Linux

Caldera 2.4: eDesktop or eBusiness

If you're looking for a Linux distribution that's powerful, stable, easy to install and administer, and respected, look no further. Jack Wallen, Jr. examines the recently released Caldera 2.4.

So the people from Caldera bring us a new release. It seems when one distribution comes out with an update, they all do. First it was SuSE 6.4, then Red Hat 6.2, and now Caldera 2.4. It's becoming difficult to keep up with the Joneses these days.

But whom should you follow? We all have our favorites. My personal favorite is Red Hat. It seems that no matter how many different distributions I try, I always come back to the hat. I gave Mandrake a chance, I allowed myself to be hypnotized by the perfect simplicity of Corel Linux, and I even gave the hard core Slackware 7.0 a go. But it inevitably comes back to good ol' Red Hat.

This diversion from Red Hat comes to us from the folks at Caldera. With the release of 2.4, it promises a world of difference, and even goes so far as to profess a cadre of both person and business tools. According to the packaging, 2.4 would be THE distribution. Included with the boxed set are:
  • 128-bit Netscape 4.72
  • Adobe Acrobat 4.0
  • Macromedia Flash 4.0
  • RealPlayer 5.0
  • Complete office suite (StarOffice 5.1a)
  • Money management software
  • Partitioning utility
  • Sun Microsystem Java JDK 1.2.2
  • Omnis Rapid Internet Application Development Environment
  • Citrix ICA Client 3.00.15
  • Open LDAP
  • Photodex Compupic

Along with these features, the standard update also includes:
  • kernel 2.2.14
  • glibc 2.1.2-3
  • libc 5-1.0-2
  • KDE 1.1.2-13

All of these features are standard for today's Linux releases—the only exception being Macromedia Flash 4.0. This is quite a leap forward for the Linux community, seeing as how Web multimedia has been all but neglected on this platform. With Caldera including Flash, certainly others will follow suite. But does it work? Eventually we'll find out ... but first let's take a look at the installation.

Installation
The first attempt at installation wasn't a good one. The test bed was a Compaq Prosignia 140. My first step was to turn on the machine, insert the CD, and let it whirl into existence. Once the CD began spinning, the familiar Caldera Lizard started. Lizard is Caldera's answer to the graphical installation utility and it's quite a nice tool! In fact, had it not been for Red Hat's Anaconda, Caldera would easily win the installation fight, hands down.

Unfortunately, the installation didn't care for the Compaq laptop. First off, a note to Compaq: Learn how to allow users into your bios! There, I feel better. We've had a rash of Compaq machines that don't allow the user into the bios. I'm not sure what they (Compaq) are thinking, but the user must be allowed into the bios. Users will often need to change the boot sequence, enable or disable PnP, or even simply change the system time. Here's a novel idea: Go with the standard.

Anyway, now that I've gotten that off of my chest, let's get back to Caldera.

Once it was determined that the laptop itself was faulty, the kernel wouldn't stop panicking, and PCMCIA support wouldn't be installed, I hopped over to my trusty Compaq Presario 1255 laptop—my own personal machine that has been through more installations than an IT junkie in a Fortune 100 firm! I knew what it was all about and that it would certainly play well with the new distribution.

The Compaq Presario 1255 was set up to dual boot (for the extremely remote possibility that I might need Windows for something), so I wanted to keep the FAT partition in check. The Caldera installation made this a very simple task. Choosing the proper device (/dev/had) was simply a matter of clicking the correct entry in the partitioning routine and clicking OK.

There are some instances where the configuring of the X Window System will hang after testing. If this happens, verify whether the selected X configuration worked. When you restart the installation (you'll have to if it hangs), choose that configuration, but DON'T run the test (if you do, you'll have to re-run the installation). According to the manual, you should be able to press [Ctrl][Alt][Backspace] (a standard method of shutting down the X Server) to kill the frozen X Configuration. However, this isn't a trusted method. It's best to highlight the configuration you want to use and click Next without testing.

One aspect of the installation you may find confusing is where to load LILO. The standard had been to load LILO onto the MBR (Master Boot Record). Caldera, however, has decided it would be best to install LILO onto the root partition. This works fine in a single boot or single disk installation. However, with either dual booting or dual disk installations, you'll want to install LILO on to the MBR. Both ways are easy and will work on single-OS/single-disk installations.

