You want to check out the Linux operating system, but you don't want to spend hours downloading hundreds of megabytes of Linux files? Your options so far have been the Caldera and Red Hat Linux distributions, which are readily available in retail stores and via mail order.
But a group of three companies announced this week that they've come together to make the Debian Project's GNU/Linux, a popular noncommercial distribution, available at retail.
With the help of VA Linux Systems (a provider of PCs with preinstalled Linux), O'Reilly Associates (a publisher of computer books), and SGI (a maker of high-performance graphics-oriented PCs), the Debian GNU/Linux package will be available at a suggested introductory price of $19.95 at retail and online stores, as well as direct from VA Linux Systems.
Along with the current distribution of GNU/Linux, the package's CD-ROM includes 1440 open source software utilities and applications. Also included is Bill McCarty's Learning Debian GNU/Linux, published by O'Reilly. The publisher will also make the book available for free online. The package also includes a demo CD with Loki Software's Myth II: Soulblighter game software.
The companies say they will donate all profits from the sale of the retail GNU/Linux package to Software in the Public Interest, a nonprofit organization for open source projects.
The Debian Project consists of more than 500 developers located all over the world who have worked together to create and update GNU/Linux and a suite of more than 2500 applications and utilities. According to its proponents, one of Debian's most useful features is apt-get, a utility that automates network downloads of updates for all the software packages, eliminating the chore of manually tracking and retrieving multiple updates.
Support for GNU/Linux is provided by Debian through the Web, e-mail, and Internet Relay Chat. A spokesperson for VA Linux Systems says the company will make a commercial support package available for corporate users.