Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Another Round with the Laptop

Having recently switched a bunch of older Fedora Core servers to CentOS 4, I became very excited to see the announcement that CentOS 5 has been released. I am very pleased with the polish and stability of CentOS 4 and thought 5 would be a perfect update for my (then) Ubuntu laptop. My laptop is a fairly old IBM Thinkpad T23 - certainly not bleeding edge hardware.

The display was maxed out at 800x600 rather than the native 1400x1050 I'm accustomed to and my NetGear wifi card was recognized, but not functional. It comes as no surprise that none of my Thinkpad buttons worked. I spent the past 10 years of my hacking career tweaking Linux boxes, and I was using X windows in the days when you actually risked toasting your monitor with a bad config. So, yes, I could make X work. And I have gone through the Windows wifi card firmware dance, so yes, I could make the Wifi card work as well. I could also recompile the kernel and add Thinkpad buttons and ACPI events. Yuck. My rebuild just turned into a lot of research and work.

On a whim I thought I'd try Fedora Core 6 just in case my problems stemmed from the more conservative approach CentOS takes. Same problems, although I love the eye candy in Fedora - their art is great.

I didn't bother to try Solaris x86 because I know it won't detect any of my special hardware. Someday I'd love to be able to use Solaris outside of work, but that day hasn't come yet on the desktop.

So here I am, back with Ubuntu. It detects everything and works right out of the box. Within an hour I had a fully functional laptop, and despite my 1 GHz CPU in a 5GHz world it performs great. I suppose a year from now I'll try it again since I prefer a Red Hat based distribution to a Debian base. But what matters most comes down to two words: "It Works."

Thanks, Ubuntu.

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