Post installation made simple
I've grown accustomed to the Linux post-install to-dos. Such a list consists of the following:
  • Configuring sound
  • Reconfiguring X Windows
  • Configuring a printer
  • Setting up network connection (if using a standard modem connection)

Caldera 2.4 takes care of all of these tasks during installation ... and some without the user even knowing! The first instance, sound, was only a matter of enabling KDE sounds. The sound card was detected, selected, and configured—all without my knowledge! This is a huge step forward, considering sound has been one of Linux's Achilles heels for a long time. A good indication should have been the fact that at the very beginning of the installation, a theme song was played to indicate the installation had begun. How Caldera accomplished this should certainly be revealed to all other distributions.

Webmin
Awhile back, I stated that the best Linux distribution for business was Caldera. I stand by that statement and even further back it up with Caldera's newly included administration tool: Webmin. (NOTE: Webmin is not a Caldera-only administration tool. In fact, it can be obtained for and installed on nearly every Linux system. Caldera, however, is the first distribution to pre-configure the tool at installation.)

The configuration and administration of Caldera 2.4 can be handled completely via Web browser, which means that IT staffs no longer must wildly run around setting up each desktop for various configurations. Need to change a system, server, hardware, or login names; install software; kill running processes; schedule cron jobs; boot up or shut down; setup or reconfigure network settings; check logs; install or change a printer; or add to a host table? All of these tasks can be done via the Webmin application.

The Webmin application is done via port 1000-cadlock (those working with firewalls will want to take note). So, let's say the machine you want to administer sits on the IP address 172.22.1.2. In order to use Webminto remotely administer this machine, you would type (in your favorite browser) http://172.22.1.2:1000/, which would take you to that machine's Webmin application.

One problem exists with getting the Webmin application working remotely. As installed, the Webmin server doesn't start until the local client initiates the application, which renders Webmin practically useless because each user would have to start the program before the administrator could administer the machine. A very simple way to resolve this problem is to insert the webmin-init start command in the /etc/rc.d/rc.local file. To do this, open the /etc/rc.d/rc.local file in your favorite editor and add the following line at the bottom:
/usr/libexec/webmin/webmin-init start

and then re-run rc.local with the command (as root):
/etc/rc.d/rc.local

The output should resemble:
Starting Webmin server in /usr/libexec/webmin
If you're installing Webmin on another distribution, you will be installing from a tar file in which many of the above paths will not be correct. If you're interested in giving Webmin a try, download it from ftp://216.24.5.22/pub/webmin-0.79.tar.gz, unpack with tar xvzf webmin-0.79.tar.gz, run setup.sh, and answer the necessary questions.
Once you've entered the Webmin page of that machine, your screen should resemble that shown in Figure A.

FIGURE A
Webmin in action.


Figure A shows the System tab of the main Webmin screen. From this screen, you can administer many of Caldera's key features. Primarily of note is the Software Packages section, which enables administrators to effectively perform a complete install or upgrade a package on any number of machines from a central location, as shown in Figure B. This is where Caldera has officially pulled ahead of all other Linux distributions (especially for business implementations).

FIGURE B
The Remote Package Installation section.


Figure B shows a simple, Web-type interface that allows the administrator to install and/or upgrade either from local file, uploaded file, or from an ftp or URL. I tested the ftp/URL install to install the amaya Web browser. To perform this simple test, I followed these steps:
  1. Click From ftp or http URL.
  2. Supply the proper URL (in this case, it's ftp://rpmfind.net/pub/amaya/amaya-3.0-2.i386.rpm).
  3. Click Install.

Once the installation is complete, you will be greeted with information about the package you just installed, such as writers' names, version, history, and so forth. Should the install fail, you'll receive an explanation of why the package could not install. Typically, if a package doesn't install (with this method) it's because of dependency errors. This happened to me a few times until I found an application (amaya) that had no dependency errors. These errors can be overcome by installing the various packages that the application depends on, or by clicking Ignore Dependencies.

The Webmin's configuration includes several very important configuration options. The first is IP Access Control, which is where the administrator configures who can access the Webmin tool. Another very intriguing tool in Webmin's configuration options is the Module Configuration screen. Within this screen, the administrator can add or delete various modules that Webmin uses. (Modules are files that end in the .wbm extension.) Say, for instance, you want to configure and administer ftp on one machine but not another. With Webmin Modules, it's a simple matter of adding or deleting the ftp module on whichever machine you choose. This feature makes post configuration a breeze for the administrator. The customization of individual Linux machines can be handled from a central location.

