April 5, 2005

Review: NeroLINUX 2.0

Author: Matt Moen

There's a growing trend for traditionally Windows-centric software companies to release Linux versions of their products. Nero AG recently decided to jump on the bandwagon by releasing a Linux port of their very popular CD burning software. In this review I'll take a look at what it offers and how it compares to K3b, an established Linux CD writing application.

About NeroLINUX

There are other CD burning programs for Windows, but Nero has the "it just works" reputation. When I heard about their Linux port I was pleasantly surprised and curious as to how it stacked up against K3b, the open source "CD Kreator," which has its own "it just works" reputation in the Linux world.

Installing NeroLINUX

NeroLINUX comes with .deb and .rpm packages. I installed the .deb on my Debian Sarge box, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the packaging. I'm not a Debian packaging expert, but it seems to mostly follow the Debian packaging policy, and added menu items to GNOME as well as Debian's universal menu creation scheme which supports all available window managers. According to the manual, it's supposed to support KDE menus as well.

Running NeroLINUX

When I first tried using NeroLINUX, I was running a 2.4 series Linux kernel. The very detailed manual stepped me through the numerous changes required to get NeroLINUX to operate under a 2.4 kernel (including adding boot-time arguments to my GRUB or LILO configuration and rebooting). Unfortunately, NeroLINUX still couldn't detect my DVD burner. After about an hour of wrestling with the documentation and doing exactly as it instructed, I gave up and decided to use a 2.6 series kernel for the remainder of my NeroLINUX evaluation. I should point out that K3b worked just fine with my 2.4 kernel.

NeroLINUX also presented me with some errors regarding the permissions of certain /dev/sg* devices. The manual thoroughly explained how to resolve these, both with traditional device files as well as the modern udev system. In order to resolve these sorts of things without so much manual intervention, K3b automatically runs its k3bsetup program if it needs to.

I was also presented with some errors about NeroLINUX conflicting with GNOME's magicdev. The manual thoroughly explained how to disable magicdev, complete with pictures. K3b has never had a problem with magicdev.

Attempting to burn CDROMs

I got an ISO of Games KNOPPIX (mostly because it looked interesting) and tried to burn it with NeroLINUX. The program balked at it, saying that my disc was "not writeable." I've heard that some CD burning software is picky about media, so since the first CD was a cheap Office Depot disc from a 100 piece spindle I bought for peanuts a few years ago, I decided to try a Memorex brand disc. Despite being higher quality, these too were "not writeable." In order to confirm my sanity, I burned Games KNOPPIX onto both types of discs with K3b, and both copies booted flawlessly on a separate system.

Feeling lucky, I installed a spare, plain old HP CD burner in another system also running a 2.6 series kernel. I installed NeroLINUX and jumped through all the same hoops again. Even with the 2.6 kernel, NeroLINUX didn't detect my CD burner on this system. Again, for the express purpose of testing my sanity, and this configuration, I tried K3b, and it "just worked."

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Other features

NeroLINUX seems to support many of the same features as K3b, such as dragging and dropping files and directories from file managers into the NeroLINUX window. When I tried simulating the creation of an audio CD, it allowed me to drag and drop .mp3 files, but had trouble with one because its filename contained dashes. It didn't know what to do with the .flac files I dragged to it.

There is volume licensing available with favorable terms. NeroLINUX can be installed on a central server, and there doesn't seem to be any mention of a license server. Instead you're supposed to have some sort of "reasonable mechanism" in place to ensure you're not exceeding your available licenses. This is far better than punishing customers with annoying license server software.

NeroLINUX has potential

When the NeroLINUX developers iron out these fatal flaws and shave off the rough edges, corporations looking to migrate to Linux desktops should seriously consider NeroLINUX. Many users are already familiar with Nero's interface from having used it on Windows.

It's a shame for Nero's sake that they're coming to market this late. K3b has been around for a while and has become quite mature. Had Nero released a functioning program a few years back, they would have sold copies like hotcakes. A friend of mine from a nearby LUG was actually able to get his copy of NeroLINUX working with his hardware. However, he had this to say about it: "Why anyone would bother with Nero when a much superior product, K3b, does it faster, better, and is fully GPL'd, is beyond me." In order to overcome this type of sentiment, the NeroLINUX people need to ensure that their next release isn't inferior to K3b, as is clearly the case with this release. It needs to be better than the free programs currently available.

Purpose CD/DVD Burning
Manufacturer Nero AG
Architectures i386
License Proprietary
Price (retail) $69 if you buy the Nero license online
Product Web site NeroLINUX

Matt Moen is a sometimes freelance writer who is glad that he took notes about this product and wrote this review the following day. He's disturbed at how much more inflammatory his notes are.

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