Linux – why?

You know if you’ve been working in PC’s for as long as I have that a MAJOR slice of the cost of a new computer is in the software.

 That $1400 PC that you bought at your local Box store is pretty neat, but if you do without the “go faster blue lighted name plate” (that is why it’s there right? To make the whole thing go faster?), you could build almost the EXACT same PC for $400, and actually get to choose the components that you want, and the colors that you desire.

 I was IN one of those box stores the other day, buying a vacuum of all things, when I found myself staring at the software aisle. I say staring because I could NOT believe that in order to obtain a legitimate copy of  Microsoft slates releases, Windows Vista and Office Pro 2007 you would need to spend over $1000USD and that’s before TAXE’S

 What’s worse, and most folks don’t understand, or pay attention to, this part, is that by LAW (at least the legal wording you agree to when you install it, you are LIMITED to taking that GRAND worth of software and load and use them on exactly ONE pc in your house.

 Worse yet, if you ever decide to SELL that PC you either have to DELETE those applications off the hard drive, or leave them installed and then give the original licenses and keys to whomever buys the computer.

And heaven help you should you actually perform a major (or in some cases minor) hardware upgrade, you have to call Microsoft BACK and have a new key generated for your package, or your PC will eventually get to the point that it wont boot at ALL!

It was when this LAST little piece of security code was placed in the OS that I decided that once and for all, it was time to look for a better alternative.

SO I went off in search of a better alternative. Now I have been working on PC’s since the TS1000 with its whopping 2K of ram, so I’m no dummy, but I certainly am no longer a master coder. Like many folks I have become fairly comfortable with certain “standards”, and although I fought it for a LONG time, I’m much more comfortable w/ a GUI than the CLI.

That being said, in my opinion Mac’s are almost as bad, except in the reverse market. With a MAC 90% of the cost comes down to proprietary hardware, which in my opinion is WAY overpriced.

 So other than going BACK to my Coleco Adam (which I STILL have), I’d have to look at the Open Source alternatives.

 Now don’t get me wrong I have been using DOS and other products from Microsoft for many years, and before they moved into Windows (an idea that THEY stole from SUN/Solaris) I just resent the idea that they want me to PAY HUNDREDS of dollars in software, I’m ALSO required to be a Beta Tester.

 Now don’t get me wrong, through connections in College I was actually signed up as a Beta Tester for Win95. I (and many other folks) reported that the Midi Implementation was wrong, and here we are 17 years later, and it’s STILL not working 100%

 So I looked around a LOT and found Linux, now I had a room mate in college who LOVED slackware, and its 29 floppies. I mean here was an entirely FREE OS with applications, and the ONLY cost was the media used to store and install it. Of course this is also the SAME room mate who had a Vax 11/750 under his bed, as a file server/house heater. At that time he spent more time recompiling his Kernel than actually using the system. He bought a new printer? Recompile, new monitor? Recompile.

 So I searched and installed and USED, and even paid for quite a few distributions of Linux. Two things kept popping up:

1)      I LIKE the KDE desktop Window Manager. To me Gnome looks too much like a MAC, and we’ve discussed that already.

2)      No matter HOW many distro’s I’ve tried I KEEP coming back to Mandriva!

a.       I first started with Mandrake 7.1 and have tried almost everything SINCE then.

 However my ONE gripe with Linux came, mostly at the expense of my not knowing enough ABOUT the OS, its applications and the way things worked. I have spent HUNDREDS of $ on books and thousands of hours on line, and yet when things crash (and they usually do) I’m STUCK, having lost ALL my data and worse all the time invested in getting things right the way I wanted.

 Then I found MCNL ( ) and its associated pages and KNEW that I had a way out! For a while I just used MCNL as my desktop and just reasserted it whenever I needed to change something. This seemed IDEAL. After all I had a system that could fit on a USB key (if needed), as well as install in my HD, and yet, by remastering the disk whenever a change was made, I had a 100% reliable BACKUP of everything I needed. WOOOOHOOOOO!

 So NOW, if things went south (as they do), I’d just pop the cd in and away we went, back to square one!

 For a long time the author of that said that she didn’t recommend using it like this, and I finally figured out why. In an effort to slim the OS down so that it would fit on a cd and even a small USB stick, she removed a LOT of the things that make Mandriva a great desktop OS. HOWEVER, she was kind enough to include basic instructions on how to create a similar system from any HD installed version of Mandriva.

 So after about a month of trial and errors I got it all figured out, and after helping a friend in Sweden perform the same function on HIS system I realized that the instructions were NOT designed for the beginner. SO Here I have documented EVERYTHING that I did, and I will also include the individual alternate files, so that you will have everything YOU need right there in front of you when you start!

 WARNING: Please understand that this has only been verified on systems running Mandriva Spring 2007.1

So if you need instructions for an earlier version, I can’t help you, for a LATER version, check back here later, and I’ll see what I can do.

 So please before you start, install a somewhat pared down version of 2007.1, which can be found HERE:

And actually they have several versions BACK, and will also post several versions FORWARD as well!

By a slimmed down version, I don’t mean straight to the CLI, but I DO encourage you to leave things like games, Openoffice and Firefox out until you KNOW you have a standard working setup. Once everything works I THEN would suggest you install one by one until you’re fixed, The reason I suggest one on one is that you’ll NEVER guess what may or may not break things (Rosegarden for example) until it DOES, then you have to back out!

Once you have THAT slimmed down version installed on your hard drive you can grab my instruction sheet from HERE .

Now if that looks long and complicated, or just long and wordy, you’re right on BOTH counts. If you don’t do EVERYTHING exactly the right way, you WILL make a lot of coasters. As for the wordy part, I prefer it to be on a 3rd graders level, so that even folks whose native tongue ISNT English might be able to get it!

Once you have the docs downloaded and printed, there are certain files that you REALLY are going to want to get RIGHT!

Currently several of those files are being hosted on privately held webservers, even though the information is available through GPL license, so I have bundled them all up HERE for you. I’ve tried to keep the file names and paths as consistent as I could without getting too complicated.

 Now I’ve got all these files loaded on a small 256MB USB key that I carry JUST for these occasions!

 Again, the way I use this is I remaster this after I add any application or after any major changes. For me the cost of a few DVDR/W’s is well worth the safety of knowing that if anything happens all I have to do is throw the DVD in hit reset and reinstall over the top!

 This does bring up one final point, these scripts are somewhat fragile, so if you can, please test things out after you add anything  or make any changes. It took over a week for a friend of mine to realize that SOMETHING in Rosegarden4 STOPPED the ability for the scripts to remaster a new DVD. All we did was uninstall that one application, and all was well with the world!

Suggestions? Ideas? Jerome@THEHESS.ORG