By chance my father read my Installed Ubuntu entry and was willing to give it a shot. I was in the Netherlands last weekend (between coming back from Oslo/Copenhagen and going to Seattle) and brought an Ubuntu 8.04 disk from the Opera Oslo office to my dad’s house. There were two issues with installing Ubuntu on his Dell laptop. The first was that the installer hang on analysing the disk (you could easily quit it though). It also popped up a dialog talking about support being highly experimental. I wonder if this has anything to do with the file system Windows Vista uses. Anyway, restarting the installer and clicking through the dialog again “fixed” it. The second issue was worse and again had to do with wireless network drivers. Specifically, the Broadcom B43 Wireless Driver. Ubuntu tells me this driver is in use (it actually isn’t). When I open the hardware panel and click enable for this driver it tells me to reboot the computer with no noticable effect. (In fact, if you just open the hardware panel again you can see it has no effect.) I also downloaded and installed over two hundred updates, released since Ubuntu 8.04 shipped. None of that helped. Applying a dodgy set of instructions left in a Ubuntu bug report comment did. Hopefully Ubuntu gains even more momentum so that device manufacturers will ensure working drivers are always available.
I also had to make these further changes as the world is not yet completely based on nice stuff: Flash, enabling GStreamer support for non-RF and/or proprietary formats, and make OpenOffice.org Word output Microsoft Word documents by default.
Overall it worked out pretty well and runs a lot better than Windows Vista (dual 1.7x GHz, 2.5 GiB RAM). Installing Windows and getting everything up and running takes a lot longer as well, so if you’re looking for something to try after Windows XP I recommend you try Ubuntu. (It comes with an option to simply run it from the CD so you can see how it works out before you commit to it.)
What were you doing in Seattle, Anne? Man, I hope I didn't miss a conference in my own backyard.
The biggest pain-points I've had with Ubuntu (or any *nix) and laptops is suspend/resume and wireless drivers. It is amazing how much search black magic one has do on Google and the product's documentation/forum/wiki sites to dig up something that works. I've installed it on what I'd call "standard machines" too (IBMs and Dells.)
The W3C Web Application Working Group is meeting at Microsoft. I’m still in Seattle by the way (the meeting starts today) and will leave here Sunday.
I have the same problem with my broadcom b43 drivers - only on top of that an upgrade to 8.04 also disables my ethernet too, so I can't even apply that 'fix' - have to stick with gutsy which works 'out the box' and tells me about the restricted driver of the b43 and guides me through installing it. Bloody legal restrictions.
The amount of bitching that Linux wireless support cops is staggering.
The fact that anyone has a brain kick ass enough and dedication strong enough to reverse engineer a driver for a wireless chip is amazing. Just getting a beep out of a proprietary chip deserves a pat on the back in my book.
If you dont enjoy the challenge of days of haxing and hair pulling to get your inbuilt chip cranking then just cough up the cash and get a compatible PCMCIA card. Maybe throw a few bucks towards http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/b43/donations while your at it.