Specs for a high power, cheap ($380) GNU/Linux desktop

The other day, I was realizing that I don’t use GNU/Linux as often as I should. Sure, I run it exclusively on my servers, but I still use Windows on the desktop for the most part. That’s more out of habit than out of any need. Everything I currently do in Windows I can do in GNU/Linux, except for the games, which I’m playing more and more occasionally these days. I was dual-booting my current desktop with Windows XP and GNU/Linux for awhile, but it proved to be inconvenient. My computers’ uptimes, both servers and desktops, are typically measured in months (only going down for crashes and power losses). It takes awhile to reboot and restart all of the applications I typically have running, so I don’t do it by choice. Thus you can see the problem with dual-booting: it entails constant rebooting, which I had to do as often as I felt like playing a Windows game. And then once I was in Windows I wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of booting into GNU/Linux only to boot back into Windows the next time I wanted to play a game. It simply wasn’t working.

So I now see the problem with my initial attempts at using GNU/Linux on the desktop. I simply don’t have the patience to put up with all of those constant reboots and interruptions in my computing environment. I’m too lazy. I’m simply going to get another desktop to use exclusively for GNU/Linux, while making every effort to only use my current Windows desktop for playing games. And luckily, making a desktop computer is cheaper than it’s ever been. Here is a current parts list I put together just yesterday for a killer GNU/Linux desktop.

The specs

This complete GNU/Linux system costs only $355. Throw in shipping and we’ll call it $380. That’s a really cheap price considering how powerful this system is. Avoiding the Microsoft tax by choosing a Free operating system pays huge dividends when the overall system is cheap. Allow me to explain the choices I made in putting this system together with individual analyses of each other components:

The barebone system

First of all, I save a lot of money with this computer by building it into a barebone system. A price of $90 for a case, power supply, and motherboard is really hard to beat. You can easily spend over $90 for each of those individual components (and in fact, when I built my current desktop, I did). Getting a good barebone system is an excellent way to save a lot of money on a low-end desktop. If you’re not building a low-end desktop, I wouldn’t bother. The limitations can be significant. For instance, the motherboard that ships in the barebone I picked out supports a maximum of 2 GB of RAM; fine for a low-end system, but you really want 4 GB of RAM on a medium or high end system. And the power supply is only 250W; again, fine for a low end system, but don’t expect it to be able to power, say, a high-end discrete video card. And naturally the motherboard doesn’t support dual video cards, which would be an upgrade path you might want to keep open on a system you’re outlaying more money on. It also doesn’t support quad-core processors. So there are limitations, but for a low-level system, you won’t run into them.

I should also point out that the motherboard in the barebone system includes an integrated Intel graphics card, so it’s actually really four components for the price of $90. Since I don’t expect to be playing any 3D games in GNU/Linux, I don’t need anything better. If this was being used as a primary gaming desktop, the integrated graphics card would not be sufficient, and I would have to lay out more money for a discrete video card (which would bring the price up a good deal). Oh, and the motherboard has an integrated sound card as well, but that’s hardly anything to brag about these days. Still, that’s five essential components for $90. Not too shabby. And if you’re worried about 2 GB of RAM being a serious limitation, I might recommend the ASUS V3-P5945GC Intel Socket T(LGA775) Intel 945GC 2 x 240Pin Intel GMA 950 Barebone – Retail, which sells for $130 and also has a higher capacity 300W power supply. But I wouldn’t recommend buying a barebone more expensive than that; at that point, it becomes about the same price to buy the components separately, which I would recommend because you can make sure you get everything you want, especially on the motherboard features.

