[K12OSN] OT: best distro for laptop

Bill Kendrick nbs at sonic.net
Thu Jan 13 18:00:20 UTC 2005

On Thu, Jan 13, 2005 at 12:35:17PM -0500, Rob Owens wrote:
> 1) I need a distro that is free of charge for the software and the
> updates.  I know some (like Xandros, Mepis, SUSE) have purchase
> editions as well as download editions, but I don't know what
> limitations are imposed on the download editions.

My dad, my wife, my webserver at work, and I all run Debian. :^)

My wife has it on her Thinkpad T20 laptop.  Power management is a little
wonky right now, but that's because I upgraded her to 2.6 Kernel, and haven't
had time to figure out the differences. :^)

The rest of us are all desktop boxes.


> 4) She'll be in California, and I'm in NJ.  I need a distro that
> will not require upgrading (with CD's) anytime soon.  I'm perfectly
> willing to remotely upgrade her system.  But I don't want to find out
> in 8 months that security upgrades aren't available unless I upgrade
> to the latest version of the distribution.

Debian Woody (Stable branch) has been out and stagnant, except for a
few minor upgrades, for quite a while, but there are the occasional
security updates.

If you simply stick her in the "stable" branch (vs. specifically asking
for "woody" by name), and do the occasional update via
"apt-get update && apt-get upgrade", the security updates will come through,
and the system will eventually overhaul itself when everything that's
currently in the "Testing" branch gets stamped as "Stable."
(Hence, the current testing branch, "Sarge", will become the new 'Stable,'
and the testing branch will be called something new... another character
from the Pixar movie 'Toy Story').

On the other hand, KDE 3 is an excellent environment, and is pre-packaged
in Debian Testing (currently at KDE 3.3).  I finally switched my wife from
Gnome 1 to Gnome 2, and then immediately to KDE 3.2, and she seems quite
happy with it.  (She didn't like Gnome 2... :^) )

Since KDE 3 is not pre-packaged in Woody (the current Stable branch), I had
to download 'backports' for Woody when I wanted to run it, and when I set up
my father's computer.  It wasn't too difficult, but at this point, I'm
pretty sold on Debian Testing branch's stability (as many others seem to be).

The difference here is that when you do the "apt-get update ... upgrade"
steps, you'll end up with a LOT more stuff coming down the pipe.  Not just
security updates, but new versions of software that has survived through
testing in the 'Unstable' branch (aka "Sid", named after the crazy,
toy-exploding kid next door from 'Toy Story' ;^) )

I've been running Debian Testing branch and enjoying KDE 3.2 for a while.
3.3 eventually came out, but only recently (like, last week?) got accepted
into Testing.  So one day when I did an "apt-get...", I suddenly had
over 100MB to download.  It was, of course, worth it, since I got a very
shiny, polished new environment! :^)

Now... I'm rambling, but one last question:  where in California
is your sister?  You (or she) might want to find a local Linux User Group
to connect with, in case something bad happens that can't be fixed
over-the-wire.  (My dad's /var/log filled up once, and I had a friend
from a LUG near him drive out to his place to see what was the problem.)

> Les, could you tell me the name of the battery monitor applet and a
> wifi signal monitor for Gnome that you mentioned?

KDE and Gnome both have battery monitor applets, and there are some for
straight X11, as well.  I don't recall the exact name of the applets,
or the packages they came in, but this feature has been a "must-have" for
my wife, so I'd know if something was wrong. :^)

The applet she's using in KDE can be set up to pop-up warning windows
(and probably also do things like play sounds or log to files) when the
battery gets low, or is charged completely.

Good luck!


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