Archive for the ‘SuSE’ Category


Which Will Run?: Mint 6, SuSE 11.1, Mandriva 2009 or Antix 8

February 16, 2009

In this post, I describe how I compared 4 distros to run on the old family desktop.  For reasons unique to this machine and to my own situation and preferences, Mandriva 2009 won this little contest.

I’m presently auditioning for a new distro.  PCLinuxOS 2007 has been the family favorite for the past year or so.  Last weekend I went ahead and did an over-massive upgrade.  I was anxious to get a look at all the new stuff, but could not for life of me, get past the login screen.  It would lock up totally, and there I was stranded.  I tried rebooting several times, but could not proceed.  The new splash screen looked lovely, but not much good when I couldn’t even sign in.  The update must have knocked something out.  Lesson learned: update in small increments.  PCLinuxOS is looking a bit old compared to many of the other distros in the top 10 on Distrowatch, so it is time.  I know the PCLOS team is working on a new release but I’m going to have a look at some others anyway.  I could always use the other OS that came with the machine, but I absolutely love Linux, especially for being online.

I’ve downloaded the ISO’s and burned them to the CD’s.  I’m ready to compare these newer distros on the family desktop.  This desktop is quite old but I’ve tried to string it along as long as I could.  It is a 1.8 G  Celeron with 632 RAM, a 40 G primary HD and a 200 G secondary HD.  It also has two optical drives, a USB 2.0/Firewire card and a video/TV input card.  The display is a garden variety CRT.  XP SP3 resides on the primary drive and PCLinuxOs resides on the second HD.  PCLOS de-throned MEPIS as my distro of choice.  Not only was it more attractive and easier to use, the repositories seemed to be particularly deep.  Extensive repositories and ease of installing new apps rank high on my requirements for any Linux distro I choose.

So I’m going to set up the tasks before trying any of these, and then blog the results as I go.  First, we’re going to run off the live CD for a bit to see what we can do.

1. Boot and load the live CD
2. Detect a USB flash drive
3. Take a screen shot (or two) and save it to the flash
4. Connect to the network via Ethernet
5. Add to this post using Google Docs
6. Watch a Youtube video
7. Play a game

Yes, this is a very superficial review based on live CD’s.  If any of these distros sufficiently impress me, I might do an install and do a more thorough job.    So let’s get cracking…

Open SuSE 11.1

I knew there would be issues with this machine, simply because it is more than 5 years old.  In the case of OpenSuSE, it appears that the integrated video card is the main weakness.  Or at least it was a jumbled display that kept me from getting very far.  I did try several of the screen options from the default to 800×600 to VESA.  Nothing seemed to be working.  I’m sure some of you could have done some command line magic to make it work, but I’m only going so far on a live CD.  The purpose of the live CD is to see if the program works on my hardware, and in this case, OpenSuse would not.  I may try it on my laptop just to see how it looks and does on more modern hardware.

Linux Mint 6.0

In my last article, I tried several distros and several people commented recommending Mint.  So this was definitely on the short list. Mint 6 (Felicia) is fresh out, and I weas looking forward to trying it out.  However, it did lock up on the hardware I’m testing out now.  It goes on the list, along with SuSE to try out on my laptop later.  Basically, it cycled all the way through the loading process and then simply stopped doing anything on a dark screen after the login.  I rebooted a few times to see if I could catch anything, but it always got stuck on a dark, blank screen.  That’s okay, because it reminds me that my hardware is considered dated.  Moving on….

Antix 8

Antix with a game and some menus

Antix with a game and some menus

Finally!  Something that ran and worked right out of the box!  It might be argued that Antix is a distro made for a machine like mine or older or smaller.  I liked the look straight away and it seemed fairly intuitive.  Since I was wired in, there was no niggling about getting on line. I fired up the Ice Weasel and there I was.  I logged into Google and was able to continue my review in Google docs, no problem.  I could have also used the Dillo browser if I wanted.  This is a light distro, so it booted fairly fast off the live CD.  The screenshot tool was right there.  Easy peasy, except when I tried to get it on to my flash drive.

