Thursday, June 23, 2005

Have any of you ever used ICHTHUS?

I am a big fan of Debian-based desktop systems. I've been using them for about four years now, and I've been using GNU/Linux software about ten years (since 1995). About seven years ago, I began to migrate to using GNU/Linux software more actively in my home. The first leap happened once I was able to get a high speed network card and a high speed link into my home. From there, I was able to use desktop Linux for something more than a glorified terminal server. Before that, I would login to my desktop Linux system, then use a modem program to dial up my UNIX workstation in the office. Often, I would upload or download files, and then work on them on my Linux system. But once I was able to actually use my Linux system when I was directly connected to a network, I used it much more actively.

The first time I used Linux when it was directly connected to a high speed network was in 1999. At that time, I installed Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 on my laptop system. I dual booted it with Windows 98 SE at the time because I was also taking online graduate school classes at the University of Phoenix Online, and the courses used Windows based software, primarily Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, but we also had assignments that were written in Word, spreadsheets in Excel, presentations in Power Point, databases in Access, and so on. At that time there were a few Open Source office suites that could read stuff from Microsoft Office, but they were not anywhere near as functional as they are today. Given the limited time I had to work full time, study, and write papers, I dual booted.

Once that work was complete, I went on my full quest to run alternative Open Source Software or other free software as often as possible.

Mandrake was one of the early desktop environments that I used once I purchased a newer system in 2001. My first test system was a Compaq Presario 5000 series desktop system. I figured that Compaq systems would work well with Linux because they were one of the leading systems at the time. Well, they worked with SOME distributions, but not with others. Worse, Compaq had their own proprietary backup scheme set up. Once I started to mess with disk partitions, their entire backup scheme was messed up. I found out that while Compaq desktop systems work with Linux software to a certain extent, there are easier ways.

I found that Dell Dimension 4100 desktop systems make a pretty good platform for testing software. Both Linux and BSD based systems tend to install and configure well on the 4100 line, at least my system.

Once I replaced the Compaq with the Dell, I started to carve up and partition my disk so that I could test and run many different systems. At one time, I think I maxed out with either twelve or thirteen systems. I had Windows 2000 Professional, ten different Linux test systems, and a version of QNX 6.1 residing in a directory on the Windows 2000 partition. It was a lot of fun testing out and running the different systems.

After a while, I removed Windows 2000 and used that primary partition to test out some BSD systems. After that, I decided to reduce the number of partitions somewhat, enlarge the size of the partitions that remained, set up a couple of partitions to hold data for things like Email, documents I wanted to save, and a specific partition for saving software kits, CD ISO images, and things of that nature.

Over the years, the size of the distributions have grown considerably. To jam twelve or more distributions on a single 40 GB disk is no longer practical, and in a few cases, not even possible. I'm now using two primary partitions and one extended partition, which in turn, contains eight logical partitions. One of the logical partitions is a swap partition, so I have seven other locical partitions usable for something. Six of them contain distinct Linux distributions, the remaining partition contains Email and Web browser data. One of the primary partitions now contains Windows XP Professional, and the other primary partition contains software kits and information that I want to save. Whenever I install or test a new system, I add the second primary partition and the last logical partition to my mount points so that I have access to my extra software, my Email, and my browser content.

In addition to testing many hard disk based systems, over the past two years I have developed an interest in testing Live CD systems. I especially like the ones that I can boot as Live CDs, then later install, if I wish, to disk. I also like the really small versions that I can load completely into RAMdisk. These small, RAMdisk versions actually run faster than any other system software I know of because the entire system, applications and all, run from memory rather than from disk.

ICHTHUS is one of the recent Debian Live CDs that I've had a chance to test out. ICHTHUS is a Greek Word for Fish, and is commonly used as a "Fishers of Men" symbol by Christians. I discovered that ICHTHUS has a few Bible study programs and links to various Christian resources prominently installed on the system. It also has a desktop background that contains a quote of scripture. I have found ICHTHUS to be a useful distribution, particularly when I am studying scripture myself. It also happens to be a really solid Debian-based system that has been constructed from components of the Knoppix project. Well done, I like it.

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