It’s The Hardware, Stupid

When I first got involved with Linux – discovered Distrowatch and the joys of downloading and burning CDs – I thought the whole Linux scene was about the software. Man, all those different desktops, music players, office programs…choice was so cool! At one time I had a testbed system with 7 different distros on it, all chainloaded. Oy…

I’ve calmed down a bit since then. My current way of thinking is that the hardware you are working with determines not only what Linux distro you use but how you use it. Here are some examples taken from my computer museum at home:

  • Antique and Ancient Hardware. This stuff probably ran Windows 98 or even Windows 95. Installing Linux on the oldest machine I have was more a proof of feasibility than anything practical. For machines like this the lightest possible window manager and operating system is a must. Vector Linux has always been a good choice here, although I did have to use Deli Linux for my oldest junker.
  • Old but Still Useful. This might have a Pentium 4 and up to 1 GB of RAM. Maybe it even ran a primitive version of Windows XP, but I didn’t feel I wanted to be bothered maintaining all the security software. On these machines I just blow off XP and install Mandriva. They work fine for such uses as a music jukebox, or backup photo storage machine. Or one of them can serve as a main system for someone who doesn’t have a computer at all.
  • Netbook. I have one of these, and the look and feel is about the same as a 2003 desktop. It’s slow and underpowered – handy only for email or light Web surfing when on vacation. Linux is the only solution that makes sense for it, so I use Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Why anyone would want to run Vista or Windows 7 Starter on these types of machines is anybody’s guess.
  • Fairly New – Runs Linux Only. This is very nice cheap desktop system from 2008 that I use as a backup or alternate in my basement den. It has a dual core processor, lots of RAM and it’s never had anything but Linux installed. Right now it  screams along with Mandriva. Fast, powerful, safe, secure, free – what more could you ask?
  • Aging but Powerful. This is my main desktop system – Pentium Dual Core from 2005 with 3 GB of RAM. It was quite a machine in its day, and I got it as an off lease desktop in 2009. It runs XP Pro and I use it for a few things Linux is not quite up to as yet – tax software, my favorite photo management program come to mind. I do have this machine set up to dual boot with Mandriva, but to be honest I just use XP most of the time. It isn’t worth the aggravation to shut down and reboot to switch operating systems unless I want to rip/burn CDs. I prefer to do that in Linux.
  • Lights Out. A good description for my newest machine – a notebook with quad core processor, gobs of RAM, huge hard drive, 64 bit Windows 7 O/S. On this machine I’ll never dual boot. It’s not needed at all, since it has the muscle to run virtual machines all day long. I’ve installed Oracle’s VirtualBox and three different Linux distros to play around with, although my principal O/S here will continue to be Windows 7. Virtualization will likely be my way of the future with Linux on the latest hardware.

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