Linux or not?

I dislike Microsoft as much as the next right-thinking fellow so when I found the key’s to my daughter’s car and was able to reclaim the computer I was going to donate to our Computers for Africa program at church except a 90mHz PI machine turns out to be not modern enough so it sat in her trunk for a year until I found the keys I realized that this micht make a good Linux station except I don’t know what good Linux is in the greater scheme of things except as a means to thumb my nose at Bill Gates because I’m not primarily a programmer and my Linux book seems more about installation and less about actually USING it so why would I want to install Linux?

First off, if you want to run a reasonably modern distro with all the trimmings, window managers, office programs, etc, 90mhz won’t do much for you. It’s good enough to run a basic command-line shell and possibly some of the lighter-weight window managers, but running KDE, for instance, would be painful.

Second, Linux isn’t a means to thumb one’s nose at MS, at least for me. IMHO (and that’s what this question is, innit?) Linux is a way for me to run an amazing array of excellent applications for much less money, hassle, and headache than I would on Windows.


Gimp: free
OpenOffice/KOffice/Abiword: free
XMMS: free
Ogg Vorbis: free
etc etc

None of these are Linux-specific, but it’s a heckuva lot easier to run them on Linux than to download, build, blah blah blah on Windows. Everything’s included, and most things install automagically.

Btw, I’m not a progammer, either. I do some web development and PHP scripting, but I don’t know a lick of C.

I don’t hate Microsoft, I just like the alternatives better.

So what you are saying is that Linux is as inefficient in its use of hardware as is Windows? And that if I had a lick of sense I’d say, “Screw Linux!” and turn this into a burly and overpowered PC-DOS computer?

Mnay of the modern distros have engaged in bloat. However, you could easily run say, Slackware, or Gentoo, stripped back to be sure on a 90mHz system. And I do not think you will be held to CLI work. Try bypassing KDE and Gnome and running X with one of the smaller faster window managers like Blackbox.

As for the apps, they ought to run OK, but they do utilise the enhancements in technology, in the same way as programs designed for other systems do.

FTR, I ran a P100 slackware box until quite recently when I upgraded to a big Athlon. The p100 is now a useful server

Uh, no that’s not what I’m saying. If you have the yen, it’s probably good enough for a local web/mail server, firewall, router, or even a file server if you feel like putting a big enough hard drive in there.

The nice thing about Linux is that you can strip it down to its bare essentials. Try doing that with Windows. Sure, in all it’s X11/KDE/karamba’ed glory, Linux is a much of a pig as any other OS. But try getting a full suite of up-to-date command line tools for DOS. Or a bare bones window manager that’ll give you the essentials to get work done without all the fluff.

If you have no other Linux machine around, and have another machine worthy of an interface, throwing it on a network as a server is fun. My P200 makes a great file server, router, firewall, backup point, webcam grabbing, webpage serving, remotely accessable machine, plus it keeps my Linux abilities up until I can find an EVC cable to recussitate this HP workstation.

Like all software, Linux runs better with more horsepower; just that if you don’t have much, you still have the option of using most of it.

My machine doesn’t have a monitor, but I’m pretty sure it ran a base installation of X when I was setting it up. Win 3.11 runs on your hardware, so I’m sure a lightweight X manager will too. There might even be a distro with a “slow machine” option, thought I haven’t found one in 5 minutes of searching.

At the very least, you can log into it over a network, and run such CLI applications as whois, units, and fortune. :wink:

Just beware. This is a favorite quote I read online:

“Linux is only free, if your time is worthless”


I have a Slackware distribution that’s a few years old that should work fine. $3.99US at MicroCenter. And I picked up a Linux manual of about the same vintage for the same price. It looks like I’m going to have to network the house when I go DSL, anyway, so it could become a server.

And I suppose it’ll be nice to go back to knowing something about current computer operating systems. Maybe then I’ll know what you mean by “CLI applications,” too.

As others said, this machine could make a fun server. You can do plenty with it, including router, file server, web server, email server, and others.

Any sort of desktop is out of the question, I’m afraid.

I recommend you pick up the latest version of something. It’s cheap or free, so don’t go down the road with something older. I’m fond of RedHat, but they’re all relatively similar.

I should note that the comments “less hassle”, “less headache”, and “automagically” used above in relation to Linux are – well, I don’t want to insult friend black455 by saying they’re blatent lies so let’s just say they are – uh, optimistic.

Fortunately, this distro of Slackware isn’t THAT old. Nowhere near as old as the RedHat I have floating around somewhere (possibly in the CD drive of this very computer). I’ve done this before, got to the point where it was running, then said “So, what’s next?” and, unable to answer it, uninstalled Linux. But not having to depend on this as my main or only computer anymore will allow me to fiddle.

I switched to Linux (Redhat) a few months ago, and can only say it is superb and trounces Windows in the stability stakes. No more annoying freezes!

As for all the free software - theres too much for one person to use!


Purely my personal experience. I spend less time trying to get my old nag of a notebook running right on Linux than I ever did on Windows. And I’m a relative babe in the Linux woods.

