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Review: Lunar Linux

By Preston St. Pierre on August 02, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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Lunar Linux is an eye-opener, even for someone who has used many GNU/Linux distributions. It's based on the Source Mage distribution, but, as indicated on the project's Web site, Lunar Linux developers have rewritten both the install code and the package management code in an effort to increase its user-friendliness. A user-friendly source-based distribution? Yes, but as is the case with most new code, there are bugs to be worked out.

After downloading and burning the ISO, I booted from the CD into an installer unlike any I've seen. The installer takes you through a series of steps that are themselves divided into sections, using an ncurses-style interface. If you attempt to choose a step that has an unfinished prerequisite, the program will stop and inform you which step to choose next. It feels almost like a cross between the installers for Slackware and Fedora.

The install procedure's on-screen documentation is extensive and detailed. Although a page of text for each step may not be user-friendly to some, it certainly makes the install easier. However, there is absolutely no hardware detection. When given the option for installing a sound card, you are simply asked for the name of your sound card's module and given a text box in which to put it. To make matters worse, although I know the name of the module for my card, it failed to load properly and is not working to this day.

After the install I rebooted and logged in as root. (There did not appear to be an option to add another user during the install process.) My first order of business was to set up a non-root user. Typing adduser and filling in the appropriate blanks did not work. No errors were indicated, the system simply did not create the new user. Several successive attempts also failed, so I used useradd, which is less friendly but worked as expected.

You are prompted at login to read the manpage for lfirsttime, which tells you how to create a working system from the output of the installer. Essentially, you completely recompile the system, just as a stage 1 Gentoo install would have done from the start. You are then instructed to use Linar Linux's package management system, lin, to update the system and install the base libraries. From that point on you are on your own.

With little more than the base GNU libraries, GCC, and the Linux kernel installed, and the need to create a working desktop system, the next step was to use the dependency checker by typing lin xfree86. The lin command allows for tab-completion with package names in case you aren't sure of the name, a feature I'd like to see implemented in Debian's APT.

After a number of questions regarding which libraries I would like to link to, lin began the compilation. Thirty minutes later it returned an error. No problem, I thought, I'll just submit a bug report. I tried to use the lin links command-line Web browser to visit the Lunar Linux Web site to sign up for the bug control software. Unfortunately, to prevent spam, the site requires users type a graphically displayed code. I was unable to see the code from my system, not having X installed.

Unable to submit the bug report, the next step was to try compiling X.Org instead. The dependency checker went crazy for at least an hour, adding dependency after dependency until the compilation finally began. Partway through, in the same section as XFree86, the compile failed. After a quick refresher course in C, I fixed the problem, but forcing a user to go to such lengths is completely unacceptable.

By now, you're probably asking yourself, "Did he finally get it to work?" I'd continue to entertain you with every boring detail of what I had to do, but I'm afraid I'd go on for pages and pages. Still ...

When X was installed, there was no X config file created. The package gnome2 didn't compile GNOME completely, only a skeletal version. The package gnome linked gnome2 and also failed. When I finally installed all the GNOME packages and had a "working" desktop, it still used twm, the Tab Window Manager, instead of Metacity. I also had to install Nautilus separately from the GNOME package. Even after I manually installed and switched to Metacity, many of the functions in GNOME didn't work, such as using Alt-Tab to switch applications and Alt-F2 to launch a program.

Admitting defeat and moving on from GNOME, I tried KDE, which quickly failed to compile because of a dependency problem with Qt. The Qt library package too failed to compile because of a dependency problem with Qt. After I downloaded, compiled, and installed Qt manually, the KDE install still failed with a Qt dependency problem.

Admitting defeat once again and moving along, I typed lin xfce4 (XFCE Desktop Environment). What do you know? It didn't work. I did find the right package, however, xfce4-profile, on the Lunar forums. It appeared that others were having similar problems. That package worked and I finally had a desktop that worked.

