My switch to Linux (long post)

Discussion in 'all things UNIX' started by gkweb, Jan 22, 2009.

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  1. gkweb

    gkweb Expert Firewall Tester

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    Hello,

    Before explaining why and how I did it, I have to say that I already knew Linux (various distro) and specifically OpenBSD in the IT server world, where I manage many of them. However, as performances and security always was crucial, they were installed with nothing more than needed, thus no graphical interface. Consequently I had a great experience with servers, but 0 experience with Linux as a home desktop environnement.

    Some times ago, if I remember correctly around the year 2000, I tried various distro for Desktop use, and being far less experienced than now, I was horrified when I saw manual compiling failing, manual dependencies management, updates failure, kernel panic when wrongly rebuilding the kernel, ugly graphics, etc... I gave up pretty quickly. I don't deny that I caused myself some of these problems at that time :)

    Why trying again now ? There is some reasons.

    Firstly, I'm using more and more UNIX OS at my work, replacing Windows servers with either Linux or BSD, and even when you _know_ that Linux is more stable than Windows, when you see by yourself that a server that was crashing once every two weeks, hasn't crashed once in a year with Linux or OpenBSD, I start to get tempted to use Linux myself for Desktop use.
    Secondly, I felt tricked when I bought Vista (yes I did it...), it was a big piece of cr**, buggy as hell. Many times I switched back to XP, then to Vista again when some updates were released, but ultimately, I always came back to XP. Vista has great improvements, security wise, I have written about them, but in my opinion the whole OS does not worth buying it.
    Thirdly, the (in)security world is getting worse every year, and even if I felt perfectly in control of my OS security speaking (LUA account, Antivirus/Firewall/HIPS, everything up to date, etc...), it was like being with an umbrella under a heavy raining, wondering how long before the umbrella will break.
    Finally, I consider my privacy and liberty to be the most important points, and I don't trust Windows regarding these ones.

    I then listed for which tasks I was using Windows :
    - surfing web (Linux OK)
    - emails (Linux OK)
    - playing video/music (Linux OK)
    - tweaking for security (Linux OK)
    - creation of Word/Excel documents with OpenOffice (Linux OK)
    - Instant Messaging (Linux OK)
    - sometimes video games (the problem on Linux, some native games, other via WINE, or VirtualBox, or finally dual boot with Windows)

    I felt that the last point was the least of my worries because of the pro being far more important that this small con, and that one of the games I like, America's Army, is existing natively under Linux (even if at an older version).

    I first tried OpenSUSE 11.1 64bits, KDE 4 interface. Below are the problems that happened on my system :
    - black screen while booting the live CD at 800x600, I had to choose a custom screen resolution of 1280x1024
    - KDE graphic glicthes (while booting, and taskbar)
    - Compiz not working (of course Nvidia drivers from the repo were installed)
    - the IM program Pidgin was crashing sometimes
    - uninstallation of Compiz, and using the OneClick install from OpenSUSE websites trashed my system
    - when downloading with Firefox, all DNS lookups fail, even for the other computers of the LAN (does not happen in Windows)

    I then tried Kubuntu 8.10 64bits (as the name implies, with KDE 4) :
    - no network connection, even when manually trying to add it from command line (sounds like a driver problem).

    I finally tried Ubuntu 8.10 64 bits, hence GNOME interface, and here is the light :
    - everything works fine, no crashes of anything
    - Compiz works like a charm :)
    - I had to install the flash 64bits version, some documentation found easily
    - I had to search to be able to read DVD movies, as the repository providing libdvdcss2 is not added by default
    - I still have my DNS troubles while downloading a single big file, but apparently it is not linked to a Linux distro in particular but may be more to my Linksys router ?

    It is clear that KDE 4.1 doesn't like my system at all, either with OpenSUSE (which is a great distro) or with Ubuntu.

