Wednesday, November 23

Laptop Agony, Laptop Ecstasy: *nix on the Toshiba Tecra M2

This article is about how I have tried, with mixed success, to install Ubuntu Linux and Solaris 10 on my Toshiba Tecra M2.

That line is so that people can find this post if they're looking for another war story.

This is the first line of the actual experience! When I got my laptop, it came preloaded with Windows XP, modified by the IT department (it's a company toy) to their exacting standards of corporate ridiculosity. It also had more than half the hard drive set up as a Linux partition, running a relatively strange distro loosely based on Suse.

I considered it a writeoff from the beginning, and blew it away in favour of Ubuntu. I'd heard good things from /. about the Debian-based, end-user-focused, fanatically-supported distro, and I'd wanted to try a Debian flavour for a while. The Ubuntu install was totally painless. Creepily so, in fact; I was expecting to have to do a lot more fiddling to get things to work than I did. Ubuntu is a GNOME distro, which is fine with me; they offer KDE packages, but I'm not familiar with KDE so I haven't tried them. The Synaptic package manager is as creepily easy to use as the installer, and within 20 minutes of logging in for the first time I'd downloaded a few new packages and updated the kernel and libc and openssl and a few other things I don't remember. All I had to do was point and click.

Of course, once everything was stable it was time to break things. installing a better nvidia driver was another Synaptic step, along with some conf file edits for the settings manager program. Hardware acceleration was noticeable, too; it's not often a single software update has such a noticeable effect on performance, but this one did.

Then, I jumped off the deep end and tried to get TwinView, NVidia's dual-monitor system, running. That took a *lot* of hand-edits to xorg.conf, but I was successful in getting it mostly right after a couple hours. Google, the ubuntu forums, and the nvidia linux driver forums were all very helpful; it was really a question of getting the correct parameters on the driver. Having some familiarity with TwinView from the Windows side was helpful too, so I didn't have to tab back and forth to the documentation to figure out what the options meant.

Once that was up and going, I started fiddling with the touchpad driver -- Ubuntu Blog has some good info. Haven't quite got that working perfectly yet, but it's usable; I can use tap-to-click, but not tap-hold-to-drag. More on that in this space if I get it working.

But that might be a while, since I'm going to be blowing the Ubuntu partition away and replacing it with (shock! horror!) Solaris 10.

Yeah, that's gonna be a beating. I'll let you know how it goes.

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