Conclusion

Getting a working desktop on Lunar Linux was harder than getting one on any other system I've built, even if you include Linux From Scratch. I found more bugs than I've seen in any other distribution. The install may be "easier" than a previous version, but that is not saying much. It was a difficult and time-consuming experience.

Using Lunar Linux to set up a desktop system is certainly not efficient and I would discourage you from trying it. On a more positive note, I learned a lot, as it forced me into a hands-on applied test of Linux skills. The distro's documentation is excellent, so someone with little knowledge about GNU/Linux could learn a great deal by installing Lunar Linux. So, if you want a learning experience, or simply a challenge, give Lunar Linux a try. You may not have the same problems I did.

Preston St. Pierre is a computer science student at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

Preston St. Pierre is a computer information systems student at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

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apt-get completion

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 02, 2005 06:37 PM
> The lin command allows for tab-completion
> with package names in case you aren't sure
> of the name, a feature I'd like to see
> implemented in Debian's APT.

The auto-completion of the z-shell can do this for you<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;)

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Re:apt-get completion

Posted by: Administrator on August 02, 2005 08:28 PM
Care to expand on that ?

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Comments from the lunar-linux project leader!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 02, 2005 10:30 PM
Hi,

My name is Auke Kok and I'm the current project leader of Lunar-Linux. I was glad to see the review on linux.com as we appreciate good articles about our distribution, also if that includes criticism. We will certainly do something with the information written in the article.

However, I feel compelled to refute and comment to some of the things that were written in the article, since some of it is false.

"It's based on the Source Mage distribution"

This is not true, SourceMage and Lunar-Linux are both based on Sorcerer GNU Linux, a nonactive distribution. Lunar-Linux forked from this distribution *before* the SourceMage people even existed. So, obviously Lunar Linux cannot be based on SourceMage.

"If you attempt to choose a step that has an unfinished prerequisite, the program will stop and inform you which step to choose next."

The installer has an option to turn this off, allowing you to see all installation steps and perform them whether it makes sense or not.

"However, there is absolutely no hardware detection."

The iso includes "discover" from the progeny group. This provides (some) hardware detection and recognizes most network cards etc. (and loads them automatically!). Despite the fact that 'discover' doesn't provide sound (the lunar ISO doesn't pack any sound drivers at all) this sentence is obviously false as well.

"(There did not appear to be an option to add another user during the install process.)"

That feature was experimental and removed for the final release. Future ISO's might contain it but we would recommend booting and logging in as root first.

"Typing adduser and filling in the appropriate blanks did not work."

This uses the 'useradd' binary. If it really didn't work I would like to hear about it!

"Essentially, you completely recompile the system, just as a stage 1 Gentoo install would have done from the start."

Unfortunately that manual page is out-of-date. We currently do not recommend that unless people change their optimizations, so this is our mistake.

"and the need to create a working desktop system"

I hope you didn't get the idea that lunar is meant for desktop systems. I certainly would not say that that is what lunar is best for!

"the next step was to use the dependency checker by typing lin xfree86"

xfree86 is very outdated. I find it very strange that one would choose xfree86 over XOrg nowadays, as XOrg has largely taken over the X-market in linux land. Also, 'lin' is not a dependency checker, but the (installer part) cli of the package management system.

"I tried to use the lin links command-line Web browser to visit the Lunar Linux Web site"

lynx is installed on the ISO/installer by default, so there's no need to install 'links'. I acknowledge that links might be a better choice.

"the site requires users type a graphically displayed code"

We use an email confirmation system but we have no graphically displayed code whatsoever! Our 'experimental' setup (bugs.lunar-linux.org) is not the official bugtracker and most likely will not become it (it has zero bugs in it). All links from the main website (<a href="http://lunar-linux.org/" title="lunar-linux.org">http://lunar-linux.org/</a lunar-linux.org>) point to the normal bugtracker (<a href="http://lunar-linux.org/bugs/" title="lunar-linux.org">http://lunar-linux.org/bugs/</a lunar-linux.org>). I apologise for any confusion and will see to it that this gets adressed.

