Linux after Vista

There is a surprising amount of unrest and unease in the Linux world these days, and I don’t think it has much to do with the release of Microsoft Vista this week.

I got caught up it it myself when I did some major surgery on my machine. The old PIII is gone, replaced with an Athlon-64. New memory, too. I did keep the old hard drive though, with Mandriva 2007 (released October 2006) and I was happy to see it boot right up with only a minor glitch; I had to manually reinstall the driver for the wireless network. Took two minutes and I was up and running and happy.

For about a day. Then I noticed that about half the time the new, powerful 2.4 gigahertz machine seemed to be slower than the old 600 mHz PIII.

It got stranger the more I looked. No process could be identified as taking up more than a bit of the resources (generally single-digit percents of the CPU). Hackers? The firewall seemed to be working – no indication in the logs of anything, even pings, from an odd IP. Anything I touched that used more than a smidgen of my graphics, like a video, seemed to take 100% of the CPU, and then hang on to it for several seconds or even minutes. But even when the machine was idle something was sucking resources, and then go away. It would be good for five or ten minutes.

Needless to say, after a week or two of that, I got pretty frustrated, enough so that I even downloaded a copy of the Ubuntu install.

And that’s a tale. I wouldn’t be the first to jump the Mandriva ship this year for Ubuntu. Seems like many have. Madriva has annoyed its users with a couple of minor mistakes (Kat, an ugly, star-eyed penguin) and by not changing. Not changing? Yes, I think long time KDE and Mandrake/Mandriva users are bored with blue.

Worse, their business (and it is a business, even if the distribution is free) is ailing, maybe failing.

Is there an alternative? SuSE is currently suspect because “Novell angered members of the open-source community that develops Linux and other free software programs in November when it entered a wide-ranging business deal with Microsoft.” Some purists think Novell has entered into a pact with the devil (aka, Microsoft) and may not be allowed to distribute SuSE under the GPL. Some users complain that some installers in some distros are out of date, others that other distros are too bloated.
Then there are the endemic problems. No distribution is doing great at hardware detection at the moment, both KDE and Gnome are stalled in their development (I’ll come back with a reference later), driver support still seems dismal at times and Linux in general seems no closer to general acceptance.

It’s a bit ugly.

But then, a poster in a Linux forum seemed to have exactly my problem. Then, later the same day, he suggests the answer, seemingly without realizing it (“Switch the daughter cards around, guy. It’s a good old-fashioned IRQ conflict, you dolt!” I tell myself). Seconds after doing that, I’m running on a real 64 bit machine with horsepower and speed to burn. It’s like being able to breathe again after a bad head cold.

Maybe it’s not so bad after all.

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