The aging Dell Dimension 4400 at home had developed terminal Windows
senility. Having served both Pun Son and Salad Daughter with service in
writing high school papers, game-playing, and tempting Internet
downloads, its registry was a
nightmare. It had undergone several bouts with viruses and spyware
(thanks, kids!), and I suspect the ordeal left it in a
permanently befuddled state.
The final insult came this past weekend, when it started claiming
that it was running a counterfeit version of Windows XP. It's hard
to not take something like that personally.
This is why they make computers without necks. If it had
had one, I would have strangled it.
I took a quick inventory of what I was really using the
box for. Pretty much just web surfing and opening terminal windows
to machines at work with PuTTY.
Microsoft Word, for a few things, but nothing too vital.
I gave up on Microsoft Money for home
finance a few months back; it's just as easy to pay bills in
a web browser these days.
So: wipe the disk, install Linux. That'll teach it. My first effort
was Ubuntu. I've heard good things
about it, and, even though their relentless cheerful multicultural
on their website was a little off-putting, why not?
I downloaded and burned their 6.06.01 "live CD", and it
seemed to work fine. On boot, you get a slow version of Linux
running off the CD, so you can play around and verify that networking
works, and so on.
When you're confident, you can click on the "Install"
icon, and you're off to the races.
Fine: the questions asked during the install process
were not hard, and things went well … until the part where
the install pronounced itself 10%, 20%, … 59% complete, at which
hung up. The mouse still moved the cursor, but that was about it.
Try again, another hang at 59%. Sigh. (At this point, the disk had been
formatted; no chickening out back to Windows.)
I could have, I suppose, scouted around for what was really going on.
dumped Ubuntu, and tried out the cold-hearted capitalists
at Red Hat for their Fedora
distribution. I decided to go with a prerelease of Fedora Core 6.
This involved burning 5 (non-live) CDs.
But Fedora's install went through, unlike Ubuntu's. Maybe the installer
asked a few more questions than Ubuntu did, but nothing too tough.
One minor glitch when I, on a whim, opted to install "Software
Development" packages; this demanded an Internet connection, which
failed miserably. Reboot and restart.
My keyboard also suddenly went mute when it was time to specify a
non-root user. OK, we'll do that later.
Then for some inexplicable reason, networking was non-functional
in the post-install reboot. What's up with that? Did I miss an important
question in the installation? No matter, that was also pretty easy to set up
Now take all this with many grains of salt: just because I had problems
doesn't mean that you will. Especially since I was working (in the
Fedora case) with a pre-release distribution. But I was kind of
expecting (in these days of modern times) things to go smoother.
But, bottom line, I'm extremely happy to have killed off an aging,
badly-behaving Windows box, and have it reborn as a sprightly Linux
machine. If you're confident you can handle technical glitches, I