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[This thing is so warped, I just can't settle on a single title for it]
[For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of echomail, it is a method by which messages are exchanged between BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems). Messages are generally grouped in "Conferences" or "Forums" by subject. Messages may be addressed to individuals or to "All". Do a search about BBS if you have missed that part of the history of computing.]
This is the tale of a pre-ordained failure. Dates and message numbers used are those appearing on my local bbs. Since I swapped echomail daily, the relative time span will be correct, even if the absolute dates are off. Messages originating from me are marked "LOCAL", and therefore would go out with the next day's mail. All others originate elsewhere and retain the date stamp with which they were received.
The players are: RM, known villainous troll for The Evil Empire; Mr. D, unknown, possibly unsuspecting clueless accomplice of the troll; MP, known to prefer the Woolly Mammoths of the past over the current crop of rodents and penguins; and TV, known for undercover work for the mysterious Tux Brigade of The Cult of the Penguin. (In case that's too weird for you to follow, think Microsoft, Microsoft, Mainframe and Linux. Although, the Mainframe character is reputed to be forced daily to deal with the full range, from Evil Empire to Woolly Mammoth).
Most messages are not quoted, but rather summarized. This is because: (1) it would make the document much, much longer, and (2) would not serve the point of the tale, which is that anyone can make a mess if they try hard enough. Some portions are quoted and clearly marked.
The entire episode takes place within a span of just 14 days. This must be remembered, for the actual alleged installation of Mandrake 7.1 is not reported to take place until the 9th day. Yet the pair of self-proclaimed computer experts have dismissed this doomed installation as "not ready for the general main stream of users" in a message on the fifteenth day.
The tale begins:
Msg 624: RM to All.
Message proclaims "a friend" (call him Mr. D, just to have some kind of handle) is having problems installing Linux alone on a hard drive. Mr. D has two computers running "Win 98 II". Mr. D has attempted a 24 hour download of Linux, which is "a miserable failure". Target computer: P75 with "2.x gig" hard drive and "32 meg of ram". Mr. D purchases RedHat Linux for $49.99. Mr. D then exchanges said package for Mandrake Linux 7 Deluxe for $20 more. Mr. D formats the hard drive and attempts to install. "No Available Partitions." Mr. D "experimented with fdisk but to no avail." A named someone who Mr. D says "has been very helpful" suggests Mr. D "try the instructions for a dual boot with W95 installed." Message ends with, "I still can not understand why it will not install to a freshly formatted drive."
Msg 625 RM to TV.
Shorter request for assistance.
Msg 628 MP to RM, reply to 625.
Offer of echomail exchange to assist.
Msg 629 LOCAL TV to RM, reply to 625.
Offer of help.
Msg 630 LOCAL TV to RM, reply to 624.
Questions concerning the formatting of the drive. Admonition against the dual boot; not needed if the intention is to have only Linux on the machine. Stated suspicions that the drive was formatted using programs for MS filesystem rather than Linux filesystem.
Msg 634 RM to MP.
Appreciation expressed for offer in 628. Mention of a hard drive swap. Closes: "Good thing he has a Windows machine in the mean time..."
Msg 635 RM to TV
Questions that the Mandrake distribution may be "more the Corel version and must dual-boot to function". Closes: "Will the Corel version not function without another OS on the system?"
Msg 636 MP to RM, reply to 635.
Suggestion of possibility of "'funky' controller". Question of which fdisk used.
Msg 637 LOCAL TV to RM, reply to 635.
Clarification of Corel/Mandrake confusion. Instructions for removing the MS filesystem in order to allow installation of Linux.
Msg 646 RM to MP, reply to 636.
Supposition that hard drive is being changed. Question whether use of Dos FDISK would matter. Statement that Mr. D "usually reads instructions."
Msg 647 RM to TV, reply to 629.
Mention of new hard drive. Mention of Mr. D receiving free copy of Mandrake 7.1 with a Linux magazine. Mention that further attempts will be postponed until the new hard drive arrives. Mention of plan to get a new computer instead of using the old one. New target: K6-2 55 with "10 gig drive & 32 meg (sound and video built in)". Close: "So I suppose this will be his 'linux play machine' for a while at least."
