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I am now able to get some real use out of Linux. I have
downloaded the Sun Star office program from Sun's web site. It was a 64 meg
download, but the program is great. There are some Linux distributions that
now include this program, along with the Linux version of Office Suite. I
have considered replacing my Redhat Linux with the new Corel version, but
have just upgraded to the new Redhat 9 (wonderful). I have nothing against
Redhat, and actually like it quite a bit, but had hoped that the Corel version
would be the dominant one in the market. The original Linus was a bargain
486 machine, but was soon replaced with a slow pentium. This machine has
now been upgraded to a much faster slot 1 machine. Besides the Sun Star office
suite, this machine has Netscape, Open Office, and the new Corel WordPerfect
suite. There are also some programing tools, and a selection of assorted
software titles and utilities. The Sun suite can be downloaded (or ordered)
, but be warned the Linux download is huge and will take hours, though you
are offered the choice of getting several smaller downloads. The other choice
is to get the whole series on a set of CD roms along with a set of manuals
for around $40. This might be the way to go for those who are not comfortable
with Linux, or who value the several hours of time required to download and
then try to figure out the installation, at more than the $40 asking price
for the set of manuals. There are versions for Linux, Unix, Solaris, and
even Windows. Corel no longer offers or supports it's version of Linux, which
is a shame. I presently am using Redhat 9, which was a recent upgrade to
my 7.2 Redhat. I had mainly been using xwindows as my gui, but have begun
using Gnome, the new gui (graphic user interface) included with the Redhat
6.1 package. Gnome is a pretty good choice, and it does much to ease the
path for those of us who have been brought up on the Microsoft line of products.
There are a number of other user interfaces out there, including one called
KDE, which is modeled after the popular Unix CDE interface, and should ease
the transition of the Unix user.
The first incarnation of Linus was based upon an old 486/100 motherboard, and some spare parts I had lying around, and though this set up ran pretty well, Linux deserves better. The second version of Linus, was an old Compaq computer bought for around $150 on one of the auction sites. It was given a slightly larger hard drive (4.3 vs the original 2.2), along with an extra 8 megs of ram I had laying around. This latest version has a larger hard drive, more RAM, and a considerably faster CPU. This is essentially the soul of Littleguy, which became available to me after a recent upgrade. Linux would seem to have a great future, and as it is an open platform not tied to any one company, it should develop quickly now that it is receiving some support. I expect to see a number of applications available for it soon, and I also am going to look into the possibility of attempting to port over some Unix programs. This machine is somewhat overshadowed by my Solaris machine, Junior. I am looking forward to seeing what compatibility the two operating systems will have with each other.
The preceding paragraph hints at one of the great features of Linux---it's cost. Hardware requirements of the system are so low that a truly high performance machine can be had for one or two hundred dollars, and the operating system may be had for nothing at all. My present Linux machine runs wonderfully, but it would make a marginal to poor platform for Windows Me, or 2000 to run on. Unlike Windows, Linux is free, and it will remain free. Future versions of the operating system will be offered on web sites, and may be downloaded and installed at no cost with little trouble. As a former user of the assorted versions of DOS, and windows (win 3, 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, ME, and 2000) I can attest to the fact that it is expensive to purchase, and then continually update the OS; Linux will end all of that.
People who are familiar with the Microsoft NT OS, will feel a sense of dejavu with some of the hardware requirements. Linux (at least the present versions) can not deal with plug and play very well, nor is it able to handle usb, firewire, or dvd (at least not natively). There is also a limited selection of devices available which have drivers written for Linux, and since this is an open system, there is not always the support and standardization available which would smooth these types of problems out. I had a frustrating time putting this machine on my network. The networking components are simple enough, once you give them some thought, but I had great difficulty getting Linux to recognize a network card (tried four different cards before I found one that worked). This hardware fussiness will diminish as the platform grows in popularity, but for now it is a factor in the installation. Linux will also obviously not be able to use any software dependent hardware, like a Winmodem, or many of the sound cards out there. Some of these issues have been sovled in newer versions (my first was Redhat 5.2). Hardware restrictions aside, Linux has very low hardware requirements. It will run on a 386 with 4mb of ram, and the OS itself is small enough to fit on a floppy. Running the GUI will require a total of 8 mb of ram, and you should have a couple of hundred megs on your hard drive. The recommended system is a 486/100 with 16mb of ram and 200-1000 mb on your hard drive. Less than this will give you a bootable version of Linux, but you will be able to get little use from it other than running some native text editors and such.
The system itself is very reliable since it is not cursed with the noxious Windows memory map, nor is it burdened with the requirement to be backwards compatible with every computer program written since the early eighties as Windows is. Linux can scale itself up or down to match the memory, storage, number of clients, and number and speed of processors. The Unix operating system, upon which Linux is based, is known for being bulletproof, and Unix servers routinely operate for months at a time without rebooting, even with constant full loads. The internet itself is essentially a Unix network, and TCP/IP, the network protocol of the internet was introduced by Unix. The machines can be modified, upgraded, and even recompiled without having to bring them down. Linux is in many ways equal to Unix, and it is considered by some to be better for certain jobs. It also has the same reputation for being robust, scalable, and bulletproof as it's parent. There are multiprocessor machines with hundreds of CPU's which are run by Linux. The computer effects generated for the movie Titanic, including the sinking of the ship itself, were generated on a Linux machine. I have a little section on Linux and me on another page. I am still learning all of the new features of Redhat 9, but hope to spend some time with it this winter.
There will soon be a deluge of software ported over, or specifically written for Linux/Unix. In the vanguard will be companies like Corel. Having been trained in the graphic arts, I am particularly excited about all of the graphics programs being produced for Linux. There are rumors about Adobe porting it's outstanding series of products over to Linux, but Corel has already done so with Word Perfect, and will soon be introducing Corel Draw for Linux. When I was back at school, Corel owned the word processing, and graphic arts world, but let it's products slip. Ventura Publisher was the best DTP out there before Quark stole the market. Word Perfect was the undisputed choice in word processors, and CorelDraw was a requirement for anyone who aspired to do any kind of artwork or illustration on a computer. Corel has updated Ventura and CorelDraw, so that they are both serious contenders again, and both applications, along with a number of others, are available for Linux. Right now Linux is a good system for a person who needs an exceptionally reliable computer for specific applications. It's lack of software has hamstrung it until recently, but that will soon change. Along with a new collection of applications written for it, there are now application which allow Linux to run Unix, and even Windows software. What this means is that Linux will soon be moving out of it's specialized niche, and into the mainstream market. This should, in turn, cause more applications to be written, which will, in turn, enhance the popularity of the system even more, and so a synergistic effect will occur which may have as great an influence on the development of computing as the introduction of the microprocessor and the introduction of WIndows