I’ve been asked for an update of my experiences with my HP Pavilion dv6 3042TX – in particular with Ubuntu. A reader has found that this notebook can now be purchased here in Australia for $1,299. That is a fine price indeed! At that price, I would have considered “self insuring” and not spending the addition $200 or so on an extended warranty. However, I must say that I sometimes have regrets about not getting a Mac. Here are some of my experiences and advice:
- Aesthetics are good. Quite a good looking laptop. Not as nice as the MacBook Pro.
- Quad-core. 8G RAM. 1G graphics.
- The keyboard is fine (our reader had heard otherwise). Compared with MBP it even has PgUp and PgDn keys
- Touchpad is fine (again, not sure why our reader would have heard otherwise). Not quite as nice as the MacBook Pro touchpad though – particularly for scrolling.
- Some ports that MacBooks don’t have: HDMI out, eSATA out, fingerprint reader, blu-ray.
- Running GeekBench on Ubuntu 10.10 can yeld up to 6300 so I assume that it is more performant than Windows 7 (which gets about 5600).
- Battery life is only 1.5hr – just for light web-browsing tasks
- When running Ubuntu 64-bit you will run into the 100% CPU problem caused by the npviewer.bin. AFAIK it’s a program that helps interoperate with the 32-bit Adobe Flash plugin because there’s no 64-bit one for Linux yet…
- The fingerprint reader isn’t used for authentication out-of-the-box on Ubuntu 10.10 although I haven’t searched for any solution (pain threshold too low).
- It runs hot. Even when doing little cpu-intensive work the fans turns on and it sounds like it’s going to take off! I’ve had one or two blue-screens of death which I imagine are related to the heat. Lately I’ve been using FlashBlock which seems to have improved things somewhat.
- With Ubuntu 10.10 after resuming from hibernate I get odd graphics flickering “effects” which is particularly bad when dragging or playing video. Basically you will end up rebooting. I have found no solution for this.
- With Ubuntu 10.10 the touchpad will not work well. Dragging sends the pointer crazy and right click does not work at all. I found a solution https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/maverick/+source/linux/+bug/582809/comments/94 but unfortunately now the pointer moves too slowly and increasing the sensitivity does not work.
Stick with Ubuntu 10.04
The touchpad problems didn’t happen with Ubuntu 10.04 and I’m fairly certain that the screen flickering following a resume didn’t occur either. So if you’re going to install Ubuntu, I’d currently recommend 10.04.
Run Windows 7 (with Ubuntu 10.10 in a box)
This is the option I’ve currently adopted. This way I have no problems with Google Chrome and the npviewer.bin because there’s a 64-bit version of flash. It also has other good effects such as being able to run the latest version of Skype, have my fingerprint reader work for logging in (this is quite a time saver because I tend to use strong passwords). Of course, to get software development done I installed Ubuntu 10.10 with VirtualBox. In this way I have no problems with the touchpad. Running the operating system that the manufacturer intended has certainly caused less headaches (and time wasters). Using VirtualBox seems quite performant and I’m not stuck with a compromise such as Cygwin.
Plea to Canoncial and manufacturers
Perhaps it’s just that 10.10 is a disaster (at least running native/raw on HP hardware) but I can’t help but think that it’s imperative that Canonical find a way to have manufacturers buy into Ubuntu and test/preinstall it on their hardware. There was a time when Dell were doing this at least in the US and EU (but even then only on a small subset of their range). I used to enjoy the days of searching for solutions for hardware problems, diving into configuration files and configuring X etc. I learnt a lot through those experiences. However, now that I’m older I suppose, I value my time more. I hear this argument from Apple fan boys all the time. Unfortunately it’s true. I do think that Linux and Ubuntu in particular is a better software development platform. The weath of software available using APT is a big part of that. Also that APT uses binary packages. Easy software installations isn’t so important if you don’t experiment with new programming languages and libraries etc that often.
