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Review of Walmart Microtel PC with Lycoris Desktop/LX Pre-Loaded (v1.3)
Last modified: Friday November 9, 2012

My dad wanted a new computer. I guess his 133Mhz PC with Windows 95 just wasn't cutting it any more. At first I was going to get something with XP Home Edition installed but realized that all he does is E-mail, light web surfing and the very occasional word processing. Instead I decided to give the very low priced Lycoris based PCs from Walmart a try. I don't like Walmart for a lot of reasons but the thought of being able to buy a PC without the Windows tax was very appealing. So was the $268 price tag on the complete system. I figure if Licoris doesn't work out I can always put Red Hat on it.

Hardware Summary

Licoris 3.0 Compatibility

Pictures/Screenshots

Everything included in the box.
The Motherboard
Boot-up screen
Sample screenshot.

First Impressions

It was awfully nice to get a PC with Linux pre-installed. No messing with partitions, long installs and driver glitches. For once I turned it on and it pretty much worked from the very beginning. The only minor glitch was that I tried to use an existing mouse with the PC but it was configured to use it's own MS-compatible thumbwheel mouse. Minor inconvenience. The second glitch I had was when I tried to do a system update. It's a simple process but unfortunately the system didn't run properly afterwards. The video didn't work, sound didn't work, etc.. I checked the Lycoris FAQ only to find that it's a known problem with a work-around.

So, I decided to re-install the OS and start over rather than try to recover from the mess I was in. The OS came on ONE unlabelled CD-R and the install process is VERY simple since you can't tell it which packages to install since everything gets installed automatically. What was nice that once partioning was done the package install was underway in the background with a progress meter at the bottom of the screen. While that was under way you go through and make your post-install selections and create users. Once that was all done I was surprised to find a Solitaire game come up. I guess it's there to pass the time until the packages are done installing. Cute. All the while you have a progress meter at the bottom showing you how much longer you have.

After re-installing I updated the system the proper way and this time it worked great.

Using the system is much like any other Linux distro. The GUI is KDE2 with an XP-ish look and feel. People familiar with Windows probably won't have too many problems. The OS even came with a ton of packages pre-installed, such as Mozilla (including Java, Flash and RealPlayer), XMMS (with MP3 support), Windows Terminal Server client AND server, SSH client/server, IRC, XINE, and much much more. For Office apps it includes Kword et. al. I installed OpenOffice 1.0.3 immediately which was easy enough.

What people familiar with Linux will find missing are common server apps. Since this was the Desktop version, and the whole distro fits on one CD, I asked Licoris tech support about where to get other packages and was quickly told to refer to the UnitedLinux packages located at ftp://ftp.caldera.com/pub/OpenLinux3.1. Those worked great once I found out you use rlinstall instead of rpm commands directly.

Glitches/Problems

There are a few things that don't work (yet):
Power Management: There are two problems with power management. The screen power management settings don't do anything. Fortunately the fix is easy. Become root at a command line and go to /etc/X11  and edit the file XF86Config-4 . Find the section that starts with Section "Monitor" and add the following line before the EndSection 
	Option "dpms"
Now log out and log back in and your display power management settings should work.

The second problem is that the PC doesn't power itself off after a shutdown. You need to manually press the button. The Licoris developers are aware of the problem and it should be corrected with the next update.

Suspend/Resume: We can all dream, can't we?

If you have any leads on getting any more features working please Please drop me a line.

Longer Term Impressions (9/1/03)

Well after four months I'm happy to report it's been just fine. Lycoris is easy enough for my 60 year old father to learn. I set up remote desktop expecting him to constantly call me with questions. So far there have only been a couple problems and all were related with me forgetting to copy over some files from his old PC.

The applications he uses are: Mozilla for web & E-mail, OpenOffice for documents and spreadsheets and RealPlayer for streaming audio and video. He rarely uses anything else so there haven't been any problems. Lycoris even handled my USB keychain drive almost as automatically as Windows XP does which was a pleasant surprise. It just popped up as another drive on his desktop, however it gave no indication that it did so until I went looking for it.

The glitch with the power down STILL hasn't been corrected. There is an update due from Lycoris any day now so hopefully that will fix it.

Even Longer Term Impressions (12/15/03)

Lycoris has a lot going for it, easy of upgrades isn't one of them and what was the final straw with me. I ordered an upgrade a few weeks ago from Lycoris and a CD arrived a few days later. I finally had a chance to sit at my dad's PC for a couple hours so I attempted the upgrade.

