Reports from the home counties

I am not the only person I know who uses Linux, speaking of my immediate sphere of relationships (in other words aside from you, humble reader). I have mentioned some of them in the past, and they’re probably worth an update, since some have Linux resumes that date back as long as mine. Some longer.

For example, about two and a half years ago I put Ubuntu on two laptops for friends — one was an Asus W3J, and the other was a Toshiba Centrino machine.

Both were, at the time, quirky in their own way, but at latest correspondence (those two both live in the United States now) they had both purchased new laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled. And to the best of my knowledge, they’re still using it today.

In the “cautious adoption” department, my brother has tapdanced around Linux for years — even longer than I have, and can even claim firsthand experience with System V on an Intergraph CLIX machine.

These days he seems to be slowly encroaching on a full-time Linux installation, and even sent this photo a day or two ago, showing a Dell Optiplex 745 with 9.10 on it.

That particular machine is a Celeron D, with 1Gb of memory, the Radeon X1300 and about 160Gb of storage space. The aforementioned dv7 has had both Ubuntu and Windows on it in comparable amounts, but the rumor mill says it will be showing up on eBay sometime soon.

My mother has a time-in-service with Ubuntu that rivals mine, and actually exceeds it if my general desertion for lighter distributions is taken into account.

She started with 5.10 and hasn’t looked back. The same Inspiron 600m that ran Dapper was traded in for a preinstalled Dell dual-core machine, and that has been in service on a daily basis for years now. Two or three self-managed upgrades and there is no sign of it quitting, from a software or hardware point. Which is how it should be.

Locally I have had one machine prove to be a little more cumbersome than others — my neighbor’s Celeron. It’s a nice machine and works great; the problem is now and has been that Ubuntu has bloated to such a point as to make it nigh-unusable.

As mentioned a while ago, putting a little more memory in the computer helped quite a bit, but the system was still sluggish and crept along at times.

An obligatory (and pointless) downshift to Xubuntu was only a tiny bit better, and as a result it now runs Arch Linux. Arch is leaps and bounds faster, as anyone will tell you, and runs the full Gnome suite on (literally) a fragment of the memory that Ubuntu requires.

The difference is night and day, with the only “downside” being that the Gnome version of Arch holds your hand less than the Ubuntu version. I’ve had to add two or three things manually, to include things like a certain music player, or VLC.

I’ve also been looking for a graphical front-end to pacman — gtkpacman seems okay — if only for my neighbor’s general peace of mind. Humans require the illusion of control, but some don’t take well to the CLI. That is nature.

On the other hand, putting together a system with the same array of software as what was used in Ubuntu is easier, really. Not only does pacman take a fragment of the time of aptitude, but for some reason the rolling-release system is proving more trustworthy, if you can believe that.

Twice now the Radeon-based graphics card in the machine has gone to an unrecoverable “safe graphics” mode. Once it was fixable with a system update, but the second time was the last straw. Slow performance, repeated video failures and my own advice that Ubuntu was not the only (or best) solution, and we have another Archer on our hands.

That too is nature. 😉

2 thoughts on “Reports from the home counties

  1. x33a

    Having a graphical frontend to pacman is good for the less experienced. but as you must already know, pacman is not a fire and forget type of package manager as compared to apt or yum, and so upgrading the system can be problematic sometimes.

    Hence, i would never put arch on the computer of a linux newbie.

    1. quigybo

      While I still think that it is only a matter of time before a proper GUI frontend using libalpm comes along, I agree with x33a that using Arch requires a little bit of knowledge and enthousiasm in maintaining it through the many updates. I always review what is being installed, and if anything interesting comes up, either as a post install message, new version of an important package or new dependencies, I double check that everything is ok afterwards. That and a quick look at the Arch news feed to see if there are any notices there.

      My point is that, while I prefer Arch for my own system, I still recommend one of the more ‘user friendly’ distros for linux newcomers. Rolling release has many advantages, ‘newcomer friendly’ is not one of them.


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