Thursday, July 19, 2007

Linux is easier than Windows, hands down

It all started a few weeks back when my wife and I decided to get her a new laptop. It was also conveniently close to her July 14th birthday and Dell had a huge campaign going in the newspapers. Dell had just started selling laptops with various Linuxes preinstalled, and Ubuntu was the environment of choice, so I felt reasonably sure that the machine would be usable even if the Linux preinstalled option is not available in Norway yet. After all, our daughter had essentially no trouble at all getting her laptop (a sleek little LG number) going with Ubuntu earlier this year.

So I ended up clicking my way on to the Dell web site and ordering an Inspiron 1520 with 1440x900 resolution and the Ruby Red option (actually it's just the lid, but it does look distinctive).

As luck and Dell's suppliers would have it, the color added some time to the delivery. The machine apparently shipped earlier than expected, and arrived here last Monday afternoon, most likely very close to when the plane with my wife and daughter touched down at Madeira.

I had already burned a 7.04 desktop iso to CD and booted from that. As with anything that comes with Microsoft preinstalled, you need to be really careful to hit the right key at the right moment unless you want to do battle with the Microsoft installer.

Eventually I succeeded, though, the thing booted, went into the traditional graphic Ubuntu startup and dropped me to a shell. Odd. Fortunately from my OpenBSD laptop I was able to find this ubuntuforums.org post which explains in some detail what needs to be done. In particular, the piece about how to fix the graphics driver is quite instructive.

Getting things done right when the graphics card and the wireless network card both need proprietary drivers loaded is a little puzzling when the system is supposed to be all graphic and your default network is wireless, but by following the instructions from the forum I made it eventually.

The short version is, in addition to the oddities involved in getting proprietary drivers the machine requires, the Feisty installer kernel for some reason does not have the proper support for the SATA controller in this Dell model.

Going back to the earlier version lets you do a clean upgrade, and to get all the bits working you need to have both the universe and the multiverse repositories in your package manager's configuration. Not hard for somebody who has not yet recycled all the grey cells with Debian etched into them, just a bit tedious, and even though all steps of the process was accompanied by sensible messages from the system, our only live Ethernet is in the attic where the servers live.

Anyway by elevenish in the evening I had the system all installed with native resolution and 32 bit color depth, on the wireless network and Just Working. The process took significantly less time than putting Windows from restore CDs back on the system it came with.

Yet another evening spent on other things than I had intended (such as writing those crucial bits of the book), but seriously folks, you must never miss an opportunity to make your wife happy.

With that out of the way, I can state with even more confidence:

Linux is easier and more user friendly than Windows.

By now I consider that to be documented beyond question.

But for the things I care about, I really prefer OpenBSD or FreeBSD.

Updates: The spamtrap is growing by a few new addresses a day. I sometimes spot them flying by in the xterm where my spamd log is tail -f'd, sometimes I grep them out of the mail server's logs. Some patterns are emerging, but more later when I have more data.

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