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The Well-Tempered Debian desktop 182

Posted by timothy
from the warms-the-cockles dept.
An anonymous reader writes "What happens when the editor of a popular Linux website attempts to install a Debian Etch desktop on an old ThinkPad? How does it turn out? Surprisingly well! The article comprises an entertaining account of the entire process, complete with lots of informative screenshots, from downloading the net-install to tangling with Wi-Fi and modem PCMCIA cards as the last step — and everything in between. A great primer for Debian newbies... Go Debian!"
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The Well-Tempered Debian Desktop

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  • Any idea...? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391)
    Any idea why Etch is ripping off the classic Windows GUI? I mean, in a way, all all GUI-s ripp off each other, but look at the chrome of the Windows and the standard controls... ??
    • Re:Any idea...? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ninjazach (1043476) on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:54AM (#17359772)
      I'm not sure if I am correct here, but I believe that this particular user had customized KDE with the Redmond KWin window border theme that ships with KDE.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HairyCanary (688865)
      Totally off topic, but the real question in my mind is why do the two most popular GUI's for Linux insist upon copying Windows in the first place? OSX provded that you do not need a start button to have a good GUI. I'd like Linux a lot better if the developers could get a little more original with the GUI. Or if they'd at least target a *good* GUI to copy ;-)
      • Re:Any idea...? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by walt-sjc (145127) on Monday December 25, 2006 @11:20AM (#17359890)
        Personally, I don't use a windows-like theme at all, but the answer is that the Windows look and feel is familiar to people who are moving from Windows to Linux (easier transition) or who work in both environments on a regular basis (consistency.) I would have thought this is obvious...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          But the better they get at copying the Windows look and feel, the less reason there is to switch. I would have thought that was obvious.

          Only on Slashdot would me-tooism be celebrated as a virtue.
          • by scotch (102596)
            Only on Slashdot would me-tooism be celebrated as a virtue.

            I've heard your sentiments expressed here countless times.

          • Re:Any idea...? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by shish (588640) on Monday December 25, 2006 @02:28PM (#17360810) Homepage
            But the better they get at copying the Windows look and feel, the less reason there is to switch

            People aren't switching for the GUI, they're switching for the price. The GUI is one of the reasons they stick with windows.

            (Statements apply to the vast majority of non-technical people I know; the people who know what they're doing and *do* swap for the interface know how to set a non-default WM)

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by slocan (769303)

            But the better they get at copying the Windows look and feel, the less reason there is to switch.

            So your assumption is that Linux's different UI is one of the reasons which would motivate someone to switch from MS Windows to Linux?

            If it has the "same" UI as Windows, then the UI ceases to be a reason to switch?

            Well, I did not switch for this reason (and frankly don't think anyone switches to Linux because of it's UI). On the contrary. I thought and felt that the UI differences were more of a challenge a

          • > But the better they get at copying the Windows look and feel, the less reason there is to switch.

            I think the opposite is true. Non geek users don't want to be bothered with unfamiliar environments. Geeks hopefully know the UI variety and adaptability of linux UIs.

            When forced to upgrade XP at work i'll suggest trying out kde with the most xp-like look before shelling out $$$ to run vista on old hardware, i won't show them a fancy compiz desktop.
          • by walt-sjc (145127)
            But the better they get at copying the Windows look and feel, the less reason there is to switch.

            Why?

            Maybe there are OTHER reasons to switch besides the GUI such as:

            No Activation / Genuine (dis)Advantage
            No DRM
            Better security
            Cost
            Freedom of choice (more alternatives in packages / distros)
            Easier administration of large numbers of systems (it's a well known fact that it takes less administrators per machine than windows)
            etc., etc.
        • by node 3 (115640)
          I highly doubt those are the *reasons* they copied Windows. It seems more likely that copying Windows was the best they could do.

          Linux lacks any useful means to list apps directly in the filesystem. Instead, like Windows, it needs a menu that references the applications, while hiding all the support files since it's not supported at the binary or filesystem level. You mention that you don't use a Windows theme. We're not talking about superficially copying Windows (same colors, same widget designs, etc). We
          • C. Use Linux, you can use a familiar interface or a different one. Your choice.

            Car Analogy
            A. Use Car UX, it has a steering wheel.
            B. Use Car UX, it has a new fangled control and no steering wheel. Hopefully, you don't crash while you get used to it.
            C. Use Car UX, use the steering wheel or new fangled control. Your choice.

