Archive for May, 2007

Damn Small Linux 3.3 Review

May 23, 2007

First a bit of Blog news: I haven’t been keeping up with the blog too much lately as i have with most of the blogs i’ve started 😦 I’m gonna try to update it more. Also, i said in my last post that i would be reviewing either Ubuntu or Fedora Core next…I’m not (apparently from the title). I was told that a new version of FC is coming out soon and Ubuntu’s been giving me a few problems lately so the jury’s still out a bit on that. All this having been said, onto the review of Damn Small 3.3.

Damn Small Linux (which i’ll be abbreviating DSL from here on) is a distro designed to be very lightweight and able to run on “ancient” hardware…that being a Pentium 1 200MhZ with 32MB of RAM. It also runs great if you need a very small, light distro for something on current hardware as it has many current programs and you can install quite a few more. DSL uses a customized version of the 2.4.26 linux kernel, Xvesa for a lightweight X Server (xorg, XFree86) and Fluxbox for a light window manager. It also has it’s own proprietary MyDSL package manager and it can use apt if you choose to enable it so you can install any number of packages. It can also be installed to a flash drive or your hard drive.
Pros:
1. Very lightweight distro.
2. supports some levels of package management even when running it from the LiveCD.
3. gives you a full linux environment with a GUI in less than 50MB
Cons:
1. Not the easiest distro to get a hang of.
2. Out-of-date packages and kernel (at least 2-3 years old).
3. No support for newer hardware unless you install the kernel modules yourself.
4. Not great to use as a full-time desktop OS.

If you want a distro that you can run and have work reasonably well on a computer from the mid-late 90’s, choose DSL, if you want a distro that you can run on your current system and run as a desktop OS, pick Debian or Ubuntu…DSL’s not really for you. All in all, DSL is pretty great if you know your way around linux and know what is and isn’t supported in the 2.4.26 kernel, but if you’re new to Linux, DSL’s not for you.

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Debian Etch (4.0) Review

May 19, 2007

I thought i should do a review of quite possibly my FAVORITE linux distro, Debian…note this might be a little bit biased, here we go:

I’ve been using Debian for close to a year now and more specifically Etch for about 7-8 months. I’m not going to discuss the differences between Etch and Sarge (old stable) because it’s currently somewhat difficult to find Sarge and as i said Etch is the current stable and if you’re running Sarge, it’s worth the upgrade. Unlike most distros, selecting the full CD/DVD set for Debian is not a good idea. The best option is to use the netinstall which installs a base system from the CD and downloads all the other packages from the internet, but make sure your network card works (no wifi support in the installer). In Etch, the installer is new in the fact that it has a GUI instead of a ncurses interface, i wasn’t a big fan of this as it provided less information than the old installer, but for new Debian users, it’s probably a good idea. Unlike Gentoo in my previous review, the installer asks you a bunch of questions, installs your system and if you selected to have a GUI, you reboot right into Gnome. At this point, when you get dropped into Gnome, it will feel a lot like Ubuntu, and it is as Ubuntu is based off of Debian, but in many ways it’s different as Debian doesn’t have wizards and GUI’s for everything, you have to do many things by hand and you learn a lot about linux. If you want things to just work after installing your OS and not having to really tinker with it for a few minutes to get things to work, Debian is not for you. If you want a OS that’s very stable, quite powerful, customizable and has great package managment, Debian might be for you.
Pros:
1. Debian is fast, stable and customizable.
2. Debian has Apt which is great package managment.
3. It’s a reasonably easy to use distro and you learn more about linux than you do with some other distros (such as SuSe, Fedora Core, Ubuntu, etc).
4. Debian is one of the oldest distros out there.
5. Debian is great for a server OS and on that note, you have the option to NOT install the GUI if you don’t want it.
Cons:
1. Debian is a little harder to use than some distros (see list on #3 above).
2. The Debian community is not as big as the Ubuntu community or some others.
3. On the same note as #1, you have to do a lot of things manually.
4. Debian is not updated very often (in stable at least) as all the packages are VERY thoroughly tested (The last debian release before Etch in April 2007 was Sarge way back in June 2005).

