The Laptop Renovation Project

At my office, we have a pair of old laptops purchased back in 2003 or 2004, which are terribly slow, woefully underpowered and horribly outdated, but which we still use periodically.  In other words, they made a perfect target for an OS makeover.

Anyone who has run Windows XP on a P4 with 256MB of RAM should be able to appreciate just how sluggish these machines are.  So with my boss’s blessing, I gathered the two machines and tried to breathe some new life into them.

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My thoughts on Ubuntu

This isn’t so much a review, just a rambling discussion on what comes to mind for me about Ubuntu after using it on my laptop for three months or so. I decided against writing a conventional “review” of Ubuntu… seems like there are enough of those, so I don’t see the value of it.

But I do see some value in a rambling discussion on the subject, so here goes.

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The first time I’ve ever been disappointed by Slackware

DISCLAIMER: Be prepared. There is whining ahead. I want to preface this by saying that I’m not interested in having a discussion about why I don’t gush with love over KDE 4, and I’m not particularly interested in suggestions for forcing it to work for me. This post is more about me wrapping my head around planning for how my use of Linux is going to change now that I’m going to have to re-think a lot of things about what has been my favorite Linux distro for years.

Why I’m disappointed

I guess I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, because I knew that Pat Volkerding has been working with my least favorite desktop environment and it’s been in /current for a while now.

But I guess a part of me still was holding out a childish hope that KDE4 was going to be included in /testing only, and that the default version of KDE for the Slackware 13.0 release would be KDE 3.5.10, the last decent release of that desktop environment. Given Patrick’s tendency to play it safe in regular Slackware releases and stick with only stable, fully-developed and thoroughly tested applications and desktop environments, I would have thought that something like KDE 4 — a desktop environment that’s still easily a year’s worth of hard development away from being a suitable replacement for KDE 3 — would be back-burnered in Slackware in favor of what is known to work and work well.

I probably shouldn’t be upset about this; it’s Linux… if I don’t like it, I can just make my own distro, right? If I want to spend the hours and hours it’ll take for that, sure. Well, I’m not to the point of making my own distro yet. But this does mean I’m going to have to significantly change my Linux usage, starting with replacing a bunch of stuff.

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Where and how do I get it?

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.

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What distro?

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.

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