Category Archives: Laptop

Mandriva Linux 2010 – Very Impressive

A couple of days ago, Mandriva released the new version of its operating system, Mandriva Linux 2010. I downloaded the One edition to

Mandriva Logo

Mandriva Logo

give it a spin. I have been running Mandriva GNOME since 2008 and I have been keeping track of the developments on the KDE 4.x series. This time around, I wanted to really use KDE as my primary desktop. Before I proceed further, here is a bit of background info.

Background

A few of days prior to the release, I had downloaded openSUSE 11.2 RC2 and Mandriva 2010 RC2 KDE versions just to check how they both compared against each other. The openSUSE screenshots looked slick and honestly, that is the one I tried first. I had it installed as my primary OS for a couple of days. A few minutes into using it, plasma crashed. Kopete could not connect to any IM service. I installed Pidgin and even that wouldn’t connect which was not acceptable. That said, openSUSE 11.2 is a definite improvement over how KDE was being implemented in its earlier releases.

Next up, I installed the Mandriva 2010 RC2 and the installation went smoothly. I did not have any issues as I had in openSUSE. The night before the release of Mandriva 2010, a huge 400 MB updated got me Mandriva 2010. However, I always prefer to have a clean install and so I began downloading the 2010 ISO.

Installation

The Live CD is the most popular medium for modern Linux distros and Mandriva’s Live CD was no exception. The Live CD booted much faster. The installation itself took around 15 minutes. The partitioning tool has been revamped a bit. I usually go for custom partitioning, so this change made no difference to me. I used ext4 for the root and home partitions. I have a Win 7 evaluation copy running on another partition and another FAT32 partition for data exchange between the two. The FAT32 to NTFS conversion is pending for sometime now.

Boot & Shutdown

The boot time has significantly reduced. There is one thing I personally dislike about the boot process. The progress bar that was displayed in the earlier releases has been swapped for an animated circle. This is not as informative as the progress bar. Yes, the flower background gradually becomes visible as the boot process progresses, but is no match for a progress bar in letting one know, how much more one has to wait before being able to use the system.

The shutdown is pretty quick too, but not as quick as Spring 2009 GNOME, which shutdown in about 5 seconds.

Desktop

On booting, there were a few updates. The default desktop theme is La-Ora even in the KDE edition just to keep the experience same

Mandriva KDE Desktop

Customized Mandriva KDE Desktop

across GNOME and KDE editions. I changed the theme to Oxygen and main menu to Kickoff. Initially when Kickoff was first introduced, I was totally against it considering how much time it took to locate a program, but now I am trying to get used to it.

Applications

There is not much change in the applications Mandriva bundles by default. Apart from the regular KDE apps, there is OpenOffice 3.1.1, Firefox 3.5.3 and GIMP 2.6.7. There is no K3B in the One edition, even though I would prefer it to be a part of the ISO image. Applications can be installed using the Install & Remove Software app and codecs can be installed after adding the PLF repository. I installed Flash, Java, VLC, VirtualBox and a couple of games. The Mandriva Control Center is, of course, the one stop shop for all configuration and administration activities in Mandriva.

I found yet another small problem in Install & Remove Software application. First I select a few packages and install. Once the installation is done, I select a few additional packages. This time, the installation will fail. The workaround is to close the Install & Remove Software app and open it again. I am yet to post this in the forum or file a bug report.

Conclusion

Mandriva, in my opinion, has the best KDE implementation around. They proved it once again with this release. The KDE edition is just awesome. I have not looked at the GNOME edition yet. Having used Mandriva’s GNOME edition for the past year and a half, I think that would be just as great. I am anyway giving it a spin in the coming days. I would definitely recommend Mandriva 2010 to any one who wants to get started with Linux or try out a great distribution.

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Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring – First Impressions

A few days back, Mandriva released the newest version of its operating system, Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring. As I had already taken a

Mandriva Logo

Mandriva Logo

look at the Release Candidate 2, I know pretty much what was in store. I wanted to setup this new release and get it running as quickly as possible even though the previous version Mandriva 2009 was working like a charm on my laptop. It was by far the most stable OS to have run on my laptop.

Live CD

I downloaded the Mandriva One GNOME Live CD. GNOME has been my default desktop for a few years now and that is what would eventually reside on my laptop. I also downloaded the Mandriva One KDE Live CD to see what changes have gone into KDE 4.2. The Live CD booted pretty fast. The speed bump was already visible in the RC and I was glad to see it stayed that way.

