Thursday, 21 April 2011

Ubuntu Linux Netbook Edition, a Beginner's Experience (pt 1)

I've always liked the idea of running Linux. It's free. It's secure. It's stable. Most flavours look incredibly sleek. So why don't I use it? I haven't given it a chance since downloading a mammoth Mandrake Linux CD image a few kilobytes at a time, 3 or 4 years BB (Before Broadband). It was very good-looking, but quite buggy and very intimidating too. After about a week, I gave up and went back to Windows.

Fast forward to today, waiting in on a delivery. Arriving 'anytime between 7 am and 8 pm'. Wouldn't it be great to set up Linux on my indefatigable Thinkpad laptop? Fine idea, I thought, admiring screenshots of Ubuntu Linux's netbook edition as it filled up a USB stick.


A dual boot set up! Windows for most tasks, and Linux for safe and secure online banking. I knew better than to dive in straight away and risk messing up my un-backed-up files with an unfamiliar operating system, so I swapped out my hard drive for an aging 20GB guinea pig drive with healthy SMART attributes.

Things got off to a good start, with a nice installation menu asking if I wanted to go Ubunting without making any system changes, or installing it onto the donor hard drive. As this 20GB hard drive was to be a test bed, I allowed Ubuntu to blank the hard drive and install itself on it. After a few forms to fill in, everything's done and before I know it, a beautifully crafted window is asking me to log in. I do.

Then... nothing. Just the wallpaper, and a cursor.

Oh dear. I waggle the cursor about and start clicking randomly. Niente. After a while, I press the Thinkpad's power button, and this brings up shutdown options and a 'help' button. I click the 'help' button. The screen distorts, then hangs completely.


I'm surprised to find that I'm not irritated by this. Some sort of sense memory has been triggered by the sight of this intimidating setback, and the eerie "lights are on, but no-one's home" sound of the processor fan quietly whirring on its own, with no interruptions from hard drive clicks... I'm very young, scratching my head over an open, 2nd hand ATX case, and wearing a lame FCUK t shirt that I think is both very witty and daringly edgy...

But enough of that. I restart the laptop, Ubuntu loads up, and the login window appears as before. This time, I pay more attention; down by the bottom of the screen, there's an option to load vanilla Ubuntu instead of the netbook edition's pretty interface. I give that a go, and it loads up without a hitch.

Installation was a bit of a mixed bag. In the next post, I try my hand at downloading any Ubuntu updates, Thinkpad drivers, and using the internet. Unfortunately, more disappointments were in store.

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