SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional

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.

Linux Bible

Linux Bible 2005 Edition cover

I’ve just begun reading this book, Linux Bible 2005 Edition by Christopher Negus (Wiley, 2005). It claims to help me:

  • Understand what Linux is and where it comes from
  • Sort through the various incarnations of Linux to choose one (or more) that is right for me
  • Try out Linux as a desktop computer, server computer, or programmer’s workstation
  • Become connected to the open-source software movement

Sounds like a good start. For quite a while I’ve wanted to get into Linux (I already own the t-shirt!). Maybe this book will give me the chance to understand what it’s all about, how it compares with Windows, and what I need to do to get started. One of my immediate concerns is regarding dual-booting, that is installing more than one operating system on the same system, in my case Linux with Windows (either 98se or XP, depending on which machine I install it on here). This book, I am certain, will guide me through that process step by step: it does claim to be the Bible after all!

I expect to return from Cellardyke on Friday a fully-trained Linux guru.

I saw a Linux ISO

Ubuntu Linux logo

I’m currently downloading the latest Ubuntu Linux ISO (v.5.04) for my good friend James.

This must be the largest single download I’ve ever attempted: 600.9 MB. I remember, only a couple of years ago, in Inverness spending four days trying to download the 24.6 MB PsiWin 2.3.3 setup file. Four days it took me before I got it downloaded without dropping a connection. It was driving me mad. I’ve now got that file on my own website … how things change.

I’d rather like to play around with Linux at some point. We’ve got another PC upstairs which isn’t used as often, and a spare 40GB hard drive that I’m sure is eager to be repartitioned and filled up with some wholesome Linux-y goodness.

I’d like to get a Linux server up and running, running Apache, PHP5 and the latest version of MySQL. But what flavour … ? James is checking out Ubuntu, I’ve got an ISO of Mandrake 10.1 to hand, I know some ISPs run Red Hat … much to decide.

That’s the easy bit: downloading the ISO and installing it. The hard bit is finding time to do it.