Last night, I left the PC on overnight and downloaded the SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional LiveDVD ISO file, all 1.4 GB of it. This morning I burned the ISO to DVD and booted it up.
(For those who don’t know, an ISO file is an image of all the files on a CD or DVD, in a format that also contains the file structure, and any other information such as whether the disc is bootable. It’s a convenient way of allowing whole discs to be downloaded over a network in a single file, rather than making hundreds of files available with instructions saying ‘put x in this folder, y in that folder, z in another folder’. In order to convert it back to a bootable disc you have to use disc-burning software, such as Nero Burning ROM.)
Once again, I’m typing this from within a Linux ‘live’ distribution (‘live’ impling that the operating system has been booted from CD or DVD rather than installed to and booted from hard drive). This is now the third live Linux distro I’ve tried: Ubuntu 5.04, MEPIS and now SUSE 9.3 Professional.
I was impressed with how easily each of the distros installed, found hardware and automatically set themselves up. Operating systems have come a long way in less than ten years. I remember the relative hassle in setting up my old 386 with Windows for Workgroups: FDISK, FORMAT, install MS-DOS, run MEMMAKER, and a couple of other DOS tools, install Windows, edit the AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files by hand in order to setup multi-boot options, then install hardware drivers, then install software. I could spent a day or two doing this. When I graduated to Windows 98se I could easily spend up to four days doing a full system install. Today I popped the DVD in the computer, booted up and when I returned from the kitchen with a bowl of muesli to discover that my screen was green and SUSE was in the final throes of loading.
I’ve been impressed with SUSE Linux so far. One annoying thing, so far, that I’ve not been able to disable is that if I press Shift+Spacebar I get a keyboard language window pop up, and if I don’t notice it and press another key I can sometimes end up typing in Tamil or Korean script! And I press Shift+Spacebar a lot, as an uppercase space is still a space … or so you’d think. There must be a workaround, but I’ve not discovered it yet.
I’ve also discovered that my HP Laserjet 1000w only works with Windows! I can get my HP Deskjet 5150 to work fine under Ubuntu and SUSE, but not my Laserjet. Seemingly there’s a workaround that involves uploading new firmware to the printer … I think I’ll give that a miss, to be honest.
I’ve also not managed to work out how to get Linux to recognise both my monitors … at least, as separate monitors. At the moment I get the same display on both monitors, rather than the setup I have in Windows which is to extend my desktop across two monitors, so instead of 1280 x 1024 I have 2560 x 1024.
Still, if I do install one of these Linux distros it will be to the PC upstairs, on the network, and it will be to a separate hard drive and simply to set up a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) server, and I won’t have to worry about whether it prints or not.