I took the plunge and updated my laptop from Vista to Ubuntu 11.10. I couldn’t eliminate a virus from the Vista deployment easily, didn’t want to spend money on commercial anti-virus, and learning linux better will help me at work. EMC bases many of their products on Linux (Avamar, Data Domain in the backup space, for example). I’m reasonably fluent in Linux, having installed it many times, worked with Oracle on it, used other unix flavours for DBA work.

How’d it go?

I have a compaq presario v6000 that uses a Broadcom wireless card and a NVidia graphics card.

I tried out the live-cd first, which allows you to run Ubuntu on your existing machine without writing to the hard drive so you can try things out without commitment. That could not display graphics correctly when run as is. Google searching taught me a fix. Hold down the F5 key during boot up and use the Other Options menu choice to select the boot option nomodeset. With that, live-cd display graphics correctly.

While running on live-cd, my wired network connection worked fine. But I couldn’t download the broadcom driver.

I decided to install. Install was smooth. The installer detected the broadcom wireless card and configured the drivers.

But after I installed ubuntu to the hard drive, I was back to the graphics problem. The hard drive install does not have the same menu choice via F5. What to do? I returned to google, and I learned that if you hold down the Shift key during boot, you can edit the grub boot up sequence. Using that technique, I again added nomodeset. I also learned that to make this change permanent, one needs to permanently edit the grub.conf file, which the shift key trick does NOT do.

Last issue. I wanted to use the Nvidia driver. To do that, I clicked on the system settings and chose additional drivers. This dialog displayed the Broadcom card configured during installation time, plus several Nvidia driver choices. I choose the recommended one. After doing this, I needed to reboot. Here I needed to hold down shift to turn off nomodeset in order to let Nvidia take over. Finally, I had to return to grub editing to do a removal of nomodeset.

Thoughts thus far: Ubuntu looks and works great. However, if you have a laptop like mine that needs tweaking, you still gotta be a geek to run linux.

Next: I will load up utlities like tcl/tk and sqlite, and possibly postgres to see how database stuff starts working. Will also see what end-user friendly databases are available for end users. Ubuntu 11.10 uses something called LibreOffice. Perhaps there is a Microsoft Access type tool in that.