This is the post I promised a few days ago about my linux/BSD/etc. quandary.
I have an old computer that is a handmedown from some friends who moved out of town and had (good for them!) bought an iMac. It's 2001 vintage PC, branded HP. Say, 512 megs of ram, and a 1.8 ghz Pentium 4. In fact, it's a pretty spiffy machine, for it's day. I often think of PCs as being uniformly lackluster, but the truth is that I never had an overcharged machine. For instance, this PC has firewire. Firewire! I'm not sure that they're putting firewire in PCs these days.
In any case, while the computer isn't ultra spiffy by today's standards, it's not bad. Well, it's not bad aside from the fact that Windows has... done what Windows does best: break, and crumble under the pressure of every day use. I mean the people I know (ok person) I know that uses windows with any consistency reinstalls the operating system with a degree of regularity that I find almost maddening (Hi C.!).
Anyway, I think if I install a more... lightweight operating system, something unix-y. And this post is half, me thinking out loud, and half me asking you all for help and opinions on the subject.
I might be able to put this computer to serious work doing something around here. One distinct possibility is that I'll get it ready for my mother to use as her home computer, running mostly web things--email, surfing, IM--and what not. Also being able to run a few things in Wine might help her workflow out. That strikes me as being the perfect use for a straight up ubuntu install. I've also thought about Xubuntu, because it seems like it's pretty suited to this kind of thing (reviving an older computer that doesn't need to do any serious heavy lifting.)
The second thing I'm thinking of doing with this computer is to find some way of getting it to work (including boot up and all) without needing a keyboard/video/etc. So basically a server set up. I figure it would be the most efficient to be able to access it over the network from the computer that I actually use on a day to day basis. Mostly I'd use it for things like file serving, and backup, but maybe bit torrent and the like as well. Ubuntu would probably work ok for this (and I did grab a copy of the server version as well, if I want to try this. I also thought that trying to run FreeBSD might be sort of fun. I mean: a shell is a shell (I hear freeBSD doesn't come stock with bash, sigh.) and you know that might be fun. And if I don't get into graduate school, having unix experience, might be productive.
So I guess, your thoughts on Ubuntu flavors, or I suppose other linux distributions, and also, on FreeBSD if anyone out there in Internet land has experience, it would be great to hear from you on that.
Talk to you soon!
Onward and Upward!