            BTW, the guy actually CHOSE KDE since it's not a default.

            Most people I know just want the OS to run the programs they want and to know where to click to get those programs to run.
            • That analogy only holds if turning Car UX's steering wheel causes the wheels to turn in the opposite direction from the usual when the car is in reverse as "familiar" interfaces in Linux are actually just similar enough to fuck with your muscle memory.
        • As somebody who prefers Linux but has to use Windows for certain things, let me tell you that consistency between interfaces is a bad thing. Having it be just a liiiiiiiittle bit different fucks with your muscle memory.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tacocat (527354)
        That's why they include WindowMaker. No START button and simple interface.
      • by Kjella (173770)
        Totally off topic, but the real question in my mind is why do the two most popular GUI's for Linux insist upon copying Windows in the first place?

        Well, I can't speak for how everyone else is using it, but I use Linux much the way I use Windows 2000 - each window is maximized, which makes it almost like one application == one desktop. I have some sort of button in the corner I push to start stuff.

        Quite frankly, dress it up as OS X or whatever "new paradigm" you want but I must say it's way down on my list of
        • by node 3 (115640)

          Well, I can't speak for how everyone else is using it, but I use Linux much the way I use Windows 2000 - each window is maximized, which makes it almost like one application == one desktop. I have some sort of button in the corner I push to start stuff.

          I think you're highlighting a fundamental UI flaw with Windows and whatever desktop system you are using in Linux.

          The reason people tend towards full-screen windows is that the UI naturally leads to it. I highly prefer how OS X works, which naturally leads to

        • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          ``Quite frankly, dress it up as OS X or whatever "new paradigm"''

          Which is really the NEXTSTEP UI with extra eye candy and some minor changes, and, IIRC, NEXTSTEP preceded Windows 95 by two years, to say nothing of Windows XP - or whatever Windows version the grandparent claims GNOME and KDE are copying.
      • by Lussarn (105276)
        I don't know if you have actually used Linux with Gnome (Or any other DE) but if you try it out you would notice that it isn't really like Windows. If there is one thing I hate it is overlapping Windows. The two most used program on my desktop have tabs (Browser and terminal). works way better than overlapping windows. I lay out my programs myself using virtual desktops and they pretty much stay that way until I reboot. In my book Windows doesn't work that way. Possibly can be made to work like that but it'
        • I recommend evaluating beryl, or a comparable GL program. I have the same tendencies as you, it seems, for maximizing windows. Recently, I tried beryl and much to my delight it offers the "cube" desktop, but one better - It lets you "push" applications to a different desktop by dragging the app to the edge of the screen. After a small delay it puts them in another desktop - wickedly satisfying for someone who has grown weary of the other alternatives (right clock menu, move to ->, switch then open, etc).
          • by node 3 (115640)
            Linux advocates love to deride OS X for "eye candy", but in OS X, pretty much all eye candy serves a purpose, makes things easier, and doesn't significantly degrade the user experience.

            Yet constantly, the Linux crowd comes up with nonsensical things, like the "cube" desktop. The irony is the "cube" desktop is an actual case of eye candy over substance.

            The cube adds only one usability enhancement, which is to make working with virtual desktops more graphically usable. No longer do you have to deal with littl
        • by node 3 (115640)
          I've used just about every X11 desktop there is, and their UIs do vary quite a bit. But there are four general types:

          1. TWM (FVWM and Enlightenment are essentially more advanced variations of the style)
          2. Windows clones (GNOME and KDE fall into this category, which, incidentally, is what the OP was referring to)
          3. NeXT clones
          4. "Experimental" desktops

          Limiting our discussion to KDE and GNOME, adding tabs and a desktop pager do not change the underlying UI design, they merely augment it. Both UIs are very muc
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vhogemann (797994)
        Well,

        The problem is that MacOSX has this "Application Folder" concept, so you can just browse to /Apps in your filesystem and find all of your applications by their name and icon... try doing the same with any Linux distro /usr/bin.

        To be able to provide the same simplicity we must change the current layout of the Linux filesystem, I know at least one Linux distro that have done this: GOBO Linux [gobolinux.org].

