In an earlier post I enthused about how wonderful the Ubuntu 7.04 installation was on old hardware. One single datapoint does not a trend make, however. Others have attempted to install and work with Ubuntu, and walked away from it back to Windows. With that in mind I decided to boot the 7.04 distribution disk on my Gateway M685 notebook and see how it behaved. A quick rundown of the notebook's features: Core Duo 2.0 GHz, 2GB DRAM, nVidia GeForce Go 7800 w/256MB video memory, 1680 x 1050 17" screen, SATA drive, Intel 975M chipset. As you can see this is a far cry from the system on which I first installed 7.04.
This version did boot on the notebook. The good news: this is the first version of Ubuntu that came up completely, all the way to a working desktop, on the Gateway. The bad news: it came up in 1024 x 768 resolution, and the screen was very slow to redraw. Slow redraws were quite noticeable when dragging or just scrolling windows. The audio also failed to work. I did, however, grab some quick screen shots and stuff them on a thumb drive plugged into the machine.
As you can see I pulled up System | Control Center and took a look at the screen resolution. I'll have more to say about Control Center, but so far it is the cleanest implementation of this tool I've had to deal with. The first time I was presented with it was under SLED 10. Unbuntu's developers have cleaned it up, making everything easier to find.
I wanted to bring up System Monitor, but couldn't find it in the menus. So I went looking for it as a lower toolbar applet, and found it. The 'Add to Panel' application has also been shown some love. Again, items are easy to find. I quickly found System Monitor (and CPU Frequency). I installed System Monitor.
System Monitor hasn't changed. I sure wish it would. Everyone has seen by now the new eye candy and touches going into KDE 4. It would be nice to see something similar going on for Gnome. But considering the issues surrounding Gnome development, I don't expect that to happen any time soon.
Again, this is an alpha release of 7.04. I expected problems, but I found a lot more good than I expected. Although the screen is limited and the sound doesn't work, everything else did, especially the USB subsystem, USB mouse, SATA hard drive, and networking. I could, in a pinch, use this to get real work done. My biggest concern is sound. Ubuntu 7.04 uses kernel 2.6.20. This is the latest kernel and still sound does not work. I normally run Suse 10.1 on this machine, and it uses 2.6.16 (Sound doesn't work with Suse 10.1 either). The notebook is nearly a year old (I got it May of 2006). Linux is continually getting a black eye with regards to hardware and driver support. Some dopey yahoo like me drops a live distribution onto a machine like this, attempts to run/install it, doesn't get important features to work, and then (somewhat rightfully) bellyaches about it. Screen and sound are two very important features. I know Linux supporters point at Vista driver woes, but to be honest, Vista's support for hardware is still much better than Linux's in some areas, especially on this notebook.
Regardless, I await future releases of Ubuntu 7.04. It's worth waiting for. It should only get better.