Sunday, August 05, 2007

New Software For My Aging Hardware

I grabbed the net-installation disk image for Debian Etch in early April this year, and I tested it on my "expendable" computer, but it wasn't until last week that I tried to upgrade my "work" machines.

I retained my Debian Sarge system because I knew from bitter experience that the upgrade from kernel 2.4.x to 2.6.x was not going go smoothly with a simple

apt-get dist-upgrade
If I wanted the latest and greatest security and rendering upgrades in Web browsers and a current version of OpenOffice, I was going to have to back up my data and install Etch from scratch.

I discovered that the 2.6 kernel can't be installed on my Pentium II machine. No way, no how. The installer just crashes, no matter what I do. That machine is staying with Sarge, and I just won't browse the Web with it very often. It's really important to me to keep it running, though. I bought it new in July, 1998, and this is it's tenth year. I want to keep it running for at least a decade.

On the machine I use for my photographs, and, from now on, for my Web browsing, I had a great installation experience. The hardware was all detected accurately, the installation was trouble-free and fast (in part due to the default installation of Gnome without KDE), and everything worked out of the box. It was much faster and easier than installing Windows XP. (I just had to do that a few months ago.)

I'm a little worried, though. Some of the nifty new software I'm testing, like Gnome F-Spot, is very slow to render images. I could live with that, but Iceweasel (The Debian-Licence-friendly version of Firefox) also seems sluggish. I'm a little worried that Gnome 2.14.3 is the memory hog, and that my collection of elderly hardware is not going to keep working with a Linux desktop indefinitely. Of course, I could switch to a lean, mean window manager like IceWM, which I am using on The Laptop That Time Forgot. That means goodbye to "Works Right Out of the Box, like a Toaster-Oven," though.

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