Archive for the ‘Linux’ Category

Why Linux

August 23, 2007

Here I’m talking about using Linux as your desktop Operating System. From what I understand, using Linux as a server for many applications is almost a given. The desktop has lagged behind a bit in previous years but I think it is now ready for the mainstream.

A few years ago, I was searching for a program for my Win 98 machine. I downloaded a file with the extension .tar.gz. I couldn’t open it and was curious about what it could be. Googling it, I found that it was a compressed file format used by something called Linux. What?? I was curious, and after a lot of reading up on the web, I got hold of a copy of Red Hat (7 I think) and installed it. I managed ok for a total newb but getting the modem to work nearly killed me I was totally clueless. After a while I was not so clueless and I tried other Distros like Debian. I really liked Debian because of the package management system and the fact that it seemed more independent than Red Hat as it is not owned by a commercial company. When Ubuntu first came out, I tried that as it was based on Debian but seemed to be a bit more user friendly. I have stuck with Ubuntu ever since but I think that I might use Debian for some projects I have in mind as Debian seems a bit more “configureable”.

Anyway I better answer the title of this post. Why Linux? Here are the reasons I use Linux and why I recommend Linux to you.

1. If you are technically inclined or enjoy making things or tinkering, Linux is a must. You can change anything you wish, the more knowledge you have, the more you can do. Windows is closed source, so you can’t change key parts of the Operating System. Because of this , Linux attracts other tinkerers, who make their tinkerings (is that a word?) available and you can do even more. If you write software, Linux is almost compulsary as there are so many useful developer tools. If you are a student studying Computer Science, Engineering, the Sciences, Maths, Linux is definitely the OS for you. If you want MATLAB at home but can’t afford it, give OCTAVE a go. It’s basically a clone of MATLAB, not as fully featured but still very powerful.

2. If you are sick of viruses, adware, spyware, bloatware…… come to Linux and leave all that behind. You no longer need to waste internet time downloading the latest virus updates with Linux. You will also find that although Ubuntu can prompt you for software upgrades, it is nowhere near as intrusive as Windows, which is doing all sorts of things that probably violate your privacy and waste your bandwidth.

3. Linux is free. You don’t have to pay a cent for it

4. You want to customise your setup e.g run only minimal, fast programs to speed up your computer. I tried Puppy Linux on my laptop and man does that go fast. Click on a program like the web browser and, bang, its opened immedietaly.

5.You value your privacy and wonder how much Microsoft or the rest of the world can spy on you through your computer.

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Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) on a Compaq Presario C300 Laptop

August 23, 2007

If you have this laptop, visit  http://www.linlap.com/wiki/HP-Compaq+Presario+C300 for a good guide on installing linux on your laptop. linlap.com is a handy resource for any linux laptop problems.

I have successfully been running Feisty on my laptop for about a year now. If you have a C300 or similar and are wanting to install a Linux distro, I can highly recommend Ubuntu. If you don’t know what Linux is, see my next post. I am now dual booting Windows and Ubuntu. Ubuntu boots about 3 times faster than Windows and when I connect to the Internet, I don’t have to wait ages for Windows to connect to Bill Gates and tell him what I ate for breakfast and download the latest crapware to bloat my machine even more. I also don’t have to wait while Norton Antivirus spends ages starting then connecting to the internet…….. You get the message, I’m free from all those annoyances

When I installed Ubuntu, I decided to keep Windows on one partition so every now and then I could go back and remind myself of what I was(n’t) missing out on. So I decided to partition my hard drive and dual boot. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry it’s not that hard. I recommend that if you are a newb you should dual boot, in case you get stuck in Linux and need to go back to Windows eg for an internet connection. Note that the Compaq C300 has a dirty big hidden partition where Compaq put some sort of backup restore files for Windows. This is just wasted space that you paid for and can’t use. Im going to use mine as another Linux partition when I run out of space. Ill let you Google “dual booting” and figure it out for yourself, Its pretty straight forward these days especially with the Ubuntu installer.

Ubuntu Feisty pretty much installed itself. Most things worked out of the box, including most of the media buttons (like the mute button). However, there were two things that took me a while to fix.

The first was the modem. The C300 has a Conexant HSF softmodem. The modem did not work out of the box but it was very easy to get and install the driver for the modem. I went to http://www.linuxant.com/drivers/hsf/install.php and used method B. Note that Ubuntu is Debian based and uses .deb packages to install software.

If you have another laptop different from mine, and you don’t know what to do, Google “scanmodem” and you’ll find instructions on how to identify your modem chipset, which you need to know to find a driver for it.

The second was the wireless networking card. The wireless card is a Dell Wireless 1390 WLAN Mini-PCI Card, the vendor is Broadcom . Initially, I tried the drivers that shipped with Ubuntu- the bcmxx module. However, during booting, I’d get an error like “bcm43xx firmware not detected” or something along those lines. So after a few attempts to fix that, I opted instead to try the ndiswrapper system. I found a really easy way to install that, using a script I downloaded from here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=405990&highlight=BCM4318 Now my wireless works fine. It seems to be about the same speed as under Windows. If you have a different laptop or wireless card, a useful command is lshw to see what hardware you have. sudo lshw | grep network runs the lshw command as root and then pipes the input to grep, which searches it for the word “network”. This will give you more information to help when you consult the mighty oracle, google.

So now I pretty much have a 100% functional machine running Ubuntu. My next challenge is to find out how to edit raw photo images from my digital camera. I got the free Canon photo editing software with my camera, but of course it is Windows and Mac only. My first attempts to open the raw images in Gimp failed, but Im hopefull Ill find a plugin somewhere that will help me there.

Another minor problem is that the battery seems to go flat a little faster under Ubuntu than Windows, I haven’t timed it but Im pretty sure there is some difference.