I plugged in my flash drive and nothing happened.  So I opened “Media” in the menu and was able to find my flash drive and open it.  But getting the picture from the temporary Antix folder to the thimbdrive was a bit of a challenge.  I discovered that resizing for a simple drag and drop was not working and neither was copy and paste.  I eventually was able to drag and drop from the Antix home directory into the opn flash folder on the task bar.  Not elegant, but it worked.  I found the game gweled which was an interesting little puzzle game.  Check that off the list.  Next was Youtube, and Antix gave me no problems there.  I had no problems watching a video and my sound worked well, too.

Antix watching Youtube

Antix watching Youtube

As a final step, I looked at the repositories, which use Synaptic to manage packages.  The collection of programs available was okay but not exceptional.  Unlike PCLOS, which had no problems providing Picasa and Google Earth, the Debian repositories are a bit stricter and more selective.  I’m sure I could find Stepmania and Frets on Fire if I looked around a bit more, but they weren’t there out of the box.

Antix, like the more robust MEPIS from which it came, is a very capable, functional distro.  It reminds me a lot of Puppy Linux, only with a more attractive appearance.  A more direct comparison of these twio light weights might be useful.

Moving on…

Mandriva 2009

Mandriva desktop

Mandriva desktop

This is a cousin of PCLinuxOS, and the look and feel are very familiar.  How familiar?  Well, I’ve been using Mandriva 2008 on my laptop for the past year and the differences are pretty minor.  But the question was; would it work as well on the older family desktop?  The answer to that is a big YES!  No problems with the disply, video or sound.  Youtube worked.  Google docs worked.  TVtime was able to lock on to my video/TV card with no problems.  No problems with KDE 4.1 that I could find in my brief overview.

However, Mandriva did not come with any games on the LiveCD, so that is one strike against it.  Of course, I already know about the repository situation and while not quite as large as PCLOS, I have seen it grow more generous.  I know there are plenty of games to be found if I want but I do want to be fair and point out that one strike, minor as it is.

It makes sense that Mandriva would be well-suited for this particular machine since Mandriva has been geared toward the netbook market where system resources are at a premium.  It also is very easy to use for users new to Linux.  There is also one other feature that makes Mandriva a good match for this particular machine.  This machine is in the family room and is the one used by my two young boys.  My 10 year-old is especially into using the computer and is also the most apt to wander into a site he shouldn’t.  That is why it is in the family room where we can monitor him, as parents.  Mandriva is the only distro that I know of that has any sort of special parental control feature where a parent can whitelist or blacklist certain sites as well as set up a certain time window for internet access.  It isn’t terribly sophisticated, but the gesture is very much appreciated.  Mandriva may be poised to become a distro that is more family and education friendly than any other distro and arguably more friendly than the other two primary commercial OS’s that people are using.  Especially in light of tougher economic times, it really is hard to beat free.  There is a paid version that comes with support that is still a bargain compared to what people are paying for more propietary systems.

Open Suse is the most serious and business-like of the bunch, and also the biggest.  There is a reason this distro is in the top 2, routinely.  I can see this being easily a distro of choice for serious computer developers.  I have no idea what happened to Mint today.  My guess is that it has moved on and is aiming at becoming a more modern distro and leaving older hardware in the dust.  I have run earlier versions of Mint on this machine, but the 4.0 version was not as impressive as Mepis 7 was at that time.  PCLOS blew them both out of the water.  I suspect Mint 6 is more about the latest and greatest, geared toward people running newer hardware.

Antix was a very nice distro.  Not as light as Puppy, but it has a key advantage in having a larger and easier to use repository of other programs.  If my machine was any lighter and older, Antix would be the distro of choice today.  In fact, I have an old 550 MHz machine sitting around with 256 Mb RAM that would be perfect with this little distro.

