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Old 09-23-2007, 10:13 PM   #1
jasonparent
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math distro....? music distro...? small distro....?


hello,

i just managed to scrape together enough cash to buy a 'modern machine' and i'm trying to determine what i want to put on it. i decided to buy four decent sized hard drives instead of one massive one because i've envisioned splitting the machine into seperate operating systems that perform specific functions, as opposed to one large os that does everything. maybe i'm obsessive compulsive, i don't know.

although a linux newbie, i consider myself a windows EXPERT. to be blunt, i'm actually a mcse. so i know my way around a computer.

i'm remarkably dissapointed with vista and have given up on microsoft entirely. they did everything wrong with vista. *everything*.

we're also on a 32/64 bit cusp right now and i'd like to take the opportunity to take advantage of the full usage of my ram while i'm building this machine. but i'm not willing to get rid of windows entirely yet.

the way i'd like the system set up is as follows:

hard drive #1 - windows xp, 32 bit, with a very small distribution of linux running in a virtual machine for internet access. i plan on physically removing all ability for windows to connect to the internet natively to the point where i'm really stripping xp down to virtually nothing except the kernel, and removing all of the native apps in favour of open source alternatives. there's nothing wrong with doing that as long as i don't redistribute it, but it's really _not_ going to be windows anymore by the time i'm done with it. the question here is this: what's the best small distribution for this purpose? i plan on running it in virtual box and want it to have the following characteristics:

1) take up less than 100 MB of space as an iso on my host, as it will be launched as a live cd in my guest so as to eliminate the possibility of viral corruption altogether. i.e. it should not have multisession capability.
2) run it with 128-256 mb of virtual RAM.
3) browse the internet with a secure browser with few multimedia capabilities - is there a version of mozilla that is not compatible with java? turning it off is not good enough, i don't want it to work at all.
4) check email.
5) use p2p (torrent) software, ideally with ipv6 functionality.
6) a functional, significant and configurable firewall built into the OS.
7) build the distro myself using some kind of packaging system so as to remove things such as remote desktop functionality, lame games, etc.

i mean, the idea behind this is that i don't want xp to touch the internet at all. i don't want it be ABLE to touch the internet - if i just go through and remove all of the networking files [http.sys, etc], dismantle all of the services so that they're not functional and clean out the registry nicely then this should fix that problem. when i want to hit the web, i can just launch the virtual machine and connect that way. but i'd need the linux distro in the machine to be highly secure or i haven't accomplished anything. so, whhat's the best distro? i'm looking at puppy dog linux right now, this seems to have the capabilities i'm looking for. but, is there a better option out there? i've seen dsl and am not really impressed.

(in case you're wondering, i'd be transferring files in and out of the virtual machine using an encrypted usb key that will only be inserted during the time of transference, although even if i did manage to pick something up, it wouldn't be able to phone home because the functionality to do so would no longer exist within xp.)

hard drive #2: i'd like to get a distribution that is designed specifically for mathematical / scientific research on this drive, and i'd like it to install in 64 bit. i mean, i know where to find scilab, etc and how to install them on some other distro. but, i'd really love to see one that's just PACKED with great mathematical/scientific software, i'd love to have the distribution present the tools to me and not have me try and track them down. does one exist? with a package installer? because, i'd like to remove all network functionality from this drive, of course [there only needs to be one entry point], and get rid of any and all multimedia stuff, pretty guis, etc that will drag things down. is open solaris the way to go here? help! i can't find a damn thing! do i need to build it myself?

hard drive #3: the other thing i use my machine for is creating music. now, i've found musix but i haven't installed it yet. is this the best music creation/production/recording/etc distro? i guess that i'm looking for a full open source replacement for cubase/sonar that will work with my alesis firewire mixer [which has no linux drivers at all and no win64 drivers, which is why i'm sticking with 32bit xp]. i'd like it to be 64 bit and just crammed to the brim with all kinds of music software, no network functionality and little of anything else. is there a linux distro that can compete with osx86 on this front?

hard drive #4: i dunno. my initial plan was osx86/32 xp/64 vista/debian on the four drives but i've taken a large step back after actually playing around with vista and recognizing how shoddily put together it is, and how little progress they've made in important things [stability, security, etc] over the last five years in apparant deference to building a pretty gui. i'm thinking that maybe i only needed to get three drives and i'll use this for storage, unless omebody has a better idea.

wow, that was a ramble. thanks for reading it, and thanks to anybody who'll take the time to answer my questions.
 
Old 09-23-2007, 11:12 PM   #2
{BBI}Nexus{BBI}
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For a complete music distro there's Studio 64: http://64studio.com/ as to whether it supports your alesis, that I do not know.
 
Old 09-24-2007, 12:28 AM   #3
jasonparent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by {BBI}Nexus{BBI} View Post
For a complete music distro there's Studio 64: http://64studio.com/ as to whether it supports your alesis, that I do not know.
thanks, that is truly 64-bit - awesome. i'll have to experiment a bit to really see what works out the best, of course, but outside of ubuntu studio it's all i've been able to verify is truly 64 bit. thanks.

anyone have any feedback on the math distro, which was the real reason i posted the question...?
 
