In The Armchair

KUbuntu Gutsy Gibbon + Lenovo T61 = Freedom!

Posted in Computers by Armchair Guy on October 17, 2007

I just got a new Lenovo T61, with 2.2 GHz core 2 duo, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M, 3 gigs of RAM, and a 160 Gig hard drive. As soon as I could, I installed KUbuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon on it, and am impressed with the results. Installation was (almost) a breeze, and (almost) everything works right out of the box. After using SuSE 10.2 for over a year, I can finally breathe! Read on for a review.

Partitioning

The laptop came with the 160 gigs partitioned into two parts: a small recovery partition by Lenovo (about 6 gigs), and a large (~150 gigs) partition with Windows XP Pro (more expensive than Vista Home). I wanted to keep XP along with one “production” Linux system and a “trial” Linux system to play around with. I used the gparted LiveCD (from http://gparted.sourceforge.net/), which made re-partitioning a breeze. I left the recovery partition strictly alone. My final partitioning scheme:

 Device Gigs  System/dev/sda1 30.7  HPFS/NTFS (Win XP)/dev/sda3 79.5  W95 FAT32 (Data)/dev/sda4 40.2  Extended/dev/sda5 12.6  Linux (Trial)/dev/sda6  3.2  Linux (Trial home)/dev/sda7 15.9  Linux (Production)/dev/sda8  5.2  Linux (Production home)/dev/sda9  3.3  Linux swap / Solaris/dev/sda2  5.8  Compaq diagnostics (Lenovo Recovery)

Initial Hiccups

I initially tried to install KUbuntu 7.04 (“Feisty Fawn”) because Gutsy was still in the RC (Release Candidate) stage. When using the standard Live CD, Feisty would boot up and ask for mode of operation, but wouldn’t be able to initialize its X Window System (from which you can install). There is some discussion online about setting the SATA setting to “Compatibility” instead of “HCPI” in the T61’s BIOS, but that didn’t work for me, so I went ahead with the Gutsy Gibbon RC. Gutsy couldn’t initialize its usual X Window System, either, but I followed the advice at:

http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Installing_Ubuntu_7.10_%28Gutsy_Gibbon%29_Release_Candidate_on_a_ThinkPad_T61

and simply selected the “Safe Graphics” option and the rest of the installation was a breeze.

Installation

During installation KUbuntu asks for the name of a user and an admin password. This refers to a special user with sudo privileges, so I avoided my usual username and put in something like “sysadmin”. I didn’t have any other installation issues.

Startup, Logon and Shutdown

Gutsy is the fastest Linux I’ve ever seen, even giving Win XP a run for its money. Here are the startup (time to display logon screen), logon (time from display of logon screen to delivering a usable cursor and clickable icons after logon) and shutdown (from a session with no windows open) times of XP and Gutsy on this machine:

Win XP: Startup = 40s, Logon = 30s, Shutdown = 28s.
Gutsy: Startup = 49s, Logon = 19s, Shutdown = 20s.

Adding Packages

The installer installs a basic functional system. I wanted to add more packages. I like the package manager synaptic better than the default, adept. So I installed it using the command “apt-get install synaptic” in a terminal window.

Wi-Fi

Worked out of the box. Knetworkmanager stores the authentication information in the KDE wallet.

Sound

Works out of the box, but the volume up/down buttons don’t work properly. Mute works.

Brightness

The brightness controls don’t work. The night light works.

3D

The restricted NVIDIA driver is required to enable harware 3D acceleration. Enabling it is a breeze.

Fonts & Appearance

This was the biggest surprise. After getting accustomed to fuzzy, ugly fonts, blunt mouse pointers, and a generally shoddy appearance on Linux for ages, I am now happy to state that Gutsy surpasses Win XP in terms of appearance. Everything is crisp and beautiful. Caveat: Enabling the restricted NVIDIA driver actually diminished the appearance somewhat, with some fonts looking too thin.

Hibernate

This doesn’t work very well out of the box. When only one session was active, I recovered from a hibernate once and couldn’t another time. When I did recover, Gutsy showed some corrupted screens etc. and then a blank screen; it took me a few seconds to realize I had to move the mouse to get a login dialog. When two sessions were active, Gutsy wouldn’t hibernate at all. With Gutsy’s amazing boot-up speed, this is less of an issue than on SuSE 10.2, but is still a problem when I’m in the middle of several applications and have to move.

The Mini-Dock

I got a mini-dock with the T61. Gutsy works fine on the mini-dock as long as the T61 is turned off when putting it on or taking it off. If I eject it from the dock while Gutsy is running, the T61 screen stays blank, and I have to do a hard reboot.

Overall Experience

The overall experience is great. The most bothersome Linux issues seem to have disappeared in this distribution. And this is just the release candidate!

There are still some bugs, however. Konqueror doesn’t remember its settings properly. Integration between the KDE clipboard and applications like kterm and emacs is quite problematic. Some applications and KDE components crash, especially when switching between multiple X sessions. And a few others.

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