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17 July 2007 @ 10:17 am
Okay, computer folks out there in Friends List Land, I'm looking for suggestions

At this point, I'm leaning toward an Ubuntu release. From the reviews I've read and the feedback I've gotten, it sounds like it's the simplest to install and configure, and the most transparent to use.

Ubuntu has three main variations: Ubuntu, which uses the GNOME environment; Kubuntu, which uses KDE; and Xubuntu, which uses Xfce, and is intended for older systems or for people who want better performance and less system overhead. Feedback on these environments would be nice; I know a lot of the difference between GNOME and KDE boils down to Personal Preference, so discussions of functional differences will be more useful than "Ewww, GNOME sucks!!"

For those who've used Xfce, what "fat" does it leave out? Does it make a noticable impact on ease of use?

Nota Bene: My primary goal is not to become Super L33t *NIX Power User IT Guru Man. My computer is a tool that I use to do other things, and I want to spend my time and energy on doing those other things, rather than figuring out how to get my computer to let me do them.

So: Easy Use trumps Power Use. Spoon feed me!

My two biggest potential technical obstacles:

  1. I run a two-monitor setup, and I want to continue to do so. At the moment, I have an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5500 running dual 19" Trinitron CRTs at 1280x960. Eventually, I plan to upgrade those to LCDs, and upgrade the video card accordingly.

  2. I keep my Data and Documents on their own drive, separate from my Application Drive. The Data Drive is in FAT32 format; does Linux read that natively? I know there are some propriatary Windows formats that Linux can't read, but I don't know which ones are which.

Suggestions on good *NIX MUCK and IM clients would be helpful, too.
I feel: curiouscurious
(Deleted comment)
Tephratephralynn on July 17th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
Why not install both and try them out?

For me, KDE has been a lot more stable than GNOME. I've tried both off and on over the years on slackware, redhat, debian, suse, and Solaris and KDE has always been less hassle. It also ate up less screen real estate and fit the habits instilled by years of Windows use better.

Can't help on the dual monitor thing, never tried it.

FAT32 should be a-ok with every *nix at this point. NTFS is the problem child.

... I can't for the life of me remember what the last *nix muck client I used was. Don't be surprised if there's something already included in your chosen distro though, especially the IM client, geeks like their IM. :)
Helvetica 'Foofers' Boldfoofers on July 17th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
FAT32 will be no problem at all; it's NTFS that gets all nasty.

There's a "live CD" of Ubuntu where you can try it out without installing anything. I would be real surprised if Kubuntu were missing the same. So you can try both (or maybe even all three) and see which is more to your tastes, and also test for compatibility with your dual monitor setup.
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on July 17th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
Ubuntu and Kubuntu both have live CDs. I'll order'em and try'em out. Tanks!
Helvetica 'Foofers' Boldfoofers on July 17th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, piffle...download and burn! Heck, run off with my Ubuntu CD, I don't mind!
Reveille D'Giovanettireveille_d on July 17th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
Install RedHat 4 something or other, install VMware Server, then install as many different versions of Ubuntu as you want on your system, and run them all at the same time, and take over the world!
Your Obedient Serpent: weird scienceathelind on July 17th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
Let's see... signal, signal, signal...

You are officially NOISE today. Thank you! If someone had gotten 100% signal on responses to an OS-based question, the internet would have imploded.
Reveille D'Giovanettireveille_d on July 17th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
I was actually quite serious. I consider that RHEL4 is about the most stable/easy Linux distro that you can run VMware server on. Once you have that in place, it simply runs as a framework for VMware Server (which is free, BTW). You use VMware server to run whatever OS you so desire, be it Windows or Linux, and access it either from the console in full-screen mode (completely ignoring any of RedHat built-in nonsense) or from a second computer running the Server client portion (I'm not sure if the Virtual Infrastructure Client works with server).

Or were you saying this was noise because it sounds like all gobblygook? :P
Reveille D'Giovanettireveille_d on July 17th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
RedHat 4, not RHEL4, since that's commercial. It would also run just as well under CentOS4, which is RedHat without the RedHat.
(Anonymous) on July 19th, 2007 10:02 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that, for the reasons you note, VMWare Server will give shittier graphics performance than either Workstation or the Player (which is apparently just Workstation minus anything resembling convenience).

This might be an issue for anyone doing big graphicsey things. Like GIS work. Though in fairness, I'm sure it's at least as good as VNC. (Isn't it just VMWare-branded VNC, until you install a RDP or NX daemon in the virtual machine?)
Reveille D'Giovanettireveille_d on July 19th, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
Shittier? I wouldn't call it shittier. You're not going to be able to access the 3D pipeline, sure, but it's not shitty by any stretch of the imagination. The 2D performance on a LAN or locally connected is damn near spotless. And Player is 'minus anything resembling convenience' because it's a free product. This 'convenience' you mention likely means creation of VMs, snapshotting, multiple instances, etc. Sorry, pal, the first taste is free; you gotta pay for the good stuff. :P

And no, it's not VNC, it's a fully functional virtual console with full 2D acceleration (some 3D in Workstation/Fusion/Player) and a hardware mouse. All VMware tools does is make the integration between Guest-Host devices more seamless. You may be thinking of Unity when you think of VNC/RDP.
Reveille D'Giovanettireveille_d on July 17th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
I should note that the reason you might do this is because a) with a minimal RH4 install, the system resource loss will be minimal and b) you can easily install multiple OSes, and then switch between then (or run them both at the same time) to determine which better suits you, and perhaps keep another around that does something that you need it to do.

