What OS should I use?

Peter Schuller peter.schuller at infidyne.com
Mon Feb 9 04:45:31 PST 2004

> I have an old used Gateway (Solo 9100) laptop with a Pentium2, 4-GB, 640k
> RAM, the system is x86 based physical memory is 191.51mb total and 91.57mb
> available.

First of all let me say that I don't know the status of hardware support with 
that laptop on any of the linux/unixe. I would expect things to work, but 
have no specific knowledge.

> it or tinker too much at first. I am willing and eager to learn but at
> first I want the OS to be fairly painless to use. I don't want to have to
> be a super techie or have to jump threw a lot of hoops just to get the OS
> to work.

If your goal is to be up and running with sensible defaults for a desktop 
system as soon as possible, than I would recommend one of the Linux 
distributions aimed for that purpose (Mandrake, S.u.S.e., etc) though I 
haven't used them much myself.

I am not saying those are the best choices - I personally mostly prefer 
FreeBSD, Debian and Gentoo. But they do tend to come with a "plug and play" 
type setup trying to be a bit more like Windows in that respect, while with 
FreeBSD/Debian/Gentoo/others like it you would need to configure X and such 
yourself. I do blieve though that among the Linuxes, Debian probably has the 
most powerful package management system. 

Though this is a FreeBSD list and I would love to recommend FreeBSD :), I 
don't know if I want to do that given the system specs. Both the core system 
and ports are sources based and will require some time to compile, especially 
if you want to install things like KDE which takes hours to compile 
completely even on modern laptops - and require quite a bit of space too.

This is not to say FreeBSD requires a powerful computer. But if that laptop is 
the one and only system you have and you want a system practical for everyday 
desktop use, a binary package mechanism might be best. At least if you intend 
on upgrading / keeping up to date on a regular basis.

Of course the system is installed in binary form from the installation CD:s, 
and there are binary packages built from ports. So what I just said doesn't 
really apply if you intend to stick with -RELEASE version of FreeBSD and not 
continously upgrade every day/week.

If people on the list disagree with me here, feel free to chime in...

> I also think there may be another issue I haven't diagnosed yet. I tried a
> version of KNOPPIX WFTL edition from a book (Moving to Linux) but it
> wouldn't load on my machine. It asked me to insert another disk but I
> didn't have one (I got the book from the library). It did load on friends
> PC so the disk was good though it ran to slow from the CD ROM to know if
> I'd want Linux. I do know that that the regular KNOPPIX comes with two

Knoppix is no indication on the speed of Linux - and the same goes for any 
other livecd system. Performance is greatly hampered by the slow seeking and 
reading of the CD. Especially given the (by today's standards) low amount of 
RAM we are talking about.

/ Peter Schuller, InfiDyne Technologies HB

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