      • For a typical home user, Linux is not a replacement for Windows. Running (a LAN card and Apache) is not the same as running (all the hardware and software a typical home-computer user expects to be able to).
  • Most hardware still doesn’t have Linux drivers available. Linux support boards are filled with ordinary people trying to get hardware and software to run in Linux that is basically simple-install or plug-and-play in Windows. Don’t take my word for it, go forth and see for yourself.
  • The free software is often not all it’s cracked up to be. Most of it simply lacks the polish and integration of typical Windows commercial software. Why Linux hacks think this is great I have never understood–its as if you went into a store and asked to buy a bicycle, and the clerk tries to sell you a bike seat, two wheels and some metal tubing. The user interfaces tend to be crude, and PC-based help files tend to be lacking or not included at all.
  • For that matter, Linux OS help files (for lack of a better term) are very poor. There was an effort to centralize them (as the OS help files are in Windows since 3.1…) but if that hasn’t happened yet, then they are scattered all over the OS and tend to skip the details. So you spend hours and hours and hours online, , , looking, looking, looking…

My. DougC seems somewhat vitriolic. May I address some of your points?

  1. Your “typical home user” seems to be the type who doesn’t want to know how their machine works, and wants to be able to install Bonzi Buddy, et. al. Yes, Linux is not for them.

  2. There’s loads of hardware that does have support, and more added all the time. I admit that there are plenty of unsupported devices, but when the manufacturers refuse to release both drivers and specs, what are you gonna do?

  3. Most free software is not as good as commercial software. I wonder why that is. OTOH, there’s plenty that is better. Plus there’s plenty of commercial stuff for Linux.

  4. I don’t really agree. If ‘man’ doesn’t suit you, a search on ‘howto’ should. And while its true that documentation is the last thing on most programmers minds, bookstore shelves are full of Linux manuals. (Besides which, I don’t find Windows help stuff to be all that helpful in most cases. For example.)

In any case, this argument seems to boil down to “Some people like riding in a limo - some like driving a car they tinker with themselves”. dropzone wants to see what he can do with a wrench. I say go for it!

I should point out that all of the above packages have Windows distributions, and some are simpler to install on Windows than linux. I’ve never found an open source program I wanted to run that I couldn’t run on windows, and I’ve never found one that didn’t offer a binary distribution with an easy installation.

I am curious though why you think mySQL is better than virtually any commerical relational database. mySQL is slow (except for SELECT-centric applications) and lacks support for even basic features such as views, stored procedures, UNION and sub-queries. If you want free, postGresSQL is a much better choice.

I don’t see a factual question here. You are asking for opinions. I’ll move this to IMHO for you.

Off to IMHO.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

Allow me to tweak your analogy: It’s as if you went into a store, asked to buy a bicycle, and instead the clerk gave you a bike seat, two wheels, and some metal tubing for free, as well as the tools to put it together, and a poorly translated manual. Then he led you to the back of the store, where a bunch of geeks were sitting around a table, playing D&D and occasionally offering you a tip on putting your bike together.

Inconvenient? Sure. But you may be willing to put up with it if it means getting a free bike that you can build any way you want.

Cooper: since you asked, I have noticed more open source stuff being cross-compiled to Win32 lately. My choice of mySQL was partly due to off-the-top-off-my-headedness, and partly 'cause it happens to run this board.

Don’t underestimate SELECT-centric applications. For something like a message board, IRC bot, or a simple web site, MySQL is indeed better than the commercial alternatives.

I’m sure I’d use a different database if I were writing important software for paying customers, but I’ve never personally had a need for views, stored procedures, subqueries, or even transactions.

      • Well, no, your typical home user wants to go to Wal-Mart or any other large chain store, buy some hardware or software and have it install with one click. Linux can’t do that, even if there are Linux drivers included. And nobody buys application software because “they want to know how their computer works”. Average home users don’t give a flying ****, they want to run software – which is basically what I said when I said “for the average home computer user, Linux is not a substitute for Windows”.
  • Yea. When Linux advocates insist that “Linux is just as easy to use as WIndows, and it does everything Windows does just fine”, what are you gonna do? You are pointing the finger at device manufacturers, and I’m saying I don’t care whose fault it is. Most hardware and software sold at Wal-Mart still doesn’t work in Linux.
  • Yea, but the problem here is, you advocate Linux for its free software. I admit there are a few very good programs out there, but they are also usually available for Windows as well. (and GIMP isn’t one of them!)
  • I’m only calling it as I saw it myself, and as I see it online now. And as I recall, the only distro I ever found many books for was RedHat, and most of them were very technically oriented, not for beginners. Most books I found for any Linux were either general “UNIX”-level references, “Installing Linux for Dummies” books, or “recompiling the kernel” books. There simply wasn’t a lot in between that was broad enough and useful to a beginner. Windows has a “help” menu on each OS window that actually tells you how to do basically everything concerning the OS. Linux doesn’t have that. You are saying “well if you learn where the stuff is”, and my point is we shouldn’t need to learn where the stuff is. It should all be accessible from one place to begin with.

    I agree Linux has its uses, and some features it proivides are attractive.
    But it desperately needs a unified help system, and 1-click hardware/software installing and uninstalling.
    Until it has these things, it simply won’t be attractive in a typical user’s opinion compared to Windows.