domingo, 27 de marzo de 2011

Installing Linux to a Gateway NV53 laptop, a trial for five distros

Today, one of my sisters-in-law came to visit and brought her laptop because she wanted me to install Linux to it. She is fed up with the never-ending (and increasingly costly) rituals of updating anti-viruses that seem to be always one step behind in the eternal fight against e-threats. Her laptop is a Gateway NV53, 4GB RAM, 320 GB HDD, pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium and, despite all the praises that Windows fanboys sing for this OS, she was dissatisfied with its reality: you are always vulnerable to viruses, malware, and a wide array of threats.

Coincidentially, Megatotoro was around and his expertise with dual booting this selfish Windows Vista-with-make-up was truly helpful.

Now, I had dual-booted a Windows Vista7 desktop before with some minor problems. I used Mandriva 2010.2 for that operation, so we tested my favorite Linux distro and...we hit a major problem this time: no sound! Mandriva would not produce any sound out of the built-in speakers, so we decided not to install it.

Then, we tried the next candidate, Pardus GNU/Linux. Again, there was not any sound coming from the Gateway laptop.

Next came Ubuntu Lucid Lynx and, although Canonical's flagship product enabled the sound, MP3s were not natively supported.

The following candidate was Simply Mepis 8.5. As Warren Woodford states, Simply Mepis just works. I might add that, in this particular case, it worked flawlessly, too. It picked up the wi-fi, enabled sounds, etc., much to Megatotoro's satisfaction (his grin couldn't possible be more evident: rarely is it that his distro of choice fails). It's just too bad that people do not know this nice distro. The downside was that the effects in this release are not very polished. Megatotoro, as many Mepis followers, is waiting for the release of Mepis 11. To be honest, I am also waiting (I even reserved a blank partition of my netbook's HDD for it). Megatotoro has installed the beta 3 of Mepis 11 and he is happy with it, but, ethically, he did not want to install a beta to a computer that is not his own.

Therefore, we decided to test one more candidate: Linux Mint Julia. We ran the Live CD and the elegant Irish distro not only enabled the sound, but it also previewed MP3s and dazzled the owner of the laptop with the Compiz effects.

We asked her which of the two finalists she wanted to keep as her first Linux distro and, after considering the options, she asked us to install Mint.

Not to run any risk (as none of us has ever used Mint to partition a Windows Vista7 computer), we used Mandriva 2010.2 to resize the Windows partition and create the new one for Mint. Then we ran the Julia Live DVD and, in 25 minutes, the computer had a Linux OS. This is what her new OS looks like:
(The wallpaper was downloaded from www. and modified with GIMP)

As soon as we started explaining to the owner how Linux works, she realized that many of the things she has heard about computers are myths and she questioned what the point of spending more money in new Windows OSs is. After all, she reasons, they all have exactly the same vulnerabilities than previous releases do. Ballmer probably won't like to hear this, but she discovered that she can have MORE than what Windows offers for free.

So, even though she did not choose Mepis and Mandriva did not work for her, both Megatotoro and I feel happy. Linux is all about freedom and now my sister in-law has the opportunity to see what a computer can truly do.

Some statistics for the record
Windows 7:
Boot time: 58 s. Shut down time: 20 s.
Linux Mint:
Boot time: 48 s. Shut down time: 4 s. (Yes, that's right. Like a bullet!)
Hibernation: perfectly functional.
Compiz effects enabled.
WebCam enabled with Cheese
Wi-fi working
Function keys responding
Card and flash drive reader working
No issues with the GRUB seeing Windows 7

The owner found a problem. The laptop refused to shut down. I've heard this before: Ubuntu computers that don't shut down...Well, Mint is an Ubuntu-based distro. Is that the reason? I've never had this problem in Mandriva, Mepis, or Pardus.

5 comentarios:

  1. Me expertise you say?? I couldn't do much with Grub2, but at least I could help a bit with Gnome, even if I'm basically a KDE user. By the way, is that a fish in the panel? :P

  2. I have tried LM10 on a Toshiba netbook and had no response from function keys.

    Also had issues with the screen backlight not being adjustable through the interface (apparently a common issue of LM with some Toshiba models? the brightness applet won't do a thing, also tried other applets). Have successfully changed the brightness through the terminal and rebooting or some trick I haven't completely figured out myself. Anyway it's not a big deal if I use another monitor... xD

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  4. thank you for a guide to install.