Saturday, 22 May, 2004

Trying Linux once again

I'm back to torturing Linux again, this time in a real effort to move my personal email, writing, and day-to-day work from Windows. I've installed SuSE 9.1 Professional on my 1.2 GHz AMD machine and am slowly getting it configured. I'm a little disappointed so far by the default install, and have been adding packages as I find that I need them. I was surprised that the default installation doesn't include the Samba client so that I can copy files from my Windows machine. Even after installing Samba I'm not able to access my Windows shares, and the error message I get is very cryptic: "client process died unexpectedly." SuSE's support Web site hasn't been very helpful with this one. I find it strange that I was able to get Samba working without trouble in SuSE 7.0 and 8.0, but am having all this trouble with the newer version. The Windows computer hasn't changed--it's still Windows 2000 and I know that the shares work as I'm able to access them from other Windows machines and from Samba running on a Mandrake install.

I'm a little confused by the problems that Fedora is having with my video hardware (see my March 16 entry for full information). According to this bug report the problem lies in the S3 video driver and the workaround is to use the VESA driver, although that's not an optimum solution. The RedHat team kicks the problem back to the XFree86 team. All well and good, I guess, for free software, but I'd be pretty upset if I paid for the software and it didn't work with such common hardware. It's still a mystery to me why Mandrake and SuSE work but Fedora doesn't. Perhaps the working ones have decided to use the VESA driver by default because the S3 driver is broken. I guess I should look into that.

Of all the distributions I've used lately I'm most impressed with Mandrake's install, but even that one has some odd problems. I installed it on an older machine the other day. It correctly identified my video hardware, but then configured XFree86 to use a video mode that the card doesn't support. As a result, X fails to start and reports that the video mode isn't supported. It seems to me that the installation program should be able to determine the valid video modes and act accordingly. Very odd.

I've settled on SuSE 9.1 Professional for my production machine and will continue configuring it to meet my needs. I have a lab machine that I'll be using to evaluate other distributions and perform some experiments. I'll keep you posted here.