An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

Summary: I am impressed. Very, very impressed.I mentioned last week that I had loaded Ubuntu 8.

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TOPICS: Linux
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I am impressed. Very, very impressed.

I mentioned last week that I had loaded Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) on my older "test" laptop, a Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S2110. This hardly seemed like a "fair test" to me, because it is a laptop (I have not had good experiences with Linux on laptops before), and especially because it has an AMD Turion 64 CPU (I would prefer to be "conservative" and stick to Intel-based systems for this kind of test). I was surprised to find that Ubuntu loaded very quickly (less than an hour), and seemed to run just fine, so I decided to continue working with it, testing various parts of it, to see how far they have come. After a week, I would say that the answer is that they have come a long, long way!

It appeared to have recognized almost all of the hardware in the laptop, and had loaded and configured drivers for it. Of course, the display, keyboard and mouse worked; the ethernet worked, and was correctly configured for DHCP; the USB ports worked - when I plugged in a USB disk it was recognized and mounted, and when I plugged in a USB mouse (Logitech VX Nano) it was recognized and worked immediately. I found the hardware management window, and according to that, there were only a few "problems" - the built-in softmodem required a proprietary driver which had not been loaded automatically, the Atheros WiFi adapter also required one, but it had been loaded (don't ask me what the difference was), and the ATI display adapter had a proprietary driver available, but it seemed to be running just fine on whatever stock Ubuntu driver it had loaded.

I made a few checks and installations to get my "normal environment" installed. Ubuntu came with Firefox 2.0.0.14 installed, but I decided to upgrade that to Firefox 3 RC1. It also had "Evolution Mail" installed, but I have no desire to have to learn yet another mail client, and to have to switch back and forth from that to Thunderbird on my Windows laptop, so I just downloaded and installed Thunderbird, no problem. Both of those went so easily that I decided to add Opera to the mix; their 9.5 beta 2 release installed and works just fine, and of course includes my favorite feature, "Speed Dial".

Ubuntu has Open Office installed, so I transferred a few of my MS Office files, and they opened just fine - there were some formatting differences and such, but nothing more than is typical when changing versions of MS Office. I installed Gizmo5, and it came right up; unfortunately ooVoo and SightSpeed don't have Linux versions, and I'm not anxious to install the Skype rubbish, so that can wait. This was starting to look pretty good!

Next I wanted to see if the WiFi connection would work with my home network. After a couple of false starts, because I was trying to make it much more complicated than it needed to be, I discovered the System/Administration/Network window, where I was able to enter the SSID and WPA2 key, and the connection came right up! You could have knocked me down with a feather! Now it was getting seriously interesting, I decided that I needed to see exactly what I could or could net get going for my daily work... wouldn't it be nice if I could just use this Ubuntu laptop instead of Windows?

I installed the latest Citrix Presentation Server Client, and it not only went very smoothly and works just fine, it actually works better than the same software on my Windows laptop. That one has a nasty habit of spontaneously disconnecting, while the Linux version stays solid as a rock all day long. So I have now moved that part of my work to the Ubuntu system permanently.

Next I installed Kermit, because I needed access to the serial port to configure some network terminal servers. By then I had reached the point that I was no longer surprised that it installed and worked just fine. As long as I had that installed, I might as well check the modem, so I activated the proprietary driver (Ubuntu made me feel very guilty about doing that), and it worked just fine as well.

Since I am doing a lot of work on that system now, I decided that I needed a decent keyboard. I dragged out an old Microsoft Natural keyboard, with a PS/2 connection... shut down, plugged in, boot up... and the blasted thing worked! Not only that, but when I pressed the volume up/down buttons, Ubuntu changed the speaker volume! Good heavens! So now I have it running, with the port replicator connected, the laptop keyboard and touchpad work, a USB mouse works, and a PS/2 keyboard works.

I am now at the point that if I could get my Swisscom Unlimited Data card (Sierra Wireless AirCard 880) to work, I would switch over to Ubuntu completely, and only use the Windows laptop in the rare cases where I needed something specific. I'm not giving up hope on that yet, either, I have seen several articles on the net claiming that people have gotten that working.

jw 30/5/2008

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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6 comments
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  • An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

    wow, the one problem Windows competitors always had is that you had to search around for device drivers, if Ubutu can solve it this easily, they'll have a lot of success!
    harpless
  • An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

    Just have to agree. Linux, and Ubuntu in particular, just work. However, I was surprised that took you nearly an hour to install, I did a net install, i.e. download and install, in less than an hour on my Intel core duo 2.0 laptop.

    Compared to Windows (XP), the laptop runs on steroids using Ubuntu. Boots up in a fraction of the time.

    Just wish I could get my Epsom colour laser printer to work!
    The Former Moley
  • An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

    Great stuff I also have configured dual boot Ubuntu and have done video tutorials and how to's for Ubuntu here:
    pcwizkid.blogspot.com/2007/12/ubuntu-gutsy-gibbon-710-vs-osx-leopard.html

    Cheers
    PCWizKid
    pcwizkid.tech.talk@...
  • An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

    I currently use Xubuntu 8.04 LTS on my rather old Laptop, I have no problems whatsoever, not even with my Wireless USB Adaptor, perhaps you should have tried Xubuntu or even another one of the Ubuntu derivatives, Kubuntu.
    brambling21
  • An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

    Thanks to all for reading and commenting.

    As Harpless said, one of the biggest problems that Windows competitors have had is device support - and as we all know only too well, that includes Windows Vista. I realize that I could have tried Kubuntu, or Xubuntu, or one of the other Linux flavors, but that then puts me right back in the "operating system for geeks and hackers" environment, doesn't it? If Ubuntu, or any other flavor of Linux, wants to make any serious headway in the general market against Windows, it has to be plug-and-play for all of the common hardware and peripherals. That is one reason I am so impressed with this release of Ubuntu - it has gone much further in that direction than anything I have tried before.
    j.a.watson@...
  • An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

    It's all rather wonderful, especially if you've struggled with Linux and device drivers in the past. There's still some way to go... but I switched to Ubuntu for nearly everything around a year ago, and I really, really don't miss Windows.

    I think the very best part about it is that it's so remarkably untouched by marketing nonsense. When you think of the sheer number of annoyances caused by software that's trying to get money out of you in some way or another, the fact that Linux just works _for_ you becomes incredibly refreshing.

    rupert.goodwins@...