Saturday, July 19, 2008

Who Moved My Chees(y Distro)?

[Warning: boring post about Linux distros]

Kubuntu has been my distro of choice for more than a year; I had reached a point where the download-new-distro-spend-a-week-tweaking-it was no longer appealing. Every once in a while the urge to go distro-hopping would hit, but the comfort zone of status quo would prevail.

But the cheese did move one day: KNetworkManager would drop connections at random, not remember the wireless router's SSID, and so on, and things got fairly annoying. Not to mention the fact that things were, on the whole, not as zippy as they used to be. Time for a change.

I decided to give OpenSuse 11.0 a try. After a few false starts with the ISO download (see problem with KNetworkManager above), SuSE was up and running, but no go. What with my peeves with KDE 4.0 and the problems with the Java plug-in (1.5 would crash Firefox while 1.6 would make the applet disappear after one or two operations), I quickly abandoned it.

I have tried out MEPIS in the past, and except for the sound problem found it to be very good. True enough, 7.0 turned out to be equally good, but the sound problem seemed to have been carried over from 6.5. But this time a quick modprobe snd_hda_intel took care of it (Did I try this before? Not sure), and so here I am, with SimplyMEPIS 7.0 as the distro de jour (well, not exactly a day -- I plan to use it for at least six months).

Good things about MEPIS:
  1. Very zippy

  2. Comes with a lot of stuff already bundled, so you don't have to look beyond the CD for things like the Java Runtime, Skype, etc.

  3. Better handling for wireless (KNemo in place of KNetworkManager)
The not-so-good things:
  1. Some of the bundled packages are slightly outdated (Firefox, Postgres)

  2. I found some random weirdness with the mounting of other partitions. For some reason I couldn't get them to mount on a directory I had created in the root partition. Instead, I had to allow them to be mounted as /mnt/sda*, and then create a symlink to this directory.