A couple of months ago I was experimenting with Mandrake on my ancient Dell laptop.
Well time goes on and so does my choice of distro for my laptop.
Although Mandrake was working fine I decided to experiment a little, so I replaced Mandrake 9.* with Mandrake 10 via a net install. Once that was running "happily" it was time to change again, so the next distro I tried was Suse 9.
We'd got all the disks from the nice people in Novell who we met at the ICT Expo, so the install was easy enough. To make things a little more interesting I decided to replace the default desktop with Ximian.
Ximian is designed very much with the corporate environment in mind. It's very nice to look at and easy to use, but it wasn't really for me.
I also encountered a couple of odd issues with my wireless connection. Although it worked fine when it was "up" the boot sequence was a bit demented and loaded modules in a rather strange order. End result being that I had to manually enable the wireless connection after boot. It may not take long to drop into a shell as root and type:
But I really don't see why I should have to go to that trouble every single time I boot the system.
So what could I try? I didn't particularly want Redhat, Tao or Whitebox, so I decided I'd give Debian a go.
Debian stable (woody) has been out for over 2 years at this stage, so, although there are "back ports" of recent applications, it isn't really at the "cutting edge".
There were two other options:
As it says, it is "unstable". Although I may like testing beta software etc., the idea of something breaking every second day is not too appealing, especially as my experience with Debian was non-existent.
Applications that have been in the unstable tree long enough to be considered ready for testing. It may still break, but it's less likely (or so I'm told)
I opted for "testing".
In order to install it I first downloaded and burnt a 100 MB ISO from one of the Debian repositories.
Booting from the new CD the"sarge" installer, which is text based, prompts you for a some basic information about your system. Unlike other installers that I've used in the past the Debian one seems a lot more intuitive. For example, with regard to network configuration, once I gave it my laptop's IP it was able to prompt me for the gateway address. All I had to do was confirm it.
A few dialogue prompts later and it started downloading the software it needed to install a base system. 20 minutes later (more or less), you are presented with a working, albeit rudimentary, Debian system. You can then choose what other software you want to run and let it go off and grab what it needs.
Debian had no problems recognising any of the hardware on my laptop, so I had full support for:
- wireless card
- touch pad
- external mouse
without ANY tweaking.
The other distros I had tried may have detected all of the hardware, but I had to confirm versions etc., for some if not all components.
One of the other things I really like is the version of KDE. Unlike Fedora Core 2 and other distros, the Debian maintainers don't bastardise it.
Debian uses apt for package management. The sources are set in /etc/apt/sources.list , so it is easy enough to update them to point to a local mirror and / or add other resources.
As it is the "testing" release there are frequent updates, so running:
(as root) every day is a must.
As I don't have the machine on 24/7 tools like apticron aren't of much use.
Debian recognised that I was IPv6 enabled during the install.
Unlike RedHat, the Debian versions do not seem to have been as restricted by copyright concerns etc., so mpeg support was easy to get.
If you must know it's a Dell Latitude C600 with a p3 850, 256 MB RAM
I love it.
The overall performance of the system is a lot better and I feel like my p3 850 has taken on a new lease of life.