One of my favorite Linux OS’s WattOS has just received an overhaul being rebuilt on the latest Ubuntu 9.10 base. So I thought it would be a good chance to share the 7 Linux distros that reside on various hardware and why within my house.
Before I start, my view on Linux is that its is all about choice and that is reflected in the fact that use so many different distros but its rapid growth or should I say overcrowded diversity often leads me to find few ever really have the user/developer backing to really form Linux into something palatable to the average PC user. Thankfully some are taking the time to experiment with the usability of Linux as a desktop OS such as Mint/Moblin/xPud and I hope their efforts make some headway into seeing its market share improve from around 1%. Still I must credit Ubuntu for helping Linux reach that milestone to begin with, but OSX 10.6 is still my main OS as it is simply still easier to use, So I hope they take note of the work being done by its many forks and brings their improvements home to its dominating Linux user base as it seems to have the best chance at being noticed by Apple/Windows users and therefore really needs to set Linux in a reliable modern light.
Anyway back to topic, here is a brief List of which Linux OS I use and why
WattOS RC1 = Laptop Linux. WattOS’s unique feature is the WattOSPM (Power Manager) which is a much needed GUI to a series of Linux demons/tools to help optimize your laptop to run more battery friendly, which when accompanied by its fast lightweight app choices provides a system suitable for prolonged work on the go without sacrificing all of Ubuntu’s native functionality/compatibility.
WattOSPM is installed by default but needs enabling, so go to the Menu – Preferences – Users and Groups – Unlock(Admin Mode) and add your user login profile to the “powermanagers” group. Save the change and restart to access its icon (Lightning Bolt).
It supports Flash straight away which is always a nice addition and includes Remastersys a very useful tool for gun-ho tinkerers like myself called to create a Live DVD version of your system once you have finished setting it up to allow a easy complete restoration installation should your OS get borked beyond repair or a HDD fail. NOTE: If you have a old computer or laptop that you would like to see if you can give a new lease of life without a hardware upgrade with Linux I would recommend WattOS over Xubuntu any day as I’ve found it actually usable on systems as low as 600MHZ and 192MB RAM unlike the officially supported supposedly lightweight derivative of Ubuntu. Though if you are really after speed I would recommend looking at Arch Linux or if you don’t want to leave Ubuntu’s good hardware support Crunchbang Linux.
xPud 0.9.2 = Windows Accompanying Instant On OS. To me Instant on OS’s are the future of Linux beyond its use in embedded hardware and most likely to succeed in the short term till Windows sorts this 30sec+ start up wait. I believe this because they are mainly just trying to fix one of windows problems its slow boot speed preventing quick access to the internet and not trying to tackle all its ill’s. xPud’s Installer works with Windows XP/Vista/7 without any partitioning to your drive making it perfect for Linux novices and it adds itself as a selection to the Windows boot.ini preventing the need to install Grub making them feel uneasy.
I turned to Linux in first place in search of a faster alternative to WinXP as I imagine many users do, and for playing videos/browsing xPud in 8 sec’s has me covered. While its Min requirements are 1GHZ processor and 256MB RAM, most internet use today is media heavy and therefore encounters Flash. The problem is though Flash Performance on Linux is pitiful so for smooth BBC iPlayer playback eg. you are looking at 1.2GHZ realistically and 2GHZ+ for HD. I also suggest installing the Ad-block Firefox add-on to eliminate wasting CPU power on Flash ad’s which helps speed up the Mozilla based OS to to feel more competitive against modern WebKit based browsers.
Tiny Core Linux 2.7 = 10MB Ram loaded OS For Old PC’s. Tiny Core Linux is really for the Linux hobbyists as it only supports limited hardware out of the box (No Wifi) but it is the smallest Linux distribution I know that still has a basic desktop interface and it works incredibly fast with the dependency free Opera Browser. It has a simple application repository with all the Linux favorites so you can can literally add just what you want/need but with a GUI interface unlike other base distributions which start being built from terminal. TinyCore supports installing and running in persistence mode making it my current Pen Drive Linux. Now for those of you into tiny lightweight OS’s look at SliTaz and MenuetOS 64Bit too. NOTE: Chromium doesn’t load on the current release and on two of my systems sound playback from Flash is crackly with the current OSS package.
