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UltimaLinux LiveCD

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Linux
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With the release of the new Ultima LiveCD, Tuxmachines felt this distro deserved a second chance (third actually, I just didn't write about the 2nd failed test a while back). Since its hard drive install didn't fair real well here, we'd hoped some updates and bug fixes would show vast improvement for this slack-based distro. How did Ultima Linux do this time?

With the "NEW AND IMPROVED! And guaranteed to work or your money back!!" tagline how could we go wrong. And well, after all is said and done, it does work. But not entirely.

The info site states:

"The Ultima Linux LiveCD is a complete Ultima desktop system squeezed into a 544MB CD. It contains everything that you've come to expect from Ultima Linux, including:

  • A complete, modern KDE desktop with

    • Mozilla Firefox ? Web browser

    • Mozilla Thunderbird ? E-mail client
    • OpenOffice.org ? office suite
    • AbiWord Personal ? word processor
    • The GIMP ? image manipulation program
    • XMMS ? digital audio player (MP3 & Ogg)
  • Complete networking support ? just plug & play!
  • Effortless to use; just stick in the CD and reboot!"

Requirements include:

  • Pentium or newer processor recommended

  • 96MB memory or more for optimal performance
    • 64MB or so is used for the LiveCD filesystem.

    • Only what's left over is then available to your programs.
  • Hard disk not required ? runs straight from CD

The livecd starts immediately with no time to input any boot appends and a text boot follows. It boots up with plenty of errors. Although the errors sound fairly bad during boot they must not be fatal, as one does make it to the login screen. Presented with a regular user account and root, one is given pause. I clicked on the user and then login. Fortunately that seemed to work. In fact, su'ing to root required no password either, so that's a point in Ultima's favor. (In case this seems contrary to your beliefs, let me explain that some livecds use passwords and then fail to print anywhere what they are!)

Upon login one is greeted by KDE 3.4.2. A plain jane default KDE 3.4.2. At 800x600. On a 2.4.31 kernel. Looking thru the menus one finds gimp, OpenOffice.org, and Firefox, as well as most if not all of the usual KDE applications. Trying to open OpenOffice.org was futile as after 45 seconds the bouncing "busy cursor" stopped and at 60 seconds, I stopped counting. Likewise Abiword failed to open. Kwrite opened so I could start writing this review, but the fonts were so bad, I gave the endeavor seconds thoughts.

        

I know I must have seen uglier fonts before, but for the life of me, I just can't remember when. If you notice in the screenshot, arial is chosen as well as anti-aliasing, but they render like it was 1999 and I hadn't hacked the btye code interpreter yet. Well, that's not exactly accurate, cuz even Mandrake's default fonts looked better than this in 1999.

        

Firefox 1.0.7 does open, in about 17 seconds. Page rendering was fast and the fonts were even readable. In fact they didn't really look that bad, considering that sometimes this is an issue with default Firefox setups.


Xmms wasn't in the menus, as I discoved from the Ultima LiveCD info page, as was supposed to be included. Launching it from the command did open xmms, even if the user doesn't have permission to access the device. One all was given permission, we find that it's a link to /dev/scd0, and well, it doesn't seem to really exist. Changing the device to /dev/hdc and giving user permission to use it resulted in being able to think we were going to listen to music. Xmms thought it was playing my commercially acquired audio cd, but no sound emanated from my 4+1 speakers hooked to a sound blaster live 5.0 even after adjusting the mixer settings. Changing the config from analog to digital had no effect either. It appeared the correct modules were loaded and even arts was set to start. Testing sound in the kcontrol sound settings did result in hearing the KDE start up sound. My experience with Kscd was the same, exactly. Lest anyone doubt, I used that very drive last night in gentoo to sooth the savage beast.

        

Gimp 2.2.8 seemed to function as designed and opened rather quickly.

I would like to have included a snapshot of enlightenment, but it wouldn't stay running long enough to navigate through the menus. It kept kicking me back out the login screen. You didn't miss much though as it's plain jane as well. Using the winter theme and what appears to be no wallpaper.

That's about all I can stand. In conclusion, Ultima is improving in the sense that KDE did appear stable and most of the KDE applications functioned save the cd player. However, this distro still isn't ready for mass consumption. It adds very little to old versions of windows managers, and most of that don't work. Save yourself the trouble of downloading this distro. There are too many modern up-to-date distros out there that actually work and offer some pretty customizations with fonts that are readable. I want my (estimated) .16 cents back!

UPDATE: In an email conversation with Martin Ultima, head developer, he stated that this release was very much experimental and his "main critereon for release is if it can actually boot or not."

In that sense then, Ultima Linux did meet its goal.

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