6 Mar 2011

Did Alexandre Dumas Use Linux?

Porteus system is relatively new system on the Linux sky.
It came to light when developer of SLAX, Tomas M. gave up the project. Even before that, there was a fork called "SLAX remix". Now it is named Porteus.
The name sends us to two facts.
  • Portability. Porteus, as well as SLAX, is intended to be portable system. The one you carry with yourself in your pocket and can use wherever you get access to computer.
  • Alexandre Dumas. If you read The Three Musketeers, or even if you have nor done this yet, you must know name of the character Porthos. He is very powerful and friendly, even though not always quick.
Does the name of this Linux follow the Dumas idea? How good was Dumas in his predictions? Let's see...
Distributive of Porteus Linux is very light. It weights under 300 MB. You can either burn it to CD, or extract files from .iso image and copy them to your USB drive. Like in SLAX, there are 2 files in the distributive which can make your USB bootable: one for Windows users and one for Linux. I found a small issue there, because Linux-oriented file (.sh) is not marked as executable, and I could not make it executable. Neither chmod nor Midnight Commander options helped. Anyway, I have Windows XP for some reasons, so .bat file was used. Finally I got bootable USB drive with Porteus system in it.
Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

First difference between SLAX and Porteus is visible on the first screen. SLAX only features KDE as desktop environment. Porteus allows you a choice between KDE and LXDE.
As I became fan of KDE since very first acquintance with SLAX, my first choice was  for KDE version. And what did I get there? Porteus was extremely long booting in KDE. As I found out later, everything which depends on Konqueror or some computer browsing stuff, except for terminal-based Midnight Commander, takes you to the land of waiting.
Opposite to this, I found Porteus very quick booting in LXDE - just 50 seconds from USB drive with WiFi support. That's absolute record for now!
If we're not taking about Konqueror thing which I mentioned above, Porteus is very fast in most things. Firefox works fast. All the applications are ready for use in few moments after launching click.
As I mentioned above, Porteus uses KDE. This is not KDE4 as in Nimblex. This is SLAX "classical" KDE3.
Does Porteus support multilingual users? Sure it does! Configuring Russian keyboard layout in Porteus was an easy thing. But here I faced two issues:
  1. Trying to save configuration, I spent significant time during saving. I think this is the same issue with Konqueror.
  2. Keyboard layout switch could not be configured. I believe this can be fixed the same way as in SLAX, i.e. via configuration files. Just decided not to check because working with long lags was not possible.
I decided to switch to LXDE mode. Language indicator exists here as well, but list of languages is not as big as in KDE version. Though, opposite to KDE, LXDE has Russian in default list. But here I found an issue too... I could not find the way to switch the layout. KDE configuration tool was available in "Others" menu, but not was working for LXDE obviously. So, each time I had to click on the icon on the taskbar. Not very critical, but something can be improved here.
Internet set up in KDE menu calls same script from fanthom which is used in SLAX. Sure enough, it just works. No issues at all.
Next logical step after connecting to the network was mounting of network drive. First of all I tried to use GUI facilities. Unfortunately, it could not be done by "Network Folder Wizard" from menu. It is usual for KDE, I got used to it. I think that does not work because it tries to use username and password, whereas my network drive does not need it.
Manual mounting of network drive went OK, but Russian characters in filenames were not recognised in terminal (Midnight Commander), even (or maybe because) with iocharset=utf8 parameter. It worked OK in Konqueror (KDE) and PCMan (LXDE). The same problem with Russian characters I could see with automounted local NTFS partition.
When network connection is running, network drive is mounted, I could try to play some music from there! The results are very good here. Music played well in Porteus, of course if filename and path to it was in Latin. If any component of full file path contained Russian character, it could not be played.
There are several media players included in Porteus: JuK, KPlayer and BMP (Beep Music Player). The later is not often used in Linux distros. This player can be very useful for WinAmp fans, because BMP copies interface of WinAmp.
As to Office applications, Porteus include KOffice, even when running in LXDE. But version of KOffice is quite outdated. You can see version on the screenshot and compare it to your current version.
Taking this screenshot, I noticed that screenshot tool in LXDE is not automatically called up by PrintScreen button. I had to look for it and call from menu where it sat in Others section.
Actually, LXDE version of Porteus uses quite a big part of KDE applications. That is very understandable, as both KDE and LXDE versions are parts of same distro, so it would be obvioul to share the code.
When I tried Nimblex, I found that SLAX modules are compatible with Nimblex. At least, Samba client module worked fine. Is the same true for Porteus? Are SLAX modules compatible with Porteus? Unfortunately, not. I tried to use Chrome 8 package from SLAX, but it was identified as corrupted. That makes life difficult for Porteus users, simply because there are not many modules available on Porteus web site.
If you remember from my first ever posts, I dropped SLAX because of instability. It crashed quite often and could not be restored. I had to remove all the saved configuration and files and start from scratch. In these terms Porteus is definitely step forward. I faced no crash in my tests! All the reboots picked up saved files and configuration without any problem! Wonderful!
Fine... Shall I come back to the question in this post's title... Did Alexander Dumas use Linux? As you can imagine, neither computers nor Linux existed that time. But his Porthos is definitely similar to Porteus. At least, when Porteus works in KDE mode. It is powerful, it sometimes extremely quick and helpful. But suddenly it can become very slow an clumsy. But as long as you change your KDE to LXDE, you get the best Live system for pocket use I have seen so far!
And remember! You can order disk with Porteus via my Buy Linux CDs page for your own use!
Are you using portable Linuxes yourself? What is your choice and why? Share your experience right here in the comments!


