Fighting Windows, fighting Linux

Arf, arf, arf! What a pair of weeks!

I'm sorry I haven't posted lately. Too busy traveling to Sevilla and installing Linux.

The fact is that I have a new computer at home and, of course, I wanted to install Linux on it. That's what I've been doing during some of my spare time these last two weeks. And it has kept me very busy indeed!. I now have a working system. Let me explain the whole nightmare I've been suffering trying to do that, just for you to be aware of this (and, well, for my records so I don't make the same mistakes in the future)...

Windows? No thanks. Where's my money?

This computer was sold with a preinstalled Windows partition on the hard disk. The rest of the hard disk is NTFS formatted, you you're stuck with it. There exists a Windows CD, but you cannot use it if you erase that (hidden) partition on the hard disk. Peculiar. They're selling me a CD that does not work. Or, you can see it this way too, they're selling me a 100Gb hard disk that I cannot fully use.

I don't think this is legal. I know this is legal in Germany. But I don't think it's legal here in Spain. I'll try to contact someone in the European Union since I see this as a direct attack (from Microsoft) to the freedom of choice of operating systems. This is probably a trick from Microsoft to make it difficult for users to install Linux.

Although it seems there're ways to extract that Windows from your hard disk to a CD, I didn't do that. I just formatted the whole hard disk. Within 15 minutes of owning the box. After all I own another Windows CD from a previous computer (that I've definitely installed aftewards on my box). How does that feel, Microsoft? Your tricks are not working with me, guys. You cannot stop me from installing Linux in my box and from installing previous copies of Windows onto my new brand computer (Microsoft is welcome to sue me because of this, of course). I don't mind if Microsoft hides your operating system on a NTFS partition. I think I'll try to sue Microsoft in some European Union place later on.

Linux, going the Microsoft way?

I've posted, a long time ago, about what I think it's one of the main Linux problems: the lack of uniformity, distribution fragmentation and, most worrying, vendor lock-in. Let me explain my experiences with all the different distributions I've tried out.

Mandrake 10.1... where's my CD-ROM?

As a previous Mandrake user I wanted to try to install Mandrake 10.1. That was my first choice. The fact is that Mandrake 10.1 didn't install. It correctly booted from the DVD-ROM but, after booting the kernel, it told me it couldn't find... the DVD-ROM!! I was astonished! I couldn't believe it. Well, I assume this new box is using SATA and Mandrake 10.1 is probably too old to correctly recognize my new box. So I moved onto latest...

Mandriva 2006 RC1: trying to lock me in, guys? No way!

... to the latest Mandriva 2006 RC1. I just burned the CD1 (just to give it a try). Installation was not bad. Anyway they should improve that. I couldn't "go back" to recheck whatever I entered in the previous screens. That's bad from a distribution you're supposed to pay for. Installation should allow you to "go back" and review whatever options you entered. But, anyway, I kept on going with it and installed it on my hard disk. During the installation phase I couldn't add another partitions I had there. So after the install I could only boot Mandrake. That's bad. I couldn't stand it. Mandriva installation should detect automatically whatever other bootable partitions I have there and include them in my "grub" menu for me to choose at boot time. But I could only boot Mandrake. I mean Mandriva. I tried to use the install CD-ROM as a rescue disk to boot another partition but I couldn't. So, to summarize: after installing Mandriva 2006 RC1 I could only boot Mandriva. Trying to lock me in, guys? No way!. I removed Mandriva from my hard disk and decided to try out...

Suse 10 Evaluation Version: But, where're my compilers?

I could get my hands on a Suse 10 evaluation version. Good. I've always heard good things about Suse. And wanted to experiment whatever Novell has been doing with Suse after they adquired it. The installation process was the best one I've ever seen in a Linux distro. I would say it's even better than a Windows installation process. Both for novice and for expert users. I could choose partitions with the mouse. It also detected my other bootable partitions (several other linux distros) and included them in the "grub" menu for me to choose at boot time. Good.

But, to my surprise, the evaluation version didn't include the GCC compiler. I mean, it includes no compilers at all. And I didn't know how to install them. The administration tool (they call it "yast") didn't allow me to choose a C compiler.

So the evaluation finished. Well, of course! How is it I am expected to evaluate a Linux distribution that contains no compilers? Ha! No way, guys. Novell has done a good job in the installation process, but trying to lock me in by giving me no compilers is a bad trick. No way. Suse's evalutation version had to be deleted from my hard disk too.

Slackware 10.2

The very first version of Linux I tried out was Slackware. Once upon a time it was the only Linux distribution on the planet, I think. So I burned a Slackware 10.2 CD-ROM (the first CD out of 5, I think) and booted from it. A text installation was presented to me and, sorry guys, I just removed the CD-ROM. That easy. I didn't even pass the very first screen.

Kubuntu 5.10... and Kubuntu 5.04

So my next try was the recently released Kubuntu 5.10. I burned (just another) CD with it and, well, it hang at boot time. It seems the box contains a brand new sound card that's not fully supported by Linux. (In fact none of the linux distros could make any sound at all). This is an Intel High Definition Audio card (alsa 1.0.10 is including drivers for this card but they're having all sort of problems at the moment). Which is a very good card, by the way.

