I've run into a rather strange and interesting side-effect this evening. Because of the recent demise of my beloved HP 2133 Mini-Note WXGA netbook (more about that another time), I have been switching over to the other 2133, a WSVGA model. The only difference is that the WXGA model had a 1280x768 screen resolution, while the WSVGA has 1024x600, much more typical for a netbook. To my surprise, I am finding that for ordinary use I actually prefer the lower resolution screen because I find it easier on the eyes. I suppose I have been rather a "screen resolution snob" about this until now, and I didn't really give the WSVGA a chance, so this is a pleasant discovery.
Anyway, on to the side-effect. I have been loading various Linux distributions on it, with varying degrees of success. The primary problem is always the Broadcom 4312 WiFi adapter, which is no surprise - Broadcom wireless adapters are notorious on Linux (perhaps that will change now that Broadcom has released the source code of their proprietary Linux driver). The secondary problem is the VIA Chrome9 graphic adapter, but actually the openchrome driver has become good enough for average use, and almost all the distributions either include it in their base installation, or have it in a package repository somewhere.
These two problems intersected when I loaded Fedora 14. When I booted after installation, Fedora seemed to have made a poor decision about the screen size or resolution, because the fonts it was using were much too large. If I reduced all the default fonts from 10-point to 8-point it was not too bad, but this is the only distribution I have to do this with. PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Mint and openSuSE all seem to get the default font size right. Strange... then today, I got around to installing the broadcom-wl wireless driver from the Fedora Unity and rpmFusion web sites, and to my surprise when I rebooted after installation, the font sizes looked much better! If anything, they were too small because I had reduced them, but when I set them back to 10-point, it looked just fine, like the other distributions looked. Now, why would the font sizes change as a result of installing a wifi driver? Very strange, and rather unlikely.
Unfortunately, there are significant problems with Fedora 14 when using the broadcom-wl driver and the bcm4312 WiFi adapter, causing it to hang the entire system soon after booting every time. Ugh. So, I uninstalled the broadcom-wl driver... rebooted... and the fonts were back to looking too large!?!?!? Wow, so it really was installing the Broadcom driver that had "fixed" that? Well, I'm either a huge skeptic or a slow learner, because I still didn't really believe that. So this evening I have repeated the whole thing again, and it's true. Install the broadcom-wl driver, and the fonts look ok, but the system hangs. Remove that driver, and the fonts look too large, but the system doesn't hang. Ugh. I hate this kind of problem.
Oh, one other problem I ran into this evening. This one isn't likely to affect many people other than me. On my Fujitsu Lifebook S6510 I have 15 disk partitions, and a dozen or so Linux distributions installed on them. I just let Ubuntu 10.10 install the latest updates, which included a kernel update so it generated a new boot config file (/boot/grub/grub.cfg). Somehow, it is getting confused and getting that file significantly wrong. I won't go into the technical details here, because it's pretty gory and confusing, but one result is that some partitions are listed with the incorrect contents, and others are configured in a way that prevents them from booting. Sigh. Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug. This evening I have been the bug.