  1. I use Mepis Linux 8 and 8.5 bootable USB keys because I may use them both as rescue tools and operating systems (especially for security reasons). They have already saved some of my colleagues. Why Mepis specifically? I am not very Linux-experienced and this distribution was the one that helped me migrate and learn about Linux without much "trauma" :P

    By the way, great post! You caught my eye by combining literature with computers and also got me interested in SLAX and Porteus ! :)

  2. "Porteus was extremely long booting in KDE"
    This is unusual as most systems boot to KDE in under 30 seconds. We have LXDE botting in 15 seconds!

    "Are SLAX modules compatible with Porteus?"
    The 32bit version will automatically convert the aging squash3 modules of slax into squash4. Support for squash3 will be dropped in the next release.

    Wicd will be included in next release (64bit out now)

    "there are not many modules available on Porteus web site."
    Apologees for this but we are starting to add them now. We wanted to focus on getting the OS stable first, the modules will come now. Older sq3 modules (slax) can be converted to porteus modules using the modtools, or via konqueror service menu in 32bit.

    Thansk for testing Porteus

    BTW: Porteus does not come from Dumas, but from the Proteus god of the sea, who can change his form at will.

  3. Hi Megatotoro,
    MEPIS is in my "to-do" list. I hope I'll get to review it some time... Linux world is so overwhelming with different distros that sometimes I stuck in choice where to go next!
    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting it anyway! Hope you have subscribed for future updates!

  4. Hi Br0kenman,
    That may be something with hardware which stops my laptop (Compaq c300) from booting into KDE on Porteus. Although, SLAX worked here without any issues. If you want to get some debug info for fixing this issue, I am ready to help. Write me and we'll discuss further.
    You say that 32-bit version should automatically convert Sq3 modules into sq4. It obviously did not happen with Chrome module mentioned in the post. It was downloaded and placed into Modules folder from WinXP, and simply ignored as corrupted during boot. Again, if you want me to give you any debug info... just write!
    As for name... Everything is just a matter of perception. You think it is from Proteus, I thing - from Porthos. And again, would you notice the article if it was not linked to Dumas? ;) Nice title is always important, isn't it? Hope you'll forgive me. ;-)

  5. As someone who read Dumas pere et fils (and who wore Aramis eau de cologne as a youth), I appreciated cultured references but are you sure that Porteus is an homage to the drunkest of the 3 Musketeers?

