So I have an HP a1610n I purchased a while back that entitled me to a free upgrade to Vista Home Premium. I only got it for the purpose of holding me over until I could get my Mac Pro and I until I could test out Parallels to ensure that ALL my Windows only software ran properly (MS Money, MS Word, MS Excel, Rhapsody, etc). I won’t even bother you with a review of Vista because I feel it merely attempts to emulate OS X Tiger and just doesn’t even come close. Not only that, but the system takes forever to load (with 2GB of RAM and a dual-core processor – just insane). My Mac Mini with 2 GB of RAM and a much slower dual-core processor is a billion times faster in response times, load-up, graphical effects, etc. And my biggest gripe of all about Windows Vista (Home Premium): My internet access is INSANELY slow!!!!! It’s not like I have a rare wireless card that shouldn’t be supported either, it’s an Atheros 5005 chipset with a/b/g support.
Preparing Vista to dual-boot Ubuntu:
Now, onto my review of Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). Installing Ubuntu with Vista pre-installed was really easy. There are a lot of tutorials that make it seem rather scary due to Vista having it’s own boot loader that is new and supposedly kills GRUB / LILO, etc. Fear not, if you have two hard-drives it is really easy to install Ubuntu even if you want to keep Vista only to remember why you hate it so much :) Most of the guides I looked at recommended either using Window’s Disk Management utility to shrink the primary drive to make space for Ubuntu or a 3rd party application. Well because my internet was SO slow, there’s no way I was downloading hundreds of megabytes over hours and hours just to repartition my drive. I also did several hours of defragmenting (hoping it wouldn’t be that long – supposedly it had defragmented the Wed. night before). Anyway, the defragmentation still resulted in Vista showing ZERO space available to shrink the primary partition down. So what is one to do when Windows won’t make room for another OS and you really just want Linux? Well I would say just delete Vista and install Linux only (but I really want to show Vista to compare why it sucks in comparison to Linux or OS X when friends come over). So I just decided to take a chance and install on my secondary hard drive.
Ubuntu has always been one of the easiest operating systems to install (especially out of Linux distributions) in my opinion. I’ve been using Ubuntu in some form or another since 5.something. You simply insert your LiveCD that you download from Ubuntu.com. It automatically boots into the Ubuntu desktop where it provides an icon you double-click to install Ubuntu. Because I have a 22” monitor and an nVidia 6150 LE built-in to my HP I had issues with the install window being fully visible (800x600 doesn’t work well on a 22” wide screen display). It ultimately didn’t matter because I selected the options I could see and just had to press the Enter key after I was done making the appropriate choices (which are fairly simple). When it came to the section about selecting where to install Ubuntu I simply selected the second option and chose my second hard drive (which is actually bigger than my Vista primary hard drive – woot!). After I finished the wizard I just went and finished watching Pulp Fiction with Katie and all was blissful upon my return. I simply clicked “Restart” and then took out the CD (which was automatically ejected – how thoughtful). Now for the moment of truth….
Does dual-booting Vista and Ubuntu on two hard drives work?
Well, if nothing else, Ubuntu definitely booted into itself easily enough. The resolution was still jacked up, but was easily fixed with two simple commands to download nVidia drivers and a quick edit of /etc/X11/xorg.conf to add the appropriate resolutions (1680x1050) to each of the four display modes. Much easier than any other display issue I’ve had on any other version of Linux (including prior versions of Ubuntu). And most importantly of all, Ubuntu has WPA2 wireless support built right in!!!!! What was once the single largest complaint I had about Ubuntu has now been fixed out of the box! With those essential issues resolved I determined it was time to see whether or not the cursed Vista still works.
Does Vista still boot?
I restarted my system and was greeted by the familiar boot loader which provided several Ubuntu options and then provided Windows Vista (loader) as the bottom option. You have 30 seconds to choose so there is plenty of time. I pushed down to Vista and hit enter…. After what seemed like forever to wait the Microsoft loading bar came up then it went black and I had to wait another eternity (“Is Vista really this slow, or did I kill it”, I thought?) Right after I thought that, the blue shiny logo (the only decent thing about Vista) came right up. A few more seconds of load time, a login later, and “Shazam! There she was!” Good, it still worked, and the internet was still just as slow – time to go back to Ubuntu :)
Vista and OS X Graphics for free?
While I won’t switch back to Ubuntu as my primary OS anytime soon, I must say that I’m very impressed with how simplistic, easy, and amazing the graphics are. There’s a tutorial about Compiz Fusion that explains how to enable some amazing effects on Ubuntu and even shows some sample videos. Almost everything works for me except that my window borders (with the “X”, minimize, and maximize icons) is missing and my terminal is displaying all white. As a result I can do all the really cool effects, but I’m missing some basic functionality (mind you however that this is still in “alpha” stage). Also of note, my built-in video code uses shared memory rather than dedicated memory. Supposedly these two issues go away if I get an nVidia 7600 PCIe card (perhaps down the line when I’ve got an extra couple hundred bucks). Of even more interest to me is that on one of the forums they mentioned that all of these amazing desktop effects are supposedly coming out of the box for Ubuntu 7.10!
Remember that I have Ubuntu 7.04 running on the exact same hardware as my Windows Vista install? Well Ubuntu got some very amazing download times in comparison to Vista. While Vista was reporting hours to download a simple 128MB file, Ubuntu did it in a matter of minutes. Last night I think I got the best speed report results yet on my systems with an amazing 12mbps download and 2.7mbps upload! Here’s what I’m getting on my three systems back to back right now:
Mac Pro (802.11n): 12,081 Kb/s download, 2,110 Kb/s upload Ubuntu (802.11g): 12,482 Kb/s download, 2,049 Kb/s upload Vista (802.11g): 689 Kb/s download, 208 Kb/s upload
Now that is something that will make me stop and say, “WOW!”
I would say that Ubuntu 7.04 is a very amazing Linux distribution. It uses comparably less memory than OS X or Vista from what I can tell but is not quite as quick to load as OS X (although much quicker than Vista). The support for wireless cards and WPA2 out of the box is a huge improvement and one that made me jealous of those who didn’t have to spend hours upon hours trying to mangle with command line scripts to enable WPA2 while still using the GUI network add-on in Ubuntu 6. The desktop 3d effects are amazing and the applications that come with Ubuntu have always been great. If you’re looking for a free alternative to Vista that is more secure and can still enable you to do the vast majority of what you need to do, Ubuntu is what I’d recommend. However, if you have the money and still want the most simplistic experience with an OS of your life I’d still say, “Go get a Mac!”
PS – One other thing I really love about Ubuntu over Vista, I can use my Macintosh keyboard and mouse out of the box on my USB KVM switch without having to install Mac’s Bootcamp Drivers for Windows to support the keyboad and mouse. In addition to this, Ubuntu allows me to use my mouse and keyboard instantly when I switch over via my KVM while Vista requires me to wait about 15 to 30 seconds before it recognizes the keyboard or mouse’s input.