November 1, 2008
In the wee hours of this morning I decided to upgrade from my much loved Hardy Heron installation on my trusty Dell Inspiron 9400 (e1705 for you yanks out there) and give Intrepid Ibex a run. At this point I’d like to digress for a second and state that I’m convinced that the person who designed this laptop probably also is responsible for the design of the sherman tank. This thing is friggen’ huge – it’s claim to portability is roughly the same as that of a spare truck tyre. Sure you probably could drag one around but it really belongs strapped to 20 tons of Detroit muscle to make it easy. Once I had to carry it into work every day for a fortnight. I swear the resultant chiropractic bills coulda bought me a new cheaper, lighter laptop. Anyway enough whinging, gotta leave some room for what’s to come.
Although Intrepid doesn’t boast much in the way of new features, I was excited to hear that the Canonical team had spent a fair amount of time and effort improving the stability of the distro and fixing bugs. Considering I already thought Hardy Heron was getting pretty damn close to M$ Windows killer (I even managed to shun Vista entirely and used it exclusively for a period of about 3 months), I thought surely this latest release was gonna be “the one”.
Given that I already had an existing Ubuntu install with a separate home partition I thought I’d simply overwrite the root partition with the latest incarnation. I was impressed as always with the graphical installer, and the process of performing the upgrade was relatively painless. Feeling rather happy that it had all gone so smoothly I quickly rebooted and logged with baited breath. The system logged in and detected my wireless and ATI graphics card within seconds of logging in. I was really impressed at that point and decided to grab the latest updates off the web. Imagine my disappointment then, when everything came to a screeching halt about 5 min later and about halfway through downloading the latest kernel patch.
Now I’m no stranger to these sort of happenings in Linux, especially when it comes to laptops. The first thing I checked was the temperature of the case by running the back of my hand under the laptop and bingo! The thing was more steamed up than a shower scene with Sharon Stone. Immediately I thought to myself, oh great we’re back to the Edgy days when I’d struggle to keep a lid on the CPU temp of my Inspiron 5150 at 75 degrees Celsius (scary huh). To be honest I was majorly boned about this, I really though they’d sorted out all the ACPI shite in earlier releases. I was just about to give up and revert back to the venerable Heron when I noticed a curious thing. Then hot spot wasn’t anywhere near the CPU!
Turns out my Intel 3945ABG wifi card was trying to turn itself into a mini supernova right from the comfort of my desk. Disabling the wifi card and running using the wired NIC confirmed my suspicions. No lockups, nothing. She was solid as a rock. Turn the wifi card back on and bam! My laptop was cookies (as in baked) within a minute or two. Now that really had me scratching my head. What the hell had they done to the wireless driver stack to hurt my wifi card’s feelings so badly? I mean you shoulda been there, he was really hot under the collar about it all.
Thankfully I stumbled upon a post or two on the Ubuntu forums from people with the same card experiencing similar conflagrations breaking out on their desks spontaneously. The solution was rather straight forward. I simply went to http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Download and followed their instructions to compile a new driver and presto I had my wireless back.
Now where was I? Oh yeah I was supposed to be feeding you some sycophantic review about how good Intrepid (ergo Linux) is and how much M$ suck. Well I’m not going to – go to ITWire if you want to read one of those.
So what do I think? Well driver issues aside Intrepid’s not bad, I particularly like the new dark theme. Given the aim of this release I think I’m going to withhold judgement till I’ve been living with it for a few weeks and see if it lives up to Canonical’s claims of a more stable and reliable OS.