punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Being all Techy-Geeky - Alternate O/Ss and Why I Use Them

This part of the blog is really technical. You may skip it if you don't want to hear anything about computers or installing alternative operating systems. Once in a while, I'll be posting like this for my technical friends.

My foray into non-Windows O/Ss started back when I was programming for a PDP/11 and some Atari 8-bit... wait, that's too far back. Let's gloss over the BASIC, FORTRAN, and LOGO I did in the 1970s... and the C64 and Timex Sinclar ZX80 of the 80s... and, hell, I didn't really program much on the AtariSTs... and let's stop in 1990, with my first real Unix account. It was on the Bessel box at the University of Maryland. It was Solaris System V, and I made neat shell scripts. Wheeee! Okay, seriously, let's start just a few years ago when I was aware of Linux.

When I had an AtariST, some really high-end, massive geekinoids talked about something called "Minix" which ran on the ST, but I had no idea what that really meant. Well, from Minix came one of the first Open Source projects, Linux. Okay, if you read this far, you probably know all about Linux, anyway. My first was Red Hat, version 4.something which my friend Nate gave me in 1998. I never got it to work. I gave it another go when I got RH 6.0 for $19.95 in a "discontinued" bin at BJ's Warehouse, and I got THAT to work, but other than the command line, I never could figure out the GNOME environment. But I started to use it at work more and more, and now, it's 2003 and I have some stuff to talk about!

What's not running WindowsXP at home is running Redhat Linux, Mandrake Linux, or OpenBSD. I have run both on a variety of machines at work and home, and here's what I have to say about them all.

Mandrake Linux - Highly Recommended for Beginners
The best feature Mandrake has, IMHO, is it's super-simple to install. The worst is that it installs a lot of stuff by default, and if I knew Linux better, I am sure I could explain why things seem to run more slowly on a Mandrake box, although it's essentially the same Linux. I wouldn't install Mandrake on a box less than 400mhz, if for anything, the installer itself is a massive graphics hog. I have one machine that runs Mandrake, but it's a backup file server, so I am not on it that much.

Redhat Linux - Recommended for Most People Serious about Linux, but Slightly Lazy
This is the best middle-ground Linux installer I know of. It's not super-simple, but it's not too complex, either. The installer defaults to text if you have less than 64mb of RAM, but that's not a bad thing, really. It does have slightly less options on a custom install, but by then, you don't care. I have my main Linux box (primary file, SMB, DNS, and NTP server), plus a bunch of "Gee whiz" boxes for all the terrible experiments I do with spare parts. Let's see, we have Osana (old Dell Optiplex 450mhz), Keiichi (P2/400 I built), Jabberwok (P/166mmx I built), and possibly soon Mononoke, an old Dell P166 Win95 box I kept for some old Win95 hardware I just got rid of. My son also is running Redhat 8.0 on Belldandy, an old Dell 733mhz customer "overstock" (someone custom ordered it, didn't show up, Dell sold it to me for almost cost). I gave him Linux so he wouldn't be able to play games in his room (it's for serious homework only). I must say, Redhat's 8.0 is the best yet, and I like "Bluecurve," for a GUI (modified KDE) even though some people don't.

OpenBSD - Recommended for Paranoid Security Freaks Who Have a Lot of Time on Their Hands
I first heard of OpenBSD from a friend who wanted some networking advice at a New York hacker convention (H2K2). He wanted some DHCP and security advice for some server cluster he was going to demo there. I'm not going to ask what he actually did there, but while walking him through ifconfig, I installed OpenBSD on a spare machine here at work. It ran super fast on crap hardware, and our lab is always getting hacked. Not one of them crashed. Installation was easy. So was installing samba and even seti@home. Right now, I am STILL working on this system, but if I can get them configured right, and get KDE going on them, it might replace Linux. The biggest problem is community support is crappy and sparse. Right now I have two systems at home running OpenBSD. Gryphon, a cranky AMDK5/133 frankenputer, and Alice, and pretty ancient Dell OptimaLE overclocked 486/133 box.

Yeah, I have a lot of boxes, or "boxen" as the geek world calls it. Not many GOOD ones, but then again, I don't have the money to just go out and buy new parts for my "hobbies." Most of them are not even on or plugged into anything. I have a KVM switch I got off of Ebay (and had to fix), but it only had 4 working ports, leaving only one port to play with at any given time unless I want to hook up a second monitor and man, my den is hot enough with three boxen and one monitor running.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000064.html
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