The Great Operating System Challenge

Aug2107Aug 21, 07

During the past two weeks I have been in a desperate search for a new operating system. I no longer have the patients for Windows, and I tried valiantly to install Mac OS X on my Toshiba Laptop (evidently, the model is not supported by OSx86). Linux is a very dark area of the computing world from where I currently sit as a web designer, but with windows and Mac out of the question, I couldn't see any alternatives.

The first Linux distribution I installed was, as with most windows users' forays into Unix, Ubuntu. I am not sure yet as to why they chose to market their operating system as "Linux for human beings", because it seemed very awkward to navigate. As I write this, I am still unsure of whether I liked my experience with Ubuntu, because it was a VERY fast and simple install. Where they seemed to fall short is in the area of package management, and pre-installed applications.

The second Linux distribution I installed was Sabayon Linux, and I haven't bothered to try a third. If you are a windows or Mac user and are considering switching operating systems, I highly recommend Sabayon Linux. Like Ubuntu, the install was fast and elegant (Sabayon seems to bring a certain "elegance" to most aspects of Linux computing), as well as highly configurable. After the first reboot I chose to close about 4 out of the default 9 system applications that appeared in the tray, and made sure they would not start automatically every time the computer booted. As with all operating system installations, I restarted the computer once I straightened out a few settings.

The booting speed didn't seem particularly impressive at first, but I doubted that things were functioning quite correctly so soon after installation. I changed all of the desktop and window settings to look quite similar to a Mac (there are hundreds, perfect for settings nerds like myself), and checked out the default software package. The software selection that comes pre-installed is MASSIVE, yet not overwhelming due to a very well organized Kmenu. Some of the items that I was glad to see included:

  • Open Office: A nice alternative to Microsoft Office, but desperately in need of an update and a general GUI face lift.
  • GIMP Great image editing program, available on all platforms but best on Linux.
  • Beryl / Compiz Beryl is a window manager that goes beyond what most people consider computing. I can't explain why it's so cool, so here are a few YouTube videos of people showing off their Beryl Linux environments.
  • Touchpad Configuration If you are a laptop user, this would easily sell Sabayon for you, as it did for me. (I can't stand the "tap to click" default...)
  • KNetworkManager WIFI on Linux is inconvenient without this application.

So Sabayon wins The Great Operating System Challenge, and a spot on my site. You might see their logo pop up every once in a while, not as an advertisement but because it looks awesome. You can find out a whole lot more about the project at their website, sabayonlinux.org. At the time of this article's creation the new version 3.4 is about to be released, and you can bet I will be one of the first few to download it!

Update:: It turns out, Ubuntu had a few tricks up their sleeves for me yet - Ubuntu Studio has officially blown away my previous conception of Operating Systems, Linux, and Web Development. I am currently using Ubuntu Studio as my only OS, and I am more than happy with its many features and ultra speedy performance. Ubuntu Studio, you have my final vote!

Here are some screen shots of my computer in its present state:

Winner: Ubuntu Studio

About Jason Miller:

I am a JavaScript developer from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. When I am not typing green code onto a black screen, you might find me at the nearest coffee pub checking out the brew. I run a internet firm called developIT and maintain blogs and web apps when I can.
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