        Gobo use a rather radical approach to the problem, where every application goes under the /Apps folder. MacOSX for
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fimbulvetr (598306)
          Suprisingly, linux separates userland utilities already - well at least debian does. Check your /usr/bin folder and compare to /usr/sbin. Alternatively, compare /sbin and /bin.

          The reason it doesn't work so well to do it the way you suggested is because there is a lot of gray area. Every person, company, shareware maker, vendor, etc. is going to have a different opinion of where software should go. Just look at unix in general or even other distros (besides debian/ubuntu/gentoo). Apple can do it without few
          • by node 3 (115640)

            Suprisingly, linux separates userland utilities already - well at least debian does. Check your /usr/bin folder and compare to /usr/sbin. Alternatively, compare /sbin and /bin.

            utilities (by which you mean "command-line utilities" != Applications.

            The reason it doesn't work so well to do it the way you suggested is because there is a lot of gray area. Every person, company, shareware maker, vendor, etc. is going to have a different opinion of where software should go.

            That's not the problem, that's the symptom

            • utilities (by which you mean "command-line utilities" != Applications.

              See what I meant about everyone has a different opinion? What's the difference between an application and a utility?

              That's not the problem, that's the symptom. The problem is *that there's no specific place for them to put things*. Linux would gain 100-fold in usability were it to embrace application and framework/library bundles.

              The problem goes much deeper than not having a standardized location, it's that types of programs can, and oft
        • If I had to pick the one thing I appreciate the most about OSX, it is the portability of the applications. Drag the Firefox icon from the installer image to the applications folder and you're done. Or put it somewhere else of your choice, whatever floats your boat. Everything needed to run that application is contained within that "icon". Really it's a folder, not a file, and so there is great flexibility in the data that can be contained within.

          Right there I think OSX has one-upped both Windows and Lin
      • Oh, how I wish they would do away with the Windows task bar. It works fine when you have just a few windows open, but pretty soon you will get too many windows to properly fit in the task bar.

        There are some work arounds, like putting the task bar on the side (makes the buttons hard to hit) or grouping several windows under one button (so you have to go through multiple levels to get to the one you want - yech), but by far the best solution I've seen is the one from NEXTSTEP: use icons, with a small text to
      • by evilviper (135110)

        Totally off topic, but the real question in my mind is why do the two most popular GUI's for Linux insist upon copying Windows in the first place?

        Cause and effect???

        Why are GNOME/KDE the two most popular GUIs? Could it be BECAUSE they copy Windows?

        OSX provded that you do not need a start button to have a good GUI.

        I'd say GNOME (default layout) is much more MacOS-like, than it is Windows-like.

        And XFce seems to be up-and-comming. Perhaps we'll see more than just the "fast" or "mini" distros shipping with XF

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hahafaha (844574) *

      Well, for two reasons. The first is that it makes it easier for new users to switch to GNU/Linux, and the second is that it is a pretty good system (*gasp*).

      I mean, think about it. What are the parts that are copied? Similar looking and placed minimize, maximize, close buttons, a menu button, some sort of a menu and panels. Those are all very useful. Their exact location and appearance is there because it is more familiar to Windows users. It is fairly easy to change, too.

      For example, my setup is as fol

      • by node 3 (115640)

        Well, for two reasons. The first is that it makes it easier for new users to switch to GNU/Linux, and the second is that it is a pretty good system (*gasp*).

        Wrong and wrong.

        Your first reason makes no sense. Who's going to switch to an OS whose UI just a bad copy of another bad UI?

        Your second reason is even worse. The Windows system is not pretty good. It's "good enough".

        For example, my setup is as follows:

        Shuffling widgets around and changing text does not fundamentally change the UI.

        Two things that are hig

        • by zsau (266209)
          In Linux, you *have* to have a Start menu (or some analog). You can't just have an Applications folder, or any other automatically-updated application browser like you can in OS X.

          Umm... Perhaps if you're running Gnome or KDE, but that's no fault of the kernel. (Remember: Mac OS X is on top of a unix-like underpinning, so whatever it can do, Linux, in principle, can too.)

          For instance, I use a ROX desktop [sf.net] on a single-user box. When I find a new ROX program, I save it to ~/apps/(location)/ folder, and then I
    • Etch does not rip windows GUI, first because it is not tight to a particular GUI, only presenting some optional steps to newbies so that they start with a complete system. Also, IIRC kde default theme is not windows like.
      I cannot speak for experience since my latest install was from woody, then started tracking sid.

