Linux adventures with Afif (part 1)

In the past 5 weeks or so I have devoted most of my free time (after work, public holidays) trying and testing over a dozen Linux distributions (distro) in order to decide which Linux distro suits me best for work and for play. There are currently over 300 Linux distribution projects in active development, constantly revising and improving their respective distributions. They essentially divided between commercially backed distributions, such as Fedora (Red Hat), SUSE Linux (Novell), Ubuntu (Canonical Ltd.) and community distributions such as Debian and Gentoo and their derivatives (such as Knoppix, PCLinux OS, Linux Mint etc). Either backed by large corporation or entirely community driven, all these distros have one thing in common: to develop a Linux OS that's easy to use, user-friendly, reliable and most of all open source (free). is a good place to learn about the most current and popular distros out there. They even have a Page Hit Ranking chart which lists the most accessed (popular) distros for the past 6 months. Besides that you can find a short description of each distro, reviews, screenshots, official links and download mirrors also at that site.

I was lucky enough to acquire two (old) new pcs at home that I have used extensively to try out all those Linux distros. One is a Pentium 4 1.7Ghz, 256MB RAM another is a Pentium III 450MHZ, 128MB RAM. Apart from that I also use my office pc, a Pentium III 800MHz, 384MB RAM and my main pc at home a Pentium 4 3GHz with 1Gb of RAM. So altogether I have tried 15 Linux system on 4 machines with varying results.

The minimum requirement to install Linux varies from one distro to another. So far I have successfully installed Ubuntu 7.10 'Gutsy Gibbon' on my 450Mhz Pentium III with only 128MB RAM. It is possible to install Linux on older / slower machine but I recommend you use at least a Pentium II with 128MB of RAM or greater. It is also recommended that you have a working Internet connection before installing Linux. While it is possible to install Linux without Internet connection, you won't be able to perform the necessary update and install all the latest (and the good) software form their rich software repositories. Without the Internet you'll be stuck with the same basic software bundled in the installation cd plus you won't be able to play certain audio/video format which requires certain codec download (especially so for Ubuntu). You can download the software package elsewhere and run it at your pc at home but it would be a real pain in the ass process. It is very likely that the package that you have downloaded will require several other libraries and codes installed as well (dependencies) so you'll need to access the Internet anyway in the end.

Ok enough of that. Without further ado, here are the Linux distros that I've tried so far in chronological order (well, sort of).

1. Kanotix

I got to know about Kanotix from my colleague Sapuang who used it as a proxy server for our leased line at work. Kanotix is a Linux distro based on Debian, which contains the newest packages and recognizes more modern hardware than any other operating system in use today. Kanotix is assembled for 32 Bit i586 (meaning Pentium III and above) and for AMD 64 using the most up-to-date kernel with unique patches. Kanotix is created by a German dude named Jörg Schirottke (aged 28) who used his nickname 'Kano' (from a character in Mortal Kombat) for his Linux system. Kanotix, like many other Linux distro is also based on Debian Linux.

Initial boot screen

Kanotix will run as a LIVE-CD on practically any computer -- automatically detecting and configuring virtually any piece of hardware. It is ideal for analysis, data rescue, forensic work, removal of viruses on Win-PCs - or simply for safe surfing and mailing in an internet cafe. It installs to your hard drive in just a few minutes and is ideal for use on your desktop workstation or notebook, or as a server.

Live CD desktop

After my Windows pc got infected by virus again, I decided to install Kanotix on my office pc. The installation process is pretty straight forward except for the partitioning part where I've got to be careful of which partition to use so that I don't accidentally delete my Windows partition. To begin I just insert the live cd which will load the entire Linux system from the cd into to computer's memory. To install Kanotix permanently on my hard drive I just click on the acritoxinstaller and follow to instructions given. Basically the installation process is just the same as Windows except for the partitioning part where you'll need to have some basic idea about hard disks and partitions. My Kanotix installation finishes in just 20 minutes on my Pentium III 800MHz, 384MB office pc which is very impressive indeed for my first experience with Linux.

Default KDE theme

One reason why Kanotix is so popular is it's superior hardware detection. It detects all my hardware, hard disk, sound, graphic, network automatically during the installation. I mean I can even install Kanotix even with my eyes closed. In my opinion Kanotix is one great and complete Linux distro to use at work and play. I would have chosen Kanotix as my favourite Linux system if not for the fact that it uses KDE as its default desktop environment. FYI I much prefer the GNOME desktop environment than KDE or Xfce because they looked much better for me. KDE kinda reminds me of the super-boring and dull Windows environment you know with the start button on the bottom left. Other than that Kanotix is one excellent Linux system.

Final verdict: 8/10

2. Knoppix

Knoppix is a Linux distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux designed to be run directly from a CD / DVD. Knoppix is one of the best-known live CDs. Knoppix was developed by a German Linux consultant Klaus Knopper (hence the name Knoppix). Although Knoppix is primarily designed to be used as a live CD, it can also be installed on a hard disk like a typical operating system. Actually Kanotix is a derivative from Knoppix which was improved by Jörg Schirottke (Kano) and re-released as Kanotix. Knoppix is essentially the same as Kanotix in almost every aspect except for the type and number of software installed and the KDE theme used.

I used the Knoppix live CD to boot my Pentium 4 1.7GHz pc and everything worked well except for the display which is a bit funny. Knoppix displayed a resolution of 1024 x 768 on my pc but I had to scroll up and down / left and right to see my entire desktop. Even after successfully installing Knoppix on my hard drive this particular problem still persist. Didn't Knoppix detect my screen resolution correctly? I thought Knoppix was supposed to be as good as Kanotix? Anyway like I said before I don't like the KDE desktop much so I tried to download the GNOME desktop but somehow I failed citing certain dependencies problem. I'm pretty sure I can find the solution to this problem at a forum somewhere but I just won't bother.

Overall, I think Knoppix is a decent Linux distro but not as good as its 'child product' Kanotix. To be honest I'd recommend the latter than the former.

Final verdict: 5/10

3. OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE, is a community project, sponsored by Novell (an American software giant), to develop and maintain a general purpose Linux distribution. OpenSUSE is available in both GNOME and KDE user interface and naturally I chose to download the GNOME version from their official website.

The lovely green theme looks very nice when I first boot the installation cd. OpenSUSE doesn't come with a Live cd so I'll have to use the graphical installation menu. Installation was a breeze on my Pentium 4 1.7Ghz pc but I failed to install OpenSUSE on both my other Pentium III pcs. Either OpenSUSE supports only newer hardware or there's a boot option that I need to enter to use my older pcs.

Like Kanotix, OpenSUSE detects all my hardware automatically including the DHCP setting for my network card. The entire installation process took nearly an hour to finish. I like the the default green theme so much that I decided to keep OpenSUSE for 4 days on my test machine.

OpenSUSE uses YaST as the control center which is rather foreign to me compared to Synaptic Package manager but work just as well. I also managed to create a connection between OpenSUSE and Windows but so far I can only see my Windows network folder but not read/write or modify anything inside. So I tweaked the network and network tools settings, downloaded and activates the Samba tools but it still wouldn't work. I can play my music files using VLC though but aside from that, there's not much networking I can do between OpenSUSE and my Windows XP pc. So after 4 days I decided to give another distro a try.

In the end I think OpenSUSE is a good distro to try out and tinker with. Again, I love the green 'chameleon' GNOME theme but I wish those people at Novell would improve on OpenSUSE's networking tools.

Final verdict: 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment