Computer niggles


… of my efforts to run a dual boot Gentoo/WinXP system.

The other day I ran across 10 days as a Linux user, the account of a Windows user’s self-imposed Linux odyssey. And it makes fairly interesting reading. As you know I’ve been a Linux user for hmm, over 10 years now (Slackware, Redhat, Mandrake, Debian, Gentoo at various times), but I’ve never quite managed to give up Windows. I recently upgraded my machine to an Athlon64 and I’m still in the process of smoothing it out.

There are problems on both sides. More on the Linux side at the moment, but the problem with Windows is that should I meet any problems there, they are much less soluble. Here’s the state of things at the moment:

My partitions are approx 40GB NTFS, 40GB ext3, 220GB FAT32. And miscellaneous gubbins for a Linux boot partition and swap partition. I use Grub as my bootloader, which works fine. Windows sees the NTFS and FAT32 partitions; Linux sees them all (but the NTFS is read-only). I set it up this way so that I could have a nice big data partition visible to both where I could store mp3s, code, etc.

So here’s my feature checklist, what currently works, and what doesn’t.

– Graphics drivers: Fine on both, thanks to nVidia. I have decent resolutions and hardware acceleration in Windows and in X.
– Sound drivers: Windows fine. Linux had some teething problems with mixing. I have it configured OK for most apps now, but I still get no sound out of KDE.
– Video playback: Windows fine. Linux untested. Playing back protected content under Linux is tricky.
– Web browsing: Firefox on both. No flash plugin on Linux because I run a native 64-bit system and the flash plugin isn’t available for 64-bit mozilla. I tried installing 32-bit Firefox binaries with the plugin, but I got sound issues. I only need flash for Homestar anyway. Java does work since I use the Blackdown native 64-bit Java VM.
– iPod: Windows fine. Linux a bit flaky on automounting with coldplug, but I can reboot the iPod to fix that if needed. So I can access the iPod as a normal drive under Linux. The real problem is that I haven’t got gtkPod working yet – it hangs all the time. Not sure why.
– Games: the only game I play on PC is World of Warcraft, and since I keep a dual boot, I haven’t bothered to try to get it working under Linux.
– Development: This is where the shared drive comes into its own. I have installed Eclipse on both sides (again, on Linux using the 64-bit Java VM) and use it pretty much interchangeably to compile the same source code. I also have Cygwin (to support Eclipse CDT) and MSVC on the Windows side; consider the 32-bit Windows vs native 64-bit Linux too and I have a fantastic level of portable code potential. The one problem I am running into is actually on Windows: I’m still trying to get OpenGL hardware acceleration running.
– Email: I use Thunderbird on the Linux side. I suppose I could set it up to use the shared drive, again, but I haven’t yet. So I have nothing on the Windows side.
– Webcam: Basically works under Windows, although it continually claims to find the new hardware. I don’t know why it can’t just treat it like a pluggable device and not complain. Under Linux, I load the pwc module but I haven’t got the pwcx yet. And there is some config yet to be sorted – camstream just displays grey, although it detects everything correctly.
– IM: Usually Gaim on both sides. Identical. But no alternative on Linux – I can’t videocon with the family like I do in MSN. Is gaim-vv getting anywhere?
– Printing: More difficult to set up on Windows than Linux. Since I use a networked print server, it works basically the same way on both systems. But as always Windows likes to hide the details.
– Office software: I simply don’t use it on either platform, so far. When I want to, I’ll grab OpenOffice.org on both.

Overall: I’ll be keeping both for a while. Windows because it has a few apps that I can’t replace (World of Warcraft, MSN videocon, flash plugin). Linux because it is cleaner (I know what is running), safer (I don’t need to run AntiVir, Spybot S&D, or Ad-Aware), and nicer in my daily usage (web browsing and coding). I have Grub set to boot Gentoo by default.

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