      TFA suggest the default desktop was gnome, that improves on macOS.

      Personally i go for xfce and customize windowbar buttons for improved usability: close button on the left, all others to the righ
      • by node 3 (115640)
        TFA suggest the default desktop was gnome, that improves on macOS.
        GNOME does not "improve on macOS(sic)"

        It relates to Mac OS in two, and only two, ways.

        1. Nautilus is spatial, like the old Mac OS Finder.
        2. GNOME has a set of HIGs that are intended to provide usability.

        If anything, GNOME is like starting with the Windows UI and trying to make it as usable as a Mac.
  • On an old laptop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jim Buzbee (517) on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:49AM (#17359744) Homepage
    How about installing Debian Etch on an NSLU2? [smallnetbuilder.com]
    • by wasted (94866)
      His system:
      ...an IBM ThinkPad 2662-35U, ...with a Pentium III 600MHz processor, 192MB of SDRAM, and a 20GB hard drive.

      I read the article on an IBM Thinkpad 560X with a Pentium 200MMX processor, 96MB of EDO RAM, and a 30GB Linux partition, running Debian Sarge. If his laptop is old, is mine an antique?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Orange Crush (934731)
        My handy laptop is an old thinkpad as well--P3 @ 800mhz & 512 ram. The only reason it runs XP is because I could never get power management to work properly under any distros I tried. (a bit of a deal breaker on a laptop.)
  • Fine and all but (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:49AM (#17359748)
    What happens when the editor of a popular Linux website attempts to install a Debian Etch desktop on an old ThinkPad?

    The real question is: what happens when non-popular-linux-website folks attempt to install a Debian Etch on an old thinkpad? I'm not sure the report would be so peachy...
    • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Monday December 25, 2006 @12:38PM (#17360238)

      The real question is: what happens when non-popular-linux-website folks attempt to install a Debian Etch on an old thinkpad? I'm not sure the report would be so peachy...

      Good question...and the answer, my friend, explains why Linux won't make it to the mainstream desktop for quite some time. I'm going to focus my comments on hitting a particular target audience, and neglect the technical/security superiority of one platform over another.

      FTA:

      Tops on my list of applications are Firefox and Thunderbird, and I always get rid of modified versions and substitute the pristine versions direct from Mozilla.org. So I downloaded both, unzipped and untarred them into /usr/lib/, where Debian likes to keep them, and created symlinks in /usr/bin/ pointing to /usr/lib/firefox/firefox and /usr/lib/thunderbird/thunderbird, where the system expects to find them.

      I tried Firefox first, but it wouldn't load. I tried it again, this time by typing firefox from a console window, and noticed that the program was sending out an error message ("error while loading shared libraries") regarding a file called "libstdc++.so.5" that it either couldn't load or find. A quick bit of googling led me to install the missing library, using the command (as root): apt-get install libstdc++5. Thankfully, that was all it took to get the pure, Mozilla.org-supplied Firefox running on my desktop.

      Two points of interest here:

      (1) The author had to create symbolic links to make Firefox and Thunderbird work.

      (2) "A quick bit of googling" was required to get the missing library installed.

      Read the first quoted paragraph again. Note the author had to unzip and untar the files into the directory "where Debian likes to keep them," and make the symlinks where "where the system expects to find them." Does the Debian distro put Firefox and Thunderbird in a different directory than the Ubuntu or Fedora? How about Slackware?

      Lots of Linux fans berate Microsoft for stooping to the lowest common denominator, i.e. the common user, when it comes to making Windows more or less configurable. These same Linux fans point out that most users are just doing Web surfing, e-mail, word processing, and playing multimedia files/viewing photos--activities that don't require knowledge on configuring user permissions or defining firewall rules or any other low-level ("low level" as in base system) settings.

      If these users are the ones that the Linux community are trying to get to migrate to Linux, there's a long road ahead of them. These "commoners" aren't going to know about installing libraries, or making symbolic links because "the system" expects the files in one locations but that particular distro "like them" somewhere else. Here's the real kicker; they don't CARE about these things. They want to read and send e-mail. They want to look at Web pages. They want to look at the pictures taken with their digital cameras. They know "click the setup.exe" files and the installation takes care of the rest, including installing other library files that may be needed. Click the desktop icon, and your program starts.

