Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A New Tool

The little IBM iSeries 1400 laptop has taught me some important Linux lessons:
Now, if you don't understand what those are, no biggy. Until today, I'd heard those terms, but didn't understand them myself. Today, I actually got to apply them. I had to apply them.

Windows 2000 didn't work out well at all. Turns out, it's simply too much for the little tyke. The hard drive maxed out before all the updates were done. With anti-virus, anti-spyware, and a firewall, there wasn't room for anything else. I never realized just how bloated Windows 2000 really was. I knew Windows 98 wasn't the answer either. That was how this computer got in trouble in the first place. I knew there was an answer somewhere.

Damn Small Linux would work, but not the the intended user. To be honest, I didn't really take to DSL anyway. Then I remembered Puppy Linux.

Puppy Linux is a very lean, very tight distribution. It's programs are small and functional. This distro was designed to be fast, and work on older equipment. Equipment much older than Xubuntu can work on. Puppy usually runs off the CD, and it was designed for that. To make it work well, Puppy runs in root. That makes it run better on the CD, but can be a wee bit risky on the hard drive. If you have anything someone wants, running as root makes it easier for them to get access to your system. When your running off a CD, a hacker can't make any changes, so they can't really do anything. But, on this old system, I'm fairly certain a hacker isn't going to bother.

Puppy Linux had done some interesting things to make running the system off a CD work well. After you've got the system booted, you can set up a USB jumpdrive to save your setting changes (desktop, background, colors) save programs and files, and keep everything there. You never really have to touch the hard drive. But, if you want, Puppy can set up a wee, little part of your hard drive to save settings, programs and files. You can make it pretty small, or up to 1.2 gig. If you have a 4 gig jumpdrive you've got more than enough space. Technically, the computer you use would not really need a hard drive.

I'd already BAN'd the system (Boot and Nuke), and Puppy Linux booted up from the CD just fine. Better than just fine; it was actually pretty fast. When I figure out how to run the installer, it wouldn't install. Turns out boot and nuke did a really good job; got rid of the MBR, and any partition. I figured out how to put on a MBR, and use gparted to create a Linux-swap partition, and an ext3 primary partion. Ran the installer again, and it loaded clean. I did a little desktop tweaking to make it somewhat familar for the client:
Now, I'm adding somemore programs. To make it interesting, the Puppy Linux people gave them a file extension of .pup. Cute. And effective. So now, the little laptop runs fine. I think it may have actually run faster from the CD. I'd have kept it like that, and let the hard drive simply be a storage place, but I'm not sure the intended user would get how that worked. The only problem: no sound. Evidently the developers had trouble with that part. I've read some fixes on their message boards, and I may try a few of those.

So, I now have a new tool in my tool chest: Puppy Linux.

If it was my computer, I'd take it apart, paint it Cyan Red like K.Mandla did.

One more computer given a little more life.

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