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A slightly different installation view

A diverse and rather esoteric set of circumstances caused me to re-install
the OS on both of my primary home computers last Saturday.  Further, neither
of the installs were upgrades, they were blank partition installs.  (I'm
not a big fan of upgrades.  I'll keep all my data around, but just fully
reinstall the OS.)

The coolest part of this situation was that I was rather 'outside' of it.
My brain was working on a lot of other things during the installations, so
I didn't really 'think' about them.  Only after both were done did I
note how useful the exercise was, from an ease of installation comparision
point of view.

As a point of background: I was first directly exposed to Unix (SunOS) in
1989, and GNU/Linux* in 1993.  My first Linux installation was in 1994, on 
a 486 notebook which I still have today.  I've been 'well connected' to the
Linux community for the past few years.  And I've been well connected to
the Windows community since 1995.

Note: I am well versed in Windows of all flavors.  I've even done a good
deal of programming in win16 and win32.  But make no mistake: I live and
bleed Linux.  My connection to Windows has been one of necessity.  (That's
changed, a lot, recently.  My Windows box at work has been powered off for
three weeks now.  There's only one app that requires me to have a Windows
box now, and I only need to use it very rarely.)

My home Linux box is called Aragorn.  He dials out to the internet, and acts
as a gateway/proxy for the rest of my home LAN.  He has a vintage 1997
Tyan Tomcat III motherboard, with a true Pentium 150 CPU, and 64MB of 60ns
EDO non parity RAM, as well as three hard drives, and a 4x CD.  He has a
USR 33.6k Sportster, and a Diamond Stealth 2MB PCI video card.  The CD is
a vanilla IDE affair.  Finally, it has a brand X 10BT NE2000 ISA network
card.  I installed RedHat 5.2 on /dev/hdd1, which is 3GB in size.  /dev/hda 
contains my old installation of RedHat 5.0.  

The total install time on Aragorn was about 35 minutes.  As is my custom,
I selected everything to be installed.  I un-install things later at leisure.
(The Russian HOWTO does me little to no good.)  Though total installation
time was 35 minutes, I only had to 'pay attention' to installation for
two or three minutes, at most.  It spotted my video card, CD, and most of the 
rest, automatically.  I had to tell it what kind of network card I had.  This
is, in my opinion, a problem.  An OS install should never ask what kind of 
cards are in the system.  Inexpereienced computer users can't answer those 
kinds of questions, typically.

After entering my network information, (no Big Deal: the box defaulted to
no local network, which few people have at home) and selecting a few other
easy options, the installation was on its way, and I was off to fetch
lunch.  When I returned, a few more easy questions remained, and the 
deed was done.

I can't evaluate how easy it is to setup PPP dialin access, since I just
used the previous PPP script I used.  In the past, it was a bloody nightmare
of man pages and config files.  Word on the street is that it's a lot
easier now.

Overall, the RedHat installation was very easy for me.  I judge that
50-60 percent of non-technical home computer users could get it running in any
sane time frame.

Grishnakh is my Windows box.  It also has a Tyan Tomcat III motherboard,
with a Cyrix Pentium 166+ CPU in it, along with 64MB of 60ns EDO memory.
It has a single 1.6GB hard drive, and a vanilla IDE 32 speed CD ROM.  For
Video, it has an ancient PCI card called Ark something, with a win95
driver disk.  It also has a Soundblaster AWE 64 sound card, and a USR
Sportster, along with another brand X NE 2000 ISA network card.  Finally,
it's connected to an HP OfficeJet 600 colour scanner/printer.

I booted to a dos disk with the CD drivers on it, and formatted the hard drive.
d:\setup got the win98 installer going.  Overall, the installation process
took about 60 minutes, and I had to pay attention to it perhaps 10 minutes.
(I have no idea why the installation took 60 minutes total on such a fast
CD.)  I have to admit, the installation process was way slick.  And very very
easy.  Win98 auto detected, and installed drivers for everything except
the video card and the OfficeJet.  It prompted me to put the driver CD in
for the printer, which I did.  That process was seamless.  It noted the
(unknown) video card, but didn't prompt me for a driver.  I was forced to
go into display properties and do the driver thing there.  Thank goodness
the ancient win95 driver disk worked for win98!  I've heard some really
bad stories about how win98 pukes on old win32 drivers.

My only complaint about the win98 installation, besides having to do the
video driver 'by hand', is the fact that win98 totally ignored LAN connectivity
issues during installation.  In order to get the system up on my LAN, I 
had to go into the Network control panel after installation and put the
IP information in by hand.  The RedHat installer handled this aspect, which
was a real plus.

From my perspective, both installations were extremely easy.  Win95 
installations on Grishnakh had always turned into four hour blood baths.
Win98 went in very easily indeed.  The RedHat installation is the easiest
Linux installation so far, in my experience.  Because of the direct
network configuration, I'd have to give the highest marks to RedHat.

However, from a typical home PC user perspective, the Win98 installation would
just kill the RedHat installation.  RH still uses the simple, character based 
system.  For a person used to using a mouse, that would be quite a leap.
And again, RedHat did not auto-detect the network card type.  These days,
more packaged systems than not will come with a built in 10/100 network card,
even if the user doesn't know it.  This is a killing question, from an ease
of installation perspective.

As an aside, many of installation issues I cited for RedHat shrink to
nothing in a business setting, where experienced people are installing
systems.  Indeed, the sheer installation flexability afforded by RedHat 
in specific, and Linux/UNIX in general, may give business installers pause
to consider Linux on that point alone.

I hope these observations and comments may prove useful to your groups.  I
believe the 'critical mass' that Linux needs to achieve should come from the
home market.  Linux has and will continue to make strong inroads into the
server market.  That's a Done Deal as far as I'm concerned.

Desktop trends will start at the home market, in my opinion.  As I mentioned 
previously, business has the technical ability to install mass quantities of 
Linux desktop systems right now.  They don't because of the perceived lack of 
'main line' applications.  As Linux gains a wide home footprint, the strong 
suite of applications we see now will expand greatly, and business will, out 
of necessity, switch desktops.  It's well known that the cost of ownership
of UNIX in general, and Linux in specific, is much lower than Windows.

Dana M. Diederich        Phone: 1.501.855.7175
SMTP: dana@realms.org    HTTP:  http://realms.org/   ICQ: 16433785
Snail Mail: 19 Leicester Drive, Bella Vista, Ar 72714, USA
`Berkeley invented LSD and Unix, and I don't think that's a coincidence.'

(*) I believe in the term GNU/Linux.  As such, I'll always try to mention
that term in things that I write.  However, I believe that constantly 
referring to the OS as GNU/Linux is distracting to read.