Libranet: Love at First Byte

Story by Jon Biddell

Editor's Note : Somewhere in an alternate universe, there's a Linux user group called the WFTL-LUG. As with many such groups, we occasionally get into discussions about which Linux distribution is your favorite, much like car buffs discussing whether an Acura trumps a Mercedes. You might also recall that we ran a very spirited poll on this website a little while ago on that very subject. So I put out a challenge. I asked if people loved their distro of choice enough to champion it in a series of documents that cover an intro to that distribution, installation tips, and package installation help. Jon Biddell was first off the mark with his introduction to Libranet. -- Marcel Gagné

Many many moons ago I was, sadly, a Windows user. And I was miserable. The servers I managed were running NT4 and had to be rebooted once a month, my personal workstation needed reboots daily, and more often than not several times a day.

I started “playing with

Web Editor - Tue, 2004-12-07 10:46.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Libranet and Me

I am a Libranet 2.8.1 user, and I have been using it since 2.7 came out. The reason I started using Libranet is plain: I used to use Icepack Linux (anybody remember that?), a VERY nice (for its time) rpm based distro. But it just vanished, so I started looking around the Linux world for something else....something that I could use my novice Linux knowledge with.

I got interested in the Debian system, but I just could not use the installer, so I looked around for free programs that could help me. Libranet 2.7 was going free at the time, so I downloaded it. The installer was so clean, so easy (for its time) and because Libranet was fully Debian compatible, I could use the power of the whole system.

As time has gone on, new distros - even Knoppix - in the Debian world have presented themselves. They are VERY good for the most part. And free. Libranet continues to charge for the very latest version, and I have been looking around again before I purchase Libranet 3.0

The problem with upgrading Libranet is that it now produces anomalies unless you make it virtually a non-Libranet system by changing your config.sys file to such an extent it no longer resembles the Libranet package. Also, upgrading KDE (for instance) on a "raw" Libranet 2.8.1 system produces many problems. If I want to stay with the basic Libranet configuration, basic kernel, basic repositories, its great; if I want to extend it, then I run into problems.

So far, I've not found any of these problems when trying Mepis. I'd go for Ubuntu except that it isn't a true Debian system and fully compatible with Debian....also it uses Gnome (which I do not like, but that's just my prejudice showing). I understand that the new Debian installer COULD be the answer I'm looking for and then I wouldn't have to use a "front end" for Debian and will get the ease of updates or dist-updates.

Unless somebody can convince me that the money I'll have to spend on Libranet 3 will give me VERY much better upgrading in the future and a greater ease of use, Libranet have lost a customer to one of the newer Debian based distros.

Graham (not verified) - Sat, 2005-04-30 05:05.

Libranet 2.8.1

It is not an easy install. Hardware is the key on Linux. Compatablity!!!! Scisi devices like 2940AUW Segate hard drives 18 gig do not work. Same go's for Some SCSI and IDE CD-ROM Drives. Older than 3 years from today. So if you get it up and running your doing good but don't count on it if you used mixed hardware.
The real deal about lunix distro's

An - ymous (not verified) - Sun, 2005-03-13 17:02.

LAME review

Gee, you told me close to nothing about this distro. No comparitive studies, nothing unique. Just that you really liked it and you have a TERRIBLE background. Using NT4 servers, yea right... and needing to reboot your windoze box multiple times a day. BULLSHIT.

I use gentoo and am considering changing some machines over to libranet. This article gave me nothing. Except for a disrespect toward aussies. stooopid fucks.

tentacles (not verified) - Fri, 2005-02-04 14:56.

Ok, I can kind of understand

Ok, I can kind of understand that your profanity was caused by your dislike of the article. You are of course free to express your opinion of the article, hence what this forum is for.

But what does saying: "Except for a disrespect toward aussies. stooopid fucks." have anything to do the article?? Other that a horrifying attack on the author's nationality (one that I proudly share actually)...

Grow some manners

An - ymous (not verified) - Sat, 2005-04-30 20:39.

Lame Review from tentacles

It makes me sick to read such uncouth and totally unecessary responses to areviewer and does nothing for the author except to be ostracised by decent people with better breeding and manners. If you don't like a review then ignore it!

An - ymous (not verified) - Sat, 2005-02-05 17:11.

Re: Distributions

Great read Jon!

