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[Computerbank] My 2c on Desktops & distributions.

A new post just reminded me of tonights fun, trying to install GTK apps on a
system with KDE only, I've had to add most of the gnome packages just to
install Abiword, and stuff like the Gimp want almost everything, with that
in mind it's more a question of wheather or not to add KDE to the install
and make it the default or not.
More comments below

Julien Goodwin RHCE
----- Original Message -----
> > * What type of useable computers are coming in to the branches as
> > donations
> >     and do they differ significantly from place to place ?
> >
> Mainly high end 486's and low end pentiums. We currently have some
> pentium 133's and some 166's, but the lowest common denominator needs to
> be 486dx.
-- And remember that machines that are coming in will start to increase in
power slowly, by the end of next year I would think that almost no 486's and
few pentiums with the majority being MMX pentium and higher.

> > It seems to me that our deliberations on standard installs will be
> > influenced by the above aspects.
-- Unfortunatly it's getting harder and harder to use 486's for most stuff.

> >
> > For example - the victorian experience is probably relevant here; I'm
> > going to
> > (briefly) recall some history - I'm sure that Grant, Frank, Kylie and
> > others will put me right if I don't recall correctly! :-)
> >
> > About 18 months ago the vic people were looking at using donated high
> > end 486s and low end pentiums for recipient machines.  At that point,
> > it seemed the way to go was to use X-Windows with a lightweight window
> > manager and selected applications, and try to put it all together in a
> > visually attractive way.
> >
> > Then we started getting large numbers of 133MHz pentiums with 32 MB RAM
> > and
> > good screens, which usually needed only a once-over to check hardware
> > and then a linux install.  The decision was made to load these machines
> > with a debian installation running GNOME and selected applications,
> > which gave an overall satisfactory result with reasonably minimal
> > requirements as far as numbers of people installing were concerned. Out
> > of this effort grew the cbv "standard install" packages.
> >
-- After having tried it myself I must say that the debian install works
almost as well as a kickstart redhat install could (there are benefits to
both, but it's redhat that I'm experienced with)

> > At that time, it was felt that the version of GNOME was more mature than
> > KDE, and we needed to standardise on a particular desktop in order to
> > simplify training, which was fast becoming a bottleneck in terms of
> > getting recipient machines "out the door".  The other considerations
> > were, if I recall correctly -
> >
> > * debian had the best package manager - important when we
> >   were likely to want to "fine tune" software packages for recipients
-- However package management is only a small issue especially when the
systems are so standardised [in software]

> > * people were available to us who knew debian and who could teach others
> >
> > * the debian philosophy was one we felt comfortable with.
-- While I agree with the debian philosophy I do feel that it's a bit
extremist, and redhat probably lean a bit to the closed source side, none
are perfect.

> > The lower end machines, by necessity, faded into the background somewhat
> > as we concentrated on getting recipients "out the door" with useable
> > computers.

> > Fast forward to the present time, and we find that the 133MHz pentiums
> > are
> > getting scarce, and we are once again using high end 486s and low
> > end pentiums.  For the time being, we are getting by with a requirement
> > that 486s have 32MB RAM, which seems to make a useable system.
> >
> > So I suppose we could say that we arrived at the decisions to use debian
> > and GNOME based on the people available to us, the type of computers
> > that were being donated, and an assessment of the relative merits of
> > desktop alternatives.  If the situation had been different, we may have
> > made different choices.
-- I find that with current releases of Gnome & KDE 96MB of ram make a BARLY
usable system (On a p200), and that's with most of the eye-candy turned off.

> > As an aside, the vics have found that many recipients do not appreciate
> > the necessity for shutting down a Linux system, as opposed to just
> > flicking the power switch off, despite heavy emphasis on shutting down
> > correctly during training sessions. Hence there are frequent calls from
> > recipients faced with a message asking them to log in as root to run a
> > manual file system check. The best way around this seems to be adoption
> > of the Reiser file system - this is also being evaluated.
> I have been using freebsd for 3 years, It always comes up fist time
> after a power outage.
-- After my experiences this week I'd go for Ext3 as it's backward
compatability has already saved my back.

> > * KDE/GNOME - This is not an easy one! :-(   The Victorian experience
> > suggests that later versions of GNOME are requiring more computing
> > resources to operate with reasonable response times, especially if you
> > try to run the newer file managers, web browsers and mail clients. Thus
> > the vics are trying out KDE, which also seems to have a more intuitive
> > user
> > interface for new users, although GNOME seems more flexible with regard
> > to working with different applications.  KDE, however, also requires
> > significant resources, but maybe somewhat less than GNOME - I think the
> > jury is still out on this one. - Grant may like to comment about this ?
-- After my benchmarking on my system yesterday I found that KDE even with
several background openoffice processes open used around 10MB less RAM than

> Recips here prefer kde. My main issue with it is that it does shutdown
> all the processes. Sometimes systems are unusable because of kdeinit,
> etc hanging around.
-- I find that giving it a few seconds generally clears them up.

> > It may be that as these two desktops develop further, it will become
> > increasingly difficult ot run them on the relatively low end spec
> > machines coming in as donations, and we will need to seriously look at a
> > custom desktop. This could be something like icewm with some carefully
> > selected and configured applications.
> I am all for a custom desktop.
-- I reacon that if we do move to Woody on desktops then we'll have to use a
carefully configured WM like icewm

> > * Participation and making recommendations on technical matters
> >
> > My thought here is that we should encourage members with technology
> > experience to participate in ongoing discussions on the cbtechnical
> > list - someone may like to kick off with some thoughts on one of the
> > issues commented upon here.
> > In addition, it would seem useful if either one of the ordinary
> > members on the national committee or a specially appointed national
> > co-ordinator was given the responsibility of assisting branches in
> > resolving these issues - what do you think ?
-- Good idea, I think we also need more mailing lists for different areas
such as business side, tech side, events side etc. that would promote more
discussion between the people who work on those issues.
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