Seeing as I was off work yesterday (hint: I bought a lot of Immodium...), I decided to upgrade this PC to the latest version of the Linux distribution I prefer, OpenSUSE.
The download went fast, as we have FiOS here (35 meg service, up and down), and the download, 4.4GB, took about 25 minutes.
I backed up my /home directory to another hard disk, and began the installation.
30 minutes later I was done, and updating the packages. Even though I had a downloaded the latest complete distribution, there are times when the updates don't get folded in to the complete distro that's on the servers. I'm not sure how often they update the served version, but as with any Operating System, you should always do the updates after you finish installing it.
Then I spent some time customizing it, and turning off the eye-candy I don't care for, adding the repositories that have the multimedia and Amateur Radio programs I use, and transferring the things I needed from my backed-up /home directory, and I was off and running.
All told, I spent a couple of hours downloading, installing, and tweaking the new version.
I haven't noticed any huge differences between this version, 12.3, and the previous version, 12.1, I was running, but it's nice to be able to upgrade your OS for free.
I've been running Linux since about 1995, and SuSE/OpenSUSE since shortly after that. I started with Red Hat (aka "Head Rat"), tried several other distributions, and one day when I was at CompUSA looking to see if the new version of Red Hat was out, I spotted one I hadn't seen before, SuSE, which stood for " Software- und System-Entwicklung (Software and Systems Development).
Since it listed numerous Amateur Radio packages on the "What's In The Box" side panel, I bought it. It installed easily, and with the included configuration tools, I was online in a short time.
Keep in mind this was back when if you wanted to use Linux, you had to get a couple of books, READ THEM, and tinker with the software to get your hardware working.
And not all hardware was supported!
You had to be careful what video card you bought, and you had to get a real "hardware" modem. "Soft" modems and "Win" modems simply would not work as the hardware was dependent on Windows doing a lot of the processing to extract the data stream from the audio.
The first time I installed a proper modem, it took me the better part of a week to get it running, and connected to my ISP.
And if configured your video card improperly, it would happily send the wrong signals to your monitor, resulting in garbled video at best, and blown monitor at worst!
Ethernet cards were another matter entirely, and 90+% of the Ethernet cards were supported, as Linux has always been a networking friendly OS. Buy a 3Com card, and you were golden!
It really paid off to have a dedicated machine for Linux, as it could be a bit, uhhh, "interesting" to get it running properly, and I finally built another PC just to run/learn Linux on.
Things have gotten much more refined since the early days of Linux, and installing and using Linux has never been easier. Most modern hardware, and almost all vintage hardware, is supported, and Linux is a great way to revive an older PC that doesn't have the horsepower to run newer (XP and newer) versions of Windows.
Long live the lizard!