"Unable to submit the bug report"

Alternatively, this person could have subscribed by email to our main mailinglist, and reported the problem there. This requires no X.

Also, as written in the README on the installer, the lunar community is very active on IRC.

"Using Lunar Linux to set up a desktop system is certainly not efficient and I would discourage you from trying it."

Finally somehing I can agree with<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;^). I mostly use it on systems that run as server, and I would agree that lunar is not the perfect desktop. However, as (for instance) many Xfce developers use lunar, I can definately say that lunar makes a good software development platform. Again, I hope that it is understood that lunar is not meant for easy desktops!

I hope you can do something with the information. Feel free to discuss or mail me back. I would be glad to help.

Regards,

Auke Kok

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Re:Comments from the lunar-linux project leader!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 07, 2005 10:05 PM
Hi,

Im a lunar user and I would like to disagree with Auke on the point that " I would agree that lunar is not the perfect desktop" . Lunar works perfectly well as a desktop . Moonbase has almost everything anyone would need , and lin makes it very easy to install stuff . There is no reason why it cant run perfectly on a desktop.

Regards,

Concerned Lunar User

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Thanks Again

Posted by: Administrator on August 03, 2005 01:37 AM
I was heading over here to paste the e-mail you sent me, but I find you already have. I hope everyone reads your comment.

I feel I should add something, though:
The adduser command, despite calling the useradd binary, still did not work. Also, I tried xorg as well as xfree86 - xfree86 was just what I tried first.

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Re:apt-get completion -- already there

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 03, 2005 12:08 AM
for bash, in debian, (which is the default) the relevant setting is in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc/bash.bashrc and looks like this:

# enable bash completion in interactive shells
if [ -f<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc/bash_completion ]; then

        .<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc/bash_completion
fi

The reason it is not enabled by default is tab completion can take up memory (at all times) and a fair amount of time (some tab completions are much more involved than others).

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What advantage does Lunar have over Gentoo?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 03, 2005 01:12 PM
I would like to know what lunar offers that gentoo doesn't.

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Re:What advantage does Lunar have over Gentoo?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 03, 2005 04:00 PM
Well, an installer for one thing.

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Re:What advantage does Lunar have over Gentoo?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 03, 2005 04:10 PM
Feel free to read the thread about this on the lunar-linux.org forums:

<a href="http://lunar-linux.org/?q=node/view/878" title="lunar-linux.org">http://lunar-linux.org/?q=node/view/878</a lunar-linux.org>

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Re:Thanks Again

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 03, 2005 05:06 PM
Hi Preston,

I do think Lunar Linux is not really a beginners distro. Also running Lunar Linux on servers just makes more sense to me, unless you NEED the newest and hottest version of a package for your desktop. Things like running up to date software can improve security and installing a grsec patched kernel doesn't take rocket science.

But as it happends to be, I recently tried to install Lunar Linux (from the 1.5 iso) on an older system that had to be used as a dektop...

After two or three days of compiling (it's only a 1 Ghz machine) and some minor dependency problems. Note I could get all the info needed to fix those problems from the compile logs. I now have a nice up to date system! It's running a 2.6.12.3 kernel, Xorg 6.8.2, qt 4.0.0, kde 3.4.2, firefox 1.0.6, evolution 2.2.3, etc, etc... and right now I'm listening to some internet radio<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

Guess what I'm saying here is that it is possible , even without too much hassle. And no, I'm not some kind of dev... Mainly just a happy user<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

Vincent

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no, you are wrong

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 06, 2005 11:39 PM
I'm not wrong, because 'Sorcerer GNU Linux' no longer exists (or at least is being worked on). Please note the 'GNU' in there. Right now 'Sorcerer' exists, but it's no longer 'GNU' due to it's license change. I never said anything about 'Sorcerer linux' which miraculously surfaced with a different license - and therefore should be considered a 'new' distribution IMHO.

