Linux: Making the Plunge

Ah, Cucumber Season!

Seeing as we’re heading into the depths of Cucumber Season here in Kafkaville, I’ve finally gotten around to some things I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. Namely installing Linux on my Sony VAIO laptop.

I’ve tried doing this a couple of times before, but it’s always ended badly. The big drawback to Linux is that support for different hardware – especially the kind that laptops use – is spotty to say the least. The last time I tried to install, I couldn’t find support for my video card, which meant that I could only work in 256 colors and 640×480 pixels, which was uncomfortable to say the least.

But I’ve heard that Mandrake has been making great strides with their distribution, and it’s true. The installation went smoothly, done in about a half hour, with a couple of minor glitches that I managed to fix – namely support for FireWire and a couple of Sony-specific gadget things like Memory Stick and the Jog Dial. I’ve still got a lot of loose ends to tie up, but it’s up and running now.

I’ve always been more of a fan of the Gnome desktop, and never even tried KDE, but I’m pretty thoroughly impressed with KDE 3.1’s “fit and finish.” This isn’t just a functional desktop environment, it’s actually really pretty. It’s a lot closer to Mac OS X in its design than to Windows XP, and it’s definitely better than I was expecting. Maybe because of its extensive use of a Lucida-like typeface everywhere? Or is that Stone Sans?

My next step in a couple of days will be to install WINE, which essentially lets you run Windows programs under Linux. I’ll be curious to see if my beloved PCDJ runs under it, and how much of a performance hit that’ll entail. There are really only a handful of programs I really need to run under Windows – Lotus Notes for work, Photoshop, Freehand, PCDJ, and some sound tools – but if I can get them up and running under WINE I’ll be a happy Gaucho.

The cool thing about Mandrake is that it sort of assumes you want to make your machine a “dual boot” system, meaning that you can run either Windows or Linux. It’s stuff like that that makes it easier for people to come over to Linux. You know, pusher-man style: yeah, just one little taste, but you’ll be back for more…

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