Thursday, February 8, 2007


So after seeing some videos of the nifty new Beryl desktop for Linux, I thought I'd give it a try. I'd never used Linux before, but every computer geek I know seems to swear by it. After talking to my friend Austin, I downloaded Knoppix and gave it a try.

Knoppix was cool, though I couldn't get Beryl to run on my laptop since no one makes 3D Acceleration drivers for my crappy little SiS graphics chipset. So I brought it in to work and gave it a try on my more powerful machine here. Success! I played with the cool 3D Desktop stuff for a bit, but running an OS off a CD isn't really designed for speed and it was hanging up a lot. The multiple desktops mapped on a 3D cube was really cool, but would have been more useful at home where I don't have dual monitors.

Since I'd found Linux somewhat interesting I decided to dual-boot Ubuntu with my XP on my laptop. I backed up my files, but restructuring my partitions was pretty nerve-wracking. I didn't want to have to reinstall everything if I screwed this up. But I got it all working fine and now my laptop dual-boots XP and Ubuntu.

One thing I can say about Linux is that in no way is it user-friendly. Really, all these people giving out Linux CDs in front of Microsoft events are deluded. For ease of use, Windows wins that battle hands down. Almost everything works in Windows automatically, with Linux I have to customize it all myself just to make the graphics cards and the wireless cards work the way they're supposed to. No way in the world the casual computer user will ever convert to Linux until more processes are automated. Even the "Human-minded" Ubuntu takes a serious investment of time to get running properly. Honestly, I've spent most of my time trying to get Linux configured how I need it to run and haven't actually done any work on the machine.

So I spent the better part of a day trying to see if there was a way to trick my crappy laptop into running 3D Acceleration, only to fail miserably. At the end of the day I couldn't even run glxinfo without the machine crashing. So I decided to install it on my desktop HP computer at home that has a much better graphics card, even though it's a bit older. I got it all installed last night and it looks like I'll be able to install Beryl, but I had to go to sleep before I could do it.

This morning my wife complained to me that my laptop is running really slowly and froze on the screen saver. I checked it and it was being pretty sluggish. I wonder if I took too much disk space away from the Windows partition. I'll probably uninstall if from my laptop for now until I get the desktop version working. If I end up using Linux all the time after I've got it where I want it, maybe I'll re-install.

All in all, for me the jury's still out on Linux. Check with me in a week or two and we'll see if I really like it or not.


Kevin Flowers (and_in_this_corner) said...

Good story, I hope you stick with it. Here's mine:
I must say that the first time I installed a Linux distribution (Xandros I think) It didn't stay on there very long at all. I didn't understand how to get my various devices working as I had always just popped in a CD and clicked next (next, I agree, next, next, etc).

After going through a few distros I wound up with Ubuntu 6.06 x86_64. Finally a 64-bit operating system I could use, except that like in windows, there are no applications written for 64-bit. I would have had to install a bunch of 32 bit apps or chroot the drivers and plugins into a 32-bit jail.

After a couple of months I re-installed with 32-bit Ubuntu. Much better, more things worked. But I still didn't have as much functionality as my power user XP install.

It took me a while to figure out that my best resources were the forums and the repositories. I had a problem, I would search for it on the forum, amongst the threads would be the answer for me, I'd follow the thread and fix my problem (usually).

There were a couple user written scripts that I found that helped me greatly in getting a full system. For Ubuntu they were Automatix2 and EasyUbuntu. Through these I got 3D acceleration, fonts, useful applications, common plugins, and more.

Also, xorg7 has aiglx built in which makes getting composite window managers to work much much easier. Ubuntu 6.10 uses xorg7.

Chris Pasley said...

I'll have to look up the Automatix2 and EasyUbuntu scripts. They seem handy. I think I'll like Linux, it's just that I'd like to be able to use the thing instead of spending hours fiddling with settings.