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I read an article on slashdot about using Ubuntu linux. It was called “Thirty Days with Ubuntu.” The guy raved about how good it was. There is some really good information in the article also. Now, I’m a pretty good linux guy, installing and maintaining Red Hat Server, SUSE Enterprise Server, Fedora Core, and SUSE here at work. Linux works pretty good for work and as a server platform. But using it as a daily desktop system, well, it still has a ways to go. Anyhow, I decided that I would give Ubuntu a try for the first time last week. Talk about an easy install, easiest I’ve seen to date, and SUSE is a pretty easy install.  Put in the cd, boot the system, hit yes a few times. Boom, bam, done.

 I installed it originally on a Compaq Evo N800c laptop that was given to me at work. Not the fastest laptop in the world, but not too bad either. 2.6 ghz processor, 256mb memory, and a 40 gb hard drive. It’s a pretty middle of the road laptop at this point. It came with a hacked up Windows XP load on it with all kinds of friendly security modifications, complements of Northrop Grummans IT group. That just had to go. So, why not give Ubuntu a try, I could always load SLES or RHEL later if I didn’t like it.

After the default install the only issues I had with the hardware were with the built in wireless and 3d acceleration on the bloody ATI graphics card. Everything else seems to be working just fine. I immediately did a full update of the system and added a ton of software via the applications-update/remove panel on the menu. Of course the modifications necessary to get proper mp3 music to work and DVD playback working were things I needed to do by hand mainly, due to, wait for it, legality issues. Just because you buy a movie doesn’t mean you can legally watch it. Don’t even get me started on that.

Once I found the forums and threads dealing with my problems it was simply a matter of following along and tweaking to get it all working great. To fix the wireless I used the ubuntu forums and found the following on the setting up the compaq w200 wireless adapter. By following the instructions there it all worked like a champ. It was surprisingly easy to follow along and make it work.

Then I had to resolve the issues with the piss poor support on ATI’s graphics adapters. The compaq evo N800c uses the ATI Radeon Mobility M7 LW (Radeon Mobility 7500) chipset, which ATI doesn’t support under linux. Thanks for nothing ATI. I tried to get the 3d acceleration working a half dozen or so times, which caused 3 different scratch reinstalls of the laptop. FYI. Once you’ve hosed your X sessions badly enough, just reinstall, it’s quicker. I finally had enough and just gave up. Then in my poking around on the forums I ran across the following discussion and a script that would “automagically” set up the proper drivers and xorg.conf configurations for a bunch of different ATI products, including the P.O.S. Radeon Mobility. Ya right, sell me something else. But what the hell, I tried it, and I will be shot! It worked perfect! I now have full 3d acceleration. I immediately followed that up with an install of Beryl. Which went pretty smoothly also.

If you haven’t heard of Beryl, well, you need to go check it out. It’s an add on to the standard desktop that adds some pretty serious eye candy. It’s still in Beta, and still has a few quirks and issues, but, wow, I’m impressed.

Only other issues I’ve had are that my 20gb Ipod wasn’t recognized in usb port 0, as soon as I plugged it into port 1, boom, there it was.

So, now that I’ve been running Ubuntu for a few days, I’m still very impressed with their distro. Their development team has done a pretty nice job. Now that I worked out some of the kinks on the laptop I did a scratch install on my home system. Hopefully the only use I will have for the Windows XP partition will be for games. Game support under linux still sucks. But what the hey. I should use XP for something, and it is a good gaming OS.


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March 2007
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