But the old family computer is still a good machine, well equipped with all the peripherals I could cram on it.  Mandriva 2009 has won the day as being the newest, most powerful and user friendly distro that this machine can handle while being able to detect and handle everything that is attached.  I’ll probably be looking at replacing this with a new desktop in the next year or two and Mandriva should help us with the transition as the XP side of the dual boot becomes more and more obsolete.


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.


Just trying to get a job done

November 19, 2007

I’ve really neglected this blog!  Almost as much as I’ve neglected the Linux machine I’ve had sitting here since May.  It is a dust collector, largely because of issues I listed in the last post.  Namely, despite the hoo-ha of the community, Windows programs seem to work better.  Quality is defined as a combination of performance, speed, utility, features, availability and stability.  Only Windows has been offering up this sort of combo on a consistent basis.  And that is disappointing considering my enthusiasm for Linux was fueled by frustration with M$.


But that doesn’t mean that Linux has no place around here.  I still read and write extensively with my Zaurus, which is still the dandiest little gadget in my house.  I just never leave home without it.  But I demand more from my desktop machine or even a laptop.  And the following represents a case in point.


I had a need this weekend, and for awhile it looked like Linux might prove to be the answer.  This would be highly fortunate, since this would be a public presentation, thus turning others on to Linux or at least showing them an alternative.


I had downloaded a 13 minute video that I was going to show in my adult Sunday school class.  The video was downloaded and turned out to be only available in QuickTime’s .mov format.  And that is where the pain started.


My first idea was to simply burn this to a DVD and I would play it on the church’s DVD player.  But my DVD burning software choked every time I tried.  My old version of Nero was willing to burn, but the product would have no sound.  I then fiddled with downloading some conversion software to change the .mov to an avi or pretty much anything else.  Again, the programs I tried choked.  Keep in mind; I’m at home working over a modem.  I’d nabbed the video at work earlier in the week.


This is when I decided to try Linux, since I know some of these distros had DVD burning capability and just might be able to work.  It was worth a shot.  The only distro I’ve downloaded in the past 6 months is Puppy 3.01, so decided to try that.


This was my first go ’round with the newest Puppy and it was it’s nice and easy self, although the desktop seems to have gotten uglier since 2.15.  We were back to the 2.01 Win95ish theme.  But I persisted because we had a job to do.  Unfortunately, Puppy’s DVD authoring software had no more success with burning this video that my Windows programs. 


Okay, no problem.  I had my work laptop, and I would simply play it on there for the group that ranges from 5 to 25 people.  Right?


That work laptop is under IT lockdown, which means I had limited ability to change much on there.  And it didn’t have QuickTime.  Which means it would not even *play* the video!  ACK!


I pulled my Linux distros out again.  First there was Puppy 3.01, because it was the newest and fastest.  Gxine is the default player on this distro.  It played the video nicely except there was no sound.  Crap.  Okay, I’ll move on.


I reached for Ubuntu 6.06, next.  Dapper Drake was supposed to be the Big Deal, right?  The default player here is Totem.  However, Totem failed to play this video at all, saying it needed more codecs or whatever.  But since Ubuntu can’t spot a modem (we’ve been through THAT before!) it wasn’t going to get more codecs.  I needed something that could run off a live CD.  The video itself was residing on a 1 G memory stick and none of the distros had issues reading the thumb drive.


Next, I tried Mepis 6.0.  The default player here is Kaffeine.  And Kaffeine work *marvelously*!  So in this comparison of media players, Kaffeine clearly stole my heart.  And so I determined the Mepis would be a costar of this presentation, and was delighted at the prospect of showing off my nerdliness.


But I quickly discovered another problem.  The laptop LCD display was inadequate as you had to be right in front of it to see it.  While I could plug in a regular full-sized monitor, the thought of lugging that thing to church was prohibitive.  But no to worry, because I had bought a 19″ Polaroid LCD TV monitor that also had a VGA connection.  Unfortunately, Mepis was unable to show up on the thing.  I was stuck again.  Windows had no problems showing up, though.  Hmph.  Since there’s no Windows version of Kaffeine, back to square one.


