Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Linux Adventures

I needed to reload my laptop as the Vista installation was becoming a
little heavy handed - and it was using up all but 1.5GB of the partition
it was installed on. The Windows partition was, in my opinion, big
enough to use as a system partition - between system restore (easily
fixed) and WinSxS - which irreversibly enlarged the Windows directory to
over 35GB!
I then decided I would give Linux a go... Excitingly there are like
20-30 linux distributions to choose from. To simplify things there are a
few main (parent) distributions that most of the others are based on -
Redhat, Debian, Gentoo, Suse, etc.
I have tried the Redhat based Fedora Core and the Debian based Ubuntu
before, without much joy. I thought I'd give the new FC 12 a go (maybe
things have changed since FC 8), but nothing seemed to work - WIFI,
Audio, etc. Everything seemed to be an uphill battle so I just gave up.
Next I purchased a Linux enthusiast magazine that had a DVD that
contained a few lightweight "Live CD" distributions. One of these was
Antix, based on Mepis, which is based on Debian. I was pretty skeptical
about it initially, but thought I'd give it a go anyway. Amazingly
EVERYTHING seemed to work out of the box - unlike FC :-)
This is more like it.

I had a couple of objectives in mind:

1. Simple Wireless networking. Works out the box!
2. A usable GUI - the default is a lightweight window manager called
IceWM. Pretty basic, but functional. I opted to upgrade this to KDE 4.
3. Need to access SMB shares on the NAS. A bit of prodding and A for Away.
4. Need to print to the Brother printer attached to my main Windows 7
5. Not completely comfortable with being totally without Windows - I
wanted a way to run Windows on the laptop if I needed to. Dual booting
is a pain - so decided to install VirtualBox, then installed XP into the
VM. Very Good.
6. I already use Thunderbird with Lightning backed onto my Gmail account
for Email & Calender and RSS functions. IceDove a re-branded Thunderbird
works a treat - Lightning and Google Calendar extensions work fine.
7. Firefox is the browser of choice as I'm not a fan of the Konqueror
browser. IceWeasel is the re-branded version. I also like the Chrome
browser - there is a Linux beta available. I'll give that a go.
8. For an Office package - I've opted to give the OpenOffice Suite a go
- seems to be mature, stable and compatible. I could install MS Office
onto the XP VM if I really need it.

All in all I'm the happiest that ever I've been with Linux on the desktop.

Honestly it did take a few days of fiddling around and head banging to
get everything up and running, but all came good in the end.

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