This is from an email to a friend about the saga so far in installing and learning Linux.
A few snags with Linux along the way:
- Partitions… sigh… Linux still has the Partitioning Disease that UNIX has always had. With Win2K and NTFS, and certainly with WinXP disks are no longer partitioned into smaller pieces which means that there are no difficult decisions to be made about how much space to allocate to what. But with Linux, / [root] and /home [the user root] and swap are all separate partitions. When installed on a 9GB disk lying around free, the default partitions split the space about evenly between the / and /home partitions. Well, that didn’t work. After installing the system and soft optional programs, it became clear that 3.3 GB is not enough for the system. And it seemed that /home of 4GB was way too much. So after bringing the whole thing up in about 4 hours the install had to be done again from scratch because there is no way to change partition sizes once you create them. But the CD distribution boots from CD and the installer is actually smarter than the Windows XP CD installer. You get a much smarter interface running. It’s actually a linux system running in memory with YaST [Yet Another System Tool] and a full graphics system. USB mouse works and everything… very cool…
- There was some stumbling around understanding how to install extra software from the CDs. It’s not obvious. There is a nice system admin tool – totally graphical. And it’s smarter than Windows installers when you figure out how it works. Each package has a set of dependencies, and the installer will dig those out of the rest of the catalog to install them too if they aren’t already on the system. And the install packages [RPMs] are code free. So unlike windows that has a bunch of code with every install package, these packages are just archives in a special format with dependencies and the files. Much nicer to have one standard. At least the SUSE distribution uses RPMs. There apparently are a couple of standards, and each distribution picks one and a system tool that supports is. But “layered products” can use any of the standards, since all the installers are provided. I’m still learning… There is a nifty online update. You point YaST to a archive on the web [ The install process found the Oregon State Open Systems Lab automatically doing a web search for sites near me.] And then it shows you the updates that apply to your system. It doesn’t have an Automatically Trash Your System with an Automatic Update mode like windows, but that’s ok. That never seemed like a good idea. There are an encouraging or surprising number of security updates to fix “vulnerabilities”, but no prominant mention anywhere of antivirus software. There is an OpenSource Antivirus site. I’ll study that later.
- After spending some time logged in as root it became clear that I should get with the program and run system utilites from my normal account, giving the root password each time to start the program.
- A friend put me on to SUSE a couple of years ago and I see why. It’s the most user friendly and complete distribution out there. And it’s free if you don’t mind spending about 3 hours to download 6 CDs worth of install kit. Or pay $60 for a DVD in the mail… Sometime along the way I’ll take the time to build those 6 CDs into a single DVD to avoid swapping all those CDs in and out of the drive to install software. There are instructions on the site to do that.
- Apache… I had a devil of a time getting it going. Installing was no problem. Once I found how to install stuff I found that MySQL, php5 and Apache were all provided on the distribution. But I couldn’t get the example pages to come up. I may have made a mistake by trying to change something [move the web page root directory to somewhere else] before I actually tried it. But I don’t think I screwed it up. I think the final problem was that the whole thing comes with apache config files that Disable the example pages. So you have to turn them on with the arcane but very powerful Apache configuration options. Maybe that was my mistake along the way. But it’s going now.
- The MySQL administrator from the MySQL site is a GUI for administration as well as database mods and backups. It doesn’t require the website to be running the way that phpMyAdmin does.
- The sound card isn’t working. The drivers are apparently loaded, but something between the drivers and the applications is apparently broken or not started up.
I’ll do another post with some application experiences and some screen shots of apps.