Friday, March 30, 2007

dell and Linux

Dell selling desktop / laptop systems to U.S. consumers may be like Nixon going to China.

Dell has been a strong supporter of the Wintel architecture and most thoght it very unlikely that it would be the first major pc seller to offer Linux systems to U.S buyers, but it seems that this is what is going to take place soon.

There has been some speculation about if Dell could make money on this - especially because of support costs. If Dell goes with a major Linux supplier such as Novel, Redhat, Linspire, or Ubuntu, then it can use the support infrastructure that each of these firms has in place now. Dell would have to factor in the cost of such support into their final price, but even so, Dell should be able to put together an atractive package for the consumer since each of these distributions comes with a strong set of applications.

I believe there are several million Linux users in the U.S. [about 3% of the market] and Linux is now a main stream operating system. I am a typical Linux user and I would seriously consider a Dell lapton with Linux installed if the hardware was Linux certified and pre-installed. I would not have to fight configuration and driver issues and I would also get support. This would be worth the $40 - $50 Microsoft tax. Since I don't use Windows, The M.S. tax is just a wast of money to me, but it would be worth Linux support and certification.

If Dell can work out a way to make money on selling Linux systems, then it will not be long before the other major players (e.g. H.P., Acers, Gateway, etc.) also start offering similar systems. This could put a real dent into Microsoft'smarket dominance.

Monday, March 26, 2007

feisty fawn - xubuntu bug report

On Saturday I downloaded Feisty Fawn Xubuntu and tried it as a live cd. Everything worked well except for the sound. It has a very clean look and the new utilities look neat.

I tried a few things to get the sound working but I couldn't get it to work. I looked on the ubuntu forum and found that others had had the same problem and a few had found solutions. I went to the bug reporting page in launchpad and posted a bug report. This was in the evening and by the next morning I got a response asking for more information, with a pointer to a web page that told me how to get the debugging information needed. I rebooted the live cd and got the requested information and added it to the bug report. I then down loaded ubuntu feisty fawn and had the same problem (thus it is not a problem only with xfce - xubuntu).

Trying out release candidates and providing the developers with information on problems is part of being a member of the community and making contributions to the community's efforts. The processes of filing bug reports is not difficult and is fairly well documented, but the first time is a bit more effort than one would expect. The 'hardest' part is to collect debugging information because it varies with the type of problem encountered. Over all though, if I am going to be reliant on ubuntu, the least I can do is to report problems as I find them.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My Linux distro history

I started using Linux in October 2006 after having read E. Raymond's book 'The Cathedral and The Bazaar'. I started with Mandrake 7.0 (on sale at Best Buy). It was OK and I upgraded when the next release became available. I found that Mandrake was not as stable as I wanted and there were not many books available so eventually I switched to Red Hat and stayed with it for several years.

When Red Hat pulled out of the consumer market I switched to Fedora and this worked fine for me.
As time went by, I became concerned about the increasingly large memory foot print that Fedora was taking since my main computer had a max of 256 meg of main memory. I did try other distros such as Knoppix and Puppy Linux on spare computers I had, but since I was not having any problems with Fedora, I stuck with it.

In 2006 I got a Toshiba laptop and started looking for a distro that would work well with it. The Fedora hardware detection was not too good so I tried some other distros.

Knoppix worked well but the process for updating was a bit hazy. Puppy Linux worked very well but was a bit sparse for my tasts. Vector Linux worked really well, but since it is Slackware based it is a bit ouside of the mainsteam. I then tried Simply Mepis (pre its switch to being Ubuntu based) and it worked really well also. With all of these distros I had to use ndiswrapper to get my wifi card working - not a hard thing to do but a bit of a pain.

I then tried Ubuntu (dapper Drake ) and it detected all my hardware, set up my wifi card and worked without a flaw - I was hooked. I had been a KDE user from the start so I installed KDE (i.e. made of it into Kubuntu). Because of all the commentary on GNOME, I gave it a try for a while, but I found it buggy compared to KDE. A few months ago I decided to try XFCE because of an article I had read and I really liked it as a desktop manager. It is much more light weight than KDE or GNOME and requires only 128 meg v.s. the 256 meg KDE and GNOME need. It does not have all the wiz-bang features that GNOME and KDE have, bu has everything I need or want. Since I have KDE and GNOME also installed (as well as Windows XP - dual boot) I can run my favorite GNOME and KDE programs such as korganizer), but I like the simplicity of XFCE.

If I were asked to recommend a Linux distro I would recommend:
1) UBUNTU - easiest to work with. Debian based with good support and a first rate repository system. There are good books and a lot of on line information.
2 Mepis or Vector Linux work nearly as well as UBUNTU and should be given a try.
3) Freespire/linspire - good multi-media support but a bit sluggish.
4 Knoppix - easy to install and maintain. Everyone should have a copy of Knoppix to use as a rescue disk. It's the 'gold standard' of Live cd's and has great hardware detection.
5) Puppy Linux for older, under powered machines. Has a good set of desktop, personal productivity software and a very active community.

Friday, March 23, 2007

ubuntu backports

Twice in the past wo weeks I have had a problem with backports in ubuntu. I am using edgy and I assume the backports are comming from fiesty.

The latest problem occurred when I updated democracytv and got conflicts involving python2.5. I reinstalled the prior version and all was well. Reinstalling the prior version was a snap with apt. I could have 'pinned' democracytv to that version, but instead I just commented out the backport entry in /etc/apt/sources.list. Since I am going to upgrade to fiesty fawn when it goes into production status I really have no nee for backports and they seem to be source of problems for me.