Linux Weekly News
LinuxWorld coverage - CD Giveaways
August 12, San JoseYour reporter finally got some time to wander the exhibit floor and, of course, to load himself down with the various trinkets and propaganda available at the booths. A number of booths were handing out CD's; here is my experience after having played with two of them.
The Best: LinuxCare's recovery cardLinuxCare always has great handouts - it's a part of their generally attention-hungry approach to marketing. And, while one can certainly get a thrill of sorts out of a lollipop with an insect inside, and while one can have fun with the "simply supported" poster, it is nice to see something truly practical come out as well.
The LinuxCare recovery card is the size of a normal business card, though rather thicker. It is designed to use the seldom-used smaller CD standard; if you look inside your drive you will see a small ridge there that is meant to hold smaller disks. Use of this format gives them about 32MB of space to play with - far more than your standard recovery diskette.
When you boot this thing, you get a 2.2.10 kernel, and instructions to log in as root with "linuxcare" as the password. Then you get to page through a long document with some legal disclaimers ("this is for experts only, you can damage your system, don't run with scissors") and a quick set of instructions.
One of the nice things that happens is that the boot process goes through and tries to mount (read-only) all of your disk partitions for you. Thus, everything is available when you log in. The first step that one normally has to overcome with rescue diskettes - fumbling around finding your filesystems - is not an issue here.
Networking is not set up by default, because the information isn't there. If you have a DHCP server handy, simply running "dhcpcd" will get you up and running. Otherwise it's a matter of typing some ifconfig and route commands (examples given) to bring up networking.
Another nice touch is the install-ssh script provided on the CD. They cannot include ssh directly due to the usual ridiculous crypto export problems. So, instead, you get a script that goes out, picks up the Debian ssh package from a non-US server, and installs it. One command, a little download time, and you're in business.
The real advantage of this format, of course, is that you can include far more stuff than is found on a typical rescue diskette. Thus, you get a full set of hardware diagnostic utilities, and commands like bzip2, debugfs, dhcpcd, dig, dnsquery, dump, emacs (but you really get joe), gawk, ldd, lynx, mtools, ncftp, objdump, patch, pico, tcpdump, zip, etc. They also tossed in copies of the LDP System Administrator's and Network Administrator's Guides. The man pages, unfortunately, are missing.
In other words, what you get is a nearly complete Linux system which is optimized toward the resolution of system troubles. It's a great idea, one wonders why nobody thought of it before. This card has quickly found a place in my toolkit - you never know when you might need it.
According to the credits, this goodie was created by Duncan MacKinnon, Seth Daved Schoen, Tom Crimi, Mike Higashi, Jim Dennis, Patrice Regan, Art Tyde, Dave Sifry, the LinuxCare Technical Support Team, and Mr. Pizza Man of San Francisco.
The worst: the Fujitsu/Amdahl Linux CD
I honestly was not aware that Amdahl still existed; I guess I've been too deep in the Linux world for too long. But they do exist, and they had a booth on the edge of the exhibit floor. They seemed to maybe be trying to sell disk drives, but it wasn't clear.
Anyway, they were handing out CD's for their "Getting IT Together" Linux distribution. Curious, I snarfed one and tossed it into a system.
This disk turns out to be a basic Red Hat 6.0 knockoff, though the only place they actually say that is in the disclaimers. It's the same old stuff, they didn't even bother to slip in the updates - an easy action that might have made the disk worthwhile.
So far it's just a boring, imaginationless CD. But then consider the text on the back of the envelope:
The following is the legal agreement between you and Amdahl Corporation concerning this CD-ROM and its contents. By placing the CD-ROM disk into a CD-ROM drive, you agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement. If you do not agree with these terms, you are not authorized to place the CD-ROM disk into a CD-ROM drive.This goes on for a while, but the basic sense of what's going on here should be clear by now. Amdahl is claiming ownership of the Red Hat distribution, and forbids anybody from copying it, or installing it on more than one system. Evidently I am in legal trouble now - I most certainly do not agree to these conditions, but I put the disk into a drive anyway.
Needless to say, it seems unlikely that they are making source available as the (real) software licensing requires. This CD is an example of pure bandwagon jumping; they have no clue about what it is that they are actually giving away. They are stepping all over the real licenses that apply to the software they are distributing without a care. These people clearly do not get it.
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