Long story short I was not able to successfully upgrade the machine, it failed about 99% of the way through. I then tried to do a clean install and after two attemps the resulting system was not stable.

I ended up taking the machine home and installing Red Hat's Fedora Core 1 on it. I haven't given him the PC back but so far it's rock solid and everything works. It lacks the nice things about Lycoris but having a more stable foundation should make up for it. I think it's much faster too, probably due to having a newer kernel with many performance improvements in it such as NPTL. Even better I didn't have to fiddle with it at all to get things like screen blanking and power off to work. Actually, the only fiddling I had to do was to get the modem working. I'll document that shortly.

Other Useful Resources

Unfortunately there isn't much on the Net about Lycoris. However this is what I've been able to find so far:
Lycoris - Linux is for everyone - The official website. There is actually a fair amount of good info here. Their FAQ was useful and helped me a couple times.

Caldera/OpenLinux RPMs - Lycoris is rather sparse on apps, especially in the server department. The Caldera/OpenLinux RPMs will work in most cases.

Red Hat Fedora Project - The official website. Information about Fedora, the free "enthusiast" version of Red Hat based on Red Hat 9.


Comments From People Like You!
Review of Walmart Microtel PC with Lycoris Desktop/LX
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Russ Hall
10-Sep-2005 21:45
My father purchased one of these because he needed a new computer that could handle the demands of today's web environment (IM programs, flash, etc.) and his old PC didn't have the power to do it. I'm not certain it's the exact same one, but it's not quite what he wanted... He doesn't have broadband and couldn't install his win modem (somewhat his fault), but he also had/has no sound. He has since given up and donated the computer to me to play with. I'm hoping to get it running for him, because I hate the thought that he wasted the money, but we'll see. You get what you pay for, I guess, I'll try reinstalling the OS to try getting audio to work. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me.
Mike Horgan
29-Mar-2004 13:44
I think my grandpa would like a system like this.
Got the one with a AMD Duron 1.4 gig!
19-Jan-2004 23:12
I got this great machine 3 days before Christmas,and it arrived a day before. It worked right out the box! I hooked up my old Gateway 17 inch moniter I used on my other one. I used Lycoris and other distros on my old computer,so using Linux was a no-brainer. I formated and put XP Pro on the harddrive with Lycoris,because I need XP for multimedia and MP3\'s. I had a bigger 120 gig hardrive laying around from my old machine,so I use it nowdays with just XP. I put more memory in it as well. This is a  great computer for a great price. Only need a decent moniter!  And it can do more then the basics if you neeed it to!
Rich
22-Dec-2003 12:43
I purchased the system a few weeks back, plugged in a 15" monitor I had from an old Gateway computer and was able to surf the Web in about 15 minutes. I ended up installing Redhat Linux because I wanted to use the PC as my web server. The PC comes with 128 MB RAM, but could use at least 256 MB. I plan on upgrading the memory to 512 MB.
flickerfly
16-Dec-2003 08:11
Thanks for this review. I am considering making this purchase. I am in need for a fix for my old 300 Mhz w98 box at home. My wife is starting to grow out of it.

http://josiah.ritchietribe.net/blog
John
22-Nov-2003 09:06
Thanks for this review.  I work with computers for a living out of my house, so you would think that I allowed myself a generous IT budget.  No so.  I'm a shameless cheapskate.  I'm interested in these Microtel PCs that wal-mart sells with no OS, to get myself a Linux box going locally in addition to the remote Linux boxes that I work with, and my OS X PowerBook and the W2K box that my family works with.  Looking for good reviews from reasonably experienced geeks, and this is one.  Thanks again.
Pete the Barkeep
13-Nov-2003 10:06
I also bought one of these for my 12 year old son. Out of the box, power on, hooked up a 15" monitor that was collecting dust, plugged in the cat 5 turned it on an Voila! Surfing in 10 minutes. No problems at all. The only difference is the "feel" and look but he is getting used to it. Highly recommend for a limited use PC.
John
22-Oct-2003 17:44
Ever get an answer?  I would like to get the 2000 drivers too...
Michael Cole
19-Sep-2003 16:23
Hi, anybody know where to download windows 2000 drivers?

Cheers,

Mike

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