10 May 2006

Some thoughts on Linux

The first time I used Linux, it was back in 1998, when I got Slackware from a CD-ROM in a magazine. I don't remember which version it was, but I was pretty disappointed.
The GUI was rudimentary and unpleasant, and the applications were few and not so impressive. I did however learn a thing or two about Linux, such as the basics about directories (where to look for files), how to edit fstab to mount a drive, and so on.
At that time my HDD was only 1GB, so I had to delete the Linux partition just after a week or so.

My next contact with Linux was in 2000, when I had a job that required me to use it. In fact, I wasn't REALLY required to, but other coworkers had it, and I wanted to become better at it, so I installed it on my work computer.
That time I was using RH 6.2, which had a considerably better GUI (KDE 1.something).
One other coworker was using Gnome, but at that time I didn't like it at all.
My experience with KDE 1.something was a mixed one. One one hand, it looked decent and had many useful programs, but on the other hand many of those programs were instable, hard to install, and lacked functionality.

By the end of 2003, I was using Win98 SE. I didn't really want to upgrade to XP, because, although I was pretty frustrated by the system instability, I was too lazy to reinstall all my software again.
One day, my Win98 got corrupted, really badly. I mean, to the point where I had to reinstall another OS.
I did try WindowsXP, but it had a lot of problems, such as not being able to use my sound card, and flooding all the computers in the LAN with packets to the point that the whole LAN was unusable...
So I was thinking, maybe I should give Linux another chance. A few hours later, I had SuSe 7.2 installed. For a week I've struggled with it, but it was the most frustrating experience ever. There were tons of problems. For example, my KDE preferences were NOT saved at log out. Doing some investigation, the problem seemed to reside in the fact that at start up, the directory where the KDE preferences were set was being overwritten by a default directory with the default preferences(!)
I did solve that problem, but it was only the first in a chain of many. The next problem was installing the video drivers (the OpenGL drivers).
That was a huge pain, because that particular SuSe version was using a relatively rare kernel, so I had to do many hacks to get it installed.
Installing Kdevelop (or whatever name it has) was a total failure. The RPM system gave some errors on some dependencies, and the errors were obviously cryptic.
Manually installing libraries (tar, configure, make) was by far the most frustrating thing ever. For example, a library was installed, but other programs couldn't find it, or couldn't find the right version, or couldn't find the headers, and so on.
Eventually I ended up using mcedit and make to compile and edit my projects...
Suffice to say, SuSe lived on my HDD for just a few days, and then it was gone.
I had to go back to Windows, XP.

Last year, I've discovered Mepis, which is a very nice and user friendly Linux distro. Unlike most of the distros, it comes with a live CD that can be installed on the HDD. It also comes loaded with many non GPL/Open Source applications, such as Skype. It has detected all of the hardware on my laptop, and on another computer it detected most of the hardware, except for a wireless network card. The USB PCI hub card wasn't detected either.
The latest Mepis version that I've tried (was labeled as stable) had some really big problem with it's packet manager, which was unusable. apt-get was unusable as well. That really put me off..
Another thing that put me off was the fact that KDE 3.2 (as well as the other KDE versions) is way too bloated. So many icons on the taskbar, the task bar is big, a lot of unneeded applets are installed by default.. And when you maximize a window, the borders are still there, so in many cases if you try to use the right hand scroll bar, you drag the window margin by mistake, which is very, very annoying.
The no matter how much you try, you can't make KDE to look and feel like Windows.
Yes, I know, the windows look and feel isn't necessary, since the KDE fans like KDE as it is.
Me, however, I like the windows interface, and it is a prerequisite for me to adopt Linux as my primary desktop OS.