I still manage a NT network, the only difference is that it is called 2k3 server. It doesn't need to be rebooted as much but it still has a memory leak that will cause it to need a periodic reboot.

It would be great to run a distribution of Linux on these servers.

Currently I am driving Slackware with Dropline GNOME. Linux is rock solid and has never required me to reboot once. I've only had to power down due to bad weather.

I've started looking into Debian-based Linux, Ubuntu and Beatrix, and really like what I see.

troy banther (not verified) - Wed, 2004-12-15 07:41.

Fine Review Jon

As a newbie I have really enjoyed Libranet (and now Ubuntu as well). The LN community has been extremely helpful in sorting out the issues that a newcomer faces. Thanks for your input Jon! -- from the soybean fields of eastern Paraguay . . .

Steve Haines (not verified) - Wed, 2004-12-15 04:54.

RE: Love at First Byte

I've not tried Debian, but Mandrake and SuSE will usually handle the dependencies, but they are still not easy when trying to install something like mythtv. For sheer ease, gentoo has to beat all, simply "emerge mythtv" did it all without any intervention - I tried it on Mandrake, but there were so many confusing packages to figure out, I didn't bother. The only drawback to gentoo is needing a fast link and a fast box, it took about 34 hours with just minutes doing the initial build configuration - on a AMD Athlon 700 and a 1.5M cable modem. I've just kicked off an upgrade to gentoo 2005.0 and I expect it'll be finished when I wake up - it's now running on a XP2200+/512M, 2M cablemodem download.

Sid Boyce (not verified) - Tue, 2004-12-14 20:06.

I still prefer MandrakeLinux

I'm not very sure if Libranet is the best distro, but if it does the things you want to do, then is fine. I've been a Mandrake user since 2000 and still believe it is the best Linux distro in my opinion. Why? well, it's extremely easy to install, recognizes all of my peripherals, is stable and solid, and it comes with thousands of applications (many of them are redundant though). Why. Well all Linux distros have the same kernel but may differ in the software used to install it, and other minor details. Eventually, we all Linux user should raise our voices asking for a better compatibility; so far, we need packages for particular distros; I think a universal format for packages usable for all distros will be an excellent step ahead.

An - ymous (not verified) - M - , 2004-12-13 13:26.

I still prefer MandrakeLinux

Hi Anonymous,

You make a couple of very valid points.

I used to be a Mandrake user (see my email address !!), but found that 9.x and onwards were too slow and cumbersome for my needs at the time. And going back to SuSE wasn't an option due tot he high cost of some "packaged" distros in this country (I think SuSE 9.1 was something like $AUD170) - and they really offered nothing more that I got with Libranet for $30, apart from printed manuals.

Libranet, and its' associated utilities, offered me more granular control over the installation and setup (especially on my never-to-be-sufficiently-damned nx9010 laptop !!), without "hiding" anything from me, which some package handlers and installers tend to do under the guise of "making it easier for the user".

I guess, when all is said and done, the "perfect distro" argument will never be won (very much like the "perfect editor" argument that almost spawns religious wars !!) - the "perfect" distro is really the distro that is "perfect for me" - and for me, that is Libranet.

YMMV, as they say...


J - Biddell (not verified) - Tue, 2004-12-14 19:10.

Libranet failure to Install on Certain configs

Hi Jon
Read with interest you comments on Libranet above.
I will tell you that having attempted to install it on my Advent 7046 Laptop which has a lot of usb devices attached to it. That I gave up and reverted to Mandrake, the product Libranet freezes during the second stage install, because it doesn't seem to recognise USB 2 DVD's, Hard-drives, Mice or other standard usb devices either running from a hub or in most cases not.

I was forced to wipe the partition and re-install Mandrake.


An - ymous (not verified) - Fri, 2005-02-11 11:52.

DVD Drive

Dont suppose you know how to remove above drive.
Had a quick look but does not appear obvious.
Any experience

Andy C (not verified) - Thu, 2005-06-16 13:17.

Why do so many debian fans seem to live in the previous century?

Apt is not the only dependency manager. It hasn't been for a long, long time.

I know this comes as a shock to some.

Yum, Up2date, Urpmi, and, I assume, YAST, all handle dependencies very well.

Not to mention the very intriguing Conary from Specifix, which may blow us all away with its capabilities. (I'm sure I must be forgetting someone here.)

Apt is *one* of many very capable, dependency aware, package management utilities for Linux. (And Synaptic is a nice gui riding on top of it.)

