Sunday, May 25, 2008

More Thoughts on DSL

I'm not sure if I can count this as a useful skill, but I've gotten really good at typing "sudo cfdisk /dev/hda". For those who don't recognize that string, I'll break it down for you:

sudo: the command to become "superuser", which is required for just about any system-altering function. If you're going to be executing several commands at the root level, you should probably do this separately by typing "sudo -s", which will make you superuser until you are ready to leave this mode by typing "exit".

cfdisk: a command-line tool for working with disk partitions. Those of you who remember the good ol' days of DOS will note the similarity to "fdisk". Those of you who don't know what disk partitions are should familiarize yourselves with them before attempting to install any version of Linux. Fortunately, this is an easy concept to learn. You can start here.

/dev/hda: "dev" is simply an abbreviation of "device". Any drivers for peripheral devices (disk drive, keyboard, mouse, etc.) will be in a /dev directory of some kind. You may have guessed that "hda" refers to a hard drive, and you would be absolutely right. If I had multiple hard drives, they would be listed as "hda", "hdb", etc. In other words, "hda" is Linux-speak for "C:\" on an equivalent Windows system.

This is a useful command to know when you've hosed your system. I expected to hose my system multiple times, so I gained a lot of experience with booting off the CD and starting over. If you plan to use DSL, you can go to their website to see what to do after typing this command. This step will vary depending on what your plans for DSL are.

I did get the MyDSL package retriever working and was able to retrieve some decent apps with it. However, it was good for me to play with the "crude" apps I mentioned in my previous post. I even used vim to edit some configuration files. In the words of David Carradine, "I'm all about old-school." It's nice to know that if something were to happen and the command-line interface was all I had, I'd at least be able to perform basic functions.

To summarize, DSL may not be terribly slick, but it definitely gets the job done. Mr. Williams wasn't too fond of the desktop, which is understandable. The average user (which Mr. Williams pretty much is) wants a slick interface and a system that doesn't require much tweaking. However, I think it was good for me to learn about the different tools common to most versions of Linux.

Next distro to step up: Puppy. I've heard a lot of good things about it, so I'm curious to see how it works on a system like Lazarus. I'll keep you posted!

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