Msg 648 RM to TV, reply to 630.
"Almost for sure" confirmation of MS FDISK.EXE used. Mention of "no Linux software when he formatted."
Msg 650 MP to RM, reply to 646.
Confirmation that use of DOS FDISK.EXE would matter. Mention of use fdisk and cfdisk for Linux.
Msg 651 MP to RM reply to 648.
Mention that fdisk and cfdisk would be on both the Linux CD and the bootdisk.
Msg 653 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 647.
Concern that Mr. D is using the "shotgun approach" to problems. Mention of Mandrake 7.0 problem; corrected with 7.0-2. Suggestion to install Linux on the P75 while waiting for the new computer.
Msg 654 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 648.
Statement that Linux software was on hand, on the CD. Admonition that Mr. D had tried too hard; formatting "should be done using the OS that is going to live on it."
Msg 656 LOCAL TV to all.
Link given to http://members.tripod.com/~edge-op/links1.html, personal page of links to help with Linux.
[Aside: D'oh! Simpler: http://edge-op.tripod.com/links1.html ]
Msg 660 RM to TV reply to 637.
Indication that the new system has not arrived yet. Question concerning ability to have up to 31 primary partitions now. Link given to http://www.users.intercom.com/~ranish/part/.
Msg 662 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 660.
Link checked; 31 partition entries allowed in the boot loader found there. Link given to http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Large-Disk-HOWTO.html. Excerpt concerning Master Boot Record and 4 primary partition limit.
Msg 663 RM to TV reply to 653.
Mention of errors while DOS formatting drive of P75. Mention of sale of P75 in reply to suggestion of Linux installation while waiting. Mention of "rough time" having "(hard drive specs and such) that Linux seems to want". Mention of use of free magazine CD for auto-setup followed by upgrade using the "expensive CD". Close: "I'm sure it will be a few days before he does anything new."
Msg 664 RM to TV reply to 654.
Mention that Linux software was not on hand when drive was formatted. Mention of reading manuals before deciding machine. Request for Linux links. Mention "I don't equate formatting a drive with the OS that's going on it."
[Aside: utterly amazing that one who professes so much experience with computers would not realize that Microsoft filesystems are only fit for Microsoft OSes and that other OSes use their own filesystems.]
Msg 665 RM to TV reply to 656.
Mention of passing note of personal link to Mr. D.
Msg 672 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 663.
Admonition that Linux does not normally need any hard drive specs. Mention of monitor scan frequency. Admonition that working too hard at it created an impossible install situation. Close: "Quit trying to make it difficult."
Msg 673 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 664.
Analogy given: formatting for DOS then buying Linux is "a bit like building a foundation for a shed, then going out and buying a castle-in-a-kit." Admonition that situation described was not normal. More links given. Description of documentation available on the CD and the installed system. List of filesystems Linux can access. Advice to look first on the system then the CD for software.
Msg 694 RM to TV reply to 672.
Mention of "about 50 meg of bad blocks". Mention of the Ranish site. Complaint about "large required screen resolutions". Confusion about whether Linux only or dual boot system. Quoted Mr. D, "The new puter arrived and it set up fine. As it is running with all the same software and settings I decided last night to take the plunge and install Linux." Mention of using the first CD, lock about half way through. "I tried to use the W95b (DOS) fdisk to remove the Linux partitions so as to start again. It refused!"
[Aside: well DUH! get a clue! I thought you were told about this a week ago by your buddy!]
"I was, to say the least, worried but I remembered the DOS partition software that I downloaded (Freeware). I took a couple of tries to figure out how it worked but I was able to strip all the partitions.I then tried the magazine version of the Mandrake CD and it went in fine.
"I have managed to set up the system for sound and it seems to recognize the modem. I will set up the Internet software another day...... "I had to increase the screen resolution 1024X768 as some of the boxes would overfill the screen. I have also found how to adjust the way the tool bars and icons are displayed. It is surprising how close this desk top is in appearance and use as compared to W95/98."
