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Yellow Dog 3.0 Better Red Hat than Red Hat 9

I'll Bet Odysseus Never Had These Problems

  • June 19, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

I have a curious love-hate relationship with my iBook. I like the look and feel of the device, and I find the platform to be wonderfully light and portable.

But here's the hate part: this thing has broken down on me several times in the year since I have owned it. Basically, only three things have saved this machine from oblivion (or eBay): I have been fortunate enough to get some excellent local hardware support, I am fundementally too cheap to buy another machine, and--thus far--this notebook is the best platform I have run Linux upon to date. Specifically, Yellow Dog Linux 3.0.

And I ought to know, having recently the gamut of Linux on laptops.

Here's what happened.

The nice folks at TerraSoft sent me a review copy of Yellow Dog 3.0 right before its general release, and after a week of procrastination, I installed it on my iBook, on the same partitions where Yellow Dog Linux 2.3 was sitting. Now, keep in mind that when you upgrade Yellow Dog, you can simply use the apt-get tool and point it at the new YDL 3.0 repositories. But I wanted to get the authentic feel of installing from scratch, so I could do the ubiquitous "here's how I installed Linux on my machine" section of my review.

You can breathe easy, I'm skipping that this time around.

What happened next was my machine suffered yet another hardware failure, this time the screen unit. If you folded the screen back beyond 90 degrees, the screen would instantly go into hibernation mode in OS X and would simply die on the Linux side.

Thus, it's down to the local Mac store, which in my case involves traveling into downtown Indianapolis, currently undergoing the most horrific traffic construction project known to Humankind, with the possible exception of the Big Dig in Boston. Regardless, off I treked, wanting to get the machine fixed ASAP, since the Enterprise Linux Forum was coming up and I needed a portable machine to manage LinuxPlanet, Linux Today, and all the other sites I care for. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear that for this fix, the machine was going to have to be sent into the Apple factory for repair.

"How long does that take?" I asked.

"Maybe a week, probably two for turn around," the friendly support lady said.

Now, this was a quandry, since I had to have a laptop in less than a week's time. No loaners were available, which left me stuck. I left the iBook there, and in a fit of frustration, concocted an evil plan. I would get the iBook fixed, but in the meantime would go out and buy an Intel-based PC, use that on the trip to California, then once the iBook came back hale and hearty from the factory, it would get sold on eBay.

So, after convincing my wife that I could make this relatively revenue neutral, off I went to the computer store. Readers of LinuxPlanet may recall I have a prickly relationship with the employees at my local computer superstore, and once again I found myself telling the salesdude that no, I did not want six months of AOL, or pay the $25 extra charge for them to open the box, turn the machine on, and check to see of the Windows XP preload was working, or pay the $45 to have them install Windows XP SP1. (Upon hearing this little scheme, I just whipped out my business card and laid it on the counter. "Linux Today" tends to confuse Windows marketroids long enough for me to get them to bring the box up to the register and get me the heck out of Dodge.)

The machine I bought was a Compaq 2135, a nifty little 7.25-pound wonder with cool blue lights and a really nice-sized screen. Already I was looking forward to watching my DVDs on the flight to the West Coast, which is about all a Windows partition is good for, in my opinion.

One Partition Magic session later, with my home-burned Red Hat discs in hand, I proceeded to install Red Hat 9. Or tried to. I quickly discovered that the installation CDs would hang just after anaconda start-up, every single time. A hurried Googling later, and I learned that native USB support needed to be disabled on this particular machine for Red Hat to install. Once that was cleared up, it was off to the races.

Getting my wireless card configured in Red Hat was the next big hurdle. The Belkin card I had was a no-go, because I made the stupid mistake of not checking for hardware compatability before buying it. Luckily, I was able to find some excellent pointers for help from articles written by my colleagues Michael Hall and Rob Reilly, and was online wirelessly after a return trip to the store for the right kind of card (psst... LinkSys card with the linux-wlan drivers).

Keep in mind, I could have used other distros which might have been more friendly to my laptop. I am fully aware of this. Since I use Red Hat 9 on my base machine here at the home office, I was really trying to stick with it for continuity of tools and look and feel. But with the uncharacteristic trouble I was having, I found myself wishing for my iBook.

And, of course, when I got back from the trip, my wish was granted. The answering machine held the message: the iBook was ready.

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