Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Adventures in O.S.susses

Anybody who read the comments associated with my last post (probably nobody) will already know that I've been having computer issues. In case you're not inclined to go back and read it, here's what's happening. My hard drive has been complaining and begging me to run scan disc with a surface scan for about a month or two now. I did that some time ago and after about 5 days at 50% progress, I gave up, backed up what I wanted to keep and just decided to ignore its pleas.

A couple of days after finally getting DSL installed, I sat down at the computer to try to burn a copy of the most recent Ubuntu Linux Live CD which I had downloaded the previous day. Unfortunately, the computer hung up while booting. What to do? What to do? I remembered the Ubuntu Live CD that I recently downloaded at work and burned to a CD. It wasn't the latest release, but neither was the Windows '98 that was installed to the hard drive. I dug out the CD and within 10 minutes I was up and running. No Hard Drive, just a plain old CD whizzing and swooshing away. It saved me a lot of trouble.

I can't call this a permanent solution, really, though. I suppose it was intended to give people a feel for what it's like running a nice, lightweight and user friendly distribution of Linux. I'll be honest, the whole idea of manually editing configuration files makes me bite my nails. Fortunately, there was none of that. When it starts up, there are a few options to choose from. I found out which one works for me by trial and error. Beyond that everything just works. The GUI is quite easy to navigate, and the programs, the ones I've used anyway, will be familiar enough for any experienced computer user to comfortably get rolling.

Not everything is wonderful, though. The main problem is the fact that it does run from a CD. this seems to make it a bit of a memory hog. To browse the web with my 128MB, I have learned that it's necessary to turn the amount of cache waaaaaaay down, otherwise everything slows to a crawl rather quickly. This, of course must be done every time I start up the computer, because after all, there's no place to save that configuration. It's a little like the movie "Groundhog's Day" in that I find myself going through the same few actions every time I start the computer, learning what works as I go, starting from a blank slate every time. There also seems to be a problem with plugins such as flash, shockwave etc. I assume, however, that these issues are due to potential licensing issues of including them in the CD. Most likely, those issues would all be resolved by installing a fresh copy of Ubuntu on a functional hard drive. At any rate, I don't think I'll be installing Windows '98 when I get around to replacing that hard drive. I really recommend Ubuntu Live (or another "live" distribution) to anyone considering dabbling in Linux.


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