23 Apr 2012

Devil Live twins of OpenBSD: the project is kicking

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about twin brothers in the world of Open Source. They are not Linux-related, but rather BSD-based operating systems: LiveCD OpenBSD and LiveUSB OpenBSD.

If you re-read those posts, you may notice that I was not happy with those operating systems at all. They were not working more often than they were working.

Since that time, I talked to the author of the project, Girish, several times. He let me know recently that the project has an updated release, published on the 10th of April 2012. I must admit that it was not the only release since my first review of LiveCD/LiveUSB OpenBSD. But the one(s) you probably missed were not worth reviewing, from my point of view.

Now, let's check what has changed recently.

As it was before, there are 3 versions of the operating system available for downloading: Full, MiniX and Minimal. I chose the Full version. It is about 1.7 Gb in archive file form. The file is hosted on Sourceforge network, so you are likely to get good downloading speed. Once the file is downloaded, you need to use an archiver to get the ISO image out of the archive. Not a big deal, to be sure.

Even though the project officially bears the title "LiveCD OpenBSD", this is not the LiveCD in normal terms, in the form we are used to seeing it. Yes, you still need a CD (or a DVD for the full version). Once the disk is burnt, you need to boot from it and then... you still need to create a LiveUSB with the actual system! Yes, you can't use the LiveCD for work. It is only a step to create a LiveUSB. I think that this is not useful for popularisation of the distribution, and this is one of the areas which the developer might well look into.
Update: the developer updated me that he's looking into improvement in this area.

The process of installation itself is simple and is fully described on the screen which is presented by the installer CD.

So, using this unusual way, the LiveUSB was created for me. Reboot. Let's go!

First of all, I tried to use it on my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. The result was negative. The message "ERR M" was the only feedback from the laptop screen. It is probably the consequence of the BIOS issue, which I always have on that laptop.

I decided to use same LiveUSB with my other laptop, HP Compaq nc6000. This time I was luckier. I managed to boot the system and log in. By the way, there is no login information on the boot screen, so you need to remember the username and password from the project site. The normal user is live with password live123. I think that placing this information somewhere on the boot screen would definitely help.

The system screen is still the same as it was in the first version I reviewed a few months ago. This is the WindowMaker windows manager. You can definitely say that it is outdated in design, and it is different in the location of user elements compared to Windows, Unity, GNOME2 and GNOME3, but on the other hand, it is extremely light and fast.

The system menu seems to be the same as it was before. The difference, though, is that some of the items in the menu are now working. Yes, you can now launch some of the applications from the menu. It was not possible before. For example, I managed to start Firefox, vi, LibreOffice Writer and Calc.

Talking about versions of the applications, there is a mixture. LibreOffice is a rather fresh version 3.4.1. Funny enough, it is still hiding under the menu item called "OpenOffice". On another side, Firefox is version 5.0, which is very old.

Unfortunately, the issues with some other applications are still in place. GIMP, xPDF, Abiword, emacs gave me the same error messages as I had during my first review. Multimedia applications like MPlayer and Xine did not respond at all.

As in previous versions, I was not able to locate configuration of network interfaces or keyboard layouts.

And finally… I was not able to shut down the system! After logging off from user live, I could not log in back as root. Entering the password did not help.

So, the project is alive. It is developing. There are definitely some positive improvements in the latest version. But there is still some work to do to polish it. I wish all the best to Girish, the author of this OS, and encourage him to continue his work.


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