Mike’s Linux Desktop Experiences

January 26, 2008

In the beginning…

Filed under: nostalgia — Mr. Mike @ 6:46 pm

It took me a month to install Linux. A month. I had to partition my 65MB drive without losing the contents of the drive. I don’t even remember how I did that. It’s not like I had a network card, external drive or anything like that. 1.44 MB floppies were the best I had. I may have prepartitioned it when I got it, and just blew away the spare partition.


The floppy disk creation utility for DOS, RAWRITE.EXE didn’t check for bad blocks on a floppy, so that burned a day or two of my time. Then the boot floppies I created didn’t support the CDROM drive. Some careful poring over the documentation revealed that I had to type “linux cdu31a=0x360,0” at the boot: prompt. Reading the CD at 150kBps was pretty sad. The Linux driver seemed to have trouble with bad sectors. Errors would occasionally appear on the screen.


After the long battle, I was elated to see the login: screen.


My impressions?


Where DOS would whiz by with wicked speed, this Linux thing limited its gettys by default to 9600 baud on my own console. Nethack’s ASCII seemed kinda cruddy compared to the DOS extended character set used in Moria. Minicom was a Telix knockoff with awkward keystrokes. It was hell to get my printer (Panasonic KXP2123) to do anything. The wasted screen real-estate at 640×480 was absurd. I often had to pan the screen to click on stuff. The fonts were ugly, even the performance of an X terminal was poor and my sound card could only play one voice at a time. I had to reach for the mouse all the time because the keyboard didn’t have shortcuts. Applications didn’t have a concept of “maximize or restore”, Latex utterly refused to permit me to double space a document (it was “stylistically incorrect”).


My impressions were that it sucked.


The only thing that was kind of neat about this Linux thing was that despite all these problems, it multitasked well and had a Fortran compiler which I could use for my computer problem solving class.


On my Windows partition, I had Maple, Python (yes, Python), eventually Wordperfect 7, Quattro, Real Player, Borland C++, Grollier’s encyclopedia, MS Paint, a working clipboard. It could print, used my soundcard, provided software mixing. It was actually kind of nice on 5MB of RAM. Sure it was not the most stable thing in the world, but you learned to save your work, scanned for viruses occasionally and found ways to work around security and stability problems. If you needed killer performance for Wolfenstein or Doom, you could exit Windows and run it on DOS. None of that would work in Linux. Dosemu just wasn’t good enough yet and Wine was hopeless.



After a few months of not using Linux, I tossed my disks in the drawer, wiped the partition and reclaimed the space on my drive.

Today I’m considering running Linux again.


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