I finally downloaded QuickTime Alternative and managed to miraculously install it.  Problem solved.


But this further highlights the twin problems of any Linux desktop.  Namely, software and hardware.  More recent versions of Mepis might have worked but I have no way of knowing.  Other distros that made an appearance in working with the monitor were SuSE 10.1 and Dream Linux 2.2.  The live DVD SuSE wouldn’t even boot up and Dream Linux looked dreamy on the laptop but never showed up on the TV. 


So Window$ XP wins again.


So here are issues that I’ve had to struggle with in my attempts at making Linux work:

– Printer/scanner support

– Modem support – even with a serial modem!

– LCD monitor support

– Media playback out of the box (DVD, QuickTime)     

– Lack of a usable Stepmania package

– Abiword’s lack of dictionary

– Lack of RTS games

– Various programs hang, and most distros rely on a command line kill.  Puppy does not, fortunately.


These issues could be overcome with more persistence and skill, perhaps.  But I, as an average Windows power user geek, am not going to invest a whole lot into fiddling with it much when I have a machine that more or less works fine running Windows.  There’s very little that I can do in Linux that can’t be done on Windows but the reverse is definitely not true.  If that machine breaks down, it will be nice to have the other as a back-up.  But Linux has not yet earned a spot in the first string. Many of these issues, like the printer and modem are the most basic of productivity issues.


I still have my eye out for the distro that can do the job.  Perhaps I need to make clear my criteria:

– Adequate support for my printer and other hardware

– Modem support

-Basic programs that are completely functional

– A working functional version of WINE

-Adequate multimedia support

– Relative ease of use


Mepis would be a clear winner except for the whole modem and WINE thing which is where Puppy fits in as the sole distro that has gotten me online.  Puppy’s other main advantage is speed, since it runs totally in RAM.  Mepis is heavy in the software and packages if one can get online to get them.






An Experiment

January 17, 2007

Last summer it was kind of exciting talking about all of the various Linux distros coming out and trying them.  But lately, Linux has lost some of its luster.  Many are waiting for Vista to take over all the tech news.  Amazon sent me an email offering to sell me copies for as little as $149.99 for the basic home version.  I do not think I will be buying the newest malware magnet anytime soon.


Okay, my experiences with certain distros may or may not be typical for true newbies.  I’m talking people who are not power users of any sort.  The type who turn on the computer and just expect it to do stuff.  Like my para educator team.  I think I’m going to switch distros on them and see what happens.  They’ve been using Puppy Linux 2.10 for a couple of months now and I haven’t heard a lot of complaints.  They are mainly surfing the web and checking their web-based email accounts and might occasionally write something or print it out.  Sometimes they run across some cute animation, video or song they want to see or listen to.  So I’m going to see how they like and respond to different distros.  As long as it doesn’t get too disruptive, we’ll give each one a week’s worth of try-out time.  That should be plenty for them (and me) to discover any potential issues.  We’re running live CDs at the moment but will see about installing maybe later on.


System Hardware


This is a new Intel D processor machine running 2.67 G with 512 M RAM.  We are plugged into a network and the machine is also hooked to an older HP DeskJet 694c printer.  The machine has a DVD-CDRW and a floppy drive.  I’m not sure the specs on the monitor but since it came with the machine, it is new.  It is not LCD or flat panel but the older, regular 17″ type.


Subjects Participants


These are not geeks by any stretch.  They do not know or care what they are using as long as it works.  They know they are using Puppy because the screen has a giant puppy face on it.   But otherwise could care less.


Queen is around 50 or so, and knows the internet and email.   She has a computer at home but I don’t think uses it that much.   She’ll play an occasional game of solitaire or an online game.  The advent of the cell phone has turned her into a technophile, but computers are something she only knows so much about.


