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A Trip Down Distro Memory Lane 238

Posted by timothy
from the early-nostalgia-is-the-best-kind dept.
M-Saunders writes "What did the Linux world look like back in 2000? TuxRadar has republished a distro roundup from Linux Format issue 1, May 2000. Many distros such as SUSE, Mandrake and Red Hat are still around in various incarnations, but a few such as Corel and Definite have fallen by the wayside."
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A Trip Down Distro Memory Lane

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  • Slackware rules! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @03:35PM (#26766013)

    In 2000 I was a seasoned Slackware user, and had been so for several years. I did my Master's thesis in LaTeX on a Pentium 233MMX box (which I still have), complete with diagrams done in xfig.

    I did a lot of course work on that box: Viterbi decoding, polyspectral analysis, lots more.

    ...laura

  • Re:SuSE Ruled... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shuntros (1059306) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @03:40PM (#26766055)
    I'd be interested if you could give a full breakdown of what SuSE's shortcomings are since Novell took them over. I've used SuSE since the late 90s. It was never foolproof, no distro is, but despite trying a number of other distros I still find it preferable to all of them, including Ubuntu.
  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @03:43PM (#26766083)
    and look how far it has come. Seriously, despite some remaining imperfections Linux has turned into a really pleasant desktop experience. I remember when installing Linux was a nightmare, with dozens of configurations, tons of unsupported hardware, and the need for highly advanced skills just to make it usable. Now it is rare to have to mess with the details- for the most part it just works. I'm primarily a Mac user, but I do a lot of stuff on my Ubuntu install as well, I am just shocked at how far Linux has come and quite interested in what is to come.
  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @03:47PM (#26766113) Homepage Journal

    Slack was and still is a nice distro for folks that know what they're doing, want a solid, stable system and don't care much about fit and polish or having the latest goodies. I was Slack user and proponent myself for a couple of years.

    The main thing I don't like about Slack is that lack of real package management. I like the power and convenience that tools like Synaptic and apt-get provide -- a lot. And the fit and polish that desktop-oriented distros like Ubuntu offer is a guilty pleasure for me and an absolute necessity for my techno-angst-ridden wife.

  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreatDrok (684119) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @03:51PM (#26766141) Journal

    I started out with Slackware in late 1994 on a 486DX33 with 8MB of RAM. It was amazing. 40 floppies to install it since I had no CDROM drive. I bought a 14.4 modem and had access to my university e-mail (pine FTW). X11, gcc, Netscape, FTP, the lot. All on a machine with 200MB of disc. I reckon I could function quite happily on that machine even today apart from Netscape which would have to be replaced with Lynx I guess.

    By 2000, a Linux distro was incredibly easy to install by comparison. Today it is even easier. You barely even need to worry about compatibility.

  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbcad7 (771464) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:08PM (#26766279)

    Slackware is what I started on.. I remember getting the Cds, making a root and boot disk and installing.. It was during the time of modem internet and I specifically bought a modem that would work (non win-modem).. getting that baby to work was a challenge but always satisfying once the puzzles were solved. I kept that modem through several upgrades and new systems.

    I think the order of discovery for me, was.. Slackware, Redhat, Mandrake, Debian .. once I got a taste of Debian, it's been Debian based distro's ever since.

    Things sure have come a long way.. but I don't regret the hours I spent solving problems way back then.. as I said there was a certain satisfaction to getting something to work.

  • Sad To Remember (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hduff (570443) <hoytduff@gmTWAINail.com minus author> on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:10PM (#26766289) Homepage Journal
    You'll find my name in the contributors for documentation in Mandrake 7.0, and it was an excellent distro in 2000 and remains so today. They would likely be a more significant distro today had they not experienced near-fatal management problems (mostly a re-focus of resources on computer-aided learning). Corporate bankruptcy did not help even though they emerged from it, a rare occurrence in France. But their biggest failure was to develop admin tools for their Red Hat-clone in Perl rather than what Red Hat used, Python, probably the combination of developer preference and a desire to be "NOT" Red Hat. They also introduced a number of incompatibilities just because they thought their way was better (and it may have been). Their style/icon/theme choices were not the best either (plain and cartoon-ish) and failed to appeal to younger Linux enthusiasts. They had a good concept with "Red Hat done better" and should have stuck with that. It is still my distro of choice, even with my familiarity of Red Hat (I've been a Red Hat Fedora Unleashed co-author). But it's sad to remember the opportunities squandered at Mandrake/Mandriva. I would suggest that anybody give it a try, especially if you have not yet selected a favorite distro. It now does have a nice feel and polish and "just works".
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:16PM (#26766351) Homepage Journal

    How about a few years before that? SLS ( the first 'real' distro ), Yggdrasil ( paved the way for GUI installers ), or the classic root/boot (with its hex-editing to boot off of IDE ), or even when the kernel wouldn't even self host and you still needed a running minix system..

    Kids these days don't know how good they have it.

