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Author Topic: Want to wet my beak with Linux,need suggestions on distro.  (Read 7715 times)
tinyvillager
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« on: October 15, 2005, 02:01:15 PM »

Getting ready to install a large hard drive,and i want to expand my knowledge beyond windows but in the
same breathe need something that wouldn't be to much of a learning curve from the windows environment.
I plan on a distro i can purchase,don't want to download anymore and something under 100 bucks.   
I've used various live distros in the past (let me tell downloading 300mb iso's on dialup that averages 44k is fun!)
 
 I remember buying a version of Mandrake a few years back and it didn't recognize hardly any of my hardware.
Do commercial linux distro's,Mandrake,redhat,recognize hardware better these days,i.e.Radeon 9600 graphics
card,LITEON CD and DVD drives,etc.

 Thank you.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2005, 03:35:57 PM »

Linux tends to be behind the times with hardware, and because it is OpenSource it doesn't seem to matter too much which distro you use.

If you have broadband why not download a few basic distros and try them before deciding?

RedHat is probably the most widely used distro for business and I have tried SUSE with some success.

I tried numerous versions of Mandrake and found there was always a problem getting something installed - usually networking and/or printers.

I can't say any are easy to get working if something doesn't install properly but I had best success with SUSE.

I don't know about other people around here but I have had numerous attempts to use Linux over the years but always find myself back with Windows to run software I want/need that just isn't available for Linux - or only has limited support. I know there are Windows runtime packages for Linux, but to me it seems to defeat the point if you are trying to run Windows software on Linux!!

Also support for NTFS filing system is pretty shonky in most Linux distros (or was last time I looked) and ReiserFS is not supported in Windows so there is little easy cross over of data.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2005, 06:11:04 AM by CarolHaynes » Logged

m_s
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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2005, 03:44:29 PM »

I ran RedHat for about 6 months, and it took quite a lot of tweaking and fiddling about to get everything working just as I wanted.  I really liked it, and once I had it doing exactly what I wanted, it was great.  Then I bought a new laptop, and that shipped with Mandrake, which I was really happy about, but while I was installing it, it didn't recognise the wifi card, and the previous 6 months of tweaking flashed before my eyes, and I'm sorry to say I chickened out - went with XP.  When I go back to Linux at some point in the future (I think I will), I will probably start with Mandriva - which is what Mandrake is now renamed as...  There was a link on betanews.org about their new version a few days back.
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Edvard
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2005, 12:23:31 PM »

Yes, Linux is still behind a few months with the hardware issue, but that is getting better EVERY DAY because more and more people are downloading Linux EVERY DAY and some of them are actually contacting the hardware companies and asking hard questions concerning Linux compatibility. Not to mention standard rants concerning Microsoft's monopolistic practices, etc. etc. (Please let's NOT rant about that ONE MORE TIME?)
Seriously, try Knoppix first. Chances are, if Knoppix recognizes your hardware, most major distros will too. And Knoppix is Debian so if you find you like Knoppix, save yourself from downloading Debian and read up on how to install Knoppix to your hard drive. All the major distros have their pros and cons and fortunately, most are available as 'Live' systems like Knoppix so you can 'test drive' without commitment ('cept for the time to download and burn them all). My personal fave? Slackware and it's live little half-brother Slax. Why? It claims to be the most 'Unix-like' distro which in my experience means a very no-frills distro that actually works on most points (I've never had networking NOT work on a slack machine) and is ready for whatever 'customization' I throw at it because the developers are actually concerned with how it works than with how it looks. Seems like a lot of distros get caught up making pretty gui's for everything and end up breaking stuff (In My Humble Opinion...). Not that I am a command line junkie, but many of the standard tools included with most distros are just fine the way they are in all their CLI glory. Go ahead, dive in, the water may be chilly at first but you'll get used to it.
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« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2005, 02:54:46 AM »

Edvard, downloading Slax now. Thanks for the heads up!

Was thinking of trying Linux and didn't realize how many variations there were! Slax looks like a solid little OS and I can fit it on my USB drive! cheesy
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Martin
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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2005, 03:09:25 AM »

I recommend Debian purely for the reason that it has been my long running favourite in command line mode hehe!