Patience is in her 30’s and is fairly savvy when it comes to surfing the web and technology in general.  She has a laptop that she uses at home where she gets email, plays games and writes on occasion.  She’s brought it in a time or two for me to look at in order to diagnose various annoyances and problems.


Coach is in his 20’s and is totally comfortable with computers and technology.  He’ll be the one wanting to download music or watch movies on his computer at home.  Here, he is mostly surfing the web.  He might actually have a fantasy football team somewhere and would play any sports game we had, if we had any.  I’m not sure what kind of game console he has at home except that he does have one.


But he’s obviously not a power user.  He was telling about how his computer died last night while he was surfing the internet:

Yeah, I was surfing away when it just went blank, so I rebooted it and it got stuck on the Windows 98 screen.” 

Win 98? HELLO?!?  Why don’t you just paint a sign on your virtual back that says “INFECT ME!” Ha!  Seriously, I see a new old desktop in my future.


Oh, and there’s me.  In my 40’s, I take apart computers and put them back together.  I do much of my reading and most of my writing on my Zaurus PDA.  But of the 4 of us, I was the last one to get a cell phone.  I’ve been fiddling with Linux for about a year now.




Puppy was the first one, and they have not complained much about it, at least to my face.  They may have issues they simply haven’t shared.  By switching the interfaces, it should give them something to complain about!


Mepis 6.0 and Ubuntu 6.0 will definitely be tried out.  Freespire and PCLinux are not booting up for some reason on this machine.  They both get so far in the process and then just stall.  I haven’t tried the SuSE DVD, yet.


I also went ahead and ordered a couple more distros that I’m interested in looking at.  One is Kubuntu 6.10.  I keep hearing how wonderful it is so I’ll see for myself how good or bad it is.  I admit my expectations are low so maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.


I’m more looking forward to Dreamlinux 2.2 which is supposed to be targeted for multimedia applications.  It has some new features that make it especially appealing.  One is that it has an installer that will install apps like Google’s Picasa which has given other distros I’ve tried severe indigestion.  It also has WINE preinstalled, which is a winner for me if it works.


Finally, I ordered Linspire 5.0 to see if that does what Freespire isn’t doing for me at the moment, mainly functioning at all. 


All in all, I’ll have several different distros for the paras to try out plus a few that I’ll be playing around with on my own.  Until I get that second desktop, I won’t be trying a full install anytime soon. 




The Mystery Might Be Solved

October 9, 2006

When I last posted, I was still all bent up and frustrated over not getting my modem to work.  In fact, I have discovered that my modem does work with Puppy Linux, PCLinuxOS, MEPIS and even Ubuntu.  for some reason, the SUSE DVD did not want to even boot, so I have no idea what is up with that.  The Ubuntu CD made an awful racket like it wasn’t properly seated in the drive, but it still worked…well as much as it ever did.


The problem is that my ISP is AT&T and they use proprietary software in order to dial in.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.  In fact, none of my fellow nerds thought of it.  It is true that these past months, the modem itself was the bane of my Linux existence. However, the past few weeks, it is the ISP.  And switching all of my email accounts, and getting a new ISP just isn’t in the cards at the present time unless I go broadband.  But not yet.


However, AT&T does happen to have a few Linux users and I was able to get on one of the newgroup/user groups and learned something new. 


When I signed up for my AT&T account, they issued me a NETWORK username and password.  These are not the same as when I log in and type what I think is my username and password.  They were something like as a username and “corfligery-midget” as the password.  I can not alter or change my network name and password as the ATT computers use this to tell if I am who I am when my computer calls theirs.  All this time, I was typing in “dickdalton@att,com” and “ubuntusucks” thinking that was really my username and password.  The modem actually dialed in, said hello to the ATT computer which promptly hung up on me once it realized that it had no idea of who I was.  