Processor

I decided to splurge on the processor because I do a fair bit of distributed computing and I want to see good performance on that, but also because I wouldn’t want my new desktop to be slower than my old one (which has an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 processor). If the new computer actually runs slower than the old one, I fear I might not use it. It’s better to spend a little bit more money and get a system I enjoy using than to get a system I risk not using at all because I already have a better one, right? The E7200 that I’ve picked out for this rig is really nice for that purpose. It’s the cheapest Core 2 Duo manufactured using the new 45nm process, which gives it all sorts of advantages over the older chips fabricated using the 65nm process. It also has insane room for overclocking if you’re into that (people have reliably gotten it past 4 GHz using just air cooling). Spending $132 on the processor is kind of pricey for a low-end system, so if you don’t have the same requirements I do, you can easily shave $52 off the price of the system and get a Intel Pentium E2200 Allendale 2.2GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E2200 – Retail for $80 instead. Note that this substitution alone brings the cost of the system down to $300, which is ridiculously cheap considering the performance you’ll get out of it.

RAM

As for the memory I chose, well, there’s not much to it. I got the fastest memory that the motherboard supports and I made sure to fill all of the capacity of the motherboard. To make that last little decision between various manufacturers, I relied on NewEgg’s customers’ ratings and ended up with G.SKILL. If the motherboard supported 4 GB of RAM, I’d get that, at an increase in total price of only $40. Memory is so cheap these days there’s no excuse for not maxing it out. It has a huge impact on performance if you tend to run dozens of applications in the background like I do. Considering 2 GB of RAM only costs $40, I wouldn’t recommending cutting costs here and going for 1 GB of RAM in any circumstances. It’s just not worth it.

Hard drive

The hard drive is probably over-specced for this system (just like the processor). I chose a 500 GB drive with a monster 32 MB cache because I do lots of downloading and I always seem to find a way to fill whatever new hard drive capacity I bring online within a few months. If you don’t need this much space, and most of you won’t, you can save more money here by getting a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250410AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive – OEM at a cost of $60. That shaves another $35 off the total price. Along with the savings on the processor downgrade I mentioned above, you could get this entire system for $268. That is a ludicrously cheap price considering the performance you’ll get out of it (Notice I didn’t pick any “bargain” components like a Celeron processor. This is really a mid-level system at a low-level price point). A comparatively specced system from a big hardware vendor such as Dell would cost two to three times as much. It really is worth it to build your own computer.

Other notes

Note that I haven’t included a monitor, mouse, keyboard, speakers, etc., in the overall price. Not only do I already have enough of those laying around anyway (so no need to buy more), they aren’t part of the desktop system proper, which just includes everything that goes inside the computer case (everything else is a peripheral). Note that I did include prices for the RAM and hard drive, even though I already have 2 GB of extra RAM laying around as well as a 400 GB hard drive that I’ll probably recycle into this new computer rather than buying as new components. That would actually bring my total outlay on this new system down to $222, but I included prices for these components in the total because I recognize that most people won’t have spare PC components just laying around. If you really don’t already have a monitor, mouse, keyboard, and speakers laying around from a pre-existing system, you will have to buy them, which will bring up the price a bit.

I should also point out that I’ve done the research and verified that all of the components I mentioned are supported in GNU/Linux (well, it’s really only the motherboard that would present any problems, so I checked that part thoroughly). I’m planning on running Kubuntu on this system because, while I appreciate the mass appeal and support for Ubuntu, I just hate Gnome. KDE, the desktop environment that Kubuntu runs (and which is the only real difference between it and Ubuntu), suits me much better.

Final thoughts

So that’s it. The parts are all specced out and I plan on buying this system soon, and then go on to live in the land of never-ending GNU/Linux on the Desktop bliss afterwards. And the really beautiful thing about buying a new computer system is that it never hurts to put it off just a little bit longer. There’s no reason to rush; computer prices only go down over time thanks to Moore’s Law. If I wait another few months, I’ll probably be able to get the barebone with 4 GB of RAM for the same price as I would pay for this 2 GB system. So I’ll push this purchase off to the back of my mind, wait for a lull between travel projects at work when I have a lot of free time at home, and then buy all of the components at once. Once that happens, you can look forward to some lengthy blog posts on my joyous new GNU/Linux desktop computer. And seeing how cheap it really is to build something like this, what’s your excuse for not having a dedicated GNU/Linux desktop? I just put together the parts list yesterday, and after seeing how low the total cost was, I realized I don’t have one anymore!

