This will be the final article in the “Moving to Linux” series.
The Moving to Linux plan had been going along as it should. My Western Digital 200 GB hard drive arrived and I was ready and waiting with a freshly burned copy of Red Hat 9. All the research I had previously done indicated that there shouldn’t be any major issues because of all the key components in my computer being compatible with Linux.
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The problems started to arise during the first attempt of my Red Hat Linux install. The install would either remain idle for hours or would actually let me know that something bad has happened and that I should restart the installation or correct the problem (of course Red Hat didn’t tell me what the problem was). So after three attempts to install Red Hat Linux with all three attempts dying at the exact same place and the media already been verified as good I started to check for bad blocks on the new hard drive. Sure enough, there were bad blocks and I started an RMA process with MWave.com. I mention MWave.com specifically due to the overwhelmingly difficult time I had with them. I never did get a replacement hard drive from them but I did get my money back after a week and a half.
My second Western Digital 200 GB hard drive came from NewEgg.com. This time I was loaded up with copies Red Hat and Mandrake Linux just in case. The Red Hat install went great and Red Hat even booted and I was sailing along. Then I shut it down to move hardware around inside the computer and upon rebooting Red Hat was of no use to me. This happened with three full, flawless installs. The errors varied but there was a common theme that always reoccurred regardless of the other errors. There is a problem with the USB controller on my Asus A7V motherboard. So after disabling the onboard USB controller and going with my PCI USB 2.0 controller card I went ahead with an install of Mandrake Linux. The entire install process completed successfully on the first attempt. Then Mandrake went to boot and it had an instant kernel panic. Mandrake was suddenly crossed off the list of usable Linux distributions. So I fell back to Red Hat and being the smart person that I am I checked for bad blocks again and sure enough hard drive #2 was corrupt. This time I set up an advanced RMA with Western Digital.
Hard drive #3 arrives after a short wait (Western Digital has a phenomenal RMA process). This time I was armed with copies of Red Hat Linux, Mandrake Linux, College Linux, and Slackware. To make a long story short, Slackware was the only Linux distribution I could install and boot. Red Hat had an exception error during install, Mandrake still had a kernel panic at boot, and College Linux couldn’t even see my hard drives. The Slackware setup was very simplistic and quite quick. The only problem was that Slackware wasn’t nearly user friendly enough for me and due a severe lack of time to fiddle with Linux I opted to drop the idea of Moving to Linux and utilize a free copy of Windows XP Professional that I obtained directly from Microsoft for filling out a climate survey of sorts. Getting Windows XP to install was a challenge in itself.
If you throw out the problems with my hard drive(s) the major hold up with getting Linux to install was the fact that my motherboard is old, decrepit and barely plugging along. I was highly disappointed with Mandrake Linux, moderately impressed with Red Hat when it decided to work, and simply astounded when Slackware conquered the problems that Red Hat and Mandrake were having but equally disappointed with the lack of tools to configure all my peripherals upon booting Slackware.
My move to Linux is on hold until I get a new motherboard (at the earliest). Needless to say, I am a resourceful person (in 1999 I was still using my 486⁄66 DX2) so it will be a long time before I upgrade the motherboard. Moving to Linux is still a goal of mine, it has just moved down the list quite a bit. This article can be summed up nicely by quoting an e-mail I sent to my ex-wife:
I was only able to get one distro (out of 4) to install and it was Slackware which provides a very un-user friendly version of Linux. Red Hat and Mandrake both failed miserably and College Linux couldn’t even recognize a hard drive. So needless to say Linux isn’t a very viable option due to the fact of my current lack of time to build everything from the ground up.