Author Topic: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?  (Read 6573 times)

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Offline robdejonge

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Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« on: October 29, 2021, 03:49:23 am »
A novice but lucky enough to have space for a dedicated bench to play on, I am trying to build one up. One of the things I am trying to figure out is what kind of operating system I should run on my bench computer. I use this system to read web pages and PDF files, simple serial connections and to connect test gear to. For example, a logic analyzer, multimeter and oscilloscope.

This is a general question, not one specific to my current gear as not everything I plan to hook up has been acquired yet.

I have not used Windows since XP, and would prefer to use Linux on the bench. But if your experience is that most devices don't connect well with Linux software, or perhaps there are many little tools out there written for Windows that you think make that the preferred operating system, then I'd love to understand the details.

Thanks very much for your feedback.
 

Online james_s

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2021, 04:54:03 am »
I use Linux on the laptop I use on my workbench, it has done everything I need it to do. Whether it's viable for you depends on what software you need to run.
 

Offline DW1961

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2021, 04:54:21 am »
A novice but lucky enough to have space for a dedicated bench to play on, I am trying to build one up. One of the things I am trying to figure out is what kind of operating system I should run on my bench computer. I use this system to read web pages and PDF files, simple serial connections and to connect test gear to. For example, a logic analyzer, multimeter and oscilloscope.

This is a general question, not one specific to my current gear as not everything I plan to hook up has been acquired yet.

I have not used Windows since XP, and would prefer to use Linux on the bench. But if your experience is that most devices don't connect well with Linux software, or perhaps there are many little tools out there written for Windows that you think make that the preferred operating system, then I'd love to understand the details.

Thanks very much for your feedback.

What I would do is use both! You can dual boot Linux and Win 10 really easy. Don't buy Windows. The Win 10 license is now free. The only difference between a registered Win 10 and a non-registered Win 10 is that you can't "personalize" your desktop. That, and Windows will have a translucent watermark in the lower right hand side that says "unregistered." You can get rid of that using a DWORD in the registry. The only thing I personalize in Windows is the background, which I make black. You can still do that even with the unregistered Windows by simply clicking a picture and choosing "set as background image." You just can't set it in the personalization area. (The unregistered Windows never stops working.)

I actually prefer the unregistered version because I don't ever have to worry about registration bullshit with MS. When you install it, just make sure to always choose no to everything, like logging in before you install it, and install it disconnected from the internet. Now it's just like XP as far as installation goes.
 
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Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2021, 05:33:05 am »
Thanks for your recommendation.

The laptop I currently run Debian on, does not have sufficient resources to run Windows as well. So, if I were to require Windows then I’m looking for a new bench computer.

This is the main reason of asking this question. Is it worth spending a couple of hundred euros/pounds/dollars to add Windows? I’d prefer not to spend that money, but if an overwhelming number of replies say Windows must be present and Linux only won’t suffice, well then I guess I starting saving ;-)
 

Offline Doctorandus_P

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2021, 05:50:42 am »
The last windows version I ran was probably windows 2000.
Then, about 8 years ago my pc was quite old and I got a new one out of an enheritance.
It booted with some weird blue tiles of death and I had no apetite of figuering out how that worked or accept to get something like that shoved down my throat.

So that was the last drop and I switched to Linux completely.
All the standard software (web browsers, office, VLC player and many more) run just fine from Linux.

But unfortunately Linux still is quite small on the desktop, and you've got a lot less choice for software.
For example, there are some 50+ different programs to design PCB's, but just a handful that run on Linux. Personally I'm very happy with KiCad.

A lot of the more "exotic" hardware such as programmers, oscilloscopes and other test and measurements stuff has much less or no support at all on Linux. The software for Siglent scopes runs in a web browser and should work with any OS. I'm not sure about Rigol. The USB scopes from Picotech also have llinux support.

The default software for a popular programmer such as the TL866 does not work with Linux (Maybe it runs with "Wine" but I do not have that programmer, I have not tried it). There is some simpler software that can do something with this programmer and that does run with Linux.

I also quite like the cheap (EUR10) Logic analysers (based on Cypress CY7C68013A) and Sigrok / Pulseview. These are great for debugging microcontroller firmware.

So in the end, you can get along quite well with Linux only if you choose your test gear appropriatly, but there is a lot of testgear that's windoze only, but some of that part may still run fine with Wine.

If I was forced to run Windoze software now, I would probably use some virtualization software for Linux and run some kind of old windoze version in it, but without any access to Internet.

« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 05:53:03 am by Doctorandus_P »
 

Offline Ed.Kloonk

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2021, 08:18:54 am »
I use this system to read web pages and PDF files, simple serial connections and to connect test gear to. For example, a logic analyzer, multimeter and oscilloscope.

Consider running Linux and spend the saved money on a stand-alone oscilloscope with logic analyser and a couple of multimeters.
Expert texpert choking smoker. I am the eggman.
 

Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2021, 08:34:36 am »
Personally I'm very happy with KiCad.