  • by unfunk (804468) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:26PM (#26766431) Journal
    ...last I heard of it, it had the friendliest installation process of all the Linuxes (which wasn't saying much at the time, I guess...), but then it kinda.. disappeared...
  • by MrBandersnatch (544818) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:35PM (#26766517)

    Like a few posters above me I started with Slackware in...94..Maybe 95. I remember that install actually being quite smooth since my hardware was well supported (a somewhat antiquated 486SX-25). Ahhhhh having a dual boot machine back then really was something to geek out about.

    I've done maybe..30 installs since then, moved between Redhat, SuSE and Ubuntu and STILL the totally smooth installs are more to do with having experience with the hardware though. 8.10 on my home media PC? INCREDIBLY smooth; even managed to get my wireless card running full speed. My latest install on a core i7? Incredibly smooth once I worked out (4 hours later) that having ANYTHING hanging off the Gigabyte sata-2 controller would crash out the install into a BusyBox :/

    Point being that Linux is still very dependent on having just the right combination of hardware to get a smooth install. The wrong MB, the wrong wireless card (especially), and you will be p**** around searching forums (damn I miss Usenet and Dejanews...Google really have done that an injustice), searching for drivers, applying patches etc etc.

    But still, yup youre right; the last few years with MS having totally dropped the ball with Vista has given Linux and the X/Gnome/KDE desktop some real time to catch up and its almost a different ballgame. Almost....

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:35PM (#26766523)

    Ohh, memories :)

    Those screenshots and mentioned features really shows very rapid progress free desktop (GNOME, KDE and standalone apps) have achieved these 8 years (from KDE 2/GNOME 1.4 ugly-as-butt-but-functional to KDE 4.2/GNOME 2.2x ohh-shiny-and-my-tv-card-is-working). Yes, there are still issues, there are problems, but progress is deniable and imho only Mac OS X can fight with feature set offered by free desktop.

    Ok, yes, apps does matter and market share and knowhow too, but still...this is indication that free desktop is here to stay and won't go anywhere but forward.

    And btw, yes. Mandrake ruled the day back then. First distro which took users (no matter expierenced or newbies) *seriously* (nice looking themes, icons, serious localization, superb packaging - you name it). And it is still very hugely used in Europe and they are profitable company (escaped from bankrupt once), as far as I have heard. Shuttleworth definitely would say that Mandrake was inspiration for Ubuntu.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:36PM (#26766529)
    Well "back then" windows 3.1 wasn't a box of candy either. Ok so a little further back than 2000. But even now, once you really get down to it, windows 95 etc was no picnic to install and drivers often didn't work. It is not just linux that has improved.
  • by Vlobulle (1286874) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:37PM (#26766541)

    Well, in 2009 the audio system is still a complete mess and the screen configuration (setting the resolution and multiscreen settings) not far behind.

  • Re:SuSE Ruled... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ultrabot (200914) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:43PM (#26766579)

    ...until Novell bought them out. When it became apparent that Novell wasn't going to uphold the SuSE quality, I switched over to Ubuntu. Haven't looked back since.

    It seems [Open]SUSE is becoming a bit "hip" again, after years of silence. These days everybody is using Ubuntu (and it's becoming synonymous with "Linux"), though...

  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:58PM (#26766681)

    I have in my hand, a CDROM marked "December 1993" from Infomagic, I also have Infomagic's 2-CD Linux Developer's Resource from June 1994, with (it says here):

    - complete snapshots of TSX-11.MIT.EDU and sunsite.unc.edu Linux archives

    - SLS 1.05 with kernel 1.0

    - Debian 0.91 beta

    - Preliminary versions of the WINE code

    and a "complete live filesystem!" ...and lots more. Wow. Hard to believe, huh?

    (now, get off my lawn...and here, take this Ubuntu disk and try it out at home)

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @05:55PM (#26767031) Journal
    I bought Caldera OpenLinux in 1997.
    It was actually fairly decent, with a much better installer than other distros and GUI system management tools. In these features, it presaged what many other distros have done since then. If they had kept working at it, it might have been a real contender...
    Of course, Caldera morphed hideously into SCOg after 2000, lashing out at the Linux community, abandoning technology for litigation, and creating their own private pit of Hades to which they are now consigned.
  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arelas (1336019) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @06:28PM (#26767271) Homepage
    Impressive, 8MB ram in 94...I think I only had 4 and that cost me dearly.
  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @07:04PM (#26767543) Homepage

    My first Linux was downloaded with a 9600Baud modem.. There were newer modems at the time, but I saw no need for it :D. I got most of the floppies working and created, but for some reason, the installation wouldn't quite complete. I posted a message and within a few hours, someone offered to send me a known working set of disks. He did. Within a week I was booting into my first Linux prompt.

    That's what I remember most about Linux. Some random stranger spent his time and money to send me disks. That was just unbelievable.

    Tinkering with that Linux installation reminded me of the first computers I'd owned.. The TI99/4A, the 800XL, C64... They were so wonderful to tinker with...

    It never ends. Before it was a wonder to get dialup access to a shell account working.. then tcp... then the first X session.. Now I'm using Linux to tinker with HDR images, create music, ray trace, re-create experiments that once took million dollar equipment, map Martian images...