Hope you enjoyed this, and enjoy using Debian if you choose it. I’m planning on doing either a review of Ubuntu 7.04 or Fedora Core 6 next.

Gentoo Linux Review

May 14, 2007

Here’s my (not so) short review of Gentoo Linux:

I installed Gentoo Linux about 2 weeks ago from the 2006.1 minimal install CD (about a week before 2007.0 came out). The install was different from what i was used to and what all of you are probably used to as you boot a liveCD and all it does is drop you at a commandline, no Gui/X, no ncurses (command-line GUI thing), just straight commandline, you have to use fdisk and the mk2fs commands to partition and format your drive. Then you download a “Stage3 Tarball” which is basically the base system of your new installation (the ls, cd, su, etc commands and other essential stuff) which is precompiled (i’ll explain why this makes a difference in a bit), you then download and install the Portage tree which gives you your package management (sorta like apt in Debian/Ubuntu)> Then you chroot into your installation which basically moves you from the livecd to your installation. Then you emerge (gentoo’s pacakge manager) your kernel and compile it. depending on how you choose to do this it could be very easy or very complicated. The first time i compiled my kernel by manually selecting my options, i had most things working…but i didn’t have sound, so when there was a kernel update, i had gentoo auto-config my kernel. Then you run a few miscellaneous commands to setup users, cflags, use flags, timezones, systemlog, grub (bootloader), a cron maintainer, and that’s about it. With that, you’ve pretty much got a full Gentoo install, but all you have is commandline…If you want gnome or KDE, you can emerge them, and i would recommend you do, they however WILL take a long time to install. Probably between 5-10 hours depending on the speed of your system.
Now, you’re probably wondering: “i run Ubuntu/Debian/insert-other-distro-here, why should i spend all this time and work to install Gentoo”
Well…There are a few answers to this question:
1. Because in using/installing Gentoo you learn A LOT about Linux.
2. Gentoo is VERY, VERY fast, for me, i get to a login screen about 10-20 seconds after boot (after selecting Gentoo in grub), Gnome opens instantly after i enter my password to login and firefox opens instantly when i click on it…Debian/Ubuntu are not even close to that fast.
3. Because Gentoo is very customizable because of the USE flags, for example, if you’re installing VLC and there’s a feature you don’t want or need, you can simply tell it to leave that feature out to keep VLC small and fast. If you want the feature in the future, you can always add it as a USE flag later and reinstall VLC.
4. Gentoo compiles EVERYTHING from scratch. This is good because Ubuntu packages might be built on a dual 3GhZ Xeon server, but they’re not optimized for your 1.4GhZ Pentium M. This is where Gentoo is great. It compiles everything for your hardware which makes it rather custom and damn good in my opinion.
5. Gentoo has BLEEDING EDGE packages. Yesterday Wine 0.9.37 came out…that same day, it was in portage (gentoo’s packagemanager). Very few other distros are nearly that fast about pushing packages out.
6. The community is great and really helpful on the forums, irc, etc.
7. The newest or unstable packages are what’s called masked so you really can’t bork your system with a bad package.
Now, that’s almost all the good stuff about Gentoo, there are 1 or 2 bad things though:
1. Packages take a long time to install. Wine may take 30 seconds to 5 minutes to install on Ubuntu…it could take up to 1-2 hours on Gentoo.
2. There is a handbook to help you install, but you do need to have at least semi-decent knowledge of Linux command-line.
3. Because of bleeding-edge packages (see #5 above), sometimes things break and you have to either know how to fix them or know where/how to get help when you may not have a GUI or something of the like.

I hope you guys enjoy this REALLY long review/rant of sorts. Please comment and tell me if you liked it, if i should do more reviews of Linux distros i’ve run, if i should not quit my day job, etc. Also, if you’d like some help/more information about Gentoo because you want to try it for yourself, please feel free to ask.

Hello world!

May 14, 2007

This blog is going to be a review page of sorts for all the different Linux distributions i use, i’ll try to make it as non-biased as i can and i hope to provide you all with some good content…perhaps in the future, i’ll turn this into a podcast of sorts…hmm…in any event, enjoy the content and if you’d like any linux help, comment and i’ll try to help you with that as well.