Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Linux FTW?

Over the years, I have given Linux a try as a Windows desktop replacement. My first attempt was in 1997, when I saved the install files on ~45 1.44MB floppies and lost way too many hours of sleep on school nights trying to get it running. My awesome 16 MB (or was it 8?) Voodoo video card wasn't supported by the distribution that I had. This meant I couldn't get a GUI going and was forced to run in command-line only.

I was a nerd who played a MUD when I wasn't installing ridiculously confusing operating systems I downloaded on my 28kb modem. These were (still are, I suppose) text-based multiplayer role-playing games. If you are familiar with WoW, it was like that, but all text. You'd have to, in real-time, type in stuff like "headbutt wyvern". It was pretty damn nerdy. Though, it did forever increase my typing speed dramatically.

I really only used Linux to be "cool" by not having Windows like the "lamers" (Jesus). That, and I made very bad use of winnuke.c to screw with my friends. The things we did as children... I remember the power went out once and this caused the entire hard drive to be corrupted. Yes. That's right. So I'd had enough of that bullshit for a while.

So after coming to the conclusion that I couldn't look at porn in Linux, and I didn't have enough hard drive space to even consider a dual boot setup, I went back to Windows. That was 1997. I'd say just about every 2-3 years since, I've given it another shot. I tried Fedora in 2005 and was really only discouraged by how difficult of a time I was having installing divx/xvid support. You can't have a desktop replacement and only be able to watch one out of every few videos you come across online.

I decided to give the latest version of Fedora another try last week. Same situation. Try as I might, I couldn't get decent divx/xvid playback. I might get just audio. Or no audio and just video. Or I got nothing at all. Or I got a really small version that I couldn't resize... which I had to launch from the command line. "mplayer /mnt/hda3/tv/sample 1x01.avi -some options" was way too complicated.

So, I began searching for multimedia friendly distros. I downloaded 3 that were supposed to be pretty good: Freespire, Linux Mint, and Ubuntu.

I installed Freespire in under 20 minutes (super fast!) and it did everything I needed right out of the "box". I was pretty amazed. It took me a while to get my correct sound card to work (probably should have disabled the on board in the BIOS, but anyway) but now I can watch any videos I have on my windows partition, as well as download and watch everything from youtube stuff to free high quality tv episodes on the major network sites. Pretty sweet!

"But this is almost too easy!" I said to myself. Since I had already burned Linux Mint, and Ubuntu, I decided to also install Linux Mint. I spent about 3 hours (lots of random, typical Linux problems) before getting into a Desktop that didn't immediately crash and that would play videos. The GUI was pretty snazzy, but not necessarily better. I thought Freespire's was lacking in variety, but Jesus Christ. Linux Mint only had 98 total programs you could download using their special packaging software... Surely you can manually install stuff on either of these distributions but I'll take the somewhat out of date over what I witnessed in Linux Mint any day.

I still haven't put Ubuntu on. I think I will tomorrow. And I think I'll use the Linux Mint partition. It was a nice attempt at being smooth like Freespire, but it had many shortcomings. I might try a future version, just in case they step up their game.

By the way, apparently no one up here (Seattle) says "Bomby" when referring to delicious food. Where I'm from (California - Central Coast represent!) it is common, at least among everyone I know.

Whatever, that's all you get today!

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