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Re: What *nix do you recommend for a laptop?

by samizdat (Vicar)
on Mar 05, 2008 at 14:03 UTC ( #672174=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to What *nix do you recommend for a laptop?

Here we go again... but I'll bite because I've got new input.

I have an aging Dell Inspiron 6000 (1.6GHz Celeron, 1GB RAM, 40 GB disk) that's a good test. Since my employer (D*ll) uses Linux as the environment we develop embedded code to target, I have been using Fedora 6 and 8 on my home L/T for over a year now. It worked superbly except that

  • Gnome2 does wierd things with fadeouts (which I believe can be turned off),
  • the Synaptics touchpad driver often likes to go back-browser when I drag left,
  • and I couldn't get it to accept <unmentionable> codecs.
Overall, a very positive experience. Suspend locked up less than WinXP does, and then only when I left firefox open on my gmail and closed the lid. Packages were easy to deal with, updating worked well, and ease-of-use was very good.

Recently I managed to screw it up -- being greedy and seeing if opening up the development tree would help the aforementioned problems -- so I decided to try Ubuntu. Hated it. They've managed to completely screw up the administrative privilege system of *NIX. Can't log in as root, can't su -, same p/w for admin as for normal user, doesn't always work right. Wiped it two days after installing.

Since I have a lot of history with FreeBSD (back to 2.1.5), I decided I'd try DesktopBSD. It is purported to have the same ease of use as recent Linux distros. It does have that, indeed, including a nice GUI package/ports installer that's better than Fedora/Gnome's. It also has a well-tailored KDE install that I find to be much more stable and configurable than Gnome. However, when I tried to optimize the functionality of the OS underneath the desktop, I ran into problems getting the kernel to recompile. Do not know if that was my pilot error or inherent in the distro, but I looked and the DesktopBSD mailing lists are sparse. Wiped it and downloaded latest FreeBSD-6.3.

Okay, so I'm back to where I started. Latest FreeBSD systems preinstall more things than they used to, but you still need to allow for a good two weeks to get your system completely set up the way you want it. The FreeBSD philosophy is also NOT to do things like automounting USB keys and wireless connectivity. It's easy enough to set up these things, because the FreeBSD documentation is very good. I just wrote some one-liner shell scripts and attached them to KDE panel buttons. KDE is very easy to understand and configure, much more so than Gnome.

From an expert's perspective, the underlying mechanisms of FreeBSD are so much more efficient and tunable than (any) Linux that it's worth the effort. My clunky old Celeron blows more modern dual-core l/t's out of the water regularly. That said, it's a lot of work. There are also some packages that are painful to get working (Inkscape comes to mind), but when you do succeed, the speed of operation is awesome. My graphics subsystem is a low-end R300, but DRI and OpenGL work fine under latest ported Xorg 7.3.

So, I'm back to loving my FreeBSD and will almost certainly not switch back. However, for 90% of the rest of you, I'd have to say that Fedora 8 is a much better deal. I'd set it up to launch KDE rather than Gnome, but overall the Fedora experience I had was quite good. Ubuntu was slightly prettier, but they definitely need to take a step back and reconsider the way they've "helped" users handle root. =8^O

Don Wilde
"There's more than one level to any answer."


Comment on Re: What *nix do you recommend for a laptop?
Re^2: What *nix do you recommend for a laptop?
by tirwhan (Abbot) on Mar 05, 2008 at 14:30 UTC
    so I decided to try Ubuntu. Hated it. They've managed to completely screw up the administrative privilege system of *NIX. Can't log in as root, can't su -, same p/w for admin as for normal user,

    Huh?

    marc@deadpool:~$ su - Password: root@deadpool:~#

    You must have been on a different Ubuntu from the rest of the world. And changing the root password shouldn't be beyond someone who has used Linux for over a year now. The privilege system on Ubuntu is pretty much the same as it is on all modern Linux distros.

    The FreeBSD philosophy is also NOT to do things like automounting USB keys and wireless connectivity.

    That's certainly a real incentive to use it. Users have been crying for this nonfeature for ages now... </sarcasm>

    From an expert's perspective, the underlying mechanisms of FreeBSD are so much more efficient and tunable than (any) Linux that it's worth the effort.

