Some history

12Oct08

I started using Linux in April this year. I’ve forgotten what the original motivation was; boredom, curiosity and Windows XP slowing down nearly to a halt when the antivirus starts its upgrade were the likely major reasons.

Like a lot of people nowadays who start using Linux, I decided to try Ubuntu first. It is probably the most well known distribution of Linux out there, with an active community and a large selection of software. It’s also very newbie-friendly. Admittedly I had a lot of trouble with installing it on my desktop, due to a certain option not being enabled in the BIOS. I remember just how fun it was to load up Synaptic and look at all the software available for download! It certainly is different from the Windows way of obtaining software of paying through the nose for every little piece of software or getting your friend to burn a copy of it for you (lol at piracy).

Anyway. Why am I going on about Ubuntu? I eventually grew strained with the software selection and the way the distro handled things. Ubuntu has a large amount of software in its repositories, true, but it is hardly a trivial affair to compile from source. I also learned that to get the latest software it was necessary to upgrade from one release to a newer one, because new versions do not show up in the older repositories. There are backports, of course, but these are largely piecemeal efforts and not everything you like will be packaged.

So….

There was an old laptop which nobody was using. I wanted to try Linux on it, to see if it would make it more usable. I initially didn’t want to remove XP off it, since I thought at a later point down the track it might be necessary to use Windows on it. I tried running Puppy Linux from cd on it, and considered making a frugal install on the drive, but Puppy had issues with detecting my usb drives and internet.

Then I decided that the Windows on the laptop was in such an unusable state that it might be better off replacing it entirely.

I was rather apprehensive about trying to install a new distro on the laptop, part of the reason being was that I was not sure how well Linux supported all the itty bitty hardware of my laptop. I looked through websites to see what would be appropriate and I decided to install Mandriva 2008.1. Someone else reported it working well with this particular laptop, so I had some guarantee it would work.

Mandriva was okay but it was slow. Not as slow as XP, but too slow for me nonetheless. The boot-up also had some bug with it that caused it to take two minutes longer than usual. Installing software wasn’t nearly as easy or intuitive as I found it on Ubuntu. All in all, I was disappointed with Mandriva’s performance.

At this point a copy of Ubuntu 8.04 had arrived at my house, so I tried that on the laptop. It worked well. I liked Gnome a lot more than KDE because of these experiences. Still, I got bored with Ubuntu. I wanted to try something different. Radically different. Ubuntu was easy to install, easy to use–I wanted challenge.

And that’s when I found Arch Linux.

I really liked the idea behind it. The Beginner’s Guide was rather intimidating at first, but I was keen to whet my appetite for Linux. My first install went bad–I set my swap partition as the boot mountpoint and vice versa. And ever since my second install I have not tried any other distro on the laptop. I have experimented greatly within the ranges of Arch Linux by installing Gnome and KDE on it and seeing what it was like. And the best part of Arch was that its rolling release nature meant I was not in for downloading a huge chunk of upgrades at one go if I wanted the newest stuff.

I actually intended this blog post to be a list of what I am currently using on Arch–but I seemed to have digressed into some backstory. Ah well.

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