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Feature: Absolute

Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

By Susan Linton on August 07, 2007 (9:00:00 AM)

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Absolute, a lightweight Linux operating system based on the respected Slackware Linux distribution, just released version 12.0. It features kernel version 2.6.21.5, IceWM and Fluxbox window managers, and many graphical and ncurses-based configuration tools. Its goal is to provide a lighter, easier-to-use Slackware appropriate for newcomers and experienced Linux users alike. It is built for speed and performance but doesn't neglect stability or security.

For Linux newcomers, Slackware installation and configuration can be intimidating. Absolute attempts to alleviate some of the complexity by providing documentation and easy configuration tools. The Absolute download is a zipped package of the ISO, a How-to text file, and an installing directory containing a walkthrough with instructions and screenshots on how to install Absolute (and Slackware) to your hard drive. Some of the instructions are a bit sketchy (such as the cfdisk step) and they haven't yet been updated to reflect the new version, but the process is the same -- just ignore references to version numbers. This wonderful documentation could go a long way toward relieving some of the anxiety a newcomer might experience.

Absolute's install process is the same as the interactive graphical Slackware ncurses installer, with the same basic steps found in any Linux installer. It adds an upgrade option that should be convenient for anyone who's running an earlier version. It also removes the tedious package and kernel selection steps, instead installing all the software bundled with the distro and the only kernel included. During the first boot, Absolute configures the video card and screen resolution; for me the process amounted to little more than confirming the auto-detection.

After booting the new system, I was brought to a terminal login. Starting X brings up the default IceWM window manager, for which Absolute includes more than a dozen nice themes and wallpapers for personalization.

Usually after installing a new operating system, the first step would be to set up a user account. You can add users by employing a quick, easy graphical configuration in the System Tools menu.

The root desktop has a customized wallpaper embossed with the words "whoami=root" in the upper right corner. It also displays a Getting Started icon that opens a directory of various help files on subjects such as User_Login, USB_Stuff, and Audio_Help. The root menu contains links to system configuration tools not found in the users' menus, such as Package Tool, Create a new user, Configure Xorg, Software Updating, and Configure Network.

I found it inconvenient to have the system configuration tools available only in the root menu. They should be available in the user menu as well, but requiring root password. As it is, to use them, you have to log out of the user desktop, su to root, then log in to the root desktop, then go back to your user account again when you're done. Absolute should also provide the Getting Started documentation on the user desktop too.

Absolute Linux ships with applications for all the different tasks one might expect. Firefox 2.0.0.4 is the browser, Slypheed is the mail client, and Pidgin is the instant messaging application. Also installed by default are Abiword for word processing, the GIMP for image manipulation, and KTorrent for peer-to-peer file sharing, along with SMPlayer, K3b, and Audacious for multimedia. The menu contains several games, calculators, search tools, development apps, file managers, and a planner/calendar. There's also plenty of documentation, such as a Slackware book, an intro to Linux, and the IceWM manual, as well as information on specialized areas such as development, graphics, and multimedia. Linux-2.6.21-5, Xorg 7.2.0, and GCC 4.1.2 form the distro's foundation. It's an impressive and well-rounded collection.

Package management is one area in which Absolute aims to simplify Slackware. The distribution includes a graphical front end to Slackware's pkgtool called XPKGTOOL that can be used to install and uninstall applications. For a more advanced package management solution, Absolute bundles Gslapt, which can install, upgrade, and uninstall packages from a local or remote repository. It's a graphical front end to slapt-get, which works very much like Debian's apt-get.

Absolute also tries to make it easier to work with portable devices by including dbus, HAL, and DevTray to auto-mount removable media. DevTray is a panel application that resides below the regular Icewm panel; you have to click on the panel arrow to retract it in order to see the DevTray. From there if you click on a device of interest, DevTray will auto-mount it and open Rox-filer in that directory. Right-clicking the icons for these devices opens a menu with options to umount and eject. DevTray works really well except that regular users don't have write permissions to some devices -- and another little problem.

For DevTray to work, an automount daemon must be enabled, as it is by default. As a result, upon second boot when the daemon is started, the /etc/fstab file is overwritten with entries for only removable media devices, such as the CD-ROM drive. This renders the system unbootable because it removes references to the permanent drives. After my first reboot, I was dropped to a maintenance shell. The standard output indicated the superblock wasn't readable and suggested running fsck. This error would definitely be the end of Absolute for most newcomers. In fact, it took me several minutes, another installed system, and a few boots to find and fix the problem. To avoid this issue I suggest disabling the Automount option upon first boot by going in as the root user to System Tools -> Configuration -> Run Services Menu, or you'll find your system unbootable when you next boot.

I had to boot into another system for another reason too. Modprobing the version of Ndiswrapper shipped with Absolute resulted in the fatal "Invalid module format" error. I downloaded the latest stable version from SourceForge.net and installed it with no problems. I was then able to use my Windows-dependent wireless Ethernet chip.

I was able to get CPU scaling (the adjustment the CPU speed in order to decrease power consumption) to work by modprobing the generic governing and my CPU-specific modules and inserting the desired governor into the /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor file. There was no graphic monitoring app for battery life, but I could check on it by peeking into the /proc/acpi/battery/BAT0/state file. However, I wasn't able to get suspend or hibernate to work.

