Taking the plunge

For as much as I talk up Openbox, and as much as I distro-hop and tinker with desktop environments, I always kept one machine with a straight Xubuntu 6.06.1 installation on it.

The logic was that I needed one machine that was dependable, one I could count on not to act funny or throw out quirks when I was troubleshooting another. I needed something to act as a reference for default settings. I needed something with solid, steady Internet access, something to hold important files, and something to act as an nfs server for data (not so much for music, but for configuration files, scripts and whatnot).

I have an old Dell Inspiron 8000 that I baby, and it serves the role I described. From a hardware standpoint, it’s nothing short of top-notch for its generation — Linksys WPC11 11Mbps wireless, 512Mb PC133, 1Ghz Pentium 3, 64Mb Nvidia Geforce4 Go 440, dual Hitachi 60Gb 7200rpm hard drives, an 8x NEC dual layer DVD+-RW and a lovely 15-inch 1600×1200 screen. It’s a very clean machine, and it plays the role perfectly. I even have a Logitech cordless mouse, because I’ve never liked touchpads.

And until today, it’s only run Dapper Xubuntu, and with no hefty modifications or tweaks. I wouldn’t even change the desktop wallpaper. That’s how close to default I wanted it.

But today I decided it was time for change. Boot times were slow with Xubuntu, and I wanted to see what it could do. So I blanked the system drive (it was time anyway), set it up as a speed-tweaked Edgy system, and set it loose.

It’s still a file server and an archive of important stuff. It’s still my backup machine for anything else that I’m busy breaking. But now, rather than the droll (to me, anyway) Xubuntu desktop, I’ve got something that fast, sleek and sexy.

And it can get from the Grub menu to the desktop in 31 seconds. šŸ˜€

9 thoughts on “Taking the plunge

  1. aussiebear

    IF you want fast, you go with something based on Slackware. Distros like Vector Linux (easy to use for desktop), Zenwalk, or even Slackware itself (if you wanna tweak).

    Hell, Arch Linux can do the same job from GRUB to KDE in 46 seconds on my notebook. (But do bare in mind, your HDD is 7200rpm, my one is 4200rpm).

    On the desktop, using a PIII 933Mhz with a 7200rpm HDD, Arch can do GRUB to KDE in 31 seconds.

    If you want dependable, go for something like Debian or Slackware and build on that. (Ubuntu is essentially Debian “Etch” with changes and more stuff loaded on)

  2. kmandla Post author

    Hi Ron. I use Killdisk to low-level format drives before I reinstall system software. I have had problems simply reformatting and reinstalling software over existing systems, but running Killdisk solves it for me. It can be time-consuming to blank the entire drive, so I usually just run it to about 4 percent, which eradicates the MBR and anything close to the center of the drive. That’s usually enough to reset the drive in a practical sense.

    By the way, that laptop has a pair of hard drives, so I make one the “system” drive and once the “archive” drive. Just a quirk of the way I do things, I guess.

  3. kmandla Post author

    Hey aussiebear. Thanks for the ideas. I’ve worked with Arch in the past, and love it. When I want a really fast system, that’s what I use. I have a tendency to return to Ubuntu only because of the way it sets things up, and the completeness (?) of an installation. In Arch I always seem to be finding things I forgot to install, and putting them into place.

    I’ve used Slackware in the past, but didn’t care much for it. (I’m sorry, but I don’t remember why.) If I try something new anytime soon, it’s likely to be Etch. I’ve heard good things off the forums about it, and I understand it’s possible to start with a very lightweight system and build up. That always appeals to me. šŸ™‚

  4. kmandla Post author

    I’ll have to try out dban; I hadn’t heard of it. I know Killdisk is generally a trial version of their full software suite. It comes with the usual limitations on use (one pass only, writes zeroes only, etc.), but it has always done the job real well for me.

    I’ll try out dban now though, and see what I think. Thanks!

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