Weee-arethechampions, my frie-ennnnd--bombombombom!

>> Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why am I inordinately excited? Why do I feel there's no time for losers? Because after a day-and-a-half of struggling, I finally got the wireless on my netbook to work under Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), after which everything else will be gravy, hell, already is gravy, delicious mushroom gravy made from a red wine stock, oh yeah.

This was, in a way, a potentially suicidal upgrade. And not even a good kind of suicide, like Spock dipping his hands into a reactor core in Star Trek II suicide, where if I ended up cradling my bricked Dell Mini 10 it would, at least, tell me that it was and always will be my friend. The first thing was that I was actually reasonably happy using the preinstalled flavor of Ubuntu. It was an old build (8.04, Hardy Heron), yes, but all the drivers worked and all of the proprietary codecs, drivers and miscellaneous software that you have to go grey or black to put on an American Linux machine was present and street-legal courtesy of Dell's deal with Fluendo. What's more, although I'm happy with the Dell Mini 10 as a piece of hardware, some initial research into UNR suggested there were two particularly serious hardware-related problems I could be facing.

First, that while the graphics chipset on my generation of Mini 10 (and not, curiously, the Mini 9 or Mini 10v) is branded Intel, it's actually a piece of GMA hardware that apparently doesn't always play nice with Linux (many people were complaining online that their displays were so lagged as to be unusable; I should also note that apparently new Mini 10s don't use the GMA chipset and don't have this issue). As it turned out, this hasn't been an issue thus far. I haven't tried watching any videos yet--so there may yet be some issues there--but so far the graphics are impressively crisp.

The second issue, however, was driving me a little crazy. The built-in wireless in the Dell Minis is a Broadcom chipset and it doesn't like playing with Ubuntu at all. Although the installation went smoothly, the Mini would not use the proprietary drivers installed from Canonical's repositories even though the machine agreed they were there and usable. This is, evidently, a known-bug, with a number of solutions, none of which appear to work for everybody.

What did work, this evening, was two lines in the terminal:

sudo apt-get remove dkms
sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

And here I must apologize profusely: I sent myself an e-mail with those lines, but having no idea whether they would work, I failed to send myself the link to the source. It might have been Ubuntu On The Dell Mini, which has been a very useful site during the changeover--only, despite the fact that the author includes these commands in one of his entries, I don't think he was the one I got it from (not to slight him any--again, he's been enormously helpful, and he may have been the ultimate source for the tip). Bottom line: whoever you are, Internet stranger who got my wireless working, thank you!

So, as you can see from the screenshot above, I got things working.

But why bother, if I was happy with the existing install?

The main reason, actually, was Ubuntu One. I've been aware of the service for awhile (since the last upgrade to my main machine, actually), and just wasn't too terribly interested in cloud computing, but this weekend I started playing with Ubuntu One a little out of curiosity, and I find I do like the idea of being able to sync writing projects between the netbook and main laptop. There are other services for this, of course, but Ubuntu One, as you can imagine, is nicely integrated into Ubuntu (imagine that). But it's not integrated into 8.xx or earlier versions, so there was reason one for an upgrade.

Secondly, I liked the layout and the promises of improved speed (which I'm already noticing, I think, unless it's all in my head). Third, while 8.xx was adequate and stable, it was also long-in-the-tooth; which sort of brings up reason three-"a" or three-"b" or however you want to denote it, which was that the Dell preinstalled build of Linux was very much tied into Dell repositories, which who knows how long they'll be maintained or how well, and if I was going to shift away from the Dell repos, I might as well go for a clean install, and if I was going to go for a clean install, why not go for Remix?

So there it is.

So, y'know, thus far it's a win. At least now that I have wireless working. Everything's coming up Millhouse. How are you?


Shawn Powers Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 8:27:00 AM EST  

I'm a sucker for Linux love stories... ;)

neurondoc Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:02:00 PM EST  

I'm fine, thanks, but Holy Robots, I have no idea what you're talking about. :-)

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