April 18, 2006

My desktop OS: Frugalware

Author: Davide Rocco

I'm from Italy, and Italian men are well-known for appreciating beautiful women. Meanwhile, Hungarian women are well-known for being beautiful. Maybe it's no coincidence that my desktop OS is a beautiful Hungarian Linux distro: the brand new Frugalware 0.4.

I've always liked simple distros like Slackware and CRUX. They do just what you want them to do, no more, no less. But Slackware has its limits; the fact that it has no 2.6 kernel by default and provides a relatively small number of packages are the most important for me. CRUX, on the other hand, is really basic. It's great for learning Linux, but too time-consuming if you also have a social life. ArchLinux is closer to what I want, but not quite right.

Frugalware is in a good niche between Slackware and ArchLinux. Frugalware's philosophy is similar to that of ArchLinux -- make the system simple and logical so you don't have to rely on a GUI to use it. The thing I like most about Frugalware is that, unlike ArchLinux, it provides a full stable branch in addition to the current one, which is updated every six months.

I read Frugalware's documentation before installing the latest version. You can download a CD version (2 CDs) or a full-blown DVD version, or use a netinstall option. Installation is straightforward: just answer the questions the text mode installer asks about the partitions you're going to use, your network, your screen resolution, and the categories of packages you're interested in. Eventually, after a reboot, you get a working system.

I like to install things the hard way, building the whole system from scratch. I got the first CD (with no X Window packages) and started the installation. After installing a base system, I rebooted and got additional stuff through the wonderful pacman package manager (borrowed from ArchLinux).
I installed X.org, and after running xconfig, the X server was automatically configured. I didn't have to touch xorg.conf. I then added a base KDE desktop. Usually I prefer XFCE4, which Frugalware includes, but I wanted to try out KDE. Everything went fine. After a reboot the login manager was ready to guide me through a nice (and very reactive) KDE desktop.

Frugalware comes with about 1,000 packages, plus more than 1,200 in an extra repository: impressive for a new and relatively unknown distro. It includes full versions of both GNOME 2.14 and KDE 3.5.1.

I browse the Web with Mozilla Firefox and read newsgroups with Sylpheed or Mozilla Thunderbird, perform office tasks with Gnumeric and OpenOffice.org, watch movies with MPlayer, encode audio with Lame, manipulate graphics with the GIMP, manage files with Krusader or Midnight Commander, burn CDs and DVDs with K3b or BashBurn, and edit audio with Audacity and video with Avidemux.

I like to run updated software, and Frugalware packages are the latest stable versions. Frugalware is more relaxed about non-free software than Ubuntu or Fedora. It comes with full MP3, DVD, Win32 video codecs, and Flash support, along with ATI and Nvidia card binary drivers. The distro's two standard repositories (frugalware and extra) have everything I need, and probably more, without my having to bother about compiling or using external repositories.

I have a baby daughter, so I don't have much time for playing with distros anymore. Frugalware 0.4 does all I need and does it well. It needs you to understand what you're doing, and you must not fear the command line, but Frugalware is one of the fastest distros around.

What desktop OS do you use every day? Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us what you use and why. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your favorite OS or have one in hand.) In recent weeks, we've covered SimplyMEPIS, Xandros, Mac OS X, Fedora Core 3, Ubuntu, White Box Enterprise Linux, Mandriva PowerPack 2006, Slackware, SUSE, GRML, Kanotix, Gentoo, VectorLinux, CentOS, and Damn Small Linux.


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