Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Using Linux

The system crashed and the hard drive became totally unstable. After getting some (s-o-m-e) of the data off it, the hard drive erased itself and reformatted. Now, it became an empty computer. A computer that would no longer accept windows operating systems. However, it would work with a Knoppix CD system and the hard drive cooperated. With that as a start, I began to load in Linux operating system, starting with the Knoppix and then moving to the Debian Sarge release that just happened to coincide with the need.

Debian loaded the hard drive and began to function. Not very well at first because using Linux is a learning and growth effort. At first, there was a screen and a bunch of strange names and usages that needed the simple level of doing and then doing some more. So, I messed up the system and then reloaded and messed up the reload and reloaded and messed up the system and reloaded and really, really screwed up the reload and started over and then got a system that lasted longer but had no sound and no internet (among a lot of other no's). Pretty soon, I found the "Synaptic Package Manager" and messed up the system all over again. More reloads, more progress and more screwing up. Meanwhile, seaching the internet from an old '98 computer with all of it's nine lives well used up and lots of Linux help, most of it too "geeky" for use. Don't those guys remember their first attempts??? They write like a professor I had at Chapel Hill who taught "THE" calculus and would write these gawd-awful formulae on the board and simply take shortcuts the students couldn't have any precognition or other awareness of and we would all be totally lost in the fog of "THE" calculus. (Thanks a lot, Newton). Oh, yeah, incase any one remembers, the professor was M.A.Hill and I knew I was in trouble the first day when half the class walked out to "drop/add" when he walked in. Oh well.

Anyway, a few more times of screwing up the system and reloading - - - Oh, did I tell you that the Debian Sarge comes in 14 cd'd and takes about 2 hours to do the basic load??? It does. A few more times of loading and experimenting and searching the internet and the whole Linux thing is beginning to come together. Now, to put in an older external modem. After all, now-a-days a computer is virtually worthless without an internet connection. An Actiontec 56k external and wvdial and "BINGO" it's connected. Whoopie!

Now, the sound. The computer has a Sound Blaster 24 bit sound card. Possibly the worst choice for Linux there could be. It also had a "winmodem" that works only on windows and that's why the external was needed. So, now the sound card won't work. I gave it up. Then, a few days later I thought, "Hey, the motherboard has a built in sound device." Sure enough, a Via 83xx and Linux loves it. Now to make it work. Now, there's no way to get it to a device and satisfy the desire for tunes. Alsa? Oh yeah. Not simple by any means.

There's a technique that can be used but it can be hazardous to the system and there may be a reload in the near future. The technique is called the "shotgun" and involves loading in all the sound "stuff" you can find in the long, long list of "applications" to use a Linuxism. Interestingly enough, the first effort at shotgunning the sound (the Via 83xx) brought in the sound. Now, there's a Linux system with internet connection, tunes, more software than I can believe, and a whole new problem.

FLAVORS (another Linuxism). It turns out Linux is kind of like a box of mixed chocolates. You can't just take one and think you've gotten the best one in the box. You have to go back and get more (Brach's knows this trick quite well and boxes chocolates in just this way). There are many, many different types of Linux (flavors). Now, I've gotten Slackware samples, Knoppix (mentioned earlier), Mandriva (seems to be the heir to Mandrake), Ubuntu, dynebolic, and several more. Even more are on the way, and likely will not be the end of "sampling" the chocolate box of Linux.

So, now I need a computer dedicated to just testing Linux "flavors" and possibly several more, all with known modem and sound card characteristics. You don't need a lot of hard drive to do this, a 20 gig drive is plenty for testing but for your permanent (well, as permanent as the "flavors" will allow) drive you'll want a lot of space. At least 120 gigs and more if you can. As I said, there's a lot of software and more coming every day.

Well, I'm testing a blog entry "app" that I fell across during the shotgunning for the sound. It has actually found my blog and says it will post this without messing about on the blog. If it's a mess, you'll know why. If it works like the rest of my Linux experience, it will be just great after I work out the learning process and get me to work along with the great software.

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