Progeny Debian 1.0 Review
I'll be the first one to admit it. I haven't touched any variant of the Debian Linux distribution for a really long time. I personally could never get comfortable with fork distributions. When this review was up for grabs I decided what the hell. I've heard some good things about Progeny circulating and thought I'd give it a whirl.
My test system was an AMD K62 266Mhz, 160MB RAM, VIA chipset mainboard, 8GB hard disk, Hercules NVidia TNT2 16MB AGP graphics card, and a Linksys 10/100 NIC.
I really want to point out that this distribution was very, very easy to install. My first installation just awed me. I would have to say that this install had just about equal or LESS mouse-clicks than MS Windows (including disk partitioning and formatting). The GUI install was a no-frills, to the point install. On screen instructions were extremely easy to follow and written so a novice should be able to install it. Of course when I mean novice I mean a novice Linux user and not a novice computer user.
- Enhanced Debian 2.2.
- Kernel 2.2.18 and the option for Kernel 2.4 is included.
- glibc 2.2.
- Open SSH is a default install.
- GRUB boot loader.
- Graphical Installation.
- Gnome Desktop with an interface to debconf.
- Debian (.deb) packages for easy software installation.
- Over 6,000 software packages available!
Running the Program
Minimum: Pentium 100Mhz, 32MB RAM 1 GB Hard disk FREE space, SVGA video card, bootable CD-ROM or a CD-ROM and a bootable 3.5" floppy drive.
Recommended: Pentium II 300Mhz (compatible), 64MB RAM, 2GB Hard Disk FREE space, PCI/AGP video card supported by Xfree86 v. 3.x - 4.x, bootable CD-ROM or a CD-ROM and a bootable 3.5" floppy drive.
I always recommend a good running system for Linux. Like all operating systems Linux likes to have some power to run. Although my main test system was a K62 266Mhz, I was able to test the install on a Pentium 100Mhz and an AMD Athlon 750Mhz. The P100 ran OK but was noticeably slow. As you may suspect the Athlon 750 screamed. My main test system worked rather well and I had no performance problems with the system.
As I stated before installation was a breeze. The GUI install tool was extremely smooth. I performed three separate installs. The only problem I had was hardware related on my K62 system. First the Progeny setup failed to detect my PS2 Logitech mouse. I traced the problem to my Belkin OmniCube KVM switch. After unplugging the system from the KVM and giving the PC it's very own peripherals, setup detected the mouse with no problem.
The second problem was that setup did detect the Linksys network card but failed to recognize it. After the install I ruled out a hardware conflict and focused on the driver. No go there either. I was unable to compile in a driver. I finally gave up and installed an old NE2000. This worked out fine. The other two systems had Kingston 10/100 PCI cards and worked perfectly.
Aside from those few glitches the install went smoothly. The GUI was excellent. It didn't look as nice as some others (like the Mandrake 8.0 installation) but it definitely held it's own and was a lot easier. The initial portion basically sets up your disk(s) and installs some program files. After the first portion is finished it nicely asks you to remove the cd before it reboots the system. During the second portion you pick which packages you wish to install, set up system parameters (ie X, networking, etc.). The install program then loads the packages using the Debian package manager. I particularly enjoyed watching the packages being installed. Then again, I was also kicking back a few cold ones too. After the second phase of the install, you can log right in. No reboot which was way cool.
Seasoned veterans of Linux will notice that the kernel installed is version 2.2.18, an older kernel for you newbies. This was done for a reason, stability. A 2.4.X kernel is included with the distribution as an option (Debian packaged). My personal opinion would be to download the latest source kernel from ftp.kernel.org. I personally don't like "canned" kernels and wouldn't push them on anyone. Newbies might want to take use the packages kernel since they're easy to install.
Still if you're a novice I would fork out the 50 bucks for the boxed set as it comes with some documentation. The download version has an online manual in Adobe .pdf format but it looked like just a basic install and setup guide. If you're not experienced with Linux buy the boxed set. Also with a registered boxed set you'll get 30 Days free telephone support and a 3 month subscription to the Progeny Service Network. The Network, provided only to subscribers, provides:
- Secure software updates.
- Notification service.
- Online community.
- Integrated support.
Progeny did a great job on their distribution. They take pride in their quote "Leading edge, not bleeding edge". Basically they chose not to package all of the latest program versions. Instead they used the "tried and true" method and created a very stable Linux distribution, one that beginners can install with little trouble.
Other than the few glitches I discovered, I think that the install would go great for most people. It looked as if Gnome was the standard desktop manager for it. KDE was listed as an option but I decided to stick with Gnome since I don't play too much with it. Besides, it's a very easy GUI to work in. everything was easy to find. The Gnome interface to debconf was really great feature. I also think that experienced users will appreciate the ease of install and the stability. They may however want to upgrade some out of date programs. This is just a personal preference however.
This distribution was pretty cool. It was definitely novice-ware. These guys made a Linux install just about as easy as a generic MS Windows installation. I really mean generic. As with any Linux distribution, if you run into hardware installation problems you need to know how to manipulate Linux to make it work. Things just aren't as simple as running setup.exe in the Linux world, no matter what anyone says.
Progeny is very robust and stable. I had no real major problems but I still caution people to double-check their hardware before installing it. Go for the boxed set. You'll get better technical help, documentation, and you'll also support the Progeny community. One thing I'd really like to see after Progeny gets established is a knowledge-base on their website. This should be a "must" with any distribution. The folks at Progeny really showed us that Linux can be really easy to install.
ConclusionThe Good - Pros
- Stable and easy to install
The Bad - Cons
- A few standard Linux hardware detection problems
The Ugly - Issues
The Verdict - Opinion
Very good product. Could easily become a desktop replacement. They need a knowledge-base online.