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Linux breathes new life into old machines April 14, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,

On Friday we finally embarked on our Linux project. The trials and tribulations thrown at us on the Supertanker this last term have contunually pushed back this initiative. We are increasingly of the opinion that XP is becoming more and more flakey, with patches seemingly undoing previous fixes and causing no end of strife, especially as we have older versions of Windows Server and ISA software, however this is not the reason for us exploring this Linux avenue, but the seeming instability of MS patching has certainly re-doubled our resolve to seek stability. The age of our computer stock means that the MS preferred option of Server 2008 and Vista workstations is not a solution for us. Therefore with the school all in the hall for assembly we sat down with a P4 laptop and started to make it a dual boot platform. Interestingly we were also re-building a Dell workstation at the same time, we had to completely re-install Windows XP SP2 and patch it. The XP CD and the Suse Linux desktop 10 DVD were insterted into their respective drives at 2:00pm.

The laptop had already had its hard drive partitioned into two drives and so it was a fairly easy install for us. The trickiest part was decyphering, for the first time, the different file format and pathing options that Linux requires in order to get Linux to land on the right part of the drive and not ruin the XP install. We solved our decision by looking at disk sectors. Once we had confrimed that we wanted to format the appropriate sector into the reiser format, the rest was a breeze. Not only does the OS load from the DVD but a whole range of open source software including Open Office, The Gimp, Inkscape, Firefox, Evolution E-mail, Helix Banshee music player and a huge list of other really interesting looking programmes that I have yet to fully explore.

The interesting thing is that by 3:05 we had successfully installed, re-booted into both XP and Linux on the laptop and were exploring the programme options of Linux and the Dell next door was still grinding through installing all the post XP SP2 patches, security updates and rollups that it will require in order for it to run in any kind of secure fashion, but there was not a hint of anything useful yet installed, like The Gimp et al; Or even Office.

So why the interest in Linux? Well the reasons are many and varied. Principally with Suse desktop 10 we have an entire suite of programmes that promises stability, fast boot up times, short logon times and crucially for us on our legacy machines, a small foot print on small drives. Linux is tight, the full install required 2Gb of hard disk space. This fact alone will enable us to breath life into our older machines. The software can run on old 486 machines, if so, we will have a modern OS with a raft of open source programmes suited to our needs, running on machines that XP has long since killed due to the huge resource presence that it needs in order to just run the OS let alone any programmes. Oh and the Ministry deal just struck with Novell means that we can use it at no cost. A win win for us!

Now that we have proved the concept, all new machines that come into school will be dual booted. We now need to solve the dual platform domain issues, the remote desktop compatibility issues, the mail issues etc etc, but the future is bright for our old machines. We will gradually wean the staff off of Office and move them to Open Office so that they get used to the open source look. Our students are already using Inkscape with aplomb, they will take to it like a duck to water.

On a final note. Are any of you out there Linux users who have already solved some of the dual platform/domain issues? If you have, please share!

Oh, and by the way, the Dell was still updating and installing the patches when I left work at 4:35, we left it to it…



1. Vinny Andella - April 25, 2008

Windows XP Service Pack 3

We have been getting mixed feedback from users that have installed the Windows XP SP3. One of the biggest complaints is Microsoft did not include Direct X 10. The service pack employs many features of Vista and seems to turn your current version of XP into a steppingstone for purchasing a full copy of Vista. Please be sure your current computer programs will be able to handle the transition to SP3 or you may not be able to use them anymore.

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