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Author Topic: Linux desktop  (Read 1082 times)
KE7NVY
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« on: February 05, 2008, 04:27:46 PM »

I'm looking at building or buying a Linux box to replace my old Win98 machine in what's going to be my shack.  I've built up computers a couple times before and I used to do software development on UNIX systems, so I'm fairly familiar with the technical issues.  My question is, what desktop environment is preferred by Linux-using hams; KDE, Gnome, or something else?  Reasons would help, too.

Thanks...

Jeff KE7NVY
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KB1HTW
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2008, 05:21:35 PM »

I haven't played around much with KDE, but it's probably time to start since KDE4 is getting rave reviews. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to get KDE running on Fedora (my distro of choice), and Ubuntu is available as Kubuntu with KDE rather than the default, Gnome.

Most of the Linux utils I've played with work fine under Gnome. hamlib, available at Sourceforge, is a great framework - lots of ham apps are written to it.
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KB3LSR
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2008, 07:57:57 PM »

Why replace your Win 98 box completely?  Linux doesn't require a lot of horsepower to run, so any computer will really work.  I've been using Linux since RedHat 5.2 and I could run that on a 486 with < 1GB of hard drive.  I presonally like Gnome as a linux environment because it's easier to work with and I've grown acustomed to it throughout the years.

If you are looking for a linux distribution, I'd say go with Fedora (the RedHat spinoff) because the RedHat Package Manager (RPM) format makes software installs very easy.

I even dual boot Linux with Vista!

Good luck with linux!

73 de KB3LSR
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KE7NVY
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2008, 09:42:11 PM »

I haven't decided whether to buy or upgrade yet.  The Win98 box basically works, it's a 366MHz Celeron so it would probably run Linux all right.  Not great, but probably well enough.  It has a half gig of RAM in it, I think.  The thing about it is, the hard drive is only a few gigs, the floppy drive quit working a while back, and I'm not sure if the BIOS supports booting from the CD drive (which is usually needed to install Linux).  I'm not sure the CD drive itself is bootable, for that matter.  So I need to do a little more investigation into those things.  It may turn out that it would be as cheap to just buy a new one.  Dell has a desktop with Linux already loaded on it for a little under $400 without a monitor (my old one still works), including a 1.6GHz dual-core CPU, 1G of RAM and a 250GB hard drive.

Jeff KE7NVY
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K5PHW
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2008, 05:41:26 AM »

 Ubuntu with Gnome for me. Love it!
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KB3LSR
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2008, 06:50:34 AM »

That's not a bad deal for a desktop, but free is always better Wink

Anything past a Pentium II should boot from the CD-ROM.  You could test your Windows 98 box by throwing in a Windows CD and see if you can boot off it.  This may be quicker than looking up stuff on the internet.

If you wait a couple of more months, a new version of Fedora is coming out.
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WA7NCL
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2008, 09:55:54 AM »

go to www.distrowatch.com.  You can sort the various distros by various criteria.

Based on your machine spec, I would shy away from the big iron and heavy desktop distros.  Ubuntu, redhat, Suse etc are large.  KDE and Gnome desktops are resource hungry.

A moderate size but still KDE is PCLinuxOS (try minime2008).  It works on some old 700Mhz p3s with 256Meg memory I have.

I would suggest you try some of the light weight distros.  Try stuff with XCFE, or fluxbox desktop.  Zenwalk, Wolvix come to mind.  They are based on Slackware so you can use their repositories.

For a ham oreinted distro search on fldigi and digipup which is a Puppy based distro put out by a fellow ham.

If your PC has less than 512Meg memory and less than a P3 you will find the big mainstream distros slow and laggy.  Firefox will be a pig.

Wolvix, Zenwalk and Puppy work pretty well on a P2 256Meg machine I have.

One last comment on live CDs.  They are a good way to test out distros on a potential host machine.  You can figure out if they will properly detect hardware.  But performance can be misleading.  If your memory is small (like 128Meg or 256Meg) you will find live CDs can be slow.  Many times a harddisk install will be faster since you can have a swap file.