Other configuration tools
Although you can easily run the gamut of configurations from within Webmin, there may be times you'll want to fall back on some of the older tools.

Caldera 2.4 has its own standard issue configuration tools, and they haven't changed much since version 2.3. Lisa is to Caldera what linuxconf is to Red Hat—and with good reason. Lisa is a solid application for the configuration system settings.

X Windows
Reconfiguring X Windows has become second nature, as well as nearly instinctual, post installation. This time, however, I was surprised that, when X Windows booted, it was as neat as any OS installation I've seen. Strike off yet another post-install to-do.

Printer
Configuring a printer is also handled within the Caldera installation. Unfortunately, the configuring of a remote Windows printer doesn't allow for the entry of a user or password. (The local printer setup routine, however, is solid.) In order to get a remote printer set up, you'll have to wait until the installation is complete and run Webmin, which allows you to set up a remote printer, local printer, UNIX printer, or Windows printer. The Webmin application allows you to configure the necessary username and password to connect to a Windows networked printer in a manner similar to how you'd connect to Samba.

Sound
Probably one of the biggest surprises was the fact that sound was configured by the installation process. Never before have I come across such a complete installation. Typically, the configuration of sound requires either a sound (pardon the pun) knowledge of your particular sound hardware or an understanding of kernel modules and how to load/unload them. Caldera 2.4 has resolved this problem, and sound installation/configuration is now as seamless as it should have always been.

New toys and new surprises
The big surprises out of the way, this is a good time to discuss some of the smaller gifts that Caldera has included with 2.4.

Cameleo
Cameleo is a graphics utility written by Caldera and is, as shipped with the distribution, a try-before-you-buy application.

You're probably asking yourself, "Why would I want to buy a graphics application when I have the Gimp?" Good question! The answer lies in Cameleo's flexibility. Cameleo isn't limited to simple graphics manipulation (as most other graphics tools are). Cameleo can:
  • Display a PostScript, pdf, hpgl image
  • Retouch or process an image
  • Modify the colorimetry in an image
  • Calibrate a graphic chain
  • Print images or multi-tile posters
  • Digitize
  • Layout
  • Automate jobs
  • Create image databases
  • Record CDs

Cameleo can function with several scanners, including:
  • Agfa: every A3-A4 models
  • Canon: DR3020
  • Epson: GT 6500 to GT 12000
  • HP: All color Scanjet models
  • Nikon: LS-20 (Coolscan II), LS-1000
  • Polaroid: SprintScan 35 & 35 Plus
  • Sharp: JX 610
  • Umax: All A4 & A3 models
  • ColorTrac: CT 36/400, 360 Cx, et Gx, 380 Cx and Gx
  • Vidar: TrueScan Color

Cameleo can also function with a handful of digital cameras, including:
  • Agfa: ActionCam, StudioCam
  • Kodak: DCS 410 & 420, EOS, DCS 3 & 5
  • Polaroid: PDC-200 series
  • Minolta: RD-175

Several CD-ROMs that Cameleo can function with include:
  • Acer: CR-1420, CRW622, CRW620
  • Creative: CDR4210
  • Grundig: CDR100IPW
  • HighTech: CD-R1002, CD-R2000
  • HP: CD Writer 7100i/e, CD Writer 7110i/e, CD Writer 6020, 4020i, CD Writer 7200i/e
  • JVC: W1001, XR-W2040/2042, W2001(B), XR-W2020 / 2022, XR-W2010
  • Kodak: PCD200, CDR-240, PCD225, PCD600
  • Matsushita/Panasonic: CW 7501, CW 7502, CW 7582, LK-MW602
  • Memorex: CRW-620, CRW-620, CRW-1622
  • Mitsubishi: CDRW226, CDVR4X6, CDVR2X6, CDVR4X4, CR-2600, CR-2401, CDR2201, CDR2200, CR-2801
  • Nomai: 680 RW
  • Olympus: CDS620E, CDS615, CDS630E, CDS600E
  • Philips: CDD 522, CDD 2600, CDD 3610, CDD 2000, CDD 521, OmniWriter26/26A
  • Pinnacle: RCD4x4, RCD1000, RCD5040, RCD5020, RCD202, RCDW226
  • Pioneer: R504X, S114X, DVR-S101
  • Plasmon: RF4102, CDR4220, CDR4240, RF4100, CDR4400, CDR480
  • Plextor: PX-R412C, PX-R24
  • Ricoh: 1420, 1060, RS9200, MP 6201S, MP 6200S
  • Sanyo: CRD-R24S
  • Sony: CDU-920S, CDU-924S, CDU-926S, CDU-928E, CDU-948, CDW-900
  • Teac: CD-R50S, CD-R55S
  • Traxdata: CDR2600, CDR4600, CDR4120, CRW4260, CRW2260, CRW2260 PLUS, CDR-432
  • Yamaha: CDR401t, CDR200t, CDR102, CDR400, CDR400t, CRW4001, CRW4260, CDR100, CRW2260, CRW4216E, CRW2216E, CRW4216S, CRW2216S

