The many faces of Linux

I’ve been slacking - nearly two months with no update…

The work front has been interesting. For the past couple of months I’ve been mostly developing intranet report for company measurables. Sounds exciting, huh? Actually, it is cool to walk around the plant and see your reports and graphs plastered on every department’s bulletin board.

Interesting days on the off hours, too. I finally got components to finish a fourth computer on my network. (Currently a Celeron 600 with 512MB memory, 20GB drive.) In the span of 3 weeks, I have installed Mandrake, Sorcery Linux, and now Gentoo Linux.

Mandrake is OK, but a huge distribution. Three CDs, and the options I wanted (client workstation, network client, Gnome and KDE2) topped off at nearly 3GB. That’s a lot of unneeded stuff.

Sorcery Linux is a fairly new distribution which is source-based. That is, unlike most distributions that have only precompiled programs, you download the source code and compile the programs locally. The cool thing is everything’s compiled for your box. The bad thing is it will take days to download and compile a decent working environment, if you want Gnome or KDE.

Sorcery is pretty neat, but there’s been some infighting (the original developer apparently stopped development and is trying to stop forked Sorcery-like development) and the project is still in its infancy.

Finally I tried Gentoo Linux. Like Sorcery, it is a source distribution, but it is a little more mature in development. In a couple of days I was able to get a minimal X environment (I like WindowMaker).

Gentoo has a somewhat immature development process, despite passing a 1.1 version mark. A couple of weeks ago, a new libpng (to create and manipulate .png images) was released in the standard Gentoo packages. Much chaos and confusion on the Gentoo development/users list since all packages that need libpng must be recompiled. The problem occurred because 1) there was no forewarning that a new libpng would make it into Gentoo, and 2) there is no real concept of “development”, “standard”, and “stable” packages like Debian. This exact discussion is taking place on the Gentoo users list to help alleviate package installation surprises.

All else, life is good.