An Impressive Week with Ubuntu

I am impressed. Very, very impressed.I mentioned last week that I had loaded Ubuntu 8.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

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 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

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