For some time the stalwarts of the free software concept have been heralding Linux, (that’s ‘Lin’ as in ‘sin’ and not ‘li’ as in ‘tie’) as the greatest challenge to Microsoft’s domination of operating systems. Indeed, the varied distributions of Linux have been around for some time and do offer a very stable networking operating system with a variety of shells and GUIs wrapped around the core multitasking kernel.
Most, however, do require a degree of technical skill and the ability to edit setup scripts to fine tune the system to your particular needs. Corel has attempted to demystify some of the wizardry behind Linux and in this, its first release, has certainly produced an integrated package with most of the setup and installation routines configured automatically. Corel’s distribution can be purchased directly from the company, and comes on three CDs. Alternatively, if you have the bandwidth and can afford the download, an entry-level version is available from the Web site.
Installation is interesting. If you’re setting up a dedicated Linux machine then either use a new drive or remove any existing partitions and let the software sort things out. We wanted to create a dual boot on our Windows machine and the best way to do it is to dedicate a hard drive completely to Linux. After installation, when you reboot the Linux loader will enable you to launch Windows or several varieties of Corel Linux. It is also possible to run Linux from within a Windows partition, although you’ll have to revert to DOS mode and run a batch file from the Linux sub-directory to do so.
We found that Corel has gone to great lengths to help the novice user. The opening screen is very much like Windows 98 and will feel quite familiar if that’s your normal operating system. Screen attributes can be adjusted in a similar way to Microsoft’s baby and you can even create shortcuts to your favourite programs by right clicking and browsing through the filing system for the application. The filing system itself can be viewed in a similar way to Explorer, and if you’re running a dual system any Windows partition can be accessed so that files can be interchangeable, which is quite a technical achievement. Corel includes a release of WordPerfect Light with this distribution and plans to port most of its existing applications to the Linux platform. With a wide range of native applications already available and many mainstream Unix programs, like the Xess spreadsheet, easily ported to Linux, you can expect to see many new applications becoming available in the near future.
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