Looking for a suitable Linux again

My main computer which I use all the time has been out of action for some time now. Mainly, there’s something wrong with the monitor cable which makes the colors go haywire once in a while and the DVD drive has been acting up lately. Besides, the old GeForce 2 was starting to show it’s age. None of the proprietary drivers that I tried worked with it. So my dear friend is taking a break while I go shopping for replacements and upgrades. In the meanwhile, I’m using my parent’s computer which has Windows XP and PCLinuxOS.

On my own machine I had Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS and Arch installed, but I had fallen in love with Arch and used it almost exclusively. I’ve been using Windows XP for quite a while and having been installing some freeware and a number of Firefox extensions, to make it feel more like home, but no matter what I do, I always have this urge to get back to Linux. Today I gave in to that urge and booted into PCLinuxOS after a long time. PCLinuxOS has moved on since the last time I used it. It’s close to a new release which will be a big upgrade from the previous one and updates for the current release have been discontinued. So instead of going for whatever few upgrades I’ve missed out on, I’ve decided to wait until the next version is released. By the looks of it, that should be about a month or so.

But I decided that I needn’t to keep myself busy until PCLinuxOS 2007 came out and so I’ve started a new distro search. Basically I’m looking for two distros: One will be something of a work distro. It will have a decent array of software (including the usuals like OpenOffice, Firefox and basic media tools) and should work properly out of the box. Installing and removing programs should be easy and simple. Above all I want something that is rock-solid and won’t require tinkering every once in a while. I want this to be an operating system where I can work without being distracted by opportunities to play around (I have Arch for that). Secondl, I want a portable LiveCD distro, with good hardware recognition that is lightweight and can save data back to the CD. The only essential things that I need are a GUI, network tools and Firefox.

For the first one, there are a number of opportunities to choose from. I’ve been thinking about using one the heavyweight distros, namely openSUSE 10.2, Mandriva 2007 and Fedora 6. But I’ve never been a fan of the big distros. More importantly I was skeptical about package management in all three of them (I had heard a few horror stories). And not being able to play mp3s out of the box is a big minus. But just to be fair to them, I’m going to take them for a spin once my machine gets fixed. There is a small chance that I might like one of them, but personally I think PCLinuxOS still beats the lot. I’ll elaborate on why later.

The live Linux has fewer options, because though Live CDs and DVDs are becoming popular, there are few that can write back to the CD or DVD. For this I’m going with Puppy Linux. It’s a small linux (86MB) that is designed to run as a live CD. But it’s small enough to load entirely into RAM so your CD drive doesn’t stay occupied. The default software is good enough for a minimalist distro, but there is a lot of other software on offer that is fairly painless to install. And the best part is that you can save it all right on the CD itself, no need for a hardware install.

I’ll leave you with a few of my previous articles regarding Puppy Linux and in my next post I’ll take an in-depth look at my three favourite Linux distros and what you can use each one for.
Let your puppy show you how to run your computer without a Hard Disk
Storage Strategies for a Hard Disk free computer
Ubuntu without a hard drive

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Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

One thought on “Looking for a suitable Linux again”

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