Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wireless support improving in Linux

All too often, people automatically assume they need to use ndiswrapper to get wireless network cards working in Linux. In fact, I was about to do the same thing today, because in other distributions with the same network card I had no luck getting it to work. Once I stuck the network card in, Ubuntu informed me that there were drivers available for the card, and it would have to download the firmware for me. I had to temporarily plug the computer into the wired network to download the firmware. Once that was done, I unplugged from the wired network and the wireless connected right away. (It had the WEP key already) I'm more impressed with Linux every day, and the situation with device support is only going to improve as more and more manufacturers realize Linux is a force in the world.

The card is a Linksys WPC54G, which according to lspci uses the Broadcom Corporation BCM4318 chipset. I'm using Ubuntu 8.04.

After that, I also tried another wireless card, the linksys WUSB54G. I plugged it in, and it detected it and was able to connect to the network with no issues at all. Although, I did notice it seemed to be a little slow. It's a great improvement from what I have previously seen.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Puppy Linux 4.0 Review

After my last review of Puppy Linux, I was very skeptical about the new release. But, I'll say right away that it has improved quite a bit.

From the "mount" icon on the desktop, I was very easily able to mount my USB drive. Even though this is automatic in other distributions, it's made very easy in Puppy, and I suppose the distro is lighter because it doesn't have an auto mount service running. One thing that Puppy needs to do is put an icon on the desktop once it's mounted. It took me a few minutes to figure out that you have to click on mount again, and click on the icon for your appropriate disk. It's a little redundant, if you ask me. I later found an option in the menu which will change this behaviour. If you go to "menu", "desktop", "hotpup desktop drive icons" it gives you the option to put an icon on the desktop when it mounts the drive. I still feel that icons should be put on the desktop by default.

Once I had my USB drive mounted, I was easily able to retrieve my WEP key from the text file which opened in the default text editor Geany. Then all I had to do was click on "network" from the start menu and "pwireless wireless scanner" and paste the WEP key in. My wireless card was detected without any issues and I was able to connect to the internet.

The package management seems to work pretty well in Puppy. It basically uses wget to retrieve packages from your mirror of choice. I would prefer if it automatically chose the fastest mirror, and if the package management was a little more transparent. Instead of showing all the command line stuff that it's doing, it should just show a progress bar in the package management window. Since the focus of Puppy is being a lightweight distro, most of the packages are old versions, but that's somewhat understandable.

All the applications that are installed by default are focused on being lightweight. This really shows with the "Office" type applications. Abiword opens almost instantaneously, as well as Gnumeric, and Inkscape. The lightweight aspect of Puppy Linux is it's strong suite. Everything runs very quickly, even on an older laptop with 512MB of memory. I imagine it would do well with even less.

When you shutdown Puppy for the first time, it asks if you want to save your settings to a file. It also asks you if you want to copy some files from the CD to the hard drive, to improve bootup and overall performance. It was able to do this for me without any problem on a partition that contains Ubuntu.

One major issue for me about Puppy Linux is that the root user is the default account. This means that most people using it will be surfing the internet as root, and doing everything else as root. This may be common practice in the Windows world, but I think most Linux users would agree that this should be changed. It could be setup to use sudo instead, like Ubuntu and other distros. It's just not good from a security perspective to use root for everything.

Another small annoyance I found was that I couldn't change the time by right clicking on the clock at the bottom right. I instead have to go to the main menu and find the set time option. It's a little thing, but something you just expect you can do without hassle.

I also found out after rebooting that my wireless network didn't reconnect automatically. I feel that once I put in my WEP key it should be set and reconnect to that network automatically at bootup. Another one of those things that you just expect will work.

Overall, this release was a huge improvement. I hope the developer(s) will find this review helpful in focusing their development efforts for the next release.