On another note, Gentoo has an excellent package system called Portage that can make installing software so much easier....

Just my 2 cents.

Martin
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2005, 04:34:58 AM »

If you just want to experiment with Linux there are a number of distros that will run from CD (just to give a feel) and don't need any installing (or hard disc space). Not sure how they work, but presumably they create some sort of virtual disc to act as a Swap File and Temporary storage area.

This is slightly out of date now but here is a quote from Fred Langa's newsletter (the tinyurl link still works by the way):

Quote
Wow! Tons And Tons Of Free Small/No-Footprint Linux CDs!
Many other readers also are interested in zero-footprint or small-footprint Linux distributions. For example:

Hi Fred, about CD-Bootable Linux--- you may be interested to check this  http://directory.google.c...ux/Distributions/Live_CD/ (or http://tinyurl.com/9qyr )  See, DMOZ / Google directory has a whole section about CD-Bootable Linux Distros ! Cheers, MLL

Anybody mention U/WIN? http://www.research.att.com/sw/tools/uwin/  I use it daily under Win2KPro and have found it to be stable and relatively complete, I've had one shell window open continuously for nearly 2 months, running a Perl server monitor script with NO problems. Oh - Not running ANY "Winders" apps - just the U/WIN shell and Perl script. Bill Powell

Fred, In the item "A Way To Install Linux Inside Windows" in your latest Langalist, you stated that PhatLinux might be the easiest way to try Linux without partitioning, etc. I have used an easier solution on and off for years. "Linux4Win," a feature of Mandrake Linux ( http://www.mandrakelinux.com ), allows a user to run Linux on their Windows system without creating any sort of partition at all. In fact, when installed, there is a "Run Linux4Win" icon on the user's desktop that allows them to "boot" into Linux straight from their Windows environment. Thought you might be interested! More info available online (i.e. Google).--- John Anderson

To add to your latest article on Linux Distro's... Suse'  ( http://www.suse.com/ ) also has "Run from CD" Versions of it's latest versions of linux available from their web site... Ran Flawless on an older AMD 300Mhz Aptiva with 256MB memory, and a ThinkPad A20 Cel 600... Thanks and enjoy, Eric

For those readers who are curious and would like to give Linux a try, but are maybe hesitant or just don't quite yet want to worry about partitioning yet, they can try Peanut Linux. It installs as a 'directory' in a windows OS, and all one has to do, is boot their system like normal, and then just click on it in the menu to run it. No partitioning is involved at all, the download is about 340MB IIRR (which might take a while with dial-up, but it's worth it IMHO. Or if they have a friend with Cable or DSL, it can be burned onto a CD), and when installed uses less than 1GB (800MB is more correct, but you'll want to think about any apps or games or what-have-you as  later downloads to try, etc). It's actually what I did about 4 years ago, because I was 'curious' and was looking for an alternative to Windows because I was tiring of the 'troubles' Windows was always giving (and other reasons), and it was what made me switch over completely to Linux. Anyway, all the info about it and the download can be found here http://www.ibiblio.org/peanut/ , just navigate to the 'how-to' section for instructions on installation.--- John Berger

Hi fred, 2 things I wanted to let you know... 1) Read your piece about knoppix. Yep, knoppix is great stuff. But there is another (not so known) distro alot like it and it is also great. HPA's SuperRescue 2.1.x: http://www.kernel.org/pub/dist/superrescue/v2/  Created by H. Peter Anvin, you know, the same guy that created the great syslinux and isolinux bootstrap loaders. It is based on redhad 7.x (initrd based on RedHat 6.x). Looks a lot like knoppix. The main difference is that it does not use bios "floppy emulation" so the kernel size is not limited to the maximum emulated floppy size (2.88mb). This is what makes isolinux great Check the readme file for more information. http://www.kernel.org/pub...ist/superrescue/v2/README  --Bart Lagerweij

Thanks to all who wrote in! It's going to be fun to try these out!

BTW, the "SuperRescue" disk that Bart mentions shows a nice sense of geeky humor. The author calls his creation, "The most overfeatured rescue disk ever created--- Bloatware at its finest!" <g>

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tinyvillager
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« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2005, 06:27:15 AM »

Thanks for response,
My enthusiasm strayed a little after my upgrades.I got so locked into hardware issues and Windows customizing
the ideal kind of took a back seat,i sincerely appreciate your help though.I've toyed with live distros but i'd like
to commit.But the thougts of dual booting seems scary.I just need to buckle down and really do some homework
on it.When Microsoft starts bleeding into it's next OS,Vista i believe,i'd like to go a different direction even if it means going to a mac.
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Rover
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2005, 12:13:31 AM »

When Microsoft starts bleeding into it's next OS,Vista i believe,i'd like to go a different direction even if it means going to a mac.
Just curious, why is Vista putting you over the edge?  I'm mean heck, MS is starting to get the hang of OS/2* programming so XP is pretty stable these days.  Heck they even act like they're starting to think about taking security seriously.   ohmy



* Fer you kids too young to remeber, back in the late 80's MS & IBM teamed up to create OS/2.  When the broke up in the early 90's both had rights to the kernel.  Up until Win2K, you could still see references to OS/2 in the environment variables. 
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2005, 06:11:32 AM »

Dual booting works fine with most distros I have tried, hell I have even had it dual-dual booting ... (Linux Grub loads at start up and offers Linux and Windows, and if you choose Windows it goes to my multi boot windows).

The only real issue is getting rid of Grub (or other loaders) if you want to drop Linux. If you use Windows 2000 or XP this is done by running the recovery environment from the install CD and using the command FIXBOOT, for Windows 9x/ME you use the Windows rescue floppy and run FDISK /MBR

There are two other approaches you can use to dual boot:

1) Let Windows Boot.ini handle the dual boot (ie. just add the Linux boot to your windows startup). This is a bit fiddly to do but not impossible.

2) Use a boot manager to install Linux (something like BootIT) and then use that Boot manager to handle your multiboot system.

The only reason I have dumped Linux at the moment is it has totally crap support for wireless networks. In particular an awful lot of common hardware simply doesn't have native drivers. OK there are various wrappers you can play and tinker with so that you use Windows drivers in Linux, but given that Windows wireless drivers are notoriously temperamental in Windows I dread to think what the troubleshooting would be like in Linux.

Once decent wireless support is forthcoming (without the need for a Masters Degree in Wireless Technology to configure it) I will install Linux again - until then it is sitting in its box.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2005, 06:15:39 AM by CarolHaynes » Logged

on-disk
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2005, 03:10:51 PM »

Hi guys, thought I would stick my nose in this one too. 

Through the On-Disk.com Developers Portal, I have gotten to know more than my share of Linux distros and the guys that have created them. 

I would agree, that if you're looking to test the waters, I would go with a liveOS. 

One thing I won't agree to is Linux Distros being behind the times with hardware detection.  I think something like PCLinuxOS would knock your socks off with ease of use, and advanced hardware detection.  Not to mention it is a live OS and will run from a CD, but it can also be installed as a full blooded, stand alone OS.

~Karlie
Owner, Webpath Technologies
BTW, I can send you a CD with any Linux OS you want if you're still intrested, I have a lot of linux at On-disk.com. http://on-disk.com/index.php/cPath/28
You don't have to download it. 
« Last Edit: December 02, 2005, 03:22:57 PM by on-disk » Logged
Carol Haynes
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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2005, 05:49:11 PM »

Reading around the Linux forums I have yet to find a native Linux driver that will support Linksys Speedbooster 54g cards - which are not exactly uncommon hardware.

Without native support for networking you can't connect to the outside world: ergo Linux is pretty well dead fro me until this sorted out.

The only solution I have found is wrappers for Windows drivers - and these give a less than ideal solution as far as I am concerned.

The other thing is I have used 4 different distros so far and have yet to find one that will properly support any of the 4 different common printers I have used (Lexmark and Canon). They have all been supported to some extent but none of the finer features are ever available.

USB device support is also pretty hit and miss ... I have yet to find a driver for any of the three scanners I have used.