26 Responses to “Specs for a high power, cheap ($380) GNU/Linux desktop”

  1. William Says:

    Because, as a long-time Windows user, I have yet to find a Linux WM that I works fluidly for me. Simple things like keyboard shortcuts that make sense would be a good place to start, but the core functionality just isn’t there. I’ve tried a variety of Linux distros on a variety of systems I’ve owned and they never work out well. Anything where I have to edit a text file using VI just so I can get my mouse to work at all, or get a resolution above 640×480, or whose applications consistently lock up… is flawed heavily. I’ve had pretty consistent results (the above) on four different systems with a number of versions of about 10 different distros, includilng Ubuntu, Debian, and Kubuntu.
    I feel like I’ve given Linux more than a fair chance, but I’ll give it a shot again in a year or so and see if it’s grown up yet.

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    What’s wrong with the GNU/Linux keyboard shortcuts? I’ve been using them long enough that, frankly, I start to think that it’s the Windows keyboard shortcuts that don’t make sense. I guess that’s just based on perspective. It’s just something you have to resign yourself to learning while switching systems.

    I will admit that I haven’t had perfect experience with GNU/Linux, as there are often incompatibilities, but those problems have gotten much better over time. Try out Ubuntu 8.04; it’s damn good. It “just works” on nearly all hardware configurations you’ll run across. And don’t use vi to edit configuration files, gosh! Vi will sap your will to live. Start out using nano, and then when you feel you’re ready, graduate to emacs.

    As for applications locking up, I don’t know what to say. I experience that problem more often in Windows than in GNU/Linux. My server is consistently a lot more stable than my Windows desktop.

    You might’ve just been very unlucky with hardware incompatibility issues. Remember, GNU/Linux support is a lot better on desktops than laptops, and it does help to spec out a system’s worth of components that are all completely supported in GNU/Linux, like I’ve done here. You really should have no problems running the latest version of Ubuntu on this hardware.

  3. William Says:

    I would’ve used nano, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Yes, vi is rather vampiric like that.

  4. drinian Says:

    Please, please stop saying GNU/Linux. It’s not. I’m darn sure that most of the software you’re using on that system is not from GNU, and much of it isn’t even licensed under the GPL. The only distro that even comes close to being appropriate for that stupid name is gNewSense, and you’re not using that.

    I’m not sure which keyboard shortcuts you’re referring to. Generally speaking, GTK apps and KDE apps stick to the interface guidelines of their respective projects pretty well; I can almost always exit a GTK app with CTRL+Q, for instance. Generally speaking, they’re also better-labeled than in Windows, and it’s much easier to reconfigure keybindings in a KDE app — they all use the same “Configure Shortcuts” widget! Ditto for global keyboard shortcuts.

    There were some issues with an earlier version of Ubuntu where they were enabling the Compiz 3D windowmanager extensions by default on machines with buggy 3D drivers, causing frequent crashes. It happened to me. That’s all gone and fixed, now. I’ve been using Linux on the desktop since 1999 without major issues.

    Perhaps your problem is that you’re not ready for the steep learning curve that comes for technical people who are deeply invested in Windows. There is an unavoidable learning curve if you want to do more than just play music and send IMs. You will need to know what command-line tools are available to use (why did you use vi for simple edits? why not use nano? had you run xorgconfig or xorgcfg before trying to write your own xorg.conf?) and realize that there is a Unix way of thinking that is very different from Windows. For a really good crash course, read The Art of Unix Programming. It’ll open your eyes to a whole new world.

  5. Cyde Weys Says:

    Nano comes by default in pretty much every GNU/Linux distribution. It’s your standard easy-to-use text editor. It provides the least culture shock for anyone coming from other operating systems, because all the most common things you can do with it are listed right on the screen.

  6. Cyde Weys Says:

    Drinian: Here’s why I call it GNU/Linux. First of all, you’re underestimating how much GNU software is out there. Many command line utilities that you wouldn’t even think twice about are GNU; just check their man pages (or, info pages, hehe). And then of course there’s gcc and emacs, two monumental GNU programs that I use all the time. But it’s not just about the proportion of their software in the current distro; it’s also about the history of it. RMS politicized free software, started the movement, and spread its message through GNU and the FSF. GNU/Linux has subsequently become the most important collection of free software in existence. The Linux kernel was only ever possible because it had an otherwise complete GNU operating system to run on top of.

