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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Linux - The Free Operating System

I've got an old, old laptop that I bought back in 2004, when I enrolled for a postgraduate program and envisioned myself hunched over a mobile workspace in the library, typing out assignments and churning out erudite writings, winning over lecturers and pushing the borders of knowledge. This laptop -- it was made by IBM, before they sold off their notebook division to Lenovo -- was a real boon and has proven itself to be a road warrior. The only drawback (for me) was that it only had two USB ports and proved a real clunker. It also had only 512 mb worth of RAM and had 30 gb of hard disk space. As time went on, I saw newer, more snazzy laptops rolled out by other laptop makers, with desirable features such as huge RAM reserves and larger hard disks, louder speakers, etc. etc. -- the list goes on. But the fact is that my old IBM laptop has been a good buy.

Fast forward to 2010, and I seem to have found a new workhorse -- a more recent laptop, with 2 gb worth of RAM, and 3 USB ports, etc. made by Fujitsu. It wasn't the top of the line, but it was made by a big name laptop maker. Sadly though, I must say that if I ever had to buy another laptop, I wouldn't go for a Fujitsu, as the laptop casing has cracked quite easily. My fiance uses a Fujitsu notebook as well, one which I bought for her as a gift many moons back. It was in seeing her happiness that I decided that a Fujitsu was worth investing in -- after all, it comes with a three year warranty. What a mistake. After I discovered that the bottom portion of my laptop casing had a crack, I called up Fujitsu. I was informed that I would have to pay for getting a new casing for my laptop. Never mind, I paid the price and continue to use the laptop to this day.

Recently, my mother expressed her interest in perusing the Internet -- at least get a whiff of the whole new-fangled thing before it becomes too complex for her. I think that it's worth a try. I think that all people over the age of 50 should be offered free computer literacy classes so that they can compete in the modern world. Anyhow, that's beside the point. I dusted off the old IBM laptop and took it out for a test run. It was in fine running condition, but the RAM and the hard disk proved to be in need of an urgent upgrade. I knew for a fact that the IBM laptop was not up to par with the latest "netbooks" which flood the market, but purchasing a new laptop would cost at least RM1,600. I resolved to upgrade the IBM notebook and try to make the best of things.

Today, I had the good fortune to visit Digital Mall and make a few pertinent enquiries with regard to the propect of upgrading my trusty old IBM notebook. It seems that I use DDR1 SODIMM RAM, which isn't widely available these days. But I was fortunate that the shop which I visited had enough of an inventory to be able to offer me DDR1 RAM. I also enquired about notebook hard disks. Apparently the great divide today in hard disk technology (with regards to notebooks) is the question of IDE vs SATA. My old laptop now sports 2 gigs of RAM and 160 gigs of hard disk space. All in I had spent about RM600. The old hard disk is now in a sleeve of the notebook bag, awaiting a suitable external hard disk casing to host it.

This afternoon, I decided to install PC Linux OS -- I had downloaded the ISO in 2007 and burned several copies, giving away Live CD's to several friends as novelties, keeping only one for myself. There hasn't been any comments from those friends, and I resolve not to give anymore Live CD's to my friends in the future. In fact, the Live CD in itself might be a viable part of my future: I would like to download the latest ISO's, burn them, and sell them for a profit. 50% of the profits would go back to support the open source movement, and especially those makers of the ISO's.

The laptop itself is wonderful. And now, with the addition of a more current operating system, I find that it has become more functional --- more functional, say, than a Linux installation about five years ago. Wifi configuration was a breeze. Downloading, browsing, and paying my bills on the Internet were easily accomplished. Even downloading one of the latest Linux ISO's and burning it to CD was accomplished rather well. For reasons of hardware limitations, I can only burn CD's and not DVD's, although I can read DVD's. This laptop has what is called a "combo drive": A CD-RW drive capable of reading DVD's.

My biggest gripe is that I cannot find a suitable Linux driver for my Samsung All-In-One (AIO) printer SCX-4521F. My efforts to visit Samsung's website for a suitable Linux driver proved fruitless. Another issue which I discovered is that there is no auto-mount. From my experience, Linux will detect the USB devices at boot time, but realistically expecting Linux to detect after boot time would mean waiting patiently for the automount feature to be implemented. In any case, despite my gripes, I am still happy that my laptop is humming merrily away. Even Flash animation can be viewed. Also, the fact that a release of Linux from 2007 can work so well, gives me hope that newer flavours of Linux would work much better in the future. But everything takes time. :)