Pardus 2008.2 Part 1

I’ve been playing with a great Linux distro I hadn’t heard of until this past weekend.  It’s called Pardus, and it’s really very nice.  Before I get into discussing why it’s nice, I think I’ll talk a little bit about why I’m using Pardus instead of some of the more mainstream distros, notably Ubuntu.

Due to some extenuating circumstances, I’ve been using my laptop more than I would generally like.  It’s an HP Pavilion dv5020, with a Turion 64 processor (single-core) and only a Gig of memory, which is shared with the ATI Xpress 200M video card.  It wasn’t such a bad purchase 3 years ago, but these days, even with a recent reinstall of Windows XP, it was a sludgy experience, especially compared to my desktop setup, which has a triple-core AMD chip, 4 Gigs of RAM, and a dedicated video card.  The desktop runs Vista with no problems, and I generally like that OS.  But, like I said, XP was running pretty cludgy, so why not see if I can partition my drive, slap a Linux distro on there, and see if I get some performance benefits?

Now, I’ve played with Linux distros before, and as I mentioned the last time I did this, the experience was less than adequate, mainly because dual-monitor support was disappointingly terrible on the distros I used, and because somehow I lost printer drivers on the XP side.  So I went into this new experiment with only a couple of goals:

  1. I would not be trying to hook up external monitors to my laptop;
  2. I would not be trying to make the laptop my main computer;
  3. Wireless support would need to be present “out of the box”;
  4. If possible, I didn’t want to have to burn a live CD because my disc burner is hit or miss in terms of reliability; and
  5. I didn’t want to use Wubi because I wanted the distro to live in its own partition.

So, taking the last two goals first, I sought out and found a program called Unetbootin, which promises to make it easy to start a “frugal install” from within Windows.  In theory it is a great program, allowing you to select a series of predetermined distros (you can add your own .iso that you’ve downloaded already instead), click a few buttons in Windows, reboot your computer, select the installation function, and away you go.  Unetbootin also allows you to create a USB stick from which you can install the distro, but as my laptop doesn’t allow me to boot to USB, and the bios update didn’t cover that functionality, that wasn’t an option I could try.

Anyway, that was the theory.  I had downloaded Pardus for this purpose, but as it went into the installation process, it kept looking for a CD-ROM drive to install off of, and thus kept failing.  I then tried a number of other distros, almost all of which failed without even going into the live environment.  The only one that didn’t fail right off the back was Linux Mint 6 (which is not where Mint is at this point; they’ve moved on the 7 by now).  But it failed in the end, because it booted into the live environment, which has limited functionality.  The nice thing about live CDs is that they let you play around before committing, and then they give you the option of installing the distro right there on the desktop.  Couldn’t be easier, generally speaking.  Mint looked promising, and as it had been the only one I tried that had actually made it into a live environment, I tried to install it.

No dice.  It, too, ended up looking for a CD-ROM, and failed. Now, I wasn’t the only one having problems with this method of easily installing distros in this manner, but, as this thread demonstrates, getting answers on how to fix this problem, without doing a network install, doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s cards.

Fine, I thought, let’s try Wubi.  I had read somewhere that it was possible to move Wubi from the loop-back file into its own dedicated partition.  (Turns out, the thing I had read somewhere is actually provided by the developer of Unetbootin.)  Now, Wubi is pretty snazzy, and it does a very nice job of letting people play around with Ubuntu without the hassle of partitioning your hard drive.  And if you don’t like it, deleting it is as easy as going to the control panel.  Nice.  However, there are a few problems with it: it’s a squidge slower than if it was on its own dedicated install, you can’t hibernate, and it’s susceptible to power issues.  And it’s Ubuntu, which–I’m really sorry–I just don’t like.  I think it’s ugly.  I know it can be dealt with, but…

Anyway, I installed Ubuntu 9.04 through Wubi, and it couldn’t have been easier to get it up and running.  But here’s the rub: wireless support wasn’t there. I have a Broadcom 4318 card in my laptop, which is found in a huge number of laptops.  One would suspect that such ubiquity would lead to familiarity and thus driver support.  But as Broadcom appears to not be very friendly with the open source folks (though that may be changing) built-in support isn’t there in Ubuntu.  I guess the thing is that you have to tunnel into the firmware or something.  I don’t know; it’s a little over my knowledge level at this point.  Now, there have been all sorts of developments that make it pretty easy to get Broadcom to work properly if you also have a wired network to use as a backup while you do what’s necessary to make it work.  At the moment, however, a wire is a little hard to come by, but I am also of the opinion that wireless should not be a multi-step process.

So I ditched Ubuntu, dug out a blank CD, and burned the Pardus .iso to disc, hoping that the drive wouldn’t go belly up in the process.  Ten minutes later I had a shiny distro in my hands. I rebooted, installed, fuddled with some settings to make it install to the location I wanted, and crossed my fingers.  Half an hour later, the orange screen came up with the login prompt.  I entered my password, it churned away for about a minute, and up came Pardus’s setup manager, Kaptan, and the next thing you know, I’ve got a working Linux distro.

My next post will discuss my experience with Pardus 2008.2