The remainder of my testing experience went well. I installed Absolute Linux on my Hewlett-Packard dv6105 laptop, as I know if it can pass my laptop test it will probably do fine on most desktops. Absolute auto-detected and configured my graphics, sound, and touchpad hardware. The system and applications were stable and fast. Firefox came with all the plugins I needed, such as Flash, Java, and video support. SMPlayer played all the video formats I tested. The system has lots of nice little touches, such as customized application splashes, Roadrunner "Beep Beep" startup sound, complete and functional menu, graphical configuration tools, and lots of great documentation.

Add up all the pros and cons, and the pros win. I really like Absolute Linux. I feel like its developers are reaching most of their goals. It is light, fast, and stable. The configuration tools are handy, the included documentation is impressive, and including gslapt is a real plus. On the minus side, I'd like to see better ACPI support in the form of userspace tools, and I can't understand how such a serious bug as I found with the automounter was allowed to ship, unless it was just something isolated to my system.

Absolute is definitely on the right track. If you like Slackware but find KDE to be a bit too heavy, or if you find Slackware difficult to configure, then Absolute might be the distro for you.

 

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on Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

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Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.2.250] on August 08, 2007 06:59 AM
Regarding the DevTray / fstab issue, I'd say 'absolute winner' sounds rather euphemistic...

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Absolute Linux is an absolute disaster

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.193.101.212] on August 08, 2007 07:54 AM
Plugging newcomers onto a distro with obsolete package management is *definitely* the right thing to do! The rest of Linux community just has a plenty of time on their hands to fix the consequences, riiiight.

--
Michael Shigorin

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Mac theme gone wrong

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.126.183.5] on August 08, 2007 09:44 AM
That Aqua clone fares poorly against the original. The taskbar looks atrocious.
What happened to the quality of articles on Linux.com?
I suppose they went the way of the redesign -- attractive on the surface, but poorly done overall.

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Re: Mac theme gone wrong

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.67.205.158] on August 08, 2007 12:04 PM
That screenshot is u-g-l-y. Hate the menu layout of IcwWM too.
[Modified by: Anonymous on August 08, 2007 12:04 PM]

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Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.131.183.10] on August 08, 2007 05:43 PM
Another distro ships with a show stopping bug.

This is not the way to get Linux on the desktop, folks.

Get a clue. Do at least SOME testing!

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Absolute Winner?? PCLinuxOS is also as powerful if not more.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 125.20.39.39] on September 07, 2007 03:15 AM
Found Absolute to be very good OS. But PCLinuxOS is also as good and even better if it comes for newbies. Visit http://pclinuxos2007.blogspot.com for more.

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Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.33.49.251] on September 15, 2007 05:17 PM
A single-lone man is working on Absolute. Its unfortunate bugs happen, but every distro has bugs and this one is no exception. But the fact that it was fixed the day after this article was released is to prove that the man "in-charge" is on top of it. User input is appreciated for this distro and YOU do have a choice on what should and should not be done to this, within reason of course.



Also, PCLinuxOS is great and has had a longer lifespan and more user input. But it is also a LiveCD choice as well as a heavier distro. Absolute is about combining everything to make sure it all "just works" and make sure it works on a Pentium Pro 200 mhz with 32 megs of ram. If PCLinuxOS can do that and not waste 20 minutes getting to the desktop then I'm all for it.



Its about choice, and Absolute Linux is another choice. A very sleek, fast, clean, just works, includes my inputs, accepts my fixes, kind of choice.



<3



Noisome

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Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.70.93.15] on September 17, 2007 10:57 AM
Sure and al that talk about how good PCLinuxOS is... I'v installed it on a Dell laptop and a HP desktop and both times I had to tweak the systems to get it running... Also every tried to print something on an A4 HP LaserJet... No go since every time it wants to print in Letter format. No matter if all is set to A4! And what about the hostname... Ever tried to change that...

No the quallity of the distros are going downwards...

Cheers, BT a long time Linux user.

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lo mejor de linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.141.48] on December 07, 2007 08:18 AM
esta es una distribucion de linux que desbancaa otras distribuciones

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Absolute Linux is an absolute winner

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.117.40.30] on February 12, 2008 07:14 PM
Hello,
I started with a p3 450 and a 128mb inside, and a 8 g. hd, and tried several linux distro's, just for fun.
DSL worked, DSL-n also, Puppy linux and Feather Linux worked, and the rest didn't.
No Zenwalk, Gentoo, etc etc.Livecd worked, but i don't like those...
Because i was new to the subject, every time i tried to install a "big" linux distro i did'nt could make it to work.
Although DSl and others worked, i didn't liked the layout and the hassle to make it visual good looking.
I then installed Absolute 12, and i was working with it in 20 minutes.
It lookes good, and i can easely understand how it works(the apps, that is!).
Still have problems understanding Linux, but thats a challenge.
Mind you, windows xp runs also easy on the old pc, with the same specs, but is taking to much space .
So i am happy with Absolute. I can do what i also do with mij other pc, thats a p4 2,6 with 1024mb, downlading music and listen to it.
Surfing, mail, and writing with openoffice installed.
You see, i am not a IT worker, i am a admin manager.
So, i want a system that is easy to work on and looks good.
The old pc has a purpose again, and I there for think that Absolute is a good product.
With regards,
Frits( the Netherlands, Zoetermeer).

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