My old workstation, a second-hand 1Ghz Duron probably born sometime around 2001, had been flakey for a month. It begun to require a number of attempts before it would power up and boot successfully, so a little earlier than I’d originally planned for I decided to buy a new PC.
It wound up being a budget AMD 64 Sempron with a 160 GB hard disk, 1Gb of memory, and an Nvidia 6200 with 256 Mb of video memory. I bought it from PC Dump Winkel for, if memory serves, around 500 euros. Buying it took all of 30 minutes, and that was including the drive to Waalwijk to pick it up after placing the order at the Den Bosch branch.
The (slightly) more time consuming part was installing Linux.
I’ve been using Mandrake 9.1 and 10.0 with the KDE desktop since 2003, and was pretty satisfied with it. Still, the Mandrake experience was getting stale, and after browsing Distrowatch I decided to try out Ubuntu. I downloaded the ISO (Ubuntu 5.10 “Breezy Badger"), burnt it on a single CD and installed it. The installation was smooth, easy and fast; within 15 minutes I had a working installation. (Minor but irritating installation flaw: you have to edit xorg.conf by hand to get the monitor to refresh at faster than 60Hz.). Ubuntu uses the Gnome desktop, and compared to Mandrake 10.0/KDE, is smooth and minimalistic. The default apps integrate well; this is the first time I’d used a Linux distribution with applications that behaved well together (desktop menu, cut-n-paste, look-and-feel), and Synaptic makes getting new applications very easy. For the first time ever I actually find a Linux distribution aesthetically pleasing.
It took me a while to get the small stuff configured to my liking. Ubuntu comes with Evolution, for instance, but I use Thunderbird. I had a couple of false starts with the Nvidia binary video driver, until I RTFM . Installing multimedia codecs was also relatively easy; the only problem is that wmv9 codecs and SWF do not work on AMD64. The wmv9 codecs I can live without, but the lack of a working SWF plugin means that I cannot surf Flash sites.
Finally I had to set up a ssh server on my old box, and scp all my files, .thunderbird mailboxes, preferences etc. over to my new machine. This took hours, so I had to let it run overnight.
I installed Ocaml and various tools (from source), and the GHC Haskell compiler (apt-get ghc, download the latest ghc sources, compile - timeconsuming - , apt remove ghc, make install compiled ghc sources).
Finally, to get gedit to recognise ocaml source files I had to do the following:
- Download http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~ecc/ocaml.lang
- Put it in ~/.gnome2/gtksourceview-1.0/language-specs/
- Open ~/.local/share/mime/globs, or create it if it does not exist, and add the text
- Run the command update-mime-database ~/.local/share/mime. If the directory ~/.local/share/mime/packages does not exist, create it first.
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