Contemplating Linux

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bill Catherall, Oct 7, 2001.

  1. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    I've stated some of the problems I've been having with my computer here already, but I think I'll do a quick recap. Basically, it randomly freezes. There is no error message and I can't repeat a failure purposefully in an attempt to pin point the cause. I built this computer over a year ago and it seems to be getting progressively unstable. I'm currently using Win98 SE and I'm thinking of going with Linux. (I'd like to upgrade to Win2K, but the cost is prohibitive currently.) My concern is mainly with the compatibility that Linux will have with my current hardware and software. My second concern is the overhead of learning to use Linux.
    Does Linux support USB, DVD, CD-R/RW, ZIP drives? How can I find out if there is current support for my printer, graphics card, scanner, MS Wheel mouse, etc? Will I be able to continue to use Outlook, MS Office, Quicken, and other Windows software? What version of Linux do you recommend? Any particular books that would be helpful to a beginner Linux user? I've always been interested in dabling with Linux, but never had the need to. Now my computer is really driving me crazy and I'd like to make some kind of major change to it with minimal cost. Thanks in advance for any help.
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  2. MichaelPe

    MichaelPe Screenwriter

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    I don't know if I can answer all of your questions, but I'm running Red Hat Linux (latest version) and it definitely supports USB, DVD, CD-R/RW, ZIP drives, wheel mice... etc. You should check HCLs (Hardware Compatibility Lists) for specific support for your hardware. If you own major-brand products, then you shouldn't have a problem.
    You won't be able to run Windows software on Linux, but you could always dual-boot like me. (I'm running Windows 2000 and Linux on the same machine.)
    There are many different flavors of Linux, but if you're a Windows user, then you would most likely be comfortable going with Red Hat with GNOME for its familiar interface.
    But, wanting a crash-proof system should not be your main reason for switching to Linux. If I were you, I'd upgrade to Win2K or XP Pro. Or, if stability is your main concern, go with Windows NT4. [​IMG]
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  3. Iain Lambert

    Iain Lambert Screenwriter

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    Do you have a spare IDE channel? If you're currently used to Windows software, then I would strongly start by dipping your toe on a dual boot machine. I like Mandrake, but beware of the default installation method on any of the distributions; I've lost my Windows boot partition too many times to trust them. Just use a boot floppy for the Linux partition for now; its not quite as elegant, but its simple and safe.
    Linux is very stable in my experience, with the exception of running Unreal Tournament. For some reason that has an amazing ability to crash my machine.
     
  4. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Linux is nice (I run Mandrake 7.2 and am just dabbling with Slackware 8), but be prepared to spend a lot of time on websites looking for information when things go wrong, or when first installing. Linux is a long way from being an easy installation operating system like Windows.
     
  5. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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    Ok, feller, I'm going to give you the single most important piece of computer advice you'll ever get. Then I'm going to leave you with a question.
    Advice: Never ever EVER pick an Operating System to run. Pick the application software you need to run. Then use the appropriate OS. Photoshop? Mac. Office? PC or Mac. Games? PC. Webserver? *BSD or Linux. Overall ease of use, compatibility, and scope? PC.
    If you chose an OS, then try to bend it to your will, you're going to get frustrated and possibly develop a needless block.
    Now a question, and please don't take it insultingly or anything, it's just an honest question. If you can't keep a Windows PC stable and operational, do you really think you'll be able to keep an experimental UNIX platform stable? Follow on questions: are you comfortable mucking around in arcane text files? Do you quail at the mention of things like 'run-time loadable kernel modules' and 'x window video card timings?' Are you willing to kill -9 a daemon that has turned zombie and is sucking up resources?
     
  6. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the replies. To answer a few questions:
    I don't want to dual boot because I'd end up using Windows more often because of the software I use. Doesn't Linux have a Windows emulator?
    I don't want NT4 because it doesn't support USB. I have a USB scanner that I use quite often. Win2K is very attractive, but I'd like to avoid spending over $100 for a fix.
    Yes I do have one more free IDE channel. But again, I'd rather not dual boot. I suppose though a dual boot system will buy time to let me tinker and get a Linux system up and fully operational while maintaining a usable Windows system.
    Shayne, did you just give credit to a PC for "overall ease of use?" **snicker** You ask a good question though. I'm certainly no "hacker" but I don't mind mucking around in text files if I know what I'm doing. I've done it before. I don't start cracking things open and tinkering without some idea of what I'm doing so that if I mess something up I can know how to get back in and fix it. "Run-time loadable kernel modules" and "x window video card timings" are a foreign language to me right now, but what do you expect from an experienced Mac and Windows user? Did you know what they were before you started using any kind of UNIX OS? I'm no dummy and I learn quick. Oh, and in my defense (although I'm not offended) even the most experienced Windows user can't keep Win98 perfectly stable. I have a lot of experience in using and troubleshooting Windows, but if it was all that easy to fix, don't you think Microsoft would have done it by now?
    It's entirely possible that my problem is hardware related. I'm going to look into a new motherboard because the one I have uses VIA chipsets and I've got an AMD processor. I've upgraded the VIA drivers, but it hasn't solved my problem. Again, these problems are relatively new. They didn't show up until after I've installed Microsoft's recommended updates, patches, and service packs. Meanwhile I thought I'd ask around regarding Linux to see how much of a possibility it would be to switch to that OS. It sounds like it may not be a good idea simple because I'd like to keep using all my current Windows software. My wife uses this computer also and can't even fax something without my help, so I'd like to keep it as uncomplicated as possible. A Windows emulator would make it helpful.
    This computer is used primarily for home office tasks and the internet. And just a little game play.
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    Bill [​IMG]
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  7. Iain Lambert

    Iain Lambert Screenwriter

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    Bill, while WINE (the windows emulator) exists, its decidedly nontrivial to get things working with it. If you've got more space for a dual boot installation that would give you the chance to cheaply and reversibly try using Linux to eliminate the OS as the source of the crashes, but it does sound to me like once you know the hardware is ok that your real destination is going to be a cheap copy of 2000. For what its worth, I found I had all sorts of problems with my VIA/AMD setup when I built it, and blamed the OS myself, but once the drivers were sorted the issue turned out to be barely in tolerance memory.
     
