I ran Scientific Linux for a little while on my new-old laptop and still have it installed on a spare hard drive in my new desktop (though I’ve been running Debian on that for about a month). Really didn’t have much trouble with it — it’s just what one should expect by something that’s oriented for enterprise use: stable, solid, not flashy, not bleeding edge, no drama.
For those who don’t know about Scientific Linux, it’s compiled from RHEL sources so it’s in the same category as CentOS. The biggest difference between CentOS and SL is the former is a community-run project while SL is based at FermiLab. SL has a more scientific orientation than CentOS, with a focus on packages for use in research and writing and less on games and entertainment (though there are concessions to games and entertainment). If the SL repositories are inadequate for your needs, there are optional third-party repositories of RHEL binary-compatible RPMs which should work across the spectrum of RHEL-compatible distros.
I was playing around with distros while watching the NBA playoffs tonight, since the first two games today were routs. I first decided to look at SL54 live CD on my Aspire One. I first tried the Lite image but it lacked wpa_supplicant, so I grabbed the full Gnome image and put it on USB via unetbootin. For what it’s worth, the Lite image uses icewm (which is also on the Gnome live CD) and comes with Firefox, emacs, vim, xfe, and probably other stuff I didn’t bother looking at very closely. Sorry, but there’s only so much I can do without networking. I did log out of icewm to run emacs in console and I can vouch for its stability.
Once I set up a USB stick with the Gnome image, I booted up. It’s straightforward and comforting because I like to see hardware detection instead of some sexy graphics. I encountered one little problem logging in: Scientific Linux live CD has a pre-login option to set keyboard and passwords (passwords are optional). With the small display of my Aspire One and the large text in the dialog, I was unable to see the area where the prompts were. Fortunately, I’ve used this fine little live CD before so I knew US-English keyboard is 1 and I didn’t bother to choose to set a password since I was just seeing how well it would do on the Aspire One. After hitting return, I went to the gdm login and entered “sluser” and I was quickly in Gnome.
After a quick look at dmesg and lsmod, I quickly set up my wireless. Voila.
It’s been a while since I spent this much time using Linux on the Aspire One. Other than occasionally logging in to my TinyCore/MicroCore install on this thing, I’ve given up running Linux on it. Search my ath5k entries and you’ll see why. I never did sort out whether it was related to the ath5k driver, something in the 80211 MAC stack, or wpa_supplicant — it could be one, it could be a combination, but I know for sure that it isn’t the card (it works flawlessly in Windows no matter how long I’m on it). It’s quite possible if the problem is with wpa_supplicant that “backing down” to an enterprise-oriented distro like Scientific or CentOS might let me run Linux on this thing since wpa_supplicant most likely is a more stable (okay, older) version with certain patches to fix bugs. The problem with testing that tonight is I was on battery and thus not up long enough to see. (I just plugged in again to reboot and post this.)
The only issue I remember under SL54 on my desktop was having to manually update hplip for my printer. The same would apply to CentOS and other RHEL-compatible distros (what does that leave, Oracle?). That’s a minor consideration compared to the issues I had with repeated wifi timeouts under the following distros (not the fault of the distros, just a summary of ones I ran on the AA1):
- PCLOS (KDE, Xfce/Phoenix, etc.)
- Fedora (10, 11, 12)
- Debian (Lenny and Sid)
I think that’s it. There were others I ran off USB but never would install because they weren’t ready for prime time. And when I run off USB (as I did tonight), it’s rarely for hours or days on end. It was more like 45 minutes while I shelled in to my desktop and moved files around (including the above screenshots). Like I wrote above, not enough time for the ath5k to race and panic and then no longer be detected.
I didn’t do a full checklist of hardware compatibility but I don’t think this thing would have any unresolved issues (except maybe the stupid card readers). I was a little surprised after the login thing with the keyboard and password prompts that gdm and X ran perfectly and detected the correct resolution. I didn’t look at the webcam. I presume audio works (the error beep sure did) but didn’t bother with that since I already knew I’d have to download codecs to listen to anything other than ogg files (I was watching the games, not interested in streaming or playing anything). As you can see from the wifi icon, my ath5k card was properly detected and nm-applet did a cursory scan to find available networks; I set it up quickly and was networked with WPA.
I’m still determined to run Linux on this thing even though it’s supposedly been for sale for the past couple months. I’ll probably give this USB stick with SL54 a longer look on the AA1 in the coming days to see if I can get the ath5k to time out again. For now, though, I have to get some sleep.
UPDATE: I’ve posted an update/addendum to this post.