Recently, like a lot of geeky type folks, I was warily taking part in the Windows 7 beta. I cleared a 30 GB partition for this on my primary System hard Drive and happily dual booted for a while. After a good while evaluating it, and deciding that I really liked what I was seeing, I decided to get rid of the Beta and see what other mischief I could get into.
This was about about 8:30 Tuesday Evening and I was presented two basic options at this point:
1. I could resize my Vista partition back to the full drive and find some other way to amuse myself or
2. I could try out a Linux OS.
Not realizing the horrors that await, I decided to see what all the kids were talking about and try out Linux. I went and check out the various versions at distros (which is hip Linux slang for “Distributions” which the rest of the world calls “Versions,”) at DistroWatch and downloaded the latest stable Ubuntu and began.
Let me begin my horror story-critique by telling you all that I began my computing life back on DOS and earlier command based systems. I understand these systems decently well, even though it’s been a while since I’ve used them, and this brings me to my first and largest complaint about Linux in ALL of its distros …
It’s not 1995. Leave the command line for emergencies. I should not have to use a command line terminal to do the most basic of tasks, like driver installation. I update my drivers all the time and like to make sure I’m always using the latest stable drivers I can get my hands on. It seems like every aspect of using and installing Linux needs command line access through a terminal interface. And the commands can’t just be through my regular user, but through the uber-powerful “Root” user. This adds an extra string to the command or requires that I open terminals or system functions through a different manner than just fucking clicking on them.
It’s 2009, people. I should be able to accomplish the vast, overwhelming majority of system functions with some clicks and a few scattered keystrokes. The only typing I should have to enter are user names and passwords. Until Linux leaves its Unix, command-driven roots behind, they will never be more than the OS for small pre-programmed devices like routers and the like. Windows and Macintosh have both shown that the computer can be used by anyone, all you have to do is know where to click. Linux seems like a step back. And yes, I know Mac was first…. I can give credit where credit is due.
At Any Rate, let’s see how each of the distros I tried fared individually.
Latest release: 8.10
My First choice. Most popular by hits at Distrowatch.com and there is a great support community. It installed quickly; popped right up at boot. I dug the look. I set up my normal static IP
address and was online in seconds. Unfortunately, I had to do this every reboot from this point forward since this latest *stable* release doesn’t save static IP Settings… no, I’m not kidding. Online guides I followed to hack my way around this failing resulted in disabling the Ethernet all together. Yes I followed them correctly. The online community is great; very vocal and always willing to come up with a solution that may or may not work.
I tried to install the latest nVidia Linux drivers. I have to tell the program I want the program how I want it to be run first. then I have to essentially leave Linux to a pure command prompt, and type in three excessive commands:
1. to stop some system service called X Server since the driver can’t install with it running
2. to install the driver
3. restart the X Server
This resulted in a garbled low-res image of a menu that told me my drivers were incorrect and led me in a menu circle of, “This driver doesn’t work, try another. Would you like to use different drivers or use a default?” I tried to default to some pre-installed drivers a version behind, these loaded initially, and after a reboot resulted in another low resolution garbled screen.
At this point (4:30AM) the system became unusable. This led me to go to bed… with a headache. On Wednesday morning I tried…
Latest Version 11.1
Never installed. Started to, but then screen went black and stayed black despite me waiting for as long as 30 minutes. The hard drive light flicked occasionally but nothing more. I moved (relatively) quickly to…
Latest Version 10
This also never installed, though apparently it’s because it never finishes the partitioning process. I’ll be kind and assume this is because I’m trying to Dual boot with Vista which is known for being a bit picky.
I stopped here, as I found out that the failed Fedora installation screwed up the GRUB boot loader and my computer was no longer booting properly. I rebuilt all of the boot files with the windows bootloader and regions and did what I should have done at 8:30 Tuesday Evening: I expanded my Vista partition and went looking for something else to do.
Three installations, three failures.
Oh, I know what’s next: “There’s something wrong with your hardware,” or “You’re a moron.” No, there isn’t and no I’m not. This is all on hardware I know is in great condition and working perfectly. Heck nearly all of it is new and not so bleeding-edge new that it’s unsupported. It’s just new enough to be good but stable and well supported. It’s all been burned-in and tested and retested when I installed the motherboard.
Let’s not forget that I also use this computer every day without fail and I haven’t had crash on since the new motherboard has been installed, some 3 months ago. I’ve been building and loading PCs since they were little more than a hobby piece.
The one possible issue I see with my hardware, according to the Linux devotees, is that my P45 motherboard chipset could be the culprit. Apparently there are a few issues between P45 and Linux. This board, however, is one of the more widely popular Intel Motherboards and the Linux programmers should be more aware of that. After all, everyone’s most hated OS ever, Windows Vista, works like a charm on it.
It wasn’t all bad. Based on the Ubuntu install and the couple Live CDs I tried at least this much is true: Linux is impressive looking. It has a very slick look and lots of eye candy, if you want it, without much of a noticeable system slow down, either. Ubuntu loaded like a bullet. Fedora was very fast once it loaded from the LiveCD. It seems secure as heck, especially since you essentially can’t do anything without root access at the terminal. I’ll also be fair here and note that I was trying to dual boot these distros. Not all OSes behave well when it comes to dual booting. It is possible this and this alone is responsible for the problems I ran into, at least with openSUSE and Fedora.
You know, I remember the uproar when Windows Vista’s User Access control was a lot more prominent. Mac even made ads attacking it. Hell I hated it and to this day it’s disabled on this PC. Someone should have given these people Linux. Linux, from what I can see, is the triumph of security over usability. The upside, though is that with the massive amount of effort to accomplish the simplest of functions, it’s pretty hard for the end user to screw it up. Linux is on the cusp of being something really awesome, though. They’ve got the look, and the tech is great behind a bunch of it, now they just need to get someone to tell them that actual people will need to use it and show them what a mouse is.
I’ll take a look at it again in a year or so whenever they get past using the command line to do something as simple as install drivers. As far as my experience goes, however, I took the road less travelled… and based on my experiences; I can now see why no one takes it. It’s a road to a hell. This wasn’t even a new, different hell, but a hell I remember from before 1995.