Ubuntu fixed (sort of )

Ok, so I decided that (a) a laptop without the “Suspend” / “Hibernate” was only marginally more useful than a door-stopper and (b) that I could do it, if I really wanted.

I’d also discovered that, out of the box, Ubuntu would not support an external monitor – which was a bit unsettling, as I was due to give a presentation the next day (to no less than Google folks!) and was planning to do so from the laptop.

Fire up Google, search for “Ubuntu dual head” and up pops HowTo: Dual Monitors a very well written article, with plenty of detail.

It turns out that the source of so much misery were the missing nVidia drivers – installing them following this How-To was a piece of cake and that also had the nice side effect to enable the external monitor.

One thing that still troubles me is that I have been thus far unable to find a way to make Ubuntu recognise the special function keys (you know, the ones that allow you to change brightness, volume, etc. and, critically, switch the LCD/External monitor) so to have the external monitor to work, one has to re-start (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace) the X server.

I have so far been unable to make Twinview work and I am using Xinerama instead – although, apparently, Twinview was designed exactly for nVidia cards, my (admittedly, feeble) attempts to make it work have miserably failed: I decided that life is too short and can live quite happily with Xinerama.

A more general consideration is that it took me the best part of a Sunday afternoon and several trial and errors (for God’s sake, whatever you do, make a backup of xorg.conf at each and every step – trust me, you’ll need them!) – to achieve something that Windows gives you straight out of the box (and, to be fair, most Linux distros): I am still quite unsure whether choosing Ubuntu was as clever as I thought it was.

On balance, I’d recommend Suse Linux: I have v. 10 installed on my other laptop (a much older one that I use as a staging server for my Tomcat Java apps) and it is much easier to manage, configure and, generally, use.

Also RedHat‘s Fedora Core felt a lot easier to use, although much less “flashy” than Ubuntu.
I used to run FC4 on yet another laptop as a development/testing box – had all sorts of servers and tools running on that one: despite years of abuse, I never really managed to crash it: the same, sadly, can’t be said of my Windows dev PC, that recently enjoys crashing on me rather spectatularly): I can only assume that FC6 is even better (and FC7 is about to be released).

Now, if only I could get the little battery guy to see some sense …
(although, I must admit it’s got its amusement value: yesterday warned me of 5 remaining minutes of power as soon as I unplugged the power cable, after an entire day charging)

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