« Back

I Drank the Kool Aid

Company Blogs February 14, 2008 By Richard Sezov Staff

Despite years of resistance, I am now a Kubuntu user. It's taken a lot to get me here, but if you're interested, hang on to your hat.

I've been using Linux for many years as my primary operating system at home. I started off in 1994 (!) with a copy of Slackware that came with a book and several CDs of software. I managed to configure my 486DX/33 system to triple boot DOS, OS/2, and Linux for a while. At the time, I had been using OS/2 since 1992 as my primary operating system, because I believed that it was the wave of the future. But I wanted to learn Unix, and installing Linux was (and still is) the best way to do that.

There wasn't much software for Linux in those days, and getting X running was a nightmare of manually editing configuration files. Getting to high resolution (800x600) was extremely difficult, though I remember succeeding at it eventually.

In any case, I eventually put Linux aside for productivity reasons: I was a systems integrator who was putting in networks for small businesses and government offices, and I had no access to the Internet, which made much of Linux's functionality an academic exercise for me. But I kept my eye on it, looking for opportunities to use it in my work.

My next foray into Linux was with RedHat a couple of jobs later. I installed a test Linux server as a web server with an eye to replacing the IIS server I was running on Windows NT. I soon wanted to try using it as a desktop (because Windows 98 would crash on me several times a day), and began fiddling with that at home. KDE 1.0 had just come out, and it was a feature complete desktop that made the day to day use of Linux on the desktop a bit easier.

Back then, you had to install KDE by downloading a whole bunch of tarballs and extracting them to some location on your system. That was, if you could find binaries. And if your dialup connection stayed active all night while you were downloading megs and megs of data. A lot of the time, you had to compile KDE from source. It made getting up and running a tedious and lengthy process.

At that point, several people began providing RPMs of KDE for RedHat users to install. I played with those for a while, but continued to be frustrated (as did others) that RedHat would not include KDE with their distro.  Instead they threw their weight behind the competing GNOME desktop, which was way behind KDE at that time. The reason for this situation was that KDE was based on a library called QT from TrollTech, which at the time was not GPL licensed, but instead had its own open source license, called the QPL. This made the software "non-free" in the RMS sense of the word, and became the whole reason for GNOME's creation. That rift in the Linux community is not a particularly pleasant chapter in the history of Linux on the desktop.

People like me who just wanted a functional desktop on RedHat didn't much care which open source license KDE used. And there were enough of us that somebody did something about it. That somebody was Gael Duval. He created a little-known distro called Mandrake Linux, which was RedHat recompiled from source, with KDE already included. Mandrake became incredibly popular and spawned a company of its own. The code base eventually split from RedHat and became a distro in its own right.

That distro, because of mergers and aquisitions, is known as Mandriva now. Gael Duval left the company several years ago, but up till now, I have been a faithful Mandriva user for many years. I am a member of their Club and so have supported the distro financially for a while. I happily installed their latest 2008 version on my Liferay-provided laptop and to my great consternation, had to deal with several issues, notably having X crash on me at random times during the day. Suspend / Hibernate wouldn't work with Compiz turned on either. When I finally lost some data in one of these random crashes, I formatted my drive and installed OpenSUSE. Why OpenSUSE? I wanted to get some experience with it: it's one of the more popular distros, but I'd never used before. I'd been planning on switching back to Mandriva once the new version came out. I'd done this before a couple of years ago when I had a problem with Mandriva: at that time I used Mepis to get me through until they released a version that worked with my hardware.

To make a long story short, stability (i.e., lockup) problems with OpenSUSE led me finally to Kubuntu. I'd been resisting going to Kubuntu for a while, because frankly, I thought Mandriva was better, and Mandriva had for so long provided everything I needed out of a Linux distro. But this was the second time new hardware refused to work well with Mandriva, and I was forced to give up on it because I couldn't find any information online in their forums or bugzilla to help me diagnose the problem.

My Kubuntu experience has so far been very pleasant. First of all, everything works. I can suspend my machine with Compiz-Fusion running and it comes back just fine. Initally, my network didn't come back after a suspend, but--and here's the big difference--I was able to find information through a simple Google search on how to fix that. I was able to compile the driver for my laptop's web cam (http://syntekdriver.sourceforge.net; it's not yet included in the kernel) without issue. On Mandriva, they'd split the kernel into a laptop version, a desktop version, and a server version and I was never able to get the driver to compile, even though I'd installed the right header packages. The Skype beta that supports webcams on Linux is available in the (K)ubuntu repositories--not so for Mandriva. I could go on.

Also--and this is inexplicable to me--Kubuntu is faster. It just does everything faster. I don't understand this: it's still Linux, so all the software should be the same. I'm still using the ext3 file system, KDE, and all the same software. You've probably seen other people's blog entries on liferay.com talking about how much faster Liferay compiles on (K)ubuntu than on Windows. Well, they're right. Except it's also faster than other Linuxes. I don't get it.

So at this point, I think I'm finally going to say goodbye to Mandriva after many years of using it. I started with them because I needed a system that just plain works. Kubuntu now does that better than Mandriva, in my experience. After several years of resistance, I have finally drunk the (K)ubuntu Kool Aid. I hope I'm not too late to the party.

Threaded Replies Author Date
<div style="text-align: center;"><img... Jonathan Neal February 15, 2008 10:15 AM

<div style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://img165.imageshack.us/img165/7766/a1773rv660childrencheerhx6.jpg" style="border: 2px solid #00;"><br>
Welcome home, Rich. Your new home.</div>
Posted on 2/15/08 10:15 AM.