I used to think that the notion that there were too many Linux distros was overblown. Surely people could just pick one and use it. And, then there were all the horror stories of how difficult it was to install Linux. Not so, said I, installing Linux these days is just as easy – perhaps easier – than installing Windows. However, recently, I looked for a distro that would be suitable for a friend’s old XP-based machine. That was when my pre-existing notions about Linux began to change…

Perhaps I have been spoiled over the past few years by sticking to Ubuntu-type distros (Ubuntu with the Gnome Classic interface and, most recently, Mint with the Mate desktop). Typically, these install flawlessly, and work fairly well (although the raison d’être for this blog is essentially to document the fixes to problems that I encounter!) However, the same cannot be said for all the distros out there.

My first foray into distro-world was Puppy Linux since this distro has a reputation for being a lightweight in terms of resource requirements, yet has a full slate of applications, and runs well on older hardware. What I couldn’t initially figure out was how to establish a grub menu to dual-boot XP and Puppy. It turns out that there is a separate installation process for grub; however, while the main installation routine is under Setup in the main menu, grub’s installer is under System!

Some even more challenging issues arose while trying a number of other distros. Macpup wouldn’t run because the hardware didn’t support PAE (Physical Address Extension) and Macpup no longer has a version with non-PAE kernel. Tiny Core Linux failed to install to the hard disk with the – unknown to Google – error message “Error mounting USB device”. A strange error since I was installing from a CD-ROM. Damn Small Linux installed to the hard drive, said that it had installed grub, but failed to boot into a grub menu and loaded Windows. VectorLinux had an incomprehensible (to me) requirement to specify “run levels” and “services”, and a very confusing set of selection buttons that seemed to be on when I thought they were off and vice-versa!

I could go on but, no doubt, you get the picture. For the non-Linux person – and even for some of us who know a little bit about Linux – finding, installing, and using an appropriate distro is not necessarily without its challenges.


Puppy Linux


Physical Address Extension

Damn Small Linux

Tiny Core Linux


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