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scrottie (4167)


My email address is Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Tuesday June 13, 2006
09:46 PM

Adventures in picking an OS for the new machine

[ #29895 ]

I've been running Knoppix 3.2 for about a year and a half on my Panasonic Toughbook CF-R1 submini. Then I broke it's screen. Replacements are $500 -- I scoured the net and only found two outfits that actually had them. I got a Toughbook CF-28 (the fully rugged MONSTER that's good for double takes and lots of comments) but the rubber keyboard is hell on my proto-CTSy fingers. But now I've picked up a replacement CF-R1!

So, it's time once again to pick an operating system. For historical context, I ran NetBSD on notebooks for ages, but that was long before wifi and ACPI.

Debian: The varyist of rubbish. Thousands of scripts make everything vaguely automatic but impossible to fix when they go wrong. Package manager is dumber than hair and becomes violent when confused. And Linux is backwards and unstable. Of course, if Linux is your *first* system other than Windows, it might *seem* stable and clean, but unless you've worked on AIX 2, SunOS, HPUX, Irix, Ultrix, OSF, and a pile of other systems, you have no point of reference, no experience, and your opinion is ignorant and therefore irrelavent. Please keep it to yourself.

Slackware: Locks up too much, as do all Linux systems. Under abuse, it's lucky to stay up for a week. A Unix system should *never* crash in response to user actions. But the package manager at least doesn't have a pathological worst case that's encountered routinely. And it supports my Sierra Wireless 750 card for GPRS, an absolute must. Software readily compiles.

FreeBSD: Some nitwit decided to revamp a bunch of stuff and only managed to make the system unstable. 2.2.7 puts current versions of FreeBSD to shame. This is a shame, as FreeBSD had the userbase and hardware support to make a great desktop BSD. Now I might as well run Linux.

NetBSD: Not long after RedFlag Linux was announced by the Chinese government, NetBSD changes their logo to... a red flag. This used to be my choice operating system, and might still be... but I'm seeing more and more kernel panics lately, and then there's hardware support. My Sony Ericsson GC79, purchased with the hope of getting NetBSD GPRS going, isn't recognized. It's a serial device that needs no firmware patch loaded, unlike the Sierra Wireless AirCard 750. Does NetBSD support a plain, old serial device plugged into PCMCIA? Apparently not. And it even probes it as a serial device. NetBSD seems to not support any common hardware as a matter of principle. If mainstream computer stores like CompUSA have all been selling one particular low cost wifi card for an unprecedented four years straight, do you think NetBSD would support it? Of course not! Instead support a one-off prototype that some guy in Finland made in his garage. Mobile phones battery life sucks on GPRS, it's another to lug, the cables get bad connections with the ports, you bump them and disconnect, NetBSD doesn't support BlueTooth any better, etc, so carrying an external cell phone to plug into USB is unattractive as well. I tried really fucking hard to make NetBSD do the desktop thing but for a laptop use, I give up.

OpenBSD: Unlike NetBSD, X actually started up... probably something to do with using instead of XF86 like NetBSD *still* seems to be doing. It doesn't say "not configured" on my AirCard so I've been installing binary packages, of which there aren't nearly enough to put together a desktop that comes anywhere near even old Knoppix 3.2. k3b? Forget it. And the install floppy is one floppy, so using the USB floppy drive to boot from (not a lot of options on a submini) actually works . I figure I'll run my old Knoppix 3.2 software that came with it and that I've built and installed into my home directory in the Linux emulation in OpenBSD. This sort of thing worked pretty well in NetBSD. Well, it doesn't work in Linux. I played a game of "guess the number" where the number turned out to be 0 first starting off with Seamonkey -- it core dumped. Tired k3b. Tired perl. Tired ls. Everything does an illegal system call or otherwise coredumps. Okay. Whatever. Building Seamonkey from source, GNU autoconf can't correctly figure out which versions of system calls it implemented. Build is wedged up at a thousand different points. So my Web browser options amount to... lynx, links, w3m... and that's about it. Oh, but ports has Mozilla 4.73. Yay. That was what, 8 years ago? So much for security first. Running the Linux-emulated ldconfig and trying seamonkey again, the system crashes.

This was after trying Plan 9 and Minix, neither of which wanted to run on this hardware.

I can't think of a better option than just copying old Knoppix 3.2 right on over again. The last six years work on the Unix front has been... anti-compelling.


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  • I've had good experiences with NetBSD for desktop use, and some success with laptops. Certainly, hardware coverage is spotty. But I haven't had any panics since the NFS bugs that shipped in 1.6.0 (which were quickly fixed on the netbsd-1-6 branch). I understand that xorg is in pkgsrc, but I haven't tried using it, as XFree86 4.X works fine on my hardware.

    And I agree that NetBSD is nice in that it doesn't bury everything under layers and layers of buggy, undocumented shell scripts.

    But perhaps really what
  • I was quite successful with gentoo on my last laptop. Everything works (and that includes WLAN and Suspend to Disk/RAM).
  • I thought the latest version dealt with stability issues. I know the one before last they changed some stuff and yeah it was a little unstable. i haven't *used* the latest version of FreeBSD but that is what I read.
  • I thought Knoppix was a repackaged version of debian.

    Any luck with installing solaris?

    • Yeah, Knoppix is repackaged Debian, but since a pile of software is installed, I don't have to think about it, just pretend it's a lab machine or something.

      Haven't tried Solaris and I consider it bloatware. That and I'm annoyed at them for the whole switching from BSD to SysV thing.

      Updates: OpenBSD does have ACPI (APM wasn't working in this version of Phoenix BIOS -- I blame Phoenix, not OpenBSD -- the whole everyone-breaks-APM-as-ACPI-comes-out-and-Windows-magically-knows-how-to-use-eve ry-broken-A
  • There's always Open Solaris...?

    Never tried it, but hey, it's Solaris...