YaK:: WebLog #535 Topic : 2006-05-18 07.49.24 matt : switching my linux distro [Changes]   [Calendar]   [Search]   [Index]   [PhotoTags]   
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switching my linux distro

I've been using gentoo for a couple years now on my laptop (a Dell Inspiron 600m), and while I'm not incredibly unhappy other than things mentioned in previous posts, I think I should try some other distros. Today, I tried KUbuntu 6.0 Flight 7 (http://kubuntu.org), SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 beta 10 (aka SLED10 -- acquired privately), and Fedora Core 5 (http://fedora.redhat.com).

Since I was going to uproot things, I also decided to squeeze my Windows partition (formatted as NTFS) down to the bare minimum. These days I only boot into Windows to use Adobe Audition (see previous post) or to make use of my external VGA port. As such, it seemed silly that the Windows partition was taking up more than half of my drive space since I don't use it much. As such, I started freeing up disk space in windows -- uninstalling application I don't use, defragmenting things, turning off the page file, disabling hibernation, clearing out the browser cache(s), etc, etc. At the end, I have freed up 8GB of space, and the defragmentation had pushed most of the allocated space to the beginning of the drive. Now I need to resize -- how do I do that?

I was so happy to find a tool called ntfsresize (http://www.linux-ntfs.org), which just worked. No fuss, no muss. It was a floorwax and a dessert topping. I just wish ntfsdefrag was for real -- then I wouldn't have had to boot into Windows nearly as much. I just donated $100 to the linux-ntfs project, hopefully it allows more linux distros to make installers that can do this manual stuff easier.

I then tried to use fdisk to shrink the actual partition. You see, ntfsresize resizes the file system, but doesn't shrink the actual partition the file system is in. What I learned is that fdisk is not the tool to use to do this -- it is very error prone. So much so, in fact, that I fucked up and almost lost my NTFS partition. I printed the parition information, deleted the partition, then recreated it with the original information. It didn't work. Thank the lard for parted. parted even had an option to recover a "lost" partition. That worked, I was able to boot back into Windows and then back into Linux with no problem. phew.

With plenty of free disk space in which to play, I could now start experimenting with distros. Let's start with the stillborn: Fedora Core 5. FC5 wouldn't even go into it's graphical installer on my laptop. I have no idea why -- every other distro worked, including Gentoo 2004.1 which I installed on here in... 2004. Way to go letting the community do all the QA for you, Redhat!

The next worst was SLED 10 beta 10. Besides the fact it ignored me when I told it I wanted to install/use KDE instead of Gnome, something that was worked in every SuSe I've installed since around 1998. In addition, the installer complained about package conflict after package conflict, especially when I tried to install mono. I'm told if I did an upgrade from SLED 9, I wouldn't have these troubles. Oh well. It did finally install, after ignoring many package dependency complains and unselecting many packages manually. It booted into a very low resolution desktop that looked like it was made for someone who was visually impaired. If it had decent text to speech and speech recognition (like Microsoft has been promising since Windows/Office XP), then it would be great and commendable. My guess is that this isn't the case. One thing I did notice and appreciate was the standby/suspend laptop options were very visible and appeared to work. This feature is the main thing missing from my gentoo 2004.1 OS that I currently run.

Last, but not least, I tried KUbuntu 6.0 flight 7. I only tried the LiveCD -- I didn't actually install it. This worked the best out of all of them, but still had some issues that held me up from installing it. The two most notable ones were: 1) It was damn near impossible to get my NTFS drive mounted so I could see if my gay porn and mp3s would play in the media player (Kaffine); 2) The gay porn mpegs played fine, but without sound; the mp3s wouldn't play sound either -- even though the system bell was playing through the sound card.

None of these distros were able to use my wireless card OOTB. It's a Broadcom chipset, the one Dell uses in all their TrueMobile wireless products. When I tried Xandros 3.0 while my mom was here last (I gave her a new desktop since my Dad's was in the throes of death), it had very easy options for loading up Windows drivers for the Wireless USB device we had.

I guess I'll try gentoo 2006.x next and see how that goes. KUbuntu is so close -- maybe I should see how quickly they respond to my bugs/feedback.

Any other suggestions? (And don't see OpenBSD.)

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