So since 5.10 didn't work I moved onto my old 5.04. The one I was using. The one I'm running now. The one I'll be using in the future.

So, to summarize

I don't really like wasting time doing Linux installations. But this was a good chance for me to evaluate the status of these different distros. I wanted to know how well they were going. Commercial vendors (Mandriva, Novell) didn't do very well and, from my opinion, wanted to lock-me in their distributions. But, why is this so? Are they becoming Microsoft like? Isn't it ashaming trying to lock-in people into their distributions? Using free software?

And, as a summary, kernel 2.6 is not as sound as I expected it to be. The box keyboard bounces as mad if I plug-in an USB mouse. It seems that bug comes from the new input mechanism they've included in 2.6. So you have to modprobe psmouse rate=40 to solve it. Weird. I know the Linux kernel is growing bigger and bigger, so I assume it's becoming more and more difficult to manage. And I understand it when Linus warns about last-minute check-ins into the kernel. There's a difference between a bazaar and a mess. Well done, Linus.

So, to summarize: Kubuntu won the competition. I like Kubuntu's freedom. It does not try to lock-me in. Full of compilers for me to choose from. I like it being Debian based (to me Debian is probably the most sound, most free, most capable Linu distribution, but it's somewhat slow for my linkings in the GUI area). Kubuntu combines the power of Debian with a nice user interface (and easy installation).

(So, Antonio, please remember: do not ever experiment any more with Linux distros and go straight into the newest Kubuntu release).

OpenSolaris, Kubuntu (and, well, Windows just in case. I'll probably install Windows as a VMWare image in the future, so I can install and reinstall as soon as it gets full of spies and viruses and the like).

Time for two holiday days here in Spain. With a working (silent ;-)) box at my fingertips.

Cheers,
Antonio

Comentarios:

"A text installation was presented to me and, sorry guys, I just removed the CD-ROM. That easy. I didn't even pass the very first screen." I have a similar response, but it's more on the lines of: "You need me to point and click to get this thing installed on my headless server, trashed". A Gui installer is nice, but when I have a single USB port on a server, and just want a OS that I can run as a compute node, why do I need to deal with point and click crap?

Enviado por Paul Greidanus en diciembre 05, 2005 a las 04:28 PM CET #

...still thinking about the Even Bus I hope :)

Enviado por codecraig en diciembre 06, 2005 a las 05:44 AM CET #

Hi Paul,

I understand. I prefer text based installers for servers, too. Solaris, for instance, has both text and GUI installers. Debian has quite powerful text installers. These text installers can handle very weird terminal types. But, for my box, a desktop one, I prefer GUI ones. That easy. I'm sorry I didn't explain myself correctly.

Hi Codegraig,

Yes, I'm still working on that as time permits. I've been trying to access bloglines services using a wireless connection but it seems my JDK has problems with that (a bug!?) so I'll have to use normal networks for accessing the services. I'll post on advances as soon as appropriate.

Cheers (and thanks for your comments),

Antonio

Enviado por Antonio en diciembre 06, 2005 a las 11:26 AM CET #

Talking about bugs in the JDK, have you ever seen one where when running multiple moniters SWING app's run horrible slow, to almost non-responsive, on the secondary monitor, but if you drag it to the primary monitor then back to the secondary the entire GUI will work as expected? This happens with all SWING apps be it like jEdit to personal app's and its been driving me crazy lately!

Perhaps its something besides the JDK doing it? I just find it odd that it only happens if the GUI loads on the secondary monitor and is fixed once dragged to the primary monitor and back to the secondary.

Enviado por Jeffrey Olson en diciembre 08, 2005 a las 09:34 AM CET #

Hi Jeffrey,

I've seen Swing applications running on multiple monitors perfectly well. They had a window that was spanning different monitors \*and\* drawing complex maps in "real time". The customer doing that was using a specific video card for multiple monitors on Windows (an expensive one, I think). On Solaris they decided to run an X11 extension (same as on Linux) that was doing the trick. By using Sun Rays you could set up up to 16 different monitors working on the same session (if I recall correctly).

So I don't think there's a problem with Swing/JDK. Maybe you should try with another video card?

Regarding my problem with the JDK the fact is that the "lo" interface in my linux box was not set up correctly, and was failing. I also removed the IPv6 stack (to make things faster). So it was not a problem with the JDK but with the operating system instead. I can run wireless at top speed now!

Hope it helps,
Antonio

Enviado por Antonio en diciembre 09, 2005 a las 02:01 AM CET #

Yea I thought about that as well, but both machines have NVIDIA Quadro's, one being a Quardo 4 NVS AGP4x 64MB and the other being a Quadro NVS 280 PCI-E 64MB with the latest drivers. Seems weird that a major card company like that would be the issue, but I guess its possible! And I can't change it out because its a work machine and they frown upon doing such things!

Enviado por Jeffrey Olson en diciembre 12, 2005 a las 12:37 PM CET #

Yea the "lo" is the localhost/local loopback interface I believe and if its "borked" then in general networking issues happen! Glad to see you got it working! :)

Enviado por Jeffrey Olson en diciembre 12, 2005 a las 12:46 PM CET #

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