Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
Well, after an egregiously long time, I seem to have finally finished installing Xubuntu 7.04 on the World’s Ugliest Laptop, and the results are … well, I’ll let you judge.
Installation time was absolutely horrific. I started around 7 a.m. and the first attempt hung at package configuration. A second attempt seemed to be running at about a third of the proper speed, with the kernel installation sitting for a half an hour alone. I don’t know how or why the machine was so hesitant to get the job done; perhaps it was performance anxiety.
In the end, I decided to use the standard Ubuntu alternate CD to install a minimal desktop, add the Xubuntu alternate disc with
apt-cdrom, then install the
xubuntu-desktop metapackage over it all. In the business, that’s what we call a “workaround.” Except that my workaround didn’t quite work; some stuff failed to install, and as a result I ended up installing from the repositories.
And worst of all, my download speed seemed to be pegged at 20kbps all day, which means it took almost three hours just to get everything — 188Mb — into place. And then I had to wait for it all to install.
For what it’s worth, a base install off the Ubuntu alternate CD took around 45 minutes. That seems longer than it should have been, but I might have been paranoid by that point. Boot times for a console-based system were around 1:10, which is about what I expected.
Booting from Grub, through GDM and all the way to the desktop takes almost exactly 2 minutes. Starting Firefox takes almost 15 seconds — and no, that’s not a first run, it’s a second or third run, with no extensions, and with the start page set to the on-disk help pages.
xfce4-terminal is a little more svelte than the Gnome terminal, and starts in under six seconds. Thunar is also a lightweight compared to Nautilus, and can open in about three seconds. The shutdown menu appears less than two seconds after I click the “Quit” icon, so that too is an improvement. Shutdown itself takes just under 30 seconds.
And all that with a 5400rpm hard drive.
I still have some deficiencies, but they’re not likely to get ironed out, because I have bigger and better plans for this laptop. For one, I don’t get a splash screen with the base install plus xubuntu-desktop. That, I assume is just some quirk of the installation method; I wouldn’t complain about it.
I had the same mis-set screen depth with this Silicon Motion SM712 LynxEM+, but again, that was easily fixed with a quick edit of the xorg.conf file. And strangely enough, my network card — the Xircom Realport RBEM56G-100 — seems to be behaving better. Maybe I kicked it just right this time, or maybe something in Gnome was harassing it and caused my connection and giving me grief.
There’s also something odd that I’ve never seen: error messages about an smbus — “ALI15X3 not detected,” or something — that appear when the kernel loads hardware drivers, and they suggest upgrading the BIOS. Of course, that’s not really an option for this machine, and I’m not about to run the risk of a mis-flashed BIOS on a computer that’s not mine.
There are other things, but they’re so minor that I don’t feel I should mention them. The point of this was to have something that I personally installed, that I can point to and say, “Yes, Xubuntu is faster than Ubuntu on an older machine. How much faster? Not enough for me.”
Next, a customized setup.