Registered: Apr 2002
Distribution: Debian, antiX, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and many others
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: D/L | Rating: 9
Easy installation, full selection of software, great flexibility
Organization could be improved a bit
I was part of the Libranet 3.0 test team, so I did not purchase a version of it yet, but I feel strongly enough about it that even though it is Debian based software and I can keep the resultant software up to date myself, because I like Libranet and I support the company, I may yet go out and order an official version to promote and support the continuation of the work.
At the time I was reviewing and testing the software, my finances were too tight to purchase anything, so testing and reviewing software were my only means to maintain access to the latest software. Fortunately, my time spent with Libranet 3.0, as with all previous versions, has been well spent.
Libranet has refined itself over the years. I first tried Libranet 1.9.1. At that time, it was, to me at least, the best Debian distribution available because it was the only one that easily and readily installed on my hardware without any tweaking, cajoling, or coercing. Back then, I had a Compaq Presario 5000 series desktop computer. It could run Mandrake 8.0, SuSE 7.2, Red Hat 7.1 very easily without any problems. But when Red Hat 7.2 came out, it wouldn't work. There was a functional regression, and the USB keyboard support stopped working. Mandrake worked, but it used to be a bit fickle about when it supported the Wheel Mouse, how and when it worked.
That old Libranet had none of those problems. It installed and worked right out of the box. But in those days, a 2 CD installation sometimes required two or three insertions of the CD and a couple of reboots. Moreover, the older software lacked an easy to use disk partition resizer.
Between versions 2.0 and 2.7, Libranet resolved nearly all of these problems. In release 2.8 and the maintenance 2.8.1 that followed, easier disk partition tools were added, better installation documentation was created, and an update repository was provided to ease upgrades for customers who do not really understand the ins and outs of Debian package management.
Coming into Release 3.0, therefore, Libranet had a lot to uphold and a few more things to do to cater to a broader audience. The one thing Libranet never provided in the past was a smooth, good looking graphical installation program. They used a full screen console display to guide you through the installation and it worked very well, but from a marketing perspective, it looked pale compared to the major alternatives. Because of this, a choice was made to develop a completely graphical installation and also to create tighter integration and appearance within the graphical Xadminmenu tools used to manage the system.
The results are very good. To be honest with you, I don't really have the final version of the released product, so there are one or two very minor issues with my software that I do not believe are present in the final product, but I will mention them with that tiny caveat.
The installation itself is terrific. You have the option of installing Libranet 3.0 with one to five CDs (and I believe there may also be a DVD option for paying customers). I have installed the software with one CD, two CDs, and five CDs. When you install with less than the full complement of CDs, you can download the remaining packages once you establish a network connection to the Libranet site, which, for me, was a completely painless process.
This version of Libranet has more flexibility than previous versions in selecting groups of packages, the entire system, or groups of packages, modified by adding or removing additional package selections - about as optimal a range of choices as you can find, yet very easy to navigate and manage.
During the testing phases, Libranet 3.0 Beta was a bit fickle about deciding whether to use the generic NV driver to support my NVidia RIVA TNT 2 Model 64, 32 MB graphics card, or to use the extended NVidia provided graphics driver. Both worked, but there were some config file issues. The final product resolved these kinds of issues, and Libranet development was VERY good about working with the Beta testers to resolve these kinds of issues.
There was also an annoying little issue with the software package update tool in Xadminmenu. IF you chose to update the Libranet configuration or update all packages to the most current version, at the end of the update, the window containing the updates would freeze, not correctly detecting the condition when the configuration was complete. Again, I believe this issue has been resolved in Libranet 3.0; we certainly discussed it many times during the course of our testing activities.
Libranet itself provides what most other Debian based systems provide: access to some of the most solid, well tested application software in existence today. In that respect, there is not much to differentiate Libranet from the others.
Where Libranet truly excels, and there are few, if any, alternatives of any type anywhere, are in the administration area. Debian is already the best in package management. Libranet makes the effort that much easier by providing a stable repository from which you can obtain updates.
If you like to experiment with Linux kernels, Libranet provides what has to be the number one tool in the industry for modifying and building Linux kernels - it's an option in the Xadminmenu.
Libranet offers a broad range of window managers, desktop managers, Web browsers, Email clients, multimedia tools, editors, and office suites. Only the professional editions of Mandriva and SuSE, which cost more than Libranet, offer anywhere near the range of choices in these categories, but concerning window managers in particular, I don't know of any distribution, out of the box, with as many choices as Libranet.
I will say that Libranet is absolutely full of software. If you install the full product, you will, more than likely, have more than you need. If all you want is a simple desktop system, and you could care less about how many applications you can choose from, you just want one or two choices that work, then Libranet might be too much for you. IF, on the other hand, you want to experiment with many different tools and applications and you want to have a wide variety of choices at your fingertips, but you do want an easy to install and manage system, I cannot think of a better system to use than Libranet, and I have installed and reviewed a couple hundred systems over the past four years. Libranet is my own choice, and I run it as my default desktop system in my home.