    Ubuntu really brings everything to you. It politely asks you if you want to enable Nvidia proprietary driver, if it cannot play a mp3 file it offers you to download the necessary codecs for you. The system updates automatic management is well polished, intuitive, and the GNOME interface is really easier to use than KDE (personal preference). I was baffled to see how easy to use their distro is. Also the 4 virtual desktops are very very great, I use them heavily.

    I still have Windows XP on another HDD, not booting by default, that I will keep few months, just in case. I finally feel free from the Microsoft monopol, and in perfect control of my computer. Also, who honestly can still say nowadays that Windows has a better looking than Linux ? (see screenshot) ;)

    I want to say a special big thanks to you Mrkvonic, as I have read many of your posts, and Linux distro tests on your website :) It helped me a lot choosing one distro, and saved me some time of testing. The game part on your website was also reassuring regarding Linux gaming possibilities. I really think you are doing a great job helping others to jump on Linux. You have all my respect ;)

    Regards,
    gkweb.

    P.S : about leak testing on Windows, I do not jump from the ship, I still have laptops and some VM at hands.
     

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2009
  2. Arup

    Arup Guest

    Have you installed x64 Flash as well as x64 Java plugin?
     
  3. iceni60

    iceni60 ( ^o^)

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    KDE had a lot of problems with the 4 release, they made lots of big changes, if you want it i think the next major release will probably be more stable.

    edit: i genrally don't talk about things i know nothing about, but i'll make an exception here lol, your dns problems could be to do with IPv6 DNS lookups, maybe disable it o_O
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2009
  4. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    Hello,

    gkweb,

    Thank you very much, mate ...

    It's such a great feeling to see other people succeed and enjoy their success, even if it's something seemingly trivial as running an application or fixing a bug here or there ... Makes the effort worthwhile - not that I'm not enjoying it anyway :)

    If you've seen the movie Death to Smoochie, then there's a great sentence there where Edward Norton's character says: "we can't change the world, but we can make a dent."

    We all make big changes by small things we do. It's good to know that many people now have a better computing because of the efforts we make, as a security/computing community.

    Cheers,
    Mrk

    P.S. You're the 89th "official" convert that I can now credit myself with :) This excludes the casual web visitors :)
     
  5. gkweb

    gkweb Expert Firewall Tester

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    @Arup

    Yes I installed x64 Flash using the following script I found on the net (comments are in French sorry) :
    About Java, I have "Sun Java 6 Runtime" and "OpenJDK Java 6 Runtime", it isn't specified if it is 32 or 64bits.


    @iceni60
    It's sure I won't touch KDE 4 anytime soon ! About my network problems, if it was because of IPV6, it would only happen on my computer, stuck on IPV6 lookups, and not on the other computers of the LAN. However I will take a look at it, every suggestion is good to check :)

    @Mrknovic
    Yes you can count me on your "converted", I hope it is not a sect though :D
    I agree with you, I am convinced that what we do or try to do to help others, even if it can appear sometimes small compared to the amount of effort that would be needed to improve the world as a whole, can have far bigger consequences than the visible direct ones. For instance, if each converted starts to convert others, you have a wonderful domino effect ;)

    I agree too, if it was what you mean, that I prefer fixing a little issue sometimes (ex : DVD playing), and be done with it, and having a free and powerful OS all the time.

    I know what it is to lack of time to add articles to our website, but keep doing it, it is really really helpful, as many will agree :)

    Regards,
    gkweb.
     
  6. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    I haven't switched to Linux as my favorite OS simply because I happen to have access to 3 computers, running Vista, XP and Ubuntu. Now the odd thing is that I like them all: The sophistication of Vista, the familiarity with XP, and the philosophy of Linux.

    My main problem is software compatibility. My scanner (HP Scanjet G4010) works with Vista and XP (best performance with Vista), but I couldn't get it to work with Ubuntu. My laser printer (Lexmark E232) works with XP but not with Vista and Ubuntu. I'm listing peripherals, but I could go on and on about programs, and the bottom line is that changing OS means changing a whole system which is not only time consuming but fairly expensive.

