Ramblings of a Professional Computer Geek

March 3, 2010

My New Linux Laptop

Filed under: Linux,PCLinuxOS — Padma @ 9:09 pm
Tags: , , ,

A couple of weeks ago, my wife bought an Asus netbook.  It came with Win 7 Starter Edition.  Okay, I gave up long ago trying to convert her to Linux.  She’s not going to leave her comfort zone.  And that’s all right.  She’d rather beat her head against some of the idiocies of Windows than switch.  Whatever makes her happy.

What made ME happy was when she said I could have her old laptop once I backed up all her documents, music, etc. that she had on it.  Okay, it’s not a state-of-the-art wonder.  It’s a nice, usable Compaq, with a 2.16GHz Celeron processor, and Intel video card, 2G RAM, and a 160G hard drive.  When she bought it a few years ago, it came with Windows Vista Basic.  Between that, and the anti-spyware, anti-virus, and other junk running in the background, it ran like a dog.  She would complain about how slow it was to start up – to get to a *usable* state, and how slow programs would run on it.

She knew what I was going to do with it.  After all, both desktop systems in the house are running up-to-date PCLinuxOS 2009.  She found she prefers a laptop system so she doesn’t have to go down to the computer room to get online; she can just sit down, put her feet up where ever she wants, and connect.  She also knew I would like a laptop, too, if only so I could be in the same room with her (or at least within earshot ;)).

To make a long story short, I copied all her files to a 250G external hard drive.  She copied her most-commonly used files to her netbook, and everything else is just a usb connection away.  She’s happy as a clam.  Or at least, as happy as a clam who is stuck with Win7 Starter can be!

But now I was faced with a decision.  I wanted to put KDE4 on the laptop.  I knew PCLinuxOS would run, because I’d used the live-CD occasionally over the last few months.  But that would mean installing the 2009.2 iso, then going through hours of updates and changes just to get KDE4 up and running.  I really wanted to put the 2010 iso on, but it hasn’t been released to the public, yet.  So I started checking around.  OpenSuse?  Nah, that one always felt bloated and slow to me.  Kubuntu?  Definitely not.  In my opinion, one of the worst implementation of KDE4 I’ve ever seen.  My experiment with it last year left me very disillusioned.  Fedora? No, too “cutting edge”.  I want a system that “just works”.

Then, Linux Mint caught my eye.  Linux Mint 8 KDE Community Edition, to be precise.  Just released, with a 2.6.31 kernel, and KDE 4.3.4.  I downloaded the iso, and gave it a spin.  It recognized all my hardware, including the Atheros wifi card.  A very nice implementation of KDE 4.3.4.  I played with it for a couple of hours, and decided to take the plunge.

Installation was as smooth and easy as it should be.  Select the entire windows partition, wipe it clean, and divide it up for Linux.  Answer a few simple questions, and very shortly thereafter, it was telling me to remove the DVD and reboot.  I spent a little time putting up the plasma widgets I like, and in little over half an hour I had my desktop installed and looking like I wanted.  Mint KDE is a very usable system, easy to use (if you like KDE4, like I do), and beautiful to look at.  I turned on a bunch of eye candy I don’t usually, just because I could, and the system hardly noticed.

Mint is based on Ubuntu, which means there are things I don’t like about it.  Chief among these is the use of sudo.  Using sudo on a personal computer is an abomination, in my mind.  But that’s a subject of another post.  Still, I plan to only use this for a relatively short time, until PCLinuxOS 2010 is released, so I can live with the minor irritations.



  1. I tried converting my old laptop to a Linux box about a year ago but I couldn’t find a driver for my wireless card. And since wifi was the only internet I had access to, that made solving the driver problem a bit of a pain. I needed it for school so I just ended up putting XP Pro back on it. With a clean and lean install it worked a better than before, but I’ve since passed it on to my sister and who knows what abominable things she’s exposed it to.

    Comment by WildWeazel — March 4, 2010 @ 12:33 am | Reply

    • Actually, I have been (pleased? thrilled? absolutely amazed?) with the way wireless support has improved over the last year or so. I suppose it’s possible to find some combinations of hardware that just won’t work “out of the box”, but really, on pretty much any laptop today, any current major distro should be able to detect and set up drivers for wireless with no problem.

      Comment by Padma — March 4, 2010 @ 10:28 am | Reply

  2. Don’t like sudo? no problem. Modify the sudoers file with visudo to include your account. I do this with my workstation. I don’t on my servers just as an added precaution.

    Comment by JohnMc — March 4, 2010 @ 10:28 am | Reply

    • Oh, I know how to solve the problem. And if I was planning to use Mint for more than a few months, I would take the time to do it. But it’s a low enough level of irritation that I’ll just put up with it for now. Since I have the system configured to my liking, now it generally only comes up when I do a software update.

      Comment by Padma — March 4, 2010 @ 10:39 am | Reply

      • Yes but by doing this you are circumventing the SOLE reason Linux as a whole is more secure than Microsoft operating systems. By default the use of sudo OR having to su to root disallows any malicious code from modifying or deleting anything other than files or directories in your home directory. By having root access always this single and arguably most important mechanism is bypassed and gives the keys to the castle to every script kiddie out there.

        Comment by RJakiel — March 4, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  3. Just wondering why using sudo on a personal computer is a bad idea? Surely you are not suggesting that everyone should be root on their own machine.

    Comment by RJakiel — March 4, 2010 @ 10:40 am | Reply

    • As I said, that’s a subject for another post. 😉

      In the meantime, consider that the way sudo is usually implemented on personal computers, everyone effectively *is* root on their own machine. Just like in Windows….

      Comment by Padma — March 4, 2010 @ 10:43 am | Reply

      • yes but you HAVE to type sudo or if the command is executed without sudo it tells you that you need to be root. It also provides one more VERY important aspect and this is YOU have to type in your password. This in and of itself is what prevents 99.99% of malicious garbage out there from blitzing Linux like it has Windows.

        Comment by RJakiel — March 4, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  4. You should try Mandriva – it’s one of the best distro for kde

    Comment by sylvainsjc — March 4, 2010 @ 10:59 am | Reply

    • I don’t know how I skipped Mandriva. I was a Mandrake/Mandriva user for many years, up until the 2006 release took a dislike to my hardware. I am certain it’s an excellent choice!

      Comment by Padma — March 4, 2010 @ 11:11 am | Reply

  5. Try SimplyMEPIS 8.5 (KDE4, but SM8.5 is currently in beta), they always have great KDE and its built on Debian, which is a much smarter base IMHO.

    Comment by lefty.crupps — March 4, 2010 @ 11:55 am | Reply

    • “SM8.5 is currently in beta”

      That’s about the only reason I didn’t try it. I didn’t want a beta version of anything, I wanted a final release.

      Comment by Padma — March 4, 2010 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  6. […] My New Linux Laptop Then, Linux Mint caught my eye. Linux Mint 8 KDE Community Edition, to be precise. Just released, with a 2.6.31 kernel, and KDE 4.3.4. I downloaded the iso, and gave it a spin. It recognized all my hardware, including the Atheros wifi card. A very nice implementation of KDE 4.3.4. I played with it for a couple of hours, and decided to take the plunge. […]

    Pingback by Links 4/3/2010: Korea’s “Red Star” (“붉은별”), New OOo Logo | Boycott Novell — March 4, 2010 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  7. I found Mandriva 2010 KDE as an excellent Linux-distro. Beautifull desktop, quite easy to learn. However my children like more Linux Mint.

    Comment by Systematics — March 5, 2010 @ 3:48 am | Reply

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