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Review of some Linux installations

By Deadly Ernest ·
G'day humans and others,

OK first off, this is NOT a definitive review of all the Linux systems. I have been looking at what is easy to install and use for the BASIC level END USER that is technically illiterate - you know the type that does not understand why you should not click on the 'Yes' button on every pop-up box they see.

To that end my evaluation criteria have been

1. Ease of install as compared against Windows XP.
2. Ease of post install use for general office activities.
3. Ease of post install use for basic Internet activities, no I have NOT included chat, teleconferencing, or Instant Messaging type stuff.
4. Reasonable security in an out of the box install.
5. Reasonable levels of backwards compatibility with applications and hardware.

NB: This is not a performance comaprison with Windows or a review of system performance, I am simply looking for what some of my clients could use on a basis for them to install and use - they are challenged finding an ON button on many computers.

The system I have used is a Pentium 4, 3 gHz with 3 GB of RAM and a 200 GB SATA drive. This is a 64 bit board and CPU. All software has been loaded on this same machine.

I have not tried every system available due to accessibilty of software problems - downloading ISOs over 28.8 kbps with a 6 hour cut off is NOT an effective way to get software.

The best compatibility with Windows based software and games, for all systems, is obtained by downloading and installing WINE for applications and Cedega for games (this will also run older games from earlier OSs).

Results to date

Mandrake 10 - need tech knowledge to install - about on par with DOS 6 and Win 3.1 re installation skills. OK to use but needs updating. After all, it is 18 months older than the rest of the systems tried.

Free Mandriva 2006, Ubuntu 5.10, Fedora Core 4, Fedora Core 5 - were all OK to install some problems with post installation administration functions, noted later. OK to use. Debian 3.1 I had installation problems with and also tried to install on a P 4 2.4 gHz 32 bit machine as I thought problems may be related to the 64 bit hardware, got a different set of installation problems. Nothing major just annoying - Note, had same sorts of troubles with Win XP on those machines. All had better out of the box security than Windows XP as they included basic firewalls in their packages. They also required establishment of user accounts and opened into user accounts when booted. All were backwards compatible with the older hardware and software that I had on hand.

Recommendations (NB note addition below) to clients who are going to use Linux and only Linux - install Fedora Core 5 or Ubuntu 5.1 and take a little time and trouble to learn the differences between them and the Windows you are used to. I also suggest that they get a tech to install WINE and XINE for them so that they can readily use their older Windows applications and play DVDs. Free Mandriva 2006 and Fedora Core 4 are not quite as good but acceptable. With all installations they recognised my Network Interface Card, video card, and modem, loading the correct drivers. All had to be told what my monitor was and FC 5, U 5.1, & FM 06 all had drivers for it, the rest used generic drivers that worked well.

All came with Open Office, two browsers and two mail clients - usually their own versions with Thunderbird and Firefox.

The only real complaints I have are outside the test criteria and relate to difficulties with dual boot systems. All recognised the Windows installation and set up the boot loader to handle that. However, in each case I could not use the GUI interface admin functions to reset the owner and group permissions of the Windows created partitions or folders to enable me to have full access within the Linux installations, They all enabled read and execute of FAT 32 partitions, with FC 5 and U 5.1 allowing read and execute of NTFS partitions as well. This is an issue for full sharing of files between the OSs.

edited to fix typos and add -- I recently got a copy of SimplyMepis 3.4

It reads FAT32 and NTFS out of the box. It will allow me to copy from NTFS and then reset the permissions on the copy - so it does the sharing that I want. It's easier to use than the rest and the best choice for a non-Linux tech head to use - well that's my opinion after trying it. Full basic user and power user modes.

I'm not sure if this is a 32 bit or a 32/64 bit installation as the magazine indicated 32 bit, but it installed and works perfectly - with both FC5 and Ubuntu I needed to get 64 bit versions to make them work on a 64 bit system.

Yeah, I know, those who like the ones I haven't tried will say their's is better - but I don't have the ability to download and am restricted to what I can get from the magazine covers. I do live near the middle of nowhere, that's only a few miles down the road.

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GUI admin...

by Jaqui In reply to Review of some Linux inst ...

The problem is that you were trying to work it in a windows fashion, not a linux fashion.
the drive you could not write to was mounted so you had no permissions to change anything on it. to alter that you need to change the mount option for the partitions.

working on a folder or file level alteration when the entire partition is blocked will not work.


The simplest means to make the alteration, is to alter the security level, reduce it one step.
this doesn't really increase the risks, it just loosens the security on the windows partitions.
The one thing that may be a stopper on this, if the windows side is run as admin then the files and folders are all owned by root, and only root will be able to make any changes from in linux.

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I am aware of that Jacqui - in both FC 5 and U5.1

by Deadly Ernest In reply to GUI admin...

