In my last post, the Dell was up and basically running. Silly me, I thought things would get easier. Well Windows networking is definitely not easier. Now I know why there are so many MCSEs. Talk about pain. In setting up a Windows network, my network printer just disappeared. On the plus side the Mac was immediately able to see any Windows file sharing. It took a lot of work to finally get the Dell to handle sharing initiated from the Mac world.
I did, however, get it to work, and finally got printing re-established. This was after I managed to set up printer sharing via CUPS which was acutally pretty neat. Try typing http://127.0.0.1:631/printers after you have turned on printer sharing on your Mac. You can find an article on www.macosxhints/com detailing this. I ended up not using the Mac printer sharing since I stumbled back across adding a printer through defining a TCIP port on the Dell. All in all another reason why Macs are much less stress.
Of course one of the real reasons for buying the Dell was to get Linux running. Since getting a Windows box set up is such a pain, I decided that I did not want to chance resizing the Windows partition and thought it would be educational to add another drive to the Dell. I have to give Dell credit, their manual certainly provided clear instructions. Also the two page invoice list of what was in my computer left no doubt as to what my machine contained.
I did open the machine up to make certain that I did not need power cables. Opening the machine is relatively easy, assuming you completely read the instructions which as a Mac user I have to admit I am a little lax on doing. Of course any of the desktop Macs made recently open up easier, but few people ever open their machines so it is probably a feature few would appreciate. I made a couple trips to Best Buy and Wednesday ended up with a Maxtor 120 GB 7200 RPM SATA drive. I should have been immediately suspicious when there was only one SATA choice among dozens of drives, but it has been a long time since I worried about what type of drive is in my computer so no red flags came up.
Michael, my son, made it home from Reston on Thanksgiving day. The Friday after Thanksgiving we decided to install the drive. Michael, being much better than me at doing hardware upgrades, managed to get the new drive in with little trouble. Of course the computer could not see it. Michael correctly suspected that some settings needed to be changed in the BIOS. Unfortunately the machine quickly told us that my nice new Dell flat panel with a digital connection could not display the BIOS information. Thank goodness for strong young sons. Michael hauled my nineteen inch Sony monitor over and hooked it to the Dell and made the correct changes in the BIOS so the machine could see the second SATA drive.
In getting all this done, he also managed to correct some errors that I had made in setting up the Dell box. He took down the extra firewall that apparently was turned on. I was well protected, McAfee firewall, Windows firewall, and our hardware firewall. In fact earlier we were unable to get our Linux downloads going from the Dell because it was so well protected. Michael fixed that and turned on a login screen which would require passwords. I had been unable to figure that out.
We then decided to try a Linux installation. Using my Mac I had been downloading Fedora 3 from Red Hat while Michael was installing the drive. We tried to boot up from the first optical drive and found that was a non starter so it looked like we were going to have to haul the Sony monitor back over but I remembered an analog cable that came with the Dell so this time we hooked up the flat panel using the analog video ports and made the appropriate changes in the BIOS so the Dell would boot from the first optical drive. Now I know why they sent along the analog cable.
Michael guided me through the Fedora installation and we started formatting the second hard drive for Linux. It quickly got 11% through the task and hung to the point we had to pull the plug on the computer to restart. We tried another few things including formatting the second drive as a Window volume just to make certain it was a good hard drive. We got similar results with each attempt at installing Linux and gave up for the night with the knowledge that bleeding edge is never too far away in the technology world. Other than the much more reasonable cable than the traditional ribbon cable, I cannot say that SATA drive technology has made my life easier.
On Saturday as Michael made his way home up Interstate 81, I tried two more Linux distributions of Fedora and basically got stuck in the same place. This was a little more time consuming than it might appear on the surface since each distribution involved downloading four or five images of up to 650 mg each. I did manage to download and burn those on the Dell. Burning a CD isn't quiet as intuitive as it is on a Mac, but it is certainly no real challenge.
Saturday night on a whim, I decided to look at SUSE Linux. Novell/SUSE has what they call a Live Evaluation DVD. http://www.suse.com/en/private/download/suse_linux/index.html I got it downloaded with little trouble and within short order was up and running SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 all off of a DVD.
I was very impressed with the KDE user interface, the easy networking, printers, and especially the mail package, KMail. Sunday, I headed back to Best Buy and bought a boxed copy of SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 for $89.95.
After a few minutes confirming that the Redskins would lose once again, I started the SUSE installation. Much to my disappointment it doesn't seem to understand SATA drives any better than Fedora. The installation dies quickly after starting to access the SATA drive. My Dell Dimension 4700 is not a top end machine and according to Michael has a standard Intel 915G motherboard but I guess it is too new for easy Linux support. I tried going to the BIOS myself and changing the SATA operation from native to combination which apparently is a bridge to some older OSs that do not understand SATA drives, but it still produced the same frustrating result of dying just after starting to format the drive.
The good news is that Novell/SUSE promises installation support so I have registered my product and hope that they respond to the trouble ticket that I have logged. I know the SATA problem will be solved, but it would be nice to have the problem solved quickly without having to buy a different type drive.
When I get the Linux running, I suspect my use of the Dell will be limited to the GPS map loading that was one of my original reasons for buying. The Linux just looks too good compared to Windows. The imaging model is much superior so my old eyes can read the text much more easily. Also all the rebooting you have to do in Windows after changes gets very old.
I will look forward to making some performance comparisons once I get Linux running off of a hard drive instead of a DVD.
The perfect home setup could be a Macintosh Powerbox running OS X, along with a Dell desktop running Linux and Windows. That would cover all the options. Perhaps that will be a realistic option as some of the manufacturers start delivering Linux systems. I know I would have ordered the Dell with Linux and Windows if that had been an option.