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New Laptop with kUbuntu Action

kubuntuMy new laptop finally arrived. It is a Dell Precision M90. It is an Intel Core Duo 2.16ghz machine with a beautiful 17″ WUXGA screen (1920×1200), DVDRW, bluetooth, and a Dell 1490 Wifi adapter.

Why am I specifying the adapter? Because, before deciding on this laptop, I did a little research into Linux compatability. I found that the Intel Wifi adapter that they try to push on you, is not well supported in Linux, whereas the Dell 1490 is a Broadcom chip, which using the ndiswrapper drivers, is supported.

I gave the laptop a day to “wow” me with Windows XP. I tried out all the features included, poked around at the software and configurations. I tried using Outlook, of which the company had configured for me, and wondered, “Why would anyone put up with this?”

I will admit, Microsoft has done a great job of making the web version of Outlook look exactly like the stand alone client. Though I get the feeling they made the client look/work like the web version. There were some things such as dropping down a menu item, and having it disappear when I moved to select something, that just made it unbearable to use.

But I digress. Since I didn’t have the time the first day to install Linux, I downloaded some Opensource apps that could make using Windows a bit more bearable. Namely: Firefox, OpenOffice, VLC, Gaim, PDFCreator, Spybot.

For the moment, my only “need” in Windows is MS Project, for which I have already described how I got that running under Linux.

Since I have been handing out copies of Kubuntu to friends that are interested in Linux, I must admit, I have not installed it myself. Its based on Debian, and I have loaded the Live CD and it was good enough for me.

My feeling is that the Ubuntu group has done a terrific job of taking some of the great Linux technologies in Debian and Gnome and KDE, and made an easy to use distribution. Why I chose Kubuntu vs Ubuntu as the distribution to hand out and recommend, is that Ubuntu defaults to Gnome, and Kubuntu defaults to KDE for the desktop environment. I have used both Gnome and KDE desktop environments, and I have found that KDE has come a long way as far as usability, and since that is the desktop I use regularly, I recommend it to others. (I also can help them if the need arises since I am so familiar with it)

After getting home I took one of my Kubuntu discs and booted it on the laptop. Although I have had to help some people resolve (or work through) some incompatibility issues, I was lucky to not have any that prevented me from operating.

So far the biggest issues with Linux on laptops is Wifi support. There are so many chip makers out there, and so many just won’t release the code for their drivers, or make Linux drivers, that it is difficult to get every one working. Infact, one of the most common ways to get the wifi drivers working, is to actually use what is called the ndiswrapper, which actually uses the Windows XP drivers (the .inf and .sys files) to work under Linux. That is what I had to do with the Dell M90.

The other issue a friend of mine had was with using a printer…granted he was trying to use a $20k multipurpose 200k page/day Canon network printer, by directly connecting to it with a usb cable. It does work in Windows, and from what I have read should work under Linux…but there is just something we are missing in debugging that problem.

With my boot up, I had network, bluetooth, sound, and full resolution video right from the start. I was content with this, so I started with a resize of my WinXP partition. This is actually in the Installer on the Desktop, but I wanted to make sure the resize wouldn’t trash the Windows partition, so I did it manually before installing.

I resized the 100gb NTFS parition using QTParted (gParted in Ubuntu), to 60gb. Clicked Apply Changes, and away it went. Less than a minute later it was done, so I rebooted to verify Windows was still there. It was, and after it running CHKDSK since the size changed, it rebooted again, and was perfectly fine.

Content with that, I installed Kubuntu, which surprisingly took only about 15 minutes.

Now all that is need is some broadband access, and I can install all the applications that I use on a regular basis. Sadly, by default Firefox is not installed (because it has Konqueror), OpenOffice is there, but many other apps I use aren’t. But then how much can they really put on a CD? Well actually, enough to get you up and running, with web tools, an OfficeSuite, CD/DVD burning, multimedia apps, etc…I guess I am just picky.