Saturday, March 10, 2007

What a Feist!

The distro hopper, hops again. I have been using Zenwalk for quite some time now, almost 5, thats a record of sorts, I don't really stick with a distro that long. But Zenwalk has had me. It still does. But just out of curiosity (which eventually killed the cat!) I decided to try Ubuntu, Feisty Fawn alpha release 4 (called Herd 4). This is its story.

I was never that impressed with Ubuntu, it always goofed up something or the other on my laptop, in spite of boasting very good hardware support. But Feisty provides state-of-the-art out-of-the-box hardware support. And in spite of not liking Gnome I'm using it since 2 weeks now.

Firstly its not that slow as it felt in previous releases, compared to other distros. It could be because I'm using the 64-bit release which could be bit more optimized compared to the standard x86 one, which is i486 (though the release claims i386). Feisty has great ACPI support. The laptop fans turn on and off at the right time, on my HP laptop's buggy ACPI bios support. The frequency scaling is perfect. Full marks here.

Other hardware like ATI graphics card, touchpad with scrolling, ethernet, usb everything works. USB plug-in and plug-out gives nice balloon messages on the desktop, and a single click on a device name mounts it. CDs, DVDs autoplay. Installing wifi drivers using ndiswrapper might be bit tricky for novices, but thats the only hitch. Again you get all Windows drivers to be used with ndiswrapper on Ubuntu's extraordinary package repository. So even that should be fairly easy for newbies.

Multimedia keyboard support is surprisingly better than in Windows XP! Theres also layouts of Indian languages installed by default...though I'm looking for phonetic layout which is much easier to use.

The wow is now
Play a .avi file that needs some xvid video codec. The media player initially says it doesn't find the right codec. Ubuntu then spawns a search in its repository by itself, finds the right codecs with all dependencies, downloads and installs them on a single click. The media player now plays your file, flawlessly.

NetworkManager applet in gnome now gives a list of wifi networks in range, and you can connect with one click, with WPA/WEP support. Its as good as it can get.

Other work around that is needed for 64-bit are running Flash, which is still doesn't have a 64-bit version! There is wonderful thing called nspluginwrapper that wraps 32-bit plugins and runs them under 64-bit Firefox. Ultra neat.

Suspend and hibernate worked initially, though I did something due to which it no longer works...still have to find out. But it should work on most machines, as it worked nicely even in past releases.

Overall, this release nails all things right in place. Finally Linux is ready for the laptops, its been for desktops since ages, but laptops need lot of good hardware support to work efficiently, and its in very good shape now. With open source community offering free development of drivers to hardware firms, on providing the specifications, the reverse engineering effort behind that should reduce, and we'll see much more hardware that supports Linux from its very first release.


AG said...

You title suggested me of a post on some potluck, that TNT usually talks about every other week ;)

I guess Linux has been ready for laptops since couple years now, or atleast since I started using 1 1/2 years ago. On my IBM T43 pretty much everything is supported out of the box, except for the notorius wireless card, which needs some poking. I'm solely on SUSE 10.x. Only thing that bothers me sometime is CPU fans..for most of the time its pretty predictable..but sometimes I fail to understand why they remain ON. May be it bothers me because I don't like my laptop making sounds or it may be because of CPU temperature that I fail to realize. As a side note, I find IBMs making way less noise than other laptops.

Parag said...

What you are saying is true for IBMs T-series and R-series, all of their hardware is/was linux compatible for few years now. Thats however not the case with other manufacturers like HP and Dell.

As for ACPI support, it has matured very recently.

Tushar Thole said...

I wonder know how you know about these things! I am a novice in that regard maybe b'coz I havent bothered to install Linux on my laptop yet :P

prasad said...

kay saheb, ubuntu feisty fawn (7.04) madhe bsnl broadband kasa configure karaycha???

he he!!! just kidding yaar