Best Linux for MSI Wind?

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Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Fri Jan 16, 2009 9:11 am

Well I have jumped the netbook bandwagon yesterday. It is U100, with 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Processor, 2GB of RAM, 4200 RPM hard drive (yeah, I know, the hard drive is pretty slow), and Windows XP Home.

My plan with the netbook is to demo web-based applications running on Apache and postgreSQL. Yeah, I know I better get a real notebook for the purpose, but I always using very small set of data for demo purpose (just enough to show how the apps work). Besides, I already have quite powerful notebook for "heavier" demo. The netbook is for the times when I need to get really mobile.

I plan to install the following applications:
(1) Apache Web Server
(2) MySQL
(3) postgreSQL
(4) MapServer CGI (thankfully, those folks at MapServer mailing list said Intel Atom should be more than adequate to run MapServer as long as the polygons are not overly complex)

While all those applications above have Windows version (XAMMP, postgreSQL for Windows, etc), I plan to install Linux to save more resources. Thankfully, the Wind has quite good Linux driver support.

The question is: what is the best (the least resource-hungry) distro to install on the MSI Wind? I'm not savvy enough to use SlackWare; how about Mandriva? Or is Ubuntu still the best for the purpose?

Also, I still need the GUI desktop environment to run FireFox web browser. Should I better use KDE or GNOME? Which one is the least resource-hungry? Desktop features won't matter because every applications to be demoed are web applications.
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:22 am

Honestly, a pared-down windows isntall isn't particularly heavy. I ran windows XP on an older laptop with 128MB of RAM for years. Once you talk about running a desktop environment on the *nix side, those are going to be at least as heavy, if not heavier.

If you're not a *nix guru, just stick with what you know. If you did get any gains, they'd be from those apps running better on linux, not from the platform being substantially lighter.
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:40 am

KDE and GNOME are both fairly resource-hungry desktop environments. If you really want to keep the GUI "lean and mean," you should probably be looking at using the Xfce desktop. Xfce is fully supported under Ubuntu; you can either install it from the repositories, or use the Xubuntu variant of Ubuntu (which installs Xfce by default).
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:46 am

I've got Win7 on my Wind and it runs fantastically.
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:21 pm

Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman wrote:The question is: what is the best (the least resource-hungry) distro to install on the MSI Wind? I'm not savvy enough to use SlackWare; how about Mandriva? Or is Ubuntu still the best for the purpose?
Let me give my two cents, answering your question in a bit of a more netbook-general way (since your usage of Apache and databases is a bit atypical for netbooks):

Debian/Ubuntu
First off, I think Ubuntu and Debian are good distros for netbooks if you're comfortable with them. If you do go with Ubuntu, though, I'd suggest using the alternate install CD and install a minimal system (deselect all of the tasksel options like "Ubuntu desktop" or "Xubuntu Desktop") and build up from there: that will allow you more control over the usual kitchen-sink install. If you do this, however, make sure to pull in acpi-support, cpufrequtils, laptop-mode-tools, powermgmt-base, powertop, pm-utils and other laptop-centric packages.

Arch Linux
Another distro to consider is Arch Linux. It's what I use on my netbook (an Acer Aspire), and let me explain why: 1) like Debian, Arch has good package management -- it doesn't use apt+dpkg, but pacman. pacman is similar to apt in many ways, and generally pretty well designed (fast for most things and no-nonsense). Arch also has a surprisingly huge number of packages when you consider the official+community packages (which are well integrated with the official repos). Coming from Debian, which has everything, I find that there is nothing I use that Arch doesn't have as a package (compare to Fedora or RHEL/CentOS where I have trouble with some packages even pulling in many extra repos like EPEL, RPMforge, RPMfusion, ATrpms, Livna, etc.). Incidentally, it's also got a slick build-from-source mechanism that integrates with the package management (one reason why a distro with so few developers is able to have such a large number of packages). 2) Arch has a minimal slant to it and its BSD-style init system reflects it. It starts off lean and mean and makes it dead simple to do parallel or background service startup, etc. As you know, Slackware also has a minimal slant and a BSD style init system, but it becomes unmaintainable since it punts on package management and doesn't consider upgrade paths between releases. Arch can be great for making lean systems (so can Debian, but I find I can get Arch's boot a good bit faster due to its leaner and newer init system). As usual, there's a few minor annoyances, but it works out well for my netbook.

GUI / Desktop Environment
If you must have a "desktop environment," I'd also suggest thinking about Xfce (as JBI mentioned). Gnome/KDE are pretty bloaty. IMO, the better alternative is just using Xorg plus a window manager such as Fluxbox, Icewm, Afterstep or Windowmaker (plus a standalone X login manager like Slim or XDM). A lot times that is all you really need, especially in the case of a netbook where you are running fewer applications and mostly doing a few common tasks. You don't need a desktop environment to run a browser. Once you edit your menus or add a launcher, etc. and pull in the apps you use, you've got a very lightweight environment. I use Fluxbox (with Slim for login management) and highly configure my keyboard shortcuts to launch common apps quickly.

Browser
On my netbook, I spent a bit of time optimizing two parameters: 1) boot time and 2) power usage. I found by profiling with powertop that Firefox is significantly more power draining than Opera. Interesting since I never really thought about the power implications of browsing, but Firefox sets a lot more wakeup timers and other miscellaneous background tasks which take the CPU out of its idle states more often. So I use Opera. Whichever browser you use, consider adding browser plugins/extensions to "mitigate" certain animated images/Flash content. That will significantly drain your battery by constantly demanding CPU and graphics redraws even when you're just sitting there reading a page. There are some well known extensions available for Firefox and Opera that cannot be mentioned on these forums.

