Saturday 5 January 2008

My Ubuntu Experiment

Over the years I have attempted to move from a windows based system to a linux based. I have always used linux based servers, which gave fantastic reliability and one had an uptime of over 400 days. You try keeping a windows system up for that length of time without a reboot! But, and here is the big but, linux desktops have never been as easy to use or as reliable. I think that is until now.

Ubuntu claims to bring linux to the masses. I am not shy of compiling my own kernel / drivers or apps, but on my desktop system I would like things to just work. So when I buy a new printer and plug it in I don't need to spend hours searching for a driver and then spend hours installing it. I have tried Ubuntu in the past but the latest version has an impressive hardware compatibility list. So here goes ...

I am trying Ubuntu out on my sony vaio VGN-SZ1HP laptop. It has a 80GB drive and I have upgraded to 1.5Gb RAM. I am using a 7Gb partition to install Ubuntu on to. Yeap you read that right. On my XP drive the c:\Windows folder alone takes up 9.2Gb. The install is pretty straight forward and most of my hardware is recognised straight out of the box. This includes my wireless card which manged to find my home network without trouble. Ubuntu >7.04 includes the ipw3945 wireless card driver and so auto configures for this card. Hotkeys such as brightness / volume and mute work.

The webcam requires an additional driver which at present I can't find.

It comes with openoffice installed as standard. Which is a free to use office suite from Sun Microsystems. This allows me to open all my old word / excel and powerpoint files. And having installed the NTFS drivers I can access my windows data drive partition from Ubuntu. So no problems there.

Printer was the next thing. I have a HPC6180 All-in-one. CUPS comes with the "HP PhotoSmart C6100 Foomatic/hpijs (recommended)" printer driver which works just fine with this printer. Tried printing from OpenOffice Writer and printing a full colour photo from GIMP - no problems.

Scanner from the printer required installation of Xsane and this scans just fine too.

So far so good...

At this point I thought I would play a DVD in the background whilst doing mundane tasks like securing the install and tweaking the firewall. I suppose all the good stuff had to end somewhere. Unfortunately, DVDs are scrambled and in theory only authorised persons can descramble them. This means Ubuntu can not include the drivers to decode commercial DVDs. A quick google search suggests that it is not necessarily an easy fix, so I'll leave that one for the mo.

At present I can't get hibernate to work either, so you'll hear about those when I have them figured out.

I am starting a count of the days until I have to boot up the windows partition again and I'll keep you posted ...

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