...then I'll give him Vista. I finally had the chance to install Ubuntu 8.04 on his laptop last night, wiping out an unhappy 64-bit Kubuntu 7.10 installation. His final words before I took the laptop were, "Just save my music." Typical teenager. So I backed up his music and then booted from a CD I'd burned earlier.
Wiping out the hard drive and completing a full install of Ubuntu (32-bit, this time around) only took about 20 minutes. Improvements, especially in boot time and resolution of the Nvidia flashing screen bug, were immediately apparent. This wasn't surprising, since Hardy Heron has been well-reviewed (and well-received) already.
As I started poking around a bit, though, I found that I couldn't enable any of the desktop effects. A quick check on the Nvidia drivers (not open source yet) showed that they were installed, enabled, but not in use. Restarting X, re-enabling, and the usual battery of troubleshooting didn't resolve the problem, but a minute of Googling suggested that enabling all of the software repositories (proprietary and 3rd-party are disabled by default) and installing the latest Nvidia packages would take care of things.
5 minutes of download/installation later, and desktop effects were up and running. The out-of-the-box effects should be enough to take care of the wow-factor initially for my son (they really are pretty cool - my favorite is the way the windows stretch when they're dragged across the screen). I took advantage of the software repositories and made sure that Flash and all of the bits of media playback he might want were installed as well. In all, it took an hour to fully install, test, troubleshoot, and configure Hardy Heron.
I have a distinct feeling that he's going to like this incarnation of his laptop a little better. It's decidedly snappier, power management has improved, it boots almost as quickly as my MacBook, and the functionality that he requested works without a hitch. I'll report back, as I also wiped out the Windows XP virtual machine that he was using previously. I hope he finds this to be a better experience; I have a Russian exchange student who recommended that he never go to Russia as his peers largely hate him for his dismissal of Linux. I'd hate to have his semester abroad possibilities limited by his old man's blog. A Vista Business DVD is waiting in the wings, though, just in case.
Interestingly, I have another install that is still running (I'm at almost 10 hours now). As much as I love new hardware, I have a very difficult time letting old computers die natural deaths. As many of us in Ed Tech are wont to do, I try to use Linux to squeeze the last little bits of life from a machine. Since another of my sons has handwriting that is even more dismal than mine, his teachers have requested that he begin typing all of his work.
He has no real fondness for computers; give him a game console with an Internet-connected machine somewhere nearby to look up walkthroughs or cheats and he's a happy guy. What he needs is a glorified AlphaSmart, so I salvaged an old Celeron-based Toshiba laptop with 64MB of RAM and a 6GB hard drive. I downloaded the alternate installation CD of Xubuntu (the alternate install is required for low-RAM machines and foregos a graphical installer), hoping that the Xfce interface would be lean enough to get the job done.
I'll let it run while I'm at school on Monday since my wife just loves it when I leave computers, CDs, and other bits of geekiness in our dining room. However, it seems to be hung up pretty badly on the "language-pack-en-base" module. It may be time for a really light distribution. Any feedback you have on minimal realistic hardware requirement for the various buntus would be much appreciated. Talk back below.