I have not had a chance to test this out to see if this information actually gets me online.  There is an AT&T WURD document or two telling how to get online with Linux that consists of typing in numerous commands in the command line and editing certain other files; clearly outdated and beyond my level of technical expertise.  Editing a configuration file may still be called for in my future, though, if I really want to get this thing to work. 


I’ll keep plodding along and documenting this journey.  But I thought it only fair to let you folks who said the serial modem should work know, so you didn’t think you were crazy! 




Battle of the Distros

July 18, 2006

My disks came today and I absolutely could not wait to see what these things could do.  Would I find a new favorite in the bunch?  Would I find a replacement for Windows?  Am I typing this using Linux?


I’ll answer the last question first; yes, I am using a Linux kernel to type this.  But not from any distro you all might be using.  I’m using my Zaurus PDA!  In fact, I’m not sure I could get anything to you through any distros that came in the mail today as it presently stands.  But this is preliminary, as I just spent a little time with each.  I spent enough time to form some opinions which I’m sure will be unpopular to many.  Too bad.  Let us begin…




The first distro I tried was recommended by Limulus, which was PCLinuxOS.  All 3 disks I ordered were live CDs, but this one was the only one of the 3 that was not a DVD.  Boot tome for Live CDs is typically quite long, so I put the CD in, made some iced tea, did laundry and cut the grass and came in just in time to see it get to a screen asking for a user name.  I typed in my name which was, of course, incorrect..  I then typed “root” for both name and password and all was well.  If I had not had experience with MEPIS, I would have been frustrated right then and there.  Neither of the other two distros had the password prompt.


Once inside, I was greeted by a nice, friendly, clean brand spanking new desktop.  That’s the cool thing about trying out these OSs as it’s just like getting a new computer!


Okay, I need to take my fellow newbies aside for just a moment to talk about desktops.  When you get a windows desktop, that’s what you get… a Windows desktop to sort of fix up the way you like but you pretty much have the basic elements: A taskbar at the bottom with a “start” menu, a clock and some icons on the desktop.  In Linux, the are two predomininant types of desktops.  One is called KDE, which contains the same basic elements as the Windows version, plus a few more things.  This is what I had with MEPIS.  With PCLinux, I encountered the Gnome desktop for the first time.  This, being unfamiliar caused me some confusion.  I had some icons on the desktop and then (I think) some menu options at the top.  But I never felt like I was seeing everything offered on this CD and seemed to be trying to search for things that should have been more accessible. 


My primary concern and mission was to find a distro that would deal with my modem.  In this, PCLinux failed.  In fact, I never did find any sort of modem connection options at all.  Would PCLinux play my Gladiator DVD?  No.  None of the distros would because of some proprietary thing which is screwy.  Isn’t a DVD player a DVD player?  The logo on my Memorex is the same as the one connected to my TV, isn’t it?


PCLinux had the Office suite, some games and a suite of multimedia tools typical of all distros.  It was not a terribly complicated distro, but it seemed light on applications.  Not bad, but not as good as Mepis in my opinion. 


Ubuntu 6.06 – Dapper Drake


Numero Uno on DistroWatch, I was anxious to give this distro a try.  I have 5 more CDs of this on the way, and have read about Ubuntu all over the place.  You absolutely can not swing a dead cat in the desktop Linux world without hearing about Ubuntu.  An OS for humans.




First off, this was a live DVD.  My first DVD drive had no idea what to do with it, and booted to Windows.  However, once in Windows, putting the DVD in gives one access to open source programs like Firefox, Thunderbird and The Gimp.  That was kind of cool, throwing Windows users a bone.  So I stuck the disk in my DVD burner and rebooted.  This time we were in business. 


After washing and waxing the kitchen floor, changing the oil in my and my wife’s car and doing my taxes, I came in just in time to witness Ubuntu loading the desktop.  Ubuntu, like PCLinux, loads the Gnome desktop. 


