Kubuntu on Dell Inspiron 4000

Yay! Kubuntu has been installed!

I have an Dell Inspiron 4000 laptop. It is an old Pentium III machine (700 MHz) with 256 MB of RAM. It has the ATI Radeon Mobile card and E3 Maestro sound support. Kubuntu detected everything! It even grabbed by PCIMCIA ethernet card flawlessly.

The installation went without a hinch. I installed win2k on the first 20GB partition, and then I let Kubuntu partition the rest of the space. I ended up with a 50+ GB root partition, and 1GB for swap. I know I should have had set up a separate home partition but I just didn’t feel like messing around. I wanted to see how Kubuntu will do on its own with a dual boot system.

I was surprised how easy it was. The installer was really simple and user friendly. The ncurses dialogs were clear, and explained each stage well. I was impressed!

Soon enough I booted into KDE and I found that my sound card was supported! Yes! Finally some sound on the good old lappy! I could not get the fucking Maestro soundard working under the 2.4 kernel without patching, and breaking 5 other things. Here it worked out of the box.

KDE has a nice WinXP style loader (note to self: change that shit to something more linuxy) and a beautiful plastic theme. I love it! Of course 5 minutes after loging in my mouse went apeshit. I know for a fact this has nothing to do with Kubuntu – it is my keyboard/touchpad going to shit.

Here is the rundown – some idiot at Dell decided that it would be really cool to put a little rubber knob in the middle of the keyboard, which would act as a mini joystick like mouse replacement. The idea is not that bad, but the design is flawed. Every time you close the lid, the rubber is touching the screen (especially in older laptops where the lids rubber legs are worn down, and the lid is slightly out of alignment). You end up with a nice little dented circular spot on the LCD. Which is ok – the screen is not damaged, it just looks dirty in that area.

The worst part is what the pressure applied to that rubber mouse thingy. Think about it – the way that thing works is it detects pressure applied to it, and translates it into cursor movement. Now, over the months and years the lid is constantly pressing against. Eventually the sensors go out of alignment and your mouse pointer goes apeshit every once in a while. Replacing keyboard solves this issue 98% of the time.

The distro is a little skimpy on the application side – no Firefox for example. I was used to my Knoppix based Debian distro which included oodles of useful apps straight out of the box. It just seems that I will have to configure few things, and download quite a few apps to get to be really comfortable with it. Still, having a working sound card, and seeing apt-get go through a full upgrade without some stupid dependency snag is priceless.

I was especially impressed with the flawless ACPI support. I could put the machine into standby, suspend and hibernate states with perfect recovery. I haven’t been able to do that before with any other distro. Ah, this is just one more benefit of using a recent kernel release.

Now I just need to install Java on it, and then get Eclipse, Jarnal and Azureus. Only problem is that apt-cache search does not find suns Java packages. I can’t remember where did I get my java packages before but I think I got them from stock Debian repositories. 😛 The only help I have seen so far is this – I guess I might need to do this the hard way. I hate using alien with rpm’s…

Of course you can always snag java packages from debian repositories, and use them. This seems to be the optimal solution, as I feel much more comfortable using package made for Sarge, rather than one compiled for RH or Fedora.

Next step is importing my mailboxen. This should be relatively easy as I’m using KMail. I just need to grab the HD enclosure (which I left at work, of course) and move the files over.

Side note – what happened to KMail? It’s no longer there! Instead we have Kontact which tries really hard to be the KDE equivalent of Evolution/Outlook. I actually don’t mind – it nicely wraps up KMail, Kalendar, Knotes and the address book into one application. The barebones simplicity of Kmail is still there. I just hope it will perform as good as the stand alone KMail did.

One thing I’m concerned with is getting my linksys wireless card working on this system. I’ll probably need ndiswapper and Windows drivers again. I really, really hope that I can get it working reliably before school starts. I don’t have wireless here at home so I can’t even try it out.

I can’t get used to my laptops making sounds. It is wild! Ah! I can now take earphones to work/school and listen to podcasts! Wohoo! 😛

I’ll be posting updates on my adventure with Kubuntu as I go along.

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