For stuff like KiCad, I'd use my main workstation which is a Mac. It has much bigger screen and is more convenient for this sort of thing. My bench computer really is only for interfacing with tools and circuits. So yeah, run stuff that connected to the 'exotic hardware' you mention.

I also quite like the cheap (EUR10) Logic analysers (based on Cypress CY7C68013A) and Sigrok / Pulseview. These are great for debugging microcontroller firmware.

An example of the exotic hardware that I actually own. Works really well as you said.

If I was forced to run Windoze software now, I would probably use some virtualization software for Linux and run some kind of old windoze version in it, but without any access to Internet.

The computer on my bench is an old Core 2 Duo laptop with 8GB RAM and an SSD. It is blazing fast running Debian and honestly I'm super happy with that. I also thought to run Windows inside a virtual machine, but when trying that using VirtualBox and Windows 10 a few days ago, the vm was unusably slow. So my only option is to upgrade my bench computer to allow just as you suggest. I'm just not sure its worth the associated expense.

Thanks for your input!!
 

Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2021, 08:37:45 am »
Consider running Linux and spend the saved money on a stand-alone oscilloscope with logic analyser and a couple of multimeters.

I may just do that, although such an expensive purchase (Rigol has a sub-$1000 model) is perhaps a few years into the future. Thanks for the recommendation!
 
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Offline RoGeorge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2021, 08:56:49 am »
I use this system to read web pages and PDF files, simple serial connections and to connect test gear to. For example, a logic analyzer, multimeter and oscilloscope.
...
I have not used Windows since XP, and would prefer to use Linux on the bench. But if your experience is that most devices don't connect well with Linux software, or perhaps there are many little tools out there written for Windows that you think make that the preferred operating system, then I'd love to understand the details.

I ditched Windows a few years ago.  Using Linux since then and didn't miss anything from Windows.  Dev boards (over USB), all the SCPI instruments like oscilloscope, generator and such (using LAN when it comes to remote control them), DMM that has an optical data cable (over RS232 serial port), programs for electronic related tasks, all working on Linux.

Some programs are not open source and are distributed for Windows only, but these are working under Linux, too, when run with 'mono' or 'wine'.  For example I am running LTspice on Linux (with 'wine').  Once you installed 'wine', most of the .exe programs or installers just run/install by simply clicking on them.

As a funny side of the story, only a few days ago I've run out of curiosity a program written 17 years ago compiled with VB5 and using the serial port (with a Windows OCX from back then), and it still works.  The real question is if that 17 years old VB5 program would still work on today's Windows 10.  :)
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/programming/python-becomes-the-most-popular-language/msg3763715/#msg3763715

Then, if you really need something that doesn't work with wine, you can use VirtualBox or other similar software, and create as many Windows virtual machines as you want, you can even run different types of Windows VM in the same time if you need to, snapshot them, roll back, etc.  I only did that for a few very fluffy compilers/toolchains specific to a certain devboard from the Win98/XP era.  If I were to have the latest Win10, that old software wouldn't work without a virtual machine anyway (I've tried).

Right now I'm using Kubuntu 20.04 LTS, but almost any other Linux should work as well.  I don't miss Windows, and I wouldn't want to switch to Windows again.  The only one that I really enjoyed using was windows XP.  Win7 was OK-ish but not looking good IMO, then Win10 was unbearable.

I'm grateful to Win10 for convincing me to abandon Windows.  ;D
« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 09:08:25 am by RoGeorge »
 

Offline ledtester

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2021, 09:09:14 am »
...
The default software for a popular programmer such as the TL866 does not work with Linux (Maybe it runs with "Wine" but I do not have that programmer, I have not tried it). There is some simpler software that can do something with this programmer and that does run with Linux.
...

The TL866 software seems to work with Wine - although there are some extra setup steps:

https://reversatronics.blogspot.com/2016/12/tl866-minipro-under-linux.html

https://nerdyelectronics.com/install-tl866-ii-programmers-software-xgpro-on-a-linux-machine/

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/fpga/tl866cs-on-linux-wine/

The last link contains a reference to this command line program to control the TL866xx series of programmers:

https://gitlab.com/DavidGriffith/minipro/
« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 09:46:33 am by ledtester »
 

Online capt bullshot

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2021, 09:29:47 am »
Well, that depends ...

As others said, and from my own experience, one doesn't need Wiindows anymore.
All of the stuff I'm doing works on Debian and / or Ubuntu, sometimes one has a struggle with wine for a specialized tool that isn't offered natively for Linux.