Installation

The installation took about 12 minutes on my laptop. This machine is a 2 year old, Dell Inspiron 6400, with an Intel Core 2 Duo clocking 1.73 GHz, 1 GB RAM and an Intel 945 GMA graphics chip and an Intel 3945 Wireless. I chose the new ext4 file system for the root and home partition. The post installation step of updating the media is where I met my first stumbling block. It seemed to take forever to download the media, but once I pulled my ethernet cable out, things proceeded smoothly. I had to update the media later.

Boot Time

I timed the boot with a stop watch. It took me 36 seconds from the grub menu to the desktop. I don’t have any complaints here. I can see that a lot of improvement has gone into the boot process and it really shows. I guess the ext4 file system would also have helped in this regard, though I have no means to measure it.

Desktop

There is no denying the fact that Mandriva has one of the best looking default themes around. I rarely changed the theme or the window

Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring - Customized Desktop

Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring - Customized Desktop

decoration on Mandy. The only thing I change is the icon theme, since the default GNOME icon theme has become old and boring. Carrying on the tradition, the desktop was slick. The fonts were crisp and have been improved from what existed in the previous version. An idle desktop after boot, consumed about 285 MB of RAM. I also did not install AWN since the auto hide feature did not work well and ended up being intrusive at best. The Mandriva Control Center remains one of the best control centers on the Linux desktop and serves as a one stop shop for all configuration requirements.

Applications

Mandriva comes with kernel 2.6.29.1 and a regular array of software that comprises of the GNOME desktop. However, here are the specifics for a few of them

  • GNOME 2.26.1
  • OpenOffice.org – 3.0.1
  • Mozilla Firefox – 3.0.8
  • Pidgin – 2.5.5
  • The GIMP – 2.6

Flash is available in the One edition. However, Java runtime, audio and video codecs have to be installed as is the case with most distributions. Additional software is a always a couple of clicks away in the Install and Remove Software section.

The KDE Edition

I also had a quick look at the KDE edition. Last time around Mandriva’s KDE implementation was very polished compared to the rest. This

Mandriva Spring 2009 KDE Desktop

Mandriva Spring 2009 KDE Desktop

time too I would say the same. They have also put the desktop which everyone is used to – where one kept files too – back into KDE 4.2 in quite a clever way by using Folder View. The KDE desktop also uses the default Mandriva theme instead of the KDE default Oxygen theme. This edition comes with the regular KDE applications, Kontact, Konqueror, Kopete, Kwrite to name a few.

Conclusion

One of the biggest improvements in my opinion is, I never had to consult the Errata. Also, never once was I required to visit the terminal (command line) for any accomplishing any task whatsoever. Almost all the things work the way they should. The One CD image was only 633 MB for the Africa and Asia edition. The available CD space could have been packed with something useful. On the whole, Mandriva Spring 2009 is a solid release with a great blend of stability and polish.

Screenshots

Here are a few screenshots of Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring – GNOME

A quick look at Mandriva 2009.1 RC2

A few days ago, Mandriva released the RC2 version of Mandriva 2009.1. Release Candidates more or less contain the

Mandriva Logo

Mandriva Logo

final set of packages and I thought it was a good time to check what is contained in the new version which would eventually find its way to my laptop.

Mandriva 2009.1 RC2 can be downloaded from various mirrors listed in the wiki. I am a GNOME user and hence I downloaded the GNOME variant. I was also keen to see what the newer version of GNOME 2.26 offered.

First Impressions

The Live CD booted much faster than the previous versions. I did not time it but it was definitely faster. The boot

Mandriva Boot Screen

Mandriva Boot Screen

screen also revealed new artwork which I like better than the one in Mandriva 2009. Apart from the looks, the system was as stable as any other Mandriva release.

Software

  • Kernel: 2.6.29-desktop586-1mnb
  • GNOME 2.26.0
  • OpenOffice.org 3.0.1

In addition to the regular stuff like Firefox and Pidgin, Inkscape, Cheese and Kino are included by default.

Mandriva 2009.1 Desktop

Mandriva 2009.1 Desktop

Fixes

  • Printer config has been included in the Mandriva Control Center. It was a major oversight in the previous release and good to see that this has been fixed.

Misses

  • The Live CD, as if a tradition, does not shut down properly. This time the disc is ejected but the computer does not shut down.
  • Compiz Fusion did not work completely while using the Live CD. The window title bars were not visible but otherwise it looked ok.
  • Another major problem I noticed was Ctrl + Alt + Backspace did not restart X.

Evolution – Email Client

I was very keen to see how Evolution imported Microsoft Outlook PST files and it did a fairly good job. However, there was something odd about the way the imported emails were displayed. The mails were shown in plain text first and then as I scrolled down, the complete HTML version was available. I am not sure whether this is a bug or feature so I reserve comment.

