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Linux - The Challenge Taken - Make Linux My Default Environment

By Matthew S ·

After monitoring & participating in some of the recent Linux discussions on TR regarding Linux and Linux?s current user acceptance (or lack thereof). I decided to give myself a challenge, and see if I could successfully move myself from being currently Windows? centric (probably more out of laziness than preference) to Linux centric.

Through this discussion I?ll try and keep tab on my progress, experience & thoughts.

Firstly some background to set the scene. Historically I would describe myself as a non-participating Linux supporter ? I supported the idea of Linux, but typically only playing with it occasionally.

I have personally started with computers with a Commodore 64 (the Vic-20 salesmen told me before the C=64 release that I wouldn?t need that a machine with that much RAM/ROM ? 64K!! Luckily I thought bigger was better and waited :-) ) , Amiga 2000, and subsequently PC?s with every flavor of DOS/Windows and Windows (9x & NT) flavor since DOS v5 (including DR-DOS variants).

I have professionally supported and/or programmed on the same, plus Mac?s, Pick, VMS, Unix (SCO & AIX), Netware and Windows Server environments (and possibly other?s I have long forgotten).

I consider myself technically capable and self-sufficient, and in the last 5 years of my career have moved to being more a technology user instead of my historical role in implementation & support. My current role sees me work on ERP (SAP) & business processes for implementation, design and governance.

Currently at home I maintain a Windows Home server, a few laptops (combinations of Windows XP, Vista & 7 beta). I primarily do scripting, music, video, photos and the usual web, email etc stuff at home.

So to the challenge.

I decided to see if I could get myself from being Windows centric for my primary tasks to Linux centric at home. Possibly long-term dumping my Windows Home Server for a Linux server (again ? have run for specific purposes in the past). The plan was to start with the ?easy stuff? (i.e. avoid scripting & CLI focused activities, and just do the application shifts 1st) and move towards heavier customization as time passes.

Step 1. Picking a machine to ?convert?

I had a choice, take my main laptop (a Dell Studio 1535) or take my beta/test machine (an older Dell Inspiron 6400). Whilst using the Studio gave me more grunt to start with (320Gb HDD, 4Gb RAM, T9500 CPU, ATI 4350 GPU), I was thinking that I would potentially need to run a VM and/or WINE on Linux to get everything I wanted, and I classified this as a medium activity ? i.e. not to be done early in the process. Therefore, I settled on starting with the Inspiron and following the 80/20 rule, would move to the Studio when I was more Linux application centric and wanted to get into more customization for my personal stuff.

The Inspiron also gave me the advantage of being a reasonable system hardware level as it had a 80Gb HDD, 1.5GB RAM, T2300 CPU, Intel graphics & NICs ? so compatibility was not going to be a issue I hoped with a common chipset. It would test the general Linux claim of being less resource hungry that Windows.

Step 2. Picking a Distro

In the past I have ?played? with various distro?s before over the years ? be it Mandrake, Red Hat, Ubuntu or one of the other flavors. I even had some of the latest releases laying around having loaded them up for a spin on my beta system (the role the Inspiron typically played).
In the end, and it was a snap decision without being researched, I went for Mandrivo. Why Mandrivo ? historically I had liked Mandrake, I had recently tried Ubuntu and was unimpressed with some usability issues I perceived, plus TR member Neon Samurai seemed pretty up beat towards Mandriva in his prolific posts in some of the recent Linux discussions I had become interest in.

3. Getting started

OK, so last Thursday evening I downloaded Mandriva with KDE 2009.0. Burnt a CD from the ISO image, and booted my Inspiron off the disc. Everything seemed to be detected OK, so I committed to the install, and let it kill by Windows 7 beta, and takeover the whole HDD. After a while, I had a up and running system, that looked good (gotta love the revolving desktops, and rubbery windows as they resize and drag around). After playing about with the interface a bit, I found my 1st problem, the WiFi could not see my WLAN ? in fact, no network was seen ? given I live in a condo is Singapore you typically see a dozen plus listed. No problem, it was getting late so decided to leave that until the weekend, as I would plug it into my network switch as I sorted the problem ? and that is when the story really starts to answer to the questions on usability and stability.

OK ? that?s my story so far ? I?ll post the weekend highlights in a follow-up post ? which will cover the Wifi issue, setting up dual dispolay and loading up some apps and SAMBA.

- What do you think of my self-challenge to become Linux centric?

- What about my pick of Distro?

- Any advice on what I should be looking out for, or looking forward too?

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the wifi, or lack thereof issue

by Jaqui In reply to Linux - The Challenge Tak ...

is not because the drivers do not exist, it is because most wireless cards have proprietary roms, making the distros shy away from including them. the proprietary roms are seen as a potential violation of the GNU-GPL so they do not include them. generally if you use a wired connection and configure the wireless while connected, only the Atheros chipset can cause problems for any distro in getting the wireless connection going. The package needed is madwifi.

as for your questions:
1) good for you, it can be a struggle, but it is a worthwhile one.
2) Mandriva might not be the best for the multimedia tasks you mention. The Mandriva based PCLinuxOS does tend to play better with such tasks. Mandrake Linux, which became Mandriva after their merger with Connectiva Linux, is the ORIGINAL newbie friendly distro, it generally is a good option.
3) the extra apps that will fit your needs will most likely be in their repository, they only really have those GNU-GPL "questionable" apps.

and don't forget, if you do really run into a snap, tagging a question with Linux and Mandriva will make it easier for those of us who are GNU-Linux only to find to try to answer for you.