    So yes, while a lot of software on modern GNU/Linux operating systems isn’t created by GNU, and some of it isn’t even released under the GNU GPL, a lot of it wouldn’t ever be around if it weren’t for GNU. That, I think, is what uniquely merits the name GNU/Linux, without necessarily meriting throwing additional names on there a la “GNU/Linux/X11/KDE”.

    And yeah, I kind of winced when I saw that a GNU/Linux newbie was trying to use vi. You already have your hands full learning an entirely new operating system; no point in trying to learn an entirely new editor philosophy on top of that. Nano is like the Windows Notepad of the command line: it gets the job done simply and it’s good enough for 90% of tasks, especially when you’re just starting out.

    And I should also point out that I forgot to add a DVD-ROM drive to this build, which you’d probably realize was missing right around the time you actually tried to install GNU/Linux on it. Luckily they’re so damn cheap these days it doesn’t really change the cost analysis much; for instance, you can get a LITE-ON 20X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write Black SATA Model LH-20A1S OEM BK – OEM for $26, and that drive does everything you would ever need to do with all CDs and all DVDs of all formats. Frankly, I won’t even be buying a DVD drive ever again, so it doesn’t change my cost analysis one bit. I’ve used optical media maybe twice in the past three months, both times for installing drivers that were also available online (so the optical media wasn’t really essential). My old desktop has two DVD drives in it that are sitting unused (remember when having two was actually useful?), so I have enough old hardware around here to continue using for the foreseeable future.

  7. drinian Says:

    Why should the GNU organization get their name in there when no other organization does? Linux certainly isn’t an organization. The available Linux toolchain is massive, and in terms of lines of code I’d bet that a fairly small amount are GNU sponsored, since they tend to focus on utility and command-line code. Why not call it X/Linux, or MIT/Linux, since X was published under that license for so long? You can’t possibly argue that the windowing system is a lesser contribution than coreutils or gcc. And which parts of the LAMP stack are licensed under the GPL?

    “Linux” is a generic term referring to any number of operating system configurations, from watches up to mainframes. There are alternate toolchains out there for things like C compilation and core utilities; if you look at embedded kernels or watch git commits to the main kernel branch, you’ll realize that the term Linux embodies a small amount of shared code and a heck of a lot of ideas. The Linux I use today shares little in common with my Slackware install of 1997.

    Not to mention the GNU’s hypocrisy of asking for credit, when the GPL was specifically declared incompatible with the old version of the BSD license because it required that derivative works include a notice that the software included a notice that Berkeley had written some of the code.

    You should be familiar with the competing models of the cathedral and the bazaar in software development; it may surprise you to find that GNU software has often been developed in a very cathedral-like environment. This is evident in the release cycles of packages like emacs. GNU’s requests to get their cathedral’s name shoehorned in there with the idea represented by the name Linux are nothing more than their own organizational myopia coming to the surface. Please don’t let yourself get dragged into that morass. The bazaar is a much more interesting place.

  8. William Says:

    Look, I recognize what nano is. I’ve used it on a number of occasions, but on one occasion where I was stuck with no mouse, no sound, and a nonfunctional GUI, I couldn’t find where the nano app itself was. I did a… ls -s | grep “nano” | more, I think, from ~/ and got nothing. I found something called, I swear, elvis and vi. There was another text editor that I found later, but I can’t recall what it was.
    As for keyboard shortcuts, I’m probably just frustrated by them because I use keyboard shortcuts in Windows rather more often than I should, so I don’t think about it, but WinKey+R won’t bring up the “Run a command” box in KDE no matter how many times I push it. I think Ctrl+Esc brought up the KDE menu (The Start menu, but what do you call it in KDE?), but I’ve not had luck replicating that.