Msg 695 RM to TV reply to 673.
Promise to pass along info from 673. Mentioned giving personal link address to Mr. D "a couple days ago".
Msg 701 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 694.
Mention of my use of 800x600. Mention of displeasure with graphical install. "Naturally, it would refuse", reference to "W95b (DOS) fdisk" attempt. Doubts about "Ranish" software. Encouragement concerning installation description. Displeasure about reviews based on installation ease or lack of same. Rant against KDE. Warning against Netscape lockfiles and kmail. Detailed instructions.
Msg 704 RM to All.
"I figured I'd post the ongoing saga of my friend's odyssey into Linux. It is probably a fairly good example of what a Very experienced computer user will run across starting into Linux blind with just a CD and a dream..."
Description of computer: AMD K6-2 500 with 6G hard drive, 32 MB RAM. Description of "the install meltdown with Mandrake 7.0 but buying a second CD (Mandrake 7.1) got him past that." Reference to "Ranish" software. Note that "Dos FDisk would not remove the Linux partition."
"My comment on Dos FDisk not being able to remove the messed up Linux partition was:
"> There should have been an FDISK.EXE on the Linux CD that
"> could have been used for this. There is another Linux format
"> utility as well but I don't recall the name offhand.
"(Everything beyond here is his words alone)
"Remember that I have yet to figure out or even comprehend how to input commands at the Linux prompt. You and I still think DOS and although similar, it is not the same.
"I first tackled the KDE Desktop (I understand there are others)
"It recognized the sound card and I am slowly adding event sounds. I was also able to adjust the mouse properties by defining the mouse but need to figure out how to get it to recognize the scroll wheel.
"Surprising how close this desk top is in appearance and use as compared to W95/98. For me, as a novice, this is a BIG PLUS! I have yet to crack the user manual that came with the commercial release. It has exact parallels to W9X so setting up each section is only a matter of looking for the appropriate place to do it. Most can be altered in the KDE Control Center.
"Setting up the Linux dialer was only slightly more complicated than W95/98 and once connected I ran the Linux version of Netscape. I have of course set up Netscape and it's mail program too many times to count in W3.X and W9X. Again it was only slightly more difficult in Linux.
"My only complaint is that the general look was cruder. The text in Netscape was not as clean looking but other than that it works exactly the same.
"Now it is time to figure out how to add the major software like Star Office.
"(This would be from his original Mandake 7.0 CD so one hopes that there are no problems installing to this Mandrake 7.1 version upgrade. I assume not as long as there is some type of independant auto-installer for Star Office and Word Perfect.)"
Msg 709 RM to All.
Question about installing an icon on the desk: "I did accomplish it but in a long round about way. Is there an easy way?" Question about adding fonts to Star Office.
Msg 710 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 704.
Appreciation of update. Note that CD has documentation. Note that CD provides for creating boot disk or rescue disk. Note that: "Beginners should read the fine manuals." Correction to misconception that there was an "FDISK.EXE on the Linux CD". Mention of cfdisk. Description of basic commands: ls, cd, man, cat, less, pwd, mount. Mention of ifconfig and bash.
Msg 713 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 709.
Mention of difference between system-space and user-space. Suggestion that right- or left-click on desktop for link or shortcut creation on desktop. Link given in reference to fonts: http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Font-HOWTO.html.
Msg 715 RM to TV reply to 701.
But begins by quoting RM:
"RM›-> From some of his wording I'm not sure if he got on a Linux only
›-> system or ended up with a dual boot system.
"Update here. He actually used a computer he bought a couple of months back instead of the brand new one. He stripped the old partitions and it is currently Linux only and seems to be working reasonably well - (He made some disparaging comment about Netscape being in Monochrome...)"
[Aside: Does even Mr. D at this point know what machine on which he installed Linux? It's certain that I can't figure it out; P75 with "2.x gig", "6 gig", K6-2 550, K6-2 500, some other thing...]
Mention of preference for graphical install versus text install. Mention of Mr. D's comment that KDE "is very similar to, if a little bit tougher to set up, than Win 9x."
