As soon as I saw one of them, however, I knew this had to be the one – Mandrake Linux. By eerie coincidence I had just finished reading Toyne Newton’s pre-cursor to The Black Alchemist wherein he devotes an entire section to the Mandrake plant and its occult connections. If you haven’t time to sample the delights of this pre-Collins thriller, have a look at the Wikipedia entry for mandrake which nicely summarises all the salient facts. Quite obviously, for the PsychicQuesting website, Mandrake Linux was the perfect choice. When I looked at the description of this distribution I instantly realised that it was popular, had good hardware support out of the box and was compiled for i586 and above machines. After a moment of panic, when I realised that I didn’t know what chip family the Celeron belonged to, I went looking for ISO files for their latest version (Version 10.0) on the various download sites listed. Here I spent an incredibly frustrating time reading readme files, install.txts and every other note I could lay my hands on. On the Mandrake Linux website it helpfully stated that in every download site there would be a directory called ISO which would contain the images. Wrong. It was on none of them. Nor did the ISO files appear to be in any of the other directories. Still nothing. It seemed as though I could download the source code and get into the whole recompile mess but the easy installation of pre-compiled code was missing. Eventually I saw a note which said that 10.0 had been removed until the Mandrake club members had had a chance to download it. Fine I thought, I’ll get the previous version (9.2). Sadly that appeared to have been removed completely as well. In a flash of inspiration, I tried the Greek mirror site for Version 9.2 and they still had it available. I guess they probably had their minds on other, more pressing, matters. I started downloading the first of three CD images. Based on my rough calculations the whole thing was going to take nine hours to download. Lengthy though my lunch breaks are, this was still way longer than I could wait and I doubt my colleagues would have appreciated the drain on the bandwidth. Getting vastly frustrated I searched the Mandrake Linux website where they have an online store and although they have add-on packs galore, I couldn’t actually see that they were selling the core Operating System (did I mention that Mandrake is a French company). Back on the Linux ISO site, banner ads were proclaiming 10 Linux systems (on 26 CDs) for $29.95. If I ever get to the stage where I am experimenting with 10 separate versions of Linux I give you all leave to bundle me off to the nearest padded room. In desperation I went back to Google and searched on “mandrake linux” in UK sites. None of the results looked promising but one of the sponsored ads on the right seemed just what I was after. were offering a 4 CD “official” 10.0 release for just £9 including postage which seemed like a bargain considering the pain I had just been through. I happily signed up for a copy and put all thoughts of Linux out of my head for another day.