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Editor's Note: Slashing My Wrists on the Cutting Edge - page 2

One Word: Naive

  • August 15, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

Out of curiosity, I decided to try installing Red Hat Linux 6.2 to see if it would fare any better. I threw the installation CD and rebooted. The Red Hat 6.2 installation routine came up, but shortly into the installation I was informed that the process would be halted because there was no Linux partition, nor was there room for one.

Oops. When I deleted the OpenLinux partition, the partitioning software made the entire hard drive back into a Windows 98 partition. Since Red Hat 6.2 didn't seem particularly eager to tackle a repartitioning leaving a Windows partition intact (Red Hat 6.2 tends to work best when it's the only OS on a system, which is why I didn't use it in the first place), I threw the OpenLinux CD back in the drive and used its partitioning tools to repartition the drive, this time leaving a healthy 10-gigabyte partition for Linux and swap partitions.

Early on Red Hat Linux didn't like my graphics card so it proceeded with a text-based installation. Attempting to configure X using these tools was an abject failure, as were all my attempts to use the X-based configuration tools (Xconfig, et al), none of which could probe my NeoMagic graphics card and figure out what to do. There was a generic NeoMagic listing in the database of supported graphics cards, but that yielded a screen with a 320x320 resolution and hideously large icons (two of which filled the entire screen).

About this time LinuxPlanet contributing editor Michael Hall reported that he had just received an eval copy of Accelerated-X for Laptops from Xi Graphics and would be happy to pass it along to me.

Sadly, Accelerated-X for Laptops didn't do the trick right out of the box. Again, my particular NeoMagic graphics card wasn't supported right out of the box, and the other entries for NeoMagic cards yielded nothing but garbled screens and hard reboots. I knew from perusing the Linux community that this NeoMagic card was indeed working under X, so I spent some time poking around the Xi Graphics Web site. Now, I know beggars can't be choosers and it's somewhat churlish to criticize a freebie, but it took me way too much time to find any listing for my NeoMagic card on the Web site: it lacks a search function, so I needed to go through driver-upgrade listings before finding the appropriate patch, which I downloaded and transferred to the appropriate directory on the Sony Vaio.

So did that finally do the trick? No.

In theory, after installing the driver and flushing the Accelerated X cache, I should have seen my graphics card in the list of supported graphics cards, but I did not. I did see some new listings for other NeoMagic cards, so I decided to try out some of them. My first effort yielded a high-resolution KDE desktop occupying half of the screen; my second effort yielded a full-screen, XGA KDE desktop. Success!

Now, I'm not going to argue that I'm a hardcore techie, but I do know my way around a Linux system, and if it took me that long to find an installation and configuration option that included some commercial applications that are not easily available to the average Linux user, imagine how an average user new to Linux would react. More than likely they would have given up relatively early in the process. They wouldn't have had a couple of Linux distributions to choose from, and they wouldn't have known enough about the intricacies and obscurities of X to fiddle around as I did with both commercial and noncommercial applications. It was a sobering reminder of how far Linux has to come before it's a truly mainstream, commercial operating system that can fit the needs of the great unwashed masses. We need to remember that as far as operating systems go Linux is still the equivalent of my seven-week-old Golden Retriever puppy: barely housebroken, still leaving little surprises throughout the living room, sometimes unruly, but with a massive growth potential.

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