Linux Update

So it was January of ’05 that I put together a PC from spare parts and put my first version of Linux on it. That was the Mandrake 10.0 distribution. It wasn’t until April of that year that I finally, finally, finally got enough saavy to get the (wireless) link to the wireless router working, and get online.
Well, since then, almost every part in the pc has been replaced, usually with compatible used stuff from ebay, and Mandrake changed it’s name to Mandriva. The PC is still a now-puny 600 MHz PIII. But it works surprisingly well.

Mandriva has changed too. I’ve gone through the 10.0 and 10.1 Mandrake, and 2005 and 2006 releases, and this week, just a couple of days after it came out, I installed the 2007 version. The surprise was that my wireless, the card that took me almost 4 months to master and make work in a half jury-rigged kind of way in 2005, now works “out of the box”. I’ve had more problems with windows drivers.

Not that it all went so smoothly, mind you. I erred by turning on the 3-D graphics effects without checking that the video card I’m using can handle that. I still don’t know! Once the effects were turned on, I couldn’t find a way to completely turn them off. Some settings, local to my login-session, were corrupted badly. Two days of futzing with it did absolutely no good, and re-installing fresh was a cheap option. Since I already had everything backed up, that was a snap.

My history with Mandriva is a good-news, bad-news, kind of thing, with mostly good news. The bad is that they seem to have a habit of releasing new versions with an uncomfortable number of frustrating bugs. This time it was the graphics configuration, and maybe a minor bug with screen-savers. Last time, it was a buggy menu-editor and a mouse driver error that made the mouse cursor almost transparent!
The good news is that Mandriva has been pretty quick to get out the bug-fixes and updates, and when they do that, the system has been tremendously stable. For all the complains made about 2006, (and my own misgivings about giving up 2005, which I really liked at the time), it was a fine release after the first go-round of updates.

It’s still very early, and the complaints I have left are with 3rd party software (like mplayer – what’s up with the inability to detect their own codecs anyway? They either have a software problem they’re not owning up to, or they don’t bother to read their own installation instructions, which are pretty mediocre to begin with).

I have an acid test coming up. I’ve been collecting parts for a new PC, this time based on the Athlon 64 processor. I’m just one heat-sink and one DDR memory stick away from a complete system now, and yes, it’s an exciting thing to contemplate! Well see if I can make it work.

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