Friday, October 12, 2007

Six Days to Gutsy Gibbon

In 6 days, one of my favorite Linux distributions, Ubuntu Linux, releases its version 7.10, known as "Gutsy Gibbon". I have used Ubuntu for a couple of years, on and off, since it was in the Warty Warthog and Hoary Hedgehog releases. The team at Ubuntu has always done a good job of putting together a nice distro, and I am curious to see what is new in this latest release.

Ubuntu's stability and ease of use are demonstrated by the fact that Dell sells it pre-installed on some of its computers. I actually wish I had bought one of them, rather than this Gateway laptop I purchased at Best Buy last January. This machine comes with Microsoft's worst operating system since Windows Me, the ever bloated and slow Windows Vista. This operating system can take a powerful machine and give you a user experience akin to running Windows 95 on an underpowered 386SX from 15 years ago.

I bought this laptop (Gateway MT3705) with the idea of loading Linux onto it as my primary operating system, but it appears that Gateway has included components that only work well with Vista, at least for now. Notably there are problems getting the sound card and wireless 802.11g internal card to work with either Windows XP or Linux. (Actually, the wifi card doesn't even like Vista all that well). Some brave souls have used a release candidate of the ALSA Linux sound system, patched it, and have successfully gotten the sound to work. The wifi will likely require using NDISwrapper and a Windows driver to work in Linux. Then I have read instances of people having trouble with the CD/DVD drive with Linux. Yeah, the machine is basically a piece of junk. I have already had to replace the keyboard and power supply in the last 2 months.

I am getting close to getting up the courage to risk hosing the system by putting Linux on at least one partition, along with the necessary patches to get it running. This machine should run great if I can get it working. I still want to leave a Vista partition for those things I have to have that won't run on Linux, notably Sim City 4 and Adobe Photoshop.

I do have a desktop system running Linux (Fedora 7), but have no place to put it. Plus, I do like the portability of a laptop. I may actually buy a second hard drive for the laptop, swap it out, and install Linux on that. Then if it just won't work, I can put the Windows drive back in. Or maybe I'll just try an external USB drive for this project. Then if that works, I'll feel more confident in partitioning the internal drive for dual boot purposes.

So here are the distros I have decided to try out on this machine:
  • Ubuntu
  • Fedora
  • Linux Mint
  • PCLinuxOS
Its scary, but if I get it working, I should have a better performing machine running a stable, lean, and capable system software. I'll let you all know how it goes once I get into it.

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