Archive for March, 2008

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A couple of comments on PCLinuc OS 2007

March 19, 2008

This was originally supposed to be a response to comments to the posts below (thanks guys!), but I needed to make it a post of its own.

I will say one thing: It’s a good thing this distro “just works” because trouble shooting on the PCLinuxOS site can be a bit iffy.  It’s a relatively small community, and if it were assailed by too many problems, finding answers might be difficult.  I was trying to install the printer and was getting a bit frustrated until I “discovered” the PCLOS command center right there on the tool bar.  Much of my ignorance comes from having so much Windows experience that my mind couldn’t so easily get around the idea that it could be just that easy to set it up and configure!  But it was just that easy to find and install my Epson CX7800 al-in-one.  I haven’t tried the scanner yet.

However, the online help forums and documentation are not nearly as smooth, easy or fleshed out as the OS itself.  In fact, the support documentation can be descfribed as sparse, at best.  For instance, I’ve been hunting around trying to find what PCLOS’s minimum system requirements are because I have an old PIII 550 MHz with 128 Mb RAM that needs a new look and a new home.  How old and how small can I go with this?

It truly is the closest thing I’ve seen to being a Windows Killer as far as Linux distros go.  Would I wipe Vista out for it?  Considering the Vista retails at over $200, it would be tough to do just from a monetary standpoint.  I’d sooner buy a second hard drive and devote that to PCLinux and let Vista sit around, just in case I wanted to sell the machine.  However, if I was buying a machine without an OS (at a discount) then it would be a no-brainer that this would be the operating system me and my family could live with.

Would I wipe out XP?  Considering MS has said they are no longer going to be selling XP in the near future it’s a tough call.  I’d be more tempted to get a smaller extra hard drive for PCLinuxOS.  If I had a copy of XP or vista just sitting around that was new and authentic, I would be more keen to wipe the OS off.

If I were going to give a Win98 machine away (which is what the PIII was) to someone who needed one this is what I would prefer to have on it at the present time.  However, I have not tested the modem support of this OS.  For people in the market for these older machines, that could be a critical component just as it was for me last year.  The second issue involves finding an affordable ISP that can easily work with this distro.

I expect the PCLOS community to grow along with its popularity, at least until the next best distro comes along.  I did get Minime 2008  to work on my USB drive, and that is fine if you have broadband and all you need is a connection to the internet.  However, for a family desktop machine, the full-featured PCLinux 2007 version works very nicely.

dick

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PCLinux 2007 WINS!

March 19, 2008

I took a big risk repartitioning and installing MEPIS 7.0, risking the beloved XP operating system.  But XP did and still does survive.  But it is no longer the operating system of choice on the family desktop.  Neither is Mepis.

The downfall of Mepis began after I reviewed and tried PCLinuxOS.  But I was hesitant to go through another installation and risk losing everything again or a corrupted MBR like I have suffered before.  What finally toppled Mepis from favor was the fact that it only wanted to recognize and “see” its own partition and none of the other hard drives or partitions. I was trying to move some files from my wife’s Mepis desktop and it would not only not read those other hard drives, but gave me fits about moving the files to a USB drive.  What put the nail in the Mepis coffin as it would not even recognize a floppy drive.  That was the end of that.  I had no such problems with earlier versions of Mepis and not sure what caused this glitch.  But Mepis was on its way out as it was, and it just gave me a ready excuse.  This is the double edge of having distros obtained so freely and installed so easily; instead of muddling through or trouble shooting, I canned the thing and put on the distro that “just works.”

And it just does.

The machine: @2001 Celeron 1.8 Gz with 612 RAM with XP home.  HDa = 40 Gb, HDb = 127 GB + 40 Gb (linux) + 20 Gb unclaimed space.

The family: 1 6 yr-old (kindergarten)  1 9 yr. old (2nd grade) and one wife (college graduate)

My wife is relatively new to computers, but thanks to her husband has some experience with Mac OS 7, Win95, Win98 and Win XP and recently Mepis 7.0 and now PCLinuxOS 2007.

All members have successfully learned to use and enjoy the new family OS.  My wife probably has the biggest adjustment, as she still uses XP to play spider solitaire and do editing with her pictures.  However with Picasa downloaded and installed (she was using this on XP) this should be a small matter.  I’ll have to download spider solitaire or some open source variation.  Otherwise she is perfectly pleased with PCLinux.

The two kids could care less what the operating system is.  They like visiting the Disney website and fiddling around with Google Earth and that’s all they care about.  They still like to play a few games occasionally, but mostly they are content with online activities.

And this brings up a very important point, when discussing the digital divide.  When it comes to school-aged kids, computer and online access can mean a world of difference in terms of  school performance.  The state of Georgia is offering practice versions of their state mandated tests online.  Those kids without computers will be left behind and continue to be at a disadvantage when it comes to the new modalities of learning that the digital age is offering.  A computer is as necessary nowadays as paper, pencil and a calculator.  Those who do not have computers in their homes are being given the mathematical technology equivalent to a slide rule!

