A very brief review of Red Flag Linux

Hello to all the cyberspace. Happy luck for you today.

I have downloaded the entire distribution of Red Flag Linux from some random number-based IP address and let me tell you – it’s fine.

But, because of my paranoia and my various reading habits, such as

Laogai: The Chinese Gulag (1992), detailing Harry Wu’s harrowing abuse at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party and it’s Government

Bitter Winds (1994), detailing Harry Wu’s harrowing abuse at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party and it’s Government

Troublemaker (1996), detailing Harry Wu’s harrowing abuse at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party and it’s Government

not to mention the Wall Street Journal, NPR, the New York Times, especially stories like Zhao Lianhai, a food safety worker who was put in prison for speaking out against the Poisoning of Baby Food with Melamine that lead to Deaths and Illness of Infants…

… I am a bit leery about installing any software that involves the Chinese Government. Do they have spyware installed on it automatically? Do they have keyloggers?

They don’t appear to have publish the source code – which in and of itself is a violation of the copyright license that the code is published under, like the GNU GPL.

Anyways, forget all of that. Let’s go on an adventure!

—————

The first step is to go to the Red Flag linux site. You wander around a while and eventually you figure out that the only links to download anything on the English Language version of the site are incredibly outdated and old. And confusing. So

Pop open Google Translate in a separate firefox window and get that copy/paste button ready. Go into Red Flag’s Chinese Language site, and there you will see some actual working download links to actual recent releases.

A few tips.

The Chinese Character for Chinese is

中文

So if you want to get out of the English version of a page, look for some link that looks like that. Now, how about Download?

The chinese Character for ‘down’ is pretty awesome, it looks like this:

And so when you are scanning pages for ‘download’ links, it can help to look there. Here’s another tip. If you want to know what something is in another language, go to Wikipedia for that thing, then look on the bottom-left of the screen – there will usually be links to articles of the same topic in other languages. That will give you the translation. For example,

English Wiki article: Uploading and Downloading

Chinese language link on English wiki (bottom left): 中文

Chinese Wiki article title: 上載和下載

assuming 和 is “and”, we have this:

Upload is 上載

Download is 下載

You can also use Copy/Paste alot. For example, lets look at the words Upload and Download. We can figure out “Up” and “Down” pretty easy, they make sense even if you don’t know the language.  but what’s that mess to the right of it?

Ok.. well.. you don’t need to be able to type it, just copy/paste it into Google! The first hit is to Wiktionary, which tells us this is part of the root of the word:

See? It’s a little wagon thing.. two wheels, an axle, a bed… seen from the top.. pretty cool?

  1. load
  2. carry
  3. transport, convey
  4. 10^44

Awesome. So Chinese is pretty cool, we have Down Transport. It makes sense. If you think about it it actually makes more sense than the word “Download”… but I will leave that topic for George Carlin’s spirit to expound on.

And so now we can not only use ‘Google Translate’ to find download links, we can just scan for the Down Carriage symbol thing. Now we are getting somewhere!

——————-

So back to the web.  I eventually found some Red Flag website that had an FTP link to it and downloaded it – it took many many hours because they do not rely on a network of mirrors and their network link to the Outside World is pretty bad (I even tried via machines that are hosted in Europe… same result).

Eventually I got the file. It’s a huge .iso for a DVD if I remember correctly. Then it was time to try to do something with the mega file I’d just downloaded. Ordinarily you can save these things to flash USB stick dongle thumb drive thing and boot off of it to install. Not so with Red Flag! You have to actually burn a CD or DVD to boot the thing.

Next, since I am so paranoid about the Chinese government, I decided I didn’t want it to access my ‘real’ hard disks. So I unplugged them, and pulled out a spare one I have in a box somewhere and plugged it in instead. A few BIOS changes in my ancient Dell Dimension 4800 and we were off to the races.

————————–

When you install Red Flag Linux, it’s basically another Redhat-copy distro with a bunch of ordinary Linux software. No problems with drivers/etc, it’s definitely what you would call ‘polished’. And it’s available in English using awful fonts. It also has some really cool Chinese dictionary stuff that I don’t know how to use because I don’t know Chinese, but it looked impressive.

You click open one of the ‘help’ buttons and you get a browser, and, lo and behold, there are a bunch of American Companies who are offering support. If I can remember correctly, HP was definitely in there. There were a few others but I can’t be sure so I won’t name them.

I am no expert on Linux business models but Red Flag Linux seems a lot like Red Hat Enterprise linux – with it’s sort of tilt towards supporting a corporation userbase who is deploying the thing in some kind of huge bureaucracy where people use a lot of jargon and polite customer service tones. They offer phone numbers for support and if I understood correctly they offer payed support when you “Register” the product. I may be wrong in some details here – it’s been a while and I was reading through Google Translate.

But the other main reason Red Flag is like like Red Hat Enteprise Linux is because of this:

There are no software repositories set up and no easy way to find them

That’s right. There is no doing ‘yum install nano’ or ‘yum install mplayer’ or whatever program you want to install in your usual Linux fashion. There just is no repository set up.

For most Linux users this is the “What the Heckfire” moment where they delete the thing and just go download some popular distro (at the moment in history it seems to be Debian/Ubuntu/Mint and Fedora and SuSE and Mageia and…)

But this is an adventure. We don’t just give up! No, of course we don’t. We keep going. Deeper and deeper. We break out our ‘l33t google skills’, just like Trinity in the Matrix.

site:.cn Red Flag

site:.cn Red Flag repository

site:.cn redflag repo

site:.cn RPM red flag

site:.cn 红旗Linux repository

site:.cn 红旗 RPM

site:.cn 红旗 SRPM

sigh

lets try universities.

site:.edu.cn Red Flag

site:.edu.cn Red Flag RPM

site:.edu.cn Red Flag mirror

site:.edu.cn Red Flag ftp

wait, what’s this?

ftp://ftp.sjtu.edu.cn

lets go there!!!

Interesting… that’s an FTP site full of Linux distros, just like you’d find at any other university. Nothing that says red flag….. but.. maybe we are on to something.

http://mirror.bjtu.edu.cn/cn/

Jackpot!!!

Снимок экрана от 2013-02-03 17:44:46

Universities. Of course. In every country, they typically have FTP servers that contain linux distributions. And that is when you notice something interesting.

Qomo Linux

Qomo Linux? But I just spent 5 hours of my life on Red Flag linux? What is Qomo?

This is head smacking time. How did I miss this? Even though English Wikipedia doesn’t mention Qomo Linux on it’s Red Flag Linux article, the good folks at Distro Watch have posted a whole little Spiel about it.

Qomo was previously called Everest Linux. And it’s like the Fedora Core for the Red Flag Linux company.

And it has like, actual servers that you can get decent bandwidth to. And it has actual recent releases on it’s website on easily clickable links. They even have RPM repositories apparently? Holy moly they even have like a whole Linux site full of stuff.

http://qomo.linux-ren.org/forum.php

For this sort of thing you might even want to break out Google Chrome and use it’s “Auto Translate” feature to try to find your way around the place (your Heavily Broken English skills will definitely get a workout).

Oh, and Chinese Wikipedia does, in fact, have an entire article about it. Here:

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qomo_Linux

Unfortunately, for lack of time, bandwidth (pretty sure I maxed myself out that month) I never got around to installing Qomo Linux.

But that is my review of Red Flag Linux. Forget it and go try Qomo Linux.

With any linux Nixie Pixel will give us a Real Review some day. Since apparently she actually knows a little Chinese

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