Blast from the Unix past

From Linux Journal, the state of Unix on the “IBM PC,” circa 1986.

From the Phil Hughes article:

While what I am writing here may sound like humor, it actually is real. That is, it is about what has happened in the last 20 years. That article was about the beginning of the revolution. Our “real” computer in the office was a Codata 3300 which featured an 8MHz 68000 processor, 750KB of RAM and a 27MB hard disk. What did it cost? About 16 thousand 1984 dollars.

In those 20+ years, the price of 1000 times as much hardware has dropped to one tenth the cost of the Codata and the cost of a UNIX-like operating system has dropped to almost zero while the capabilities have expanded possibly one thousand fold like the hardware. In any case, on to the article.

First, lets look at the hardware requirements. Here is what I said in the article.

“To get going with a PC-based Unix system, the minimum hardware requirements are an IBM or compatible machine with at least 256K RAM, one floppy disk drive, and a 10-Mbyte hard disk.”

And that was 21 years ago. I imagine today’s systems will be similarly arcane 21 years hence.

Linux — will it ever make it on the desktop?

While my answer is yes, others think differently, including this guy from InformationWeek.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

It is inarguably accurate to note that, while Linux is a success on the server side–Apache on Linux runs more Web sites than Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)’s ISS, though the latter is gaining–the open-source operating system has been a dismal failure on the desktop. There are at least seven solid reasons, which I’ll detail below, why Linux hasn’t moved the needle beyond a single-digit desktop market share since it hit the scene in 1991, and never will.

Desktop Linux’s failure to launch is all the more mystifying when you consider that it’s hard to think of any technology which has been backed by such an enthusiastic and committed group of supporters. Unfortunately, that boost has largely backfired.

On the contrary, I think the relative simplicity, sheer usability and security, as well as cost and lack of vendor lock-in will all work to slowly push more and more businesses and home users into the Linux camp.

With free, open-source applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, the GIMP and others being ported to Windows and Mac architectures, users who have never worked on anything but a closed, proprietary operating system will be using FOSS for the first time, and that’s a small step over to making the rest of their system FOSS as well.

And while projects like Ubuntu are doing so much to bring Linux to the more “casual” user, I predict that an easier-than-ever Linux (call it “Linux for Dummies,” if you’d like), be it Ubuntu or some other yet-to-be released distro, will cause a major stir in the computer world and shift a sizable percentage of desktops away from Windows and to free, open solutions.

And as I’ve also said before, Linux is right now the most likely candidate, but the next popular OS could very well be something we’ve never seen — a new project cooking in somebody’s head that attacks the problem of the personal computer operating system in a whole new way.

Microsoft Office loves your iPhone

MS Office 2008 for Macintosh will sync with the iPhone.

So you’ll be able to do a PowerPoint presentation anywhere, anytime, on a teeny screen! OK … you can plug the iPhone directly into the projector with the proper Apple AV cable.

Love or hate the iPhone, it’s the future of computing. We’ll all be carrying around something similar within the next 10 years.

Xubuntu 7.10 won’t install; trying Ubuntu 6.06 LTS instead — plus a little Wolvix and Zenwalk

I don’t always have luck with Ubuntu and its many offshoots. Sometimes the alternate-install CD works where the live CD doesn’t. I’m trying to fill out a drive that now has gOS 1.0.1 and Wolvix Hunter 1.1.0 on it with a third distro for comparison purposes.

I tried the Xubuntu Gutsy live CD. It booted fine. I still didn’t have panels (a problem that seems to affect some machines and not others … and which cropped up in 7.04 but has not been dealt with as of 7.10). I went all the way to the “copy files” part of the install, where the installer died. I could’ve done my “install 6.10 and upgrade” method of getting Xubuntu on this box, the Maxspeed Maxterm thin client (VIA C3 Samuel CPU), but I didn’t feel like it.

So I returned to my old friend, Ubuntu 6.06 LTS. I did the install — it crashed once (I think I did more partitioning than the installer could handle in one pass) but ran fine the second time. I’m doing 173 updates right now … and that will take the rest of the day.

