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Archive for August, 2009

The Shorter List

August 11th, 2009 No comments

In an earlier post I had said that I had narrowed down my list of potential Linux distros to a mere four contenders: Debian, Fedora, Linux Mint and Mandriva. I have since then decided that by the end of this week (or, if I’m lazy, early next week) I will have knocked this list down to my final choice. The way that I have chosen to do this is potentially the most annoying way possible: I plan on filling my post quotas by only removing one choice each post :P

So without further ado lets kick one of these to the curb!

Debian, you are dead to me

Why I had considered it: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.

Why its just not making the cut: As I am somewhat familiar with Ubuntu and have read about its relation to Debian, I feel as though Debian is just simply not that different. Now before all of you bearded basement dwellers start telling me just how wrong I am, keep in mind that a large component of this experiment is about the perception of our selected distribution as well. I am sure Debian, like Ubuntu, will offer a great experience to those who use it, however I feel that my person use of it would almost be a violation of rule #1.

Well there you have it! Debian is off the list leaving me with Fedora, Linux Mint and Mandriva. Who will survive to see the install screen? Stay tuned!

To be continued…

Release the hounds!

August 11th, 2009 No comments

Apparently Dana’s been making snide remarks about my lack of participation here, suitably prodding me to make an appearance on the front page. To get started, I’ve selected Gentoo Linux as my distribution of choice for the experiment beginning in September.

While there are certainly many hundreds of flavours of Linux available, Gentoo seems to be the best “mainstream”, workstation/desktop-class choice that I don’t already have some level of experience with. My current job involves maintaining servers running RHEL, Debian, SuSE and Ubuntu – so all of those choices are out given the restrictions on this project. I’m looking forward to trying Gentoo out but not necessarily all the compiling of software packages.

I’ve also recently acquired an Asus 1005HA eeePC, but have yet to decide on whether I want to run Linux on it full-time. My initial attempt at installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix failed miserably; transferring the image to a USB stick with unetbootin and then attempting to install it resulted in a stripped-down shell prompt with no discernable way to launch the installer. From the online reviews I’ve read, running Windows on this particular machine results in two additional hours of battery life over Linux.

While I try to decide about the laptop, I still plan on conducting this experiment on my main desktop system.

A few of the things I’m anticipating that will give me grief compared to a Windows or OS X environment:

  • Instant messaging. I use Windows Live Messenger under Windows, and Adium while on my MacBook Pro. The main instant messaging clients for Linux that support MSN are Pidgin and aMSN – I don’t really like how either of them display alerts or interact with the windowing system. There are numerous IRC clients available for all platforms, and I expect I’ll continue using irssi (The client of the future!) for my ongoing shenanigans on EFNet.
  • BlackBerry support. Up until recently, many BlackBerry tasks such as upgrading device software required the availability of a Windows machine. With the impending release of the OS X Desktop Manager, synchronizing calendar events and music should be significantly easier. Unfortunately there’s no equivalent to Desktop Manager in Linux. I expect this problem would manifest itself with any popular smartphone as well, but I may have to spend time on a Windows system if an OS upgrade for my Bold materializes. The barry package looks like it might be acceptable for the sync end of the equation, though.
  • Media management. Will VLC, Amarok or other popular media library applications be sufficiently workable so I’m not enraged? Let’s find out!
Categories: Jake B Tags:

Hardware Compatibility

August 10th, 2009 1 comment

Just a quickie tonight folks. For those who want to check the compatibility of their hardware with the Linux kernel, check out this page. It’s by no means a full guide (if you have strange hardware, it might not be covered), is aimed primarily at laptops, and doesn’t guarantee distribution compatibility, but if Linux supports the hardware, your distro should too.

Narrowing it down…

August 9th, 2009 2 comments

Two posts in one day!

I am learning quite a bit in my continued research of which Linux distro will be right for me. So far I think I have knocked out a lot of the more… exotic Linux distros and have come up with a bit of a short list with a few pros and cons to go along with them.