    Since I’m in Japan and I’m not really playing games here, I’d love to give Linux a shot at some point, but then I realize that would take too much away from my time spent learning the language, which is what I’m really here for.
    And there’s the rather small point that I have about 20GB of sensitive data and another 80GB spanning my two available drives (120GB between them) that’s currently not backed up.
    By the way, any recommendations for a place I can get hardware that ships internationally? Newegg flat out refuses, and they’re so reliable for nearly everything that I haven’t had to look elsewhere for computer hardware in quite a while.

  9. Cyde Weys Says:

    drinian: GNU isn’t an organization, it is an operating system. The GNU Project is the organization responsible for creating the GNU operating system. Read that link on gnu.org; it explains the rest of the gory details. Again, you’re focusing more on current software than the history of it. Linux wouldn’t anywhere if it had not had an otherwise complete operating system to be used with. The BSD advertising clause is actually fairly obnoxious, and it should be pointed out that in recent years lots of projects (say, the Xiph codecs) are using the BSD license with the advertising clause excised. The advertising clause becomes unwieldy after many people have contributed work to the same project, which is very common in the bazaar model.

    I’m aware of the bazaar and cathedral models, and which projects were originally run like which, but I don’t really see what calling the operating system “GNU/Linux” has to do with “getting dragged into the cathedral”.

    William: What distro were you using that didn’t come with nano? That’s bizarre. How long ago was this? You’d be pretty hard-pressed nowadays to find a mainstream GNU/Linux distro that messed up the mouse, sound, and GUI. Things have improved a lot since those days.

    I’m sure they have electronics stores in Japan? Wouldn’t they sell hard drives there? Or maybe they have some kind of Japanese equivalent of NewEgg? I find it hard to believe that in Japan, land of electronics, you can’t find a hard drive anywhere.

  10. drinian Says:

    I’m guessing that you must not be anywhere near Akihabara, which is a shame. “ls -s”? I’m 99% sure all that does is display the size, in blocks, of files in the local directory. You want to do a “which nano” or “whereis nano”. Elvis is an old, lightweight vi implementation by the way. And maybe your distro (which one, seriously) didn’t come with nano by default, and you needed to use its package manager to install it. No big deal.

    Cyde, I’ve been doing this Linux thing for a long time, and I know a lot of people who have dedicated their lives to Linux; people on the Fedora board of directors, founders of distro startups. No-one calls it “GNU/Linux.” If they’re referring specifically to Fedora Linux, or rpath Linux, they’ll say so. But the generic term is “Linux,” and, to reiterate what I’ve already said, anyone using an embedded Linux system with busybox instead of coreutils is using practically no software from the GNU foundation.

    As I said before, the GNU project has contributed a lot, but it shows incredible institutional myopia to try and get their name attached to the generic term “Linux.” Yes, finally having a kernel (since Hurd is, well, Hurd) to go with their tools kickstarted the copyleft movement, but they didn’t have any more to do with Linux’s eventual success than any of the other groups involved.

    Linux has it right:

    Well, I think it’s justified, but it’s justified if you actually make a GNU distribution of Linux … the same way that I think that “Red Hat Linux” is fine, or “SuSE Linux” or “Debian Linux”, because if you actually make your own distribution of Linux, you get to name the thing, but calling Linux in general “GNU Linux” I think is just ridiculous.

    Just read the darn Wikipedia page on the issue, and explain to me again why GNU tools are so irreplaceable compared to the rest of the OS.

  11. drinian Says:

    Also, let’s be clear: I expect you’ll see a familiar name under “Contributors” on this page.

    But I find it incredibly arrogant that the GNU Project thinks that their work is somehow so much more valuable than my own and everyone else’s involved with this idea we call Linux that they think they can dictate what is, effectively, the brand name for a community. Anyone using a GNU operating system is using a text prompt with Emacs, and maybe Gnash.

  12. Kelly Martin Says:

    Let me tell you a little story about a project called The GIMP. “GIMP” is short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, as anyone will tell you. But that’s not what it was originally. It was, originally, the “General Image Manipulation Program“. It was changed to GNU under intense pressure from Richard Stallman, sometime around the time of the 1.0 release. (I should dig out my old 1.0 CDs to see if they say GNU or General.)

