[NBLUG/talk] Request for hardware and distro recommendations

Stephen Cilley hydro_mancer at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 26 18:30:02 PDT 2006

Though you and I are on opposite ends of the age
spectrum of the NBLUG audience, I believe I can
appreciate your point of view well.  About 8 months
ago I didn't know ls for less and in about two weeks
I'll be cohosting the talk, so I really got on the
linux rocketship in a big way.  While I'd certainly
say I'm not anywhere near completely knowledgeable, I
think it's safe to say that I'm a lifer.  I read
everyone's comments and I agree with most of them, but
I thought I'd also share my experience with a couple
of the distroes from a more similar perspective to
your own.
Slackware: I was in junior high when I installed it,
and I managed to physically damage my hard disk.  It's
very hands on, and has no easy package management
system like debs or rpms.  It's all from source, and
each package has to be installed individually (I don't
know if it checks deps.)  If you REALLY want to learn
and want to be forced to learn, this is a good way.
Ubuntu: It was installed on my system at a CPLUG
installfest, and I was impressed.  It's pretty, it's
easy.  It's your mother's operating system if she
doesn't already own a mac.  I've used it on my laptop
ever since I got it back in September of '05.  Easy,
but not obnoxious or obstructive.
Gentoo: It's for speed demons and the slightly
masochistic.  It installs everything from source, like
slackware, but it has a beautifully well done
command-line based package management system.  The
install process is thuroughly informative, it's
probably the number one best learning tool I can think
of.  Their documentation is better than any other I've
seen (though admitedly, that's not much.)
KNOPPIX/DSL: I really only use these when something
goes wrong with a computer (linux install or no.)  I
think of them more as smaller tools with specific
purpouses, but you may find DSL to your liking for
such a weak machine.

Though I have dabbled in other things, those are the
only ones I've really used much, and slackware really
not that much at all.
As for desktop environments:
GNOME: For beginners.  It's really fat, but you could
theoretically never touch the command line while in
GNOME.  I can't really see it working on your setup, I
tried and got too frustrated running it on my laptop
which has 256 M of RAM.  It's just too slow.
KDE: Now, I don't mean to upset anyone, but I can't
use KDE.  It's not that I don't like it, it's just
that, for whatever reason it makes me physically sick
to the stomach, like some old video games.  It's quit
pretty, though, it's got lots of rounded edges and the
like.  Fat, like GNOME, for sure.
fluxbox: deffinately of the three I've used, my
desktop of choice.  It just kind of gets everything
out of the way.  It's relatively light, too.  It does
have a tendency to look kind of clunky, and there's
virtually no way to do much of anything outside of
terminals that isn't simply running a program.  It's
got no bells, and no whistles, so if you want
something you'll have to figure it out on your own.

I think my next project over the summer will be to
make a LFS install for my server, but I've heard it's
really really difficult.

About your hardware, I don't think I'd try to roll out
a desktop environment on less than 1.5 GHz and 1 gig
of RAM, though I realize that I'm kind of picky.  I've
also had a couple of bad experiences trying to fit a
square peg into a round hole in terms of hardware. 
The thing about it is that in linux I'm finding more
and more that I don't really need a desktop all that
much.  With the exception of web browsing, I can do
pretty much everything else I like doing from the
command line, and it's faster and WAY slimmer than
from the desktop, and even with browsing if you don't
mind not looking at the images there are a couple of
options for ncurses based browsers which are actually
not nearly as terrible as they sound.

Ok, I've gone ranting for long enough, I hope this

Good luck,
Stephen Cilley

--- Roger House <rhouse at sonic.net> wrote:

> I have been attending NBLUG meetings fairly
> regularly for some time now
> (and enjoying them immensely, I must say) and I have
> finally decided to
> get serious about Linux.  I have an older machine
> running NT 4.0 which
> I would like to turn into a Linux machine.  I have a
> number of questions:
> 1.  Is it even reasonable to try using this machine
> for Linux?  Some
> facts:
>         x86 Family 6 Model 7 Stepping 3
>         500 Mhz (?)
>         261,492 KB RAM
>         12 GB disk
> 2.  If the answer to question 1 is No, please
> recommend what hardware I
> should buy.  Ideally I would prefer not to spend a
> ton of money, but I
> want to end up with a reasonably useful system.
> 3.  What Linux distro is recommended?
> My primary aim here is to learn Linux and associated
> software from the
> ground up from hands-on experience.  I should say
> that I'm a software
> developer who has been around since punch-card days
> (you know all those
> old greybeards who show up at NBLUG meetings?  I'm
> one of them) so I
> have some technical background.
> Any recommendations or suggestions will be
> appreciated.
> Roger House
> _______________________________________________
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> talk at nblug.org
> http://nblug.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/talk

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