I spent some time poking around.  I never found whatever Ubuntu/Gnome uses to configure or run a modem so we struck out there.  Ubuntu seemed to have a lot more games than PCLinux or Mepis.  I actually, I did find a list of Ubuntu applications and it seemed pretty extensive.  I found KPPP but was informed that I could not load it because I was not connected to the internet.  DuH!  If I was connected, why would I need a dial-up client?


I was rapidly disillusioned with Ubuntu.  Yeah, I could play a bunch of cheezy games I suppose, and type something.  But could I save it?  I don’t know.  I’ll have to investigate more with it later.  Maybe.  Right now, I feel like I wasted $7 on this thing. 


Ubuntu vs. PCLinux = PCLinux by a hair.  PCLinux just felt easier to use.  Lots of searching for applications in both, but Ubuntu did not impress me.  Could it be the Gnome desktop?  Maybe, but PCLinux also runs it.  Now, Ubuntu was a disappointment.  No newbie coming from Windows is going spend much time with this cow.  At least it’s cheap.  But seeing as I bought the DVD, PCLinux becomes the better buy at $5.95 vs $1.95.


Ubuntu Vs. Mepis = Mepis  Mepis is by far the easiest to use so far. The applications far easier to find and use. Will this still hold true at the end?  Let’s see.


SuSE 10.1


#2 on DistroWatch, this was also a live DVD.  However, unlike the other two contenders, this had no option to install.  It is intended to be used as a live DVD and that’s it.


I booted this DVD up the same as Ubuntu in the DVD burner.  I have no idea why these live DVDs don’t like my regular DVD player, but that is a strike against them compared to the CDs that had no problems in either drive.


SuSE presented me with something fairly quickly.  In fact, it was so quick, I missed it and had to reboot.  A screen comes up offering several choices.  I can boot off the hard drive, which is Windows and since that was the default that’s what it did before I realized what was going on and digesting all the choices.  Mepis does something similar, although not as rich in options as SuSE in the choices.


We might have a contender.


The other two choices were SuSE with a KDE desktop or SuSE with a Gnome desktop.  I picked KDE.


After having the dog and the cat neutered, picked up my dry cleaning and remodeled the upstairs bathroom, I walked in just in time to see SuSE throw up the desktop and a message mentioning  something about registering for access to more programs and Novell support.  Okay, that was nice.  SuSE then promptly acted like a slovenly drunken sow by seeming to hang and then take forever to execute anything at all.  So I rebooted again.


Things went better this time.  I quickly discovered a modem tool right on the task bar and went into it.  The modem I had recently installed supposedly ran on SuSE 9.x, so I had high hopes. However, no amount of tweaking around got me anywhere.


 Of the 3 distros that came in today, SuSE seemed to be the easiest for me to manage.  The KDE desktop was more familiar to me, as it did look like Windows, only much better organized.  Still not playing my DVDs, though.


Of the 3, I spent more time with SuSE as it seemed to have more applications and tools beyond the same things everyone else has.  More choices is good for everyone, so there are more office applications and more multimedia and photo tools.  However, SuSE did not seem to detect my analogue TV card, so that was a disappointment.   



 Also, SuSE would not let me mount and explore either of my hard drives which is a serious gig if I can’t figure it out.



Of these three, SuSE wins the prize for versatility, ease of use and comfort.  I thought it was MUCH easier than Ubuntu, which comes in last in my own distro survey.  I find it does nothing and adds nothing to what anyone else has and seems to me to be a very pooor choice for breaking in new users coming from Windows.  Those free CDs that they are sending out are akin to the days when AOL sent everyone floppies then CDs to drum up business.  Thing was, users would leave AOL as soon as their minutes were up.  Newbies looking for a decent experience with Linux should avoid Ubuntu.  But this is an early impression.  It also decreases the amount of time I’m willing to spend with the Dapper Drake


Mepis beats the lot for ease of use, number of programs and versatility. Curerently #4 on distro watch, it should be higher.  Ubuntu’s position is a severely inflated one, and will absolutely NOT be bringing Linux to desktops across the nation.  


I know Ubuntu fans will hate it, but security and repositories will do no good if I can’t   even get online.


Linux remains the domain of the propeller heads and geeks for the time being as it is too much trouble for an average home user newbie using dial-up.  Without access to the internet, there is no support, no extra applications, no connection and no taking advantage of the extra security.  It is such a fundamental thing and such a fatal flaw.


I’m not finished, yet.  When I go back to work, I’ll try these on my new work computer to see how they do there and perhaps my experience will be different.   We’ll see if anyone has trouble detecting my network, plus I can better try the “On the Go” feature of my latest edition of Mepis.


I’m also going to dig deeper into these distros and see if I am missing some important feature, especially with the Gnome desktops.  Feedback would be helpful, here.  Of course, desktop preference probably doesn’t mean much to those who come from UNIX and are using command lines any way.  Again, unless the Linux community can successfully minimize the UNIX experience (without abandoning the benefits) they can forget about getting more users, more applications, more drivers, more Desktop Linux machines and making more of an impact on the personal PC business.

And if Ubuntu is half the cow it seemed like for me, people need to stop peddling the bloody thing and promote something that might work better.  It would be interesting to see if Kubuntu would be a better choice for me, but I’m not too willing to invest much more money and time in any more distros.  I’m okay with some tinkering, but have a ridiculously short attention span for stuff that does not seem to work.  When I get bored enough, I’ll give it another go.




Thinking and Moving Forward

July 11, 2006

After getting some input from a couple of commenters (Rees and Limulus), and doing some thinking I decided to go ahead and order some more live CDs. I ordered the Ubuntu DVD, the SuSE live DVD and PCLinuxOS live CD.


Moving forward, my thinking is evolving more and more on the subject of making a Linux switch. While my Windows OS is clunking around, mauled and crippled, it still does things probably no other OS is going to do, including playing The Sims if I use the program manager to disable everything else. But there are still things I’m not ready to let go of and I think asking average Windows users to do that is not winning friends and influencing people. So, I’m going into this with no intention of making a switch. I’m looking for more features, enhancements and functionality. I’m anxious to see how these other distros fare against what I’ve already tried with MEPIS and against Windows.


Maybe someone can correct me, but my thinking is that the DVDs will contain more applications and I might get more mileage out of them in the way of usefulness. I’m talking about useful applications for me, a fairly average user. I’m well aware that Linux is chockfull of geek tools for people who are in to that sort of thing.


On a related note, reading this article about Xandros was interesting. I actually took a serious look at it in a recent Tiger Direct catalog. Most of the bundled software is stuff that almost all distros are including nowadays, with the exception of Codeweavers, Crossover Office, and the desktop emulator. The last one isn’t much of an addition, in my opinion but that’s just me. As for the other two, is it too much to hope that WINE might be bundled in with one of my DVDs?


I think you can guess what my biggest turn-off is towards the Xandros Premium Home Edition: $80. Considering I just ordered 3 different ones for less than $20, it doesn’t sound like a “best buy” by any stretch. I suppose they are hoping to cash in on the delayed release of Vista and offering a slightly lower price point. While going to Xandros won’t require a user to commit, as they can still run side-by-side with Windows via a partition, it will require activation and registration in order to get updates, patches and access to other goodies. And that does kind of violate the open source spirit a bit more than I’m comfortable with. So if my CPU crashes, I get to call both Microsoft and Xandros to get reactivated? No thanks. One call is too many.


It just came to me that a winner in the OS world needs to work well and offer functionality, but it also needs to NOT be something: Annoying. I think less annoyance will win many people over, or at least types like me who seem to find all sorts of things to be annoyed about. Linux, right now, has a bunch of annoyances. Enough of them to actually make Windows and worthy competitor. Part of that is my own learning of this stuff and part of it may be inherent to Linux and part if it might be just not finding the right distribution. I’m working on the first and the last and hopefully others are working on that middle one.