Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Linux Wants to be Your Friend (Part I)

What do you do when the Vista computer at work, which already runs painfully slow due to the underpowered computer it was forced on, becomes so choked with viruses it is virtually unusable? Well, you install Linux on it, of course. The problem? You (in this case me, but meh, pronouns...) are pretty good with Linux, and the people sharing this computer haven't even heard of Linux. What distro do you use?

The fun thing about this is it gives me a chance to field test a few Linux distros for usability, and see how each one stacks up again the other. My first choice was <a href="http://www.debian.org/">Debian</a>, which, in hindsight, was an awful idea.

Pros of Debian as a "common user" system:

1) It is incredibly easy to set up. The net install takes maybe a half hour, just due to all the file downloads. If you have a fast connection it takes even less time.

2) Just installing the "core" components gives you a fantastic Gnome desktop right away (this may seem like an obvious point, but I've installed more than one distro that requires you to install xorg on your own, or do xorg configuration, and so on).

3) It has a shnazzy update system, as well as the always-excellent package management system.


1) Debian's staunch adherence to F/OSS, while admirable, is the main source of many headaches. Flash was easy enough to get working, but I never got the JRE to work right (many applets just displayed a frustratingly cryptic "Error Loading" message), and I don't think there's any chance I'll ever get Firefox 3 installed on there. Yes, Iceweasel is technically Firefox, but it is still the old version and this is still unendingly frustrating.

2) Their dedication to having a solid platform is fantastic for servers, but especially when it comes to web browsers, being even a few months behind is too much. New Flash plugins are released all the time, and sometimes software, such as Firefox 3 as I mentioned above, is important enough that I want it installed and running right away. However, an outdated system makes everything that much harder to get running (GTK libraries aren't up to date, and didn't want to get up to date, so I was left Firefox-less), and leads to a lot of extra work I don't feel like I should have to do, especially when it's a computer I hardly use more than a few hours out of an entire month.

The next distro on my list to try will be <a href="http://www.linuxmint.com/index.php">Linux Mint</a>. I'm burning the boot disk tonight; the excitement is palpable. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, but it's supposed to have all media plugins installed already...I'm anxious to give it a try and see how easily it is to install and use. Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!

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