    GNU has nothing to do with the GIMP, except that the license is GPL/LGPL. Nonetheless, Stallman pushed for the “GNU” in the tag, and the project maintainer at the time (can’t recall if it was still S&P, or if it was Quartic or Snorfle or Yosh, but anyway, someone) caved to the pressure and let the name be changed.

    The GNU in GNU/Linux is the same thing. It’s Stallman wanting his brand tattooed on someone else’s success. It’s somewhat ironic, given how Stallman originally drafted the GPL in response to James Gosling talking Stallman’s code, improving it, and making a bigger name for himself than Stallman ever did. I guess the GPL by itself didn’t go far enough to suit Stallman’s ego…

  13. Cyde Weys Says:

    drinian: It doesn’t look like anyone is changing anyone’s mind here, so we’re thoroughly into bikeshed territory now. All I have remaining to say is this: I’ve read lots of the history behind the free software movement, and I see Stallman’s points as being mostly valid. He essentially started the free software movement with GNU. At the time of its release, Linux was utterly dependent on all of GNU to have a complete operating system. To this day, many components of GNU still make up essential parts of the GNU/Linux operating system (and how many people are really using coreutils versus those using the GNU toolchain?). I too have been doing “this Linux thing” for awhile (eight years now), and I don’t see what any given amount of money donated has to do with it. I’m not trying to force you to call it “GNU/Linux”, so why are you trying to force me to call it “Linux”? I think there’s room for both kinds of people in this bazaar.

    Kelly Martin: Thanks for the insight there. It’s definitely true that RMS has promoted the free software nature of GNU/Linux through GNU. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. So many GNU/Linux users these days don’t know anything about the free software aspect of GNU/Linux, and that’s a shame. It’s much harder to defend your freedoms when you aren’t aware of them. Although I don’t know how much sense it makes to have the GNU name on an unrelated project, as GIMP appears to be, it does make sense to have it on everything that the GNU Project has created, because there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that GNU equals strong software freedoms.

  14. The impending death of optical media | Cyde Weys Musings Says:

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  15. drinian Says:

    Next time you’re in an Apple store, I suggest you ask to buy a copy of the latest version of “BSD/OS X” and see how that goes over.

    And you sound like a PR flack. You’ve basically ignored the disparaging things that we’ve said about our experiences with the people and policies of the GNU project. RMS is not the Software Jesus. Don’t even get me started on GNU’s problems with NIH syndrome; why does DotGNU exist, or emacs use its own dialect of Lisp?

    But I’ll tell you again why I take issue with it:
    1) It confuses people. I think most people know by now that Linux is a pretty loose conceptual entity. GNU is pretty easy to define, and the two are not equal. Neither concept is even a subset of the other.
    2) Again, it’s downright insulting to the Free Software world for one small project to claim such importance over all others. If they want to make everyone using Hurd call it GNU/Hurd and stop anyone else from writing compatible software for it, that’s their prerogative. I’m sure that will go over just as well as the old BSD license clause that they were so opposed to. Oh, wait…

    Linux was Linux until the GNU project tried to hop on its coattails. Get over it already, or at least give me a response to my arguments.

  16. drinian Says:

    Not to mention that even in gNewSense, GNU packages only make up 15% of the main repository.

  17. Grokmoo Says:

    Drinian: Why are you so hell-bent on forcing your view on other people?

    Besides, there’s actually less “Linux” code in GNU/Linux than there is GNU code. If you’re so insistent on only calling it by one name, then shouldn’t that name be GNU?

  18. William Says:

    If you look at his second-to-last post, he said fairly clearly why he”s so hell-bent in regards to his views.
    I don’t want to take sides, but I’m with the Just “Linux” camp, on the basis that it has less syllables.

