The Lenovo X201, the successor of the X200, has arrived on my desk for some days. Every new personal computer makes me think about which Linux distribution to choose.
I started with a list of aspects a good distribution would handle well:
- Straighforward and automatic installation
- Support for crypted home, swap and probably even the root filesystem
- Good package management
- New packages (Linux > 2.6.18 for instance...)
- Easy to integrate own packages into
- Either via an own mirror or into the main distribution
- Good documentation
- Friendly and helpful community
After some minutes thinking about the requirements, I've been aware that testing all those aspects, and defining them properly, takes more time than to just give the usual suspects a try.
Lenny via fai
As I'm running Debian here in the ETH, my first approach was to netinstall Debian via fai, which failed with a kernel panic, because it could not find the root device.
This is normally an indicator, that the network card is unknown, but debugging it from a netinstall is not so easy. Thus I decided to give the installation from an usb stick a try.
Lenny via usb stick
Firstly I put the Debian Lenny Installer 5.0.2 via
zcat ~nico/boot.img.gz > /dev/sdd
onto the usb stick. Booting the installer worked, but it did not find any network interface, either.
Well, we all know that Lenny, as being Debian stable currently, is almost outdated when it's released, so let's give Debian testing a chance.
I remember that installing Debiang testing means to retrieve the installer from some subpage on debian.org, that contains the debian installer. As usual, it cannot be easily found by selecting the usual interesting links on debian.org.
It has been alarming that the same search on debian.org does not result in the correct result on the first result page!
Using the Debian Squeeze Alpha1 release of the debian installer resulted in a funny, though not very productive installation:
- When selecting the language English, country Switzerland, it is not possible to select the locale ch_DE.UTF-8!
- The Keymap Neo 2.0 is not in the list of available layouts.
- The installer cannot find the iso (Well, there's none, it was started from an usb stick...)
- "Detect network hardware" did not find any ethernet card.
Ok, no Debian for the X201 currently.
I am currently running Ubuntu on the X200, so giving it a try on the X201, too.
Beta2 is out, what's more loved than early betas and alphas?
I was trying to write the ISO (!) to a usb stick via usb-creator-gtk, which fails with the following kernel messages:
[1320073.833304] end_request: I/O error, dev sdd, sector 0 [1320073.845771] sd 72:0:0:0: [sdd] Device not ready [1320073.845777] sd 72:0:0:0: [sdd] Result: hostbyte=DID_OK driverbyte=DRIVER_SENSE [1320073.845786] sd 72:0:0:0: [sdd] Sense Key : Not Ready [current] [1320073.845795] sd 72:0:0:0: [sdd] Add. Sense: Medium not present [1320073.845804] end_request: I/O error, dev sdd, sector 0 [1320073.845829] unable to read partition table
Writing to a SD-Card however worked (although: reproducing that made usb-creator-gtk more often fail than succeed: It simply did nothing, said there's not enough space free and did not reformat the device).
Happily I can select the Neo 2.0 keyboard layout during the installation, but not encrypt volumes in the desktop installer, because it's only supported with the alternate installation, which I think is a major fault:
Dear Ubuntu developers, include encryption via dm-crypt/cryptsetup into your desktop installation, please. The enhanced privacy is worth the added complexity!
The installer detected the network card and after the reboot wireless lan was working perfectly and xorg was running with the gnome desktop. And as a extra bonus for me, also real transparency of terminals was working!
On the other hand, I've a shiny new Ubuntu installation which is probably not really what I want: I never use gnome and gdm is fine, but not really needed.
But well, the main reason to give another distribution a try, is that there's a new kid on the block:
Archlinux was brought to my attention some time ago, as it is the first distribution, that includes ccollect (not in the main, but aur repo).
Having a look at archlinux, there are some points that straightly coming to attention:
- Arch is x86 only (32 and 64 bit, though)
- It does not use .rpm, nor .deb packages (Slackware users, do you feel reminded? :-)
- KISS (keep it simple and stupid)
- At least one distribution understands why others have so many problems.
- Least changes to upstream packages possible
The last point is a very interesting one for me, as a FOSS developer, because it ensures that problems are reported back to me and not corrected elsewhere.
Dear arch developers, thanks for that decision!
For more information, have a look at The Arch Way.
Once again, written the installer to an usb stick, booting and - guessed it - the installer does not detect the network interface.
Ok, there must be something like Debian testing, some kind of snapshot, daily or whatever release.
2010-04-05 testing image
The interesting thing is, the iso image can be copied directly to an usb stick, because grub is being used!
The installer detected the network card and I gave the auto prepare disk setup a chance, which creates partitions for
- /boot (ext2!),
- / and
Interesting, but not what I would choose, as there no need for /boot on x86 for a long time (see lba32 option for lilo). It also warned me, after I recreated the partition table, that there is no /boot partition.
Dear arch developers, why do you depend so much on /boot?
But in general, the arch installer can be used straightforwarded and it says what it does (really like that). The encryption support is a bit strange, as it does not prepare the crypttab config, which could easily be integrated into the installer.
Arch has an easy integration of crypttab into the boot process, but there are two drawbacks:
- Arch does not support Neo 2.0 keyboard layout
- And the keyboard layout is loaded after I was asked for the passphrase of the crypted devices.
At the end, Archlinux installed fine on the X201 and I keep on using it, to give the distribution in general a try.