, MPlayer 1.0pre5, KPlayer 0.5.2, K3b 0.11.12, Ogle GUI version 0.9.1, XMMS 1.2.10, GIMP 1.2.3, KMail 1.5.4, Scribus 1.2, and Gtkam 0.1.7. I especially liked the fact that ELX Linux includes the Xvidcap which is a screen recorder. I used this program to make a short videos for my friends and in this way showed them how to take their first steps with different open source applications. For installation of additional applications or to upgrade the system, ELX uses the simple Synaptic 0.42 front end for APT.

After rebooting into new desktop ELX runs a First Time Wizard, which helped me choose the window style and basic settings. The whole system is designed to be intuitive and familiar to a person who has been using Windows. The desktop by default displays icons for My Computer, My Documents, and My Network. ELX uses Smb4K 0.3.2 to present the local network in a simple way.

In Serbia, where I live, there are no legal problems with using Win32 codecs and playing commercial DVD movies on GNU/Linux systems. You can watch DVD movies using Ogle player, though you may wish to install Xine as your DVD player of choice.

ELX Biz Desktop 4.0 includes Wine 20030709, so working with supported Windows programs is simple; just double-click on the EXE file to install the program under Linux.

Comparatively few people use ELX, so it is a bit difficult to get help. But I haven't needed any, because this distribution works right out of box. ELX Biz Desktop 4.0 is my workstation OS because of its multimedia support and easy configuration. I hope that the company Everyone's Linux will soon offer a new version using the 2.6 kernel.

What's your desktop OS of choice? So far, we've heard from fans of FreeBSD,
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