Although this isn't nearly as extensive of a list as you'll find supported by any given Windows machine, this is a far cry from most other supported lists. Yes, some other packages support various subsections of the above list, but none support multiple media types.

Moneydance
Some of these little gifts come in the form of "lite" versions of commercial applications. Once such application is Moneydance. Moneydance is a sweet finance application written entirely in Java, that hosts a myriad of functions. The lovely little "lite" application offers the very same functionality as its full-blown proprietary brethren! Moneydance can handle multiple accounts, reconcile, remind, generate detailed reports, import/export Quicken files, translate currencies, and it behaves completely like the soon-to-be-standard Web interface. Although this is a "lite" version of the application, it's well worth looking into.

Clipboard
Linux has had a definite history of clipboard trauma. However, with Caldera 2.4 and the new and improved clipboard applet, Linux users can now rejoice in that Cut and Paste finally works as we've been trained to think it should.

With the new clipboard applet, cutting and pasting is simply a matter of highlighting the desired text, pressing [Ctrl][C] (or selecting from whichever menu the application you're using requires), and choosing which copied text you wish to use. Place the cursor in the location you wish to insert the new text, click the desired text, and the copied text will appear in your document. The process of using the clipboard is outlined in Figures C, D, E, and F.

Figure C
The clipboard icon from within the KDE panel.


Figure D
The results of single-clicking the Clipboard icon.


Figure E
The first piece of copied text in the clipboard.


Figure F
The second selection of copied text within the clipboard.


The above series of images was taken while working within the KDE Advanced Editor; however, the clipboard applet does work within almost all standard word processing applications, the Netscape browser, and any other application that offers Cut and Paste functionality.

Netscape
One of the nicest surprises is that, out of the box, the Netscape browser functions with both Macromedia Flash and Java.

Although Linux (and, to be honest, the rest of the browsing world) is without an excellent browser, the fixes to the Linux port of Netscape is quite a boon for the Linux community. This boon is one that could easily be overlooked, considering that the Web is moving faster than technology can evolve and, without the ability to keep up with these advances, an OS doesn't stand a chance to survive. Looks like with Caldera 2.4, Linux can now stand up and say, "I'm for real!"

Who's it for?
I still stand firm on my original statement (so many months ago) that Caldera is simply the single best distribution for business or corporate use.

Although home users will find great joy in Caldera 2.4's near-perfect simplicity, they won't see the vast benefit of being able to remotely administer multiple machines from one location. Yes, home users will benefit from all of the standard upgrades, patches, and fixes, and they'll thoroughly enjoy the ability to finally see both Java- and Macromedia Flash-enabled sites. But the real power of Caldera 2.4 shows itself to the IT administrator.

If you're looking for a distribution that's clean, powerful, simple, robust, stable, simple to install and administer, supported, respected, and (rather) Windows-friendly ... look no further.

Conclusion
I've been a huge fan of Red Hat Linux for a long, long time. I've sworn that every distribution of Linux will only lead me back to Red Hat (and so far I've been correct). Caldera 2.4, however, could change that!

With Caldera's simple installation and remote administration tools, it's simply the only choice for IT administrators. Caldera's clean desktop and simple, user-friendly tools make it one of the best choices for home users.

Maybe someday I'll switch to Caldera on my personal desktop (it's currently on my laptop … where it will remain). It will certainly take the inclusion of GNOME in order for me to make the switch, but the decision is getting harder and harder to make with every new release.

Jack Wallen, Jr. is very pleased to have joined the TechRepublic staff as editor in chief of Linux content. Jack was thrown out of the "Window" back in 1995, when he grew tired of the "Blue Screen of Death" and realized that "computing does not equal rebooting." Prior to Jack's headfirst dive into the computer industry, he was a professional actor with film, TV, and Broadway credits. Now, Jack is content with his new position of Linux evangelist. Ladies and gentlemen—the poster boy for the Linux Generation!

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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