iCEhOT Posted June 15, 2005 Share Posted June 15, 2005 Though I'd right a brief article on my experience with playing around with linux recently.I'm a fairly technical person, have a background in C/C++ programming, network support, and IT support. The last time I tried linux was approximately 5 years ago, and it wasnt very good back then, however I could see the appeal to "hackers", back then however, trying to get the latest hardware to function was next to impossible, huge lack of drivers. So since 5 years have passed and have been using XP since it was released, I thought "Let's see how Linux is getting on? I keep seeing the odd article around the web about how it's ready or almost ready for the desktop - so, let's give it a go".So after a couple days of research I picked a distribution, and no, i'm not going to name names, because overall I think it is a very good distribution, and the problems discussed in this article I believe to be irrelivant to who packaged it all up. Suffice to say it was one that had a LiveCD so I could test it out first.Asside from that I picked a boot manager and a partition utility to allow me to dual boot and resize my windows partition.So first things first, I pop the livecd in the drive, and it boots up almost to the point of starting Xwindows, however it just sits there doing nothing apparently on a black text screen whilst it says it's trying to probe my usb devices. Ok that's not a great first impression, waited about 30 minutes on that screen before rebooting it and unplugging my usb devices, that worked! So I was in, and apart from that problem, it did kinda work as you'd expect running off a CD, low res, but a few things worked like sound support etc.The interface is nice now with KDE 3.4.1, so I was quite impressed with that. So decided to install and give it a proper try.Installing is definately improved from an interface perspective, partitions, formats, detects where i'd want to install, however after that the installer wanted to format my swap partition, but again that didnt work, and just hung there, however this time, it caused linux to crash. Another reboot down the line, I turned off the format swap partition option, and it installed - YAY!Rebooting, and it all seemed fine, went straight into KDE, no USB problem this time, so perhaps was just a livecd problem. Looking through the boot log, all my hardware looks like it was picked up during boot time - I'm impressed so far!Now for an OS out of the box, it's great, things like openoffice is a very nice application, the other apps are good too, so you can see why maybe for someone who isn't going to play around much with it, it's all fine, you get a nice looking interface, and some office apps, a few games, and some other things which was all nice.Now, say you're a bit more of an advanced (windows) user, and you'd like the latest drivers to make everything run as fast as possible, perhaps for gaming, multimedia, or other such things, this is where it's still falling down.Firstly my onboard sound didnt work out of the box, fair enough I thought it rarely does in windows either. However this is where windows and linux still differ, far too much imho, whereas in windows you'd put in a CD, or go to the website and download sound drivers and just run them, they are good enough to find my hardware (which windows will put in one convenient location - aka device manager), and simply install, a reboot later, and it works - pretty much. Now I know in linux the advocates will say "you dont have to reboot", well I couldnt agree less!I had no idea how to install the sound card on my linux box - I went to my motherboard home page, and of course, no sound drivers for linux - ok i thought, but then as you all know, linux uses 3rd party drivers for a lot of stuff, and after about 1 hour of searching the web, I found out that sound support is done thru a system called ALSA. Cool, so I ran alsaconf, it detected my sound card, and said it set it up correctly and that I can now play music etc.Well that's complete rubbish, it detected my soundcard as I said, and installed some lines in modprobe.conf (whatever that is?) However after restarting the sound system in KDE it kept saying that my sound device doesnt exist. Well I'm pretty sure it does, I can see it through my transparent case, and it works in windows. So after 2 more hours of searching, I found that alsaconf messed up modprobe, and needed another line that someone in a forum gave me, after doing that - and yes rebooting, sound now works! Hrm difficult for a first time linux user? Yes, impossible for someone who's not a computer buff? Yes I'd say so.But I was still happy at that point, sound was working, and in the process I did learn a little bit more about linux. Next time I'll know what to do, and wont take me as long.So now I thought it's time to get some more of my hardware working - surprisingly my digital camera was painless to install, and could be installed through the kde gui interface.My scanner caused some problems, but after an hour of poking around on the web, and finding there's some hacks with other drivers and some files from the windows drivers, you can get it to work, and it did. However again, hardware support was bad there, but at least the community could help me out, and get it working. This would not be an easy job though for a computer n00b.Linux also had direct support it seemed for my webcams, as I found gnome meeting icons on the desktop with a connection to both my usb webcams - so went through setting them up, although that didnt work either, and I was left with a green webcam image. I must admit I was getting frustrated by this point, so left them for later, as I wanted more of a gaming machine at that point anyway, so moved on to graphics drivers, to get opengl working with hardware acceleration.I have an ATI radeon X800 pro in my box, so I went to the ATI site, and proceeded to install it, the installer went through, detected I was running xorg, so installed the drivers for that. Great! I thought, finally something easy as ATI support my card properly. But when I got to the end, it said I had to run kgfrlxconf (or something to that name, i'm in windows now and cant remember the name of the file). Thought that was odd, in windows I just run the installer, reboot, and it works, full 3D, full gaming, full access to all features of my card.But ok, this is linux, it will do things a bit differently, and I'm all for that, so I ran the configuration. There were several options in there which took me some thinking before I could answer the questions, but got through it - there is no way in hell that a computer n00b would have any clue about this, but I suppose a n00b doesnt really install new drivers, or do they? But anyway I got through it, although I was quite concerned as it kept going on about firegl cards and I dont have one of them! But ok, I figured it may just be reading from a text file and forgotten to include the radeon cards in there.Gave the computer a reboot after this, and got back into KDE, although it had messed my trackball settings up and now my mouse wheel wasnt working, although luckily I knew how to fix that pretty quickly. Tried out opengl, but surprise surprise, the drivers werent installed properly, and I was running using software emulation which was VERY slow. So tried reinstalling, several times, to see if it's some options I got wrong, but no, never worked. Then I tried the xorg RPM installer from ATI, this also had the same effect. I then had to scour the web again to find a solution, couldnt find many solutions to this, found some thing about kernel sources and recompiling the AGP support or something, but that wasn't working correctly either, so all in all after 10 hours of trying to figure these drivers out - nothing! No open-gl.Now some people might find this fun, and some of you might read this and think, the sort of person I am, ur surprised why i'm not enjoying this "hacking". Well if I wanted to have to recompile a kernel to get something as simple as AGP, and my graphics card working, or have to try and fiddle around with text files to get things configured correctly (in windows u never have to touch the registry or any ini files unless u want to, things still work) then I would have been on the kernel development team - but no, i'm not interested in that, I want my hardware to work, and work fast, I want my operating system to operate the computer correctly, and not require hours of frustration and work just to get simple things to work right. I want to do the things that I enjoy doing on computers, like gaming, or writing programs for the operating system, or internet use, or video editing etc.By this time, I was in such a mood with it, that I wiped it, and went back to XP, and I was so happy to be back as well! Everything was working!So that is my experience with linux, and although it has improved leaps and bounds since 5 years ago - it is still a pain. And not as easy as some articles might lead you to believe. Now will it ever be? I think so, looking at the improvements, and maybe by the time KDE4 is out, and another year down the line, it could well be competitive to longhorn - but is it competitive with XP now? Hell no. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now