Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Linux brought my laptop back from the grave

Years ago in school I became intrigued with linux during an operating systems class I took during undergrad. Red hat was the distribution of choice back then, in fact that was the only distribution I knew of at that time. The desktop was Gnome, and there was this slow browser linux used called Firefox by Mozilla. We'd go into those computer labs, open up a terminal, login, type some commands to our virtual machines and that was it. Whatever I typed in I didn't learn much about. But my professors and friends were confident that this was a superior operating system and that it was more powerful, more robust, more secure, etc. I took their word for it and continued to use windows.

Over the years I had the urge to get back into linux to learn for myself this time and so I started looking for a distro to try. Red hat was no longer the most popular Linux OS. Apparently they went corporate and left their loyal fans instead with a community distro called Fedora Core, which I downloaded but have yet to install. I'm sure its nice.

Now there are all these live CDs where you can run the distro without even having to install it onto your hard drive. I think one of the first I tried was Ubuntu, which was impressive because so little of the hardware went undetected, I didn't really have to configure too much. Then I went .iso-crazy, I also tried Mandriva, Damn Small Linux (to see where a 80MB OS got me), Knoppix, Kanotix, I even installed SuSE but that didn't go as well as Knoppix or Kanotix.

I'm pretty sure I like KDE over GNOME but both are really fine replacements over Windows. There is definitely a learning curve to the linux experience though, and there are still times when I don't know what these people are talking about on these forums, but I usually end up getting it in the end. The forums are an awesome feature incidentally, both Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS have tremendous resources in their forums. Overall I'm sure it is easier to learn to use Linux now than when everything was through a terminal. Now there is a GUI for every task, everything is already detected, so I really expect Linux to have a bright future in the computer world.

My experiment let me to dual booting for a while with Ubuntu Breezy Badger and a bootleg copy of Windows XP on my home PC which is very modestly a AMD Duron 1GHz with 650MB of ram and a 20GB hard drive and a 52X cd-r drive. Not much but enough to do basic computer stuff, and that's all I really needed. I began to use Windows less and less, preferring Unbuntu for its look and feel. Then it got ugly fast. I wanted more space for Linux and less for Windows so I used the unbuntu partitioner that comes with the installation disk. You know what, there was an error during the re-partition. I lost my windows partition and all the unbacked data on it. This saddened me a bit, but not as much as you'd think. Computer catastrophes have happened to me so many times with PC's that I've come to adopt an easy-come easy-go attitude about computer files and mp3's. I try not to think of personal stuff like photos and such, whats gone is gone :(

I used to have a laptop. It died in 2004. My dell inspiron 8100 was a costly machine when I bought it back in 2001, so when it died about three years later, suffice to say I was a bit disappointed. I got dell on the horn and after walking me through a few test they declared my hard drive had fried. They wanted around $400 for a new one -I'm sure they figure since the computer has been out for 3 years, they can ask any price they'd like for the replacement because it is proprietary and I've got no choice to accept their terms. I said no and gave up on the machine. I didn't throw it out though, it just sat there at the bottom of my closet for over two years until my brother asked me for the laptop case to use with his new macbook. But wait, now that I have all these LiveCD isos burned, perhaps I can resuscitate my laptop and just run the disk from ram! It worked. It got even better when I tried to install on the hard drive, it seems dell just wanted another $400 off me because linux is up and running on my laptop without any major problems so far. I doubt if I even have any hard drive problem.

I now run PCLinuxOS on both my laptop and my desktop. Its a great OS, maybe it could be a little faster, but I really think this has got to be one of the most user friendly linux distros out there. My favorite so far. Perhaps in a few months I'll be ready for something like Slackware or Gentoo but for now PCLinuxOS is the way to go. Besides, with Ubuntu, I was using Automatix to install all the extras that Ubuntu leaves out, and I'm not sure how much I trust Automatix. It seems like a great script but you never know. PCLinuxOS comes pre-configured to play mp3's and other codecs, it's really ready to go right off the bat, even more than Ubuntu. Perhaps on the dvd and win32 codecs have to be added. That's not much.

Anyway, cheers to linux for all their flavors and distros (it's a slight addiction to keep trying more of them) and cheers to linux for saving of my old dell laptop. I'll be damned if I'm going fork over any more money to Ol' Bill G. just so I can run Adaware, Spybot and Trend House Call Virus Scan every single day.

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