The Making of the PCQ November ’99 Linux CD

Putting Linux to Work

Your Corporate Intranet Server

Linux for the CIO

NetWare And Linux

The PCQ Linux initia- tive team sat back with a sigh of relief. After weeks of slaving, hundreds of megabytes of downloads, loads of testing and tweaking, the Linux CD destined for the November issue was finally ready to be shipped to Delhi. Red Hat Linux 6.0, with all the updates, all the goodies we could fit in, and all the scripts we could write.

We were about to break out the celebratory Cokes, when a stream of curses rang across our offices in Bangalore.

"Red Hat is releasing Red Hat Linux 6.1 on October 4!"

Talk about punctured balloons.

Reading the specifications of this upcoming release, we knew with sinking hearts that our work had just begun. A fully-graphical, user-friendly install process, all updates merged, new and improved packages, visual development tools like Glade, and much more. Compared to this, we felt dated and incomplete.

A call to PCQ confirmed our fears—KK said that our readers deserved only the best or better, the latest or later. Would we be able to get Red Hat Linux 6.1 to India to build a new PCQ Linux CD, in time for the November issue? Traditionally, the CD has to be shipped to Singapore for duplication latest by the fifth of the previous month, in order to make it in time for the following month’s issue.

More bad news—while RHL 6.1 was available for download from any number of FTP sites across the world, Red Hat would be shipping official packages only by October 18. There was no way that we could wait that long to lay our hands on a readymade CD.

Gopi was the first to say it, "Looks like we have a monster download ahead of us."

October 6 We finally began the download, two days after the CD deadline. The delay was because the CD image became available for download only on the evening of the fifth as per US time, which is the morning of the sixth in India. Someone remarked that it was ironic that we were being slowed down because the Americans are so behind us.... We finally began the download, two days after the CD deadline. The delay was because the CD image became available for download only on the evening of the fifth as per US time, which is the morning of the sixth in India. Someone remarked that it was ironic that we were being slowed down because the Americans are so behind us....

The CD image was 642 MB in size—none of us had ever attempted a single download this big. And while we had bandwidth available to us, things were stacked against us—all the Red Hat mirror FTP sites across the world were choked with thousands and thousands of people attempting the same feat. Add to this the fact that VSNL was hopelessly oversubscribed on bandwidth (even on a completely traffic-free 2 Mbps link at ERnet Bangalore, we were getting throughputs of no more than 1 MB every 10 minutes), and we knew we were in for a long, long wait, with nothing to do but wait....and pray.

October 9 It’s been going on for three days and three nights now. Late at night, we were still only at 400 MB. KK called up to check on the status. We expected to hear him say it. "Forget it, we can’t wait any longer." It’s been going on for three days and three nights now. Late at night, we were still only at 400 MB. KK called up to check on the status. We expected to hear him say it. "Forget it, we can’t wait any longer." He didn’t. All he said was, "Stay with it, it’s worth it."

October 10 A weary team pulled itself off the floor littered with pizza boxes and Coke cans to check the status... A weary team pulled itself off the floor littered with pizza boxes and Coke cans to check the status...

CD master to carry to Delhi, from where it’s to go to Singapore. Over several months, our HP 8200i CD Writer had faithfully burnt stacks of CDs without creating a single "coaster", not even when we were burning the CDs at 4x, while running Netscape, playing MP3 music files, playing Xboing and writing articles using StarOffice, all on the same machine. Linux plus HP 8200i had proved to be the CD creator’s heaven.

The faithful CD Writer spat out its tray to reveal the final product. A quick test proved that it booted just fine, showing our custom splash screen, and installed with no fuss at all. To be safe, we quickly burnt another CD (took only 15 minutes). Then we handed them over to the courier, who was beginning to look extremely nervous by now.

We were done. All we could do now was wait and hope that the CDs would reach Delhi on time, so that after a final test KK could ship them on to Singapore.

October 12, 2pm KK just called. The CDs had reached, Kishore had tested them, and the masters had been dispatched to Singapore. KK just called. The CDs had reached, Kishore had tested them, and the masters had been dispatched to Singapore.

We had made it. The last Linux CD to be shipped by PC Quest in the 1900’s was on its way. So, on December 31 1999, when the Y2k bug threatens to devour data across the world, PCQ readers will happily watch Xclock tick over into the Year 2000 on their stable, Y2k compliant and complete Red Hat Linux 6.1 that they installed off the November 1999 PCQ CD.

Yes KK, it was worth it.

Krishna Kumar, Nikhil Datta, Vinod Unny, Raj Mathur, Atul Chitnis, Kisore Bhargava, Gurnandan Bhat and Avinash Shenoy.

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