Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been able to borrow a friend’s laptop: a Gateway Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been able to borrow a friend’s laptop: a Gateway MX7626, model W730-K8X (Athlon Mobile 4000+ processor, ATI X600 graphics, 1024 RAM). She has the 64-bit version of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn installed. I’ve installed and worked with 64-bit Linux on servers over the past couple of years, mainly running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, but this is my first chance to play with 64-bit Linux extensively on a laptop.
First, the machine is wonderfully fast at everything I’ve tried to do with it. 64-bit Ubuntu does have some minor quirks. The most noticeable one is that sometimes sound works and sometimes it doesn’t. If I don’t hear anything when GNOME starts then I won’t have sound until I reboot. She obviously has ALSA configured correctly since there is sound more often than not. I also noticed that some graphical apps don’t have .desktop files in /usr/share/applications and consequently don’t show up in the menu. When it comes to anything truly important, though, 64-bit Feisty does seem to work very well.
I also got to compare Network Manager to WiFi-Radar and while both applications saw the same wireless networks in the area it turns out that Network Manager connects to a network with a weak signal much more readily than WiFi-Radar does. Kudos to Ubuntu on their wifi app.
There is one obvious question, though: am I really gaining much by moving from a 32-bit OS to a 64-bit OS on a 64-bit box. For most things the answer really is “no”. I booted the Wolvix-Cub 1.1 live CD with the copy2ram option and the system just flew. Part of that was because of the lack of disk I/O, of course, but part of it is that there really isn’t much of a performance lift if any. There is a perception that you absolutely, positively have to run 64-bit on a 64-bit box. One person in the Wolvix forum even opined that “32-bit is so 1998″. I’ve installed a 32-bit OS on a 64-bit server more often than I care to recall simply because certain apps just didn’t work properly in a 64-bit environment.
Is there ever a benefit to a 64-bit OS other than the gee whiz factor? Of course there is. If you do serious number crunching or serious multimedia work (i.e.: 3D rendering) you will definitely see a performance improvement. I do, in fact, recommend installing a 64-bit version of Linux provided everything works properly for you. That isn’t always a given.
Oh, and yes, I thoroughly enjoy working on a very fast system.