Dell Ubuntu Laptop

So I have this Dell Latitude D630 that’s straight out of 2008, which, I may point out, is like medieval times in terms of technology. Simply put this computer has a “Designed for Microsoft Windows XP” sticker on it. However, it has an Intel Centrino Duo processor and 4 GiB of RAM. Basically, it’s netbook specs in a laptop sized case (maybe, not but you get the picture). I acquired this laptop in a retired state. The keys are worn but all the letter markings remain and the battery holds a charge for 30 minutes. Amazon.com helped me find a good replacement battery that was, in all honesty, not too shabby. So now I have this laptop which is great for use while sitting in front of the TV.

When I received the laptop it had Windows 7 installed on it. I’m not very sure how that was done, but it booted up and operated, albeit a bit slower than I liked. I don’t have an installation media for Windows XP so I decided to load up a Linux distro, specifically Ubuntu. I’m not an Ubuntu virgin, but it has been more than several versions since I’ve used the OS.

Installing Ubuntu

LiveCDs are nothing new. Even the last time I used Ubuntu for a daily driver PC it was as simple as popping in a CD and booting the computer. Same experience with Ubuntu 12.10. I just grabbed the latest iso file, burned it, put in the drive and booted. It pretty much was just fill out the screens and go.

The largest change that I first noticed was the Unity overhaul of the UI. In the version I had used previously Compiz compositing wasn’t available out of the box.  This time the OS looked very nice and polished with the theming keeping up with modern standards.  Everything appeared to look great and function. However, the new Unity interface took some adjustment. I’m still not very fond of how to get to applications not on the taskbar. The fact that the toolbar is limited in where you can place it also aggravating.

There was a short coming, though. I felt that it was a just a little slower than it should be.  The UI just wasn’t as responsive as I thought it should be even for the hardware that was running it. My first step was to install the propitiatory drivers for the laptop. NVidia! The bane of OpenSource OSes! After some searching through Google to find any sort of info on the matter and after one failed attempt I was able to get to get the NVidia drivers to work. Still have the blasted NVidia logo popup during boot. Any idea how to remove that?

Life With Ubuntu

After getting everything up, upgraded, and configured the laptop is very snappy. I’m happy with how Ubuntu has worked out and am continuing to enjoy it. I was lucky that all of my hardware was compatible with the OS. Adding programs hasn’t gotten any more difficult nor has there been anything that I’ve needed that I couldn’t find.

Every year some blog or new site says, “this is the year of Linux on the desktop,” and I say to myself, “no one cares about Linux.” I don’t think anyone can say that anymore. There probably won’t be a “year of Linux on the desktop” ever. I think the people making that assertion have missed it big. Linux is on Android, the worlds number one selling OS for smartphones. Netbooks had their time and came and went. If you’re a semi-tech savvy person you can revive old hardware like I’ve done with this laptop and make it useful again. Linux is here and it’s providing a great computing environment.

I suggest that if you have old hardware sitting around and collecting dust to put it to good use. That laptop that no longer holds a great charge can easily be fixed with a cheap battery replacement and spruced up with a good Linux distro (you don’t have to use Ubuntu). If you have an old desktop sitting around you can easily make a media server, a NAS, or if you’re ambitious a gateway/router for your home network.

My next computer projects are going to be around the sprucing up of my home network. I’ve already decided that a good gateway/firewall/router would be a great place to start. ClearOS and a small form factor PC. Look forward to the posts covering that install and setup!

Have you done any setups with a Linux distro? Chime in and let me know your experiences!

About Mike

I'm a software engineer. Look into the about page for more information about me.
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