The Short List

  • Debian
    • Pros: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.
    • Cons: The distro prioritizes stability over new technology which sometimes seems kind of dull, only F/OSS software.
    • Why I am considering it: This distribution has widespread use and serves as sort of a gold standard and I know using this would be a very practical choice.
  • Fedora
    • Pros: Stable, very secure, a lot of support, constantly adding brand new technology.
    • Cons: Using bleeding edge technology can sometimes be a bad thing (I hear KDE 4.0 didn’t go over so well for example), I don’t know a lot about it, not sure what the software situation is like for example.
    • Why I am considering it: To be honest it intrigues me. It seems like a distro that can have a lot of customization done to it and it has a focus on security which I’m a bit of a nut about.
  • Linux Mint
    • Pros: Ubuntu as a starting point, tried to make the best desktop experience possible, simplified a lot of the UI and made great improvements in the usability.
    • Cons: It’s a relatively new distro and doesn’t quite have the community behind it yet. I’m worried that updates for Mint specific problems might not come frequently enough.
    • Why I am considering it: I am familiar with Ubuntu and this seems like an improved version of that.
  • Mandriva
    • Pros: Mandriva One sounds like it includes everything I could possibly ask for.
    • Cons: It seems to try and push a full computing experience on the user, which for most would be great but for this experiment maybe not so much.
    • Why I am considering it: It seems like an easy out.

Hopefully I can make my decision shortly and read up some more about it before the start of the experiment!

Right down to the metal

August 9th, 2009 1 comment

I have finally settled on some hardware that I will be using for this experiment:

Dell Studio XPS 16

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 at 2.40GHz with 3MB cache and 1066Mhz FSB
  • RAM: 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz
  • LCD Panel: Widescreen 15.6 inch WLED LCD (1600×900)
  • Web Cam: 2.0MP
  • Video Card: ATi Mobility RADEON HD 4670 with 1GB of memory
  • Hard Drive: 320GB 7200 RPM SATA
  • Optical Drive: Slot loaded 8X DVD+/- RW
  • Sound Card: TBD (High Definition Audio 2.0)
  • Wireless Networking Card: Intel 5300 WLAN Wireless-N (3×3) Mini Card
  • Bluetooth: Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth Module (2.1+EDR)

I have yet to research if there are any Linux compatibility issues with these hardware pieces but that’s all just part of the game :P

Categories: Linux, Tyler B Tags: , ,

Better than Indy’s own

August 7th, 2009 No comments

Hi, sports fans!  (That’s right, I’ve decided to start addressing you all with stupid and arbitrary tag lines… please deal with it.)  Since Jon has put Tyler and I (and ESPECIALLY) Jake completely to shame with his constant blog posts, I’ve decided to keep up my end of this and, after some research, made a decision…

*drum roll please*

My distribution of choice is, and really always has been (mostly) my main idea – Fedora 11. Why?  I’m glad you asked.  As a relative Linux noobie, Fedora 11 jumped out at me for these reasons:

  • As Jon pointed out in an earlier blog post, Fedora is the choice of Linux grandfather Linus Torvalds.  This guy obviously knows his stuff.  While Linus primarily supports KDE, the supposed ‘lack of maturity’ of the KDE 4.0 user interface caused him to switch to Gnome.
  • Gnome, the same default interface as Ubuntu, is an interface I’m used to.  At this point, I’m not looking to dive in completely to unknown waters; God only knows I’d just drown.
  • NASA also uses it.  NASA is badass (not for using Fedora… for that other stuff they do).
  • It has proven stability.  Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a derived distribution, and that’s a rock solid environment.

While I envy Jon’s trumpeting of KDE 4.3 for now (yes, it looks gorgeous) it’s not something I immediately want to play with.  Perhaps down the road, and believe you me – it’ll get documented here if I do.

Now, I just have to cross fingers that all of my devices work with this, the latest release of Fedora.  I have pretty high hopes for the laptop, but some of my peripherals – like my HTC Dream phone – might run into issues.  I’ll re-list my entire system profile here.  If you have any input (and I’m very interested in Fedora 11’s improved open driver support for nvidia graphics cards), I’d be happy to hear from you.

