Taking the Plunge: Part 3

I decided earlier in the week that the long Fourth of July would be a great time to reimage my work laptop from XP to Ubuntu.

A couple reasons for this: 1) I’m supposed to be off today, so I can muck around with my laptop without worrying about work stuff and 2) it’s a bit fitting to declare my independence from Windows on the 4th.

Not that I’m fully abandoning Windows, since as I write this, I’m installing a virtual image of XP, but rather, I’m opening up my options to include Linux. Like I said before, choice is good.

Rich told me yesterday over IM that it would take about 30 minutes to install Ubuntu and a bit longer to get it running. He also assured me that dual monitors and docking stations were supported. I think he said something similar to out-of-the-box, but I can’t check my chat log just now.

He’s partially right. It was a quick install, unless you try to take out the install CD when the restart is happening, and then you have to reburn another image. User error on my part.

Ubuntu did auto-configure my hardware, USB, sound, video, monitor, wireless card, all very impressively. I got the updates downloaded and installed and had Firefox 3 configured to my liking with all my favorite add-ons and bookmarks in a couple hours.

Then I spent the rest of the day fighting dual monitors.

I have a docking station with dual monitors, one LCD, one old CRT, different resolutions. I love my dual monitors; the productivity gain you get from multiple monitors is astounding. I highly recommend it, even if you just open your laptop and use it as a second monitor with your regular monitor, you’ll reap the benefits.

Anyway, XP did a passable job managing this setup. For some reason, it never could reboot and remember the settings, but I lived with that.

So, not having dual monitors is a huge gap for me. I spent literally hours trying to get it working until I tabled that to move on to installing the Cisco VPN client.

Which went equally well. Rich warned me about this one, and true to form, it failed. So, I skipped ahead to easy stuff because by then, I needed a win. I moved some files around, which is a great exercise.

Tim Hall commented on my first post:

If I lost my laptop tomorrow I could be back online in the amount of time it takes to buy the new laptop, install VMware Server and copy over the VMs.

Really good advice, and exactly why I keep current backups, JIC. I’m a pack rat though, so I have gigs of old work data. Reimaging gave me a chance to marginalize that old stuff on the backup drive.

I also feel like I got too entrenched and perversely attached to my XP installation. I let it live way too long beyond its usefulness to me simply because of inertia. When the list of things your computer does that you just live with gets too long, this is a sign that you need a new start.

So after getting a second wind, I moved on to installing VirtualBox, and I’m still walking through the XP install that I’ll need for IE 6, Oracle Web Conference and my old Palm Desktop calendar that has 10 years of data that I’m not ready to archive just yet.

So far, I’m pleased with Ubuntu. It’s very simple and easy, and it hasn’t crashed yet, in the BSOD Windows style. It has hung up a few times, but it starts so fast that hard rebooting doesn’t seem to be that bad a deal.

Well, XP has finished and needs me. Plus, I suppose I should enjoy the outside, maybe some fireworks.

Then back at this tomorrow.




  1. If you need to use it for presentations make sure to make sure it works with the projector, Ubuntu blew up in my face last OOW when i tried to use with the provided projectors.

  2. Good to know and not surprising, considering the issues I've had with displays already. Thanks.

  3. Just to clarify… re: multi-monitor support… my set up had one external monitor. I spanned my laptop screen with the external lcd panel.

  4. Yeah I had multi monitors working as well it was just the projectors at OOW that didn't like it last year for some reason, could have been my beater of a laptop.

  5. Seems like you need to rebuild xorg.conf when you make a change to displays, and I'm still not sure how to get my configuration working. I'm not good enough yet to get Randr to do what I want.

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