Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hello Again, Linux

Well, tonight I decided to once again re-visit the world of Linux. I have an old desktop PC at home that I have run XP on for quite a few years and I had a brief stint with Vista on it as well. However, this PC is finely aged (AMD Athlon XP 1200, 3DLabs VX1 graphics) and it failed to pull off Aero so what's the point, right?

Right. So I decided to try Linux again. I have been dabbling with Linux for years, ever since the days of Mandrake 7, Corel Linux, and Redhat 5. I was on Peanut Linux for the longest time, but mostly because I had crap hardware. I only ever ran it as a server anyway because I found it unusable as my main desktop machine in those days.

Well, I have been running Ubuntu on my home server for a couple years now and I must say that I have found my distro. I like the way it works. So I tried to install Fiesty Fawn (FF) tonight on this "dated" PC. I had recently set up FF on my work machine in a VMWare image for some testing I had to do and it was a pleasure to install. Well, let's just say I didn't fare so well tonight.

I stuck in the CD and watched it boot. Well...actually I watched two lines flash by and then a black screen. My machine appeared to be frozen at this point and there was nothing I could do except press reset and watch it all over again. A quick Google search brought me here:

Turns out, the video card I have is not really supported by the installer GUI. Understandable - it is quite old and - GOOD NEWS! - there was a workaround! Hold down the shift key and boot in text mode. Pressing ENTER on the boot screen now fired up the GUI installer no problem and I could install FF. Cool! However, the largest resolution I could get was 800x600, and unfortunately this is not quite big enough to show the install wizard in all its glory. I could not see any of the Next or Back buttons (if that is in fact what they are labelled - I never saw them) and there was no way to resize the install wizard smaller. ARGH! But I, being the incredible hacker that I am, managed to blindly tab through assuming the right-most button on all of the install wizard pages would be Next, or Confirm, or whatever - and I haphazardly plowed through the installation process without ever actually seeing what it was I was pressing. Well, it seemed to work.

OK, so I now have Ubuntu 7.04 installed. However, I am still limited on my screen resolutions and to be honest 800x600 simply doesn't work. No problem - the bug tells me to grab some lines out of my /var/log/Xorg.0.log file and put them into my /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and all is well. The trouble is - it doesn't tell me what lines. Well, I guess it is assuming a basic level of X11 knowledge that is slightly higher than mine. Now I'm starting to sweat. X has always been the bane of my Linux existence. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a bastard. Right to its face. With its mother standing right beside it. Seriously - I actually had it completely fry a monitor on me way back in my Peanut Linux days by probing my graphics adapter with the wrong frequencies. Luckily that was a crap monitor. But I did not feel like sacrificing my 19" NEC to the X11 demons this evening, thank you very much!

But this story has a (somewhat) happy ending. I did manage to figure things out after some more searching and trial and error (with my sweaty fingers tightly crossed I might add). And I did take the time to add my experiences for the benefit of others to the bug report.

So! Ubuntu is locked and loaded and I am going to give it a whirl. I'm assuming trying to run Beryl/Compiz on my geriatric 3DLabs card (it *was* a screamer in its day!) is going to be a non-starter. Oh well - that would have been cool to play with.

As it sits, it is 12:50am and my wife has long gone to sleep while I tried to "quickly install Linux before I went to bed". Sigh. Hello again, Linux (you sonofabitch).

P.S. In all seriousness - kudos to the Ubuntu people. Ubuntu Linux is quite simply the best alternative out there, IMHO. And I *am* posting this from Opera - freshly installed into my shiny new Ubuntu installation.

No comments: