Get off my lawn.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

SuSE killed my wife's machine

I decided that today was a good day for Windows to die, at least in my household.

I have a copy of SuSE 9.3 Enterprise that I got a good deal on a few months back (probably because it was, like, two days before SuSE 10.0 became available). I had read and heard great things about SuSE's hardware recognition, appearance, ease of use, and general German-engineered goodness. My wife is a Windows user
(well, not anymore), so I thought SuSE would be a good choice for her machine. Here's how it went:

The installation program is a sight to behold. It's really cool-looking. It started up, and probed the hardware (a fairly lame Celeron-based machine with 30GB of disk, 224MB of RAM, integrated video/ethernet/USB, etc.). It gave me an error message about not being able to read the partition table for /dev/hda, so I aborted the process and booted off of my Linux Rescue CD. It couldn't read /dev/hda's partition table either, and fsck couldn't seem to make any sense of it.

So I booted back to Windows, and used the Disk Manager to check things out. It said, basically "Everything's good, but there are two partitions of an unknown type on here." Okay.. I couldn't remember if I had messed around with Linux on there before, so I backed all the data files up, and went back to the SuSE installation.

It complained a second time about the partition table, so I opened the "rescue" panel to see what I could do. It didn't offer much in the way of help, but did assure me that I could go ahead and install, and it would try to work around the problem.

In SuSE-speak, "work around the problem" means "crush it and overwrite it"... Uh, okay. That's why backups are a good idea, I suppose...

The install disk I used was a DVD, and the installer just selected every package on the DVD and started copying. Then it hung, and said "Unable to complete installation." Crap. I started over. This time, it worked better for some reason, and started copying files numbering in the millions. I left, helped Alissia tear the christmas decorations down, washed the car, played with the kids, had a few cups of coffee, wrote a novel, went for a walk, donated a kidney, spent a few months recovering, got caught speeding, outran the cops, went to prison for 8 years, and waited... and waited... and waited. Finally caught a ride back from MorningWood Penetentiary, and checked on the installer's progress. "50%". Dang it!

It finally got done with the copy process, and progressed into the "configuration" section. Then I started getting error messages: "Media did not contain [package-name]", for about 8 important-sounding packages. I pressed the "Ok, whatever, just keep going" button on each of the messages (like there was anything else I could do). Then it said "Unable to load inst-network. Unable to load inst-config. Unable to load inst-you. Unable to load inst-network" and a whole bunch of other stupid cop-out sounding messages. Whatever. It kept going, and let me put in a root password.

Then it put me into YaST, the important-sounding configurator for SuSE. It was beautiful to look at. I messed around with the "Internet Answering machine", "Firewall" and other toys. They were interesting,
and cool-looking. Then I clicked on "Online Update", and YaST locked up. I killed the X server, and it came up to the login screen. Oh my! Somehing wasn't right. There was a "kernel log" visible, and the login dialog looked like some kind of crap from a 70's-era X terminal. I logged in, and went into the KDE desktop. Dad gum, that is a cool looking desktop. It's covered in glittering crystal icons, shaded gradient panels, nice tasteful colors... It's dead sexy, probably one of the best-looking UIs I've seen on any OS, even a Mac.

I thought I'd try setting the machine up, but there no network. There was no clue as to how to set networking up. YaST certainly didn't do me any favors. The "kernel log" kept bitching about not being able to read /dev/fd0 (the floppy). I was losing patience, and the machine was acting weird. I thought I'd take the Windows approach and reboot. That went okay, until I got to the gross-looking login screen. I logged in, and went to a completely different desktop manager, one without anything but a blank desktop with a popup menu. No KDE, no GTK, etc. Nothing I recognized or at least wanted to use.

Think about how you'd react if you went to a car dealership and took a test drive in a car you had only a passing interest in. You get out on the road, it overheats, the tires blow out, the transmission won't stay in gear, warning lights blink on the dash, and the radio only plays Dixie Chicks songs. It dies, and you roll to a stop on the shoulder. Then, your wife pulls up behind you in your car. That is kind of what this was like. Right next to me was the Ubuntu CD I had used so many times before, with pleasing results. "Screw this!" I said, and started over with THAT.

I inserted the CD, rebooted, answered a few questions, and boom! An uneventful, faultless installation, everything working as expected. Ubuntu is the Mac of linux distros.

Really disappointing about SuSE though. SuSE was the first Linux distro I ever used, at version 7.0. I was expecting it to be difficult and annoying then, and it was. This later version of SuSE is a whole lot nicer looking, but there doesn't seem to have been any progress made in its usability. What's with those Germans? I thought they had this stuff figured out.

I'm an Ubuntu zealot now! Their slogan should be "Just say no to stuff that sucks."


  • At 10:32 PM , Blogger Dale Cooper said...

    As I was reading, I kept wondering when I would get to the part where you surrendered and pulled out the trusty Ubuntu disk.

    Ubuntu is pretty slick. It's my 3rd Linux experiment and it is the best install to date.

  • At 9:16 PM , Blogger craig said...

    Where is the part where you say 'screw it' and buy a Mac?

  • At 1:00 AM , Blogger Jenn said...

    So, since my Suse Install went very well, no weird messages, found the network, looks good, etc. I should feel better about myself?


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