After the last Apple keynote, the news on Mac Book Pro, and the exorbitant price, I took part of this Sunday to look back to Linux as a Desktop. Although I work usually on a 2011 Mac, that runs perfectly (just some bumps), I have a Lenovo laptop. So, I decided to install the Linux distribution I have been using lately for my servers: debian.
First I downloaded the netinstall image. It complained of missing drivers for wi-fi and ethernet. Then, I downloaded the non-free netinstall image. Same behavior.
Well, decided to keep it, and use a USB stick to install the missing packages. After going from/to my mac to download missing packages and dependencies, I got something. The card is detected, the correct (at least it seems) module is loaded, ifconfig shows the device, but ifup fails to bring it up.
After googling and fighting with wpa (first I was thinking this was the problem), I found out that Linux was just deciding that it couldn’t load the interface, and mentioned something about rfkill, that I am not sure what it is.
Googled a little more and found articles saying that my Lenovo has some other wireless card than the one listed by lspci. Strange.
In any case, the day is almost over, and I need to get back to my job. My conclusion so far is a quote from an old teacher, now a friend: Linux is still a Cowboys operating system.
Not sure about all Linux distributions, but debian for sure.
The next linux to test was Mandriva. I recall to use Mandrake some years ago. First point regarding Mandriva, is that I downloaded the DVD version. That means I was installing with more than 4GB of software on my DVD drive. Why that is relevant? Keep reading.
The installation was easy. The interface is quite good, although not as detailed as OpenSuse installation, but better than Fedora interface. Regarding this installation, my main complain is to have Portugal listed in the secondary countries list, while some strange countries appear in the main countries list. Also, that wouldn’t be bad if it was more intuitive to select.
Regarding the installation, I miss the detailed information about what is going on. Mandriva keeps showing screenshots of their linux desktops. Also, that is a stupid thing to do, as in a small screenshot you can not detect any difference on the image for the different Mandriva distributions. Probably a list of features would be better. Lack of reflection for the Mandriva product managers.
It all went correctly until the wireless configuration. The laptop has a Intel 3945 802.11g Wireless card. It is not that recent, and there are open source drivers available. In fact, it seems that most recent kernels include this driver. But Mandriva does not include it in the 4GB of software. Oh, and I was using the 2010.0 distribution.
Probably to include more drivers and less crap would help users. I do not care if I need to use the internet connection to download gnome or kde widgets. But I really care if I need to use the internet connection to download the wireless driver, that does not let me to connect to the internet to download… yeah… kind of remembers me of BOFH story of sending by email the password to read the email.
Now I am wondering. If I need to install drivers by hand, probably the best is to go back to my predilection linux distributions, like Slackware or Arch Linux. At least these assume they are not for common desktop users. Well, the other option is to test ubuntu or debian.