    Recently I found myself using a specific machine for a particular purpose, although I must admit I like Ubuntu more and more, and find an absolute nonsense the whole security nightmare surrounding Windows (how many hours have I wasted learning to secure my PC, when I could have invested that time into more interesting research, no indirect criticism to Wilders is meant here whatsoever).

    It is easy to criticize MS for proprietary issues, but I would expect even other players to produce code for different OSs.
     
  7. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    Hello,

    One small note regarding the flash script:

    Do not automatically use kill -9, try normal kills before doing the hard kill. Badly written apps might not like the kill and could become zombies ... And we don't want that.

    Mrk
     
  8. tlu

    tlu Guest

    Guillaume,

    first of all: congratulations for your switch to Linux. I think you won't regret it.

    I guess that you were using the live CD. I know from a friend that that didn't work for him, either - the alternate CD did, though. So that might be worth an attempt.

    The first edition of KDE 4.1 was a little bit, well, quirky. Just in case you want to try it again you should add

    deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/kubuntu-members-kde4/ubuntu/ intrepid main
    deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/kubuntu-members-kde4/ubuntu/ intrepid main

    to your sources.list in order to get the newest versions.
     
  9. Longboard

    Longboard Registered Member

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    Hey Guillaume, :)
    Nice Post.
    Will be interested to see in view of your expertise and experience where Linux might take you.

    Out of interest and wrt your expertise, what about the BSD desktops ??
     
  10. gkweb

    gkweb Expert Firewall Tester

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    @Mrkvonic
    Yes I know it's not the good way of terminating a program. I didn't modify the script because I have closed manually Firefox beforehand anyway :)

    @Thomas
    Thank you, I'm already enjoying it, I'm sure you are right :)

    About KDE, I wanted it at first because from various screenshots I saw, it seemed to be better looking, with great themes, whereas GNOME seemed to be very simple and flat. However, after having tried and customized GNOME, with GTK themes + Emerald themes + Compiz, it is really beautiful. In addition, the logic behind the GNOME's taskbar, where the options are placed, fits me better. For now I'm very happy with GNOME, but later who knows ;)

    About the network trouble I had, it wasn't the Live CD, I installed it in fact, but I didn't fight a long time because I had downloaded both Kubuntu and Unbuntu and I had the two CDs at hand.

    @Longboard
    My first step is to make everything I need to work, to have a stable system, and then I will play with it's security to see what we can do with. I don't expect to play with kernel patches such as GRSecurity (I did in the past), but I'm sure there is some interesting things to investigate :) You can do some hardening on a server that you cannot on a home desktop, if you want it to be usable and user-friendly.

    About BSD, I only use OpenBSD on servers without any graphical interface, so I cannot tell. For fun one time in a VM I installed OpenBSD with it's graphical interface (Xenocara) and it was ugly. I installed KDE on top of it, but one plugin was not available at all for OpenBSD, I don't remember if it was flash, java, or something like that (I didn't search a long time though). I don't think it is meant for home desktop. I never tried FreeBSD or NetBSD, you'll have to try yourself :)

    Regards,
    gkweb.
     
  11. gkweb

    gkweb Expert Firewall Tester

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    Hello,

    I found a fix to my DNS lookups failing on my whole LAN when I was downloading :)

    First I disabled IPV6, which did not solve the problem, but is still a good thing to do as I do not use it :
    Then add the following line at the end :
    Then I modified TCP Window Scaling to the values it was defined in kernels prior to 2.6.17, as found in french articles talking about Ubuntu network troubles :
    first parameter : minimum receive buffer
    second parameter : default receive buffer
    third parameter : maximum receive buffer

    As it worked, I applied it permanently to the system :
    And then add this line at the end :
    My Linksys firmware was already up to date, so I couldn't do anything to fix it. I'm going back enjoying my new OS ;)

    Regards,
    gkweb.
     
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