The calendar items imported from the PST file were nicely placed in their respective time slots on the Evolution Calendar. They were still available as emails in one of the folder, the purpose of which I did not understand.

Neither of the above noted items are Mandriva’s fault, though.

Conclusion

Though there are a few glitches in the RC2, I hope Mandriva would fix those in time for the release and deliver a yet another solid release.

Slax – Tiny, beautiful, functional

I had downloaded Slax a few days ago. But due to work commitments, I could try it out only today. I should say, I am

Slax

Slax

very impressed with this little distro.  Slax is a Live CD distribution meant to run from a CD or a USB drive. The default package is just 190 MB and the site offers iso images for those wishing to run Slax from a CD or a tar archive for those wishing to run it from a USB drive. An iso image can also be made from the tar archive and the iso image can also be used to run Slax from a USB drive. It works both ways and it is pretty convenient.

The best feature of Slax is Modules. Modules can be added to the default pacakge before download. Modules include additional programs, tools and utilities. Modules can also be added or removed at a later stage. This makes the distribution very versatile. Slax makes for a very good recovery or emergency OS.

Live CD

I tried the Live CD flavour of Slax. It booted up quickly on my laptop running an Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 processor with 1 GB RAM. I did not time the boot sequence, though. Another nifty feature of Slax is it can be loaded and run completly from RAM without the CD in the drive. This is very useful for people who have just one CD drive on their desktops or people using laptops.

Included Software

Slax is a KDE based distribution and it runs KDE 3.5.10

Other packages include

K3B
KolourPaint
Kopete
Konqueror
KOffice

plus other utilities a couple of games and tools for the Internet. The packages are not bleeding edge and this helps greatly in the stability of the distribution. There is no OpenOffice.org or Firefox in the default package. I figured out that Firefox can be downloaded from the modules, but did not check on OpenOffice.org

Conclusion

After running this distribution for a while, I immediately thought it would be a great fit on my very old PIII 1.1 GHz with just 256 MB of RAM. Currently this machine is chugging along with Win XP and Ubuntu with Ubuntu replacing Mandriva since the drive containing Mandriva failed. It is a stop gap distro and I was searching for something light to replace Ubuntu. From the time I discovered Slax, I have been researching how to install it on a computer. Since it is a Live CD distro there doesn’t seem to be a direct way to install it. All in all Slax is beautiful, minimal and functional.

I am still trying to empty my flash drive to run Slax on it and to see if my other files can happily co-exist. If I manage to do that, I will do another post.

Screen shots

Here are a few screen shots of beautiful Slax

Windows 7 – First Impressions

Two days ago, I laid my hands on the Windows 7 Beta. I went through the paining of moving and changing partitions. On any other given day, I would not have done this just for the sake of installing any version of Windows. But this time curiosity and the all round rave reviews got the better of me and I decided to take the plunge. I am not going to write a comprehensive review but would mention my specific experiences with Windows 7.

System

Before we start, here are the specs of my laptop, a Dell Inspiron 6400

Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 CPU @ 1.73 GHz
1 GB RAM
25 GB partition for Windows 7 formatted as NTFS
Intel 945 GMA
Bluetooth
Intel 3495 Wireless Adapter

My system scored a experience rating of 3 with the hard disk being the lowest at 3 and the graphics at 3.1. The other components scored a decent 4.5

Installation

The installation was pretty smooth. It took about 35 minutes for the installation to complete. Vista came installed by Dell. Since I never installed another Windows version on my laptop I cannot judge the time taken. There were no issues at all and the process was also more streamlined. A couple of questions to begin with and there we go. Once the installation has been completed come the rest of the questions. It is more like a Linux distro install with one difference. My laptop rebooted twice during the installation. Can the Linux killer not install without rebooting yet? No.

Hard Disk Space

Windows 7 took about 50% of the hard disk space than Vista which came installed on the laptop. 7.2 GB of space was consumed by the OS. Bloat has been reduced by the way of removing Mail, Calendar etc which can now be downloaded.

Startup and Shutdown

Boot till login screen took 36 seconds. Impressive cosidering Vista took over a minute on the very same hardware

Login to Desktop took 8 seconds. Again impressive. Vista used to take more than 30 seconds

Shutdown took 15 seconds. Again, much better than its ancestor

Memory Consumption

Memory consumption has been considerably reduced compared to Vista. The OS consumed about 645 MB of RAM. I was able to open multiple Windows of Explorer, Internet Explorer and other applications like Paint and Wordpad. I know this is not a real test but I am just comparing with how Vista fared.

Aero

Aero was enabled by default and there was no fuss in running aero and I did not see memory consumption shoot up.