Linux offers an opportunity for schools and businesses to offer their old PII’s and PIII’s to these disadvantaged youngsters instead of clogging landfills.

dick

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Distros that did not make the cut

March 6, 2008

I’ve been downloading and previewing several distros.  A lot of them have done surprisingly well.  Others have done not so well.

I think Linux has really arrived at a place where the average computer user can handle it.  And a lot of people will like Linux.

Distros that have not made the cut:

1.       Open SuSe 11.0 – Went black after the splash screen and never returned

2.       Sabayon 3.4 – Same as #1

3.       Mandriva 2008 – Same as #1 and #2.  These were all disappointing but made those that made the cut look a lot better

4.       Damn Small Linux – This one did load but did not find my Ethernet  connection

Distros that made it:

1.       PCLinuxOS 2007 – It’s taken everything I’ve thrown at it in Live CD mode.  It’s real close to getting installed.  I’ll put Minime 2008 behind this as it does work off a flash drive but has a few niggling issues like not using the 8G of space I’ve given to it to expand out like I’d like.

2.       Mepis 7.0 – This has been my distro of choice for a long time, but one slip up and it will be replaced by #1.  It really does work well, but PCLOS seems to work better with more features.  It’s a tough choice.

3.       Ubuntu 7.10 – Killer graphics make this one very appealing, and it is a very mature distro very much ready for the desktop.  For business users, it could be a Vista killer.  Unlike its predecessor, this one is distinctive and out front in many ways.  I can respect people who choose this one over my choices, which was not the case a year ago.

4.       Puppy Linux 3.01 – This has been another one of my pet favorites the past year, but is falling from favor now that I no longer rely on a modem.  It can not connect with my Ethernet and is unreliable as far as wireless.  I found the look and feel of 2.15 to be better than 3.01 but that may be just me.  I’m ready to look at some other lighter distros for older machines.

5.       Linux Mint 4.0 – I need to give this one some more play time.  It did work well for me, but I chose Mepis mostly because of the familiar interface.  Now that I’ve been playing around with other distros, I can make a fairer comparison here.

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Ubuntu 7.10:Just About Worth the Hype

March 6, 2008

I’ve was critical of Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake and the hype surrounding it and wasn’t terribly anxious to try the Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 release.  However, since I’ve been trying out various distros, not trying Ubuntu would be an embarrassing oversight.  So I downloaded and burned the live CD and booted it up.

If you’re a Windows user and get one of these CD’s, you can put it in the CD tray and install MS versions of Firefox, Abiword and Thunderbird, but these are not the unknown or fancy applications that they were back when Dapper Drake first came out.  6.06 also came with GAIM and the Gimp but I’m guessing the newer version didn’t have room for too many Windows toys.

Ubuntu succeeded where other distros failed to even get anywhere past the splash screen.  But that is not all.  Once loaded, I began playing around with Ubuntu.  Even without Compiz, this distro was clearly targeting a Vista-type of graphic experience.  And it was faster and superior to anything I’ve ever seen on a Vista machine that had more hardware than this one did.  Ubuntu has arrived and I’m willing to give it the respect it deserves.  And there’s more.

Unlike other distros I’ve tried, Ubuntu detected and connected to the ethernet connection right out of the box with absolutely no configuration necessary.  It also detected and was able to read my hard drive which I had not previously tasked other distros to do.  And with Open Office 2.3 it was able to open and read Office 2007 documents.  That was a big plus!  It was able to detect the Microsoft networking neighborhood, which others had not seemed to be able to handle.

This edition of Ubuntu has a lot going for it and a lot to like.  So is this a contender for my home desktop?

No.  Ubuntu is at the top of its game, especially with the ease of use in working with the various types of hardware.   But it is a very basic distro with very basic features that look very nice.  It does things no other distro I’ve tried can do.  But those things are not especially critical to my present needs and desires.  The synaptac repository seemed a bit on the shallow side, especially compared to what PCLinuxOS is offering.  But even compared to Mepis, it is looking like I might have to do extra work to get Picasa, Google Earth and Stepmania on and running.  I’d be willing to try it, if Ubuntu had anything else that sufficiently grabbed my attention and interest.  The appearance and speed is clearly an attention-getter, but it is the applications that are going to compel me to stay with an outfit for any length of time.  Ubuntu came very, very close this time around and perhaps a future release will win me over.  If my work machine didn’t have a NTFS hard drive, I would have been sorely tempted to partition it right there and then and give the dual boot a whirl.  But my home needs are a bit different and more eclectic than my work needs. 

For my money, PCLinuxOS still has earned its way to the top of Distrowatch, but Ubuntu has definitely earned its way into the top 10, especially compared to 6.06.  The features are there and they are unique but the targeted audience seems to be more business oriented than home desktop oriented.

 

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PCLinuxOS 2007: It really is as good as the Hype!

March 6, 2008

Oh my. I may have found myself a new favorite distro.

