September 24, 2002

Phat Linux 4.0: Some minor problems, but a good way to try Linux

Author: JT Smith

-By Jesse Smith -

Phat Linux 4.0, a Linux distribution that runs on top of Windows, came out a while back, but I have yet to read a review of this new distro version. So, I decided to
download a copy and try it for myself.

The equipment I was using was an old PII 400MHz processor
with 18GB of free hard drive space. My test machine at the time
booted Windows 98 (because most Phat Linux users are new Windows converts)
and bragged 192MB of RAM.

I downloaded the file from the Phat Linux Web site. The entire download is about 328MB, which took about two hours for me to download. Once I had the file
on my Windows machine, I opened the file via WinRAR. Inside, I quickly
found a readme.txt file. This contained two sets of directions and
some trouble-shooting documentation. The two sets were for Windows or for DOS.
That's a nice improvement from the v3.x series.

Following the directions, I unzipped the
file into a temporary folder and ran setup.exe. I was prompted for my
system RAM (192MB), and then the installer started up. It is such a
nice feeling to have Linux install within Windows, both for the irony
and the ease of use.

The only recommendation I could make here would be for the Phat team to
add directions for people to find the amount of RAM they have. Some
people might not know this.

The install went cleanly. I then followed the directions again
like a good boy and ran the new linux.bat file. Instantly, Phat
started up, booting the kernel and doing the normal boot-up checks.
It stopped when it hit Kudzu, the hardware probe. I was informed that new hardware had been found (my network card) and it wanted to know what I wanted to do.
I chose to configure it "now." At once, my screen went black and nothing
happened for several minutes.

After hitting the power switch, I booted back into Windows and
tried Phat again. This time I wisely chose to configure my network card
"later." The boot finished and I was given a friendly penguin login prompt.
I entered "root" and was given a bash shell.

Deciding that I wanted to see my new desktop, I typed "startx."
I was given a friendly error message to run Xconfigurator. So I did and
a minute later had X ready to roll, no problems. Startx gave
me a pretty Gnome desktop. At this I was a little disappointed. I'm
a KDE fan (no hate mail please) and I was sorry to see it missing. On
a side note, KDE was featured in Phat v3.x. However, my hat is
off to the Gnome team, because they have improved in the last year. The desktop
was fairly easy to use, customize and was well organized.

I went looking for a user manager and couldn't find one. So I
figured that creating users would have to be done via the console. That's not a problem
for me, but might be an issue for Linux newcomers. I am told this
will be addressed in v4.1.

I tried running Kudzu again to set up my hardware. It seemed
to work at first. However, toward the end of the configuration, I was
asked for CD #1. Having downloaded all of Phat v4.0, I couldn't see
why this would be. It wouldn't take no for an answer, and I had to kill

I played a while longer, hooking Phat 4.0 up to the 'Net, clicking
on everything I could and running it through some stress testing. I can
happily say that 4.0 seems more stable than 3.3. It is very nicely set
up and I found nothing more to trouble me.

Phat Linux is, really, a Windows/DOS-friendly version of Mandrake, and developers ar ecurrently trying to add Windows XP support. I found it very quick and easy
to set up. Phat comes with the usual programs, including Mozilla, Gnome, a CD player, office software, GNU C Compiler, an address book, IRC client and much more. It kept me busy for hours just pointing and clicking.

I found just three problems, all of which the Phat
team assures me will be addressed in the next release:

  1. Only one desktop, but it is a good one.
  2. That odd "Insert CD #1" prompt in Kudzu.
  3. The lack of a user manager.

I would like to encourage Linux newcomers and Windows users
out there to give Phat a try. It is a great way to either share your
hard drive with Windows or start a gentle cross-over.


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