Dell Inspiron e1505 + Fedora 10 = :D
Posted by notKlaatu , 27 March 2009 · 256 views
Currently I'm visiting an old friend of mine in the fine state of Massachusetts, and she's got a few computers and a Verizon modem/gateway/router, runs Windows, and has no clue about computers. When I arrived, I noticed that she had a Dell Inspiron e1505 laptop turned on in the corner and she mentioned that she couldn't get the thing online and, since I knew computers, could I help her fix that? The real goal in that moment was simply to get online, and since I know nothing about Windows, I figured the easiest and fastest way for me to diagnose and possibly fix the problem would be with Linux, so I popped in a live USB stick with Fedora 10 / KDE 4.1 on it, set the BIOS boot order, and booted into the OS I love.To be honest, this is kind of a short story; everything worked perfectly. She couldn't get online under Windows -- reasons unknown, since I don't know how to do the equivalent of an ifconfig and iwconfig and lspci and things like that on Windows, but it was clearly not a hardware issue because the wifi card was recognized and utilized instantly by Fedora 10. I was able to sign on to a network (I say "a network" because there were 10 unsecured networks in range, none of which had any indication of whose they were....but that's another story...). The screen resolution was spot on, trackpad functionality flawless, sound system (at least the output; input has not been tested), and so on. Really, no troubles whatsoever.It is worth noting that the laptop did have a "Centrino" sticker on it; meaning that all the major internal parts were all Intel. So it is not surprising that Linux worked out-of-the-box without any tweaks or mods.The e1505 has a series of extra "multimedia" buttons on it, and these don't seem to do anything under Linux. I'm sure I could either configure Amarok2 to respond to these key events, and I may play around with that next week, but I find that few people seem to use those multimedia keys so it's not high on my list of priorities. Certainly my friend hadn't even seemed to notice the extra multimedia keys at all, so I probably will end up not bothering with them.So, all week the e1505 has been running Fedora 10 off of a 2gb usb thumb drive, and after a while it has become a bit bothersome worrying about this usb protrusion. There's been a lot of traffic around that computer, too, since my friend has had a lot of family coming to visit this week, and of course all of them need to check email and myspace and facebook, etc. There is also a neighbor who comes by sometimes to borrow a cup of bandwidth whenever her internet connection is on the blink. So I was getting worried that someone might pull out the usb drive, or bump into it, and I've been amazed at how transparent to everyone the OS has been. As all of us geeks have noticed, 90% of the average computer user's computing is spent in a web browser, so it's not surprirsing that no-one has noticed that this machine is not running the same OS as their home computer -- although it is worth going on a brief tangent here to mention that Firefox has been treated as an amazing discovery for these people. All of them apparently knew only Internet Explorer but I've loaded my friend's desktop with Firefox and I've put Firefox on the e1505 and people are amazed at its ability to clear personal information when you quit the program. They haven't noticed anything else about it (like add-ons) but the privacy impresses them greatly. (Well, that, and the fact that a real live geek told them it was better than IE...)So, getting nervous about the USB drive's safety, and noticing that so far no one has noticed, much less complained, that they were running Fedora+KDE4.1, I figured it was time to actually install Fedora 10. I couldn't install it as the only OS because my friend had data on her Windows partition that she was afraid to migrate or touch because a lot of it had belonged to her husband, who very recently passed away. But the e1505 has a 12gb partition on its drive relegated to "recovery" -- I guess it's some kind of Windows rescue volume. I borrowed about 8 gb of this rescue partition and installed Fedora (I'm hoping windows didn't need the whole 12gb to rescue itself...but I figure if windows ever dies on her, she's not going to know how to utilize the rescue partition and i'd be the one called to help her, so having a linux partition on her computer will be a lot more helpful to her than a windows rescue partition).The installation went quite well -- although the first attempt failed because I had the partition mounted in /mnt and forgot about it. Whenever this happens, I seem to think it's Linux's fault, but inevitably I look around and see that it's something stupid that I've done. This time, I had Konsole open and I had su'd to root, so to a glance it appeared that root was not in /mnt and no other program was trying to use /mnt.....so I couldn't figure out why Anaconda was claiming that it could not complete the install. I finally saw that I was still root in Konsole, so I exited that and, sure enough, liveuser was hanging out in /mnt. Tee hee. After I unmounted the partition, I was able to install as usual.It took no time to install, and Anaconda even gave me the choice of which OS should be the default. I chose, with not just a little pain, the "Other" option...but I have to say that GRUB or Fedora or both execute this VERY well. To the average user, it looks like a normal boot-up; a black screen at the very start of the boot simply states that it is about to boot, and to press any key for options. When a key is pressed, the full grub menu is visible and you can choose which partition to boot to. Otherwise, the boot process continues and the Windows boot screen comes on and does its thing. This is good because it is transparent to most computer users, so it doesn't frighten them away with new options or unfamiliar menus.After it was all installed, I went in and customized it to the most Windows-ish look & feel I could. Granted, I'm not all that familiar with how Windows typically looks, but I've seen enough screenshots of Vista by now to know what the user expects: black bar at the bottom with important application icons on the far left (i put firefox and dolphin there), widgets on the right (most importantly, an analog clock), and a desktop picture with grass and sky. I also switched the KDE desktop (now 4.2, since I updated the system after the install) to "desktop" view, meaning I was able to have icons or shortcuts on the desktop like Windows users seem to have; so on the desktop, there is a Home folder, a Trash icon, and I added a Firefox icon. Since this will not be her primary partition, I did not bother with setting up an email client and all that; her primary email client is on her desktop computer. I may see if her email provider has IMAP support and get Kmail up and running, and then I'll add that icon as well.I also switched the window decoration to "Laptop", which I felt looked a little more windows-ish (certainly moreso than the oxygen default, which just looks uber-hip but would probably freak diehard windows users out). I installed all the obligatory Flash and mp3 support; I doubt she'll need the mp3 support but the Flash support has already been used (thank you, youtube).Some nice things occuring in KDE:Plugged in a digital camera (Kodak Easy Share, fyi), it was automatically mounted and when clicked upon, immediately offered to open in either Digikam, Dolphin, or None. DigiKam is a spectacular application; it lets the user stay in control of how the pictures are organized, yet provides the user with a great interface to view and tag their photos. Very impressive, and getting a lot of good use from this group of new Linux users. Once again -- they don't seem to show any interest in the fact that it's an application -- they just want to see the pics.Dolphin is getting good...really good. Managing files with it is a pleasure; it's flexible, easy to use, configurable, attractive. Is it just the Nautilus of the KDE world? I don't know, maybe it is, but I like it. It feels very OS X to me, only on steroids, and since OS X is what I knew best before coming to Linux, that is what I like.Network Manager is working great. It remembers its auto-joins and, as far as I can tell, works a lot better than whatever Windows was using.Plasma is fantastic. Really.Some new things I've learned:1. it doesn't take much to trick Average Joe Computer User out of their usual OS. Know what programs they use, make those easily accessible to them, and they will not notice that they are no longer running Windows.2. At least this particular group of Average Joe Computer Users does not go to the START menu or the K MENU or any other MENU. Put icons on the desktop. This is true within Windows and Linux.3. "Network? what's a network? Just get me on the facebooks."That's all, folks. Screenshots of final product attached, complete with a Dolphin window open browsing her Pics from her Windows partition. She may just never have to boot into Windows again...