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Thursday, November 4, 1999 | Last Updated 8:45am

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Phat Happens

by Doc Searls <doc@ssc.com>

Doc Searls checks in with Cameron Cooper for the skinny on Phat Linux.

A few months ago, we reported on Phat Linux, the new distribution created by a pair of 14-year-olds. We recently heard from the leader of the pair, Cameron Cooper, that Phat Linux was not only up to version 3.2, but even becoming popular. As happens so often in journalism, an interview followed.

Doc: How do you like the new version?

Cameron: In my personal opinion, it's awesome. When I released the beta for it, there was a lot of talk about it. Even users of Armed and WinLinux said that it was the best out there. Now that it's out, it's getting a lot of attention. Linuxberg/TUCOWS say great things about it--they even put out a press release about it--and Download.Com has put it up on their servers. In the first week, it got over 23,000 downloads, and is currently the number one Linux download there.

Doc: What's new with Phat Linux?

Cameron: It makes getting Linux up on any PC easy. I took the new CD to a friend's place, just to test it one last time before the final release. I opened up the special Windows Setup program that I made just for installing Phat Linux. The setup was very easy. In five minutes we had a sweet Linux setup, running out of c:\phat\, and Windows 98 was still in place. So far so good. I fired that baby up, and we had a nice KDE desktop right away. We didn't know the type of video card he had, and it didn't even matter because we didn't have to set it up. It worked great. We would have been on the Internet in seconds, but he had a winmodem. He didn't have any need to have Linux on his computer, so we had it off in two seconds. All we had to do was delete the directory it was in.

Doc: Once it's installed, how is it different from other popular Linux distributions? Are there others that do the same kind of install?

Cameron: Well, it's really not that much different. You can do the same things with Phat Linux as you can with any other distribution. It has some features that make getting started easier. It has a program that it runs once you log in, that allows you to start X, configure your system and more. With this, you can install Phat Linux and get it running without knowing anything about Linux. As far as I know, Phat Linux is the only distribution to have a Windows-based installer. I know that some can be installed from within Windows using something like Winzip, but I do not know if they have an installer written.

Doc: How are you handling technical support?

Cameron: Ahh, tech support--ouch. I'm getting a ton of e-mails, and I'm trying hard to answer all of them. Tech support over e-mail is kind of hard. In most cases, you have no idea what is happening on their computer, mostly because you can't get in and look at the situation. Most of the tech support questions I get are like, ``My sound won't work! PHAT LINUX ...! DIE!''. Usually, even though the e-mail doesn't tell me much, I can point them in the right direction.

Doc: Are you adding people? Where? How?

Cameron: Well, I'm not adding any people right now, unless lawyers count--(Hey Jim! : ) I have reached the point where I'm doing all I can do. I am going to have to get some help with support and development. Any volunteers?

Doc: Where are you guys located?

Cameron: Good old Sandusky, Ohio.

Doc: What's next?

Cameron: It's a secret. Naah, I'll let you in on it. When I started Phat Linux, my goal was to make Linux easy to install. With v1.0, I had a simple Windows-based setup program, which would unpack some files and you'd be ready to go. Once you booted up, you were on your own. The first version didn't have X. If you wanted X, you had to install it on your own. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly perfect for new users. Version 3.0 and later all had X and KDE ready for use. Now that v3.2 has the setup utility that makes the installation very easy, the initial goal was met. Now that it's easy to install, I want to make it easy to use. I've taken steps towards that with v3.2. Now you don't have to know any commands to get your whole system configured. Even though setting your system with v3.2 is fairly easy, I would like to make it even easier, if not automatic.

Doc: Forgive me: How old are you now?

Cameron: Arrggh--still 15, almost 16. Give me a couple more months.

Copyright 1999 Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc.

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