I could log in as root and unmount or mount drives but if they had been created and formatted in Windows XP I could not change the ownership or group of any file, folder, partition or even permission on them using the disk management tools available in the gui. However, with FC 5, if I logged in as root and switched to a terminal I can change permissions on FAT 32 partitions, folders and files using commands like CHMOD and CHOWN etc.

I have no problems with having to switch to root to undertake these actions, but it is silly that once in root I can not make these changes using the GUI disk and file management tools they provide. In most cases they show the owner and group as root, but still will not let me, as root, change the permission setting - just give me an error saying "Unable to change must be owner or root to change settings." This indicates to me that the root access in the GUI is not a complete root access but a sort of power user level access only.

Mind you, if I created the partition as a FAT 32 one during the installation I can change these permissions easily. And sometimes these partitions are NOT recognised by Win XP. I use the same user ID name in both OSs but the reality is Linux operates them as a numeric not a text ID and converts it while Windows sees it as a text ID - thus they are really two different users.

If they give me a GUI tool to undertake actions, then it should have the full functionality that relates to that sort of admin action; or have a clear statement, when opened, that it has only partial functionality. If I had been less experienced with Linux and not known re command line entries like CHOWN and CHMOD I would have been totally lost. These versions of Linux are being promoted as fully usable without needing command line knowledge and experience for anything short of a major administrator activity like kernel changes. The marketing people claim that they operate "Just like Windows now". Not quite.

What is more frustrating is they are external USB accessed drives and it makes no difference if they are mounted at boot (due to being turned on already) of later turned on, found and mounted.

It is just a bit frustrating, that is all. Thanks for the advice anyway. My aim was to let people know that these OSs can be used in the same manner as people used to install Win 9x, Win 2K, and Win XP for end users without great levels of tech knowledge. And will work in a dual boot situation, just don't let the end user ask it to share files or data between OSs - it requires a Linux knowledgeable tech to set that up.

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you couldn't

by Jaqui In reply to I am aware of that Jacqui ...

change permissions as root on a fat32 partition?
that is wrong, I have never seen that error.
oooh, that's right, fat32 doesn't support file and folder permissions / ownership, that is ntfs with microsoft's partitions.

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The real crazy thing about this is that

by Deadly Ernest In reply to you couldn't

I could access, read, execute and save to FAT 32 partitions when I used Mandrake 10. I can also do all this if I use Linux to create the partitions as FAT 32, but then Windows XP won't read the Linux created FAT 32 partition. Aaahgghgh.

This problem makes it very hard to transfer or share files etc between the two OSs. I am seriously thinking about having to establish a network hard drive or a seperate file server to manage this issue.

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by OnTheRopes In reply to Review of some Linux inst ...

More reading to do now though re: WINE, XINE and Cedega.
I tried the ISO thing and... no joy. Count me out of the BitTorrent scene. I going to use Paypal on Ebay for Fedora Core 5, Free Mandriva 2006 and Suse 10.

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Ok here is a summary

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Appreciated

Is a free application to help you run Windows applications in a Linux environment. There is a commercial spin off called Crossover, link is on the WINE web site.

Is made by some of the people who work on the WINE project but is a comemrcial application and aimed specifically at gamers to allow people to play their Windows based games in a Linux environment - cost is about US$5 or 6 per month, keep keep getting upgrades.

Is a free application to play media like videos and DVDs etc. The ability to play DVDs is not possible in the default Linux installation due to legal reasons. However it is simple to download the relevant files, and instructions from the web site.

Fedora Core 5, Free Mandriva 2006 are available from most newsagents with recent Linux magazines like Linux Format etc. This may be a quicker and cheaper option for you. Also some computer stores sell them as well at reasonable prices.

edited to add re Cedega upgrades.

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Can you use

by NZ_Justice In reply to Ok here is a summary

WINE to run windows based games? they are applications after all. or is there some directx stuff that cedga has and WINE doesn't?

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Some will OK some will have trouble

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Can you use

WINE is designed to act like the basic Windows operating system, while Cedega does most of that and also handles the DirectX stuff. Cedega also is continually working on improving game performance while WINE is working on general app performance - thus a slight divergence in their aims.

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Mepis solves the file problem

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Review of some Linux inst ...

Just got a copy of Mepis at it reads FAT32 and NTFS out of the box. It will allow me to copy from NTFS and then reset the permissions on the copy - so it comes close to the sharing that I want.

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re: Debian

by apotheon In reply to Review of some Linux inst ...

From what I understand, the Testing release of 64 bit Debian is a bit wacky, with some strange package dependencies. There are also some installation issues still for any x86 64 bit OS these days, largely because a bunch of companies aren't yet very forthcoming with 64b drivers. Since Testing is the easiest netinstall release of Debian to find, and you're installing on a 64 bit platform, I tend to guess that might account for some of your problems.

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