      You want the masses to migrate to Linux? Make application installations "point and click" operations, including all necessary dependency checks and library installations as part of that initial click of the mouse button. Installing apps has to be that easy. There's no getting around it. Computers are no longer the domain for the tech-savvy (and haven't been for some time) and have to be made easy to use, like a television or microwave oven. Computers are a commodity, not an oddity.

      Before you go off accusing me of being a MS apologist or fanboy, note that the only thing I use Windows for is playing a couple of games on rare occasion. The rest of time I'm on an OS X platform. I've used Linux in some research projects and tried to convert comp

      • by krmt (91422)

        You want the masses to migrate to Linux? Make application installations "point and click" operations, including all necessary dependency checks and library installations as part of that initial click of the mouse button. Installing apps has to be that easy.

        Using an apt frontend of your choice really is that easy though. This author has gone out of his way to do things in a weird way, the same way it would be weird and difficult to set up an apt-like system for windows. That's what has made it hard for h

        • by jb.hl.com (782137) <.joe. .at. .joe-baldwin.net.> on Monday December 25, 2006 @01:27PM (#17360462) Homepage Journal
          Using an apt frontend of your choice really is that easy though.

          If, however, the app you want isn't available via apt in the way you like (e.g. you want to use Firefox and not Firepandadovebollocks that Debian ships now...dunno why but last time I tried Linux that really irritated me, possibly a bit more than not being able to get my surround sound working properly) or it isn't available in apt at all (mplayer anyone?), or you need to add extra repositories (which is NOT going to be easy to do for a newbie)...you may be slightly fuct.

          Put it another way: if I want to play DVDs in 5.1 surround in VLC, here's how it works on Windows XP:

          1. Download VideoLAN installer
          2. Run VideoLAN installer
          3. Click Next a few times until the installer finishes
          4. Go into Windows' speaker settings and change the speaker type to 5.1 surround (which has a little descriptive picture to make it nice and clear) and click OK a few times.
          4. Run VideoLAN and play my DVD, with surround sound working

          I recently tried to do the same on Debian, and this is precisely how it went:

          1. apt-get install vlc
          2. Run VideoLAN client, try and play DVD
          3. Notice that it crashes every time giving no cause or reason
          3a. Smash with hammer
          4. Google with the only real error message I get, which has nothing to do with DVDs
          5. Find out that libdvdcss is required, and it's on an additional repository, so edit sources.list and apt-get update
          5a. Realise that any sane person would have given up at step 3
          6. Apt-get install libdvdcss (or whatever the precise package name is, I forget)
          7. Run VLC, find out that my DVD plays now...in stereo
          8. Play with volume settings and read lots of stuff about alsa.conf via Google
          9. After much futzing, work out that ALSA outputs the rear to the subwoofer and vice versa for no explicable reason, so I had to swap the cables round
          10. Watch my DVD, only with a pisspoor slow CPU-intensive picture because I haven't installed the NVidia drivers yet, which is yet another rigamarole

          For its part, Xine (or at least Kaffeine) was even worse; that just crashed whenever I tried to play a 5.1 DVD. Now; which will be easier for a new person? For most people, over the phone I could tell them to go to VideoLAN.org and click the big Download link, and then tell them where in the Control Panel to go to enable surround. Can I do that on Debian? No. I'd have to explain to them how to edit sources.list, which commands to type in, when to type them in...you get my point.

          This isn't just APT though, it's a lot of things. Why does ALSA change the subwoofer and rear plugs around for example? Where is the simple clicky box that changes the speaker settings from Stereo to 5.1? And I understand the licensing implications of including libdvdcss, but...well, who outside Slashdot is going to take "Well, it's the big bad mean MPAA" as an explanation for why getting DVDs working is such a pain in the ass?

          Sorry for the length, it being Christmas I may have drunk a little bit too much Hobgoblin (or, I'm sure a few people are lining up to say, "the Kool-Aid") ;)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Huh. I'm not sure if you should be Informative or Troll. Anyway, I'll bite.

            So, Nvidia drivers aren't all that bad. There's a nice installer for them nowadays that you can download from their site. Same for ATI. Not really that big of a deal; you have to do it on Windows, too.

            DVDs are a bit of a pain, but it's not as bad as you make it out to be. You can add sources to your APT list from within most package managers (in a GUI), and you only have to add one source to make it work.