Many instrument control software apparently doesn't exist for native Linux, that's a thing that obviously influences my choice of tools.
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Offline theHWcave

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2021, 10:12:33 am »
I am using Linux exclusively for my bench and I don't think I have ever used any interface software that came with an instrument. I generally write little Python scripts that work just fine because most of what I do would be running scripts anyway and collecting data in CSV format.  For analysis and graphical representation, I prefer to use standard spreadsheets (LibreOffice) or Octave.  By luck I found that most of my instruments support standard interfaces, GPIB, SCPI, Modbus, and its easy to use those under Linux. Good manufacturer publish their protocols, for example Brymen for its BM869s. There are some more exotic protocols were I had to consult the information compiled by the good folks at sigrok https://www.sigrok.org/ to write my own version. The interface to the Ruideng TC66 USB tester was one of these. Anyway, the cross-platform sigrok system may be an alternative if you don't want to program anything yourself...  Checkout the impressive list of devices they already support.  Other electronics-related software I am using under Linux is KICAD
 

Offline HB9EVI

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2021, 10:21:56 am »
for me the last Win was Win2k as well, about 20y ago; ever since I use Debian, in both the server and client sphere; it does everything I need.
Though I have a VM with a Win10 for very hard cases of e.g. firmware updates or other proprietary crap, most of the time I just start it up to get the newest updates; I never seriously work on it.
 

Offline CharlotteSwiss

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2021, 11:36:09 am »
I have always used windows (now 8.1, version 10 tried but abandoned); I also tried linux, but honestly .. I don't see a single slight advantage! Indeed only disadvantages. I understand that a lot of people are repulsive to Microsoft, but they should get over it.
 
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Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2021, 11:43:04 am »
@CharlotteSwiss: This thread was posted not to ask which operating system sucks and which is awesome. It’s specifically about seeing if I can run a bench system using Linux on outdated hardware or if Windows is a must.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 11:53:02 am by robdejonge »
 

Offline CharlotteSwiss

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2021, 11:54:47 am »
some interventions tend to snub windows as if it were a freak: it remains the most used operating system. I also have an old laptop (early 2000), but with a lite version of windows 7 it goes that is a marvel. Of course I certainly don't put win10 ... I have dual boot with linux too, but I prefer the windows lite.
 

Offline HB9EVI

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2021, 11:57:16 am »
I have always used windows (now 8.1, version 10 tried but abandoned); I also tried linux, but honestly .. I don't see a single slight advantage! Indeed only disadvantages. I understand that a lot of people are repulsive to Microsoft, but they should get over it.

Sorry, Charlotte, this is just a very narrow minded statement not backed with any knowledge about the matter.
I don't intend to go into deep with FOSS now, but Microsoft is a defacto monopoly owner and uses its power shamelessly and relentlessly; it is notorious about collaborating with any kind of secret authorities like NSA, GCHQ and others while abusing the trust of the majority of honest, law abiding users. Windows is inherently insecure, security breaches and bugs are kept secret to be abused not only by criminals but again by authorities like the NSA, Windows is nothing but a black-box.

Sorry, but you obviously just don't know what you're talking about!
 
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Offline CharlotteSwiss

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2021, 12:04:40 pm »
Ok I'm ignorant; but I prefer to use windows, without complicating my life with linux (which I still have).
 

Offline AndrewBCN

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2021, 12:12:40 pm »
Actually your question really is: "Should I buy a new laptop to run Windows 10 for use on my workbench, or will my old Debian laptop be fine?"

As indicated by james_s, it entirely "depends on what software you need to run." So only you can answer your own question.

If you still want some advice, please list the software packages you intend to use for your electronics work, and your Debian laptop characteristics.
 

Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2021, 12:20:46 pm »
@AndrewBCN: I stated before it was a general question. And I’ve seen sufficient general answers to feel comfortable sticking with what I have running right now.

@theHWcave: had *just* watched your TC66 video, and right away ordered one. Thanks for your thoughts above and also thanks for your awesome and very informative videos!!!

Thanks everyone for the suggestions and comments!
« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 12:22:26 pm by robdejonge »
 

Offline bitwelder

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #20 on: October 29, 2021, 01:10:39 pm »
If you are more familiar with Linux, I'd say that you should keep it as your primary OS.
However, I would suggest also to have a computer capable to run (at least occasionally) some virtual machine with e.g. VirtualBox, where you install a Windows (for Windows-only applications) or other customized Linux environments for when you don't want to mess up too much with your primary OS.
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #21 on: October 29, 2021, 01:59:47 pm »
Interesting that most of the Linux works answers include an attack on Windows without comment from anyone, but a pro Windows comment gets attacked as off topic.

On the original question, I am not personally aware pf any task that you won't be able to do under Linux, and since that is the OS you are already comfortable with, definitely stick with it.
 
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Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #22 on: October 29, 2021, 02:05:56 pm »
@CatalinaWOW: none of the comments re. Windows before comment #15 were towards users needing to “get over it”, but simply stated a move from Windows to Linux. Not sure why that’s “interesting”, but there ya go.

Thanks for your recommendation nonetheless!
 

Offline robdejonge

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #23 on: October 29, 2021, 02:22:11 pm »
Alright. This thread has gone to shit. I’ve reported it to the mods.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 02:23:50 pm by robdejonge »
 

Offline CharlotteSwiss

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Re: Bench computer: Linux workable, or need Windows?
« Reply #24 on: October 29, 2021, 02:53:16 pm »
PKTKS: please me to delete your last post! The message you quoted, I then deleted it. The author of the thread does not want OT, and so I respect his decision.
Thanks
 


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