Saturday, April 25, 2015

Down the Linux Drain

I am unsure how much of my life has gone down the Linux Drain - probably it would be measured in months rather than hours or minutes. What do I mean by the Linux Drain? Well, it’s all the time spent trying to get something to work in Linux, rather than actually using Linux to be productive. Linux is like that - it usually comes broken and needs repairing before you can get to work. For this reason it has been a few years since I invested any time in Linux; life is too short.

Then along came this Chromebook which just worked right out the box. Chrome OS is built on Linux. Maybe things have improved. So I looked at resurrecting an old Netbook, which, apart from the rubbish Windows 7 Starter Operating System, was otherwise in good condition. Perhaps Chromium (the open source version of Google’s Chrome OS) could bring it back to life.

Nope. Same old, same old. Unless the Chromium OS has been tailored to the hardware (as Google and their partners do) chances are that things will be broke. In the case of the Netbook I couldn’t get past the networking (wireless and wired) not working. One day down the toilet searching the web and trying assorted solutions that yielded no positive results.

The problem is I don’t like to give up easily. Problems require solutions and that’s what I do - find solutions. So I parked Chromium as a lost cause and went looking for a lightweight Linux distribution that would work on my Netbook. Enter Peppermint 5, a distribution specifically designed for the cloud (like Chromium) and for older (read underpowered) hardware.

Peppermint 5 running on an ASUS 1015PX Netbook
I would like to tell you that Peppermint 5 worked straight out of the box. But it didn’t. What did work was all the basic hardware on the Netbook, including the network - at least that made it possible to resolve the other issues which were largely to do with partitioning the Netbook’s hard drive when it came time to do the permanent install. Getting Peppermint 5 working on the Netbook took another two days of my life. (Did I mention my persistence?)

In this instance I am very pleased with the result - a nicely working Netbook class machine that boots quickly and runs way faster than it ever did with Windows 7 Starter - new life for older hardware. But with Linux it doesn’t always end so happily - too often it ends in tears of frustration and failure. Linux is built for those who love tinkering with operating systems; not for those who simply want to get things done. It’s a shame, Linux could be so much more and so much better, than a drain.

(Article written in Gingko, and Blogger using Peppermint 5 running on an ASUS Netbook)

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