Buy a Mac
The other option is, of course, to buy a MacBook. Since I already have an iMac in case I need more power, I’ve been thinking about purchasing a 11″ MacBook Air next year. I’ve tested one in-store an it seems quite nimble for such a little beast and the screen resolution is the same as my current laptop – 1366×768. I’d certainly have no more need for my 11.6″ netbook (which won’t run Ubuntu Unity btw because of gma500/poulbo graphics driver issues – sigh!). Perhaps the 11″ wouldn’t cut it for Java development though. I haven’t tried IntelliJ on it in-store yet. A fine but more expensive option is the 13″ MacBook Air. The same resolution as a 15″ MacBook Pro. Currently the 13″ MacBook Air will set up back $2,078.00 including 4G RAM and 3 year warranty. If I had to choose again right now, I’d be picking between 11 and 13 inch MacBook Airs.
Since I won’t be purchasing a new notebook until next year, I am hoping that the rumoured April MacBook Pro update will make the decision easier. Hoping for higher resolution displays like MacBook Air, cheaper flash/ssd storage option, quad-cores, Mac OS X Lion and cheaper 8G RAM option. Hopefully a combination of Apple and a rising AUD can deliver. It’s quite possible that the AUD could come crashing down before then though :(.
I tried the following instructions for getting Ubuntu working on VMwware Player
Instructions are for Ubuntu Hoary but worked fine for me. I installed this at work under Windows XP. Now I enjoy Linux goodness on the desktop at work :-). Hopefully this will annoy desktop support services a bit less than me repartitioning the disk and installing Ubuntu directy on the hardware. The downside is that it’s a bit sluggish. I haven’t tried Eclipse yet – still using my Windows version. The upside is that I can still read my Outlook based email and doing event/calendaring there and also access IE only intranet and Windows/IE only software like Mecury TestDirector.
Note that in order to install VMware toolbox to get copy/paste between host and guest working I have since installed a evaluation version of VMware workstation 5.5. Use the following instructions to get VMware toolbox installed.
Now that the tools are installed I should be able to go back to the free VMware Player – however I haven’t tried it yet!
I’ve just been trying out the Live CD of Unbuntu 5.10 this afternoon… and into the evening. I’m really impressed. I’m *posting* this from my first boot into the live cd! It recognised my hardware very well – the paritions from my external USB drive were mounted, sound card worked, graphics card worked, wireless usb mouse works, touchpad works. Excellent! Just no wireless networking :-(. To get wireless networking working I had to ‘modprobe ipw2200′ and configure the wireless network: ‘ipwconfig eth1 essid ‘ & ‘ipwconfig eth1 key ‘, and lastly ‘dhclient’ to request an ip address. You can ‘sudo’ to execute root commands or simply reset the root password via sudo “sudo passwd” and then “su -”.
I changed the Gnome theme to Clearlooks which I reckon is much nicer that the default Unbuntu theme which is very brown! I’m only on the live cd but I did try installing things – Eclipse, k3b, Gnome desklets, Gmail notifier (and heaps of other stuff). The “Applications->Add Applications” menu item makes me want to set my Dad up with this distro. Dad has enjoyed Debian in the past but installing software was painful – this is a breeze.
I wish I was able to eject the live cd in order to test DVD playback but I guess I have to go for a full install for that. I may just be replacing Gentoo after only just getting it up-to-date after behind behind the times for afew months.
A feature I really miss in the default window manager (metacity) is maximising vertically. I used to use this all the time when I was using another window manager (WindowMaker or Sawmill – can’t remember which). Well, I discovered you can bind a key to do this with metacity. In Unbuntu, go to “System->Preferences->Keyboard Shortcuts”. Looks for “Maximize window vertically” and and associate a key. I used ‘ F11′ which I had seen mentioned on the forums. I only wish I knew how to add this to the window menu cause that’s where I’m used to using it…
Some useful resources:
Getting MP3 players, DVD players, Macromedia Flash, Java and other “restricted” non-free stuff going
Unbuntu starter guide
Seems like a more up-to-date version of this is available on the live cd and presumably with a regular install. Just click on the ‘Help (get help with Gnome)’ icon or choose System->Help and then click ‘Unbuntu 5.10 Starter Guide’.