In any case, I highly recommend you do get the VMware Server product (which is, again, FREE), and keep it around in case you should need to run Windows at a later date, which VMware will easily allow you to do, without blowing away your entire system to do it.
(Deleted comment)
KehzaFox: Squishedkfops on July 18th, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
Not the stick! Not so soon! I've just started to heal!
KehzaFox: pleasedkfops on July 17th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
There's a couple points I could address with a fair bit of certainty.

FAT32 isn't a problem with Linux, you can both read and write to FAT32 partitions without problem. If you try to work the other way, there is an IFS (Installable File System) for Windows that'll read Linux ext2 and ext3 partitions.

I like KDE myself, but you can have your cake and eat it too. If you go with normal Ubuntu, you can then either (most likely) install the KDE libraries on the same distribution, or "upgrade" it with Kubuntu to have both Gnome and KDE support. They live pretty happily side by side. My Slackware install lets me choose between numerous window managers.

Either way, best of luck in your endeavours!
Hafochafoc on July 18th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)
I'd appreciate it if you took notes and, later, gave me the benefit of your wisdom and experience.

Going to Linux is rather like reading _Ulysses._ I've never done it, I feel as if I should do it, but to save my life I couldn't come up with a good reason why.
SilverClawbfdragon on July 18th, 2007 02:14 am (UTC)
I don't use Linux on my main machine, just duel boot and on house server/firewall/DVR (mythtv). I've liked Umbutu for a good while now, and they seem to have caught up with other distributions in all the automatic tools and GUI control panels. Also, the software available in their repositories seems to be rather extensive. Not really being a Linux geek, I've found keeping yourself limited to, for the most part, the software in the distribution maintained repositories is by far the easiest, and least likely to turn into trouble down the road.

Also, perhaps someone here can enlighten me, but I know you can install KDE, Gnome, and Xface all after the fact, and just chose which you want when you log in. Is this a performance hit or do people prefer manager specific distributions just to save hard drive space?
Shadow Dragonshdragon on July 18th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
I know a couple people who run Ubuntu and claim it's the greatest thing ever, so sounds like a good choice of a distro for me. I didn't know about the life CDs, I may have to give those a try myself (though I game too much to really switch)

As far as MUSH clients: Trebuchet is nice though not updated. Tinyfugue is what I remember from my own UNIX days, though I was a console junkie back then. Not sure what to get as far as something graphical now.

IM clients: GAIM used to be the best (from what I had heard). They've since renamed to Pidgin though it looks like you'll have to compile it yourself to get it to run. No idea how hard/difficult that will be.

Hard drives: It's already been said that this won't be an issue. Linux can read FAT32 just beautifilly.

Video/Monitors: All the times I've installed *nix, the video card (and getting Xwin up and running) have always been the hugest headaches in the universe. Once you get the card running and everything configured though (from what I hear, this is easy on Ubuntu, but I've had too many issues with too many distros to believe it just yet) the dual monitors will fall into place. *Nix handles mutiple windows and seriously wonky resolutions (and even virtual desktops, so you have have 83 "monitors" and flip through them with your two physical displays) with ease.
(Anonymous) on July 19th, 2007 09:54 am (UTC)
Trebuchet will update itself, at least if you install it somewhere you have write access, and turn its autoupdate feature on. (Install the TCL packages normally, unpack Trebuchet in ~/Trebuchet or whatnot, point your favorite happy icon at `wish8.4 ~/Trebuchet/trebtk1024.tcl` or whatever it is.)

