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Reviews: Progeny 1.0 Review: The First Generation
Posted on Sunday, May 13 @ 19:38:25 BST
Below is my review of Progeny Debian, also look at Linux Lookup's review or Linux Planet's review.
I got a wonderful surprise when I returned from school after a hard day
number crunching and letter munching, a large box had been delivered from
The USA. Oh what could it be? A letter bomb
from solomon? Nah, he doesn't hate me that much. Something much more
beautiful, much something much more carefully crafted, the result of one of
the most important developments in the Debian world in the year (excluding
Debian Planet of course ;), if you haven't guessed by now or haven't read
the title of this article, then go crawl back under that stone. Because
Progeny 1.0 is HERE (sure the ISO download has been out for a while, but hey
they always say the British are backward 😉
Okay so lets work our way inwards from the outside. The box is one of the
nicest I have seen on the market and the Debian aspect of Progeny Debian is
very well emphasised. The back consists of the usual arbitrary PR blurb and
cute screen shots. However unlike some distributions, Progeny make these
claims with utmost honesty as we will soon see later. It is interesting to
see that Progeny have retained kernel 2.2.18 and have only provided kernel
2.4.x optionally (unsupported), this is a relatively wise move. 2.4 although
'stable' is a big step and it is interesting to see that Progeny have
carefully decided not to hastily rush into what might be a problematic area.
Yet it is good of them to provide the 2.4 kernel for those with more
confidence or those possibly not running a production system.
Inside the smart box is the is a whopping 500 page User Guide, which is
about two-thirds of the size of Running Linux by O'Reilly, one of the must
have books for Linux users. The topics covered in the book are much broader
than those specific to Progeny Debian:
Introduction to Progeny Debian
Preparing to Install Progeny Debian
Installing Progeny Debian
Starting and stopping the system and graphical interface
Getting to know the command line
Getting to know the desktop
Making the Desktop your own
Searching for files and text
Working with directories, files and links
Reading system information
Installing, removing and upgrading software
Doing everyday administration
Configuring the system
In addition there is also a selection of appendices covering upgrading from
other dists and also how to setup multiple installs.
Although the layout of the book is excellent, there are a few typos and
misspellings. "Would the real Allan Cox please stand up?"
Beyond the excellently laid out manual there is also a double CD box
containing the Install and Extras CD. And also some documents concerning the
support which we will deal with later.
I'm fortunate enough to have a bootable CD-ROM but if you are one of those
rare people who don't disks are included for you
I stuck the "Install" CD-ROM in the appropriate drives and hit return at the "boot:" prompt that started.
After a short time the initial Progeny logo and "GNOME Druid" wizard popped
Because I was originally running sid and the upgrade path is awkward, i
chose to do a clean install over my original install. Therefore I chose do
custom partitioning, beyond custom partitioning, you can choose to create
partitions in the free space and to use the whole drive.
The custom partitioning interface is very clean and easy to use, I selected
the relevant mount points for my various partitions and chose to format them
all fresh except my /home partition.
After one chooses partitions and mount points and they have been committed
you are asked whether you want to use GRUB, a different bootloader (e.g LILO)
or none at all, remember if you chose not to install a bootloader remember
to check the startup floppy box, I created a startup floppy for emergencies
as well as installing GRUB.
GRUB is the Grand Unified Bootloader, originally part of the HURD project
this acts as a mini OS in its own right, its much more flexible than LILO
and is popular among multi-os addicts.
After the boot selection partitions are formatted and the base install files
are extracted, this is very similar to the base install of mainstream
Debian. Throughout this stage you are kept informed of what is happening and
the progress being made.
Shortly after this stage you are told the initial stage is completed and
that you can remove the CDROM from the drive. Then came the moment of
This is where the problems started, when I rebooted the box the infamous
"LI" prompt greeted me. Oh dear oh dear, the startup disk failed to work too,
so I decided to try the install again, this time I decided to make the /
partition bootable, how silly of me to forget that. The "LI" is due to the
presence of the initial LILO loader from my previous install.
The second try was much more successful, now if I had only read the
When you reboot for the second stage of the installer no interactivity is
needed for a while, it happily detects your hardware, loads modules for it
then installs X. And proceed to the next step in the install, of course it
would help if I could see the next step in the install as the installer
thoughtfully chose settings beyond my monitor, leading to warning message
alerting me to the fact and a safety power off, grrr!!!
I was unable to switch to another virtual terminal to solve the problems so
i was forced to hard reboot. A quick skim through the manual revealed that
specifying the "Linux secondstage=text" at the install bootprompt would solve
the problem, but does this mean I really have to reinstall *again*.
Yep it *did*. My monitor is a Hitachi 19" and the settings it chose were
incompatible, I could not easily see how to change to use a secondstage of
text based debconf rather than a GNOME one or how to specify my own settings
for the monitor.
After I completed the text part of the second stage I now had a working
system lacking X.
So I then had to apt-get install xserver-xfree86 progeny* etc.
However if you managed to get the graphical second stage to work you would
have been led through a series of cute dialogs and druid wizards, these are
in fact Debconf entries with a GNOME frontend, cool huh? This is the kind of
code that gets integrated back into the mainstream Debian project.
Progeny 1.0 does not support users outside the US therefore I had to change
my keymap by running kbdconfig and choosing a UK keyboard map.
I installed the packagesets that appealed to me, these are basically like
'tasks' groups of similar packages, unfortunately beyond deity, dselect,
aptitude, apt-get etc there is no easy way of installing individual
The default install of the GNOME packages starts up gdm where you can login
to your GNOME desktop.
The problem is apparently due to the fact the monitor and graphics card are
reporting too high settings which they cannot really handle. Therefore with
a bit of raw tweaking of the config file left me with a pleasant working
GNOME desktop, of particular interest to newer users are the supplied tools
which allow package management via a cute Point 'n' click interface.
The support package supplied with the box set (and also available extra for
downloaders) offers 30 day telephone support and 90 day access to the
Progeny Service Network which provides rapid email support, automated
security updates and many other features. The supplied support can be
For most people the install should go like a dream however it was rather
painful in my case, but there is always the support to fall back to. I do
however have other systems running Progeny and are very happy with them
therefore don't let my rather painful experiences put you off.
One particularly cool feature (which deserves its own article) is the
ability to a partially customized install on multiple systems, full
instructions on doing this are available in the manual.
Overall very good for an initial release, hopefully future releases will be
slightly improved and Progeny will learn from their mistakes. I wish to
thank Aaron Stenhoff at Progeny marketing for sending me a review copy
making this review possible. Furthermore if you want Progeny help or advice
#progeny or the more general #debian on irc.openprojects.net are open for
you to ask questions (after researching first) and why not pop in and see
us in #debianplanet. Also if you are looking for a good Progeny oriented
community site checkout Progeny
Please post your comments or questions concerning the install and I will try
my best to answer them. Thanks for reading!
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