On my agenda for yesterday — National Foundation Day here — was the conversion of two laptops to Ubuntu. Both owners had heard of Linux, but hadn’t fully dabbled with it, except maybe in a passing fashion on a friend’s machine or something.
The first machine was a breeze — a petite Toshiba laptop with a Centrino processor (with a Pro 2200B/G) and a mid-grade Radeon for a graphics card. With the exception of their home wireless network, which was using WPA, it had no issues whatsoever installing. Even the keyboard and GUI fonts were exactly right.
I didn’t test screen effects or compiz on that machine, mostly because I don’t think they’ll ever be used. That machine is mostly a web surfer and file manager and so forth, so it’s not likely to need the high-end glitz. If it does become an option, that will be a separate challenge.
That machine also kept Windows XP as a dual boot, mostly because there were a lot of un-backed-up files on it, and also as a fallback in case something hideously terrible happens on both Linux systems. It’s not likely, but it’s not impossible either (anyone who remembers the August 2006 blue screen knows it is indeed possible). I confess: That was my suggestion, really.
The other was a little more quarrelsome — an Asus W3J with a dual core and a Radeon X1400. In that case, the foolproof X system I’ve heard so much about … didn’t save the day.
For some reason, the installer (I used the alternate installer, which may have been a poor choice) decided the best fit for that card was the vesa driver. Vesa was falling through at every opportunity, trying to snap three times before halting at the login prompt. It wasn’t very impressive.
But luckily it was an easy enough problem to solve. The X error logs gave me plenty of information on what was wrong, and installing the proprietary ATI driver gave us a nifty graphical environment. I had to troubleshoot the screen dimensions a little bit (there was some confusion over the proper screen size and native resolution), but after that, it was a breeze.
That machine used a Realtek-series wireless card, which Gutsy recognized and configured without a hitch. In fact, short of the video issue, neither machine showed the least resistance to using Ubuntu. I was happy.
One more stumbling block, but only one that requires a little trial-and-error, is the fact that the Asus machine sometimes runs an external projector. Getting the right dimensions between the widescreen W3J and the 4:3 projector will take a little experimentation.
Networking was the only scary issue for either machine. Their router, a D-Link wireless that I don’t remember right now, was kicking back any attempt to log on — a problem they said they’d had with other hardware, including a Wii. So as a troubleshooting measure, I suggested turning off WPA, and of course it worked like a champ.
As an epilogue, since they live in the country, they decided to leave the security open, which was not my suggestion, but they seemed happier with the idea. If they’re okay with that, I’m okay with that.
I hope both users stick with Ubuntu. The Asus owner is a software hound, and the idea of just clicking to install is delightful. The Toshiba owner relies on the Japanese keyboard a lot (a big mixi fan … but who isn’t?), so I don’t know if there’s going to be any issue there. I don’t usually bother installing the full character support on my own machines, since I rarely need to type in any of those keysets.
So there it is. Two more on the path to freedom. Maybe it will become a National Foundation Day tradition.