Friday, March 30, 2007

Xubuntu 7.04 beta trial, and eMachines

We -meaning my unofficial free geek organization- received a donation of a computer today. It was on older eMachine; 500 MHz Celeron, 4.5 gig hard drive, with 64 meg of RAM. It had Windows 98 on it. The previous owner did have a Belkin Wireless G PCI card with no antenna on it. It was actually in good working order. Unlike the other eMachines I've dealt with recently:
This is my official, unofficial Central Florida Free Geek storage closet. These are all older computer, mostly in parts. On the second row you'll see four eMachines. Only the older one actually works; a 600 MHz Celeron machine. The three new ones don't work. It seems the 2000 - 2005 eMachines have extremely cheap power supplies. All the eMachines in the picture either have bad power supplies, or many parts ruined because of bad power supplies. I recently fixed an eMachine by using a well made used power supply, a replaced switch, and some added used memory. The machine is better than new. I think the owner will feel that she has a completely new computer. Anyway, if you have an eMachine that looks anything like the ones above, and you want to extend the life a wee bit, do yourself a favor and get a better power supply. The older, plain white eMachines seem to be okay.

I wanted to try the newest Xubuntu version: 7.04 beta "Feisty Fawn", so I took the donated computer, added some memory, Boot and Nuked the hard drive, and tried to install Xubuntu. Twice. That's when I learned the burner on my Laptop isn't that great. For data CD's, it's never really been that good. I burned a third CD on my desktop, and it installed with no problems.

Xubuntu 7.04 is much improved over the 6.06 version, mostly because it now uses XFCE 4.4 desktop environment. XFCE is for older equipment, and it works quiet well. But, 500 MHz is cutting it close on speed. Having 256 meg of memory helped, but the 4.5 GB hard drive only had 1.5 GB left after the install and updates. If you have an external hard drive, that's not a problem, but it's still cutting things close. The main improvement with 7.04 is having the documents, recycle bin, and computer icons on the desktop. That's been missing in previous XFCE releases; at least the ones I've used.

Once again, I was disappointed with the wireless issues. Ubuntu 7.04 helps a lot, but some wireless cards are still not being cooperative with Linux. I was able to use this how to from the Ubuntu Forums to get the wireless card to work. It's an issue with Broadcom not releasing information on their bcm43xx chipset. Hack, hack, hack, and it was working. I'd like to say it's fun to get things like that working. It is the first time, but the 4th, 5th....not so much. More like -eye roll, "here we go again".

I think I discovered the difference between a hacker and an IT guy; The hacker gets something to work the first time. The IT guy uses those instructions to get 100 things working, over and over again.

The wireless issues are not Ubuntu's fault. Or Linux' fault. It's the wireless manufactures fault for letting the Redmond Mafia scare them into submission. I think a lot of that will change as Dell and others get in on the Linux bandwagon.

I've used Xubuntu on a Pentium II 350 MHz, 64 meg of ram machine. It installed, and ran, but it was slow. I think Xubuntu is best on things between the 500 MHz - 1 GHz mark. Xubuntu should probably use at least 128 meg to be tolerable. But like any machine, the more memory the better. Nancy's computer is a 1.1 GHz Pentium III, 640 meg, 80 gig HD machine, 32 meg graphics card, and it runs Ubuntu 6.10 just fine. Well, as long as the mouse is good, that is. Memory is what seems to make the biggest difference in speed, not the speed of the processor. But, Xubuntu probably would run whiz-bang fast on a fast processor with 2 GB of memory.

When I have more time, I think I'll try Fluxbuntu on that machine, but I want to wait for the Feisty Fawn version of it.

My conclusion on Xubuntu; I like it, and it's better than it used to be. Central Florida unofficial Free Geek will probably use it on many machines.

My conclusion on eMachines; Stay away. Far away.

1 comment:

John said...

I actually have Xubuntu 8.04 installed on almost the same hardware - Emachines 500i with 256Meg of RAM, a Linksys wired NIC, and I put in an 80 Gig hard drive. Picked up a $20 DVD-RW I slapped in there, too. It ain't the fastest machine in the world, but it gets the job done. I actually use it for some Java app development. I've got the same version of Xubuntu on a P4 Gateway laptop and it runs like lightning.