I nearly overlooked this one because of my difficulties with PCLOS Minime 2008 on the flashdrive. I will say one thing about Minime: it does work and works well. I do like the look and feel of it and if I could get the package manager to work, I would be all over it.

I downloaded and burned the live CD of the 2007 version and must say that I really like it. The latest PCLinux 2007 is the Gnome version, but the default is the KDE version. If you don’t understand what I just wrote, don’t sweat it. I have always preferred the KDE but that’s just me.

PCLinuxOS has been riding very, very high in the Distrowatch charts, toppling Ubuntu from #1. Ubuntu sat there for about a year, until PCLOS knocked it off. And it’s for a very good reason, because this is a very good distro packed with a lot of good, attractive features that just work. One doesn’t fully appreciate the “just works” aspect until they try a bunch of things that don’t work. I’ve been trying several distros on my work machine (2.66 Ghs Dual core P4 with 512 RAM and ATI Radeon 9500 graphics card, DVD/CD-RW) and have run into a few that are not working as of yet.

PCLinuxOS found all my hardware, the Ethernet and booted up just fine. In fact I decided to go ahead and work on this post using it, and I”m really liking the look and feel of it. It will seriously give Mepis a run for its money and may seriously end up replacing it. It’s that good.

Aside from simply working, there’s other things I’m discovering that I like. For instance, when you open a new distro’s Firefox, they often have some generic bookmarks. PCLinux actually has some interesting and helpful bookmarks, like PCLinux, PCLinux Extra, PCLinux Hardware data base, something called Lortal and LinFX.com. If you can’t find help and answers in these places, you’ve got some serious issues!

I like how easy it was to find things and the richly populated Synaptic libraries of goodies that the Mepis library seemed to be sparse with. Mepis didn’t have Picasa, Google Earth or Stepmania. PCLinuxOS has them all.

Ksnapshot was right there.

desktop

Pretty cool, eh? I don’t include many screen captures because I’m such a nOOB but PCLinux made it just so easy!

dick

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Mepis 7.0: Everybody’s on Board

March 5, 2008

About a week ago, I installed Mepis 7.0 on some vacant space on my hard drive.  (1.8 GHz Celeron, 640 Mb RAM) The installation was as painless as one could ever imagine.  In about 30 minutes, I had a working Linux with the GRUB bootloader installed so I could get to XP when necessary.  It’s been about 3 days since XP has seen the light of day in our house.

Having an ethernet/high speed connection has made all the difference in the world.  While Mepis comes with pretty m uch everything one needs, I was able to apt-get updates and a few other things I wanted.  So how is it working out?

My wife, Jane, has been pretty bold in trying this thing out, perhaps out of necessity.  When I boot the computer it goes to GRUB and gives a person 20 seconds or so to choose a boot option.  If you do nothing, it goes right to the Mepis login.  I have 4 different user accounts: Mine, hers, the two kids share one and the Root account. We had set up XP to run passwords to keep the kids from raiding the computer, so doing this in Mepis was a small matter.  And the Mepis login looks better than XP.

I showed Jane how to get to XP but I’m not sure she remembers but she hasn’t complained much.  Her biggest complaint was not having the printer loaded, which I got around to finally doing when I had my oldest (a second grader) type some homework in Open Office which he needed to print.  Mepis 6.0 did not support our Epson CX7800 printer, but Mepis 7.0 installed and ran it flawlessly.  The print installer is mostly intuitive, but there were a few niggling decisions I had to make which turned out to be correct ones, so far.  Once I got a working test page, printing the homework was easy.  And the boys have no idea and don’t care about the OS when they are watching Thomas the Train on YouTube.  They sort of like the fact that the computer looks new.  And they’ll be mastering Tuxracer in no time.

Jane has done her surfing and email (we use Gmail) and even downloaded some files.  I thought downloading the files was a gitsy move, since she is totally in the dark about the Linux file system.  But she did, and she was pretty happy overall with the performance.  She’ll be totally in heaven if we get her digital camera hooked up.

Mepis 7.0 does work with my hardware better than 6.0 did, especially evidenced by the printer.  However, compared to the Ubuntu repositories, the Debian looked a bit sparse and I’ve had some issues with downloading and installing Picasa and Google Earth.  Jane does most of her editing with Picasa and the boys like playing with Google Earth.  These are both ported to Linux but there are issues with the installation I’m fiddling with.  In my brief foray into the PCLinuxOS repositories, there were a lot more programs available in that library.

I lurve the KDE  desktop that comes with Mepis which is going to make it very difficult for any other distro to make me want to change.  but that’s not to say there are not some others that I’m looking at.  I just downloaded SuSe Alpha 11.0 and Saybayon Mini edition for grins and giggles.  I still have a ways to go before I’m ready to settle down or at least I’d like to look at some other distros that might work with my minimal and aging system.

I also have some tasks to perform with a neighbor’s aging hardware that has different requirements, but that’s for another post.

dick