    In response to earlier stuff: I think the last Linux distro I attempted was the Kubuntu of Ubuntu 7.??, but I don’t really remember. It didn’t recognize any of my flash drives in a sane manner, my mouse didn’t work at first, I had no sound until I messed with some text file somewhere, and… I don’t remember if it was another case of being stuck at 640×480, but all of these have been fairly recurring problems across my various systems with completely different hardware. I figured using a Linux-for-noobs distro would make these things fairly simple, but I suspect I’ve just had a series of terrible luck with these things. I really want to like Linux, but it was just too much work when I last tried it.
    Whenever I’m about to give Linux another shot, I usually download a couple different distros (~3) and just go through them until I get one to boot all the way. Last time, it took me four distros, though the last three were live CDs, so that’s not too surprising.
    Again, I really think I’ve had terrible luck with these kinds of things. I mean, a lot of it should be completely zero-config on, for example, Ubuntu, and when I haven’t done anything at all, I can hardly chalk up such things to my own incompetence. I will happily take blame for things not working if I actually interacted with something at some point, but again, Ubuntu’s aim is such that I really ought not need to do anything just to get XWindows to start. Again, something I’ve yet to have work reliably without configuration on my part.

    So newer versions of Linux actually handle USB storage effectively? Do they also handle scroll wheels? I’ve yet to have one work, so I’m not asking this merely to troll.

  19. Cyde Weys Says:

    Mouse wheels have been supported for, what, at least ten years now? USB storage is handled very well too. It works better than on Windows XP, too.

    I think you’ve just had terrible luck. What systems are you trying to run GNU/Linux on, anyway? Keep in mind, laptops are generally less supported than desktops.

  20. drinian Says:

    Given that most of my experience is with Gentoo, which generally takes a minimalist approach to automatic config, I can testify that mouse wheels were not automatically supported until recently, and even then 4-way scrollers could cause really weird behavior in Firefox. Any distro using a recent version of hal and udev (just about any, I would imagine) should support user automounting of USB storage by now.

    Ubuntu still won’t completely work straight out of the box, generally speaking, if you need binary blobs or possibly patented software to make your system fully functional. For most people, this means they can’t play MP3s or Divx files without turning on the right option, but sometimes this applies to proprietary video drivers as well. I can empathize with your problems just getting a distro to boot; I used to run installfests on a pretty regular basis, and several distros used to have major problems with certain broken BIOS and broken ACPI systems. While my understanding is that this has mostly been fixed, I run Gentoo. Not using a lot of autoconfiguration limits the number of things that can automatically break.

    Everything I’ve heard about Kubuntu suggests that it’s not as mature as Ubuntu in terms of distro integration. This was certainly the case when I tried it a year or two ago. As a KDE user, I suggest you install Ubuntu straight up and then pull down the KDE packages instead.

  21. T2A` Says:

    You are aware that a 32-bit CPU cannot address 4 GB of RAM, right? D:

  22. drinian Says:

    That’s only true in Windows, T2A`. 32-bit Linux can handle plenty of RAM.

  23. William Says:

    I’ve tried to run Linux on my last desktop (which was stolen), my current one (that I don’t have access to right now), my last laptop (bricked by the PSU, bizarrely enough), my current laptop, and various school computers. The school computers usually work at least decently. Same distros work just fine on my friend’s laptop running the same mobo and with largely the same hardware as mine works so well he almost switched to it from Windows. In fact, he might have by now.

  24. Cyde Weys Says:

    T2A`: Even if you’re running Windows, as long as you’re running a headless system (that has no video card and thus no video memory), you can address darn near close to 4 GiB of RAM.

    Don’t confuse this issue with the kernel space/user space delineation, which limits any individual Windows process from addressing more than 2 GiB of RAM — with default settings, anyway. I recall there is a setting you can configure so that Windows uses 3 GiB user/ 1 GiB kernel, like GNU/Linux, and incidentally, this change was needed for people with >2 GIB of RAM running Supreme Commander on huge maps. There was actually a crash bug that would occur on huge maps after a long game when the process would run into that 2 GiB user space limitation, and then utterly fail to handle it gracefully.

    William: Which manufacturers made these computers? Some are generally more GNU/Linux compatible than others. I’ve had very few issues using strictly commodity hardware from NewEgg. All you have to do is perform a few brief Google searches to verify that Linux drivers exist.

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