All original content copyright © Tom Wilkinson 2003-5. All rights reserved.

WinLinux 2001

One of the major hurdles when it comes to installing Linux is, for newcomers, the requirement for a standard distro to rearrange the hard disk to allow partitions to install the system to. A number of distributors have attempted to make this transition easier by allowing the OS to be installed within a Windows filesystem. This is of course not a new idea. Way back in 1997, I installed Linux onto my (even then ancient) 386SX by using a similar distribution called Monkey Linux. Things have now moved on a touch, but WinLinux 2001 is built around the same idea - a risk-free way of installing Linux with minimal hassle.


As is usual with Windows programs, WinLinux uses a standard windows installer. It merely asks you where you want to install WinLinux, the default being C:\Linux, as well as the type of installation you require (Desktop or Notebook, Compact, Typical or Full). There is very little to choose between the various types, The basic difference being between installing KOffice or not and whether to install GNOME, which is only available on the full install. The system is then copied across onto the hard disk. This takes about as long as a standard install of anyother distribution would, after which a pop-up box will appear requesting the details for a user. One thing I was not so keen on, however, was the "use same password for root" checkbox, which sets the root password to that of the default user. This is not, in my opinion, good practice. After this, the installer enters a hardware detection phase. It was at this point I was informed that my video card was unsupported under Linux- news to me as I've used my TNT2 with versions of X since 3.3.5. Other than that, everything was fine, with one exception, which was the keyboard and locality, both of which were set to US. I changed these, and moved on, to the creation of a boot disk. This is somewhat different to a standard Linux boot disk - it comprises a Win98 boot disk plus some extras which are added separately. An option is also given for booting into Linux at boot time from LILO.

Running WinLinux

WinLinux 2001 can be started from within Windows, or selected at boot time as with a standard Linux distro. One difference I noted here was that if started from windows, Linux ran in SVGA text mode, otherwise text mode was used. This was the point at which I started to hit problems. Once the final setup, which consisted of the installation of RPMs to the system and creation of a swapfile, it got as far as setting up the network card and then stopped dead. I was eventually able to get past this point by invoking "Interactive" mode and skipping the network configuration option. It later turned out that this was because WinLinux was attempting to get an IP address from a non-existent DHCP server. This I corrected by giving the network card an IP address from WinLinux's configuration utility. At this point I hit a second problem - my video card was incorrectly set up, despite my following the instructions for installation, which had told me to select my card from the list if it wasn't detected properly. I was instead dumped at a text console. However, even knowing how to reconfigure X from the command line didn't help me - I was unable to create a valid configuration file using it. In the end I again had to go back to Windows and use the Winlinux configuration utility, resulting eventually in a working X configuration, limited unfortunately to 256 colours. Due to the colour scheme used in the default backdrop, this resulted in something of a blueish tinge to everything appearing onscreen.

The standard KDE login screen, kdm, is used. This presents a familiar interface to any windows user, allowing a login as any created accounts, in addition to a "guest" account. On entering my username and password, I was then given a KDE desktop. I was impressed to note the soundcard worked properly first time as thishad been a problem in other distributions, most notably Red Hat 7.0. The resulting desktop ws very like windows - a start button, with quicklaunch icons, a task list and clock along the bottom, with icons on the desktop representing more shortcuts to common applications, including Netscape Navigator, Star Office and Acrobat Reader. One thing I did notice, however, was the lack of an icon anywhere for setting up dialup access. This could be done by using Linuxconf, which is included, or KPPP, but neither is made immediately obvious.

Both KOffice and Star Office are provided with WinLinux - this gives a choice. Star Office may be familiar to some windows users, however KOffice is likely to integrate better with WinLinux's desktop. As both suites will perform the standard set of Office tasks,and understand common formats such as Word and Excel, so the choice is mainly down to the user. In fact there is little here that will cause a windows user to have problems. My only real gripe is that Netscape is the default web browser. Netscape has long been buggy, and recently a number of excellent replacements have been released, including KDE's Konqueror, which is a much better program.


Features: 7/10
Ease Of Use: 8/10
Performance: 7/10
Installation: 3/10

Huge difficulties in installing WinLinux let down what would otherwise be an excellent distro for beginners.

Overall Rating: 6/10
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