Well it seems I have had at least a partial success with the installation of Linux onto this machine. Numerous attempts with openSUSE, Ubuntu and Solaris all failed dismally.
openSUSE 10.2 in both 32 and 64bit versions refused point blank to find the USB device (previously they found it) and certainly wouldn’t give me the facility to configure it. This is doubly strange as I have openSUSE 10.2 running on an older machine in the spare room which uses an identical USB WiFI dongle, and it worked straight out of the box. This really is a shame as over the years, I have come to like SUSE and thought it’s progress was excellent.
Ubuntu 6.10 (32/64bit) and Ubuntu 6.06 (32 bit) also completely failed to work. While it was similar to openSUSE, Ubuntu is a lot more frustrating with it’s problems. The way Ubuntu obsesses about hiding the inner workings and hand-holding pretty much drive me insane. As I see it, the main reason some one will go to Linux is because they want the power and capabilities offered by a great OS. Making all of this hidden and “unintuitive” strikes me as abject lunacy.
Solaris 10.2 (32 bit) bombed. I wasn’t really expecting much from this, my experiences with Solaris on desktops in the past has never been “fun.” This time was no different. It got as far as trying to set up the graphical interface and crashed. A reboot and it was the same all over again.
While the Solaris farce was no surprise, I was a bit disappointed by the first two. This time last year I was happily running multiple linux machines (SUSE and Ubuntu) and would regularly tell people about the benefits of using them (see blog archives for examples). I honestly thought that the way both were heading, there was actually a chance you could get Linux out to the broader audience (ask heather – I kept harassing her to try it, saying how easy it is now, etc.). Give my recent experiences, I think both have taken a step backwards.
No one expects a “niche” OS like Linux to have out of the box support for every hardware device on Earth, but I would expect them to make it easier for people to find the problems. Having lots of on-line resources is useless when your problem is the network connection! I wonder what the goals of the various distros are – in the case of Ubuntu, I can only assume world domination. If the distro makers want to really move away from the small home market share (in the main, people who work in technical jobs), they need to re-think their approach.
This brings me to my last attempt. PCLinuxOS. Worked straight out of the box. I even did it twice to check. Both time this ran perfectly. Given the frustrations, and the cabinet full of install DVD/CD-Roms I have, this was amazing. I am even writing this on Firefox, under PCLinuxOS.
While I am impressed with it’s ability to find and connect to the network first time (with lots more configuration options than either SUSE or Ubuntu), I am not fully convinced I “like” PCLinuxOS yet. Give me some time to play with it, and see what installing new software is like – the main reason I want Linux is to set up an Apache server with PHP5, Perl, Python and Ruby/Rails to assist with web development. If this is not up to the task….
Anyway, let me close with a big well done to PCLinuxOS. It has succeeded where the bigger names failed (Even Mepis dropped the ball).