When I first started using Linux, I used Red Hat and Mandrake, both of which booted into a graphical environment by default.
One of the first things I noticed about Slackware when I first installed it was the fact that it booted into a command line only interface by default. From there, I had to log in, and if I wanted a GUI, I had to type “startx” and then it’d start X-windows and go into whatever my default window manager was.
I remember being a little confused about this at first; it wasn’t a problem, but I knew there had to be a way to change that. I figured I’d write up a brief few paragraphs on that subject, since I ended up having to dig around the web some at first to figure that out.
In the wars between GNOME and KDE (which now has even split between the two factions warring over KDE4 and KDE3.5), some of the other environments get lost in the shuffle and are often forgotten about.
One which I think is underappreciated is Fluxbox. Based on the original Blackbox 0.61.1 code, Fluxbox is a blindingly fast, simplistic approach to providing a graphical user environment while staying out of one’s way. Easy to use, easy on resources, and easy on the eyes, Fluxbox is an elegant choice that is often overlooked when the options are weighed between other graphical environments on Linux machines.
I started using Fluxbox when I was on some extremely quarrelsome hardware and needed something with a lot less going on than GNOME or KDE so that I could more effectively troubleshoot it. What I found out was that Fluxbox had an extremely tweakable interface… and I like things I can tweak and customize. I also discovered that it ran extremely fast on the limited hardware I had at the time, something else that KDE and GNOME didn’t have.
Intrigued, I stuck with it for a while and over time I learned a few good hacks that I thought I would share with the three or four readers I’ve acquired here.
Everybody’s got an opinion, and I’m no different. After reading Trent’s piece yesterday, I thought I’d add my two cents as my partitioning scheme is quite complex (though I can think of several ways to make it worse). For newbies, some of this is unlikely something to try, but you might want to read anyway to get an idea of what can be done.
For starters, I have 1GB of physical RAM, and 4GB of swap space split over two drives. I have two 120GB drives that I use for my primary system that are split into 8 partitions (and a logical ninth). Most of these partitions mirror (RAID-1) each other so that if one drive fails, the other maintains the system until I can replace it. You may note that the swaps are not mirrored, but both swaps and the md08 array are encrypted. Like Trent, I intended a dual boot with Windows, so the first partition on sda is NTFS. (Of course, I haven’t actually had a Windows OS on that partition in about two years, but it’s nice to know I have it if I find a game that won’t play nice in Wine.) Also note that /boot is a mirrored partition, which keeps the data safe, but upon bootup the boot loader (LILO/GRUB) accesses only one of the two drives (i.e., sda3, not md3).
One Linux topic on which everybody seems to have an opinion is partitioning. “What’s the best way to partition my system?” newbies ask, and if they do so in a public Linux forum frequented by experienced penguin techies, they are bound to get at least a dozen answers, many of them completely different from each other.
So what is the best way? Simple. Whichever way you find works best for you.
When I first started out with Linux, I didn’t know either, and I did a lot of reading on the subject, and as a result I created a partitioning scheme that works best for me, and that’s still more or less what I stick with.
With my recent Ubuntu installation I didn’t do any manual partitioning, mostly because for one, I wasn’t planning on dual-booting that laptop with anything else, and for another, I wanted to accept the defaults so that I could see what Ubuntu does on its own.
However, when I’m setting up a Slackware machine, I have a method that I follow.
One word of caution. If you’re setting up your partitions presumably to hold a Linux installation, write down what you’re designating what (i.e., “hda1 = Windows”, “hda5 = swap”, “hda7 = root”, et al) so that you have it to refer to when you’re installing later. Nothing quite like coming to the point in the install where it asks you “where do you want to mount your home directory?” and you don’t remember which partition you created with /home in mind.
Been there, done that.
So you made a choice of which distro to try, now what?
Sounds like a simple question, but it does come up, even for the more technical folks. “I want to give Linux a try, but I have no idea where to get it, or how.”
When I started out in the Linux world, I didn’t know either. So I’ll help you out with that.
Let’s just suppose for a minute that you took my advice in last week’s post and went with one of the two simple options I suggested, depending on your needs. Good! That narrows down where you have to look to get what you need.
Of course, if you decided to go with some other distro, a great centralized location to start with is Linux.com. From there you can get to most of the major distros’ websites, and from those you can easily find places from which to download whatever you need to your heart’s content.
But let’s go back to the two from last week’s “Which Distro?” post. Slackware and Ubuntu.
Every technology writer who talks about Linux eventually babbles about distros and “which one is right for you”. The problem with these kinds of articles is the simple fact that a technology writer, even a really good one, can’t possibly know what’s going to work best for you. He or she can only generalize and make an educated guess at it, like “If you like to do X, Y, and Z, and you’re about this technical, you should probably be using this distro”.
Which is pretty close to what I’m about to do here, so bear with me if you’ve heard it all before. I’m going to try to avoid some of the typical buzzwords and glitter, however, and just bring it down to brass tacks.