The story of how I found Slackware Linux, or “Once You Go Slack, You Never Go Back”

I’ve told this story to a lot of people who have asked me why I use an old-and-crusty distro like Slackware. I do have some pretty good reasons, and most of them lie in this tale.

A long, long time ago — back in 1999 or so — I had a computer that gave me nothing but trouble. It was one which I had bought from a vendor that did business with my employer then, so I got it for cheap. It was a Pentium 3 450 MHz (slot CPU, not socket!) machine with 256 Mb of RAM and a 10 GB hard drive, in a nice coffee-stain beige tower. When I bought it I also bought a Windows 98se license (and they actually shipped it with the full install media!!!!! Remember back in the days when computer vendors still did that?), and that’s what I set up on it when I got it.

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Ubuntu screenshot time

Just another quick blurb. I’ve uploaded a screenshot of my laptop as it appears now that I’ve tweaked my Ubuntu installation to the way I like it.

I’m more of a KDE 3.5 kind of guy, so I rearrange GNOME to have the main stuff (panels/toolbars whathaveyou) a bit more like I’m used to, but I still like the way this looks so far.

I’m still learning where things are in Ubuntu (well, GNOME, mostly, since that’s the main thing that’s different for me here), but one thing that has struck me is how impressive the speed is. Remember, before this, I was running Slackware 12.0 on this exact same laptop, and I was using Fluxbox as my window manager — not exactly a visually heavy system.

So for me to say that Ubuntu runs pretty snappy on this laptop is saying a lot, and I’m not much of a fan of the bloat in GNOME, so I think that’s significant.

To be fair, I think what this says is how well the Canonical people have their act together at optimizing GNOME for their project. Nice job, guys. Coming from a Slackware guy, I’m here saying that I’m not only impressed with the setup process, but I’m impressed with the performance so far too.

Giving Ubuntu a real try

Just a really quick blurb on my experience with the latest version of Ubuntu last night.

I managed to, over time, break Slackware on my old Toshiba laptop, and since it needed a reload and I just burned an Ubuntu 9.04 disc the other night, I figured I’d install it on my laptop last night.

I’ll write more regarding this process, but I have to say, while I’m much more of a Slackware guy, the installation went really well, and even though the default interface for Ubuntu is GNOME (which I have never liked much), the folks at Canonical have put together a nice package.

Within minutes of having the OS installed and up and running I had Fluxbox installed, Opera installed, root access enabled, and wireless working without any trouble at all.

I’ll be giving this a try for a little while to see how it goes, but so far, so good.

A quick blurb about Notebooks / Netbooks

I’ve been getting really excited about getting a new laptop of some kind. The recent spate of netbooks from various manufacturers has me thinking lately that I don’t really need a full-blown laptop.

All I really do with my laptop is write, email, surf, and the occasional other little thing here and there… but nothing involving too much heavy lifting for the CPU or graphics. I definitely don’t need any kind of top end gaming laptop or anything.

So as a result, why should I spend close to $2000 on my next laptop?

Answer: I shouldn’t.

Netbooks have gotten me riled up lately, not only because as a product they are now beginning to show offerings of lower-end portables that are in the $500 and below pricepoint, but because most of the main netbook sellers also provide Linux of some sort as an option.

So I’ve been watching the developments in the netbook and notebook market eagerly for the past 6 months or so, and it seems like every week something new is popping up that grabs my attention, particularly from Dell.

HP is also making some really interesting moves in this market, but Dell has been going one step further and making low-priced regular notebooks as well.

A different linux blog which I follow regularly recently talked about the Dell Inspiron 15n, which gave me a total doubletake. I’m not looking for a regular 15″ laptop… I’ve been waiting for Dell to offer better options on their 12″ netbooks… but this made me reconsider that.

Even when I pimped it out with 4GB of memory, the top-end processor option and the slim LED display I still came out under $600. Not bad. Looks like the crappy economy is causing at least one company to make some interesting moves in pricing!

Anyway, it’s something I’m watching. Dell is putting more and more on the line by offering Ubuntu on many more of their products, and they’re not just hiding them in the closet or back room anymore like they were. It’s now possible to get Linux on their flagship models, which is saying something.

Since I’m in the market for a new laptop — be it a netbook or a full blown notebook — I’ll be keeping an eye on them in coming months. This is bound to get interesting.