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Journal PhillC's Journal: Blasting Away at Windows 1

On Sunday I took the final plunge and completely removed Windows XP from my laptop, replacing it with Ubuntu Studio. It's not quite how I planned it, but that's how it worked out.

I was having some problems booting Ubuntu from the external USB drive I was using. Desktop icons would strangely disappear and applications freeze. I decided it was time to put Linux direct on the laptop's hard drive. I have a Dell Inspiron 6400, Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 1.66Mhz processor, 1GB RAM, ATI graphics card and a 120GB hard drive. I also decided, in my wisdom, to try a different flavour of Ubuntu and downloaded the new GeUbuntu ISO.

What's GeUbuntu? It's basically Ubuntu plus Enlightenment. I like the way Enlightenment looks so I was prepared to give it a shot. In short, I screwed up the hard drive partitioning. The GeUbuntu installer froze for more than 30 minutes at 0% of the hard drive partitioning. I finally decided to exit and reboot, to be greeted by the bad news that I had a blank hard drive. Fortunately, I'd backed up all the important files from my Windows XP install prior to attempting this. Sure, I could have probably recovered XP, but ultimately I decided to just get on with Linux. I inserted the XP install disk, booted to a DOS prompt and formatted c:.

Back to the GeUbuntu install and everything went smoothly this time. Once up and running I quite liked many aspects of GeUbuntu, but after half a day's playing I was finally too frustrated by the small things. For example, MPlayer wouldn't launch, just popped up an error screen. The same behaviour was witnessed for video editor PiTiVi after installation via Synaptic. Logging out of the system also always resulted in a pop-up telling me that certain applications were taking too long to close and did I want to continue; this was with no visible, user initiated applications open. So I gave up.

Back to Ubuntu Studio for me. Installing this Ubuntu flavour to the hard drive was a piece of cake and I was up and running after about an hour, first thing Monday morning. Ubuntu seemed to recognise pretty much everything the laptop hard to offer, so no problems there. However, the first improvement I did make was to install the ATI graphics driver from the restricted drivers list. I could have achieved this in a number of ways, such as following the manual tutorial, installing Envy or just select the restricted driver from the list under Administration. Easily done and now the laptop is in widescreen 1280x800 mode.

There's a few things that I may still need Windows for. One of them is synchronising my iPhone. iTunes is not available for Linux and as my iPhone is not "jailbroken" I don't believe there is anyway to synchronise with any native Linux applications. iTunes 7 is known not to work with Wine, so I didn't bother attempting that route. Instead I installed VirtualBox. Downloading, installing and setting up VirtualBox was straightforward and I had a Windows XP virtual machine running in no time. However, as detailed in many, many threads subsequently discovered, there's a problem with VirtualBox (and VMWare) recognising the iPhone's USB connection. In short, Windows seems to recognise the iPhone's USB drivers and then VirtualBox crashes to exit. So, it appears for now I'm stuck with the music and contacts on my iPhone in its present state.

As an aside, F-Stop personal photo manager comes standard as part of the Ubuntu Studio application set. With F-Stop it is possible to access and transfer any photos stored on the iPhone.

I also followed some pretty straightforward and simple steps to decrease the required boot time, from 27 seconds to 23 seconds according to bootchart.

So, the current stat of play is roughly:

  • Ubuntu Studio installed with all included applications. Internet works.
  • ATI graphics driver installed from the restricted drivers list
  • VirtualBox installed and a Windows XP Virtual Machine available
  • iPhone not working with XP VM. Connection of iPhone causes the VM to fatally crash.
  • GStreamer codecs installed via Synaptic to facilitate playback of a broad range of videos.
  • PiTiVi upgraded to lastest version 0.11.1, by downloading the tarball, configuring, making and installing. Unfortunately, the application will not start.

At the moment there is no great urgency to go back to Windows, but there are some annoying problems that I can probably only live with until after Christmas if they aren't resolved. Gotta get that iPhone synched!

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Blasting Away at Windows

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  • With a new Ubuntu install don't forget to build-essential if you intend to compile anything form source:

    sudo apt-get install build-essential

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