Storm Linux 2000
by Alan Zisman
(c) 2000. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Storm Linux 2000
Stomix Technologies, Inc.
In the long-ago days of the dinosaurs, our ancestors,
the mammals were
also on the scene?as relatively small scavengers, lurking in the
living on the scraps left over by the bigger beasts, but waiting for
to change enough for them to emerge as major players in the ecosystem.
There?s no doubt that today, the computing equivalent
to T-Rex is Microsoft
Windows. And it?s easy to see the various Linux variants as the
arguably smarter and more nimble, but still, getting by on whatever
niches aren?t totally dominated by the Beast from Redmond?Internet
The dream of all alternative computing systems remains
the vast numbers
of desktop systems. Currently, Linux is running on a tiny proportion of
those systems?a 1998 estimate by International data Corporation put the
figure then at 2.1%. To dramatically increase that number, though,
has to provide simpler installation, configuration, file
from a system demanding lots of knowledge from its users to something
can appeal to the millions of users who simply couldn?t care less, but
want it to install and run with minimal fuss.
As a nation, Canada has long experience living in the
shadow of a much
more powerful neighbour. Perhaps it?s no surprise that two of the top
to replace Microsoft Windows on the desktops of millions of users come
from Canadian companies.
From Ottawa, CorelLinux, and from Vancouver, Storm
Linux 2000 have many
similarities. Both were released at the end of 1999, and are built on
of the respected Debian GNU/Linux distribution, perhaps the most stable
of Linuxes. Both aim to simplify Debian?s installation, configuration,
and use, while recognizing the need to co-exist with Windows on users?
computers. Both try to create a system that?s simple to use while
Linux?s behind the scenes power for the more technical users.
Both can be downloaded for free from their makers?
respective web sites?at
least if you can cope with a 400+ meg download and have a CD-burner to
create an installation CD. More attractive to many users, however, will
be the shrink-wrapped versions of each, bundling multiple CDs including
3rd party applications, a boot floppy, and documentation. With these
both companies offer 30 days free tech support to help new users get
initial confusion. They?re even priced the same: US$49 for the standard
edition. (Corel also offers a US$79 Deluxe retail edition with
3rd party applications and support and a 3.5? Linux Penguin toy).
When I installed both, each even failed the same
way?neither was able
to recognize either the sound card or Ethernet adapter on my test
NEC Ready 360T notebook.
Despite the similarities, there are some differences.
CorelLinux is the product of what is perhaps Canada?s
best known software
company?Ottawa?s Corel, who also make CorelDraw, Word Perfect, and a
of other applications. Vancouver?s Stormix Technologies is a 1999
created by the founders of the well-known NetNation web hosting
Linux is their only product.
Storm?s package includes a limited edition of
PowerQuest Partition Magic,
making it possible to resize an existing Windows partition to make room
separate Linux partitions. It?s offers a graphical install program, but
can backtrack to a text-mode install if needed (as it did on my test
I did run into a bit of a problem with it however?I failed to click on
the ?Advanced? button on the screen to configure bootup?as a result,
installation, the computer did not offer me an option to boot to
Corel, by contrast, has the most automated
installation of any system?Linux,
Windows, or even Mac, that I?ve seen. Everything happens behind the
in my case, it did it right?leaving me with a system that offered a
of Linux or Windows at bootup, for example. It also offers an option to
install onto an existing Windows partition, trading off performance and
security for additional simplicity for Windows users who are curious
Once up and running, both systems look and feel pretty
default to the Linux KDE desktop environment (though Storm offers users
a choice between that or the Gnome alternative, and can optionally
both). Both include easy customization, and reasonably simple file
Corel?s File Manager will be especially appealing to Windows users, and
on my system, showed the Windows drive partition and all its files
any special setup needed?the ability to easily get to my existing
was a big plus.
Both systems include a collection of productivity
is bundled with Linux versions of Netscape Communicator and the GIMP
editor, for instance. Storm includes two office suites?Sun?s StarOffice
and Applixware Office, making it possible to open and work with
Office word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation files.
Corel, not surprisingly, focuses on its own
application?the Linux version
of Word Perfect. Corel users wanting spreadsheets or presentation
may want to wait?the company is promising to Linusize the rest of its
Office suite latter this spring, and to afterwards to the same to its
Storm is justifiably proud of its Package Manager,
which allows installation
of Debian-packaged applications with just a couple of mouse clicks?even
automating locating and installing installations and upgrades over the
Internet. Their shrink-wrapped packages bundle a 30-day demo version of
VMware, which allows running other operating systems, including various
flavours of Windows, from within Linux?at least of systems with plenty
of RAM and hard drive space.
If this all-Canadian East vs West competition was a
football game, it
would end in a tie?CorelLinux has a cleaner and simpler installation
and with its File Manager, may prove more appealing to current Windows
users. Storm?s Linux offers more installations options and will appeal
to users who want more control over installation and configuration.