ubuntu on a new laptop

by anders pearson Mon 04 Apr 2005 23:06:20

posting this from my new laptop, a nice refurbished thinkpad T23 that i picked up for $500 (1.1GHz, i spent some extra cash to upgrade it to 1GB of RAM, 30GBdrive, 14" XGA screen, 5.3lbs, and a PCMCIA wireless card that i picked up for $12.99. not the sexiest laptop out there, but for the price, i'm quite pleased with it.)

i'd been hearing a lot about the Ubuntu linux distribution lately. at the plone sprint i went to in january, there were a bunch of happy ubuntu users and people have been raving about how well optimized it is for laptops, so i burned an ubuntu install CD and put it on the laptop when it arrived today.

i've been a pretty happy gentoo user for a while now and i love its package manager, portage, more than toast. for a seasoned linux user who wants to keep on the bleeding edge and tweak the hell out of their system, gentoo is hard to beat. but today, i just wanted to play with my new toy as soon as possible and make sure everything worked properly and gentoo takes a long time to install.

ubuntu seems to have been a good choice. it took about 15 minutes in all to get it up and running with a nice Gnome desktop and all the hardware working and configured properly. ubuntu aims to be "linux for humans" and the founder, Mark Shuttleworth (remember the billionaire who bought his way onto a russian space launch?), has some strong opinions about how software should Just Work. well, ubuntu pretty much does. the install process pretty much consisted of booting off the CD, hitting enter a few times to select the defaults, entering a username and password and then rebooting. when it was done copying stuff off the CD and installing itself, everything pretty much just worked. the wireless networking was turned off by default but all i had to do was turn it back on; i didn't have to configure it at all.

i'm quite impressed that after installing linux on this machine, i actually have no idea what models the videocard or soundcard are. it just autodetected them and they work. granted, thinkpads have a reputation for being extremely well supported by linux distributions, but it's still a fairly novel experience for me. knoppix usually does a good job with the hardware detection too, but installing from knoppix is clumsy at best and the user experience lacks a lot of polish. ubuntu seems well integrated and planned. the install process doesn't include any package selection step; it just comes with a base set defaulting to a nicely customized Gnome desktop. once it's installed, it's basically a standard Debian system so apt-get will pull down anything else you need.

i'm going to see how long i can live with ubuntu on here before the tweaking urges take over and i install gentoo on it. it probably depends on whether it becomes my main machine at home. if it does, i'll probably want to do things that apt-get doesn't let me sooner rather than later and that will be the end of ubuntu. but if it mostly becomes a travel machine that i only pull out every once in a while and want everything to work perfectly without having to think about, i think ubuntu will probably work out.

at any rate, unless i encounter anything really heinous in the next couple days of playing, i think i have a new distro to recommend to people who are looking to try out linux. the install process was almost identical to OS X's (except that it runs in console mode and doesn't really look very pretty; but the number of steps and the choices you're presented with are about the same) and the polish of the resulting system is pretty close to what Apple gives you (and catching up quickly). so i would also recommend ubuntu to Mac fans who have some spare x86 hardware and want to run something nicer than windows on it.

TAGS: linux ubuntu gentoo

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