  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GreatDrok (684119) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @07:11PM (#26767591) Journal

    arelas said: "Impressive, 8MB ram in 94...I think I only had 4 and that cost me dearly."

    I was able to upgrade it a few years later to 20MB as I found four 4MB memory sticks. 1MB sticks were pretty easy to come by but the 4MB ones were pretty rare. Linux would run fairly well in 4MB but 8 was definitely better and with 20MB it flew. I had a 386 laptop which only had 2MB and I was able to get a very bare install of Slackware onto it just for shits and giggles of course. Using PLIP I was able to network it to my 486 and use it as a terminal. X was too much for it to manage mind you but it was cool just for command line stuff. I even had a VT100 emulator on my Psion 3a. Since the 486 had the 14.4 modem, I was able to share my internet connection from it to my growing selection of rescued machines. By 1996 I was running a SUN SPARCStation 1 with OpenBSD as my main work machine. I managed to get 64MB of RAM for it, a 19" monitor and it was a very nice environment to write my PhD thesis up using LaTeX. I really miss the Type 4 SUN Keyboard and optical mouse.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @08:04PM (#26767915) Homepage

    Wow, that review sent me - like a drunk bum thrown into an alley from the back of a squad car - down memory lane!

    Ah, anyone remember linuxconf? What a piece of junk! It mostly worked, when it worked. But I remember it interfering with any manual configuration changes made (without telling you). Very irritating. I ended up ignoring it, I think.

    I can't believe Linux got any sort of foothold on the desktop with releases like the the early KDE and GNOME, to be honest. I remember constantly, constantly fighting with the two (and their respective toolkits) to make them a) look half decent, b) behave half decently, and c) work in a fashion which did not interfere. Part of that

    I remember when I started out, more or less with RedHat 5.2. GUI options? What GUI options? You had (from my recollection) fvwm, fvwm95, afterstep, and -maybe- icewm. I don't remember for certain if icewm was available in 5.2, but it was in 6.0, as I used it in 6.0 when I moved to it. I dabbled for a while with 5.2 but never permanently, as my hardware was not yet supported. I also tried DOSLinux and the HappyHacker guides before I determined that yes, I needed a real linux distro. After a botched upgrade from RH6.1 to 6.2, I moved over to (IIRC) Mandrake 6 or 7 (whichever came out around the time of RH6.2).

    It's funny, but when I decided to go with RH (largely because I could order the CDs - I ended up grabbing them from Best Buy, IIRC), Slackware was already considered to be a hodgepodge of crap thrown together, largely targeted at/used by the "h@x0r" community. It's only become more of the case, of course, but Slackware refuses to die.

    It wasn't long after Mandrake that I went to debian (maybe late '99), and stuck with that until just this past April, when I gave Ubuntu a try. Stormix 2000 was a major catalyst in me moving to Debian, if I'm recalling things correctly. I still use Debian as much as possible, but Ubuntu goes on my primary workstation/laptop.

    As this thread is about Linux in the year 2000: does anyone else remember Stormix 2000? It was an incredible, incredible distro for it's day (consistent look/feel, debian based, intelligent installer), and I'm sad to see that Progeny didn't make it as a company. They didn't get half the credit that was due them, IMO, as they were a major force behind the current way in which distros are packaged, IIRC. They stuck around for a while and provided some good additional packages, and an alternative installer for Debian 3, which was very nice (in terms of hardware support, which was lacking in Debian at the time).

  • 2000 = late (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CarpetShark (865376) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @08:33PM (#26768073)
    It may have been a wonderous time, but it's also the time when Windows was starting to offer a stable platform that competed in some respects. Back in '94 or so... now THAT was a good time. A full 32-bit, fully multitasking OS, with server apps, programming tools, music players, virtual desktops, decent package management, good internet, tried and tested security, choice of window system and widgets (not just X and KDE or GNOME, but Openlook, MGR, etc.) all while Windows was still deciding whether to include a browser by default.
  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Keen Anthony (762006) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @09:26PM (#26768351)

    I think I would probably still be a Linux user had fonts been properly rendered and smoothed in X as it was in Windows and Mac OS X. That turned out to be a deal breaker for me, looking back, and really the one feature besides DirectX that kept me using Windows. I still know how to configure and compile FreeType to support things like subpixel rendering, but I never could get my fonts the way I liked them. At the very least, kerning was always off. Obviously, I pay a lot of money to have font rendering in all my apps the way I want it.

  • Re:Slackware rules! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @10:44PM (#26768701)

    My first Slackware box was a 486/66 with Slackware '96 aka Slackware 3.1. It came with 8 MB of RAM, which was fine for everything but Netscape, which worked, but only after a minute of page thrashing. I maxed the box out to 32 MB and everything was fine.

    My current development box at work is a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo with 4 GB RAM. It runs Slackware 10.2, though heavily updated (gcc, kernel, etc.). I just updated the kernel to 2.6.28.3. I refuse to run Gnome; the desktop is KDE. Needless to say, it flies...

    I play with Debian on Sun UltraSPARC boxes, and have uCLinux on a number of little embedded computers.

    ...laura

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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