            If your 5.1 actually works ma
            • by jb.hl.com (782137)
              So, Nvidia drivers aren't all that bad. There's a nice installer for them nowadays that you can download from their site. Same for ATI. Not really that big of a deal; you have to do it on Windows, too.

              Installing the drivers on Linux using NVidia's installer requires dropping down to a console (already a daunting prospect for a newbie), making sure you have all the correct kernel sources/headers (non-trivial on Debian, considering the number of linux-headers packages available), and then running the installe
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                Because I was using APT. The be-all-and-end-all for software installation, remember?

                Oh, is VLC back in the main repo? Sweet. Mine comes from the VLC repository. On the VLC front page, click "Debian Linux" under installs, and follow the directions. About as painful as, say, fetching .NET or MFC libraries for the first time on Windows.

                Uh-huh, but, did you have to quit X? If so, how is a newbie supposed to know how to stop GDM/KDM, install the drivers and restart the X server? How do they know if they ha
                • by MobyTurbo (537363)

                  Because I was using APT. The be-all-and-end-all for software installation, remember?

                  Oh, is VLC back in the main repo? Sweet.

                  Yes, at least its in etch. Hmm, looking at this, it's in all the current versions of Debian: http://packages.debian.org/stable/graphics/vlc/ [debian.org]

                  Mine comes from the VLC repository. On the VLC front page, click "Debian Linux" under installs, and follow the directions. About as painful as, say, fetching .NET or MFC libraries for the first time on Windows.

                  Yep. I think the people who find Linux the most unfriendly are Windows power-users. The reason? They know all the ins and outs of the Windows way of doing things, so when things work differently in Linux, it's unexpected.

          • by krmt (91422)
            Funny, I don't think I've ever heard of setting up 5.1 Surround Sound as being something "average" people do. Most people tend to think "average" means doing things like writing in a word processor or checking email in a web browser or playing music. All of these work out of the box in Debian and any other linux system (mp3 codec issues aside, which aren't a "linux" problem, you can always pay for Linspire if you want those out of the box). The centralized Debian model works amazingly well for such people b
        • by NDPTAL85 (260093)
          Of course double clicking setup.exe is the right way to do things. You are talking youself out of common sense. Self installing programs are the easist to install. Anything else is an advocacy for more effort than is necessary. Its a free country so thats your right, but it is the silly way to do things.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770)
        Two points of interest here:

        No, the only point of interest here: He wanted to do something way outside what normal people would. He wanted to manually unpack and install software outside the distro's packaging and even outside normal packaging for Debian over a trademark dispute. Even of the few that knows, most of us don't care and maybe a few even like Debian "making RMS look soft" Legal. And it's so most definately in the category of "nice to have", if not "get a life". Would it be a showstopper if he co
      • by zsau (266209)
        (b) You're criticising Mozilla there. Why does Mozilla make it so hard to install Firefox? Third-party apps for GNU/Linux can be installed as simply as downloading and extracting a folder, and putting it wherever you want: The folder looks like the program to the end user, much the same as Mac OS X's system. You can distribute programs with all libraries statically linked, or add versions into the program and add them to the end of the dynamic link library search path. There's absolutely no reason (aside pe
      • I AM running Debian Etch, I didn't need to create any symlinks, I just installed it via aptitude.

        But it took basically everything I've learned over the last 3 years of using Fedora Core Linux to turn Debian into my customary desktop environment just to figure out what to install, and to track down dependencies not handled by Debian installers. If I knew then what I knew now, maybe I would have gone with Kubuntu.

        I switched because I couldn't get FC6 to run my new Biostar GeForce6100 (Nvidia chipset) AM2
      • by CAIMLAS (41445)
        maybe the solution to package woes is for there to be a standard 'commercial' package type or translation API which could transliterate paths from the default to the distro default. It'd be straightforward enough, I think: just have a directive for man, bin, sbin, lib, etc. which deals with those file types as is the distro's standard way of dealing with things - and it'd be easy enough to test on a couple mainstream distros. Test on debian, mandrake, and whatever else is primarily popular (ubuntu? I don't
      • Tops on my list of applications are Firefox and Thunderbird, and I always get rid of modified versions and substitute the pristine versions direct from Mozilla.org. So I downloaded both, unzipped and untarred them into /usr/lib/, where Debian likes to keep them, and created symlinks in /usr/bin/ pointing to /usr/lib/firefox/firefox and /usr/lib/thunderbird/thunderbird, where the system expects to find them.

