Dream Linux 3.5 - An Excellent New Release

I got interested in the new release of Dream Linux (3.5) because it is supposed to make it easy to create your own customised ISO boot image.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

I got interested in the new release of Dream Linux (3.5) because it is supposed to make it easy to create your own customised ISO boot image. I thought that if I could get it set up and configured on the HP 2133, and then make an ISO of that, that would be really useful.

Of course, the first step is to get it installed. I downloaded the LiveCD, which is their Xfce-based desktop. For some reason they can't fit their Gnome release on a CD, and I didn't feel like fooling around with downloading and burning a DVD just to see if it was going to work - especially because, based on my experience until now with the 2133, I wasn't terribly optimistic that it would work.

Dream Linux takes a very different approach than most of the other Linux distributions. They concentrate on functionality, and don't put a tremendous amount of effort into hand-holding and making their distribution "easy for beginners". You can see that from the first boot and installation screens; the only options are "boot" and "memory test", no long list of various display modes, different LiveCD or boot directly to installer, or anything else. Just boot and get on with it. That is what I did, and I got my first really big, really positive impression from Dream Linux. The LiveCD booted on the HP Mini-Note with no problem, it figured out the display and brought it up in 1280x768 resolution (the ONLY Linux distribution so far that has been able to do that). This was looking very promising already.

The desktop of the LiveCD is equally "terse" - everything is there, but even an experienced user is likely to need some time to look it all over, figure out what is what, and decide that "DL Installer" is what you want (as opposed to "OEM Installer", "Live Dream", "Persistent Dream" or whatever). From that point, however, things get really interesting. They have managed to create an entire installation dialog in one window for Dream Linux. The essentials are all there - root password, user account disk partition selection, GRUB - in one screen, rather than the three to ten or more that other distributions have. Obviously, there are a few things which are not there - time set setting, keyboard, and so on - but again, the idea seems to be, if you know what you are doing you can take care of all of that after the installation is finished, so why clutter things with them here?

The installation completes quickly, and you reboot to find... the same desktop that you had on the LiveCD! Makes sense, I suppose... why not? Once again, on my HP >Mini-Note, it was using the vesa driver, and had the proper resolution. I wanted to try the openchrome driver, as I have on all of the other distributions, but I ran into the first real problem with Dream Linux at that point. The X server is an older version than any of the others I have uses, so I couldn't copy over the driver from one of them. I couldn't compile it, either, most likely again because of the older X server. After struggling with it for a while, I gave up and posted a question on the Dream Linux Forums. Much to my surprise, I got a reply within two hours, and it took care of getting the X server up to the same version and Mandriva and a few others, so I copied over the driver, and it works perfectly! Very, very impressive.

So, I am now investigating packages, versions, options, configuration and such on the HP 2133. I need to adjust my brain to the Xfce desktop, but I will also say that it looks very good, and it is amazingly fast on this Mini-Note. I will also install it on the S6510 and S2110, to see if it does as well on those (I expect that it will). From what I can see so far, they have a rather intereting (odd) choice of packages and versions. They say that the distribution is based on Debian 5.0 (lenny), but the linux kernel is, which is considerably newer than Debian, while the X server is 1.3.0, which is older than Debian. I suppose they are being "conservative" with some packages, using what they know works.

There are lots of other packages included, of course, some you would expect and some you might not. Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice (2.4), Adobe Reader, gThumb, Inkscape, Rhythmbox, Totem, CD/DVD burner... all installed and ready to go.

In conclusion, though, I would say again, I am just amazed at how well, and how easily, Dream Linux installed on this Mini-Note, after all the struggles with the other distributions I've had. More to come.

jw 4/3/2009

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