Daddy Clanger (imc) wrote,
Daddy Clanger

Some reasons why Linux isn't ready for the mainstream market

Three letters: WPA.

I installed Zod recently on a laptop which is based on Centrino Mobile Technology. Owing to legal issues which are to some extent understandable, Fedora doesn't bundle firmware for wireless drivers, and so the wireless connection didn't work out of the box. But having been forewarned of this I temporarily used the wired connection to fetch the relevant RPM from Livna and installed it. And lo, the wireless device worked. Or would have, if I'd been connecting to an unsecured (or WEP) network.

Most home wireless networks these days are WPA, and even though technically I have a choice about the configuration of our network I don't have that same luxury when visiting friends. Unfortunately, Fedora's standard network configuration tool doesn't admit the existence of WPA (it asks for "Key" with the unstated assumption that it's a WEP key).

There's a tool called NetworkManager which pops up a dialogue asking for my WPA key when I click on it, which looks like an improvement. On the other hand, it looks like I have to type this in every single time I want to reconnect, which is not so convenient. And the kicker is: it doesn't actually appear to do anything after I've typed in the key — it certainly doesn't connect me (there's an unconfirmed bug report indicating I'm not the only one with that problem).

So I've hacked the network startup scripts to do it properly (for some value of "properly"). It took about an hour. The UI would take longer, but I'm content to edit the config by hand (it's often quicker anyway): all I have to do is edit the keys file and change "KEY=" to "PSK=" and it will set up WPA automatically at the time when the interface is started, and shut it down when the interface is taken down. This means I can still create other profiles for unsecured (or WEP) networks, or with different WPA keys.

Actually, four more letters: NTFS.

This laptop came with Windows XP Professional in a one-huge-partiton configuration. I don't necessarily want to be able to read the Windows data from within Linux, but I do want to be able to resize the Windows partition to make some room. The only alternative is wiping the whole thing and just having Linux, which actually I'd be prepared to do if it were necessary, but that would no doubt be a show-stopper for all but the hardened Linux advocates among us. (Actually, the one huge partition was shipped as FAT32 but it's converted to NTFS automatically as soon as you boot it, and I'd already done that, so.)

Red Hat doesn't include any NTFS tools in Fedora (even though the filesystem driver is in the standard Linux kernel source) for fear of being sued by Microsoft (though I'm not sure why, if it doesn't include any of their code). So if you've already got Windows on your system and want to keep it, you'd better choose another distro. I chose Knoppix, which you can boot off a CD to do the necessary modifications and then forget about. I launched QtParted and asked it to shrink the Windows partiton. It pondered for a while and then said "An error has occurred" and didn't do it. So I used the command-line utility ntfsresize instead, which is somewhat more involved. (And it did work, despite allegedly being the same thing that QtParted uses under the covers.)
Tags: computers, linux
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