linux - a second report

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linux - a second report

#1 Post by lazarus » Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:59 am

On a previous forum I reported back on initial experiences of Linux as kindly given to me in a Mandrake distro ( see - geeky in-terms already :smt003 ) by Gio. I've moved on a bit further since then, and so for the benefit of anyone on the board who might be contemplating using Linux here is the second and final report.

Before I start I ought to say that my IT skills are limited to knowing what alt-control-delete does, and being able to set up an e mail account. In other words, much the same level as most people out there. So this is very much an idiots guide.

I suppose there must be something called Linux but in practise you get it in the form of distros - versions of Linux with different flavours for want of a better way of putting it. They are all free (important to a Yorkshireman) and can either be downloaded or obtained as a CD. Gio gave me a Mandrake version, but whilst that is no doubt a very good one or Gio wouldnt have had it, I swapped to the Ubuntu version since my daughters geeky partner uses that one and could in theory give me some practical help. I should have known better - why is it that IT people who work in big companies so often know sod all about PC's?

Installing from the Ubuntu CD is easy. Stick it in the drive and switch on - the PC loads its operating system from the CD and then sits there asking whether you want to install permanently. Double click on the installl button and away you go. But take care - Linux has to have its own bit of the HDD and it has to be in a format alien to Windows. So it either has to re-format the whole disk and you lose everything that is on the disk inc Windows, or you have to partition the disk pushing the windows into one bit of it and then re-formatting the remainder. So before you even start the whole exercise you need to defrag and to make sure you have enough (say 20GB spare space on the HDD allowing some extra work space for the Windows that is to remain. The partitioning tool on the Ubuntu CD does this process well but only in one direction - it will convert windows area to linux but not back again so dont do what I did. Leave enough for Bill gates - be mean with Linux to start.

The rest of the installation is easy and you soon find yourself with an operating Linux system. Lots of standard type applications are included in the distro allowing you to browse, spreadsheets, videos , mp3 player etc, and the system should pick up the peripherals such as printers. But not always and this is when the differences start to appear.

In my case Linux did not pick up my Sagem USB modem. My daughters boyfriend spent a weekend solving this problem with Mandrake but I had to do it all over again with Ubuntu. Twice, since I had no sooner solved the problem the first time and downloaded system updates than the updates killed the modem again Grrrr! The modem installation involved downloading drivers from the modem makers site, removing the old drivers and re-installing the new. But it was not plug and play - instead I had to open a terminal and type in instructions like "cp" for copy and "rm" for remove. As an example " sudo rm /lib/modules/2.6.15-26-386/drivers/usb/atm/usbatm.ko" to remove the atbm.ko file from the drivers directory. Bit like DOS was if anyone remembers that system. Easy for geeks and not that difficult once you know the cinventions and can begin to understand what you are doing. There's lots of help on the net telling you how to do it, though usually written by people who assume a basic level of knowledge.

Took me 2 days to get it right because I had to learn commands as I went along, but in the end you could have heard my yell of triumph all the way to Cardiff. And I have to admit a fair degree of satisfaction at finally succeeding.

Since then I've used the Linux quite a bit, and when it can do a task it seems to do it as well as Windows. Sometimes better. But the experience with the modem is not unusual. Linux is a co-operative non commercial development and it is in no ways as user friendly for the non geeky as windows. So when it doesnt work or you cant immediately get a function in the way you want, sorting it out can take ages and involve a lot of learning and frustration. The one big hurdle of course is that many non mainstream programs (for example marine chart plotters that I use for teaching navigation) are only available in windows format and the emulators (programs that allow windows software to run under Linux) are far from 100%. So getting a windows application to work in Linux can easily be more trouble than its worth.

In the real world you have to have both operating systems on your PC. And since XP is now pretty sound / problem free, you have to ask yourself why bother with Linux? Apart from thumbing a nose at Bill Gates ( I would have said the Americans but most Linux versions are American) what other reason is there? Fun, I suppose if you are bored on cold winter nights and have that sort of mind. If you just want to do normal domestic computer chores, dont bother.

P>S> Ayone here can tell me how to get rid of Linux from my lappy (I'll keep it on the PC) and revert the disk space to windows format without unloading windows and its associated programs?

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#2 Post by Gio » Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:17 pm

I tried Ubuntu, didn't like it, far worse IMO than Microcrap.

Was a few years ago mind, so it could only get better :smt005
I hate it when people ask if you have a bathroom, I want to say "No we pee in the garden"

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