It was 15 years ago this month that I purchased the August/September 2000 issue of Maximum Linux, a now defunct Linux magazine that bundled Linux CD's or other software with it's issues. Only a few months later on February 15, 2001 the magazine announced it was shutting down. I feel lucky, because at the time I had dial-up and the prospect of downloading hundreds of megs of Linux CD's just to give it a try would have been discouraging. Considering that to download this would take days for a single .iso file and I'm sure someone would have to use the phone in the mean time.
|Setting up my vm. 384mb was what my Dell had|
|Mandrake 7.1 CD boot screen|
The one part of the install that stood out the most was formatting. In modern operating systems this takes very little time, but here it took quite a while. I didn't get an accurate count but it was at least a few minutes.
|Formatting took a while..|
|Setting up partition table|
A few minutes later my system boots and I'm presented the a crude and very old looking login prompt. All of the colors are basic, and icons look old as well. I log in and run uname -a to see what version of the kernel this is: Linux 2.2.15-4mdkfb, compiled May 10, 2000. I think my first impression of looking at an old window manager for the first time in so many years: everything looked great in a retro way. I was expecting to see something that was out dated and non-functional, but the blocky old style fonts and icons gave it a retro feel that so many games and software are now starting to imitate. I'm quite impressed how well everything seems to just work.
I didn't try them all out or even go into much depth, just logged into gnome and KDE get a feel for the old icons. I later took a look at enlightenment which not surprisingly looks almost identical to what e16 does today. My take away was that the Gnome icon's back then were way too dark and ugly, where the KDE icons had that isometric projection that made it felt like a Commander Keen game.
Now this was really blast to take a look at, even though I was unable to load any network adapter that Mandrake would recognize. I remember using an ISA 3com 10baseT card for networking with this OS, but unfortunately VirtualBox is limited on what it provides for emulation. All the technical aside, I decided to load up Netscape and look at some local content just to get a feel for turn of the century web content.
KDevelop 1.1 is incredible to start using, because again what caught my eye were those big blocky icons and ugly generic font for the text editor. I created a new project using a wizard and took a look at the Qt 2.1 MDI project. It was really cool to see some old school Qt code and how similar it is to what is currently used today, but unfortunately GL is missing from the default install, so I couldn't see QGL in action. I'm actually lucky that at least KDevelop was included by default on the install CD, along with Qt development libraries. After playing with KDevelop a bit more extending the sample project I started to get a feel for how incomplete the editor is today compared to any modern IDE. At work recently I recently built a Python editor and runtime environment, and I already have some more advanced features than this version of KDevelop sorely lacks (which were probably not yet imagined at the time).
Seeing that this project is just to poke around, and that I am not actually planning to ship Qt 2.1 software, I reluctantly decided to stop playing and move on.
Just to get a wider feel for the system of the day I decided to search for these popular tools of the day that survived to today. Seeing as though I'm just getting my feet wet with python, I decided to fire up the interpreter in an interactive session and found out that this version is at 1.5.2. I really don't know what that means for the language in general: what changed from 1 to 2? I haven't even learned the difference between 2 and 3, and those are still in use today. All the basic stuff (the stuff I know) seems to work! Next I start up a Perl interactive session just to check out the version number, 5.6.0, and then run locate to find mod_php3 using version 3.0.16.
I really liked reminiscing on my early days, especially with this experience that I had today. I didn't know if I would recognize what I was seeing but with some time it all came back. It was also quite fun to be able to now be able to use and understand the entire system, where as when I was first introduced to these new tools I was unable to utilize them. However, times have changed and even though I could probably hack away at this all night, my time is probably best spent on real projects on modern software. With it's nostalgic look and feel I really wished I could just keep using this as my daily dev box, however I already spent more time than I thought I would just loading and screen shotting so I decided call it a day.
I never did resolve the network issue with VirtualBox, but when looking for solutions I came across a website that hosts old Linux CD's. They even had a listing for of Mandrake 7.1 disks but unfortunately the files were missing.
On a final note about Mandrake: Mandrake Linux doesn't exist anymore, and had since been re-named to Mandriva. And since 2015, Mandriva has been liquidated. I think this was quite unfortunate, since Mandrake was one of the staple distributions that sparked interest in Linux and free software for a long time, but looking back now I realize that even if your roots were bleeding edge- the landscape is now completely different than it was back when I first got started.