Applications

I installed a few applications and every one of them worked. Here is what I installed.

WinRAR 3.x
Adobe Acrobat Reader 8
Opera 9.5
Winamp 5.3
Firefox 3.0.5
Pidgin 2.5.2

Other Improvements

1. Taskbar – The task bar now behaves like a dock – not there but almost. Application shortcuts can be pinned to the taskbar. There is no text this time, just icons. Every other opened application gets a new button on the taskbar and interestingly every open tab in applications that support tabs also get a button but are grouped. Hovering the mouse over the application revealed all tabs/windows of a particular application. Windows can be moved and closed right there. Nifty. I was able to right click on the IE icon on the taskbar and jump to one of my recently visited websites. Same kind of options called “Jump Lists” were available for other applications as well. The most nifty one being the jump list of Windows Explorer

2. Windows Explorer –  The Windows explorer has been revamped. It now sports a clean and lean look. The key Win + E now opens an Explorer window with something called Library with icons for Documents, Movies, Pictures etc. This is more like opening the Home folder on linux. Still, I dont think Windows thought about putting this Library on a separate partition. Opening folders with large number of files or huge files were not a problem. It was a pain with Vista. Another improvement was copying huge number of files or large files. They were handled with ease unlike Vista

3. Internet Explorer – Internet Explorer 8 was available with this Beta and though I did not use it much I figured out something was wrong. IE used to show 99% of a file as downloaded and stay there forever without completing the download. I feel IE is still this is the weakest link in Windows 7 – or any other version for that matter.

4. Windows Media Player – Windows Media Player is still bloated. It took about 10  seconds to start. It was not able to play a 650 MB movie file without torturing the hard disk.

5. Others

a. Shake to Minimize – Shaking a window by holding its title bar minimizes all the windows except the one which is being held

b. Shutdown – really shuts down and does not hibernate. Text has been added to show that it indeed shuts down. I am not sure if I am the first one to like this change.

c. Network Center – Is really fast compared to Vista. A few changes to graphics and that is it. I did not have a wi-fi connection to check how it performed.

d. Ribbon – The Ribbon interface has found its way to Paint and Wordpad from Office 2007

e. Media Center – Did not check much of this as I was never a fan of this application

f. Progress on Taskbar –  The progress of a file being downloaded is now shown in the form of a progress bar on the IE icon in the taskbar. This feature has been available on Linux (GNOME) for a long time now. But it is not limited to just downloads. CD Burning, Copying files is included. I just hope other applications in Windows too implement this feature.

Annoyances

1. The show desktop button has been moved to the extreme right, even beyond the clock. I did not try to drag it to where I liked but in my opinion that is a very bad default position for an important action.

2. Bluetooth did not work. I tried to pair my Nokia N81 with my laptop but except for detecting it as a remote control device all the other device drivers failed to install.

3. Print Screen or Alt + Print Screen did not seem to work making capture of some controls like menus impossible without a third party too.

Screenshots

No review is complete without a bunch of screenshots 🙂

Head over here for a few

Conclusion

I can say two things for sure.

  1. Windows 7 Beta is far better than Windows Vista
  2. Windows 7 is no Linux killer

Now Downloading…Windows 7 Beta

Well, there seems to be a lot of noise around the general availability of Windows 7. The reviews are full of praise and the servers were choked on the day of the release. This, to me,  sounded more like the release of a popular linux distro. Though I run linux exclusively – Mandriva, if you are wondering wwhich distro – I thought I would try Windows 7. I have been thinking whether to download it or not for the past couple of days and finally clicked on the big download button. In the meantime I got my product key as well. Please remember this is a time limited trial (expires 1 Aug, 2009).

My Laptop came with a DELL OEM Windows Vista Home Premium and I had to put of with a lot of pain during the first couple of months before I started dual booting Ubuntu and then running Ubuntu exclusively before jumping to Mandriva – my once upon a time favourite. I have no complaints on my current OS now but was more than curious to try Windows 7 with all the hoopla around it. But, I can confirm one thing for myself. How much better Windows 7 is going be when compared to Vista. I have a T5300 with 1 GB RAM and an Intel 945 GMA. If I what I read on the reviews are correct, then Windows 7 should work pretty well. Keeping my fingers crossed though 🙂

Ricoh Card Reader on Dell Inspiron 6400 running Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04)

Today, While casually surfing various support forums of Ubuntu and Mandriva, I stumbled upon this How To guide to get the Ricoh Card Reader (Internal) working on Ubuntu for various laptops.

For your information, I am running Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron. I tried the guide — though what was said made little sense to me — and got my card reader working.

So, give your luck a shot if you have been disappointed with the card reader not working on your laptop 🙂