December 24, 2004

My workstation OS: Lycoris Desktop/LX

Author: Nauman Afzal

Installing a new operating system is, ideally, like falling in love. There's this great excitement that you just can't seem to get over, and the urge to know all about the object of your affections in the least possible time. And I've fallen in love with Lycoris's Desktop/LX Linux distro.

Lycoris is the easiest Linux distro I have ever installed. I still remember installing Red Hat 5 a few years back when it was mostly textual and disk partitioning was a nightmare. By contrast, Lycoris's installation wizard, called Lizard, is easy to use. You don't need to create different partitions such as root or swap, quite unlike most of the Linux distros. Instead, all you have to do is select the partition or free space where you want it to be installed and Lizard does it for you. For experts, there is an option for creating a partition manually and then installing the operating system. It's pretty easy with Help menu on board all the way through the post-install. And you don't need to stare at the screen during the installation process, as Lycoris gives you a game of Patience to play during the 30-odd minutes it takes to copy the desired files. I have found hardware support for sound, graphics, and modem card to be good; the driver database seems to be quite extensive.

Desktop/LX has been made to appear similar to Windows XP in every possible way; even the default wallpaper has a similar appearance. The Linux shell or terminal icon has been renamed Command Prompt. These touches should help those people who want to migrate from Windows. Four icons adorn the screen by default: My Linux System (My Computer), Network Browser (My Network Places), Personal Files (My Documents), and the Recycle Bin. The Personal Files folder has three more folders: Music, Pictures, and Web. The Locate a File program works just like Windows Find utility. When a Windows user logs in to the system for the first time he won't feel lost or out of place.

Desktop/LX comes bundled with a lot of applications, games, and tools, but unlike other distros -- for instance, Mandrake 10.0 -- it isn't overloaded. Lycoris uses KDE version 2.2.2, and GNOME is not included. You get the KOffice suite, but if you want the facility of saving documents in the formats used by Microsoft, you must install something like OpenOffice.org or StarOffice yourself. The Pictures and Photos menu has good utilities, such as scanning software (Kooka), a tool for downloading pictures from digital cameras, and applications for viewing images and for taking screenshots.

Multimedia buffs will find applications for playing MP3 files (XMMS), watching movies (Xine), playing CDs, and even RealPlayer. You can rip CDs and burn them using KonCD 1.0.

Other bundled applications include Adobe Acrobat Reader, a calculator, a disk formatting utility, faxing support, KSirc IRC client, and AIM and ICQ instant messaging clients. Internet users can take advantage of the Mozilla Web browser and email program.

The software installer makes it convenient to install software from the Internet, CD, or even a floppy disk. It can also be used for uninstalling previously installed software. Adding programs that you do not have is quite easy. For instance, I installed OpenOffice.org by simply inserting its CD and clicking the setup icon. And RPM package management is also there to help out.

System management is just a matter of clicks using the Control Center, which is very similar to the Windows Control Panel. Whether you want to add a printer, set up a LAN, change the desktop appearance, or adjust screen resolution, Desktop/LX spares you the trouble of entering innumerable commands. In fact, the system management is at par with that offered by Windows, as it includes features like installing and uninstalling software, managing users and passwords, and even accessibility options besides tinkering with the hardware. One can also manage files, running processes, disk partitions, and application packages through the Control Center.

Lycoris includes remote desktop sharing and updating over the Internet. Users can get assistance from Lycoris's technical support over the Web via Remote Access Control. KDE's comprehensive Help Center is included.

Users can browse through Windows (FAT or NTFS) partitions just by clicking their respective icons (if they have Windows installed on another partition). Desktop/LX has a good plug-and-play support for flash drives -- no need to create mount points or enter multiple commands. There is a built-in firewall which you can turn on or off from the Control Center. By default it is turned on. Desktop/LX is ideally suited for the home users who lack tech support departments at home.

I have been trying out different Linux distros for quite some time now, in search of the perfect one. The biggest problem I found was the user-unfriendliness of Linux, not to mention the unfamiliarity, as I'm migrating from Windows. Lycoris's biggest plus is the user-friendliness and ease that it offers, and its similarity to Windows XP is another big advantage. Using Desktop/LX has been a great experience.

Nauman Munir Afzal is an electrical engineer in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

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