  8. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    You don't need an extra IDE channel to dual-boot, you just need to partition your hard drive. My first drive has Win98, 2K Pro, Mandrake and Slackware on there, all selectable from the NT boot loader.
     
  9. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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    Never asked if you knew what they meant, just if hearing all the technical terms made you quail. Obviously not, so go nuts. Same caveats for Linux as for NT, though; make sure your hardware is all supported.
    And yes, I do give ease of use and compatibility to Windows PCs. Speaking as a systems administrator, I've never had a properly built and configured machine, running NT4, Windows 98, ME or 2000 go bad on me. I've had desktops running for weeks, and heavily used servers running things like Exchange and SQL Server running for months between scheduled maintenance (note the term scheduled; computers are like cars. Take care of them, and they'll take care of you. Drive them until the oil light's been on for several months, and you get what you deserve.)
     
  10. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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  11. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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    Well, speaking again as a sysadmin, I've got three things to say. One is valid, two is probably invalid for home users, and three is the big one.
    One: Backups. Backups. Backups? Backups.
    Two: Testing. That, of course, involves having bitch boxes.
    Three: Install only what you need.
    Let me add a fourth; the problem with upgrading your AV app AND your web browser AND a buch of patches is that you can't really trace down what broke your box. :)
    I will give very mad props out to Windows ME for it's 'system restore' feature; if you've got the hard drive, it's sweet.
     
  12. Iain Lambert

    Iain Lambert Screenwriter

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    Oh absolutely. The System Restore feature in ME has saved me more hours than I care to count. I probably still wouldn't have a stable machine if this didn't make testing driver combinations and patches so easy.
     
  13. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Although you said you'd rather not upgrade the OS both XP and 2000 are infinatly more stable then any win9X OS. I'm running XP now and its got all the family friendly features of the 9X series but is as stable as 2000/NT. So far I'm VERY impressed.
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  14. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Actually I'd love to upgrade to Win2K, but I don't have $150 to spend on an upgrade. I'm also a little leery of WinXP. Most reviews so far are not positive and I don't like the registration scheme MS set up for it.
    I do believe I've found the culprit that sent my computer into an unstable mess though...Norton Antivirus. While I was doing the updates a couple weeks ago I also went in and adjusted the detection sensitivity from medium to high. So yesterday I set it back to medium and so far so good. I'll have to run some more tests on it tonight when I go home, but it made it through 4 hours of use last night with no freezing. That's better than before. I hate to celebrate too soon, but I'm pretty confident that I found the solution. (I run on high sensitivity at work with no problems at all. But I'm also using WinNT Workstation at work.)
    I'm still fascinated with Linux though, and will possibly be going dual boot in the very near future. I'd like to just get a second hard drive instead of partitioning my current drive. I have the space (30GB) but I'd rather not risk loosing data. If I find a good cheap drive then I might go for it.
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  15. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Bill, it sounds like a good format-and-reinstall of Windows would sort out most of your current problems. W2K is massively more stable in this respect.
    As for Nortin AV, there's often little need to run the continuous checker (Auto Protect). Just scan all incoming mail, all downloaded files and anything you bring in on floppy or CD. Unless there's something specific you're concerned about, the Auto Protect is really a waste of resources.
     
  16. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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  17. Iain Lambert

    Iain Lambert Screenwriter

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    To be honest, the VIA chipset motherboards are ok really; their problems pretty much cleared up once the drivers matured, in my experience. Slot A died a death, and both AMD and Intel went back to sockets again; the original P2 slot was introduced because they wanted the L2 cache on the processor package, but by the time of the P3 its actually moved back on-die, and the slot was just running up manufacturing costs.
     
  18. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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  19. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Thanks again for the replies. I tested the computer last night and it seems to be a bit more stable. DVD Profiler was crashing on me every time I tried to updated the profiles. But since I changed the detection sensitivity to medium it runs fine now. However, it still froze twice in IE. So I followed Rob's advice and turned off the Autoprotect completely. I'll see how it performs today. I've upgraded the VIA drivers with VIA's "4 in 1" driver upgrade package from their site. Hopefully that will fix any VIA problems, but this doesn't seem to be the issue I'm dealing with.
    When I get Win2K I plan on making 2 partitions and formatting one as NTFS and leave the other for Linux. Is there a MAX partition size for Linux? Does Linux need to format the partition to it's own format, or do I need to format it before hand?
    Can WinXP mount a drive formatted in NTFS? The only reason I ask is because if I network a second computer in the future and that second computer is running WinXP (who knows why, but just in case) will it be able to file share ok? Win98 can't mount a networked NTFS drive can it?
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  20. Iain Lambert

    Iain Lambert Screenwriter

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    Bill, Linux normally uses a couple of partitions, as your swap space goes in its own partition. If you're setting the thing up beforehand, your best bet by far is just to leave the area you plan to put linux in unpartitioned and unformatted, and then sort it out during the installation process. Any installer worth its salt will include partition software.
     

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