While I was away on holiday, Ubuntu released the latest version of their desktop operating system: Ubuntu 7.10. I had last tried the 7.4 release on my new notebook without much luck as the hardware was a lot newer than the operating system.
I wasn’t too hopeful of having much luck installing 7.10 either on my HP 6910p notebook, but a funny thing happened – it just worked!
I downloaded the 64 bit version and booted up the Live CD, preparing myself for disappointment, but after a short while the desktop appeared with a nice little startup sound (wow – the sound card works!)
The resolution of the screen wasn’t perfect though as it should have been set to 1440×900 but a quick look in the resolution settings showed that it had maxed out at 1152×864 and I couldn’t set it any higher. I haven’t used Ubuntu that much but I looked in the System menu and found a hardware devices icon which looked like it may be able to help. Sure enough, my graphics card had been detected but couldn’t install the drivers as they were proprietary, and this flies in the face of the Ubuntu principals. However, a simple check box allows you to give Ubuntu permission to install the evil drivers. A reboot is supposed to be required but as I was just running the Live CD, I would have been reset back to default so I just restarted the X server by using the Ctrl+Alt+Backspace command.
Hey presto – I had native resolution!
But what about networking? Especially wireless networking – something I’ve never had any success with in Linux. I noticed a networking icon flashing in the top task bar (or what ever it’s called) and clicking on this brought up a list of wireless networks that had been detected. I selected my home wireless network, entered my WPA password and I was connected – simple as that.
This was the first time that I had sound, video and networking all working out of the box (almost) in Linux.
During this whole process my iPod had been connected through the USB cable and it showed up on my desktop with an iPod icon and the correct name. Wondering if I would be able to access the songs on it, I looked in the Applications menu and ran the Rhythmbox audio player. Surprisingly, the iPod shows up as a device in the left had side just like in iTunes – so you can browse through all the songs or the playlists and play them just as you would in iTunes.
However, there is one catch – Ubuntu doesn’t include any proprietary audio formats either, so you need to install the restricted Ubuntu extras package through the add/remove programs applet. This also installs additional fonts, Sun Java, and lots of audio and video codecs. Once installed you can plays music from your iPod through Rhythmbox!
All of the above was done using the Live CD with no reboots and without affecting the Windows installation on my notebook. I’m going to install Ubuntu properly soon so that I can also test out the new Compiz bits which make your desktop come alive with nifty and useful 3D effects. But so far I’m really impressed with Ubuntu’s latest release and it’s becoming a real contender in the desktop operating system market.