Msg 717 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 715.
Explanation of 'text' install. Discussion of KDE. Complaints with KDE. Link to personal desktop screenshots. Mention of Gnome, fvwm, fvwm95, fvwm2, Black Box, Afterstep, NeXt Level, Enlightenment, Sawmill, WindowMaker.
Msg 721 MP to TV reply to 701.
Suggestion of fvwm95 as an alternative to KDE.
Msg 722 LOCAL TV to MP reply to 721.
Discussion of KDE, fvwm95. Links to window managers.
Msg 723 RM to All.
"A couple of things from [Mr. D]...
"I have found one minor problem. Although the sound card was recognized OK and is playing wave files OK, I believe that it has not recognized the Midi portion correctly. Even in W95/98 this is a different driver.
"Also, I use an older version of Corel Draw and quite like it. I use it to make my fliers, signs and to design letterhead. Is there any near equivalent program for Linux?
"I also use Paint Shop Pro for manipulating photo's from my camera. I see Corel has a Linux version of Corel Paint but I have never gotten the hang of using version six of that software and besides the minimum requirements for it is 64 Meg. I only have 32. Any suggestions for this also?"
Msg 725 LOCAL TV to RM reply to 723.
Suggestion to issue '/sbin/modprobe sound' as root. Suggestion of 64 MB RAM for GUI. Suggestion of gimp for image manipulation. Instructions for locating the gimp rpm files on CD and installing, if not already installed. Instructions for locating gimp documentation, gimp manual. Link to gimp home page. Note of latest version of gimp.
Msg 726 RM to All.
"I'm sure 'some' may think that I planned this from the start but, I assure you, this was something that I followed with interest because I thought that someday I may take a flier at Linux and it would be nice to know ahead of time what to expect.
"A long time Linux user (and myself through you guys) have been helping [Mr. D] along with his Linux installation. It was an interesting experience. A few minor glitches but it seemed to be going reasonably well judging by his notes that I posted here.
"So I was surprised when I receieved this message today from [Mr. D].
(I'm a little disappointed actually...)
"I appreciate all the help that both of you have been giving me in regard to Linux but it may be time to stop.
"I've had lots of time to think and could no longer justify setting an expensive computer aside for an experiment especially when the picture I was getting was not as rosy as I had hoped. I believe Linux is a work in progress and may soon be ready for the general main stream of users but I truly believe it is not there yet.
"Programs are far too difficult to install. I last tried simply to activate the wheel on my Logitech scroll mouse. It was difficult enough installing it but it did not work.....
"Only half of what I installed worked..... I found an article on installing fonts into Star Office... it can be done but is difficult and one at a time..... I have hundreds!
"The screen fonts are not smoothed like in W95/98. Staring at them for hours would cause even more eye strain than what I am used to......
"The screens sometimes overfill the window causing one to have to drag it from the top over just to get to the full screen box or to close it...........
"Sorry...... at least for me it is just plain too annoying... when it settles out..... I will be interested again....
"BTW, it was difficult even retrieving the hard drive for DOS (W95/98). Fortunately I had downloaded that little utility Ranish. It removed the Linux partitions so that the DOS fdisk could do it's job.
"It now has Win98se on it. "------------------------------------------
"Back to me...
"I'm sure the fast response would be to blame it on KDE but, with me not posting every word he wrote, I probably have a better 'feel' for his mood than you might. It really boiled down to dozens of little problems, that no doubt could mostly be solved, coming one after the other after the other after... Some would enjoy the 'challenge' but apparently our boy [Mr. D] didn't see it that way.
"(Too bad he didn't start off with a 'free' copy...)
"He's also another one of those myriad 'aberrations' I keep tripping over who has been using Windows 95 and 98 for many years (on Dozens of systems, since he restores and sells them) without the slightest hint of instability, so That aspect of Linux would obviously be lost on him as well making him less likely to 'put up with one thing to get another'..."
Msg 729 MP to RM reply to 728.
Regrets, repetition of offer to set up echomail exchange.
No, wait, there's more! The Epilog