Please get over it and stop spreading (or implying) misinformation about other Linux distributions.

Let Debian and its children stand on their own true merits which exist today, and not rest on their laurels from years past.

An - ymous (not verified) - Sun, 2004-12-12 16:26.

I have used both YUM (Fedora

I have used both YUM (Fedora Core 3) and apt-get/Synaptic (Debian-based Mepis) and I have to admit that apt-get/Synaptic gets the job done better--for me. Your mileage may vary.

MaryTee (not verified) - Tue, 2005-01-11 07:40.

Of Original Master and Wannabes

But urpmi, YUM, pacman, slapt-get, swaret, prt-get, emerge (a mix N match of APT + FreeBSD PORTS) by and large drew inspiration from APT - the first, the original and still by far the best package management suit incorporating apt-get which can support amongst several protocols http, ftp + dpkg which does the actual package installation and debconf which via a frontend the user selects affords the configuration options available in the packages i.e. debconf is the the package configurator.

The strength of Debian lies in the tight integration e.g. its package management suite. And of course, the sheer quantity of packages in its stable e.g. there are some 18,500 packages in Debian Sid alone.

An - ymous (not verified) - M - , 2005-01-10 08:33.


Quote: "Apt is not the only dependency manager. It hasn't been for a long, long time."

Yes, I think we know that. Since most Linux users started out on Redhat (even if they don't want to admit it), they'll be familiar with rpm. BTW rpm wasn't invented by Redhat, it was done by Caldera.

Quote: "I know this comes as a shock to some."

Not really.

Quote: "Yum, Up2date, Urpmi, and, I assume, YAST, all handle dependencies very well."

Yum is a front end for apt-get. up2date via Redhat wasn't too bad when I last tried it a few years ago, but it uses rpm which is invariably flawed in its ability to handle dependencies. urpmi I haven't used, but I believe it is an improvement of straight rpm. YAST I haven't used either for getting packages, but then I wouldn't touch Suse ever again after their appalling support previously.

Quote: "Let Debian and its children stand on their own true merits which exist today, and not rest on their laurels from years past."

Let me see, advantages of Debian over Redhat et al? Whether you like or not apt-get is a front end for dpkg. Let's get that correct firstly. Have a look here maybe:

Explains the advantages of the Debian way of doing things over rpm based distros. Debian has a LOT more packages than any other distro, and that's just with Woody. The next release of Sarge is going to increase the number of available packages even more.

Debian has tools like debconf, which though ncurses based, it's still very highly functional. I've used many Linux distros, since 1997 and I would NEVER go back to a rpm based distro.


David Pastern (not verified) - Sat, 2005-01-08 15:40.

WRONG! RPM not a Caldera creation.

RPM - The Red Hat Package Manager LinuxSA - June 1997 Meeting

Red Hat History

"Maximum RPM - Taking the Red Hat Package Manager to the Limit"
Edward C. Bailey
February 17, 1997
Linux and RPM - A Brief History

An - ymous (not verified) - Tue, 2005-01-11 09:09.

yum does NOT use apt-get

> Yum is a front end for apt-get.

Bzzzt; WRONG; yum is the Yellowdog Updater,Modified - and has nothing to do with apt-get. Yum is a separate tool, a la' up2date. I use RedHat 9 and CentOS, both using yum, none of those installs have apt-get.

An - ymous (not verified) - Sun, 2005-01-09 12:03.

Debian Fans in 20th century

There is no doubt that many of the RPM based installers/package managers have improved tremendously. However most of the "alternatives" you mention have not "proven", that is, in "real world" testing and use to be as efficient and trouble free as apt-get.

If you have tested all/most of your listing in a controlled environment, on more than your own system(s), and achieved better results than those organizations which frequently test and make these comparisons, than they would be eligible for re-consideration.

Until then, reality dictates otherwise.

W. Anders - (not verified) - Tue, 2004-12-14 12:40.

Why do so many debian fans seem to live in the previous century?

Anonymous (if that is your real name !!),

Thanks for the comments. I realise there is more that just apt for handling dependencies - I've used YAST, Up2Date and urpmi myself, but my favorite is still apt.

And yes, Synaptic is a very nice gui for handling installations and dependencies - this will be covered in a follow-up article.

I must admit I haven't heard of Conary - perhaps you should contact Marcel and offer to do a review of it when it's available ?

