Friday 28 July 2006

Taming SUSE

I generally believe that to fully understand a new system, it requires three installations; the first to familiarise yourself with the options and to see what's possible, the second to repeat the process with an understanding of what you want to achieve (ideally documenting as you go) and the third to implement properly (using the documentation if written during the second phase).

I try to apply this approach to all my projects at work, but didn't anticipate doing it for my home install. Learning SUSE required three installs, primarily because I broke the first two...

The first attempt was getting familiar with the operating system. In my enthusiasm, I installed, added loads of repositories and then updated loads of files. Somewhere along the line, something broke. I think it was a kernel upgrade. Either way, booting because erratic, sometimes getting to X (with a non-responsive mouse) and other times just hanging on the boot.

So I re-installed and didn't try to add the repositories initially. I carefully patched the system, checked it booted okay and then fiddled with Xgl. I knew that this was still experiemental, but was keen to see the effects. Massive problems with not having the right kernel source.

Third install - patch, add the full repositories, get the commercial Nvidia drivers, check all works okay (reboot just to be sure), then setup Xgl. All works fine.

Take backup of system!

Now everything seems to be working very well. Xgl is gorgeous and actually "feels" better than normal X. I'm still putting all my key applications back on (VMware Server, Skype etc.), but it's all very impressive.

Thursday 27 July 2006

Getting used to SUSE

My first experience with Linux was Slackware running the 1.3 kernel, but I didn't understand it well enough to do anything apart from play. Following a traumatic experience with NT4 crashing a disk and not being able to recover, I made the leap to Mandrake Linux (version 8.0 I think). It wasn't perfect, but was good enough.

Over the years, I've upgraded through 9.0, 9.1 and to the 10.x. I've tried to support Mandrake (now Mandriva) by joining the Club; a concept that I was never really persuaded was useful.

With the purchase of a new PC earlier this year, I upgraded to the latest "Club" release of Mandriva. It was... okay. I hated the "cute" Christmas theme and battled to remove it. After years of being mostly satisfied with Mandake/Mandriva, I started to get frustrated at the clunkiness of some of it.

So for the first time in several years, I tried out different distros. To put things in perspective, I spend all my working day doing computers - Solaris, AIX, Linux and Windows. I enjoy it, but when I get home, I just was something that works. This ruled out the more hardcore distributions. On the other hand, I didn't want my choice of software limited to a few choice apps.

I downloaded Ubuntu, but wanted something a bit more feature-full without me needing to do a lot of extra installing. I'd been hearing good reports of SUSE 10.1, so did the DVD download. I'm on my third attempt at installing it, and I've learnt a lot of lessons. So far, it's the best I've used and I think it'll stay.

Sunday 16 July 2006

VMware Server

I've used VMware Workstation for about a year at work and think it's one of the best pieces of software available for Windows (along with the mighty Visio). I'm looking into consolidating some servers using ESX, especially now the price of ESX 3 is so much more reasonalbe than version 2.

I've also done a bit with VMware Server, initially using the beta version and now the GA. This is the product that was formally known as GSX server. Unlike ESX, it requires a host OS which can be Windows or Linux. At work, I've used it to host a Solaris 10 installation which has been configured to run Jumpstart Server (for network installs of Solaris servers). At home, I've used it to play with ReactOS and Syllable. Today, I've downloaded and installed Ubuntu (to see what the fuss is about. Quick review: Looks easy to use, hate the default brown!) and OpenFiler ( is installing as I type this journal.

At the moment, OpenSuse 10.1 is downloading, which I'll test in a VM. If it works as well as the reviews and looks as good as the screenshots, I might be tempted to replace my Mandriva install. A story for another time.