Not that its an issue for me but dial-up modem drivers are pretty hit and miss too. If you happen to have a bog standard external, self-powered modem you are probably going to get it to work. If you have a USB, PCI or Reiser modem forget it (unless you are extremely luck).
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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2005, 03:18:15 AM »

Just for OS fans who loved SUSE (I'm one of those) and don't want to give money, take a look at www.opensuse.org . Stable release at September 2006. You can add yourshelf at announce maillist too. Its a SUSE full release, for free. smiley
Regards! Giorgos. Cool
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on-disk
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« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2005, 09:28:06 AM »

With your hardware issues, look for udev (http://www.kernel.org/pub.../kernel/hotplug/udev.html)  to be getting a lot more attention in the coming Linux releases.  PCLinuxOS has been using it since last year... hence the knock your socks off  comment in my previous post. 

In short, udev replaces the current devfs.  It will create drivers on the fly... even for the above mentioned cards and USB equipment. 

And in reality, if you are going to compare Windows to Linux, hardware detection on Linux is a lot more native than on anything MS has ever put out.  Don't get confused by a hardware manufacture making a driver available and the ones that are native to the OS. 

Besides, Linux and BSD has always been more like an Erector set.  There have always been a lot more pieces with a Linux OS than there have been with Windows.  You just need to know what you have in mind before you start building... All the parts are there, you just need to put them together. 

~Karlie
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« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2005, 11:28:36 AM »

I second the nomination for PCLinuxOS.  I tried the liveCD deal, loved it immediately.  Installed it toHD and still love it.  The only caveat(if that's the right word)  is I needed a hardwired nic card to initially get the synaptic manager to download the madwifi drivers and kernel sources in order to get my wireless card working. Other than that it installed with ease,and is very easy to navigate and configure.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2005, 11:49:20 AM »

Quote
In short, udev replaces the current devfs.  It will create drivers on the fly... even for the above mentioned cards and USB equipment.

I'm not sure I understand this. I went to the udev site and as usual with any Linux documentation it is totally unitelligible geekspeak ...

Why does every piece of documentation about Linux assume that you already understand everything else about Linux and use such inpenetrable language. This is one of the things that has really put me off over the years.

I'm sorry, maybe I am expecting too much but I expect an OS to install by putting in a CD and clicking go. I tehn expect to be able to at least connect to the internet without having to try and configure everything manually with 1001 obscurely named shell commands - each with about 400 options of ever increasing complexity.

I am willing to learn - but you don't expect a brain surgeon to learn by cutting open someone's head and having a quick tinker to see what happens.

The distros I have tried in the past are:

Corel (Debian) - never got past booting up, and after months of wranglingw ith Corel they eventually gave me a refund.

Red Hat, Mandrake, SUSE - I have at least got these up and running when I had a normal modem dial up (after I realised I had to buy an external V90 modem). Most things worked OK but there was always some hardware that wouldn't and there are no drivers available. Now I am using wireless I haven't got any of them working at all.

I spent hours trying to work out how to get wireless networking to work (one computer + router for now) and have yet to find a reasonable solution. Lots of manufacturers simply aren't interested in making drivers for Linux or MacOS (smae thing now anyway).

I love the idea that "udev will create drivers on the fly" but how is this possible. Even it is possible surely any piece of kit you own is only going to function in its most basic mode as there isn't an automatic way possible than can hook up to advanced features.

Honestly, I am willing to be convinced, but you aren't quite there yet for me ...
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on-disk
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« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2005, 12:29:06 PM »

Quote
I am willing to learn - but you don't expect a brain surgeon to learn by cutting open someone's head and having a quick tinker to see what happens. 

Well we're lucky that Linux doesn't have the consequences of cutting open someone's head. 

But that is the reason I think We would find common ground within a Live Linux OS.  There is absolutely nothing that would cause catastrophic failure.  Nothing is installed and nothing can be changed from the CDROM.  Go a head and tinker... See what happens. - lol. 

Quote
Honestly, I am willing to be convinced, but you aren't quite there yet for me ...

Ya know, I wouldn't really want to convince anyone of anything.  I really believe that the best discoveries are personal.  You may try PCLOS, or another LiveOS and have better luck, or not.  You'll know it when you come across it.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2005, 12:34:51 PM by on-disk » Logged
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