Sunday, February 24, 2013

I have a new favorite OS!

I have a new favorite OS - spoiler alert, it's Debian!

This all started when I got my new Dell laptop. It's very nice... too nice to be hauling all over the place, so I decided to set up one of my old Dells to ride around in the car with me in case I have a computing emergency in the middle of the highway.

I've got this one Latitude - with all of 512MB of memory - on which I was able to install XP, the VPN software, the VNC client - everything I would ever need. But that box is so big and clunky, I was hoping to use something else instead.

I have this other Dell laptop, an Inspiron 3800, that's nice and light, and it also had 512MB of memory. So why not install XP on it, too? Forget the fact that it was "designed for (Windows) Me" - it's got a P3 inside, right? Ha ha ha ha, you laugh to yourself knowingly, and you are right.

To make a long part of the story short, every time I tried to install XP, I would get a BSOD (blue screen of death, that is) and I'd swap out the hard drive or try a different XP disc or this or that, but nothing was working.

So why not try putting Ubuntu on it? Seems reasonable, but another long story would follow and this error or that error, it just wasn't happening.

What I needed was something more basic, and it occurred to me, why not try Debian! It wouldn't have any fancy bloaty UI to suck up resources, just a sleek operating system to go with my sleek little laptop.

So I huffed and I puffed and... I have to say, the installer could really use some work in the robustness department. ANY little glitch that causes it to fail and if you don't start over, you'll end up with something half-baked getting in the way of the next install attempt.

Of course, if you're clever, after each failure, you'll pop into a shell and...

$ cat /var/log/syslog

...and you can see just what went wrong, and then you can...

$ chroot /target bash try and fix it. Well on this went and *TADA* I finally had a working laptop with WIFI that I can toss in the car and have at the ready when I need it! Of course there's the VPN part of the puzzle, but I'll save that for another day.

Well there is this whole other thing I've been dealing with, which is my Ubuntu server, whose VPN server keeps crashing on me - which isn't really that big a deal most of the time, because (most of the time) all I have for windows are Chrome and it's really good about picking up where it left off after a crash. But then I got to wondering, what if I switched that server over to Debian?

So I scrounged around and found a Dell Dimension 4550 lying around in the basement and after dealing with a very weird hardware issue (who ever heard of a hard drive preventing a system from powering up??) I popped in my Debian disc and installed it all up. And here it is working like a champ!! So if this works out, I'll be popping the Debian drive into my other server, which has a much faster CPU - that should work, right?

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