        In other words, he knew that Debian modified the Mozilla code and cared enough to get the originals. A
      • You know you picked the one thing where the guy said: I'm cool, I know what I'm doing, I don't want to use the already- configured-thus-so-easy-my-mom-could-find-it version of Firefox and TBird.

        If this guy needed/wanted a browser and email client installed and ready without having to screw with symlinks or shared libraries then he could have had them. But he chose not to, he knew how to get what he wanted instead and spent a little effort compared with installing the packages made for the OS.

        Just like in Wi
      • The real question is: what happens when non-popular-linux-website folks attempt to install a Debian Etch on an old thinkpad? I'm not sure the report would be so peachy...

        Good question...and the answer, my friend, explains why Linux won't make it to the mainstream desktop for quite some time.

        Mainstream users don't install operating systems. Whether or not Linux will ever be "the" mainstream desktop is no longer constrained by installation issues. Other factors, such as agreements between software and ha

  • Surprisingly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:49AM (#17359750) Homepage Journal
    ``What happens when the editor of a popular Linux website attempts to install a Debian Etch desktop on an old ThinkPad? How does it turn out? Surprisingly well!''

    Only if you don't know Debian and you don't know IBM ThinkPads. If you do know them, you know that Debian generally works really well. Of course, Linux support for laptop hardware isn't always stellar, but IBM seems to actually have made an effort to ensure their hardware, including ThinkPads, played nice with Linux. Alas, Lenovo seems to have no intention of continuing that tradition.
    • by Somnus (46089)
      Lenovo does sell Linux pre-loaded (have to call for a T60p with Suse). However, I haven't seen much about installing other flavors of Linux on such machines.
  • I just did that! (Score:4, Informative)

    by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:53AM (#17359768)
    I just did the exact same thing myself. I don't know what type of computer this guy had, but I installed Etch on a Thinkpad 390X this past Friday. (That's like a 5 year old at least model I got for $40 used...) It went suprisingly simply actually. It even detected my wireless card no problems, which really surprised me.

    The only hitch in the procedure that is even sorta the fault of Linux is that I don't know how to get it so that the computer will hibernate/resume.
    • Re:I just did that! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:55AM (#17359780)
      The only hitch in the procedure that is even sorta the fault of Linux is that I don't know how to get it so that the computer will hibernate/resume.

      Check out swsusp [suspend2.net].
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by massysett (910130)
        Check out swsusp

        You linked to suspend2. Actually swsusp and suspend2 are different. swsusp is in the main sources from kernel.org. It suspends to disk. suspend2 also suspends to disk, but also has additional features like compression and eye candy. It is not in the main sources from kernel.org so you have to patch your kernel or see if your distro offers a kernel already patched with suspend2 sources (Gentoo does, for example.)

        On another note, suspend to ram is built in to the main sources. There's only one
        • by xenocide2 (231786)
          "Configuring suspend can be time consuming trial and error. What I think we need is a laptop distro, or at least some sort of app that sees what kind of laptop you have and automatically configures suspend, multimedia buttons, wireless, and other things that are peculiar to laptops."

          I have a suspicion your recent Linux experiences have been colored by Gentoo, so I'll point out that Ubuntu's first goals were laptop related. The "laptop-detect" program is supposed to determine whether the system being instal
    • ...and (Score:2, Funny)

      by EvanED (569694)
      The only hitch in the procedure that is even sorta the fault of Linux is that I don't know how to get it so that the computer will hibernate/resume.

      Oh yeah, and my sound card doesn't work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by walt-sjc (145127)
      Whenever you have difficulty installing Linux, the general solution is to use google [google.com].

      Oh my, look at that... The first result provides some clues...
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      Linux working and detecting all hardware on a 5 year-old laptop isn't surprising in the least. What would be surprising was if you installed it without a hitch on a 5 month-old laptop.

      As for your hitch, try apt-get install hibernate
  • by rjdegraaf (712353) on Monday December 25, 2006 @10:59AM (#17359796)
    This page describes install of Debian Etch on Dell Inspiron 1150 [rdegraaf.nl], including tweaks for Compiz and Truecrypt encryption.
    • by thePig (964303)

      This page describes install of Debian Etch on Dell Inspiron 1150 [rdegraaf.nl], including tweaks for Compiz and Truecrypt encryption.

