Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tweaking Ubuntu for my Dell D630

So, over the last month, I've been using dual booting Windows and Ubuntu and making the linux install do just what I want.

After my computer crashed, I got a brand new Dell D630. It came with an 80 GB disk just partitioned for Windows. I bought an external disk and installed Ubuntu on a partition there and booted from the USB device for a couple of days. I decided that I liked Ubuntu and repartitioned the hard disk into a Windows and Linux partition (more to come on this, I would do it differently, if I were to do it again). Now, my PC dual boots Ubuntu 7.10 and Windows XP (and Ubuntu is the default).

My old computer (aside from the hard disk) was working perfectly - graphics, sound, microphone, even power management. I've found with the new computer that not all the drivers are completed. With some work and good Google searches, I've been able to get a lot more of doing just what I want.

Lessons learned
  1. Linux does just about everything that your windows computer could do and most of it, slightly better.
  2. Most of the answers to the problems (or if it can't be solved yet) can be found on forums or educational websites. Learn Google searches before you learn linux.
The Ubuntu Community Forums have been the most helpful. There I found how to get my sound and mic input jack to work (had to recompile ALSA and the sound config change), tweak the sensitivity of my touchpad, adjust the power settings (I haven't done it yet, but I bet it will work)! I've watched DVDs on airplanes and my wifi works seamlessly. I need to further enable my video card for spiffy graphics features, but it works just fine as it is.

Lifehacker has a great article on how to arrange your disk partitions so that you can share data between the two OS. Linux can read a Windows formatted disk partition, but not the other way around. So, if I save a document in my Linux partition, Windows can't see it. Most of the time I save to my external disk or to my Windows disk, but I need to build some symbolic links to those drives to make it less of a hassle. Had I only made a third data store partition, it would have been much easier.

So, now I'm on to exploring Virtualization, to see if I can run iTunes (not made for Linux yet) and a couple of other Windows only programs (MS Project and Outlook). A good friend of mine suggested I try Evolution and so far it is a pretty good PIM - it definitely competes with Outlook.

As a free OS goes, with free software, this is pretty slick. It definitely competes with the commercial software out there. As time goes on, I can see me using this more and Windows less.

Thanks to all the help I've gotten both from authors on the web and from Manny and Erik!

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