Greg Gannicott’s Blog

Installing Ubuntu on the Laptop – Well Worth It

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on January 3, 2009
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We got our laptop as part of Becky’s mobile phone contract. Its advertised as ‘free’, but its obvious you’re paying over the odds if all you were getting were the phone and the free text/minutes etc.

We weren’t expecting much from the laptop – just enough to browse the web. The desktop can take care of the rest.

The laptop got off to a good start. It was quick enough and Becky used it far more than she was expecting (she barely touches the desktop now). However, over time (a short period of time) the laptop has struggled under the strain of Windows Vista and all the bulk it brings with it.

One of the reasons we wanted the laptop was so we could do quick impulse searches. For instance, we’re watching something on tv and wonder what other films we’ve seen the actor in. We’d crack open laptop and look it up on IMDB or Wikipedia.

This part of the plan didn’t work. It takes around 5 minutes for our laptop to come out of hibernation and be of any use. Since then, I’ve got a Blackberry Curve, and with Opera Mini installed it does the impulse research job nicely.

A while back I installed Google’s Chrome browser. The browser was built around the idea that we now do most of our work through the browser, and will increasingly do so as the web matures. That made me think “Wouldn’t it be great if you could have an OS that just had the bare basics, with Chrome installed. Thats what I need for the laptop!”.

You can’t customize Windows to that extent, but you can Linux (eg. Ubuntu).

I then decided that I’d quite like to get Linux on the laptop.  I might not be able to strip it down as much as I wanted (or install Chrome for that matter) but it should still run quicker than Vista. The problem was, I didn’t want to bugger up my existing setup. The laptop has partitions that are used for re-installing Windows, and I didn’t want to risk screwing that up. It just wasn’t worth the risk.

A few  months later (a couple days ago now) and I used the laptop to burn off a copy of Ubuntu for a spare PC. To test it I put the disc back into the laptop to check that it works. When I did there was the option to install Ubuntu as if it were any other Windows app (and could be uninstalled as easily). Since didn’t seem at all dangerous it was worth a go. So I tried it.

The install process was as simple as can be, and I have to say its working out for me better than I hoped.

The only issues I had were with the wireless network card – by default Ubuntu didn’t recognise it. However, thanks to the Open Source nature of Ubuntu, there was plenty of posts online explaining how to fix it.

In terms of performance, Ubuntu is working out much better for me than Vista. Where as Vista takes 5 minutes to warm up, Ubuntu is up and running within seconds of me lifting the lid.

As a bonus, the battery life is almost twice as long.

The only downside so far in terms of usage is the fact the touchpad on the laptop is all to keen to consider a tap, a mouse click. It wasn’t so sensitive in Vista.

Until I put Ubuntu on there, the laptop was becoming less and less useful. It was purchased so we could use it for short sessions, but due to the time it took to warm up, it was only of use when you wanted to spend 30 mins on it. If you’re going to do that then you’d just as well make your way to the desktop (of course, that doesn’t take into account the fact you can crash out on the sofa with the laptop). Now though, thanks to Ubuntu it does what we purchased it for.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to use Linux in anger. This appears to be it.

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