Defenestration of a Virgin

Laptop, that is! Yesterday I bought a brand new Compaq Presario CQ57 laptop (15.6” widescreen, 4Gb mem, 320Gb drive etc), and took windows off it.

I had to boot into windows first (Windows 7 Home Premium) to create the recovery media, since computer manufacturers are too cheap these days to actually supply you with disks. I was somewhat surprised to discover that the recover media is 12 Gb – you had the choice of 12Gb USB stick, 3×4.7Gb DVDs or 2x9Gb DVDs. It occurred to me that:

  1. This was a butt-load of media just for a OS and a few freebie apps
  2. Would it have been SO hard to supply a USB stick pre-loaded? 16Gb sticks change hands on eBay for ~£10 these days, and I’d be astonished if Compaq couldnt get one for a fraction of that. They could even embed it in the laptop rather than using 12Gb of the hard drive for a recovery partition that would evaporate if the HDD fails. Are you listening Compaq??

Not surprisingly the creation of the media took nearly an hour and a half, and I can’t help thinking that a lot of people wouldn’t bother… until their HDD failed when they wished they had!

Anyhoo, that chore sorted I slid in a Linux Mint 11 DVD and rebooted. Pressing ‘esc’ during the boot, selected boot options (after having to experiment to discover that in BIOS you don’t press the ‘fn’ key to get function keys…) and shortly the LiveDVD version of Mint came up, full screen, correct resolution (yay!) and telling me that wireless networks were available – so wireless worked too!!! Only someone who had tried just a couple of years ago to install Linux on a laptop will know the full depth of the wonder of just that statement.

I then went through and checked as much as I could to make sure things worked. Everything I tried worked as I’d hoped, even Video and sound from Youtube. I didn’t try the webcam, not being familiar with the software and frankly I never use them (yet). The only foot it put wrong as far as I can tell is it chose US keyboard rather than UK keyboard, but thats a minor issue. One other thing that didn’t work was the “double tap” on the top left of the touchpad to disable it and put on a little light – I expect that would require changes to the driver to fix. Or wirecutters to the touchpad connections (please, don’t tempt me!)

Clicking on the “Install” icon, with fingers crossed, I decided to go for it. I’d like to be able to talk of my titanic struggle with the arcane beast, and my eventual vanquishing of the foe, but it all went really smoothly with the only dilemma being at partitioning time. Compaq had put on a tiny 180Mb partition on the disk, then the ~300 gig one, and then the 12 gig recovery one (all ntfs). What was the small one? should I keep it?

In the end I thought “b*****s to that” and told Linux to use the WHOLE drive :)

Then it sat thinking for a while, copying files, and giving a little slide show to keep me amused. When it rebooted, it all worked!

The only remaining thing was that it came up with a dialog saying there were proprietary drivers available for the video card (FGLRX drivers, whatever they are) and I could install them if I want. I did, because I thought that maybe it would be for the best.

Getting it connected to the wireless network at home was trouble-free, in fact easier than configuring Windows 7 on my HP 110 netbook, it asked for a password for the “Gnome Keyring” after I’d entered the WEP codes, and now all I have to do to get on the net is type in that password.

I’ve already found the touchpad irritating, but I feel that way about all of them – I really don’t know why they don’t put them ABOVE the keyboard where they’re out of the way, rather than where I brush it accidently and find myself typing in a completely different app! I usually use a small USB mouse, and when I’ve got that plugged in I will disable the touchpad,

Version 2 updated Sept. 21, 2011, 8:31 a.m.