You may have noticed that in past entries, I’ve referred to the fact that I’m running SuSE9 (Linux) on my laptop. In the past, I’ve always referred to Red Hat as my preferred distribution of Linux, so why the change? Well, Red Hat announced that they were no longer going to provide a free distribution of their software. Technically, you could still acquire a copy of Red Hat, but without paying a support fee, you would not be given access to the updates to keep your Operating System updated and secure. In a nutshell, Red Hat has gone corporate and it makes perfect sense for them to do this. At the end of the day, no one wants to see them go out of business and if this is a necessary step for them to stay profitable, then so be it.. However, there are a lot of home users and small businesses that were disappointed that Red Hat was no longer going to be available for free and I was one of those people.
So what version of Linux was I going to switch to? Red Hat isn’t totally getting out of the free Open Source market. They have a version of their desktop called Fedora. This is an open source, free desktop whose goal is “to work with the Linux community to build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from free software” However, the impression I got when looking at Fedora was it was too new and a bit of an unknown at the moment. So I decided to look around and explore a few other distributions and see if there wasn’t something else that could fit the bill. If I’m going to have to swtich my OS, I might as well trying something new.
The first distro I looked at was Mandrake. I had heard a lot of good things about it, but when I looked at the fact that a lot of it appeared to be based on Red Hat, I thought I would keep on looking. If I was having to make a switch from Red Hat, I might as well make a clean break. I’m sure that there are Mandrake fans out there that could take me to task on what I’ve just said. I’m not saying my assumptions are correct. I’m simply explaining why I made the decisions I did. 🙂
Next up was Debian. It’s 100% free and from everything I had read, it a clear favorite in the Linux community. Debian is what the cool kids use, so I took a stab at installing it. Unfortunately, it got the better of me Debian assumes that you already know a good bit about Linux and if you do then this is a great distribution for you. I’m not that familiar with Linux, so for me it was just too much for me to handle. I just wasn’t smart enough to figure it out. 😛
The next one I looked at was also the distro I ended up choosing – SuSE. SuSE is a German based distribution and appeared to have much of the same features that drew me to Red Hat in the first place. GUI install routines and plenty of wizards to help this Linux newbie set things up. The only tricky part was figuring out HOW to get the distro in the first place. For most Linux distributions, you download the ISO images to a computer and then burn CDs so that you can install the OS. With SuSE, unless you buy it, the only method of install is via FTP. I had never done anything like this, so it was a bit cumbersome the first time out.
First I downloaded an ISO image so that I could create a boot CD. This is what I would use to start the whole process of installing the operating system. I put the CD in my laptop and started it. Sure enough a SuSE screen appeared and gave me the option to install. The tricky part was that I had to enter the IP address of the server that had the rest of the files that I needed. Next, I had to enter the directory where the files were located. To do both of these tasks, I used a Windows machine and an FTP client to figure this stuff out. Once those things were entered, SuSE began downloading and installing itself directly onto the computer. 🙂
Other than the ftp business being somewhat new and a little bit challenging, the rest of the process was very smooth. What surprised me the most was that the network cards were instantly loaded. I had a Xircom PCMCIA 10/100 card and a Linksys Wi Fi PCMCIA card and SuSE installed everything I needed to use it on the first boot. Granted the wifi card wasn’t accessible until the end of the install, but the fact that I never had to touch a thing regarding my NICs was impressive. RedHat9 wasn’t so easy. What worried the most about doing an ftp install was that if I didn’t get the NIC installed, there’d be no way to even reach the rest of the files. SuSE put my fears to rest. After my experience with that install, I decided to setup a new server and install SuSE9 on that machine as well. It went very smoothly and both systems are running just fine.
I’m still in a learning curve on a few things. I’m still trying to figure out Samba and how to share printers with my mixed network. I’m also getting familiar with KDE and other than the fact that everything is a single click, instead of a double click, I like the desktop environment very much. I’m having to get familiar with new editors such as Kate as well as a few other applications, but I would have to say that I’m becoming comfortable in my new Linux home.
There are a couple of cool things that I want to try in the very near future. Once I get Samba figured out and working, I want to install a new 100+GB or larger drive in my server and set it up as my digital music server. Once that’s in place, I plan on creating my very on ShoutCast server It would be a private stream because I don’t have the bandwidth to support a lot of users, but it would be fun to share my music with friends. I’ve been successful in getting XMMS installed and working with mp3s, but the ShoutCast element has not been successful. I found another streaming solution called IceCast, but I haven’t had time to dig deeper into it.
The other thing that I wanted to do was to be able to take screenshots of my Linux desktop on my laptop. I’ve already been doing this in Windows, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find any solution in Linux. For Windows, I’ve been using Tursi’s SCWebCam3 to take snapshots of my desktop and then ftp them up to the weblog. While I was waiting for an update to install, I was doing a few Google searches and I came across a shell script at Funky-M that appeared to be just what I needed. I have never worked with shell scripts, but it was fairly straightforward to setup. I ran into a couple of glitches along the way, but I finally got it working! 8) You can now see screenshots of my Linux desktop at the bottom of the WebCam page.
Overall I’m happy to report that I’m quite pleased with SuSE 9. Linux is still a bit of a steep learning curve for me, but I’m still learning more about it each day. Some days it can be a really PITA, but other days it can be a blessing. I still don’t think Linux is ready for prime time as a desktop replacement to Windows, but if you like tinkering and “getting under the hood”, then Linux is definitely the way to go. If you’re considering playing with Linux, give SuSE a try, I think you’ll like it. 😀