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Not A lack of Driver Problem

by Matthew S In reply to the wifi, or lack thereof ...


Thanks for the feedback.

I'll get more into the wifi issue next time I get a chance to post a follow-up, but the Wifi card has native Linux drivers (not a ndis wrapper), and was detected and working Ok from a hardware & driver perspective. It did get fixed later when I connected via the wire and received some updates from Mandriva. I could then see all the WLAN's near me, plus connect to my own network on wifi from that point.

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have you visited the hardware list in draketools?

by Neon Samurai In reply to Not A lack of Driver Prob ...

In the draketools (configure my computer), when you open the hardware tool it will automatically scan the system and configure any other hardware it finds. I usually get a few packages installed after the initial install this way for bits of hardware outside of the base install.

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easy-urpmi, definately stop number one after install

by Neon Samurai In reply to the wifi, or lack thereof ...

zarb is a good first stop once you get a network connection.

You can use the draketools to configure general network repositories and disable the DVD package source (disable rather than remove).

PLF repositories are more of a personal choice depending on patent concerns or local laws. DVD and other codecs should be there and waiting of you do add it in though.

You may also consider enabling the backports. I select the enabled check and update check for the backports along with the other primary repositories though I skip the testing repositories; Mandriva is bleeding edge enough without them.

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What functions do you require and what hardware is it on?

by Neon Samurai In reply to Linux - The Challenge Tak ...

I?m glad someone is getting to do this. It remains on my todo list to see about covering all my work needs and someone did this same idea with a server build last year. That discussion seemed to go very well and they returned with updates at major points during the development.

Choosing a distribution is definitely a first step after selecting which hardware is going to be your test bed. I?d also suggest collecting a list of the major functions you need to cover off. Do you require word processing and similar office productivity functions. Is Flash required. Gaming a dealbreaker? Those sorts of functions will be handy to have figured out close to the start rather than thinking in terms of brand names (eg. ?I need a wordprocessor? not ?I need Word?).

If you can post the list of required functions then most here will have recommendations on distributions to look at or programs to select once a distro is chosen.

Even as a snap decision, Mandriva may be the right choice. It tends to be a very under-recognized distribution and one of the first to focus on easy of use and general through to advanced users. Hardware support is great and in the rare case of issue network cards, it?s setup and config tools for using a Windows NIC driver are strait forward. In using it since Mandrake, I?ve only recently found a distro that comes close to replacing it for my needs. The usual suspects all apply for general use though; look at Ubuntu/Kubuntu and PCLinuxOS as major brands with good ease of use.

One note; consider Mandriva 2008.1 as it?s the last version release to use KDE3 by default. Mandriva 2009.0 and 2009.1 default to KDE4 which is maturing quickly but may not be ready for your needs and will require more hardware resources than KDE3 which is nice and light by comparison. ISO for 2008.1 should be available on the same FTP you pulled 2009.0 from. Links can be provided if needed. (Man 2009.1 is due out April 29th though RC versions are available now)

Odd that it wouldn?t see the wireless networks. Assuming it?s not something like the wifi hardware switch being turned off, what is the wireless NIC your using? (now, I?m going to go see if you already answered the wifi question in the last thread)

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Main Software/Functionality Utilized on Windoze Environment

by Matthew S In reply to What functions do you req ...

The main software I use on my Windows system is listed below. Where I may utilize different tools with similar functionality I have placed an astrisk after the primary app as I typically use the other for particular scenarios or functionality.

Thunderbird* (Gmail/IMAP)
Win Live Email (Hotmail access to copy to Gmail via IMAP)
Google Chrome (primarily for application run mode for GMail, Google services & uTorrent WebGUI)
Internet Explorer 8 (runs IBM Lotus Note WebMail & Sametime best for remote work access)
Lotus Notes (for old e-mail - a NSF to mbox conversion would be great)
Google Picassa*
Windows Live Gallery
Microsoft Photo Editor
MP3Tag* (especially the scripting functionality)
Windows Media Player
MS Robocopy*
MS SyncToy* (Novell Build)
MS Office XP
Adobe Reader
Microsoft eReader

I also utilize command line tools in scripts like BGInfo, SFK etc. I know there are lots of utils in Linux avail for similiar functionality (e.g. grep etc)

I typically have at any given time a Nokia cell phone connected to my system for syncing & data exchange - moving data to SyncML with Google, but also use for music conversion & sync (e.g. take MP3 selection to convert to M4A and load to phone via scripting)

I'm big into MP3 (rip, library management & streaming), Photos (digital camera) & AVI (inc. DVD rip and media serving/streaming) at the moment. I manage large libraries of these(1.5TB of data connected to laptop plus 4TB+ of data on Windows Home Server).

Utilize Xbox 360 (media streaming), Apple Airport (mp3 streaming) and iPods (sync) connected to nework also.

Hope that gives you an idea of what I get up to with my systems :-)

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Microsoft versus Linux

by Nigel Fitt In reply to Linux - The Challenge Tak ...

I only use Open Source software on my system.

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