I had originally started with the Linux distro being Kubuntu Edgy Eft 6.10, but I struggled with 1280×800 resolution, Beryl, and Wireless – I couldn’t get any to work, although some were also a chore on OpenSuse 10.2 also I figured it out, and probably would be able to get them working on Edgy now with what I know, but I like OpenSuse 10.2 plenty and *its working great*.
I love both Windows and Linux, but I have to say, as I get on in years and am more interested in productivity then tweaking, learning, and configuring things, Windows is growing in appeal.
As much gruff as Windows has gotten for being unstable and non-secure, I haven’t had any significant problems *personally* with either since the launch of Windows 2000. For the most part, I install it, it recognizes all my hardware, it runs all my software, and I get stuff done and go home.
Desktop Linux on the other hand, I sometimes wake up from a 3-hour detour during my workday trying to get my fonts to look *just a little better*, or trying to install something from source when I really should just be patient and wait for the mature RPM. that *used* to fun for me, but now I just get mad at myself because I could be getting work done so I can go home.
This is why I largely switched to Windows and SecureCRT for Linux server-side development – its kind of like putting blinders on the side of a horse so he doesn’t get distracted.
OpenSuse wasn’t that different for me – I still had to jump through hoops and wrench and Google to get it working the way I want – however, it is the first time I done a Linux notebook and install and though ‘hey, you know what, I could live with this!’. It runs great, the wireless works (for the most part), and most importantly all the power control features seem to work – I have had a lot of problems in the past with Linux just eating my notebook battery – its still doesnt seem quite as frugal as Vista, but I havent done a real qualified test either.
There was one other problem I had with the system also – at one point I reinstalled my boot loader and I lost my ability to load Vista. I tried to re-install it again, and I lost my ability to load either OS.
Boot loaders are one of my two favorite ways to break my Linux install – the other is to break the X server. In the argument as to whether Linux is ready for the desktop I would say – sure, as long as an expert *installs* it for you, and doesn’t give you the root password. Once Linux users start playing with the X server settings or boot loader things get scary and often result in unfixable problems. Neither Grub nor X is always very specific in letting you know whats wrong with it when it’s broken.
Anyways, onto the install…
First, Vista installed in about 25 minutes and everything seemed to work fine, Aero was installed by default, and it ran great.
I did not test the modem, card reader or bluetooth.
There was an online update which took a minute or two, mostly updated hardware drivers.
Surprisingly, Dell had Vista-approved drivers for just about everything on my laptop ( I guess this would make sense since they still sell the same model, as of today, pre-installed with Vista).
So, I downloaded those and installed, and updated my BIOS as well from the same downloads section.
Now, onto OpenSuse 10.2.
This install took about 3 hours including install, online update, Wireless, Beryl, and video – however, with this guide, you might be able to get that down to an hour.
First and foremost, this is the most important step – when you install OpenSuse 10.2, you will be given the option to check your connection to the Internet and configure online update *during* the install process – YOU WANT TO DO THIS. The first go-round I had, wireless did not work at this point, so I skipped it for later, and then tried to do an online update, and it was not as seamless and did not solve some problems that the install-triggered online update solved. (The second time I used Ethernet).
After you do the standard install and online update, your video screen should be properly set to the Intel i810 Graphics Driver for your Intel 945 video card (I have the default card and screen, not the optional 1440x version). It should work fine in 1280×800, and 3d graphics should be selected and work fine. The first time I did the install w/o online update, I could not get 1280×800 to work, and 3d kept unsetting itself. If for some reason it does not, you need to use a hack called 915resolution, which will work for 945 cards, tricking the video bios into thinking it can do 1280×800 (which it can, it just doesnt know this under Linux for some reason). This ‘hack’ is actually built-in to OpenSuse 10.2 as a launch script in/etc/init.d/boot.local (which contains the instructions – my line reads ‘915resolution 32 1280 800’, as it needs to be done on boot-up every time.
This guy says you can fix it in /etc/sysconfig, which is better and doesn’t forget after hibernation. Actually, the second time I installed OpenSuse I am not sure which method it decided to use, it ‘just works’.
Now for the wireless. This was a confusing pain in the ass.
The Intel wireless driver for your card is open-source and comes with OpenSuse, and will be detected and installed.
This is good and bad.
Its good because half the work is done for you – its bad because it seems like it should be *compeltely* done and working, which its not. You have the driver – you have it right there on eth1, and you know youre networking is working because your ethernet works – but knetworkmanager seems to know nothing about wireless. If you are new to knetworkmanager, you may at this point think its a POS and disable it – but its actually not bad, and certainly not the problem. Or maybe you think its a crappy driver and decide to install ndiswrapper – also not necessary. The problem is that for some reason there are two other packages needed for your Intel wireless card to work, and neither of them came on your DVD, and how you are even supposed to know this without scouring Google is beyond me.
Go into yast…software management and do a seach for ‘ipw’ – this will result in exactly two hits – ipw3945d (the intel wireless regulatory daemon) and ipw3945-ucode, the firmware. Select them both and install. If you don’t see these hits, make sure you have the non-oss repository added as an install source – this is why it wasn’t installed auto-magically – these two pieces of code are *not* open source. Reboot your machine. You should be able to see your access points in knetwork manager now.
As for knetworkmanager – there are a couple of quirks there also. First off, you might need to refresh it a few times to see all your available access points – I couldn’t see one of the two that was in my house with 75% signal all the time. Second of all, you might need to try to authenticate a few times – it seems really finicky about WEP and WPA authentication, often failing for no apparent reason. Finally, it is not as good at holding a connection (even with an excellent signal) then Windows wireless or the Windows Intel PROset/Wireless manager, which is outstanding. This is very random – mostly I boot up the computer and I am fine for hours, sometimes it just keep dropping, I have no idea why.
OK finally there is Beryl, which I really debated installing because I really don’t care about eye-candy, I like *stability*, *usability*, and *battery-life*. However, I’m now a convert. Beryl is really oustanding – its default window theme alone is worth the price of admission, even without the 3D tricks.
Thankfully, there is a very good guide on installing beryl on opensuse.org.
However, you should note that the guide is incomplete – between steps 5 and 6, when you first run beryl-manager, you must run beryl itself FIRST, before beryl-manager, or you will lose your windows! This is properly addressed in the instructions for auto-start, however.
Well, there you go. I hope this guide was helpful and gets indexed on Google properly so the next guy wont end up with as much Googling as I did to get it working – enjoy.