I see you are a sorcerer fan. Please make sure you let people know that Sorcerer is not GPL!

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Re:no, you are wrong

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 16, 2005 01:21 AM
Wow, it's great to see you dodging the fact that you were wrong.

Nit-Pick the words and you are still wrong.

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Re:no, you are wrong

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 16, 2005 05:50 PM
I'd hardly say he was in anyway dodging ANY facts about GNU/Sorcerer. If it is your assertion that licensing should not be considered then it is you that have your facts wrong. And that you do not understand the difference between GPL and the current Sorcerer licensing terms, which IIRC Kyle refers to as SPL.

BTW would you be so kind as to post the Sorcerer licensing terms here? Oh, and make sure it's not the GNU, ie old one.

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Re:no, you are wrong

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2006 10:07 AM
<a href="http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=sorcerer/" title="distrowatch.com">http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=sor<nobr>c<wbr></nobr> erer/</a distrowatch.com>

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sorcerer

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2006 10:16 AM
<a href="http://distrowatch.com/sorcerer/" title="distrowatch.com">http://distrowatch.com/sorcerer/</a distrowatch.com>

#

Sorcerer

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2006 10:35 AM
<a href="http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorcerer_GNU/Linux" title="wikipedia.org">http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorcerer_GNU/Lin<nobr>u<wbr></nobr> x</a wikipedia.org>

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im luvin it

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 11:04 PM
Iv been using various distros of linux since readhat 5.2. suse, FreeBSD, ect...and previously slackware, although I liked slack, it dident handle dependencies and who has time for that, and with what I use a computer for i never needed to mess with it much, and Iv been conserned with how slack has been maintained lately,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>....so on a whim I tried lunar on a hd I tore out of an old tivo like satillite tv box, not really expecting much, and lo and behold I have found what Iv been looking for in a Linux OS all along.
its starts small, fast, you load what you need, and after a while you have a hella customized system compiled from source and optimized,
the package managment system is nice, Im sold on it! Im sorry to hear about the authors experiance, I botched my first install as well, but if followed to the letter, it goes flawlessly, at least it did for me, after installing, and up dating, I did the ol' lin XOrg and lin WindowMaker, then after the<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.xinitrc file was in my<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/home/$USER.....BAM!!
granted, it aint no Knoppix....., but some things are worth the wait, CHEERS!!!<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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Just a correction

Posted by: Administrator on August 04, 2005 06:11 AM
This is not true, SourceMage and Lunar-Linux are both based on Sorcerer GNU Linux, a nonactive distribution. Lunar-Linux forked from this distribution *before* the SourceMage people even existed. So, obviously Lunar Linux cannot be based on SourceMage.


You're totally wrong, since Sorcerer Linux is active and Kyle Sallee -Sorcerer developer- is still the developer of it.



You can reach its homepage at: <a href="http://sorcerer.wox.org/" title="wox.org">http://sorcerer.wox.org/</a wox.org>



I know the site is outdated and doesn't have well documentaion, but it's by far more superior than the other source-based distros. It has just four but great commands: augur, cast, dispel, and heal.



You can take a look at distrowatch's link here: <a href="http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=sorcerer" title="distrowatch.com">http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=sor<nobr>c<wbr></nobr> erer</a distrowatch.com>



BTW, you can contact Kyle at the mailing list after signing up at this page: <a href="https://lists.berlios.de/mailman/listinfo/sorcerer-admins" title="berlios.de">https://lists.berlios.de/mailman/listinfo/sorcere<nobr>r<wbr></nobr> -admins</a berlios.de>

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Review: Lunar Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.94.209.92] on July 29, 2007 12:41 PM
Preston St. Pierre ... Huh.... you do not even have any clue about Lunar Linux. Lunar Linux is the fork of Sorcerer GNU/Linux. it is not based on SMGL as you mentioned. in fact both SMGL and Lunar are based on Sorcerer: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=sorcerer

care to check the Lunar Linux page ? you did the sin of ignorance ...

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