Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dell Inspiron 1520 and Kubuntu

Well, the time spent playing with Vista has come to an end.
Though it's a better OS as far as Windows goes, it is not an OS that is conducive to developer productivity.
Time to install a real OS.

I picked Kubuntu, because I like the KDE interface, and the apt-get package management system has, for the most part, been good to me. Most of the hardware auto-discovery stuff has been pretty decent in the past.

At first I tried to use a GParted Live CD to resize the Windows side. I thought I might try dual-booting and give Vista a chance. GParted complained that there were too many partitions. Looks like the Dell/Vista install makes a lot for recovery, etc. Oh well, tried to give them a chance...

On booting from the Kubuntu CD and selecting install, the first thing it did was give an option to resize the existing partitions to make room for Kubuntu. What the heck? I split in half and it actually freakin worked. Amazing.

The install went smoothly, selected a few options, and let it go on its happy way. After removing the CD and rebooting, I noticed it installed the free NVidia drivers. The display utility actually gives the option to use the NVidia drivers and it even downloads and installs for you. How sweet is that? The only problem, is it seemed to have a hard time getting the correct modelines for the display (1440x900). Not wanting to waste time playing with the GUI tools, a quick google and and xorg.conf edit later and I've got a sweet display.

Usually, when you talk about Linux on a laptop, the big concern is how well the hardware works (if at all). Well, it got the little built in camera working as part of the install (the Dells with Linux pre-installed don't even come with the camera), wifi has been pretty flawless (so far, even when switching though different networks), got my accelerated X (w00t!), bluetooth and all the other goodies seem to be working fine. The only real issue is the sound card didn't configure correctly during install. I think I remember seeing something online about some drivers from Dell but, I haven't invested any time in that yet.

So, how is it for development? Pretty good. Productivity is almost double of that working with windows. Being able to launch a terminal with a keyboard shortcut and ssh to any remote boxes rocks. Having a real bash shell and all of the normal command line goodies, keeps work focused on work (and not trying to beat an app into submission, windows style). Multiple shells with different environmental configurations is nice too (especially when you want to run Java6/Tomcat6 and Java1.4/Resin 1.2 at the same time.

Kubuntu has its annoyances too, what OS/distro doesn't. The best thing is, I can configure it to minimize or eliminate as desired. I know everybody like to bash windows, but, you have too admit, one really big difference with Windows and Linux happens when fixing problems. In Windows, you hear people say, try this and reboot, lets see if that works. In Linux, you just change a configuration and it works.

Like Yoda said, "Do or do not... there is no try."

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