This was written from a Libranet point-of-view, and as such I still believe that apt / Synaptic / xadminmenu are the best tools out there to do what they do.


J - Biddell (not verified) - Sun, 2004-12-12 18:03.

One thing missing

Jon, wonderful review. The only thing I wanted to point out is how fantastic adminmenu and Xadminmenu are. Really at a base, they are cleverly written scripts that do a number of handy things, including installing ALSA, managing packages (by launching Synaptic, though there is nothing stopping you from opening a terminal and using Apt), upgrading adminmenu itself, recompiling your kernel, and so many other useful things.

The other wonderful thing about Libranet is the community. I've never seen a more helpful one and that's saying something (

shivandeveloper (not verified) - Fri, 2004-12-10 15:53.

nice review Jon!

Gee Jon, you get around, you're almost as bad as me. Good review. I'd add my own comments on Libranet, which can be found here:

Not sure on the legalities of posting the review on the above link (in full) that I did on the desktopos website...


David Pastern (not verified) - Fri, 2004-12-10 04:19.

Nice review Jon!

Yeah, we do seem to get around, don't we ?

I had a look at your review - very nice. I'll email desktopos and see if they mind me adding the link here.

xadminmenu, etc. will be covered in a follow-up article in a few days (well, before Christmas !!)


J - Biddell (not verified) - Sun, 2004-12-12 18:06.

You can also check the sites

You can also check the sites about...

An - ymous - Wed, 2005-06-15 10:25.

Thanks and Respect

Debian and all Debian-based distributions in general (not to mention the Linux community as a whole) really owe a great deal of honor and respect to Libranet. When all other Debian-based distros had come and gone, like Corel, Storm and Progeny, Libranet stayed the course. Now that the world has finally caught-on we have more Debian-based distros than ever imaginable: Knoppix, Linspire, Xandros, Mepis, Ubuntu, DamnSmall... the list goes on and on; even Progeny is back.

I suspect Libranet is the oldest Debian-based distro around now. May it always be so!


Tom Sawyer (not verified) - Thu, 2004-12-09 21:56.

ALL Current Package Handlers have Issues - Including APT

I've used Suse, Xandros, PCLinuxOS, Mepis, Ubuntu, Kanotix, Vector and others for several years. While in general, it's true dpkg/APT/Synaptic is an easier method for non-distro repository installs (in other words, dependency hell is a "non-issue" if you stick with your distros official sources - ala Suse, Mandrake, even XanSpire), . . . . the real issue is installing the newest applications from "outside" the official distro's application servers (or near offical sources such as "Guru" for Suse). In these cases, APT can very quickly hose a debian distro (especially those that are heavily modified such as Xandros, Linspire and even Libranet). If you get in a hurry and don't watch Synaptics or Apts "change" messages, goodbye stable system. This is much less true in RPM based distros. There - because of dependency hell, you will be forced to manually make the kind of changes that "require" some forethought and knowledge of your system. I've brought several debian systems to their knees, but have survived major screwups in RPM based distros. These days, my favorite distros, the ones moving fastest in the right direction are:
1. Novell/Suse (what Linux looks/works better out of the box - - really)
2. Kanotix
3. PC-BSD (BSD systems will be Linux's best competition in 2-3 years)
4. Mepis
5. Ubuntu/Kubuntu

GregA (not verified) - Tue, 2005-08-30 13:06.

Y'all watch out fer uncle Ian

Y'all watch out fer uncle Ian !

Murdock2525 (not verified) - Tue, 2005-03-22 18:12.

I use It!

I am a noob and will always be a noob. I do not like working under the hood trying to fiddle and get things to work. I have an old laptop that has a 700mHz CPU with 250 megs of sdram. I want to install something that just sets itself up and runs. I have found out through trial and error that the 2.4 kernel can pick up old hardware, where as the 2.6 does not. A lot of the newer distros will not run with GUI on old stuff. I found out that not every distro is for every piece of hardware, when it comes to not wanting to fiddle with things. I just want to install and run. No command line stuff here. Libranet installed perfect on this old laptop. Yes, it does not have bleeding edge software! Old stuff. But all I do with my old laptop is email, surf the net, talk in forums, and word processing. Hey, Libranet 2.8.1 is perfect for this! On my main desktop I use SuSE 9.2.

darkman (not verified) - Wed, 2006-01-25 14:27.