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May 13, 2004

Project Heresy - Revisited

Well, it's time for an update to the saga of the dreaded Dell Optiplex GX-1. You may recall that I embarked on a mission to convert a virus riddled M$ Win98 machine to a shiny new Linux box. Initially, I ran into a some roadblocks, in that the PC BIOS was archaic at best. It simply refused to boot from CD. So, I abandoned the installation of RedHat Fedora.

Enter - DebianWoody, and it's superb network install. So, I installed the base system. By default you get the very old 2.2.20 kernel and equally antiquated KDE 2.2.2 desktop. There was also the issue of changing the filesystem from ext2 to ext3. There is nothing more painful than to experience a power outage and having to watch a system fsck an entire 120GB hard drive. Installing a journalized filesystem was absolutely necessary. Additionally, I also had to setup the soundcard, USB ports and upgrade the kernel. Regarding the kernel, I opted to install 2.4.18, as the novice Linux users did not have a need for the improved features of the 2.6.x kernel. I may revisit this decision later.

Upgrading the KDE desktop took a bit more time than I anticipated, as I didn't install of the required packages the first time. So I ended up with a nice wallpaper, but no KDE desktop or applications. Thankfully, the 'apt-get' utility makes package updates and kernel installation very easy. After 'googling' for the needed solution, I was able to resolve the issue of the vanished KDE desktop. It's amazing what you learn if you simply read. Now the box is running KDE 3.1.4 and it uses the journalized filesystem ext3.

The household has a preference for USB printers; hence the need to setup USB. I simply loaded the required modules (usb-uhci, usbcore, printer). I installed the infamous CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) package, and sent a test page to the printer. The printer made the appropriate sounds and its data light began to flash. No print job tho. We then decided to press the system check button.. No printjob = non working printer. I'll have to work on this issue later. I've installed CUPS on probably 15 separate occasions. So, I'm confident I will not have any problems.

On this night, I also wanted to introduce my friend's wife to the applications that would replace the proprietary M$ software suite. Outlook was replaced by Ximian Evolution and M$ Office was replaced by the very capable OpenOffice productivity suite. Because Outlook generates a proprietary .pst file which it uses to store all of the user Personal Folders, Contacts, I needed to convert the file format to the open mbox standard. One very slick package is Outport. Outlook+Export = Outport It basically converts the proprietary .pst format to mbox. Once the .pst files are converted, any email client which supports the Open mbox standard can read the files.

I also demonstrated the very cool Konqueror and Mozilla web browsers. Of course, all apps are Open Source projects. She was impressed with concept of tabbed pages inside a web browser. M$ IE does not do that. Cool huh.

There will be a slight learning curve, but I'm confident everyone will be very pleased with the new setup. Eventually, I'll upgrade Evolution and Mozilla to their latest versions.

Outstanding items : The C-Media onboard soundcard and USB printer.
Pretty productive evening and quite rewarding. Perhaps, the self-proclaimed Linux Superhero will visit your neighborhood soon ?

Posted by AG at May 13, 2004 11:34 PM