So far, I plan to stay with WindowsXP for about one more year, until most of the applications will require Vista. When that happens, and WinXP will become obsolete, I would rather switch to Linux than buy and use Vista.
One year might seem to be a long time, but I'd rather prepare in advance.
Which is exactly why today I've tried an Ubuntu LiveCD.
I didn't really play with it a lot, just looked at Gnome, mostly.
Gnome has sure improved in the last 6 years :) Now it looks less bulky than the last time I've seen it, and it is, IMHO, much more customizable than KDE. It is also so much cleaner. You have the whole task bar for your applications, and adding or removing tabs is easy and straightforward, unlike KDE.
I like it, and I am reasonably sure that I could use it as my main desktop system, in the near future. Combined with Wine, it should be relatively easy. At least much easier than 3 year ago.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you probably don't want to hear this, but you should really give Ubuntu Linux a try. I used Linux off and on, just as you did since roughly 97/98, but now, Ubuntu is my primary desktop. I don't have Windows at all.

Default Ubuntu uses Gnome and has an amazingly clean and well polished GUI. If you get it, I recommend you download the beta of the Dapper Drake release. I just put it on my girlfriends laptop and it found and set up everything correctly including WiFi and sound. Thats astounding if you ask me.

Give it a try! The LiveCD includes a really robust HDD installer as well. Its amazing.

11/5/06 09:43  
Blogger Donny said...

I find your problems to be very strange, I have had many issues in the past myself but non so bad. Possibly bad hardware support? Anyhow I have used Ubuntu it is very fun to use because you can pop it in and just play with it as is. I had problems installing the 64bit version on my laptop but once the non-beta version came out it worked fine for me. But I think I might stick with 32bit because the 64bit applications still seem to be a bit buggy same with the whole OS.

As for slackware I used it for almost 4 years as my main desktop machine and a small router I loved slackware because I could choose what to install and how to install it, I never used RPM's even on Redhat blah, I always hated those damn things. Sometimes the only way to get things to work is to just keep playing with stuff until it does, even with programming sometimes thats what you have to do I guess and you learn from you mistakes. At one point I got tired of Slackware and decided to move to FreeBSD for about 2 years or 3 maybe. Switched my router over to FreeBSD and had tons of fun running it and since some of the commands are different and directorys are different (more unix like) I had forgot most of the stuff that linux had used and even forgot certain tools and directory's that were important. Then just recently installed Gentoo on my laptop. Kind of a pain using their live cd but my friend had used it before and showed talked me through some of it, basically have to have the manual open to install the thing and compile the kernel to your liking. Nice because you can make your own custom kernal from the start and it has one of my favorite things about FreeBSD on a linux environment and thats the Portage System. In freeBSD they call it ports.

But as of right now since I mainly develope in Windows I'm using XP and 2000 server and when vista comes out I plan on doing the same thing STAYING THE HELL AWAY!

One funny thing is when you open a dos prompt to list directorys instead of typing dir you type ls and get 'ls' is not recognized as an internal or external command.

Always a classic. Well anyhow good luck with Ubuntu I think its great what they have done with it. So easy to use and built off of that crap called SuSe (might not be crap anymore but I never liked it much).

12/5/06 16:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use Ubuntu Dapper (in development) release, and can confirm it gets better and better everyday. The only tedious thing is... installing eternal lands. Official binaries are often broken or not working on current distribution, so source from CVS is the best way to play. However, you need to install all the development versions of libraries, compile by hand etc

17/5/06 10:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey There!

Happy to hear about you experiments with linux, sounds exactly like my own.

I had some things that I really needed a free, legal os for. Started out with the need for a completely stable mail-server. For that purpose I chose to install (basically compile through the install wizards) SourceMage linux, which is an RPG/Magic-inspired linux os. Wonderfull system I think. Might catch your eyes :)

My best two experiences with more mainstream user-friendly linux distributions must end up being PCLinuxOS, which is just really neat. And XandrOS. There are a few versions of XandrOS, one of them being free.

21/5/06 09:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you should give a try to Arch Linux (www/archlinux.org), or better (http://frugalware.org). I used many distros and these are the best for me.
Probebly because great package system and very easy way to build yours own packages :)

4/6/06 06:27  

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