    I googled the word Porteus and it doesnt exist so I presume that at best, Porteus is a foreign version of the name (but thats stupid, why not use the name everyone knows) or this is a great way to get hits to the blog. After all, THATS the only reason I clicked on this link as opposed to the dozens and dozens that techrights puts out every day.

    I checked out the Slax site and it says:

    'Porteus' is a merge of 2 words: 'Portablility' and 'Proteus'.
    'Proteus' is a "Greeks god of the sea, capable of changing his form at will". I find this name as a kind of synonym of 'flexibility' adjective.

    So no, its NOT Porthos.

    Which leaves us two options: you simply connected the dots and thought it made sense since the names are close.

    Or youre the worst kind of troll whore. The kind who fools you once but you make damn sure you not only never visit again but make damn sure others know how douchey they are.

    I get the weird feeling its somewhere in the middle.

  6. Hi Anonimous,
    Thanks for the long comment you made.
    I definitely know where the name Porteus came from. It is clearly stated by project founder fanthom on the forum (https://www.porteus.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=117) and was mentioned by Br0kenman just above.
    Of course everyone knows that Dumas could not use Linux or predict anything in Linux arena. But almost everyone who clicked the link on any web site have sense of humour to understand the virtual connection between the similar words Porthos and Porteus. My knowledge of French is not deep enough, but I can assume that difference is in one sound only. I am not linguist or native French speaker, but if you are, feel free to correct me.
    Once again, thank you for your visit and hope to see you here again! Apologies if I touched any sacred strings of your soul.

  7. I should add that the v1.0 alpha release (32bit) converts sq3 on the fly. Thanks for the debugging offer, we have plenty of testers but you can email any info you have.

    "but thats stupid, why not use the name everyone knows"
    Because then you could get lost in a sea of google results.

    No biggy ont he name ... An x by any other name would smell as sweet.

  8. Br0kenman, I would definitely help you, but I need your help... Tell me what I should do to get you debugging/log info, I'll send it.

  9. DarkDuck,
    It sounds like you're using 32-bit, version 09. We had someone else complain about speed issues, and the problem is related to saving changes to a FAT or NTFS filesystem with the most recent version of aufs (a known bug for Porteus version 09). Try selecting "Always Fresh" in the boot menu. That will boot into KDE without persistent changes. If your speed improves, that's your problem. You can still save changes, but you'll need to create a 'save.dat' container to hold them. This process will be automated in version 1.0, for any users writing to FAT/NTFS devices.

  10. you don't need chmod just "bash whatever.sh"

  11. @Ahau
    I tried "Always fresh" option. It definitely works better than usual KDE option. I am in Proteus KDE right now! WOW!

  12. @Anonymous,
    Thanks, I will try to remember next time...

  13. Hi,

    Thanks for your review! What do you think of the latest release?

  14. @tinypliny:
    I have not tried new release yet. Will do in near future. Stay tuned!

  15. I tried out the live version of the latest release and unfortunately, Porteus does not recognize the Realtek RTL8191SEvB Wireless LAN Controller (rev 10) wireless inbuilt modem. I suspect it is because the driver is not included in the kernel.

  16. @tinypliny:
    That's a pity that RTL8191 is not supported, I have it on one of my laptops.
    Though, that is not the laptop I mostly use.
    Do you want to write your own review of Porteus 1.0 as guest post here?

  17. a great distribution review...you gave the readers what they wanted in the end...so I wouldn't really call it link-baiting. The title was more of a gimich to get the reader to pay attention to what they want. While on the flip side of link-baiting Zdnet has called Linux obsolete for the desktop(pulled no punches)...great articles...for sharing them w/ me and my twitter followers I will 1>retweet 2>re-share on my favorite social NT.

    1. Anyway, I was accused in link-baiting here! ;)