That's when I found "Deep Water Linux." Sounds mysterious, doesn't it? The site makes it even more mysterious. The documentation is sketchy with a few screen shots, and it took me some deep reading to find out it was a LiveCD. The only reason I found the site at all is probably that something might have slithered from under a rock, slipped a note to Distrowatch, and slithered back. The site has a kind of garish punk theme to it that looks like it was written by a depressed college grad who just passed the HTML Programming 101 class. Some of the scant hints and graffiti as to what this Linux distro was contained poor grammar and a lot of mispellings (which, as my friend Tammy might say, "Pot? Kettle... black!"), but I suspect the person is German, so I commend the author of the documentation for being bi-lingual. I knew that none of the Linux snobs who compile Gentoo to appear l33t would even touch this... "thing," so I just had to try it.
The download is small; at just under 35mb, it will fit a small CD. I got the "128mb" distribution, which was the only one available. The version I used was "0.4.0-Beta01." I burned the CD, booted it on my P2/400 box with 196mb RAM, and it booted ISO Linux and a boot prompt. I hit enter. After a lot of dots, I got some ncurses prompts. The first one asked me if I had a floppy config saved on a CD. Sweet! I always like those kinds of features, and I am glad that more LiveCDs are using this feature. Then it asked me what my mouse was in X11 config lingo (mine is /dev/psaux, a P/S2 mouse), which might be confusing to a newbie, but thanks to a two-week crash course trying to get X11 working on OpenBSD 3.1, I have become very familiar with X11. So /dev/psaux is was, and then it asked me what resolution my monitor took in hex code. I chose a safe 1028x768x16 (hex code 0x0117), and wondered how I would have handled these kinds of questions just last year.
I would have run away screaming.
But my lungs got sore, so I stopped such foolishness, and I chose 0x0117 and then had to read some kludge asking me to type in some scripts with parameters. Simple, really. Then it dumped me to a bash boot prompt... a root prompt. Well, no A for safety, but it is a LiveCD, and a quick check of my fstab showed that all that was mounted was a ramdisk and a rootfs. I typed "xstart start" as I had been instructed to do previously and was very pleased to next find myself at a Blackbox GUI almost immediately. For so low a CPU and memory, this was pretty quick. The desktop was gray, with minimalist features. It looked slim and sexy, kind of how I used to look at NeXT systems. There was a curved bar that showed desktop spaces and ended with live CPU load info. Nice. Time to do some exploring. "Why would I use this distro?"
Well, I assume to browse graphics. This distro seems to be a "carrier" for another project of theirs, "Deep view." It's a kind of "all-in-one" file browser, image viewer, with some extras that remind me a lot of Konqueror. Only in Blackbox, it was kind of ugly, like the old HP-UX X-windows interfaces I used in the late 1990s. It browsed text-files fine, but the window was not sizeable, so I had to look at text files in 25 x 25 window with a lot of wrapping. There were a few images in /system_usr/share/images, but they were very small and after clicking on a few, the Deep-view vanished in a silent crash.
There was also eterm and xterm, mc, and the text browser Links. The biggest issue I found was that it could not detect my NIC. There was no network installed, and no modules provided for my Realtek. I am sure I could have found them, but how would I get them on the distro? I guess I could load the original OS on the hard drive of the machine, then reboot into Deep Water, and load them with modprobe, but at that point, it's beyond the scope of this review.
All in all, this has almost an alpha feel more than a beta. I won't be too harsh on a beta, and I like some of the clean and quick features already presented. I wish I had a NIC that was detectable, or even loadable, but there you are. I'll keep an eye on this project, and hope it doesn't... er, sink, into too deep water.