November 8, 2008

Ask Historical Linux, hardware for tomorrow

Author: Staff

It's all about bipartisanship and unity in this week's roll call for the forums. Old distro and new distro coming together, peripheral and computer learning how to work as one, and, just as the framers intended, a run-off between several distinguished "absentee answer" questions.

This ain't your father's Linux distro (but that is still available)

The first face-off has to do with old Linux distributions. Normally, forum readers are concerned with the latest and greatest, but occasionally circumstances require working with a relic.

User prague14 wrote in to ask for advice with what he admitted was a peculiar task: take a running instance of Red Hat 7.3 and update it to a modern releasewithout doing an erase-and-reinstall. "I have been trying to figure out how to best approach this. I know, in theory, it's possible. But where do you start? Should I compile the core utils and a new kernel like you do in Linux From Scratch and try to copy new binaries over to the old OS? ... Perhaps for good reason, there's not a whole lot in the HOWTO realm. :)"

Khabi strongly advised against trying such an upgrade by hand, warning "you're more likely to break it horribly than to get it right." He proposed two possibilities: recompiling from source, and cataloging the RPMs and hunting down the modern equivalents in Fedora. Either way, he concluded, a lot of time will be required squashing bugs.

But perhaps prague14 could learn from user MRD's question. A student studying human-computer interaction, MRD asked where to find old versions of Linux distributions in order to study changes to the GUI.

Rokytnji pointed out that Red Hat maintains an archive of all of its old releases on a public FTP site. Tophandcwby recommended a broader archive at

It's the hard ware life for us

Questions about Linux-powered netbooks are rapidly becoming a major topic on the forums. Most have to do with software, but DolfoMan had a hardware question instead -- how to determine whether third-party peripherals (such as USB-attached optical drives) are Linux compatible.

Rokytnji provided DolfoMan with several links describing hardware compatibility and different brands of netbook, including the Asus Eee PC and Acer Aspire One. Since netbooks, like notebooks in general, use less-standardized components than desktop machines, it is always a good idea to check before making a purchase.

Speaking of Linux-compatible desktop hardware, Brett M. Beeman noticed that many of the forum regulars assembled their own PCs from separate components. Wanting to learn, he asked for advice on dipping his toes into the home-built computer waters.

Reader Hollow Point drew the broad strokes -- CPU and motherboard compatibility, cases and power supplies -- and recommended that he work with a local PC shop rather than an online store.

Gregorydearth then chimed in to warn against shopping for brand-new, top-of-the-line components. Stores may be interested in selling cutting-edge hardware with big sticker prices, but you can build a slightly more modest system for far less money by staying behind the curve. Plus, if you are running Linux, you get more bang for your buck, since Linux makes more efficient use of your system's resources.

Unanswered questions in a landslide

Finally, all the other networks may call it prematurely, but we say it's still too early to forecast any answers in these key battleground threads.

Outgoing question-answerer gregorydearth presented a pickle in the Miscellaneous Discussion forum, stumped as to why his system's background image was reset to the default at every reboot. Right now, he's unopposed -- can you meet the challenge?

Untested newcomer khriz is a real maverick: he wants to cleanly end his GNOME session from the command line. Others have proposed simple solutions like killing X, but khriz says such a drastic shortcut is ducking the issue. Can your answer win his endorsement?

Seasoned veteran Ante is conducting a straw poll of likely commenters, asking what Linux distro is best suited for hardware testing and benchmarking. Inquisitor looks like it was groomed for the job, but Ante wants the people to speak up. Can you help him deliver the turnout?

That's all for this week. If you've got a burning issue of your own, head over to the forums and exercise your franchise. And be sure you're familiar with the forum posting guidelines so you can make the most of your rights.


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