Old 09-24-2007, 12:59 AM   #4
Nylex
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Scientific Linux.
 
Old 09-24-2007, 01:42 AM   #5
jasonparent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nylex View Post
that would make sense should have searched for science instead of math....d'oh.

there's an odd issue on their server, in that the size of the dvd is 4.295 GB but it's only registering as 295 MB in IE. weird. but that's obviously not your fault. and i know i shouldn't be using IE, but this is a temporary image and i just didn't bother downloading firefox....i'll give it a shot in firefox to determine if it's their server or my web browser.

(it was the browser - downloaded fine in firefox. bizarre.)

anyone willing to weigh in on scientific linux vs. open solaris? i know that solaris doesn't command the attention in the math/physics community that it used to because the price of their hardware kind of killed them in the long run, but are there any other math/physics geeks out there that want to weigh in on what the better distribution is *today* as opposed to ten years ago, especially on 'regular' dual core x86/64 processors?

i guess i'm mostly interested in using the os to graphically emulate multiple dimensions, so i'd be looking at which one will perform better using regular intel x86/64 hardware. any programs written strictly in scilab/freemat/matlab/whatever shouldn't really perform too differently, i would think, the main difference would be in graphics processing. i must admit that i like the fact that solaris can't read my network card, but i'm not confident that it will make as efficient use of my cheapy nvidia gforce card as linux will.

thoughts?

Last edited by jasonparent; 09-24-2007 at 01:52 AM. Reason: addition
 
Old 09-24-2007, 03:06 AM   #6
salasi
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Quote:
because i've envisioned splitting the machine into seperate operating systems that perform specific functions, as opposed to one large os that does everything. maybe i'm obsessive compulsive, i don't know.
I think you are either over-ambitious (for a linux newbie, even though not a 'real' newbie) or obsessive compulsive. Sounds like the ideal qualifications for a job in security.

Quote:
3) browse the internet with a secure browser with few multimedia capabilities - is there a version of mozilla that is not compatible with java? turning it off is not good enough, i don't want it to work at all.
I'm not sure why you feel that turning java off is not good enough, but if you feel that security is one of your primary aims, I'd prefer Opera to anything else (actually, I prefer Opera to anything else, period, but if you look at security advisories and the record of fixing them promptly, my opinion is that Opera comes out ahead). If you are really concerned about java, don't install it. You'll get lots of messages that tell you that you need to install java, but you know what to do with them.

Quote:
6) a functional, significant and configurable firewall built into the OS.
I haven't really looked at the 'small' distros, but everything that I can think of has Iptables built in. While Iptables is the firewall, it may not be what you mean. It isn't a gui-type system for simple configuration of a firewall, its more like a simple programming language. (Actually, 'slightly primitive' might have been a better expression than 'simple'; it isn't sophisticated, but it isn't that easy to use either. Not vastly complex, but it does take some thinking about and unforgiving about syntax.)

There are gui systems for configuring firewalls (kmyfirewall, guarddog, guidedog and more), but these are just 'easy to use' tools for configuration. There are even systems like shorewall which attempt to give you an easier to use command language than the stripped to the metal Iptables. But in every case, the underlying firewall will be Iptables (unless you have something ancient that uses Ipchains) and the other thing will be a config tool. Your chosen distro probably won't come with your choice of config tool, but you can always install it. I found that the GUIs were sufficiently confusing that I was happier using Iptables, but YMMV.

I'm not sure that Scientific Linux will do much more for you than taking one of the big, do-everything, linux distros and adding in all of the packages that you are interested in. I would not describe it as a bad choice, just that you may be over-estimating the degree to which it gives you an advantage. On the other hand, it sounds as if you are largely interested because of the 'cool factor'. The other thing to be aware of is the extent to which 64 bit can be a disadvantage.

For proprietary code (say, flash, as an example) there certainly has been a lag in bringing out 64 bit versions. Now you sound like the kind of person who wouldn't want flash on their machine anyway, but while there is an easy cure for things for which the source is available, proprietary vendors can see 64 bit linux as a niche within a niche and not worth bothering about.

For more on scientific linux look here
https://www.scientificlinux.org/

and here
http://www.distrowatch.org/table.php...ion=scientific
 
Old 09-24-2007, 03:52 AM   #7
jasonparent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salasi View Post
I think you are either over-ambitious (for a linux newbie, even though not a 'real' newbie) or obsessive compulsive. Sounds like the ideal qualifications for a job in security.
heh. i'm a mathematician, actually. i'd use the tinfoil distribution, but it's not really functional from what i can tell.

Quote:
Originally Posted by salasi View Post
I'm not sure why you feel that turning java off is not good enough, but if you feel that security is one of your primary aims, I'd prefer Opera to anything else (actually, I prefer Opera to anything else, period, but if you look at security advisories and the record of fixing them promptly, my opinion is that Opera comes out ahead). If you are really concerned about java, don't install it. You'll get lots of messages that tell you that you need to install java, but you know what to do with them.
i don't generally frequent sites that use java, to be blunt, and it's not that hard to float through the web with java & cookies disabled, despite popular wisdom, if you're not remotely interested in 'social networking'.


