Posts Tagged ‘Samsung NC10’

Wither Linux? Walking the talk with OpenSUSE 12.1

January 3, 2012 1 comment

Stupid question really if you consider Linux as a whole but it is prompted by my earlier rant over Microsoft’s strategy supporting Windows 7 (or not) to encourage the take up of Windows 8. The problem has always been that there has not been a serious OS competitor. It has been the demise of the desktop and potentially the laptop form factors along with the emergence of new ones such as iPads and smartphones that have posed a bigger threat them. This is not news – although learning that Microsoft makes more money from Android through its patent trolling activities than it does from Windows Phone 7 is news to me. Kudos to Barnes and Noble for having the nerve to stand up to them by the way. But I digress and I am sure some of you would point out that Linux is a serious competitor.

Historically, Linux has never quite lived up to expectations as a desktop/laptop OS. Fifteen or so years ago I gave it a go with a SUSE distro. It was awkward and emotional and you had to get down and dirty with scripts and command lines to make stuff happen. I gave up on it as it was a life choice I wasn’t prepared to make. However as Linux Format points out, the last couple of years  has seen a Linux renaissance but not in the areas necessarily expected. TV’s, phones, satnavs,  routers, servers and more have become fruitful territory for open source and Linux but not the desktop/laptop arena.

So, given my negative feelings towards Microsoft (not the best way to start the year), I thought it would a more positive thing to try see if I can live with Linux this time around. Besides, a new opportunity came at Christmas because a family member  discarded their Samsung NC 10 netbook and I have enough space to dual boot on my HP laptop.

Starting with the Samsung.

We bought this 2 years ago. Officially to separate a family member from my desktop who had a habit of installing software that had issues. If a catastrophe was to occur at least it only effected the person concerned. After 2 years of abuse it has served its purpose and it has been replaced. By and large it has been rock solid although it did suffer from the white screen of death. That was simple but fiddly to fix. But it was slow after all the patches and updates that Windows XP requires were installed. So rather than retire it, I have given it a new role as a sort of emergency replacement or guest notebook. Something that you can quickly turn on, get full internet access and be able to create documents. It also must be usable by someone who has used a Windows computer before so the user interface shouldn’t require a steep learning curve. I also didn’t want to waste my life trying to get the installation to work so I went with the OpenSUSE 12.1 Linux distro and installed it from an external DVD. Installation was sweet and took about 30 minutes and I opted for the KDE interface. OpenSUSE 12.1 boots smoothly and most things worked. Just one exception – the All In One HP WIFI printer a bit of research was required and it was resolved. The Samsung itself is now pretty nippy (compared to its previous experience) and eminently usable. More importantly it was actually used.

My HP laptop was a slightly different story. Firstly I wanted it to be dual boot. Again I used OpenSUSE 12.1 and getting it to dual boot  posed no problem during installation. You have to keep your wits about you when it comes to repartitioning the disks and the default was a bit enthusiastic about how much space it wanted from the NTFS partitions. It was easy to reset however. Graphics were a bit of an issue. ATI Radeon do Linux drivers but they are proprietary and not open source so are not supplied with OpenSUSE. The “Unofficial Guide” points you to the palces where you can find and install proprietary software such as Flash and CODECS. Its a minor pain but still a pain nonetheless. So it took a while to get configured to a state comparable to Windows. As with the Samsung, the printer was refusing but at least I now know what to do.

I will always need Windows for some applications although Android is increasing intruding into this space. There are no Linux equivalents for some of the Chinese applications I occasionally use (there is one for QQ however but its functionality is limited). But it would be nice to do this within Linux. So I set up a virtual machine using Virtual Box and run a Windows image under that. Initially, this had a habit of crashing the laptop but it seems to be stable now. I suspect this was down to the graphics driver before I changed it but I can’t be sure. Interestingly, the printer works under the VirtualBox guest but not the host. So far I haven’t had to enter a command line or edit a file to make this work, it has all been done through the KDE interface.

It was easy to attach the NAS disk attached to my FRITZ!Box router via SAMBA For both the Samsung and the HP and there is very little latency. IPv6 is also working seamlessly.

So point proven. I could live with OpenSUSE and KDE. I didn’t have to use a terminal console or file editor once and I got two fully functional Laptops in return. This blog post was even written under its jurisdiction. So instead of shooting at an open goal and whining about Microsoft as I did why not walk the talk instead.

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