I don’t know if its just me and a view skewed by when I discovered Ubuntu, but I think of 6.06 and the first LTS as a very significant release for Ubuntu. Sure the system has gotten better and better in the three subsequent releases, but having the system working at this high level and supporting it for three years is very big. 6.06 also marked the first release of Xubuntu. I still think 7.04 is the best Xubuntu, at least for my hardware, but I’m pretty impressed with the current Ubuntu 7.10 on my Gateway Solo 1450 laptop. Besides the working ACPI management of the noisy fan, the option to turn off tap-to-click on the Alps Glidepad (aka touchpad) makes 7.10 the best distro for this laptop thus far. Not that I don’t boot into Debian Etch most of the time (I can handle the tap-to-click, even though I wish Debian would allow me to turn it off). That and Puppy 3.00, for which I’ve now managed the noisy fan quite nicely with a cron job. I could easily port that job over to … just about anything … and have a lot more freedom on what I run on the laptop.

And I had another strange thing happen with Zenwalk 4.8. The live CD boots fine on the converted thin client, but the install CD won’t boot. Yes, I checked the CD; it boots on other boxes. And with Zenwalk, you can’t install from the live CD, so I’m out of luck as far as Zen goes.

I had a short Wolvix piece ready to go, but I held it back to work in it a little more. I really like Wolvix thus far. The install is clear, although the GRUB entry it generated for gOS was less than ideal. It won’t be a problem to fix it, though. I’ll see how Ubuntu 6.06 handles GRUB.

Wolvix runs very nice. It’s got that great Xfce snappiness. One thing kind of bothered me, though. Firefox took a little longer to load than in other distros. And after FF was loaded and closed, it didn’t load any quicker after that. That’s why I need to do some a-b-c testing on the same box. If I find that the FF load time is normal, my love for Wolvix will grow. Once Firefox is loaded, however, it runs as well as or better than anything else I’ve slapped on this box. And I love the default install’s inclusion of Fluxbox in addition to Xfce. The implementation of Fluxbox is as good as or better than Vector Linux’s.

Thus far, Wolvix is one of the easiest-to-install Slackware-based distributions I’ve seen so far. And I really like the software choices. The Hunter version offers more software than the smaller Cub, and it’s a nice mix overall. Light and heavy browsers, image editors, and word processors. I hate to see a “light” system ship with OpenOffice and the GIMP. At least Wolvix helps you out with AbiWord, Gnumeric and MtPaint.

Movable Type trick

Our server can be slow, but I have a trick for all you Movable Type 4 users.

Instead of publishing your entry immediately, schedule it for a future time instead. Even a minute or two in the future is OK.

Under Publishing at the bottom of your Create Entry screen, make your status “Scheduled.”

For Publish Date, you can leave it as is or retype a date in the future (click on the little calendar icon to select a date without clicking). For time, set it as far in the future as you wish. The time is handled in 24-hour mode, so for times after 12 noon, you have to think in military time (13:00:00 for 1 p.m., for example).

My XP drive is FULL

So I’m chatting with Tom Gapen, Mac guru, about our work-supplied XP boxes (both Dell Optiplex GX520), his with an add-on graphics card and more RAM, mine with the stock 512 MB. Both have 80 GB hard drives.

We’re talking about Windows XP SP3 and how talk is that it will deliver a 10-percent performance boost.

I say, “I’ve got a lot of crap on my hard drive — and it’s slowing down. I probably have to defrag it. You probably don’t have as much crap on yours as I do.”

So we go to My Computer, right-click on the C: drive and click on Properties. He’s got about 20 GB left.

I figure I’ve got about the same amount. So I go to my box and do the same thing.

Turns out I’ve only got 2.85 GB left out of 80 GB. All those Linux and BSD ISOs are really starting to build up. It’s probably time to start culling the herd.

First I’ll do a Disk Cleanup. It says I will gain 454,722 K of space. Time to dump a bunch of stuff.

Update: Now I’ve got 3.21 GB of free disk space. Time for housecleaning. I must have 60 Linux and BSD ISOs. At an average 600 MB each, that’s a lot of disk space. I kind of don’t want to give them up … but there are probably quite a few I can let go of.