    Care to point to some concrete examples here? Otherwise I'll just have to call bollocks on this and almost the entire rest of your post. I certainly don't want to start a "my-OS-is-better-than-yours"-flamewar here (and there are certainly valid reasons why one could choose say, FreeBSD over Linux as ones OS), but your post rates a bit high on the FUD-ometer to go by unchallenged. Anyone who claims that their "Celeron blows modern dual-core CPUs out of the water" is either full of bs hyperbole or needs to learn how to benchmark.


    All dogma is stupid.
      Whew! Remind me not to get in the way of tirwhan rolling out of bed in the morning... <G>

      Obviously, this was One User's Experience(TM), tirwhan, and did I or did I not make it clear that I love FreeBSD? Also obviously, any geek worth his salt knows that a Celeron is a slug, but that makes my point. Tuning your OS so that it appears to be running rings around a dual core machine is a real rush. And, I believe I stated, sorry if I didn't, that I was comparing it to WinXP on said dual core.

      My point was that FreeBSD is tunable as well as fast out of the box. Its networking stack is still the envy of all *NIXen, and the VM algorithms implemented and improved since 5 are reputed to be the best. I compared three basic userland tasks (very subjectively): web browsing, USB-key-to-disk reading, and Blender3D. Would you agree that those three activities exercise a lot of a desktop system? In all cases, FreeBSD rocked. This is with a streamlined kernel but not yet any tunables tweaked.

      It's Gnome that automounts USB keys, not Linux. Might I remind you that Linux doesn't do a whole heck of a lot by itself? That's not meant as a slur on Linux, just a reminder that Linux is only a kernel. The FreeBSD team does a lot of the work of the distro-creators like RH, Fedora Core Team, and Ubuntu's creators. I have my l/t set up with one-button mount and unmount of my key, and I prefer it that way. If I wanted auto-mounting, I could easily add that feature, because, yes, I do know a little bit of programming. I could also load Gnome and have my little key automagically appear as well.

      I do not know why I couldn't su on Ubuntu. It wouldn't let me log in as root, su, or sudo the way it was set up, and I doubt I mistyped my password all 40 or so different ways I tried.

      It's not my place to tell you not to love Ubuntu. Go right ahead. I do like Linux a lot more than I used to, and I'm sure that if I had the time to learn it to the degree that I know BSD UN!X, I could tweak it just as much. Certainly Linux has matured a whole bunch, and its end-user install experience (as implemented in Fedora and other desktop-oriented distros) is much superior to FreeBSD... for desktop users who want to stay casually acquainted with their OSen. As I said, for such users, the subject of the OP's quest, Fedora is a better choice, even in my own biased opinion. Certainly there are times when I want to act like a casual user and have things 'just work' myself, too. :D

      Don Wilde
      "There's more than one level to any answer."
      I made it sound like I was comparing BSD to Linux on the dual core. Mia culpa. I still think FreeBSD will be faster, especially after tweaking, but not THAT much faster. :)

      Don Wilde
      "There's more than one level to any answer."
Re^2: What *nix do you recommend for a laptop?
by sth (Priest) on Mar 05, 2008 at 19:14 UTC
    Did you try PCBSD? I actually prefer to compile from src, but I have read good things about PCBSD. Right now I am running 7-STABLE and PCBSD is based on 6.3 (I think)
      I used to do source compile for everything, too, but now I only do it for things like Apache that I need source for. How's the 7-STABLE package / port tree? I actually d/l 7.0-RC3 disks, but decided against it. This is a multi-use laptop that has to have most of the bells and whistles.

      Now that I've got it loaded the way I want, I'm not going to dump and reconfigure until I go to 7. I looked at the PC-BSD site, too, and saw that their mailing lists are just as sparse as DBSD... virtually non-existent. I know that some of this is due to the fact that FreeBSD is so complete in its support, but it put me off that nobody except the committers are talking there.

      I guess there'll never be a herd ("Hurd?") of FreeBSD users, but there sure are some very happy FreeBSD users. :D

      Don Wilde
      "There's more than one level to any answer."

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