aLinux 12.9 – A Blast From the Past

I’ve been experimenting with linux since mid to late 1990s and started with single 3.5 linux disks. I remember fondly downloading for over an hour using dialup trilinux and monkeylinux and experimenting with the command line on such curiousities for hours on end.

It was on those times that I stumbled upon a minimalist hobbyist linux distribution named Peanut Linux. It was one of the more well-known linux distributions during its time for sporting a spiffy desktop and easy to use installer. During that time, the Peanut Linux community was a lively band of people from different walks on life looking for the best linux desktop experience ever. Mind you, these were the days when Red Hat was still available in boxed form, Caldera was still around, and most of the installs were done using text displays.

From its minimalist origins (the first Peanut Linux version I used was 8.4, if I remembered correctly), running enlightenment, the distribution went on from being a distro of only about a little less than 100mb to about 700mb in 12.4, while changing it’s name to aLinux from Peanut Linux (we acquired the name to use Peanut Linux in pnutproject from Jay 5 few years ago, since like what he said, the Peanut was now like a Watermelon in size).

It has also changed considerably from being a tgz based package to an rpm one in 9.x and in 12.3, through last time efforts to revitalize the sagging aLinux community, a few of us experimented and suggested with Jay that he implement apt4rpm (using synaptic and rpm repositories).

Why am I blabbing this out? Peanut Linux was what started me fully in experimenting and implementing linux on my desktop, and indirectly introduced me to learn server administration on my own.

I even made a respin of Peanut Linux for use in the company I was working with to be used as promotion materials (rebranded of course to show our company logo as wallpaper). The company I was working for had short courses and I was tasked to develop a module to teach linux basics to students (linux during that time was only known to systems administrators and practically the Philippines during that time was largely – and still is – a Microsoft country). The teaching module I made for the short course was based on, as you may have guessed it, Peanut Linux. Jay even helped me out with the respin.

Anyways, back to the present, a few weeks ago, I talked to Jay (we remained friends during the years), and asked him if he can package up the unreleased version of aLinux for me to give a short review. aLinux was considered a dead distro; practically all of us from the Peanut Linux community moved on – some even joined the PCLinuxOS community, others created their own Linux distribution from scratch, a person I know moved to BSD (he was one of those responsible for testing apt4rpm on aLinux 12.1/.2, along with Craig and I). Jay always preferred to work alone – we can only suggest, it was his baby.

And so on February 22, 2010. aLinux 12.9 stable was released to the public on ibiblio, after practically 3 years of waiting.

Is aLinux radically changed, sporting a new GUI installer or live cd mode? This I can say, if you’ve used Peanut/aLinux before, expect the install process to be wholly the same.

Cd boot screen is now a little bit prettier.

Installs are practically the same

aLinux is indeed a blast into the past. Whereareas grub is used by practically all distributions nowadays, aLinux still uses lilo.

It is also one of those distributions which still uses KDE 3.5.10 as it’s main DE. Call me old school, but I still prefer KDE 3.5.x over 4.x.

For such a hobbyist distribution, you may wonder why the size of the cd installer is over 1 Gig. It is because the whole development system of aLinux is included by default.

I always reminisce and smile whenever I see the apt4rpm system that we helped tested and ported to aLinux – those were the good old days of pnutproject, when I had so much free time, unfortunately, real life came and well, I got married, and got busy with my work as well.

How did I find aLinux 12.9? It surprisingly worked real well, for a hobbyist distribution. Packages were as usual, a hybrid of pretty old stuff and new libraries. GCC is a bit outdated; WINE is included in the install as well (it’s old though).

The planets screensaver for the screensaver settings in KDE always crashed for me. Other than that, all else worked fine.

Playing with it, I’d have to say that it’s pretty good and fast, once you get over the outdated install. All in all, if you want some distribution just to play around and experiment, this might be an option for you.

What’s next for aLinux? I frankly do not know. Jay pops in and out of the picture more often than not, and sometimes disappears for months at a time. He releases whenever he likes.

For me, all I can say is this: without hobbyist distributions like Peanut/aLinux in the past, I wouldn’t have learned about linux and use them for practically all of my work now (servers and the like). I only keep windows for web development and the games πŸ™‚ – all licensed of course. Thanks for all the fish!


  1. hotdiggettydog

    Great review.
    I remember Peanut well. It was ahead of its time in the day.
    I used one or two of the early alinux releases as well and found them enjoyable.
    It is too bad development, kind of, came to a halt. It could have been great.
    I remember Jay as being very helpful and accommodating to his community of Peanut/alinux users. Good luck Jay with future endeavors.

  2. Boris

    Peanut 8.1 was my favorite. With KDE 1 and decent number of internet tools. Installation on 150 MB loop drive and fast compared to win95 win98 back in days. Ever there was Java plugin πŸ™‚

  3. clintcan

    Hi there guys! Yeah, I do remember running Gnome 1.x as well on Peanut (that’s what I used as a screenshot on the instruction manual of the company I used to work for, along with winamp running on WINE). I found it pretty exciting because it was practically the first distro I found easy to use (and the installer was ahead of it’s time). It also ran Star Office (back when Sun didn’t acquire the German company who used to make it). Incidentally I also made a short instruction module on how to use OpenOffice 1.x as well (I was really into Open Source back then). Those were the times I remember fondly.

  4. Open Technology Now

    To me, the current aLinux bring mixed feelings. While it is highly optimised, with great RAM usage and a whole lot of applications packaged in, there are a lot of contradictions about it. The whole Windows Vista look-alike doesn’t go well with a Linux distribution that has a tradition of more than 10 years. I’ll stop ranting now, you can read my opinions about aLinux 12.9 on the Open Technology Now blog. Cheers!

  5. clintcan

    Hi Doru,

    Just read your blog, it’s great! Anyways, just to answer your question regarding contradictions in aLinux. It was always known to be in contradiction with other distributions in it’s heyday (in fact, it’s this “quirkiness” in it’s design that once caused Microsoft to take notice of it and call a C&D order one time – the letter was posted in the site by the aLinux creator. Jay has since changed that wallpaper design to one less “controversial”). The text installer in aLinux from what I heard from Jay was created by the creator of VectorLinux (in fact, Vector and Peanut were always friendly rivals in the old times, and both creators of the distributions are Canadians, and oftentimes the packages then were almost like a mirror of each other in the past – Vector was based more on slackware, if I remembered correctly).

  6. Doru Barbu

    Thanks for the appreciation, and the quick history lesson! Come to think of it, I never really tried VectorLinux either… I did do a fast and messy install of it during my stay at Softpedia, just to snap a few screenshots. I will certainly put it on my list of distributions to visit.

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