Ubuntu Dapper Flight 7 came out earlier this week and I decided to do a fresh install on my laptop. Part of the reason for a fresh install is that I’m ready for a new Ubuntu to install and automagically configure my system as a few things have gotten unconfigured and I can’t seem to re-configure them properly. Another reason is that I’d like to get Windows on this laptop as well as Ubuntu and the easiest way to do that is to repartition the hard drive and do a from-scratch install, anyway.
When I booted up after installing Dapper, my laptop was set at a proper 1920×1200 and it looked great. The video was configured to do direct rendering, but was using the xorg ati driver rather than the ATI proprietary fglrx driver. The 3d performance was pitiful and the quality of playing videos was poor, so I decided to try the fglrx driver. It only took a one-line change to my xorg.conf file (changing “ati” to “fglrx”) and it just worked. Another thing X related that just worked without any configuration on my part was the Synaptics touch pad scroll area. I’ve gotten this working in the past, but only with some hacking on the xorg.conf file.
Of course, none of the video files I tried to play worked since their respective codecs don’t come installed with Ubuntu. I Installed win32codecs and VLC was able to play everything I tried. xine is having some trouble seeing any codecs I give it, so I’ll keep plugging away at xine and use VLC in the meantime. Or maybe I’ll just stick with VLC.
One of the things that had come “un-configured” was the usability of the multimedia keys on the front of the laptop, particularly the volume buttons. I could raise and lower the volume some, but couldn’t get the volume all the way down or all the way up and mute wouldn’t work, either. I had to use the volume control in order to adjust the volume. The multimedia keys now work.
For the first time ever, both the installed suspend and hibernate routines work with my laptop. Previously, I have had to use a hacked suspend script to get my system to suspend, but now I don’t have to. I’ve never had a real interest in hibernate and this is the first time I’ve seen it working. My system hibernates and awakes much faster than I was expecting. I’ll probably start using this option more, especially as I boot between Windows and Ubuntu.
Overall performance is really good. Not only does the system feel more responsive than when I installed Breezy, but memory usage appears much lower now, too.
Dapper installed with the typical set of applications: Firefox for browsing, Evolution for email, Totem for video, Ekiga and Gaim for chat, the OpenOffice suite, Gimp and Gthumb for graphics and a few other odds and ends. It really is amazing what you can fit on one CD. The quality of these open source applications compared to their closed source, non-free alternatives is also quite amazing.
As I mentioned earlier, this is now a dual-booting laptop. I installed Windows XP Home edition first, then Ubuntu. (Just as a random note at this point, I am using Grub to manage booting. As I was installing Dapper, it recognized that Windows XP Home was already installed and asked if I wanted it to manage booting that OS as well. I told it “yes” and everything works perfectly with regard to booting.) It is interesting that Ubuntu recognized more of my hardware and configured it properly than Windows did. Granted, I was able to download drivers from Dell’s website and installing them isn’t that big of a deal, but it is really nice to have my system “just work”. This release of Dapper is the easiest, most usable OS install I think I have ever experienced. Nothing is nagging me that I feel I need to put on a to-do list of “must get working”. Sure, xine isn’t working right, but I have VLC as a good alternative. Not bad if that is my worst complaint about the install.
To sum things up, this was an excellent install of Ubuntu, probably the best OS install I’ve ever experienced both in that installation itself and the usability afterward. It is honestly difficult for me to imagine things getting any better, but I’m sure they will.