I don’t know why, but I’ve been feeling like using Linux. I tried to satisfy this with Parallels on my Macbook, but it just wasn’t the same. I went over to my hallowed Gateway Mx3215 laptop, about which I’ve blogged a few times over the last couple years. Fired up the ubuntu. It worked OK. Just like before. Thought I’d try upgrading it to the latest, almost-ready-for-prime-time release, codenamed “Feisty Fawn.” A lot of important things totally stopped working. I’d completely broken it.
OK, what then? Well, this was an opportunity. I could try any linux distribution on it I wanted! Most of my work is done on the macbook so keeping it operational for that purpose wasn’t as important as it once had been. I tried the “SimplyMEPIS” livecd.
Eh. All KDE. I’m not ready to go there. I’d hoped it would do something spiffy like autodetect the widescreen monitor and maybe make the builtin wifi work out of the box. It decidedly did not. Ah well.
Feeling saucy, I installed Debian. I used to love Debian and grew to hate it. I got Debian installed, but could not after considerable wrestling get it to use my widescreen (1280×768) monitor. The screen looked terrible at 1024×768 all stretched out. Yucko. Turns out Debian still hates me. OK.
I reinstalled Ubuntu 6.10, codenamed “Edgy Eft.”
Time to make things work. To make the widescreen work, I just edited the little file that tells it what resolution to use and changed it to the one I wanted. A half minute’s work. I later found out it could have been done even more automagically than that.
Wifi: I tried to make that work using “ndiswrapper” to sneakily use the proprietary windows wifi driver. It didn’t work at first. I googled on the error it gave me and came up with this page, which told me I needed to use a different version of ndiswrapper. Installed it and all was well. Neat!
Now, the serious challenge: getting it to take advantage of the UniChrome Pro graphics card in this beast. I mean, it worked out of the box, but it didn’t do 3d or render things fast or anything like that. I found this lovely page which told me how to compile and install a special open source driver which takes advantage of the card, and it actually worked. Soon I was running 3D screensavers and stuff gloriously fast and smoothly.
Final step: let’s try “suspend” and “hibernate,” which had been the banes of my existence before with laptops and linux in general, and this laptop in particular.
Both worked without any effort whatsoever on my part. Just clicked on the buttons.
All told it wasn’t what you’d call easy — I had wrestled with ubuntu on this laptop before, so I came forearmed with a lot of knowledge about it — but it was easier than it ever had been for me. This is not a really high-end laptop and a lot of the hardware involved isn’t stuff that has been well supported by Linux in the past. Suspend and hibernate functionality in particular are new technology where the hardware does not always follow the specs very well so it’s hard for linux developers to address it.
And now I’ve got this linux laptop where everything works. Everything. Works well. Wow.
I might have to use this thing for work for a while, just for fun.