Quote:
Originally Posted by salasi View Post
I haven't really looked at the 'small' distros, but everything that I can think of has Iptables built in. While Iptables is the firewall, it may not be what you mean. It isn't a gui-type system for simple configuration of a firewall, its more like a simple programming language. (Actually, 'slightly primitive' might have been a better expression than 'simple'; it isn't sophisticated, but it isn't that easy to use either. Not vastly complex, but it does take some thinking about and unforgiving about syntax.)

There are gui systems for configuring firewalls (kmyfirewall, guarddog, guidedog and more), but these are just 'easy to use' tools for configuration. There are even systems like shorewall which attempt to give you an easier to use command language than the stripped to the metal Iptables. But in every case, the underlying firewall will be Iptables (unless you have something ancient that uses Ipchains) and the other thing will be a config tool. Your chosen distro probably won't come with your choice of config tool, but you can always install it. I found that the GUIs were sufficiently confusing that I was happier using Iptables, but YMMV.
ok. good to know - makes life easier. obviously, a large departure from windows...

Quote:
I'm not sure that Scientific Linux will do much more for you than taking one of the big, do-everything, linux distros and adding in all of the packages that you are interested in.
and, see, that's kinda what i don't want. if this is the closest thing to what i want, so be it, i'll give it a try. but i do suspect that i'll be building my own, and possibly distributing it if i ever get that far.

4.5 GB does seem overly large for what i'm looking for, i'll give you that. i'll find out soon enough.

Quote:
I would not describe it as a bad choice, just that you may be over-estimating the degree to which it gives you an advantage. On the other hand, it sounds as if you are largely interested because of the 'cool factor'. The other thing to be aware of is the extent to which 64 bit can be a disadvantage.
well, i'm certainly not interested in the 'cool factor'. as a mathematician, i'm just looking for a distribution that is optimized for mathematical analysis. as a windows user for all of my life [the first pc i ever owned had windows 98 on it], and a math student the last several years, i've become rather reliant on an illegal copy of matlab. i'd like to migrate over to an open source solution with the new pc i just bought. i'm done school now and looking for employment opportunities in the field of statistical analysis; i like studying number theory and i have an interest in geometry and topology. i'd like a full toolbox and was hoping that somebody already built one for me. there's not anything more to it than that.

i'm probably the least 'cool' person you've ever spoken to...

(i mentioned i'm an mcse, but it's a certification that microsoft paid for while i was working tech support for them while i was in school and not my career path of choice. i don't work for them anymore. they didn't offer me a flight to india.)

Quote:
For proprietary code (say, flash, as an example) there certainly has been a lag in bringing out 64 bit versions. Now you sound like the kind of person who wouldn't want flash on their machine anyway, but while there is an easy cure for things for which the source is available, proprietary vendors can see 64 bit linux as a niche within a niche and not worth bothering about.
i do understand the issues with 64 bit; a similar issue exists in the windows world. microsoft tried to get around it by packaging 64 bit vista with almost a full mirror of a 32 bit os built in, so you can run 32 bit IE inside of 64 bit vista and still access yur favorite flash sites. not the best solution; but vista's a stop gap solution and i should probably be less critical of it. i think the make it or break it point for most long time ms users is probably going to come when vienna finally gets released, because they're not just behind linux/unix at this point, they've always been behind unix, but they're trailing the mac os [which, i know, is unix] now, which they were so far ahead of throughout most of the 90s.

i was hoping for some distributions that were legiimately optimized for 64 bit, not just ported up. and i do recognize that the vast majority of "64 bit software" is just recompiled 32 bit software, which could possibly end up rather unstable - yes, well aware. but it can't stay that way forever. and there ARE legitimate 64 bit programs out there. that music distro claims to be written only with optimized code, so i'll see how it installs.

but you are correct, i have no interest in flash at all and have at times gone to great lengths to lock my system down in order to prevent it from installing without my permission.

but thanks for the info anyways.
 
Old 09-24-2007, 04:09 AM   #8
jasonparent
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Originally Posted by salasi View Post
... proprietary vendors can see 64 bit linux as a niche within a niche and not worth bothering about.
i think i may call the 64 bit math distro, if i ever get that far, (nicheCniche)Cniche, as in (mathC64bit)Clinux. well, i'll mathml/latex it up a bit, those capital c's are pretty ugly. whaddya say, catchy?
 
Old 02-10-2008, 11:19 PM   #9
Person_1873
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question: can anything access the internet from within windows if you do that? i mean, how can the VM access the net if its host can't?
 
Old 02-10-2008, 11:24 PM   #10
Person_1873
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also i recomend getting a live CD of gentoo and just install what you want speciffically for each distro and then just leave it at that, you have a massive choice of software at install time, so that might be worth looking into
 
Old 02-10-2008, 11:41 PM   #11
Nylex
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