      Looks like this is where the author obtained most of his information.
      Anyways, one issue I find with all of these installation guidelines is that they do not always talk about 915resolution etc.
      I had installed ubuntu and debian sarge/etch in dell laptops, and every time I had to get the help of 915resolution to get the max resolution possible.
      Issues I found in debian etch are -
      1. 915resolution needed, as mentioned above.
      2. Sound/Audio -esp in flash based sites like youtube. The problem is - this works rando

      • by rjdegraaf (712353)

        4. Grub latency - Mine is a dual-boot with WinXP. The boot-loader takes ages (approx 3-4 minutes) to come up every time I boot from linux. But, if I were to boot only linux/windows for consecutive 3 times, then the boot loader comes up fast. Googling didnt help here too.

        Some cases, when it takes longer time to boot, turn out a problem with /etc/hosts when name resolution can not be done and lookup times out before continuing the init processes.

      • by krmt (91422) <therefrmhere@yahoo . c om> on Monday December 25, 2006 @02:03PM (#17360684) Homepage
        1. 915resolution needed, as mentioned above
        This is an issue with the Xorg i810 driver, and it's being remedied there. A beta version of the driver (xserver-xorg-video-i810-modesetting) is already available in the Debian unstable branch, and it'll be ready by the next Debian release.
  • Beautiful title, OP. Well done.
  • The article is interesting and all but it's not that useful. Installing Etch on a laptop that has components more recent than a PIII 600mhz cpu would be a much useful writeup. Most people are working with much newer equipment and seeing how well Etch supports recent laptop hardware would be much more useful for them.

    • Debian Etch uses the same installer the current Knoppix does.

      So drop in a Knoppix LiveCD and if it boots to the Desktop, go ahead with Etch.

      Following this helpful hint is what got my desktop Linux box video working.
  • But... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Klaidas (981300) on Monday December 25, 2006 @11:25AM (#17359916)
    Does this mean that year 2007 will be the YEAR OF LINUX DESKTOP?
    I kid, i kid! =)
    • by MobyTurbo (537363)

      Does this mean that year 2007 will be the YEAR OF LINUX DESKTOP?
      I kid, i kid! =)
      RTFA! The article was about a laptop, not a desktop, so this means 2007 will be the Year of the Linux Laptop! ;-)
  • I don't know about this article. The author wasn't able to completely fill his desktop with icons.
  • My only complaint about KDE is the klutter of it--all the stuff in the menus and all the included apps. A nice slimmed down KDE would be nice.
    • Agreed. The clutter is one if the reasons I switched to gnome. Uglyness was second. Kde _can_ be made to look pretty, but it takes a lot of tweaking. The default gnome on ubuntu is excellent, which is one of the reasons I use it. There is still some life left in kde, though. I am very much looking forward to 4, and I still use konsole and kopete on a daily basis. While gnome-terminal is alright, they still have some speeding up to do as well as some option tweaking (Like when you use your "next tab" left/ri
  • Etch and Thinkpads (Score:2, Informative)

    by spidas (1043482)
    The "dear editor" should try installing Etch on a LENOVO-built T60p, and then maybe, just maybe I'll be impressed!! (Writing this on an IBM-built T42p while my brand new LENOVO-built T60p languishes!!!)
  • by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Monday December 25, 2006 @12:18PM (#17360138) Journal
    i know i sound like a fanboy, but i simply love debian...

    to the point of tattooing the swirl on my left arm.

    and windowmaker's icon in my back.

    and yes, i'm as geek as geek can be.
  • From RTFA:

    I soon realized, however, that I generally didn't know the official repository package names for most of the apps that I wanted to download, so using apt-get quickly became a problem.

    That's why aptitude's command "search" does exist.

    e.g. "aptitude search sudoku" would search package names (and descriptions?) for string "sudoku". "dpkg -l '*sudoku*'" haven't really ever worked.

    P.S. RTFA sucks. Judging Linux by ease of installation?? Give me a break. I use Linux precisely because (compa

    • If all the guys who write all the pointless "let's install Linux" reviews/articles actually coordinated and made a write up about using particular distro for let say one year - encountered problems, ease to find solution, user community, security, etc - that info would be welcome by many users and also distro developers.

      Throwing idea. Though modern journalism is well known for its "skin deep" nature, so I do not expect miracles.

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