There hasn't been much noticable in the updates, but they're there and maintained.
(Anonymous) on July 19th, 2007 09:50 am (UTC)
1. The Synaptic package-management GUI (frontend to apt) is horribly convenient, and likely a better starting point than anything RPM-based (the RHEL suggestion someone made -- everyone likes what they're familiar with, but the apt / Synaptic system will get you into fewer 'I broke everything!' situations in your first months of use)...
2. Gnome and KDE can coexist on one system, as far as applications are concerned they're just using different graphics (etc.) libraries which both speak X11 and run on the same display at the same time -- the catch is that, depending which one you choose to as your 'desktop' (the literal desktop in the back of all other windows, and the programs that will provide the toolbars and Start Menu equivalents and so on, and thus the buttons to launch related junk like the file manager/Explorer-equivalent), the utilities to set the preferences of the *other* 'desktop environment' and applications using its libraries (font options, widget themes, etc) won't be readily visible in the menus.
In practice, this means that everyone thinks GTK (Gimp/Gnome toolkit) apps are ugly if they never found Gnome's control panels (or took the time to edit configuration files manually), and Qt/KDE apps look as bad as unconfigured GTK circa 2000 (no antialiasing, fugly blue-gray defaults that are eye-searing against the default beige Ubuntu 'Human' theme) on my Gnome desktop. I haven't cared enough to find the knobs, obviously they are capable of looking as good as all the schnazzy KDE-lovers' screenshots.
3. KDE/Qt look like and inherit a bunch of Windows or Windows-like-system features and warts (inscrutable bars of unscalable icons in program UIs, file manager is a web browser is a file manager...). Gnome looks vaguely Mac-like and inherits certain Mac warts (most noticably, Nautilus behaves almost exactly like the OS X Finder, including leaving out most of the same stuff Apple failed to implement). Both are roughly equally bloated at the moment despite any cheerleading (Gnome got a little more optimized, KDE got complacent and bloated). Good software is split roughly 50/50 between them so you're equally screwed no matter which you pick. ;) XFCE is "fine" but all the memory savings go out the window the moment you run a program that relies on a significant chunk of the libraries from Gnome or KDE, plus you might end up lacking the control panels for *both* major environments, awesome.
There's probably less than 100MB of difference in memory usage between all three choices, so just have at least 1GB of RAM (which actually makes OpenOffice fast and usable, and you probably need at least that much for your GIS stuff) and you'll be fine.
4. That said, I guess someone has to warn you... Gnome is "less mature," in part because they basically decided to do a total rewrite for 2.x, and are still in the process of reimplementing all the stuff they took out to make it leaner and 'simpler.' KDE also tends to grow features first (hence it recently overtaking Gnome in bloat, for the moment), which Gnome then reimplements or demands be standardized. Personally, this is a very reasonable tradeoff for the attempt at consistent interface guidelines and the ability to turn off inscrutable_tiny_icons on most apps and see legible, localizable text labels. If you've gotten used to interpreting seventy different artists' interpretations of what hieroglyph 'Save' or 'Cut' should be represented by, more power to you. ;)
5. I already said it, but OO.o is about three times the size of either desktop, so don't sweat the efficiency arguments... providing enough computer to run free, stable software is the price paid for running free, stable software. At least you do get some vague measure of stability and security for it, versus Vista's requirements...
(Anonymous) on July 19th, 2007 09:51 am (UTC)
6. Somehow Adobe screwed up the licensing of the Acrobat Reader such that Ubuntu had to pull their package (which itself would just download the mess from Adobe and install it cleanly, the horror); this means that, until you go through the trouble of installing it manually, PDFs will download and open in external Gnome "Evince" reader windows or the KDE equivalent. Whining to Adobe to provide their own .deb package is suggested, since those will plug into the package management system and open up a nice GUI package installer.
7. Media codecs are a pain in the ass, but they always were. If you have something in the vicinity of a 2GHz machine, the latest Ubuntu ships a package that actually makes the Gnome "Totem" media player work with most files out-of-the-box. If you're trying to limp along with an 800MHz machine, they aren't very optimized, mPlayer is the best option for anything video-shaped.
8. Linux has a delightful plethora of filesystems to confuse the hell out of you. In practice: JFS should be considered dangerous, nobody's maintained it since the SCO lawsuit and it really is horribly broken; ext3 is the default, stable, very middle-of-the-road; XFS works perfectly and is fast, surprisingly enough; Reiser3 is relatively slow but is the most space-efficient for lots of small files. I'm using Reiser at the moment for some systems that do nothing but store small documents, and would probably use XFS for at least my /home on anything else. When it comes to partitioning, find someone who still gets a geek-woody from explaining that sort of thing.
8. I forget what 8 was supposed to be, it's 5:30 in the morning here.
9. I also have no idea about nVidia, ATI have normally just been incompetent while nVidia considers everything they've ever touched to be a trade secret. They have proprietary binary drivers that hopefully work and hopefully aren't too much of a pain in the ass. You might want to save any dualhead configuration fight for the second week of your install.

Cheers, good luck.
(Anonymous) on July 19th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)

Once up and running, it's not a bad idea to suck everything off your FAT32 disks, and either make conventional backups or preserve a .tgz or straight copy on your freshly ext3 or XFS-formatted drive.

This is because, while Linux *does* handle FAT32 very well, it may not be quite as vigilant in warning you of the sort of corruptions FAT can be prone to, and the CHKDSK-equivalents won't be as familiar the day something horrible manages to happen.

I've not had a problem *caused by* any form of FAT support in an actively maintained *NIX, but Apple let something awful slip into OS X which they promptly ignored for years until it bit their own FAT-based product (iPod Shuffle). Darwin's FAT support appears to have been an ill-tended copy of FreeBSD 2.x's or something, just plain ugly.