If anyone is interested, I can elaborate a bit more on how I got both the boot time and power usage way down. I was able to get the thing down into the <10 wakeups per sec range (measured with powertop) and my 3-cell gives me at least 2.5 hours with wireless going.
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:32 am

Thanks, jbi and bitvector. That was helpful.

IMO, the better alternative is just using Xorg plus a window manager such as Fluxbox, Icewm, Afterstep or Windowmaker (plus a standalone X login manager like Slim or XDM).

Ubuntu already comes with installation packages for (at least one of) those windows manager, doesn't it? How about ArchLinux? Currently I'm gravitating towards Ubuntu, although it seems ArchLinux is interesting due to its minimalist approach.

Also, a friend of mine said that newer version of SlackWare is not very hard for a noob like me. Considering I'm already so used to RHEL and CentOS, do you think I can handle SlackWare quite well?
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sat Jan 17, 2009 3:45 pm

You could try the Ubuntu Netbook Remix: http://www.canonical.com/projects/ubuntu/nbr
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:19 pm

Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman wrote:
IMO, the better alternative is just using Xorg plus a window manager such as Fluxbox, Icewm, Afterstep or Windowmaker (plus a standalone X login manager like Slim or XDM).

Ubuntu already comes with installation packages for (at least one of) those windows manager, doesn't it? How about ArchLinux?
They both have all of them.

Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman wrote:Also, a friend of mine said that newer version of SlackWare is not very hard for a noob like me. Considering I'm already so used to RHEL and CentOS, do you think I can handle SlackWare quite well?
I don't think it's a matter of Slackware being "hard," I think it's a matter of it being a relatively crappy distro. It's just a waste of time to deal with its lack of modern package management and smooth upgrade paths.
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:20 am

Thanks again, bv. And thanks for the linky, bthylafh, I'll take a look at the netbook Ubuntu.

Anyway, I plan to dual boot with the built-in XP Home and my choice of Linux, but I'm concerned with F3 Recovery option (recovering from the hidden partition instead of DVD). I don't want to lose it since it seems to be faster.

See, the F3 Recovery option seems to use its own (hidden?) boot manager to read from the hidden paritition, but if I install Linux (for dual-boot), then Linux will use GRUB boot manager. At first, I'm concerned that GRUB will overwrite the built-in Recovery boot manager, denying me the use of hidden recovery partition, but a friend said that the F3 Recovery function still work even with GRUB.

However, here is the catch; he said F3 Recovery function works if I choose Windows XP from GRUB. Thus, it seems GRUB has higher "booting hierarchy" than the F3 boot manager, probably like what I tryu to describe below:
Code: Select all
                                       GRUB
                                         |
                                         |
                         ------------------------------
                        |                              |
                        |                              |
                    Linux                         Windows XP
                                                  |       |
                                                  |       |
                                          Windows XP     F3 Recovery

If that's the case, then...

What if I want to uninstall Linux? Or maybe just remove GRUB? Will it make the Recovery boot manager inacessible, or will it move the Recovery boot manager back on top?

In short, If I delete Linux partition, will I still be able to use F3 Recovery afterwards? I like to experiment with distros, that will involve a lot of uninstalling (deleting partition) and re-installing. Can I still use F3 Recovery if that's the case?
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:13 pm

You need to understand PC booting hierarchy.

Once the BIOS has decided to boot from a hard drive, it goes and reads the MBR which is the first 512 bytes on the disk. The MBR also includes the partition table and all it does is look for the partition that is marked as "Active" and jump to that Partition Boot Record. What you need to do is leave the Windows Partition Boot Record alone and put Grub in the Linux partition. Set the Linux Partition as active and it will jump to running Grub, enabling you to run Linux. Now set grub to chainload the Windows boot loader and it should all work as long as everything is still the same partition number that you installed it as.
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:33 pm

notfred wrote:What you need to do is leave the Windows Partition Boot Record alone and put Grub in the Linux partition. Set the Linux Partition as active and it will jump to running Grub, enabling you to run Linux. Now set grub to chainload the Windows boot loader

I see! Thanks! All I need to do is deleting Linux partition, and everything will go back to normal, isn't it? Also, I need to change Windows partition to active from Windows' Computer Management (Disk Management) before I erase Linux partition, right?

Also, GRUB will be installed on the Linux partition by default, won't it? Pardon my stupid question, but my experience in installing Linux is quite limited in Red Hat and Mandriva, and IIRC GRUB never asks which partition to put during Linux installation (they were all single boot though).



notfred wrote: and it should all work as long as everything is still the same partition number that you installed it as.

Is it possible to accidentally change partition number during and/or after installation?
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:07 am

Someone wrote this on other forum, and it makes me wary.
if you just delete the Linux partitions, you will screw up your computer. The boot sector points to grub on the Linux partition, so when you hose that, you hose your boot sector. If it weren't for the custom bootloader, you could just boot from a Windows install disk and run "fixmbr"

What if I set the Windows partition back to active before deleting the linux partition? Will it restore the F3 recovery function?
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Re: Best Linux for MSI Wind?

Postposted on Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:41 pm

Debian just rocks on my eeePC(plus my 15" Everex gBook); simple & to-the-point but able to provide whatever desktop environment you choose. Any and all types of binary packages are at your disposal, to do what you need/want.
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