  • Motherboard: LG P300-U.APB3A9 with Intel GM965 Mobile Chipset
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 3 MB L2 cache
  • RAM: 4096 MB
  • Video: nVidia GeForce 8600 M GS (256 MB)
  • Audio: Realtek ALC88x series HD audio codec
  • Hard drive: 320 GB Seagate 5400 RPM
  • Optical drive: LG USB 2.0 slim external DVD+/- RW
  • Networking: Intel 4965 A/G/N wireless networking card (I don’t use wired on this)

Looking forward to the adventure ahead, that’s for sure.  Also, my apologies in advance for intermittent blog posts; I just started a new job this week and the training is a good time.

Categories: Dana H, Linux Tags: , , , , ,

Debian! I Choose You!

August 6th, 2009 2 comments

After a little bit of research, I’ve chosen to use Debian as my distribution for the duration of the experiment. While the decision was more or less arbitrary, it was based on a few core ideals:

  1. The Social Contract: These guys believe in free software to such an extent that they wrote up a social contract that governs the user experience with Debian, ensuring that the system and it’s derivatives will forever remain free for use, distribution, and modification. As a part of the contract, they define their use of the term free software to ensure that nobody can question their motives. Although I run a lot of free software on a daily basis, I’ve always been locked into proprietary software and formats in one way or another. It will be interesting to try and figure out how to emulate my current workflow in its entirety with free and open-source software.
  2. A Solid System: Debian is known to be such a solid distribution that Ubuntu (currently the most popular Linux distribution around) uses it as a basis for each of their own releases, and then backports any fixes that they make into the Debian stream. Further, Debian is available as one of three code forks (unstable, testing, and stable), allowing the user to choose from a rock solid stable experience, a less stable one that supports the latest packages, or a potentially buggy one that runs along the bleeding edge of new development.
  3. 100% Community Driven: Unlike other distributions, Debian development is not backed or sponsored by a corporate entity of any kind – it is simply an organization of (almost 1200) like-minded people working towards a common goal through the power of the internet. You really can’t get a better taste for the ideals of open-source software in any other distribution.
  4. Huge User Community: Check out this massive list of people and organizations that currently use Debian as their distribution of choice.
  5. Lots O’ Warez: The stable distribution of Debian contains thousands upon thousands available packages. With access to all of this software, replacing my current setup should be fairly easy (although it might require a bunch of research).

With the release of KDE 4.3 today, I’ve also decided to try using it as my display manager (mostly because it looks really pretty, and I like pretty things). Now I can only hope that Debian has the drivers for my laptop:

  • Motherboard: IBM ThinkPad R52 (Product#: 1859B7U) with Mobile Intel Alviso-G i915GM Chipset
  • Processor: Mobile Intel Pentium M 740, 1733 MHz (13 x 133)
  • RAM: 758 MB  (DDR2 SDRAM)
  • Video: Mobile Intel(R) 915GM/GMS,910GML Express Chipset Family  (128 MB), Intel GMA 900
  • Audio: Analog Devices AD1981B(L) @ Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – AC’97 Audio Controller [B-1]
  • Storage Controller: Intel(R) 82801FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2653 with AE9GMGLK IDE Controller
  • Disk Drive: FUJITSU MHV2040AH  (40 GB, 5400 RPM, Ultra-ATA/100)
  • Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD/CDRW UJDA770  (DVD:8x, CD:24x/24x/24x DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
  • Ethernet: Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wireless: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection  (192.168.1.173)
  • USB Controller: Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – USB Universal Host Controller [B-1]
  • BIOS: IBM 70ET69WW (1.29 )
  • Battery: Sony IBM-92P1089

The Linux File System Explained

August 3rd, 2009 1 comment

From one Linux newbie to another, read up on the basic file system organization of a Linux machine here. It’s a very basic overview of where the system puts certain types of files, but is a good starting point for anybody who (like me) is trying to wrap their windows-centric head around a new operating system.

Categories: Jon F, Linux Tags: , , , ,