Slax 6.1.2 = Introduction USB Linux. My first ever Linux experience was with a Slax 4.2 Live CD and My Slax builder application on Windows and it was fantastic. Today Slax has now taken this modular customization further now and integrated it into a brilliant online Web Builder. The benefit of this is you can download pre-customized OS image including your selected collection of software packages for your portable needs for a USB with persistence support or legacy Live CD/DVD. As a result you get a complete OS that’s perfect for you without the hassle of snooping through the repositories post installation and from an easily navigable online store of software. Personally I would recommend Ubuntu for its documentation or Slax for its Windows like KDE layout to any new Linux user as they help smooth the bumpy ride and avoid the scary terminal with GUI’s until your comfortable to use it.
Ubuntu Studio 8.04.1 64Bit LTS = Desktop Linux Design Studio. The household family desktop needs to be reliable for all our work needs. I found that stability in Ubuntu Studio LTS which sits happily alongside Windows 7 for my daily design work when I want to try a new open source 3D tool as I cant afford its Windows equivalent. I use the LTS releases as I don’t want to have to worry about messing about with the family files/ tweak system settings every 6 months when I have a job to do (Plus I dislike the 9.10 theme, but that’s irrelevant). Though only problem with the installation is that is text based and this is a bit discerning to some Windows users who have never installed an OS and are afraid it will overwrite their Windows install but they need to worry the installation is almost as easy as an LiveCD’s.
What sets Ubuntu Studio apart from its mainstream brother is the realtime kernel which is optimized low latency sound playback with audio editing software and its extensive pre-configured/linked creative based software. It is important to make sure to download the proprietary graphics drivers for your GPU if you do any form of 3D design on Linux as I have found the Open Source alternatives for Nvidia very ill-performing. I don’t currently own a ATI card so I cant comment as to their performance but imagine the same is true, therefore it would be wise to try both if your going to be relying on it daily.
Ubuntu PPC 7.04 = iMac Print Server/Web Radio. My very first Mac is very precious to me and as a result hard to throw away but its lacking Mac OS 9.2 is useless today. So Instead of throwing the system out I converted it to Linux with an Ubuntu 7.04 PPC Live CD years ago which worked out great, PPC was then subsequently dropped by Ubuntu that month and it became a community supported port platform. This inadvertently resulted in the release quality dropping slightly and the next working release (At-least for iMac G3) came with 8.10 Alternative .
The current PPC 9.10 Alternative installs fine on my system and boots almost as fast as 7.04, but the communities decision to speed up graphical rendering on my original iMac by dropping the screen bit depth from 24Bit to 16Bit isn’t really to my taste as it cant play videos anyway so destroying its GUI/ Photo displaying abilities was kind of pointless and I decided against looking even into how to fix as it feels sluggish compared to 7.04 which performs admirably considering the iMac G3 has 350MHZ CPU and 320MB of RAM. Having tried 4 different distributions the aging Ubuntu PPC 7.04 is best so far but is leaving the iMac at risk of being dumped again as its support is disappearing (Ideas Anyone?)
OpenPMA V0.2 =Improved ArchosPMA400 OS (Replaced by an iPhone 3GS now as my PMP, but a true Linux fan would have replaced with the Ubuntu freindly OpenPandora) OpenPMA enable it to act as a silent 30GB Divx/Xvid/MP3/WMA/FLAC friendly media center via its TV out, USB LAN dongle with (SMB4pma ‘Samba’ network file sharing) and dock remote. Admittedly it’s Opera Internet Browser is unusable and closer to WAP on a 150MHZ processor, but Flash free RSS reading is fine with Corsair. Console emulation is possible with MediOS and its VNC Viewer can also double as an extra touchscreen PC monitor when used in conjunction with ZoneOS Virtual Screen and TightVNC (Screen Selector Tool) on windows. Around 300 applications are available for the device and while development to the platform is pretty much stagnant if you are an embedded Linux fan its a very cheap toy to pick up and hack away at!
As this is a bit of an obscure OS I’m going to link to useful documentation on how to install OpenPMA at Pointlisse and I recommend using latest nightly build (Extract With 7zip) Nightly Builds. You can get the packaged apps from 1 2 3 4 5 Repository of software to convert 1
Right there we go hope I didn’t bore to much, and as to how long each will last on my systems who knows change is all part of the fun of Linux and I look forward to seeing what develops of Chrome OS and if Google will smartly design it to accompany and improve Win/Mac as a quick booting chain-loading OS for net while we wait.