k, I just installed Linux. Here's the story, in the hope it will help
others take the same step.
I decided to install Linux for a simple reason - Windows died. I had
been running Win95 on my 6 year old Pentium 166MMX. One day, it
stopped booting up. The startup disk also wouldn't boot. Not even to
DOS. It would get as far as "Checking DMZ data" (or something) and
then the screen would go blank, as if the computer had switched itself
off. Strangely enough, I *could* boot from my Linux installer CD's.
However, RH8 refused to use the graphical installer, and Mandrake 8
said something like "your memory is so low that I am completely
unstable" before crashing after a few commands. Well, perhaps I was
naive to expect better than that from 32Mb RAM.
No way I could upgrade the RAM. I had an extra slot, but I'd been
trying for years to find RAM to fit it, and couldn't. Anyway, there
wasn't enough hard disk space to install Linux - I didn't want to lose
my old data either. Still, using Red Hat 8's "Linux Rescue" I got a
shell, mounted the hard disk and the floppy and "rescued" a few of the
most important files.
So I needed to buy:
* A new hard disk
* New CPU/RAM/Motherboard.
We walked into a computer shop, and I told the salesman what I needed
and said "For me, price is important and RAM is important." Having
suffered for years with only 32Mb, I'm willing to fork out a little
extra to survive future bloatware. The salesman tried to sell be a
2.2GHz Celeron with 256Mb RAM. I said "thank you, I'll let you know"
The next salesman offered me what I wanted. High RAM, low price. I
bought an Athlon 1.53GHz, 512Mb RAM (expandable to 1Gb). Oh, I also
had to buy a new modem, keyboard, mouse, casing. The motherboard comes
with a COM port, 4 USB ports, and an ethernet port. Total price: MYR
1050 (about USD 275).
So home we go, and I happily prepare to install Linux. I try Mandrake
first - my brother said it';s easier to install. So it may be, but it
bombed out, saying "You either have hardware problems, or this is a
kernel fault". Not a nice message, but at least it doesn't
automatically blame my hardware. My brand new hardware that cost me
enough money for a year's worth of breakfasts!
On to red hat 8. After an hour or two, I at last had a beautiful Gnome
login screen. I logged in as my wife, and proceeded to connect to the
To *try* to connect.
Another hour later, I was a frustrated tired guy, with a frustrated
bored wife and a modem that wouldn't even lift off the hook. I went to
The next morning, from work, I sent a message to a newsgroup, asking
"where can I find a step by step guide to get my modem working under
Linux?" I got no replies. Knowing what I now know, that is no
surprise. There is no such guide. That week, I learned what a winmodem
was. Worse, I learned that I had one. Worst of all, no Linux support
for my modem is expected for a looong time.
A winmodem is a modem which is not fully a modem. Some of the
functionality of the modem is transferred to software. This is,
apparently, a good engineering practice. It reduces the cost of the
modem, and makes upgrades easier. However, it is very irritating for
Linux users, since the modem needs a "driver" to work, and many modem
makers do not produce Linux drivers. In particular, the maker of my
modem has only one Linux programmer - and he's working on drivers for
a different modem from mine.