Have fun with linux.  Its an experimenters dream.  You might even find you don't need Mr Gates nearly as much as you might think.
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KE4DRN
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2008, 04:15:52 PM »

hi,

found these links on using linux using pendrive usb
as alternative to live cd

http://www.pendrivelinux.com/2007/09/19/portable-qemu-persistent-pendrivelinux/

http://www.linux.com/articles/53256

73 james
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KE7NVY
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2008, 10:18:05 PM »

KB3LSR:
You could test your Windows 98 box by throwing in a Windows CD and see if you can boot off it. This may be quicker than looking up stuff on the internet.
------

That was a good idea, so I went and fired up that old machine and tried it.  It hasn't even been turned on in probably 3 or 4 years.  Anyway, the BIOS did allow me to configure it to boot from the CD, but after getting through a couple of startup screens it failed, complaining about a OEMCD0001 driver.  So it looks like the BIOS is ok for booting from the CD but the drive itself either wasn't designed to be a boot device or is defective.  Then I booted to Win98 (hard drive boot) and checked the hard drive size.  Turns out there are two drives, one 4GB and one 8GB.  Not very good.  So between the hardware issues and the low horsepower of the box, I'm leaning pretty strongly now toward just ordering one from Dell.  That comes with Ubuntu on it (Gnome, I think, although that's just because they don't say Kubuntu).
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AB2RC
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2008, 04:33:31 AM »

I used to prefer KDE, then switched to Gnome, there are other choices also.

I usually just install all of the ones that come with the distro, and then some additional window managers and pick and choose as my mood changes.
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KB1HTW
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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2008, 09:02:34 AM »

"Turns out there are two drives, one 4GB and one 8GB."

Jeff,

Chances are that you actually have one drive partitioned into two logical drives. If you do try to install Linux on it, just about any distro's installer will allow you to delete any or all partitions.

Since Serial ATA drives (SATA) are displacing older IDE/PATA drives, you can probably pick up a 40 or 80GB PATA drive used for < $15-20, or a new 80GB 7200RPM drive will run you $37 at NewEgg (http://www.newegg.com)

Check with one of your local whitebox computer stores - you can probably pick up a decent bare-bones PC (case/CPU/MB/HD/RAM - no OS) for < $200.
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KE7NVY
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2008, 09:14:37 AM »

Yeah, I think that's my next step. Fry's is just down the road here.  I think I'll drop by there this weekend and see what they have.  FWIW, my old Win98 box does actually have 2 physical drives in it.  It's that old.  :-)

Jeff
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VE3EFJ
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2008, 01:58:10 PM »

PCLinuxOS Gnome for me. Kde feels "bloated". As for other distros that I'd recommend, allow me to suggest Puppy 3.01 and Wolvix 1.1.0. The latter 2 take almost no computer at all to run on, and Puppy will fit on a 512K USB stick just fine.

If you put Puppy on a USB stick (a 1 gig stick is dirt cheap these days), you can use the floppy bootstrap utility. Boot from floppy and run from the USB. No disk required. Puppy has most of the the basic things that a desktop user would need, and it has an amazing list of supported devices.

An alternative to Kde and Gnome is Xfce and Enlightenment which is what Wolvix uses, and its pretty slick.

There are many flavors of Linux. I'm sure you'll find one that fits for you. While you're experimenting, pick up some re-writable CD's. That way you won't make a stack of drink coasters while you burn the iso and try out different flavors. Just erase the CD and do a new burn. I've tried over 30 versions of Linux before settling on what "fit" for me.


Wayne


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KI4TZX
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2008, 05:01:50 PM »

Ubuntu with Gnome, works great.
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K8GU
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2008, 09:29:19 AM »

I agree with those who are saying Xfce and Enlightenment.  I've used these two for years and they don't have the bloat of the other systems.  

Xubuntu is a solid, easy-to-install, distribution that runs great using Xfce, even on older machines.  I have it on about a dozen machines right now ranging from a 400 MHz PII to 2.8 GHz P4's.
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